Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Flying on Air

After two solid months of practice, I finally got to the point where I can play Bach's, Air.  My fingers know their way, my mind hears the three voices and can speak fluidly all three, and my ears know the rhythm and the feel.

Playing it last night, I had an epiphany about why it's called, Air.   When everything's working together, almost thoughtlessly, something in you really starts to feel like it's flying.  Is it your spirit?  Your mind?  It feels like it's your whole body.

You're flying on Air.  

It's not floating either--it's flying, and there's a difference.  Floating is what the listener gets to do, flying is what the musician is doing.

If someone was sitting listening to me play the song, they'd probably think it's pretty simple: a beautiful, simple song.  They wouldn't know how long it took to teach my left hand to play staccato while my right hand sang in legato.  (The wings) They might not understand it took hours to map a course my fingers could navigate without tripping (The coordination of the wings to fly), or that it was learned, not measure by measure, but note by note (the strength of the wings to bear the body up).

That's the way it is with horses, too.  To the observer, it looks like we're just walking a calm horse, or grooming a gentle horse, or riding a cooperative horse, and it probably seems so simple.  It's not their fault--how could they understand the countless lessons, the infinite amount of lessons learned to make it look that way.

When I took a break from horses and had kids, upon my return I realized how little I'd actually known when I was young.  I remember how humbling it felt to see a "master" work with horses.  They'd see things I missed, they'd accomplish things I thought were impossible--I felt deaf, dumb and blind, but I decided I wanted to learn about horses more than anything else in the world and I knew, even as I decided it, that I could spend the rest of my life learning and never come close to learning it all.

That was okay with me then and it still is now.  Every horse is like a new song and the ability to "fly" with that horse is not earned without time and dedication.  No one will ever know the seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years spent learning the song, but they'll know a partnership when they see it, and probably think it came easy.

Yesterday was very cold, so I didn't have a TTouch lesson, but the day before, I did work with Beautiful and Cowboy.  Cowboy seems to get so much from each session and lately I haven't seen him stand with his bad foot out at all.  Dare I hope?  Beautiful, born in the wild and always on high-alert, with a little rubbing of the wand from neck to hoof, has learned to bring her head down, relax and think.  Will this be one of her missing pieces?  I don't have the answers, but I know I love the journey...the song....practicing, learning and, every once in a while, feeling like I'm flying.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Celebrating My Husband's Accomplishment!

Congratulations to my husband today, his publisher sent him the first box of his book: Blowing Smoke--Rethinking the War on Drugs Without Prohibition and Rehab.

He worked so hard for five years, researching, writing, editing, and editing, and editing.  I did a lot of reading and rereading of all those drafts since he covered so much material it was difficult, at first, for him to organize and find his own voice.  But he went back to the drawing board again and again and again...more times than I've ever been able to, that's for sure.  Which has taught me a valuable lesson: those who finish books are those who are modest enough to take criticism and suggestions and passionate enough to stick out all the revisions.

He's always been my biggest supporter in all my pursuits from horses to piano and whatever else I undertake.  Today is my day to celebrate him!

Here's to my husband for following through with his ideas and fulfilling his vision!  I'm very proud of him.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

So Much To Do, So Little Time!

Here's a before and after picture of last week's platter.  Since we're traveling to Gig Harbor every week, I'm taking some time to make a set of kitchen items in this pattern.  I love doing it.  I go to this great little shop, Java and Clay, and sit at a table overlooking the harbor.  Heaven.

I could fall in love with Gig Harbor, if I allowed myself to, but we have a home already, and I don't want to move again.  Still, it's a small town, about 7,500 people, and lots of little art shops, coffee shops and restaurants.  Everyone's very nice there, too.  I needed a piano to use for practice and I went into a quaint guitar store along Harbor View Road to ask for the use of theirs.  They were great about it and gave me my own private place.  The bed and breakfast where we stay is like a home-away-from-home--everything from the room to their dog, 'Bama, is so like what my husband and I have right here.

We returned home this week to a major snowstorm, but since we didn't have a lot of places to go, we got to sit and watch it from the windows of our home.

