Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday Smiles

I wanted to start this week with a smile, so I decided to post this adorable piece of art and the link to the artist's web page and online shop. I will be buying this stall sign for Eddie as soon as we are back on the scene. I know I am unhealthily obsessed with Eddie and all things that "look just like Eddie," but I've gotta say the artist has a discerning eye and good taste in her subject matter (if you base your decision on this particular piece of artwork, which I totally am). You can't look at that painting and NOT think it looks just like Eddie. Like Eddie jumping a log on the ground (his favorite)! Yeh, it looks just like Eddie. :-)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Laptop Screen Shopping

Show Ribbon Belt by Mellissa Perrin at mjoydesign 
I would have said "window" shopping, but I'm at home....on the computer....so that doesn't really accurately apply. So "laptop screen" shopping it is. 

I saw this great item linked to on Dappled Grey yesterday and they were too cute not to share. I will have to get some little "d-ring" belt loops and make some of my own! I also am crazy about the show jump head board. What an amazing idea! And the horse blanket dog bed? Me likey. I just need to figure out how to make some of these great things for myself with all the horse stuff I've got sitting around here, and I'll be all set!


I just love this! (BTW, I also own that same square,
faux-fur pillow in the center of the photo. It's awesome!)

Very creative dog bed. Aiken would love this!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Neglect

REWIND 2 years: 

Eddie and his "too cute" clip, trim, and bang (March 2009)

FAST FORWARD to yesterday:

"Toilet brush" tail galore. And, let's not even talk about the mud.


I don't even want to know what Eddie is thinking.

This is what the flu will lead to.....total chaos.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Elbow Grease

One of my mother's favorite pony club stories to tell is one about my sister (nope, it's nothing on me, this time). The story goes that our DC was giving a lecture one Sunday afternoon about grooming techniques and the use of certain grooming tools. When he discussed the body brush, he said that it: "required strong, quick motions to get deep-rooted dust and dirt out of your horse's coat. It also takes a good amount of elbow grease, as well!" Immediately following, my sister (probably about 6 or 7-years-old at the time) leaned over to mom and whispered, "Where do we buy the elbow grease?" HA! If only, right? But, our DC was right. Sometimes, a little hard work really pays off in the long run.

This flyer from MSEDA is EXACTLY a bit of what I was talking about in my post from Monday night about giving and taking in our sport. I will *HAPPILY* put on some gloves and sneakers (my trail runners, and then maybe I'll even go for a run afterwards!) and fill a bag of trash in exchange for a free KHP schooling. That's a bargain! Exercise and the opportunity to help get the Park clean is well worth the effort, too. Anybody who wants to go with me, let me know if you want to try March 12 or the 19th. Should be fun!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ask not what your sport can do for YOU......


I've been thinking a whole lot the past 6-12 months or so about why there are a good many eventers out there, why we have dedicated supporters, talented trainers, lots of enthusiasts, and very generous sponsors, competition organizers, and venue hosts....yet there still remains a good amount of disconnect and dissention amongst what is really a small number of the human population. Yes, eventing may rule our world, but it's nary a blip on the radar for the world at large.

Since I was laid off from my corporate job in December 2009, I have applied for jobs; cut back on all unnecessary expenses (like spending money on frivolous things such as shampoo, Kleenex, and salt); applied for jobs; cut back on my groceries while increasing the groceries for my "herd"; applied for jobs; spent more time schooling at home and less time competing; applied for jobs; taken the time to do some thinking and research about what I can do to "up" my involvement as an eventer (when I can't monetarily afford to sponsor, pay entries, or train); applied for jobs; sold my gold jewelry; applied for jobs; sold almost all of my books; applied for jobs; and, I have spent some time volunteering at the horse trials and other training activities where I couldn't ride because I couldn't afford it....then, I applied for more jobs. Through all of this, I have found a new sense of perspective and I have vastly re-evaluated my priorities. I would whole-heartedly advocate that every single capable person in this country, between the ages of 18 and 65, should have to spend at least 30 days "in between jobs" and see what it's like. There'd be a lot fewer people out there talking a good deal about something they know nothing of, that's for sure. Er....but, that is another rant for another day.


