Friday, December 27, 2013

postcards from the holidays

The week of winter solstice I was grooming Keil Bay in the barnyard, so the caked-on mud dust would fly off into the air instead of swirling around us in the barn aisle. He was happy to graze a bit as I worked. He tends to move around, slowly, while we do this barnyard free grooming, which is fine with me. We have our routine down to a fine art. 

Keil made his way toward Salina's gravesite. When we got to the mound itself, he walked up between the mound and a tree, carefully fitting his huge body in that fairly narrow space. I worried momentarily that he was going to step onto her grave, but that's not what he was doing. He got himself into position and then he craned his neck toward where her head rests and lowered his muzzle to hers. He was sharing breath with Salina, if not literally, then figuratively. It was absolutely amazing. I stood there and watched, and smiled, and got teary-eyed, even more so when he lifted his head high and stood looking out over the cleared field behind her, gazing intently at something, that I think was Salina doing a perimeter gallop back to spirit land, back to where she lives now, a happy place and a safe place. If we're lucky it's a waiting place, where all of us might meet up in years to come.

Our ride that day was special too. Nothing spectacular, but fueled by Salina's presence. I'm aware with each ride that Keil Bay is nearing 25 years of age. I don't know why 25 seems so much more important than 24 was. It feels very much like he has been 19 for a long time and suddenly skipped up to 25. He joined me at 15, and in this decade it feels like the time with Keil Bay has been forever. With Salina here, always older than he is, I focused on her aging. Now he's the oldest here. And I am so intensely aware of it.

My daughter's riding teacher has lost 4 horses this year. One got loose on a trail ride and simply disappeared. Many many people searched high and low for her for months and it appears that someone probably caught her in the half-hour after she bolted and loaded her onto a trailer and took her away. The other 3 lived long, happy lives and their deaths were hard but not totally unexpected. Between losing Salina and witnessing the loss of these 4 horses, I've become hyper-sensitive to the possibility. But this is not only a sad feeling - it makes me know that even more so than usual I have to focus on the present, enjoy each day, and hope that Keil Bay is one of those horses who defies the average and lives a long, long life. This makes every ride more precious. It has forced me to look at the rides differently. Suddenly I do not care how good our circles are, if we're on the bit or off it, whether we are first level or fourth, nor do I care much about the quality of the gaits. I want healthy movement, good positions that keep us sound. I want the rides to stretch our muscles, to gently work our joints, to keep us healthy, and to make both of us feel satisfied by the end. We're on a different kind of riding journey now.


On Christmas Eve we went for a hike on some land nearby that quietly went from private to state-owned in the last year or so. It's apparently now state park land, as there are signs at entrances and indications that someone is keeping the old roads, now trails, cleared, and we've seen a couple of benches appear hither and yonder. But no one goes there, and it feels like it's our own property. 

We recently discovered that at least one trail leads to the river, and this is the trail we took on Christmas Eve, late in the day, where we stood and listened to the river rushing, high and fast after all the rain we'd had. The sun was setting almost directly across the water, and just as it dipped below the horizon we turned to head back home.

We walked faster going back, racing with dusk, and it was perfectly quiet, as if we were in the middle of nowhere, outside time. As we walked past a small pond that sits in the middle of the forest, two gaggles of geese circled and honked as they came in to roost for the night. I've never been so close to geese coming in that way, and it was magical, like an image from an old Christmas card that I somehow stepped inside. 

The only way it would have been more perfect is if we had been on horseback and snow had started falling.


On a lighter note, we have gone through two horse blankets thus far this winter. The pony's is old but had stood up well - it finally just ripped into shreds across the rump; the outer fabric just wore out.  Cody has been getting out of his blanket between bedtime and morning, mysteriously, and this morning it was found in a heap, belly strap ripped completely out of the blanket. Fortunately both have extras. I'm looking at getting Schneider's for each of them - Keil Bay got a Schneider about 5 years ago and it has fit the best and held up the best of any horse blanket I've ever bought. The blanket repair person told me not to buy Rambo or Rhinos new, as the quality has fallen off severely, and that she sees the Schneiders holding up quite well. It's a bit of a shock to go to bed with horses in blankets and wake up to one without. What is he doing to get that thing off? It must be quite a show.


It's also the time of year when a glimpse out my window falls on sleeping horses and pony and donkeys. Often all but one will lie down and it always takes my breath away to see them resting in the sun. One day Cody was standing guard and when the pony got up, Cody went directly to the spot he'd been sleeping and peed on it. That's about the only way to get one over on the pony! The dynamics of this herd full of personalities makes me laugh on a regular basis.


As you can see I have finally gotten Fiona and the Water Horse published, so if you like reading about horses and ponies and magic, it's a fun story and I think appeals to all ages. If you like Clarissa Pinkola-Estes, and look at stories as fables and windows into self, it offers a lot for women looking at the girl-maiden-mother-crone process.

Happy New Year to all - for many of us it has been a rough year and my wish is that we all get to relax and rest and thrive and grow in 2014. With perhaps some lighter lessons than those we faced this year! 

Monday, December 09, 2013

Happy Holidays From All of Us On November Hill

Happiest of holiday wishes to everyone from all of us. It's rainy and cold outside but the big boys were doing airs above the ground this morning, the pony gave two hooves up, and these two are as cute as always. Here's to good rides, great health, and happy equines as we move toward winter solstice and a new year.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

floating in December with the Big Bay

Keil had his chiro last week and got 3 full days off, then Thanksgiving arrived and I got busy with cooking and eating and going to see movies and helping husband do hoof trims and did not get in a ride until yesterday.

It was cool and cloudy, with a very little bit of a breeze blowing off and on. Keil was a bit feisty when I went to put his halter on - he had been eating hay and when I walked toward him with the halter he headed out of the barn to the water trough for a long drink. I stood with him, expecting him to put his head in the halter when he was finished. He didn't - he headed back to the barn, and as I went after him, he picked up some speed. I chased him through the barn aisle and he lifted his tail and trotted a few steps. By the time I got to him he was at the hay tent, getting another snack. And at that point he cooperated with haltering. :)

He licked and chewed his way through grooming and tacking up, and did big releasing yawns before I put his bridle on, then shook his head and did a long soft snort. I think he was having a flashback to his chiro adjustment - which was a good thing. He was very relaxed and interested in having a ride. I stuck the bridle out and he put his mouth onto the bit.

When I got on he was calm and we set off at a nice easy walk.

About 15 seconds later he shed 20 years and suddenly I was riding his 5-year old self. He seemed extremely interested in one section of woods beside and behind our back field, but the fun thing was that he was up not only in his attention to the woods, his entire body went into a lovely up and round frame. He lifted his head, neck, back, and hooves - it was like we were floating on air. I got such a clear sense of how he must have been as a very young horse - it was wonderful. If only I could have shed enough years to get back to my adolescent self!

Suddenly it became clear to me why upper level riders often have hot horses. You don't have to do anything except keep them focused enough to stay with you.  (okay, I'm oversimplifying - but you know what I mean) Keil was forward, fluid, and lovely. It was a very nice ride.