I haven't been good about a TTouch schedule this last couple of weeks.  I'm going to go out again today after their breakfast and work on getting Beautiful's head lowered (with use of the wand being rubbed up and down from neck to hoof tips) and the knuckle circles for Cowboy.  There's one more exercise she gave me for Cowboy involving the tail.  You stand behind your horse and start at the top by taking a tuft of tail hair and swaying your body to that side with a light pulling...then taking a tuft from the opposite side and swaying with it, all the way down the tail, side to side, tuft after tuft, slowly.  If you watch while someone else does it, you'll see that slight movement you make affect the whole body of the horse, right down to the hooves.

I think I have another lesson tomorrow, but I feel ill-prepared.  I almost want to postpone it.  I've also got to start getting Cia ready for training in April.  I really need to work with her to make sure she starts out at her best and gets the most rather than having the trainer lose time reinventing the wheel.  I also need to get her up to date on vaccinations--a requirement for going there.  One of the ones she needs is Strangles, but I hate to give them Strangles if it isn't absolutely necessary.  Ugh.  I can do the basic shots with a needle, but I've never tried to give the intranasal ones.

So much to do, so little time!  Please send the warm weather!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

TTouch Part III: Making the Circles

The value in steering clear of "finding excuses and reasons" for everything a horse does, is that it leaves open other possibilities.

The practitioner didn't say that, I did, but it's safe to say it was implied during our session.

As I read through the book on TTouch, I see a number of possibilities and things I need to change, one of which is to separate Cowboy and Beautiful Girl and Beautiful Girl and Cowgirl.  I wish I'd done it long ago, but I was functioning from the "leave the herd alone" mentality and, I think, took it too far.  After introducing BG to the herd last spring, she made Cowboy's life very hard...sometimes keeping him away from shelter.  Looking back, I wonder if that extra stress didn't contribute to his head shaking issues.

Herd "management" is a vital part of horse ownership in the world of TTouch.  If they were out on hundreds of acres with hundreds of horses, the herd dynamics would change on an hour to hour basis.  Different leaders would emerge and different bonds would form, but it's not that way in small herd, small area, and horses have more difficulty escaping stressful relationships.

The practitioner told me I could manage their levels of stress by switching around the herd so that they're all comfortable with their partners.  It has given me something else to think about, and I've already separated BG for large parts of the day.

As I wrote yesterday, I opted away from the chain for now and went, instead, with the rope (Zephyr).  She assured me over and over that the chain is not a "stud chain" and should and would never be used as such, the TTouch book discusses the topic, too, but it was a personal preference for where I'm at now.

Here's a picture of my lead and Zephyr rope.

Today, though, I thought I'd focus on the circles themselves, something most of us have already experienced trying out.

First, where you start and end doesn't really matter, and it's usually best to mix things up.  (Starting AWAY from the painful area, however, is a good idea.  Don't go right for their sensitive areas.) You choose a spot and a level of pressure, and the rhythm will be determined by your breathing.  Thumb and pinky are anchored on the horse's body, your left (or right) hand supports the side of the body not being touched (providing a sort of brace) and then you start to make your circle.  The circles are very small, maybe the size of a quarter.  As you breathe in, you push up the skin...as you breathe out, you pull down the skin.  The motion is from 6 o'clock to 6 o'clock.  You should not rush lifting your hand.  Take the release very, very slow.  You'll see your horse's skin fill in under your hand, like a sponge, let your hand rise with it.  From there, when you're ready to inhale again, drag your hand to your next circle and repeat.  Your hands never leave the horse's body.  You're always touching along the line you're following. It's all very slow and very deliberate.  You should really practice it on yourself to see how it feels when you do it right.  I recommend using your leg.  The practitioner did it on my back and there was a HUGE difference when she did it slowly and released slowly.

You will find there is also a huge difference in whether you use the flat palm of your hand of the back of your hand.  The flat of your hand has energy in it--like the "halt" signal and, apparently, it's universal to all animals.  If you find your horse flinching or moving away from the circles, you may want to switch to the back of your hand to do the circles.  You'll be surprised, but they will much more readily accept the back of the hand than the front.  You can use your knuckles or your entire back fingers, depending on the level of pressure you're trying to achieve.

Let me give you an example, when the practitioner was working on Cowboy's sore area, he couldn't tolerate the front of the hand finger circles.  She switched to back of the hand knuckles and he relaxed.  For Red, she couldn't massage the outside of his ears with the flats of her hands, but she switched to back of hand brush strokes and he calmed right down.  Then she eventually switched it to front hand rubs.  (Sometimes this takes several days for a horse to accept, depending on the horse.)