This is, essentially, what has brought me to wonder what has caused such a sense of self-centered-ness, dare I say: entitlement?  in the lower-level riders of our sport that often manifests itself in animosity towards those individuals who are at the top of our sport, just because they get PAID to do what they do. Who says that anyone owes anybody else ANYTHING at all? I should be the low man on the totem pole, crying into my bottom-dollar beer (MGD....it's the champagne of beers!), because I can't afford lessons, or I can't afford to show, or I can't afford to even TRAVEL IN MY CAR to volunteer anywhere other than locations fairly close to where I actually live. I can't afford to buy a new/better-fitting saddle, I can't afford new breeches, a new vest, a new bit, a new bridle, or a new helmet (even though I banged my head pretty good in a fall in the one I currently wear and I know I need a new one). Should I not just throw my woes into the ring and also say, "What have you done for ME lately, eventing?" and then harumphf off and plop down to watch the next exciting, new episode of American Idol? I could do that, but I have never actually watched American Idol, so that scenario is highly unlikely. Anyway, I'm far more into Family Guy, and when FG isn't on, I would prefer to read a book. And yet, I digress....

What I have been thinking is, "You know what? I have a lot of time on my hands right now. So, who can use me to do something, contribute something, and make any kind of difference at all?" So far, I've heard nothing but crickets. I've thought a good bit about what it means to be a volunteer. I am a born-and-bred Tennesseean, and an alumnus of the University of Tennessee, so I know a little something about what it means to be a "VOLUNTEER." But, I'm talking about being a volunteer. Someone who gives something, while receiving nothing particular in return. Altruism? Most people have to look that one up in the dictionary. But, what if there were an 80/20, or 60/40 ratio of return on an investment? Or even 50/50? Would that take away the satisfaction of doing something just because it needed doing, or would that perhaps just get more people out there "doing"? I have considered a few times proposing a new initiative to the USEA that will increase volunteer time around the country and make it a concerted, connected network, not just "the 4 closest people to the dressage ring" who end up as scribes. That should not be how it works, and I'm not entirely even sure it should be the responsibility of the venues to find/search/scour for volunteers. I'm talking about volunteering anything from a few hours jump judging at a horse trial, all the way to communicating with the non-horseworld, current and potential key sponsors, and writing documents for organizers/riders/the USEA, and on into rider-to-rider relations (pros to ammies, ammies to pros, pros to pros, ammies to ammies) and so on. These are things I know many people get paid to do. But, right now? I'd do it for FREE. I used to get paid by an international company to research, write, market, propose, organize, and lead. But, if it meant doing something for free, because it would allow me to be involved in something I love and "give more than I take"? Heck yeh, I'd do it for free. And, I bet others would, too. And, after a while, maybe I would get noticed for doing such a good job at whatever my given task happened to be that someone might be generous and give me a free night of stabling at my next event. Something commensurate to the return on THEIR investment (I'm not suggesting a free entry for 2 hours of volunteer time). However, if I volunteer for free for 50 hours to do something you would normally pay another person $25 an hour to do? Yeh, maybe then I would get a free entry. That's $150 for you not having to pay out $1250 (ok, I used a calculator on that one, so just DON'T ask me to volunteer for an effort that will require me to do lots of math in my head). So, that would enlist a system of work/compensation that isn't *exactly* volunteering in all instances, when it's possible, but the desire for something worthwhile as well as satisfying (and that's not always monetary reimbursement) might pull more people in and create a stronger commitment to seeing things happen.

I've thought about calling this potential initiative something like "ONE." That's how we'd like to keep our sport, right? And to get there, maybe everyone (young/old, competitors/non-competitors, ammies/pros) can begin by doing just one thing, selflessly. Spend one hour grooming for a friend; one day volunteering at an event; donate one used item to someone who really needs it; or give $1 to support an eventing cause of your choice. There are people who have time, but no money: give some time. There are people who have money, but no time: give some money. There are people who have the brains, but not brawn: offer to scribe. There are people who have brawn, but not brains: offer to do some labor around a competition venue either prior to or during an event. Believe it or not, there is something that everyone can do, today, to contribute positively to the sport of eventing. I can't think of ONE good excuse that anyone would have for not being able to do at least one, small thing. Not ONE excuse. I challenge someone to find that excuse and prove me wrong. Because I. Don't. Think. It. Exists.

