Monday, March 31, 2014

The Strength and Fragility of Horses

My riding lesson today was a test of strength-- emotional strength, mental strength and physical strength.
There was once a horse named Annie. I knew her for only a year, but rode her fairly consistently throughout that entire year. There reached a point when I would go to the stable and not have to ask who I was riding, I just had to get her out. She was strong and skinny and imperfect, but she was also spirited and graceful (most of the time) and fun.

I feel so lucky to have gotten to watch and ride her throughout the year. We both grew so much. When I first started riding her, we had communication problems. she was quick towards the jumps and strong against the bit. I was nervous, I'm still a nervous rider but I was way worse. When my instructor would ask me to do something I'd think "Well okay Jimmy, if you think I can." Annie helped me harden up my confidence and my "Okay, we're going to do this" attitude. By the end of our time together it was almost like we could read each others' minds (as long as I was being decisive). We were doing courses where before we could hardly do a single line. We went from only starting canters over a small jump to starting canters on the rail (That was a big deal). In fact, I even saw a rider canter her over a jump. I was so proud of her, she was very mannerly. She was even starting to work with more beginner adult riders. She was like a completely different horse. The best part was her personality change. She was a bit stingy when she first arrived but by the end of her stay at the stables she was quite a bit more affectionate, (although I'm not sure she always wanted to admit it), accepting hugs and kisses and coos. She just seemed generally happier. (Actually, I seem to remember riding her for a while where she'd duck out of turns and corners, which was rather alarming, but by the end of our year together I don't think she was doing that at all, so I don't really remember if I'm mixing her up with another horse...)

I was different too. I was a bit bossier and a bit more confident. I didn't just point a horse at a jump and ride through whatever happened, I was more involved in the approach and the away. I learned to have a presence, so that whether I was on the ground or in the saddle Annie didn't forget I was there. (Sometimes when I'd lead her she'd try to lead me, for example). I know she taught me a lot more than I probably know and I know this because every year I look back at where I was a year before and I cannot believe how much I've grown as a rider. When I think of myself pre-Annie and now, I can't believe it.

Annie was an old horse and the lessons were hard on her, but through wonderful luck, or fate or whatever, Annie was reunited with her original owner and able to spend her pasture days with her. Unfortunately, Annie slipped on ice and broke her leg. Today she was put down because of that injury. I know that death was mercy for her, and would not wish life on her for my sake. This is not the first horse who I have ridden and known to die. Plus just in general, I know animals and people die. But still it is sad. And today I am sad, not because she died but because I miss her.
So much personality!
What amazes me the most, is the fragility of horses. Horses seems so strong. I certainly bore witness to their strength today with Captain when he (for the lack of a better phrase) took off, and I pulled and pulled and pulled and thought "This isn't going to work, he can't even feel me pulling, he could just keep going and going and there would be nothing I could do," (In retrospect, I wonder if I should've pulled him in a circle. I feel like somewhere once I learned that when a horse takes off you should try to make them go in a tight circle because they can't do tight circles all that quickly. I thought momentarily while I was leaning back and pulling that I should make him do a circle, but I wasn't sure I would stay on if he suddenly spun so I thought maybe straight was a better option.) But also, horses are very, very fragile. A broken leg can end a horses life, pretty easily it seems. Or make them completely un-rideable. Most of the health problems I've seen in horses have been in the leg or hoof region. Legs and hooves seem very fragile to me. So much strength on such delicate pedestals. It's good to be reminded of that occasionally, I think.