I'll stop there for today, but I welcome your thoughts, experiences, comments and questions in the comments section below.

Monday, February 20, 2012

TTouch Part II: Getting Started

The first thing, when starting TTouch, is examining how you plan to hold your horse.  For me, it's always been a rope halter, a long. heavy yacht-rope lead, and a tie-ring placed above the the horse's head so they can't get a leg over it.  I tie them loose enough they can bring their head down, but not so loose they could graze off the ground.

The practitioner preferred that I, 1.) Lower the ring to allow the horse's head to come down (they want the head down in the calm, thinking position before starting TTouch), 2.) Switch to a nylon halter (I had to get my box of goodies out to find one), 3.) Use a very light nylon lead, 4.) attach the Zephyr rope (or chain) to the lead and thread it through the halter.  

This is such a loaded topic, I'll stop here for today's post and explain.  

First, the halter.  The user's of TTouch are not big fans of the Natural Horsemanship style of using rope halters. They think they can be misused and lose their effectiveness as "communication" tools.  Here is an article that explains it much better than I could.  Dangers of Rope Halters.  

I have a hard time with this, but I am considering it.  Since I switched to all rope halters, about eight years ago, I've had to do much less tugging and pulling around the face.  In fact, I don't do any.  I always have my horse's behind me on a loose lead, a gentle flip of the rope can move them away if they enter my space.  However, for TTouch, I have no problem using the nylon halter and lead, Zephyr style rope threaded through and over the nose.  The nylon lead is as a light as a feather, so no weight pulling down on their face, and I agree the nylon halter is gentler when holding or tying a horse.

You have a choice of using a chain or rope threaded through, over the nose, and clipped onto the opposite side of the halter.  The practitioner chose the rope (Zephyr style) and, to tell you the truth, it was what I was most comfortable with.  I can't see myself using the chain yet even though she assured me, used right, it is a necessary and appropriate communication tool for TTouch. You never tie them in it or yank on it. For now, until I feel comfortable using it, I'm using the rope across the nose.  Here is a PDF that explains how to use this system.  TTouch Wands and Leads.  Note: It's very important the rope or chain come across the nose band, as you see in the picture below, not straight across the nose.

I didn't mention the wand, but they're very useful as extensions of the arm.  These are lighter weight than the "carrot stick" types and they say white is easier for horse's to see.  They are used during the groundwork and the TTouches.  The practitioner used it on the front of Red's legs, chest and neck to help him relax and bring down his head.  She said they're especially useful for horse's with high-head carriage to help them relax.  As I said above, TTouches are not started until the head comes down below the withers and the horse assumes the "thinking and relaxed" posture.

We didn't tie any of the horses, but we did thread a long lead through the tie-ring so that we could both be behind him to do the tail work and still be holding onto the lead.  She mentioned the height of the rings pretty early on, and I defended my choice of heights, but I have been mulling it all over in my head and am open to discussion.  It's a lot to digest and only the beginning of the 3.5 hour session.

To be continued....

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Our Road Trip Along the Puget Sound

I haven't forgotten my TTouch posts, I've just been side-tracked touring the Puget Sound.  I will write this week about what I learned: the type of halter you should use (I'd been doing it wrong), the type of circles and release and rhythm you should use (I'd been doing it wrong, IBDIW), the ear work (IBDIW), the inner mouth work and the tail work.  Also, it's important you do the groundwork along with the touch work, but we didn't get to that in the lesson.  More later.

For today, I just wanted to share the pictures we took on our trip up the Puget Sound this week.  My husband and I jumped in our rental car and drove wherever our hearts desired.  We ate, we shopped, we explored, we had a blast.  The day ended with a trip across the sound by ferry, the stunning nighttime approach to downtown Seattle.

I'll start out with my ceramic projects.  My mug was fired, but I did see where I'd not painted enough on or missed spots.

That helped me to hone my skills for the appetizer platter.  It looks small in this picture, but is actually quite large.  It'll fire the deep Tuscan Red of my mug's handle.I took extra care to make sure there was no white showing.  Can't wait to get it!  My husband and I stopped there for coffee the morning we left for adventures so that I could put one extra coat on the middle, just to be safe.

