Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Blogger has a new feature called template designer - wow!  I'm going to be playing with this on and off today, so forgive the wild changes I'm making.

This background image reminds me of one of my favorite mountain camping areas, so I'm doing a little travel via blog today.

We'll see what ends up sticking.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

the Big Bay brings balance

Yesterday my daughter and I rode together. As usual, she was on the pony's back and riding for at least 20 minutes before I even managed to get tacked up. She's riding bareback, so her tacking up is minimal, but I do tend to get caught up in grooming tasks, and yesterday's was brushing out the Big Bay's tail.

We did more walking and more tuning up of response time to light aids. In between the bits of work, I rode through the back field and around the paddock back to the arena with my daughter and the pony. Going through the gates (all open) is always a practical opportunity to use various skills to make sure that one's horse goes through the middle of the gateway. After the first couple of times, Keil adjusted himself as we approached without any guidance from me.

The back field has a nice slope, so I made sure we went up and down and got in some work on the hilly part. We again did mostly walking, but I added in some trot again, and found it very comfortable and nice to ride.

On our last two circuits through the back field, my daughter wanted to canter, so I asked Keil for trot. He was on a slight incline, very balanced at the moment I asked, and it was truly like driving a sports car and feeling that smooth shift into higher gear you get with a big engine. We were walking, then we were trotting. Gliding.

I asked for a walk again as we went through the gate and he shifted down effortlessly. Then I asked for trot again. Back to glide. Then walk as we approached the barn and Salina.

It was another of those rides when we found that perfect marriage between riding in the arena using dressage and the training scale, and riding out. When the horse is in balance, when the aids are light, subtle, and the horse is "on the aids" - and when all this happens within a practical application, the end result is just stunningly beautiful.

The moments when it all comes together that way are the reason I ride. The physical balance carries over into mental and spiritual balance, and like meditation, it's incredibly rejuvenating.


Today Salina turns 27 years old!  Happy birthday, gorgeous girl!

And this post is number 777, which seems perfectly fitting now that I notice it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

more celebrations, or perhaps spring fever

Yesterday was a lovely day at the barn. Keil and I finally got to try out the new saddle pad. Initially he snorted at it (the Big Bay tends to snort at new things in general - he likes his routine) but once allowed to investigate it at close range he decided it was fine. When placed on his back, he realized one of the benefits of the thing - sheepskin!

He bobbed his head one time in approval and I continued tacking up. When it was time to mount, we went through a couple of cycles of practicing standing still, and when I got to the point of weighting the stirrup he realized another benefit of the lush pad. Bobbed his head one time and stood still for mounting.

All the gates were open for our ride and we had fun walking the arena and then taking a random open gate out into the various spaces. We mostly walked, since we both need some conditioning, but as we worked on that, we did some sitting trot in a few places when fine-tuning the light cues. (using Jane Savoie's method that works so well)

What I've read about the Thinline pad is true. That foam piece does indeed make a difference. It was easier to sit the trot. Keil moved forward and did happy snorts. We had a good ride.  I had dreaded taking the pad off, especially this time of year, thinking it would be dirty and harder to keep clean than a regular cotton pad - but alas, the amount of dust was minimal and it brushed right off the sheepskin.

Keil Bay got a half cup of oats and then hung his head over the gate when I turned him out. He often doesn't want to disconnect when we finish our rides, and it's been awhile, so it was especially nice to share that last few moments of connection before he turned and wandered to the field.  I'd spent a lot of time grooming him before riding, and even last night he still looked immaculate, with a glow about him. I think he was proud to be back in the work routine. Keil likes working, especially when it's done in the morning and he knows he's done for the day!

It's a pleasure to have a horse who can go off work and come back to it with such good spirit and behavior. I was reminded again - he IS my dream horse.

After this particularly peaceful, satisfying morning, you may wonder why I'm referencing spring fever in the title.

At 2:30 a.m. I was awakened by my son, who had been awakened by Salina's persistent alarm whinny by the barnyard gate. (because of our stall resurfacing project, she has been temporarily displaced from my bedroom window)

I woke up husband, who went out to check, and found two donkeys who had removed the big stick I use to block the stile, gone through, and were munching happily (in the rain even) on nice green grass. Donkeys returned grudgingly to their barnyard, Salina calmed down, and everyone got a middle of the night hay refill.

This morning the first thing I saw when I opened the blinds on my bedroom window was Cody, stretching head and neck and chest over a 4-strand electric tape that is supposed to be hot. Whether it was or not, he was in full contact with two strands, eating the lushest green grass on the farm that lies on the other side.

