glenatron: (Iris)
There are relatively few horse trainers I am interested in learning from that I haven't ridden with by this point, but until this autumn Harry Whitney topped that list. I was first introduced to him by reading some of Tom Moates' articles in Eclectic Horseman and later his books about learning with Harry, which are well worth reading. At the same time I was reading Ross Jacobs' work and that also referenced Harry on a fairly routine basis. Sari and I rode with Ross in Australia a few years back and he strongly recommended that we visit with Harry if possible. Last winter was supposed to be the last time Harry was teaching at his place in Arizona, but ( luckily for us ) the sale they had lined up fell through and he is teaching there for one more season. As we have worked hard this year I thought we qualified for a bit of travel.

Consequently we found ourselves with a five day clinic at Harry's gorgeous Arizona set-up with some charming borrowed horses for us to ride and a couple of mules taking part as well. An excellent proposition.

If you want an introduction to Harry's approach, which looks more similar to what other trainers do than it is, you could read this article on round pen work (pdf) and this book. In essence Harry's work starts from a single point- learning to direct the horse's thought. When you are directing the horse's mind rather than their body, there is no resistance and they will work as well as they possibly can. Most problems we run into come from trying to make the horse physically do something rather than asking them to act mentally.

Day-by-day write-up. Illustrated, of course )

It was a really good clinic. Really good. Harry is as good as people say he is- he has a depth of knowledge and an aptitude for explanation that make him an excellent teacher and by the end of the clinic I felt as though I had so much more understanding of the reasoning behind a lot of techniques that I was already using or that I knew to work but had never seriously thought through why they worked. That underpinning is probably the biggest part of what I will be bringing home with me from this clinic and I can't wait to begin introducing it to my horses and seeing where it will take us. I can already see numerous ways that I think it will help Iris to feel more confident in me and in the world. It feels to me that this was a thing I was ready for in my horsemanship and also something I needed. If you ever get the chance to see or ride with Harry, you should take it. You will be pleased that you did.
glenatron: (moody othello)
There were things about October 2005 that have shaped my life ever since. One of those things was that the Sequoia album came out, as I mentioned a couple of posts ago. But the biggest one, far and away the biggest, was that on the nineteenth of October 2005, Othello stepped off the horsebox onto the yard and I had a horse of my own for the first time.

A decade is a long time but I feel that I have spent that time well as regards my progress with horses. They were already central to the life I shared with my wife but having my own, in spite of my inexperience and general beginnerish awfulness ( paired with deep enthusiasm ) was a really big deal for me. Othello set me on the path of becoming a horseman, and the grief and pain of losing him fixed me on that course in a way that perhaps nothing else could have. The understanding of loss that I had gone through, gave me a connection to Sari when she lost one of the horses in her life a little later that year, which was how we first came to know one another.

Since then I have ridden colts in Texas, trained up a truly amazing trail horse, taught more than a handful of people about the basics ( and sometimes the less-basics ) of horsemanship and become a passable hand by British standards, albeit still the most average rider you will ever see. I'm working on that part. I have made some enduring friendships - including most of the people who will be reading this - and met a lot of brilliant, smart, interesting and sweet natured horses.

I have reached a different place now - that bright incandescence of enthusiasm is more of a steady glow now, it has resolved into part of me and, as you might have noticed, I am slower to share my opinions these days. It's not that I have lost confidence in them - I know more than I ever did and I am clearer about what needs to be done in many situations than most people are, but I have gradually learned that I can't help most people or their horses. If someone asks for help I will do what I can to assist, but I don't really feel that I have much to prove now. My horses tell me that I'm doing things alright by them and although I know that they are my life's work, I also feel that I need to focus on things that might make me a more immediate profit for a little while. Something that will maybe enable me to afford to spend at least a few years doing what I love most of all. I have used a lot of years up already, but with luck and some smarts, I think I could make enough to cross that bridge perhaps. If I can focus this dissolute mind on a couple of significant projects, at least.

Nobody goes through a decade of their life without being changed by it, but the horses, the change they have brought about in me has been so overwhelmingly positive. Every time I get to the field to be greeted with whickers and whiskery velvet muzzles, I am profoundly grateful for the grace that they bring and the person that they have helped me learn how to become.
glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
A few months back I posted about the must I have listened to in springtime for the last twenty one years, but summer has passed and I missed out on a corresponding summer post. Better catch up!

( A camping holiday with friends and then the band spending a week rehearsing at my house makes for awesome times! )
  • The Looks Or The Lifestyle - Pop Will Eat Itself
  • Fuzzy - Grant Lee Buffalo
  • Zooropa - U2
  • Red House Painters - Red House Painters

( The fear of my A-Level results being poor or terrible, which they were, meant that I was living in the shadow of August and the effect it would have on my future. )

  • Giant Steps - The Boo Radleys
  • Treehouse - Buffalo Tom
  • Mirth And Matter - Eden Burning
  • August And Everything After - Counting Crows. There was a long period of that summer where I could not go a day without listening to this album at least three times, it remained my favourite record for the next ten years. I don't listen to it much these days because every moment of it is inscribed on my bones.