The debate that occurred earlier today on Eventing Nation had me alternately intrigued and downright angry. The thing about the Internet, as we all know, is that it's easier to say: "I'm not here to talk about me or MY job. I'm just going to sit here all day and criticize you and YOUR job." I don't have an opinion right now on whether PRO is right, or the anti-PRO voices are right. I'm not making a statement on right or wrong, ammie or pro, this or that. What I will say is that I just wish that every single person who cares (whether they have spoken out publicly or not) would just take a moment to look at themselves, -- themselves only -- and say, "What can I do to help eventing?" Don't look at your neighbor, don't look at your friend, don't look at the person down the road or the person across the street. I'm talking about looking at just you, people. If everyone could find one, simple thing they could do to help the sport today, then tomorrow would be quite another day, wouldn't it? I think the time for talking is over, and the time for actually doing something is here, now. You doing one good thing today for eventing is a great place to start.

Spring Cleaning

This past weekend, I would have loved nothing more than to spend it riding Eddie. But, in reality? I spent it sick on the couch. I could be bummed, but there are worse things than getting the flu once every 3 years, so I gave in and "did my time" and just took it easy.

The unexpected downtime gave me the chance to go through some of my materials I'd collected last year in my and Eddie's "return to the basics" and I found a write-up I'd done of a Kyle Carter clinic that I audited in Alabama last May. One of my good friends is the president of the Birmingham Dressage and Combined Training Association, and she and her trainer organized the clinic and gave me a free audit spot to come down and assist her with everything while she rode that weekend. Afterwards, I sat down and wrote a re-cap and sent it back to her to share with BDCTA. I honestly hadn't read this since I wrote it back in June 2010, so I went through it and pulled out the majority of the details to put up here. I'm cleaning up all my training notes and organizing my "riding diary," so as soon as I can stand for more than 10 minutes without getting light-headed and faint, I will be back to putting these lessons to good use....outside in the arena!

Kyle Carter Clinic
Birmingham
May 2010

Kyle instructs BDCTA president Kelly Hanby
and her horse, Trouble Maker.
On May 1 and 2, BDCTA hosted Kyle Carter – a world-class competitor in three-day eventing and a member of the Canadian Olympic and World Equestrian Games teams – for a clinic to help local riders practice their show jumping and cross-country skills. But, honing jumping skills was just the tip of the iceberg regarding the many lessons that both riders and auditors received that weekend at Blackjack Farms.

The rider groups were split into a starter/beginner novice group, a novice group, a group for training-level riders, and an advanced group of horses and/or riders who have competed or were planning to compete at preliminary or above. Each group started with a nice warm-up session on the flat, focusing on getting the horses quiet, supple, and forward. Kyle emphasized the importance of balance and connection during warm-up in order to get the horses thinking forward, but not pulling or leaning on the forehand. Establishing a frame that gets the horse in front of the rider’s leg and light in the bridle is necessary when preparing for a jumping phase in order to ensure that the horse is engaged, yet also sensitive to the rider’s touch and prepared for any questions that might come up on course.

Kyle addresses the issue of contact with USEA 2010
Area III Jr. Training Champion, Hannah Begue,
riding her horse, Asterix.
One thing that became apparent almost immediately was that Kyle is a knowledgeable teacher and has years of personal experience to back his recommendations. With that being said, his accessible nature and friendly coaching style was a welcome asset to all of the riders; with some riders who had previously ridden with Kyle, as well as a fair number who had never met him or trained with him before. Far from being aloof or intimidating, his encouraging guidance and individual attention seemed to calm both horses and riders and helped everyone – riders and auditors alike – to benefit from everything that was happening at any given moment. He explained in detail what he was seeing and thinking to not only the riders, but also to the auditors watching from the ground. Kyle’s ability to work with 3 or 4 horses/riders at a time, yet give each pair individual instruction based on what they needed help with the most, was a positive sign of his experience with a diverse student-base, as well as a testiment to his willingness to work with whatever situations came up for each horse and rider pair as they progressed through the training sessions. It also helped those of us who were participating as auditors; we were able to view a wide selection of riding styles and an array of different types of horses and experience levels. Even though I was not riding, I was certainly able to see similarities between myself and any number of the riders and gain some insight into how I could change or improve my own schooling at home through the instruction that was given by Kyle as he worked with each group.

