Sunday, December 28, 2008

2009--A New Year

First of all, I haven't ridden in 2 weeks. The snow and cold weather have really put a damper on everything. I haven't lost weight but haven't gained either. Now writing, that I've done. In fact, I've written over 16,000 words since Christmas Eve.

By the way, if you'd like to be a guest blogger next year for us, please contact one of us. We'd love to have you. You don't have to be an equestrian fiction writer, you can blog about other equine interests, too. Just send us a short proposal.

I thought this would be a good time to reflect back on 2008 and predict what 2009 might bring. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the new year, too.

2008 Reflections

I accepted an offer for publication on New Year's Day of 2008 then sold my 2nd book a few months later. To date I've sold two more books.

In February of 2008, I contacted several authors of equestrian fiction to see if they'd like to start a blog with me for the purposes of promoting our books and writing about all things to do with horses. Since then, we've all become friends, made a lot of friends on line, and done our part to increase the visibility of equestrian fiction (hopefully).

On a personal note, I've come to terms with the fact that my mare may not be sound enough to show. In some ways, it's a relief to know that I may not be spending money on horse shows anymore. My husband has a new job that he loves, and we are doing well. Compared to the rest of the nation, we're in good shape.

What About 2009?

In 2009, my first true equestrian fiction book will be published, The Gift Horse. I'm really excited about this book, and I hope that you'll take the time to check it out. I'm planning to run a contest on Equestrian Ink for release day.

I'd like to explore other horse activities this year, in addition to dressage. Do some more trail-riding and maybe some clinics. I'd even like to try team penning. (Can't you just see my behemoth 17-1 hand warmblood mare doing cow work? It'd be a hoot.)

As far as EI goes, I'd like to see us offer more guest bloggers (hint, hint). We'd also be interested in picking up one or two more regular contributors, so if you're published in equestrian fiction or non-fiction (or are going to be), please consider joining us. You'll need to commit to one post every two weeks (or every week) if you prefer.

So what about those pesky resolutions?
  • Okay, for me, there's still the weight loss thing. I need to drop a minimum of twenty pounds. If I do end up showing, nothing fits, and I'm not buying new show clothes.
  • I will ride more regularly, back to my 4 days a week pledge.
  • I want to complete a minimum of two more books. This is in addition to the two I've completed rough drafts for.
  • I'd like to increase readership in EI and increase our posts (another hint).

How about all of you? What does 2009 bring for you? What are you hoping for? What are your horse-related hopes and dreams?

What would you like to see from us next year?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays!!!

To all my friends at Equestrian Ink:

We wish you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Very Happy New Year!!!

Jami and Rocky

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Stories for the Season

By Laura Crum

Last time I wrote about Sunny, the horse I bought a year ago to ride the trails with my son. (“The New Horse”, May 08 and “My Little Palomino Plug” December 08). Writing this piece gave me the idea that those of you who have read my blog posts here on Equestrian Ink might like to know how some of the other horses I’ve written about are doing. (For those who want to know, I own, or share responsibility for, twelve horses.) So here are some updates on those of my herd that I’ve written about earlier. If you want to read the earlier posts, you can find them by scrolling through the month in which I posted them.

The first horse I wrote about here was Gunner (“The Real Horses Behind the Books” April 08). This is appropriate because Gunner is a horse I’ve owned for twenty five years. He’ll be twenty-nine this coming spring. I trained him myself and showed him in reining, cutting and team roping events. Gunner has been retired to my 60 acre pasture for the last ten years or so. He still looks great, and is sound, happy and frisky. The photo below shows Gunner (the bay) and Smoky (the blue roan), our four year old colt, sunning themselves in the pasture. The horse in the background is Danny, another of my retired pasture ornaments. (Smoky’s story appears in my June 08 post, “My Next Project”.)

I also wrote about my rescue horse, ET. (Sept 08, “Why I Have One Skinny Horse”). Many people wrote to give advice and I am happy to report that after three months of living by himself in a five acre field and being fed free choice Equine Senior Delight, ET looks great. His hair coat is shiny, no ribs can be seen, and he gallops in to be fed every day, bucking and playing. When he breaks down to the trot, he’s completely sound. ET, too, will be twenty-nine this spring. It makes me smile to see him.