( Back from University, caught in the reverberations of some bad decisions and my first "proper" summer job )
  • San Francisco - American Music Club
  • Throwing Copper - Live
  • Olympian - Gene

  • Born On A Pirate Ship - Barenaked Ladies
  • Brink - Eden Burning (one of the most underrated bands ever and this is one of the great bass albums. )
  • Love And Other Demons - Strangelove

(Some disastrous decisions left me in a terrible state over this summer.)
  • OK Computer - Radiohead
  • Way To Blue - Nick Drake ( compilation )
  • You? Me? Us? - Richard Thompson
  • Dreams Fly Away - Linda Thompson ( compilation )

( I think this was a weirdly sparse year for music, I don't recall listening to much that was new in '98 - I may have decided that music was past it's best... )
  • From The Choirgirl Hotel - Tori Amos
  • Loser Friendly - Steadman
  • Down A Wire - Counting Crows
  • Almost Here - The Unbelievable Truth
  • The Good Will Out - Embrace

( I was horribly broke this summer, so I couldn't afford much by way of music )
  • Mock Tudor - Richard Thompson

( The summer I moved home and had some money to buy music with. )
  • The End Of The Summer - Dar Williams; if you haven't heard this, I heartily recommend it, possibly the best lyricist of all.
  • Parachutes - Coldplay
  • XO - Elliot Smith
  • Little Black Numbers - Kathryn Williams

  • 2001
    ( I had just moved to Reading, lived with my friends, who fought like and cat and dog that year. )
    • Asleep In The Back - Elbow

    • Hard Candy - Counting Crows

    • Kick Up The Fire And Let The Flames Break Loose- The Cooper Temple Clause
    • Passionoia - Black Box Recorder
    • The Old Kit Bag - Richard Thompson

    • New York, New York - Ryan Adams

    • A Certain Trigger - Maximo Park
    • Dog's Got More Sense - The Decca Years - Michael Chapman
    • Ebb & Flow - Sequoia

    (I apparently didn't listen to much music this summer)

    • Pretty World - Sam Baker

    • Our Endless Numbered Days - Iron & Wine
    • Boys And Girls In America - The Hold Steady

    • First Love - Emmy The Great

    ( The main thing I listened to this summer was a short playlist I had been sent by [ profile] herecirm which introduced me to a lot of the kind of music I have heard a lot more of since. The music was new and awesome and it marked a change in my relationship with the person who sent it. )
    • Angles - Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip

    (The finest girl I had ever met agreed to be my belle at the start of this summer, I was walking on air. )
    • The End Of Days - Abney Park
    • Slania - Eluveitie
    • Virtue - Emmy The Great
    • April Rain - Delain
    • Smother - Wild Beasts

    • The Hare's Corner - Colm Mac Con Iomaire
    • The Whirling Dervish - Mad Dog Mcrea

    • The Fontana Trilogy - The Lilac Time

    • New Eyes - Clean Bandit
    • Mynd - Hannah Martin and Philip Henry
    • Into The West - Pilot Speed

    • Did I sleep And Miss The Border? - Tom McRae
    • Almost Home - MAd Dog Mcrea ( no relation )
    • Somewhere Under Wonderland - Counting Crows

    Summer is a weird time of year for me- although I look forward to it, I end up so busy it often passes in a blur and lacks the clarity and definition of the memories I have for other seasons. Perhaps my mind still works on an academic year and Summer feels like the stretched out ending that for so many years it was. Also I probably haven't listened to enough new and interest music in the last few years, I've learned this also. That said, Mynd, from last year's list is a fantastic album and you should definitely listen to it.
glenatron: (Iris)
The girl I love had an anniversary to celebrate and as she hasn't visited the west country much and she is a big fun of crystals, fairies and new-age tat, there seemed an obvious place we could visit if we took a couple of days away:

Avalon Tower
This one - the Tor from the Avalon Orchard - feels like it's just a couple of filters away from being a Phil Rickman cover.
further illustrations )
glenatron: (Iris)
I'm just back from riding two consecutive clinics with Steve Halfpenny which has been an eye-opening experience. Riding with Steve always is, of course, but this time around I think I started to really get something I hadn't understood before. Something about balance and setting up the cues for direction and for life and something about expectation. Above all the message of "never pull on your horse" got taken to new and far greater depths. The important thing from all of this is that you never pull on your horse. Holding the lead ahead of them with the rope slack so they step forward? Pulling on your horse. Picking up the reins more when you don't get the response you were looking for immediately? Pulling on your horse. If you never pull on your horse, some things change which mean that everything is different. It's simple and revolutionary and unbelievably difficult and if you haven't felt it, you would be able to agree with everything I say without having the slightest idea of what I mean, which is the problem of talking about this stuff. I hope to get a clinic report written up at some point, though.

