Thursday, January 31, 2008

Good Horse

Have I told you how good Silk is? She doesn’t get jealous when I pay so much attention to her baby. She is totally calm in 50 mph winds. She walks when Siete leaps and prances. On days when it is safe to run around, Silk exercises herself in circles in the pasture as though she was in a round pen. Then, she herds Siete out and makes her run around the same way. If it’s too icy, she doesn’t let that crazy young horse provoke her into a heel kicking contest. My biggest worry when I bought Silk was that she wouldn’t be affectionate enough. Now, ten years later, she starts murmuring and runs to the fence as soon as she sees me.

Okay, that’s the good horse. Her five-year-old offspring is not so perfect. I realize that in our herd pecking order, I am first, followed by Silk. So, Siete is going to challenge anyone and everyone to rise up in the ranks. My poor husband bears the brunt of her bad behavior. Siete wants to make him low man on the totem pole. With the wild wind yesterday, he really struggled to put her in the pasture. I started to step in to help, but I knew that would only make his position worse.

Before we brought the horses back to the barn to eat, I stopped him and discussed how we could make it a successful activity for Siete. I noticed that it takes him much longer to close the corral gate and lead her into her stall than it takes me. He stops so many times that Siete gets impatient as a five year old kid waiting for dinner in a slow restaurant. I suggested that we simplify the action so she could be good and get to her bucket faster. Once she was calm and successful, we could extend the action to make her be patient longer. So, he cut out closing the corral gate and led her right into the stall. She was totally happy and relaxed. I closed the gate, and we were all pleased with ourselves.

Today, the weather was beautiful and calm. Siete was slow and easy. Coming in with my husband the same short way went smoothly. Next time, we’ll add a little waiting, but just a little. Chunk it down into small tasks, I had to remind myself. One step at a time, even if the step is tiny, as long as it’s calm and good. Any kid will go a lot further with success and praise than a slap of the hand. And Siete’s just a four-legged kid, doing what comes naturally for a horse.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Rain, Rain and More Rain

It’s raining today, and the prediction calls for heavy winds, with gusts up to 50 mph. The horses are hanging out together in Siete’s stall right now. I leave the front doors open, and they wander back and forth between the two sides of the barn throughout the day when the weather is bad. Siete plays in the puddles in the corral just like any kid, but her mama doesn’t like to get wet.

When we lived in Virginia, I hated rainy days because I worried about my horses. I was at work all day, and since I boarded them in a barn where the owner also was a vet tech at a local animal hospital, the horses either got turned out early in the morning to stay out all day or stayed in their stalls without their buddies. There was no shelter in the pasture, so if they were out in the rain, they got soaked, and the mud was terrible. I know horses are meant to live outdoors. Most people don’t bring them in just because it rains or snows. My girls survived, and it was especially good for young Siete to be part of a herd. And yes, I do pamper them now that they are at home with me. I know that Silk, who will be 20 years old soon, appreciates it.

I put down fresh shavings in the stalls last night because I had a feeling that it would be an “indoor day”. I just went out to give them some hay. Silk is lying down taking a nap, and Siete is standing right behind her mother, lightly resting her head on Silk’s back. If I were my horses, that’s where I’d want to be. I'm grateful that I am able to do this for them.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On A Different Note

Please check out today's post on my friend Billie's blog
It's an amazing story of the publication of Patry Francis' new book. Patry is unable to promote her first novel because she has cancer, so her friends and members of the literary community jumped in to help. I wish her great success and I'm going right over to Amazon to order a copy of the book.
And for the first time, I've been able to link to another post - So, that must mean something, right?

Meaning Well

Yesterday was a difficult day. It was full of worries, not so good news and the grinding stress of living in our sometimes unyieldingly tough world. Today, I woke up and went outside to feed the horses, and everything looked better.

It made me consider the idea that horses can embody hope. Kathleen Lindley, who worked with Mark Rashid, brings up that notion in her book, “In the Company of Horses”. She says horses “begin every day hoping for the best, even if yesterday didn’t turn out very well for them.” Seeing Silk and Siete this morning at 6 am made me feel that way. Nothing had really changed, but it was all definitely going to be okay.

As I groomed the horses, I thought about Kathleen’s book. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. She opened my mind to so many new ideas about working with my horses. At one point, she quotes Mark Rashid : “When I ride my horse, I want to give everything I have.” That thought can be extended to include all the things we do in our daily life. Whether I work with my horses, labor with my writing, or play with my daughter, I try to do it being fully present and with my best intention.