Everyone watches as Jessica Moore jumps through
the show jumping gymnastic.
After warming up on the flat, each group was started over a simple cross-rail with a long approach down the center of the arena. After several introductory pass-throughs, Kyle set the fence to a small vertical (relative to the experience level of the group at hand). It was really fascinating to see how much can be accomplished simply by practicing one fence with a six or seven-stride lead time. Some horses would anticipate the effort five or so strides out and lock-on and jump from a fairly decent spot. Others would see the fence and move forward, then slow, then forward, then hesitate, and then jump from either a chippy spot or a long spot. One of the most difficult things for a rider, we learned, is the long approach to a single fence with no related distance. So much time to think! Some riders can see the perfect spot from seven strides out and sit quietly until they reach the fence and jump out of stride. Other riders may check and then kick, check, and then kick, questioning their sightline and searching for a spot up until maybe two or even one stride(s) out, which makes for a bit of a nervous approach and a quick and sometimes unbalanced take-off. Whether a rider sees the spot all the way down the approach, or only two strides out is irrelevant, as long as he/she can make their horse’s stride lengthen or shorten to accommodate that spot and get it right. Practice adjusting stride was valuable to getting horses and riders evenly down to the fence and over the obstacle cleanly before moving on to a small course of fences that were added to the initial question.

USEA 2010 Area III Open Training Champion,
Nikki McCreeless, discusses her round with Kyle.
Once the participants started riding a series of fences, incorporating turns and angles, Kyle worked with each rider on any number of issues, including speed, balance through the turns, using the ring and the rail to position the horse for a good line, making smart approaches that weren’t too quick or off of too short of a turn, and then using the backside of the fences to collect and make a plan for the next effort. Everyone benefitted from start to finish through these exercises and considerable improvements were seen in everyone by the time the show jumping session ended.

Riders prepare to tackle a cross-country gymnastic.
On the second day, Kyle focused on horses and riders going cross-country, starting with an effective warm-up. The starter, beginner novice, and novice groups from the day before were combined into one group that rode first for the cross-country session. The training-level and above groups were similarly grouped and rode that afternoon. 

Having everybody start out trotting on uneven terrain, Kyle assessed rider position and control issues for each pair before briefly practicing some downhill canter to make sure that everybody was moving forward yet balanced and in control. Having riders then go uphill and canter up a steep slope gave him an even better idea of rider position and impulsion before moving on to the first jumping exercise. The first group warmed-up over a single fence on an uphill slope that proved several pairs to be fast and flat, while others were a bit slow and too short to the fence. Kyle instructed everybody to ride wide down the hill and into a sweeping, balanced turn before asking them to sit up and push their horse underneath them to get up and over the uphill question. He focused on a controlled and careful approach, and was quick to stop and correct riders who came too fast down the hill, leaned into the hill, cut the turn, and sped over the fence. The lesson here was definitely not "who can get to and over the fence the fastest," but rather "slow and steady makes for a prepared and safe ride." Once riders started making better approaches and not cutting short the turn or letting their horses get heavy and flat on the approach, then their jumping became more confident and forward. 


video
After schooling the single fence, Kyle added two more verticals to the question: one perpendicular to the uphill jump on the approach, and one perpendicular to the uphill vertical on the landing side, with two strides between each of the three elements (forming an "S" shaped combination across the side of the hill). This exercise really asked the riders to find a line through all three jumps that allowed for a balanced first jump, a forward two strides with plenty of impulsion to the second, uphill fence, and then a quick, right-hand turn to the final fence of the series. (In the above video, Nikki McCreeless gives Kelly Hanby's green horse a productive school through the combination.)