Daughter had been planning to hop on him for a bit, so when I dismounted I took him for a walk through the back field and let him stand and look more closely at the area he'd seemed so interested in. There was nothing there that I could see or hear, but the neighbors have created what looks like a compost pile between their two sheds with a piece of white plastic on top and two pieces of fencing that create almost a checkerboard effect - he took a good look at that. While we were there, his entire herd came in from the front field to back him up. We actually have the back field closed off right now so none of them have been back there for over a week - the donkeys climbed through the fence and came to Keil Bay's side - here we are! we'll protect you!! - it was hilarious.

A few minutes later daughter hopped on, I stood in the center of the arena, Rafer and Redford joined me, and Rafer held the dressage whip while Cody clamored at the gate to come in and Little Man stuck his head through the fence and watched.

He had relaxed totally by this time - I'd say maybe 10 of the 20 years returned. Did he summon them all? Did they pick up on his intensity about the new compost pile and what might have been in the forest? I don't know. Daughter rode the pony and Cody on through the day and the intensity was not repeated.

This morning I looked out my window and Keil Bay was walking up the long fence line to the barn, doing shoulder-in the entire way. Cody was right behind him, copying the movement. Who knows what will happen under saddle today?

We're in another wild and crazy weather swing here - it's getting really warm today and tomorrow with a little rain and a lot of cloudy sky and then on the weekend a sudden and huge drop in the temperature. I really dislike these crazy swings - but we'll try to ride through them and keep up our routine.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

thanks giving

I am thankful this year for cold weather, sweet kit-meows, plenty of firewood, two amazing teens, a wonderful husband, November Hill, happy Corgis, and the best herd of equines in the world. 

The first thing I heard this morning were three in a row donkey brays, and if the saying is true, I could have made a wish and have it come true - but in this case it already has, in the form of November Hill and my very large November Hill family. I am thankful for every single one of them. 

I hope everyone has a lovely day!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

It's really November on November Hill

The leaves are falling daily, and those left on trees are either deep crimson or tobacco brown, very muted from peak color but still some of my favorite colors, especially set against a cloudy landscape like we have today.

My chores now include a bit of raking, which feels futile but I know from experience that if I keep going, little by little I'll get these leaves in areas where they can mulch down. I focus on the places I've planted winter rye, which surprisingly thrives even beneath a layer of leaves.

This week Keil Bay and I have had 3 nice rides. One of the days he seemed a bit stiff at the walk, but quite lovely at the trot, and I fretted, saying to daughter, he is almost 25! She said "that horse is not in pain," and I took great comfort in hearing that. Yesterday he was normal at the walk and even lovelier at the trot, so I feel better. My legs were so soft yesterday, long and relaxed even when I posted, and the posting was coming from Keil Bay's movement so it all circled and got better and better as we went.

Each of the days we've ridden this week I felt Salina near. As we passed her grave, I called out "Salina-bina" and Keil Bay turned his neck completely as we passed, as if she had nickered in response. It was a good decision to place her there, where she is with us when we ride. Even the clear-cut field beside us is transformed by her presence. I see it as her field now. Even though still covered in left-behind sweetgums and littered with stumps, it is perfect for a spirit horse, who can gallop just above the ground, never touching the earth.

Twice this week I have given myself the treat of playing with the painted pony, who is as furry as a teddy bear and so very responsive once I connect with him. After a bit of time together he allows some affection.

Cody is going well for my daughter and the donkeys are in high spirits, spending multiple times each day running and chasing one another and acting like younglings.

Cats cluster around the woodstove and Corgis trail dried leaves all over the house and into the bed.

I am doing a second big edit on (the girl who was) Never Not Broken, grateful that I made it to the end of writing another novel and that the timing worked out so that I can edit it through the winter season - there is something about seeing the bones of trees while studying the bones of a novel that is intensely satisfying.

My son is coming home for Thanksgiving and my daughter is tackling math with a vengeance, and my husband is renewing his love for photographing the landscape. It is a season of finding what you love and what you want to learn and doing it, held to that path by the leaves falling and the trees baring themselves, by the temperatures falling (and here in the south, rising again and diving, in crazy ways that will never quite make sense) and the angle of the sun shifting.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

home again, home again, jiggety jig

It's always wonderful getting time away to write, and it's equally wonderful to come home to November Hill at the end of it.

I brought a bag of apples and carrots for horses, pony, and donkeys, and one very ripe pear, so I bought my way back into the good graces of the herd. I have to say though, like always, Keil Bay turned his rear to me when I first came out to the barn. I think this is the longest I've ever been away since he came to live with me 10 years ago.

Unfortunately the afternoon was too busy to get in a ride, but next morning, in spite of gusting wind and cold I decided that I had to be back to our schedule. Dear daughter tacked up Cody and we rode together. Both Rafer and Redford climbed into the arena through the fence and joined us - Redford lay down on top of X and took a few rolls before watching, then the two marched side by side behind us.

Sometimes the best rides come after a break - this one was especially sweet.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

zero to sixty on the Big Bay

Today's ride started slow. I felt tight and stiff when I got on, but immediately felt better once I did. Keil Bay seemed a bit sluggish - our temps were back up to 70 today and the sun was out and it was mid-day. We had a nice breeze though and since it was pleasant I figured we'd just do a lot of walking and a little trotting and enjoy the trees which are finally starting to turn colors.

We had a nice walk going and just kept on with it. Once we started trotting, the trot was nice but not spectacular - but Keil was responsive and moving well and again, I was enjoying the laid back ride so much I didn't ask for more.

We kept going.

At some point Keil literally shifted into high gear. It wasn't spookiness but he just clicked into his power mode. We did the best walk I remember ever doing. He wanted to trot and we did some shoulder-in to stretch things out even more - after that the trot got even better.

I really did have to slow him down to get him ready for a dismount today - he was revved up and not even interested in stopping!

Monday, October 28, 2013


This morning's ride on keil bay can be summed up in one word: forward.  He was ready to go from the moment I tacked him up. Once we started trot work he did not want to stop.

At least half the ride he was what I call fully in the bridle. What a pleasure and an honor it was to be his lucky rider today. And every day!

Best of all, when I rode him to the mounting block to dismount, he walked away before I could get off, not once but three times. He was not ready for the ride to end. Love the big handsome bay!

Friday, October 25, 2013

good rides and COLD temps

Have continued the rides with Big Bay and have had to pull out heavy breeches for warmth, turtlenecks, a fleece jacket one day, and tonight we're cranking up the wood stove! So we went from zero to sixty, to muddle a metaphor, in terms of dealing with heat and flies to dealing with chilly riding.

The horses of course love this weather.

I'm loving how my body feels a few minutes after I get in the saddle and even better later in the days after a ride. Clearly something tight is getting stretched out in a way it desperately needs.

Horses are getting furrier, more hay is getting forked out, and I'm getting more reluctant to dip my hands into water troughs. Love the fall, love the chill, and am really happy to be riding the Big Bay. He's pretty happy too. :)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

more good rides

Since last week when I finally got over the hurdle of not having ridden since May, Keil Bay and I have been on the every other day schedule for the most part. Some of the "other days" were not able to be managed due to rain and at least one due to over-seeding winter rye, which Keil Bay felt was fairly important.

Each ride has been good and I've discovered, as I suspected I would, that my twinging hip is eons better on the days I ride and things get stretched out.

Yesterday I forgot to do my own stretching before I hopped on, and Keil Bay's warming up time felt a little funky to me. I think my tight hip was creating a big block in his movement, but he pushed on and I did some leg exercises in the saddle to get things unstuck a bit on my end. Keil reminded me that shoulder-in helps him stretch out, so we added that in both directions.

