Hippoi Athanatoi

A Big Deal

I took most of the summer off from even glancing at the various blogs on the site, but since the new semester at the riding school started this week it might be time to get back to some posting. Especially since this week’s lesson was a big deal, to follow up on the big deal that ended last semester.

You see, on the whole last semester was a bit of a wash. We had a new instructor lined up and I do like her, but she was absent for quite a few lessons due to illness (she has young children) and we ended up with substitutes of varying quality. As a result, there really wasn’t much cohesive training or any particular progress. In fact, I was quite close to deciding that I would quit and look at some other stable (as two of my friends ultimately ended up doing).

But then we came to the last lesson before the summer break. We were going to jump in the paddock and I was a bit nervous about riding Digression; he jumps fine indoors but gets just a bit frisky and he’s large enough (aka not a pony or close to it) that it makes me a little jittery. Then one of the other riders didn’t show up and Barka, one of the new horses, ended up without a rider.

Barka is a Polish import, eight years old, and I had been eyeing her since she arrived since she’s probably just an inch or two from being a pony and with that sort of nice, square build that I like. We think there’s some Spanish blood in her, she’s got a nice back-end, a curly mane and a pretty high-stepping action.

So, despite never having ridden her, I asked if I could jump her in the paddock instead of Digression. I got the okay and I was determined to make this work.

It did work. Superbly, in fact. She was a little fidgety, but not tense. I could feel I was sitting into her rather than on top of her. She also turned out to be incredibly sensitive and a very honest jumper; we wobbled a bit coming into some jumps and she went over them anyway. She clearly hasn’t jumped much before since the first time she jumped at the stables, she jumped about twice as high as she had to. It wasn’t as extreme this time, but she’s clearly still learning. I was in heaven, pretty much.

Fast forward to this Tuesday, when I showed up for the first lesson this semester. I had been assigned Mynta, the very stubborn Fjordhorse, but once again Barka ended up without a rider. I asked again, could I change? Yes, I could. Then, the other news; we were going to be riding on a nearby field. Not out on a trek, but still, we’d have to trek along the road to get there. My nerves set in again, but I didn’t want to miss the chance to ride Barka again.

So, I decided to give it a go. She was very calm riding to the field, but once there she suddenly found a lot of energy and people with cameras and people running past on the road became reasons to jump this way and that.

But I didn’t give up. In fact, I had a thoroughly enjoyable lesson, not a sick-to-the-stomach-with-nerves lesson. Some of it was the fact that the grass was quite tall and seemed soft—I figured a fall wouldn’t be that bad—but I also felt that she really listened to me. Yes, she’d jump away from this and yes, she’d canter instead of trot, but she has a wonderful mouth and she really listens when you ask her to come back. I felt as if I could handle her.

I don’t think I want to trek out on her just yet, but other than that, I feel absolutely great about how much I’ve dared to do on her already. Sadly, she’s very unlike Murphy in one way; she’s a very popular horse at the stables. I still miss my grumpy and misunderstood Irish boy very much, but even if Barka doesn’t need any extra help to be happy at the stables, she’s quite irresistible.

Shifting Gears

From GRRM’s latest blog post:

“THE WORLD OF ICE AND FIRE. The concordance. Elio and Linda are my partners on this one, a compendium of the history and legends of the world of Westeros. A coffee table book, lots of gorgeous art from such talents as Ted Nasmith, Justin Sweet, and others. Making good progress on this one of late, lots of great historical stuff that I think my readers will enjoy. Never before revealed details of Aegon’s Conquest, the War With the Faith, The Dance of the Dragons, the Paramours of Aegon the Unworthy, etc.”

That’s one of the things that have been keeping us crazy busy from time to time over the last few years. Somehow it seems like every new draft and every new revision has ended up coming right in the middle of other things. I think it will feel a little odd once it is done, because it has been a bit of a constant companion for quite some time now. Actually, I know it will feel odd; I tend to get this weird feeling of being slightly lost whenever I finish some large project. Instead of being able to enjoy my new freedom to do whatever I want to do, I have a habit of sitting around thinking “now what” for much longer than I should. I guess it is just how the rest/recovery period works for me but it is always quite frustrating.

