Thursday, March 31, 2011

Emily Dickinson's Garden

Every year, about this time, we start to switch gears to gardening. It has been a passion of my husband's and mine since we moved here and were able to design every stitch of grass, tree, shrub and flower for our new home.

A few years ago I began reading two books: The Gardens of Emily Dickinson, by Judith Farr, and Emily Dickinson's Gardens, by Marta McDowell, both wonderful, but very different books. At that time I also started to plan my own garden with the emphasis on creating a poetic space. I wrote about that journey on my Wordpress blog, Emily Dickinson's Garden.

Now I'm back there again for 2011, reading poetry, writing poetry, planning my garden, but this year we'll also get to bask in the wonder of the poetic space we've created, (if it ever gets here!) Eden, where are you?

Dahlias are our favorite, and this year we have about ten new varieties to plant. Since we're supposed to have sunshine and upper 50's tomorrow, that just might be the day to do it. My husband is off for the next three days (YAY) and what better time for it?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My Pony Mugged Me

(Kind uv.)

I believe I've had a breakthrough with my little pony. You know how I've been going out and giving her treats and spending time in her stall? Well, yesterday I went out to halter her and she stood right there. She didn't take one step away. I thought, WOW.

I led her to her new stall and dropped her lead to groom her. She started to nudge my coat and hand.


This pony has never initiated contact of any sort. Yet, she was mugging me. And I was glad.

Any other horse, I'd think mugging was a bad thing, but with little Jasmine, I welcomed it.

I had this epiphany about letting her chase me. As you all know, with horses, if they're scared of something, chasing it makes them feel more confident. If they're scared of the 4-wheeler, let them chase it. If they're scared of cows, let them chase them and so on. I thought, I wonder if this would work with me. I'll move away and let her chase me (she had never wanted to do this before) and see how it works.

I didn't half believe she'd do it, but she did. The more I moved away and avoided her, the more she wanted to get to me. Each time she did something brave, I'd turn and give her a treat. The behavior a good way. She was finally curious about me. She was finally interested in me and willing to act on it.

I thought, I'll pet her now. She didn't move, but she still didn't enjoy being petted. I wondered, Will she ever enjoy being petted? Is it necessary for her to enjoy being petted? I answered myself, No, it's not necessary, and it may never happen. So what?

I never thought I'd be happy about being mugged by a horse, but that goes to show how every circumstance is different. This little pony has never done anything mean-spirited or aggressive. I was happy to see she finally had the confidence to break through the barrier.

I don't know where this will go next, but I do know we have made one giant leap toward something good.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Who Will Volunteer?

The Best Damn Chili On the Rimrock 2011 is mine. Woohoo! I did it. I have to revel in this moment because it may be the only time I can ever claim victory. The winner from 2008, 2009 and 2010 had a schedule conflict and couldn't enter, so where I was able to win with a little under $200 in my pot--in previous years, he's won with $1300 in his. I hope his chili is back next year!

(Mine was the Flammable Fluid there.)

Still, I'm going to enjoy the moment and the trophy. I'll pull it out whenever I serve my guests chili, and if they complain or say they've tasted better, I'll refer them to my little chili accolade and say, Not on the Rimrock, my friend, not on the Rimrock!

The dessert auction was lots of fun. Here are a couple of the wonderful cakes:

As for the cheesecake I made--

my husband was determined to bring it home, too. And I’m so glad he did, because with a big family like ours, it disappeared right quickly, and had me wishing I’d made even more.

It all goes for a good cause.

Land conservation is dear to my heart. I’m so thankful to the people who came before me who donated land to the public, and to the volunteers, most of them in their 70’s and 80’s, who are probably the greatest generation of Americans to ever live, and who work to maintain them.

In a month, we’re going to have the Palisades Park Cleanup. We’re going to ask volunteers to come out and help us remove the CRAP some idiots have dumped onto the beautiful Rimrock. In the past, we’ve removed sinks, stoves, tubs—even a canoe. Who are the jerks who dump this stuff?

We'll also clear trails and thin trees.

Who do you think usually volunteers at the cleanup? Young, teenage men—strapping fellows who can lift 240 pounds? Nope. Young women, fit for a marathon who have a membership to the local gym and have participated in the Iron Man? Nope. The volunteers are going to be, mostly, those same 70 and 80 year olds of the Great Generation I was talking about.

The crew I worked with last year consisted of my husband and I and an 84 year old man from our community doing his darndest to pull out thinned trees and drag them to the road for the chipper. He doesn’t even have horses or use the park, but there he was clearing trails and removing garbage for the community.

But something bad happened. As he was pulling the trees over the dense and unlevel ground, he tripped and fell off a rocky embankment and hit his head on the basalt. We ran over and helped him up, but he was bleeding from a very nasty head wound. Another volunteer ran to get the First aid Kit and my husband cut away his hair and bandaged it. Of course, he wouldn’t hear of going to the hospital or any of that. Instead, he got up and started helping again and attended the tailgate potluck afterwards.

