Sunday, April 29, 2012

matthias rath on totilas - more rollkur


I'm posting this because apparently the owners of Totilas are having these photos removed from sites in an effort to stop the outcry about this abuse.

The photos are in the public domain. If you have nothing to hide about the way you ride, why the efforts at censorship?


Saturday, April 28, 2012

may we be master/artist/sage

"The character of the human, too, will find its expression in the training and performance of the horse.

The level-headed one becomes a master, 
the inspired one an artist, 
the correct one a controller, 
the violent one a subduer, 
the crafty one a conman. 
The faint-hearted one makes compromises, 
the timid one capitulates, 
the hot-tempered one becomes unfair, 
the malicious one a torturer, 
the melancholy one a trifler. 
The hasty one becomes frustrated, 
the impatient one becomes unhappy, 
the fool becomes complacent, 
the snob becomes a more or less happy boaster on his horse. 
The prudent one remains a student forever, even if he is a master; 
the sage, however, …?
The sage in the saddle is rarely encountered. He is recognizable by his extreme modesty, because he knows that no-one can solve all the riddles the horse presents to us – life is too short."
(Udo B├╝rger, 1959)

Friday, April 27, 2012

nice perspectives on working with horses

Thursday, April 26, 2012

week winding down

We've had a busy week here and finally, today, things have slowed down enough that I can sit and dash off a post!

First, thanks to everyone who downloaded claire-obscure during the recent promo on Amazon. 10,000+ downloads took her to #14 overall in the free Kindle book store and to #1 in suspense! It was a wonderful weekend and I am grateful for all the support for my books and my publishing venture.

I also have an update from the director of the Triangle chapter of the United Equine Rescue League:

Someone let me know of your generous post and I wanted to let you know how much USERL appreciates your thoughts on this case, and your contribution via book sales.

This has, indeed, been a difficult case, but light is at the end of the tunnel for them! The pregnant mare is bagging up again with milk, so hopefully has had enough time to regain strength to produce milk for her foal (her body score is now close to 5!). The colt, now named "CJ" is doing great with his foster in training and weight gain is steady. The stallion, now gelding, is a sweetie who will make a very willing mount (he was quite manageable as a stallion). And the filly is slowly improving (she was the other one with marked blood results). The colt that was humanely euthanized is in a better place, no longer suffering and leaving a legacy (NC Veterinary Assoc. donated funds for a Large Animal Lift and electric hoist for cases such as Taipa's!).

We couldn't do a group such as this without the wonderful support of people in the community! It is a large responsibility to take in 6 horses, 4 of which were unhandled. It has been a challenge to fund it in these poor economic times.

Thank you, again, for your thoughts on this case, and your endorsement through your book sales. The caretaker was charged earlier this month by Durham County for animal cruelty and the court case is pending next week.


Jennifer Malpass
Board Chair
NC - Triangle Regional Director

Now it's time for me to remind everyone that I will be donating 100% of royalties from sales of Jane's Transformation, book one in my Magical Pony School series, not only through the end of April, but ongoing. 

It's also time to announce that as of today, Thursday, April 26th, 10 copies have sold. That's a donation of approximately $20. for this month. I had hopes to give so much more! I posted the story on three of the blogs I maintain, on Google+, on Facebook, and on Twitter. I also posted on two local horse groups. 

My hope is that folks who wanted to contribute did so directly to the rescue group via the links I posted with the story itself. You can still do that RIGHT HERE.

I hope you'll ALSO consider spreading the word about Jane and this opportunity to get a nice read while donating to a great cause. The 10,000 free downloads that happened this past weekend for my adult novel did so because a lot of people saw the book featured on a popular e-book recommendation site called Pixel of Ink. I'll certainly be trying that route with Jane's Transformation but there's no guarantee they'll select the book during Jane's next promo weekend. Meanwhile, help me do the same thing Pixel of Ink does - TELL people about it. April's royalties come through in June, and I'd still like to make a nice donation from this month's royalties to help the painted horses that are in rehab.

Head over to Amazon to buy/gift/see more RIGHT HERE.

OUR painted pony says THIS is how handsome we are when we get good food and good care:

In other news on November Hill, Cody had what I think was a mild colic episode on Monday morning. We'd had an overnight shift in weather - rainy and then suddenly quite cold for this time of year. He came in for breakfast, ate 2/3 of his tub, and then started lying down and getting back up again. After figuring out that he wasn't simply trying to get some sleep time while safe in his stall, I let him into the barnyard to see what was going on. He started running around - bucking and tossing his head - which initially I thought was him feeling good, but then realized that something was wrong when he began to lay down again, then leap up and buck/run. Repeat a number of times. 

