Saturday, November 24, 2007

My heroes - or is it just cos they died?

I can't get the video thing to load - so you are meant to listen to this track as you read this OK.

I know we have to die - I actually practice dying. I think I am kind of OK with the actual 'not existing anymore' bit of it. I guess the tough bit is not so much your own death as other peoples. That can be a bit of a bastard for sure.

Anyway, I was just thinking about a few of my heroes that have died. Before I list them, I just want to say, I don't have heroes OK, but these are a few people who I would have liked to see what they would have done if they'd stayed alive a bit longer.

John Lennon - I guess he's top of my list. I loved that guy. I know he was flawed, but who the fuck isn't.

Frank Zappa - Just so brilliant and so cool. Go on youtube and watch him being interviewed. One of the cleverest guys ever. And who could play the guitar so well and be such a cool dude at the same time.

Can't think of any others right now, can you?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bad acid trips No 23 (circa 1971)

Travelling through Turkey and Iran was quite an intimidating experience for me. Most of the time I could see that the people didn't really want us to be there, and the whole place somehow felt like it was above the law. The arab guys just couldn't quite cope with the way our girls were, and I think they found the whole of the 'hippy' culture very threatening. There was this awful vibe that anything could happen, and no-one would really care. So when we pulled into the 'western' campsite in Tehran, it was like finding a cultural oasis in the desert. No offence guys, if you're Iranian or Turkish, we just had different values I guess.

God alone knows why, but when John, the Canadian whose VW van we were travelling in, suggested we all take some acid, for some unbelievable reason we all agreed. Now as far as I can remember, he just stayed in the van with his girl, I can't remember her name, and spent the whole night shagging. But for me it was another story. I had the full works that night - probably the most scary trip I ever experienced - utter uncontrollable fear! I kid you not, for about six hours I thought I was a goner, with no hope ever of getting back to my sane mind. At one point I sat with Jan, my travelling companion and girlfriend, in a small glade, and all I could see everywhere were snakes. We were sitting in a sea of snakes. They were in her hair, they were all over us. It was truly horrendous.

To make matters worse I had this real big thing about having sex while I was tripping, and it was really pissing me off that John was there doing it, while I was stuck in hell.

OK OK OK, do you know I was chatting to a girl in Second Life the other day, and she said, 'Christ, I'm not used to this, most people I meet in here are so cool and easy-going, and you are so bloody serious'.
'Bloody hell', I thought, 'I'm supposed to be the cool one, what's going on?'
And now I'm looking back and thinking, 'God, I'll take serious babe, I'm just lucky to be here'.

As the sun came up over the Iranian hills, I could feel the warmth on my back. The acid started to wear off, and I began to feel good again. I went for a swim in the pool and felt the water moving over my skin. I ate some bread - it tasted really good. 'Phew, I'm still alive'. I thought.

You know I've always said, let anyone who wants to, take as many drugs as they want. But I'll just say this, I saw a lot of guys wandering around India with not much brains left. And recently in the States, I saw a load of drugged up old guys too. It's a waste of an opportunity, that's all.

So my advice now would be, just go steady OK.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Does size matter?

Did you see that programme on BBC3 last night where men were talking about the size of their dicks. My wife wouldn't let me watch it, she said she didn't want me getting all depressed. I guess from her vast knowledge of the subject she should know. But secretly I know it was because she wanted to watch 'I'm a celebrity, get me out of here'.

Anyway, if you have it on DVD send me a copy. Don't get me wrong, I'm not obsessed by this. Purely for research purposes only you understand.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Harry Whitney and Mark Rashid - part 2

I didn’t really do Harry Whitney justice in my last post about him.
Putting together the two weeks of clinic that we did, and seeing it in terms of where we were at with our horsemanship just before we left for the States, it has actually been near perfect for us.

So where were we at when we left. Well, I’ll try to explain. For some time now I have been uncertain about just how far I should go to get what I want from my horses. You know that old chestnut, ‘use as little as possible, but as much as it takes’. Well, on the ground I’m pretty ok with that, and that shows in the success I have there. I now realise that I have been seriously losing out on my riding simply because I have imposed all sorts of limitations on what I can and can’t do while I ride my horse.

I never ever want to forget that moment when Mark said to me, ‘Do what you have to do – it’s not about what it looks like, you have to get the job done’. Even after he’d said it about four times it still took me three days to get it done – boy was that horse glad when I did get round to it. Suddenly the horse was free and off we went.
So then it was off to Harry’s.

I was quite nervous waiting to meet him, and so relieved when I realised what a nice bloke he is. I can tell you now 100%, anyone, just anyone, could talk to Harry – he is one of the most approachable, humble, kind and knowledgeable about horses people I have ever met. Another worry I took to Harry’s was, I have been very careful about watching trainers – since I realised that I liked the way Mark works I have not seriously looked at other trainers. Sarah has looked at loads and she often comes back worrying because she doesn’t like what they are doing, or she thinks we should be doing more. She often comes back and says ‘I think we should be doing such and such’, which we try for a while and then we just go back to what we do best. Actually I do admit that we add in stuff from here and there, and of course we work out our own stuff as we go too.