It's obvious that fortifications are in order if we are to get through this bout of spring fever on November Hill!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

celebrating the green on November Hill

Yesterday was the day we decided to begin the offering of green stuff in very limited amounts to the equines, and R&R were lucky to be in the right place at the right time. My husband opened the gate and in they marched for their 10 minutes in the sun.

They were soon joined by Salina and Keats the feline goddess. As you can imagine, it was not quite as easy to get them out of the back yard as it had been to invite them in!  They are all craving the green stuff, but we try to build them up slowly. They'll get 10 minutes for a few days, then 15, then when the back yard is grazed down for us we'll move to the side and front, and build them all up to 30 minutes a day each.

Between that and what's coming up in the back field they should get just the right amount of green to prepare their systems for the richer season. Right now the back field is mostly buttercups, which will get mowed when they get tall enough. If my plan works out, the mowing will coincide with their move to the front, since moving them to that much grassier field will take some time and thus it won't be grazed down for a while.

Fortunately we have the dry paddock and can use the arena as well as we move them onto the grass.

Yesterday morning I was spreading hay in the back field and heard a commotion in the forest behind our grandfather compost mountain. It was a herd of deer, 20-25 of them, and they began to leap down the hill, through the clearing, and up the hill into the next section of trees. I have never seen anything like it - the deer seemed to be fully airborne, and the flash of white tails was like a wave moving down, across, and then up again.

I searched online for photos that might show a similar movement, but there was nothing remotely like what I saw. We have deer visiting frequently, but not usually in that number, and not usually in such a smooth wave of motion. Deer symbolize new adventure, and magical journeys. As the last deer in yesterday's herd reached the edge of the forest, she stopped and turned back to look at me. As always, the soft gentle glance of a deer is like an invitation to follow.

And just like that, in a fleeting moment, the fourth magical pony book was born.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

the lifestyle of totilas

I had a really upbeat, November Hill post to write this afternoon (and I will, tomorrow) but this came to my attention and I'm sorry but I feel I have to post it here.

This is how Totilas, and all the other horses on this farm live. Apparently this is typical.

It literally makes me sick. It looks like a prison.

Where is the pasture? Where is a horse ever allowed to be a horse?

I read that the horses are considered to be livestock, and treated as such.

Should any animal be housed and kept this way?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

dressage anywhere??

I just read about THIS and think it's a wonderful idea.

You sign up online for a dressage test, video yourself riding that test in the comfort of your own arena, and submit the video for judging! There is a fee, but you also get an actual ribbon if you win.

This particular program is in the UK. I wish someone in the US would put something like this together, using the existing FEI standards, of course...!

Monday, March 22, 2010

trim notes for march 2010

B. wrote in great big letters across our trim note page this afternoon:


Entirely due to Eleanor Kellon's equine nutrition classes and my daughter's hoof care. I am so happy to see hoof health improve to this point.

B. also noted that everyone's hooves were in good balance today, which means daughter's bareback riding is (we already knew this!) balanced and correct, and that the horses are moving well and soundly.

I'd been looking at Salina's topline for the past week or so, thinking to myself that she actually HAS one again, which is a great thing for a 27-year old mare with arthritic knees who isn't being ridden. But I thought maybe I was seeing it because I want to see her doing well. However, B. saw her and said "she's getting her topline back!"

She's turning out with the entire herd again and moving a lot every day. Today for her trim she was quite spirited and although well-behaved, I could feel her energy circling.

All the horses and the donkeys were in the back field when B. arrived. My daughter went out to get the pony, and I got Keil Bay, but Cody galloped in, and Salina and the donkeys came in too. Rafer let himself through the fence and came into the barn aisle where he attached himself to B., laying his head softly on B's shoulder, standing as closely as he could without getting in the way, and when it was his turn for a trim, he stood with a lead rope laying over his neck and lifted each hoof w/o being asked.

It's always a pleasure having B. here to do trimming, but today was especially nice: sunshine, a breeze, spring evident all around us, and a wonderful "report card" at the end. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

this is what writing group weekends do for me

I woke up this morning from a detailed and wonderful dream in which I was in the barn, preparing for a huge thunderstorm that was on the horizon. The horses were refusing to come in, and I decided to take the opportunity to get stalls set up for their sojourn from the coming storm.

In the process, I stumbled onto the door of a storage room that we had (in the dream) never really gone into or attempted to clean out. It was filled with junk left behind by the previous owners. For some reason, even though a storm was coming, I was drawn to open the door and step inside. A sheet of tin fell forward as I walked through the doorway, and after heaving it out of my way, decided I may as well explore for a few minutes.