In June I wrote about my one mare (“I Made a Mistake” June 08). I did get this mare settled in her new home in October, where they are happy to have her and her coming baby. I also managed to convince these kind people to take the mare’s long time pasture companion, a sound, ridable, gentle older gelding named “Grey Dog”. Grey Dog is now serving as a riding horse for the teen-aged nephew of his new owners, a boy who has always wanted a horse of his own. This kid is cleaning stalls and doing chores on the ranch to help support his new horse, and everybody seems happy with the arrangement.

Lets see, who else have I written about? Oh, Plumber. (This would be August 08, “The Horse With Two Left Feet”) Plumber is doing well, still sound, still a useful rope horse and riding horse. He will be twenty in the spring. He resides here in one of my large corrals, along with Sunny, my trail horse, Henry, my son’s riding horse, and Twister, my boarder, another team roping horse. Plumber, and all the saddle horses in the corrals, are sound, useful horses and are ridden three times a week on average (when its not pouring non-stop rain that is).

If anybody is counting, I have now accounted for ten horses. What about the other two, you ask. (If anybody is the slightest bit interested.) One of these is Lester, a horse I wrote about on mugwump’s blog, and he is still living happily in a home about ten miles from me, the much loved trail horse of a lady vet. The last horse is Rebby, a horse that technically does not belong to me, but rather to my team roping partner, who also owns Twister. However I trained Reb, and still help care for him now that he’s retired. I’ll post his story here on Equestrian Ink soon.
So, in this season of very hard times for many horses (and people, too), here are the happy stories of twelve horses who remain loved and well-cared for, despite the fact that many of them are old and/or retired due to soundness issues. It cheers me up to see my guys and know that they are all doing well, and I hoped it would cheer you, too.

Happy Holidays!
From Laura and the herd

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Litte Magic and a Lot of Love

by Mary Paine

I tend to get carried away during the holidays. Anyone who’s read my last few posts is at this point saying ‘No kidding’. At least this year I didn’t trip the circuit breaker with the Christmas lights, which my husband considers a big plus.

Despite my excitement over the fun and decorating, I do stop and give thanks for all that I have been blessed with in my life, starting with my family. I’ve also been blessed to have been able to spend most of my adulthood as a horse owner. This was a dream during my childhood that I wasn’t sure would ever come true. In the original dream I wanted to own a horse farm and be a veterinarian. As an adult I’m an epidemiologist and a writer and have been able to board my horses in facilities with wonderful, loving professionals. I wouldn’t trade a moment of it.

There’s a young girl named Jennifer in Never Trust A Matchmaking Witch who shares many of the feelings I had at the same age, namely wishing as hard as I could that horses would be part of my life. Magic helps her dreams come true. Faith, luck, and hard work helped mine. Still, I thought I’d share a more serious scene from Never Trust A Matchmaking Witch that focuses on the love horse people have for our equine family members and explores a side of the horse world I haven’t been active in, namely breeding. Of course, there’s a little magic mixed in!