video
Some horses/riders rushed through the fences on wobbly lines and half-strides, while others got a good approach to the first, but lost momentum to the second, which backed them off of the third fence. Kyle took the time to address each horse and rider combination and took them through the exercise as many times as necessary until they felt confident going forward and making the split-second decisions that the turns and angles required. He focused on getting the riders to turn their horses with their leg, seat, and body as opposed to just pulling the horse’s faces and hoping the rest would follow. Everyone ended this session having learned a lot about balance, impulsion, and rider preparation while riding a tricky combination over hilly terrain. (In the above video, Kyle has a green rider/horse pair circle between the elements to slow the horse down and even their pace for a safe and confident ride.)  


Anna Efinger negotiates the bank.
A short exercise up and down a bank ended the day for the first group of riders and allowed them to happily finish the clinic with lots to think about and take home with them for future schooling.

The second group warmed-up similar to the earlier group, but moved on to jump a series of cross-country obstacles that included rolltops, banks, cabins, and a small bench/palisade. Kyle had the riders practice many of the elements that were discussed on the previous day in the show jumping ring, including balancing the horse’s stride while approaching a single fence at the gallop, turns and angles, as well as adjusting speed according to the fence at hand (short and bouncy to a drop; forward and underneath uphill to a bank; compressed and controlled on a short turn to a cabin, etc.). Everybody gained a lot of experience over cross-country terrain and fences that built on the show jumping exercises from the day before, truly bringing home the knowledge that each phase of eventing, each exercise and activity, and the combination of flatwork and jumping can incorporate seamlessly and fluidly through each of the questions asked of a three-day event horse. Through Kyle’s entertaining and personable approach to instruction – from the green-as-grass horse and rider to the most experienced and successful of combinations – really made all the participants feel positive and comfortable about what they were accomplishing and where they needed to go to continue to grow and improve as better riders and competitors. 

Kyle talks to H-A pony clubber, Antonia van Os, about pace and lengthening/shortening the gallop stride.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Vintage Rolex

I will end this gorgeous, sunny week on thoughts of spring events, and with that -- of course --  come thoughts of the biggest spring event of all: the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. Back when I was a little pony clubber, galloping around wildly jumping anything I could find, and clinging to the neck of my "future Rolex pony" (ah, to dream), my mom took me and my sister and 2 of our fellow-dreamers to Rolex. It was my first time there and I was just blown away. 

I had seen eventing on my t.v. screen (in the form of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and the epic film, International Velvet), but I had never seen it up close like THAT. As a pony clubber, I was in love with eventing and read everything I could about it, so I knew who the big players were (Bruce, Jimmy, the Karens, Torrence, Lucinda, Ginny, Mark, etc.). To see them in magazines was one thing, but to see them right there in front of me was like I had died and gone to heaven. I still get giggly when I compete at the Kentucky Horse Park (no matter that it might only be at beginner novice or novice level!) and my little horse gets to stay in the same barns that the Rolex horses do. Here are a few photos from the 1989 event, won for the 3rd time that year by Bruce Davidson and Dr. Peaches. Come on, spring!!!

Bruce circling the ring before his dressage test.
David O'Connor and Wilton Fair (winners the next year in 1990)
prepare to enter the ring.
Karen Lende (at the time) riding The Optimist.
Karen Stives and Yankee Girl.

Karen Stives and Yankee Girl.
The lovely, late Kari Barber and THM Storm Airs.

DOC and Wilton Fair on Phase A (Roads and Tracks)
Bruce and Dr. Peaches on cross-country.
Derek DiGrazia rides cross-country.
Derek DiGrazia at the Tiger Trap.
Karen Stives and Yankee Girl on cross-country.
Kari and Stormy on cross-country at the Jenny Lane Crossing.
Louise Merryman and Great Expectations almost home over
the Giant's Bench.
Mike Plumb walking cross-country.
KOC and The Optimist after cross-country.
Bruce (in 1st after cross-country) talks to the press back at the barns.
(That's my friend, Molly, walking behind him!)
Karen Stives show jumping.
Bruce and Dr. Peaches show jumping.
Bruce and Dr. Peaches enter the triple combination.
Victory gallop!