I asked him to walk forward but for the most part allowed him to go where he wanted to. Yesterday he chose to hug the arena rail, going deep into each corner. Interesting note: the day before I had raked and cleaned the arena of huge batches of fallen oak leaves, so the corners were actually visible!

Three times he stopped at the exact same place, close to Salina's grave, and not only did he stop, but cocked his hind hoof as if to say: let's just be here for a while. He's never stopped that way before, and since he did it at the same place, not directly in front of Salina's grave but at a point where he could gaze at it, it felt like he was wanting to spend some time with her.

All through the ride he was quite alert but not spooky in any way, as though there was something there he was paying attention to but I couldn't quite see. At one point the donkeys climbed through the arena fence and joined us, so maybe Salina was there, eating some acorns and enjoying the fall day.

Once we started trotting everything seemed to fade away except for the movement. We trotted the arena and also 20m circles. Near the end of the ride Keil Bay offered a gorgeous sequence of trot - perfect for sitting and powerful but so perfectly contained that it felt like we were in slow motion. We ended on that, and I walked with him back to the barn feeling so grateful I got to ride that trot again. There is nothing else in the world quite so beautiful as Keil Bay's perfect trot.

Friday, October 11, 2013

In which keil bay says stop with the lunging and get the hell on

Lunged perfectly to the left, which is his stiffer side but when I turned him to the right he absolutely would not stay out on the circle. I took this as the message it was: time to get over the hump and get on. And so I did. And it was quite lovely. Walk and trot. Look at him after!!!

Get out here now!!

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Big Bay - a small step forward

This morning I went out to the barn in breeches and boots and Keil Bay took one look and walked up and stuck his head in the halter I was holding.

I did a quick and thorough groom, and he did soft snorts and dropped manure, then got very antsy (in a good way) - he was obviously ready to do some work.

He got his annual sport clip mane, a forelock trim, and when I walked up with the bridle he took the bit in his mouth on his own.

All this was so so good and it was totally clear he wanted to get back to work.

It's another gray day here and the wind is blowing and gusting though - and I felt like I needed to check things out - so I got the lunge line and whip and put the Big Bay through his paces.

He overtracked at the walk right out of the barn. His first two trot circles were a bit short-strided, but after more walking and my asking for a bigger trot, he loosened up and looked terrific.

After the first 10 minutes or so of walk-trot transitions, he put himself on the bit and started offering canter. He looked good - big movement, landing well, good transitions -  very very forward and into the work with ears pricked.

I was thrilled to be able to see him move and assure myself that he's moving so well. We did equal work in both directions under the watchful eyes of two donkeys and Cody. The pony stayed in the barn and munched on hay. :)

So... I didn't get on today but after the lunge work we took a walk together and cooled down. It was a lovely morning and Keil was so obviously thrilled it made me feel that much more resolved to get back to our riding routine.

What a morning. What a Bay!

Friday, October 04, 2013

Big handsome bay

Saw the first V of geese this morning and that made me think of Wendell Berry's poem, my favorite, I think, and I realized it fits with the Big Handsome Bay photo. I post this every autumn and I'm happy it's time to post it again!

The Wild Geese

Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer's end. In time's maze 
over fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed's marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Keil Bay's response to yesterday's blog post

Had to come report the Big Bay's reply:

This morning he is in Salina's stall, looking at the back door, which I have open because I'm doing some cleaning and the weather is nice, whinnying at the top of his lungs.  Once. Twice. Three times.

I think I know what it is he's saying. :)

Monday, September 30, 2013

autumn and a few milestones

We have leaves falling, a little color, and lovely temperatures. I have to put socks on when I wake up in the morning so my feet stay warm!

Yesterday my husband and I did some tree trimming and made a firewood stack in the back yard. It's time to think about that first cold night and being ready to get the woodstove going.

Last week I discovered that I had one local heirloom apple left in my fruit bowl and I took it out to Salina's grave and planted it carefully. I have no experience planting apple trees from seed, but since I decided against tulips I'm going to let nature take its course and see if this little tree springs up on her mound. I know she will delight in even the idea of apples being there in her spot. I'll figure out how to keep the boys from gorging later - it will be a few years before that is even possible. Planting that apple there made me smile, and it was a milestone in the journey that started back on May 24th, when we said goodbye to the grand old mare.

Every week I see Ellen, the woman who Salina lived with before she came to live with us, at the farmers' market, and it happens without my meaning it to - I tell a Salina story and Ellen appreciates it and marvels over it. In a way, that weekly story has gotten me through the roughest parts of this leg of the journey. The first few weeks I would start crying by the second sentence. Now I am smiling all the way through. At some point the beloved memories have trumped the pure grief.

The past week or so another milestone has happened. The donkeys are braying again. 

When Rafer Johnson and Redford first came to live with us, they would bray if they lost sight of their herd. They brayed if they lost sight of one another. They brayed at meal times if we were late getting out there. For another little while, Redford brayed over his territory and what he had decided was HIS herd to rule. And then he got gelded and that particular bray stopped.

The last year and a half before Salina died, the donkeys' braying meant something was wrong. It meant Salina was down. Their braying became an alarm system for us and the sound of them would send all of us running out to the barn, dreading what we might find, but also getting our adrenaline rushing at the task ahead.

The morning she left us, they brayed. And it has been quiet ever since. Spring turned to summer and now summer has turned to fall. And November Hill has been silent. It was a blessing, in a way. That Salina was no longer subject to going down and needing help getting up again, that the long-dreaded last time was past, that it went fairly easily for her, that I had no doubt on that morning that it was time for her to go. The silence was a blessing.

The donkeys waited long enough that the brays don't send us into alarm state anymore. Now the braying of the boys means, once again, that someone is out of sight, or they want more hay, or a meal time has been betrayed by late humans. 

How did they know? How did they know we were far enough along to hear the brays without feeling that gut-wrenching "oh no, Salina's down" feeling? I think they are with us on this journey, and somehow we are all in tune with one another. We're walking it together.

There's another milestone that happened this week. I was out at the barn and suddenly I realized, not in an intellectual way, but in my heart, that Keil Bay is the oldest. And he is not the oldest simply by default. He will be 25 years old in April.

I keep waking up each morning and thinking how cool it is outside and how it's perfect riding weather. And yet I don't go out to the barn and tack him up. I spent a week getting all the tack cleaned and oiled, getting my boots all cleaned and oiled, even got so far as putting on breeches one morning. But I have not yet ridden.

Keil Bay is remarkably sound and was the last time I rode him. But I think now I'm facing some different fears. What if I get on him and something is wrong? What if he isn't as sound as he was the last time we rode? There's a part of me that doesn't want to find out the answers to those questions.

The past few days I've been walking around worrying about them. Every day when I go out there Keil looks at me like he's waiting for me to tack him up. But when I don't he interacts with me a different way, the way Salina always did, and I wonder - is he ready to retire?

The old question of Is Salina Ready To Go has been replaced by the new one. Is Keil Ready To Retire?

I don't think he is, but it's a milestone that suddenly my barn question has turned to him. We all know, all of us who live with horses, how it feels to start thinking that way about the senior equine in the barn.

I become tearful at the mere thought of saying goodbye to Keil Bay. It's not a place I want to be, even in looking ahead, even if it's many years away.

