Sunday, June 21, 2009

Yet Another Reminder Why I'm Proud to be an American

I just finished watching Somali Pirate Takedown The Real Story on the Discovery Channel.

The Navy did a superb job. The right people made the right decisions at the right time. But they are trained professionals. This is what they do.

IMHO, the true heroes of this story are the crew of the Maersk Alabama. Civilians, not trained, or armed, for interdiction on the high seas, they refused to let the pirates take their ship. They fought back. And won.

The Art of Cinching Up a Saddle, Part The Last

Smokey's last "episode" came shortly after the incident at the saddle shop. I was not present, so I am relaying this story second hand.

Mrs. BR, DN2, and DN3 were going on a trail ride. One of them was going to use Smokey. As the other horses are easy to saddle up, and they did not routinely ride Smokey, it slipped their minds to take care. The cinch was tightened in one fell swoop. And, of course, the horse rears up and flops over. However, there was one key difference. The previous times, I had been holding his lead rope. This time he was tied to a fence railing. He landed with his head and neck stretched out, suffocating himself on his halter. His eyes rolled back in his head. Mrs. BR told me the thought passed through her head to just let him kill himself and put an end to this nonsense.

Realizing, of course, that I might not take too kindly to such things, she undid the quick release knot on the rope, thus thwarting Smokey's effort to travel over the Rainbow Bridge.

It has been close to three years since he has overreacted to being cinched up. I've learned to tighten the cinch incrementally. He will put up a token protest, dancing around a bit, but I just ignore it, and it quickly stops.

The question arises: Why would a horse behave so while being cinched up? There is no way to be certain of course, but I suspect one of two possibilities.

1. A previous owner frequently cinched him up too tight, causing him to be in pain.

2. This behavior scared a previous owner, who would, instead of ignoring it, unsaddle him and put him back in the pasture. This would have taught him that behaving badly resulted in what for him was a reward.

I tend to lean towards the latter option. Through the grapevine I've heard that he had an owner who was scared of him. This behavior certainly scared members of my family.

One of the things I've learned in my limited experience is that most horses have their quirks. Some quirks can be trained out of them, but with others, we have to decide if we are willing to live with them. If the quirk is dangerous, such as bucking or rearing, it's time for a different horse. Otherwise we just cope with, and for the most part, ignore, the habit. Smokey has learned that bad behavior will not be rewarded, and that I am not going to go away. I have learned to tolerate the little things that really just don't matter.

Horses are capable of teaching us a great deal about ourselves, if we are smart enough to pay attention.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Some people get a little too wrapped up in their titles.

Demanding that someone refer to you by a certain title is small minded at best, and arrogant at worst. When I was a Senior Chief and Master Chief in the World's Greatest Navy, I never once admonished any sailor who omitted "Senior" or "Master" and simply referred to me as "Chief". Being called Chief was sign of respect enough. I'm certain that more than a few sailors had other titles which were reserved for use when I wasn't around. Heck, I'd be disappointed if they didn't, since that would mean I probably wasn't doing my job.

In the military, the use of the words "ma'am" or "sir" are used as signs of respect when addressing an officer. If Ms. Boxer would take a moment to step past her arrogant ignorance, she would realize that being addressed as "ma'am" by the good General was a larger sign of respect than being addressed by a title simply bestowed upon her by the voters of her district.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Government Broadcasting Company

This gives me an uneasy feeling.

Perhaps I'm reading too much into it, but it somehow feels like the beginnings of state run media. Something we would expect to occur in Venezuela, not the United States.

"ABCNEWS prides itself on covering all sides of important issues and asking direct questions of all newsmakers -- of all political persuasions -- even when others have taken a more partisan approach and even in the face of criticism from extremes on both ends of the political spectrum. ABCNEWS is looking for the most thoughtful and diverse voices on this issue.

"ABCNEWS alone will select those who will be in the audience asking questions of the president. Like any programs we broadcast, ABC News will have complete editorial control. To suggest otherwise is quite unfair to both our journalists and our audience."

