Thursday, June 20, 2013

Indiana Jones, Eat Your Heart Out

Well, I seem to be all over my Mystery Illness of Mystery, and feel much much better, although the rope burns are still healing. Royal seems to be a lot better too. It took a bit of playing with it, but he seems to be over pulling back as a general principle. I practiced with him and a tree in the pasture, and at first he was NOT. HAPPY. Apparently, he can run backward on his hind legs when he wants to. I'll have to keep that in mind. But since all I had was just the 22-foot line wrapped around the tree, he ran out of right-brain panic before he ran out of rope, and I reeled him back in. He looked somewhat confused, but from then on I could whack anything and everything with my stick and string, and he just looked at me. Progress!

The next time, I was able to use my 12-foot line, and have in wrapped around once while I whacked everything in sight, and Royal gave me his should-totally-be-patented look I call "Polite Concern." This is where his expression seems to say something along the lines of "I don't know what you're doing or why you're doing it, but I'll just stand here and stare at you until you stop doing it, and we can return to sanity, please." Ha! Joke's on you Royal! I'll never return to sanity, because I was never there in the first place.

Then came the incident where I almost Royal and myself shot. We were trotting down the road, when a car going the other way stopped and rolled down its window. We stopped and the nice driver told us that there was a trail that went down to the river. Despite the fact that I'm horrible with verbal directions, we wandered off in search of the trail. Well, I was a doofus and we turned too early and wound up wandering past the "NO TRESPASSING" sign right up to someone's house. It didn't look like anyone was home, so I tried to make a quick exit, but then I heard a voice asking "Can I help you?'

I could see where it was coming from, so we turned around and I weakly asked "Um... can we get to the river from here?" "Nope." "Oh. Sorry. Bye." And we walked away. Quickly, but hopefully not quick enough to arouse suspicion. And we went home. I didn't even try looking for the trail again. Maybe later.

Maybe we weren't escaping from booby-trap-boulders, and the guy probably didn't have his gun out (women on horse don't exactly strike terror into the hearts of the citizens of rural Minnesota) but hey. Gotta start somewhere.

We've also been working on standing still for braiding. Royal was gracious enough to let me do this while he (mostly) stood still.

I left the tails long so I could cut them and get his mane a good length, and I'll probably do more braids in the future (I did 12 this time, but will probably do 15+ in the future.) So now his mane his about 5 inches long, and I'll be neatening it up it up over the next few days. It's thick as ever, but a lot more manageable now.

We've also been working with ditches. One of the pastures has a big divot similar to a competition, but Royal never took it seriously, and still jumped the ditch at Steepleview awkwardly enough to mess up one of his hind boots. With Roebke's Run fast approaching, we need to be more comfortable with ditches. So I started thinking, what do the competition ditches have that our ditch doesn't? Then it hit me: rails. Our ditch is, for lack of better descriptor, too natural. So I needed to better imitate a competition ditch, which was easy enough to do with the toys I have.


The poles really worked. Royal went from "Yeah, yeah, whatever" to "OMG KILLER MONSTER DITCH." The program is simple: when I go get him from the pasture, we'll play for a bit, then I'll ask him to jump the ditch. So far it's working. The first time, it took him a while to jump the ditch in a calm manner. It's quite a bit wider than most ditches at events, so he really has to reach for it. But after the third time, he jumped it calmly after only a couple of sideways star jumps.

3 weeks until Roebke's Run! We're entered in the Beginner Novice Horse division. So excited!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Royal's Relapse

Word of advice to everyone: do NOT get a Mystery Illness of Mystery. Because it is not fun, and you will spend a day in bed with a fever and you will go to the doctor and the doctor will run lots of tests and none of then will come back conclusive and you will only know what you don't have but still feel like crap. I started feeling bad after Carriage House, but chalked it up to exhaustion. Only it took a week before I could walk across the pasture without feeling like I was going to pass out. Which obviously meant I didn't do much with Royal except lean against him and run a brush down his side while he ate his grain. It took a few more days before we went for a short ride on the road. Which was about all I could do at that point.

