Saturday, October 31, 2009

remember to say thank you to Epona TV

Yesterday I decided that in addition to complaining to the FEI and signing petitions in protest, and joining Facebook groups that are anti-Rollkur, I would also remember and take the time to say thank you to a group of people who did a very important thing.

Epona TV sent a videographer to the World Cup. That person stood and filmed the warm-up, documenting the Patrik Kittel ride that got all of the above going.

And Epona TV has, imo, handled this entire situation with professionalism and courtesy.

I wrote them an email saying thank you for what they've done for the horses. And this morning I got a most gracious email response, from a real person who signed a real name.

Which was very much appreciated and is more than I've gotten from the FEI.

I think it's as important to note the doers of good as it is to focus on the other extreme.

Thank you, Epona TV.

Paul Belasik's perspective

From Paul Belasik's A Search for Collection - Science and Art in Riding:

The reason why you can’t pull a horse’s head down to his knees and hold it there day after day, hour after hour, is the same reason why you can’t pull a man’s head down to his knees and hold it there. The reason is that it is demeaning to the ...dignity of the horse or man. It is an ethical, philosophical problem, as well as a scientific one. When you act this way toward a horse with this unprovoked, irrational and unrelenting constant aggression, you demean everything: the horse, nature, yourself, the art and the observer. In the wild, no horse would accept this demonic control. Leaders lead because they prove they have the capacity to lead, and they are good at it. The whole herd has a better life. If the leaders choose badly… they will be replaced.

Yet another reason why Rollkur is not good for horses - or for us.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Director of Communications for the FEI now responding on Facebook

Richard Johnson
Hi - Im the Director of Communications for FEI please see below

Official response from the FEI

In response to recent comments on Facebook

main concern has always been and will always be the welfare of the
horse. We are taking the issues raised in the video and in the comments
made by viewers very seriously and have opened a full investigation. The conclusions of this investigation will be made public in due course”

Please email me directly via Facebook if you would like to make further comments

Richard Johnson
FEI Director of Communications

Several people are commenting and he is responding in fairly quick time.

If you'd like to comment, or add your voice to this, go to Facebook and join the Blue Tongue world cup warm up video group.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

update on RollKur and Blue Tongue video


Heather Moffitt just wrote on the RollKur Blue Tongue Facebook page, which now boasts 2100+ members:

I emailed BHS chairman, Patrick Print FBHS to alert him of the video when it first appeared last week. Patrick assured me that he would act on it, and has sent a very well worded letter to Princess Haya on behalf of the BHS. Chief Exec, Graham Cory has emailed me a copy. I have just emailed Graham back,... to ask if it is ok to reproduce it here and on forums so awaiting a reply. But I am truly proud of the BHS- what a difference to certain other organisations, who bury their heads well and truly in the sand!!

Great news and kudos to BHS for responding.

There are now 4000+ signatures on the following petition sites. If you haven't signed, please consider doing so. At some point very soon the list of signees will be forwarded to the FEI. It would be wonderful if this initial response could go over 5000.



I have been given permission by Patrick Print to reproduce here and on other forums:

HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein
PresidentFederation Equestre Internationale
Avenue Mon-Repos 24PO
Box 1571005 Lausanne Switzerland

29th October 2009

Your Royal Highness, You cannot be unaware of the disquiet ˆ not to say anger ˆ which has arisen following the depiction on Epona TV of Patrik Kittel's horse in apparent distress as it competed in Odense on 18th October. As you are doubtless aware, in terms both of membership and breadth of interest, The British Horse Society (BHS) is the largest single equestrian organisation in the UK. Our examinations system, and the training and education which underpin it, have earned for the Society international recognition.

No less important is our work to promote the highest standards of equine welfare, which suffuses every facet of our work. I am pleased to report that our commitment to equine welfare is shared by all our colleagues within the British Equestrian Federation, although on this occasion I am writing solely on behalf of the BHS. Let me acknowledge straight away that no representative of the BHS was present in Denmark to witness the horse's apparent distress, nor do we have the benefit of a contemporaneous veterinary report. Moreover, we do not for one minute suggest that Patrik Kittel at any time sought to treat his horse other than with proper care and respect.