We started our trip in Gig Harbor, since he hadn't really seen it yet, drove up toward Bremerton, then to Bainbridge Island for lunch, up to Kingston, Port Gamble, and finally, Port Townsend.

From Kingston.  It was a cold, rainy day, but when you're on an adventure, you don't really care much about that!

The pseudo-town of Port Gamble.

Port Townsend, and the floating bridge on the way to Port Townsend.

 The Courthouse of Jefferson County.  Port Townsend is the only incorporated city in it.

The ferry arriving.  We didn't take it, but drove back down to Bainbridge Island instead so that we would be dropped off in downtown Seattle.

I had to include this picture we took.  It's my new burgundy velveteen cap from the Mad Hatter in downtown Port Townsend!  I love my hats!  I actually got two that day: the one on my head in the picture, and a hand-knit wool cap I wore the rest of the day.

And off to Seattle!  The rest of the pictures are taken from the ferry ride.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

TTouch Lesson: Part I: Is It All About Fear?

Is every aggressive equine reaction related to fear?

How you answer says a lot about how you will work with horses.

When the TTouch practitioner arrived at my barn on Monday, the first thing she said was how upright and alert Beautiful was as she approached.  It's a fear reaction: head up, ready to fight or flee, adrenaline being pumped, thinking turned off.

She's always like that, I said, When new people come around.  She's like our watch dog.

Well, that's not good for her, she responded.

After 3 1/2 hours of training, I have a lot to write about TTouch, and a lot to learn.  But this is a good starting point, because this is the very heart and soul of the matter.

"One of the main principles of TTEAM work is to teach a horse to override the fight or flight reflex. ...In the learning process, whenever there is pain, fear, or fear of pain, there is a release of a stress hormone called ACTH.  It causes the animal to access the reactive or reflexive part of the brain rather than the thinking part". .....When flight is not an option "some individuals turn their fear into fight or aggressive actions.  These horses may bite, kick, and when pushed to the point of feeling cornered, attack."  Robin Hood, TTEAM Connections, November-December 2001

If you work with horses, you know all of this, but there is one nagging question...

What about the horse who shouldn't have anything to fear but appears to be an alpha and just aggressive and dangerous because they want to be?

That's the horse that always throws our thinking for a loop.  Well, Robin Hood (Linda Tellington-Jones' sister) addresses that in her article about the 5 F's.  She writes that all animals, all living things, have a hierarchy of needs, one of which is to feel safe.  "Perhaps there are some animals who feel 'safer' giving up control than others.  The feeling of safety may come from having a person who you trust be consistent and fair and one who 'listens.'"

She likens it to driving.  When asked if they feel safer driving or being driven, most people will say they prefer driving.  But, if given the chance to have someone drive for them who is a good driver, a safe driver and listens to them if they give them feedback, they would prefer to sit back and relax.

Is it the same for these horses?  Would giving up control to a trusted leader help them give up their aggressive or dangerous actions?

I think, yes.  I've seen it time and time again.  My dear friend who trains and will be taking Cia for me in March is one of those quiet human leaders.  Horses that come in aggressive, some of which are stallions, will walk on a loose line behind her happy and relieved to be in the presence of a real "leader."  She's observant (very tuned into the physical and mental state of her horses), she's consistent, respectful, predictable, competent and confident.  You know that old show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?  You get the option to phone a friend in time of need?  Well, she would always be my phone a friend in any and all horse dilemmas.  Ironically, she's also the one who originally told me about TTouch...about ten years ago.

The 5 F's of a horse's fear response, according to Robin, are:


They, and others, have seen all 5 responses to fear.

But what do we do about it?

That is what I'm seeking to learn and what I'll be writing about as we go through these posts on TTouch.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Do I Trust My Horse?

I often write about getting our horses to trust us, but what about the time and work it takes for us to trust them?

I don't have that pressing need to ride despite anything anymore. When I was young I did, and I didn't think to care about whether I got thrown or not.  My bones and brains were made of jello.  As I got older, I started to care, but I felt invincible.  I had some close calls, but always ended up pulling out safe (I think in other, alternate universes, I did actually die).   In my 30's I came down with melanoma and realized I'd rather die on horseback than of cancer; at that point, you couldn't pry me out of a saddle.

But my cancer did not return and, slowly, more and more self-preservation set in.