I nearly choked on my beer when I read that. Bullshit!

If the man wants to give a speech, then why not give one, and encourage it to be aired on all the major stations. Why cozy up to ABC, at the exclusion of others? And, will ABC permit any rebuttal speeches? Somehow I doubt it.

ABC will no longer be able to feign an air of impartiality. Of course, those of us who have been paying attention have long ago realized where the loyalty of the main stream media lies. What worries me the most is a gnawing fear that the average citizen will not take notice of this impropriety. Too many people choose to be ignorant, stupid, or uniformed. Those who speak up against it are quickly shouted down.

If this proves to be an isolated occurence, then I will have gotten my knickers in a twist over nothing. I hope I am wrong, truly I do.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Rise and Fall of Civilization

This story was linked on Drudge late last week.

“The government, looking at expanding a pioneering scheme in Flint, one of the poorest US cities, which involves razing entire districts and returning the land to nature.”

Slowly, quietly, seemingly unknown to the population at large, once great cities in the United States are dying. I was taken aback by the names on the list. Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Memphis. Buck and others have blogged about the decline of Detroit, but I had little idea that the problem extended so far. My initial reaction is one of sadness. I try to imagine the plight of the people forced to walk away from their homes, losing their investment, and perhaps their dreams, moving to someplace unknown in search of better opportunity.

However, upon stepping back and casting an analytical eye toward this, one realizes that this is simply part of the cycle of civilization. Cities have sprouted, thrived, and withered into history for centuries. Carthage. Spartus. Troy. Thebes. Once, thriving metropolises which are now relegated to names in the history books. Why should we be any different? Because we are modern? More civilized?

I could bloviate, ad nauseum, regarding the reason these cities have declined. Politics, race, business, you name it. The reasons are what they are, and ruminating about them now will not change the facts.

Regarding the razing the abandoned portions of these cities. I'm sure some will rail against the thought of tax dollars being used for this reason. I for one am in favor of it. We need to clean up after ourselves. Return these areas back to nature. The die has been cast as far as the Stimulus Package goes. We cannot put that tiger back in it's cage. The effort to raze the abandoned sections of these towns will at least create some jobs for those who are still holding on.

And it simply makes sense. If the city is physically smaller, it will reduce the stress on basic services, such as fire, police, and sanitation. Give these areas a shot at survival.

Now, if only we could convince them to raze Seattle.

Friday, June 12, 2009



The Art of Cinching up a Saddle, Part II

After the event described in the previous post, the problem settled down to a mild annoyance. I learned to tighten the cinch in increments, and he learned not to flip himself over. He would squirm and shuffle around as I snugged up the cinch, but in comparison to his circus act, I was willing to live with this. One benefit of the dancing around is that I soon learned to keep track of where his feet were in relation to mine. A cowboy boot will lose to a #2 horseshoe every time. It also tends to result in the nearby air turning a shade of blue as I express my displeasure.

Many beginning horse people go through a stage that I simply refer to as the “will I ever find a decent saddle that fits my horse, is comfortable for my butt, and that I can afford” phase. We are usually destitute from buying the horse, so purchasing top of the line tack is generally not in the cards. Craigslist and the Auction become our friends.

The first saddle I purchased was a cheap POS. So bad in fact, that I threw it in the trash after a month, as my conscience would not let me sell it to anyone. The second saddle was better. It was comfortable to ride in, and it fit Smokey well enough, if only for a little while.

Smokey had seen little riding for the two years prior. As I started riding him and feeding him better, he began to bulk up. By spring, saddle the second was becoming too tight on his withers.
Fed up with this nonsense, I loaded Smokey in the trailer, and off to the tack store we went.

My favorite tack shop is owned by a Texan named Mike. This man can sell you your own shirt if you aren’t paying attention. But, he’s an honest fellow, and he won’t steer you wrong, because he wants you to come back and spend more money at his place of business, as well as sending all your friends.

Mike sized Smokey up, and then headed into the store. He carried out three saddles, and alternately set them on Smokey’s back. The two that provided the best fit were both Crates saddles. Mike began cinching up the one that was currently on the horse.

