Sunday, October 31, 2010


Taking a break from Biltmore photos to say that I have almost made it through a weekend without my husband, who took a well-deserved trip to the mountains to capture peak color and apparently an elk family with his camera. Whenever he goes out of town, I end up overdoing it the first day and then feel like I'm going to keel over the second.

Friday morning after he left I went into overdrive and tackled a huge mountain of laundry, vacuumed the house, raked up 12 20-gallon buckets of acorns out of the arena, made the critical error of hurling them over the fence (that motion of heaving something up and over is murder on my back), scrubbed Keil Bay's hooves, mucked the paddock and half the back field, and did assorted and sundry other chores that are part of the daily routine around here.

I felt quite pleased with myself Friday night, but yesterday I was not happy. Ice packs and an Advil turned things around so that I could get through the day with the help of two teens who pitched in.

This morning my daughter and I got up at 5:30 a.m. to go to a Pony Club lesson. She was able to take the lesson horse she's riding to their first outing together and they had a lovely flat-work lesson under a huge covered arena. It was a lot of fun, and thanks to my son, we didn't have to fret over the horses here on November Hill.

It's a lovely day out, so we just spent some time soaking hooves. I need to brag about Redford Donkey, who is an old pro already and easily soaks two hooves at once with not a bit of fuss.

Today we did oil of oregano soaks and so it was aromatherapy as well as hoof therapy.

If I can get my son off to his Halloween party tonight, I'll be able to sit down with a glass of wine and my Proust pages and relax. I think I'm going to be a lady of leisure for Halloween. (ha!)

And as an update on neighbors and the house across the lane - the couple who had fallen in love with the property bought it! They will be moving in early December and getting the place ready for their horse and goats. Adding to the fun is our other neighbor, who is putting in fencing with plans to get a horse for herself. We're going from a lane with 3 out of 8 horse owners to 5 out of 8. It will be nice to have more horses and horsefolk living nearby.

Hope everyone has a happy and safe Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

last batch of Biltmore conservatory photos

I think if I had gone into the conservatory first I might never have made it into the estate. I took a fair amount of photos but now looking at them, realize I would love to go back and walk in the front door, documenting each section piece by piece. A project I will anticipate with great pleasure!

Friday, October 29, 2010

a favorite sequence of Biltmore conservatory shots

This sequence of photos contains several of my personal favorites. Each captured the real essence of the plant and the atmosphere for me.

I loved the spiny-trunked palm particularly juxtaposed with the delicate flower behind it, and the texture of the aged terra cotta pots.

The other tree really called to me with the patterned trunks and the incredible way the light came through all those leaves.

The shot upward is a study in light and reflection and what is real and not real, as well as what looks like a reflection but is actually not. I loved this one b/c I put the bamboo "fence" in at the bottom - it was so much to take in, but not in any way overwhelming.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

and still more biltmore

If you click on the individual photos you'll see just how much texture and color is in each one. The veins of the leaves, individual flowers, the background and understory plantings, and even the conservatory structure itself created layers of visual interest. That these things actually grow out in the world as native plantings is miraculous to me.

I think my favorite photo in this batch is the last one, which gives a sense of the size and scope of the conservatory. Everywhere I looked there were lines and textures and light that shifted depending on where I stood or what room I walked into. I've really never been in such a stimulating environment - and yet it was mostly quiet - the various sounds of fans and misters and windows opening and closing weren't a constant - but almost like a clock marking this very special kind of time.

I left thinking I would absolutely love to have a place like this at home. If you've seen the movie Green Card, think of that penthouse apartment with the rooms like this, and the rooftop garden. I wonder just how much time it takes to maintain this place?

another batch of Biltmore conservatory photos

I started out trying to record the names of each plant but then decided I simply didn't care - I just wanted to walk around and find the ones I liked and get photos.

I also thought that it would be so easy to hide in the conservatory and get locked in there. It would be fun until it got dark and then it would probably be a bit scary, with all the fans and misters and various windows shifting and sliding. It was like the entire conservatory was its own living organism.

more Biltmore conservatory photos

the conservatory at the Biltmore Estate

One of the places we went this trip was the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. I've been numerous times during my life, but my children have only been once before, and my mom hadn't been in many years, so we decided to take an afternoon there.

The estate itself is incredible, but this trip I discovered a section I'd never been in before: the conservatory.

I'm not sure what captivated me the most - the labyrinthine rooms and walkways, the gorgeous plants, the light, or the periodic sound of levers turning and windows shifting, and misters spraying. It was absolutely mesmerizing. I took a lot of photographs, which I'll be adding here as the day rolls on.

Here are a few to get me started:

I think there is a book with a conservatory just like this one in my writing future.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


When I got to the barn for breakfast tubs Monday morning, after being away for 5 days, I was greeted by six sets of equine ears all perked in my direction. Even the pony, who is not always willing to show his affection, was at a stall door with eyes and ears glued to me.