It didn’t take me long of watching Harry to see that his horsemanship is very much along the lines of Mark’s (or the other way round!). As Harry said to me, the horse is the common factor, and if you come at it from a certain direction you will end up at a similar place. So that’s interesting isn’t it – which direction are you coming from. To put it bluntly, what is your purpose? Is it to win, to look good, to make money, to be better than anyone else, to prove to yourself you can do it, to improve your life, or is it…..nah, it's not for me to say.

No, that’s a cop out there by me isn’t it – so is your purpose to be the best you can be for your horse all the time, and anything else that happens is a bonus or not. That is the purpose I am aiming to find in all my work.

I am not going to get into summing up Mark and Harry’s work, or as someone asked me when I got home, ‘so who is best then?’ It was just so good to have what we are doing here kind of confirmed and pushed on by watching these two guys work. Would I recommend a trip out there to work with either of them? For sure I would. When Sarah and I were discussing the utter irresponsibility of what we had just done to our finances by going on this trip, I asked her would she be happy to not know what we have just learned. ‘No way’, she replied, and neither would I be either. Of course I know there is more and more still to learn, but that’s horses isn’t it. It’s fun!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Hey, hey, hey, who's running this deal!

Our stallion Fergus, with his son and apprentice, James.

After having been in the US for a month and watched how they keep their horses, being concerned in the way we are about the environment we keep them in and so on, does make me wonder if we maybe sometimes go a bit over the top. A horse property in the mid-west is any house with enough room in the garden for a small pen to keep horses in. It is a common sight to see several horses penned together in 30' to 40' corals. Feeding is bunging them cakes of hay twice a day. It is quite rare to actually see horses out in fields.

The whole attitude towards the horses is quite different here in the UK. In the US the working culture is still very present in the way the horses are looked after, even though nowadays there isn't so much real horsework being done. Get your horse, go do your work, put him back; and when the horse can no longer do the job, move him on. This really shows up in the horsemanship too. So there's a problem with your horse, well sort it out. Your horse won't stand still, well, don't go around the houses, don't have loads of theories, just tell the horse to stand still. One of the best things I heard said was when a horse just walked off with his rider, the rider just said, 'hey hey hey, who's running this deal'. He pulled the horse up and it was absolutely clear, absolutely no doubt what was wanted, the thought in the horse was changed, the timing was perfect, and the horse just got on with it. It was exactly what a kid would have done, or what happens in most yards, except in this case the timing and understanding from the rider was perfect and so the horse understood.

So when I got home and went around the stock, I was really conscious of all the things we do to make things as natural as we can for our horses. I was really questioning how important it all is. We keep our stallion with his herd, and we keep our herds mixed age. We are obsessed with grass and space, and to be honest all our horses are too fat. If we have to keep a horse on box rest it is a huge stressful event, but in the US that's just how it is for loads of horses. Quite a lot of horses are left penned up all day in the blazing sun, they go hours with nothing to eat. I heard one girl from the UK say 'My God, if I kept my horse like this she would go mad' - some of mine too, I thought.

So what am I saying - well as usual, nothing much. Just that I am fascinated by the different attitudes. If you watch the rodeo you can see that the attitude there is 'these animals are here for us to use'. In the UK it's swung around to 'these animals have rights, they are equal to us', or even 'oh horse, let me be your servant'. I am not making any judgements here OK, just writing.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Back to a Dartmoor Autumn

November sky on Dartmoor

I read a really good article about blogging this weekend taken from The New York Times. It was about these guys who have become famous through commenting on other peoples blogs. The theory is that no matter how good a writer you are, on your own blog you are probably writing for yourself and maybe two or three other people, whereas if you comment on a popular blog you get read by thousands.

There are so many good writers writing really good stuff on their blogs - I have a list of maybe a dozen or so recommendations on my blog and quite honestly they are pretty much all very readable, and easily as good as a lot of the stuff the columnists in the newspapers get away with. In the end it comes down to having the time to read it all - the times when my blog did best was when I was spending an hour or so a day reading all my blog friends blogs.

Oh shit, am I a blogger in crisis? It was easy when I was away because I was writing it for myself, but can I go on like that - does anyone really want to read about my aunts 53rd birthday party. I don't even want to write about it so I know you don't want to read it (apart from Vicus of course, who has always wanted to get across her).

Freddie in his Arizona waistcoat

Hang in there, tomorrow's post will include some exciting photos of our stallion with his apprentice, our ram with some of his ewes, and some pretty Dartmoor autumnal scenes.