I opened the arena gate intending to direct him into that safer area and he ran past me into the arena, and suddenly did a huge buck/kick that was so close to me I threw up my arms to protect my face - a good thing, as his left hind hoof clipped my elbow. First ever horse kick on my part, and I was immediately both in pain, upset, and offended - daughter reminded me that it was not intentional on Cody's part. He was in pain himself, and had that slightly panicked look in his eye that indicated he was in flight mode. After a few more circuits of running and bucking, he finally went down into a quieter mode and laid down for about 20 minutes. 

He wasn't sweating, pawing, or biting at himself - but did occasionally turn his head to his rear as if trying to figure out what hurt. In the midst of the running, he did one very normal poop. My husband came home to help - I had a goose egg on my elbow and daughter is still not wearing close-toed shoes due to her toe, and I was still wary of trying to halter Cody and get a dose of Banamine in him. Husband had no problem doing both and Cody spent the rest of the afternoon in his own stall/paddock where we could monitor manure and urine output and where he could rest/graze/walk at liberty. He's been fine ever since.

We had a shorted out well switch that night, which meant a night of no running water. By the time yesterday rolled around and I had my perio appointment, going to the dentist seemed like an actual vacation compared to Monday and Tuesday! I'm happy to say that not only was the cleaning tolerable, my six-month post-surgery report is great. The sun came out, equines are happy, and a very hectic schedule has now quieted down so that my days in the next few weeks look blissfully empty. 

My only complaint at the moment is that my external hard drive is churning and not working quite right. I think I can live with that!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

buy an e-book ($2.99!) - help a herd of rescued painted horses

This morning I read a story that touched my heart. Our local equine rescue league plus a very dedicated animal control office have partnered and worked hard to not only rescue an emaciated herd of painted horses, but did the additional painstaking work to bring charges against the owner for cruelty to animals.

When an entire herd has to be taken in, the resources of a rescue group are pushed to the limits, particularly in this case: all but one horse was emaciated and suffering from long-term lack of nutrition. A mare is pregnant, so her in utero foal is suffering too. The stallion had to be gelded. Several young horses had never been handled. They have already had to humanely euthanize a handsome but extremely weak medicine hat paint because he went into liver failure.

As many of you who visit here know, we live with a wonderful, spirited, smart as can be painted pony named Apache Moon. He brings such joy to our lives, every single day. It broke my heart to see these painted horses in such need of what all of us would consider the very basics of horse life.

Starting today through the end of April, I will donate 100% of the royalties earned on my middle grade (but a wonderful read for adults as well) e-book.

Jane's Transformation (book one in the Magical Pony School series) is available on Amazon. You can click directly to the product page by looking over on the sidebar to your right and clicking on the cover.

If you have a Kindle you can buy it immediately. If you have a smart phone, a computer of any kind, an iPad or other tablet, you can quickly and easily download the FREE software on Amazon that will enable you to purchase and read this e-book (and any other e-book).

I have Jane priced at $2.99, which means my royalty per sale is about $2.  What happens, though, is when the book sells on Amazon, it rises in rank. As it rises in rank, especially if sales are concentrated, it goes onto various bestseller lists based on its genre and subjects. When this happens, more Amazon viewers see the book and more of them tend to buy it. By participating in this it is entirely conceivable that we could create what my writer friend Dawn calls "the perfect storm." I would LOVE to write a big fat check to the NC Triangle USERL to help with expenses for these horses.

Full disclosure: Of course you can donate directly to Triangle USERL and that is definitely a good thing to do, especially since their Paypal button will get the money to them immediately. My royalties for April will be paid to me in June, so that is when I will write the check to USERL.

My suggestion is this: donate some directly and buy the book so they get a second donation later. By buying the book AND spreading the word, you make it that much more likely that we can together create a perfect storm and give a larger donation in June.

I also stand to gain if the book kicks up high and then STAYS high after the end of this month. All I can say is, if that happens, I will work on a way to continue donating, whether it be a percentage per book sold, or more 100% chunks of time. My intention with this series is to get more of the books written and published so that I can donate all the proceeds from this first one on an ongoing basis. I love the idea that Jane and the Magical Pony School ponies could be an ongoing source of funding for some needy equines. 


If you scroll down you'll see the Paypal button to donate.


The current ranking is #313,510. You can track how we're doing by looking at the ranking. As sales happen, the number will get smaller as the book rises. The lower the number, especially if we get into the top 100 of paid sales OVERALL, the better. If we get Jane into that top 100 of all paid sales list, you'll know we are getting the exposure needed to make a very generous donation indeed.

