Thursday, February 28, 2008

the between-places

For every one of us there are moments of revelation at the nexus point where opposites meet: dark and light, joy and sorrow, knowing and singing. In these days of growing light, when spring is still far ahead and the grip of winter is ever present, the opportunity to sample the opposites and stand at their still center is potent. These experiences do not have to be sought after; they arrive, magically blending elements together to seek us out... thresholds of awakening where the soul is alert and watchful for omens of change, auguries of joy, promises of belonging.

-Caitlin Matthews, The Celtic Spirit

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

waking to neighing and dreaming short stories

Two nights ago I was wakened by neighing. I woke up, not sure I'd really heard the sound, when Salina neighed again, right outside the bedroom window. I woke my husband, who went out to check the barn. The neigh had been very clear - come out now.

My husband found we'd left the gate to the front field open. The geldings had discovered it and went out for a middle of the night frolic. Salina wisely woke me up and they were led back to their paddock and the gate closed.

I'm a sound sleeper, a vivid dreamer, except if something's wrong. How perfect that Salina knows that about me. Aside from everything else, it charms me completely that Salina's paddock extends far enough that she can actually come to my bedroom window and neigh.

Last night I dreamed of a friend's apartment in Paris. Somehow I had visited her without a current passport, and was worried that my old one would be checked and found lacking on my return to the US. Crazily, in the dream, I thought, oh well - the worst that can happen is I'm stuck in Paris! I imagined briefly what it would be like to live out my life there.

Most of the dream involved looking room by room at the lovely apartment. The living room was small but with very high ceilings and a huge window that led out into a quite large back yard. The yard sloped up to a rock face, around which were planted many blooming, dripping perennials. A corner of the yard sloped down to a small pond, and my friend explained that she was still working on designing a terraced dock, with places where she would plant ginger grass. I suggested dwarf-sized fruit trees which would hang over the pond so that she could row beneath them and pick fruit in its season.

Back inside, she had papered one wall in many sheets of thick, jewel-toned paper edged with lace. It made a rich block of color that reflected onto the rest of the room. The kitchen was simple but stocked with the utensils one needs to make a good meal. On the other side of the kitchen was the front door which led right into the busy Paris street. The room had nice windows for people-watching, and I wondered if she might turn it into a writing room - or would the activity outside be too distracting. I stood for a moment in the window and watched the people pass.

Up the stairs a gorgeous crimson and cream carousel horse was suspended by a cord. The movement of air as I walked up the stairs caused it to turn slowly in a circle. The bathroom too was tiny but functional. On my way back down I marveled that the horse had transformed into a dolphin. This was apparently a special feature of this hanging art - it transformed for each ascender and descender of the stairs into a symbol just for them.

The stairs shifted near the bottom to a second stairway that led to the bedrooms. My friend's bedroom was like being underwater - many shades of blue hung from the ceiling: small sheets of silk and sateen fabric. It was quiet and peaceful and she decided to lie down for a nap. Two other friends were resting as well, but not asleep. I made my way to the guest bedrooms, small but perfectly adorned with antique quilts and warm lamps and thick pillows.

On my way back through the first bedroom, my friend's sister arrived to greet us. She was very tall, an older, very elegant French woman who came to us in turn, held our faces in her hands, and divined without a word from any of us who each of us were and what we had come to Paris to discover about ourselves.

Someone noted the beautiful antique parasol she carried, and as she opened it to show it off, it crumbled, and the quaint old Paris she represented seemed to crumble with it. Suddenly she transformed into a wild-haired, temperamental artist, who stormed into the guest bedroom to rest.

In the end to the dream, the two sisters slept, one peacefully, the other restlessly. The worry about my passport faded in the moment, and I breathed out a small sigh of relief and decided to enjoy the visit, now that I knew why I was there.

