On this day in 2009, Paul and I adopted Doggie Conrad. He was my present to myself for completing the first draft of my dissertation. He’s been a fabulous dog for us — friendly, loyal, and playful. I hope that he’s as happy over the next five years as he’s been for the past five years!
The black card was the question that Paul posed… and Arthur (I think) gave him the white card as the possible answer. I laughed so hard that I nearly cried… because it’s just so damn perfect!
I really enjoyed this article on the upside and downside of perfectionism: Is Perfectionism Growth-Minded? Here’s a tidbit:
According to Dweck, the research says there might be two kinds of perfectionism, and those two ways of behaving have drastically different outcomes for people both in accomplishing their goals and in how they feel about themselves. One kind of perfectionist tends to agree with statements like: “People will think less of me if I make a mistake;” and, “A partial failure is as bad as a complete failure.” Another kind of perfectionist agrees with these statements: “I try to do my best in everything I do.” “I am driven to be excellent.” “I strive for high standards.” In these responses we can hear echoes of the person-focused vs. process-focused fixed and growth mindsets.
In the past, I’ve tended to think of perfectionism in purely negative terms — as just the “perfectionism monster.” However, in light of the horse training that I’m doing here in Aiken, I’ve been rethinking that view, along very similar lines to the article.
In my riding, my explicit goal is to achieve “best practice” most of the time, and that requires having very high standards and not accepting less. So if I shouldn’t transition to canter unless I have a damn good walk, and I shouldn’t approach that fence unless I have the kind of canter I need. I don’t ever want to just slop through what I’m doing: either I do it seriously and well or not at all. That’s the approach of the amazing coach we’ve been working with, Eric Horgan, and I can already see the huge benefits of his approach. Plus, he’s perfectionistic in that way without ever being unrealistic or belligerent. (He does threaten to kill us on a regular basis, but only in a very friendly way!)
That kind of growth-oriented perfectionism need not come with beating myself up for mistakes, seeking to show off for others, hating to admit ignorance, or any of the other problems of the fixed mindset. (I’m still doing the first, but I’m working on it. Eric has been very kindly discouraging that.) Instead, this growth-oriented perfectionism requires a heck of a lot of patience. The goal isn’t just to get it done, but to wait until you’re properly prepared to do it right. Oh, you’ll need endurance too, because you’ll still make mistakes left and right.
Basically, I’m thinking of “perfectionism” as more of a moral amplifier — with an upside and a downside, depending on how and when it’s deployed — rather than as a vice or failure mode. That’s not a fully settled view: I’ll be thinking more about this as this month in Aiken draws to a close and once I return home. Still, I thought that tidbit worth sharing now.
As you might have been able to tell from my lack of blogging, I’ve been a bit busy here in Aiken. Mostly, I’m on my feet from sunrise to sunset — riding horses, mucking stalls, feeding horses, moving horses, stacking hay, and so on. Then we often have lesson video to review in the evenings. (That’s very helpful, but also time-consuming.) Also, Aiken was hit hard by the ice storm last week. We were covered in an inch of ice, and our power and water were out for 4 days. (It was a god-awful mess!) Anyway, I don’t think I’ll be able to resume regular blogging until after SnowCon 2014 in mid-March.
Anyway, here’s a bit of video of me jumping Lila and Maria that I meant to post eons ago, but I’ve just not found the time until now. These were lessons from early this month — February 8th. These few fences were the culmination of a lesson’s worth of work at getting the proper canter into a fence. Watching them again just now, I can see that I need to do even more to get Lila into a collected canter, and I think we’re doing significantly better now. Still, this quiet balance over fences was a huge achievement a mere 10 days ago!
I’ll try to post more video, and perhaps some pictures from the ice storm, soon. Overall, I’m a bit worn out — particularly after yesterday’s lesson with Eric over cross-country fences. However, I’m learning and progressing like crazy, and I can’t wait to see what the next two weeks will bring!
Love and Cuddles from Aiken,
This fall, I felt my “biological clock” ticking for the first time. No, not over having children, but rather in the form of “Oh no, I only have another decade or two for crazy awesome fun with horses!!” — that is, eventing.
