Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Lifting the Shoulder

So, this blog was primarily created to allow my readers to access my stories. However, I have much to say and not much impetus to go out of my room and find somebody who wants to hear about my day. That happens after three days of working 12 plus hours in grossly hot weather at a job that is both physically and mentally demanding.

See, for those of you who don't know, I work with horses. This week is CHA week, aka death week. I will grant that this year is ten times better than last year. I won't go into the issues of last year. Suffice it to say that this year I was mentally prepared to be shredded into pieces and thrown to the wolves, and this year our clinicians are actually quite nice people. That makes a world of difference.

Thus far, my lessons have gone quite well. I taught a lesson on bridling. That could have gone better, but I had a hard time controlling my "18 year old boys" who are really my coworkers plus a few others who flew in for the clinic that are role-playing as though they are whatever demographic I give them for my lesson. We were all a little nervous that first day. I have to love them, bless their hearts. Still, my explanation was good and everyone was introduced to my "teaching personality" which is, I have discovered, quite a bit louder and more flambouyant than my normal personality. Overall, it wasn't bad.

My second lesson was on the posting trot. This is one of my favorite lessons. I have a great explanation. It's easy to understand. It's clear. It's simple. I was able to explain both theory and practical application. The activity I chose was slightly chaotic, but I adapted it and it ended up working quite well. My students were quite complimentary of my teaching and found very little to either trap me with or critique me on. It wasn't too bad.

Today's lesson was two-pointing. I can do this. I'm even fairly comfortable two-pointing on my own horse. But the explanation I received for it, and the one I teach to my kids, was a grand total of about 3 sentances long. Try stretching that out into a 15 minute lesson that is supposed to stretch easily out into an hour! But I did my best, and I think everything actually worked out fairly well. I chose younger kids to teach, and so the explanations I gave were naturally and understandably very simple, which nicely covered up the fact that I don't know much theory behind two-pointing at all.

I also received a couple lessons on cantering today. Now, I realized during my evaluation ride on Monday that, while I can canter, I've had very little instruction in the art. I know what the correct lead is, and I've heard that you use the opposite hand and leg to ask the horse for the correct canter, but every time I've tried it, it hasn't worked and I've had no idea why. After my poor friend got massacred after her "first canter" lesson, the clinician came in and fixed everything and in the process gave us an amazing lesson on cantering. This was the first real, practical lesson I've ever gotten on why the horse's weight works the way it does and how my weight works with the horse in asking for the canter.

Another lady in the clinic gave us a great lesson, too, about how to ask a horse to lift his shoulder while going around turns-particularly tight ones. It was a great lesson. I learned a lot. A few lessons later we learned how to put the two together and lift the horse's shoulder while pushing on that outside hip to ask for the correct lead in the canter. It was amazing! I don't remember the last time I've learned so much about riding and horses and what I'm supposed to be doing up there! It was so cool!

Tomorrow, I'm supposed to teach the pole-bending pattern. Granted, this is mostly just the pattern, so I probably won't worry too much about theory- just reinforcing the aids. We'll be doing a sitting trot, so I won't have to worry about diagonals, but the clinicians wanted me to have my students canter the home stretch. That means that as they come around a tight turn, not on any rail of any kind, they'll have to pick up a canter on the correct lead while maintaining a straight line when the horse is going to by hyped up and wanting to weave around those cones some more. Do I use lateral aids? Do I use diagonal aids? I just learned a bunch of this theory today, and have not gotten a chance to practice it much, nor to use it myself. However, this is what I think:

I already have my arena set up. I'll have them wait on the left side of the arena and go through the pattern one at a time. As they finish, I'll have them bring their horses down to a trot and turn to the right and trot down the long rail of the arena. This is actually brilliant, I think, because I'll be waiting in between the cones and the right side of the arena and I'll be able to catch them just in case their horses freak out. I'll have them trot to the left back corner of the arena, then walk up to the back of the rest of the line. As for that last turn... I think I'll have them use lateral aids. They'll use their right leg to swing the horse's hind end around that turn. As they finish it, they'll use the rein to pick up the horse's right shoulder and keep the right leg on them and kiss to ask for the canter. I'll just have to remind them to use that outside rein to support the horse and ask for a straight canter, rather than asking them to go through the cones again.

*sigh* I hope this works. Wish me luck!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Dreamworlds, Chapter 2

"Water," Krystle heard herself say.