Nevertheless, in matters of equine welfare, the precautionary principle must always apply: if, despite the absence of conclusive proof, the wellbeing of a horse is called into question, there will exist a strong moral obligation on the FEI to respond immediately. In our view, the concerns so widely expressed are reasonable and therefore deserving of an urgent two-part investigation: first, an inquiry into the treatment of this particular horse on this particular occasion; and, second, a broader inquiry into the ethics and consequences of hyperflexion. In this second aspect The British Horse Society stands ready to assist the FEI in any way it can. Please note that we pass no comment on the aesthetics of seeing a competition horse contorted in a way it never appears to choose for itself when in its natural state.

Our concern is only to speak out when we believe that the welfare of horses demands it.

Yours sincerely,

Patrick Print FBHS Chairman,

The British Horse Society

and meanwhile, back on the hill

We had some rain, and now we're having sunshine. The fall color is brilliant, and this morning a breeze is blowing, which causes sudden explosions of color as leaves fly through the air and to the ground.

The effect is like being inside a snow globe, but even better. An autumn leaf globe.

There has been all sorts of activity going on. Acorn patrol, cats shifting their routines, a few incidents of high feline drama as their paths cross in the house, and a Corgi who has resumed full Corgi energy, which means her voice is heard in many of the ongoing conversations around here.

We have firewood in various states of cure and sizes in the backyard. The woodstove has been checked over and fired up at least a few times already.

We haven't had weather down to freezing yet, but when we do the front porch plants and tree will need to move back inside for the winter.

At the barn there is a buzz of energy. Donkeys into everything, pony getting the a.m. race back into gear, lots of mud rolling this week, which is a bear to get off the heavier coats they all have.

Salina's wonderful Whinny Warmers have already been unpacked and used once.

I have clean fly masks ready to go into storage, and am considering unpacking horse blankets. It's not quite time to use them, but that one night will spring on us out of nowhere. That's just how quickly the weather shifts here.

Husband found a mouse trying to burrow from the outside in to the barn. Daughter found a lizard in my bathroom. Lots of small creatures seem to be looking for winter digs.

I'm thinking about winter soups and good books, sweaters and warm breeches, and imagining those mornings when feeding horses breakfast also means breaking ice on troughs. We don't have too much of that here, generally, but lots of folks are predicting a cold winter. On a horse farm, you know it's really winter when mucking suddenly has audio.

Today though, it's cool but not cold, on a canvas of color that still includes summer green. We're on that rich edge where two seasons still mix together. Which usually means the best of both.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

FEI to investigate Kittel's warm-up ride based on video

Go HERE to read the story on Epona TV, which includes their response to a request from the FEI for a copy of the full video as well as testimony by the videographer.

Go Well, Ted Andrews

I just learned that Ted Andrews, animist, shamanist, and author died this past weekend. Ted has been a friend and teacher to many through his books Animal Speak and Animal Wise.

He will be missed.

an alternative for classical riding enthusiasts

I just discovered this today, and would like to offer it as an alternative to explore if you're interested in riding and training classically:

Traditional Horsemanship

Check it out. It's new and still getting organized, but has a lot of potential, especially for those of us devoted to learning and growing, and interested in humane certification and competition.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Epona TV releases full 10-minute uncut video of Patrik Kittel riding Scandic in warm-up at World Cup

I've decided to put this here because so many people are coming by the blog, after googling to find more info on this video and Rollkur.

If you're not sure what you think of this issue, watch the video. Watch the entire thing.

Anky says top athletes do exercises. Put yourself into a pseudo-yoga pose that is not natural and uncomfortable. This pose should inhibit your ability to see as well as breathe properly. And you have to walk and run while doing it. Hold yourself there for 10 minutes. To get the full effect, have someone ELSE hold you there for 10 minutes. Tell them that if you resist, they should spur you on in a sensitive area of your body, because, after all, this is fun, and this is what you have to do to win.

Even that doesn't capture what these horses are enduring. To do that, we'd have to put ourselves into the same posture while allowing a dentist to do an uncomfortable painful procedure at the same time.

If you feel this is good horsemanship, carry on.

If not, write the FEI. Boycott venues that allow this type of warm-up. Don't buy Anky's many products. Don't go to clinics where this is taught.

Sign the petition. (both - there are two circulating right now that I know of)

Addresses and a link to the petition are further down on this blog, and also easily searchable online.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Anky explains Rollkur, in response to the fervor over this training method

About as soon as I hit publish for my previous post, this came down the pike.

"I don't have a clue" sums it up for me.

and now, back to our regular broadcast, or, you don't always get what you want

If anyone is here looking for the anti-Rollkur information, you can scroll down and read/click/write away. I've been linked in a number of places, and blog traffic is huge right now as a result. I hope everyone who comes by ends up signing the petition, or at least educates themselves on Rollkur as a result of seeing the video.