I am, in fact, having one of those periods right now. The intense workload of the show coverage ended for Elio once the last episode aired, but then I had a few more episodes to translate so that kept me going. But now I’ve delivered the last one so I am definitely at the slightly lost stage. I do have plenty of projects I could tackle, but so far I haven’t been able to dig into any one of them. We do plan to do a lot of work on the website during July when we’re likely going to be off at our summer house for some three weeks, but I do need to use the roughly two weeks until we leave for something productive as well.

So, while I am in the middle of such indecision, it is nice to see a reminder of something that is progressing nicely. The pieces of new material from GRRM that we have seen so far have been amazing, so of course we’re eagerly awaiting more of that. Like GRRM said, I do think readers will enjoy this kind of material quite a bit. Certainly, we’ve seen a lot of reactions to the videos we’ve done discussing various background details, and that isn’t even new material like it will be in the book.

Game of Thrones, an Adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire? Not Any More.

Of all the atrocious decisions taken in the adaptation of the second season—having Joffrey and not Cersei be the one to order the killing of the bastards, having Robb fall for a spunky and socially progressive chick from Volantis, cutting out virtually all of the poignant material between Jon and Qhorin, leaving out virtually all the dark character development from Arya’s arc, to name but a few—the utter travesty that is the show’s version of the House of the Undying takes the cake. In fact, it takes the whole dessert table.

I/we will be writing a longer piece on how poorly handled both Dany and Dany’s whole storyline have been in the second season, contrasting it with the very clear purpose of Qarth in the books, so right now I am just concentrating on the House of the Undying.

Instead of a single one of the visions that Dany actually sees, we get a vision of Khal Drogo. Talk about a cheap-ass publicity stunt to squeeze Jason Momoa back in. Now, it is true that perhaps some of the visions she sees would be too spoilery on TV as opposed to when read, but why not just compensate for that by toning down what is shown? Or going entirely to Dany hearing but not seeing things? I expect that there would be cuts and changes, in particular I expected some of the visuals to disappear. I did not expect them to just throw everything out.

We have, as of yet, not had a single mention of either the Song of Ice and Fire or the Prince that was Promised in the series. What more, not only did they cut out the visions, they cut the whole prophecy. So far, all we have gotten for Dany is an abbreviated version of Mirri Maz Duur’s prophecy.

So, they continue to cut out the past from the story and in addition to that they also cut out most of the prophecies. Both these are very significant elements of the story. Whatever the producers and writers might think, A Song of Ice and Fire isn’t just about battles and boobs.

The past still matters, it enriches and makes the present more poignant. We’ll likely never see Rhaegar now, not to mention Elia. What viewers will care about them? What viewers will care about Rhaegar and Lyanna when they ultimately have to become more important to the story? What viewers will care particularly about the Martells without any establishing of Elia?

The prophecies…well, who can deny their importance? As we see in A Dance with Dragons, even the most obscure ones do come true, just not in ways one might have expected. Magic isn’t just dragons and Others.

A Song of Ice and Fire is a multi-layered and multi-faceted story. That also means that people do read it for different reasons. Some may take in all aspects of the story with near equal enjoyment, others may favour some aspects and dislike others. The mysteries of the past and the prophecies fuel a large amount of the discussion on the forums. They are clearly important aspects for many, many fans. And the show has just ripped them out of the story almost wholesale.

Furious doesn’t come close to describing what I am today. Nor does disappointed.

I had said before the season started that for this season, the only thing I really hoped for was that they would get the House of the Undying right. If not, I would find it hard to continue watching. Since they didn’t even try to get it right, they just threw it in the trash, I have absolutely no interest in watching any more. Unfortunately, we have a lot tied up in the coverage of the show, so I’ll probably have to keep watching to some degree anyway. But I no longer look forward to new episodes because the story has been gutted of what matters the most to me and because I do not expect any of the scenes I truly care about to make it in, at least not without being butchered beyond recognition.

As far as I am concerned, it is no longer an adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire, it is an mainly an original story in the A Song of Ice and Fire setting. And it isn’t particularly good.