As far as my lesson with Captain today goes: I was definitely startled when he got... energetic. And when I felt powerless to get him to stop, it was scary. The fact that you're riding a living, breathing, thought producing, emotion feeling, opinionated and clever animal is what makes riding magical, precarious, beautiful, scary, comforting. And I was basically asking for it. Here was Captain, pissy because I had him on a tight rein (Major lesson today, difference between a tight and short rein) and he had earplugs in, which he doesn't really like. Plus it's spring jitters time and there were scary motorcycles. We were plodding along and I thought "this horse has no energy, he needs energy, we're supposed to be cantering" well... got what I asked for. And it's not like I wasn't forewarned about that happening. From Jimmy, and from Captain himself. I just had never experienced it. (Now that I have, it's like, totally cool now for the future... maybe?) I handled it okay, so that was good. (Major lesson 2, I don't really think I'm that good of a rider, and that's holding me back a bit. I still consider myself a beginner.) I still was very startled, which made me cry. I don't do well with surprise. It's a little embarrassing but, it happens. And it doesn't happen all the time. Actually, I was doing pretty good at holding back tears during the lesson, but I was already holding back tears from news about Annie, then we started riding so I didn't think about it. Then the thing with Captain happened and I was like "I did good, it's good, every things good. Except Annie's accident and impending euthanasia." then it was all over. Thanks memory for your impeccable timing.

But I've never had a lesson where I haven't learned something and today was no different. In fact, today was jammed packed with strong in your face important lessons. (It was tiring). Luckily, I've never had an experience where I've thought "I don't want to ride horses anymore." This isn't the first time I've dealt with horses that do something that intimidates me. In fact, it's not even the first time a horse has decided to go for an unwarranted run. Sometimes I'm a little apprehensive about riding that same horse again. But I'll still ride them and I'll still ride. Mostly because I can't imagine a life not riding now that I am. And really the thing that gets hurt the most is my pride because whatever I did to cause whatever, or to not handle whatever or whatever, is a little embarrassing. In any case, today's lesson with Captain reminded me a lot of what I learned from Annie. I think as I ride Captain I'm going to need some of that attitude I had with Annie. I think I've softened up a bit. But also a lot of understanding that I learned with Annie and Roanie, and really all horses way back to my very first lesson on Gracie. Attitude, but still understanding that horses have feelings too. Leadership and horsemanship. It always seemed to me that riding was more about balance than strength.
R.I.P. Annie <3

Monday, March 24, 2014

Geek Unveiled! Alternative Easter Eggs

I am a pretty big geek, I'll admit and I am a pretty big gamer, mostly computer games but every now and then a ps3 or 3ds gamer. I thought my geeky gamer side would be great to add to my blog, so I thought I'd start out with what to me is the geekiest game ever: World of Warcraft. (That's right, a post about WoW). I started playing WoW when I was maybe twelve years old, both of my parents play it (obsessively), we all play together; it's been a huge part of my life.

 For those who don't know, World of Warcraft is a Massively Mulitplayer Online Role-Playing game, (aka an mmorpg), where you create a character on either the alliance, ruled by a king, or the horde, ruled by a warchief and you quest and level and become a hero of your faction. The storyline of the game is fairly complex because of the expansion packs that have come out. There are currently four expansion packs, the fifth one (Warlords of Draenor) is coming out supposedly sometime this year. The great thing about WoW is that there are so many different things you can do so it helps stave off boredom; you can quest, fight against other players in pvp, do pokemon like pet battles or sit on a dock and fish. And that isn't even touching a lot of end game content. 


Of course, my favorite thing about World of Warcraft are the Easter eggs. These are a little pop-culture references in the game who don't really serve a function beyond making you go "Hey, look at that." So here are six alternative-y Easter eggs that I know about in WoW. (It was going to be five, but I remembered another and had to add it) *some of them are a stretch to alternative.