What are we going to do after this generation is gone? Who’s going to step up and help? I know one thing, I’ll be attending with my teenage son and daughter (and, hopefully, their friends) on April 16th. As far as I’m concerned, it should be required of all of our kids. The schools should keep track of their volunteer hours and make it part of their grades. Maybe we’d have less vandalism if they knew how hard it was to clean up.

If you have time and live near Spokane—please mark your calendars for April 16th 9:00-12:00 (just three short hours) with a Tailgate Party to follow at the Palisades Park Community Clean-up. Many hands make light work, and it's always a lot of fun.

Mike and I at the cleanup. Volunteering together was a blast!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Good Causes

I know there are a lot of good causes out there--a lot--and one of them is land conservation for people and horses. As cities grow, there is more and more demand for land and, in hard financial times, more and more public outcry to sell public lands.

I live near two wonderful equestrian parks--Riverside State Park and Palisades Park. The two are separated by a road and a couple privately owned parcels. The Palisades Organization, a group of local volunteers, works to preserve, add to, clean, clear trails and expand the park to the larger Riverside State Park. This year, we hope to add two new parking lots for horse trailers.

All of you out there who have few to no places to ride, where there are non-motorized vehicles, probably know exactly how lucky we are to have this--500 acres in Palisades and 10,000 acres in Riverside, equestrian riding area.

Tomorrow is our biggest fund raiser of the year--The Best Damn Chili on the Rimrock 2011 Contest and dessert auction. It's held at the Finch Arboretum and there is no cost to attend. You can try the chilis and, hopefully, vote on your favorite--which would be.....maybe....mine?

I've also made an Oreo Chocolate Chip Cheesecake for the auction!

If you're in the local area, I hope you can make it from 4-7. Stop by any time before 6 and you should be good.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Crazy Herd Bound

I can't believe my eyes.

I went out and brought Beautiful in from the herd, tied her while I cleaned stalls, then put her in a stall to separate her from the herd for a while. I stayed out there about another forty-five minutes to ride Cowboy and came in and sat down.

As I've said before, my main chair overlooks the pastures and the stalls, and when I turned to look out--there was Beautiful trying to climb out of her run. Yes, climb!! She put one hoof on the first rung, then the next on the other, tried to jump to the third and came back down on the ground. Now she's running in and out of the stall. didn't take her too long to get herd bound. I'm thinking it's a good thing I have her stalled alone today. But really, have you ever seen a horse try to climb the rails?

Pics from today:

Two of the three barrels we brought in to practice figure eights, flags, clover pattern--and everything else we can think of with barrels.

A simple jump my husband made for me this weekend. Scrap lumber and PVC pipe.

A Little Out of Shape

Yesterday was a beautiful day all around: weather, company, and activities. Today, though, it's overcast and cold. I keep walking the property to see if there are any signs of life: crocus, snowdrops, daffodils, Poet's Narcissus, but nada. I would expect at least the snowdrops to be up by now, wouldn't you?

I got to ride Cowboy yesterday and had a funny experience leaving the pasture. He had been rather far out, so I had a ways to walk him back to the barn. As we were doing this, I heard what sounded like a stampede behind me, turned around to see what was going on, and lo and behold, there was Beautiful running straight toward us with Cia behind her trying to herd her back. Amazingly enough, Cowboy wasn't bothered, even though she came into our "bubble". She was definitely trying to make a little trouble. The whole time I rode him, she was plastered to the gate watching. I assume she must be saying she wants to work, too.

Cowboy is always a sweetheart and does everything he's asked, but it's clear he's very much out of shape. That's the other side to letting them be during the winter--there is some reconditioning that needs to happen before going out for long rides on the trail. The other issue is, as always, his hoof. He camps it out in the pasture when he's standing, but doesn't seem to be lame on it when we're riding. I took my hammer and pounded around it last night to see if I'd get him to flinch or pull it away--nothing. He didn't act like he felt it at all.

He's due for shoes on Tuesday, and I'm hoping that will stabilize it enough to relieve whatever pain is in there. Also, he gets these mud balls stuck to his hooves that round out--almost like ice balls. Do you know what I mean? they fill up the space in the hoof, then protrude outward. It seems to me that when he puts a foot down on the ground with a compact, mud ball in it, it would force out the sides of the hoof and cause him more pain. I would think, with an arthritic coffin joint, you'd want that hoof landing as flat as possible. So, I'm really starting to wonder if a pad would help. I'm going to discuss it with my farrier. I would imagine this is only a problem during the wet, sticky, muddy months--or winter, sticky snow months.

Any ideas out there?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Beautiful Day

Sunshine, temperatures migrating upward to the 50's, piano lesson, an afternoon ride. Hope everyone has a beautiful Wednesday.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dealing With Trauma in Horses

I found a chapter in Whole Heart, Whole Horse that I don't entirely agree with, the Chapter on dealing with equine trauma. Interestingly enough, it was what I most looked forward to because of my work with Jasmine.

Where I agree.