Today, in the here and now, I have a new motto:

I want the horse I'm riding to be a horse worth falling for.

Basically, if I'm going to get something broken, it better be worth it.

This year I have to have a trail horse, so I'm going to finish off two and ride the one that does best.  I'm sending Cia to my trainer for a month.  There, she'll be ridden on a ranch, up and down hills, after cows; she'll be ponied, she'll pony other horses, and she'll get a work ethic.

While she's gone, I'll devote all my time to Beautiful and tackling her issues: basically moving away from the herd, being ridden in the arena and out, and tying.  Depending on how she does this spring and summer, I'll decide how much trail time, if any, she'll get.  Ultimately, if I'm not ready to trust her, I'll give her more time to mature.

Cia is at a mature age and more than ready for the trail if she can stay sound.  If she comes back from her training without lameness, she'll certainly be able to withstand my rides.  I'm going to have her hot shod by my farrier who has been working with her for the last four years before I take her down.

Yesterday, during Beautiful's TTouch, she was pretty bad.  Bad, as in, BAD.  She was extremely agitated and herd-bound.  She was also threatening Cowboy even though I was standing right there.  She was a very different horse than usual.  There's no sense in psychoanalyzing...it's the same answer, no matter what the reason, so we didn't get any TTouch done.  We spent about thirty minutes or more on the basics.  Half of her time was spent standing about three feet away from me on a loose lead.  If she took one step forward toward me I backed her up to the point I had asked her to stand.  I was really emphasizing Space, Manners, Independence from the herd, and Quietness.  None of which she had at the beginning.

But like I've always said, every day is a new day for a horse, especially a young one.  I won't hold it against her; I'll just work on the issues and make some changes.  But I will say, for me to ride her full time out on the trail, she will have to earn my trust.

Today is my TTouch lesson, but I'll probably write about it Tuesday.  I'm really looking forward to it.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Spirit to Spirit: Being One With Your Horse

Of all the wonderful things TTouch does for your horse, I think the most important is a yielding of the simultaneous rhythms between two living beings.  

This is how it works:

I come into the barn, seven horses on my mind, chores that need to be done, a ticking clock on my wrist.  

My horses, wondering which will be chosen as the woman comes into the turnout with halter and lead, freeze together, watch and wait.  

I choose one, secure the rope halter, walk out of the pasture and into the breezeway and turn to look at them as I pet down their necks and start a basic exploration of their body to check for heat, swelling, or pain.

And that is where it starts.  Move too fast, they jump.  Become careless and rough, they twitch.  The thing is, as I ask them to relax, I have to relax.  I have to forget the ticking clock, the chores, the day's plans, and concentrate on one thing, the horse in front of me.   As I do, I start to come into their rhythm, and they start to relax and come into mine.  

This is the point in time where two very different types of animals--predator and prey--can connect spirit to spirit.  A space in time you can start to have visions of a willing partnership--of a horse that is not tight or fearful when you go to mount, of a horse that moves as you move, breathes as you breathe, and is ready for the journey.  A horse that knows you would never touch it in a way that is cruel, never abandon it in a way that is selfish, or ask it to do anything unsafe.

The surprising thing is that what I'm talking about does not take much time; it can be done while grooming before a ride, and I'm starting to think should be done before any ride.   These are the questions I'm going to start slowing down and asking myself as I do the basic body explorations and then the TTouches:

 1.) Is my horse in any physical pain?  If so, is it something I can fix before I go to the next step?

2.) Is my horse in a good mental state?  If not, I need to take some extra time.  My goal is to lessen conflict (which heightens fear and mistrust) and take a few extra moments to help my horse relax and relax myself.  

Only after these questions are answered am I going to go to the next step of work.  I'm going to continue asking them as I saddle, mount, and ride--always, always, with the goal of minimizing stress and pain and maximizing oneness.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ceramics & Horses

The great thing about traveling is that it gets you out of your comfort zone.  Our weekly trips to Gig Harbor have definitely done that for me.  Besides taking the time to study TTouch, catching up on Heartland episodes, reading all the books I started and didn't finish, having fabulous date-nights with the husband at wonderful restaurants, and walking along the water and in the mystical woods, I've also been hanging out at a coffee and ceramic shop called Java & Clay.