When I began training and competing, I wanted to get up to training level, i.e. 3’3″ jumps. Now I want to get to preliminary (3’7″), maybe intermediate (3’9″), and perhaps even advanced (3’11″).
I’m reasonably sure that I can develop the skills to do that, although I’ll need another horse or two. Lila isn’t athletic enough to go beyond novice (2’11″) in cross-country safely. I’m not sure that I have the courage, but I’ll work on that (and the skills) like mad in Aiken in February!
Basically, I want to do like Andrew Nicholson and Quimbo at the 2013 Rolex:
I just watched those videos again, and I can’t express enough admiration for those performances. Andrew Nicholson and Quimbo make everything look easy… and wow, it’s not!
Foxhunting is the sport of mounted riders chasing wild quarry with a pack of hounds. It is a union of humans and animals in the beauty of nature’s setting. Man is an observer mounted on a horse, the vehicle that allows him to follow and observe the hounds as they hunt the fox. The scenario unwinds before the foxhunters eyes and ears with the sound of the huntsman’s hunting horn as hounds give chase. The fox or coyote maneuvers, circles and runs through the country cunningly evading the hounds.
The music of hounds in “full cry” is laced with the sound of the horn echoing off the woodlands and hills as they pursue the quarry across plains or through woods, fields, creeks, marshes and over rock walls and fences. A crescendo of sounds and sights that thrill you beyond imagination play out in front of you and your horse until the fox goes to ground or hounds lose the scent and the hunt is over. One can compare it to a theatrical production with mother nature the conductor and the hounds in full cry, accompanied by the hunting horn, the orchestra. Man is the audience privileged to watch, as hounds and fox or coyote, the actors, unveil the plot with never ever the same act repeated twice.
The popularity of foxhunting continues to grow. There are now 165 organized clubs in North America and Canada and organized member hunts exist in 37 states. There are many reasons for its popularity. There is an old adage that says, “some people ride to hunt, others hunt to ride”. Certainly the thrill of galloping over the countryside on a fine horse, who meets his fences well, is a thrill for anyone. Also, the sight of a pack of hounds in full cry is breathtaking. Today’s hunters have a special reward, the permission to ride over private and public land which still constitutes magnificent open spaces. No group of individuals is more aware of this privilege, nor is there a group more outspoken in their desire to protect quarry and preserve their environment. It is enjoyed by people from all walks of life and any age. It is a wonderful recreation for the whole family that can be enjoyed for a lifetime.
And, from Our Sport: The Hows and Whys of Foxhunting by Lt. Col. Dennis Foster
Through the years, North American foxhunting has developed its own distinct flavor that is noticeably different from British foxhunting. The most obvious difference is that in North America the emphasis is on the chase rather than the kill.
In addition, a large number of hunts chase the coyote, rather than the fox. The coyote population has increased by large numbers throughout the United States and Canada. It is bigger, stronger and faster than a fox. In Britain the goal is to kill the fox. Because there is no rabies in the British Isles, the fox population is extremely high and fox are considered vermin. Farmers who keep sheep want the fox population controlled. In America, this is not normally the case.
A successful hunt ends when the fox is accounted for by entering a hole in the ground, called an “earth.” Once there, hounds are rewarded with praise from their huntsman. The fox gets away and is chased another day. When hounds do not account for a fox by chasing him to an earth, the vast majority of times hounds lose the scent of the fox and that ends the hunt.
On many hunts scent isn’t sufficient for hounds to run at all. They cannot run what they can’t smell. Even these slow days are fun as the scenery is always beautiful, fellow foxhunters enjoy the camaraderie of watching the hounds as they attempt to find the quarry.
That is not to say that foxhounds in America do not sometimes kill, but it is always the exception. Fox populations in hunt country are exceptionally healthy due to natural selection.
(No, I don’t consume any “Dutch Courage” before I hunt. Yes, I do dress that fancy! Augh, there’s some awful riding and jumping in that video!)