(It's probably relevant to know that my birthday is on Leap Day, and I have one coming the end of this week. I was in Paris for my sixth real birthday, a journey that I made alone and which represented my first real step forward as an adult in the world. The first night in Paris I had a panic attack and suffered a case of head-to-toe hives. But then I woke up, looked outside the tiny window, and made the choice to discover something new about myself in a new city. This Friday will be my 12th real birthday. I suspect this dream marks some changes between then and now.)

Monday, February 25, 2008

sidereal time

This morning I climbed the stairs to the writing garret, plugged in my laptop, and began to review the research notes and plot notes I've been making on the second novel revision. I quickly found myself reading about sidereal time, in which the day is marked using the hour angle of the vernal equinox rather than the sun. Star time, it's called, and the very idea sent my mind spinning in all sorts of mystical directions. The idea that a sidereal day is four minutes and some odd seconds shorter than a solar day has me wondering, in my non-mathematical way, what happens to those four minutes. Somehow, star time must make up for those lost minutes in magic or mystery or simply radiance of the moment.

With all this in mind, I went downstairs to get ready to feed horses and donkey. I'd just read Victoria's Teachings of the Horse post about her zen horse Silk, and had commented that my two older horses, Keil Bay and Salina, sometimes meditate in the sun as well, noting that they do it in the morning after feed/hay, and often again in the afternoon, at two different spots in the field.

As I walked into the bedroom, I was stunned to see through the open mini-blinds, Keil Bay, Salina, and Cody lined up three abreast, gazing over the house into the morning sunlight, totally still, entranced. Rafer was lying flat out asleep beside Salina, and Apache Moon was standing similarly entranced in the copse of trees behind the horses.

I've never seen such a thing, their lining up like that, much like Muslims praying to Mecca, but praising instead the morning sun after a chilly night. I stopped and stood in the bedroom, trying to figure out how to get my camera without disrupting the scene. In the next second I knew this was one of those scenes that would never make it to a photograph. It lives only in the moment.

I stood and breathed. And then without even thinking what I was doing, whispered "Keil Bay."

He came out of the trance, shook his head, pricked his ears toward the window (there is no way he could have seen me) and then did his Yoga Bay deep bow in my direction.

This little scene lasted just about four minutes. We're following star time on November Hill today.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


I woke up this morning wondering if I would really stick to my plan to tuck myself away with second novel ms pages, research books, and my own revision notes, and dig into the rewrite.

As usual, I check in with email and blogs first thing. And what I found has been so perfect in focusing my day back to my commitment to do this writing work, I want to share.

I'd been waiting to bestow the Blog of Excellence award because it's so easy to dispense with that kind of thing quickly and without much thought. But this morning it's clear and I'd like to give it to two wonderful bloggers: Kyle Kimberlin and Wenda Nairn.

Kyle's blog, metaphor, is a wonderful mix of poetry, news that's truly interesting, and the beauty in a simple yet profound day.

Wenda's blogs, Daring To Write and Loving What Is, use words and images to evoke and inspire.

I'm not doing either of them justice in my descriptions, so please click on the links and go see them for yourselves. They are truly Blogs of Excellence.

And Kyle and Wenda, if you'd like to put the award image on your blog, just scroll down to my blog post titled Blog of Excellence and click on the image.

I'm going to be working as much as I can today on my revision, and during moments of pause when I need to revive myself, I'll be visiting these blogs to do so.

Friday, February 22, 2008

rain, reading, minuet in three

We've had a cold rainy day here, with horses confined to stalls and paddocks, and the geldings with access to the arena for some frolic.

I've alternated between keeping stalls mucked out, hay supplied, waters cleaned, and reading. (toss in some fixing of lunches and tea and laundry) The Ice Soldier, by Paul Watkins, is an engaging novel about a WWII soldier who comes to terms, years after the fact, with his participation in the war. Elizabeth George's Write Away is an interesting book on writing written by a novelist who shares both her journal entries and her process.

