Funny Story Friday: Simba and the Deer

New series? New series! Will I keep up with it? Probably not, but I’m hopeful!

A few weeks ago, I took Simba on a rambling ride through Mason, New Hampshire. It was early in the day, the sun was shining but the weather was comfortably cool, the bugs were on the way out…perfect day for a long ride without any sort of destination or goal except to go play.

I’d noticed lately that Simba’s resistance to riding on the road was lessening, so once we had gaited our wait down the rail trail for awhile, I decided to walk home via the road. Now, this is Middle-of-Nowhere, Mason, NH. It’s as country as you can get in this neck of the woods. I absolutely adore it, because I can ride down the road without worrying about risking my life or my horse’s life.

So, we went down the road on a loose rein and he became more and more relaxed the more we traveled. He eyed a few trash barrels suspiciously, regarded a barking dog with a flick of an ear, blinked sleepily at a herd of horses in a paddock running up to the fence, and was honestly the best he’s ever been on the road. We gaited where we could on the shoulder, but we were mostly happy to just meander along.

We hit a patch of road that was surrounded by woods on both sides, with no houses for a stretch. Simba relaxed further, as houses are the main cause of his concerns (Scary Boogeymonsters live in houses, obviously). He was practically on the buckle and was stretched out, doing his Bloodhound impression and snuffling the ground as he walked.

It was quiet and calm and enjoyable for all…for a minute or two, anyway.

There was a sudden, LOUD rustling that came from the right side of the road. We were on the left, so both of us snapped our heads to the right. Simba stopped dead. I gathered my reins hastily, preparing myself for the Ultimate Sit n’ Spin.

A beautiful, elegant doe came bursting out of the woods. She was mere feet in front of us — close enough for blind as a bat me to see the whites of her eyes. She bounded gracefully across our path, her tail flagged and panic written all over her body. I love deer, despite the fact that they’re probably a pain in the ass and like to jump in front of cars (and horses, I guess). I find them beautiful and fascinating. I was waiting for my horse to lose his shit, but I was also thrilled to pieces to be so close!

I needn’t have worried. Simba stood, statuesque, watching the deer practically graze his nose with her fur. His ears stood at attention and his head was in the air. I couldn’t see his eyes, but I expect he wore a wild-eyed expression. His whole body was tense, and I sat deeper, juuust in case he decided to pull out that Sit n’ Spin

Of course, he did something that surprised the shit out of me instead.

Just as the deer was breaching the woods on our side of the road, Simba let loose the loudest neigh I’ve ever heard from him. Body shaking, pulled from the tips of his toes, bounced me int he saddle kind of neigh.

I blinked, stunned.

He continued standing stock still, his ears swiveling, waiting for a return call.

I collapsed into helpless peals of laughter, falling forward onto his neck. He jumped a bit when I flopped fowards on his back, but didn’t move as I howled, patting him as I rested my forehead against his mane.

When I could finally sit back up, his ears were rotating like antennae, his confusion evident. I wiped the tears from my eyes, patted him again, and urged him forward. He walked off without a second thought, almost as if shrugging. He knows that I am a Weird Human and I do Weird Human things and it’s up to him to tolerate it, so he toodled on like nothing strange had gone on.

I, on the other hand, continued hooting with laughter for quite some time.

State of the Simba

It’s been…too long since I last updated about blonde beastie outside of “here this is my horse he is pretty!” pictures. Believe it or not, I am riding and while it’s not as much as I want, it’s still something! I used to not be phased by the drive back and forth from home to the barn, but it has gotten increasingly more and more daunting. I live an hour and fifteen from where Simba is stabled, and while I won’t move him because I don’t trust anyone else with my horse, it makes riding during the week a right pain in the arse!

But, we’re getting in as much as we can…and usually, it’s solo these days, which has been good for both of us, I think. We were plunking down the road last Saturday and it occurred to me just how much had changed with this little horse in a short amount of time.

Again, I say…tolerant pony is TOLERANT.