The Nail in the Coffin?

(I had a longer article on this planned and mostly written, but it fell by the wayside due to my increasing annoyance with season 2. But maybe I’ll have to resurrect it given this latest development.)

When the issue of sexposition came up during the first season, I largely defended the show’s usage of sex, except for Littlefinger’s speech while Ros and Aremca were moaning away. It felt as if it could be a fairly reasonable representation of the level of sexual content in the books, if not its precise nature.

With season two, it became more and more obvious that it just doesn’t match up. The only explicit sex is non-romantic sex and it focuses almost exclusively on naked women. In the books, the sex can be messy, awkward, gritty and in other ways explicit even between couples and not just between customers and whores. The books also do not shy away from male nudity, far from it.

On the show, romance seems to put a stop to anything more “dirty” going on; just look at Renly and Loras, for example. Or Shae and Tyrion.

And now we have the Empire Magazine interview with Neil Marshall where he says he was encouraged to go with full-frontal nudity by one of the executive producers. Who also added that he represented the “perv” part of the audience…

I guess that sort of puts the nail in the coffin?

Just one more reason to be deeply disappointed with D & D’s handling of the material.

Purist and Proud

It appears that during the airing of the second season of Game of Thrones, “purist” has become a dirty word. Obviously, since I consider myself to be a purist—and since I am proud to be one—I am not an unbiased observer, but I still find this quite baffling.

Let’s start with the word itself. I think we can probably agree that “purist” describes someone who prefers the adaptation of, for example, a book into a TV show to be as faithful as possible. Of course, each purist out there probably has a different definition of what “as faithful as possible” means. Some purists may feel that “as faithful as possible” comes with the caveat of “budget allowing”, whereas others may insist on “perfection or nothing at all”. Similarly, those using the term in a derogatory fashion probably have different standards for when they apply it. Some may reserve the label for those who are particularly insistent on the show matching the books completely whereas some may label anyone who complains at all about the show as a purist.

For my own part, I consider myself to be a purist within reason. I lamented the size of the tourney in the first season, but I accepted that there are budget constraints. I lamented the lack of purple eyes for the Targaryens, but I accepted that coloured contacts were not a good solution for various reasons. I could give many, many examples of similar changes, cuts, etc that I accept as a necessary part of a TV adaptation. On the other hand, when changes are made that make characters or the story as a whole less challenging and less unique, I am not particularly inclined to accept explanations such as “we wanted to show more of this actor” or “we felt this sequence needed more action”. Cutting and compressing the material that is already there is one thing, adding new things because the existing storylines aren’t deemed commercial enough is something else entirely.

No doubt, this sort of purism is what some people are complaining about. But on what grounds? I see arguments put forward that its ungrateful towards the people involved in the production, as if fans are somehow so indebted to those working on the show that criticism is unacceptable. For me, that is not a point of view I can at all sympathize with.  This show would not have been made at all if it wasn’t for the fans of the books. If the books had not been a success, it would never have gone into development at all. The producers have certainly recognized this in the past and thanked the fans of the books for their support.

They—or anyone else—have no right to expect that support to be unconditional. They have stated in the past that they are aiming for a faithful adaptation and that is the claim that secured the support of many fans. It is absolutely true that some fans may not care much at all about how faithful the show is to the story in the books—indeed, they may even welcome changes as “cool surprises”—but those who feel that way have no right to deny that there’s undoubtedly a significant portion of fans out there who gave their support to the show because the producers said it was going to be faithful.

Faithful is, of course, a subjective term. The producers may still feel that they are being faithful. Many fans may still feel that they are being faithful. But many other fans do feel that at this stage the show is no longer living up to the claim of being a faithful adaptation. Some of them have unreasonable demands, some entirely reasonable. Either way, for other fans to label them “purists” in a derogatory fashion is definitely quite unreasonable. Without the fans, and that certainly includes all the “purist” fans, there likely would never have been a show at all. I am not saying the team behind the show owes fans anything in particular, but this is an undeniable fact: the following of the books is what made the show a possibility. But I prefer to avoid talking in terms of debts. However, since I have seen some argue that the fans are indebted to the team behind the show for giving them the show to watch, I do think that if you insist on talking about debts you have to say that it goes both ways. The fans are certainly no more indebted to the producers or actors or anyone else working on the show than those involved in the show are indebted to those fans.

