Monday, October 19, 2015

One Year, One Unicorn, Many Places - Part 2

As I mentioned before, over the past year I've been to many places and seen many cool things in this world.  In part 1 we finished up at FurTheMore, one of those furry conventions in Tysons Corner, VA.  Shortly after that I accompanied Agmane to San Diego.

2015-06-04 - San Diego, CA
While in San Diego, Agmane broke the news to me that he wanted to go to Califur, a con in Irvine, California.  I reluctantly agreed when he told met that there would be other unicorns there.

2015-06-06 - Irvine, CA -  Califur
While at Califur, we shared our room with a most delightful donkey.  I insisted he join us when I wanted to go to the beach.

2015-06-05 - Newport Beach, CA

Walking around in my true form was no big deal in the City of Angels.  The ignorant hewmans all thought I was a play actor from one of their "moving pictures."

2015-06-07 - Los Angeles, CA - Union Station
I was told this was Dan Aykroyd's private car.  Unfortunately he has no time for unicorns.  *grumbles*

2015-06-08 - El Paso, TX
 After a hard night of serving dinner to my fellow passengers, I felt the dining car staff could use some rainbows in their lives.

2015-06-08 - TX
Unicorn Says: Always Maintain 3 points of contact when moving about the train!

2015-06-08 - Somewhere in TX

Our next stop was New Orleans.  I found this vacant plinth near Jackson Square.  I think a unicorn would look quite good here.

2015-06-10 - New Orleans, LA - Jackson Square
I'm always willing to imbibe upon the different concoctions you hewmans come up with to intoxicate yourselves.  I was told that this place specialized in a signature drink called the hurricane.  I quite enjoyed it.

2015-06-10 - New Orleans, LA - Pat O'Briens, Home of the Hurricane
After our long road trip, I took some time off before heading to another one of those furry conventions with Agmane.  This time we headed to the world's largest convention: Anthrocon in Pittsburgh, PA.

2015-07-12 - Anthrocon - Pittsburgh, PA
Some say unicorns are as tall as we are so that we are able to reach the top shelf.  This is clearly incorrect as a proper unicorn never has to reach for anything!  The fine staff at The Brewers Art certainly met this standard of service.

2015-07-17 - Artscape - Brewers Art - Baltimore, MD - Taken By SeikoLiz
The City of Baltimore was kind enough to clear the streets for my visit.

2015-07-17 - Artscape - Baltimore, MD - Taken By SeikoLiz
This "street art" is such a refreshing change from the money driven gallery scene.  Ephemeral works painted by the people, for the people.  I was so impressed I immediately purchased these walls and am having them transported to my estate.

2015-07-17 - Graffiti Alley - Baltimore, MD - Taken by SeikoLiz
Owning a professional sports team seems like mighty good fun.  Of course they will have to have a proper equine theme unlike this burd related team in Baltimore.

2015-08-08 - Camden Yards, Baltimore, MD
These "pony" enthusiasts (Agmane calls them "Bronies") make a mockery of all equine traditions!  Of course their heart is in the right place so I reluctantly entertained their requests for photographs.  Oddly enough the fake pony hewman on the right reminds me of an eclectic fellow I met several centuries ago.

2015-08-08 - Bronycon - Baltimore, MD - With Derpy and Doctor Whooves
I was invited to the United Kingdom by a very special zebra furry person who I very much enjoyed spending time with.  He and a deer friend of his were nice enough to accompany me on a walk through London.  I quite love London (and the UK), they properly respect Unicorns there.  As they should, of course, since we're one of the two creatures on their national seal.

2015-08-29 - London, UK
Finally, some hewman accommodations worthy of a Unicorn lord.  