I spent a few moments with each one, saying hello, making sure they were all okay. They all got their hooves trimmed while I was gone (a first!) and I'd read the notes but wanted to see their feet. Everyone is improved, and Salina, on a new diet and protocol, had gotten a really good trim because she was limber enough to lift both front feet so he could get at them the usual way. (when her knees are stiff, he trims her hooves in a sawdusty area with the feet on the ground - it works surprisingly well, but he can't get a good view from below to check sole and balance)

After breakfast tubs, they were all eating hay, and I took the wheelbarrow out to the paddock to do some mucking. It was overcast and lovely, with deeply gray skies and fall color beginning to pop. There was a small breeze. Mucking the paddock is a very grounding activity for me, and I wanted to get back into the November Hill routine.

After only a moment of mucking, I was joined by the Big Bay, who left his hay behind to come walk with me as I made my way along the paddock. I stopped and took a minute to rub him down with both hands. His winter coat is in now, and he feels so soft and warm. After the rub-down, he walked to the gate to the back field and looked back, inviting me to join him there.

We walked back together. He munched on a few acorns, and I mucked a few piles. We stood looking into the forest. I'm sure he was looking at something specific, but I just let my eyes go soft and enjoyed the big view, letting this place sink in deep, trusting him to alert me if anything needed attending to.

After a few minutes, it started to rain. At first it was a light rain and it felt good, but then it got harder, and Keil Bay looked at me as if to say, "I'm glad you're home but I'm not standing in the rain with you!"

And after a moment he sauntered back to the paddock and into his stall.

I stayed out for another minute, remembering a Native American ritual I read about a few years back. You go to a mountain and offer up your dream, and then you wait. When it rains, it's a sign that the mountain has accepted your dream and is raining it back down onto you so the dream can come true.

On the back slope of November Hill, my innermost thought was that I was happy to be home with the horses, and that I hope to have many many years of being with them just the way I was right that moment with Keil Bay.

What a wonderful and immediate affirmation I received with that soft and then heavier rain. There is no greater gift than living this dream of living with horses I love.

Sometimes we need to go away to remember, and celebrate, the blessing of coming home again.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

on the road

I've been traveling the NC/TN mountains since mid-week with my teens and my mom, enjoying the autumn color and celebrating my mom's 77th birthday.

The colors are gorgeous, the company fine, and we've had a lot of fun along the way. I think tonight we all realized we're about ready to head for home - missing our "space," missing our families, and on some level missing the "normal" routine.

Today we did a hike to one of my favorite places and there, on top of a grassy bald, the new book suddenly began to gel. I was wondering when it was going to expand from the idea to an actual story. It's a wonderful process when it starts to unfold.

I am getting back just in time to hop back into a busy week. Not quite ready for it, but at the same time, am ready to get back to the usual routine. Wishing there were some way to create a "between time" - where vacation gently transitions back to full responsibilities.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

fun with horses

And amazingly, not ours!

Yesterday afternoon my daughter started jumping lessons at a farm not too far away. With the pony and her long limbs, jumping anything over 2 feet is not really useful to her in terms of learning, and I have decided, for now anyway, that Cody (although he has a HUGE jump in him) is not a good candidate for her to continue learning jumping on, as his PSSM issues make trailering uncomfortable, and I'm just not keen on putting him in a scenario where he has to learn something new that could also be difficult physically.

But my daughter has always enjoyed jumping, and we need to follow that interest for awhile and see how it plays out.

Fortunately, because of her membership in Pony Club, we have come to know some good riders and trainers, and the family she'll be riding with are life-long horse people, kind and fun, and they do a lot of polocrosse and foxhunting. I knew before we scheduled that the training part would be fine - they ride and teach a balanced seat, a kind and quiet ride, and there's none of the "ass in the air/lay on the neck" junk that one sees in jumping competition.

I've been around their horses before, but not in a lesson scenario. We arrived a little early, and got to see the horses come in for the first lesson (of two) of the day. This involved a gate being opened and 8 or so horses sauntered happily in from their huge pasture, putting themselves into stalls where they had snacks waiting. I was immediately impressed. Happy horses bring themselves in, knowing it's lesson time! They were all friendly and alert. They were clean enough that it's obvious they get groomed and cared for regularly. This was no surprise to me, but it was nice to see.

The trainer informed us that it would be an unusually huge group because she had 5 students doing make-up lessons. Since my daughter has been riding solo for most of this year, I figured this would get her back in "group lesson" mode quickly, and it did. There was a friendly banter in the barn aisle as girls groomed and tacked up horses. Each girl individually went up to my daughter and introduced themselves, and welcomed her to the group. She knew two from Pony Club, but it was a nice start to have everyone be so friendly.

The trainer spent some time at the beginning thinking through who would ride each horse. She took into account what horse each girl favored, who had ridden who before, who wanted to learn something new, and she talked to my daughter about what her riding has been like at home, and what might be a new and fun challenge for her.