But I'm back home, with all the regular chores and routines, and as usual, things here roll on no matter what else is happening out in the big, wide world.

This morning I went out to feed breakfast, with the plan to let Keil Bay digest his for a bit while I did chores, and then have a ride.

Keil, however, was unusually fussy about being bridled. I'm not sure what was going on, but he stuck his head up in the air and basically said NO THANK YOU. It could be it was his own personal protest against Rollkur. Not that Keil Bay even knows what that is, but he seems to have his muzzle on the pulse of a lot of things, so it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he has an opinion on this.

I reminded him that he no longer has a cavesson, we now have the tiny reins, and he seems to be fine with his bit. The wind was blowing and gusting a little outside the barn, and two tarps were blowing quite hard, so maybe THAT was it.

In any case, when I lowered the bridle, he lowered his head and began to nuzzle me, so in the end I just out-waited him, he closed his eyes for a moment while I rubbed circles on his neck, and then he took the bit in his mouth and we moved on.

Still, I wondered what was up, so I grabbed the lunge line and whip and decided to see if anything looked off.

I should explain here that Keil Bay has had some lunging issues. When he first came to me, he lunged beautifully, but then he started wanting to come into the center of the circle with me. He had done Parelli through level two right before I got him, and it seemed maybe I was giving him confused signals. I'm not a huge fan of lunging anyway, and he free lunges pretty well, so I have never addressed this issue officially.

Lunging with halter on is hit or miss. He lunges fine if he has a rider on him.

So today when Rafer Johnson (who seems to be attaching himself to Keil Bay of late) and I walked Keil into the arena, I figured we would encounter our issue and work through it as best we could. Then I'd hop on and we'd have our normal ride.

But when I got Keil Bay all set up to lunge, he walked right out on the circle. I was surprised but figured we needed to reinforce this leap forward. So we did walk, trot, canter, in both directions, with many transitions and halts, and I got to really check Keil out at all the gaits.

He looked great at the walk - big, swinging, over-stride of about 6" right out of the barn. The trot was good, especially as he warmed up. And the canter was nice and relaxed, mostly what I call his "loosy goosy" canter, but I'd rather see that than tight/stiff.

Rafer Johnson stood and watched, completely intrigued. I think tomorrow morning I might put him on the lunge line and see what he does. He seems very interested.

As usual, Keil was in a fabulous mood after his work session. He sauntered back to the barn, stood while I untacked him, and had his little snack while I checked feet and brushed him down again before turning him out with his herd.

Just when I think I have the Big Bay figured out, he surprises me. If anyone had told me this morning that I'd have a textbook lunging session with Keil Bay today, I'd have laughed out loud.

And as usual, now that he's given me something nice, I have to ponder what *I* got out of it, because one thing that is always true about Keil Bay, is that he doesn't always give me what I want, but he always gives me what I need.

And I'm proud to say he has the freedom of expression to offer these gifts to me, and I have the willingness to accept them.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

petition to ban Rollkur in warm-ups, etc.

Jean Luc Cornille has started a petition to the FEI to ban Rollkur, using the "blue tongue" video link.

You can sign his petition using this link:


Saturday, October 24, 2009

FEI dressage task force committee members, with phone numbers and email addresses

I emailed the FEI (to their general info email address) about the Patrik Kittel footage. I didn't include any information other than my full name and email address. I haven't had a response to my email, but am suddenly getting blog hits from Switzerland, which is where the FEI is based.

Hopefully, they are following up on all the emails they're getting.

In the event anyone wants to write, email, or call, these are the committee members for the dressage task force. It would probably be more effective to contact them directly, which I will be doing later today:

FEI Dressage Task Force

Mr Frank KEMPERMAN 2008 - 2009
Romeinendreef 27
t (49 241) 91 711 07

Mr Richard DAVISON 2008 - 2009
Combridge Far
Staffordshire, GREAT BRITAIN
t (44 1) 889 507 367
f (44 1) 889 507 467

Mr. Robert DOVER 2008 - 2009
12028 Longwood Green Drive
WELLINGTON, Florida, 33414
t (1 561) 758 61 86
f (1 561) 795 59 34

M. Alain FRANCQUEVILLE 2008 - 2009
7 Rue du Pavillon
t (33 2) 41 50 14 49
f (33 2) 41 50 11 95

Elisabeth MAX-THEURER 2008 - 2009
Achleiten 1
t (43 664) 200 38 80
f (43 7258) 220 522

Mrs Katrina WUEST 2008 - 2009
Brennermühlstrasse 77
t (49 1) 71 372 7326
f (49 1) 89 961 3945)

things you can do in response to the Rollkur/blue tongue

I've written to the FEI voicing my concerns and requesting action on their part. But as we know, that in itself will be a very small part of addressing this issue.