Now, I expect that even with my stated reservations about talking about debts in the first place, the above paragraph in particular might catch the attention of those trolls out there who have been attacking GRRM for years for the wait between the later books since they have tried to argue in terms of debts. My answer to this is that I am not in any way supporting or considering it reasonable for fans of the show, no matter how purist, to harass any of those involved in the show. If all that the trolls attacking GRRM had been doing was to rip the books apart, that would have been entirely within their rights. But instead they have made and continue to make personal attacks on GRRM. That is unacceptable and the same goes for anyone who is upset about the show. I expect to make a very, very unhappy post when the final episode has aired as I feel that some elements of the second season are a complete and utter travesty that has nothing to do with A Song of Ice and Fire, but I am not going to drag the personal lives or appearance of the producers and writers into the matter. Attack the product all you want, but leave the person or persons behind the product out of it.

There are certainly “purists” out there who have behaved badly by taking their grievances directly to those involved and doing so in a rude fashion, and that is unreasonable. But I am not going to apologise for—and neither should anyone else—simply posting negative opinions—even very harsh negative opinions, as long as they focus on the show itself—in public. We are disappointed, we have a right to be disappointed and we have a right to publicise that disappointment.

Horse Reports?

The weekly updates turned into monthly summaries and then the monthly summaries disappeared altogether. My interest in chronicling my lessons certainly took a turn for the worse when I lost Murphy, now over two years ago, and then it took a further hit as our instructor Ulrika moved to another stable at the end of last year. She has been such a huge help and such an inspiration these last nine years and it has been very hard to adjust to a new instructor. Or rather, to adjust to her absence. On top of that, life have been a bit rough in general these last two years, so when the riding hasn’t been as relaxing and inspiring as usual it has created a bit of a negative feedback loop.

I’ve kept brief notes each week, just to not lose track of any useful insights, but I am not sure about trying to post anything specific. I might just clean up my notes to post as a reference for myself and to see if it can help me regain my focus if I look at what I’ve been doing since the middle of last Autumn. More generally speaking, I’ve managed to keep riding roughly once a week, though this spring has been particularly tough with various problems preventing me from attending quite a few lessons. I haven’t been able to add on any private lessons either, though I am still hoping to try both a somewhat nearby stable which is all Andalusians and a very nearby stable which is mostly ponies. Fortunately, my regular stable does have quite a few horses I can ride at the moment (including Digression, an actual, full-sized horse that’s won my confidence), so as long as they stay healthy I should be alright there as well.

I do think I need to do something different, however, to get my motivation back. I still love riding and just being in the stable, but I miss having a horse there that I have a really strong connection with. I have been toying with the idea of buying a horse again, especially now that we have a good stable just a few minutes away, but I am hesitant. There’s a lot of things competing for my time right now. If I was better at not getting completely stressed out when things pile up, it might work…but I am not.

I think I’ll see if I can get some extra riding in during the summer or, failing that, I’ll aim for a fresh start this autumn and see about getting some private lessons in then. I’ll also be trying to sort out my back, because I don’t need any physical issues getting in the way.

It Wasn’t a Puppy After All

I think I’ve finally managed to come up with an adequate comparison to illustrate the depth of my disappointment with the second season of Game of Thrones.

It is a bit like waiting for years for a puppy. You’re eager, you’re nervous, you’re really, really expectant. But you also know it is likely that it won’t be exactly as you have imagined, so you try to keep your expectations realistic.

Then you get your puppy and it is all very exciting. After a while, you start noticing that it is not all fun and games with this puppy; it is a bit hard to train and sometimes you get quite upset because it just isn’t working out. But at the end of your first year with the puppy, you are still very happy because it is a lovely puppy, all considered.

Next year doesn’t start out so well, however. The puppy is being more difficult again. There are some glimmers of hope, though, and you struggle on for those.