All of this meant that Royal had quite a bit of time with no mentally challenging activities. Even when the weather is bad, I try to keep his proverbial left brain working with things like leading by a leg or Touch It games. But when I feel like Death Warmed Over And Left To Cool On The Counter, it didn't happen. So as I've started doing stuff with him again over the past couple of weeks, he's been unusually right brained, to the point where I've had to stop working on Contact or psuedo-bridleless riding and help him realize that the squirrels are not out to get him. The fast that's been raining almost every day and he hates doing stuff in the rain doesn't help either. On Monday, we went for a ride on the road, and I could feel his adrenaline start coming up as we got out of the driveway. I asked him for a trot, which quickly turned into a canter and then a gallop up the hill. At not point did he feel out of control, but I let him go as fast as he needed to. He settled into a trot that would have been at home in a harness race and even trotted past the Sheep of Death without too much fuss. Eventually he settled into a walk, snorting and sighing and stretching. But he still felt a little on edge. Tuesday we played a bit OnLine with the Figure-8 pattern, and he seemed to really connect with me.

So on Wednesday, I decided to try practicing braiding. I didn't know if his mane was the appropriate length (answer: nope, too long. Need to shorten in a couple inches), so I tied him up to a tree and gave him some hay. But he decided that he was not going to tie that day. Usually he's super great about tying, but on Wednesday, he pulled back. Hard. And repeatedly. I untied him once and let him trot around for a bit, thinking maybe he had too much energy. But no. I retied him, and the same thing happened. So I figured I had to do something before he injured himself, went to untie him, and as I pulled the rope to release the knot, he pulled again, trapping my hand between the tree and the rope, taking off a couple layers of skin on parts of my fingers. Ouch. Luckily I had some Band-Aids in the car, so I was able to bandage my hand. Even though I took him out to the field to let him run off the adrenaline (and he ran for a long time), he still was fidgeting and didn't want to eat his grain. In hindsight, his neck was probably sore.

So, luckily I have some strategies to try out. Mostly they involve lots of Friendly Game with the tree & refreshers of the Porcupine Game, but also being very strategic about how I "tie" him. And by "tie", I mean wrapping the rope 4 or 5 times around the tree so it has some give, but not too much. A Blocker Tie Ring may also be a useful investment.

Or I could find a Sudoku For Horses book. That might help.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Gaming While Feminist, Part 2

Part two of Tropes vs. Women In Video Games! Full transcript here.

I like how Anita shows the recurring patterns, like "In ____________, your wife is brutally murdered and you then have to rescue your daughter." Usually people will try to claim that it's just that one game, but these sorts of violent themes are pretty ubiquitous in video games. Which reminded me of an article I read a few years ago: 5 Reasons It's Still Not Cool To Admit You're A Gamer.

Favorite part:

But damn, we're about to hit the 40-year mark on video games as a form of mass media. Forty years after movies were invented (the late 1930s), Hollywood was making The Wizard of Oz--a movie that people are still renting and buying 70 years later (they even re-released it back into theaters in 1998 and it made about $20 million--there were people still willing to leave the house and buy a ticket to see it).
Will people still be playing Bioshock 70 years from now? Hell, hardly anybody is playing it now. Sometimes I pop it in and it makes me feel really smart for five minutes, then I spend the next hour firing a flame thrower at a giant mutant with drill hands.

 Gaming needs to evolve its storytelling mechanisms and ideas. People can only play so many shoot-em-up games before they become pretty much indistinguishable from each other. Pretty much every other form of media has a huge variety of types of stories (action, mystery, romance, etc.) that enjoy a wide audience. And no one insists that people who mainly watch film noir or romance movies aren't "real movie-goers", they way that some people who say casual gamers aren't "real gamers".

Even my beloved Nancy Drew games have used the Damsel in Distress a couple times. In The Final Scene, you have to rescue your friend who's being held hostage in a theatre that's about to be demolished and you have to rescue her before the building comes crashing down. And in Ransom of the Seven Ships, Bess has been kidnapped and you have to meet the kidnappers' demands in order to get her back. And, honestly, I don't really like either game. They just don't feel as engaging as the other games, and I really don't get into them as much as the other games. Especially in RAN, it seems like once they had the "OMG RESCUE THE VICTIM" plotline, the developers just stopped and didn't bother to flesh out the rest. It was a very confused game, and no one really seemed to like it. Since then, they've been a lot better about making the plots feel more complete and even though they used a sort-of DiD type of plot in the latest game, it still felt like a full Nancy Drew game, complete with deep philosophical musings about learning from vs. forgetting the past, mental health issues, and how we remember the dead. (I swear, there is at least one person on that team with extensive knowledge of philosophy/sociology/psychology/anthropology and I LOVE THEM for it. Seriously, whoever you (all) are, you are awesome. Keep it up.)

Video games have a great potential for exploring the deeper themes of human existence, since the medium is so active (I consider movies and books to be more passive, except for the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books). The first-person-shooter type games have their place, but hopefully deeper games will gain more traction and gain a bigger audience.

Keep it up Anita! Can't wait for Part 3!