"You don't need water," came the scoffing reply. "You're fine."

Krystle tentatively licked her lips and found smooth skin. Her tongue was wet. Her eyes no longer burned. After a moment she realized she didn't even feel thirsty. She slowly opened her eyes and looked around her. She saw a big blur of white that seemed to materialize into a ceiling and walls. She felt as though she was in a fog that she could not come out of. Understanding came slowly. She found that she was laying down, but didn't know why. She turned her head and saw machines facing away from her. One of them beeped rhythmically, as though keeping time. The wires coming out of them were attached to her body. They must be monitoring her vital signs, then. Krystle blinked her eyes, trying to clear her thinking. It didn't work. A woman sat by the door, her finger marking her place in the book that was in her lap.

"We had to give you more fluids than I thought your small body could hold, though, missy. You need to take better care of yourself." Her voice was not kind, but neither was it rough. The advice was sound; Krystle felt as though she had been run over by an army tank and left out in the sun to dry. She definitely needed to take better care of herself. Her thoughts started to become clearer.

"Where am I?" she asked after a moment.

"You're at the hospital."

"Where was I?" she asked, remembering vaguely the scorching heat and hours of walking through the sand.

"My guess would be somewhere in the Sahara, but you would know better than I."

Krystle tried to bring her hand up to rub her forehead, but found that her hands were tied to the bed. Her heart began to race. "What is this?" she asked.

"Listen, I have other patients to see to. Try to get some sleep while I'm gone. That's all you really need right now, anyway." The nurse stood up from her chair and turned to open the door, novel still in hand.

"Wait!" Krystle cried, sitting up in the bed. The woman turned. "Please, tell me something... anything!" the heart-rate monitor by the bed beeped rapidly.

The woman's face melted somewhat. She walked over toward the bed. "Krystle," she said softly, "Try to get some sleep right now. In a couple hours, you won't remember you were ever here." With that, the nurse turned and walked briskly to the door.

"No, don't leave..." panic welled up inside of Krystle. She didn't want to be left alone! "Please..." but the woman was gone.

Left alone, Krystle fought the mounting hysteria. There was nothing more terrifying than this ignorance and confusion. She fought the bands holding her wrists. They were secure. They did not chafe her wrists, but no matter how hard she twisted and pulled they would not come loose. She whimpered, then lay back down on the bed, her hands compulsively twisting in the straps. She pulled her legs up, relieved to find that they were not strapped down. She worked the muscles in her body, starting with her toes and moving up to her neck By the time she was done, she had calmed down considerably. She had no injuries. Her skin was smooth and unburned. Her muscles weren't even sore. Aside from her hands still writhing in the bonds by her sides, she was fine. "This is a problem to be dealt with," she told herself. "It is not a catastrophe." It was a mantra she had often used to get herself through hard times. It had always been true. Every problem had a solution. This problem had one, too.

Krystle had a slew of questions running through her mind, most of them with no clues to an answer. She decided to try to take the nurse's advice and get some sleep, hoping that would help her mind to clear. She struggled to get comfortable, tossing and turning as much as her bonds would allow her. She closed her eyes against the glare of the flourescent lights on the ceiling. Much to her surprise, she was much more tired than she felt, and sleep claimed her.

Two hours later, she awoke to the sound of voices outside her door. The sound was muffled, but she was still too tired to really care what was bing said. She was in a hospital. She was safe. Everything would be taken care of. She lay there on the bed, lethargically enjoying that she had nothing to think about. The joy was short-lived. Strains of the conversation began to reach her through the door and the sleepy fog that enshrouded her mind.

"Doctor, I don't think we should do this yet. She needs more time to rest," said a woman's voice.

"You're opinion is noted, nurse, but we will proceed as planned," came the reply.

"Are you sure about this? I really don't think it's wise to bring her this far..."

"Are you questioning my authority? That kind of talk could hand you in there with her, nurse. You will do as you are told."

Fading footsteps announced the departure of one of the women, while the other opened the door into her room. Krystle recogized the nurse she had spoken to before she fell asleep. The dark-haired woman looked at her with a businesslike pity that Krystle assumed all nurses must wear around their patients. It was probably hard to be around the sick all day. The nurse began to check the wires that monitored Krystle's vital signs, paying special attention to the ones attached to her head and chest. We're bringing somebody in for you to talk to, Krystle," she said. "That should make you happy."

