Monday, January 26, 2015

Somewhere Near the Rainbow

So, I know there's a blizzard headed toward the east coast, but it was GORGEOUS here over the weekend.  Shar and I made arrangements to ride on Saturday afternoon.

I got there, swapped the stirrups back to my "old" saddle so the stirrups that came with the Tucker go with it to its new owner.  And I attached my brand new PURPLE pommel pack to the saddle.  Yay!

Arya stood fairly still through all this (and was GREAT about me picking up her feet--she's a smart one--only took a few "training" sessions for her to realize she could stand on three feet and allow me to pick her feet for a few minutes).  But it had been over a week since I'd ridden, so I wanted to lunge her first, for sure.  We headed off to the round pen.

We did a few circles at the trot, and I asked her to change direction.  She spun around and headed off.  Good girl.  Another direction change, and this time she kicked her hind feet out in my direction.  NOT a good girl.  So I asked her to canter a bit, turn, canter, turn, trot, turn, trot.  She kicked out again a couple more times, then seemed to settle in some, but still seemed to have a TON of energy, which she couldn't really expend in the round pen, so I took her to the arena.  She got some good canters in down the long side, and didn't buck at all.  I lunged her in semi-respectable circles again using the lead rope (I have a pretty long one) to get back to the "focused on me" purpose of lunging, and headed to the mounting block.

She stood nicely for mounting, then proceeded to walk off and would NOT stand still.  She'd stop when I asked, then immediately walk again.  So that didn't thrill me.  We headed out the driveway, and Arya was on HIGH alert--head held high (for her), ears forward.  But her tail wasn't swishing like it did the day she bucked me off right near the driveway.  But still...I have to admit I was a bit nervous.  I worked on my posture--when it's right, it feels like my lower back is really slouchy while my upper back is pretty upright, but the instructor showed me by pressing on my chest bone that it's actually a very stable position as opposed to what feels "proper."  And I was trying to keep my seat relaxed (not tensing my butt cheeks, basically) and my legs loose and gently wrapped around her (like a gentle hug).  Even before the instructor mentioned it, I've realized on my own that making sure my legs are wrapped around her does seem to help when she worries about something she sees.  I guess the unseasonable warmth affected Arya, too, and she had the spring wiggles!

So anyway, I was concentrating on those things, and took a deep breath, and SO DID SHE.  She heaved a big sigh, relaxed her whole body, and while her ears were still pricked forward (she was checking out the kids swinging on a swingset--haven't seen that before!), her body was much more relaxed.  Shar (riding behind us) commented on it, too.  Amazing the difference our posture and attitude can have on the horse we're riding, huh?

We walked down the dirt roads to a trail that goes down a hill.  Arya always feels stiff going downhill (well, every horse does, but she seems especially so, though going uphill she's smoother than on the flats), but she actually motored right down the hill with her back swinging.  It felt really good.  Then when the trail leveled out, we trotted for a bit.  Arya was behind Flash, and apparently wanted to plow right THROUGH him to get down the trail a little faster, so when Shar asked how the speed was, I said a little faster wouldn't hurt.  :-)  We settled into a good rhythm and trotted one of the longest stretches I've trotted in a while, and Arya did just fine.

We were theoretically heading toward a geocache, but knew we were fighting the sunset.  We headed down Rainbow (hence the blog post title--I'm trying not to have them be TOO boring), but eventually realized we weren't going to make it to the cache, be able to find it, AND get back before it got very dark, and we weren't wearing our reflective gear (and it's hard to find a cache in the dark).  Oh well.  Some other time...

Anyway, we alternated walking and trotting.  There was a gentle uphill section we were trotting where it really felt like Arya wanted to break into a canter, but I reminder her with a little check of the reins that we were trotting, and she obeyed.  :-)  On the way home, we tried trotting in front of Flash and Shar, and Arya did great.  She didn't go as fast, but she also didn't stop dead in her tracks to let Flash take the lead, either.  We didn't trot very long stretches at a time, though, partly because I'm not sure she would while in the lead, but also because my legs were tiring out and I could tell my posting was getting a lot sloppier (and therefore rougher on Arya as I flopped all over the place).  Having upcoming trees with low-hanging branches kept making good excuses to slow to a walk, too.

We climbed up a pretty steep and rocky hill, and Flash had a few moments of struggling--a rock would roll underfoot or whatever, but Arya motored right up it, taking a bite every couple steps (something she tries on the flats and downhills, too, but being on an uphill slope puts the food RIGHT under her nose, literally).

Can you imagine what it's like to be a horse being ridden through food sources but yet NOT allowed to eat?  That's gotta suck.  And most horses probably have an issue with nice green grass, but to Arya, ALL vegetation is potential food.  She's a mustang.  She eats thorny woody things like they're candy.  She crunches even the thickest stems of tumbleweed with impunity.  So yeah, she sometimes starts out a ride being good, but there always comes a point where she's like "but WHY can't I eat?  I can eat and walk, see?"  Except then she ends up with grass sticking out of her mouth and she tosses her head because it's all stuck around the bit or whatever, and it's just annoying for both of us.  So yeah, she needs to stick with only eating when I say so.  :-)

When we got back on the dirt roads near "home," we decided to try leapfrogging.  This is an exercise where two (or more) riders split up.  One rides ahead, away from the other (or group).  The other catches up and passes.  And so forth.  So Flash was lagging behind, since his walk is slower, so Shar checked with me first, then rode past Arya at a trot.  She broke into a trot for a few strides, but I slowed her back down and she seemed okay with the fact that Flash was pulling ahead.  Shar slowed Flash to a walk, and I got Arya to trot.  No problem catching up to Flash, but she did hesitate to pass him.  But I urged her on, and she kept trotting (though a lot slower).  We slowed to a walk, and Shar and Flash passed us again.  This time, Arya was like "Oh, this is a game!  I get it!" and didn't mind a bit.  We caught up and passed without issue.  We did a couple rounds, each time getting a little further ahead of the other.  She did great with it.  Of course we'll need to try it in other situations (this was near home, on familiar turf, pointed TOWARD home) and with other horses eventually, too, but it's good to know that with more practice and exposure, Arya likely won't mind passing and being passed out on the trail of an endurance ride.