2015-08-29 - London, UK

One of my hewman guides helped me recreate the scene from the Queen Elizabeth gate. Raaar he says. *smirks*

2015-08-29 - London, UK

A week after returning to North America, Agmane and I traveled to Philadelphia to attend a "tailgate" party (a confusing name since none of the participants had tails) supporting the local sports club known as the Eagles.  Apparently a hewman spiritual leader called the pope was also in town to support the same team and he and I were able to exchange pleasantries

2015-09-20 - Philadelphia, PA - Sports Complex
Agmane has failed to explain to me why there is a hewman atop Philadelphia's city hall instead of a unicorn.  After all, equines originated in the new world!

2015-09-20 - Philadelphia, PA
Agmane invited me along to the beach with some of his friends.  Of course, there was an potential hurricane headed our way.  I talked to my people and got that fixed. ;-) , although there was nothing they could do about the wind.   Still, a good time was had by all, except for when some dog and his emo companion showed up to interrupt my wind-walk. 

2015-10-03 - Stone Harbor, NJ
Finally, one year to the day I arrived in this world, I returned to the Maryland Renaissance Festival.  Not all hewman children are sticky little gremlins.  :-)

In the past year I've traversed the US and made an appearance in the lovely city of London, where they love unicorns!  I've had such a good time meeting you hewmans, especially the furry ones.  They are quite entertaining, even if I think pretending to be a fake-animal-person is a bit daft.  ;-)

To close it out, nearly geographical bookends (if you don't count the UK!)  Newport Beach, CA to the West, Stone Harbor, NJ to the East.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

One year, One Unicorn, Many Places - Part 1

Over the past year I've had a chance to travel widely across your hewman world, seeing great sites and meeting many people.  After thousands of miles and long hours on all manner of your primitive methods of transport, I thought it would be fun to highlight some of my travels!

To summon a unicorn, a sacrifice was required.  May he rest in piece(s).  

2014-10-18 - Phoenix, AZ - A Sacrifice

The young lady that summoned me to this world brought me to this fantastic natural wonder shortly after I arrived.  I was quite impressed with it, though apparently other humans were quite impressed with the unicorn!

2014-10-17 - Equus at the Grand Canyon
I traveled home with my hewman friend, Agmane on one of primitive flying devices.  Here is one of the servants that attended to me on my flight.

A day later we visited a Renaissance Festival.  Apparently these hewmans are nostalgic for a time of dragons and kings....and Unicorns.  ;-)  I also met some hewmans that enjoy dressing up as animals, strange as that may sound.  They called themselves....furries.  

2014-10-19 - Maryland Renaissance Festival

As Agmane has discussed earlier in his posts about his life with horses, he is quite fond of horse rescues and the fantastic work that they do.  After the Renaissance Festival, he took me to visit Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue, where he used to volunteer and also where he adopted his horse from.  I insisted in meeting some of my equine brethren here.  They were not entirely fond of me at first, but warmed up eventually.  

2014-10-19 - Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue
I apparently arrived around the hewman holiday of Halloween.  Apparently it is socially acceptable to dress up on this day and go around asking for candy.  Agmane insisted on taking me to a party.  He said there was a "costume contest" so I figured I could crush that.  Unfortuntely, I was disqualified on the grounds that I was in fact a "real unicorn".  The girl dressed in what I'm told is "Nightmare Before Christmas" makeup won.  She put a lot of work into that, so I'll say she deserved the win!

2015-10-25 - Halloween Party

Agmane insisted that halloween also meant a "free pass" to go out in public without causing much of a stir.  He wanted to see a unicorn shooting hewman weapons. He gave me what he said were an M1 Garand and an M1903A3.  While there are plenty of more efficient and effective weaponry where I am from, I quite enjoyed shooting these primitive hewman weapons.

2015-10-26 - Shooting an M1 Garand at the Range.

I was lured to another furry "meet", this time at some manner of indoor bowling lawn.  I was told that clothing was customary in the hewman world...apparently leather straps are not sufficient.

2015-11-08 - Wilmington, DE - FurBowl

Intrigued by meeting furries at the Renaissance festival, I opted to further explore this strange hewman subculture.  Apparently they gather at hotels every so often to wear their costumes and meet each other.  I'll say one thing, they sure know how to party!

