I am excited to run Rogue from a horse for Mike + Kim next weekend at the TarTan Gordon Setter Club trial at Flaherty. It will be really nice for me to ride a bunch of braces, get some horse-time in, and watch the Tsunami's progress in the relatively low-stress of a Puppy stake. But before we return to dog-related programming, here's this...
We were in Ireland just over a week ago for my cousin, Richard's wedding. We'd met his wife before at another cousin's wedding four years ago -- and Cathy is a charm. The two of them are a great match. So, as mentioned, we had boarded the boys at a kennel while we were gone, but were very happily surprised to see these two, not altogether dissimilar, fellows greeting us at Castle Durrow where we were staying for the reception.
And so, here by popular demand (and in part because my wife has already posted this on Facebook), here we are in our regalia. Yes, that is a Campbell tartan on my kilt -- Ancient Campbell to be precise, which as some folks may recognize has the same sett as the Black Watch tartan, made so popular by LL. Bean over the years. As this post makes clear, it is no coincidence that the two tartans are related.
I was hoping to have received the picture my brother took of me managing my cousin's West Highland Terrier, Dugal (who is in fact a girl), who not only attended the wedding but was blessed by the minister.
And now back to our normal programming: I went back up to CT this morning for another horse-riding lesson. I could take lessons 10mins from our house, but the drive to Mystic is worthwhile for me because I know I will get at least two hours on a gaited horse, riding Western style, on a trail, with one-on-one guidance from Ariel at Beech Brook Farm -- and not be trapped in an arena and charged four times as much. Theirs is a small farm whose primary mission is actually equine rescue, while their love is Tennessee Walkers.
For those that may not be aware, gaited horses are generally prefered as field-trial horses because of their smooth gaits even at the running walk or canter. As a result, and especially for judges and professional handlers who might spend an entire day in the saddle, whoever is riding experiences less jolting and is therefore less worn by the end of the day. The trick, though, is how to ask the horse for the various different gaits and then keep them in whichever gait you require. And for someone like me who was briefly schooled in English-style riding somewhere back when mammoths were still wandering western Scotland, this means learning how to use your legs properly.
I'll be honest and say that I've read some books on the subject -- all of which are written by folks who've ridden horses so long that they have forgotten what it's like to find that sweet-spot on the horse's barrel with your calf muscle. And all the while you're trying to remember to keep your legs under you and your heels down, your pelvis loose, your back straight, and still find time to realise that you're now coming close to 20mph. But today's break-throughs were figuring out how to turn the horse with as little direct reining as possible, using my legs and hips instead, and finding the sweet spot on Tequila (aka 'Teke') to ask him for more speed while still maintaining my balance. As you can see in this picture, he's a handsome boy that had a good workout in today's lovely, breezy weather.
There's still plenty of work to do, for sure. But I am feeling as though I have a much better idea of what I should be doing when I get on a wrangler's horse next Sunday. And as a result, I will be better able to concentrate on the dog -- and hopefully better show the judges that the dog in front of me is the dog they want at the top of their list at the end of day.
Finally, here are some assorted ephemera:
1) In a related note: John Yates has a great article in the newest issue of Field Trial Magazine on 'The Art of Showing a Field Trial Dog.' Sadly it's not available on-line, but I will probably post excerpts in the future.
2) Brad at For Love of Dogs and Birds has posted a great piece originally in a recent issue of the Wall Street Journal by author Thomas McGuane. Most of us knew he was a fisherman, but were not as aware he loved chasing upland birds with dogs.
3) There's a great new blog about a young woman's pursuit of eagle hunters around the world. Lauren has some great pictures and stories -- and I feel lucky to have been to some of those same places.