The postwoman brought the last of an enticing selection of books I'd ordered for novel research, and I've got them on the coffee table in a nice stack where they're lying in wait for my greedy eyes.

An hour or so ago, the rain broke long enough to let Salina and Rafer wander the barnyard and barn aisle while I played with Cody and Keil Bay in the arena. The pony opted to watch, his loss, since I was doling out butterscotch horse treats!

Keil Bay and Cody danced with me, not quite the minuet but I like the way that sounds. To my surprise, even though they knew I had the butterscotch treats in my pocket, they were willing to walk, trot, twirl in circles, and back in unison along with me. We lowered heads together and then raised them high, crossed forelegs and stepped under behind, and trotted the arena in single file. My favorite part was having them trot on either side of me, each one keeping the proper space and not crowding in, one of those moments of grace I might not be able to reproduce if I tried. But on this cold, wet afternoon, with fog rolling in, it was perfect.

Tonight we have new episodes of Angel, A Passage to India, and Jane Savoie's "Happy Horse" DVDs to choose from while we keep the woodstove going.

And the promise of sunshine and mid-60s tomorrow!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

lesson in lightness

Yesterday's ride on Keil Bay was another windy experience: shavings tarp flapping and billowing, dressage marker rolling, whirlwinds of leaves in the back field. Keil was extremely alert and yet still in connection with me. If I clucked or squeezed one rein, he flicked an ear back to check in.

We warmed up with lots of walk and then some lateral work. My focus for the ride was lightness of aids, and timing so that my release of pressure came a split second before he responded, so he was rewarded for the try. I've discovered I can feel his response to an aid before he makes it if I really pay attention, and my feeling is that if I reward him that quickly, he'll be happier.

I noticed right off in the trot that he was lighter than usual. The sensation was intriguing - it felt both like we were moving slowly, in the air, and that I could sense each one of his feet in its own path toward the ground. We built this up to what I call Keil's "power trot" - a big working trot bold and forward with his back fully engaged.

The real lesson in lightness came with his canter, especially to the right. The instant I asked for it and he transitioned, it felt like we went airborne. For a few strides I couldn't tell if we were truly cantering. I knew we weren't trotting, but Keil Bay's big canter didn't feel as big. Suddenly I realized he was indeed cantering, but he was fully engaged, holding himself up (he has a tendency to let me do that for him) and the result was like floating. My seat was firmly in the saddle and my hands and legs were very still.

His harder side is left and while the canter was just a bit less light in that direction, it was still quite good.

This kind of ride makes me realize once again how much the horse teaches the rider. Everything I struggle to accomplish with my own body happens on its own when Keil Bay gets light. How much of that came from my own focus on lightness of the aids, I'm not sure. But either way, the gestalt was lightness, and we were a happy riding team during and after.

There is nothing like walking a happy, relaxed horse out to the field after a great ride. I slid Keil's halter off and waited for him to turn and touch me with his nose before he ambled off down the hill.

Blog of Excellence

Grey Horse Matters awarded camera-obscura a Blog of Excellence award earlier this week. Since she writes one of my favorite blogs, it's an honor to post this award here! Thank you so much!

Go check out her blog and follow the links she lists as well - you'll find yourself immersed in great horse talk.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

our little world

Today was clear and sunny but the wind made it chilly. Still, it was a gorgeous day.

I groomed Keil Bay and did some ground work with him, and then took the grooming kit out to the front field and worked on everyone. It's finally true - we have the whole song: black and bay, sorrel and gray, and one painted little pony...

Around four, the wind died down a little, so I tacked Cody up and rode. It was one of those rides you think is going to be arduous, due to time off and the distraction of the wind. But as it turned out, this 4-year old let his best self shine, and we had one of the best rides we've had in months. Maybe it was the audience: Keil Bay, Salina, Apache Moon, and Rafer came up to watch. Rafer seemed particularly perplexed. "What in the world is she doing to that horse?"

