Friday, March 30, 2012

Heading to the Trainer

Four years ago I had a string of bad luck with horses.  My main horse, Cowboy, broke his front foot--badly--and was misdiagnosed for 3 months, and his twin, his actual blood nephew, who I'd raised from a weanling and saddle-trained at two years, died of colic.

At that time, we didn't know if Cowboy would ever be ride-able again.  I didn't own Beautiful Girl either.  Effectively, I was without a horse.

Until I saw this ad (picture below): a two year old paint filly from Quincy Dan lines (my first horse was a Quincy Dan horse and I loved him--super smart and gentle--practically trained himself--and Cia has turned out to be EVERY bit as smart and sweet).

Though all four of her feet grew irregularly and she'd been trimmed so poorly she couldn't lope a circle without falling (poor thing), I fell in love with her absolute gentleness of spirit and brought her home.

Here's one of her grandfathers--Quincy Sun Dun.

And another, Cajun Indio.

Her former owner took these next pictures.

And here's me with her right after I got her.

And the next summer.

Now it's her turn to step up to the plate. She needs to be worked out on the trail and she's the most ready to go. In four days I'm trailering her down to my trainer who I've always loved and trusted with my horses. They come back from her with a work ethic. When I lived nearer her I would send ALL my horses to "the ranch" for a couple days every March/April. She'd take turns riding them to find and gather cows at her parent's place and I'd get them back ready and willing for anything. We called it their spring tune-up. Cia will be ridden up and down hills, over rocks, gathering cows, basically, doing jobs.

The other thing I used my trainer for was test-riding any potential horse I wanted to buy. She could tell you everything about any horse after an hour with it. She was better than any vet--better than anyone. You knew what you were getting into. Since I lived here when I bought Cia, which is two hours away from my trainer, she didn't get the inspection, which makes me nervous now. I WILL find out everything about my sweet horse after the first couple of days she's there. I sure hope she passes muster, but I'll be holding my breath.

I separated Cia from the others two weeks ago so it would be less stressful when she's taken away. I had our vet out a few days ago to finish up her immunizations and give her the okay and I had my farrier make her a new set of shoes--her first ever.

It's quite an experience the first time your horse gets hot-shod. I wish I'd taken pictures. The smoke that comes up when they're measuring the hot metal against the hoof really scares them, but eventually they find they're okay and settle down. It doesn't hurt them in any way shape or form, it's just unnatural having smoke coming up from underneath you. I'm usually not a shoe fan and the riding I do rarely requires them, but there is no way she'd survive this training without them. Usually my trainer keeps them unshod for the first week and then has them shod when she starts the hard work, but my farrier will be too far away, so I had her done beforehand.

I've signed up for the Charlie Hansen clinic when she gets back in May. He's a rancher/trainer and his clinic is strictly trail riding and training and cow work. It's all about using your horse for a job. What a perfect follow-up that will be to her training--both for me and her.

I was going to give an update on Cowboy and Beautiful, but I'm too tired to continue writing, so I'll take a break for now and write about them later. There's a lot to say.

If you haven't, please take the time to watch a little webisode from a fellow blogger and writer. It's very entertaining and, I think you'll find, eye-opening about the potential for marketing a book or an idea. Joanne has been a real inspiration to me and others. I reviewed her book in my last post. It was wonderful, but again, just watch the little webisode and it will speak for itself.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fiction that Reads Like Non-Fiction: Whole Latte Life

I don't know what I think of when I think of self-published books, but it certainly isn't this, Whole Latte Life, by writer and blogger, Joanne DeMaio.  She took self-publishing to a whole 'nother level with book quality and marketing--the most amazing parts of which to me (before I read it) were the "webisodes".  Honestly, I'd never seen anything like them and they were far north of brilliant in the way they whetted my appetite for answers to the questions they posed.  You go to lunch with a friend, she gets up to use the restroom and doesn't come back?  Call me nosey (curious sounds better), but I'd like to know why.

The book starts with that mystery and we, like one of its main characters, Rachel, are temporarily uncertain of Sarah Beth's fate.  That question and answer, however, leads to other questions, which leads to still more questions--all of which, thank goodness, are answered, faithfully, by the author.