Foreshadowing

Then.........

Observe how my backyard determination and dedication at age 6 prepared me for the dressage ring at MTPC horse trials almost 30 years later. I was destined to be the master of a chubby, scraggly, chestnut-and-white cow horse. It was written in the stars, all those years ago. :-)

......Now

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Come and walk down memory lane, no one sees a thing but they can pretend."


One might think that a band who writes songs about Paul Robeson, Kevin Carter, Elian Gonzalez, and pens tributes to Willem De Kooning would consist of smart, informed, and well-read musicians (they are). One might think that such an outspoken band would be angry, passionate, progressive, and quite liberal in their thinking (they are). One might think that a band who is revolutionary, eccentric, above-the-common -- composing songs littered with political commentary, activistic proclamations, and societal criticisms -- might be blindly overlooked, blatantly ignored, and all-but-obscure (they are). So, it's no surprise that when their lyricist/bassist writes a public article for The Guardian, it is most likely regarding a topic that is relevant, important, and will probably be ignored by the majority of those whom will potentially be affected most by its subject matter (it was). 

I came across that article online yesterday and thought it was a nice, nice piece of writing. But, then again, Manic Street Preachers is one of my favorite bands, so when they speak? I listen.......

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Post-Valentine's Mushy-ness

So, I wasn't really that excited about Valentine's Day yesterday, but I did have lovely thoughts about a potential romantic pairing. 













Here is my dream couple (drum roll):  RC Fancy Step and Udonna! I would love to own the little 4-legged offspring of this beautiful duo. S/He would be gorgeous, smart, talented, and SHINY. What a perfect idea, right?



*Can I just say how easy Udonna makes eventing look? If she didn't look JUST LIKE EDDIE (I mean,  just like him), I would really hate her. :-)

Monday, February 14, 2011

"...so we can..uh...get down to business, and then get back to the business of gettin' down." -- Reese Feldman

It's not often that a Vince Vaughn quote inspires me to kick-off my spring training and conditioning work for the upcoming event season. And yet.....here we are.

It is time for me to get down to business with my 2011 event season preparations. I have adopted a new regime for both my physical conditioning as well as Eddie's. I haven't run nearly as much the past few months as I did last fall, so I'm back at it and ready to see some improvement so I can kick some tail at some point this year. I just don't know yet when that will be, but I know it'll be sometime. Soon.


I plan to do these strengthening exercises (3 sets of 10 reps each) on days that I don't run, so I'm alternating muscle work with cardio. My riding (on either a running day or strength training day) will just be additional to whichever workout focus happens to be on that day. We'll see how it goes!


1. Pistols
A surefire test of bodyweight strength and muscle control, as well as an INCREDIBLE leg workout is the pistol. This is a one-legged squat in which you place one leg out in front of you and then slowly lower yourself until your thigh is parallel with the ground. For an additional challenge go even lower if possible to increase the difficulty. Just as in a normal squat, it is crucial to keep your knee behind the toes.

2. Turkish Get-Up
Possibly one of the best total body exercises known to man (and women), the Turkish Get-up will challenge your will and muscular endurance like no other exercise. Start by lying on your back. Hold a kettlebell in one hand, with the arm extended straight up in the air. Next, move from lying on your back to standing straight up and then back down again. This is all done while holding the kettlebell straight up in the air.

3. Burpees
It’s really unknown where this exercise got its name as it is less likely that someone will burp as throw up when doing this fitness bootcamp exercise. Simple enough to do, go from standing straight up, down into a push up position (not in several motions as in a squat thrust, but in one controlled motion) and then go straight into a push-up. After that, pop up to a standing position again and jump as high as you can into the air with your hands over your head. That is one repetition. Do a few and you will understand what burpees are all about…

4. Kettlebell Swings
Personally, I think kettllebell swings make a great foundation for ANY extreme boot camp exercise program as they not only provide a great overall muscular workout, they will train your cardiovascular system as well making it a great fat loss workout! Just pick up a kettlebell with both hands, and swing it through your legs and then up and in front of you up to eye level. If you want to add more intensity, swing the kettlebell straight overhead. 


