The Coffee Cup Critters aka the “Cuppa” Series

I really love drawing animals. When I’m stuck for ideas, I find some reference pictures and draw an animal.

And then…..and then I give them a coffee cup.

I don’t know why.

It just makes me happy.

So, here they are (most of them, anyway). I hope they make you happy too!

If you aren’t a coffee person, think of them as giant, steaming, mugs of tea.

Several of these are up on my Redbubble shop already–the rest are pending! I’m also hoping to get some of them as stickers for sale on my Etsy. But that’s a project I’m *just* beginning. Let me know in the comments which ones you think would be the best stickers.

What animals would you like to see cherishing a nice steaming cuppa?

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The Haunted Dog

It’s been a quiet year at the barn. What with 2020 and all. I mean, it’s a quiet little place to start with, but especially quiet the past 12 month.

But then came the fake goose dog.

I noticed the dog when I drove in. A little black silhouette of a German Shepherd type dog slowly rotated in the gentle breeze at the end of the drive way. Closer examination revealed he was part of a goose deterrent effort, and he was on the way to one of the fields we frequent.

Knowing how distrustful Midas is of changes in his familiar landscape, I decided we’d come see the fake dog in hand before riding. I didn’t think it’d be a big deal, Midas likes dogs. So I tacked up completely and then led him down the driveway.

This isn’t the first time I’ve done that, but Midas saw the dog and was interested immediately. Midas likes dogs…but there was something off about this one. We went up, he warily sniffed it, shifted around, looked at it with the other eye. I made sure to touch it and wobble it so he could see it was safe. He wasn’t thrilled about it, but he was calm, and so I led him back up the driveway to the woodpile to get on.

While I fussed with the girth and stirrups, he looked over his shoulder at the fake dog. Then he looked again, more alarmed. Then he began to snort, and looked again, shifted his feet nervously.

Then I realized what was happening.

The fake dog MOVED every time he looked away.

A horse reaches out  with his nose to sniff a black silhouette of a German Shepherd dog that has been stuck in the early spring grass.
Looks like a dog, but doesn’t smell, move, or have shape like a dog. Not a dog.

This is not normal behavior for inert objects–things he’s confirmed with his own nose are not living.

Without getting on I led him back to the fake dog, telling him it was just cardboard turning in the wind. Midas did a lovely little piaffe the whole way there, and then when we arrived he swung his rear at the fake dog menacingly. He didn’t kick, though, because he’s a hunt horse, and you don’t kick dogs.

I was surprised and delighted to see him trying to scare it away. Midas is the responsible guard horse at the barn. He’s the one who stands watch when everyone else naps. He’s attentive and watchful, and while he likes dogs,

THIS WAS CLEARLY NOT A DOG.

FOUL MACHINATION OF SATAN.

I tried to reason with him, and honestly he was calmest walking in a circle around the haunted dog, but being in sight of it was, overall, NOT OK. The Cardboard Weeping Angel Dog that would surely attack if he blinked.

With a sigh I decided to start my ride in the ring–from the ring we could still catch glimpses of the fake dog, but Midas considers the ring as SAFE, so he’s pretty brave in there. We had a great ride.

I caught him eyeing the dog now and then.

We cooled out outside the ring–and went past the Haunted Dog, giving it a wide berth and goggly eyes so it wouldn’t try anything as we went past.

The next week, the Haunted Dog was still there.

Midas still DID NOT LIKE the Haunted Dog. But then I noticed that there is another Haunted Dog in sight of the pastures. The horses had probably been watching it all week. We still gave it a wide berth, but apparently this was a peaceable Haunted Dog that wasn’t going to eat him.

The Haunted Dogs have been patrolling for geese for weeks now, moving around the yards every couple days, turning in the wind.

We ignore them now.

Mostly.

Midas keeps a casual eye on them in case they’ve just been luring us all into a false sense of security.

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It’s time to listen

I normally stay out of serious discussion on the internet. I think it’s mostly a waste of time and energy. But I’ve been reading a lot of stories on the internet this past week about what it’s like being black in America today, and I wanted to make sure that anyone reading this who isn’t white, or wasn’t born in the United States of America, knows that I’m listening.

I grew up believing racism was a thing of the past—which I suppose is evidence enough that I am white. I was surrounded by international students most of my childhood due to my parents’ work and knew more about the tension between China and Taiwan than race tensions in the US. I thought because I loved the different tones of our skin and valued my friends of non-European appearance that everyone did. And since I am, in fact, white, I never saw racism because no one did it to me. It’s taken a long time for me to see the skin colors around me at all much less ponder the different experiences afforded each.

This week’s internet conversation reminds me of the #metoo movement in some ways.

Every woman knows what it’s like to be woman in a man’s world–even if, like me, you largely live in a safe bubble. Men just don’t. Unless they start listening.

Every black person knows what it’s like to be black in a white world. White people just don’t. Unless they start listening.

You can’t know what it’s like for someone who doesn’t look like you.

One of the worst parts of adulthood has been discovering exactly how much racism is still a thing. It’s shocking and appalling, and it’s beyond being watched suspiciously in stores–it extends to dress codes designed to shame them for their spectacular hair. It is hatred, obvious and ugly. And it’s rules no one thought to change once they forgot why they were there.

Most of the time racism feels far away to me, that is my privilege, but in listening to the stories of black friends and acquaintances and total strangers who are now coming forward to share…I’m so sorry…I had no idea…And I’m so sorry I didn’t think to ask about it.