Daughter ended up on a 16.2 Percheron/Thoroughbred cross, an old hand at eventing and foxhunting. He actually reminded me a bit of Keil Bay. He was huge! So my daughter, with her long legs and torso, got to shift from pony size and QH build to something truly big. This is a horse who goes into the jump field at liberty and canters around over the jumps, so he is obviously a horse who enjoys his work.

It was fun seeing her on a big guy, all set to ride out to the jumping arena.

While I've written a fair amount about finding the right trainers and my willingness to ride alone if I can't find one,  I also know that for an adolescent girl, some of the fun of riding is being with other girls (and boys when you can find them on horses!). The lively banter, the energy of girls and horses, and the fact that I was not "in charge" of coordinating any of it was very nice.

I hung out in the center of the action - at one point there was a small group of adult riders practicing polocrosse in the big field, a small lesson group of very young girls riding (in small western saddles and with halters and reins instead of bridles) in the smaller arena with cones and poles and various obstacles to work with, and the big jumping group in the jump field. Over in a smaller arena there was a girl riding without saddle or bridle on her own horse. There was a lot going on, and yet everyone, including the horses, seemed happy and in good spirits. There was lots of praise and lots of constructive direction. "Try this" instead of "don't do that."

The girls in the jump group were all advanced enough to tack up and ride out to warm up their horses, and daughter joined in without a moment's hesitation.

The only surprise was a very pleasant one: both the husband and wife trainers actually tacked up and rode in the lessons! I loved this. I've seen a few trainers who teach this way, and I really respect someone who is willing to groom, tack up, and ride with the students. In my daughter's group, the trainer was able to ride alongside each girl/horse to give instructions, and to demonstrate.

They did walk, trot, and canter in one big group because she wanted them to work on being in the midst of a lot of horses and a lot of activity - much as you are when at shows and while foxhunting. When they started jumping, she divided the girls into two groups - one group jumped while the other went to a more distant part of the field and worked on other things she gave them to do.

One horse was off under saddle, so mid-lesson, that girl took the horse back to the barn and got a different horse to ride. This all happened with no disruption to the lesson. I was thrilled to see that such a subtle "offness" was both noted (and in such a big group) and dealt with instantly. 

It was coordinated, very organized, and she packed in a lot of "work" into the lesson. I was totally sold. At the end they went off on a trail ride to cool down.

The very nice part of this for us is that the trainer is part of Pony Club so there is the opportunity for my daughter to lease one of the horses for PC activities if she wants to, and to go foxhunting and try that out on an experienced horse, with experienced riders. For now, this gives us a golden opportunity to explore this path without having to trailer Cody and without having to invest in a horse that *could* trailer easily.

And given the kinds of riding and training I've been posting about here lately, it was a relief to see quiet, kind riding on horses that were not perfect, but were happy and responsive, and had come from being in a huge pasture all day long and would go back there when their work was done.

Bonus: they have a bathroom at the barn! :) It's been awhile since I've had that luxury.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

dreaming about the Big Bay (and Totilas)

I had one of my crazy dreams last night. I was taking Keil Bay to an underground spring that bubbled up with therapeutic properties both from the water, the action of the spring, and the mud it produced. In the dream, this was a favorite thing for him, and very convenient since in this dream we lived in an urban neighborhood and the underground spring was in the corner of a dirt parking lot behind a restaurant.

I put Keil's saddle and bridle on so we could ride down the neighborhood street. It was a nice neighborhood, but busy. There were cars, sidewalks, trees, honking, pedestrians, and generally a lot more activity than I would ever be comfortable riding in unless on a police horse. But in the dream it was perfectly normal and just another trip to the mud bath.

We arrived, and Keil Bay pawed at the mud, which triggered the spring to flow. He got his front feet down into the red clay mud pit and the water began to rush gently over his feet and lower legs. I had dismounted and stood off to the side. People from the restaurant were coming out onto the patio to watch. Of course, all of them remarked on how handsome Keil Bay was. He did his characteristic turn of the head to gaze into my eyes, nuzzled my arm, and then turned back to his mud. This got a chorus of "how sweet" from all the bystanders.

Up to this point, the dream was pretty much what it would be like if indeed we lived in that setting and were used to navigating through parked cars, people, and the noise of a city block.

Then it was time to leave. There were a lot of people in the parking lot when it was time to go, and several cars trying to pull in and park, so there wasn't much room to move. I realized it might be easier to long line Keil Bay out of there. (this is where dreamland takes over)

Miraculously the reins lengthened to driving reins, and I had a driving whip. Miraculously both Keil Bay and I were quite expert at this and the long lines tucked themselves in on either side of the saddle so they weren't dangling too low. In no time at all I had backed him up, turned him on the forehand, and we were walking briskly back toward home.

As we headed across the busy street, next to a row of tall but tiny-trunked trees, Keil Bay began to trot. I gave a cue and he began to piaffe. Suddenly I could see every limb moving in front of me. His legs were moving perfectly, and I was able to see and assess every joint. Wow, I thought, this is great!

We alternated trotting and piaffing depending on the traffic and my ability to keep up. And then, the dream went totally wonky.