It leads to something else Mark told Kathleen one day as she entered the round pen to work with a student. “ When you go in there, you need to mean well.” Lindley believes that if you mean to help the horse, instead of trying to “make it” do what you want, the outcome will be more beneficial to both of you. So, today, I decided that with each interaction I have not only with my horses, but with my family, friends and total strangers, I will try my hardest to “mean well”.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Hay Fund

In response to my post about hay, I learned that my vet is starting what is known as The Hay Fund. Hay has sky-rocketed from $2.50 a bale to $12 a bale in some areas of the country. So, if it moves you to help, this is a reputable way to lend a hand:


Devastating drought conditions in the Southern US have led to a SEVERE hay shortage and loss of pasture.

Horses are starving, being sent to slaughter or simply set loose on back roads.

Local rescue organizations and equine foster homes are staggering under the burden. Without your help they will not be able to feed the horses they are desperately trying to save.

You can help us help these horses!

Your tax deductible donation will allow us to ship tractor trailer loads of hay to the most drought-stricken parts of the country.

Every penny you donate will go to buy and deliver hay where it is needed!

Please join us!

Send your donation check to or go to and click the PayPal image to donate immediately:

Fairfield Equine Foundation
Attn: Hay Fund
32 Barnabas Rd.
Newtown, CT 06470
If you would like a tax deductible receipt, please include your e-mail address or SASE so we can forward it to you.

Oh Meme! I've Been Tagged!

I've been tagged by my friend, Callie, at
for a game of Meme. I am supposed to tell you seven things that you probably don't know about me and then tag seven more bloggers.

For those whom I tag, here's what to do: The rules of the game are this–Once you are tagged, link back to the person who tagged you.Post the rules on your blog.Post 7 random or weird facts about yourself on your blog.Tag 7 people and link to them.Comment on their blog to let them know they have been tagged.

Here's some un-horse related facts about me:

1. I love to cook. My favorite food is Mexican.

2. Gardening is my other passion. I love orchids, peonies, lily of the valley and lilacs.

3. I'd rather read a book than do just about anything.

4. Lyle Lovett is my kind of guy.

5. I sleep best with some animals on my bed - either cats or dogs.

6. There are many reasons that I love my husband, but two of them are 1) He can fix anything. 2) He never loses his cool in a crisis, not even an earthquake.

7. I hate earthquakes.

So, please don't get mad at me for tagging you:

For some blogger glitch, I can't make these links active - I use a Mac and Firefox, so if anyone has any suggestions, please help me. I've hit the link button and got the HTML showing on the edited version, but it won't publish on my post. Sorry!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hay Day

I have a ritual on Sunday mornings. It’s the day we get hay. I am so grateful to be able to do it, and I enjoy the experience no matter what the weather. Since we moved here, there has been too much hay drama. Coming from California, where the Bermuda grass is always cheap, beautiful and available, I was stunned to discover that buying hay for my horses in New England was a big problem.

We arrived here several years ago in June. I began making inquiries among my neighbors about where they bought hay. What I learned is that most people fill their barns once a year in September or October, and that’s it. So, the farmers who sell hay run out quickly, and what’s available is very expensive. My neighbor, who owns a big hunter/jumper barn down the road, roared into my driveway in her truck one morning shortly after we moved here. “Get in!” she called to me as I was doing my barn chores in my pajamas, “The hay man’s here!” We tore down the road to her place, where a big truck was unloading about three hundred bales of hay on a conveyor going up into her loft. It looked like straw, but the farmer assured me that it was first cut. That’s all there is right now, I was told.

I brought home six bales, and my horses looked at me like I was crazy. It was the beginning of my long search for good second cutting hay. I’d find it and then, the guy who sold it to me would disappear or not be able to get any more. For almost two years, before the current hay crisis even began, I struggled to find anything decent. My girls are fussy, and if they don’t like it, they just trample it and poop on it. Since I’m only feeding two horses, which is about a bale a day, I am willing to buy the best. It can’t have alfalfa in it or they get higher than kites. They like the soft, green stuff with strands as wide as ribbons. If it’s up to their high standards, it smells delicious and looks like I could make a salad out of it.

At long last, I have developed an on-going relationship with an honest hay dealer. On Sunday mornings, he sells the best forage he can find out of his huge barn on his farm about forty minutes away from here. It’s a beautiful drive in the country. I join the line of pick-up trucks and assorted vehicles waiting to load up. Many of the people have been coming to his barn for over thirty years. There’s a genuinely friendly atmosphere. Sometimes, he’s got vegetables or fruit to sell. He’s restored his farm to its original footprint, and as his neighbors grow older, he grows hay on their land to give them income and a much needed tax break. He’s a good man. I’m always glad to spend part of my Sunday going out there, even if it’s snowing lightly like it was this morning. Driving home, I give thanks for having healthy food for my horses at a reasonable price. It’s probably a bit like what most people feel when they go to church, only as usual, my rituals seem to occur in a barn.