A cast of hawks coasted overhead, like a living kaleidoscope in the sky. The waxing full moon rose just as Cody and I finished up.

And finally, I got an email tonight that our newest family member was born today - his name is Redford and he will be coming to join us in August. This is Redford, very soon after his birth, with his mother, Red Velvet. You can't have just one!


Today was one of those perfect days that defies the calendar and foreshadows spring: sunshine, bulbs near to bloom, a few flies buzzing around, a March wind. The horses are starting to shed some of their winter coats, and Keil Bay needed sponging after our ride. The water from the barn pump felt cool instead of cold, and lawnmowers buzzed in the afternoon. No one was actually mowing grass yet, but it was easy to imagine they might be.

The day lasted longer, it seemed. Shadows etched images all over the house, through the windows, and outside, on the back of the barn, the branches of the maple tree seemed to form a living creature, in silhouette, against the wall. The shadows of last year's leaves could easily be new ones. The horses stayed out past dark, imagining night-time turn-out in such balmy weather, because the wind died down to nothing at dusk, and suddenly it was warm, uncannily so, for the slide into evening.

Early this morning we clicked back to February and temps in the thirties. It will seem chilly today but we'll settle back in and wait for the real thing to come.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

good day

Good book stuff today, continuing to weave a subplot more solidly into the novel. I love when the pieces start falling into place almost on their own.

This afternoon, I had a workshop on classical dressage. Talking about the training scale: rhythm, relaxation, connection, impulsion, straightness, and collection, and watching videos of horses and riders doing the higher level movements, analyzing the various components of the scale.

When I was young I wanted to go to a riding school where my days would be full of horses and learning. I can just imagine what it would have been like to study the training scale instead of advanced math.

A number of people lingered after class to talk about our own horses and pony club and homeopathy. Interesting discussion, favorite topics.

Good day.

Friday, February 15, 2008

animal communicators

There's a long and fascinating thread on my local horse forum about animal communicators. A number of people have consulted an animal communicator about their horses, with amazing results. The communicator talks to the horse, often remotely, and conveys information to the owner, who can ask questions or just get a general "read."

I'm definitely intrigued, and impressed at the quite specific info some of these horse owners received, all of which the communicator had no way of knowing. In some cases critical medical issues were solved, and in others, personality quirks were explained. Not one horse owner regretted the reading, and each one felt she'd learned something important about her horse.

This particular communicator is local to me, and also a veterinarian, so her knowledge is broad about animal issues. I'm considering giving her a call.

Would you consider using an animal communicator for a horse or other of your animal family?

If so, what questions would you ask?

Thursday, February 14, 2008


I'm done with outside responsibilities for the week, the rain which continued all through last night is out of here, and we are getting a new load of hay in later. I have hit a wonderful deep place in novel edits, and have been walking around channeling information and details and scenes - a favorite place to be when working on a novel.

I blogged about that yesterday at mystic-lit.

Today I'm indulging in the novel, the horses, and just being home with no expectations.

Enjoy your day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

the other side of the coin

One of the things I love most about our little farm is what it teaches me, every single day. In the minutiae of a day's chores and meanderings bloom a hundred little lessons.

This morning I woke up to fog, and the remains of what appears to have been an all-night, deep soaking rain.

Here in the southeast, we've been in a drought situation for about a year. There have been months where the ground in our yard cracked, looking like something from another planet, due to the dryness.

We lived through a terrible flea season, a worse than usual fly season, and listened to ever-alarming news reports about the dire water situation. Hay crops dried to nothing.

But then autumn came and we witnessed one of the most spectacular show of leaves I've ever seen. Apparently one blessing in drought is that it makes for gorgeous fall color.

Every time it rains now, I rejoice, because we need it. But here on the farm, I'm also reminded of the platitude - that other side of the coin.