My first mug was practice, but it fired a much deeper color than what you see here.  I would take another picture of it finished, but I didn't want to carry it on the plane so I left it there for now.

My second mug is a travel version.  It's done in a deep Red Tuscan, but it looks almost pink before it's fired.  I painted two coats of white underneath, and then four coats of the Tuscan Red, then etched the hieroglyphs. 

It's a very relaxing way to spend time and the girls who work there are GREAT, but if we keep this travel thing up for long, I'm going to have a lot of dinnerware!  As you can see, I have one thing on my mind....HORSES!

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Heretic's Daughter: A Read Worth Taking

This winter I'm finishing books and trying to write reviews.  The first one is The Heretic's Daughter, written in 2008 (I'm a little late reading it, but better late than never!)  I did the review for my Emily Dickinson's Garden blog because there is so much of the natural world woven into it.  I'm sharing it here because I think many of you might like it, too.  I'm working on another review for next week that will be horse-related--a book I won on a blog giveaway!  First, Kathleen Kent's, The Heretic's Daughter.
I saw at my feet a lone birdfoot violet quivering in the wind.  The violet was a spring flower but would sometimes, if the days were kind, bloom again in the autumn.  Soon the flower would wither and die alone in the coming frost, its beauty disappearing under the first snowfall."
The Heretic's Daughter, a story sprung from the very rich soil of the family history of Kathleen Kent is, first and foremost, a story of a mother and daughter and what it means to come into an independent conscience and, ultimately, live or die for one's own conscience.  The painful conflict between what the daughter sees and what is actually happening in her mother's heart is the pulse that moves us from word to word, paragraph to paragraph, chapter to chapter.  The story is set in the New World of the late 17th century, a time of superstition, dangerous religion, prejudice, fear, and peril, and the characters follow their tragedy into the arms of it all.

Yet, lucky for us, there is a softening of the narrative terror through the natural landscape, which Kent does so well at weaving into the mean-spirited, shall we say evil,  lives of the inhabitants.  Here are two examples of metaphor and simile:
"Father's voice came to me as deep as vibrating stones."

"The air had turned thick around me and my body had grown rigid and fixed, like a splinter of oak spun in glass."
And then there's the foreshadowing:
"Hunting morels in May in the wild-apple orchard, gathering chicken mushrooms growing in stacks upon the trunks of elm and ash during the hot summer months, and picking devil's snuffbox along the banks of the Skug River.  Mushroom hunting was a slippery task, though.  You had to know the differences between the healthful mushrooms and the unhealthful ones.  Some of the differences were slight indeed.  A bit of carelessness, and death could come hiding under a milky dome or a purple gill."
What impressed me most about Kent's writing was her attention to nature and the added layers it brought.  It's so well done, it becomes a story within a story.  This description of the mushrooms reflects perfectly the events of the Salem Witch Trials.  A series of bad luck--sickness, Indian raids, fires and a long winter, then the resulting hysteria in several of the town's young women believed to be possessed by witchcraft, brings a fearful and superstitious New England population to accuse neighbors, family and friends of practicing the dark arts.  Eventually, many of these neighbors are put to death, including Sarah's mother.
"The signs are varied and subtle.  You must look carefully not just at the top of the thing but at its underside, where the poison often gathers.  The meadow mushroom when early has pink gills that turn to brown upon maturity.  If you didn't know the lore, you would liken the dark underside to unwholesomeness and the light underbelly to goodness. People, too, are not often what they seem, even those whom you love.  You must look closely, Sarah."
While reading the book, I often thought about life pre-technology, basically, life 150 years ago and the thousands of centuries beyond.  Is it possible for such superstition and cruelty to exist in a modern world?  The events of that time are not so far removed from ours as we'd like to think.  And from Emily Dickinson's world, even less.

Emily was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, a one to two hour drive from Andover, Billerica and Salem where the events of The Heretic's Daughter take place.  The book starts in December 1690.  Emily was born December 1830.  How different was her world from the one of the Salem witch trials?  Would Emily, the woman in white, the poetry writing, nature-loving spinster, have been accused?

