"The horse guy called," Liz said. She looked a bit like a turtle as she spoke, with her neck pulled down tight inside the collar of her winter coat.
"Which horse guy," I asked as I paused next to her.
I'd never say it out loud to her, but on days like this I regret having horses. That's right. Horses. One has manifested into two. The new addition being a gray mare. She too is an ex-racehorse like Superman. She's three going on four. Gabe, Liz's son named her Thundergirl. Can you tell he's six?
"The guy who delivered Thunder. He has a horse for us."
My first response should have, we don't need another horse. Actually, my only response should have been, "no." Instead, I said. "How much is it?"
"Nearly free. 1.8 million won delivered." Liz said, ducking deeper into her coat.
It's been cold, but on the mountain side the wind just gusts. Now I know why the apple trees are anchored to the ground and there are cement poles every two trees and wire strung every which way.
"Did he send a picture?" I asked.
"I can look it," she said. "But lets go inside the building.
The building in question is an steel apple warehouse. It has two walk in refrigerators that also keep the apples from freezing in the dead of winter. It would have been warmer in one of the walk-ins but at least we were out of the wind.
We pulled up the KRA website that lists all the retired horses and looked for the up info on this particular guy. Finding and buying Thunder taught us a lot about retired racehorses. For one thing, when your putting retired horses on your list as potential prospects, check to see if they're still breathing. There is not joke here. One day in December Liz and I stayed up late looking at all of the retired horses, slowly getting excited about buying one. we started to make a list and then discovered a lot on our list were dead. I've since looked it up and dead horses is just part horse racing. The term breakdown stems from race horses breaking legs on the track and what not. More mares were dead than geldings, but we wanted a mare.
After looking at hundreds of retired horses, excluding the males, excluding the ones with serious injuries and those not breathing, we had only three prospects, one of which stopped racing because she gave birth. Her records showed the vet came out several times because she seemed colicky and then the final record said she'd given birth. I'm sure her owners were shocked to walk into the barn and see a baby in the stall with her before her next race.
Thunder's owners were shocked too. He knew her has Rocking Rouge and he had high hopes for her. She cost 80 million won (about 80,000 USD) as a yearling. Certainly her price wouldn't break any records but still, they had raise her, feed her, train her and all she did was trot. Literally, she left the gate at a trot. Her owner raced her three times and she never cantered.
I haven't done much work with her yet. This has a lot to do with the cold. For one thing, the wind has knocked down our fencing too many times to count. Then there's frozen water and insert long list of farming things that always take longer in the winter. But she knows nothing. And that was the deciding factor in saying no to a third horse.
I mean, eventually there will be a third horse because my friend has been bitten by the horse bug. She just loves them. She loves to feed them, watch them eat, muck their poop. She wants to start a stables which requires three horses, a bathroom and certification of some sort that she can get while riding her own horse. That's great because Super is super and doesn't require a lot of skill to ride.
I credit Warwick Schiller quite a bit for this even though I've never met him. One of the best things that has happened to me, was quitting horses for a while. I came back to it sooooo rusty. And with so much forgotten, I basically went back to the beginning. Interestingly, I'm still at the beginning. If you think of what a horse needs to know as primary colors, then you know you cant get orange for red and blue. This holds true for horses and people and writing. Everything. I suppose the Japanese have always known the value of perfecting one thing at a time.
Thus the key to solving writers block is doing nothing while doing something else.
here are some many things I've been wanting to post but, unless I do it on the bus between Seoul and Punggi, I can't find the time. I've taken my laptop with me the last three weekends in a row in hopes of getting a blog post in, but I didn't quite have the will power to put aside much need sleep and drag it out of the bag.
I thought that I might get something done at the farm. ("Very funny Miss Z, " I say to myself.) Technically I did get a lot of somethings done on Sunday. Super had pulled a board off his hay feeder so I repaired that, then I cut some boards and built one hillside step. More are in the planning. Then I build a tools organizer thingy and put out a load of mulch.
There's a story behind said mulch. My friend and I bout two 400 kilogram bags (about 900lbs each) a year ago. The place loaded them on the truck with a tractor. We don't have a tractor on the farm or anything to do heavy lifting.
"How are we going to get these off?" She said.
"I don't know. I didn't think about that." I said. We chuckled over our two peas and a pod.