I'll also be incorporating pilates into my routine, so I don't even need to leave the house for that! I did some basic pilates last year and I really enjoyed it. It's not easy, but it also gives an OCD person like myself a more controlled and precise set of goals for my workout, so I enjoyed the challenge of learning to do it right and execute everything correctly. I saw in the newspaper last week that Tennessee Volunteers' running back, Tauren Poole, does yoga to keep his muscles more toned and elastic in order to avoid injury. If it works for the Vols, it works for me!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Beg, Borrow, or Steal

A reader/writer's dream come true....

Ok, maybe not "steal." But "beg" or "borrow" is perfectly acceptable. 

Since I'm not working full-time right now, I have had the luxury of reading tons and tons of books, but I've not had the income to afford to buy a brand new (or even used) hardback every time I am ready for the next title on my list. So, I've happened upon this magical place called the Knox County Public Library. Who knew? 

I am guilty of having purchased new books from my local Borders or Barnes and Noble over and over again, for no good reason, when the same books are available -- FREE -- from my nearest library branch. And, I can log-in online at home, browse the catalog, place a hold on a title, have them transport it to the location just down the road from me, and then they send me an email when it's ready, and I just go and pick it up. Genius!!! Why has it taken me so long to STOP buying new books and just borrow them from the place down the street? I've even gotten into checking out audiobooks, too, so that I can listen to them any time I've got a road trip, which saves me from spending gobs of money on iTunes getting new music or buying audiobooks online. There is absolutely nothing wrong with reading library books (except for the mysterious brown smudge on page 144 of Pretty in Plaid -- which I really hope was chocolate). And, I've yet to miss any of the books I've read and taken back to the library. Meanwhile, I've got piles of previously-purchased books sitting around here that I'll never re-read that cost enough cumulatively to finance an entire event season. *kickself*

Thanks to my newfound stash of literary goodness, I have hours and hours of free reading ahead of me, so I'll share the book list I've started to keep track of all the items I plan to check out over the next few months. Most of these have been recommendations or titles I've seen mentioned on any of the several social/gossip and "chick lit" blogs that I frequently peruse until my eyeballs bleed. So, here's my current list. I add more and more to it everyday; but, if there's something I never get tired of, it's reading!

Past Imperfect (Fellowes, Julian)
Titanic's Last Secrets: the further adventures of shadow divers John Chatterton and Richie Kohler (Matsen, Bradford)
A Nose for Justice : a novel (Brown, Rita Mae)
Rage Against the Meshugenah : why it takes balls to go nuts : a memoir (Evans, Dan)
Stupid and Contagious (Crane, Caprice)
Forget About It (Crane, Caprice)

The Professors' Wives' Club (Rendell, Joanne)
Crossing Washington Square (Rendell, Joanne)
Out of the Shadows(Rendell, Joanne)
A History of the Walker Foxhound (Maddux, Bob Lee)
The Department of Lost and Found (Scotch, Allison Winn)
Time of My Life : a novel (Scotch, Allison Winn)
The One That I Want : a novel (Scotch, Allison Winn)

The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein: a novel (Ackroyd, Peter)
It's About Your Husband (Lipton, Lauren)
Mating Rituals of the North American WASP (Lipton, Lauren)
Cheerful Money : me, my family, and the last days of WASP splendor (Friend, Tad)
True Prep : it's a whole new old world (Birnbach, Lisa)

No Ordinary Joes: the extraordinary true story of four submariners in war and love and life (Colton, Larry)
The Recessionistas (Lebenthal, Alexandra)

Jackie as Editor: the literary life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (Lawrence, Greg)
20 Times a Lady : a novel (Bosnak, Karyn)
On the Black Hill (Chatwin, Bruce)