Which, from what I gather, is basically constant--even if a group of riders have a loop all to themselves, people and horses vary their speed on different terrain in different ways.  Some people trot uphill and walk down.  Others might canter a flat stretch and pass a bunch of people only to be passed later one when they slow to walk an uphill section.  Then add in the fact that a lot of trails are shared between different distances (the 10-mile loop will be used by newbies like me as their only loop, but might make up part of the longer rides as well, and therefore the newbies might get passed by 25, 50, or even 100-mile horses and riders doing a faster pace)...passing and being passed is a very important skill.  So again, one we still need to work on, but good to know we're not starting out with much of an issue in that regard.

Anyway, we got back home without incident, untacked the horses (both were sweaty, but Arya especially so since she got the workout beforehand plus isn't in quite the same shape Flash is), and I let Arya roll in the pasture.  Do you know what's better to a hot sweaty horse than a good roll in a sandy arena?  Just about nothing, I'm pretty sure.


Then, just to top off her day a little further (she really was a VERY good horsie), I let her graze in the front yard area while I did a few chores.  She moved all of about five feet in 30 minutes or so, such was her concentration on the food underfoot!

Good girl.  I wasn't brave enough to canter (especially on the HARD dirt of the roads!), but once I relaxed at the beginning of the ride, wasn't very nervous, and had a great afternoon enjoying the sunshine.  I think Arya did, too.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

More lessons

Shar and I hauled our ponies to C's place for another lesson on Saturday.  However, this time someone else would be joining us, so instead of working on no-stirrup exercises in the round pen, we headed straight to the arena.

Oh wait, let me back up.  I bought a saddle sight unseen (and untried on the horse), because it's identical to Shar's model, and we'd tried her saddle on my horse and it seemed like it'd fit.  It arrived in the prior few days, so I showed up early, got Arya out, and put the saddle on her and switched the stirrups over and such things before we loaded up.  Arya was kind of antsy, swinging her butt around and stuff.  At one point, she ran her rear end into the ATV sitting nearby, freaked herself out a bit and swung her rear end the other way quickly, dislodging the saddle, which then banged against the trailer.  Another time, she swung her rear end right into me which is NOT okay, so she got a pretty hard WHAP on her rear end for that.  So yeah, going into the day, I could tell she was a bit antsy.

We were also taking Shar's new foal with us so he could get a nice warm-water bath (Shar has a wash rack, but it only has cold water).  We didn't want Arya to be able to squish him (on accident--she's not mean enough to do it on purpose!), so Flash and Ash (the baby) went into the front of her stock trailer, side-by-side, then the divider was closed behind them.  Arya went in the back, and while she had a space that was plenty wide, it squished her in there lengthwise.  :-)  She survived.

We arrived, unloaded the horses, and called C over to take a look at my new saddle.  Well, turns out it doesn't fit. At all.  Shar and I knew we weren't experts, but didn't really know what to look for, apparently.  Luckily, I got a good price on it and will be able to sell it easily.  I didn't have a chance to switch the stirrups back, but luckily I thought ahead and attached stirrups to the old saddle after taking the ones I like off.

Anyway, so we headed to the arena, and C showed us some exercises to do with our horses with the obstacles set up there.

First, I took Arya to the set of ground poles.  There were three or four poles in a row (plus poles and cones along the side to keep the horse concentrating on going across the poles instead of trying to shoot out the sides).  C recommended concentrating on controlling one foot at a time on the horse--work up to the point where you can get them to stop with just one foot over a pole, then two feet, then three, rather than just rushing right over all the poles.  Then try backing through them.

It's harder than it sounds to get a horse to stop after it has just one foot over.  They really really want to at least get a whole pair of feet (fronts or backs) over at the same time.  So we worked on that for a few minutes and I eventually got her to stop between each foot.  Backing up was another adventure--she kept turning her head around to look at where the poles were in relation to her feet, and was really worried about stepping on them (they roll a bit) at first, but she got used to it and I could tell she was really using her brain.

Next we went to the barrel squeeze.  There were two barrels, both laying on their sides, with a two-foot-wide (or so) gap between them.  The idea was to first lead, then "send" the horse through the gap.  I let her have a good look/sniff at the barrels, then led her through.  No problem.  Led her through again.  Good job.  Then tried to send her through.  Not nearly as successful.  C came over to help me, and had me first lunge her in a circle away from the barrels to get her into that frame of mind.  We talked about responsibility--it's Arya's responsibility to maintain the gait I put her in, whether under saddle or when lunging.  She, of course, wanted to slow to a walk when I asked her to trot.  So first we worked on just getting a few circles in a row of trot without her dropping to a walk (and without me working to maintain the trot--let her make the mistake THEN correct it, rather than constantly nagging at her).  We did okay at that, and moved back to the barrels, and she went right through them.  Good girl!!

