Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fresh as Cool Winter Day

The rain was back last weekend. We wanted to get a ride in, but it was too threatening to ride out (yes, we are sissies) so we set up a little trail course out back. The girls wanted to work on some of the things from the Matt Sheridan seminar at EA and I wanted to work on something I saw Craig Cameron do. It was a simple little exercise using the fence. We ride down the fence at a trot and I just bend her nose in and as soon as she turning, I let go of the rein. The idea is to get her a more flexible and working off her back end.

We had waited until the afternoon in the hopes the weather would clear. By the time we got the horses cleaned up we were running out of day. There wasn't much time for groundwork. I yielded and flexed her, called it good and hopped in the saddle.

Almost instantly I could feel her "freshness". We hadn't ridden for three weeks and I got the feeling she could have gone another three weeks and it wouldn't have bothered her at all. She was a bit put out by the whole ordeal. We started with the bending exercise and she was heavy as a sack of wet cement. We worked on that for awhile, then trotted some circles, her tail swishing the whole time.

After about 10 minutes I went over to the fence and began the exercise. As I lifted the rein to turn her into the fence her head went straight up. I finally got her turned and the other direction was about the same. We kept doing it until she didn't just fling her head in the air. It got "okay", but it never got "good".

We trotted over the poles the girls had set up and she was speedy and full of beans so we did some more bending and tried it again. Then we side-passed in an L-shape. That she actually did pretty well.

It had started to sprinkle and I still wanted to do a lope. We went to the wide part of our area and I asked for the canter. She took off fast so I bent her around and went the other direction. She was fast again, and again we changed directions. Then again, and again. When I bent her down to change directions she put her head down and kicked up. We immediately went into some fast hindquarter yielding, then I asked for the canter again. It was slower, not slow and I tried just making the circle smaller. That didn't help much. We kept at it for about 10 minutes and she was starting to sweat up. I did another change of direction and she took off slow enough for me to end on something of a good note.

Ah, yes, I love my spunky little mare...for now...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A little Food Photography

You can probably tell it's the time of year when we don't get to work the horses much. A friend sent us some very nice wine and, after the weekend in Ojai, we are getting more creative with our meals. So, why not try a little food photography too?

This was Ranae's effort last night. Broiled breast of chicken, with roasted potatoes, asparagus, broccoli and carrots covered in some of the handmade feta cheese. She also did some balsamic vinegar over fresh strawberries and sliced apple. Yummy. There was a sprig of fresh rosemary someplace. I think she used in the chicken.

The wine company is 14 Hands and they have a very cool graphic with three horses on it.

Presentation is everything. Our kitchen light is terrible for photography.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Weekend in Ojai

Our wedding anniversary is Valentine's Day and our favorite place to go is Ojai. We made reservations at this very cozy inn called Su Nido. The weather was bee-you-tea-full. One of the reasons we love Ojai is because you can walk just about everywhere. That means we can both enjoy a cocktail or wine and, because we are walking, there is no danger of getting popped.

Our room was upstairs on the left side

We had a nice lunch on Friday, and then walked around downtown and shopped a bit. We enjoyed a very good 12 year old single malt Scotch in our room in the afternoon and then had a great dinner at Bodee's. Saturday morning we played tennis, stopped by a little coffee place, and grabbed a muffin for breakfast.

The tennis courts

In the afternoon we took a long walk around town. First, we headed to the Humane Society Animal Shelter. A very nice shelter that was clean, spacious, and comfortable for the animals there. There were even a couple of horses. We worked our way through the oak trees along the walking/equestrian path back into town and headed to Bart's Books which is like the largest used bookstore ever. You can always get a book at Bart's. They have shelves outside, so even if they are closed, you can grab a book and leave fifty cents in the little black box outside. (there were a lot of places in Ojai like this. Boccali's had oranges and avocados outside and a little box to put your money in if you came along after hours)

The Humane Society Corrals

Saturday night we walked over to Suzanne's for dinner. A wonderful restaurant. Very attentive and the food was delicious. It was about a mile back to our room and a good thing after I stuffed myself with that triple chocolate cake thingy (I should remember the name, but I think I was in a diabetic coma at the time).

Sunday morning we played tennis again on the courts nestled under the oak trees. We went to the farmer's market with their fantastic assortment of great produce, handmade cheeses, and bread. Some actors live in this wonderful area and we saw a television actress at the market. We recognized her by her voice because she didn't look like she does on television.

After the market, we packed up and went home through Ventura. We stopped and had lunch at a Greek restaurant in the harbor .

At the beach

Cool railroad bridge

Taken with the camera timer. I about broke my leg climbing through those rocks to pose for the picture. Notice who was laughing the whole time.