Mark Rashid, the author, believes (and I agree) that horses need to be able to move, in order to feel better. I've seen this time and time again and I often mention it in blog posts. If you don't want a "fight" with your horse--you need to give them the perception of "flight"--movement. I never corner, drag, wrestle or manhandle my horses.

While I agree with Rashid about movement and would also agree that it's the best way to capture a hard to catch horse--I don't think it really addresses the truly traumatized horse who just plain doesn't like to be with people. The horse that he let's run free eventually comes to him, but I was wondering--did the horse have food? I suppose if you didn't feed the horse in the turnout, pretty soon it would come to you to be able to go back to eat, or to get back with its buddies. But in my situation, this hasn't helped with Jasmine.

It was this chapter that got me thinking last week about how trauma is stored in the human body. Rashid writes, "He explained that animals in the wild suffer very little from the effects of trauma, yet many domesticated animals, especially humans, suffer a great deal from it. ....When an indivual is traumatized in any way, energy from the trauma is stored in the body. Animals in the wild are very good at expending the energy of trauma, often by doing little more than running or standing and shaking." Humans however, don't expend the energy, so it's stored in the body and comes out in physical problems--migraines, ulcers, disease, and we "live in a permanent state of panic."

Though I don't believe this chapter gives me the "answer" to my work with Jasmine, since I don't "chase" her and she still doesn't come until she wants to eat, it has broadened my understanding of how essential movement is to horses. It could be that this insight will aid me in achieving my goal with her, but at this point, I'm not sure how. Already, I never trap or bribe her because, from day one, I decided against any manipulation or force. What I want is for this little pony to like being with me and seek out my company.

Today it's raining. I'm a little sad about that because my husband built me an awesome jump this weekend and brought in some barrels for my arena. I was looking forward to a playday out there. Instead, I cleaned house all day. The bright side is that now I get to relax and enjoy it--candles burning--music playing--and a good book. But still....

Friday, March 18, 2011

Beautiful's First Time Ponying Behind

This is the very beginning of my time working with Beautiful today. She'd never ponied behind another horse, so we took it one step at a time--literally. She'd give me a step and I'd give her some slack. My camera girl quit pretty quickly, and so the end of the session wasn't recorded. After a few minutes, that you don't get to see, we were able to walk circles around the arena on a loose lead, but I never got her comfortable where I want her--her head/shoulders at my leg. I'd stop Cowboy every now and then and bring her up to that point and pet her until she relaxed, then we called it good.

I didn't really expect anymore today since it was Cowboy's first time being rode since winter started. Actually, I had no expectations at all. I was willing to take as little or as much as they were willing to give. I have some video of me riding him today, too. I can't see him favoring his bad foot at all, though the video quality is poor. We were using the pocket camera rather than the video recorder. I didn't feel him being off, and I didn't see it in the movie. That makes me hopeful.

It sure felt good to be on horseback again, even though we didn't make it to the trails. Since I got one of my goals accomplished with Beautiful, I think it worked out well to stay around here. Maybe tomorrow, and if Beautiful starts to do really good at ponying, I'll be able to take her on some of my trail rides soon.


"A behavior that's caught when it's in the form of a thought takes much less energy to redirect in the first place." Mark Rashid, Whole Heart, Whole Horse.

This quote boils it all down for me--the reason why some seasoned horse people make horsemanship look so easy and effortless, basically, why some of the greats out there can accomplish so much with what looks like so little effort.

There's a question that I've had in my mind for a while now--and it was brought up again by Laura Crum at Equestrian Ink: Do you believe it's difficult to be a good horseperson using non-coercive methods if you haven't had first-hand experience with more traditional methods (alpha-human-leader theory)?

I answered the question yes, but I was curious what other people thought, so I brought it up at our Cowgirl Coffee yesterday. The group of friends gathered there were all women who have grown up with horses and have horses now. Some took small breaks from horses, some didn't. When I asked the question, we were finishing up so there were only about six ladies left. All but one answered it, yes.

First, they wanted to know what type of person we were talking about and what type of horse. I answered, A complete newbie to horses, and the horse such a newbie might buy--cheap or free and ill-trained--maybe even with issues or trauma.

They all said they thought since they wouldn't really understand the differences between horses and dogs/cats (pets), or the language of the horse, they'd probably need the more coercive methods to establish boundaries and safety. Or, at least, to start with that perspective, rather than misunderstand the other, and put themselves in harm's way.

The one friend who answered no qualified that it could only be done well if this person (newbie) with green horse--immersed him/herself in daily lessons with that horse or clinics--just reading a book wouldn't do it. But, if this person had a mentor/trainer who was there with them day in, day out, it could be done.

I agree with both answers. I think the biggest issue facing a newbie (besides the first horse they might buy--pretty, spirited, fancy, or free) is not being able to read horses--as Rashid said, to catch the behavior when it's only a thought, and then redirect it.

Much of this work starts at the very beginning--leading, since leading is the heart of boundaries.

In my opinion, horses love boundaries. They love to enforce them and respect them. Also, they are quite capable of understanding that different circumstances may change those boundaries.