2014-12-03 - Chicago, IL - Midwest Fur Fest
While in Chicago I learned of a brewery that was quite enamored with unicorns, using them on their labels and including unicorns in the names of their beers.  I'm quite fond of this delicious libation, and was keen to pay them a visit.  Needless to say they were quite surprised.  It's not every day a unicorn walks up the street and into your brewery.  They were kind enough to give us an entire case of their beer to imbibe.

2014-12-05 - Chicago, IL - Pipeworks Brewing Co.   

Some of Pipeworks' Brewing Company's Unicorn Beers!

I enjoyed my time at Midwest Fur Fest so much that I told Agmane to find me another con.  He obliged, accompanying me to Anthro New England in Boston, MA.

2015-03-01 - Boston, MA - Anthro New England
While in Boston we visited a famous bakery (a hewman place that sells many delicious confections) called Mike's Pastry.  I may have stuffed my muzzle full of an unhealthy number of their incredible canoli.  But I'm a unicorn, I'll do as I want!  They were happy to take a picture with a visiting unicorn.

2015-02-28 - Boston, MA - Mike's Pastry
Agmane's enthusiasm volunteering for Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue and his love for his adopted rescue horse inspired me to lend a hand to promote their cause at at the Pennsylvania Horse Expo.

2015-03-07 - Harrisburg, PA - PA Horse Expo
At FurTheMore in Tyson's Corner, VA I met some hewman foals.  They were not as sticky as I had been led to believe.

2015-05-30 - Tysons Corner, VA
Alas the dawn draws nigh and I must get my 4 hours of sleep before making my appearance at the Maryland Renaissance Festival in the morning.  I invite you all to visit my webspace again in a days time to view the continuation of my year amongst you.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

My Life with Horses - Part 2 - Horse Rescues

Previously I talked about my early years with horses.  My path to where I am now took an important turn in 2009.  On the first day of work at a new job, our IT guy picked me up from orientation and took me back to his cube.  I noticed pictures of a few horses at his desk so I asked him about them.  He told me about his horses, one of which is totally blind.  His other horse became almost a guide pony for the blind one, helping him around the field, protecting him etc.  When I asked him where he got the blind horse he told me how his wife was on the staff of a large local horse rescue.  Being new to the area, I didn't know about any horse rescues or riding lesson places or anything.  My coworker told me I should visit and attend orientation so I could volunteer there.  4 days later I attended their monthly orientation and started volunteering as soon as it was over.

A horse rescue can have a few different missions.  Some specialize in mostly animal control seizures stemming from cases of neglect, malnourishment, mistreatment, abuse, etc.  Others specialize in rescuing unwanted horses from kill buyers at auctions.  Others still will take in unwanted horses from owners who are no longer able to care for them.  Regardless of what situation a horse might be in, the general mission is the same, I'll borrow it from Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue's logo: Rescue, Rehab, Retrain, Rehome.

The rescue I started volunteering with was Days End Farm Horse Rescue (DEFHR).  They specialized in animal control seizures, as described above.  The first couple of times I volunteered were very emotionally difficult.  I generally don't display much in the way of emotion outwardly, but it was difficult to maintain a stoic poise when confronted with the dark reality of animal abuse and neglect.  Some of the horses were no more than skeletons with skin stretched over them.  It is quite hard to take when one first encounters it, but the knowledge you are helping them helps sooth that emotional anguish.  Honestly though, the mental pain pales in comparison to the physical pain and trauma some of these horses endure.

I was lucky enough to work with a number of horses while I was at DEFHR.  As part of their "Training team" I helped to give horses consistent training that would allow them to be more suitable for adoption.  The horse I had the good fortune to work with the longest was an big, older Appaloosa mare named Harper.  I called her an old mare that didn't know she was old.  She had such a fire in her.  She loved to run.  Many times we would forego training to just go run in one of the larger fields.