Last night I dreamed that there was a huge trail ride passing by. They stopped and rested the horses and had snacks and when they got ready to set off again, they invited me to ride along. I wasn't sure if I wanted to go. I could tell that I would disagree with a lot of the riding styles and horse management I'd seen when they stopped. It was the kind of trail ride that would go places I wouldn't want to go on a horse.

But I asked Keil Bay and he wanted to go. 

I tacked him up and got on and he was straining at the bit, arched up from his 16.2 self to about 18 hands tall. We rode into the line of horses and the first obstacle we faced was a huge flight of stairs.

I've never ridden up a flight of stairs, and I daresay Keil Bay has never done it either, but in my dream he did it perfectly. Because of the long line of horses and riders ahead of us there was a logjam on the stairway and we had to stop on a landing. Keil Bay did perfect pirouettes as we waited. He was so full of energy he couldn't stand still.

Finally we were able to ride on, and get to level ground again. We rode and the riding was perfect. It was, in the dream, like I imagine riding the 5-year old Keil Bay would be. He was extremely forward and very powerful. It was like riding the King of All Horses. And I was really good at it. 

As it neared evening, the ride stopped. There was a huge area where people and horses could rest for the night. There was hay and water and food for the humans, and after I got off and untacked the Big Bay, I went to go get food for both of us. Keil Bay came with me, like he was a person, walking close beside me, just like two friends would to go get a meal together. 

There was no reason to interact with anyone else, because Keil was my companion, he was my friend, he was my partner in the journey.

I woke up this morning feeling like I had dreamed out loud the bond that exists between women and horses. I don't know if it's stronger than that between men and horses or not - and that's not my point. But I know that what I call "pony girls" seem to be born with this bond already intact, and the first horsey goal in life is to find that first pony or horse to complete that bond. 

I guess what I'm living right now is learning how to honor the last ones. It's a tough place to be, but a good place. I'm lucky to be here and more than lucky to have the Big Beautiful Bay as my partner in zen on this next leg of the journey.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

first of the forties

A quick note on Salina: 

Every day when I go out to her grave site I see TWO ribs very slightly exposed. There is absolutely no indication that any critter is doing this, and every day I am covering the ribs up again, the past two days with quite a large amount of compost. It feels very much like she is reiterating her message to me.

In another bit of synchronicity I read in Clarissa Pinkola Estes' Women Who Run With The Wolves that the crescent moon is associated with Kwan Yin. Salina's white star was actually a crescent moon, and Kwan Yin, among other things, is known as the goddess of compassion and motherhood. I think of Kwan Yin as a loving, protective, nurturing presence, and it totally fits with everything I know of Salina. She is bringing me such gifts, even now that she is gone.

In other news, our weather forecast predicts a low of 48 on Saturday night, with much cooler daytime temps to go along with that. I am beyond happy.

Yesterday I gave Keil Bay a long bath to get him ready (and to make him happy - it was a hot day). On my way in I grabbed his saddle and pad so I could clean them up, and when he saw me coming down the barn aisle with them he snorted in horror - NO WAY - it's 90 degrees, middle of the day, and horse flies are dive-bombing out there! I assured him I was just getting ready for the forties to come.

Today the saddle is cleaned and oiled, ready to go. The sheepskin pad has been washed, double-rinsed, and is already dry and fluffy, like new. I've taken his bridle apart and cleaned every centimeter. All I have to do now is clean the stirrup leathers and my boots. 

And daughter and I have been working out at the gym three times a week so I've been getting my body geared up for riding again too.

With a combined age of 78, Keil Bay and I will get back to some riding this week. Considering he didn't bat an eye when I passed with his bridle in hand, I think he's ready. :)

Thursday, September 05, 2013

symbol of the soul

This morning was the day that I stopped spreading stall pickings in bare spots and started back wheeling them down to the grandmother compost pile. The path carries me past Salina's grave and I said hello to her as I walked by. I spent a little time down the back path, just looking and thinking about what needs doing down there, and about how beautiful it is, even in our year or so of neglect. 

I think what I love best about forest is its ability to rejuvenate and cover over and fill in. After we lost the trees there to lightning I felt the empty space tremendously. But already other trees are growing in that space. I feel protected and sheltered when I stand beneath that canopy. And also connected to many creatures: the deer, the foxes, even the spiders that build their webs across the path.

Coming back up the hill and nearing Salina's grave from the other direction, I spotted something white. I thought it was a clump of lime - after we mounded her body we applied a layer of lime and did so again a week after her death. It rained the day after we applied the second layer and some of the lime clumped and is still there in a few spots.

Closer inspection revealed that I was not seeing a clump of lime. The rain had formed a concave area in the top of the mound and what I had seen was actually one of Salina's ribs, bleached perfect and white by the sun. I was not repelled; in fact the instant I realized what it was I reached and touched it, feeling the curve and remembering the curve of her flank, the feel of her ribs underneath the flesh. I rubbed the curve the same way I would have had she been standing there.

It struck me how symbolic the rib bone is. How wonderful a gift to see that part of her gleaming white in the sun coming through the trees. I took some of the compost at the base of her grave and moved it up top, filling in the concave area and covering the rib with the sweet black dirt.

Just now I googled "symbolism of the rib" and the first thing I read was this:

"Thousands of years ago, our Creator had a divine thought: to give to man a "help-meet." Our God knew that man could not do the job by himself. He needed someone else to help meet humanity's needs--and God's.

This brilliant innovation was woman.

The book of Genesis tells us that she was created out of one of man's ribs (Genesis 2:21-22). I believe this was a strategic idea in order for woman to have her rightful place in this world. God did not choose a piece of Adam's head, so that woman would be over him; nor did He select a piece from Adam's foot, so that he would step on her. Rather, our loving Creator chose man's rib, so that woman was taken from his side--to be his equal...from under his arm--to be protected by him...and from near his heart--to be loved by him."

Although spiritual, I am not a religious person. But I couldn't help but think when I read the above passage that if you replace the word woman with horse you come very close to how I felt about Salina. She was my help-meet. She was brilliant. And every day I had with her I knew how equal she was to me - I felt the responsibility of protecting her, keeping her near my heart, and loving her. And I think she felt the same things toward me.

Reading on in my search for information, I followed links and ended up on a page about the symbolism of Eve. And found this quote, which I think says it all about my experiences with Salina since her death:

"Abdu'l-Bahá describes Eve as a symbol of the soul and as containing divine mysteries."

Thursday, August 08, 2013

sisters at heart

I wish I were a girl again, half-savage and hardy, and free.
-Emily Brontë

Am thinking of times spent cantering fast around Lake Johnson, back when there was nothing out there but the lake and the woods and the path and a few other horse-crazy girls and the horses, who knew their way and took good care of us so we could, for that hour, be like the wind.

This morning I posted the above on my Facebook page. A few minutes later, my friend and wonderful author Elaine Neil Orr (I highly recommend her memoir and her novel) commented:

I wish I had been with you. But I was half-savage and hardy swimming in an African river. We are sisters at heart.

I read the comment and wandered into the bathroom to brush my teeth. The phrase sisters at heart was resonating deeply with me. I felt like I was in the moment a Sister At Heart. Visceral, in the flesh. Suddenly I found myself standing at the kitchen sink, leaning over with the toothbrush still in my mouth, looking out at the scene above.