I will post a screen shot of my sales page along with the check I write to the NC Triangle USERL group in June. Please help make it a big one.

Remember - on Amazon you can buy the e-book as a gift and send it to anyone you know. But the biggest part of making this go viral is spreading the word.

I realize this is one small herd among many who need help. But this is the herd that grabbed my attention today. A backyard breeder thought he/she could make money by breeding painted horses. Now there are a number of young horses who have not been handled, a pregnant mare, and a recently gelded stallion to show for it. All were starving. One has been put down. Maybe this case can be a lesson to anyone even thinking of breeding. There aren't homes for all these horses! There is no reason to think you can make money doing this. And even if you could, is it really an honorable profession?

Addendum as of Thursday at 8:08 p.m. - Jane is cantering up the charts!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

baby steps with the LIttle Man

Just have to take a moment to jot down what I did with Apache Moon today. I went and got him in from the field a little after breakfast and spent a fair amount of time with him in the barn aisle - doing some targeting with the clicker, then working with him to stand while I groomed him and tacked him up.

The wind was gusting through the barn and there were various mowers and things running in the neighborhood, so I was extremely proud of him - he stood nicely without being tied for about 90% of the time and the other 10% entailed a few half-hearted attempts to walk away, no more than one step each time. He really did a good job.

The big thing we did that made me really happy today was our first baby steps in ground driving. My husband was out doing chores and able to help me just to make sure nothing wild happened. I got the long lines hooked to his bridle and through the loops on his bareback pad, and husband stood at his head so I could make sure the lines touching him behind and all down his hind legs didn't spook or upset him.

He really could have cared less.

We did three little sets of walking and halting with the lines in the barnyard, with me in full control and husband at his head just in case. I really wanted to do more but on the other hand really wanted to stop with a very solid success and not push him past his limit today.

But based on how it went I'm extremely excited about what we have to look forward to as we learn more and do more together. The wonderful thing about the pony is that he is small enough that I can easily see his entire body, including head and neck, from behind him, which will be such a great learning tool for me as I get further into this kind of work.

Bravo, Apache Moon!

Thomas Ritter book discussion, pgs. 58-95

I'm going to randomly post some of my book discussion contributions here so if anyone wants to read along and comment, you can do so.

The book in question is one I highly recommend, not only informative but simply gorgeous with stunning illustrations and photographs, Thomas Ritter's Dressage Principles Based on Biomechanics, which can be purchased HERE.

my book discussion post:

This is a longer section, with a lot of information packed into it as it surveys and highlights (and connects) the history of dressage for the reader.

For this section, which gets more to the meat of the book, I've read pages from beginning to end (and re-read a number of passages) - but I'm going to post here as I go back through it another time.

My first observation is from a passage on pg. 60 in which Ritter says, " All horses are different, which is why no two individuals can be trained with exactly the same training schedule..." and then further he says, "I always recommend to my students that they devote a part of each training session to research, where they don't try to teach the horse anything new, but instead analyze the current situation and to get to know the horse better. No two horses are identical, so this makes an individual approach necessary. In theory, everything can be right, and everything can be wrong depending on the different circumstances."

You can stop here and add your own thoughts to this thread or read on for my own long ramble as I think through my own herd with the above in mind.

It was nice for me to begin this section with information that I understand and can leap right into with my own experiences at hand as I read forward. For the past 8 eight years I've worked primarily with three horses and a pony who live with us. You can see how different they are:

Salina, 29 years old, German Hannoverian mare imported as a brood mare, 15.2. She has one eye and arthritic knees due to an injury but is also the most highly trained of the horses here (up to 4th level but don't know how much work she did at 4th). Although we retired her from riding several years ago, the few years I was able to ride her lightly taught me a tremendous amount. She does not bear with demands or rough handling or riding. The first time I got on her I knew immediately I needed to sit quietly, correctly, and ask nicely. She responded to that by putting herself into a near-perfect position and then she did something I'd never experienced before on a horse - she would respond to what your body asked her to do, which in my case didn't always match with what I *thought* I was asking. It often happened when sitting the trot that I inadvertently asked for the canter, and when cantering, that I asked for a change. She would respond to what my body actually did, then she would very intentionally return to the previous movement and respond to what she assumed (always correctly) I had MEANT to ask for. So for me, it was like she was saying "This is what you actually asked for, but wait, here is what I think you MEANT." I tried hard to pay attention to what my body did in each moment so I could get the lesson she was giving me. I was especially touched by her going forward so beautifully no matter which direction - on the lunge line (done only briefly and rarely as I didn't want to stress her knees) and under saddle. When working, she trusted me completely and you couldn't tell a bit of difference if her good eye was in or out on the circle or the arena rail.

