Lila Versus the Trailer

 Posted by on 25 January 2014 at 10:00 am  Animals, Horses, Psychology
Jan 252014
 

Most horses, once they overcome their initial fears of the confined space of the horse trailer, are perfectly happy to load and unload without trouble. But… not Lila.

Lila doesn’t mind the trailer so much by itself. However, she’s a smart cookie, so she’s figured out that the trailer means work. She’s lazy, so work is bad. Lila can even tell when I’m just trying to practice loading her, because then she loads without a fuss. However, when we’re actually going somewhere — and particularly when I’m late — she’ll refuse to load (and act like an idiot) for anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes.

So I’ve been playing a game with her lately, to try to convince her that the trailer is the place she wants to be.

I load Lila on the trailer, but I don’t secure the butt bar or shut the door. She’s free to leave whenever she pleases. However, when she backs out of the trailer, she’s immediately put to work (just groundwork — trotting, turning, backing, etc). After a few minutes, I load her on the trailer again, again without securing her. When she backs out, she goes back to work. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

The game works, thankfully! However, I’ve found that I need to play it with her pretty regularly. Otherwise, she figures out that the trailer means work, and she doesn’t want to load. (Alas, that’s been hard to do in winter, when the ground is often slick with snow, ice, and mud.)

Interestingly, I’ve done variations on this game for some time before, without much success. The critical change that I made is that with this version, Lila chooses when to exit the trailer, and hence, when she’ll be worked. That way, she learns to correct her own impulse to leave the trailer — and in the process, she learns to yearn for the trailer. That’s an insight that I need to apply elsewhere in her training, I think.

Maybe someday, she’s be like these well-trained horses, who respond to the sound of the whip cracking by galloping in from the pasture and loading themselves:

But I doubt it!

Jan 062014
 

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!

Jan 042014
 

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!

Dog and Cheetah: Run, Chase, and Play Time

 Posted by on 19 December 2013 at 2:00 pm  Animals, Cats, Dogs
Dec 192013
 

These videos of a cheetah chasing and playing with its doggie companion are just awesome.

Cheetah Savanna and Dog Max Play in Snow – Cincinnati Zoo:

Savanna Cheetah Cub and Puppy Max Play – Cincinnati Zoo:

I wonder if the big cat ever accidentally injures its canine companion, as sometimes happens with humans who’ve raised big cats from birth. I suspect that dogs can read the body language of the cat better — and communicate better too. But I’d love to ask a zookeeper that!

Doggie-Powered Rube Goldberg Machine

 Posted by on 10 December 2013 at 2:00 pm  Animals, Cool, Dogs
Dec 102013
 

I wonder how long this video took to make… because wow!

Dog Steals the Show…. Er, the Soccer Game

 Posted by on 14 November 2013 at 2:00 pm  Animals, Dogs, Funny, Sports
Nov 142013
 

Dog interrupts soccer game, steals frisbee, interrupts soccer again… No one can catch him:

A dog got loose on the field during the second half of a women’s college soccer game recently, and nobody could catch it. It did leave the field once, but that was only to go steal some nearby people’s frisbee and then come back to continue happily interrupting soccer.

First, just one lady chases after it, presumably its owner. But by the end of the video, half the crowd is trying to get this pup under control. And, of course, throughout the whole thing, this wily, frolicking dog is having the time of its life…

Really!

In a recent lesson, my trainer Martha’s dog — also a white lab — suddenly ran into the ring and began running around like crazy, just like this dog. Martha and I just watched her, in wonder and laughter. The crowning moment was when the dog suddenly leaped off all four legs — exactly like a bounding deer. We’d never seen anything like it, and I’m pretty sure the dog was surprised too!

Naughty Kitty Merlin at the Vet

 Posted by on 12 November 2013 at 2:00 pm  Animals, Cats, Funny, Personal
Nov 122013
 

At the vet two weeks ago, naughty kitty Merlin was very enthused to be in a new place with much to explore. First, he opened the cabinet (overcoming the child-proof lock in seconds) and explored inside for a while.

Then, most unexpectedly, he climbed up into the drawer of medical supplies, refused to leave, and ultimately got stuck.

After I took this picture, we were able to free him, although that was harder than expected. He was much more subdued after that, until he went for the cabinet again.

My vet was very amused — and amazed too. Me, not so much! Naughty kitty Merlin is naughty!

The Best Kangaroo Ever

 Posted by on 4 November 2013 at 2:00 pm  Animals, Funny
Nov 042013
 

I’ve watched this about 15 times already, and I just can’t stop laughing.

Notice that he kicks with his hind feet, while balancing on his tail.

Cat Helps Dog Escape Kitchen

 Posted by on 21 October 2013 at 2:00 pm  Animals, Cats, Dogs, Funny
Oct 212013
 

Heh:

Dog: HURRY UP, CAT! WE DON’T HAVE A MOMENT TO LOSE!
Cat: I’m working on it, don’t rush me!

Conrad Loving on Merlin

 Posted by on 28 September 2013 at 2:00 pm  Animals, Cats, Dogs, Personal
Sep 282013
 

Our dog Conrad would have killed and eaten our cats when we adopted him at a year old. It took me a year of daily training to be able to leave him loose in the house with the cats. Now, about four years later, he’s routinely loving on and attempting to dominate kitty Merlin… and Merlin loves it! I don’t worry about Conrad hurting Merlin. He’s always been gentle. Plus, Merlin has sharp claws and very speedy reaction times!

See for yourself:

Oh, how I love the sappy music! :-)

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