I know it’s really hard for a lot of people who need hay right now because of the drought. I expect it will get harder here too soon. I’ve got some Aborigine friends in Australia who know a tried and true rain dance. Maybe they will teach it to me. At the very least, I’ll be praying for rain this Spring. I hope you do too.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Finding Comfort

The week-ends can get pretty busy around here. As I go over my schedule for the next two days, I am sad to see that it is packed. Driving my daughter back and forth to her activities, entertaining two house-guests, taking care of my mom who just had a minor operation, the list looks endless. So, this morning, I took a few extra minutes in the barn, despite the freezing temperatures.

My horses anchor me at the beginning and the end of each day. Siete loves to get kisses and is especially happy when I blow my breath into her nostrils. It’s a scent that she’s known since the moment she was born. Silk is not so demonstrative. She prefers it when I just lean on her and put my head on the side of her neck. We stand there together just breathing. So, that’s what I did this morning at 6 am, with frozen fingers and toes.

As I listened to the comforting sound of my horses munching hay - which is one of the most relaxing sounds in the world to me - I thought about all of you out there. Reading other people’s blogs and your responses to my writing, I am so glad that there are still so many good people in the world. We hear a lot about the bad stuff, and we rush around not taking the time to appreciate each other. Yet, here in the blogosphere, I meet folks who have such kind hearts and show compassion for each other and for animals. It’s reassuring, considering all the cruelties that exist around us.

I think about what Sandra Ingerman, a shamanic practitioner who is also a very good writer, refers to as the “web of light” (www. Each month, on the full moon, she asks people around the world to shine their light and their good intentions so that we can create a web of that energy. When I recently posted the photo of the moon, I received messages from across the globe telling me that they were admiring the same moon in their backyards. How lucky we are that we can all connect this way and share our trials and our dreams and support each other’s good efforts.

Rubbing my face against Silk’s soft furry neck, I understood that people are more alike than we might think.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Just Dreaming

Sitting in front of the fire on these cold days, I love to imagine my dream barn. There are those who fantasize about gardening or vacationing, and I admit that I’ve let my mind wander down those roads as well. Yet, I know that if we won the lottery tomorrow, my husband and I would waste no time starting on a new barn.

When I was a little girl, I always wanted to have a horse of my own in a stall next to my bedroom. I thought it would be great to hop out of bed and open the top half of the Dutch door on my wall so I could greet my horse. I am a huge fan of the old TV show, “Mr. Ed”. The idea of Wilbur having his office attached to Mr. Ed’s stall is perfect to me. As a rational, horse-owning adult, I know that the flies and the odor would prevent me from building our dream barn so that Silk could stick her head into my kitchen or family room. At the same time, my husband and I have had perfectly serious conversations about how to make an attractive connecting indoor passage between the house and any barn we would build.

It would be so great to be able to just check on the horses without putting on all those layers of clothes and freezing our faces off on the way to the barn. We realize that it might drastically affect the re-sale value of our property, but I’ll bet other horse-owners would love it too. At the very least, my dream barn will also house my office, and a place for friends or family to come and hang out while I groom the horses and do chores. My two favorite barns are both built with areas with couches and chairs to socialize.

One is a post and beam, six-stall beauty with a wide staircase leading up to the hay loft. The horses can see each other easily and the stalls have removable partitions so they can be expanded. After having a barn with big, 15 by 12 foot stalls, I’m all for building one with that size or larger. I’d also like individual turn-out corrals off of each stall that can be opened to create one larger area. These corrals will have gates leading to the pasture so that the horses can go in or out whenever they feel like it during the day. We’ll also have a separate shower stall with hot and cold water.

The other barn that I really like is owned by my friends, Patsy and Frank, down in North Carolina. They lost their original barn in a hurricane, and when they re-built it, they designed it so that there’s a small arena and a round pen in the middle with the stalls, tack and grooming areas and wash room around it. It’s like a big warehouse building with a huge garage door on one end that can be opened in warm weather to let the light into it. I loved being able to ride when it was pouring rain outside.

They say that to create what you want in life, the first step is to imagine it clearly. So, light the fire, kick off your boots and start dreaming.

Here's my reality:

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I Don't Want To But......