Behind the fence I saw a dark equine head beneath the oak tree. Close by I could see the swishing tails of the donkeys, Rafer and Redford. 

For about 15 seconds I was looking out at the beloved Salina and her two trusty donkey boys. I have seen that scene so many times. I was filled with peace and contentment and then my heart leaped. I remembered - Salina left us in May. Her grave is in the upper right of the picture above, beyond the barnyard, along the path by the arena.

And yet I had just "seen" her standing, ears pricked, looking at the kitchen window as she did so many times during her years with us.

When I blinked and looked again, it was of course the pony standing there. In the picture you can see his white. Not black, as Salina was.

And then I realized again I was standing at the kitchen sink, brushing my teeth, something I never do. Something had walked me to the place where I was to have what felt like a visitation. Salina was here again, just long enough for my heart to open and my eyes to fill with tears.

Long enough to perfectly define the phrase sisters in spirit.

And it all started, of course, with my memory this morning of riding by the lake, riding like the wind.

I never rode Salina like the wind. By the time she came into my life her knees were creaky and my own body was fully into middle age. We connected a different way - we drew together as mothers and wounded healers, bound by our huge need to keep our herd safe. Always alert to anything that might affect it.

This morning she reminded me she's still here, still looking out with her wise eye and her ears pricked. Sister at heart. Salina.

Monday, July 22, 2013

midsummer on November Hill

My husband and daughter both asked me why I hadn't written anything here in so long, and I realized they were right.

2012 was a rough year in many ways, and although 2013 seemed a heck of a lot better, it has gotten hard again since May. My energy level feels really low lately and although I celebrate the things that happen each day on November Hill, I haven't been able to write much about them. This summer has been full of rain, green (the greenest the fields have been in years thanks to my overseeding and all the natural watering), adolescent cats enjoying their first butterfly season, and watching a herd re-configure after the loss of a very opinionated boss mare.

They have worn a path to her grave. I see them, mostly individually, walking out there and standing to look at it, the same way I myself do, and I talk to her. I feel sure they are talking to her too.

After the initial grieving, Rafer Johnson took over Salina's watchful eye. He seemed anxious to make sure he noticed everything because she wasn't here to do it. Gradually he's let go of that and although he still seems a little grumpy to me, I think he's okay.

Redford is much much spookier than he was before she left. He has always been a bit more horse-like in his behavior than Rafer. After his gelding he got more skittish, but that had stabilized. Since Salina left Redford is much more suspicious of new people and will skitter away if anyone makes a sudden move.

Keil Bay and Cody have become even closer than they were before.

The biggest change is in the pony. I'm not sure why, but he has gotten so much sweeter since May. He's created some rituals with me around breakfast tubs, and seems more relaxed in general. He and Salina always had some words for one another - the pony tends to push the boundaries and she never let him do it. But he kept trying. He seems to be letting go of that behavior.

I haven't ridden a horse since a few weeks before Salina died. Somehow riding has gotten caught up with the idea that it will be the first time since she left. I can't quite imagine riding past her grave site, which is almost directly behind the A in our arena.

We've had a lot of rain this summer and the usual heat, but the worst thing are the gnats, which I don't think I've ever really noticed as much as I have this summer. At times they cloud around my eyes (cloud is too big a word for the number that annoy me, but I can't think of a lesser word that still captures the sensation) and I am just not willing to get out there and ride knowing both me and Keil Bay will be besieged.

But, more than that, I dread the thought of riding past Salina that first time.

On Saturday Keil Bay shoved past me to leave his side of the barn and go to the near side. He rarely does that, though my husband said he'd done it to him earlier that same day. So I got his halter and lead rope and the dressage whip and we went into the arena together.

He seemed almost relieved to be asked to do something. We didn't even make it halfway down the long side before he was trotting beside me, showing his willingness to move. He can, of course, easily keep up with me with his huge walk, and he had to collect his trot to stay with me at my big walk - and it was mid-day, so hot and miserable in the arena. But even so, he was eager and he seemed happy that I was asking and tapping and connecting.

Without even realizing what was coming, we walked past Salina. Keil and I both had a reaction as we passed her grave. I held in my breath and he turned his head and looked at her, and we kept walking together. "Okay," I said to him. "Now that's over with."

I unhooked the lead rope and he stayed with me, walking, trotting, turning, circling, backing. He was good. At the end we stopped by the gate and I cleaned his hooves. And he hasn't been pushy since.

I hope to get back in the saddle soon.

Meanwhile, it's the summer my firstborn heads off to college, and that is bringing up a lot of firsts. It's going to be sad the first day I go out to do morning chores and realize he is not here. He has homeschooled his entire life, and I've never used child care, so for 18+ years he has been in the middle of most of my days. It's going to be an adjustment.

I realized this weekend that we're rolling toward the end of July now, and August will fly by because of all the things on the calendar. It won't be long before the gnats are gone, the air is cooler, and my favorite season will be here again.

I'm not sure how this "first fall" will be - first since Salina left, first since son went to college. I have a lot of book stuff waiting to be done, so if I'm lucky, it will all whirl together into a return to my usual energy level.

I hope everyone is having a good summer - if not, you can join me in looking forward to fall!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"a total misunderstanding of the rules" says the Danish Equestrian Federation

Oh dear- it was all a "total misunderstanding" - now, everyone BUT the professional media can "photograph until you drop" at the upcoming Ecco FEI European Championships. Although this press release by the Danish Equestrian Federation (thanks to Epona TV for translating) has already disappeared from their site. Make no mistake, though, Ecco AND the Danish Eq. Fed. still support riding horses with heads cranked to their chests. It's just that certain professional media aren't allowed to photo/video them doing it. Go forth spectators and take photographs, film the riders, film the horses - and enjoy posting the evidence anywhere you like - the Fair Use law says you can do so.
The irony of their statement - a total misunderstanding of the rules - is killing me. 
 READ HERE for Epona TV's take.

Friday, June 14, 2013

no more Ecco shoes for me


Go read Epona TV's latest feature to find out why. You can probably guess it has something to do with horses and sponsorship and abusive riding and/or training. And you would be right.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Goodbye to a grand old mare

We said goodbye to a grand old mare this morning. She has taught me everything there is to know about living with mares, living with seniors, and centering myself in concert with a horse. When she left her body the sunshine came out, a beautiful breeze picked up, a cast of hawks circled overhead, and I am absolutely sure she galloped our entire property, circling it with love and grace and her most fierce mama-bear circle of protection. Run free and easy, Salina. You will be in our hearts forever.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

on retreat

I'm on writing retreat this week and having a blast. Salina's abscess resolved on Mother's Day and husband and daughter went on a photo shoot in the a.m. and came home with a 7 or 8-month old kit-meow who had been abandoned by the river. Her name, alas, is River, and she's FeLV and FIV negative and integrating with the other kit-meows and with indoor life even as I type this.

I'm working on The Girl Who Was Never Not Broken, the novel-in-progress, and generally enjoying creative time with a small group of talented, fun writing women.

Missing the clan back on November Hill, but time away is good for me and thus, for them.

Cannot believe it is already mid-May. Where do the days go?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Houston, we have an abscess...