Keil Bay began to do the Totilas version of extended trot. "Stop that!" I called out to him. I was embarrassed, for one thing, but it also seemed clear to me from behind that this wild front leg action was not practical out in the real world of the neighborhood sidewalk. And indeed, one of Keil's front legs went wildly forward and got caught on a tree trunk. We had to stop, back up, untangle that leg, and then start again.

I decided maybe we should cross back to the right side of the street, where there were no trees just waiting to tangle us up. But there was a front yard fenced in tall chain link fencing, and when Keil resumed that front leg action a hoof jammed in the fencing and we had to stop and untangle. It was an animal rescue, and there were cats and dogs and one big bear who came snuffling over to the fence to see what was what. I was worried Keil Bay had never seen a bear before and might spook with his hoof stuck and either injure his hoof or take the whole fence down, but remarkably, he and the bear sniffed noses and I got the hoof free.

"No more of that Totilas stuff," I warned, and off we went again, trotting along in Keil's beautiful floating trot.

Just when I was relaxing into this, a huge Cadillac backed out of a driveway ahead of us, and Keil Bay went back into Totilas mode, striking out with his hooves in front of him like he was trying to hit the car with them. The driver of the Cadillac, a heavy-set man with a heavy accent, put down his window and called out, "What's wrong with that horse? He looks lame!" and as he gawked at Keil's front leg action, he lost track of what he was doing and veered toward us in the big black car. We had to quickly go into lateral movement to get out of the way, and it was extremely tricky given Keil's front legs were at this point going in what seemed like every different direction.

I went up to Keil's head and said, "Really, now, that is enough of that. No more Totilas!"

And then I woke up.

Friday, October 15, 2010

house for sale! addendum

The huge house and potential horse property across from us is going to be auctioned in a week's time - and the minimum bid is unbelievably low. If I were not self-employed I would bid on it myself as an annex to November Hill!

If you're looking for a deal on property in NC, would make a terrific neighbor, love animals, do not own ATVs, and want more information, leave me your email in a comment. I'll email info and delete the comment so your info does not go "public."


Today when I went out to get the mail, I noticed the for sale sign had gone back up across the lane, and there was a flyer box added, which hadn't been there before. So I went over and took a brochure. When I did that, I saw two trucks in the driveway and decided I'd walk over and get some more info - an out of state friend had contacted me about the property and I figured I'd get the scoop.

It wasn't the realtor who was there, but prospective buyers and an inspector, and I introduced myself and found that the family looking are horse people, and this house and property is one they've been looking at for several months. I was totally moved to hear the woman describing her first look at the house, from the driveway, and so identified with her feeling that "this is home."

It's their dream, and this house, imo, has been waiting for someone to drive up, fall in love, and move in to make that dream happen.

From everything I heard and saw today, these folks would make incredible neighbors, and I love the idea of their "dream-making" energy moving in over there.

Send some good vibes their way. I love seeing magic happen.

nice end to the very busy week

Everyone but me set off this morning for a photography group field trip to the zoo, so I had the chores solo this morning. My mom came over and kept me company while I prepared breakfast, and we enjoyed chatting and hanging out while I mixed minerals, scooped supplements,  ground the flax and vitex berries, and got beet pulp rinsed and ready to carry out to the barn.

No one in my family is a horse person, and I talked so much about having horses from the time I could talk, I think everyone, especially my mom, gets a huge kick out of seeing me with the equines, working hard but loving every minute of it.

And it was fun seeing my mom standing in the feed room door, being nudged gently by Salina, flanked by the donkey boys, and feeling perfectly comfortable with them so close. And hearing her laugh with delight as she got to hear the Hanoverian breakfast chorus, which is quite a symphony.

It reminded me of days when I was young, being dropped off for the day by my mom at the barn where I boarded my horse, and being picked up at the end of that day, loading tack into the car so I could take it home and clean it, blissfully tired and talking non-stop about my horse all the way home. 

Today is another gorgeous day, and after getting the morning chores done, my mom and I had some rare time to visit without my kids here. With doors and windows open, we sat in the living room and talked about health care, family visits, and reminisced about dogs and cats we've loved over the years. (while Bear and Kyra entertained us, and the cats sat in their various spots as though they were enjoying the conversation!) We went to a favorite place for lunch, stopped by the espresso van for mocha frappucinos, and then headed back here where of course it was time for more barn chores.

This afternoon Keil Bay is getting time in the barnyard with donkeys and Salina, and he's sauntering around making the most of it - grazing, munching hay, checking out the path to the back, locating acorns, and periodically doing his most favorite thing - parading through the barn aisle from one side of the barn to the other. I'm not sure why he loves doing that so much - except that I doubt he's had much chance to do it anywhere but here, and he seems to think it's a fine privilege to have.

Very fine day, in fine company, and happy for all the blessings in my life.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

a first for Rafer Johnson

We've had some funky hoof issues this summer, likely brought on by wet/dry weather combined with lots of pasture, then stressed pasture, and what I suspect is my trace mineral balance getting out of whack. Things are getting back to normal now, but part of my treatment plan is the soaking of equine hooves.