Krystle looked up into her face. "Why am I strapped dow?" she asked quietly.

The nurse turned to the table by the wall that held bottles of medication and started filling a syringe with one of them. "That's procedure, dear. We do that to keep our patients from hurting themselves or us."

"Hurting myself? Nurse, what's wrong with me?"

"You don't know?" the nurse asked, her back still turned. After a pause, she turned back and said, "Your mind is sick, Krystle. We're going to help you every way we can, but you have to help us. You have to work with us. Tell us everything that's happening, everything you remember, and we'll help you get well. The more you tell us, the faster we can get you out of here. Do you understand me?" She spoke as though to a little child who could not understand.

Krystle stared at the nurse for a moment, then nodded an assent. The nurse walked over and added the contents of the syringe to the IV that was already pumping fluids into her arm. The nurse held Krystle'd hand as a wave of dizziness washed over her. She closed her eyes against it. "Remember, you have to help us so we can help you," said the nurse quietly. Krystle found herself longing with all her being to do as she was told, to do everything she could to help the woman who held her hand and the people who held her bonds. A small, insistent warning voice told her that something was not right with this, but she pushed it away and refused to listen. She was sure that was a part of her madness, trying to convince her that everything around her was madness. It would not go away, and in that instant before she lost consciousness she accepted it as part of herself. It was there and it would not leave, but she did not have to listen. In the next instant she was in a deep sleep and she remembered nothing.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Dreamworlds, Chapter 1

Krystle wiped the sweat from her brow as she studied the terrain ahead. The rock she stood on was steady, but she knew that would not last long. The platforms ahead looked stable enough, but she had learned the hard way how dangerous it could be to step on one without first studying it. She shuddered at the memory. The rock had leaped out from under her just as she had planted her feet and she'd had to move quickly to avoid falling into the pit below. The cavern that surrounded her glowed with an eerie red light that, combined with the heat, made her fear what she would find should she fall to the bottom of it. She didn't dare look down. She'd tried that once, too. When she couldn't see the ground beneath her, she'd shifted her focus to what lay ahead.

She finally saw a platform several yards away that was moving slower than the rest, but obviously moving. That was one she could trust. It was the ones that looked steady she could never be sure about. They could move the instant she came into contact with them, and she was never sure which direction it would be. The only way to avoid falling was to stay away from them as much as possible, to minimize her contact with them. But the one she was aiming for was too far for her to go directly to it. She would have to step on two others first. They looked stable enough from where she stood; she prayed they would stay that way when she landed on them. Bracing herself, she jumped, placing her right foot on the platform ahead of her. It lurched to the right, but she was already jumping toward the next. This one fell away from her feet and she couldn't push away from it hard enough to land squarely on the one she was aiming for. She had enough momentum to carry her to the edge of the platform, but she landed hard, wrenching her knee. Her vision blurred from the pain, and she stayed where she had fallen, breathing hard, her knee throbbing.

When she finally looked up, she found that she had come within sight of her goal: a metal doorway with an etching at eye level of a diamond inscribed within a circle. Krystle almost cried with relief. This place had been terrifying and dangerous, but it was almost over. She was almost done. She got to her feet slowly, gingerly putting weight on her injured leg. It was a good thing she was almost done traveling through this land. She would no longer be able to make the jumps that had carried her this far.

She limped to the far edge of the platform, thankful that it was large and fairly flat. This land was rarely that kind to her. She looked ahead; the doorway was only four yards away, but the platform it was on was moving quickly. She would have to move fast. She braced herself against the pain, jumped to a platform on her left, and did her best to land with both legs. Her knee buckled as the gravel she landed on slid beneath her feet. Krystle panicked as she started to slide over the edge. She reflexively sat and grasped frantically at the loose rocks under her hands and finally found a firm handhold, but by the time she pulled herself up the doorway was almost out of sight. She screamed in pain as she landed on the next platform, but made herself jump again, and again, and again, only allowing herself to think of the doorway ahead. Just as she reached it, the platform started to fall- fast. She slapped her palm into the middle of the diamond and screamed, "Open sesame!" For once she didn't even think of the irony of the cliche password that opened these doors for her. The door pushed outward, and just before she stepped through it she discovered the consuming red fires as the bottom of the pit that had lit up the cavern. She took a deep breath and opened her eyes to the advetures of a new world.