The discussion on how to respond is still ongoing on the classical dressage list. Dr. Thomas Ritter, who I've quoted here before, offered a very well-put perspective on the many things we can do:

That's exactly right. This kind of riding is rampant today. Patrick Kittel is by no means extreme or unusual. The problem is much more pervasive and systemic than one rider or a handful of riders. You can see it to varying degrees at every show, and these riders are routinely rewarded at the highest international levels, which is why it became so widespread in the first place. Somebody just happened to capture this on film and put it on youtube.

The reason why it's so hard to make an impact is because many of the people you complain to are using the exact same techniques. It's like trying to clean up a corrupt government or police force where everyone you turn to for help is corrupt and working for the other side, too.

Persistence is probably the only thing that will work in the long run. It will have to be a multi-pronged approach. It's good to write protest letters and e-mails to the FEI and all the national federations. It's important to support Gerd Heuschmann, the Xenophon society, Allege Ideal, and other individuals and organizations like them. It's important to educate riders, trainers, and judges.

Clients have to boycott trainers and judges who practice, teach, or condone Rollkur. If you are a competitor, don't ride for judges of whom you know that they are rewarding this kind of riding.

Trainers have to educate their clients about physiologically correct riding. Authors have to write books and articles that explain correct riding, and take a stand against Rollkur. Good riders have to demonstrate correct riding in practice.

Everybody can raise the issue at USDF conventions and other events that are put on by the establishment.

Trainers who go through a certification process can raise the issue with the teachers and examiners - at the risk of failing their exam.

Vote people into office in the national organizations who are anti Rollkur.

Ultimately, the only thing that will shut Rollkur down is if it doesn't bring money or fame any more. This is where judges and clients play a very important role. If horses that are short in the neck and on the forehand are consistently placed last, riders will abandon this technique very quickly.

If clients consistently take their money to riders who teach physiologically, biomechanically correct riding, and consistently avoid riders who ride their horses deep, with a short neck, and a high croup, then the Rollkur riders will either have to reeducate themselves, or they will not survive.

When I started to take my first riding lessons in the 70s, we were taught that having the horse behind the vertical was the greater evil than having him above the bit, and that correcting a horse that's behind the bit is more difficult than correcting one that's above the bit. This mindset has to be rediscovered.

(end of quote, posted here with permission)

Someone else on the list suggested that we boycott companies who sponsor upper level riders who consistently employ these abusive techniques. Writing them to let them know WHY you aren't buying their product gives them information. Enclosing a copy of a receipt for the product you did buy from another company who does not sponsor or endorse such riders gives them even more information.

If you go to the website for the WEG games in 2010 in Kentucky, you can find a list of sponsors for those games. Start now and let them know you will not support the games OR the sponsors if this kind of riding is allowed in warm-up, competition, and particularly rewarded with ribbons.

Some people are talking on COTH about wearing white armbands with the "no Rollkur" symbol. Others are talking about utilizing a "stand up and turn your back" to competitors who utilize these techniques.

I feel that going to the stewards and officials is often ineffective. What I personally intend to do if I see such abuse is to call 911 and treat it as an animal abuse issue. Which is actually what it is. The FEI has no jurisdiction over local law enforcement if an animal is being abused.

Someone from the classical dressage list has contacted the Dutch authorities (where the competition in the aforementioned video took place) and reported the abuse. She has received a response that the situation is being investigated.

Any one of us alone can probably not effect widespread change. But if we all report what we personally see, at least the FEI will have to deal with a swell of complaints, and local law enforcement will be activated.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

hideous video of World cup warm-up abuse

This is so horrible I couldn't bear to put it here on my blog. Please if you watch it and are as horrified as I am, write/call the FEI and protest this abuse.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

back on retreat

After a nice visit at home, and a great ride on the Big Bay, I'm back on retreat.

I found a wonderful set of curb reins that match my bridle, and although I'm not using them for a double bridle, they're perfect for my small hands/fingers. While home I put them on Keil's bridle and he and I had a nice ride on a gorgeous autumn day.