After not too much thinking I suggested we tie a rope around on bag and tie the bag to the building. My friend would drive forward and I would watch for signs of breaking the building. Well, on the first try the rope broke. A few more tries later, we had a lot of little pieces of rope. And a few more tries again we had even more pieces of rope. Thankfully we were actually successful...ish.
But the two bags have been where they landed for over a year. However, we emptied one during Chuseok and that leaves one bag.
Then I took the weed eater, lighter, fire starter, cowboy halter, and training stick to the back. Now if you think about this for a bit you'll probably come up with... nothing you would need all those things for.
Actually, I was multitasking. Since Superman does not eat apples, we let him have the run of the farm during the day. As in not fenced in. All the grasses and clovers are motivation to stay home it seems. Anyway, I knew he was hanging out toward the back and I wanted to weed eat some weeds and burn some of the stuff my friend and I had cleared a few weeks prior. Alas the weed eater wasn't working so I had to settled with setting fire to things. Then I caught up Super, did a little groundwork, took him and all the things back to the front of the farm, a good ten minute walk because I was limping. I hit my knee with a hammer earlier.
It was just after four pm by then and though I was dying to ride I had feet to do first. This might require a bit of explanation. Though there are lots of farriers and many have actually learned about the natural barefoot trim. But the concept, though widely accepted its also still controversial in places. And I'm applying that statement to the United States. The idea of not shoeing a thoroughbred... it actually caused a lot of problems at the Bonghwa stables. Well, pretty much everything we did, caused problems.
"Why are you feeding that horse good grain? He does nothing all week?"
Actually, that last one not only came from the stables but are feed guy kept asking us if we really wanted to feed Super such expensive feed because he's only a pet, sigh.
So I did Super's feet, then groomed him, then saddled and finally went out for a ride. Super has been getting sticky in certain places because he's decided that he wants to go down the apple isles, which with spider webs and trees slapping you in the face aren't exactly fun. Not to mention the shiny tarps that help the apples have good color all around. It's not a matter of Super being scared of them. We've taken care of that in his training. But he can't step on them or knock apples down.
So in training horses you try to make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard. Apple isles are the wrong thing. So I let him go down and backed him out. And then asked him to go forward. If he turned away from the isle I left him alone. If he went back in I let him got a little further and had him back out a little further.
We rode around the whole farm pretty much, letting him go where he wanted and worked on his backing. He'll back to timbuctoo now and isn't very fond of the apple isles anymore.
And then it was time to put him away, carry six five gallon buckets of water from the pond to the water trough... my watering him is part of why he gets to stay at the farm so I have to fill his trough with a weeks worth of water. Then I put a 60 kilo (120 ish lbs) of hay in his slow feeder, reconnected the electric fence and it was time to catch the 2 and a half hour bus home to Seoul.
Below is a picture of Gabe dressed up as captain America trying to put Super up for the night. That was last weekend. As you can see, Super is finally a chunky monkey. (Disclaimer: The comment about monkeys being chunky is in no way intended as a primate stereotype. Some monkeys may or may not be chunky.)
Me: You haven't blogged about anything in ages.
Myself: I know. I have all these ideas when I'm no where near a computer.
I: And what about Donald Trump?
Me: There is just so much I could say.
Myself: No. Just no.
I: That applies not only to Me and Myself but to the whole presidency.
Me: Enough said?
Myself: Let's change the subject.
I: To what? Horses?
Me: I love horses!!!
Myself: Are three exclamation marks are enough? What ever happened to becoming a writer?
I: What if I try to write and ride at the same time?
Me: No. Just no.
The thing about living abroad is that you're not a citizen, which for the most part is neither here nor there in relationship to the work I do. In relationship to my dream job however, it does matter, because to work abroad you have to have a visa.
Alas there are no visas for The Thing and the existing visas have restrictions on what kind of things holder of the visa can do. There are options: get married or come up with three hundred thousand dollars to invest. I'm not currently seeing anyone, but mostly, if love happens it happens. I wasn't always so contented with single life and I'm not sure what happened. I got older I guess.
All this is to say, The Thing came to a grinding halt before we got going because of visas. My friend was willing to sponsor me through her company, but I love her too much to put her and her company at risk. So instead, I took a job of homeroom teacher for a kindergarten. It's not what I wanted to do and certainly, nothing like any of my previous work. It keeps me busy beyond words. But I like it.