Keil Bay, 23 years old, Hanoverian trained by a German dressage trainer, very sound with very clean joints. Keil is 16.2 and broad as the side of the barn. Solid through 2nd level but knows and does many of the 3rd/4th level movements with ease on occasion. He's a laid back, sweet-natured but also opinionated and very expressive gelding. He tends to bring himself to the level of his rider, ie. if a pure beginner gets on him he will literally just stop and stand quietly. If an upper level rider gets on he will move well but if pushed hard will grind his teeth. I've often seen him "wag" his head when being pushed hard as well. With me, over the years, he moved well but came down to my level (which initially was "go forward but not too quickly") with regular and brilliant 'pushes' when I needed them to help me get past my own hurdles. Keil Bay will do anything I ask if I get myself into a correct position and ask correctly. He'll try to do the things I ask when I'm not in balance or ask incorrectly. His default is to slow down - if I confuse him, he just notches down and waits until I reorganize. He is treated like a king here b/c he not only takes care of me, he puts up with me, and I am grateful for every single moment I have with him. For someone coming back to riding after many years out of the saddle, he has been a dream come true. My ongoing riding goals with Keil Bay are to work on myself so I can make the accidental dressage moments become intentional and last longer - we've made progress this winter. This week we had a ride where we didn't make it past the walk. I was stiff, he was stiff, it was mid-day which we both dislike for riding, but we ended with a lovely walk so - that was where we were that day and we did what we could do from beginning to end of the ride to work through what we started with.

Cody, 9 years old, QH, trained in Western Pleasure by age 2. Cody is a wonderful, teddy bear kind of spirit with a little bit of a passive-aggressive streak which mostly comes out in benign ways. He was bought for my son, and once we realized how young he was (when his papers arrived, after we'd bought him) we notched down what we asked of him under saddle for a full year and a half and then picked back up when he was 4. He is extremely sensitive to the aids - in some ways much like Salina but he doesn't have the correct training nor the understanding of his own body so while Salina will do the correct thing no matter what, Cody needs a lot of guidance in moving in ways that supple rather than tighten him up. He's gotten better and now that we know he has EPSM and are treating that we've also gotten more in tune with his sensitivities and what works/doesn't work, as well as when to push/not push physically. As it turns out, daughter is doing riding disciplines that aren't a good fit for Cody, so he's my partner in training - i.e. seeing what I can do to train him the basics of dressage. With Cody, the regular and correct work will be therapeutic for his body, (as I think it is for all horses, but for him it's really important for daily comfort) and that compels me to take this on as a learning experience for myself. Otherwise I would be perfectly happy to work with Keil Bay only.

Apache Moon, a 12.3 half-Shetland painted pony, 12 years old, who is built like a little warmblood and has really lovely gaits considering how small he is. Right now my daughter has outgrown him - she can still ride him but her legs are so long it's just logistically difficult for both of them to do much together. I'm working with him in hand right now and he's doing very beginner rides with two little students, to whom he acts like a prince. The Little Man, as we call him, has done Pony Club with daughter, combined training shows, eventing, dressage shows, etc. Daughter rode him against professionals on big horses in open classes and often got ribbons and decent scores. He has a talent for collection and often does a very nice levade on his own and/or when we play with him at liberty in the arena. He's smart as a whip and if I can teach him to long line I think he'll teach me a lot in the process - he's small enough that I can actually see what his body does very easily as I work with him at his side and behind. He is smart but wary and always testing the boundaries to see if he can get higher in the herd (horse and human). When he decides to stop trying to move up in rank, he is wonderful to work with but it takes times and some patience to get there with him. Right now he's very angry at my daughter for growing up, and in some ways I see him beginning to shift his attachment/trust to me. It's a bittersweet time - most of what daughter did out and about in the riding world she did with him, and it was not only her first time doing those things, but his as well, so they had to work hard and together to achieve what they did. We're trying now to find the new normal for him here. Fortunately he is loving the clicker training work I'm doing with him right now and I think once he forgives daughter and figures out a new non-riding relationship with her things will be good again.

I'm not exposed to many many horses in my life right now - but these four I think offer me enough differences and different challenges that I have more on my plate than I can manage on a day-to-day basis. As I read forward into this section I have these four in mind and am thinking about how to apply what I'm reading in ways that will serve the needs of these horses. And in the case of Salina, in some ways how I might make sense of the rides I had with her. Every now and then she comes into the arena and wants me to work with her so we do some easy dressage tests (walk and a little trot) on the ground. Her donkey boys come right along with us! She remembers the figures and sequences and when we're done she leaves the arena with that same sense of pride that I expect she had when she was young.