Interestingly, he went into his power trot mode almost immediately. I seemed to have more contact with these reins, but it was a finer contact, if that makes sense, and his response was to go to the bit and really use his body. It was nice.

The other really sweet thing was Rafer Johnson, who joined us in the barn aisle for grooming and tacking up, went with us into the arena, came back out when we were done, and stood with Keil Bay while I got his handful of oats. Who could resist? Rafer got a few too.

Then the two of them sauntered out to the barnyard for some relaxation with the round bale.

Today was productive. Although I did discover that my very ancient iBook has finally lost its ability to get online, at least wirelessly. My friend and writing colleague Dawn has come to the rescue with her "netbook" - so I'm out on the upstairs veranda, accompanied by some night creatures and their songs, typing away. This little netbook has the best reception of anything I've seen.

I couldn't resist typing a blog post with it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

back to the magic

If you click on the above photo, you'll get a good idea of what it feels like (to me, now) to be writing a middle grade novel. I'm trying to create something just like this bejeweled web.

Because of a scheduling glitch (that we knew about before we went) we writers had to clear out of the mansion for 24 hours yesterday. I had 50 pages in hand of the work in progress, and was happy to close up the laptop shop, drive home for a mid-retreat visit with husband, kids, and menagerie.

I'll head back to the mansion later today, with my 50 pages marked up by my daughter, who I am discovering is the very best critic for a middle grade book. She knows the genre. And she is just enough past the genre to be truly objective. Maybe this is why it's taken me until now to write it! It's perfect timing to get excellent advice from a young reader.

Meanwhile, there are two cats curled up on my bed, a snoring Corgi-girl lying behind me, and out the window a painted pony eats hay in the front field.

Not to mention the trees have changed costumes since I left - we're moving further into fall.

(thanks to husband for his photo - from a recent photo-adventure in the mountains)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

more on retreat, with more magic

I've gotten so much done since arriving on Friday afternoon. It feels possible that I'll get an entire first draft done this week. We'll see.

As usual, the magic mansion seems to attract magic.

Yesterday one of my writer companions got me to come out to the barn - as she was walking past she realized a horse was loose. So I went down to help out.

The horse was a huge, glossy black Hungarian driving horse, one of four who are here being trained to compete in next year's WEG competition.

He had unlatched his stall door and taken a break. Fortunately, the owner/trainer happened to drive up right then and was able to get the horse back into his stall. These four are gorgeous. I'm sure I'll see them in harness, driving, more than once this week.

We had our cocktail and critique last night. As usual, it's wonderfully inspiring to hear other writers read what they're working on. I'm a bit superstitious about reading from very new material that's still in progress, so I didn't read. But even thinking about reading it can be helpful, and today I had a wonderful scene that popped out of nowhere, except that of course it WASN'T nowhere - it was out of the collective creative cauldron that gets simmering when you put writers together.

Right now I'm in a local coffee shop, that is also a gallery for local artists/crafters to sell their wares. It's like Etsy in person! And they're setting up to teach a class, which is actually more inspiration. It all churns into the creative mix. I love it.

And, in a moment of synchroncity, Dr. Thomas Ritter, who runs the Classical dressage list I'm on, sent through a post that really made me pause. He has given me permission to quote from it here. In a way, it speaks to what I'm writing about in the book I'm diving into this trip.

What makes riding so interesting and addictive is that it is a lot
of things. It is a craft. It is an art. It is a sport. It is also a
science. In some ways it is simply applied physics. It has
parallels with the practice of medicine. It is a healing art in the
sense of physical therapy. It is applied psychology. It also has an
intuitive, psychic side that must not be underestimated. It has
things in common with yoga, pilates, dance, and music. These
different aspects draw different types of people, and in order to
go to the top and fulfill one's potential, the rider has to try and
become as competent as possible in all these areas. Nobody can
possibly master them all, which is why especially the truly great
riders always emphasize that it takes more than one lifetime to
master dressage.

Focusing on one aspect to the exclusion of the others lets the
rider fall short of his or her potential. Somebody who sees riding
exclusively as a sport and wants nothing to do with the other
aspects will always remain on the surface. Somebody who sees it
only as an art and does not take the technical, craftsmanship side
or the athletic side seriously, will be held back by these
shortcomings. Someone who gets too wrapped up in the physics and
technique and never develops feel and intuition, will not get very
far, either, etc. The best riders I have met all combined a fairly
high competence level in most of these areas. They were all fit and
athletic, highly intuitive, with an excellent understanding of
psychology, biomechanics and conformation, and they had spent their
entire lifetime practicing the craftsmanship side until it had
become second nature, so that they were able to transcend technique
and leave the text book path behind when necessary in order to find
a practical solution to a problem through the application of
intuition and artistic creativity.