There's this thing. Actually the technical title of the job is "The Thing." Also, I don't know what else to call it.
The opportunity has been there for a little while. One aspect of the thing is a trip to the United States to pick out some horses for some people Korea which could lead to more trips... not. Of course none of the potential trips stand any chance of happening if I don't do the first thing.
So that's the thing about the thing... it involves a lot of other things (teaching, animals, teaching, farming, teaching, traveling teaching.) and I'm scared because my pay will be contingent on business variables. If things go well with The Thing, I will make a lot more than I am now. But if things don't go well I'll have to go back to what I'm doing now.
When phrased that way it really doesn't sound all that risky. But as I've mentioned before, I'm something of a neurotic worrier. Nevertheless, I'm going to do try The Thing. Now, how to tell my boss???
I am on a new journey with horses 말. In Korean journey is 여행 can mean trip or travel. Sometimes words don't translate well, but I think this one does
. I am traveling this journey with my friend, her son and her parents... Her family. My family.
The idea of sharing (나누는?) one horse with this many people in the United States.... we would buy more horses.
But horses are expensive 비싼 here. Also, I live in Seoul and only have Sundays (일요일) right now to train and ride. Thankfully, his temperament and intelligence makes retraining easy.
그라지오 (Grageo) now Superman's last race was May of 2016. He was sold to a man who brought him to Bonghwa for retraining. The man took him home after one month. Superman got worse and worse and his owner wanted a quieter horse.
So the man traded him in on another horse. Somewhere along the way Superman has had many injuries... both front legs have splints. His hind leg has had a stifle injury. After much debate, my friend and I bought him despite these things. His temperament means my friend, who is not a horse person, can work him herself. Some horses require a trainer to not make any mistakes and the smallest thing can become a big thing. Some horses are very forgiving, but horses as easy as Superman are rare.
Less than a month ago, he was considered a low value horse. Now, everybody thinks he was a steal because he's so good.
I am at my core a horse person. People who aren't horse people might like horses and go for rides on vacations. A horse person though probably could be clinically diagnosed with something. However, psychologists tend to balk at calling something a disorder when millions suffer from it worldwide.
Well, the fact is, if you are a horse person and have a horse, you aren't suffering. You're quite happy. If you're a horseless horse person the daily pain is impossible to explain to those who don't suffer from this affliction.
When I left the United States to work in South Korea, I left my horses behind. I did it because I thought it would lead me back to horses in a better way. It sucks making minimum wage and being simultaneously horse poor. That's because you have the horse but you can't afford the gas to trailer the horse to the trails to go riding. Or if you like showing, you can't afford the entry fees. Whatever you're in horse poor misery which means you give your horse lots of baths and braid his or her tail and make him pretty a lot and generally enjoy your horse time. If you own a horse trailer it's rusty and if you own a truck it's 20 years old. But it's lovely. But much wealthier people are also horse poor. More than half their income goes into trucks and trailers and entry fees and the x number of horses they have, never mind you can only ride one at a time. That means when horse people get together they have a common understanding regardless of socio- economic standing.
Horse people understand what it means to spend all the money you have and don't have on horses and indulge in jokes like "you might be a horse person if you have to remove the hay from your hair before work."
Well, all this is a long way to say I am now the co-owner of a horse. 말 (mal) is horse in Korean. 말 Also means words which can make searching the internet for 말 nearly impossible. Horseback riding is called 승마 (seungma) Riding is about $30.00 for half an hour and varies from the there. I mentioned before that horses in Korea are often skinny.
The stable in Bongwha has horses that aren't skinny. Unfortunately, they kept selling the horses I was riding there and sometimes didn't have a horse for me. Boarding a horse, that is paying for the care and upkeep of horses is called hotel in Korean. Board generally starts at about $1000 a month but varies more often toward the expensive side. One bale of hay in Korea costs about $20.00.
Luckily, I'm paying half of $550, though I could technically swing the full board. My horse's name is Superman. He was named by my friend's son. His registered name, the horse not my friend's son, is 그라지오 (Grageo) which is Italian translated to English translated to Korean. It might mean to pardon/ to reprieve but a lot was probably lost in all those translation. He won about $113,000 during his race Korea.
Donald T. Rump: My inauguration was the biggest thing ever, period.
Vows to Make Border Fence Dense Pence: This isn't the old days where you can just say stuff and people will believe it.