Iris doing her stuff at a Steve Halfpenny clinic
Suffice to say that Iris was magnificent, truly magnificent, and that I am unbelievably fortunate to have such a wonderful horse and such a generous teacher. It has been a very good time.
glenatron: (Iris)
A few weeks ago I finally got to ride a clinic with Buck. If you aren't familiar with the name, you should probably watch the film about him ( a good enough film that non-horsey folk can enjoy it too ) to get an idea of his work. Buck is one of the people who spent a lot of time learning with Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance long before anyone thought to try and sell their approach as "natural horsemanship." This is the starting point for the horsemanship I have been working on for a long time now and most of the people I have learned from have either spent time with Buck or know him personally, so he's certainly connected to the path I am on.

Now he was teaching one of only two clinics in this country and it was about ten miles from where I live so although rider places were pricey it seemed worth it to me to take part in this one. The clinic was a new double format, with Buck teaching in the morning and Melanie Smith-Taylor who works with an understanding of the approach that Buck teaches but comes from more of a showjumping direction. It made for long days, but a very interesting combination.

Three days and thirty riders in the big arena )
glenatron: (Iris)
Two things happened last weekend - I spent three days riding a clinic with Buck Brannaman and [ profile] herecirm pretty much reached the end of her tether with Marty the mule. She's been working hard with him but lately a string of setbacks and periods of patchy progress have really left her feeling a little lost and unhappy in her work with him. I have been ever so impressed with her progress both in horsemanship and in her relationship with Marty but I could see her getting dismayed and I know just how difficult it is to be learning a new way of working and to be working with an animal who is also learning, even with a lot of support. After talking about it, I suggested I might work with him for a week and see what I could get.

You might wonder why I wasn't being more help to start with, but the truth is that I have learned time and again unasked for help is almost invariably unwanted help, so I won't offer help ( rarely even an opinion ) unless someone has asked for it. Unfortunately [ profile] herecirm is far too considerate and consequently hadn't been asking me for help in spite of wanting it because she thought it might inconvenience me. As having a happy Sari is my A1 top priority, I found myself in the happy position of being able to do the thing I most enjoy in the interests of making my true love happier. A most auspicious confluence.

I had an idea of where we had gone wrong in our work so far and at the root of it we had really listened to too much advice from too many different people. Marty is very sensitive, he feels everything, he is aware of everything, he can respond to the most subtle energy cues, he also tends to get introverted, which means that there is a chance he might shut down if pushed too hard and avoiding that was a priority.

We've done a lot of good work, but where we went wrong was that we worried about that last one and allowed it to back us off. He is sensitive, he can feel everything, but that doesn't mean he needs to be cut any slack. Whether or not he is sensitive, if he isn't trying to get along with us then he needs to change his mind.

"A good horseman," Buck said, when I asked him if he had any mule tips, "might have very high expectations of a mule." So when we began our first session I went in there with high expectations. I had done some work to where I could catch him a few months ago because he was of the opinion that I wasn't allowed to do that at all which didn't seem entirely practical to me. Now I was saying that I needed him not only to be caught after a cautious approach and very careful preparation, but to really buy in to the whole idea of being caught. That day it took me most of an hour to put a halter on him and most of that time he was running around like a goon. I don't mind that kind of thing - I am always working on the horse's time ( or the mule's in this case ) so I just kept him moving and started pushing if he wanted to turn his back on me, dropped the pressure if he thought about coming over. It was a long session because he just didn't have the slightest interest in being caught, but as soon as he was I took him out and we got to work.

Marty has an irritating trait of running out backwards from any situation he isn't keen on. It has been successful for him, but I wanted to start to get it changed. He's also very twitchy around his flanks and hindquarters, so it seemed to me that using a flag was a good way of working on both of those. As soon as we got into the school he thought that running backwards would probably help him to achieve his complex mule-type plans and vanished towards the corner. I went with him, using the flag vigourously in the general direction of his hindquarters until he tried moving forward instead. We worked first on him just walking with me - not walking alongside me but actually connecting in with my feet and my intention, so he could start following my changes without needing the flag.

It took a while- he would drop back, then run forward when I used the flag at all and get ahead, which turned out to make the flag appear in front of him. It was a very trying day to be a mule. But after a while I started to see what I wanted- instead of jumping to conclusions about what I must obviously want, Marty began to start tuning into what I was actually asking him for. He started being able to walk and stop with me. After a while he was able to trot with me when I picked up my pace a little - putting more speed in tends to bring back any trouble that you were dealing with before, but you have less time to sort it out.

I was very much influenced in this work by watching Buck help a horse find changes by simply being clear, firm and persistent so although they had a few anxious minutes initially while they tried all the things they expected to work, the horse really quickly accepted his leadership and clearly felt a lot better for it once it happened.