Joanne DeMaio is a great storyteller and writer.  I'm a huge fan of non-fiction memoir and prefer my fiction to read the same way--to me, this did.  It examines the protagonist's hearts, souls, and lives as honestly and tenderly as if they were her own.  In fact, one of the character's situations was so close to what I felt in a similar situation ten years ago that it was as if I'd written the lines for her in that particular section.  That was just eery on one level, but gave the story authenticity--a quality I have to believe is there in order to continue any book.

"She then looks at her hands and slips off a gold bracelet, curious to see how it would feel to lose a part of herself.  She doesn't fling it into the water, but lets it drop in.

And it's like a floodgate opens, the black water sweeping over it wanting more."

She continues to drop one personal item after another into the same water.  What a tragic and honest demonstration of someone losing themselves.

As a horse-lover, of course I was thrilled to see the equine character, Maggie, get a part.  I know Joanne is not a horse owner, yet there was one scene in the book with the farrier that I had to wonder if I could have written as well.  Sadly, I think not, but it's a testament to how much the author must look out of herself and how in tune she must be to the stories and lives of others.

In my mind, the greatest compliment I can give her is to say her fiction read like non-fiction.  The friends whose lives propel the novel became my friends.  Their stories and the outcomes really touched me.  I'll never forget them, and I hope their choices brought them happiness.  I like to think they did.

I'm sending out a long standing ovation to Joanne DeMaio and her premier novel, A Whole Latte Life, a story very, very well told.  Thanks for sharing it.

Joanne's website with information on how to purchase the novel in paper or e-book editions.

A couple questions for the author if she stops by to comment:

1.) There is a Virginia Woolf quality to your treatment of the sea and the cottage.  Were you influenced at all by her?

2.) How did you learn so much about farriers?

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Labyrinth

Part of the TTouch training is walking a horse through a labyrinth, and the bed and breakfast I stay at each week, No Cabbages in Gig Harbor, WA, has one.  I figured if a labyrinth was important enough for them to build, they were just the people to ask about what it is and what it could accomplish.  

The labyrinth at the B&B is based on the one in the Chartres Cathedral which has four quadrants in the shape of a cross.  It may have been designed to represent the holy pilgrimages.  Sometimes it is walked in penance, pilgrims making the entire journey on their knees.  If  you were to stretch the labyrinth out, it would be 1/4 of a mile long. 

What Jamee, my host, likes about the quadrants, is that it brings you to four areas of stop rather than one.  (Maybe stopping is important?)  She also had a book on labyrinths that she gave me to read.  I read it in the morning and walked the above (Top) labyrinth mid-morning.  I had never walked a labyrinth before.

The No Cabbages labyrinth was not in a man-made cathedral with marble walls and stained glass windows, but rather, it was a God-made cathedral, with fresh rain dripping down cedar boughs, and ferns which had collected it, in bucket-fulls, at my feet.

As I stood at the labyrinth entrance I thought about the four steps the book recommended: Remember (reflect), Release, ReceiveRejuvenate.  I began my journey with an idea that had been bothering me, hoping to release it.

The path was narrow, which they'd designed to be so on purpose, I assume, to concentrate your footsteps.  This concentration on where you're walking becomes very important.  It's very easy to step over the path and onto another which could take you the opposite direction from  where you want to go (something that, believe or not, did happen to me on my labyrinth journey).  I found myself going back and forth between the original thought and thoughts about the path, eventually thinking much more about the path than the original thought--ahhh, the Release.

This is all so very fascinating to me because I'm also reading, The Brain that Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge, MD., which is about how science has proven we can absolutely change the internal structure of our own brains (and probably other's, too, sadly, for good or bad).  There's a concept in neuroplastic thought, "Neurons that fire together, wire together."  Meaning, for example, if someone said they love you and hit you at the same time, over and over again, you'd soon come to think love meant being hit.  Whereas, if someone said they love you and hugged you, over and over, you'd soon come to think love means being hugged.  In our minds, we have wired many negative things to good things and the labyrinth seems, to me, to be a symbolic way to represent the undoing of those things--remember, release, receive, rejuvenate.

What's going on in the horse's mind may (or may not) be more simple.  My host told me the labyrinth has been used for hyper and autistic children to help them concentrate, relax, and think through things.  Maybe this is the same value for the horse.

The TTouch labyrinth is much simpler, but still has a number of stopping points.  Attention is placed on the turn (in a 4' area), relaxation, and stop.