And thanks for spelling out how we can help. I’ve found out about a lot of cool Instagrammers, authors, and artists who I never knew existed before this week. I plan to keep listening.

I’ve put some links in this paragraph, mouse over the words to find them. I encourage you, especially my white readers, to read people’s stories. To listen to them. And to keep listening to them.

Not Your Momma’s History – historical reinactor

Twisted – book on the tangled history of Black Hair

Mulatto Meadows – bringing horses to under privileged communities

Here’s a snapshot of some books by black authors which are now on my TBR list:

I’m happy to have more recommendations! I know this is just a tiny smattering. Let me know in the comments who are your favorite minority voices–in books, art, fashion, science, equestrian sports, especially.

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Art in a Time of X

I did some sketching on my tablet–it’s been a while. Apparently, i’m better at it than i remember. This looks way better than I remember art on the tablet looking. I’ll have to mess around some more!

The CEO of Tee Public had a great reminder for artists, so I thought I’d share it here:

“Today, you don’t need to be Pablo Picasso and you don’t need to have something poignant to say. But you are an artist. You do have a sword to wield. Can you push through anxiety and find the space to be creative? Can you find your voice and whisper to us, a joke, an idea, or a memory of some better time? “

Adam Schwartz, CEO Tee Public

Read a book, look at art, make art…get out those coloring books, the beads you were going to do something with…If you can’t get outside, you can find solace in art or escape in stories. We’ll do our best to keep you supplied!

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strength training

I should look for a job conditioning someone’s expensive sporthorse, because I enjoy it. I enjoy walking up and down hills, trotting over hill and dale, all with a careful eye on building the strength and stamina of my mount.

This winter has been pretty wimpy, but one side benefit of that has meant more trot! The ground never got hard, and we’re probably going to have a drought this summer because there hasn’t really been any mud either.

We’ve been going up and down hills at walk and trot, mostly. I’ve taken delight in the 10 minute warm up and 10 min cool down (always observed this, but with renewed vigor as I follow Denny Emmerson’s writings), carefully warming up Midas’s muscles and then working them on the hills, then cooling them down again. Important at any age, but he’s in his 20’s.

We are outside the ring as much as we can manage.

We’ve also done some canter up hills, not a lot, but some.

I’ve worked twice in the ring this spring–I mean actually worked hard in the ring. There have been one or two other times when I didn’t have time for a proper ride so we did some bareback work while I dwelled on seat and legs.

And wouldn’t you know, that ring work was MUCH better. We’re straighter (it’s also been just me riding all winter, so that helps with his straightness, too), softer, and stronger in the right way. I’ve been deliberate about asking for softness, and then for shorter periods of time asking for self-carriage and roundness. (Rather than asking all the time and hoping desperately to get it now and then). Understanding that it takes physical strength to carry oneself makes a big difference.

All I have to do is think about me doing pilates and my approach to asking for such things changes dramatically. Midas not going around like a dressage pony has less to do with obstinance than fitness and know-how.

He gets fast when we introduce canter, like it simultaneously excites and frightens him, and if you let him, he’ll counter-bend and speed into the canter when he thinks you might want him to canter. So I focus on bending him the correct direction and not letting him zip, and then if we’re organized I’ll sigh, and say “Alright, go ahead” and he’ll usually pick up canter.

Sometimes I have say canter. Sometimes I don’t 😛

Sometimes I have to cue with my leg. Sometimes I don’t. 😛

But once we’re cantering, leg becomes essential.

He falls on his face a bit when he canters, so I have to sit back, lift my hands and apply lots of leg–not a kick or anything, but a steady pressure alllllll down the inside leg to remind his body which way to bend and to block his shoulder. If I’m too weak, he caves in and we lose our balance on the turns.

After all the hills, though, it’s easier to help him stay balanced.

We moved quickly through a bunch of different exercises last time I rode. A 10 minute walk on a long rein, then finishing with some bending, and leg yields, then trot–first at his pace with a long rein, then more organized and then finally collected for a little with bending. Then, canter.

You’ll laugh, but we cantered a time and a half around the arena left lead without falling apart, and that might be the first time that’s happened since I broke my foot.

When we changed direction, I let him canter without making him do figures at trot until he was bending properly, and it was a very unpretty and resistant canter where he DID NOT WANT TO BEND, so even though we made it around the ring it was disorganized and probably would have scared 13 year old me.

I changed tack, focused our breath on trot, doing figures, relying as much as I could on leg rather than hands, so I could encourage softness from him. Once we were organized, I let him canter again and it was MUCH improved, and I didn’t make him go more than once around.

I gave him a long rein immediately upon coming back to it–before he could pull, even–but kept leg on so he knew he wasn’t to walk–his trot was loose and not zippy, he was clearly quite pleased.

Once we got down toward the “canter corner” he sped up, despite my gentle whoas, and picked up canter. I decided I didn’t care. He picked up the correct lead, and I didn’t feel like spending the next however long fighting with him about that corner. I kept up the gentle whoas, but offered him no other help with his canter. He cantered up the side and returned to a dignified trot of his own accord, shockingly organized, actually, and I insisted he keep trotting because that’s what I had asked. In the “canter corner” he again ignored my gentle whoa and picked up canter, but only went a couple strides before coming back. As if he was tired, and also might have just realized he wasn’t listening to me. The next time he didn’t even speed up at all. The whole thing was on a long rein, I did almost nothing, and he figured out all on his own that maybe he should pay attention to my gentle cues like he does when we’re walking.

Also, we cantered on a long rein, and he actually did an OK job. We’ve both made good progress.

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