Keil Bay and Salina are of course old hands at having feet soaked. Keil Bay will stand like a rock with multiple feet in buckets. Salina, you might remember, will soak her OWN feet if she feels like that's what needs to be done.

Apache Moon is less experienced, but he knows what to do and as long as you give him some hay to munch, he's okay with the process.

Cody, however, has simply not needed to have his hooves soaked in his young life, and while I've tried to plug it in a few times to at least introduce this practice to him, I admit I've not been diligent about it. So it's a bit more stressful for him. I've discovered that he prefers an old rubber feed pan than the bucket. The feed pan is bigger, the lip low to the ground, and I think he doesn't feel as "trapped" by it. It certainly is easier to manage if he wants to lift his hoof up - no banging or tipping. So I've been working with him this week and he's just about got it down now.

The donkeys have never needed hoof soaking either, and I haven't even tried until yesterday. I expected a bit more of a challenge, as donkeys are not really fond of water in general (drinking it is fine, but the hose is not their friend!).

Yesterday afternoon I was the only one here, the barn was quiet, everyone was munching hay, and I decided it was a good time to introduce Rafer Johnson to the process.

I closed off one end of the barn so Salina and Redford would be out of our way, and sat down in the barn aisle with Rafer, the rubber feed pan, my jug of apple cider vinegar and warm water, a small pile of hay, a few carrots, and Rafer's halter and lead rope.

Rafer smelled the jug. He smelled the pan. The one confusing factor in all this is that obviously the feed pan was used as a feed pan. And now I'm putting something liquid in it. But Cody got over this discrepancy quickly, and so did Rafer. I picked his hoof. I slid the pan under. I gently put his hoof down into the solution. He took it back out. I gently put it back. He lifted it out. I put it back. He stood down and let it soak. I gave him a carrot and lots of neck scratches.

Repeat a few times with each hoof.

And stop before it becomes too tedious.

Whenever I read about how difficult donkeys can be, I think of Rafer Johnson. His response to things is always measured, and for the most part trusting. If you approach something new with quiet, centered requests, he will generally comply. And once you repeat that with some treats, praise, and the same quiet expectations, he gets very good at the thing and comes to enjoy it.

It's been an interesting reminder to me this week - working with Cody, working with Rafer Johnson. There's something magical and healing and conducive to success in a quiet barn that has no distractions. The sound of horses munching hay, the occasional snort. It's the perfect backdrop for relaxation, meditation, and learning something new.

And a wonderful lesson for the human in how to accomplish something softly, with no drama and no force. Creating a routine that will make things easy the next time.

Monday, October 11, 2010

the ship is on autopilot


After my cross-post from November Hill Press blog, and all the lovely support I got, I am happy to report that I got to the upload phase with the first novel this morning. I pretty immediately got stuck in preview mode though b/c of some formatting issues that have to be fixed, but I can say without qualification that my getting out of my slump is a direct result of comments here last week. So thank you to all who commented. I so appreciate it.


I am living in a boneyard. Sort of like a Stephen King short story. Bear has managed to locate and excavate every bone that has ever been given to Chase or Kyra since we moved here 5 years ago. Every morning I wake up to find that he has been on midnight digs and brought in more of his finds. There were years when I stepped on stray Lego parts or Playmobil parts and squealed in pain. Now I am stubbing my toes on bones. I had no idea we'd even GIVEN Chase and Kyra this many bones!


It is another gorgeous day and although I still have a list of things, I have spent time on other things too: emailing my writing group partner for support on the formatting glitch, eating the last piece of Mexican chocolate cake that husband made on Friday, and right now I am sitting here cheerfully typing in this blog post, thumbing my nose at the to do list, and letting the ship sail -- on autopilot.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

keeping the ship in balance

It's another gorgeous day and I'm trying to keep the same sensibility I had yesterday - enjoy the day, work on the various projects I want to work on, get things done but refrain from getting stuck in the mode of "have to get these things done or I have wasted the weekend."

It's more difficult because today is Sunday and all the things I didn't get to yesterday are sitting here (figuratively) in front of me today, looking quite pitiful and needy and all seemingly having the exact same amount of "needs to get done" weight.

I feel like I'm sailing a big ship, with lots of boxes that need managing, and I'm running from bow to stern trying to keep the whole thing in some semblance of balance. The key is not to turn the "what's at stake" question into that of the ship sinking (which it isn't) but to make it what it is: this ship is sailing mostly forward, but we're on a somewhat zigging and zagging course.

And as much as I want all the boxes sorted and organized, there are helicopters landing with new ones all the time.

How's that for a nice visual of my to do list?

Things I did this weekend:

-enjoyed the gorgeous day yesterday
-many loads of laundry
-various shopping errands with husband, which gave us some time to ride a lovely country road and chat along the way
-bathed two Corgis and made sure their nails got trimmed (husband does that part!)
-designed book cover for second novel
-reformatted first novel and am very close to being done with that "final edit" I keep talking about
-made sure all humans and animals were fed (with help)
-watched several episodes of West Wing, in which the focus was on how to use the 365 days the President and his staff have left! - inspiring but there are no term limits on my to do list, unfortunately!

