Monday, December 21, 2009

Once a band nerd, always a band nerd

Throughout my academic life, I was a band nerd. I can’t remember not singing, and fell in love with the French horn in 5th grade. 

A few months ago, I went to my high school reunion. Beforehand, many classmates found me on Facebook, and knew my childhood horse-hobby was now my career.

But Amy Burean, now Laures, knew me as a music person. She asked if I still played. I had to answer “no, I haven’t played consistently in years.” She seemed surprised, considering throughout school I played with pretty much any group that would have me. My excuse? The intensity of my working student positions, then starting Straight Forward Dressage, had kept my schedule in a constant state of flux, and my horn in its case.

Recently, things have become a lot less hectic. Show season is still messy, but once the championships are over, things settle down. Thanks to SFD's amazing staff, I find myself running my business, instead of my business running me.

So I decided Amy was right, and picked up my horn again.

Before long, I was craving the camaraderie of other band nerds, so I found the Chester County Concert Band. Half way through the first rehearsal, I knew this was worth rearranging my schedule for. It felt like coming home.

Playing horn again is fun. I now fully understand the position of my returning-to-riding students. I find myself a little insecure about my abilities, but a whole lot less worried about it. I want to get my lip back, but I’m not going to make myself crazy to be the best horn player in the world. I’m going to enjoy this trip through the band room.

I see this in my returning-riders. For them, being in the barn is the point. They enjoy their time with the horses. When they show, they are delighted when they do well, and know that if they don’t, the sun will still shine. Even if the judging isn’t favorable, they still love sitting on their horse, because that is the point.

One big problem of working in a performance-based industry, like horse trainers, actors, musicians, professional athletes, and consultants, is you are only as good as your last show, last performance, last game, or last day’s work. The pressure to always do better, or at least not worse, is enormous. Your groceries depend on it. It’s easy to loose sight of the point.

But on Wednesday nights, that pressure is gone. I am just the new horn player. The smell of slide grease and the sounds of saxophones soothe me. I count my measures of rest, watch my accidentals, and do my best to hold an unwavering tone quality on long notes. My playing is free from the pressures of music scholarships and professional music that burned me out in college. I am free to just relax, have a good time, and to love to play.

By the end of rehearsal, I find myself a bit more mentally balanced, and ready to be a better trainer tomorrow. I guess I’m still a band nerd.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fire Drill

By Cara Klothe

Back in October, our insurance agent, Bob Bishop, scheduled a fire drill for our local fire company. 

As a horse owner, I found the evening informative and very eye opening.  We all hear tragic stories about fires destroying barns, and we share the goose bumps from hearing about the poor horses that are caught inside. But after the goose bumps are over, I know I personally get wrapped up in competing and training and the day-to-day stresses that go along with owning horses. I forget how lucky I am to have my horse alive and healthy. I digress; this is getting a bit morbid!

Back to the drill --

Close to 20 fire fighters arrived (fire truck and all) at the barn. This was a hands-on experience for the fire fighters. It included the usual pointing out exits, fire extinguishers, power sources, hay storage areas and the other typical things a fire drill goes over, and much more.   

Bob Bishop gave a very good presentation on barn fires, highlighting the typical dangers and complication unique to barn fires. The presentation included a map of the farm that clearly showed the safest area to put the horses in the case of a fire. 

But getting horses to the safe area is a major problem. The horses don’t want to leave their home with a stranger in a big yellow suit. Understandable, somehow I see Ockie, and many others having a problem with that. Bob’s suggested remedy was to use a towel over the horses head as a blind fold. 

Most of the guys (and girl) had no experience with horses, so they practiced putting a halter on, placing the towel over the horses head and leading. We thought we would be nice and let them practice on Saint Clyde. Clyde was an angel as usual, he stood perfectly still while firefighter after firefighter took their turn haltering and leading him. 

To get everyone really involved Bob proposed a competition (what do guys like more?).  We took Clyde and Toby to the indoor and divided into 2 relay teams. The firefighters had to put their jacket and helmet on, then put the halter on the horse, cover the horse’s head with a towel, and lead the horse to the other end. At the other end, they would switch gear and the next person would have to halter and lead the horse. The first team to get though everyone correctly won. The team with Clyde won mainly because Toby (aka Houdini) kept throwing off the towel no matter how they tried to secure it.

All in all it was a good night and very informative. We can all rest easy(er) knowing if, heaven forbid, there is an emergency our horses are in good hands!

Top 10 Exercises to Become a Better Equestrian

This forward made me laugh, so I thought I'd share it with everyone :-).  Exercise #8 is a bit too true....

10. Drop a heavy steel object on your foot. Don't pick it up right away. Shout, "Get off, Stupid, GET OFF!"

9. Leap out of a moving vehicle and practice "relaxing into the fall." Roll lithely into a ball and spring to your feet.

8. Learn to grab your checkbook out of your purse and write out a $200 check without even looking down.

7. Jog long distances carrying a halter and a carrot. Go ahead and tell the neighbors what you are doing - they might as well know now.

6. Affix a pair of reins to a moving freight train and practice pulling to a halt. Smile as if you are having fun.

5. Hone your fibbing skills: "See hon, moving hay bales is FUN!" and "No, really, I'm glad your lucky performance and multimillion dollar horse won the blue ribbon. I am just thankful that my hard work and actual ability won me second place."

4. Practice dialing your chiropractor's number with both arms paralyzed to the shoulder and one foot anchoring the lead rope of a frisky horse.

3. Borrow the US Army's slogan: Be All That You Can Be -- bitten, thrown, kicked, bucked, slimed, trampled, frozen...

2. Lie face down in a puddle of mud in your most expensive riding clothes and repeat to yourself, "This is a learning experience, this is a learning experience, this is ..."