I was getting ready for bed last night when I began worrying about my horses. They weren’t wearing their blankets because it had been in the upper 30’s during the day. When I fed them and put them in the barn for the night, it was still 28 degrees. In fact, as I took off my boots and socks and tucked my daughter into her bed, the temperature was the same as it was earlier even though the forecast said it would go down to 20 degrees. I hoped they wouldn't be too cold. Man, I did not want to go out there. I just wanted to crawl under the covers.

My rule is that I put the blankets on the girls when it is below 20. Even so, I waffled aloud for about a half an hour about whether I should drag myself back outdoors. Finally, my husband offered, “Let’s just do it.” He helped me carry the blankets across the yard from the tack room, which is next to our garage. We lit up the barn, waking Silk and Siete. They weren’t pleased. After the deed was done, they each got an extra flake of hay which definitely placated them.

This morning, the first thing I did was check the temperature. It was 12 degrees, and I was so relieved that I had forced myself to go out in the cold and the dark last night to take care of them. Having the horses at home allows me to do something like this.

More important, forcing myself to think about the horses instead of doing what was most comfortable and easiest for me is like exercising a muscle. As I got through my day, there will be things I just don’t feel like doing. I don’t want to revise a proposal that I’m writing. I don’t want to take my mom to the doctor while she protests non-stop that she doesn’t want to go even though we both know it’s what’s best for her. I don’t want to help my daughter study for her science test as she complains that she can’t do it. I don’t want to cook dinner just as I get the momentum to finally re-write the dreaded proposal. At each moment of “I don’t want to”, I will remind myself of how I felt at 5 am this morning.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


The moon was so bright last night that it looked like someone was shining a floodlight down on the pasture. Our neighbor’s fire alarm in her barn went off twice, rattling everyone’s windows and nerves. My dear husband headed out to our barn to check on how the girls were reacting to the weird loud noise. They were fine. Silk was already sprawled out asleep in the pine shavings.

This morning, that moon was still hanging around when I went out to feed. It’s icy, and there are little frozen moon craters where the horses’ hooves have torn up the ground. The horses are smart enough to know that it hurts to run around, so they stood around filling their fat bellies.

Siete is so bored. She just pulled the bungie cord off the water bucket and knocked it across the corral. It reminds me of my daughter when she’s stuck at home with nothing to do.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Living Out Loud

“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, as an artist, will answer, I am here to live out loud.”
-French novelist Emile Zola

Isn’t that what we are doing, here in the blogosphere? Those of us who write are “living out loud”, and those of us who respond are adding our voices. It’s a connection that reminds us of the oneness of our spirit. I could choose to write about other parts of my life, but I’ve discovered that my horses are my one constant in each day. Interacting with them always seems to offer me something new.

Today, I want to share something I learned from my horses’ blankets. As I was removing Silk’s blanket this morning, I realized that she’s been wearing the same one for over ten years. The first winter that I bought it, some chickens at the stable thought it must taste good and torn the inside lining. There was a man who came once a week, and for five dollars apiece, washed the horse clothing for the barn. He asked me if I wanted him to repair it for ten bucks, and I said, “You bet.” It’s the only thing that’s ever gone wrong, through countless washings and over a decade of use.

When Siete stopped growing, I bought her a similar blanket from “Classic Cover-ups” in navy blue. Silk’s is hunter green, so I can tell them apart. They are expensive, but strong as iron. Silk’s cost me $240, so it comes out to $24 a year so far. Best of all, they are made of a material like Gortex called “SympaTex”. It breathes even though it’s totally waterproof. Last time it snowed, Siete had an inch of wet white stuff on her back, but the inside of the blanket and her fur coat were completely dry. They fit Quarter Horses beautifully, with a short drop, but there are also longer, high necked, “Euro Cut” styles.

I decided that I wanted to recommend these amazing blankets on my blog. I went to the website of Classic Cover-ups” ( I learned that the owner, Lynn Bishop, was a horsewoman who had worked for the company that made Gortex. Twenty-two years ago, she and her husband, Ian, began making the best horse blankets they could make. They are entirely manufactured in the USA in Oxford, Pa.

So, here’s the bad news. They are going out of business in the next two months. The competition sells such cheap knock-offs with overseas manufacturing that the Bishops are closing up shop. If you want one, now is the time. As I read all the panicked news about our economic recession, I believe it’s because of so many bad decisions and choices. In our country, people are more attracted to “cheap” than they are to “made with care”. When will we learn that caring always counts the most?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Fear of Falling

This past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about falling. It is my greatest concern when I ride, even though I won’t let it stop me from getting on a horse. Have you ever noticed that sometimes a subject suddenly comes up over and over again as you go through your day, inviting you to explore it further?