Once back in our own valley it was back to gloom and overcast skies. The temps were cooler too. We thought we might be home in time to ride, but didn't quite make it. The ferrier was coming out today.

Our overcast valley

All in all it was a very relaxing weekend and a great way to spend the beginning of our 30th year together. We keep saying we want to make it out to Ojai in the summer, but time always gets away from us. Who knows, maybe this will be the year...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Oh, Magoo, You've done It Again

Arriving on Wednesday

Equine Affaire was over for me early this year. They could not just leave me alone to do the work I was hired for. Management just had to f#$k with me for the pettiest of reasons. But I'll get back to that later...

EA required me to be in Pomona for a meeting 8PM on Wednesday, but I really enjoy the set up and I got there at about 10am. One of the paid crew was having flu symptoms and was looking green-ish. There wasn't very much to do until the afternoon because we had to let the exhibitors move in. Once they got settled we were tasked with laying down mats and taping roofing paper to the floor for the horses to walk on. A back-aching job for sure. Three of us got in a rhythm and we laid some rolls down staying busy for a couple of hours.

We finished around 6:30 in time for me to get over to the covered arena and help set up the Extreme Cowboy Race that would take place Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (Finals) night. We took measurements and taped notes to the outside of the arena so we would know where to put the obstacles. The course didn't have a lot of drama but it was very complicated and, since we would have to duplicate the course for each qualifying round Thursday and Friday, our measurements had to give us a clear picture to set the course the same way both nights. (This arena is 200 x 400 I think - it's huge).

The Program Director, her assistant, and I finished just in time to get to the 8 PM meeting. We got instructions and guidance on Expo procedures (boring). After dinner we set up some of the demo rings and I got checked into my room about 9:45 PM. My roomate (everyone had to share) was part of the mgmt team, the husband of the president of the company. Why he didn't have a private room was beyond me, but again, more on that later...

A Quick Workout and to Bed

The hotel had a workout room and I went for a run on the treadmill, took a sauna and a shower and got back to the room about 11, reviewed my notes, and went to sleep. My Roomie woke at 4:20 am because he was working one of the entrance gates at 6:30. I got up at 6 and had breakfast at 7. Even though I wasn't required to start until 8:45, I wanted to insure my venue was set up correctly.

As it turned out, I was assigned the Venue Manager for the large covered arena, the largest venue on the grounds. While I was surprised at the assignment, I was excited by the challenge. My first three presenters were Ken McKnabb, Craig Cameron, and Barbara Schulte, the world class cutting horse trainer. These guys were about as nice as people could be. Right before he was ready to go on a woman walked up and asked Craig for a picture for her son. Without hesitation he posed and gave the woman a few words of encouragement to pass along to her boy. Ken was telling us stories about his Dad as he was getting ready. They all were just very warm and friendly.

Everything went exceptionally smoothly and in the afternoon I had Tommy Garland, Ken, and Barbara. At 7PM we set the ECR course and our measurements worked out well(we had set them without using the actual obstacles, so I think we did pretty good).

At 7:30 the first qualifying round started. There were 17 riders. We finished taking the course down and getting it out of the arena around 10:30 pm. It took another half an hour to get our radios checked in and I made it back to my room about 11:30. I was whipped. My Roomie was sound asleep.

Black Friday

Friday, Roomie was up at 5am and out by 6 when I got up. I was first into the breakfast room again. Another mgmt team member came in and joined me. She specifically mentioned how pleased she was to have me on the team and was quite pleased with the job I was doing before we moved the conversation to other areas. I headed out at 7:30 to get my arena ready for the day.

Rains came and made some of the tasks more difficult, but at least I was in the covered arena. We had cattle coming in at 8am and had to set up for Barbara's cutting demo. Barb threw us a small curve when she asked if we could set up a flag machine she had borrowed from Richard Wilhelm for her afternoon demo. We made the necessary adjustments and her early morning demo went great. The cows were good and it was fun to watch.

After the cutting demo we hosted the Paso Finos with their wooden ramp that's heavier than s*&t. The breed demo coordinator was a real piece of work. I let her start 10 minutes early and she still went 10 minutes long. We couldn't get her off the mike!

Then we had Ken, Craig and Barb's afternoon demo with the flag machine. The flag machine was extremely easy to set up and worked great. This was pretty cool: As I said, Craig Cameron had the demo before and he was hanging out at the gate after I took his microphone off. I was helping Barb with the headset and Craig asked her if he could ride in her demo. Of course, she said yes and he said, "Just treat me like any other student." And, she did. It was a really fun demo.