Then we went to a single pole to cross that was about 6-8 inches off the ground.  This was even harder for her to wrap her mind around stopping partway over it, especially with only one (or three) feet over it, but we worked on that.  I didn't make her back over that one.  She's still working on figuring out what her back feet are going to do.  It was funny, when we'd be standing over it with one or both front feet over it for a minute or two, and then I'd ask her to continue.  You could almost see the wheels turning in her head--"Okay, I gotta remember to lift my back feet up now, because I'm pretty sure that pole is still there that my front feet had to get over.  Remember to lift them up.  Okay, there I go.  Got it!  Yay, me!"

Then we moved over a pseudo "bridge" made of five or six railroad ties right next to each other.  Some people make bridges as trail obstacles, but they're usually a deck-like bridge made of lumber, so they have a hollow sound when you cross them.  The idea with this bridge was simply to get the horse to get onto it, then down off it on the other side without rushing.  Once again, easier said than done.  Arya pawed at it a bit then dutifully mounted it with both front feet.  She crept up to the edge (hind feet still on the ground, but that's okay, we're not performing circus tricks here).  When I asked her to go forward, she rushed forward, getting her back feet up on it, and down off it again all in one fell swoop.  Nope, not how it was supposed to go.  Try again.  And again.  And again.  C gave me some pointers, and I eventually got her going over it in a fairly controlled manner.

Arya practically sleeping on the railroad tie "bridge"


Next we moved to a couple of poles that had one end resting on the ground and the other end up against the side of the arena, like a ramp.  The poles were set just about a horse-width apart.  This could simulate getting into a straight load trailer or other narrow spot.  Once again, Arya wasn't sure at first, but gamely stepped forward each time I asked, and back out nice and straight.  Easy peasy.

It was about then that it was time to mount up.  While I was getting ready, Shar had a pole with a lead rope attached to it, and was practicing dragging it while leading Flash.  He didn't care at all.  When the pole got near Arya, she ... "freaked out" is too strong a term.  Just expressed surprise that it could move, maybe.  And I suspect it was more about the snake-like lead rope than the pole moving.  I showed her both objects, let her sniff them, then moved them around near her feet.  No biggie.  I dragged the pole right across the fronts of her hooves, and she didn't care.

After mounting, C started dragging the pole on foot and asked me and Shar to ride our horses behind it, then next to it, and eventually across it while it was moving around.  Arya did great.  She's really pretty good about "scary" stuff, and that hasn't had anything to do with why she's bucked.

Then we were supposed to start trotting around the arena.  Some folks were working on transitions--walk, trot, walk, halt, walk, trot...  I was just trying to get Arya TO trot.  Ugh.  She doesn't much like arena work (plus she'd already been mentally taxes, though not physically), and she was distracted by the wind, which moved the nearby hot walker, and the other horses, and she tried avoiding the mud, and and and...  She just didn't want to work very hard.  So I'd get her to trot, she'd trot a few steps, weaving around puddles as she went, and if I used any rein at all to steer, she would also slow to a walk (maybe she was pretending she thought I was using the one-rein stop?).  Even if I didn't steer, she'd slow to a walk after a few steps.  I'd whap her with the whip, and she'd trot a few more steps, if she felt like it and we weren't near a puddle.  I'd post, while squeezing with my legs on the "down" beats.  Then she'd walk again, and I'd squeeze and whap, and she'd trot.  Maybe.  And on and on and on.  There was no working on whatever exercises the others were working on.  We trotted over the poles a few times, which mainly worked because that was the path of least resistance, puddle-wise, so she went fairly willingly, though she always slowed to a walk when we reached the poles.  Definitely need to set some up at Shar's house...

So while the first part of the day had gone well, the last part was not so successful, and after a while I pretty much gave up and just let her walk or even stop altogether.  My legs were tired!  (Plus I was fighting off a cold, so just wan't feeling in top shape myself.)

I think I'm gonna stick with just the two-person lessons.  Adding even just the one extra person seemed to really cut down on the help from the instructor (not her fault!).  Or maybe it was the arena environment was more distracting than the round pen.  Plus in the round pen lessons, we were more focused on exercises and riding position rather than what the horse was doing.  Maybe that's it.  Who knows.  I just felt like I got a LOT more out of the prior lesson than this one.

After the lesson, we tied the horses up and fetched the little guy.  He got a bath with a LOT of scrubbing by Shar (I just held on to keep him from wandering off--he didn't need MUCH holding, because he seemed to enjoy it quite a bit).  He's so stinkin' cute, but due to some health issues he had prior to moving in with Shar, he had a lot of poop/mud crusted on, and he had some skin conditions that are mostly better now, but he still has a lot of flaking skin and such that Shar was trying to scrub off.  She didn't get him 100% clean, but I bet he felt a lot better afterward.  We lucked out that it was a nice day, so we found a nice sunny spot for the kiddo to eat while he dried off in the sun, then we bundled him up good (fleece cooler plus regular blanket) for the ride home.

We tried squeezing Arya and Flash into the front of the trailer together (it rides a lot better with the majority of the weight in the front) and putting the baby in the back.  Poor Flash.  Arya does NOT get the concept of allowing others their personal space.  She was jammed in lengthwise, once again, but could stick her head into the manger area, so it wasn't THAT big a hardship.  Or shouldn't be.  But she thought she should stand in the middle of the trailer, horizontally.  So there was quite a bit of room to her left, and the same amount of room on her right where Flash was allowed to stand.  But not breathe.  We scooted her butt over, and she moved right back again.  Poor flash.

Meanwhile, the lucky baby had the whole back half of the trailer all to himself.  He probably thought that was pretty awesome.

