From Endurance to Dressage
I just finished the book American Dirt. It was fabulous. At the end, I wondered why I had bought it as it wasn't the type of book I typically read, so I did a quick search on Google to see what the reviews said. I never buy a book without a solid 4.5 rating, and it has to have an 80% or higher combination of four and five star reviews. If I am going to spend hours and hours on a book, it needs to be worth my time. I have so many books queued up in my Kindle that it might be months or longer before I get to one, so by the time I get to it, I usually can't remember what it's even about. Since I know that I only buy books that are highly reviewed, it doesn't mater; I read it anyway.
I don't read a lot of contemporary fiction though. I tend towards "classics" and things written in the mid-twentieth century. Don't ask me why because half that stuff was written by druggies, fruit loops, and authors exploring either transcendentalism or intellectualism. Not really, I made that stuff up, but it's kind of true. Albert Camus's, The Stranger, was a book I read very recently, and apparently the first three words (translated from the French), Mother died today, have created a controversy that has lasted almost a hundred years. See what I mean?
So what did I find when I looked up American Dirt? This article. Holy cow has this book created a shit storm of controversy - pardon the language, but it expresses my sentiments better than any other phrase. Before even contemplating the article, you should first know what the book is about, so here goes:
A Mexican woman's husband is a journalist who writes about the drug cartels in Mexico. The woman owns a book shop where a new customer becomes a dear friend. Her husband ultimately reveals that said friend is the new cartel's leader. Husband publishes an article, and in retribution, the drug lord murders her entire family, but she and her young son manage to escape. For the rest of the book, she and her son become migrants fleeing the drug lord. Knowing that he is powerful, she flees with their life savings, avoiding all transportation requiring identification and possible roadblocks. Along the way, she and her son are robbed and kidnapped. They also meet and travel with other migrants whose experiences are often times worse than their own. Eventually, she arranges with a coyote for passage across the border where she and the others in her group experience an arduous and terrifying trek through the desert in an effort to get to the USA.
What could be so controversial about that? Read the above article if you're interested, but it boils down to this: the author took incredible criticism for daring to write from the perspective of a culture that is not her own. This article delves deeper into that idea. Essentially, writing about a viewpoint that is not your own is being called appropriation. If you're white, you don't have permission to write a non-white woman's story. If you're straight, you don't have permission to write about a gay person's story. If you're a man, you can't write about a woman.
I can't even tell you how angry that idea makes me. Just this week, my class started writing a narrative based on a fictional story we had read about the Berlin Wall. In preparation, we also learned about the Great Wall of China and Hadrian's Wall in Great Britain. I instructed my students to write a story where one of those walls provided the setting. The kids were supposed to choose characters from that time who were either escaping the wall (East Berlin), building the wall (China), or guarding the wall (Roman Empire). Of course they could choose a different scenario, but it needed to work in that setting and time.
Are my students "appropriating" cold war culture or Chinese culture or Roman culture because they're not from East Berlin or China or Scotland? Isn't that what makes fiction, fiction? Are we no longer permitted to imagine what it's like to be someone else? Are we no longer allowed to walk in someone else's shoes even if only metaphorically? How are we to develop empathy if we don't try to see the world through someone else's eyes? When my class discussed this yesterday, one of my students remarked, "it's like saying we can't write about furniture because we're NOT furniture."
From the mouths of babes comes truth or wisdom.
Earlier this week, I finished Stephen Hawking's book, A Brief History of Time. It wasn't an easy read, and I am not going to pretend that I understood most of it. Heck, I barely understood some of it. That's not why I read it though. I enjoy reading a broad variety of genres, and while I am not a theoretical physicist, it doesn't hurt to broaden one's horizons.
This space is of course primarily dedicated to my musings on all things equine, but occasionally, I feel compelled to write about the books that I read. For most of this particular book, I read each chapter absorbing what I could while skimming what was beyond my comprehension. When I got to chapter 9, "The Arrow of Time," it suddenly felt as though Hawking was speaking directly to me. Every word he wrote made perfect sense. I sat up and really started to listen. It was this sentence in particular that grabbed hold of me, "Why do we remember the past but not the future?"
When said by someone who may have been the smartest man to ever live, you know the answer can't be because it hasn't happened yet. In his book, Hawking says that there are three different arrows of time. The first is the thermodynamic arrow of time which points in the direction in which disorder increases. He explained it like this: anything that begins in order will eventually become disorganized. A clean house just gets messy. The second is the psychological arrow of time. This is the direction in which we feel time pass. It's the reason we remember the past but not the future. The third arrow is the cosmological arrow of time. This is the direction of time in which the universe is expanding.