Thursday, I read a very good post about falling off your horse written by my friend, Arlene, at Then, reconnecting Saturday with an old friend of mine, Alan Questel, I remembered that at one time, years ago, he gave me lessons in how to fall. He is a Feldenkrais practitioner. In the horse world, Linda Tellington-Jones bases her T-Touch techniques on this Method.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, Feldenkrais is a non-invasive, gentle practice of body movement and exercise that uses principles of physics. Through sequences of movement, you bring attention to the parts of the self that are out of awareness. By realizing your habits of moving and your rigidity, you can expand your options and find more comfortable, efficient and graceful ways to live your life.

My friend, Alan, reminded me that when we are young, falling is no big deal. It’s part of the joy and learning that all children experience. I recall that as a child, I fell off horses many times without hurting myself. Yesterday, I mentioned my fear of falling to someone who works with dancers. She pointed out that walking is actually a controlled fall forward. We fall forward and then catch our balance by putting a foot down. Then, coming into balance, we continue the controlled fall with the other foot. Ah, yes, balance is the other side of the coin to falling.

Somewhere along the way, falling loses its association with discovery and becomes anxiety producing. Crashing down four or five feet off a horse’s back onto the hard ground can do significant damage to my older and more brittle bones. I believe though that unless I can let go of my fear of falling, I am inevitably going to bring it upon myself.

When Alan taught me to fall, he helped me to roll safely without tension. Increasing my range of motion and my flexibility made my anxieties about breaking my neck disappear. To fall without getting hurt gives one the exhilarating sense of defying gravity.

It’s a lot like creativity. I have a sign hanging over my desk that says,“Leap and the net will find you”. Once again, my horses are offering me a lesson if I’m willing to be open to it. I wonder if I am brave enough to bring the sense of discovery back into falling.

If I can let go of my fear, my movements will become less braced and tense. I will be able to blend my motion and my intentions better with my horse. Now, that sounds like something that Mark Rashid would say, doesn’t it? It will naturally extend to other activities in my life, including my creative efforts.

Alan wrote an explanation of what led Moshe Feldenkrais to develop his practice. He understood that we are always thinking, feeling, sensing and moving. To change any one of those things can bring about change in the whole person. Movement is the most immediate and concrete of those four aspects. We can instantly change how we move, easily checking out our options. What Alan Questel and Moshe Feldenkrais believe is that changing how we move will often cause dramatic shifts in the other three areas and in how we perceive ourselves.

So, I’m going to go back to those exercises I did to learn to fall over fifteen years ago and see what happens. As Feldenkrais said, “If you know what you are doing, you can do what you want.”

Here are some links to explore this further:
Alan Questel:
Linda Tellington-Jones:
Mary DeBono:

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I Love Mares

Mares get a bad rap. I hear a lot of people complaining about them. I didn’t intend to buy a mare myself because I’d been warned that they were moody and difficult. In my search for a gentle gelding, I ran into Silk - definitely not a gelding, stuck in a box stall for ten years, abused by a man, and still full of spirit and intelligence. I wanted to set her free. I started dreaming about her. She was so beautiful, and despite the history of cruelty by humans, she was willing to do as I asked when I rode her. She could read my mind. I’d think about trotting or turning and before I even had time to let her know what I wanted, she’d be doing it.

Yes, mares “cycle” like all women do. Silk gets irritable when she’s “in season”, just like two-legged females have PMS. Her intuition is sharply tuned. Her mothering instinct is very strong. She doesn’t like to be pushed around, so she’ll fight back. She is keenly observant, loyal and gentle, especially when dealing with children and old people. Silk likes to have a good time. If you can believe that a horse can have a sense of humor, she’s got one.

One day, when I was grooming her, I realized that she and I were remarkably alike. You can take her mane and my hair and mix them together and they are the exactly the same color. She is my four-legged sister. I’m proud to be a woman, and I identify with all the feminine characteristics of my horse. Now, as I help her daughter, Siete, grow up, I appreciate mares even more. Sometimes, she’s like her mother, but her own personality is so strong. Siete is very comfortable being with people, affectionate and sweet. She reminds me of my daughter, of course.

I’m so glad I didn’t find that gentle gelding.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Moving Forward

I am astonished by the kind and perceptive comments that all of you are sending me. It’s not possible to answer each one, but I want you to know how grateful I am for what you are writing.