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: the true story of a thief, a detective, and a world of literary obsession (Bartlett, Allison Hoover)
The Wonderful World of Beagles and Beagling (Nicholas, Anna Katherine)
Letters to Henrietta (Bird, Isabella Lucy)
Blood is the New Black : a novel (Stivers, Valerie)
 (Sykes, Plum)
A Singular Hostage (Ali, Thalassa)
Passion (Morgan, Jude)
The Undomestic Goddess (Kinsella, Sophie)
The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic (Kinsella, Sophie)
The Species Seekers: heroes, fools, and the mad pursuit of life on Earth (Conniff, Richard)
The Debutante (Tessaro, Kathleen)
The Flirt (Tessaro, Kathleen)
Innocence (Tessaro, Kathleen)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Waity Katie: Keeping it horsey

Kate Middleton at Gatcombe/Festival of BritishEventing

The current Queen of England is famously "horsey." Her daughter, the Princess Royal, is decidedly horsey (an eventer!), and her daughter -- the Queen's granddaughter -- is very horsey (and quite a talented eventer, too). The Prince of Wales is horsey, his 2 son's are horsey, and their step-mother (the Duchess of Cornwall) is incredibly horsey. So, shouldn't it stand to reason that the soon-to-be Princess Katherine (and, most likely, the eventual "Queen Katherine") should also be horsey? Mmm.....not so much. But, at least she does stay in the loop by attending lots of horsey activities. Here are a few photos of her at recent horse trials (The British Open Championship/Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe Park and, of course, Badminton Horse Trials). I wouldn't really advocate a white skirt be the clothing article of choice at an international 3-day event -- particularly one that is historically MUDDY -- but she works it and wears it well. Thanks for going "eventing" and giving it a go, Katie! 

Kate attends Badminton Horse Trials
on cross-country day.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

*Sigh*

Snow Patrol at the Ryman in Nashville, October 2009.
If I had a dollar for every time I've gushed over Snow Patrol (Gary Lightbody, in particular and most especially)...well, I'd have a lot of dollars! Such a lovely, lovely man. I feel quite lucky (and undeserving) to get to see these photos and comments from his tumblr pages. I am enthralled by each of his postings and updates. It's as though I'm actually a friend, and not some obscure fan, so it's a bittersweet look in. The fates should not encourage me nor be so kind. I'll only get to daydreaming and neglect all my responsibilities in the reality of the boring, unexceptional here-and-now.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"I know you are, but what am I?"

This amazing festival of good, old-fashioned, Pee-Wee goodness happened over the holiday season this past year. I'm so surprised that Melissa Morris didn't blog about attending (perhaps she and Chappy didn't have that on their 2010 social calendar). I know I would have! THANK GOODNESS for HBO, who filmed one of the performances and will broadcast it on March 19th. I heart my HBO.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Anybody event horse shopping this spring?


A friend of mine here in Tennessee has decided to sell a very nice event horse he has had for about 5 years. Although the horse is wonderful and they had some great times together, finishing college and the desire to pursue a "non-horse"-related career have caused the rider to reorganize his priorities. Just because the rider is no longer committed to competing doesn't mean his horse should stand around in the barn, so he has decided to find a new home for him. Below are the details, as sent to me by the owner. I've also included a few competition pictures that were attached with the sale information, and I added one I took of them several years ago at a Donna Smith eventing clinic in Bristol, TN.

Horse: Shrapnel (barn name "Syd")
Color/Sex: Bay, Gelding
Age: 13
Born in: 1998
Breed: New Zealand Thoroughbred
Height: 16.3 hands
Location: Bristol, Tennessee

Competitions: Syd competed successfully at the CCI* level in New Zealand and was qualified to go Intermediate. We imported him in March of 2006 and I have been competing him at the Training level of Eventing. We have schooled Preliminary cross-country successfully in Aiken, South Carolina as well. He is a very reliable horse and has never had a cross-country jump fault. He is a very genuine horse with a sweet personality.
Reason for sale: Rider is a college student who doesn't have the time to ride or compete anymore.
Asking price: $25,000
Contact Info:
Owner: Mike Jennings
Phone: 423-878-5451 (H) ; 423-341-9620 (C) ; 423-341-8733 (C)