Rashid asks the woman in his clinic what her boundaries are, but she hasn't ever really defined them. Not only that, but she has mistaken pushiness for affection and her horse is shoving her around. Rashid says:

"A horse that pushes on us to see if he can move us isn't showing affection. He isn't necessarily trying to establish dominance over us either, although I believe it can ultimately turn into that if we aren't careful."

Anyone who has been around horses knows, horses love to push and chase. It's their natural inclination. (And the reason why we ladies at coffee yesterday all agreed you could teach a horse to cut cows with non-coercive methods by using their natural tendencies). But a person who hasn't been around horses could easily mistake it for, pet me, I love you.

I want to say, I do love to love on my horses, but I don't ever think they need that loveyness. They get all that from the herd. There is a working partnership between them and me, and a comraderie of sorts--even an enjoyment of one another, but their main needs for affection are met with each other. That's why I never feel guilty when I let them be in the winter. I know they're happiest when they're out there eating together and doing what's natural.

I've said before, my friend who trains for a living once told me she preferred to train horses that had never been touched by people. She said the training always went much faster. Unfortunately, many bad habits had been taught when the horses were young and what they were doing seemed "cute" since it was relatively harmless. However, when the horse was full grown, what seemed cute before became dangerous and even deadly. Rashid pointed out that sometimes we teach things we don't want to teach, simply by not understanding what our horses are saying or doing. Rashid says, "Most of the time this all boils down to awareness." And, by awareness, I think it means understanding what a horse is all about.

A statement in this second chapter that I found very surprising was this:

"Before I started doing clinics for the public, I never gave any thought to boundaries between horses and humans, I guess because I don't recall it ever being an issue. Even when I worked for the old man back when I was a kid, we never had any problems with horses pushing on us or mindlessly walking into us when on a lead rope. Not during all those years working ranches, even when we had strings upwards of one hundred twenty or thirty head, do I recall ever having problems with it". (Mark Rashid, Whole Heart, Whole Horse)

What happened to change it? Is it because there are less working horses and more "pets"? My friends at coffee yesterday also brought up the question we've all talked about before and one that I'm sure I've blogged about--would you rather have a horse with a cute personality (peoply--in your pocket type) or a horse that knows it's a horse and does its job for you--goes up every hill, through every stream, across every river? None of us really answered that--so I guess we want both.

Today's shaping up to be a beautiful day, so I'll be out on the trails--and, hopefully, I'll have some pictures to bring back.

As always, opinions are encouraged on this blog. I think of this as more coffee talk among friends. I throw out an idea and, hopefully, you throw out yours. There's something to be learned from every visitor who stops by.

Happy Trails! Hey, I misspelled that for a second and it was Happy Trials! Funny. Well, I hope both your trails and trials today, ultimately, bring you much happiness.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Temple Grandin

I'm probably late on the bandwagon, but have you seen the movie, Temple Grandin? My husband stayed home sick yesterday and we watched it together, and both of us LOVED it.

He's a great barometer for how good a movie is. Our system for judging is that we take away stars by how fast he falls asleep. Did he fall asleep five minutes into it (or during the opening credits), ten minutes in, half-way, towards the end, or, and this rarely happens, did he stay awake for the whole thing?!? Guess what--he stayed awake! Yay. Temple Grandin gets five stars.

On the other hand, I don't think our five stars are quite the accolade that winning seven Emmies was. (Is that how you write it--Emmies for the multiple of Emmy?)

The acting, the story--it was all superb. Claire Danes was no longer Claire Danes--she WAS Temple Grandin. It's an inspiring story--that no matter what you're diagnosed with--in her case, autism, if you have a wonderful mom--or support system of some sort behind you--you can fulfill your special calling. (I know a mom like this--her name is Laura, and she reads this blog every now and then.)

Here's a link to Dr. Temple Grandin's official site.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Getting Past Fight or Flight

Knowing how way leads on to way...

My path seems to be heading one, clear direction--toward letting go of old stories, taking each day for a new day, and the heart of both those things--forgiveness.

I don't think there's a person alive who can honestly say they have forgiven everything of everyone and have, likewise, been completely forgiven, by themselves or others.

I was brought up in a Christian household, and I was tuned in spiritually from a very young age. I can't help but to think of God, the Creator, in the best of Christian terms. I've met good Buddhists, kind-hearted atheists, devout people of all creeds (or non-creeds) but for me, the stories of the Bible, and especially, The New Testament, are personal to my own journey.

On the other hand, I'm a very independent person, and I believe God gave us a brain to use it. I decided some years ago that I was going to wipe my slate clean and start at the bare bones of belief--which is complete and utter disbelief. I got in touch with the nagging, Why don't you answer my prayers when I need you most? Why do you let us suffer? Why don't you show yourself? Why do you make this so hard--part of my thinking and decided to give it full light. I also decided that I would start to build a new foundation and that no rock or brick would be set in that foundation that wasn't something I fervently and truly believed. It had to be personal. It had to be real because everything depended on it.