The Cons Way: We hold these alternative facts to be self-evident. And anyway, I don't think ultimately presidents are judged by crowd sizes at their inauguration. I think they're judged by their--
Kollektivet: Size Matters
Donald T. Rump: The world is laughing at us. We can't let this happen. Hmmm. I know. I'll declare my inauguration day the National Day of Patriotic Devotion.
Vows to Make Border Fence Dense Pence: This isn't the old days where you can just say stuff and people will believe it.
Donald T. Rump: Furthermore, in addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct all the people who voted illegally. Life's not fair!
Republican Party: (Rolling eyes.) Would you like some cheese with that whine?
Ivanka: My father represents a very interesting challenge to the Republican Party.
Donald T. Rump. Because I am the only one who can make America truly great again! That's why I grabbed Lady Liberty by the pussy and I was relentless, even in the face of total lack of encouragement.
Vows to Make Border Fence Dense Pence: I support that.
The Cons Way: Donald Trump just has always elevated women to the highest echelons.
Scanning the headlines for Trump news is kind of like driving past the seen of a car crash. You know you shouldn't look but there is something irresistible. Today the Trump administration has their panties in a bundle once again about media correcting Trump and Cohort belief bias. They believe that Trump's inauguration had the biggest crowd turn out ever!!!!!
But those bastards, all the people who just won't let a president indulge in magical thinking, had to go and say "nuhu." And those bastards had an aerial photo, comparing the crowds of Trump's special day to Obama's special day.
Which can't be true since Trump's special day was the biggest, baddest and bestest ever!
It's really tough for Trump these days. He has to maintain a strangle hold on his biases while being confronted with reality. And he has to endure all this after South Park killed reality. If Trump wasn't president, he'd be like Bridezilla meets Jerry Springer, gets married and produces a baby.
However, he is president. One that will undo all the things not titled Trump, just to be able to title them Trump.
Z is the kid that nobody wants to sit beside. Some of it is a result of his past behavior. Last year when I had him, he could sit still, but he was interactive and engaged as long as you refocused him. Now he is quiet and withdrawn. It sucks when you're disliked at school even by your teachers. His teacher for the prior six months is also my co-worker. He is supposed to have a teaching liscence and what not, but that didn't prevent him from yelling at Z. I class one day to see him running and crying from the classroom. Said co-worked had vented his anger and frustration out on this kid.
The fact is, some kids don't just get picked on by their peers. They're singled out by the teacher too. Last week the girl I put him beside, didn't want to sit next to him. She told her mom and her mom came in and asked her to move him. I wasn't there, but when my co-teacher tried to move him, she said that nobody wanted to sit next to him. She said, she solved the problem by putting a chair between the boy and all the other students.
This kid already feels isolated. I suspect that he either has ADD and/or his parents are as involved as the other student's parents. Point in case, he comes to class with no bag and no book. These are first and second graders and I know most of their parents pack their bags. But ADD and the inability to focus could cause him to simply forget his after school books at his elementary school.
Anyway, I explained to my co-teacher that you can't isolate a student like that. If there is inappropriate behavior to other students you can do that for a short time, but it also depends on the kid and the circumstances. A kid who is acting out because of being bullied will only get bullied more when the teacher moves them. In this case, the kid is not acting, or doing anything bad. In fact, his only problem is being at the bottom the class. He was doing better before though. Now, he's just shut down.
I think teachers can forget that the kids see what they do and model that behavior. That means when a child is having a hard time conforming to that particular classroom culture, and the teacher caries around this attitude toward that kid, everyone else picks up on it. But not only are kids aware of it, they duplicate the attitude of the teacher toward that student.
It's unlikely that the teacher can see this, though. Even the best teachers are only human and if they're frustrated and don't have the tools to deal with a particular behavior.... what happens to the person the child is?
I read a blog post about saying something kind everyday to every student. You don't have to lie to them. You don't have to say they did a good job when they didn't. But kids need to a least fee liked by their teachers. But saying something kind... it might be the only kind thing that child hears. You just don't know what their life is like.
M.R. Jordan is a writer, editor, sporadic blogger, and lover of beer. Lives in South Korea with her two cats, Bear and Geumbi.
Bear (Gom in Korean) then (above) now (below)
Geumbi (Gold in English)... then (above) and now (below).