Thank you, Dr. Ritter. It makes so much sense to me, as a rider AND a writer.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

writing on retreat, with magical ponies

I'm at my favorite writing retreat this weekend and most of next week, working on a middle grade novel (my first) and making my way deeper into a world of magical ponies.

The sun has come out again today and I've managed to get my old laptop warmed up and back in business. The keyboard took an afternoon to get back in tune with - but now I'm typing about as fast as I have been on the ergonomic one.

As usual, I'm surrounded by horses and carriages being trained and worked and enjoyed. There's a photographic exhibit to look at right down the hallway, which gives the feel of being inside a museum and having the artwork all to myself.

I'm staying in the ghost room this trip, and he has already left me two gifts. A square of white chocolate and this morning, a pushpin.

I dreamed that he threw a gigantic temper tantrum and ripped curtains off rods, but alas, when I woke up, all was just as it had been when I switched off the lamp last night.

Tomorrow afternoon there's a talk on Blackbeard downstairs that I've been invited to attend.

And I'm having cocktails and critiques with two gifted writers this evening, so life is good and as usual, I'm very grateful for the space, the spirit, and the time to work.

And a husband and two children who take such good care of horses, dogs, and cats. I would never be able to leave home were that not true.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

rainy days and donkeys

We're into a string of rainy, cool days, and the donkey boys are getting so tired of it. This morning when I went out, I found halters and lead ropes strewn throughout the barn.

The blue barrel that operates like a sort of sink beneath the water pump had been emptied and shoved against the barn doors.

Brushes were tossed about.

The step ladder had been knocked over.

A bucket of plastic flowers and pinwheels (for decorating jumps) had been emptied.

And in the middle stall, quite a large hole had been dug in one corner.

It was quite a mess out there!

Last night I brought the geldings into the arena to give them some exercise before setting them up with hay for the night. The donkeys let themselves in as well and suddenly there was a horse/donkey stampede.

Keil Bay went into his big bold Bay mode and took off after the donkeys. Then Cody got into the act, and the pony was bucking and kicking right behind them.

I couldn't stand it. The donkeys were in the lead but it was just too scary. As Rafer Johnson approached the gate, I opened it out into the barnyard, giving him room to run right through, which he did. Redford stayed in the midst of the stampede for another half-lap, and then saw that Rafer had escaped, so he ran for the open gate to join him.

Salina was in the barnyard with me, tsk tsking away at the silly boys.

Meanwhile, the oak trees are dropping acorns like mad, and I'm spending time each day raking them, mucking them out of the fields, and in some areas mixing horse manure into them in an effort to keep the equines from eating too many.

Where are all the squirrels when you need them?

(I'm almost afraid to answer that, since we've been finding squirrel remains in our barnyard of late)

Otherwise, the gray wet days are perfect for reading books, writing, and eating pumpkin pancakes with hot cocoa on the side.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

her fearful symmetry

Audrey Niffenegger's novel The Time Traveler's Wife is one of my favorite books, so I was both happy and nervous when I picked up her newest, titled Her Fearful Symmetry.

Sometimes you read a book and get blown away, and it spoils you for everything that comes after.

But I'm loving her new one.

She also does the most wonderful paintings, drawings, and illustrated books. There's a print of hers for sale called Three Crows that I'd love to buy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

dressage in a rope halter - beautiful

I love the way the horse looks in the mouth, head, neck, and notice the quiet tail. No swishing!

As far as I'm concerned this is what dressage should be. If you need to use the bit some for training, fine, but if a horse can do this without the bit, why ever put it back in his mouth?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

visitors and gifts

It's always interesting when visitors come for the first time and meet the animals I write so much about.

Yesterday an old friend came over to meet the herd and spend some time with us. Salina is generally the best barometer of how the visit should proceed because she is so attuned to people's inner workings. If I have to put a lead rope around her neck, or a halter, it generally means the guests are nervous, or not used to horses, or just tightly wound in general. With clients she will point the way to what needs to be addressed. (and with me - as I say on a regular basis, she's my live-in therapist) I've learned to watch her the first few minutes and let her reaction guide what comes next.