Over the next few days I worked a lot on having Marty walk with me, then on accepting the flag coming in and touching him while we walked- a doubly useful exercise because he gets to figure out that he doesn't need to flinch the whole time and we get to work on distinguishing between the flag just waving about without any intent and me using the flag to direct him.

He is a very apt student - I found myself having to rapidly move the goalposts to keep us from getting stuck and to keep him interested. We go back to the flag work often as he still needs to work on all those twitches, but I have also got a saddle on him ( he wore one but then had a big saddle related scare ) and after a few rather humpy strides and a couple of sproinks he settled to it pretty well. He's going to need a lot of work to be properly settled with it and between that and the twitchiness I think long-reining will be an excellent exercise for him.

He has changed a lot in the last week - from being quite sceptical of me at the start of the week I like to feel he has come to think of me as "a person he met." Our catching times have come down from most of an hour ( I wasn't timing on the first day ) to being instantly caught by Friday. After a day off we were back to a little over ten minutes, but one wouldn't expect steady progress in this kind of endeavour and he marked me out for his highest honour on Saturday evening, as he kindly gave me permission to scratch his butt while he pulled ridiculous faces. It was a lot like being on the New Years Honours list.
glenatron: (Iris)
The lights went down and a mix of sounds came from the speakers- radio voices from the early twentieth century and then beautiful female harmonies singing an entirely familiar melody, albeit one that I expect to hear from male voices. I suppose one might call it Women Together Today.

"The universe is a record Of everything you say and do."

It's a little over ten years since my favourite album ever came out - which is, by no coincidence whatsoever, the greatest album ever recorded - and to mark this occasion, British Sea Power announced a few shows that celebrated the anniversary re-release of The Decline Of British Sea Power. Now I am not great at thinking about gigs I want to go to- in fact, I have somewhat lost my passion for seeking out live music in the last few years - but fortunately my brother is and for my birthday back in February he bought us tickets for their London show. My response to it was not what I expected.

"A swallow is depicted there, along your fuselage."

When I bought The Decline Of... I was in a brief intermission of staying at my parents' house, having recently moved out of a flat nearby and being in the process of buying a first home. It was an exciting time, but also a happy one- I was in a relationship that seemed to be quite comfortable, quite grown-up, and we were temporarily living in the house I had grown up in. It was an odd house, built up from an old WW2 Nissen hut and entirely wood clad, comfortable in that cool November, with it's textured wall paper and the big green log stove in the living room that heated it. It connected up my childhood, my teenage years and the happy homecomings during university holidays with the changes ahead, my impending marriage and the house I was about to purchase. I had also joined a new band and I was exciting about the music we were going to make together. I missed my university friends but I was still young and there was a lot to look forward to.

"Oh little England, tonight I'll swim, from my favourite island shores..."

I didn't really appreciate The Decline Of British Sea Power for a year or so after I got it. I listened to it the next autumn and suddenly it blazed into my mind and my imagination and I realised in a flash what an astounding collection of songs it is.

"I believe that bravery exists."

The band didn't work out, I mean we recorded a pretty great album and I enjoyed a lot of things about it, but there were others that made me unhappy. Well, if I'm honest a lot of them were to do with the relentless political machinations of our singer. There were things I liked about him, the person I talked to when we had direct conversations, and I was ambitious for our music to achieve something too, but he spent so much time working at being a jerk that eventually that was what he became. He had a very troubled relationship with women as well, forever teetering between worship and contempt. There are things about him that I didn't realise until years after I left the band, but certainly I don't regret leaving, but maybe in some ways I regret joining. We did a lot of gigs, we played in some interesting places, once I got a free t-shirt - although given the investment I put into the album it doesn't feel like a great deal in retrospect - and it gave me a glimpse of the edges of the music industry. Those edges were full of boring middle-aged men, no different from most other industries. It didn't look so exciting from where I stood and the relationship between work and the chances of getting any pay whatsoever as a musician playing original music seemed unbelievably tenuous. All around me I saw amazing bands who could have sold huge numbers of records playing to empty back rooms and slowly washing away. With them went my faith in the music industry. I will always love music, but I wouldn't want to work there.

"I feel the lapping of an ebbing tide..."

I was standing in the Roundhouse with [ profile] herecirm beside me and British Sea Power were playing Remember Me and at some point I realised that there were tears rolling down my face and I didn't know that I was crying until that moment. It was the strongest and most immediate emotional impact music has ever had on me. They weren't the last tears I shed that night.

"For then you will have lost it all, the last of this island..."

A couple of years after the time that we stayed there, my parents went ahead with their plans to demolish the old house and rebuild it. It was a massive undertaking, costly, time consuming and immensely stressful. They came through it stressed out, exhausted and having spent their life savings, but they also have a truly beautiful house. It's in a different position on the plot, with a tall prow, bright windows and gorgeous wood floors. Now it has been lived in for a few years it is a charming place and a well deserved reward for their retirement. The pine clad walls are gone, though and the old green stove and I will never be able to show them to Sari.