Things I have not yet done which I wanted to do:

-finish the equine mineral calculations
-soak some equine hooves
-read my Proust pages for tomorrow night's group meeting
-finish clearing the truck side of garage/basement
-change linens on bed
-do some ant patrol in front pasture
-organize my entire life and save the world (whoops! that is one heavy box - how did THAT get on my ship?!)

It's still before noon on Sunday so some of these things will get done today. Those that don't will not sink the ship, but they will weigh heavy if I allow them to... I'm heaving that last one overboard right now, and that has lightened the load. :)

Saturday, October 09, 2010

wonderful opportunity to join Sylvia Loch's Classical Riding Club

She's currently offering New Members to the Club a FREE six-month trial Membership.

Access to extensive Library and Newsletters
Members Noticeboard
Horses for Sale
Trainers Directory
Horse Directory
Members Directory and much much more.

Please visit the Website for more information.

I'm thrilled to share this exciting news - and I just joined. Let's get a US group going and maybe we can end up meeting once or twice a year to talk/ride/enjoy the company of like-minded horsefolk!

Friday, October 08, 2010

"famous dressage trainer" served by US Marshalls at WEG


He has not paid any of the $500,000 judgment which was first rendered by the Federal 9th District court, then upheld by the 6th Circuit, the second highest court in the US. The US Marshals did not depose him but rather delivered a Notice of Deposition, Request for Production of Documents and Interrogatories, as well as collect any cash, jewelry, personal property on his person. Today, the amount of monies owed is in excess of $900,000 given 10 years of interest. He was deposed the following day in Lexington. His home in FL was transferred to his then-girlfriend (with whom he has a child) one day before the emergency order was registered in FL in the year 2000.

For more info on this case, go HERE.

It's generally true that our behavior speaks volumes about us as people, and all I can say to the people who follow this man's training methods is this: look at how he lives his life. A lot of us believe that how we ride our horses speaks volumes about who we are as people. We know how he rides his horses. If that's not revealing enough, this, as far as I'm concerned, tells the rest of the story.

Why do I care?

It bothers me deeply when people who have great influence use it wrongly, for their own gain, and further, use animals as the means to their greedy ends.

That people fall for it upsets me more, as it seems indicative of some of the craziness in the world we live in today.

There's nothing I can do about it, except write about it and hope that when people read, they look at all the pieces they can find, and manage to put together a complete picture for themselves.

And maybe use it as a measure for themselves and their own dealings in the world of horses.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

impromptu offering for local folks

 Friday 15 October: 10 - 3 p.m. : 

 an outdoor day with equines and guided writing exercises. Come work on writing or a stuck place in your life. I can tailor the exercises to your individual project or goal. 

$125. or help with barn chores and take the workshop for $75. 

 I have room for 3 people. Bring your own lunch or one of us can do a run to Angelina's and get take-out.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

letting the acorns fall (cross-posted from November Hill Press blog)

I want to take a moment to talk a little bit about November Hill Press and why I decided to launch it at this point in my writing life. I've been writing novels since I was around 3 years old. The early novels were a toddler's version of cursive writing in blue ballpoint on yellow legal pads. I would meticulously put my scrawl on every centimeter of every legal pad line, filling page after page. There are pictures of my toddler self sleeping, pen in hand, with my pad filled with writing. That I was wearing footed pajamas adds to the charm. Sadly (for me, only) I don't remember what it was I wrote, and so those early works are lost!

But the point is, from that very early time in my life I was driven to write. My mother still has a few novels in which I scratched out the author's name on the title pages and tried to write my own name there. I have no memory of that, but it seems even before I could write, I wanted to be a writer.

I've spent years reading and writing. I have an undergraduate degree in English and a master's in clinical social work. I've written poems, short stories, feature articles, papers, and novels. I went through the usual channels with the novels, and although I met wonderful people and had generally good experiences with agents and editors, the process was slow. I am impatient. And the years roll on.

One evening last summer I walked down to the very back of our farm, November Hill. I was standing on the slope looking across at the "hundred acre wood" that lies behind us, when a huge herd of deer came from behind me, leaping together in such a way that it seemed they never touched the ground, their brown bodies arching away from me, down the hill, up the other side, and into the forest. White tails were flashing as they went. The herd was so large this took awhile. I stood, feeling like magic was happening. And then the last deer passed. She slowed and stopped. She turned and looked at me, and then leaped out of sight, hidden instantly as she entered the tree line.

Ted Andrews in his beautiful book, Animal Speak, says that deer often symbolize a call to adventure. An invitation to a journey that might take several years to come to fruition. For days after that encounter, I kept seeing the image of that deer who stopped and turned back. I kept feeling the call.

And that's how November Hill Press was born.