There was a lot of junk and not much room to walk. I spied at least three ironing boards with irons resting on top, mop buckets, and various tools and bins. I thought to myself that there could be treasure there, and the only way to find it would be to do a thorough clearing. Which I knew would have to wait, since I had to get back to the horses.

But before turning to leave the room, I realized there was an opening at the back that looked unusual. I struggled through the junk to get to it. It was an open doorway, which led to a huge barn kitchen. There was a beautiful sink, refrigerator, dishwasher, washer and dryer, and plenty of counter space, and I was in shock - the very idea that for five years I had wished for a barn kitchen and it had been right there all along!

Then I saw that the kitchen area led to yet more space: a large den/tack room which had sofas and a big TV for viewing video, and a smaller den which had a smaller TV which was actually turned on. I marveled as I discovered the TV was on a timer, and must have come on regularly for the past five years, set by the previous owner and left behind, and somehow we had never heard it.

There were windows in the smaller den, which overlooked the back field. The storm had moved by us, and the sun was shining, which meant I didn't need to get back to the stalls.

I turned back toward the kitchen and discovered a long hallway that stretched in the other direction, back toward our house. I followed the hall to find several beautiful bedrooms, nicely appointed, and I thought how wonderful it would be to tell my writing friend D. that she could have one of them, and that if I wanted, I could actually live in the barn!

Further along the hallway there was a small set of stairs that led to our house. A secret passageway from house to barn! I was elated and still stunned that all this had been right under our noses and we had never known it.

The next door down the hallway opened into a huge sunlit room with an indoor pool. The pool was full and clean and begging for swimmers. No wonder my husband had been complaining about high electricity bills! It wasn't the barn fans, or the lights we were leaving on. It was this entire wing of the house and barn, and the swimming pool pump!

At the end of the hallway was a big wooden door with a tremendous bolt. I wondered what might lie behind it, and why it would need such reinforcement. Curious, but not afraid, I opened it. It was a doorway to what was a combination of Weymouth (the place I go to for writing retreats) and the Biltmore Estate. I had my own private entrance to the best writing retreat in the world! And it was only a few strides down the hallway from my horses and donkeys and family - so easy to slip away and come back. I took a walk through the mansion to assure myself it was real, and then headed back to tell my entire family, as well as D., that I had found an absolute treasure - via the ignored and previously avoided junk room in our barn.

I doubt anyone needs me to interpret this dream. Give me a writing weekend, my creative family, good company, magical ponies,  the real magical ponies I live with, Corgis and cats, and a slight obsession with not being able to keep my house clean, and this is what happens.

Shove your way past the junk and what do you find: a secret paradise full of dreams come true.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

loving and living the questions

I love the Rilke passage below, and have been saving it for a matching photograph that illustrated the idea. This morning I noticed my camera had made its way back into my bedroom, and took a look to see what pictures might be waiting inside. My daughter spent some time yesterday photographing, and this image she captured makes me think of the mysteries we all hold and seek answers to, and like the small opening to the sun in this photograph, we must wait for the clouds to shift to see the answer.

I love the idea of loving the questions themselves, rather than fretting the not knowing. 

 Have patience with everything
 unresolved in your heart and try to
 love the questions themselves, as if they
 were locked rooms, or books
 written in a very foreign language.
 Don't search for the answers,
 which could not be given to you
 now, because you would not be
 able to live them. And the point
 is to live everything. Live the
 questions now. Perhaps then, someday
 far in the future, you will gradually,
 without even noticing it, live
 your way into the answer.
 ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

watching the grass grow

I think that's what we're all doing on November Hill these days. The horses and donkeys are all still eating their hay, but often enough I find them investigating green stuff coming up in various places. Yesterday I found numerous piles of manure in the paddock by the gate to the front field, which is off limits until June. A clue that I need to reinforce the gate in case certain ponies decide to shove through.

It's amazing how quickly the fields are greening up. The combination of regular rain and sunshine these past weeks is obviously a potent one for pasture.

Yesterday was like a domino run of little episodes that made the day seem like a game.

I was in the barn doing chores when I heard a tapping sound from inside the feed room. I thought it was my daughter, who is fond of sneaking up on me and making little noises. At some point it went on too long to be her, and I went to check it out. A small bird was building a nest inside my riding helmet!

In the afternoon Rafer Johnson joined my daughter in the arena for her second ride of the day, and he found the dressage whip lying on the ground. My daughter called out to me that he was using the whip to draw in the arena footing. Now we have a budding equine artist on our hands!

Overall, a fun day with the animals.

They're all in good spirits, and doing lots of marching about the back field. I've got the arena gates open on both sides so they can have a complete circular route, which gives them a bit more marching room with the front field off the rotation. It also makes riding time more interesting, with lots of possibilities for adding to the arena work.

