Sunday, February 2, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman 1967-2014

One of the greatest actors the American stage and screen has ever seen, never to be replaced, irreplaceable. Sorrow and loss. I record his passing here for all the revelatory moments of his career that so deeply impacted me, influenced me, informed me, kept me waiting always, impatiently, for the next. I will never, ever forget the feeling of the hair on the back of my neck standing up when I saw him on Broadway, starring in Eugene O'Neill's A Long Day's Journey Into Night. How fortunate I was.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Coming Home

I didn't realize until I sat down to type that I paused my horse journal just about a year ago. Not that years can frame anything, but it's as if I must have known it was practical to step away for so long. I didn't know it was because all my loves, interests, wants, needs would have to be pushed hard to the margins of my life for a time, but that's what happened. That's what change demands, especially when it's the deeper thing of knowing it is going to happen but not knowing that you know. It's hard enough to hear that voice, then harder when you begin to listen. It became a roar, though, deafening in my head, when I finally did listen, and eventually I made everything step away until I could step through into something new. I'm still stepping through and will be for a while. But "new" isn't the right word.


My beautiful mare is well. She's a bedrock boundary of my identity, claiming her place and bringing me back from the periphery. Horses can be incredible anchors through change. They manifest a familiarity that is never false, even when you suspect you are. Because she recognizes me, I am and will be. Eventually, it will feel more natural, and just in time.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Ever The Horses

In times of grief, of shock and sorrow, it seems they always have a place.

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So it was in Brazil today, when this team of gaucho honor guards made their way on horseback through a cemetery, riding toward the newly-dug graves of fallen members of their pampas tribe.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Following the Path

It's time for me to formalize putting my horse journal on hiatus. Why? Maybe because it's a strange thing about human beings the tendency not to dwell on what is good.

August 2010 Mare, I called this photo taken the day we met.

Saxony will carry me home to where I've always dreamed to be with a horse, just one horse. She already is, already has. Looking at her has made me see me, and it's not all bad.

We Are Just Right Together October 2012 I call this one.

Looking at her has made me understand how it has been that I have always been looking at horses, all my life, even when I was away from them. She was a big part of me asking myself why, asking what it is it still after all of this time? And that brought up in me an idea that was then sparked through conversation with a cherished friend, an idea that turned out to be All Horse Vintage, my shop on Etsy. There I'm plumbing the depths of the history of the horse and the human/horse interaction, exploring, studying, learning. I'm loving it with a passion because history draws me, writing heartens me, and horses help me. I'm committed to the journey, so that's where I'll be for a while, recording vintage horse discoveries and mysteries in another blog until I have hold of the reins well enough to return to this one.

Despite the fact that I've maintained A Fearsome Beauty as primarily a private journal, I set it to public view and somehow 68 of you found it and became regular readers. I appreciate very much the things you've said (and haven't said) and feel honored that you've spent the time. I read many horse blogs myself and understand how hours can vanish into thin air when we're reading the thoughts of others bound by the love of horses. I'll keep reading, and if you'd like to see my second blog, just leave a comment and I'll let you know when it goes live via a visit to your own blog soon after the first of the New Year.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Horse as Emotional Signifier

I'm always fascinated by pop culture turning to horses when in need of emotional shorthand. Last year I wrote about the film Michael Clayton and its deliberate use of horses to convey the pain of someone finally facing the harsh, damaging reality of their circumstances. This morning I saw Rihanna's new music video, promoting the first single, Diamonds, to be released from her forthcoming record.

In this frame, Rihanna is turning in the vastness of an (inevitable) desert plain toward the vision of a shining black horse galloping over an open road toward another horse stretched flat out on the ground. The Diamonds video is broken into motifs, in a way, and the horses might be considered motif number two, with the other two being post-apocalyptic flamey and quiet bedroom pensive. Because I'm a cynic, I'm pretty sure Rihanna and the horses were never in the same place at the same time. She conveys her pathos screen right and the horses, they do their horse things screen left, signifying her emotion, enacting its essence.

I like Rihanna. I think she has talent bigger than her choices and may grow to be an astonishingly good singer eventually. She's devoted her last couple of albums to, in part, grinding over the controversial stories that have dogged her through the last few years. It's easy to watch any of her videos in that context, and Diamonds is no different. But in the end, it's just a love song, and it's the horses that gave me pause. Somehow, they often seem to be an easy choice when emotional resonance is what's on tap. But what does that say about them, especially to people that have never been next to one, patted one, sat on one?