It was just before midday when the trouble started for me. The venue was running great. The announcer, a long-time employee, had complimented me on how well it was running and how I handled the presenters. Trouble started when the EA travel/hospitality coordinator drove up and asked to speak with me. She said that Roomie had just realized he needed privacy to complete his work. They were going to get me another room only it would be at a different hotel. Now, Roomie has been doing this job for years and I really couldn't understand how his need for privacy was a "new" development. I pleaded with her to not send me to another hotel (all the rooms in our hotel were full). She said she would get back to me.

This totally threw me. Almost every quarter hour was full of things to do. I was halfway through my clothes. Packing and moving was not going to be easy. My clothes for each day were all laid out and carefully organized in MY room. What was I going to do? Get back at 11 pm, throw all my clothes in a suitcase and drive to another hotel? What was the reason again? The site crew guys could see I was stunned and asked what had happened. When I explained about the sudden need for privacy and that I was asked to move they said, "Oh, you probably snore. Roomie does that to people if they snore." Are you f%^cking kidding me?!?

I guess word got around to other team members and another person told me the same thing. Now, just for the record, I do snore, but not loudly (according to my wife) and not the entire time I sleep. We are only in the room together 6 hours a night. How bad could it be?

Anyway, the hospitality gal came back and asked if I would agree moving in with the two other site crew guys and sleep on their sofa bed. I agreed, but almost immediately regretted the decision. I said "okay" BUT that I would need a room key and 30 minutes "off" time BEFORE the ECR to move my stuff. I really didn't want to change rooms at 11pm. I WASN'T going to change rooms at 11pm. I was upset and my presenter was just ending their demo when I gave my instructions. Maybe I wasn't crystal clear that I wanted her to make arrangements for the extra time and deliver me the key, but she's the hospitality gal, she knows how to accommodate people.

I went back to work. Tommy Garland, then Ken McKnabb presented. We ran and had a quick dinner. I only ate an apple and used my 20 minutes to add clothing as it was cool in the outdoor arena during the race.

At 7pm we set the course. No key, no 30 minutes. We had 16 riders running that evening. I had been the event timer both nights. The race went as expected. The stands were full. After the race we tore down the course and went to turn in our radios. It was raining and we had to wait for security to let us in the building. A couple of people gave us their radios and we agreed to meet in the lounge. Security couldn't be reached and we stood out there for 20 minutes. Finally, I decided to head out and find a security officer. I worked my way back to the hotel. I found the guy from the night before and he go on the radio for us. He arranged for security to go help the folks with the radios.

I walked in the lounge at 11pm and there was the hosp gal and a couple of the site crew guys. We chatted a bit and one site crew guy said to me, "Did you pick up the hotel key?"

"No", I said, "I agreed it had to come to me with 30 minutes relief time before the EC race." By now the "snoring" thing had really started to chap my ass. Hospitality gal said she was sorry, she must have misunderstood, but I couldn't stay in that room tonight. I told her if I packed to move, it was to move home. She asked me not to. This was the second time EA had altered an agreement with me at the last minute. I felt a dangerous precedent was being set. And, I know I am prideful to a fault, but I considered this a matter of honor.

Again she reiterated I couldn't stay in the room and I told her I would go talk to Roomie. I won't detail what we talked about, except that I tried to appeal to his reasonable side. He clung to his fabrication and remained steadfast in his need for privacy.

The drive home was through pouring rain. Traffic stopped for a time because of an accident, and I finally pulled into my driveway around 2 am. Ranae was set to head down for her Matt Sheridan demo and is there now as I write this. She didn't feel it was fair to the friend going down with her or Matt to cancel at the last minute and I agree with that decision.

The three days I worked were very cool. A complete departure from the work I normally do. Meeting the presenters and being in charge of the Covered Arena was very exciting. Other than Roomie, everyone at Equine Affaire could not have been nicer to me. And even then, had it not been the second time Equine Affaire jerked me around, I would have sucked it up and moved to the sofa bed.

I talked to some of the Fairplex people. The Fairplex sits adjacent to a horse race track. Because they are extending the racetrack next year the covered arena and some other areas will be demolished and it's quite likely Equine Affaire won't be held there next year.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Equine Affaire 2010

After 4 years volunteering, Equine Affaire hired me for this year's California event. I'm on the schedule as the Venue Manager in Building 9. Stop by and say hi. We'll have some great seminars at the Demo Ring. Building 9 is also where they have all the horse trailers. Come by and check it out.

I'll also be handling the course reset for the Extreme Cowboy Race Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. I'll have one of the best seats in the house right inside the areana.

Ranae is participating in the Matt Sheridan Trail Course Seminar in the Outside Arena on Sunday. We spent Saturday doing some groundwork with an emphasis on de-sensitizing. Matt has a great rapport with the audience. He'll have a great clinic. Check that one out too.

We did get a ride in on Sunday. After the groundwork on Saturday, both horses did very well. We did some loping and had a good time.

Lots of stuff to do before I leave...