Harper out in the field.  She was an awesome horse.

The face of a mare that's tired of her human's bullshit.
Terrible rider position, but a nice shot of Harper!
Harper and I did a lot of basic work.  I didn't really see the need to train her for any specific discipline.  I just wanted to give her consistent work and fix a few minor things like really leaning on the bit, etc. 

After volunteering at Days End for a while I decided to start volunteering at a smaller horse rescue right down the road called Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue (GG).  They were a smaller organization at the time without as big a volunteer base as DEFHR so I felt like I could be more useful there.  The first time I went there I really liked it.  I enjoyed meeting the people who worked there and volunteered there, and I really liked the horses, so I ended up staying!

One of the first horses I worked with At Gentle Giants was a big Percheron draft horse named Trooper.  He was relatively green and would barely accept a bit.  I trained him for a number of months, getting him to accept a bit and be more responsive to my leg aids.  Eventually he was adopted by a couple that trained him to be a jousting horse.
For the record, I'm 6 feet tall.  And wow that saddle looks small.

A side note: Trooper had no real tail to speak of.  This is because of a practice called docking.  Trooper's tail was docked by the Amish who used him as a work horse.  Docking means you cut the tail bone very short to prevent the tail from growing out.  This is done, they say, to prevent a horse's tail from getting caught in farm equipment.  Personally, I think it shows that whoever did it is incredibly lazy because honestly, how hard is it to tie a horse's tail up or bag it to prevent it from getting caught?  Not very.  In today's world it's a cruel practice that needs to end.  It prevents a horse from defending itself from flies.  Thankfully a number of countries and breed registries have banned the practice.

Three's a crowd!  Trooper is in the back.
After Trooper was adopted I found myself without a project horse to work on.  That is, until the director of the rescue asked me to go to a trainer's barn and take a look at a horse named Chase.  But that's a story for another time.  :-)

Horse rescues have been a central part of my life for 6 years now.  (Less so now because I have my own horse that takes up most of my time.  But I still try to get out when I can.)  Volunteering my time at horse rescues provided me with a chance to do something good with my time, be outside, and help raise awareness about horse abuse and neglect.  But it did more than that.  It gave me a chance to connect with a number of horses, all very special, and make a positive impact on their lives.  Horses can understand your intentions through your body language and how you approach them.  Kind, gentle hands can go a long way toward breaking a horse's learned fear of people.  Showing them that someone cares and wants to help them can completely change their personality.  It's the ability to have that impact that makes me happy and made me keep volunteering.

This this takes us up to Fall of 2011.  I'll stop here for now.  Next up?  I'll start a long retrospective on my life with horses since late 2011.  That time can be summed up in one word: Chase.  But in the meantime, I'm sure Equus Silvermane has some things to say!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

My Life with Horses - Part 1: The Early Years

Hi Everyone, it's AgMane.  Equus deemed me worthy enough to represent him in part because of my experiences with horses.  He asked me to talk about how I got involved with them so I am taking the reins today on his blog for the first of a series of posts discussing my life with horses!

Horses have been an important part of my life for almost it's entirety (so far).  Having one of my own now has been one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had.  Someone once told me that he's given me a heart. They are probably right. But he's given me so much more than that.  But before we get to him, I want to talk a bit about how I came to enjoy the company of horses.

Horses first entered my life when I was three years old.  I suffered from social withdrawal early on as a toddler.  One of the options presented to my parents was Therapeutic Riding (hippotherapy).  I'm told that the first time i was on a horse's back my face 'lit-up' and my whole demeanor changed.  I personally remember very little about this pivotal moment as I look back on it now, but I fully recognize its in shaping who I am today.  (As an aside, I find it pretty incredible that such a seemingly small decision on my parents part has had such a huge effect on the rest of my life.)