The horses trudged in through mud for their breakfast, and I trudged back out to the field with them throwing hay, wondering if I should really be letting them out. Their hooves tear up the field when it's so wet, and they roll and get truly coated in mud. But it's warm, and the sun keeps peeping out, and I know they want to be walking and grazing and rolling, so I let them.

I think about the thrush issue, and keeping their feet dry. Remember the dust last summer, the hard ground and arena footing. The cost of hay. The stress of finding good hay.

How can I complain too much, when either side has its difficulties? And, of course, its blessings.

This looking at both sides and dealing with what IS, right now, becomes a way of life, day by day, here at November Hill. What a gift it is.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

trim notes

Our natural hoof trimmer came this morning - cold enough out that my fingers are still warming up here at the keyboard! A mug of Lady Grey should help with that!

I'm starting to pick up on subtle changes in the horses' hooves that create imbalance, and am noting what our trimmer is doing to correct them. It was a happy sight to see them all lining up in stalls instead of retreating to the far corners of the paddock. He's so easy with them, and takes such time along the way. And he brings a box of cookies so they get their treat at the end.

I'm tracking each horse very carefully and he leaves me written notes as well so we can look back as needed to see the progression.

Today, Salina had no chips and good improvement in frog growth. He balanced the walls and beveled/rolled edges. We'll continue to treat frogs with the mixture of antibiotic/antifungal ointments and do at least one borax/calendula soak over the next 6 weeks.

Cody had some fairly remarkable improvement in sole thickening all around. He needs no treatment for thrush/yeast and got edges rolled and beveled. His feet are looking the best they ever have - such a relief. This is the horse who couldn't keep a shoe on. I think he was trying to tell us he simply didn't need them! We'll soak just for preventive maintenance and to acclimate him to the soaking process.

Keil Bay had good wall growth, improved frog tissue, and his heels are spreading! No chipping or peeling, which is great. His tenderness is almost completely resolved in front. The hoof boots are helping. His walls were lowered and balanced, and edges beveled and rolled. Will continue treating with ointments and soak 1x before next trim.

Apache Moon needs treatment for yeasty frogs plus soaking 1-2x over next six weeks. Good wall growth and normal trim for his near-perfect hooves. It's those pony genes!

One extra note - our trimmer showed me how important it is to have the proper tools - his new box of rasps were made in the company's new plant. The teeth on the rasp are too sharp and pointed, making his work much harder today. Having handled a rasp and practiced with edges, I learned firsthand how a good tool makes a world of difference.

Rafer got a visual check only - he was trimmed 3 weeks ago and doesn't need one. He'll join the line-up next month.

I'm feeling so much more confident about their feet now. The lifestyle changes we've made are working well - cutting way back on processed feed, increasing to free-choice hay, spreading the hay all over the field in small piles to keep them moving all day instead of standing. And plenty of time in the arena with the screenings, which really clean and polish their feet as they move.

Projects to work on: putting pea gravel in water trough areas to give them yet another stimulating hoof terrain. And I'm working on designing a soaking station that they can stand in almost like a very shallow pool - 20 minutes with a flake of hay in a hay bag and all four feet soaked simultaneously - no buckets, quick and easy. A good thing when you have four horses.

Monday, February 11, 2008


This was yesterday's "word of the day" on the sidebar, and the word kept slipping through my mind all afternoon and evening, pure proof, if I needed any, that a word and its melodic syllables can color one's entire day.

I incanted against the extreme wind of yesterday afternoon and evening, murmuring little phrases that I hoped might calm the gusts. I incanted by tucking my head as I walked up the hill, against that strong wind, and by pursuing methodical tasks to lesson its impact in the barn: tightening a hinge, closing doors, tying a window shut. Stacking the dressage markers inside the arena so they wouldn't blow into the back field.

Each time I came inside to edit novel pages, that word, in-can-ta-shun, urged my thoughts as I read and marked with my pen and typed into my word document.

