Archive for November, 2009

A Plague of Butterflies

amywink November 25th, 2009

The rain has brought hordes of butterflies to the pastures and my own backyard in Austin. Walking through the fields, swarms of small butterflies rise from the grasses, looking like tiny fall leaves on the wind. This is good for Will because the one thing he shies at most has been the stray butterfly coming at him from the woods. I understand how the bright-winged erratic movement of the butterfly catching the sun could look like danger out of the darkness. Since he’s been out with them, however, he’s decided they are nothing to be wary of, these little bright leaves floating up from the grasses.

In Austin, the blooming loquat tree in our backyard has provided a feast for numerous butterflies. While we have considered removing the tree, we now plan to keep it for the butterflies. After some research, I found that our current plague consists of Queen Butterflies (Danaus Gilipus) of the Milkweed Butterflies family (Danaidae) and the Red Admiral (Vanessa Atalanta) of the Brushfoot (Nymphalidae) family, and all manner of smaller Skipper butterflies–which also seem the likely suspects for Will’s pastures. This wonderful Butterflies of North America website helped me identify the Queens and Admirals in our backyard which appear to be happy sharing the Thanksgiving feast together.


Water, water, everywhere . . . .

amywink November 23rd, 2009

. . . but no signs of albatross. Thank heavens!

We had another rain event this week and Lisa’s place had over two inches in 24 hours. I think this makes a total of rain since October somewhere in the range of 14 inches. It has made a wonderful difference from when we first arrived in mid August, mid-extreme drought. Here are a few photos of the large stock pond for comparison.

Mid August, the pond looked like this:


Mid-October, the pond looked like this:

This Saturday, November 21, the pond looked like this:img_4765.jpgimg_4764.jpg

The pond is covered with some kind of water plant, floating tiny lobed leaves, like tiny shamrocks:

And the down in the back pastures, past the pond, the long-dry streams are running:


We did not drive this weekend. Saturday’s promised sunshine never appeared and the two inches of overnight rain left standing water everywhere. Sunday, the sun didn’t come out until mid morning and the mud was too thick to try for a drive. Will’s feet look liked he was wearing boots:


And so for Thanksgiving, we are all grateful for rain and water, water, everywhere, and the end of a long, long drought.

Glorious Day

amywink November 16th, 2009


Yesterday I fell even more deeply in love with my horse. For our fifth anniversary, we headed over to Agarita Ranch for our second outing and Will was perfect. Absolutely Perfect. It was astounding and glorious.

The extremely foggy morning eventually cleared by 10:30 and we had partly cloudy skies and mid-seventies for temps. The fog did provide a lovely scene before we departed. As the horses walked out of the pastures for their breakfast, each materialized slowly from dark shape to individual body: Windy, Popeye, and Miss B, moseying up for breakfast. Will was no where to be seen. As the herd got closer, we called and called, and then we heard Will coming. Head up, tail out, he galloped out of the fog, passing everyone else to race to his feeding pen. It was a scene for a movie and the perfect start to our day together.

We arrived at Agarita Ranch about 11 and unloaded. Will walked off the trailer like an old pro. He looked around, relaxed and quiet. He quietly stood tied to the trailer while we harnessed, walked quietly to his carriage for hitching, stood quietly while we waited for Windy and Lisa to hook, and walked off calmly off for the start of our drive. 180 degrees from our last outing. He stood so well, Mary was able to take several photos before we started and get on and sit down without Will moving at all. He didn’t even raise his head when Mary climbed on. This was the first time, he’d remained stock still for everything. As Mary said, all our work together had paid off.

As I intended, we started our work in the dressage arena, where we tried out some of the exercises I’d copied from Heike Bean’s book. Since Agarita’s dressage arena is full sized (40×80), we had more room to move correctly. I wanted to try the figure 8 recommended for Losgelassenheit since I had not executed it correctly when we worked the previous day, turning too tightly in the corners. This time, we did the figure correctly and Will did much better (of course) because I didn’t get it wrong–my apologies, Will. We also tried the exercise recommended for Anlehnung, driving down the center line with 20 meter half circle turns, and that went very smoothly as well. Will maintained excellent rhythm (Takt) the entire time, working steadily at the trot. For our biggest challenge, I tried a three loop serpentine across the arena at the trot and Will responded admirably.

