Thursday, February 26, 2009

Not Quite Good-bye to Awards Season

The Oscars(R) are over for another year, the folks in my house had a great time watching (even if Hugh Jackman didn't take off his shirt), and I have my own awards ceremony to put on in April.

Things have generally been going well, but yesterday was one of those nightmare days where I got an e-mail saying one of our special awardees could no longer attend. We're working on a technological solution, but it doesn't replace having someone in the room that a lot of people wanted to meet.

This year, our Grand Master honoree is Harry Harrison. Janis Ian is our toastmistress and Chuck Lorre of the Big Bang Theory is our keynote speaker. It will be a fine evening.

For anyone who might have an interest in science fiction and fantasy, the Nebula Awards(R) Ceremony is open to the public. The banquet will be held on the campus of U.C.L.A. on the night of April 25, 2009, which is the Saturday of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books weekend, also at U.C.L.A. Members of the Science Fiction Writers of America will be signing books at the Mysterious Galaxy booth both days of the weekend. For more information about the event, go to the Nebula Awards Weekend page located here.

I'm in the market for a hot red gown to wear to the Nebulas. I saw one on the red carpet Sunday, but I'm not tall enough or skinny enough to borrow it. I guess I have to keep looking.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


We've got a group sitting in the living room cheering on the Oscars(R). We're having a great time and we think the show is absolutely brilliant (except for the piece introducing the Cinematography category) and Hugh Jackman is doing a fine job. I wondered how it was doing elsewhere.

My sister called from New York a few minutes ago and said "I know you love this man, but I think this is the worst Oscars I've ever seen!" She and I will have a long talk some other night. We are thrilled, absolutely thrilled that the last line of Hugh's opening number was "I'm Wolverine!" Yes, he is.

The supporting Oscar is about to be awarded. "The Dark Knight" just passed $1 billion dollars in world wide gross. And Heath Ledger just won best supporting actor. As well he should have. It was a breath-taking performance and so far superior to Jack Nicholson's Joker that they weren't even in the same galaxy.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Horse with a Sense of Humor

After almost two weeks of heavy downpours, we've had a break in the rain. The weather has held for several days, so the arena was actually dry enough for a lesson this morning. We decided to do 9 a.m. instead of 8, so I had plenty of time to get Ace ready before Gayle showed up.

We headed out into the arena and I set up my cones and dropped the hula hoop we use as a "safe" spot for Ace when we want to take a break. Jumps had been left out in the arena and I needed to move one of them to keep Ace from working too close to the horses in their runs. I moved Ace so he was standing with his feet inside the hoop and told him to stay. I figured that he might do it for a few minutes.

Much to my surprise, Ace stayed put for more than just a few minutes. While I was moving the jump, Gina, who works at the air conditioning business that co-exists with the stable, came outside and asked "did you ask him to do that?" She was amazed that he was still standing there. I went back to him, told him he was a good boy, gave him a couple of reward treats and told him to stay.

He stayed put until Gayle drove in, when he thought he could move out. I put him back in the hoop and told him to stay again. I figured I'd walk to the end of the arena and let him know he could join us.

So Gayle and I stood by the mounting block and called for him. He looked at us and stayed put. Gayle and I laughed and waved for him to come. He stayed. I pulled out the bag of reward treats, called him, and shook the bag. We wished we had a video camera. His ears pricked, his tail went in the air in classic Arab fashion, and he did is big, high, park horse trot across the arena to us, stopping on a dime right near me so he could have a peppermint snack. Gayle and I could hardly stop laughing.

It was also one of those mornings where Ace tried to convince us that being a circus horse is more fun than anything else. He picked up my water bottle from the mounting block and we managed to get him to move his head around so I could grab it from him (he was a little less willing to let it go than I might like, but I did manage to get it from him without falling off the saddle.) He kept trying to retrieve his cones before we were done with the lesson. When we did finally finish, he had a hard time choosing exactly the right spot for picking up the hula hoop--he doesn't like the taste of sand. Gayle, who was on the ground next to him, said he was blowing sand off the hoop before picking it up in his teeth with his lips curled back. Cute as all get out.

The chiropractor came by last Saturday and I think it did him a lot of good. The doc said he's got good range of motion (I didn't want to watch has he moved his front legs around--it looked like he had to be breaking something.) He's moving beautifully and we do seem to be making progress on that left-front heel. My farrier came by today to do some other horses, and we decided that it wouldn't hurt to trim the toes back again. If only his front feet were as good as his back feet.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

Ace and I wish you all kisses and chocolates--you can never have too many of either!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Things You Will Never See Me Do on My Horse

Here's a few of the things we saw at the Festival of Horses the weekend before the Rose Parade in January. None of them are things I ever plan to do with Ace. In the image above, in a reenactment of a buffalo soldier activity, the rider laid down his horse to use as protection in a shoot-out (a particularly noisy activity in a covered arena.)