An excerpt from Never Trust A Matchmaking Witch

They turned to look at a white-faced Alicia, who had half risen from her chair.
“Alicia. What’s wrong?” Frances took her friend’s hand.
“It’s Misty. It’s her time. It’s not going well.”
As one, the group clattered to the kitchen door, grabbing raincoats and ponchos from a standing coat rack.
Jen rushed to follow them, heedless of the storm. “Jen, maybe you should wait here,” Susan said
“But, Aunt Susan, I love Misty. Please. I want to see her,” Jen said in a desperate voice.
Susan looked at the earnest appeal in her niece’s teary eyes. Sighing, she reached for two more ponchos. “Put on a pair of those Wellingtons.”
By the time they had staggered through the wind and rain, the barn was glowing with light.
“Don’t tell me they lit candles in here,” Susan murmured, pushing the door open. Surprisingly, the electric lights glowed from overhead. “How in the world?”
“Generator must have kicked in,” Brad said to her in a low voice. “We’ll check the house lights when we go back inside.”
“Brad, come here.” Alicia’s authoritative voice cut across his.
He approached the stall where the mare was down, labored breaths coming fast. Her eyes rolled white with fear. “I don’t know anything about this, Alicia.”
“Dystonia. The colt is turned. Ever deliver a breech baby?” Alicia was on her knees in the stall, hands stroking over the mare’s sweaty neck.
“Just one.” Brad looked dubiously at the scene before him. “But it was a long time ago, and I know next to nothing about horse breeding.”
“She needs help, Bradley, and so do I.”
Susan looked at the stricken mare. She gripped Brad’s hand. “We can do it. We have to.”
“Yes, we can.” Brad’s gaze sought hers and held. “Well, folks,” he continued, giving her hand one last squeeze, “we’ll need some clean towels, soap and water, twine, and a sharp pair of scissors.”
Frances bustled forward with the requested items. “Anything else you need?”
Susan was past worrying about how Frances delivered needed items so quickly. Her only thoughts now were for Misty and the foal.
“Petroleum jelly,” Alicia answered Frances.
Frances retreated to the tack room and emerged a moment later with a large tub, which she handed to Susan.
“Is it going to take her long, Alicia?” Nanette placed an arm around Jen, concern etched in both their faces as they watched Alicia wrap the mare’s tail in a bandage.
“Normally, birth is a fairly quick process for a horse. Often the foal is out in less than twenty minutes from the onset of contractions. I can’t say in this situation, though.” Alicia looked doubtfully at Misty.
“Let’s take a look. Eamonn, you and Alicia will need to hold Misty down as best you can.” Brad knelt in the stall.
“I’ll help, too.” Frances knelt at Misty’s head.
“Brad, see if the muzzle and forefeet are in the birth canal,” Alicia said.
Susan held her breath as Brad proceeded to examine Misty. The mare’s lack of resistance was helpful, but it seemed to Susan it couldn’t be a good sign.
“I don’t see them.” Brad locked gazes with Alicia.
Misty snorted, gripped with another contraction.
“I’ll have to try to turn the foal.” Brad stroked a gentle hand over the sweat-soaked mare.
“Hurry.” Alicia’s hands were on Misty’s belly, a reflection of Misty’s pain seeming to swirl in her mysterious dark eyes. White-faced, Alicia held her body still above the mare’s heaving efforts. Susan noted the three crystals balanced on Misty’s belly and then did a double take. Were the crystals glowing? Her attention was drawn by a low sound of pain from Misty. When she looked again, the crystals were still balanced on the mare’s belly, but there was no light emanating from them. Must have been a reflection, Susan thought.
“Susan, I need some of that jelly.” Brad scooped a handful of jelly from the jar Susan held and slid his arm inside the mare. He struggled to turn the foal. His face reddened with effort as he fought the mare’s desperate contractions. “I. Think. I. Did. It,” his voice ground out.
Withdrawing his arm, he repeated his exam. “I don’t see— Yes I do. There’s the foreleg. Wait a minute. Susan, give me some more of that jelly.” He reached in again, grunting with exertion. Withdrawing his arm, he looked again. “There’s the muzzle. Come on, girl. Push.”
Alicia’s face seemed to contract with pain as the mare made a final moan of agony that tore at Susan’s heart. Then Brad was shouting, “Here it is. Susan, help me.”
She saw the foreleg sticking out and grabbed hold. Together, she and Brad pulled with their combined strength. A moment later, the head emerged then the body, still encased in a white sac that clogged the nose and mouth. Brad reached over and tore open the sack. The foal took a shuddering breath and lay still.
“Oh, no, no.” Susan crouched over the little foal.
“He’s okay, Susan,” Bradley said, examining the foal. “His breathing is fine.” He reached toward the umbilical cord that still pulsed between mother and son.
“No, Bradley.” Alicia’s color was slowly returning and she leaned back against the wall of the stall. “Let it break on its own. Apply some iodine solution around the foal’s nose.”
Brad applied some iodine to the nose while Susan vigorously rubbed the foal. Misty still lay on her side in exhaustion.
“What do we do now?” Susan asked.
“Wait. And watch.” Alicia rose and together they quietly went outside the stall. Brad’s arms came around Susan, and her last qualms faded. This was real. The birth, the struggle, and the joy she and Brad had shared as they worked together were magic, but it was a magic the two of them made. Susan was through being afraid of it.
It seemed they stood there forever, eyes intent on the scene before them, but in reality it was only about twenty minutes before the foal attempted to stand. The group’s indrawn breaths came as one as they watched a miracle unfold. The foal struggled for a moment then rose on wobbly legs to stand, swaying over its mother.
In response, Misty turned her head, then with a great heave, got to her feet, and the cord between them ruptured. Susan made to enter the stall, but Alicia held her back. “It’s okay, Susan. The cord had stopped pulsing. Everything is happening just as it should.”
Misty turned and nuzzled her baby.
“I’ll need to observe them for at least four hours. Why don’t the rest of you go back up to the house?” Alicia pulled her coat tighter around her.
“Can I stay and help you?” Jen’s eyes shone with excitement.
“Well, there is a job you could do for me.” Alicia forestalled Jen from running into Misty’s stall. “Actually, dear, I was thinking we haven’t selected a name for the foal. I have some books up at the house that may give you some ideas. Care to make a list of choices for us?”
“Sure. Where are the books?”
“I’ll show her.” Eamonn chuckled. “Perhaps we can come up with something suitable for a Spring Equinox baby, eh?”
Brad drew Susan away from the departing crowd into a quiet corner of the barn. “Maybe we should both consider obstetrics.” His laughing face gazed down at her.
“Maybe we should.” She looked up at him and saw a kind, handsome, wonderful man. The remote surgeon was gone, replaced by someone she already felt closer to than any man in her life. “You know, I wondered if your interest in me was real or just part of—well, shall we say a temporary magic.”
“The feelings are there, alright, but there’s nothing temporary about them. I’ve wanted to be with you for a very long time.”