When we got back to Shar's house, we started unloading the baby, but Arya threw quite a fit.  She was kicking at the divider (luckily it was there, so she wasn't actually hurting anyone but herself!) and making quite the ruckus.  We unloaded the baby.  Then tried to unload Flash so Arya would have to just sit in the trailer all by herself rather than getting off the trailer as a reward for her fit.  However, she started kicking and trying to back out (though she was tied) when Shar tried to get in there to get Flash out.  It would have been fairly unsafe even if she'd been well behaved, just because of the cramped quarters, but it was really unsafe with Arya throwing her weight and hooves around like that.  Shar managed to get the side door open (meant to be a human exit, or to check on or feed the horses without having to unload them) and untied Flash, and let him unload himself, basically (her husband and I were both nearby, though I had the baby).  Meanwhile, Arya kept throwing her fit, nearly reaching the back of the trailer with her hind feet.  So Shar tied her up shorter and we went about our business with Flash and the baby, letting them graze on the nice green grass, etc.  I unloaded the tack out of the back of the truck, all while very carefully ignoring Arya.  She fussed when I walked by the first couple times, then seemed to get that I wasn't going to pay any attention to her, and was quiet for the last few trips.

When I unloaded her, I also made her back out.  I'm so mean.  :-)  She did great at that, and I turned her out in the pasture, giving her a few face rubs in the process to show her I wasn't holding a grudge or anything.  But yeah, she was kind of a stinker all day.  Ugh.  I think the mental exercises are good for her, and she was actually on her best behavior while we were doing that sort of thing.  We should definitely create some of that stuff at Shar's place.  But next lesson (which unfortunately won't be for a while), the instructor is going to ride her for a bit, both to let Arya know she can't get away with stuff, and to show ME that she won't blow up if you get after her.  That'll be interesting.  :-)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Trucking Edition, Part II

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I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.
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Another good one.  Again with the customer that has a scheduled deliver time because WE provide the unload crew at our expense (with the cost built into their pricing ultimately, of course), and have to schedule them.

The scheduled time to deliver was at 9:00 a.m.

At 9:30, our customer calls us to ask where the truck is.  We call the trucking company.  Oh, the driver hit a deer last night, less than halfway between here and there.  Now, we're not quite sure what time or exactly where, but "last night" implies that it was long enough ago that they could have let both us and our customer know BEFORE the scheduled delivery time, and "southern Oregon" implies that they're still far enough away from their destination that at some point prior to AFTER the delivery time, they had to have known they weren't going to make the scheduled delivery time.

So now WE get to pay for the crew who had to stand around just to get sent home (once they've shown up, the temp agency has to pay them a minimum payment, which of course they tack their profit on to and pass along to us) PLUS the actual unload crew when it gets rescheduled.  Plus our customer is unhappy and possibly running out of product.

What compensation to we get from the trucking company?  None at all.  What explanation do we get from the trucking company?  "We sent you an e-mail last night."  (No, it's time stamped 9:17 a.m.) and "We'll be able to deliver at 5:45 p.m."  (No, that's not going to work, so now we have to reschedule it for tomorrow morning instead.)  and "We weren't able to get a tow truck very quickly."  (Not our problem--repair it, limp it, or get another tractor in to tow the trailer, or worst case, COMMUNICATE with us if you can't keep your commitment.)

I don't know how an industry that runs itself like that can stay in business.  If we could find any company in the industry who's NOT like that, I'm sure we'd be very loyal to them, but sadly, there don't seem to be any--we've had issues with all of the ones we use.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Some people...

I'm sure it's the same with any other sport/hobby/whatever, that people feel the need to show off how much they know.  Then there's always the Dunning-Kruger effect (you don't know how much you don't know until you know more; then you realize how much you didn't know when you didn't know it).  But it really seems as if horse people are afflicted with the Dunning-Kruger effect, snobbiness, and one-up-iness more than other folks.

So there's this online horse website I read.  It has discussions set up in separate forums by topic.  In the "New to Horses" forum, someone posted that she (I'm assuming it's a she, as you do on a horse forum until informed otherwise) wanted "to start English riding."  She knows she needs a size 17 or 17.5 (saddle size, presumably, but she doesn't specify) and wants to know:  where to get a saddle, whether she should buy one new or used, how to introduce English to a Western horse, what tack she needs, how to budget, and riding tips.

Other than not knowing how to budget, seems like a good question for the section about being new to horses, right?  So a few people chimed in with tips, like how she probably shouldn't buy tack if she's just getting started, but where to look if she did decide to, that she should take lessons, whether starting from scratch or switching from Western to English, etc.

Oh, my.  She did NOT take kindly to the kindly advice.  She accused the people who responded of treating her like a child.  She's a very "experianced" [sic] rider and owns three horses that, get, this, she picked out herself!  Well, goodness, you never said so!  Everyone knows that choosing an equine makes you an excellent (ahem, "experianced") rider.  And she rode English once or twice and it was easier, much easier than western, since western saddles weigh "like a 100 pounds."  Yep, 'cause what makes a certain discipline difficult (for the rider) is the weight of the tack.  Well, being a jockey must be so easy even a baby could do it!  She doesn't board since she owns her own place, and she doesn't take lessons--she learns from her mistakes.

So, were the other posters in the thread chastised by this "experianced" rider?  Were they put off by her rudeness?  They were neither.  They kindly explained that they assumed she was new since she was posting in a thread for people new to horses, and were only reacting to her questions within that context and the context set by the questions themselves.  So they provided additional information to her, refuted (politely) her claims about English being easier than western (neither is easier, and anyone switching disciplines would do well to take lessons), and the usual pointing out of the fact that ANYone can benefit from lessons, and even Olympic-level riders have their trainers, blah blah blah...