"They say the past is a foreign country, how can we go there? How can we go where we once went?

One of the first nights I listened to The Decline Of British Sea Power, on a deep November evening, I made a pecan pie in that familiar kitchen. It took ages because I'm bad at pastry but it was a really good pecan pie, what we had of it. We left it on the side in the kitchen over night and the next morning the pecans had all gone and the surface of the pie was covered with tiny mouse footprints.

"All through the years, all through the dead scenes, all through the memories, melodies..."

Every moment of the first half of the set was wreathed in magic and memory and that strange intensity that comes from listening to music that you have loved so intensely it feels as though every word of the lyrics is carved into your bones in a room full of people who are caught up in the same moment as you. Not your moment, though, because the last twelve years of your history are opening up like a flag around you and you are free to inspect them, and to enjoy them, and to let them go if you want. To let them rise like paper embers and give them up to the wind and the joyous noise of the sky. Not to let them weigh you down, but instead to allow them to lift you up.

I have lived out some of my potential and allowed a whole lot more to drift away to nothing, but I am once again engaged to be married and this time it is to the absolute love of my life. I am becoming a horseman, playing music I love with a band I enjoy belonging to and working on other creative projects in the moments in between. And just the other night I heard the greatest album ever recorded, played live in its entirety by one of the few truly great bands of our era. This is a good place to be.

"When wooden horses were in use, I would have built one and left it for you."
glenatron: (Cash)
I was in Lewes the other day and the drive home took me past the area where I got Cash from four years ago. When I met him there he was a very anxious little guy, very difficult to catch and not responding to any of the work that people were doing with him.

Now it's years since I tried sitting on the little guy and when I last did it hurt pretty badly for some time afterwards, so he has no practical use at all. But when I got home and he was his usual friendly, confident, self coming over with his nostrils fluttering in a happy little whicker and demanding hugs and scratchies it did my heart a lot of good to see him. Everything about him is different these days and he is the most happy and helpful ( not actually helpful, but quite convinced he is helpful ) of ponies, about as fine of a friend horse as a person could wish for.

It's only one small life of a daft and adorable creature, but it's a life that has been improved by my being here. That counts for something.
glenatron: (Iris)
Yesterday evening we needed to get things done at the yard and I wasn't in a riding mood, so Iris' evening work was to come in and do a bit of groundwork. A few weeks ago I had done a short groundwork session that ended up with a bit of liberty stuff and she did really great while she stayed with me, so as I had a [ profile] herecirm and a camera I asked her to do a bit of video of that:

Last time, after we had done a bit of liberty, Iris had realised there was some grass around and went off to eat it, and when I went over to catch her she ran off to the other end of the arena at top speed to eat there. I figured she might opt to do the same thing again, so we adjusted the camera and filmed some beautiful dappled mare running in slow motion, that just needed a sweeping soundtrack to add to the sentimental effect:

She really is a very special horse.
glenatron: (Iris)
The last few weeks have really felt like springtime here, that moment of bright transition from blossom to leaf and the sun has shone with an atypical brightness facilitating some very pleasant days out, with which I shall now try your patience...
illustrated version )

So that's how things have been here recently. It's not so bad.
glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
One thing I have done since music grew into one of my obsessions ( which I think it probably no longer is, though it is deep in my bones now and I wouldn't be without it ) is that I have always listened to albums intensively at the time I discovered them and then often find that I can reach back to that time by listening to them again. Considering this the other day I started to think about spring albums that I associate with different years and so here, for no reason other than that I can is a list of albums that I have listened to in spring over the last 21 years:

( I am at sixth form college, having the time of my life. )
  • Uncle Anasthesia - Screaming Trees

  • Dream Harder - The Waterboys
  • Gentlemen - The Afghan Whigs

( Now I have started university so I am home for the Easter holidays. )
  • Siamese Dream - Smashing Pumpkins
  • The Bends - Radiohead

  • Expecting To Fly - The Bluetones
  • Drag Down The Moon - Tansads

  • Secret Samedhi - Live
  • Navigation - Michael Chapman
  • Drag Down The Moon - Tansads
  • Placebo - Placebo

  • Grace - Jeff Buckley
  • Faithlift - Spirit Of The West

  • The Boy With The Arab Strap - Belle And Sebastien

(I am in my first full-time job but still living with student friends. )
  • Weights And Measures - Spirit Of The West

( Back to the nest, moved home to my parents - a poor decision but a comfortable place to be. )
  • Mortal City - Dar Williams

( First spring dating Lou, who I went on to marry. )
  • True Love And High Adventure - Grand Drive
  • The Sophtware Slump - Grandaddy

  • Just Like Blood - Tom McRae
  • Sweet England - Jim Moray

  • Everything To Everyone - Barenaked Ladies
  • Up The Bracket - The Libertines

( Not a great spring for music, apparently! )
  • The Wind In The Wires - Patrick Wolf
  • Fisherman's Woman - Emiliana Torrini
  • Open Season- British Sea Power