Which brings me to the Duke of Newcastle's quote which I loved, on pg. 64, paraphrased:

"lenity and patience with good lessons, never to offend your horse... it is your business to make both your person and the manage as agreeable to him as possible..."

I can see with Keil Bay and Salina that the work they learned early on remains a comfort and a pleasure to them and the arena a place where they can shine and feel good. That Keil Bay will come to the gate and wait for me if I call him in for a ride, and that the pony and Cody often come to the arena gate and ask to come in when I'm there are my signs that I'm on a good, if very slow and often crooked (pun intended) path!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

AM ride + PM ride = good day

Yesterday I woke up stiff and feeling more like a senior than I really wanted to - fortunately stretching and doing chores worked to remedy that, and probably because I wanted to prove to my body and the universe that in fact I am still alive and kicking, I saddled up Keil Bay after breakfast and we had a ride.

By the time we got into the arena it was mid-day though - not his favorite time to ride if the temps are above 60, which they were. Full sun and this time of year some pesky insects make it less than ideal, but I pulled out the new Quiet Ride mask I bought recently so that I could offer some relief for Keil and Cody as we roll into the warmer seasons of the year.

The ride started out with the pokiest walk I've had on the Big Bay in a long time. Really really poky. As is our deal, I allowed him to set the poky pace for the first 5-10 minutes. We poked around and I took the opportunity to just relax and breathe, making sure I wasn't holding tension anywhere.

In hindsight, I should have done some stretching in the saddle but it didn't occur to me at the time!

Generally if we start out poky like that Keil will work himself into a more forward walk, but yesterday he didn't. I felt myself getting grumpy - I really missed his big panther walk and it's difficult to come from really good rides back to poky. I got louder with my legs and when I starting shoving with my seat realized I was just being ridiculous. With Keil Bay, saying it out loud in plain English is always the key to success.

"We need to pull out of this, Big Bay. Let's wake up and do a Big Walk."

And he responded with some energy. We continued walking, now with some energy, but it didn't build from there, so I asked for the trot. Upping the movement helped, and we were able to return to the walk but with much better rhythm. Yesterday, whenever we lost rhythm at the walk, we moved into trot and got it back that way.

Interestingly, turns on the forehand and haunches were near perfection, as was the backing. It might be of note that these were done in the shade!

Most of our ride centered on getting both of us relaxed and into a rhythm, which was fine. The overall message for me was that I need to get out to the barn early in the day now and ride after hay but before breakfast tubs, which suits the Big Bay much better. He will work hard for food and I can "feed the work" at the same time.

His reward yesterday for sticking with me was the grand opening of the gate to the back field, which has been closed off for a week and a half. The donkey boys have been slipping through the fence and helping themselves and the horses and pony have been highly annoyed - so when I unlatched the big gate and let it swing open there was a mass movement of horse flesh to the back. Not only was there good grass, but it's shady back there that time of day. I barely saw any of this herd the rest of the afternoon - they were busy busy busy.

Later in the day, after the sun was mostly down, I rode Cody. He's been out of work due to daughter's broken toe and it's time to get him going again. Cody is such a different ride, and when I ride he and Keil both in the same day it's extremely apparent. Cody, though not a small horse, is narrower than Keil Bay, and I immediately noticed my hips moving so much more as he walked off from the mounting block. He's more sensitive to all the aids so I have to notch everything way down. He's not as highly trained as Keil Bay so some of the communications I can do with Keil just aren't there for Cody. But his willingness and his sensitivity make for a very nice ride and I see lots of quick results in his movement when I incorporate some of the lower level dressage movements into our work.

He's very good at shoulder-in and shoulder-in is very good at suppling him exactly where he needs it, so once we warmed up we did some of that. We did a lot of walking and a lot of different figures yesterday. My big triumph was adjusting my stirrups from the saddle - my stirrups for Keil are always set for me, so I never have to adjust. Cody's were adjusted for...???... I'm not sure who - Gumby, maybe, as the left stirrup was about 5 inches longer than the right. I didn't realize until I got on and decided I needed to practice adjusting from the saddle instead of getting off and back on again.

I admit, my first thought was to call daughter to come help me! But I resisted and did it myself.