When I purchased Simba, he was pushy, out of shape (okay he was a freaking marshmallow, haha!), reluctant to work, a bit of a spaz (okay a lot of a spaz), and generally disenchanted with the whole “human/horse relationship”. He lacked focus and drive, and spent most of his time fighting me tooth and nail over…well, everything. Gaiting was out of the question because he spent 99.99999% of the ride trying to turn back for home and spent the other .00000001 of the time spooking at stupid shit or being too tense to do anything other than dragon snort at everything. He was obnoxious, rude, made a complete pigsty of his stall, and got himself many unkind nicknames (Douchenozzle comes to mind…).

Needless to say, we kind of hated each other. Like, a lot.

So, I made the decision to sell him, but kept working with him because he’d be a better horse for it at the end of the day. I kept on keeping on and tried to refrain from beating him with a 2 by 4. I’m sure he felt the same way.

Thankfully, we are both still alive and regular work has done wonders for his little pea brain. D made a comment on a ride this past weekend that I had grown to love him. I eyed her, and responded that while I’m not sure I’d use anything like “love” to describe where we’re at now, we are tolerating each other with a surprising amount of good cheer these days. She laughed and said that only an English major would put it that way. I didn’t have much of a comeback for that…because she’s probably right!

We have come quite a ways from where we started, that’s for sure. His ground manners have turned from “meh” to “obediant” quite quickly. He was a wiggly little devil on the cross ties, pushy as all get out in the halter, and had real concept of “soft” when I first got him. First of all, he learned right quick that while I may be wee compared to him, I carry a big stick…sometimes literally. You are big, I am little, so keep your bigness over there and make sure you contain it if things go batshit. He learned to not be a prat on the crossties. He quit pawing all together. He started relaxing — he went from a lit rocket to knowing the crossties meant nap time because I was going to fuss obnoxiously over his mane and tail and coat and white stocking and other things that were incredibly boring — and learned right quick that the Evil Finger was followed up by something sterner.

We spent a bit of time on ground work in general those first few months, and I think that was the key in reinforcing a lot in his brain. He’s learned how to lunge in both directions at all gaits (walk/gait, trot, pace, FLAILOMG!/canter-thingee) softly and quietly. He learned some basic groundwork exercises and has proven himself to be quite intelligent when he tunes in and tries. Sometimes, that’s right away when I put him to work. Other times, he’s subjected to hard and fast commands until he realizes flying around with his tail flagged is a bad idea.

His forelock does this every time he wears his Darth Vader mask…it cracks me the hell up.

He’s also come leaps and bounds in his under saddle work. D pointed out to me the other day that maybe his girth had been bothering him for a lot longer than I realized (bad pony mama!). We still have some difficulties over uneven ground, but just since switching his girth, he has either become more comfortable or has just figured out that we are both happier when he gaits like he should. He still has a myriad of gears within the gaits he possesses, but he is flopping into “hard pace” less and less. Now it’s time to refine him into a consistent rack instead of his tendency to lull me into a sense of complacency with the stepping pace. What’s the difference? It’s a bit crude, but if my boobs are bouncing, it ain’t right. A little wiggle is fine — I mean, Christ on a cracker, they’re boobs — but if I’m in pain or getting smacked in the face despite my sports bra, we’ve got issues. The stepping pace makes them bounce. It’s not uncomfortable, but when he steps into his rack and the only thing that moves is my hair…? Well, yeah, I want the no-bouncy one.

Gait aside, he’s a buckle ride most of the time now. Once I figured out that he HATED to be micromanaged (and despised ringwork equally as much) and became claustrophobic on a short rein, things fell into place. He toodles along at whatever gait I put him in, for the most part, has quit with the stupid spooking at nothing, and never says no. We had a bit of an issue with water, but he’s since figured out it’s not a horse eating monster and splashed around in a pond last weekend after scaring the bajeepers out of about a million and a half frogs.