(Working freelance, something I didn't really enjoy- stressful, long hours and inconsistent returns.)
  • Plans - Death Cab For Cutie

  • More Adventurous - Rilo Kiley
  • Whatever - Aimee Mann

  • Cease To Begin - Band Of Horses

( I really tried to like this one, but it was just too boring. )
  • The Midnight Organ Fight - Frightened Rabbit
  • The Seldom Seen Kid - Elbow
  • Weightlifting - The Trashcan Sinatras

( Looking back now I think I was probably genuinely depressed at this point, unhappy with my lack of achievement, realising I was middle-aged, my marriage was failing and staring into the abyss of an existential crisis. )
  • Grammatics - Grammatics

( My marriage had ended and I guess the inevitable crash was over, but I also had an idea that just possibly something better might follow it. )
  • Drown Your Heart Again - The Strange Death Of Liberal England
  • Not Far Now - Richard Shindell
  • Also some stand-out songs included Richard Shindell's beautiful cover of Northbound 35, Cracker's Big Dipper and Mermaid Parade by Phosphorescence

  • Shallow Bed - Dry The River
  • Let England Shake - PJ Harvey

(The first spring that Sari and I were living together and moving into our flat. Also we were travelling around Australia for part of the time, which was technically autumn? )
  • My Head Is An Animal - Of Monsters And Men
  • The Village To The Vale - Autumn Chorus

  • Into The West - Pilot Speed
  • An Awesome Wave - Alt-J

  • Grown Unknown - Lia Ices
  • Revival - Bellowhead ( going to see them live on Monday! )
  • The Fine Art Of Hanging On - The Leisure Society

I'm sure there are more that I don't recall around the early 2000s - recently is new and the joyous lack of context that marks youth means that the 1990s are vivid as though they were yesterday. One thing I see looking at this is that it wasn't just my feeling- some years genuinely were way better for music than others...
glenatron: (Iris)
For my thirty*cough*th birthday, the mighty [ profile] herecirm gave me a new camera, which I have been using quite a bit. My last camera didn't entirely stop working, but it has somewhat lost the ability to focus, which turns out to be a significant impediment to photography. So here are some photographs of things that have happened lately, which might also count as a general update on some of the things that are going on...
Illustrated Version )
glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
I haven't written one of these in a while, but this is an important book so I'll share my opinions of it here as well:

One of the problems with most of the great horse trainers and clinicians is that although they are brilliant at working with horses or explaining what is happening with the horse in front of them, they are not always as good at teaching humans as they are at teaching horses and - at the next layer of remove - the number of definitive books on horsemanship can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Ross Jacobs is a clinician, a trainer and a writer and in all of those settings he stands out for his excellent communication skills, with people as well as horses.

In this book, Ross sets out to explore what lies at the very heart of horsemanship. Unlike many books in the field, it isn't tied to any particular discipline or style of riding but instead seeks to draw out what lies in common across disciplines and of course at the heart of them all is the horse. There are many books on how to train horses to peak fitness, how to improve your performance over fences or in the dressage arena but none of them really go into any depth on how to work with a horse's mind although that is usually the single most powerful governing factor in both the performance of the horse and the relationship between horse and rider. The Essence Of Good Horsemanship fills that gap.

The book explores three central pillars of working with the horse - Focus, Clarity and Softness and considers how to develop all three and how each one affects the other two. It is broken up into short chapters, each separating out an important idea and exploring it in detail. The writing is clear and easy to follow, combining expertise, personal experience and scientific evidence to shine light on topics that are traditionally difficult to grasp but become accessible through Ross' writing.
glenatron: (Iris)
Iris has always been quite busy in her mouth, tending to chomp at the bit, especially when she is anxious. I noticed it particularly when we were working on riding out the last few times and I realised that it wasn't just a manifestation of anxiety, there seemed to be a stereotypical element to it as well. So I set down and asked her not to. Just doing some gentle work on the ground, holding the bit rings and asking her to follow a feel without releasing until she had quit munching at the bit and was just holding it.

Two sessions later she seems to be able to just carry the bit most of the time. I'm ever so pleased with her but I can't help but feel a bit of a chump for not spotting it sooner.
glenatron: (Iris)
I had a big creative plan for this year, but most of my plans for the year have in fact not worked out because I am a horrendously lazy man.

However a conversation on Twitter with Juliet E McKenna ( [ profile] jemck ) about representation of female authors on the genre shelves of bookshops got me looking at the ratio of male to female authors in that section of my local Waterstones and then deciding that this year I would only buy new fiction from female authors.

If I am honest, I don't always buy a lot of new books in any case, so this wasn't a big challenge for me, but this year I have bought way more new fiction than I have in a good few years so I thought I'd mention some of the books and authors that I read in case any of you might enjoy them too.