The only thing I didn't enjoy about the ride was Cody's saddle - his dressage saddle is a Wintec which we bought when he was younger so we could change the gullet as needed. It is REALLY noticeable to me how much I dislike this saddle after I have ridden in Keil's County Warmblood. The Wintec is flatter, which is fine, but I've realized over time and definitely noted yesterday that I dislike the feel of synthetic saddles. I hate the synthetic billet straps and the feel of the saddle underneath me is just too rigid. It doesn't have the feel that leather does.

It's on my list to find a good dressage saddle for Cody now that he's stopped growing and I'm riding him again.

Cody did a good job and when I got off I was as supple as could be. Now it's a new day and I should be out there doing it all over again!

And meant to add this quote which came into my email box yesterday:

When your horse has reached his potential, leave it. It's such a nice feeling when you and your horses are still friends. 

~ Reiner Klimke

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Life With Senior Horses: Our Secret Society (and a little bit of time travel)

Yesterday we had a very cool, very windy spring day. I went out to the barn in the afternoon thinking I might ride both Cody and Keil Bay, but when I got to grooming, realized I probably wouldn't get to the riding part. Keil Bay had gotten into something (probably pine sap?) that had dried in hard streaks along his back, right in the saddle area. There was no brushing it out. It was cool enough and their fur was puffy enough, that I decided a bath wasn't going to work. I put the kettle on in the feed room to heat up some water so I could spot clean him.

Meanwhile I continued grooming and found that his slightly swollen sheath was coming from a very badly placed tick that had latched on and in fact dug in pretty deep. I got out the tea tree sheath cleaner and when I had a big bucket of nice warm water I went to work. Keil Bay had by this time moved from the big barnyard over to what we call the grass paddock. The wind was whipping, Bear Corgi was barking at the Big Bay, and the rest of the herd were crashing around in the woods' edge sounding like elephants on the move.

But Keil Bay, without lead line or even halter, just stood there so I could get that tick removed and get him cleaned up. It took a few minutes to get the tick, and the contortions I had to make to actually get my fingers on that tick in that very delicate part of his body would not be fit to post here even if I had the photo. I said out loud, "Keil, there aren't many horses who would stand here and let me do this, and maybe none I would trust enough to do it to." A few moments later I got the tick, finished cleaning, and then went to make another bucket of clean warm water. Keil Bay stood right there in the grass paddock and waited for me so I could rinse him off.

By the time I finished this I decided to go ahead and groom him completely, then move on to Salina and the rest of the herd. The wind was whipping and they were all happy to stay in the barnyard - they had chosen to stay there all morning while I did barn chores, never venturing through the gates I'd left open so they could go to the pasture if they wanted to. I went through the entire grooming routine with Keil and decided to go ahead and brush his tail out. I don't do this every time, but when I do it, I really enjoy it. We walked together around the grass paddock, grazing and brushing.

And suddenly as I got to the middle of his tail and brushed out that last coiled piece I found it: one long pure silver corkscrew curl hair. I couldn't believe it. I have one of those myself, on the right side of my head, near my right ear. I found mine awhile back and named it my wild senior hair, making it something special, a sort of private metaphor for age and experience with a young-in-spirit crazy streak to boot.

Keil Bay has one too! I wasn't surprised, as he and I share a lot of chiropractic outages, we have the same homeopathic constitutional, etc. Now we both had secret wild hairs. Perfect.

I went on to groom Salina. She came and stood by the barn doors on the big barnyard side so she could keep her eye on everything the herd did. She planted herself there and rested easily - they couldn't leave the area unless they walked right by her. Salina had no ticks but an old bite that itched a bit, so I rubbed if for her. I decided to brush out her tail too. Lo and behold, in the middle of her black tail, there was a long, silver corkscrew hair. Now we have a Secret Society of Seniors on November Hill!

I laughed and said this to Salina. She didn't seem to be amused, at least not as much as I was about this revelation.

Later on I had finished grooming and decided to take a break. I made a mug of blackberry tea and dragged a chair to the barnyard. I started reading Jane Savoie's book version of her Happy Horse course and was thinking about what I might do with Cody next ride. I was juggling the mug, a pencil, a notebook, and Jane's book, and was soon joined by Rafer Johnson, who gazed at my tea and then at me, bringing his sweet donkey eye closer and closer to mine as if he were trying hard to tell me something. Well, of course he was - he wanted that tea!

Really, all he wanted was to smell it, so when it cooled enough that no one would get burned if it spilled, I let him have a long, deep whiff. Redford came over and tried to intervene but was quickly told to leave by Rafer. Salina came over, and to my surprise, she walked around behind me and hung her head over my left shoulder, just touching me with her muzzle, and stayed there. I let her have a nice whiff of the tea and then resumed my reading. Rafer's kind eye on my right, Salina's empty eye on my left (which meant her good eye was to the outside, so she could keep it open to anything that might happen along), and the rest of the herd were in front of us, eating hay and glancing over periodically.