He is still an opinionated critter and will give me flak if he thinks he’s being wronged in some way, but he has never, ever been dangerous. He’s a passive aggressive kind of horse — nothing he ever does (or ever really has done) has been outright dangerous or out of spite, but he is king of the passive aggressive shoulder pop or coming above the bit to avoid All the Aids. However, he’s much more likely to have a discussion with me now instead of blatantly just deciding to pretend I don’t exist anymore. He is happier, calmer, softer, quicker to respond, and generally more compliant. We went out on our first group ride in months just yesterday, and we were in front, in back, in the middle, and most of it was on the buckle. He didn’t put a hoof wrong, outside of getting possessive over “his” mares, which earned him a solid thwack on the shoulder every time he pinned his ears. He got the message and didn’t attempt it again after the third time he was soundly walloped for being rude.

D and Tory, M and Clara…aka Simba’s Girls. Corona the Quarter Horse gelding was behind us.

All in all, he’s turned into quite a solid little trail horse. I’m super proud of how quickly he’s turned into one, too. He came to me more than a little green and definitely a lot spoiled. He was loved from the tips of his ears to the bottom of his tail, but he thought he should be the once calling the shots. Fortunately, he’s not stupid and when he’s not throwing a hissy fit, he takes direction and correction quite well. He’s turned it around very quickly, and has surprised me in many ways in the meantime. We still have stuff to work on, as we always will, but I’m pleased with his progress in general.

He’s a good little blonde beastie…just, you know, not MY good little blonde beastie.

So, that does mean that he’s still for sale. We’ll keep on keeping on and having adventures. Come September, I will be going with Kelsey and Harlan of Blonde Bomber Acres to Myles Standish State Forest for a weekend of camping (…this…could be interesting). I’m hoping to find someone who really wants to go to the beach for a ride at some point in the next couple of weeks before it gets too cold, as Labor Day marks the opening of beaches to horses. I have an elaborate and ridiculous Halloween costume planned if he’s still around for that. I will keep riding him until the day he leaves, because it’s good for both of us.

…aaand hopefully I’ll suck at blogging less! Here’s a picture of me yesterday…and yes, this was before drinking anything alcoholic.

Yeah, that’s a giant feed tub. I’m here to entertain!

Satellite Call: A Depression and Suicide Interlude

There once was a little girl.

She was a happy little girl, maybe a little on the quiet side, but happy nonetheless. She had a mommy, and a daddy, and a little sister and she played with her toy horses and named all of her baby dolls Kimberly because it was just the prettiest name in the world and asked for a Dalmatian puppy every single year for Christmas.

For all intents and purposes, she was a normal little girl.