As you can imagine, with that kind of thinking, I'm a very independent Christian woman. I'm also independent politically. I don't believe in becoming part of any group-think organization. I seek truth wherever I find truth. I don't live in fear of other's ideas. I love other's ideas, and I love for those ideas to challenge my own. I'd be afraid if they didn't. When everyone starts to agree, I get nervous. Working with animals has only solidified my beliefs, and I find that I feel closest to God in the barn--maybe because animals are truthful--100 percent truthful. This may sound strange to some (or not), but I value an honest atheist belief over a dishonest christian belief any day of the week.

My recent journey has brought me to the book, The Healing Code, by Alexander Loyd, PhD, ND, with Ben Johnson, MD, DO, NMD. My mom read it first, and when she was here visiting last week, she told me about it and then ordered it for me. I was surprised at how much of it had to do with what I was reading about horses. In fact, the authors said it has even helped some people work with animals.

The book explores the physical aspect of stress--a certain kind of stress--on the body. Basically, how living in unforgiveness/bitterness, relives traumatic, stressful events for us, both consciously and unconsciously, and that stress keeps our bodies in the fight or flight mode. When your body is in that mode, just like with horses, it conserves energy to keep up the most vital functions, like breathing. One of the things that gets shut down in order to conserve energy is the immune system. They also say, and when I read it to my husband, he agreed, that stress trauma is stored in the cells of our body.

I've written on my blog about how I came down with melanoma at the age of 34 at the most hopeless and stressful time of my life--I've always known it had something to do with the way I handled my issues of the heart.

In fact, I sought a counselor during that period of life because I was in a situation I didn't think I could forgive. She told me that bitterness was like taking poison then waiting for the other person to die. I had to think about that for a few minutes to understand it, then the light bulb went on--So, it's like ME taking poison, then waiting for the other person to die, but the other person is actually living very happily and totally unaware and unaffected by my's my own life I'm destroying.

Even though I got that loud and clear, releasing bitterness was beyond me. I couldn't pray it away, think it away, wish it away--it just did not go away. Instead, a sense of pride seeped in and I thought, You know, I've lived a pretty damn good life, and I don't deserve this. I'm a good person. I've prayed, I've studied, I've done pretty much everything everyone's always told me to do. What kind of God would let me suffer like this? From there, I entered the darkest days of my life.

Okay--back to now--I'm not there anymore--nor do I ever want to be back there again. The melanoma is, thankfully, gone. But, honestly, the forgiveness has not been complete. And, add to that, I found I wasn't so perfect after all, and I have a few things of which I need to forgive myself. I will say, I don't think you can forgive yourself until you've forgiven others. There's a scripture that goes something like, As you judge, so will you be judged. I've always taken that to have two meanings--a larger spiritual one and also a personal one.

There is a section of this book titled: The Heart Knows Only the Present Moment. Is that horse wisdom, or what? But they're talking about the human heart. They're saying, even though something happened in the past, if you haven't forgiven it and LET IT GO, it's just like you're reliving it again--in the present! Your body is reacting to the trauma of the event and will go, either consciously or unconsciously, into the fight or flight mode. You won't be able to ward off cancer or colds or any of the many illnesses that attack your system. You may also have eating disorders and a dysfunction in processing the food that does come into your body.

It's hard to let go of the past. The last time I wrote about forgiving and forgetting with our horses someone wrote back that maybe it's not good to forget--maybe that's nature's way of protecting us. But I have to wonder, is it protection if it causes us to feel bad and our bodies to work incorrectly? Is it protection if it causes us to live in fear? I've heard it so many times, I've forgiven, but I'll never forget. I'm sorry, but to me, that's not forgiveness.

Do you remember about seven years ago when a gunman went into an Amish school and killed the children there? Something happened after that that I'll never forget. First, the Amish group came out and said they completely forgave the shooter and rallied around his widow and children; they even held and comforted the shooter's father as he wept for his son. Second, they razed the schoolhouse to the ground and built another one on another piece of land and called it, The New Hope School. The reason they gave for doing this was that they believed in forgiving AND forgetting. (There were some people who criticized them for this.)

I want to tell you a little story from my Christian tradition--in my own words:

Once, Yeshua (the real name of Jesus) was invited to have dinner with the top religious people of his day and age. It was a great honor. These were "Godly" men. They lived righteous lives. But as he was relaxing after dinner, a woman (it is said she was a sinful woman--the Greek word is hamartolos or one who has committed a specific sin) who lived in that town heard he was there and wanted to see him.

She wasn't invited, but she came in anyway and knelt at his feet and cried. As she cried, her tears wet his feet, so she wiped them with her hair. She'd also brought a jar of perfume--very expensive--probably worth a year's wages--and she used this to perfume his feet.

Well, the host, Simon, was kind of disgusted, and he wondered at whether Yeshua could really be a prophet if he didn't understand everything--all the sins this woman had committed--and if he did, why he'd let her touch him like that.