It's still with me this morning, even though the wind has gone and the sun is coming out and I have an hour to write before horses come in from hay for their breakfast, which will be its own incantation. The measuring of good -smelling feed and black oil sunflower seeds, Glanzen and vitamins and trace minerals, apples and carrots.

Incantation to thrive.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

sunday morning

Horses fed and done with their morning romp, Corgyn stretched in the sun, all cats accounted for, including Dickens E. Wickens, who is having himself a Sunday morning siesta.

I still have a ton of chores to do, but I'm punctuating the day with writing time. When editing goes well, my posts on the blog increase!

I'm approaching a place in the novel I'm editing where everything shifts, and the momentum is building. My excitement is building too.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

evening with horses, solo

Today when I got home from my novel-writing workshop, I went straight to the barn to finish up chores before dark. Salina had refused to eat her breakfast because I've added a new supplement, so I gave her a second chance and she was ready. I have to separate her from Rafer now, or he'll nose in and eat right along with her!

I turned the radio in the barn to NPR, promised the geldings I'd come let them out of the back field in a minute, and mucked out my last stall of the day while Salina ate.

It was near 70 degrees and a pitch-perfect Saturday afternoon. The sun was shining, horses were happy, and there was no place else I had to be. When Salina finished I put her back in front with Rafer and then let the boys join them. I tossed some more hay, and decided to scrub water troughs and watch the herd. Yesterday I took a chair out to the front field and sat in the edge of a little copse of trees. Rafer stood with me much of the time, his head on my shoulder, and Salina stayed close too. Today, though, I watched from the water troughs.

It wasn't long before the galloping began. I kept my eye on Rafer, to make sure he was able to stay safe with the big guys running. At one point they all ran down the hill, out of sight. As they circled and came back up, all I could do was listen to the thunder of hooves and hold my breath, hoping Rafer was out of the way. When they crested the hill I saw all the horses in one long line, and little Rafer was in the lead! It was hilarious to see this tiny donkey leading the way.

I finished my chores just as dusk fell, and everyone came up to the barn, ready for quiet time and hay. I love when I've gotten everything set up ahead of time, and all I have to do is open the stall doors and let them walk in. Keil Bay loves having his hay waiting for him.

As much work as it is solo, there's also something gratifying and very peaceful about doing evening chores alone. Nothing else quite compares to walking the little path from barn to house, knowing they're all settled in, safe and satisfied.

Friday, February 08, 2008


Keil Bay has had a series of little "issues" over the past few months that caused me to set up a consult with our classical homeopath veterinarian, who thankfully also treats horses. I've had my own homeopathic treatment since 1999 and am convinced that for me it's the very best approach. It's been extremely successful in various issues that have cropped up with our cats and dogs as well.

When I spoke with the vet last week, I started by saying I felt like Keil Bay needed a constitutional remedy, which is a deep-acting, very specific to the individual remedy that works on the entire system. After hearing the issues, the vet agreed, and sent me the remedy. I wasn't surprised when it arrived and it turned out to be the same constitutional *I* use.

Our massage therapist, who does bodywork for both horses and riders, has discovered that many times horse owners have issues in the same parts of the body as their horses. As recently as January, Keil Bay had chiropractic issues in the same area I'd just gotten massage for.

I don't know if the same holds true for homeopathic constitutionals, but in my study of one it does.

He got the remedy yesterday and had the same quick response I did the first time I took the constitutional. Often, this type of remedy will trigger a layering effect starting with old physical issues and peeling away until it gets to the most current one. The very first thing that happened for Keil Bay was his pelvic joint rotation. About thirty minutes after I administered his remedy yesterday, he came into the stall and shoved his butt against the wall, one of the "pelvic joint discomfort" red flags for him. I noticed he was doing his big "yoga Bay" back stretch several times last night and again this morning. Today the second issue bubbled back to the surface. All this is a good indication that the remedy is working.