The journey is taking longer than I thought. When we hand our novels into the hands of editors, we hopefully trust them to make the books better. The first novel that is slated to come out under the November Hill Press umbrella has been edited and commented on and reworked. It's been ready to go for several years, if only it had a place to go TO.

And yet, now that I am singly in charge of its publication, I am obsessed with reworking it yet again.

This week I read Michael Cunningham's  NY Times Op-Ed piece,  "Found In Translation:"

Here’s a secret. Many novelists, if they are pressed and if they are being honest, will admit that the finished book is a rather rough translation of the book they’d intended to write. It’s one of the heartbreaks of writing fiction. You have, for months or years, been walking around with the idea of a novel in your mind, and in your mind it’s transcendent, it’s brilliantly comic and howlingly tragic, it contains everything you know, and everything you can imagine, about human life on the planet earth. It is vast and mysterious and awe-inspiring. It is a cathedral made of fire. 

But even if the book in question turns out fairly well, it’s never the book that you’d hoped to write. It’s smaller than the book you’d hoped to write. It is an object, a collection of sentences, and it does not remotely resemble a cathedral made of fire. 

It feels, in short, like a rather inept translation of a mythical great work.

As I read the above passage, I breathed a sigh of something close to relief. It's true. The cathedral made of fire is getting ready to be put into something concrete, an e-book, and then a paperback. Will it lose its brilliance in that translation? That's what we all fear, I think, and it's certainly part of what I'm struggling with as I try to get my manuscript, which has long been titled "claire-obscure-final" in my document file, to the point where I am able to send it on to the next phase.

Beyond this first title, there are four more ready to go.

It's a big leap, just like what the deer were doing last summer, when I stood and watched in awe.

Earlier this week I had another encounter with the November Hill deer. It was evening. They were standing in the arena, a place I've never seen them. There were five of them. They were eating acorns under the big oak tree.

Ted Andrews says in his book Nature-Speak that the oak symbolizes strength and endurance winning out, and opening to new spirit forces. He says the acorn is a symbol of fertility and fruition and the manifestation of creativity, and that the presence of acorns in a meaningful way can be a sign that the fruit of our efforts over the past year or two is about to be harvested.

Bear with me as I deal with these cathedrals made of fire issues. It's part of this process, and I'm trying to honor it while keeping to my original goal - which is letting these acorns fall.

Monday, October 04, 2010

measuring tape and ginger snaps

Time on this gorgeous autumn day to take measurements so I can update my equine weight charts and re-calculate diets going into the winter season.

With ginger snaps and timothy cubes as treats, I was the most popular activity on the property!

Apache Moon taped at 13.2h today. For years he was 12.2 and then last year I noticed he had added an inch. I'm not sure if he was standing on tip-hooves today so his height matches heart girth, or if he decided that he has to grow some to keep up with his girl's long legs!

Salina and Cody taped at their usual, but Keil Bay initially taped at 17h today! Then he taped at 16.3. He has been 16.2. No wonder I have had to resort to the barrel for mounting.

The mysteries of measuring horses...

Whatever the numbers, it is a pleasure to work with this curious, cooperative, fun-loving herd. I think we're all as happy as can be now that fall has arrived.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Horses Never Forget Human Friends

What most of us already know, but it's nice to see confirming research being done and published:

I have said for years that Keil Bay understands almost everything I say to him. He's absolutely a verbal learner and responds far more quickly to words than to cues, especially the natural horsemanship cues, which he thinks are primitive and beneath him.

Nice article, but would someone please tell me what the heck is in the mouth of the horse in the photo? Not a very nice thing to do to a good friend, imo. :/

Saturday, October 02, 2010

more blood at WEG

From Eventing Nation:

Karim Florent Laghouagh and Havenir d'Azac of France were eliminated by the ground jury after blood appeared around Havenir d'Azac's mouth during their dressage test.


For anyone reading who doesn't know, the dressage phase of the eventing discipline is different than the Grand Prix dressage I've been writing about in previous posts. Note that this horse is wearing a snaffle bridle and not the double-bitted bridle of Grand Prix. Even so, you can see the cavesson and flash noseband are tight, the reins are being held very short, and you can see the blood in the horse's mouth. I don't know if this French rider utilizes rollkur, hyperflexion, or LDR in warm-up, but he is riding this test behind the vertical (line from horse's forehead to ground - correct angle is that horse's nose should be slightly in front of this vertical line).

I also read though have not confirmed that in the cross-country phase of the eventing competition, this horse had a rotational fall (meaning it hit the jump and flipped over, hindquarters over head).

Accidents happen, but it's hard not to make a connection between this kind of heavy-handed riding in dressage, blood in the mouth, and a rotational fall on the cross-country course.

I seriously doubt this horse is a happy equine citizen.

a few words on WEG 2010

I just tried to watch the available musical freestyle dressage rides from WEG and I'm not sure if I have totally lost interest in dressage as a competitive sport or if there were no horse/rider teams who moved me, but I couldn't finish watching any of them.