The temperature had started to drop (we actually got down to freezing last night) and suddenly I had a glimpse into the future. Sometimes I wonder what it will be like when I'm older with all these equines, and I wonder what the days will be like without my daughter helping with chores. I didn't get to everything I wanted to do yesterday, but once I let go of trying to do it all, I had a wonderful time doing the things I managed to get done. And sitting with a cup of tea and a happy herd was something I did more as a whim than a need - but one day I'll need to take those breaks and I was very happy to realize that the breaks could be as good as - or better than - the sense of accomplishment when everything gets checked off my list, and even better than a good ride.

I thought about long days at the barn and brushing out tails and wondered if a painted pony with a white tail gets a silver senior corkscrew hair or not. How about a chestnut QH? And the donkeys? Will they get them too?

At some point my secret senior society will get new members, and although Salina might not be with us when that happens, I'll always remember the day I sat and we traveled ahead in time together, Salina at my left shoulder, Rafer Johnson at the other, reading about happy horses learning dressage, enjoying the aroma of blackberry tea, all the herd in our sight line, all safe, all happy.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

hoof notes, April 2012

I am so happy to report that this morning when the trimmer arrived two little donkeys were waiting eagerly in the barn aisle. We had halters and lead ropes on just in case Redford decided to skedaddle - post gelding, all done with antibiotics (he took the last week's worth whole in his feed tub and just crunched those things right down!), he is still a bit skittish about folks driving up to the barn with equipment in hand.

However he stood bravely this morning, took a nice long sniff of the trimmer's apron, and seemed to assure himself that this was in fact a benign operation he remembered with no trauma attached. He went first and was a little champ.

Rafer Johnson wanted to go first, which made my heart warm. After two difficult trims due to white line disease he is now over the hump with that and back to his trusting self. That he wanted to go first let me know he was better, and indeed he is. No hoof wall had to be removed today and we are very close to being all grown out with tight, healthy connection. Thanks to our trimmer who was able to get in there and remove the yucky stuff, thanks to husband (and daughter) who have religiously picked little hooves and applied Banixx, and thanks to the supplement called Kombat Boots, which I suspect helped us get through this last five weeks with lots of growth.

Salina went next and I continue to be grateful for R. for not assuming Salina cannot pick her hooves up and put them on the stand. She can, and does, and this allows her trims to be much more accurate. Her angles are better now, and I think the stretches she gets also do her body good.

Apache Pony was not all that thrilled with his turn, but he rarely is when it comes to getting hooves trimmed. He settled down once I got the clicker out. Fortunately he has healthy, picture-perfect hooves anyway so his trims go fast.

Cody went next and he is doing well. Daughter had braided his forelock and I admit I was so taken with his handsome face beneath that fat braid I do not remember what the trimmer said about his hooves! But if anything were amiss she would have made sure I listened. He's doing well in general since I increased vitamin E, magnesium, and his ALCAR. Springtime for PSSM'ers can be tricky, but I think we're on track again.

Keil Bay came in when it was his turn - about 5 minutes before we were ready for him - and began to bang on his stall door for his trim. When he was escorted out of the stall, he went to the gate and banged that. Keil Bay loves anything that puts the attention on him, and his hooves are doing so beautifully under the care of R. that he seems especially happy to show them off. I could not be happier with how his feet are progressing now that the heels are being taken down enough and the frogs are getting lots of stimulation.

Between the good trims, the well-placed gravel we've put in, and balanced diets, things are looking good right now.

We've not had issues with soft hooves around here, but the entire herd have been on Kombat Boots for 5 weeks now and their hooves today were hard as could be. It could also be time of year and our weather, but I think the supplement added something beneficial to the mix. I'm definitely keeping Rafer on it until his front hooves are completely grown out again.

Thrilled to report good hoof notes this go round!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

in brief, a mini-rant on managing spooky horses

I just read a post on a forum in which someone suggested that in dealing with spooky horses, we must "make them touch" the thing they are afraid of.

All I can say is this: how many of us humans are afraid of snakes, spiders, lightning storms, tornadoes, roaches, fire ants, etc.?

Is our approach for our friends, family, children, and our SELVES to insist that we go touch that which we are afraid of?

In most cases, of course not. In at least some cases, the fear is actually healthy and keeps us safe.

As a therapist who has worked with a few phobic clients (I venture that this might be similar to a spooky horse, or close enough for a comparison), progressive desensitization is a slow, gradual, gentle way to assist with managing phobias which interfere with daily life.