She responds that she is (once again) "experianced" in Western and knows the basics of English, and just wants to know the best places to get a saddle.  And "just tips on riding; like just random tips."  She doesn't like people underestimating her.  She "might be young but all [her] horsey friends thinks [she has] a REAL talent with horses."  She gets them and knows how to fix problems.  (But doesn't have a clue where to buy an English saddle, and doesn't know what other tack she might need.)

So now some of the posters start getting a little more assertive about how defensive she's being, and how SHE asked the question, in a forum designed for newbies, so of course she got answers to her newbie-ish questions that might have sounded like they were directed at a newbie.  And they proceeded to give her more tips, mostly about how she should reconsider her stance on lessons.  :-)

She replied back that people who board at a place that has grooms to tack, untack, and take care of the horses are inferior, but she's not "hating on" them.  But she's saying she does know how to "do things," she does all those chores herself!  Wow--she picked out her horses AND she grooms and tacks them herself?  WHY isn't she out there running clinics on her awesome horsemanship skills?  She could be the Parelli of horse grooming and choosing and bragging about it!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Tales from the workplace, Part II

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I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.
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For the second time in as many weeks, the security alarm at work went off, and the police came out.  The first time, it was the cleaner--we usually leave the alarm off the night she comes, and just lock the door, but one time, we forgot and set the alarm.  Oops!  The second time, it was when a couple of the production employees arrived to get an early start before the office employees arrived, and even though one of them HAS a code, his code wasn't working properly.

So employees were called, as well as the police.  When the owner of the company showed up, he was unaware, as he either isn't on the list, or it's his home phone instead of his cell phone listed, or something.  So he arrived to what he thought was a normal day at the office, and had a police officer waiting for him.

However, in the meantime, the officer had asked the two employees who had showed up to work for ID, so he could verify they were employees, and also just as a matter of routine, I assume.  One of them had apparently been involved in some sort of shenanigans over the weekend and had a warrant for his arrest.  So he was being arrested right about the time the owner had showed up.  Wow.

This employee had only started recently, so I'm not sure what the owner is going to do--replace him?  See what happens and keep employing him if he gets the situation straightened out in time to come back to work?  Who knows...

Later that same day, the owner noticed that his newly purchased pickup, which he'd arrived in, had expired tags.  Apparently the officer never noticed.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tales from the Workplace, Trucking Edition

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I am posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.
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I have never seen a more bizarre and UN-customer- (either us, who pays for the freight, or OUR customer, who receives the goods they transport) friendly industry as the trucking industry.  Our shipments often have specific days and times for delivery.  Usually this is because a retailer has specific times that they operate their loading dock, or our direct customer has specific days they designate for various large trucks to navigate their property, or because neither of these types of customers in southern California wants to do the heavy lifting of unloading a 53-foot semi trailer when it's 100+ degrees out so we schedule delivery for the morning hours.  Sometimes it's because one 53-foot trailer is loaded with product for two different customers, so they each have an appointed delivery time a couple hours apart (or longer, of course, depending on the distance between them), so the delivery for the second customer being on time depends on the first one being delivered on time and unloaded efficiently.

We have had drivers show up to our customer late by hours and even days.  Once, on a load that was critical to the customer (they were out of the product) and had critical timing for unloading (we contract with a local-to-them temp agency to provide people for unloading, and had reserved the crew for a specific time), the driver was not just late, he* was unreachable the morning after the delivery was supposed to have arrived.  The dispatcher could see that his GPS tracker was moving, but was unable to reach him by their communication methods.  When they finally reached him, about 24 hours after the load was supposed to deliver, he said that he didn't realize it was that critical.  We not only send the trucking company a request that indicates the date and time we're requesting the load to be delivered, but it's written on the bill of lading that goes with the driver in the cab.

Another driver had a 6:00 a.m. delivery time.  We verbally told him that while he was standing in our office, plus it was written on the bill of lading, as always.  When the barn called at 8:00 to ask where the driver was, it was news to us that he hadn't shown up, so we called the trucking company, and they eventually (at 10:00 a.m.) tracked the guy down.  He didn't feel like getting up that early, and had slept in.  Now they DO have requirements about how many hours of driving they can do and how much rest they need to get between shifts, but this was not that kind of issue.  He just didn't feel like it.

Do we (or OUR customers) get any sort of compensation for this gross incompetency?  Of course not!  In fact, one carrier was delivering late so frequently that our company complained to them.  They said that since they'd delivered within 24 hours of the appointment time, it wasn't technically late (wonder how well that works in other industries!).  But of course, if we keep the driver waiting at EITHER end for more than two hours, we get charged for holding him up.  Then, as a punishment for all our complaining about them delivering late, that company quit having any trucks available for us for a couple weeks.  (Which does punish us to some extent, but then they don't get paid (by us, anyway), so I'm not sure the point of that.  Unless they have so many customers that they can just pick and choose...)



* Yes, I'm referring to all drivers as males.  The two specifically mentioned were male, and out of the ~300 drivers I've met so far while working here, exactly three have been female.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Tales from the workplace

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I am going to start posting stories from my job, because I think they're funny.  I've done my best to disguise my company name, even the industry, and to keep the people I write about and even some details of the situation anonymous.  If you know me, and know where I work, please don't include details in your comments.  I'll have to delete your comment and reconsider posting these stories.
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Guy comes into the office, asks if we're hiring (yes, that's apparently how it's done in this industry, or at least in this office).  I say not currently, but if he'd like to fill out an application, we'll keep it on file (and we truly do look at them when we actually are hiring).  He said he has worked here in the past, and implied he was hoping we'd just hire him on the spot.  The owner (and hire-er) wasn't in, so I told him so, took his information, and told him I'd let the owner know he was interested.

