Wednesday, March 28, 2007


The Arabian Prince will be 10 on Friday. He was born at night when a comet was visible in the sky and has a star on his forehead which looks like a swooshing comet (as you can see in the photo of the two of us), hence his registered name of Auspicious Comet. His call name comes from his initials, but Ace is short for a kind of sedative given to horses, which does make for the occasional attempts at poor humor by people who don't like Arabs.

I first saw him when he was a yearling. His mother was in foal to his baby sister (two years younger and born on the same day as Ace) and his older half-brother was still owned by my friend Melinda. Ace's markings are very similar to those of his mother, Flames Sirocco, who was also a flashy chestnut. His sister is a bay, and his half-brother is a gray. (He has many half-siblings by his sire, Padron's Mahogany, a magnificent bay.) Fortunately, Ace did not inherit his mother's temper but did learn from her that he should be the center of attention and he loves to show off for an audience. At a year he had his winning personality. He also loved to be fussed over, which the kids working for lessons at the Family Equestrian Connection have been happy to do.

There's about to be an interruption in that attention, and, unfortunately, it will happen on his birthday. The FEC needs to find another home, and a number of the owners who train with Gayle and Zsu Zsu are making temporary moves until FEC finds its new home. Many are leaving on Friday, and with them go the girls who don't own their own horses. We'll be staying through May, and I'm hopeful that Gayle will find a location where we can be together by May. I'd stay put, except that the owner of the place where Ace is housed has changed her mind about letting outside trainers work on the property and the trainer who remains (and the one we hear is moving in) does hunter/jumpers, so that's not appropriate to my needs. In addition, we hear that the dressage arena will become a second jumping arena, so the footing will not be right for us either. I expect it will be far less convenient to ride when I get done at work.

I'm quite sad about this kind of disruption falling so closely on the heels of the implosion of the equine facilities at Pierce College. It only shows how wasteful it is for those facilities to remain empty when there is a real need in this part of the valley for horse boarding.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Tempus Fugit--Dammit

The month has sped along, helped by the time I need to spend in preparation for the photography class I'm teaching at Pierce College this semester. Since it is a hybrid dealing with both film and digital cameras, I've got all new lectures to prepare so all of the students are covered.

In my less than copious spare time, we've managed to catch an actual movie at an actual movie theatre: "Music and Lyrics. " Drew Barrymore has truly captured the market in romantic comedies. This one is delightful, as have been "Never Been Kissed, " "The Wedding Singer," and "Ever After." If you haven't seen them, pop some corn and settle in. Fortunately, my husband loves these films, but you may have to do it as a chick-flick night.

We also had a terrific meal with our friends Andy Zax and Lisa Jane Persky last week at an Italian restaurant called Risotto in Studio City. While we were eating, Len identified James Van Der Beek walking into the restaurant. I had know idea who he was, but I'm told he was Dawson of "Dawson's Creek." Nice looking kid, but not on my radar. Len can identify old radio stars at the grocery store--it's one of his super powers--so identifying a television actor is quite easy for him.

I'm much less likely to notice folks I haven't photographed at some point, but I did identify David Spade one morning at a breakfast place, and my boss (with whom I was eating) was quite impressed. In Los Angeles, it's common to run into actors all over the place. Usually, we don't speak or otherwise bother them. We met Andy because we both recognized him from "Beat the Geeks" (he was the music geek) as we were leaving a restaurant, and a friend who was with us spoke to him and made introductions. Turned out that Andy was a huge fan of Len's work and thus are great friendships begun. When Andy started dating Lisa Jane, we were pleased to let her know that we were both fans of her film and television work. There's a link to her web page on the right,

Time to head out to dinner with Melinda Snodgrass, my good friend who bred my Arabian Prince and wrote the noted Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Measure of a Man." We're heading to Tarzana to Fabrocini's, a terrific local Italian eatery. Comfort food for a chilly and damp Los Angeles evening.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Independent Seat

I'm working on developing what is known in riding as an "independent seat." Simply put, it means you stay on the horse without holding on with hands or legs (sort of.) There's an anchoring with the pelvic bones that I am absolutely sure is easier to learn at the age of 7, when there is no fear, than in the much later decade I'm now living. As my instructor gives me the combination of movements, I cannot help but say "yeah, right." Nevertheless, I have progressed from no-handed walk on the horse on the lounge line to no-handed sitting trot, with my arms in the crucified Jesus extension.

There was a time when I thought I would throw up just sitting in the saddle. There was no way I could let go of anything that high in the air. Fear of heights, fear of speed. I no longer feel like I'm stories above the ground when I'm riding my horse, but I've still got issues with speed. I could be wrong, but I think part of yesterday's lesson was laying the groundwork for the canter, the gate which scares me to death. It scares me even though I've cued and ridden the canter a number of times. It's the lack of control over speed and direction, and I've actually experienced both. "What if he spooks?" is the often unspoken but always understood monster behind the door.

All horses spook. If they didn't, they would have been eaten eons ago. Spookiness is a survival trait. I've worked long and hard at developing the Arabian Prince's mellowness, but he has his moments. Othertimes, we watch the world being crazy and he just sighs. I'm very proud of him on those days because it gives the lie to people who think Arabians have scrambled eggs for brains. Julie Goodnight says "the average Arabian is smarter than the average cowboy" which is why cowboys won't own them. I've met plenty of people who aren't as smart as my Arabian is. He knows enough to stay out of the rain, for example. He knows enough to keep a clean area where he eats and sleeps (putting him a few steps ahead of my son.)

The independent seat is hard work. I got home after my lesson last night absolutely exhausted. Tomorrow, I'll probably identify a bunch of muscles I didn't know existed. I've always thought that sailing is too much work to be fun. Even if riding is a lot of work, I've got the pleasure of a horse who talks to me when I drive up to his stall and who lets me know if he thinks I'm paying too much attention to another horse.

Yesterday, for example, I rode a school horse for my lesson. Nicholas is extremely dependable on a lounge line, and knowing he is that trustworthy gives me the confidence to let go of everything and ride no-handed and with my feet out of the stirrups for some things. Ace was turned out while I was tacking Nicholas. He worked himself into an absolute lather, running back and forth and around the turnout. When I went to put him back in his stall, he was dripping wet, and that dried to a nice salty crust. It was too late to bathe him, but I did manage to brush most of it out. That was all because he was not happy that I was stepping out on him.

I realize that's a bit of projection, but the only people who don't think animals have emotions are the people who don't own and observe animals on a regular basis. That goes for people who don't think animals understand words. If I say "out" and I'm in the bedroom, my dogs head for the door to the yard and wait. If I say "snack," they immediately head to the living room and look at the treat bag. If we think a horse can understand "whoa," why wouldn't they understand "walk," "trot," "canter," "foot," "carrot," or "cookie?"

The Arabian Prince is about to get some schooling from an experienced rider. It's been quite a while since that's happened on a regular basis. Should be fun to see what happens when a rider with an independent seat actually takes a turn on his back.