Then, the bombshell hits. Your puppy isn’t actually a puppy. It is revealed to be a large rat dressed up in a puppy costume. You can keep trying to pretend it is a puppy, but that will never make it one. If you like rats, you might still be able to make do with the rat, but if you don’t…well, you’re out of luck.

That’s where I am at now with Game of Thrones. I don’t particularly dislike rats, but I am not really fond of them either. And I can’t stop thinking about the puppy.

A Brief Statement

In case anyone wonders why I may still continue watching and reviewing the show as well as providing commentary on Thronecast and in other venues…

If I look just to my own enjoyment and what my personal preference would have been, I would rather have had just one or two faithful seasons that failed to capture the wider audience and ultimately was cancelled pretty quickly than a less faithful show with more mass-appeal. I have no interest in watching mangled characters or new characters, I have no interest in being surprised.

However, since I consider myself both a fan of and a friend to George, I certainly do not begrudge him the success that the continuation of the TV-show means. Furthermore, it will bring more and more fans to the A Song of Ice and Fire fandom and that is a good thing. Based on these two factors, we continue to “support” the show in the sense of covering it our site and participating in other forms of publicity surrounding the show, such as Thronecast.

So, for as long as it is still possible to review the show as an adaptation, we will likely continue to do so. But we won’t be censoring ourselves when we feel that it is not doing justice to the books; I am quite convinced that our reviews—or any even harsher comments on the episodes I might offer outside of them—will not affect the popularity of the show in such a way that we risk causing its early cancellation.

As for Thronecast, I see no problem with us appearing on it as long as they are interested in having us and as long as the show has enough of a connection to the books that we can provide relevant commentary. We are there primarily as experts on A Song of Ice and Fire, often to provide background material that is not covered on the show. We’re not there to cheer on the show’s efforts.

A Battlefield, Is it?

Oh, my site is a “battlefield” now, is it? Well, we don’t want any miserable, delusional feminazis trampling all over it, so if you think to stir up any shit, rest assured that I’ll bring the battle to you. See, now I know exactly who you are, Winterfox. You ran away from LJ, how sad. I so enjoyed ripping you to shreds there for being the cunt you are.

But hey, in the words of Bronn, “There’s no cure for being a cunt.” True enough, there’s no sorting you out. You are a rabid, man-hating crazy bitch. Actually, you’re a rabid, woman-hating crazy bitch too, towards any woman who doesn’t join your feminazi ranks. There’s plenty of evidence of you attacking female writers and female fans who happen to write or read or say things that don’t fit into your “program”.

Now, how about you crawl back under that bridge or into that dank, dark cave and stay there, like a good little troll.

Selective Reading Comprehension

I continue to be amazed at the willful blindness and selective reading comprehension that plagues people that otherwise appear fairly capable of producing and interpreting texts. Take this LJ post that presents itself as oh so thoughtful and quotes the following piece from a post of mine:

“You can’t come from a largely female community into a community where the majority of posters are male and expect the same mode of expression to be welcome.”

Taken together with the fact that we decided to close down the so-called “SanSan” threads, the conclusion this poster makes is that female fans are not welcome at our forums. Oh, and of course she also complains about the moderation against misogynistic comments. Yawn. But still, lets look at each issue.

We’ll start with “SanSan”. It is absolutely true that we do not consider speculation as such to fall under fanfiction. However, the speculation in these threads continued to move past certain limits and into more and more elaborate scenarios. We would not mind being able to allow discussion of the “SanSan” subplot, but not when the threads have to continuously be moderated. For one thing, it takes away moderator time and attention from other things…

...such as curbing rude posters, for example. Since this person does not have access to our moderator section of the forum, she has no idea how much work goes into keeping a reasonable tone on such a large forum. There’s plenty of deleted posts every day, for all sorts of reasons. Plenty of people warned and banned, too. Attacking other posters is not allowed. Wishing explicit evils on characters is not allowed. However, it is wrong to single out misogyny. I see no difference between posting that you think such and such a male character should be tortured and posting that you think such and such a female character should be raped. Its equally bad. On the other hand, saying that you hope such and such a character will die or that they will pay for what they’ve done before the end of the series is generally reasonable. The books elicit strong opinions because they are good books. The characters elicit strong opinions because they are well-realized characters.

