Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Merry Christmas & Happy Winter Solstice

First of all, Merry Christmas to everyone out there who celebrates Christmas.  This will be my last post until after the weekend of festivities.  Happy Winter Solstice, too!  I believe it occurred, officially, this morning at around 2:30 AM.  "Somewhere deep inside of you a kernel of courage unfurling -- each day, more light."

Today was  my 124th Day working with horses in 2016.  The bitter cold slowed us down.  It has been a year of ups and downs, as it always is with horses, but overall, I think it was awesome!!

It was so great, I plan to do the 100 Day Challenge again this year.  I invite anyone who would like to join me to come along for the ride.

Believe it or not, we're still working on getting Leah's weight down.  The poor thing barely eats, but she still stays a bit fat.  One of my goals for 2017 will be bringing her down to a perfect weight and maintaining it.  I want to get Leah into peak performance shape.

Another horse goal is beginning to work with Beautiful Girl again and do as much as she can physically handle.  Having Rebecca, the trainer, so close by makes this the perfect time to start again.

And, as always, I want as many rides on my heart horse, Cowboy, as I can get.

I also want to see how great Red can do at the age of 36--coming 37.  It's always a challenge, but he's looking good so far.  Here is a picture of him with the herd this morning.  He's still BIG Red, as you can see.  I don't give him Bute regularly, but I may start this year. 

Finally, I want to help my daughter and grand-daughter have as much quality time with their horses as they can manage.

As I sign off for the holiday, I want to leave you with Leah's dieting advice: 

And yes, she did eat that!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

My Beloved Turquoise: Stone of Protection

"For centuries Turquoise has been recognized as possessing the power to protect riders from injury due to falls."  

Turquoise meanings: Crystal Vaults

***My heartfelt sympathy goes out today to two blogging friends who have lost their horses--one, last week, and one, recognizing the two year anniversary of her heart horse's passing.  I prefer to say passing, rather than loss, because I do believe we pass from this world to the next and reunite with those we loved.  I don't say that lightly.  I've given it a great deal of thought and when I say it, I mean it from my heart of hearts.  I think the more earthly creatures we love, the more sweet spirits that will be there to greet us when we pass from this life to the next.  If I'm wrong, then at least I will have experienced heaven on this earth.  Hold onto to their memory.***


I don't believe stones have actual powers, like some do, but I do believe stones have powerful meaning to us--either their color, or shape, or symbolism.  Turquoise has always been a powerful stone for me and many other horse people.  I find it interesting that part of their meaning, throughout  history, has been protection.  When you ride a horse, you do need a lot of that, don't you?

When I wear turquoise, I feel strong and grounded.  When I slip on a turquoise ring, it's like I'm tapping into my super powers.  Maybe that is where the protection lies.

My first piece of turquoise was at the age of 19.  I had house sat for a couple and as a thank you, they brought me back a necklace.

I was thrilled, and fell in love with it from the start. I wore that necklace pretty much every day.  I just realized, I  have never purchased or worn turquoise when I didn't have horses in my life, and at that time, I had two--an Appy and a baby I'd raised from weanling.  Most days, I'd show up to my college campus in my Justin cowboy boots, jeans tucked in, a long-sleeved collared shirt, and that necklace--fresh from having fed and tended my horses in the morning. 

Sadly, I lost the necklace.  But, as the years passed, I could never forget it, and so, I started a search online for another.  The one above was purchased for about $13 on eBay about five years ago.  Mine was made in the 80's, as was this one, and it's now considered "hobo chic," according to the description.

My second piece of turquoise was a pendant by Sue Huston purchased from Wild Women Outfitters in 2003 for about $150.  It was during my time with my mustang, Flash--the horse who brought me back to the land of the living. Sue is a Seattle artist, and I did a search for her, but couldn't find any recent creations.  The store I purchased it at, in Moscow, ID, is no longer open.

My next, significant piece, was from Bisbee, AZ three years ago.  My husband and I  had gone there to place a headstone on my great-grandmother's grave site.  She had died in childbirth and her baby, my great-uncle, Roderick, died two weeks after her.  We honored both of them.  To remember that time, I found this piece in a jewelry store.  My great-grandfather had worked at the Copper Queen, and where there's copper, there's often turquoise.  I wrote a poem about  my great-grandmother, Alice, after that trip.  You can read it here, if you like.