Realizing that I am striking a chord that resonates to so many people made me think about something Linda Kohanov wrote recently. Linda is the author of some wonderful books, among them “The Tao of Equus”. She has a great website:, with a monthly newsletter. This month in it, she talks about the concept of “intersubjectivity”.

This is the word that she uses to describe what happens when someone creates something or expresses some idea which touches other people in a way that makes them feel connected and validated. Horses have an ability to make us more honest and authentic. Silk and Siete constantly keep me aware of what is going on in both my heart and my head. That’s what I mean by “inner horse wisdom”.

In an earlier newsletter, Kohanov was asked what the message of the horse is. She replied, “Before you decide what should or shouldn’t happen, notice what is happening, and based on that information, align with what wants to happen next.” Horses stay in the moment. While I am with my horses, I might be worrying about how I’ll find time to go to the grocery store or replaying the conversation I just had with my husband or wishing that my daughter studied more for her math test. It all boils around inside me, and when I lead Siete to the pasture, she acts up, prancing and misbehaving. She brings me right back to earth, reminding me to let it go and focus on what is going on here at this moment. I am aware of the wet icy ground under my feet, the wind blowing and the spirited horse attached to my hand by a 3 foot long rope. It scares me a little, but I have no choice but to face it and deal. What happens next is that Siete and I dance our way inside the gate. I make her wait while I take a deep breath. When she calms down,I let her go and watch her fly.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


I just discovered that I've been named a "BLOG OF NOTE" by Blogger. What an honor! Silk, Siete and I want to thank you and thank everyone who comes to visit. I probably won't be able to respond to all your comments, but I certainly appreciate all your interest and support. It's kind of mindbloggling to see all these visitors coming to my site. Please continue to stop by often. I'll keep posting - there's a new double entendre. Happy Trails, Everyone!

Here's how Silk and Siete reacted when I told them the good news.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Lessons from My Young Horse

Once we cleared the paths and the snow let up, the horses came out to play. Silk’s legs get cold and she has pretty bad arthritis in her hocks, so she’s usually ready to come in sooner than her daughter. Siete was just as happy as a little horse could be.

I realized that my confidence level has grown by leaps so that when Siete starts to act crazy on the end of a lead rope, I’m calm. My adrenaline used to make my heart start pounding. Now, I just settle her down, wait and proceed when she’s ready to behave. It’s so interesting how finding that confidence extends into other areas of my life. I’m able to stay unruffled and speak my mind without the anxiety I used to feel when faced with anger or aggression. If I can hold onto a bucking, rearing twelve hundred pound horse and know what to do, I can handle the human dramas no problem.

Magic Morning

When I went out to feed the horses this morning, it was breath-takingly beautiful. It made me glad to be getting up at 5 am.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Storm's Coming

Today, it was warm and sunny and Siete was so happpy to be out. They are predicting that we will get a foot of snow tonight. We ran around trying to do everything we needed to do so we'd be ready. I realized that this might be the last time I saw the bare ground until March or April. I went to the grocery store and the feed store to stock up on what we'll need to be comfy and cozy.

This brief respite of warm weather has been great, but I am actually looking forward to some more snow. The horses don't mind it, as long as it doesn't get icy like the last time. They can feel that something is in the air. Silk was especially aware of what we were doing. She ran around inspecting the new compost bins that my husband built next to her "backyard".

Finally, we all settled down, ready for whatever blows in tonight. The horses did what they liked to do best, eat hay side by side.

Friday, January 11, 2008

You Know Best

“You know your horse better than anyone else,” my vet always says. If you don’t, then, it’s probably time to ask yourself, why not?

For the first three years that I owned Silk, I didn’t have the confidence or trust to be able to say that I really knew my horse. We got into a lot of trouble. Eventually, I realized that as Silk’s caretaker, I had to know all about her, not just what she did while I was in the saddle. We’ve been together over ten years now, and our relationship is light-years beyond where we started.

When I boarded my horses in someone else’s barn, it took me a while to realize that I had to really pay attention to the little things. They had too many other horses and too little time to worry about whether my horses were anything more than “okay”. I never knew if the guy who cleaned the stalls poked the muck fork at them to get them out of the way. Then, one day, I came in while he was doing it. They ate the grain that the owner of the stable provided, whatever it was and whenever it was fed to them. Many times, I came out and found their water buckets were empty. Once I stopped and thought about what these actions meant to my horses, it began to drive me crazy. I was obsessed by it, and it dawned on me that no one cares for my horses as much as I do.