The Lescari Revolution - Juliet E McKenna
I have read quite a lot of Juliet McKenna's books and always enjoyed them but this series, in which a team of characters set about instigating a revolution to overthrow the warring feudal barons whose actions have devastated their country is the best so far. An exciting mix of action and politics taking place in a well realised world ( that has been the setting for a lot of other novels, which you don't have to have read, but if you have this will build up some familiar characters ) the thing which really impressed me was that intensity that these books created- the pressure picks up in the first quarter of the first book and it simply doesn't let off until the very end of the trilogy. Three books at maximum intensity. An impressively unputdownable achievement.

Ancillary Justice - Anne Leckie
This is one that you have probably heard of, albeit largely for the genderless society it describes ( everyone is simply termed 'she' ) rather than the storyline. I do enjoy a bit of space opera and this was very good but something about it didn't quite blow me away and I'm not entirely sure what. However I do remember at the time that it reminded me somewhat of something between Iain M Banks and Ursula Le Guin's sci fi, which is not a bad place to be. I certainly plan to pick up the other books in the series in future.

Song Of The Earth/Trinity Rising - Elspeth Cooper
I enjoyed Song Of The Earth- the story about the young man raised by templars then condemned as a witch and his adventures and escape was a little bit familiar in places, but well executed and brisk reading. However when I got the next in the series, Trinity Rising, we started to learn more about the world and meet characters in different regions- the northern barbarian clans with scottish names, the fiery fanatics of the southern desert and the long-lived and magically inclined elfin folk of the forest - and I suddenly realised I was on main street of lazyworldbuildingville. Not to mention the "evil just because" antagonist. Now I acknowledge that sometimes the way you pick up existing ideas and reshape them is an important skill in its own right, but I just didn't feel that happening with this series. Interestingly [ profile] herecirm picked up the first one and gave up very quickly.

God's War - Kameron Hurley
So at the other extreme we have a novel set on a planet where two sides are fighting an endless war in the name of religion in which women go out to fight and the core technology is based on insects controlled by magicians. This was an utterly, strikingly, original setting. Absolutely ideal, right? Well... the problem I had was that I couldn't find a character to hook onto. I loved the setting and the style and the imagination, but the main character was so busy being a relentless hardbitten bad-ass that I simply couldn't get any kind of handle on her. The other characters also lacked whatever quality it is that brings me to engage with them, possibly along with the fact that it was hard to believe any of them were going to survive for long. So there were lots of things that I really liked, but the story didn't draw me in. It wasn't quite an "awful things happen to awful people" narrative, but it certainly leant that way.

Tea With The Black Dragon - R A Mackavoy
This is an old book, set in the early 1980s and dealing with silicon valley as it was then, which makes it something of a period piece by now. In essence it is a short, beautifully constructed, character study with a background thriller and a little bit of magic as well. I enjoyed it and I think quite a few people reading this would, but I can imagine it may not be for everyone.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms - N K Jemisin
This book was interesting and different- the setting is a world-spanning empire controlled by a royal house who took their power from imprisoned gods and most of the story takes place in their palace hanging high above the capital city of the kingdoms as an outsider princess finds herself drawn into the dangerous machinations of the royal house. The world was a little hard to get a handle on but it was worth the effort. It managed to pull a couple of totally unexpected but absolutely coherent twists on me, which is relatively hard to do and something I delight in. As a standalone book it is a little on the short side, but I believe a omnibus of all three books in the trilogy is available and that would be a worthwhile acquisition.

I did suffer a bit of a reading hiatus in the summer, partly because I had to do some technical reading to get up to speed on stuff for my new job ( the best parts of which were Eloquent Ruby and The Design Of Everyday Things ) and partly because I ordered a bunch of books from my local Waterstones who proceeded to take nearly three months not to get them in - this is the only major highstreet book shop left in the country and in three months they couldn't get a couple of books in to order. When I left the job I cancelled the order and bought them through Amazon instead. They arrived within the week.

Range Of Ghosts - Elizabeth Bear
This is the first book of a series in a setting based around central Asian mythology and it is flipping awesome. I have always enjoyed fantasy that steps away from the standard northern European forms, something I was strongly reminded of when I read Saladin Ahmed's excellent Throne Of The Crescent Moon last year. This is the story of the grandson of the great khan and begins directly after a major defeat in a war of succession which he only just survived. It has Rocs and wizards and a giant tiger lady and armies of ghosts and - as one might expect from a Mongolian setting - some excellent horses. I'm certainly going to buy the sequels to this one and I'm already looking forward to reading them. Strongly recommended.

Cold Magic - Kate Elliott
I just finished this one and so maybe it is super-fresh in my mind but it has so many of the things I want to read about going on that it's crazy. We're in a 19th Century Europe where the last ice age persisted, magic works and things are culturally very different. There is radicalism and technological progress in the air, but the ruling princes and cold-mage houses are seeking to maintain the status quo. You'll notice that I've gone almost as long as some of my other mini-reviews just describing the setting, and that's before I've got to the characters and the way they develop and the trouble they get into and the things they learn and the way that every time a question is answered two more questions are raised and the way it's fun and sophisticated but also maintains a sense of humour and probably it's going to be quicker if you just get the book. Also I edited out a whole lot more where I realised I was just explaining the history of the setting because it's so great. Recommended to the highest degree.