This is Salina's 30-year old birthday portrait. She's had a good year thus far, and is now on Pergolide for Cushing's disease, which many older horses get as they age. If you have a horse older than 20, it would be a reasonable thing to get ACTH levels checked to see if the Cushing's process has started. I won't try to detail symptoms and treatment here, but the best website and information I know of lives HERE. Dr. Eleanor Kellon has created the largest database there is for horses and their people living with Cushing's. Many vets don't have the full picture on this disease - I highly recommend educating yourself if you have senior horses.

Salina does not have the long, curly coat often used as a diagnostic for Cushing's. The current thought is that once a horse gets to that stage, the disease has probably been in process for years and may then be more difficult to control.


This week I noticed that Salina wasn't heading for the gate after breakfast to go out with the entire herd. She was happy to hang out in the barnyard with her donkey boys. On Wednesday, she hung out mostly in the barn. Thursday afternoon I noted she was moving slowly. All the worst scenarios began to play out in my head.

When you live with a senior horse I think you start getting prepared for that day none of us want to think about. I know I go through the psychological preparation for goodbye every single time Salina has an off day. It's not something I particularly want to do - but I think it helps me get ready for when the inevitable happens. Salina is patient with me. If I get to the point of asking her if it's time, she makes it perfectly clear (so far) that it's NOT. Her usual response to my question is a pinning of ears and a disgusted look with her one eye in my direction.

I'm trying to get to the point where I let go of having to ask - and simply trust that when that time arrives, she will TELL me.

So when I went to the barn yesterday to feed breakfast, it was clear she was off. She didn't come out of her stall, didn't whinny or nicker for her breakfast, and once again, I got on the roller coaster of wondering. What is going on? Where are we in this journey?

When I fed her tub I stood there for a minute as she began to eat and just noticed what she was doing. She was subtly shifting her weight between the two front hooves. I thought, but wasn't sure, that she was favoring the left front.

I pulled up a chair and sat in the barn aisle, working on a to-do list for the weekend, intending to watch her come out of the stall after she ate. I think the best way to figure these things out is to watch the horse move on its own volition. I don't like making horses move when they're clearly off, especially on a lunge line, to pinpoint the lameness. I know that's what the vets like to do, and I understand why. But my time is not limited here. I can sit and watch and let the horses show me what I need to know.

She came out of the stall slowly, in stages. Once she was fully out on the mats in the barn aisle, I looked at her hooves and lower legs. The left front did seem a bit stocked up around the coronet band and back to the heel bulbs. I kept watching. She reached down to the left front and licked it at the coronet band. That was her first clue. She went over to the water bucket and had a drink, then a second drink, and then she tipped it over so that it ran over her left front hoof. Aha!

I put her halter on and took her out to the oak tree so I could hose her off. Yesterday was our hottest day of the year and it was already 80 degrees outside, so I decided to give her a complete hosing. She stuck the front left hoof out a little so I could focus the water onto that hoof. Just in case I hadn't fully gotten it in the barn aisle. When I checked more closely, there was a small white area right at the coronet band, clearly the point where the abscess was aiming to come out. I pushed on it gently and she jerked her leg up. Bingo.

Both Salina and I breathed a sigh. Hers was likely exasperation. (Why does it always take the woman so long to figure everything out?) And mine was relief. We know the routine with an abscess. Usually with Salina we don't wrap the hoof unless it takes more than a couple of days to burst out. She likes getting the hoof wet but we don't do extended soaking. I'll sometimes put a warm wet cloth around the coronet band to help draw the abscess. I have two homeopathic remedies that help, and if it doesn't come out in a couple of days we use Animalintex.

The funny thing about this abscess business is that it used to be the worst thing I could imagine. I stressed and worried and fussed over it. Now, it's the thing we hope is going on when Salina is off. There are so many worse things.

Fortunately, we're dealing with an expert. She knows the cues to help us and over the years I have learned to let her show me. Which hoof, what she needs. And then we wait together. I guess this is the same process we'll need when that other day arrives. Meanwhile, we're good.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

World Donkey Day = FREE BOOK!

It's World Donkey Day, and, if I had been more organized, this would have been FREE today - but it is FREE TOMORROW! If you love donkeys you will love this book. Book 2, Search For Bluebird Blue, is so close to publication you wouldn't believe it - but no donkeys are neglected around here, so everything book-wise takes me longer than I expect it to...

And the resident donkeys say:


Friday, May 03, 2013

clinton anderson and smartpak team up - and I say so long to smartpak

READ HERE for more information.

I like SmartPak and the products they sell but cannot support a company that supports the training methods used and taught by Clinton Anderson.

It's a sad day when companies that make their living off of horses fail to put the horse first.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Monday, April 01, 2013

Cashel is interested in hearing more about Clinton Anderson

I buy and love their fly masks and have let them know I will no longer do so if they continue to sponsor Clinton Anderson.

Please take a moment to write them via email and let them know that you too want them to look at who they sponsor more carefully!!

GO HERE to their contact page.

This is their latest response to me:

First of all thank you for your email.  We did find the article are referring to.  As you know there are two sides to every story. I hope this sheds a new light on the sad  situation for all involved.

They (Vet, Clinton) believe the horse died of an aneurysm. (The owners declined an autopsy).  It was not  a training related death.
Clinton called them on 3 occasions to express his sympathy and sent flowers.
He refunded their training money, offered a signature horse, and offered free training on another horse.
Owner accepted the refund but declined the other offers.

All of us here at Cashel are against horse abuse… 90% of our donation funds go to horse rescue operations,  because we care.
I hope this clarifies a few issues. Please feel free to respond if needed, and again, thank you for contacting us.

Kind Regards,

I urge everyone to write to Cashel and let them know your thoughts. I will not buy another Cashel product if they continue to support Clinton Anderson and his methods.

Friday, March 29, 2013

clinton anderson's "letter of agreement" for horse training

This is on CA's website and must be signed to enter your horse into training with him.  Very interesting reading.


 I have read the Letter of Understanding and I agree and accept the terms and conditions of the Academy Training Horse Program.
Payment Info

Total: $ 500.00 (Deposit ONLY)
Enroll Now
Please thoroughly read the Academy Horse Program contract. After reading the contract in its entirety and checking "I Agree" on all 9 sections of the agreement, scroll to the bottom of the page and click the "I Agree" button to acknowledge your consent with all the terms and conditions of the Academy Horse Program. After agreeing to the contract, you'll continue with the registration process.
To exit without accepting the contract, press the "Cancel Enrollment" button to the right.
Before enrolling your horse in the Academy Horse program, please review the points below to ensure we're all on the same level of understanding about what will and could possibly happen to your horse during his stay at the Downunder Horsemanship Ranch.

Once your horse has been accepted you'll be given a tentative assignment date for a specific six-week training session. Your assigned date is tentative, is not guaranteed, and may be subject to change perhaps even multiple times. We do our very best to avoid rescheduling, but in training horses, Academy students, and other unforeseen circumstances and commitments we may be required to do so. We'll certainly do everything possible to avoid any such inconvenience, and will only do so when truly necessary. Our foremost priority is to ensure your horse receives our full attention throughout his training. We'd rather withstand any potential inconvenience associated with rescheduling than compromise on the quality of training our customers expect and Clinton demands.
 I Agree

Your horse will receive the best care possible.
Downunder Horsemanship will ensure that your horse receives the best care and nutrition possible during his training session. All horses in training will be stabled on the clinic side of the ranch in 25' x 30' runs that are each attached to a two-sided shelter. Runs come equipped with automatic waterers, hay mangers and no-tip feeders. Your horse will be fed free-choice hay, including both alfalfa and grass hay. Starting after the second week of training, or when the horse is doing well mentally - he's not hot or nervous, he will receive grain twice daily. If you feed supplements to your horse, we'll be happy to administer them as long as they are provided. We'll also be happy to put fly masks on and off the horse if you supply one.