Now, living with my two horses in my backyard, I am totally aware of everything that they do. I know what they eat or don’t eat. I can tell you how many times a day they poop, and where each one of them likes to go. As I go about my day, I try to be mindful of where the horses are and what they are doing. When my young horse, Siete, runs across the pasture, I take note if she is favoring her back right leg. I know that Silk likes to roll in a dust bowl she’s created in the front corner. Siete loves apples. Silk prefers carrots. As I clean the barn, I always try to take a few moments to just hang out and watch what the horses are doing. Sometimes, I scratch Silk’s belly while her daughter, Siete, stands next to us, and Silk rubs her head on Siete’s withers. It’s a little “herd grooming ritual” that we all enjoy. In those moments I feel as close as I can get to being a horse.

The horses notice what I do from the instant I walk out the door of my house. If I appear with feed buckets, they go to their stalls and stand in the open doorways politely waiting for me. When it’s time to come in from the pasture, they meet me at the gate. Silk often stops to watch me through the windows when I’m inside the house. Nothing I do escapes their attention. I owe it to them to have the same awareness.

So, when my vet, Dr. Whitney Will, from Fairfield Equine, asks me, “What do you think? You know your horse better than anyone else,” I am confident that my answer is based on truly understanding Silk’s daily habits and personality. I do know her longer and better than anyone else, and I care more.

The last time Dr. Will posed the query to me was because of the itch of all itches. In the Fall, Silk was experiencing an allergic reaction to something. It might have been the black flies, which were brutal, or some new hay that I just bought. My poor horse was so itchy that she could hardly stand still. She lifted her tail and stomped her back legs, kicking at her belly. Nothing I was doing seemed to give her any relief. The vet prescribed dexamethasone, an oral steroid, and some sulfur shampoo and cortisone cream. When I washed Silk’s udder and teats, she felt so relieved that her back legs almost gave out from under her.

I was leaning against her back hip, with my hands all the way up on the inside her haunches, rubbing the soap on her delicate skin. It suddenly occurred to me how far we had come from the first time I groomed Silk. I flashed back to how she kicked me really hard when I tried to brush the outside of her leg. At this moment, a decade later, with my hands touching her most tender parts, I knew there was no way Silk would try to hurt me. I laughed thinking that this was my ultimate measure of how good our relationship was.

Unfortunately, the skin began to peel and get inflamed by the shampoo and the cream. So, the next day, when I washed Silk again, it was a different story. She stomped her back foot and snorted as soon as I touched the inside of her leg. I got the message and just rinsed her off with warm water. I decided not to push it if Silk was sore down there. She tolerated it when I rubbed a little petroleum jelly on her udder and her belly to keep the flies away. Then, I let her be. After a few days of just rinsing her with warm water and taking it easy, the inflammation was gone.

The kindness and care a person gives a horse in mundane day-to-day activities pays off in the saddle. I offer my horses the finest hay and feed I can find. I give them a clean, soft bed in their stalls at night. I am consistent about feeding them when the sun comes up and the sun goes down, even in the worst rain or snow. If anyone tries to hurt them, I intervene and protect them. I am their advocate and best friend. Every day, I earn their trust. In return, when I ride them, they take care of me. So, when my vet tells me that I know my horses better than anyone else, I proudly nod my head and agree.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


All the ice melted away today with the rain and warm temperatures. The horses were dying to go out, but I made them wait until late afternoon. They were so good about walking calmly to the pasture. Once the gate closed, they went wild. I actually had to cover my eyes because I was so afraid someone would crash through the fence or get hurt. Luckily, they seem to know how far to go. It probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do, but I couldn’t really imagine lunging them. They hadn’t really been able to run around since the snow we had before Christmas. Even though I was terrified, I was also awed by their beauty and grace. Horses need to be horses. Mine ran like the wind.

After about a half hour, they wore themselves out and stood around waiting for me to bring them back in for dinner. On their best behavior, they marched quietly to their stalls. I was so relieved that they could let that energy loose at long last. We’ve probably got one more day of good weather and then, more rain.

Let’s not tell my good girls what the forecast is. They deserve to kick up their heels some more before we get socked in again.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Icy Mess and 65 Degrees

The horses went out in this slippery stuff, but I brought them back in early because it was too icy. Siete pitched a fit, rearing and carrying on like I've never seen her. She's full of energy, but smart enough to know not to run on the ice.

Siete Wants to Run & Play

My little horse is full of trouble today, just looking for something to get into. She tried chewing the fence, but I wiped some Cajun hot sauce on it. That's one way to get them to drink water! This crazy weather is the kind that makes a horse colic. I'm trying to keep them drinking and eating normally.