Stay with me, as I do have a point that relates to dressage. Hawking takes several pages to explain that the arrows of time point the way they do because the universe as we know it appears to be progressing from an ordered state to a disordered state. He asks us though to imagine a world where things progress from disorder to order. If this were to happen, both the thermodynamic and psychological arrows of time would point in the opposite direction. Disorder would decrease with time. If that were to happen we would remember the future but not the past.
As I read that chapter, I realized that in dressage we do move from a disordered state to an ordered one. When ridden well, our horses become better organized, better balanced, more energized. Disorder decreases. As such, Hawking argues that our psychological arrow of time would be backward. He states, "they would remember events in the future, and not remember events in the past." How amazing would that be?
Imagine remembering earning a Gold Medal rather than the last time you hit the dirt when your horse spooked as a four-year-old. How about remembering your first FEI test rather than a failed Training Level test when your horse was tense and fearful of the flower boxes. How about remembering riding your Steady Eddy bareback with a halter instead of remembering getting bucked off your fresh five year old. If only we could remember our finished, accomplished horses instead of all the times they scared us, wouldn't we all have more confidence in our horses' abilities and potential?
We all know that carrying old baggage and bad memories only hurts us and prevents us from living our best lives. I think that "remembering" the future rather than the past may well serve us better than we know. I always say that I wouldn't want to know the future, but "remembering" a magnificent future wouldn't be so bad.
I can see that USDF silver medal now. What do you see?
I've always been a voracious reader; I don't even remember learning to read. It just feels like I always could. By the time I was twelve, I was reading adult fiction. Stephen King's novels were my favorite. My stepmom still teases me about always having a book in my hand, and there was usually a second one in case I finished the first one. If you're reading this, you're probably a reader, too.
I've never tracked how many books a year I read, but I knew it was at least 30, and probably more. This past March, as COVID-19 was really picking up speed, I realized I had a little extra time on my hands and found myself reading more often than normal. I did a quick count of how many books I had read since the first of January and realized that I was reading more than a book a week. I decided to see if I could read 52 books in a year. Last night, I finished number 52. Since I can't remember exactly where I started, I know it's more than 52, but I wanted to err on the conservative side.
I am a very eclectic reader. I typically don't read a lot of contemporary fiction, but as I scrolled through my Kindle library, I realized that this year I've read more current fiction than normal. In other years, I find myself reading a lot from the twentieth century, particularly the first half of the century. While I have two favorite books of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird and Watership Down, my favorite book is usually the one I am reading right now.
In no particular order, here are ten books from this year that I think are worth reading.
There are many others that I'd like to share. I read two more of Charles Martin's books, he's always wonderful. I reread George Orwell's Animal Farm, which should also scare the hell out of you, as well as Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. The Haunting of Hill House, which is nothing like the Netflix telling, is worth a read as is another by Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I could go on. There are just more good books than there are years in which to read them.
It might sound strange, and I don't understand it myself, but to "celebrate" having reached a goal, 52 books in a year, I started Truman Capote's In Cold Blood last night. Having been written in the mid-twentieth century, it falls solidly in my wheelhouse. It's such a well known book that reading it feels like a privilege, hence the feeling of having earned it as a reward.
If you feel like sharing, let me know what some of your favorites from this year are.
I am a pretty eclectic reader, but from time to time I will find myself stuck on one particular genre or even a specific time period. A year or so ago, all I read was stuff from the early to mid-twentieth century.
During the summer, I usually read heavier material or books that are longer. Over the past two summers, I read Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. I am waiting for Column of Fire to show up as one of Amazon's Daily Kindle Deals. During the school year, when I can barely get through ten pages before falling asleep, I tend to choose shorter titles that are easier to get through.
A few weeks ago, I had just finished something really good, although I can't remember now what it was. I knew that the next thing I chose to read had to be light and fluffy, or I would be disappointed. Whenever I read something really good, the next title is almost always a disappointment. So I scrolled through my list of unread titles looking for something that was just mind-candy, something meant to entertain, not change your life. I landed on Catherine Ryan Hyde's novel, Just After Midnight. If you feel like you've heard Hyde's name before, you probably have. She's the author of a long list of titles including, Pay it Forward.