I'm to check back with the vet in 4-6 weeks and in the meantime I'll be noting these daily observations. I'm actually wondering if it might be a good time for my annual "tune up" with my own homeopath.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

spread the love!

Victoria at Teachings of the Horse has just given camera-obscura a "spread the love" award - what an honor! Her blog as well as those she's awarded are daily reads for me and I encourage you to check all of them out. What a wonderful community of creative horsefolk!

Thank you, Victoria!

I'll be back after barn chores to add my list of spread the love recipients!


And here they are:



Only One

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

quirky horses

In response to an invitation to play over at Teachings of the Horse, here are some of our herd quirks:

Keil Bay has very specific gestures he does when he needs chiropractic adjustment. If his pelvis rotates out, he stamps his right hind foot when I touch his flank. If lumbar vertebrae need work, he bobs his head when I take him to the mounting block. When the chiropractor arrives, whether it's his turn or not, he comes into the stall and shoves his butt against the wall. (she once said, in his presence, that pushing butts against walls can sometimes be a sign that a horse needs adjustment) He bobs his head until she gets to the right place, then he sighs and gets very still while she does the adjustment. He often turns to her and touches her arm with his nose when she's done.

Cody likes to move things around. If you leave scrub brushes out, he puts them in the water troughs. He has taken his blanket, spread it in the barn aisle, and put his hay on top of it. When our trainer comes, if it isn't his turn, he stands at the gate to the arena and watches. When de-spooking the pony to big black and white umbrellas, Cody's response was to get under the umbrella WITH me.

Salina is very attuned to children. If any of our young neighbors down the lane call out to their mom, she goes to the fence line and stands, ears pricked, until they are taken care of. She loves being groomed in the summer. When they come in from night-time turn-out, she bangs her stall door until I let her in the barn aisle, where she stands w/o halter or lead rope and gets groomed from head to tail. She came from Germany, and sometimes I speak to her in German (very bad German) if she isn't listening to my English. Her response is to turn slowly and look at me like "You're better off sticking to English!"

Apache Moon likes to take gates off hinges and walk them around so all the horses can walk right through. He regularly defies our attempts to contain him, and every now and then, mostly in the spring when the new grass comes in, can be found in some choice spot in the yard or at the neighbor's, enjoying the spoils. He is small and rather round, but as flexible as they come. He double-bucks with a twist. He has the most amazing markings - a snail, a half moon, a lightning bolt, an inverted V.

Rafer Johnson, the miniature donkey, wants to sit in laps. He prefers Salina's food to his own, and has managed to convince her that she should share it. He loves to roll in the barn aisle. This is my personal opinion, and not yet verified, but I think he really wants a Winnie the Pooh bear for the stall he shares with Salina.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

the very evil soaking boot

This morning I went out to feed and then groom and longe Cody, our 4-year old QH. We've had some mild thrush issues all around this winter, so I decided that while I was grooming, I'd tie up a flake of hay and soak his feet at the same time. Our trimmer recommended a monthly soak in a mild borax and calendula solution, so I mixed up the water, tsp of borax, and dropper of calendula, and stuck Cody's left front hoof in it.

It was obvious he had never had a foot soaked before, and when I thought about it, we got him when he was 2, and he's never needed soaking since. He probably never needed it as a younger horse either.

He handled it pretty well. He didn't really want to set his foot down inside the bucket, but when encouraged, he did. As long as I stood right there and stroked his shoulder he was fine. The moment I moved away, he took his foot out of the bucket. Not wild and crazy, just simply lifted it out.

Given that I wanted to groom and longe, I opted to get out the soaking boot and try that. I figured it would be more comfortable, and I could get on with his grooming.

Cody was a good sport. He's never had a soaking boot on either, but he gamely let me put his foot in it and sat it flat on the ground. Fine - I got the brushes and curry combs and got to work. Thus far Cody hadn't moved his feet and all was well. For about five minutes.