Then, that little girl grew up. Some bad things happened and some sad things happened, and life was kind of hard. Soon enough, she realized that maybe she wasn’t as normal as she once thought. She found that sometimes, life doesn’t just throw one curve ball…it throws too many to dodge at once. She got hit in the face once or twice, and once she was down, she couldn’t get back up. She watched other people get hit by their curve balls, fall down to their knees…and then get back on their feet with as little as a shrug. She sat on the ground and wondered why she couldn’t do the same. She became more and more discouraged, until the most she could do was protect her head from the deluge of things thrown her way, and wondered why she was so defective. She was sad and confused and tired and everything hurt all the time because there seemed to be nothing she could do to stop the pounding.
She soon felt that she was so defective, that there was just no saving her. She was a bad, bad person who just didn’t deserve to be among those who could handle their curve balls “normally”. She hated herself. She hated herself more for hating herself at all. Every little mistake was reason for the snarling, whirling voices inside her head to make sure that she knew just how much of a useless waste of space she was. Every compliment was met with an outward smile but an inward snort of disdain because there was absolutely no way in hell that she was ever kind, smart, thoughtful, talented, funny, or anything that made her a person worth loving. She was not worth loving. 
She folded in on herself, walling off her heart to those who desperately wanted to help her, because she couldn’t bear the thought of allowing anyone to see just how incapable of living she was. She took every bit of fear, frustration and hatred she had towards everything out on herself, mentally and physically. She couldn’t bear to reach out, because the darkness that surrounded her was so suffocating that the thought of trying to share it — even just a little bit — made an invisible hand close around her throat. So she played the part of a well adjusted adult who laughed and joked and loved and thrived so no one caught on to her secret, because once someone caught on, they would know that she was defective and defective things always get thrown into the trash.
This, friends, is just the tip of the iceberg of what living with depression was (and is) like for me.
I want you to understand that this is not something I share lightly. Honestly, I am shaking while writing this because this is HARD and SCARY and the backlash could easily make me wonder why I bothered at all…but, in light of Monday evening’s news, I felt compelled to sit down and write. If sharing that I battle daily with things in my own head helps someone else, then the risk is worth it.
If you’re unaware, the world lost a great man on Monday. Robin Williams, one of America’s leading comedians, actors, and all around well loved public figures, took his own life. Early reports are suggesting that hanging was the culprit, but there were signs of self injury and potential drug usage as well. The country is mourning the loss of someone that we all saw as a funny, lighthearted man with the world wrapped around his finger. He had a beautiful family, many friends, and adoring fans. 
He still committed suicide.
Depression does not discriminate.  It can, and will, touch anyone, anywhere, at any time, for any reason (or no reason at all). There is no up, down, left, right, front or back, and for those of you with paths that are clear and free of the demons that reside within some of us, it is not something easily imagined. If you’re reading this, and you’re one of these people: that is okay. I am RELIEVED that you haven’t ever had what is essentially a Dementor living inside of you 24/7, with no Patronus charm to protect you from it. Relieved, and maybe a bit jealous, but mostly relieved. 
There are those of you that do, however, understand what I’m saying. Depression is, at the end of the day, a unique and singular experience for each person, but there are similar themes that run though depression as a whole: fear, frustration, isolation, sadness, anger, and confusion. How they manifest differs from person to person, and how they wreak havoc differs from person to person. 
I am standing in front of you today rocked to the core by these events. I feel naked and insecure, because my life has been tainted by depression, both my own and my mother’s. Mental illness has been in the news quite a lot in the past few years, but it has always been accompanying a gruesome, public display of violence (Aurora shootings, Marathon bombings, Newtown shootings, ect). This is the first time that I can remember that a clear case of suicide due to dealings with major depression has been front and center. I see the headlines, and I see myself, because despite the fact that Mr. Williams was a well known Hollywood star and I’m a little nobody customer service representative…our struggles were — and are — extremely similar. I imagine there are some of you that relate heavily to this as well. I see the reports of a man who put on such a happy front having hanged himself, and wonder just how many of those in my life are hiding things that even I can’t see. That scares me, because there are so many of you that I care about deeply. I can’t sit back and not do anything or say anything, even with my own struggles feeling like they’re on display. 
I am no saint, nor am I cured. I am not a professional, and I can’t drag you out of the darkness, no matter how much you want me to. In all honesty (and this is HARSH and I’m very sorry if this offends you), life isn’t for everyone. Some people cannot escape their demons, and putting them permanently to sleep is the most peaceful way to deal with them. I understand, and while I will still try to show you all of the things that might be worth living for, because I love you, I won’t hold it against you if you’ve done all you can to fight and are just too tired. However, if there is something — ANYTHING — in the back of your head telling you to fight to push forward to hope to breathe to love to TRY…please, please, please, please reach out. If it’s just a tentative finger, that’s fine. I can reach back, ET style, and that’s that. 
If you’re brave enough to offer a hand, I’m going to grab on and not let go. I have an inkling of what you may be feeling, and while I have zero sage advice (blind leading the blind here!), I will be happy to sit and listen, commiserate, tell dumb jokes, explore why our minds work the way they do, or just watch a dumb Disney move with you…if it helps, I will try. 
So, this is me, sending out my satellite call, to those of you who are lost somewhere out there: you are not alone, and you are loved. 

Rest easy, Mr. Williams. I hope you’ve finally found the peace you so desperately deserved.
This one’s for the lonely child
Brokenhearted, running wild
This was written for the one to blame
One who believe they are the cause of chaos and everything

You may find yourself in the dead of night
Lost somewhere up in the great big beautiful sky
You were all just perfect little satellites
Spinning round and round this broken earthly life

This is so you’ll know the sound
Of someone who loves you from the ground
Tonight you’re not alone at all
This is me sending out my satellite call

This is so you’ll know the sound
Of someone who loves you from the ground
Tonight you’re not alone at all
This is me sending out my satellite call
— Satellite Call, Sara Bareilles