My poor sense of balance and my fear of heights would never allow me to stand up on my horse and swing a lasso around us both.

Trick riding at high speeds is something best left to young people who have no sense of their own mortality:
It's great fun to watch, but several of the riders hit the dust during the demonstrations. No one was hurt, since all of the riders got up and back on their horses. I'm not sure I would have done any of this when I was 12, even if I didn't have a fearful mother.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Why We Close Gates

For those of us who are into safety first with our horses, it can be a real annoyance to be with people who just don't get it. I'm trying to get past stupid things people do with their own horses--getting hurt that way is just evolution in action--but when they do things that might have an effect on others, it is still a problem.

I close and lock all gates through which I pass. At most of the places I've had Ace, this is a very important step because most of the places have been too close to roads where drivers aren't driving defensively. This is even in neighborhoods where it is apparent that horses and children on horses are present. It was a safety measure that was an important part of "the Pierce way" of safety.

After a number of months of being at Ace's current barn, I talked to the owner about the problem with people leaving the gate to the tack area open. I offered to buy a sign, but she got one and put it up. We're probably the only people who actually keep that gate closed, but it is important to do so, as one of the other borders learned yesterday. Fortunately, it wasn't as harsh a lesson as it might have been.

I got to the barn around noon. The electronic gate at the street is working again (it was damaged during the big winds we had more than a month ago), so I closed the gate behind me after I drove in and parked. Then I checked the arena gate, which is frequently left unchained by other borders, in case I decided to let Ace out to stretch his legs. After this many days of rain, he's anxious to kick up his heels, but I won't let him out unless there's no standing water and the footing doesn't appear to be too slippery. Across the street, at the first stable he lived in out here, there's a memorial plaque to a horse who broke her leg when turned out into a still-wet arena. I've watched horses slip and slide for a couple of yards in wet arenas. It is not pretty and my heart was in my throat.

I walked to the tack area and opened and closed the gate that lets me in and gives an extra layer of protection when horses are being fed or any other time their stall doors might be open. I decided to let Ace out while I cleaned and changed his water, so he was out in the arena and I didn't hear another border come in.

When I saw her, I noticed she had left the back gate open. Since Ace wasn't in his stall, it wasn't a problem for me. But I did notice she had her horse's stall door open and she was going back and forth between it and the tack room. I said hi, told her I wouldn't be there for much longer, and I'd bring Ace back in after I filled his water, if she wanted to turn her horse out. She said she'd only be there a short time, so, no, it wasn't necessary. I went back to cleaning the stall.

Then I heard a commotion. Ace was running back and forth along the run-side of the arena. I looked out on the run side of the stall and saw a big red horse in the parking lot. The gate to the street was wide open. The horse had slipped out, gone through the open gate on the tack side of the stalls, and was heading for god knows where. Fortunately, his owner managed to chase him to the corner away from the street and got the gate to the street closed. Ace continued to run madly as I saw my son (who had been in our car) walking along the far side of the arena, between the arena and the fence with the house next door. Michael was herding the other horse to the back of the property, where a second fence closed off the tack area. The border and her daughter headed past the door to Ace's stall to meet him from the other direction. They caught him and took him home. As she walked by, I said to her "and that's why we always close all of the gates behind us."

Michael was quite horrified by what could have happened. "Mom, here's all kinds of holes that the horse could have caught his foot in on that side of the arena. And a lot of other things he could have gotten hurt on." The holes are there to accommodate lights for the arena, which I fear will never be installed.

We used to have horses in the barn that could and would open gates, which was another reason to make sure that all gates were locked and chains were secured. Their owner was one of the other people who never closed gates. Unfortunately, the girlfriend and the daughter of our theoretical barn manager are also unwilling to close gates and will go out of their ways to open gates which have been closed for them. It's hard to say anything about that without worry of getting an eviction notice, I'm afraid.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Spare Time, What's That?

My last week or so has included a trip to the filming of "Big Bang Theory" and a back-stage meet and greet with the creators and cast, retail therapy at "Equine Affaire," co-hosting a party to watch the commercials on the Super Bowl--love those Clydesdales, catching a preview performance of "Minsky's" which should be moving on to New York this spring, and attending a party to celebrate the awarding of a Ph.D. at Cal Tech, to a young woman I've known since she was born.

The weather even permitted two lessons on Ace, but the gathering clouds outside my window suggest that there will be no lessons again until next week. We're expecting rain. Lots of rain. From several different storms. The warm sunny days are over for a while.

Len's on his way to New York for New York Comicon at the Javitz Center this weekend. My sister gets to be his date for the special parties and then the two of them will probably go to the theatre every night next week. Len is not looking forward to the face-burning cold of the East Coast.

I'll be working on taxes and moving furniture.