Siouxsie and the Banshees:
  • My favorite Easter Egg-- there is a NPC in Acherus named Siouxsie the Banshee, which is the most obvious reference possible. This of course was added in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. 
  • There is also a NPC named Tsu'zee in Dire Maul. She is flanked by two banshees. This is a much older reference, it's not nearly as blatant but it does get the point across. 
  • There is a quest in Silverpine Forest called "Cities in Dust" which references the Siouxsie and the Banshees song. 
Emilie Autumn:
  • There is a NPC named Emil Autumn in the Howling Fjord, he is an enchanting trainer, which could be a reference to her album, Enchant.
  • There is a NPC in Undercity named Royal Overseer Bauhaus (of the Undercity Census Bureau) which may be named after the band. It could also be a reference to the German Staatliches Bauhaus school of architecture and art, so I put it in tentatively. However, when I first saw it I thought of the band, so I'm still putting it into my list.
Alice in Wonderland:
  • In Kun-Lai Summit there is a tuskarr named Wally and a hozen named Tic Tak the Carpenter. When you talk to Wally he says "The time has come, my little friend, to talk of other things" this is obviously a reference to the walrus and the carpenter. 
  • On top of a mushroom in Zangermarsh is a hookah and a skeleton, I'm not sure why the skeleton is there, but the hookah is a reference to the caterpillar.  
  • The NPC guild master in Undercity is named Christopher Drakul, which is possibly a reference to Christopher Lee and his role as Dracula. It wouldn't be a stretch, WoW likes to mix character names and actors names together, for example, there is a character named Harrison Jones, who has a quest line that is basically an Indiana Jones movie.  
Sweeney Todd:
  • There is a traveling salesman who wanders around Elwynn Forest and Darkshire named Antonio Perelli, which references the hair elixir salesman in Sweeney Todd the musical.
  • The goblin who runs the barber in Stormwind was originally named "Sween Neetod." His name is now Jelinek Sharpshear, but you can still see skeletons under a floorboard on the second story of the shop, right under a shaving razor. 
So that's all for this post, I had so much fun writing it. A year ago, I would've been too embarrassed to even admit that I played WoW (highschool, you know), let alone do a post on it, so it's an interesting post for me. Thank you so much for reading, I hope you have a wonderful day. <3

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Book Review: The Descent of Alette

I've been mulling over these past months on this blog and I realized that there are more things I want to add to the blog in terms of what I write about. I was really into posting in January but quite frankly I ran out of ideas for posts. So I'm going to be expanding topics to other areas I'm passionate about.
But for now, a book review!

The Descent of Alette, by Alice Notley
I was introduced to this book in my literary arts class. My teacher assigned it as homework, but honestly I couldn't wait to read the next section at the end of each assigned chunk. The Descent of Alette is an epic, which means it's a long poetic piece of writing that focuses on a main hero. It is separated into books and sections rather than chapters. It has a very unique style where every "Few words" "Are marked with" "Quotations." Which is supposed to cause people to slow down and appreciate the words and sentence structure. It takes a bit of getting use to, but it really does make you pay attention more and it's a perfect book for it. It's a book that I recommend reading out loud because it really is beautiful. I read every page out loud to myself, which I found helped me accept the punctuation and begin to read it as sentences.

Content-wise, the book is feminist/transformation story about a woman who lives in a surreal underground world which is ruled by the Tyrant who doesn't let the citizens go above ground. The woman goes on a journey to discover herself and to defeat the Tyrant. I don't want to give anything away, so I'm going to stay vague. The best part about this book is that it is basically one huge metaphor, but at the same time really concrete. The metaphors are definitely metaphors, but you also have to take them as what actually happens in the story. The story has tons of twists and turns, I was often very surprised at what was happening (and I'm usually pretty good at guessing what happens next in books) and best of all, I had no idea how it was going to end.

I cannot recommend this book enough, it is one of my favorite books. I plan on buying myself a copy since I had to return the copy that my teacher gave out. At the time I read it I was having trouble writing and this book inspired me. It's one of those books that makes you think about it weeks after you've finished it. What I really liked about it was that it was fantastical-not-so-sweet-fairy-tale-ish. Reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland almost. It's very abstract, so if you're an abstract person you'll love this. If you're not abstract you'll still love it. It's one of those pieces of writings that goes beyond mere story and to art.

So that's what's been going on with me, sort of. I hope all of you are doing well and reading inspiring books. <3