Yeshua understood what he was thinking and asked him, Simon, If two people owed money to the same person, but one owed him five hundred dollars, and the other fifty thousand, and he was to forgive both of their debts, which one would love him more?

Simon answered, I guess the one who had the bigger debt.

Jesus said, You're correct. Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, that person loves but a little.

I don't want to try to tie this whole post up because I don't think it can be, and I hope I haven't appeared "preachy" with all this--this is just where my life's path has meandered. This book,The Healing Code, shows how the human body and mind functions best when it lives in the present and lets go of the past. So, maybe forgiveness and living in the present--taking each person and animal for who they are today--is as good for us as it is others. It certainly can't hurt.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Three Cheers for Grandkids!

Time to lengthen those stirrups! Someone has been in a growth spurt.

Our grandkids were with us this weekend, and we had lots of fun. All five are the happiest kids--joyful and kind-hearted. We have one especially horse-crazy grandaughter who I've blogged about before. She loves all the animals: horses, dogs and cats. Even though it was cold outside, she would come in and out from playing with them all day.

These are the children of my husband's daughter, of course, because, as you know, I'm way, way, way too young to be a grandmother, right? Apparently, not anymore. When I was in my 30's and I'd introduce my grandkids, people would say, You're too young to have grandkids. Now, they look at me and say, Of course you have old lady, you! Gosh, back when we first had grandkids, they even said my husband was too young to have them. Time flies.

Anyway, whatever age, grandkids are, by far, the best, the sweetest, the most wonderful. When they love our horses, dogs, cats and goats, too--that's just icing on the cake.

I have something to look forward to--a weather change. If the forecast is correct, I'll be able to haul out to the trails this Friday. I don't have shoes on Cowboy yet, but where I ride, especially this time of year, the ground is pretty soft. I can avoid the rocky areas. He's scheduled for shoes on the 29th. He is my one who really needs them in order to stabilize his hoof and avoid any extra pain from the arthritis in his coffin joint. (From the fracture).

My farrier used to stagger my trimmings and do half on each visit. Somehow the two sessions got closer and closer together, and now we're back to doing them all at once again. I don't really like it this way, though, because it seems like so much more money when you write one big check. We have seven horses and, as you can imagine, it adds up. I'm thinking about asking him to split them up again, but is that just being silly? I mean, it's the same amount of money--but isn't there something to be said for fooling oneself when it comes to horse bills? Probably best to do it all at once.

It's almost six in the evening here and it's still fully light out. Our horses are grazing on last year's grass in the East pasture. I think I'm going to like this extra light--makes me feel like Spring's around the corner.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Those of you who have followed my blog know I play piano. I started when I was about twelve, took lessons for a couple of years, quit and played for fun, then returned to serious study at the age of forty-two.

Last year, I was getting frustrated with myself. No matter how much I practiced, when it came to playing in front of someone, I made mistakes. I hated mistakes. They were like huge failures. Every wrong note seemed to be accusing me of something deeper--you're not good enough, you're not gifted enough--you didn't practice enough. Maybe you're too old to learn. My instructor had told me, time and time again, not to apologize during a song. No, oops. No, sorry. No stopping. After a while of this, she recommended the book, The Perfect Wrong Note: Learning to Trust Your Musical Self. She knew I needed to find some peace with my musical imperfections...maybe all of my imperfections.

I'm so glad I read it, because what I found in that book could be the answer for all of life: a wrong note isn't so much "wrong" as it is "information". The author said to let your body move freely--play loudly--do not play fearfully and stilted and controlled, you can't learn that way--you can't grow. You need to take time and learn from the information. Playing should be fun. Of course you're going to err, but so what?!?

Lately, I've been reading Rashid's book, Whole Heart, Whole Horse, and found the first chapter is very similar; it's titled "Mistakes". Not surprisingly, he comes to much the same conclusion. There's no such thing as a mistake, if you learn something. Fear of mistakes keeps you from trying, paralyzes you, and, in my opinion, probably creates fear and frustration in your horse. Fear of mistakes in piano, creates tension in your body.

My mind was firing off memory after memory of all the stupid things I did with horses through the years. Oddly enough, the first colt I trained, in my teens when I knew the least about anything, turned out to be one of my most wonderful. In the end, when your heart is right, horses are very forgiving. I think all of us wonder how we survived our youth, but somehow we did, mistakes and all, and those mistakes make us who we are now--better horse people. Maybe it was confidence and desire that got us through. That spirit of, I LOVE horses, and damned if I won't be a horsewoman even it kills me!

This idea of confidence--movement--action--is HUGE in horsemanship, piano, writing, and really, all aspects of life. I tell my kids--The gift is the desire. When I hear them say, Oh, he, or she's, just really good at that, I stop them and say, If you want it, you can be really good at it, too....just DO it. The people who become really good at something, anything are the people who don't let mistakes, setbacks, criticsm, self-doubt, or fear stop them. They continue forward, getting better all the time, putting the hours in day after day after day. Nothing comes easy and everyone has to work for it.