In Colorado, hunts chase coyote — and that’s still called “foxhunting.” I’m a new member of the Arapahoe Hunt, a well-known hunt with a long tradition of excellence. Our territory is wide open, and the coyote is damn fast. We never have “slow days,” and I’ve yet to be able to keep up with the hounds for a full outing. (You can see our territory for yourself in my helmet camera video of me foxhunting Dixie.) Here’s a description of our hunting from the web site:
The Arapahoe hunts only the coyote and was probably one of the first hunts in the U.S. to hunt coyotes exclusively since its reactivation in 1929. The fox and the coyote seldom appear to coexist peacefully. The coyote has extended its range in the face of civilization–one of the very few animals to do so. You have probably seen pictures of the coyote drinking out of a Los Angeles swimming pool or loping through a suburban New York City cemetery. Unlike foxes, coyotes do not scurry about or “go to ground” frequently. They tend to “take off” and run long distances; for example, runs of seven to ten miles are quite common. We have hunted since 1972 without “drawing a blank,” i.e. failing to chase a coyote. Although we hunt several coyotes each time we go out, accounting for them is the exception rather than the rule.
I hunted as a junior with my mom, with the Howard COunty-Iron Bridge Hounds. I loved it, and it’s great fun to be back in the field!
After my lesson on Dixie yesterday, I rode Lila. After warming her up on the flat, Martha took me over a few fences, because we wanted to see whether Lila would be more elevated and light in front a new bit — the Gina Miles Full Cheek Double Snaffle Bit. She was, particularly upon landing. That’s huge, because now we can do 90° turns in three strides — as you’ll see at the end of this video. I’ve included all the jumps in the video, even the minor disasters.
For the past two months, my horses have enjoyed the company of Dixie, a very agreeable four-year-old paint mare. I borrowed her from my friend Cyndi Meredith when Lila was in treatment for her chronic pain problems, particularly because I wanted a horse to foxhunt. Although Dixie is mostly western-trained, I suspected that she would be quiet out hunting, and Cyndi wasn’t riding her much. So my taking her for two months was a lovely win-win.
Dixie turned out to be a great hunt horse — quiet beyond her years. After she did so well, I decided to take a few lessons with my trainer Martha Deeds to get her started over fences. I’ve never started a horse over fences before, so that was a nice education for me… and fun too! She’s darn cute over fences, and she seems to really enjoy herself.
Cyndi wants to sell Dixie now, as was the plan all along. Until that happens, she’ll receive more western training from Cyndi. She’d make a lovely all-around horse, particularly for a young teenager. She’s got much to learn, but she’s so quiet, easygoing, and willing.
Last night, I put together these videos for Cyndi’s prospective buyers, and I thought I’d share them with you too. Dixie has been a really fun project for me, and I’m a bit sad to see her go. However, I’ve got to focus my attention on my upcoming month in Aiken, which is approaching fast!
First, Dixie being vacuumed, including in the face. Yes, you read that right. When it’s too cold to bathe, but your horse needs to be clean, vacuuming is the way to go! Most horses are scared of the vacuum, but Dixie was nonchalant about it from the get-go.
Second, Dixie loading and unloading quietly from the trailer. She’s an extremely easy loader, as you can tell from her loading herself before I was ready.
Third, highlights yesterday’s lesson with Martha. It’s flat work at the beginning, then we jump! She’s really cute over fences — and fun to jump too! I hope that whoever buys her wants to continue that with her, as she seems to enjoy it. We had her in a new bit — a Gina Miles Full Cheek Double Snaffle Bit. It wasn’t too strong, but it helped elevate her front end. Oh, and I almost forgot: This is Dixie’s third lesson with Martha — and just her fourth time over fences. So she’s doing remarkably well.
Fourth, highlights from foxhunting with the Arapahoe Hunt. This was actually the last day of the four-hunt “Rendezvous” in November, so the field was about 80 horses. That’s huge. Dixie was completely unfazed, as you can see from this video.
In addition, I didn’t hesitate to put my mother (an accomplished horsewoman, but she no longer rides except when visiting me) on Dixie, as well as a complete novice, on Dixie. She doesn’t spook on the trail, even when alone. She gets along with other horses, and she has good manners on the ground. She’s remarkably sensible, eager to please, and just plain sweet. She deserves the best of homes!
So what did I do in 2013? A whole heck of a lot, as it turns out.
