Back to basics for the less than brilliant

I must have been something fairly dim in my past lives.

Maybe a little blind mole or worse, a firefly with a blown bulb. Even a bat has radar but I keep bumping into not only things but the same things over and over again. These aren’t concrete things, you understand, these are abstract things. Things that you ought to know but somehow keep getting forgotten in the rush and bother of life. Like, for instance, a lesson as simple as just going back to basics when something doesn’t work.


And yet, I see this time and again. I suppose the only comforting thing about this is that it isn’t only me. Online I am a member of something that I will paraphrase as Older Horse Ladies. Yup, “older” instead of “elderly” or even “venerable” but that’s okay it all works out to be the same thing. There are a lot of those ladies who are really scared of riding but they do it anyway.

Some of them fall off, but still they do it. There are a lot of us and we give each other comfort and a lot of “tsk-tsks” and even some “there-theres” when something goes wrong. If someone’s even more elderly horse dies or has to be put down we all stand together to sympathize and offer digital shoulders to cry on. I simply have NO IDEA how men get along without that sort of soft place to fall when things go south in their lives.

Maybe that’s why beer was invented.

However when I see these ladies in their pictures with their horses I have to wonder how they manage to stay on as much as they do. So very many of them are riding, even western, with an exaggeratedly short stirrup. A long time ago people did ride with a short stirrup, yes, even western.

They didn’t ride all that well with that short stirrup but ride they did with it. It was wrong but it was out there and lots of folks didn’t know any better. I think that the only reason that they all lived long enough to be Older Horse Ladies is that a long time ago horses were ridden enough that they were a lot more broke and not as skittish as they are now.

Also there were a lot more trails to ride on back then.

No one had to haul out to ride — we just got on and rode out for hours and hours. There is an old saying that wet saddle blankets make good horses and it is as true now as it was then so maybe that’s what kept them in the saddle.

My point is, if you go back to basics and ride without a saddle (or at least without stirrups) you will become perforce a better rider because you will have a longer leg on your horse. Not the horse’s legs, your legs. The longer leg you can ride with the better you will ride, unless, of course you are going to jump a couple of fences in which case you will shorten your new longer stirrup a couple of holes for jumping.

So here I am being all expert about going back to basics and feeling good about myself until I couldn’t paint a dog’s head. In my defense it was a three-quarters picture of a dog’s head. You have to envision that you have a foreshortened cone on the front of a ball and it is turned slightly away from you into the bargain — not easy, my friends. I must have painted that dog’s head ten times over the last three days and it just wouldn’t come right.

I tried it again this morning with no better results. I gave it up and went and made sugar cookies. Tried it again and went back and made chocolate ganache frosting for those sugar cookies. Came back to the painting and then, wonder of wonders, there it was — the bright idea of going back to basics. I grabbed my charcoal vine stick and I started drawing on that painting, and it worked!

One dog appeared right on order and I know why. With that charcoal stick I wasn’t worried about color…I was only worried about shapes and placements. After three miserable days with paint it took about 20 minutes with the charcoal … I drew it right on that painting and thank heavens it was an acrylic painting. It’s hard to kill acrylics.

At least it’s hard to do it with a stick of charcoal. So now I can start painting in around the charcoal and then dust off the charcoal and finish painting.

Then I can make myself a cup of coffee and munch some really good chocolate frosted sugar cookies.

Like I need them.