Just After Midnight isn't "literature." It doesn't have a message that compels you to look deep within yourself. Instead, it's a settle in for some fun kind of story that would float any horse girl's boat. Here's the summary from Amazon.
No longer tolerating her husband’s borderline abuse, Faith escapes to her parents’ California beach house to plan her next move. She never dreamed her new chapter would involve befriending Sarah, a fourteen-year-old on the run from her father and reeling from her mother’s sudden and suspicious death.
While Sarah’s grandmother scrambles to get custody, Faith is charged with spiriting the girl away on a journey that will restore her hope: Sarah implores Faith to take her to Falkner’s Midnight Sun, the prized black mare that her father sold out from under her. Sarah shares an unbreakable bond with Midnight and can’t bear to be apart from her. Throughout the sweltering summer, as they follow Midnight from show to show, Sarah comes to terms with what she witnessed on the terrible night her mother died.
But the journey is far from over. Faith must learn the value of trusting her instincts—and realize that the key to her future, and Sarah’s, is in her hands.
I know, I know. Sounds pretty cheesy. But. The whole thing is set in Central California's dressage world. Over and over Hyde incorporates actual towns and cities where dressage truly exists. She evens sets her characters in real life venues where I've shown. She mentions Moorpark, Paso Robles, Morro Bay, and many other places that are practically in my backyard.
Throughout the story, Hyde explains what dressage is as her characters go from one training barn to another. As an experienced rider, you might find yourself rolling your eyes at her very simplified explanations, but the point is to help non-riders feel connected to the characters and their actions.
If you find yourself looking for something to distract you for a few hours, this book might be just the ticket. It's not going to change your world view, but really, sometimes that's a relief. If you read it, let me know what you think!
For the last two years, Izzy has had body work about every three months. This year, I decided to see how he did by spacing the visits out on an "as needed" basis. He saw his chiropractor in early November, and hadn't needed him since.
On Saturday we did a technical trail ride that had a few dicey sections. There wasn't anything horrible, but Izzy did slip and slide a few times throwing his head and neck up to regain his balance. The next day all was well, but the day after that, he was pretty adamant that his neck was broken and no amount of suppling on my part was going to get it to bend.
It took me all of 20 minutes to realize that he needed an adjustment. In the past, it's taken me three rides to figure out that he's hurting. The first ride I always blame on poor riding. The second ride I blame on his sassy attitude. The third ride is usually when I start questioning what the heck is wrong with my horse. As soon as I ask what's wrong with you?, the lightbulb goes on. Not this time; I figured out within 20 minutes which saved us both a lot of frustration.
It took CC less than a minute to pinpoint where Izzy was hung up - the C7, the last cervical vertebra. Normally, the trouble originates in Izzy's poll. Once the C7 was dealt with, CC moved on to Izzy's rib heads. He was a little tender on the last couple, but a firm nudge had him feeling much better. And that was the extent of the adjustment - a single cervical vertebra and a couple of ribs.
CC has been doing my horses for a number of years now. After all of this time, I finally discovered the method(s) that he uses. CC combines traditional chiropractics with the Masterson Method, developed by Jim Masterson. Coincidently, my endurance pal Marci has used CC as well. After he mentioned the Masterson Method to her, she bought the book which she generously lent it to me. I have found it to be thoroughly interesting.
Chapter 1 is titled, "What is the Masterson Method?" The first sentence offers a sort of explanation. "The Masterson Method - Integrated Equine Performance Bodywork - is a unique interactive method of equine bodywork in which you learn to recognize and use the responses of the horse to your touch to find and release accumulated tension in key junctions of the body that most affect performance." It's a mouthful, I know.
CC explained that he takes many of Masterson's techniques for helping the horse to release tension and combines them with the traditional approach of manipulation, or adjustment, of an affected joint and tissues. This restores mobility, alleviating pain and muscle tightness, allowing tissues to heal.
I am sold. In my experience, CC has more than proven himself to be an excellent chiropractor/bodyworker and horseman. My horses love him, and they ALWAYS feel better once he's done. If there's a name for the method he employs, great. If not, I am not opposed to winging it.
I only wish he worked on people.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at Second Level. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
3/27-28 SCEC (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
5/23 TMC (*)
6/12-13 SB (***) OR
6/19-20 El Sueño (***)
6/27 TMC (*)
7/3-4 Burbank (***) OR
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
7/25 TMC (*)
8/14-15 RAAC (Q) (***)
8/29 TMC (*)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read