November 8th, 2007

woods, Elizabeth, camera, April

Life with Horses: Monster Mac

Mac started walking sound almost as soon as he got his "booties" on with the extra-soft inserts.  He was supposed to be in confinement for a month, with the booties on, and as time passed and the weather cooled, he became more active and less cooperative--he's a Quarter Horse, but he's a QH with racing TB bloodlines as well (Three Bars, Depth Charge).   So today, the farrier came; we were going to see if Mac needed a light trim, see how he moved barefoot, and change out the inserts in his booties to regular ones.  The vet recommended putting him in wide web shoes in front, but he has so little hoof wall, and grows his hoof so slowly, that the farrier and I decided to go with the protective boots awhile longer, just with firmer inserts. 

I went out to halter him before the farrier came; he was, as he has been except for brief periods, loose in the small (40x40 foot) paddock that adjoins the barn on the south, and into which his stall (and the south half of the barn) opens.   He took one look at the halter and zipped into his stall, placing himself in a corner and pinning his ears and "snaking" his head as I approached.  He associates the halter with having to be medicated, I guess, from the early days of this lameness thing.   I had the lead rope, of course, and had a time dropping it over his neck.  I got a grip on the loop and moved him away from the corner; instead of coming quietly with me, he started circling, making threat movements.  After some very firm words, I got him out of the stall into the open half of the barn, and again tried to get the halter over his muzzle: pinned ears, "mean" eye, jerking his head around, refusing to stand still (lunging off this way and that, with me controlling his neck, at least,  and clearly threatening to nip.  I was on his off side, which wasn't ideal--I'd had to approach his off side in the stall.   The way he was acting, getting to his near side was not a good option--it might let him duck out of the neck-rope.  So I formed a loop of the lead rope and got *that* over his muzzle while he was watching  the halter, then snugged up a grip under his jaw.   You could practically see the "Oh, rats, she's got me" look; his eye softened and though I had Richard come hold the twist of ropes under his jaw, I got the halter on then without so much as a flicker of ear. 

Once the halter was on, I turned him loose again.  I don't keep halters on horses except for a few hours or in a very safe enclosed situation, as it's not safe unless it's a breakaway halter.   Also, why make life even easier for horse thieves?  He went back to eating hay.  Then the farrier's truck drove in.  At once Mac started acting like a wild thing--proving that all trace of lameness is gone, definitely.  He trotted in and out of his stall, he cantered a stride or two, he  (jumped!) over a length of utility pole that's in the south paddock to keep the horses off a French drain-in-progress, he bucked...etc.   My farrier said "Boy, HE's not lame!" and when Mac settled down just a little we took off the boots, the farrier did a little trim of the heels and a bit off the flare on his right, walked him around (he walked sound; we didn't do a trot test, not with Mr. Snorty in that mood) and then put him in the  boots with medium inserts.   He walked sound out  of that, too, and he's now allowed out into the south horse lot--about an acre--a decision that we hope will allow him to work off some excess energy. 

But then, when the Bach performance is over, I have to take time every day to work on his attitude.   This whole "I can threaten you with sour ears and mean eyes and  bared teeth, and I don't have to work if I don't want to" thing has to  disappear.   I have guests off and on; my horses need to behave around people (including of course me.)    All my other horses learned to accept being caught, haltered, led, groomed, tacked up, etc. without incident (to be honest, most of them came that way, but I was able to retrain those that had some bad habits.  Mac, compared to the others, is sulky.)

woods, Elizabeth, camera, April

Bach Again: Wednesday's rehearsal

On Tuesday night, I had bought a rehearsal CD for the alto part.   I listened to it yesterday while reading along, in addition to working at the piano.  So I thought I was better prepared for rehearsal, and I was...but not yet perfect, drat it.  Also, David decided to have the altos sing the first measure of the piece with the second sopranos, since they've been weak there at almost every rehearsal, then switch to the alto part in the second measure.  That's not on the rehearsal CD of course, and it's a new demand, though it's exactly the same that we sing in the second measure--we just need to sing it twice and remember to come in, in that first measure!

We were also trying to observe the symphony conductor's marks for the first time, and there the difficulty is that David had us singing the full value on endings, and Peter wants us to truncate some of them a tiny bit.  But hasn't marked what "a tiny bit" means...so suddenly all the sharp-as-knife endings of "potentiam"  in "Fecit potentiam" are not clean.  And some of us (raises hand guiltily) having been finally taught to sing all the way to the end of the note, forgot partway through that the marking was to apply to *all* the "potentiams", not just the ones Peter actually marked.

As usual--at some point in learning something new,  stuff that you've worked on and worked on and had almost perfect comes apart.  Karen Pryor, in her books on training techniques, calls this the "pre-learning dip" and explains why it happens and how you just have to keep at it, and then the final learning will be solid.  I hit the prelearning dip several times last night; I had hit it in different places Tuesday night.   But  the places that came unglued Tuesday were solid last night.  Today's pre-rehearsal work will concentrate on the remaining places I know I have leftover "mess" (less than twelve measures, two in the first movement and four to six in the last.)  Depending on how well I do tonight, I am hoping to skip tomorrow night's rehearsal, because Saturday will be a monster--an hour with David and then at least two with the symphony conductor.

In one place that had gotten "muddy", David had each part sing those two measures three times separately--then two parts together sing them three times--then another two parts, etc., then began "rolling" around the room: the first and second sops together, then the second sops and basses, then the basses and tenors, then the tenors and altos, then the altos and first sops--and then in three-together groups: basses, tenors and altos, then tenors, altos and first sops, then altos, first and second sops, then first and second sops and basses....and finally all together, and guess what?  It wasn't muddy anymore.

The bass section got a bit chewed...someone let out with an East Texas vowel and a pure Texas rrrrrr.  That is not a rolled r...that is a relaxed, slow, drawling r and it does not belong in Bach.  The two together produced a visceral reaction in David, who nearly fell off the little stand he uses when directing a large group.  He's from East Texas himself (you can hear that when he talks) so he's really sensitive to any excessive Texasness in the sounds produced.  And someone else was braying some notes instead of singing them. 

Must go back to work...