In short, your horse will be treated just like Clinton's personal horses - receiving the best care possible. However, it's inevitable, especially when your horse enters the rigorous training schedule and is worked over the obstacle course, that he's going to get a few cuts and scrapes. Or, if your horse has been in the habit of pulling people around, he's probably going to lose some hair on his face from the halter. While cuts and scrapes are superficial injuries that heal quickly, it's important to understand that your horse may be missing some hair when you come to pick him up. The majority of the horses coming in for training will be here on a last-ditch sort of effort, meaning that the horses are deemed problems and have been to other trainers with no success. Look at your horse coming to the ranch like remodeling a house. You can't remodel and have everything looking pretty all at the same time. When you're remodeling, you're tearing wall paper off the walls, dust covers the floor, paint is splattered everywhere, etc. Your house is basically a disaster zone for several weeks. Then right towards the end, everything starts to come together. The contractor puts the finishing touches on and spit shines everything, and you're left with a product you're proud of. Your horse is going to go through a similar process during the first three to four weeks. He's going to lose some weight when he enters training fulltime; he'll rub hair off his body and will have a few bumps and bruises.

It's also common for these horses to develop girth gall - sores from the girth rubbing behind their elbow because they haven't been ridden very much. When colts are started at the ranch, seven out of ten of them on average will develop girth gall. The area behind the horse's elbow is soft and tender like a baby's bottom, so oftentimes when the horse gets girthed up and really worked, they get sore. It's not a major problem, in most cases you can put Vetericyn and Corona on it and it'll heal just fine. In more severe cases, the horse will have to be off work for a week or two to let the sore heal. In both cases, when the horse is back to full health, they very rarely develop girth gall again because the area has toughened up. It's kind of like if you are an office worker and one day you're asked to dig ditches. Your hands would be blistered within an hour from handling the shovel because they're not used to manual labor - they're soft and tender. But after a few weeks of digging ditches, your hands will be covered in calluses and not be bothered by handling the shovel at all because they've toughened up.

We highly recommend that your horse gets shod before his arrival at the ranch. Most of the training will be done outside - on the obstacle course, through the woods, around the ranch, down the road, etc. and most horses' bare feet cannot hold up to so much riding on hard ground. If your horse comes in with bare feet, there is a good chance that he will at some point become sore. At that point, we'll have to put shoes on him anyway, plus he may need time off to recover from the soreness, which will interrupt his training process. If your horse doesn't normally wear shoes, keep in mind that 6 weeks of being shod will not affect the well-being of his feet. You are more than welcome to remove them when he gets back home, and it will help ensure that the training process goes as smoothly as possible. Besides going through all of the Fundamentals exercises on the ground and under saddle, your horse will receive additional training including work over the obstacle course, trail riding and general tasks Clinton expects all horses to be able to do such as hobbling and ground tying. It's common for horses to struggle when first hobbled because it feels unnatural to them. If the horse struggles, he'll lose some hair around his pasterns. After the second week of training, the horses will be taught to ground tie - a great respect and patience building exercise, in which the horses are tied to a tire. Besides patience, ground tying teaches the horse not to panic if he gets his leg over the rope in a safe, controlled setting. If the horse struggles at first, he will get rope burn. Any bumps, bruises or rope burn will be treated promptly and doctored well with Corona. As stated before, your horse will receive the same care Clinton gives to his personal horses. It's far better to teach a horse not to panic now and have him potentially get a little rope burn than it is for him to get his legs caught up in a fence a year down the road and seriously injure himself. Clinton firmly believes that prevention is better than cure and teaches all of his horses on the ranch to hobble and ground tie, including Mindy and Diez, all his Signature Horses and performance horses. If the horse was at the ranch for 12 weeks of training rather than 6 weeks, his hair would be grown back and you'd never be the wiser. The fact is that the horse is only here for 6 weeks and it's not enough time for his hair to grow back.

If you're the kind of owner that wants your horse to learn while not losing a pound of weight and keep an immaculately shiny coat, you're unrealistic. That would be like saying we were going to remodel your house without inconveniencing you - it's not going to happen. Remember, your horse is only in training for 6 weeks. If you're the type of owner who is a worry-wart or gets upset if your horse is missing a bit of hair off his back foot, this program isn't for you.

The reality is most of the horses in for training have existing problems or are coming with baggage. Our commitment is to teach your horse the Fundamentals Level of the Method, bringing out a respectful partner who is safe and enjoyable to be around. It's a given that it's taken him longer than 6 weeks to develop his bad habits, but we're only going to have 6 weeks to turn him around.
 I Agree

The possibility of extended training.
As a horse owner, you know that illness and lameness are a reality when training horses. While we don't foresee your horse becoming lame or getting injured, and will do everything in our power to ensure he doesn't, horses are horses - you can never bet on anything. You can be assured that if your horse does become ill or lame, you will be contacted immediately and the best care possible will be given to him. If we feel veterinary care is required, we'll notify you and see to it that he is treated. In the event of an emergency, you'll always be contacted, but if we can't get in touch with you immediately, we'll go ahead with care. You will be responsible for covering all veterinary expenses.

Each horse will be treated as an individual and progressed at his own rate of learning. With that being said, we can't guarantee how quickly each horse will learn. The majority of horses will be able to complete the Fundamentals within 6 weeks; however, if the horse came with really bad behavior or goes lame and needs time off, it'll take longer to get him to that level.

If the situation arises in which your horse does experience a learning curve or becomes ill or lame and can't be worked, his time on the ranch will be extended by two weeks to ensure that he receives his full training through the Fundamentals Level of the Method. While the training fee won't increase (you'll receive an extra $1,500 worth of training), you will be responsible for paying for his additional board and care, which the clinician training your horse will discuss with you.

Your horse's training could also get extended if there's a clinic at the ranch. Where Academy students are concerned, assisting at clinics takes priority over training horses. Therefore if the Academy students are helping in the clinic, their training horses will not be worked during that time. When that happens, your horse's board will be reduced to $10/day rather than the regular $17/day. This reduction actually costs Downunder Horsemanship money, but we offer it as a gift to offset the horse's time off. Keep in mind that any time missed during the training period will need to be added to the end of the session.

If you're on a strict schedule, where if your horse had to stay on an extra two weeks you couldn't do it, then it's highly recommended not going forward with the program. If Clinton feels it's in the best interest of the horse, and ultimately your satisfaction and safety, to keep the horse an extra two weeks, he'll ask that he does. Our number one concern is to bring out your horse's full potential and make sure you're happy with the results.
 I Agree

The training program is intense.
Horses learn best with consistency and repetition, and your horse will be worked two hours a day, six days a week. So if your horse has been worked very little leading up to his stay at the ranch, or if he hauled in a long distance and is sore from the trip, he may need an extra week or two to get with the program. If your horse isn't used to being worked on a regular basis, don't be surprised if when you come to pick him up he's lost some weight. His nutritional needs will be met with the best quality hay and grain, but if he was overweight, he certainly won't be when he's completed his training. He will however have gained muscle and be physically fit.