"The idea of this obstacle is to stop and start before each turn.  Notice if your horse's hindquarters follows his front end around the corners.  Is it the same in both directions?" (From the TTouch webiste)

I thoroughly enjoyed walking the labyrinth.  As I said, I did step over the walls and onto the wrong path, finding myself soon at the end again, rather than winding back out.  It reminded me of when I lose my place in a piano piece and can't correct.  Concentration is key.  In the book I'm reading by Doidge, concentration is also key.  The brain only makes changes when we concentrate on the thing we're thinking or doing.  Imagine all the things we concentrate on during the day--all making permanent changes--what you think, you become.

TTouch is all about helping your horse enter a state of relaxation where he can concentrate on what you're asking him to learn.  It's only in this state any lasting change occurs in them...or us.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Hairy Socks, My TTouch Lesson, & Neuroplasticity

I plopped my feet up onto the ottoman and this is what I saw.  It's that time of year--the animals we love and share our lives with are shedding....and we're wearing it!  

I ordered my funky, dunky sun-blocking mask for Cowboy on Friday.  I think he's going to look like an alien wearing this.  What do you think?  Sure hope it helps him.  

On Friday my TTouch practitioner also came over.  She was very, very happy with the progress I'd made on Cowboy's shoulder doing the circles along that line with my knuckles.  She could only get her finger tips behind it two weeks ago, but Friday she could fit in about half her hand.  

However, he was extremely sensitive around his poll and face, an area where I hadn't worked.  As soon as she started the work there he began the yawning and stretching of his mouth and tongue.  Since his face was so sensitive, she used a make-shift lambskin glove to do the circles.  He liked it so much I went to my local saddle shop, Indiana Harness (a wonderful shop) and salvaged a piece of his scrap to make my own.  

We also did tail work, which Cowboy loves--tail slides, pulls, and pearling--he loves it all.  He backs into me and makes it known, loud and clear, he doesn't want me to stop.

I learned a couple new moves this session--the python lifts over the legs and belly lifts with two fuzzy cinches sewn together, handler on both sides.  The amount of lift for the belly lift is quite small.  In fact, the amount of pressure for almost everything is quite small.  It takes only a little bit to go a lonnnnggg way, especially in sensitive areas.  Your horse will tell  you how much.

I had an eye-opening moment during the belly lifts.  Cowboy had always been unhappy during the cinching process and I'd learned to tune it out.  He'd cast me an evil eye and sometimes, in the early months of owning him eight or nine years ago, acted like he was going to bite me.  I'd chalked that up to bad manners and bad habits and never thought about it much.  It was clear he had a lot of baggage about being cinched even when we were there to do it with the fuzzy cinch and gentle lifts.  It took him a little bit to trust us, but I could really see where he'll benefit from these both mentally and physically.  She showed me a way to do these by myself, too, since I'm usually alone.

We did the python lifts on each other first and, I think, that's the only real good way to learn them. I found a video on you tube with a practitioner teaching this move--you might want to check it out.  It's the very last video at the bottom of this page.  The movement is squeezing your hands together--whole hand, equal pressure--push up, HOLD, let gravity bring it down (still holding same amount of pressure), and release slowly as the skin pushes back out.  Slide hands down, start again.  Slowly.  As you go down the canon, there's less muscle, so use less pressure.  Continue all the way down to the ground.  We sat on a stool for this because it's tough to do it right standing or squatting.

I love learning TTouch because it's something any owner can do themselves.  If you have a desire to learn it, you will.  The live practitioner has been a big, big help, especially since I want to learn it fast.  I feel like I should have been doing this years and years ago and wasted a lot of time.

I scoured You Tube the other night to find videos of TTouch.  I'm starting to feel more confident in myself, too, so I'll show you some of the sessions on my own horses in the coming weeks if my husband will volunteer to video tape.  There are a few tricks I've learned that may make things easier when you do this, and some of the tricks are not being used by the people on the internet I saw in videos.  I didn't include those videos in the list below.

Here's my list and my thoughts on some of it, especially the first interview by Rick Lamb.   Speaking of brain activity, mine was firing away during this interview and I would like to hear your thoughts, too.  There's a lot here.  