Suddenly, he took a step and when the water inside the soaking boot sloshed, he spooked. I calmed him and started brushing again. He stepped again, and pulled back. I decided it was probably a good idea to untie him. I calmed him again, but by this time he had moved away from the hay net and when he stepped to get back to it, that evil soaking boot sloshed and he leapt forward, almost on top of me.

My first reaction was to address his leaping toward me. He was scared, and he wanted to both get close and get away from the boot. But he's a big horse, and he needs to know that he can't do that. I drove him back, which addressed the space issue, but of course scared him all over again when the boot kept sloshing.

This time he leaped around me in a circle, inside the barn aisle. Better, but still dangerous. He managed to fling the soaking boot right off his foot. I settled him down again and then sacked him out with the boot, letting him smell it, rubbing it on his body, and finally laying it all over his foot. He got lots of pats and good boys for this. We went out and did some groundwork, just a little bit, and returned to the barn.

Once I finally got to grooming, I realized his RIGHT front fetlock was a bit puffy. probably due to a superficial scrape he got yesterday on the inside of that leg. So after all that, poor Cody had to get cold hosed for 20 minutes.

Next time we tackle the soaking boot, I think we need to do it without the liquid, to get used to that feeling first. Then we'll add some sloshing and work on getting comfortable with THAT. We'll do some more bucket soaking too.

He's such a great guy it's easy to forget that he's only 4 and so many things are new for him.

This afternoon, all is well. It's hit the mid-70's today and there's a nice breeze blowing. Cody is down the hill grazing while his little buddy makes good use of a double-sided scratching post.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Writing With Horses

I'm offering my semi-annual writing workshop, Writing With Horses: Finding Forward Motion in Your Writing, in March and wanted to announce it here for any local folks who might want to attend. (non-local folks are welcome too, and there is a lovely inn ten minutes away that I can refer you to for lodging)

The details for the spring 2008 offering:

Saturday, March 1st and Saturday, March 22nd workshops both have openings.

This day-long workshop uses horses (groundwork only, no experience necessary) to begin new projects and/or find/fix stuck places in existing work. It can be tailored to one person's needs and can be expanded into a 2-day workshop if needed.

The workshop is scheduled at my home and farm, November Hill - from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. We are located in NC. The cost is as follows:

one participant - $250.
two - $225. each
three - $200. each

Payment is expected by check with registration and will not be refunded if cancellation occurs with less than a week's notice (7 days).

I can tailor the workshop somewhat to individual needs, but the basic format/schedule is this:

10 a.m. - arrive and do intros, share goals for the day (which may be to initiate new writing or work with a stuck place in a current project, or other specific goals)

11 a.m. - review safety issues re: working with horses, meet the horses and decide who to work with during the day, groom and prepare for groundwork

break around 1 for "working" lunch, which is provided (simple fare - fruit, bread, cheese, soup, etc.) to discuss morning's work with horses and make plan for afternoon - writing exercise, more time with horses, some of both

2 p.m. - proceed with afternoon as planned

4 p.m. - wrap up


If you're interested, email HERE.

Saturday, February 02, 2008


The sun was here again, and the temps around 60F. The horses and little Rafer enjoyed their day, I'm told, but I wasn't here to see it. I spent my entire day in a writing workshop where I read from two different novels and wrote a scene that I also read aloud.

It's a small group and held in the workshop leader's home, so it was very cozy and nice being surrounded by books, her cat, and the sounds of her chickens outside the back window. She made us cream of celery soup for lunch, with grilled cheese sandwiches on homemade whole grain bread. Hot mint tea out of a teapot covered with a cozy, and pumpkin bread for dessert.

Aside from being delicious and healthy, I can't tell you how nice it was being pampered. To discuss issues of writing, to read pages out loud, to get feedback, given time to work on a scene that then gets immediate feedback - this was a writer's bliss.