Yesterday she was perfectly relaxed and I didn't need to even think about where she was or whether she was okay to be loose in the barnyard with us. The donkeys were their usual ambassadors of love and cuteness, and also showed off their wrestling skills.

The geldings were relaxed too, and all the cats (though Dickens was first and as usual the most forward) savvy enough to know right away that here was a fellow cat lover.

The most marked meeting though was Kyra. My friend is also a dog lover and had to say goodbye to her beloved canine companion recently as well, and I'm not sure, but I think Kyra knew that and responded. I watched as the two met and bonded instantly, and it was with a huge sigh of relief that I saw Kyra's full-blown spark return. Her sassy bark for attention, her excited prancing and clacking (it's a Corgi thing!), and just overall, the last bits of the mutedness we've seen since last week disappeared.

I think my friend enjoyed the time with the November Hill crew, but we all owe her a huge thank you for bringing her gift of connection to Kyra.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

when the husband's away...

the cats go to sleep:

Even the cowboy comes in and sacks out on the bed:

Lots of interesting things happen when my husband goes on photography adventures. So far, since he left:

- the shavings man, who was supposed to come Tuesday, then Thursday, before husband left town and could thus help with getting stalls rebedded, came Friday morning. Bright and early. Just not quite early enough to get here before husband set forth.

- one muck rake broke. This always happens when husband is not here. So my kids have a built-in excuse for not getting out there and helping with the monumental amount of horse manure that accumulates in a day. There is only one rake! (alas, this ended well because when I went to the feed store to buy a new one, they had my favorite color. Purple.)

- my muck-barrow tire went flat. Unfortunately, there is no Triple A for wheelbarrows, that I know of.

- a big fat wood roach came in just after dark fell and climbed to the highest, most visible spot in our living room. My dear son spotlighted him with a red laser, and his efforts to deal with the creature came to a predictable end: the wood roach flew through the air, got caught up in the current from the ceiling fan, and has not been seen again. Two scenarios: he's lying in wait under the sofa. OR. He's made his way into my bedroom.

There's more, but you get the drift. Thankfully he will be back tomorrow night and things will get back to normal around here!

Friday, October 09, 2009

from our vet

Yesterday we got the most beautiful condolence card from our vet and his staff. Both are on beautiful card stock and have been hand-cut and pasted, and on the back of the card is a very sweet and caring personal note.

You can see front and center the handsome Corgi, and the quote of course made me cry. (click on the photo if you want to read it)

This vet has been working with us since the Corgis were puppies, when I first began to look at alternative animal care. He walked me through making my own dog food, feeding raw, and questioning the massive numbers of shots we are encouraged to give our animals each year. When Kyra went into her first heat cycle early, before she was spayed, he talked me through it.

At one point Chase pulled a muscle in a front leg, and needed x-rays. A local vet who had assured me on the phone that she was amenable to alternative animal care turned into a vicious you-know-what when my husband arrived in the waiting room with Chase, who was only there for a set of x-rays.

She came out into the waiting room and blasted my husband in front of everyone, saying that we were endangering everyone by not vaccinating Chase the way we were supposed to, and that my husband could either have Chase fully vaccinated right then and there or get out of her animal clinic.

The sheer ignorance of what she said that day was mind-boggling. As if Chase were contagious and the giving of a bunch of shots would suddenly eradicate that. Needless to say, my husband walked out.

It was my homeopathic vet who helped us sort out what to do next, and with whom, because his practice is specialized and he was not able to do the x-rays himself. I was in tears at the way my husband was treated, and outraged at the ignorance masquerading as expertise. This vet assured me we were on the right path and helped us find someone who actually came to our home and did the x-rays. All was well. It was only a pulled muscle.

I'm so grateful that we found this vet, and that we are now local to his office. He has since opened a small clinic so he can again do the basics like spaying and neutering, etc. He's been a huge support to us as we have navigated this tumor with Chase.

Thank you, Dr. L.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

where we are

After two rainy days, we had a lovely sunny one today with a nice breeze. I'm not sure about the rest of the family but I have only cried one time today - I think the weather has mirrored our mood since Sunday, and the blue sky this morning helped.

Kyra was very subdued Sunday, Monday, and most of yesterday. She spent some time by the trampoline across the yard, staring at Chase's grave. She spent a fair amount of time under my daughter's bed. She was not barking at anything.

Late yesterday afternoon she seemed to come back to life. She stayed with us downstairs, she began to bark at the usual things again (to play, at cats, at noises outside the house/yard), and she settled down in Chase's spot by my bed at bedtime.