Tomorrow we're getting a load of screenings so I can resurface Cody's stall. Once I get his finished, we'll open it up and then close down Keil Bay's stall so we can work on it. Stripping the stall, closing it off to the horses, and giving it chance to air out, dry out, and me the chance to get in and do some deeper wall cleaning, is a big chore but very satisfying.

And discovering a very local quarry with amazing prices ensures that I will be working on a number of barn projects I had put off  thinking a big load would be both unwieldy and expensive.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

an alchemical weekend

My husband and I spent most of yesterday and on through the evening at Gerry's memorial service and a smaller celebration of his life afterward. I don't think I've ever attended such a moving memorial - the service was standing room only, with probably a thousand people in attendance. The smaller celebration (which in my mind was going to be more intimate) had around 200 people. 

Gerry's family were amazing people, who all spoke beautifully at the service and then stood for nearly two hours receiving all the friends who had come to honor him. It was easy to see where Gerry got his gift of friendship - his parents, brothers, and extended family were gracious and made each person feel honored to be there. Gerry's wife Mandy was a pillar of strength who did the same thing.

And the celebration afterward had music, beer, barbecue, a revolving slide show of photos, mementos everywhere, a wall to write on, a room for friends to tell stories on videotape, and an amazing group of people all completely open to talking about Gerry, about how his death has moved them, and about how they intend to move on with their lives.

It was about Gerry - and yet it was also about every single one of his friends and family. I don't think anyone could have made that happen had they tried - Gerry's gift in life is also his gift in death. Nothing was ever only about him - he engaged with everyone he met on a deep and genuine level, and that was what the celebration was all about.

Last night I dreamed all night long, dreams full of people and conversation and situations. Each time I woke up (I think I woke up twice during the night and many times this morning) I fell back asleep only to dream again, and again. I think my brain was trying to process all the energy from yesterday, clearing it out of my head.

Today was different and yet the perfect partner to yesterday.

We cleared beds, we burned cuttings and yard debris. We stripped a stall and removed mats and cleared the surface beneath. The day rolled on with work and a few breaks and tonight I think I will sleep soundly. I'm exhausted. But in a good way.

There was something about yesterday that felt like the alchemical process: transforming tragedy into gold. As today's burning and clearing has felt like a process of purification, cleansing, and readying for spring. It's almost too big to write about - one of those passages of time that is so full, you can only live through it, absorb every bit of it you can absorb, and trust that the experience will ripple out through the rest of your life, something important and relevant and sacred.

Thanks, Gerry, for leaving us with so much.

Friday, March 12, 2010

gray afternoon thinking of novels in progress and songs that tell stories

taking measure

It's time to get out my measuring tape and open up the Excel program to get new weights on the equines - my plan last March was to do this monthly but I didn't. I calculated weights last March and I did it prior to deworming, and that's it!

The hay analysis for the interim hay came in via email yesterday afternoon, so before I start doing the math, I want to make sure the weights are current and as accurate as can be.

The good news is that after studying and doing the math twice before, with this report I can scan the raw numbers and make some sense of them. This hay won't be hard to balance, and while the iron is a little higher than our local hay, it's still low, as are the sugars/carbs. Great for easy keepers.

The less good news is that I've decided to stop feeding beet pulp, which is going to shift my calcium : phosphorus ratio and especially with Salina's complete senior diet, I've got some substituting to do.

I may plug it back in if balancing w/o it is too difficult, but over the past six months I've seen the quality of the beet pulp decline considerably, and was getting more and more disgusted with the rinse water coming off the beet pulp as well as with the way the actual pulp looked upon close inspection. The smell changed too, and although the horses didn't stop eating it, I felt I was putting something less than healthy into their feed tubs every day. For now, I've subbed in Ontario Dehy's Timothy Balance cubes, which I've been using for the pony and donkeys. The cubes have some beet pulp in them, so I'm not getting away from it completely, but it's a start.

Just about the time I get over doing the math for this hay, it will be time to do it again for the local spring cutting!  But my hope is that each time I go through this process, it gets a bit easier, a bit more intuitive, and at some point it will be No Big Deal to do the math.

There's actually a spreadsheet on my desktop that runs all this for me - but it is in itself overwhelming and does nothing to help me understand how to get from the raw numbers to final results. I've been playing with the spreadsheet a little but am not relying on it or using the numbers it pops up as I type in the values.

On other notes, there is a growing glimmer of green in the front field, which will increase over the weekend as we get sun after a day of rain.