On that same trip to Bisbee, we spent a day in downtown Scottsdale where I found my favorite earrings.  I wear these all the time.  They are a Navajo design.  Here's some information about how to tell the different styles apart.

Speaking of wearing something all the time, here are the earrings I wear MOST often on trail rides, the simple half-loops.  I've had these for years and can't even remember where I purchased them. The round sleeping beauty turquoise earrings on the left are a vintage set I found on etsy.

After purchasing the Bisbee Turquoise ring in Bisbee, I set out to find a larger ring in sleeping beauty.  The center ring below was found on etsy, and is another of  my favorite pieces.  It's probably the one that most makes me feel like I'm strapping on a cape and getting ready to conquer the world.  It's big enough that I could use it as a weapon if I needed protection.

I found the next two pieces on our vacation to Whidbey Island.  They have a street fair in Langley where artisans bring their work.  The necklace is a strand of sleeping beauty and the oval loop earrings are also sleeping beauty turquoise.  The Sleeping Beauty mine in Globe, AZ, ceased mining for turquoise in 2012 to concentrate on copper because of the rise in the copper prices.  What is left on the market is all that you can get for now.  It's called "Sleeping Beauty" because the mountain range where it's mined looks like a sleeping, beautiful woman.  Most of my jewelry is SB because I love its vibrant blue.

I like to wear this set when there's a special my daughter's wedding.

A daughter's wedding is an emotional day, and I piled on my turquoise, as you can see, for extra help.  

 And that brings me to my latest purchases from the last Scottsdale trip.  As the plane was landing in Phoenix, I looked at my little watch and could not make out the time.  I announced to my husband that this trip, I was going to find a beautiful turquoise watch with a large enough face that I could make out the time without reading glasses.

I found this sand-cast, Zuni piece by Amy (I can't make out her last name) at the 5th Ave Trading Post in Scottsdale.

And, I found the work of Effie Calavaza--she stamps as Effie C Zuni, and her signature is the snake.  The snake is popular in Zuni work.  I'm not a huge fan of snakes, but I loved the way it slithered around the turquoise, as if it was adding an extra layer of protection. The Zuni do not associate snakes with treachery, like many of us do.  They associate it with healing and even fertility.  I added the pieces below to my collection.  I could use some healing along with all that protection from falls!

Note to travelers: When you're traveling to Arizona, you tend to swell up, so if you're getting a ring sized, be careful for that.  I had the ring above sized and it's now a little big on me, even though the jeweler warned me to size down.

My husband jokingly says he's thrilled that my gemstone of choice is turquoise and not diamonds.  I can be rich in turquoise.  I don't really have a lot, but each piece carries a weight of emotion and meaning to me.

I'm curious if all horse women are as drawn to turquoise as I am.  Does it draw us with its power to protect, ground us to the earth, and give us extra strength?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Riding Horses & Having Fun in Scottsdale, Arizona

We just got back from a trip to sunny Scottsdale, Arizona--temps in the 70's, sunshiney skies--bliss! (We returned home to 0 degrees, snow, and ice.) 

During our stay, we did get a horseback ride in with Cave Creek Outfitters. We chose Cave Creek Outfitters because of their location outside of the city.  It was a beautiful ride, and we had a really nice guide who was on his first day on the job.  I was hoping for a calm, safe ride because we took my sister and her husband and he is recovering from a bad back injury.  It was very relaxing and laid back and, besides my husband's 4 year old filly who had a ton of personality and sass--the others were rock solid trail horses.  (And, truth told, she was, too, but my hubby committed the unforgivable sin of letting his girl eat all along the way! Ha!)

Instead of writing a lot in this post, I'll do a photo post instead.  

Christmas in the desert!

The art!

A painting we admired and would have loved to have purchased, but it was $135,000, so we took a picture instead.  This is by Croatian artist, Zvonimir Mihanovic. We felt lucky to have seen it.  You can't see very well, but he doesn't have a fishing pole--only a line.

A two-legged hike.

Downtown. Scottsdale has the most fabulous statues throughout the city!