Finally, going back to the quote from my post that the person seems so offended by. That is a serious case of selective reading comprehension. How can you not see that different communities on the Internet have different “cultures”? And, yes, some cultures are predominantly male and some are predominantly female and that does affect the tone and content of the discourse. Lets say someone who is used to posting on Tumblr wants to start posting on our forum. They cannot post images as they are used to. That is a mode of expression that is not welcome. Is that wrong? No, of course not. We also discourage short posts and one-line responses. That is also a mode of expression that (for the most part) is not welcome. Other platforms are better suited to it, quite simply. To some degree, it can be the same with shipping. They’re not part of the forum culture and yes, this is probably in large parts due to the forum slanting towards more male than female posters.

That does not mean we do not want female posters. But some types of discussions simply do not fit in.

(I am, btw, quite sure that there are more than a few male fans out there who feel we do not want male posters based on their posts having been deleted and/or their accounts banned for some of the things this LJ posts complains about, such as wishing various unpleasant fates on certain characters. That does not mean I am comparing shipping threads with threads containing explicit misogony OR misandry, but ultimately they both fall outside of the desired forum culture, albeit for very different reasons.)

Ugh

This? Ugh, bullshit.

No surprise either, given the comments I got from the same source when commenting on Game of Thrones. People have a right to be disappointed in something, whatever it is, and to express those disappointments.That’s an awfully high horse someone is up on and its looking ridiculous from here.

As for the particular analogy the comment linked to concerns? There’s nothing fucking wrong with it. Calling it creepy, stalkerish or bringing out that favourite complaint about “slut shaming” is just ridiculous.

Opinions

I really don’t care that there are groups of whiners out there who dislike how Elio and I run our websites, our game or anything along those lines. Are there things we could do better? Always. But I sincerely doubt any of the things we consider “better” would please any of the whiners. So, they’re irrelevant.

What does bug me from time to time, however, is the way people lump different parts of the site together. For example, saying that “westeros.org hates characters X, Y and Z”. Really? Because, the way I see it, “westeros.org” is myself and Elio and refers to the main site, westeros.org/www.westeros.org.  Nothing is posted on that site that we didn’t write or directly approve, except for the Facebook comments. Good luck finding any posts from us ranting about Daenerys (my favourite character) or Catelyn (Elio’s favourite character).

Of course, it is absolutely true that there are two subdomains on westeros.org that contain a lot of material that we did not write or indeed directly approve. There’s the wiki, awoiaf.westeros.org, and there’s the forum, asoiaf.westeros.org. The wiki is facts, not opinions, so good luck finding any rants there. So, it all comes down to the forum, which has over 30,000 total members. You’ll find a lot of opinions there. We don’t control those opinions, except when they cross certain lines (and disallowing people from saying they hate a character would be a touch draconian). But neither are those opinions “westeros.org”. They are the opinions of some members of “asoiaf.westeros.org” or “the westeros forums”.

Some opinions are widely supported, some not so widely. Some we agree with, some not. The forum isn’t a monolith with the sole purpose of advocating certain opinions. There’s no agenda, hidden or otherwise.

From Myth to Reality

I haven’t horseblogged in ages, but I am currently having a major procrastination phase (my Master’s thesis may turn into my dissertation proposal or I may switch my basic idea for the dissertation from horses in Greek myth and religion to Roman horse racing or possibly even defixiones) so I am finding all sorts of things to do, bouncing from one to the other like I’ve had too much coffee. Except, I don’t drink coffee at all.

Community Spirit?

Internet communities, sometimes the ultimate in us vs them. From WORA to “Is Winter Coming?” to ONTD and its tumblr cliques, the similarities are interesting. Some of these communities are more directly aimed at ranting about something and/or making fun of something. Some do it more as a hobby on the side. In fact, there’s even an example of it on the ASoIaF forums in the long-running thread of Goodkind jokes.