And daylight savings time happens this weekend, which means more daylight after husband gets home from work, which means more time for outside chores that need both the husband and the light of day!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

impromptu riding lesson

Yesterday afternoon I was at the barn and had encouraged my daughter to get her rides in before the rain came. It was one of those unusual days where we were getting little bits of rain, then sun, then clouds, then sprinkles, etc. 

I was so busy in the barn I didn't notice that she'd come outside, and only realized it when I noticed the pony's bridle was missing from the tack room. The next thing I knew he was in the barn aisle being groomed, and there was no sound, just a girl and her pony, going through a routine they've been through hundreds of times, needing no words to communicate.

They were there, and then they were in the arena. At some point I stopped what I was doing to watch. She was riding him bareback, as his pony saddle is now too small for her, and we keep changing our minds about what we want to replace it. We were initially thinking a dressage saddle, and now we're thinking a treeless Barefoot saddle, but whatever we do will require a fitting, and with everything going on we haven't gotten around to it.

Sometimes she uses her Little Joe bareback pad, but mostly she rides him bareback these days.

As I watched, she had finished warming him up and was moving into the working part of her ride. She's a very quiet, naturally balanced rider anyway, but yesterday afternoon her body seemed particularly still and only moved with the motion of his gaits. The picture of the two of them caused me to hold my breath.

She had the reins in one hand and her legs were perfectly still against his sides, but the pony was walking, trotting, cantering, circling, turning on invisible cues I could not see, even when I tried. The contact was there, but not through the reins or the bit. This was a pony anyone would say was "on the aids" - perfectly so - and yet the aids were not visible to my eye.

She often carries a dressage whip when she rides him, which she uses to do a "tap, tap" cue if needed, but yesterday she didn't even have that. I'm not sure I've ever seen such a beautiful, quiet, harmonious ride, and I couldn't take my eyes away because I wanted to learn from what I was seeing.

I've figured out that the mark of a wonderful horse and rider team, for me, is when the ride seems to approach the sacred. To speak would be an unforgivable interruption, and the only appropriate response is to watch, silently, and hope I absorb some of that magic.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

new petition: JUST SAY YES!

Thanks, Beth, for sending this my way!

Just say yes to the existing FEI rules and standards regarding head and neck position in dressage!


celebrating compost

Yesterday we dug into the grandfather manure pile and found the gardener's version of gold. I've been told this morning that I either need a vacation or a stiff drink for celebrating this, and I laughed, but to be honest, it's one of the little miracles of living on a farm that I hope I never stop celebrating.

Since January I've been making small compost piles around the perimeter of my pastures, with the intention of composting some of our stall waste right where it's needed, so that when when it's mature, I can simply drag it out across the field. Unlike with chemical fertilizers, horses can graze immediately on composted fields.

It's an experiment, so we'll see how it works out. Yesterday I shifted from pile making to pile seeding. I'm going to cover each small pile with a nice layer of mature compost and then let nature do its thing.

Meanwhile, I've started saving for a composting system made by the o2 company, which will significantly reduce the time it takes to get from stall waste to mature compost. I can move the portable bins around to where I need them, and run the aerating fan with a small solar panel. The company also has a page on their site which talks about using mature compost as stall bedding, which would make the bedding issue a closed circle at some point - no need to buy more!  I can't quite picture it, but apparently there are more than a few horse farms doing this with good results. For the horse sensitive to the usual bedding materials, I can imagine compost being a very benign alternative.

Aside from the obvious benefits of composting, which include turning a waste material into something valuable, protecting the groundwater, and possibly reducing expenses overall, I confess there seems something almost magical about the process, and that has its own appeal.

One of the most constant, never-ending chores on a horse farm has to do with mucking and managing manure. Horses are designed to graze nearly 24 hours a day, and as we toss hay and maintain pasture to keep that possible for horses not able to range as they do in the wild, it's not lost on most of us that what goes in one end comes out the other.

Two years ago I transformed the daily chore into something pleasurable when I started using my wheelbarrow loads to create the labyrinth path. Once done, I moved on to the woodland path. Now I'm making these small piles, thinking of them as alchemical mounds, which will transform to gardening gold.

Even the equines are excited about it. I'm noticing they helpfully drop the manure close to the piles, and yesterday, as I was working on one small pile in the back field, the pony came over and backed up, leaving me more raw material for my alchemy lab.

Monday, March 08, 2010

rolling on, into a new week

Looking back to last week, it seems surreal - a wrinkle in time, to borrow from Madeleine L'Engle. Yesterday afternoon the wrinkle began to flatten out again, and we started work cleaning/pruning two big garden beds.