Today she spent an hour lying right by Chase, as close to his mounded grave as she could get. It was so sweet - as if she just needed to be with him for awhile. But she was happy to come to the barnyard this evening on her leash, which she eventually pulled out of (and it's a harness, not the regular collar!) so we are starting to see the spunky Kyra-girl again, and it's such a relief.

Tonight she's chased Moomintroll, barked at Muffine Eloise for running in the house, and is in and out of the doggie door which is much more her normal routine.

Fortunately her appetite has remained the same throughout, but seeing her perk up is helping all of us.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

goodbye chase, we love you

Chase is on the right, this past January with his beloved sister Kyra. Chase had a malignant tumor removed when he was 5 years old, and we were told at the time that we could do radiation and chemotherapy but there was no real way to predict how things would progress.

He has been on a homeopathic protocol for most of the time since then, and is now 10 years old. The tumor returned earlier this year, and he has been on a new course of homeopathic treatment, which seemed to slow the progression of the cancer significantly.

He was happy and in good spirits, mobile and with good appetite, right up to yesterday. Last week we wondered if we were getting close and I asked Chase to please let me know, very clearly, when he was ready to go.

This morning he would not lie down. He moved slowly through the downstairs of our house, looking at me as if trying to tell me something. It was when he went to the front door, which we never use to go anywhere, and stood there waiting, that I realized he was telling me he was ready.

It didn't transpire quite the way we had planned and hoped, and he had to be taken to a vet's office to say goodbye. He actually perked up when they got there, which lets me know even more that it was time.

He has been the most loyal friend imaginable to all of us. His good nature, love of play, and handsome face have enriched our lives for ten years. We wish it could be longer, but I'm glad he's done with the tumor, and know that it was time for him to move on.

We love you, Chase. Your wonderful spirit is with us always.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

a rare autumn day

My husband and I had the rare treat today of going off on an adventure together, as neither of our independent teenagers wanted to go. We set out just after noon and went to a local vineyard to pick muscadine grapes.

The vineyard is remarkably compact and easy to navigate, and there were five varieties to choose from. The moment we walked up the path from the parking area we smelled the grapes, and quickly learned that once you get into the vines themselves, ducking under into the shade is not only good protection from the sun, but the best way to find the harvest.

We picked nearly five pounds and paid just under $5 for them. We bought a bottle of Scuppernong wine and went on to a little town I've been wanting to explore. Interestingly, this rural town has a thriving general store, which has a grill that serves local meat and vegetables. We had lunch sitting in Adirondack chairs out front, waving away flies and watching the dissipation and formation of a few very small clouds in an otherwise cloudless blue sky.

On our way back toward home, we stopped off in hopes of picking up a big round bale of hay from our hay grower. He was out harrowing a field, but his wife walked us through their organic garden with colander and clippers in hand, and we brought home a bag of peppers, tomatoes, and okra.

We visited with the two beloved farm dogs and the elder-cat, met the pigs, who came running out to greet us, and proceeded to dig for grass roots, and then wandered over to the cabin where the eggs are kept. We picked out two dozen house eggs, and then talked awhile hoping M. would arrive to spear our hay bale.

We spent a little bit of time driving out to where his wife thought he might be, with directions to pull over and put the windows down so we might hear the tractor and track him down. We weren't able to find him, but it was delightful to take some extra time looking.

The truck smelled of muscadines and the kids hadn't called.

I ended the day with a glass of scuppernong wine in the barnyard, sitting with my son, surrounded by horses and donkeys and Dickens E. Wickens.

Rafer Johnson put his head over my shoulder and did his happy donkey snort. Dickens kneaded my thighs with his paws. Keil Bay stood behind me and grazed. And Salina blew soft mare breath onto my cheek as she stood looking out waiting for my husband to come home with the hay.

The full moon rose up over the trees and we fed evening hay in the moonlight.

I'm not sure it gets much better than this.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


The last afternoon in September I let all the equines in from the front field and we gathered in the barnyard. They circled around the big hay bale to munch. Keil Bay helpfully spread it out so there was room for six.

I had red wine instead of white, and Dickens was warm in my lap until the sounds of a squirrel drew him to the woods' edge.

By six you could feel a chill to the air.

Last night it got down into the 40s and my daughter came in from her night ride shivering. I closed the windows and we slept with the quilt on the bed.

All things on earth point home in old October: sailors to sea, travellers to walls and fences, hunters to
field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken.

- Thomas Wolfe