Furniture we'd have loved to have brought home!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Enter the Short, Cold Days of Late Fall

November, and the last flush of bird:

Quail, winging their way to land,
And the Canada Geese, so low overhead,
You can feel the vibration of their flight,
A tenor of simultaneous swushing,
The bleeting sky made more joyous
by the ripping apart.

On the third day, the doves, too, arrived.
Drawn to the pasture by salt blocks. 
Their synchronized flight to the west,
Then a quick turn over us to the east,
Finally, landing further off, 
A safe distance.

We were amazed at the bounty--
Moments we added to our list,
The one we fall asleep to, 
When we can't sleep.

Thank you for the quail,
Thank you for the geese.
Thank you for the doves.

Late fall, early winter, is a mixed blessing.  In some ways, it slows us down and draws us closer to home--family, friends. In other ways, it shuts doors--less horse time, for example.  I don't like that shutting of horse doors, and I'm doing everything I can to resist it.

To help stay warm, I purchased this base layer at our local equestrian store, Foxy Horse and Hound.  It's made my by Kerrits, and it is WARM....and soft on the inside.  Fits like a blanket, but you will get hot if you wear it in the house--at least, if you're like me.

(A base layer that can stand alone, this versatile, hard-working piece can migrate depending on the weather. Keep the super-soft microfleece next to your skin and layer on a Horse Play Quilted Vest or Flip Tail Fleece Jacket. Or, wear it on top of your Ice Fil®, the durable exterior repels dirt and horse hair.)

I wore it Saturday for our monthly clinic and I was warm with it, my vest, and gloves.

The clinic was another successful day with horses.  In fact, I LOVE these clinics.  I hope they never stop!

We worked on the same basic things--leading without a rope, tying, loading in a new trailer, massage, but we added canter work and backing through the maze.

Leah seems to love these clinics and takes pride in her accomplishments there.  Her walk and whoa are solid.  Her trot, which was a struggle last month, is turning out to be smooth and beautiful now--even on a loose rein.   She backed through the maze (above) perfectly on her second try--really looking to me for direction for each step and--most importantly--highly cognizant of where she was placing each of her four feet.  (Being aware of her four feet has been an issue we've worked on for years. The more we work together, the more she keeps calm, and that calmness translates into more thoughtful movement of her feet.)

Not that it was Leah's fault at all, but there is one thing we couldn't perform--the canter.  As I asked for it, she gave me lots of warning that she wasn't ready or willing.  She pinned her ears and then she grinded her teeth.  I asked my instructor to get on and see if it was a real issue or just me not riding correctly. It was a real issue, so we stopped asking her.

She has come so far in her recovery from laminitis--her trot, as I said, is beautiful now.  But she is not physically ready for the canter.  She does it in pasture, but it seems difficult for her on the circle.  In the future, I'll be working towards the canter on a lunge line in small increments.  

(You can see her pinning her ears here--a warning that she is not ready for the canter.)

One thing about this clinic that I appreciate is that we don't push our horses to do anything they can't do. It's a partnership.  Rebecca applauded Leah's willingness to "tell me" she wasn't ready.  That's the kind of communication she is looking for from our horses.  

The hollow, white polls in the above picture bothered Leah in our first clinic and it took forever to get her to go over them.  If her hooves hit them the tiniest bit, they roll, and the rolling scares her.  This clinic,  however, she went over them like a pro--even side passed over one.  I highly recommend them in anyone's arena.  They really do make them more honest and interested in foot placement.  It's one thing to nick a board with a hoof--quite another when the THING starts to chase you!

These clinics give me so much joy because they allow me to be with my daughter and granddaughter--and my new horse friends.  It's magical watching them become partners with their horses, too--independent of me.

Rebecca is not only a thoughtful, sensitive instructor, but she also brought us all gifts for Christmas!  There were treats for us and our horses in those bags.

During our break, my younger granddaughter came over to watch and her big sister gave her a ride.

Good times--even in the dreaded LATE FALL, EARLY WINTER.

Oh, and I also got a trail ride in with my Cowboy last week.  We came upon this herd of deer and they let us get about 20 feet from them before disappearing into the trees!

Kicking back with some wine.