The bright lights, the indoor arena, the huge crowd, the noise, the shadows - all of it made me slightly ill. I can't fathom that any horse, however accustomed to the environment they might get because it's what they know, enjoys that setting and all the chaos. I felt heavy and sad watching Totilas. He performs like a trained robot, and with every step he seems resigned to his life and his job. I watched long enough to see the lack of anything even remotely resembling an extended trot, the break from trot into canter, and the free walk, where at one point he looked slightly lame, and I stopped. That this ride got a score higher than 90 is utterly shocking to me. 

I can't say much more about the other riders and horses. I tried to watch, to have a different experience than the Totilas ride, but the sounds of the crowd and the loud music, the tension, the horses' faces and heads/necks in tight frames were more than I could bear.

I have seen competitive rides where I got a good feeling from the horse and rider. I'm not sure if some of that was due to my own lack of education about what I was seeing - the ignorance is bliss syndrome - or whether things are truly worse now for the horses and it shows in competition.

I've read a lot of "reviews" today and it sounds like the ride on Fuego got huge applause and boos of disagreement when the scores were put up. The one part that struck me was what I couldn't get to on the video - Fuego rearing in fear at the end when the applause went through the roof. I don't know - that seems to put the entire thing into perspective for me.

My enjoyment of competitive horse sport may well be gone.

Friday, October 01, 2010

we have sunshine! and some hoof notes

Fortunately the rain left us yesterday afternoon, which meant that the horses stayed out with musical hay nets (initially they were intent on moving one another from net to net, then they considered other options and mutually agreed that if they were willing to share, they did not have to move so much!) and then I was able to open up the back field so they could get out and enjoy the still cloudy but no rain left day.

They came in for hoof cleaning (see below for more on this) and then dinner (Salina and Rafer actually came in for a few hours relaxation in the barn aisle when she had lunch) and then went back out for the night.

I think nearly 24 hours out has alleviated the antsy, bored shenanigans we had yesterday morning!

They were happy to come into their stalls for morning hay, and will soon get their breakfast tubs.

I'm glad it's Friday, glad to have sunshine, and happy that there is really nothing major going on this weekend except a few chores we need to get done.

Now for some hoof notes:

With all the summer grass and this year's hay being a little bit higher iron than last year's,  my copper and zinc levels have been off. Add to that the extreme dryness of the past month and we seem to be having some funky hoof stuff going on.

Next spring I am seriously considering making the "paddock paradise" style track using both fields so that the horses are not on grass and are moving quite a bit each day. The alternative is to muzzle all of them, and I'm just dreading the sight of 6 equines wearing muzzles! The track would allow them to chew and "graze" normally and they could do it 24/7.

Anyway, I feel like right now I'm dealing with the consequences of my not having been diligent about the issue of lush pasture that extended through much of this years spring/summer season. My first clue was that late this summer they all got a slightly bleached look to coats, manes, and tails. I tweaked copper and zinc (gave them extra) and very quickly their colors deepened again, so I knew I was on the right track.

I'm currently doing some additional/more intensive hoof cleaning to make sure I'm seeing progress in hooves as well. I decided that with all this hoof care (now needing to be done by me since daughter's finger is still recuperating) I needed to come up with a way to do it that doesn't kill my back.

How hoof care providers do it all day, many days a week is beyond me. I can do a thorough picking of two horses and I'm ready to stop. But we have six! So I set up a 'hoof care kit' which utilizes the big 20-gallon buckets we get from HorseTech. I put all my hoof care tools and medicinals in a smaller bucket which sits down in the larger bucket, which has a lid. Then I can take the big bucket to wherever I want to do the hoof care, usually in the barn aisle for donkeys and Salina, and the paddock for the geldings.

I take the smaller bucket out, put the lid back on the big bucket, and then use the big one as a seat. It's the perfect height for sitting to do hoof care. The geldings can rest a hoof on my knee comfortably and I have my tools within reach. My assistant (daughter, son, or husband) can lead the horses up one by one and I never even have to move.

The thing is, none of our horses are really accustomed to this kind of arrangement. They want to turn around to see what I've got in the bucket, the ones not yet being done want to come investigate, etc. So we decided to treat with alfalfa pellets, one pellet at a time, to make this a bit more of a rewarding, pun intended, experience.

I had to laugh last night. We did the reward mode a few days ago (I'm not doing this elaborate procedure every day, but a few times a week) but yesterday when my husband got Keil and brought him over, Keil was not wanting to come. He wanted to go in his stall and relax. Once he complied though, he lined up perfectly, gave me his hoof, and then craned around as if to say "where's the pellet?"

My husband went to get some, and Keil Bay stood in the paddock with no halter, no lead line, and perfect cooperation as I cleaned, scrubbed, dried, and treated each hoof. Each time I finished a hoof he turned around to sniff my hands, and I told him "the pellets are on the way, Big Bay, just wait." And he did.

It always amazes me how quickly horses can get the drill down, and that they will choose to cooperate when they know what you're doing, and make it pleasant for them.