It Needed Killin'

Gwaihir the Valiant has been enthusiastically and diligently rehearsing for the upcoming sequel to his hit video short on youtube.

As you can see, he has perfected the killing of the medium-sized orc.

First we have the kill -- the stomp and bite.

The follow-up bite and the toss away. (A gentleman always cleans up his messes so the ladies aren't subjected to the trauma of faux orc bodies.)

The 3/4 point

Courtney is in her second year of endurance and her second year of competing my horses, but this is the first time that we've managed to camp and ride together; and it was Abelino's first time at an endurance competition -- so we had a lot of time together both in camp and on the trail. It was good quality time of the kind where you've been together for a couple of days and worked and sweated and had fun together and the talk kind of dies down and that's ok because you're all comfortable enough together that the silence isn't awkward, like it can be in some social situations.

But one thing we talked about is that we have ambitious plans for this year. Our first short term goal is to do the 2-day 50/50s that are coming up and then the 100 mile ride at the Bluebonnet in April.

And so over the course of the weekend, I spent some memory on my first 100 mile ride. It was at the Armadillo in '93 and aside from bright-eyed enthusiasm and ambition, I didn't really have all I needed, going into it, to finish. You can talk all day about grit and heart and sheer strength of will, but I finished that night (morning) only because I had a good horse and better friends than I deserved.

I could write thousands of words on the experience of doing your first 100 deep in the Piney Woods of East Texas, but the thing that comes forefront to my mind now, as a writer, is the element of human nature. What I'm musing on is, I think, a kind of survival instinct in our heads that we have to, quite literally, turn off in order to succeed in the Worst of Times.

It's a battle of heart and mind, of logic and emotion.

One of the only clear memories I have of that night is sitting in the dirt in the middle of a forest service road at some hour wee early in the morning, with said undeserved friends, crying that I was certainly killing my horse to continue (I had the delusion that he was foundered) and throwing up because I had begged and smoked an unfiltered camel (I don't smoke).

I had hit 'the wall', mentally, emotionally and physically and I really had nothing left. But there was something in me that wouldn't let me quit. I didn't have it in me to go on, but I didn't have it in me to quit either and so I was at an impasse.

On a subconscious level, I was reaching (fighting, clawing, scrambling) for a reason to quit that had nothing do to with me being a quitter and had nothing to do with me giving up. So you see, with everything else gone, I still had a stiff neck and a tattered remnant of pride. I needed something, anything, to be wrong with the horse so I could be (figuratively) carried off the field and put to bed with the secure pretense that I'd made the right choice.

But it wasn't the right choice. My friends knew that and stood by me. They carefully examined the horse. He was fine. They took the cigarette away and gave me some water and washed my face. I'd ridden nearly 90 miles in about 18 hours and I was that close to being done. Ten miles is short enough to spit when you've already been that far -- and that was the encouragement I needed. A leg up on the horse and a slap on his hairy butt and we were back out into the woods.

We made it that night and did another 100 the next year.

But there came a time in my life when it wasn't the right choice. I pushed too hard when I should have pulled back and I suffered greatly for it. I learned what real pain was and I learned fear of pain that was truly debilitating.

And that fear kept me from finishing three more 100s and with that sad record, it's been ten years since I started a 100. Is it fear or realism?

* I'm older now, obviously, heavier and less fit.
* But I'm also smarter.
**I think, smart enough to make the difference.
* The memory of the pain and the failures has faded.

I have three horses that show every sign of being good 100 mile horses and I have friends that are at least as determined as me to make it through.

And so, I think I'm prepared for that late ride exhaustion. Not to suffer it, but to head it off before it takes hold. We'll go into the ride with a good nights sleep. We'll eat and drink like we should and we'll support each other throughout.

... so why am I going on about it here? Because, as a writer, I'm looking at my characters. I'm rubbing my hands together and cackling and thinking how I can use these memories to deepen the trauma and conflict in my stories. I can use them to make my characters more human and more real.

I can give them that dark fear that quivers deep inside and whispers "Don't be foolish. It's better this way..." I can shake their confidence and give them that doubt, and I can even see them fail. Because I know they'll come back smarter and stronger and more determined for it.

Freezing N' Burning

Well. I'm back. I woke up this morning with so many ideas, I couldn't handle them all. But first, I have to talk about our fantastic weekend.

We started three horses and finished two.

The weekend turned colder than we had expected and so we were only marginally prepared. We should have known better and it was a lesson that wasn't as hard as it could have been, knowing Texas in February. This ride has, in the past, seen ice storms on Friday with beautiful warm sunshine on Saturday. So we shouldn't have been surprised, this year, when we got cold, windy and cloudy instead of sunshine.

Abelino jumped into endurance with both feet and started a 50 his first time out -- and did great. Beri (ELBERETH TOS) is a well-seasoned endurance horse, but she still gets a little race-brain. He handled all her early morning antics and her late-ride doldrums and finished in fine form.

Beri has enough miles now that she really settles into the work and the miles and when you're doing a moderate pace, she can seem a little sleepy or tired. When that started happening, we kicked them into a high gallop and 'played hard' for ten or so miles.

To me, it's the height of the sport when you have enough horse to play and really enjoy the day.

I'm glad to be back on GWAIHIR. He's a handful of horse, but it's a joy to ride one who is still fresh at the end of the day. He has amazing gaits, especially his canter. He has a little rocking lope that's so easy to sit he spoils me for riding anyone else. He's done a handful of Limited Distance rides over the last few years while I was riding with my younger son, but those days are behind us and he's ready for a lot more miles. I'm dangerously enthusiastic about getting him to a lot of rides this year.

Courtney and GLAMDRING had an unfortunate pull between 55-60 miles. She had a ton of horse left, he has the fitness level, but not (YET!) the emotional maturity to be on the trail alone in the dark in spitting rain and pending storms. Courtney made the tough (smart) decision to bring him (and herself) safely back to camp rather than ask him to do something he isn't ready for. It was a tough lesson for all of us -- but we know where his 'holes' are and what he needs to be working on ... and it's all do-able. It just needs to be done. And it will be, hopefully in time for the 100 in April.


That resounding silence you're hearing is the sound of me clawing my way back up to collapse, gasping, at the edge of the world after having galloped off into the starry outer regions.

We've been riding a lot -- the weather here has been fantastic -- and we have a full schedule in the coming months, so don't give up on me. And writing with Holly Lisle's How to Think Sideways Graduate Class. I'll hopefully have lots of photos and stories, both riding and writing, and will soon be back on track with posting on a more regular basis.