Snacking with Mom

Finally, Siete settled down to enjoy some afternoon hay with her mama.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Good as Gold, Sometimes

Siete is up to some new tricks. If my husband leads her out of her stall to the pasture, she squeals and flops around like a fish on the end of a line. Going in with him, she tries to race into her stall and attack her food.

When I am alone, I have a set routine to put the horses into the pasture each morning. I close Siete into her stall and lead Silk out first. There’s no gate directly from the corral to the pasture, so I open the corral gate, and we walk about twenty five feet out in the yard to the pasture gate. Then, once Silk is safe inside, I go back and get her daughter. Siete usually waits patiently and walks calmly with me.

It cuts down the amount of time this all takes when my husband is around to help. I also encourage him to handle the horses as much as possible. If I’m away, he’s in charge, and I want him to feel comfortable since he’s new to all this horsey stuff.

Siete is my husband’s girlfriend. He’s crazy about her. His interest in horses bloomed when she was born. The feeling is mutual. She lights up when she sees him and is very jealous if he pays attention to anyone else, horse or human.

I’ve been disturbed by her wild behavior with him. He’s handled it well. He’s not the least bit afraid of the horses. When she starts to act up, he does what I would do, making her wait and back up before he leads her through the gate. He won’t let her rush to her food bucket in the stall, but it’s escalating instead of calming down. I was very curious to see what would happen when he went out of town and I was on my own with the horses this week.

Siete has been good as gold with me. There’s no funny business at all. I’m wondering why. I recalled that when we had to shoot a big syringe full of antibiotics down her throat during her bout with Lyme Disease, she fought like crazy if my husband tried to help me. It was only when Siete and I were alone that I was able to get her to willingly let me dose her. I took it as a sign that she was learning to trust me. Perhaps that’s why she lets me lead her around without acting like a mischievous teen-ager. On the one hand, it makes me feel good that she sees me as the leader. At the same time, I want her to be safe for anyone to handle, especially my husband and my daughter.

When he returns, I intend to work with my husband and my little horse to make it all mellow again. She tends to take direction from me better than he does, so I’ll have to go slow and not put too much pressure on either of them. In the meanwhile, with all these dramatic changes in temperature - from sub-zero to nearly 50 degrees almost overnight - I have to admit I’m appreciating that Siete is being good as gold.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Too Cold!!!

What a crazy winter this is! We’re freezing here with temperatures lower than ten degrees at night and wild wind making it sub-zero. It never got up to even 20 degrees today. Yet, the weathermen are predicting it will be in the 50’s over this week-end. Bad enough for humans, but my poor California princesses are really having a hard time.

The stalls have Dutch doors on the front and the back and windows on the side. I shut the back doors, but usually leave the top of the front doors open so the horses can look out. I know that Silk can get a little claustrophobic. Last night, my husband was encouraging me to close all the doors in the barn since it was so cold and windy. It posed a real dilemma for me.

I wanted to feel certain that the girls would be warm enough. At the same time, if one of them reacted negatively to the doors all being shut, I wouldn’t hear it since I was in the house in my warm bed. They were wearing their blankets which are quilted and have Gortex on the outside. They also have pretty thick fur right now. In the end, I opted to give them a bit of extra grain and more hay and warm water but leave the top of the stall doors open in the front. I just wanted to avoid opening the doors to a disaster this morning of a wall kicked in or an injury. I kept waking up all night worrying as I heard the wind howling.

Finally, in the early morning darkness, a half hour before I usually do, I went out to feed them. They were really happy to see me, but they were fine. When I tried to put them in the pasture, Silk didn’t want to go. That’s a first. I insisted, so she stood at the gate watching me muck the stalls the entire time she was out there. After forty-five minutes, I put them back in the barn and the front corral.

Now, it’s time to give them that extra hay and fill the buckets with hot water again to keep their inner furnaces going strong for another single digit night. Okay, all you Californians, go ahead and gloat!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

What We Wish For

When I go out to the barn, my horses stick their heads out of their stalls to greet me.
“I see you!” I call to them.

I was reading a wonderful book by Mark Nepo called “The Book of Awakening”. It’s a “day book”, with a short essay for every day of the year. He’s a poet who recovered from cancer and a near-death experience. His view of the world is wise and funny and loving.
The entry for December 31st tells how when Bushmen (and Bushwomen) in Africa greet each other, one calls, “I see you!” and the other answers, “Here I am!”

I’m certain that if my horses could talk, they’d reply to me, “Here I am!” Isn’t that what we are all looking for? The recognition of who we truly are and the comfort of knowing that someone else understands.

I wish everyone a New Year full of peace and hope and love. Here’s to 2008!