I imagined getting both of them completely done, but due to our jolly green giant butterfly bushes, we only made it halfway through one bed. My aversion to pruning always gets me in the end, because when it finally becomes critical that it get done, it's a huge undertaking.  It's intriguing to me that every time I undertake the huge pruning chore, it coincides with the need to 'cut through' something, or unstick myself from some mental entanglement.

This time it was what I needed to move on from this past week, which was sad and beautiful all at once, and difficult to let go. Much more difficult obviously for Gerry's closest friends and family members than for me, but it was clear that pruning away dead branches, dragging them to a pile, and then sitting with them as they burned to ash, was both metaphorical and healing.

We are having a beautiful stretch of days. The front field is looking so clean and good, and yesterday I saw just a shimmer of green beginning. The bare paddock always looks a mess this time of year - it gets the most traffic and right now it's so torn up it seems there is no way anything will ever grow there again. And yet by midsummer we will be seeing grass there, and I'll be amazed at the earth and how it heals itself with no help from us humans.

I have errands to do today, and chores, and if the forecast is correct it will be 68 degrees this afternoon. We now have two shedding equines - Salina, and the pony, going in the same sequence from year to year. We see the brush turn black when Salina sheds, and white once the pony starts. The copper and red bay comes a little later, and the donkeys shed out last of all, which is pretty smart of them, since their fur is good pest control.

I think this will be a good week to continue the spring cleaning we've been doing, and to start a few new projects: vegetable garden, new way of composting, etc. Right now it feels good to have good work to do.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Linda Parelli teaches a one-eyed horse a "lesson"

This came in to my inbox a bit ago and I am appalled. I've never been a Parelli fan, but mostly because of what I've read and heard - I've never seen any of their "work."

This is a horse with one eye, and watching the video, I am most struck by the fact that I can make no sense at all of what Linda might be asking this horse to do. It's clear the poor horse doesn't know either.

I only wish I had a video of Marlis Amato working in a clinic we hosted here a few years ago, with our one-eyed goddess, Salina, to show an alternative of what one can do softly, quietly, and with utmost respect to the horse.

I'm told this is from a Parelli Level 1 DVD. If this is basic, I have no desire at all to see what they do in advanced work, and as much as I adore Walter Zettl, I can't imagine what he is doing working with the Parellis, unless it's to try and get them to stop doing THIS:


Note to everyone who doesn't know: this is terrible horsemanship. I'm so tired of so-called "professionals" treating horses badly and earning money for it.

Here's an alternative with Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling:

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Happy The Man, and A Tribute

 This morning's Writer's Almanac featured this poem, which I think is fitting for this week:

Happy the man, and happy he alone,
   He who can call today his own:
   He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul or rain or shine
The joys I have possessed, in spite or fate, are mine.
Not Heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.

-Horace, from Odes, Book III, xxix. Translation by John Dryden

My husband, Matthew, wrote this tribute to his friend Gerry, who died on Thursday after a car accident last Monday.  I wanted to share it here, as I feel it expresses well why Gerry's death has touched so many of us:

Friday, March 5, 2010 12:47 PM, PST
There were a lot of prayers this week for healing, and a lot of people lighting candles for Gerry. A lot of love focused on Gerry and his family, most especially Mandy and the kids. And yet his body died. So people with a particular perspective would say, "see, prayer doesn't work". But I differ with them about that.

There was such an intense light and love in Duke hospital this week. Most especially yesterday, our last chance to say goodbye to Gerry. I could see it on the faces of his family, a light of healing and love and grace. I think many of the visitors to the hospital came to give consolation to Mandy, but found themselves receiving so much of it from her instead. I have only seen this degree of grace and love a very few times in my life, and when I see it I am always humbled and in awe of its power. It can sometimes flow through us when we get out of the way of Spirit, out of the way of God. Sometimes in very small moments of creativity and energy and flow, and sometimes in awe-inspiri
ng ways as the visitors to Gerry's hospital suite saw this week.

I have not had the honor of spending very much time with Gerry and Mandy's extended family, but he has always conveyed to me and his other coworkers how fortunate he is to have them, and what a caring and close-knit family they are. And I know we all saw that this week if we spent even a few minutes over at Duke Hospital. I believe it is the power of prayer, and the power of love, of Gerry's own kindness to all of us, and the power of Spirit to uplift us when don't hinder it. A fitting grand finale to Gerry's life so very full of friendship with so many people everywhere.

Sometimes it is not easy to have the full perspective of just how important someone is. Until they are gone, and you feel your heart crying. . .