First and foremost, I broadcast new episodes of Philosophy in Action Radio every Sunday and most Wednesdays — 80 episodes in total. 50 were Q&As, in which I answered 169 questions. 29 were interviews, and just one was a podcast. Happily, my listens and downloads increased by over 50% in 2013, to 371,621 in total. That’s pretty awesome, if I do say so myself! You can read more in my Quick Year-End Report on Philosophy in Action Radio. Also, I wrote regularly for NoodleFood, publishing 653 blog posts. Oh, and I did a whole lot of behind-the-scenes development for the web site, including changing podcast hosts in July.
Apart from my radio show, my work efforts in 2013 were largely consumed by the editing, publication, and promotion of my first book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame. When I began working on it in late 2012, I never expected to do so much editing, but I’m very pleased with and proud of the results.
Now let’s look at some of the smaller events and projects, personal and professional.
The first quarter of 2013 was dominated by house repairs, mostly reconstructing the master bathroom and my office after the massive water leak discovered in December. That went well, with one notable and significant exception — namely, that the costly repairs done on the foundation to fix an occasional leak in the corner of my office didn’t work worth a damn. That’s a huge problem — not just because we wasted thousands of dollars on those repairs, but also because we installed new flooring, repaired drywall, painted walls, and re-installed baseboards on top of it. So fixing the problem again will require me to do repairs on all of that — yet again. Unfortunately, the company that did the work — Peak Basement Repair — has been nothing short of horrendous in response. They’ve attempted to wash their hands of any responsibility, and after going round and round with the owner’s wife, I don’t trust them one iota. I’m not willing to have them rip up my office, because goodness only knows whether they’ll fix the problem or just make a huge mess and cost me even more money. Hence, fixing that — with some better people — is on my list for 2014. But wow, I just wish that leak could magically go away. I hate having people working in my home with the passion of a thousand fiery suns.
Just before those repairs began in earnest, my parents visited. That was the first time that I’ve attended the National Western Stock Show… and wow, so much fun! It was a delightful — and exhausting — visit. My parents are very adept at running me ragged with fun!
In the midst of all the house repairs, I planned and prepared for SnowCon 2013. That happened in March, and the repairs were done just barely in time for us to have guests and host events at our home. (It was down to the wire!) You can read my report on SnowCon 2013 for more details.
In the spring, I travelled quite a bit too. Just before SnowCon, Paul and I travelled to South Carolina to attend the wedding of Eric Daniels and Rachael Griffin. That was lovely! In mid-April, Paul had a medical conference in Tucson, so I joined him for a few days of that. In early May, I attended my 25th high school reunion at Garrison Forest School. In late May, Paul and I travelled to Atlanta for ATLOSCon 2013. My lecture on “Moral Amplifiers” was new work, and I was glad that people were enthused about it. As always, I enjoyed spending time with my ATLOSCon peeps… and best of all, Greg and Tammy! That Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio was only the second time that Greg and I broadcasted together in person, and that’s always so much fun. In early June, I visited my sister Meredith, her husband, and their awesome son Clyde.
All that travelling was delightful, except that it interfered with my attempts to get Lila back in work and in shape. The weather was not helpful either: when I’d leave, we’d have delightful riding weather, and then I’d come home to cold and snow. I wasn’t able to work Lila consistently until May, in fact: my first lesson with Martha Deeds wasn’t until May 16th. BOO! This year, I’ve packed a good bit of my travelling into January — although dammit, I’m still running into the same problem!
Oh, and I was supposed to visit Paul’s family in late June, but the fire risk was too high for me to feel comfortable leaving the beasts. So I stayed home, and Paul visited without me. I’m visiting them now… finally!
On a sour note, the first half of 2013 featured some horrible behavior and ever-worse revelations from close in-town friends. My life improved dramatically when I cut ties with them after [events], although that was very hard for me to do for [reasons]. After that, I decided to be more self-protective. So I’m far less tolerant of creepy, dishonest, malicious, or otherwise uncalibrated behavior from people. Life is too precious to waste on crazy and/or awful people, just because they’re Objectivists.
By June, my work with Lila was in full swing — finally! Happily, I began riding regularly with my former instructor Cyndi Meredith. She’s an excellent western trainer: I’ve learned tons from her. She’s also become a good and trusted friend, for which I’m very grateful. At Martha’s suggestion, I bought a new jumping saddle — a barely used Jeffries Elite — to replace the saddle that I’d been riding in since middle school. That was much more comfortable for me, as well as for Lila. (She was having problem with her hind end in my old saddle, which cropped up again later in the year.)