In fact, to best ensure horses leave the ranch in good weight, we encourage you to generously feed your horse before bringing him in for training. Due to the program's intensity, it is best if the horse is fleshy and a little fat coming into the program. If you've underfed your horse and he's skinny, he'll have a much harder time gaining weight while in training. Remember, the horses are worked six days a week, for at least two hours a day. While your horse will certainly be fed a high quality forage and grain, he'll burn a lot of calories during training. If the horse comes into the program a little fat, by the end of the 6-week course, he'll have a perfect body condition score and be in good weight.
 I Agree

Seasonal Effects and Transport Illness Exposure.
During Texas' summer months when temperatures reach 100 degrees and higher, it's common for horses to lose their appetites, not eat as much and drop a little bit of weight. Horses are much like human beings in that regard. Typically we don't want to sit down to a three course meal when it's hot outside. We prefer to drink more fluids and eat light meals. Clinton experiences this with his own performance and signature horses that are in intense training during peak summer months, and can count on 1/3 of them consuming less food and losing a little bit of weight. As soon as the weather cools down, the horses' appetites pick right back up and they start gaining weight. It's nothing to worry about, but just something to be aware of.

In addition to consideration of the summer's heat, the weather here during the winter may be quite chilly even bitter cold for brief periods. It is certainly not uncommon for horses to develop a mild cold or runny nose particularly when shipped to us during the cooler months. If this does occur we’ll treat the symptoms with the appropriate medication(s). If improvement doesn’t occur within a few days and certainly if the symptoms worsen, we'll contact you in the event we believe an examination from the veterinarian is warranted. Just as with we humans, horses tend to get runny noses and have cold-like symptoms most often during the winter months, and as a general rule it's of little or no serious consequence. Also, regardless of the season please be aware if your horse is delivered to us via an equine transport company there’s a chance he may be exposed to and/or contract an illness during the trip. Though uncommon this does happen from time to time, and in the few instances where it has occurred our experience has indeed proven the illnesses to be minor, with mild symptoms, the horses have recovered quickly, and had little if any effect on their training.
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We'll bring out the best in each horse.
Our goal is to get each horse to perform the Fundamentals Level of the Method to an A-level, and we will make every effort to meet this expectation. However, each horse is an individual. Not all horses are good-minded, having willing attitudes and possess the athletic ability to reach an A-level. If a horse has a sorry attitude and can't move well, he might only get to a B-level, but he'll certainly be improved from when he was brought to us. Just keep in mind we're not magicians - we can't turn a lump of coal into a nugget of gold. We'll give it our best effort, but reality is reality.
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Keep up to date on your horse's progress.
Throughout his training, you'll be kept up to date on your horse's progress through the Fundamentals every two weeks by the Academy student training your horse. You'll receive your first phone call two weeks after the horse has been in training, and then four weeks into the horse's training you'll receive another phone call. During this call, the Academy student will indicate whether the horse will be ready to complete the course in 6 weeks or whether he may need additional time to get to the desired level of performance. If additional training is required, you won't be billed for the training, but you will be responsible for the extended board ($17/day). Additional training would be necessary if the horse came to the ranch with extreme training issues, has a bad attitude and/or had time off due to lameness or illness.

Other than the phone calls listed above, you will be contacted if your horse becomes ill or gets injured and veterinary attention is needed now or possibly in the future. That means if the horse is injured beyond a basic cut or scrape, you'll receive a call notifying you.

Because of Clinton's and the ranch staff's rigorous schedules, all phone calls will be by appointment only. Please do not call the Academy student training your horse every other day or stop by the ranch on your own accord.
 I Agree

Your horse's training is between you and Downunder Horsemanship.
We ask that you do not blog about your horse's training at the Downunder Horsemanship Ranch on the NWC site or elsewhere, either positively or negatively. Your horse's training is between you, Clinton and the clinician training your horse. Other people do not know your horse's history, the condition he arrived at the ranch in or his training progress. It's far too easy for someone to take two or three sentences out of context, especially when they don't know the whole story. Then Clinton and his staff are left putting fires out that are caused by simple misunderstandings. Quite frankly, Clinton and his clinicians would rather focus their energies on training your horse rather than dealing with a blog entry that's been misunderstood. We ask that you please keep your horse's training between you, Clinton and the clinician working with your horse. Of course, we can't stop you from blogging online, but we hope that you respect our wishes and understand where we're coming from as a business.
 I Agree

Your lesson day and taking your horse home.
Once your horse has successfully completed his Fundamentals training, you will be invited to the ranch for a day's lesson with the clinician who trained your horse. During this lesson, the clinician will work with you one-on-one, showing you exactly what your horse knows and helping you refine your application of the Method. The date of your lesson and when you'll pick your horse up will be finalized during your horse's fifth or sixth week of training. (Lesson and pick up dates depend on the horse's progress and therefore can't be scheduled until he's completed his fifth or sixth week of training.)

Please note that this lesson day is meant for you and your horse in training. It's not meant to be a social occasion for your friends, or an opportunity for you to bring another horse to the ranch to receive lessons on. Throughout his training, you have been kept up to date on your horse's progress, his strengths, his weaknesses, etc. By the time you arrive at the ranch for your lesson and to take your horse home, you thoroughly understand where he is in his training and what he has gone through. Others who aren't privy to the horse's background can be quick to make judgments or jump to conclusions based on what they see during the private lesson. Rather than spending time answering others' questions or concerns, Clinton would rather the clinician concentrated on helping you learn how to work with your horse. Having one of Clinton's students at your disposal for an entire day is a great learning opportunity, and we want you to take full advantage of it! The clinician will take you and the horse through both the groundwork and riding exercises as well as over the obstacle course and riding outside the arena.
 I Agree

Set yourself up for success with the Fundamentals Kit
It is highly recommended that you own the Fundamentals kit so that you can continue to understand and train your horse after you've gotten him home. Think of the Fundamentals kit as your owner's manual for your horse. It wouldn't be practical to invest $3,500 into your horse's training and spend this much time to get him trained without really understanding what he knows or how to operate him. It is absolutely crucial to your success. In fact, if we have a choice between taking in a horse whose owner has the Fundamentals kit and one who doesn't, we will always take the one that does. Even though you receive an entire day's lesson at the ranch, you won't possibly be able to remember everything the clinician taught you. Being a No Worries Club member is encouraged and you can receive valuable information through the club, but the information from the club alone is nowhere near as thorough as the Fundamentals kit.

If you purchase the Fundamentals kit at the time you sign your horse up for training and he's selected to come to the ranch, you will be offered a one-time 10% discount off the kit, whether you're a club member or not. This is an exclusive bonus Clinton wishes to offer those who believe in the Method and send their horses to the ranch for training, because he believes the Fundamentals kit is absolutely vital to the horses' continued success and the owners' enjoyment.

On behalf of your horse congratulations in your decision to apply for his acceptance in our training program. If accepted, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will put a solid foundation in place on which you can build, and with a willing respectful partner you will have a chance to experience all of the joy the journey toward achieving your horsemanship dreams can bring. We’re very confident you're going to be amazed at the level of softness and control your horse will acquire.

I have read, fully understand, and accept the terms of sending my horse to Downunder Horsemanship for the Academy Horse program to be trained by Clinton's Academy students.
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