Countless times, Gerry would tell whoever was in the office that he was leaving, and say "I'll walk out with you if you're ready to go home". And if we were finished, we'd gladly shut down our computer and pack our bag and walk down the stairs. We didn't know why, didn't really think about why, we just did it because we wanted to. Because talking to Gerry, somehow it always made you feel good, or at least better than before. So we would go out and chat for 5 or 10 minutes about the latest project we were working on, or fish oil supplements
, or or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the latest office rumors that Gerry's unrivalled network of friends at work had passed on to him. But whatever the topic of conversation, it felt good and right to spend those last few minutes of the workday, out in the parking lot, talking to Gerry.

Look at the outpouring of support on these web pages, at the hospital, at his work, on phones, emails and instant messages going around the world. All of this speaks for itself, so loudly we all can hear it and feel it in our hearts. It is written: "By their fruits ye shall know them". Yes, indeed, Gerry, yes indeed.

y I don't think you even knew how important you were to everyone while you lived your earthly life.

Goodbye, Gerry (for a while). You really did have a wonderful life, and I am utterly grateful that I got to share 10 years of working closely with you, and all our lighthearte
d and serious conversations, and more than a few cold glasses of beer.  Godspeed, Gerry.
Matthew Cromer

Friday, March 05, 2010

thank you to all my friends here

I'd like to say thank you to everyone who has commented and shared in this week's sending of healing thoughts, prayers, and focused energy for Gerry. There is no doubt that his family has been awash in an outpouring of love and support from friends, extended family, colleagues, and from people all over the world who connected via a wider network of friends.

It was a very sad afternoon yesterday. However, my husband (Matthew, who commented in the previous post) and Gerry's team at work were able to go say goodbye to him, spend time with his wife and family, and then go out together to spend time remembering him. The fire department crew who did the first response went to the hospital to answer questions family and friends had about the accident itself. Gerry's wife comforted his friends, with grace and strength. When Matthew got home it was clear Gerry's death had brought sadness but also a tremendous amount of light and love, which I think is the biggest possible tribute to the kind of friend and person he was.

It seemed entirely appropriate that even while his friends were learning of his death, Gerry, an organ donor, had already given a major organ to a 7-year old girl.  (And in a recent update today, Mandy reported that Gerry gave sight to 2 people, saved 5 people's lives with organ donations, and improved the health of up to 200 people with tissue donations -amazing)

Gerry's team of guys were told to take the day off today, and right now they are all on the phone, in a conference call, remembering Gerry. Many people are sharing stories and photographs on his Facebook Group page, Friends of Gerry Reid, and on the Caring Bridge website under his name Gerald Reid.

We continue to send strength to his family as they move forward.

If anyone doubts the power of friendship and of people to generate a web built of love and light, go take a look. It's pretty amazing.


We've had sunshine here for two days and the forecast is bright through Monday. The horses seem happy with the hints of spring. There are songbirds everywhere, and yesterday on the way to the feed store I saw a yard completely covered with blackbirds. Keil Bay took another nap in the barnyard and because he looked so relaxed and comfortable lying there I actually delayed Salina's first lunch by fifteen minutes so he could finish his siesta. About the only thing he has to complain about is the fact that HE doesn't need four meals a day!

There was another death this week: my father's best friend died in his sleep three nights ago. My dad met Lank in Basic Training and they went through that together, then ended up in the same unit that stayed together all the way through the Korean Conflict. They both married and had first children around the same time, and our two families grew up visiting at least twice a year from the time I was born until I graduated from high school.

Lank and my dad talked frequently on the phone during my dad's last year of life, and I was relieved to learn that Lank died in his sleep, peacefully. The day after Lank died, before I even knew he had, I saw the little bird who came to visit me day after my dad died. The little bird flew up and to the fence and then away, and I stood there a moment waiting for something more to happen. A few minutes later, when I left the window, I heard a burst of bird song in the back yard. It was the little bird, with about 5 more birds, all sitting on the fence, side by side, looking at the house, singing their hearts out. I'm thinking that was my dad, Lank, and the other members of their army unit, reunited and enjoying springtime.

I was reminded yesterday when I learned of Gerry's death how time itself seems to stop when someone we know passes on. It's almost as though we forget how to move, as if the sensation of something ending becomes tangible and we have to turn the switch back to "forward" again. It's easy to see how, without children and animals and the pull of other lives around us, one could get stuck in grief and forget to flip that switch.

This morning I'm listening to my husband recall moments with Gerry on his conference call, my son is outside pounding brass with a hammer, making gold ingots and other interesting things, and the cats are curled up in various spots sleeping. Kyra the Corgi is nosing around the back yard, and the horses and donkeys are, according to my son, who just walked in, all looking at the house. It's time for breakfast tubs and that, here on November Hill, is a powerful motivator to flip the switch and move on.