In the meantime, I looked up his employment history in our oh-so-sophisticated system.

Hire date 3/1/14 [this is made up, but whatever]
Termination date 3/2/14 [also made up, but you get the idea]

I looked up his pay stub history--he worked a grand total of seven hours for us.  One day.  The notes say he quit because he had another job.

So.  This guy applied for a job with us, took it, came in, filled out new hire paperwork, got some training, and spent a couple hours being minimally productive on his first day, and then at the end of the day, or by phone the next morning, quit because he had another job after all.  Seriously?

So of course when the owner recalled that history out of his own memory supplemented by our sophisticated system, he, of course, said that no, he'd rather not rehire this person.

The guy came back to the office again today.  The owner was busy talking to someone else, so I told him that I had mentioned him to the owner, but because he'd left the job after only one day and without notice, that made him ineligible for rehire.  He just stared at me blankly.  (There is a bit of a language barrier, but still.)

I repeated myself, and he said, "But I told them I was quitting.  I had another job."

"Yes, but you didn't give notice, so you're not eligible for rehire."

"But I had another job."

By this point, the owner was done with his other conversation and repeated what I'd just been repeating.

The guy kept explaining that he quit because he had another job.  As if that was such a virtuous reason that no further explanation was needed.  I realized that between the language barrier and potential cultural barrier, he probably truly thought that explaining WHY he was leaving was "giving notice," so I said that since he hadn't announced he would be leaving in two weeks, then WORKED those two weeks," he hadn't given us notice, but rather left suddenly.  He seemed to get it then, and left.

I feel bad for turning down someone who apparently does (now!) need a job, but seriously...who leaves a job after one day, without prior notice, and expects to get that same job back on the spot some number of months/years later?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Trail Time!

Day 2 of the weekend of horsie awesomeness:

We loaded up the horses and headed to the trailhead.  Well actually, first Shar had a little training session with Flash, because he decided that not just running away when she arrived to halter him, but actually kicking out at her was an appropriate way to behave.  She disabused him of that notion, and THEN we got on our way.  :-)

We'd originally been planning to ride with our friend J, but she couldn't make it.  A different friend, K, had planned to come, too, plus we'd posted it on a trail riding site on Facebook in case anyone else wanted to join us.

Two people showed up, but K wasn't one of them.  We decided to head off without her--she's no stranger to riding alone, so if she showed up, she could find us.  She texted later to say that she wouldn't be able to make it after all.  Good thing we didn't wait.  :-)

We set of down the trail, at a walk, then we trotted a few stretches.  On our third or fourth trot, I took the lead with Arya.  She's not fast, but she was fairly brave (usually, she leads for a few minutes, then stops to let the other horse(s) catch up so she can be behind them).  Then a trot session where Shar led on Flash, which was much faster.  I was trying to work on my posting and get back to the nice balanced trot I'd experienced in the lesson the day before, but I couldn't help but post really HIGH, so I realized we must be trotting faster than before.  Duh.




You can't see Shar in this photo...

So I took this one, which had the added bonus of D's head sprouting from Shar's arm



Then we reached a stretch of trail that looked perfect for a nice canter, so after checking that everyone was ready to canter, Shar, leading the way, picked up a nice slow even canter.  I tried to focus on my seat and the position of my upper body (I tend to lean forward and get unbalanced).  I got in a good rhythm with her, then got a little off balance, then back in balance.  It was nice.

Then, without any warning at all, Arya bucked.  One, and I pitched forward.  Two, and I knew I was coming off.  Three, and I saw that there was a spot on the ground clear of rocks or sticks or bushes, and I just kind of dove off the side and flopped over on my back.  The wind was knocked out of me, which was scary to lie there gasping like a fish out of water.  But when I got my breath back, I realized I was fairly unhurt.  I stood up, got Arya back from the rider who was holding onto her (she didn't go anywhere), and put her on the trail while I climbed on from the bank next to the trail that was a few inches higher.  (Shar helped by both holding her and putting counter weight on the opposite stirrup, since I usually mount from a higher position.)

Deep breath  Then one of the other riders' horses started getting antsy, circled around so his hind end was aimed at us, and of course Arya didn't take too kindly to that.  She side-stepped off the trail, and I got a little unbalanced, and one foot came out of the stirrup, but I stayed on.  DEEEEEEEEP BREEAAAAATH.  WHOOoooooo.  We put that horse in front so he could prance all he wanted but Arya didn't have to worry about where he was because he was in her field of vision the whole time.

Shar was impressed, and I have to admit I was pretty proud of myself, too, that even after having just fallen off, I was fairly calm and relaxed the rest of the ride.  I rode her on a loose rein and was pretty relaxed in my body.  I did freak out a bit when we had a rather steep hill to descend.  We opted to switchback off trail rather than take the trail that went straight down, and it turned out that the soil there was loose and sloppy wet.  The horses didn't like that much, and Arya kind of started rushing.  Down hill.  Ugh.  But I kept her to a walk and took a nice deep breath at the bottom and life went on.  But on solid ground, I did just fine.  We'll see how I do NEXT time, though--that's always harder than getting back on the horse right away.

We stopped to admire the views from an overlook on the way back:


Seriously, how cute is this horse?



and that pair (trio, with Noelle) is pretty darn cute, too!