Our horses will also make "mistakes" as they learn new information. In my opinion, we need to give them the space to do so. I've seen them do it with each other as well. Red doesn't stand guard in front of the gate he doesn't want Beautiful to go through--he moves to the side and let's her make her choice. If she makes the wrong choice, he brings her back in and pushes her further away from where she wants to be.

Here's a real-life horse and human story--Cowboy and me. A couple years ago it was spring and I took Cowboy on his first ride away from home. We went down the road and up into some fields--as long as we were moving away from home all was wonderful. The problem with Cowboy wasn't going away--the problem with Cowboy was turning back. As soon as I'd turn him around, he'd arch his neck and start huffing and puffing and prancing--or, more precisely, jigging. It was very clear, he wanted to take control, buck me off (if possible...though it never has been) and run home.

What options were availabe to me? Let's see...yank on his mouth (No), turn him in circles, run him in circles, continue toward home and ride it out, or--ride on a loose rein, relaxed in the saddle, if he started jigging, turn him away from home and walk on a loose rein away from home....for a long way. I chose the last option, but it's a good thing I had a lot of time because it took him about an hour and half to get back when it should have taken fifteen minutes. By the time we did, he made his own decision to walk nicely, which, to me, made the time every bit worth it.

Now, he'd made about thirty "mistakes" before it was over, and there was more than one moment when I started to think I was on the wrong path, it was NOT going to work, and I would have liked to let him jig, jig, jig all the way home.

However, like me, the "mistakes" he made were really just bits of "information". He'd learned, When I jig, I get further from home. When I walk, I get closer to home. I want to go home, therefore, I'll walk. I did not have to get emotional or fearful--at no time, did anything "scary" happen or was I in physical peril. It took time, yes, but my boy has a long memory and that lesson carried him through many other situations. No time is wasted--at the piano or with horses--where the practice is done right.

My teacher says, Learn a few new notes every day, and pretty soon you'll have a song. I think it's the same in our work with horses. The only mistake is doing nothing.

I want to say, I'm very thankful today for Lea at Lea and Her Mustangs--her horse Pepper appears to be on the mend from a very bad colic. I hope he continues to get better, Lea.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Do You Dansko?

I'm reading, Whole Heart, Whole Horse: Building Trust Between Horse and Rider, by Mark Rashid, and so far, it's my favorite of his books. I want to comment on it chapter by chapter with my thoughts, but I'm not finished writing the first yet, the one addressing, Mistakes.

My brain was firing off in so many directions reading it--how it correlates with everything I do--like my piano--like my writing--like my LIFE. In some ways, there is no such thing as a "mistake"--the only mistake would be if you didn't do something--anything--or if you didn't learn from them.

Since I've been back to piano lessons, I found the book, The Perfect Wrong Note: Learning to Trust Your Musical Self, and the correlations between the two are amazing...but more on that tomorrow.

For today's post--I thought I'd follow up on yesterdays, and actually show you pictures from my time on eBay. Looking back over them, I got a lot accomplished without having to leave the house. I needed a new watch, jewelry, and some clothes for the barn and for spring--and I didn't do too bad, all in all.

I first found this necklace watch at Urban Outfitters for $30.00 and I liked it, but didn't buy it. On eBay--this was $1.00. Of course, it's coming from Hong Kong, but I've had good luck with items from there, so I'm not worried. One time, I ordered the same item from there and CA, and the Hong Kong item made it here first.

The denim dress. I did some soul-searching this year because I cleaned my closet out last summer--bags and bags full of clothes and shoes I didn't wear--and I didn't want to fill it up with junk again. I asked myself--what do I REALLY like--what is ME--what will I wear with the lifestyle I have? My answer was denim--clothes I could wear to the store, to dinner, to the barn, or around the house. As far as I'm concerned, they need to bring back denim in a big way. I did find a shirt at Banana Republic, but guess what--it was $65.00! I'm not spending that much on a denim shirt--so I went to eBay. This dress arrived yesterday and I tried it on and loved it. It was a little big, but better big than too small. I think it will be perfect for around here.

THE watch to end all watches....or at least my eBay shopping. I LOVE it and, apparently, so did a lot of other people. Fossil doesn't make it anymore, so this was my only route. Actually, I shouldn't complain about how much I paid since it was still far less than what it would sell for new. I can't wait until it arrives...maybe today. For this watch, I suffered through the bidding process, but came out victorious--barely. I used the strategy of waiting until the last minute--the last 60 seconds--and so did another bidder. We both put in our highest bids and pushed the button--mine won by a mere 50 cents, and the bidding was over.

Do you Dansko? A friend last night told me ALL horse people Dansko, and I'm thinking I want to Dansko, too. Do any of you? Do you have a favorite? I didn't win these on eBay, but I'm starting to think I want a pair.

The denim shirt--I got this for about $5.00--a great work shirt for the barn.

The "Butt-ugly" watch...according to my daughter. I won it on eBay thinking it would be great for Spring and Summer. I like the copper accents--they seemed unusual. Needless to say, however, I didn't have a bidding war on this one.