I think of the crew in the L.A. editing room, too, cutting back and forth between Rihanna and the black horses for maximum effect. Because they could cut it like that, and did, as though images of horses are a powerful formula that always works well when applied by skilled hands. Do I have to assume, though, that the editors knew the thing that is horses and that they shivered at the beauty of the one running, his muscles literally rippling back in the light, or thrilled at the strength of the one rising up from the ground, dust encircling like smoke?

That's what I don't know. What if what they saw had nothing to do with them knowing horses at all? What is that, then? Whatever it is, it's what makes horses inherently compelling whether we know them or not. It's why some of us have to have them in our lives and why others cannily turn to them to express emotions otherwise elusive of words.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Portable Education

Saxony and I left the training barn on October 15th. That was a Monday. I gave her six days to settle back in at the old barn, which was easy to do because I'm readying to leave the festival site and return to the city. I was busy and dragging my feet at the same time. So much of the festival season for me was about my mare being just across the state line and both of us being in school. I wondered in the back of my mind did some of it, any of it, really take? I was hesitant to test us, because all of it seemed more real with our trainer right there, as though it were flowing from her, encircling us in just an illusion of skill.

I had it wrong. What we learned during our six weeks there, the progress we made, cured and set, hardening into actual knowledge on Sunday morning at the barn when I went through a schooling session with Saxony. Just her and me. In-hand work. Warm-up walk/trot. Shoulder in, haunches in, half pass. Oh, she knows it, and I kind of do too. The education we received proved to be completely portable. Maybe there can be no better endorsement of a trainer than that. I'm sure we lacked finesse, but we didn't lack focus, direction, or recollection. Understanding that is just one of what I'm sure will be many dividends to come out of our costly six weeks. It was a sound investment.

We have a basic curriculum to work on until we go back, me to lighten and quiet all my aids, her to grow stronger, rounder, rhythmic, better balanced. Trot, trot, trot, forward walk, trot, trot. B said to me, "I'll be able to tell if you've been working on your sitting trot."

But I have to back up. The week before we left, I stacked up lessons on Saxony, trying to cram it in with our departure  imminent. I had a lesson on Monday, another on Thursday, and then another on Friday. Between the Thursday and Friday lessons, I rode a different horse. This one.

He's a Lusitano stallion, "finished," so to speak. I'd never ridden a horse of his caliber, but the offer was made to enable me to feel the difference between my evolving mare and a horse who is all the way there. I'll write about him next. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Necking With My Mare

We had a session yesterday, so I went looking for Saxony, camera in hand, as her round pen had been moved to fresh grass. There she was, beside one wing of the barn, watching me approach.

She dispatched the clublike carrot I offered. I love the crazy mess there at the end of her blaze, like white paint that ran thin through the canyon of her nostril and then pooled along her upper lip.

We had such a good lesson. My trainer sat in the bleachers of the indoor arena and gave instructions. We're leaving on October 15th, so she's setting us up with a sort of working curriculum until next July, when I hope to bring Saxony back to her for the festival summer.

Does it make any sense to say I rode my horse? That's how it felt. Forward walk, really big forward walk, then in to shoulders in, both directions. Don't drive her with my leg or seat. An extended segment of sitting trot. Sit, sit, sit. Trotting on a big circle, working on contact, keeping the bend. Our circles are drunken, but we were working. One, two, one, two. I can count the beats of the trot out loud if I need to. Then haunches in, which we'd never done. B just called it out, with plain directions. We did it; there wasn't time not to because we were just moving, flowing. Ending the hour with a forward walk on the buckle. I'm becoming able to think Saxony into changing directions during our stretching walks on the buckle. Her walk is different now, wavelike to ride, soothing and carrying. I didn't want to get off.

Back at the round pen, I saw that my mare has discovered her neck, now grown strong and shapely through her five-times-a-week training regimen (not including my own rides on her.) 

She likes to lift her head high over the round pen panels and sometimes rest her jaw up high as if to stretch. And maybe she is stretching. It's another thing she's learned to do, stretch down and sigh out during work. Just as she's learned to present her face for the bridle and stay quiet at the mounting block. She seems to like having a job, seems to like school. I've loved my mare all along, but I've discovered more in her than I ever knew was there. 

Leaving, I turned back, certain she'd be watching me. She likes people; she's a people horse. But I've finally realized that she's bonded most to me, which is the one thing I never expected to come of this time.