Krystle blinked as the hot sun seared her eyes. An endless desert stretched out before her, and even as the door closed behind her she knew this world would be every bit as horrific as the one she had just escaped. That thought slipped away from her as all her memories faded and her wounds healed. The door closed behind her and faded into the scenery. Krystle didn't turn around to watch it. Somewhere in this hellish land was a doorway she had to find. She shaded her eyes against the sun, but the sand beneath her feet reflected so much sunlight that the effort was fruitless. Her mouth already felt dry, and the sweat that had soaked her shirt when she'd stepped through the door was already beginning to evaporate.

Walking a few steps, Krystle discovered that the sand under her feet shifted easily, but did not kick up much dust, for which she was extremely grateful. However, the walking was hard work, and if she was going to find the next door, she knew she had to keep moving. The sun was low in the sky, and Krystle desperately hoped this meant the day was almost over. She had long since lost all sense of time, and she didn't know how long she'd been awake.

Krystle set out with a puposeful walk. She wanted to find the doorway before nightfall, if possible. The thought of what might come out at night in this desert sent fear down her spine. She walked on, noting with dismay that the sun was still rising. As it climbed to its zenith, her skin burned, dried, cracked in the scorching heat. Her walk deteriorated to a determined trudge, and as her body slowly lost the moisture it needed, her mind began to wander. She began to see things that weren't there. She knew she needed water, and she followed the apparitions her mind created in hopes that one of them was real, that she would find an oasis that promised life. She licked her lips, only later realizing that the only moisture she felt came from the blood seeping from the cracks in her lips. The world spun around her, and the first time she fell she scraped her chin on the sand before she realized she was going down. The hours passed, step after weary step. With no other goal in sight, she continued to follow the visions her mind showed her. She knew she needed the life-giving moisture, but didn't understand why she needed it. And she didn't understand why she never reached it, no matter what direction she went or how fast she tried to go. She forgot why she was walking. Only the knowledge that she must keep going pushed her on. Each time she fell, she pushed herself up- up and on. She forgot everything but the glare of the sun on her face and the ache that had become her body. Her mind wandered, but she didn't even realize it was not with her. A constant thought told her that none of this was real and added to her delirium. Her tongue felt like sandpaper. Her eyelids were raw, and her nose burned like the fires at the bottom of a pit she had just escaped hours before. She clung to that thought, knowing it was real, but lost it before it had time to form.

A mirage disappeared before her. She forgot how long she had been following it, but knew with sudden mental clarity that she did need the water it had offered. The fog of her mind swirled for a moment. Through the shifting sands, Krystle realized one reality. "This must change," she said. She spoke to herself, for she was the only one around to listen, but her voice held a note of strange determination. "I need..." the fog swirled again, obscuring thought. "I..." she trailed off again. The thought that had driven her to this point re-asserted itself. Again she pushed herself forward, dazedly searching for something she couldn't remember. The sun beat down upon her relentlessly, mercilessly sucking moisture from her body. Krystle trudged on, knowing only that she must continue.

Her knees hit the sharp rocks on the ground, and dimly she realized that the landscape was subtly different around her. Instead of shifting sand below her feet, the ground was firm and scattered with small stones. Occasionally boulders dotted the landscape, and as she lay on the ground breathing in short, rasping gasps, she thought she saw a stunted plant growing low to the ground not far away. She saw it, and vaguely she sensed that she was in a better place than the one she had just traveled through, but she didn't know why it was better, or how she could use that information. She closed her eyes, only for a moment, against the heat while she caught her breath. When she opened her eyes again she made herself use every ounce of energy she had left to force herself to her feet. "I will not die here," she whispered to herself in a gravelly voice. Exhausted, she pushed herself onward. Each lurching step became a fall and each time she fell she caught herself by putting an aching foot in front of her. Through the fog that had become her mind she realized that the land had grown dark around her. The sun had set. The thought came that she should not travel through the night, but she ignored it and pushed on. She didn't see the deep ravine that opened up before her. She pushed herself forward, and when her foot found nothing but air, her body propelled her forward until she fell into a blissfully dark oblivion.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Hello Starshine!

The earth says, "Hello!"

The point of this blog is, at present, amorphous. I have high ambitions of writing stories to post for all the world to see... and probably critique. Perhaps it will happen. Really, I just wanted to expand my horizons.

So, welcome to my blog.

I'll see you on the other side.

This is MissJedi, signing off.