Earrings from Malaysia. I got these in Amber and Turquoise. I have a real problem with losing or destroying jewelry--so getting them on eBay seemed the wise thing to do.

The jacket I want--Levi Trucker jacket. Haven't got it yet.

More earrings I won.

Family news. Remember how I wanted to find my great-great-grandfather's name? Well, I had a stroke of good luck. A distant member of our family got ahold of us and sent us a ton of family history from that side--out of the blue. It got me back on the track to fill in the holes, and when I was at my parent's house on Monday, scanning old family pictures and documents I found a treasure trove--like this portrait of his daughter--my great-grandmother on her wedding day with my great-grandfather. (Thomas William Davis and Alice Goldie).

That picture has inspired me to write a new short story, one that has been swimming around in my head, called, Second Wife. I've found it tragic, that her step-children took her family jewelry--took her wedding dress to cut up and make into children's clothes--(one of them, miraculously, kept that from happening and preserved it instead--our family received it back 80 years later).

My grandfather always said there was one good one out of all his half sibs--and through the line of that one good one--we received our family heirlooms and family history. She is a saint in my eyes for doing that for us. Poor Alice, above, died in childbirth when my grandfather was only three and he was taken, with his siblings, to an orphanage. They could have lost their history, too--we could have lost it--so I'm very thankful--and inspired to write a story for Alice--Second Wife. (Does she look like an evil step-mother? It's time to turn around the malicious fiction and attempts to devalue the second wives and set history aright.)

(Henry Goldie, John Goldie, and Alice Goldie--together in England)

This man has a name now--Alice's father is John Goldie from South Shields or Maryport--England on the Irish Sea (according to my mom's notes). We've been told that John Goldie captained a boat, and both of those are coastal towns, so it would make sense. He may have even lived both places. Now that I have this information, I want to track down that side of the family and give them some of these photos. (There are other photos we have, but I don't know the names of the individuals--I'm hoping by locating the family, I can figure that out and give the photos to those who might be interested.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Getting My Happy On

I'm having to do a major, mental readjustment. I was thinking spring had arrived, but apparently not. In fact, it's snowing outside as I type this entry. What the hay?!?!?

So, I've gone off the deep-end a bit around here--a little stir crazy. I'm doing whatever I can to get the happy on.

And this is what it looks like:

1.) Forcing myself to drink LOTS of water, and I do mean FORCING myself. There's something about winter with me where I don't crave water at all--not even one glass. It makes my gag-reflex kick into gear. I add lemon, and that helps, but pretty much, I just have to remind myself and force myself. I do feel much healthier after I have my 8 glasses, though I do have to take several more potty breaks.

2.) Music and dancing. Yep, I've turned on the music in every room and I am a Dancing Queen. I've got my husband in on it--he's dancing with me much of the time. I started about two or three weeks ago when I first felt the winter crazies setting in. Off with the news. Muammar Gaddafi, who? And why am I paying so much for gas? Dunno. Off with the dramas--if it's depressing--it's going back!

In with the comedies. In with the music. Sometimes I don't have the "dance" in me, but I turn on the music anyway and then it seeps in--first the tapping of the feet, then the head action--pretty soon I'm twirling around the rooms--at least as much as I can twirl. I'm not a dancer. When I did aerobics, I was the one going left when everyone else was going right, but this dancing is for "my eyes only." (and my husband's.)

3.) Ebay. I started to shop online for really cheap deals so that I can look forward to receiving the mail again. I have several things coming from Hong Kong and Singapore--(hopefully, no Anthrax or package bombs).

Fun! So far I've received a denim dress by DKNY, a big, white Anne Klein watch (which my daughter thinks is "BUTT-UGLY!"--and a book. I have coming, several earrings, more watches, 3 watch necklaces and a couple denim shirts for the barn.

It was so much fun bidding until my last bid--which ended all bidding. In the summer, I'm all about jeans, tanks, leather and turquoise, so I found a beautiful, used leather fossil watch. It was $25.00--no shipping or tax--so I bid on it. Then, I was immediately outbid. Let's just say, I got into the whole auction experience and that is why people like the bidding process rather than the buy-it-now option. I did "win" the watch, but it turned out very, very good for the seller. I have now banned myself from ebay....but I still have several trinkets coming from around the world.

The other things I'm doing, I always do. I'm practicing my piano, reading, writing, hanging out with the horses, researching, editing my husband's writing, getting together with friends and family--all the things that keep me sane as I wait for the snowdrops (flowers, that is) and crocus.

Any suggestions? What are you all doing to keep the marbles in the noggin?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Old Pictures, Old rides

I'm getting ready to head to Lewiston, my hometown, for the day, and thought I'd share some pictures of my previous riding grounds down there(Winchester and Hells Gate State Park)--some of the most beautiful views of three states you'll see. These were taken about seven years ago or so. I'm also throwing one in of Red at that time for good measure. He was about 23 when that picture was taken. What a handsome guy! My sweet daughter was so young then.

Hope you're all having a great weekend!