Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Riding, Writing, Etc.

Monday night I watched the trail racking class at the Roanoke Valley Horse Show. That’s the class that I used to show in with Cupcake (under her registered name, “G’s Liberated Lady”).

All Monday’s racking classes were small, but trail racking was the largest with maybe eight or nine entries. Back in the day, the classes were huge—Cupcake and I sometimes showed in classes of 18 or 20. Just finding a spot on the rail was a challenge.

Trail racking horses are shown at the walk and trail rack. Smoothness is everything. Monday night, a couple horses racked nicely, but some paced. (Note to my non-horsey readers: the rack is a four-beat lateral gait that is very smooth for the rider; the pace is a two-beat lateral gait that is uncomfortable for the rider who gets slung from side to side.) The pace is not smooth.

At the end of the class, a good trail racking horse is supposed to stand quietly and back readily when asked, but few did on Monday. One slung up its head and cracked its rider on the nose. I had flashbacks to when Cupcake tried to back over the judge twenty years ago while we were lined up. She blew the “stand quietly” part, so we didn’t even place in that Roanoke Valley Horse Show.

Showing a horse successfully, I’ve decided, is not unlike good writing. You want to get the judge’s attention when you first rack into the ring; you want to hook a reader with your first sentence. You want your passes around the ring to appear effortless, as if you and the horse move as one being. You want your prose to flow smoothly. You want your transitions from one gait to another to be smooth, too. Ditto for writing.

Style is important, but you don't want it to call attention to itself. You want your riding to look invisible: your cues should be subtle, your hands should be light, your legs should be still, you should wear the correct riding habit. If you have to use your spur, no one watching should notice you did it. When you write, you don’t want to call attention to your style, either. If you’re heavy on the adjectives, adverbs, and passive verbs, the reader will notice.

You want your ending on a good note. Stand quietly. Don’t back over the judge. Don't make the reader say, "Huhhhh?"

I’ve seen—or participated in—a lot of classes at horse shows in which the riding didn’t work. At one show many years ago, I even saw a harness pony killed by another who dumped his driver and ran amok. I’ve read a lot of books that just didn’t work either, but at least they weren’t fatal.

Here’s a You-Tube video of a pleasure driving class (I don’t know when or where this was) that went horribly wrong, but thankfully no people or horses were seriously hurt. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it shows what can happen when someone loses control.

I haven’t shown for years and, after watching that video, I have no desire to show. But I still write—and my writing isn't as bad as what happened in that video.

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Blogger Amy Tate said...

That's why I never showed in that division. That is one of the worst mishaps I've ever seen. I hope to goodness the horse didn't injure its leg when it fell.

3:36 PM  
Blogger Sally Roseveare said...

If you hadn't said no horse or person was seriously injured, I would not have watched this. I still worried during the whole tape, however. Several years ago I saw a bad accident in a driving class, but it wasn't nearly as horrible as this one.

10:18 AM  

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