I don’t get this, myself. Yes, there are things I will laugh at and point fingers at. But its usually jokes I share with someone in RL, not something I post on the Internet where, eventually, it may get back to the person (or other community) being singled out. Doing that sort of thing as part of a group is inexcusable. What I will do on the Internet, on the other hand, is to happily and with much enjoyment say FUCK YOU to anyone who thinks I make a good target.

Most people just put up with it, but I’ve never put up with bullying and that is exactly what it is. I just love seeing how it always follows the same patterns with these groups. If you fire back when you’re being laughed at or vilified, you’re quickly turned into Group Enemy #1 and the group acts like sharks when there’s blood in the water. They go all out to try and prove that its not worth it to try and interfere with their fun or make the point that they are the ones in the wrong. Effectively, they try to silence you, because the group is always right. Most of the time, they no doubt succeed. Not with me, though.

Ah well. Internet-anonymity has some legitimate uses, I won’t deny that, but for the most part people just treat it as a license to be assholes and turn into lynch mobs.

Thinking Back a Bit

We’re well into July now and I haven’t been near a horse for weeks (sigh), so I am dealing with missing the stable by briefly recapping what happened during May and June. For next semester, I’ll need to find some new motivation to write more promptly; I am planning a website redesign and some more integration with Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and whatever else it is that I am trying to keep up with these days, so perhaps that will encourage me.

Going back to May, I had a good jumping lesson on Nelson to start it off. I really liked riding him on the new noseband that they tried out, though later they shifted back again. I did remember what I had learned the previous jumping lesson and rode him with short reins and high hands, which gave me good control over his short little neck.

The dressage lesson after that ended up being on Ricky, a smaller pony I haven’t ridden for years. I had to get used to what I could ask of him—he needs to really get his back end started first, before you even think about his head—but he’s a great mover and once I did less he worked very well. At the end, as we were winding them down, he trotted in great balance on entirely slack reins. Just a little added leg pressure was needed if he started slipping. Such a sweetie, even when he got tired and needed some extra rest since he rarely works that hard.

After that we had a theory lesson that I missed and then a dressage lesson on Shanti. She gave me some great trotting and walking and very nice leg yields, though I need to keep in mind that she’s very good at just bending her neck and pretending. Getting those hind legs working properly is tricky. For the canter, I have to work on getting my aids to be much softer, but still determined. I also need to keep my hands up, especially my inner, and be aware that she finds collection hard and easily drops down to a trot if I lower my inner hand. Her head can be a bit unsteady, but calm hands are essential.

Following that, we did our dressage program on the next Friday. I was a bit nervous about riding Shanti after the lesson on Tuesday, but I started off very determined during the warm-up and I got some lovely canter outside. I also got her to really trot, using her whole back and hind legs. During the actual program, I did let her curl up a bit too much, which resulted in a wobbly form. However, I did get one great canter with exclamation marks after so I was very pleased and I really want to do it soon again. I get so nervous even before a mock-contest, but I love the feeling.

The final lesson in May was dressage on Nelson. A new horse caused a commotion at first (threw his rider, ran many laps around the paddock), then we got started properly. I had to work on Nelson’s rhythm, but once I was consistent about that and stopped worrying about his head, he came together better. He gave me some excellent canter and Ulrika said I was much calmer from riding Shanti. Nelson really waited for me and kept himself balanced throughout the canter. We rode diagonals with at least two changes of gait, and this worked very well to get me in the right mindset. I do need to keep focusing on not overdoing my aids and also on relaxing and bending my knees and also relaxing and bending my elbows to raise my hands (but not widen them).

Our last two lessons in June consisted of a very relaxing, cosy trek on Nelson and finally a bareback dressage lesson for the finale. I did a bit of bareback riding on Murphy and a lot of riding without stirrups on him and I really need to get back to it. It does wonders for my balance, though trotting Nelson was very hard. Still, I stayed on even throughout most of the little mini-contest Ulrika surprised us with; I only slipped off when we did a fully turn in the saddle as I couldn’t get my leg up high enough with my stiff back and it caught a bit on his neck. I had a close call, as well. The last challenge was to start cantering on a long rein, which Nelson did just fine…and then he thought that no rein meant “whee, run as fast as you can” so the acceleration almost had me off.