Grey Butte, living up to its name

Surprisingly, not too many body aches resulting from the fall--I'm more sore from lessons + trail ride two days in a row.

Anyway, we made it back to the trailer just as the sprinkling turned into actual rain, so that was good timing.  Then we headed home, and Shar and I basically repeated the latter half of the prior day--TV, then McMenamins to soak in the pool and eat the pear flatbread.  Aaah, and Yum!

Lesson Time!

A few weeks ago, Shar and I hauled our horses out for lessons in Prineville with C, a "Centered Riding" instructor.  Centered Riding isn't a particular discipline (like taking lesons in jumping, dressage, or reining would be), but rather just on being well-balanced and being a better rider overall.  Plus, C rides Endurance.  So basically, they're endurance lessons.  At the lesson a few weeks ago, there were 6 or 8 of us.  While it is beneficial to watch others ride and see the feedback they get, when the group gets large enough, the feedback you receive personally is less, of course, plus the arena gets crowded and whatnot.  So Shar and I opted for semi-private lessons this time--just her and me.

The plan was for each of us to spend 30 minutes on a 1-on-1 lesson in the round pen, followed by a joint hour-long lesson in the arena.  But while I watched Shar getting started in her lesson, C asked if our horses were good together (um, yes, they're basically BFFs), and invited me in, too.  So we ended up spending the full two hours in a two-person lesson.  So sometimes we took turns, and one of us sat in the center of the round pen and watched the other, but for the majority of the time, we were both riding at the same time--more for our money, but also more saddle time makes for MORE sore muscles.  :-)

We started out with some stretching exercises.  The horses were theoretically supposed to stand still while we did them.  Flash knew the routine, plus he's been there, done that and knows it's wiser to stand still when given the opportunity.  Arya, though, is lazy, but she's also curious and a bit fidgety, so she kept taking a step.  The first few times she moved while I had my feet out of the stirrups (oh, did I mention that was a pretty big part of the lesson?), I freaked out.  Well, not hugely, but I did worry about my balance a bit and grab the horn.  Sheesh.

But after a while of both doing exercises at a theoretical halt, then walking around without stirrups, I got much more used to it and much less worried.  It's surprising the things that you think will be relatively easy to do turn out to be really hard--lifting your knees and calves up and away from the horse about an inch is extremely difficult.  And that some things I thought I wouldn't be able to do, I did fairly easily--standing in the stirrups at the walk.

After a bunch of exercises at the walk, focusing on our own bodies as well as the horses' strides, we moved on to some trotting exercises.  Oh, and did I mention that all of this was without any reins?  Well, without USING the reins.  Luckily she didn't actually take them OFF, but we weren't touching them.  I surprised myself with being totally fine with that.

She had Shar work on some transitions from trot to walk to halt and back again.  However, when it was my turn, we worked on getting Arya to trot--she's not a huge fan of arena/round pen work, and is always reluctant to trot.  But C taught me that once I've asked her nicely, I should whap her with the crop I carry, and that eventually it'll just take asking nicely and she'll start trotting without me having to whap her.  Well, what do you know, on the fourth try or so, it totally worked!  And I wondered when I'd be told to bring her back to a walk and then a halt, but she just had me keep trotting and keep trotting.  I actually was feeling really good and balanced and efficient and all that, but man, my legs were getting TIRED.  C is evil!  ;-)

Shar practiced some cantering, something that makes her nervous in an arena situation even though she's fine with it on the trail (kind of weird, since most people are the opposite, but she has had a bad experience in the arena, but not on the trail, so there you go.  She was nervous the first time, but did really well that time, and even better the second time.  And then we were done, and we were EXHAUSTED.

Here's some video Shar took of me riding in the lesson:




After the lesson, we headed back to Shar's house, but decided to stop and get lunch along the way.  Besides, it'd good for the horses to learn that they don't get out of the trailer every time it stops moving, right?  Well, that was our excuse, anyway.  :-)  As we were eating our delicious lunch and lamenting the lack of hot tub at either of our houses, Shar suggested we go to McMenamin's later and sit in their soaking pool.  Oh, yes, that sounded like an excellent idea.  She was pretty sure they kicked kids out at 7:00, so we decided to go then.  

We got home, unloaded the horses.  Oh, speaking of which, when I got Arya, her previous owner told me she'd only ever walked out of a trailer going forwards--she turns around inside the trailer and walks right out (which is actually pretty impressive, considering how big she is, that she doesn't get stuck in the trailer while turning around).  So on a whim, I decided to try backing her out of the trailer when we arrived at C's for the lesson.  I was in the trailer beside her (not right in front in case she changed her mind while backing out and sprung forward).  I asked her to back, which she did willingly for a step or two.  Then she turned her head around and looked behind her as if to say, "um, you know there's a big step down right there, right?  you really expect me to just BACK down over it?"  Yep, I did expect her to do just that.  I asked her to back until she was right up near the edge.  Then I said "step" so that hopefully she would start to learn that cue.  She put one of her hind feet back, over thin air, and kind of wagged it around, and then thought better of it and put it back in the trailer.  I kept asking her to go back with pressure on the lead rope while saying "step," and she put her hind food all the way down to the ground.  She paused for a second, then thought that maybe this was harder than she wanted to deal with, and hopped back up into the trailer.  That wasn't unexpected, so I didn't harass her about it at all, but just asked her to back up all over again.  That time, she put one foot down, then the other, then kept on backing up until both front feet were safely on the ground.  She looked pretty proud of herself, and I was proud of her, too.  We did the same again when we got home, and this time she didn't even hop back into the trailer.  She's a pro after just one time!  We'll practice it again every so often, but I'm glad she's such a smart, brave girl.