Also in June, Martha asked me whether I wanted to compete on Lila. I wasn’t sure, initially. However, I woke up in the middle of the night saying, “YES YES YES!” So we scheduled my first competition for the one-day trial at the Colorado Horse Park in early August. Suddenly — and to my surprise — I became so much more serious about my training. Also, I had so much to do to prepare, including equipment to buy.
Late in June, I attended one day of a Pat and Linda Parelli Tour. I learned quite a bit about horsemanship from that.
In July, I finally closed the OLists. They’d been very quiet for ages — partly due to the collapse of the Objectivist movement after repeated WTFery and partly due to the increased use of Facebook for such communications. Some of the OLists have become more-or-less active groups on Facebook, which makes me happy. July also featured a lovely visit from our good friends Kelly, Aaron, and Livy. I enjoyed teaching Livy to ride Lila, and I loved watching Paul geek out with Aaron. Kelly has been such a good friend to me, particularly this year; I always enjoy talking with her — not just lots, but positively too much.
As our first event approached, Lila and I made rapid progress. Still, I struggled with some bad habits, particularly that of dropping Lila just before fences, just when she needed me most. Those failures were often really difficult for me to manage psychologically, particularly in the lead-up to the competition. I had to learn to ease up the pressure on myself a bit, even while still working hard to do my best. In late July, I took Lila up to Longmont for a dressage schooling show. We did all three training level tests, and I was really proud of her (and me).
August featured my first three-phase event! The big surprise was that Lila was quite scared in the stadium jumping phase, refusing the first fence and sucking back at every one after that. We made it through, however, and she was great in cross-country. (Paul was very excited and supportive, which surprised and pleased me!) As a result of that experience, I took Lila to two schooling jumper shows — one in late August and another in September — to get her used to jumping unfamiliar courses. By the second show, she was more calm and relaxed than me!
Later in August, I attended Clinton Anderson’s Walkabout Tour. I learned more about good horsemanship in that, but I was disappointed by his belligerent attitude and the too-long breaks between events.
Lila and I continued to work hard — until everything ground to halt in mid-September. In Colorado’s torrential rains and floods, we only got about four inches, but that was enough to do damage to Lila’s feet. They softened, and a small bit of gravel got stuck in her hoof under her shoe, and eventually worked its way out her heel after many, many days. She was very lame for about three weeks, and even after that, she wasn’t quite right. I was very stressed, mostly because our second (and last) event of the season was fast approaching!
In early October, the weekend before that event, Paul and I headed off to Atlanta for a small workshop among friends on personality theory that I’d organized. That was really interesting for me, both personally and professionally. Also, it was tons of fun! (Next year, I hope to do a similar workshop of the psychology of productivity.)
Lila seemed sound on returning home, thankfully. I had just four days to ride her before the event, which was not nearly enough time! Still, we managed. Lila and I did well — definitely better in all phases than our first event. Alas, the dressage judge noticed a “shimmy” in her hind end, so we scored badly. Still, we were allowed to continue after that, and Lila was excellent. My mother came into town for that event, and that was a huge treat for me. Her support of my riding — and her good example and knowledge — means so much to me. Paul attended the event too, and he was very enthused and supportive, which I loved!
After that event, I began foxhunting Lila with the Arapahoe Hunt, which I joined in November. It’s very different foxhunting than what I did as a junior with my mom. It’s wide-open territory, and we hunt coyote. So it’s often fast and hard hunting, with few stops. Still, I love it, and I’m so glad to be doing it again.
Even more exciting, Martha invited me to train in the warm weather with her and other students in the equestrian mecca of Aiken, South Carolina for the whole month of February. HOLY COW! I’m going, and I’m so excited!!
November featured a quick but fun visit from Rory, plus a quiet and lovely Thanksgiving with our friends Howard and Susan.