What is TTouch?: Interview with Linda Tellington-Jones by Rick Lamb

Comments, ideas and people I found interesting in this interview: [ "Non-habitual movement," stimulating unused neural pathways of the brain, Trusting your intuition, Sir Charles Sherrington, Mirror Neurons, Feldenkrais Method, "Just remember your perfection," The labyrinth for horses, activation of Beta-brainwaves, Ungrounded.]

I'm reading two books right now: The Brain that Changes Itself, and, Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain. Last year I read a book called, The Healing Code.  All three have many of Tellington-Jones' concepts.  My husband and I are big, big fans of neuroplasticity, and science is coming around to our side.  I believe TTouch is the equine equivalent of this thinking.  It's very exciting and means so much in EVERY area of our lives--learning languages, music, health, happiness, the ability to change and grow--even into old age.  The body and mind are powerful.

Exploration: A video showing how Tellington-Jones explores to see where a horse's pain lies--mentally and physically.

Basic Circles

Python Lifts: What I learned Friday.  If you want your legs and back to feel better than ever, do these on your husband and teach him to do them on you.  They're as good for humans as horses. My husband loves them.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Keeping Him Going

I didn't get my TTouch session today; the practitioner wasn't feeling well.  A couple of friends did come over, though, so it was a fun day anyway, and the practitioner is going to try to make it over tomorrow morning, if she's feeling better.

Yesterday, in the pasture, I did notice that Cowboy was doing a little of the involuntary head bobbing and his ears were down in a look I identify with discomfort.  Now that the days are getting longer and there's more sunshine, I have to be proactive in my plan from last fall.  I'm going to call my vet tomorrow and discuss medication, and I'm going to order his darkening mask.  I've already separated him out into a stall during the day.  I'm going to go out in a few minutes and release him for the night.  I want him out as much as possible, so I'll start there and see how he does.

I love this horse so much, I've decided as long as he's happy I'll do whatever it takes to keep him going.  He's an important part of my life, and he has such a great personality--a real entertainer and sweetheart.  I have to do anything and everything I can to keep him from getting much worse; basically, I need to keep him from becoming a danger to himself and others.   

Oddly, I'm starting to dread the end of winter and beginning of spring.  

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Our Herd Takes a Run With Their Neighbors (Video)

The sun is out, the temperatures are headed up, and the herd is feeling feisty!  Here's a little video of them running together, and with the neighboring herd, and a little of Beautiful being the sweet-brat she is.    Even Red, our 31 year old, is getting in on the running action!

My TTouch practitioner called me this morning to check-in.  With the weather getting warmer this week, it's the perfect time to do another session with emphasis on the leg work.  She's coming over Thursday for three hours--two for me and one for any of my horse friends who want to do a hands-on clinic.  I'm excited!

You can see in the video that sometimes Cowboy favors his bad side (rather than foot).  However, since I started TTouch, he hasn't stood with it out in front of him at all.  I think the getting out and running and rolling is going to help him strengthen those muscles and align his frame.

Cia, my filly, is going to my trainer April 1st, so I'm going to have the practitioner assess her and give me a program to work on until she leaves.  She said it's GREAT preparation for them before they go into training.

Hope it's sunny your way!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Fateful Inspiration

Driving around Gig Harbor the other day, I was passed by this truck with this horse sculpture in it.  

Wow!!!  Follow that truck!

Unfortunately, it made a turn and left me in the dust.  I thought I'd never see it again or find out who carved it.  

However, fate had different plans for me.  The next day I was driving down Hwy 16 at about 55 mph, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a big wooden horse.

I got a second chance!

I drove for another couple of miles, exited, drove around some more, got back on the hwy, went another four or five miles, exited, got back on the highway again and drove to where I'd seen the horse.  I got my camera out (unfortunately, my good camera was at home) and took these pictures.

The sculpture was more life-like and breathtaking than these shots portray, but I do hope they give you some sense of what I felt when I saw it.

Here's a link to an older youtube video of them doing their thing--chainsaw wood art.  JMS of Gig Harbor, WA.

I also got to visit the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, WA.

Dale Chihuly is the inspiration behind it, and his Bridge of Glass was truly amazing to see.

This is the Federal Court House across from the Museum of Glass where more of Chilhuly's work is displayed.

My favorite artist, however, was Paul J Stankard, the Chihuly of glass paperweights.  I wrote a post about my experience of his work on my Emily Dickinson's Garden Blog.  Click here to read it.