November Blue

Rachel prepping for a bit of foxhunting this fall!

I’m convinced the sky is never quite as blue as it is in November. There’s just this brilliant quality to it, one you don’t quite see in the South’s hazy summers. It makes me wonder if The Avett Brothers (my favorite band for the past 7+ years since I met them at The Fork HT back in early ‘04 – and now look, my friends are all famous!) were thinking along those lines when they named an old song of theirs “November Blue”….possible, but it’s more likely that the guys were just singin’ the blues.

Come on, we can all relate to that, right? Okay, so maybe I can’t personally relate to a girl breaking my heart (such good fodder for a song, apparently), but I do know the general “if only things were different” feel of the song. I’ll pull a line from it: “November shadows shade November change; November spells sweet memory, the season blue remains.” If we’re going to talk “sweet memory,” I’ll jump back to this time last year, when I was walking on air over Pirate’s success in our first Intermediate, finishing 4th at Rocking Horse HT down in Florida. And if you want to talk change, this year poor Baby P is hanging out at home doing…well…a whole lotta nothin’. Let me tell you now that he is NOT a fan of this.

This time last year, Pirate was in sunny Florida jumping around his first Intermediate.

Seriously, try convincing a fit young TB event horse that he is out of work for a while, and after a day or two he’s about ready to Occupy Wall Street – “An END to this unemployment!” he’ll whinny at you when you walk in the barn in the morning, and when the boredom really sets in, “I’m taking a stand against this unfair distribution of attention!” he’ll snort as he breaks out of his stall and goes galloping across the field, bucking and spinning and leaping and generally just actin’ the fool. (Because that’s good for a suspensory injury, Pirate – even if there was no core lesion, just a little enlargement of the ligament, looks like you’re working pretty hard to hurt yourself worse!). In reality, the Poor Pitiful Pirate is getting more attention than ever, and he spends an awful lot of time walking around his lovely little grassy paddock, and hacking around the farm in the soft autumn sunshine. (This is perfectly fine for his leg, and in fact I have been instructed to do so by his vet….so long as we only walk). As I am much too lazy to tack up for such boring things as walking around, Pirate hasn’t had a saddle on his back since early October.

Ah…reminds me of the old days with little Laddy Pony, when I never ever put a saddle on him and just galloped around the farm bareback setting up my fences as high as we’d dare…oh wait. By old days, I must mean…last week. Yes folks, that’s right, little Laddy has stepped up to the plate again! He’s 20 now but wild as ever, and his little 13.2 hand high Arabian butt found itself on the foxhunt field for Opening Meet with Mecklenburg Hounds. Through all his years of eventing, the American Eventing Championships and other championships he won included, that pony’s mane was never once pulled and only braided (in that long Arabian braid) one time that I can remember. But for Opening Hunt, you better believe that mane was pulled and braided, and my Laddy looked ever so handsome. The hunt was on the old steeplechase property, and Laddy had a blast, particularly at the end when they turned us loose on the old track for an impromptu race. He easily passed everyone, despite the headstart they were given, his biggest competition being stablemate Phaye (Fashion Statement – remember my crazy young Prelim mare when I was 16/17?), who was ridden by my faithful student Ashley. Thankfully, this time we were allowed to do so, unlike 11 years ago when we last hunted with Mecklenburg and Laddy bolted with me, passed the Field Master, and even caught the Huntsman. Naughty naughty. (I was a bit embarrassed to show my face around these parts after that and did a bit of hunting with Yadkin Valley Hounds, where we were better behaved; then, it was onto Ireland, but of course little Laddy didn’t make THAT trip with me!).

Rachel (Mind Over Matter) will be doing a bit of foxhunting herself as we’ve been invited to Opening Meet with the Camden Hunt on Thanksgiving Day. I’m very excited! I think Rachel will enjoy herself – as fantastic as that mare is on the flat (remember that 25.0 in her first event?), just about every horse loves to run and jump. She wasn’t entirely sure what to think when an amateur steeplechase jockey tried to learn dressage on her the other day, but as soon as they were galloping through the field and jumping fences, both jockey and mount looked much happier. (Poor Jamey…I won’t make you do dressage again for a while if you don’t want to, sweetheart).


Pirate on a walk in the woods…big ol' puppy dog that he is, he always finds plenty of things to sniff!

So that’s where things stand currently – I’m riding as many horses (and teaching as many lessons) as there is daylight for, with plans for foxhunts, cross-country schoolings, and little horse trials over the remainder of the fall and early winter. I once had big plans to spend a little time in Florida over the winter training with Pirate, but adaptability is one of the biggest lessons you’ll learn as a horseman; you need to have a Plan B, C, and D, because as I said last time, plans are like rules – made to be broken. Things are always changing and if you think it’s just you, it’s not. (Since I brought up the good ol’ Avetts already, I’ll mention them again to say they are prime examples of this; their music constantly changes because, as people, they are constantly changing. A theme of theirs seems to be that one should never be standing still, but instead always growing, changing. Not a bad thing to be reminded of, whether it’s a musician saying it or a fellow horseman).

It’s just life; it’s everything around you, really. Think how quickly the sun goes down at this time of year. The sky in autumn serves to remind us that all is temporary, ever-changing; it’s cotton candy pink and baby blue one moment, deep gold and crimson another, and then the sun disappears altogether and you’re looking at the stars. And you’ll have that gorgeous sunset and wake the next morning to find a sky consumed entirely by clouds. Strangely, though, I’ve always liked a day like that – I know, I’m weird, because everyone else just thinks they’re dark and depressing. But hey, you know…maybe we wouldn’t notice just how bright a shade of gold the leaves have turned on the tree beside the barn if not for the grey to set a backdrop for them; so often it takes a sharp contrast to remind us of the little things we take for granted as we rush through our days. And there is a part of me thankful for the grey of the skies, the calm it seems to bring over a day, or over a time when life is just a bit unsure. After all, when our lives change without our permission, we need a day or two to adjust, right? So long as we don’t hide behind them, grey areas in life make things easier for us sometimes…the way clouds soften the sunlight that can be so bright, it blinds you.

Things do have a way of becoming clear to us eventually, anyway. So, not to worry…if you’re the sort to find a grey November day gloomy despite it all, remember it never lasts. There’s always November blue underneath there somewhere!

Even Pirate knows that…  ;)

Changing things up a bit! Laddy and Phaye at Opening Meet with Mecklenburg Hounds.

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