“Be careful Mike, he’s a bit cinchy.”

In hindsight maybe I should have kept my mouth shut. It could very well be that I invoked a self fulfilling prophecy

As you’ve probably guessed, Smokey was now standing high on his back legs. I remember contemplating how much it was going to cost to get my new, broken saddle repaired. I also wondered if he would throw himself down, in a repeat of the first experience.

Not one to disappoint, Smokey toppled over like a tree, landing on his right side again. “I guess I’ll buy that one” was the prevalent thought in my mind.

As the horse got up, wearing the same dopey, embarrassed look as the previous time, Mike turned to me and asked, “what was that?”

“I warned you.”

Now that Smokey was back on his feet, I looked the saddle over while Mike checked the fit. I was relieved to see that it had suffered no damage. Mike declared it to be a good fit, and proving himself the salesmen he is, managed to up sell me on a saddle pad, and cinch. With my wallet lighter to the tune of $1200, I loaded the horse and saddle, and set off for home.

I still have the saddle. Heck, I still have the horse, too. Smooth talking salesman or no, Mike knows his saddles. It fits Smokey as though it were custom made for him, and is incredibly comfortable for me. It has never once slipped, even on those rare occasions where the cinch was not quite as snug as it should have been. I loaned it to a friend once, and she promptly went out and bought two of them.

The tale does not end here, however…

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Art of Cinching up a Saddle

I purchased Smokey in November of 2005, when he was 16, and I was 39, and as green as the grass where horses are concerned. The only thing I knew was that he looked amazing, and that I must have him for my very own.

In short order, Smokey and I were off to our first riding lesson. I'm at the age now where if I don't know how to do something, I will readily admit it. False bravado will at best make you look stupid, or at worst result in serious injury or death, at least where a 16HH, 1100 lb horse is concerned. Having no desire to become a statistic, I set out to learn the basics.

One of the first things was to get old boy saddled up. While I held the lead rope, the trainer placed the saddle blanket and saddle on his back, showing me proper placement. Following this, she ran the latigo through the cinch, and pulled the cinch up tight.

It's rather amazing how tall a horse can get when standing on it's back two legs. Why do I mention this, you ask? Why simple, dear reader, because Smokey had reared up instantly, and I was looking up at his head which was by now somewhere in the rafters.

With the realization that my arms were getting longer, and vaguely aware of someone shouting "let go of the lead rope", I dropped the rope, and backed away from my registered American Quarter Giraffe, pondering how this act was going to play out.

Not one to disappoint an audience, Smokey set out to really show us. Like a tree being felled, he threw himself down on his right side.

As the dust settled, the trainer asked me, "did you buy this horse?"


"That's too bad." I remember being pissed at this comment. Could she not see that this was the most beautiful horse in the world, and he was simply having a moment?

Don't let anyone ever tell you that a horse can't look sheepish and embarrassed. For that was exactly the look in Smokey's eyes after he got back up and walked over to stand by me. This was the only display of bad behavior that evening. The rest of the lesson went well.

At some point, the trainer commented, "he likes you". I took great satisfaction in that.

To be continued...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Gaming Day, Part Deux...

Towards the end of Gaming Day, there are "team" events. One of the more, uh, interesting (dangerous?) events is known as Hangman.

Hangman consist of two riders, one horse, and a tire suspended in the air. The goal is to ride over to the tire, where the passenger grabs the tire and hangs from it, while the horse and rider run down to a barrel, around it, and then back to pick up the "hangman".

In the interest of understatement, let us just say that many of the horses are none to keen about getting close enough to the hangman. Hilarity can, and usually does, ensue. Oh, did I mention that the tire is filled with cold water, just to liven things up for the lucky soul hanging below.

DN2 and her boyfriend decided they wanted to try Hangman. They practiced riding double, just to make sure Dozer would tolerate it.

But, as many of us know, sometimes the real thing turns out a bit differently:

Beyond some bumps and scrapes, and bit of embarrassment, no one was hurt.