So that was my year's reading and I have enjoyed reading a lot of books that I might not otherwise have gone to the effort of seeking out. There are certainly writers here who I am going to look for other books by. I think the main thing that this year has reminded me of is little to do with gender and a lot to do with the sheer amount of good genre fiction that is being published at the moment. I have also found Twitter to be a very good way of keeping up with authors and of finding interesting recommendations- I will tend to pay more attention to the recommendations of a writer whose work I admire and through the last year I have found a whole more of those, which counts as a good thing.
glenatron: (jp)
What is this? It appears very much as though it is a LiveJournal post that I wrote ten years ago. That is a long time in LiveJournal years.

LiveJournal has been with me through a wedding, a marriage, the collapse of a marriage and divorce. I have been here through my progression from a dude who was starting to learn to ride into some kind of ridiculous horse obsessive who travels the world seeking precious equestrian expertise leading to the single greatest adventure of my adult life, through three bands ( and two sets of recordings available on amazon, one of which is now only £1.73, the other is in the top 235000 mp3s and genuinely excellent ), four larp characters, three houses and numerous jobs. LiveJournal introduced me to a lot of excellent people whose company and adventures I have enjoyed reading and many of whom I feel as though I have got to know well through this wordy medium.

Of course it was also responsible for introducing me to the love of my life and much of our developing relationship and joyous time together has been fairly well documented here. Days spent with Sari are gold and magic and sunshine and I would wish for nothing better than to spend as much time as I possible can in her company.

I'm a lot older than I was then ( I have been on here nearly a quarter of my life ) and my hair is starting to get a little bit peppery but I have lived an interesting and busy decade and I have enjoyed sharing a lot of it with you.

Now I think this part probably is remarkable- after ten years I still have the same free, advertising-free, account with the six userpics that I set up back in 2004. Come to think of it I'm also using the same theme, possibly that does show a concerning lack of imagination. The userpic I am using now is the first one I ever set up. Two of them feature horses who now run in the fields beyond the fields and who helped set me on the path to being the person I am. They're all horses and I expect it to stay that way. If something is important to you, a tiny JPG is the best way to express that, no doubt. I changed the tagline though, the day I came up with the phrase "brute force and erudition" I knew it was a keeper. Here's to many more years shared with all my favourite imaginary internet friends!
glenatron: (Iris)
Kathleen was one of the first clinicians I ever wrote an LJ report about and seven years on from that, it was nice to ride with her. We've both progressed a lot in that time- Kathleen was very much teaching like Mark Rashid who she had been travelling with for a few years prior to working in her own right. Since then she has been studying with a lot of different teachers including people like Martin Black and Buster McLaury, focussing lately on Buck and Jeff Sanders ( that guy again ) so very much travelling in the direction that I want to be. Because she has a background in English riding and jumper hunting she also has more in common with the average rider here than many trainers who come directly from that western tradition, so she is in a good position to bring concepts across.

Clinic write-up, some pictures )

It was really nice to be riding with someone who is teaching the good stuff and having had two clinics ( my year's supply for this year ) within a fairly short period has set me up with plenty of homework for the year ahead. This time next year, I hope to have a horse who is consistently soft and relaxed through her topline and able to move smoothly from forward into lateral movement with no loss of power.
glenatron: (Iris)
We're starting this week riding on a clinic with Kathleen Lindley. Because this was happening really close to home I figured we could just ride over there. About three hours, I thought, I can probably get by with just the GPS mapping stuff I thought.
Six hours of getting lost in the Home Counties wilderness )
glenatron: (Iris)
Last weekend was our Silversand clinic with Steve Halfpenny for the year. He stayed back in Australia last year, so this was the first time I have been able to ride with him for some time- although I took Cash to a clinic in 2012 he wasn't ridable so last time I actually spent much time horseback with Steve was three years ago.

One of the things that is interesting about Steve is that he never stands still - he is always working to improve his own horsemanship and recently he has been learning with Jeff Sanders and Manolo Mendez which has helped him develop into even more refinement. The great thing is that having ridden with these top level riders, Steve has the skills to see exactly what they are doing ( which is not always the same as what people say, or even believe, they are doing ) and the ability to translate that into a version that is comprehensible to us mere mortals.

If you look back through my clinics tag you will notice that I used to do epic write-ups of clinics going through the work we did and the progress we made in great detail.

I'm afraid I don't do that as much these days, partly because it is immensely time consuming and I don't know that many people read them, but also because these days I am mostly exploring a feeling, which isn't necessarily something I can express in a meaningful way. So instead maybe I'll share some pictures and talk a little about them.
illustrated version )

July 2017

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