The Real Time Canine II

After spending 2 years writing the Real Time Canine, the adventure continues with The Real Time Canine II. Read along as I look for just the right puppy to continue the experience. After false starts with Tim and Jed, I am currently training young Tam, and Spot, which are both off to a strong start. Please visit the RTC II to read about training sessions as they occur.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Deep Seat and a Far Away Look

Be warned. I bought a scanner, I know how to use it, and I have unearthed some really old photographs. In this one, I am probably 12 years old or so, riding a horse named Smarty, and taking a lesson from Don Swan, my first mentor in the horse business and the one who left the biggest impression. I rode with, trained under, rode and worked for this man for years and years. With 4 or 5 other unredeemable characters, I was even his room mate for a brief spell one hazy summer sometime after my 21st birthday. That memory is pretty blurry, but oh-so-happy. The barn was closed on Mondays, so we held safety meetings at whatever local watering hole was close by. I don't know how that name was contrived, but over liquid lunches and too much laughter, anything was possible. Safety meetings! Just one of the many valuable concepts Don introduced me to over the years. Here are some of the others:

A deep seat and a far away look is an expression he used meaning to ride through a jump, not to it. He used to tell us to ride like we had somewhere to go.

A wally coodle from under a duck's tail was anything he couldn't put a name to. What's that? "It's a wally coodle from under a duck's tail."

It's not a long walk if you run was his immediate response whenever he asked you to do something, and you whined, thought about whining, or made a face. "Walk over and take that horse off the hotwalker." Make a face and look askance. "It's not a long walk if you run."

Can't ride in a box car with the door closed, or can't ride on a pogo stick with his coat tails nailed down was Don's way of saying a person just needed a little more practice.

Funeral arrangements. Don didn't attend funerals and his reasoning was sound; "Why should I go to his? He isn't coming to mine."

And it wasn't just what he said, but the world he opened up for me. Fascinating creatures were drawn to him, 2 and 4 legged. Jack and Turlock were mutts that appeared through various and sundry avenues, and stayed forever. Jack was a little, black, scruffy mutt with a taste for rat poison. Little Jacky's convulsions were horrifying, but she was one tough mutt and always prevailed over the chemicals. Turlock was a big, plain, shepherd mix picked up as a stray after an all night excursion to the central California farming community that was her namesake. I didn't make that trip, but it's genesis can be traced to an establishment called Dick's Horseshoe Saloon. We lovingly referred to it as Roochard's Equine Slipper Lounge, and that's the very first time I've ever had to spell Roochard, so forgive me. The 2 mutts were inseparable sister-dogs and at all the horse shows they attended, which was every one we went to, they could be found at the hamburger stand enjoying a steady flow of greasy handouts. "Where do those dogs belong?" "Oh, that's just Jack and Turlock."

And then there were the horses. Originating from a Pennsylvania hunt club, Sherman was a Clydesdale/Thoroughbred cross that started out in the jumper division and closed his career as a much-loved amateur hunter. His last owner found it odd to be sitting on her horse at a show, and without so much as a nod in her direction, having folks stop by to say "Hi Sherman." Hot-to-trot was a leggy, brown Thoroughbred mare that was just that, hot, with loads of talent, but no brains. Doobie Doo was a quarter horse that had cropped out of the cutting horse world. Don bought him for a lady that was just learning to ride and he was a cadillac. Broke to death, he could jump and made a name for himself inside and out of the hunter and jumper rings. Don used to ride him through the barns at shows and demonstrate for his Western-trainer buddies how the horse could spin a hole in the ground. They'd say, "yeah, but let's see him go the other way," because horses that can spin that well, usually only do so in one direction. Don would laugh, and then go the other way just as well. Vincent's show name was Vincent Van Gough, so named because he lost half an ear to frostbite in his home state of Colorado. There were others with names like Holy Smoke, Cavalier, Coast to Coast, Barbed Wire, Mr. Apple Jack, Challenger, Untouchable, and Ozzie. They were all great in their own way and all really good friends of mine. I'm so sorry that I don't have any pictures of them to scan.

The picture of me and Don was taken in a dusty, hard-packed ring at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, California. It sat at the back of a golf driving range, and occasionally, somebody would get a hold of one, and a golf ball would come flying over that fence making for some pretty horrific wrecks. No one was injured in the making of this story. If you asked Don for a stick, (a riding crop,) he never handed it to you. Either to make you a better rider, to make you a better horse, or because it made him laugh, he always threw it at you and ultimately it helped teach us to ride and remember to take a deep seat and a faraway look.

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