Anyway, so we got back to Shar's got the horses unloaded, etc., and then settled in to watch Goonies.  Shar was SHOCKED when I said I'd never seen it, so we remedied that problem.  :-)  Then it was time to head to McMenamins.  We soaked, stretched (is hot tub yoga a thing?  it should be!), floated, and relaxed.  Aaaaahhhh.  Then we got dressed, went to the restaurant, and decided to split a pear, gorgonzola, and candied walnut flatbread.  Oh, that was SO good.  Really hit the spot.

Then I had to come home and do laundry, as I'd ridden in the same clothes quite a few times and they were getting ripe, plus they'd gotten muddy, and we were riding again the next day.  Woo!  I've had worse reasons I've had to stay up later than I'd like.  

I slept SO good, then sure enough, went for another horseback ride today.  But that's a story for a different blog post...

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Night Ride # ??

So we've done a few night rides now, mostly with great success.  But somehow I still am not completely comfortable.  Well, I guess somehow isn't the right word.  It's a combo of ME still not being 100% relaxed when on horseback, plus the added stress of it being dark.

Anyway, we rode Tuesday night.  It had been a warm day, and the evening was unseasonably "warm" as well, so that was nice.  As I was tacking Arya up, she was being a bit antsy.  Like when I got the saddle pad out, she moved to evade it.  I checked her back, just in case, and there was no soreness.  So I flopped the pad over her neck and even her head a few times, then onto her back, like "it could be worse you know--just be glad the pad and saddle go on your back and not your head."  :-)

Then *I* had trouble getting the saddle on--it wasn't straight on the pad, so of course I could straighten the saddle or the pad but not both, so I started all over from scratch.  Anyway, after a bunch of fussing and a little "lunging" (just at the walk, and she was being a very good girl), I got on.  As we waited for Shar, Arya kept taking a step or two, but she'd obediently stop when I asked her to.  But she would NOT stand still.  Then I realized--she was stepping one or two steps at a time toward the hay storage.  She wasn't too happy when I took her completely away from that area.

As we walked toward the gate to head out on our ride, I couldn't tell if she was humping up (like she wanted to buck) or was just stretching out a bit, but her behavior seemed fine.  But the antsy-ness while tacking up, the humpy-ness while riding out, and the dark added up to make me a bit nervous.

We road one of our usual "trails," and Arya did great when we passed the barking dogs, as she usually does.  We trotted past a pasture with a mini donkey that she'd been freaked out about in the past, so I held onto the horn just in case, but she did absolutely fine.  We reached the end of the dirt road and had to find the trail.  Unfortunately, the nearly-full moon hadn't come up yet, and neither of the two horses nor the dog were able to find the trail, so Shar had to light up her phone to find it.  She ended up leaving the light on the phone on while navigating the rest of the trail, which was weird for me, being behind her a few strides.  I could see either side of the trail a ways ahead, but couldn't see what was coming directly in front of Arya to anticipate her movements, so it was still almost as disorienting as riding single track in full dark.

At one point, Arya tripped and fell to one knee.  It kind of felt like she even took a "step" while down, but I think what happened was she fell, then stuck the unaffected leg out to catch herself, then had to lurch forward to get back up.  Anyway, when she got up, it kind of felt like she took a lame step or two.  So I stopped her, took a deep breath, and cued her to walk on so I could try to feel whether she was off.  But the silly girl veered off the trail into a nice "garden" of rocks, so of course her steps were really wonky.  She started rushing, and her steps got worse and worse feeling to me, and I freaked out that she was sore/lame, and I should get off.

Shar tried to calm me down.  She shined her light on Arya's legs and didn't see anything, then had me walk (on the trail this time) and said she looked fine.  She still felt funky to me, but I did have to admit that I wasn't the best judge under the current circumstances (I'm not a good judge of lameness ANYWAY).  I didn't want to continue burdening her with ~300 lbs of me + tack if she WAS hurt, but Shar reminded me that if I got off I wouldn't be able to get back on (I can't mount from the ground), so I should stay on the 100 or so feet until we reached the asphalt road, where we could both better assess her stride where she'd be unhindered.

So we did, and on the asphalt, she was absolutely fine.  Sheesh.  I'm such a nervous nelly.  I wonder if that'll ever get better, or if I'll always be a little nervous, and more so when riding in the dark.  Ugh.

Anyway, we continued our ride, and I started relaxing a bit, and we were chatting and chatting, and then I noticed Arya walking funny.  This time, though, it was due to a horse pacing the fenceline between him/her and us, and Arya reacting to that.  Flash was reacting to it, too.

We continued our ride, had a few more trotting sessions, and Arya was a good girl the whole time, and I really never FULLY relaxed, though I did get better the long we rode without incident.

Shortly before the end of our ride, the moon finally came out and our ride got a lot brighter.  I also hopped off (on purpose!) at the last corner before we got back to Shar's house and walked/jogged (the latter only about a dozen steps) back home on foot, in order to get a LITTLE exercise.  I need to increase the distance I do that, and then once I'm able to get on without a mounting block, periodically get off and walk/jog on some of our longer trail rides, too.

Anyway, it ended up being a lovely night, but I am curious when I'll stop being nervous about just about every ride.

I tried to take a picture of the moon, with both my phone (not gonna happen) and my "real" camera (only has a very wide lens on it so again, no bueno).  But it looked kinda like this:



Yeah, it totally looked like this.  ;-)