One small portion of Kent's book brought me smack into Emily's writing.  This is the passage:
"And for the first time in my life my father held me and let my tears mix with his.  In the morning we would all rise from our beds to face the slanting light, our desperate hope partnering with us as we began the summer harvesting."
Was this a nod to Emily's, A Certain Slant of Light?
There's a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.
I like to think so.  At the very least, I walk away from Kent's narrative of the events of that summer before Martha Carrier is put to death with a much better appreciation of the oppression the family felt as their accusers moved in on them.  I also have a deeper appreciation of the compassion Sarah would eventually have for her mother.  Through the careful weaving of nature, history, geography and family legend, Kathleen Kent made me care about it all.  A wonderful, wonderful read worth taking.
"I remembered wondering long ago what song my mother's bones would make.  I had once imagined their singing would be as the crashing waves, for I knew that even the fragile ocean shell carries within it the sound of hounding surf. But what I heard was a gentle rustling, an odd whistling.  The sound the birdfoot violet makes as it grows through the early frosts of winter."

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I'm A Walking Sugar Cube

Exciting news in my progress with TTouch.  I found a certified practitioner in our town who trained with Linda Tellington-Jones and her sister Robin in the '80's and has been using and teaching the concepts in Spokane ever since.  She's going to come to my place on Monday and give me a lesson using my older horse, Red.  In her words, It's a great gift we can give to our older horses who have done so much for us.  

I told her what I'd been doing and my belief that I'm not doing it quite right.  She didn't think it mattered that  much that it be perfect or in a certain order.  In fact, she prefers it not be in the same order every time.  She did say that she can probably help me get more out of it.

I told her what had happened so far and she was happy to hear that Cowboy had got so much from it.  She doesn't venture guesses too much as to the "whys," saying instead that no matter how a horse got here it's the same principles being applied.

Which leads me to Jasmine.  As we were discussing her she made it clear we can't really guess why a horse has developed as much stress as Jasmine has.  It could be any number of things, even genetics, but she said horses like that often get the most out of TTouches.

My daughter held her for me Monday while I did the touches.  It was a windy day and something had been bothering all the horses when we got to the barn.  They were on HIGH alert, looking the same direction out toward the neighbor's, and running circles.  Jasmine was the same way and didn't really want to be haltered, but let me "catch" her in the stall.

She was tight and nervous, and the strangest thing, when I got to massaging around her face, she started to cry.  I'd read that it happens, but hadn't seen it so far.  I'm guessing that the relief of the tension in her face allowed her to develop tears.  At the end of the session, she didn't seem as tuned into me as from a couple days before, and she returned to her stall still worried about whatever was happening at the neighbor's.

Yesterday I had no one to hold the horses so I had to let Jasmine stand ground tied.  Let me back up a second, when I went to halter her, she didn't walk away at all.  She acted like a normal horse for the first time.  I walked her into the breezeway and dropped the lead...she stood still for me the entire session.  She had every opportunity to walk away as I TTouched all over her body, but she chose to stand and be TTouched.

This TTouch is giving me one more tool to work with my horses, a tool that gives them better quality of life and me a better understanding.  They gain so much, though, toward their training, too--practice standing calmly, ground tied, and being respectful of my boundaries, practice having their feet and legs picked up and touched and surrendering those legs entirely, practice with hands around their muzzles and ears, work in their "cinchy" areas, and work on their relationship with me and mine with them.

I'm quickly becoming a walking sugar cube.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

TTouch Beginner Video & Sunday Stills

I couldn't wait to get to the barn this morning.  As soon as they'd eaten their breakfast, my husband and I ran out to do their TTouches.  Unfortunately, we hadn't caught our pony, so she didn't get a session today.

It was a different day for both Beautiful and Cowboy.  Cowboy was as calm as we've ever seen him and had totally bought into these sessions.  We ran out of battery power during his taping, but it was all very relaxing.  He didn't yawn at all.  When we were done he was standing squarely on all four and stood balanced all day.

I learned a lot about pressure and little it takes to accomplish TTouch.  I was pushing too hard and they trained me to lighten up and loosen my phalanges.  I still have a lot to learn as I watch the tapes from today, the DVD, and refer back to the book, but the only way to learn at all is by doing it.  You have to start somewhere, and, good news, they seem to make huge gains even with inept Touchers.

For the Sunday Stills I photographed liquids from around our house and our trip to Gig Harbor.  I noticed  I focused solely on runoff and melt, but I did think the ice and snow provided a great contrast to the liquid in ponds and harbors.