I thank you all for helping this week. Please call on me if I can do the same for any of you, any time.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

with great sadness, and godspeed


From the Caring Bridge website:
It is with deep sorrow that I must convey that our wonderful friend Gerry Reid has gone home to be with his God. Gerry was declared dead before 3 PM this afternoon. His wife, Mandy, has returned home to be with their children.

Gerry was an organ donor and his organs will bring others renewed life.

The family would like to thank all who have known Gerry for their tremendous outpouring of love and support. Gerry's legacy is the many amazing friendships he fostered and through these he will live on.

-Mark Turner

We add our love and support to Mandy, his children, and the entire family. Please keep the 9 p.m. vigil this evening as a tribute to Gerry and his incredible network of family and friends.

focused healing thoughts and prayers at 9 a.m., 3 p.m., 9 p.m. EST

I haven't had an update yet today but we will continue our focused healing thoughts and prayers this morning at 9 a.m., again at 3 p.m., and tonight at 9 p.m. and invite everyone to join in.

Over the past 15 years I've been involved in a number of group prayer efforts that had miraculous results. For me, it offers support to Gerry, his entire family, and all of us who care, and connects us all during a very difficult time.

I'll share updates when I have them.

(and I meant to add earlier that these lovely meditative photographs are Matthew's - I'm lucky to have such a wonderful group of images to pull from)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

rest, strength, continued prayer

Gerry's status is unchanged today and his condition remains critical. The family has requested that they be allowed to rest this evening, as they are exhausted. They appreciate the outpouring of support and welcome continued prayer.

This evening at 9 p.m. (EST) I plan to light a candle and send healing thoughts for Gerry and his entire extended family. Please join me if you can, and thank you for what you've done thus far.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

a waiting day

Waiting on rain and wind and snow for today on through tomorrow.

Even more, waiting for Thursday when sunshine will return.

But most of all, awaiting an update on my husband's friend and colleague, who was rear-ended by a huge truck yesterday morning, underwent surgery, and as of last night, was in critical condition in a coma. Gerry is a fighter, as my husband put it, and he has a wife and two young children to fight for, so we're hoping for a good outcome.

He's one of those people who knows everyone in the building at work (and that's a lot of people) so between family and friends, I know he's on a lot of minds this morning.

I've seen personally the power of prayer, lighting candles, sending healing energy, white light, etc. If you will, send your version of the above to him.

I'll update when I know more.


According to my husband, Gerry will be getting an MRI and CAT scan to assess other injuries (they know his neck is broken) and neurological condition. I've been reading stories written by people who survived (a number are fully recovered) similar accidents and am doing my own ongoing meditation using white light and warm vital fluids to surround Gerry in hopes that he can take what he needs as he needs it.

In an interesting equine display a little while ago, Salina was in the barn aisle with me as I did some chores. She was there, and when I turned around a split second later, she was in the arena playing quite actively with Redford. I did a double take, as I didn't see how it was remotely possible she'd gotten from the barn to the middle of the arena in that moment of time, and again because she was tossing her head and looking like she was floating, which I haven't seen her do in over a year.

I went to the arena and realized she wanted to go through the back gate to join the geldings. Although it was on the verge of raining, and I knew she'd be back around to the barn in no time wanting to come back to her side, I swooshed the geldings away and let her go to the back.

The moment she went through the gate she did a complete pirouette (in response to the bold pony who didn't keep proper distance) and then she piaffed for about 20 seconds and finished off with a head toss that looked like a 2-year old.

It was as though she felt my need to know that yes, miracles do happen. If anyone had told me a few months back that Salina would be pirouetting, piaffing, and tossing her head like that I would have smiled and said "I hope that's true." But it would have been difficult to believe. She has arthritic knees and will be 27 years old in a few short weeks. While her body condition has been wonderful this year, the strange weather has been tough on her joints.

But I saw what I saw - and just like that, she has me thinking of how much is possible with our minds and our bodies.

It's snowing right now, and bright red cardinals are flashing about in the front field, brightening the landscape, promising spring. I think I'll send that energy on to Gerry.

Monday, March 01, 2010

a request this evening

My husband's good friend and colleague was in a terrible traffic accident this a.m. and I would appreciate it if any who read this will send out healing thoughts and prayers. Thank you!

starting the second day off perfectly

Victoria from Teachings of the Horse just sent me a wonderful e-card for my birthday - I wish I could share it here, but can tell you that it took me swimming with dolphins, relaxing in a hammock, and served me fruity drinks with umbrellas. There was sunshine! There was no snow! No mud! Hallelujah!

Thanks, Victoria - what a wonderful start to the day!