Why in the world do we think it's okay to make a horse touch something it's terrified of, as a matter of course?

Have you ever seen someone ride a horse almost into the ground to wear them down so they can get the horse to cross/touch/pass by something that has spooked the horse?

99% of stupid things we inflict on horses would be tossed in a flat second if we first inflicted them on ourselves.

Think about it.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

chiro notes, and how what we do for our horses helps us as well

This morning our equine chiropractor was set to arrive at 9:30 a.m. The horses and donkeys were all out in the field, happily grazing in the cool of the day. They had spent a good part of the evening hanging out at the barn due to some rain that passed through.

When I went out to get ready, I called to Keil Bay that his chiropractor was on the way and he was going first. For any new readers, Keil Bay is a 16.2 Hanoverian gelding who adores body work. His favorite thing on the earth other than eating is having his chiropractic adjustment.

He looked up instantly from grazing, took one last bite, and headed up to the gate. When the chiropractor drove up in her truck, Keil Bay and I were waiting at the barnyard gate for her. Keil waited with me as she parked and when she opened her door he greeted her with a polite muzzle.

I suspected Keil had a number of adjustments to be done today. He has a few telltale signs that he gives when things are out, and I'd seen several of them this week. She watched him move and then went straight to his pelvis. He relaxed and let her do her work. At one point he went into a sort of trance, lengthening his neck to full extension, licking and chewing. He was out from his pelvic area all the way up to his atlas. There have been a number of huge herd gallops and spooks in the past two weeks, with some fancy footwork happening. In any case, he really needed the work today and as usual he was extremely grateful for it.

Cody went next and although he didn't have quite as much out of whack as Keil did, he too had some big adjustments made. Cody is our PSSM Quarter Horse and he has been a bit off the past week or so. My guess is that the spring grass, plus less work due to daughter's broken toe, plus me cutting back on magnesium and vit. E to check effects have all combined with the chiro issues. He's clear now, I'll add back his full magnesium and vit. E doses, and I've already increased his ALCAR. Hopefully daughter will be back in the saddle soon.

Apache Moon, the pony aka Little Man, was third. He almost never has much going on, as he stretches himself thoroughly on a near-daily basis. Who would have figured a painted pony would know the benefits of yoga? He had two things that needed work and loved getting his leg stretches.

Salina went last, as she usually does, so that I can just let her stay in the barnyard when her work is done. She was out in the field but came in on her own just as the pony was being led out. She had several big things out of alignment and stood quietly because although she doesn't seem to enjoy the bodywork the way Keil Bay does, she understands clearly that what the chiropractor does has good results. She was extremely patient today and walked off looking much improved when she was done.

Rafer Johnson helped supervise and held the lead rope for each horse as they went. Redford wanted nothing to do with anyone that drove up in a truck. After his recent gelding, he is still very skittish about anyone coming to the barn. The donkey boys will get their turn next time around.

It occurred to me today, as it has many times before, how much benefit *I* get from the horses' bodywork. I get my own chiropractic work done regularly, and often my out places match up with Keil Bay's. But as I get each horse ready and stand with them while the chiropractor works, I find myself standing square, feet planted slightly apart, and as they get their adjustments, I feel something clear not only in them, but in myself.

I believe that if we live fully with our horses, as partners instead of leaders or worse, dictators, we share more than just time with them. We share energies and emotions, sore places, and successes. When a rotated pelvic joint gets adjusted on Keil Bay, I feel it when it clears.

When he lowers his head, licks and chews, and relaxes totally, I feel that too.

This sharing is part of why it's so important to take care of ourselves and leave the drama behind when we're at the barn. As exquisitely sensitive as they are to our moods and behaviors, especially when those two things lack congruence, it's almost guaranteed that they will absorb and carry anything we bring to them.

When we take what they give us, let it move through our bodies and down into the earth, or alternately up through us and out the tops of our heads, we not only help them clear, we get clear ourselves.

If we have rigid ideas or thoughts about "how things have to be done" with regards to training, riding, or even just being with our horses, we create blocks and this flow gets hung up. Things get stuck. Energy builds up. Explosions happen. Sometimes the horse explodes. Sometimes the human does. Sometimes both. If you've been around people and horses you've probably seen this many times. A demanding handler creates a difficult horse. Sometimes a demanding handler shuts a horse down. That's probably the sadder of the two circumstances.

Today four of the horses who live with me got clear. One donkey helped and for him, that was his clearing. The other donkey needed space and we respected it. No demanding, no expecting, no explosions. They all got clear, and so did I.