Our biggest challenge remains the full circle, which I attempted again. I seem to do fine on half the circle, but lose it somewhere on the other half–more practice is the only solution. I also think I may need to try the circle earlier in our work, before my hands get too tired for the correct commands and contact necessary for that maneuver. Practice, Practice, Practice.

All of that was quite a workout for both Will and I so we left the arena and headed out for a nice cooling walk on the trails. Will headed out willingly, never batted an eye, barely looked around, and never called to Windy. In fact, he wanted to be “in front” and walked too swiftly to be in second place! We walked through the mesquite thicket–with an eye open for the flock of turkeys we’d seen on arriving: img_4731.jpg Thankfully, they did not appear. I was not exactly sure Will remain composed if we came upon these very large birds along the trail.

Instead, it was a lovely, lovely stroll through the brush and trees. Will behaved perfectly and only sent out a call to his buddy Ben when we got in sight of the barn. It was a perfect drive.

Here are a few shots of Will standing. He was so good, Mary was able to get on an off the carriage many times without any trouble at all. So, we have any photos of Good Will Standing at Agarita Ranch.


German? Why did it have to be German?!

amywink November 14th, 2009

I have a long complex relationship with German. We started off well together, in high school, and I really enjoyed our early years together, before college. I lost interest there, after finishing my language classes, and moved on to other interests. After some years apart, I turned to German as my “second” language for the requirements of my PhD—to fulfill the other, I took Old English and Beowulf with Katherine O’Brien O’Keefe, now of Notre Dame, while she was at Texas A&M (everyone should be so lucky to work with her to learn ancient languages. The woman is amazing) and spent two semesters trying to digest Old English and then translate Beowulf (which was both extremely challenging and delightfully rewarding for someone who enjoys words and wordplay and the experience comes in extremely handy when students complain about work being difficult.)

But I digress.

German: I went back to my basic knowledge and studied for the required language exam, which I proceeded to fail three times in a row. I created note cards, memorized endings, articles, spellings, grammar rules….. By the time I finally passed the “Reading Knowledge” requirement, I was done with German.

There was a small, localized fire in celebration.

But God’s favorite literary device is Irony (The Smirk of God) and here at the heart this sport that has completely captured my mind lies. . . .

German and the six elements of dressage training:

Takt, Losgelassenheit, Anlehnung, Schwung, Geraderichten, und Versammlung

But, because God is Love, I do not have to translate the German to learn the six elements!! Saints be Praised.

Takt= Rhythm and Regularity

Losgelassenheit= Freedom, Relaxation, Submission (which I’d translate as meaning Willingness)

Anlehnung= Contact, Acceptance of the Bit and Seeking Contact

Schwung= Impulsion

Geraderichten= True Straightness, including Bending

Versammlung= Collection

So as to ultimately achieve:

Durchlaessigkeit = Thoroughness, Suppleness, Harmony, and Confidence.**

Hardy Zantke discusses all these elements here
in the Archive of Carriage Driving World Magazine.

And so, now, I must move on the next challenge in driving:

Teaching Will German.

Drücke mir die Daumen!


**Bean, Heike and Sarah Blanchard, Carriage Driving a Logical Approach Through Dressage Training. Howell Book House, 2004.

Zankte, Hardy, “The German Training Scale”. Carriage Driving World, 2003.

Five Years

amywink November 13th, 2009


On November 13, 2004, Will arrived, delivered by David Hadley, the head trainer at Ryan Ranch in Blanco, to our first home with friends between Canyon Lake and Wimberley, Texas. The photo above was taken about a week before, the day I made the down payment and scheduled his delivery for Saturday November 13. That day was dreary, drizzly, and there are no good photos but I remember watching him pace around the pasture, nervous in his new home. His new companion, my friend’s quarter horse, raced around her paddock, calling and calling to her new friend. It was an amazing day. I can’t believe it’s been so long.


We had a bit of a rocky start getting to where I wanted to be, but I have to say I’m extremely pleased with our progress that last five years and very happy where we are at this anniversary. I spent my morning with him, getting him cleaned up from his full body mud masque. We have a day at Agarita planned for this weekend, to celebrate our progress and achievements.


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