I've been riding fairly regularly ever since those early days.  In high school I rode at the Therapeutic barn while I volunteered there.  They were nice enough to let me keep taking lessons there even though I had kind of grown out of the need for true therapeutic riding.  Riding just once a week left me wanting more - I wanted to see horses more often, to work with them, groom them, etc.  To that end, I befriended an older man that was within walking distance of my house.  He owned two horses, Holly and Penny.  They were both older mares that he needed some help caring for (he had broken his back the previous winter).  I offered to help him out so he let me groom and ride whenever.  I spent many days and nights there working and riding for fun and trying to teach Penny something.  She was a stubborn old Appaloosa though, and I never had a ton of luck.  Still, I liked her a lot.  I was very sad when I came home from college one year and was unable to find her.  The man had given her away but he didn't know to whom.  He had a speech impediment too, which made him hard to understand.  I imagine that by now she has likely passed away, but I'd still like to know what happened to her.  I hope her life ended well.  I'm just pained to know I didn't get to say goodbye.

Penny with Holly in the background.
Penny and one of her friends after Holly passed away.  I think his name was Bleu.

Toward the end of high school we got a new trainer at the barn.  My interest in horses was waning a bit.  I credit her, and her horse, Tigger, with keeping me involved in riding.  I liked to say he had ADHD because he would just do his own thing whenever he felt like it while you rode him.  That is, if he decided he wanted to trot or do something different, he'd do it, and you just kinda had to go with it.  He was also an incredibly capable horse.  Very athletic.  He could stick his nose into his chest like a carousel horse and carry himself, collected, whereever he wanted to.  He also had a lot of movement both side to side and forward and backwards.  Tigger was an excellent teacher, and he helped introduce me to the more technical side of riding: Bending, suppleness, collection, etc.  He was a horse who was incredibly sensitive.  He'd do exactly what you asked, but you had to know what to ask for and how to ask for it to get him to do it.  He was a true joy to ride.  I wish I could go back and ride him again.  He's probably nearly 15-20 years old now.  I'm not sure how old he was when I took the picture below, but I took it in 2004 and he was likely at least 5 years old then.

During college I rode kind of intermittently.  I was on the Equestrian team at my school but that was ultimately unfulfilling.  I rode at a private barn I really didn't like.  The conditions they kept their horses in was really poor.  No grass, just little muck pits that they lived in.  (I called animal control once and asked them to come out but they said they couldn't because I wasn't alleging actual abuse.)  Also there was an expectation that I would show in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) shows in my area.  Those shows were terrible.  You normally had to get up at 4am on a Saturday to drive to the show, be stuck there all day, and you met your horse for the first time about 5 minutes before the class started.  And the horses worked multiple classes during the day.  A number of times I got a horse that decided he was done right before I got on him.  Those were tough rides and not at all fulfilling.  Ultimately I never got much out of riding in college except a nice break from studying and a chance to be around horses.  That was certainly a welcome interlude in the constant grind of the semester.

At the beginning of my junior year (I think) I was lucky enough to meet a student at school who's family had a small boarding farm fairly close to school.  She had two horses of her own: a paint mare named Rebel and a paint gelding named Okemo.  In exchange for helping out occasionally she let me ride them.  Okemo was a quiet "all around" sort of horse.  Rebel was a young, almost green, mare.  She was a bit stocky but fast and probably could have made for an excellent little barrel horse.    I've since lost touch with the girl so I'm not sure what they are doing now.


Between this and the riding team I managed to get my horse fix during college.  I did, however, find my interest waning a bit.  The early years of my riding were kinda like this, my interest ebbed and flowed. That's a far cry from where I am now, but this is to be expected when one is young and they are exploring what piques their interest.

This more or less closes the chapter on my early life with horses.  There are so many other horses that touched my heart and meant something to me for one reason or another, but I'll stop here because this is a pretty long wall of text already.  Next time I'll talk about where my life with horses has taken me since college.

Thanks for reading!