In November horse news, Lila’s hind-end shimmy showed up again — worse than ever. At Martha’s recommendation, I took her to Dr. Diane Wagner — a holistic vet. The problem seemed to be chronic pain, likely exacerbated by wearing a boot (and hence, being slightly uneven) to help her recover from that bit of gravel in her hoof. The first treatment went well, and the second treatment was the icing on the cake. However, in the three weeks in-between, Lila had to be on just light work. BOO!
So that I’d have a horse to foxhunt, I borrowed Dixie — a very quiet four-year-old paint mare — from my friend Cyndi. She was very quiet in the hunt field, and I started her over fences in some lessons with Martha too. She’s a good girl, and she did well. She’s been a fun project for me, although she’s not what I’d want in a horse. I still have her now, but I’ll give her back to Cyndi in late January, before I leave for Aiken.
In mid-December, I noticed that my favorite kitty, Elliot had become quite skinny. I took him to my vet, and he’d lost a pound, which is a big deal in a cat. My vet diagnosed him with kidney disease, and that makes me very sad. I can prolong his life by feeding him as much as he’s willing to eat of a modified diet. I’ve been doing that, and he’s already gained a bit of weight. Meanwhile, Mae decided to become “Houdini Dog,” and she’s been escaping from both the dog run and our property fence by various methods. She’s very smart and determined, and I hope to solve the problem soon… but we’ll see what happens!
For my birthday on December 13th, Paul bought me a wonderful dressage saddle! I’d been searching for it for quite some time, and I found it the day before my birthday, then tested it on Lila on my birthday. It’s wonderful to ride in: it’s already helped me get a better body position in my flatwork.
My parents visited again over Christmas. We went out to Breckenridge for a few days to downhill ski (me) and cross-country ski and snowshoe (Mom, Papa, and Paul). Also, Mom and I were able to ride twice. It was lovely to have two good quiet horses — Dixie and Lila — for her to ride. I feel really lucky to enjoy spending time with my parents as much as I do. They’re fabulous people, and they set a great example by living life to the fullest!
In December, I began planning SnowCon 2014, as well as making definite plans for SnowCon Tahoe in late January. Fun times!
Did I mention that kitty Merlin was cute and naughty all year long? He’s now a big kitty, at least in body, if not in spirit. Also, Paul was his usual awesome self all year long, working hard and publishing a slew of fabulous columns on health care and related topics.
That was my 2013! Holy cow, that was a big year! I think it was my best year yet, and I’m looking forward to making the most of 2014 too!
I had an amazingly fabulous lesson with Martha on Lila yesterday, just working on the flat in my new dressage saddle. Early on, Lila was resistant in the mouth — raising her head, crossing her jaw, and so on — as she is too often. Usually, I correct that my holding my hands and giving her some spur in the belly until she softens, on the assumption that she’s just saying “screw you!”
However, Martha didn’t let me do that yesterday. Instead, I wasn’t to do anything extraordinary with my hands or legs. Instead, we focused on my body position: shoulders back, sternum up, rotating the top of my hips back, sitting evenly on my seatbones, controlling her hind end movements with my seat, keeping my inside knee on the pad and my outside leg back and strong against her. When I would get that right, Lila wouldn’t just soften in the mouth: her movement became fluid and engaged from behind, just as it ought. With just a centimeter change on my part here or there, Lila would become a different horse. Basically, she’s willing to do her part, but I have to make that possible for her by obtaining and maintaining just the right position as she moves under me. (Holy hell, that’s hard!)
Most people think that horses are controlled via hands and feet. That’s true, in a gross way: I signal Lila to change gaits or directions that way, mostly. I’ve long known that seat matters too: that’s a point of contact felt by the horse that can be used to control movement. Now I’m seeing just how superficial a view that is. Martha has always emphasized body position with me, and I’ve seen the beneficial effects of that. After this lesson, however, I see that my body position is the key to everything that I want to extract from a horse. This feels like a great leap forward… HOORAY!
Alas, I won’t be riding today, as we’re in the middle of a snowstorm, as you can see from this picture that I took this morning. Lila was waiting for me by the fence, as she often does in the morning. When she saw that I was stopping on my way to the barn to take pictures rather than rushing down to feed her immediately, she got this delightfully exasperated look on her face.
I’ve learned so much from this fabulous horse of mine… and she has so much more to teach me!