Happy Holidays, Everyone!


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

I want to wish everyone at Equestrian Ink a very Happy Holidays. We've been inundated with snow in the Northwest. I've been pretty much shut in, so, no, I haven't ridden or lost any weight. In fact, I'm afraid to check, but I suspect I gained two pounds. Anyway, here's some pictures of our snow taken a few days ago. We've had another 6 inches since these photos.

My horse barn in the snow:

Our 17-year-old Rott enjoying the snow:

Our lower driveway:

My horse arena:

There are more pictures on my website at:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Traditions, Equine Style

by Mary Paine

Happy Holidays!

A nice side benefit of being a researcher by training is using that skill doing fun research for my books. I research such diverse topics as mythology, witchcraft, police procedure, exotic locations, and of course, horses. There are some really fun holiday traditions people have with their horses that I’ve come across. The Chronicle of the Horse at has some wonderful ones. Here are some of my favorites:

• Lots of people do a very special warm bran mash with lots of apples and carrots mixed in. I’ve seen reports from people who use apple cider or applesauce mixed into bran mash, too. Here’s an addition I never heard of – adding crushed up candy canes or peppermint candies on top for a garnish. Ho- Ho- Ho!

• My in-laws like to warm up apple juice and mix it in with their water buckets. It’s a nice holiday tradition and they also do it on cold days to melt any ice and encourage the horses to drink. They also like to do homemade oatmeal raisin cookies on Christmas Eve and a special Christmas salad in the morning made of carrots, apples, and raisins. Tasty treats for our equine friends!

• At every barn I’ve been at there’s been a stocking in front of every stall and each horse got an array of treats put in it by all their human friends. There’s always a preponderance of crunchy apples and carrots with some Mrs. Pastures Cookies and sugar tossed in. Lots of people go for special bareback rides as a holiday treat. My darling boys didn’t have the broadest backs, so that wouldn’t have been too comfy for me to try, but it sounds like fun!

• Secret Santas always played a big role at every barn I’ve been at, mostly because we had so many junior riders. It was tough finding places to hide presents where our horses wouldn’t be nibbling on them. At the annual Christmas party we would exchange gifts, but would never forget our partners in their stalls and some cookies or other treats always made their way out of the party to be nibbled delicately from our hands by our best buddies.

• My husband’s family first started having horses on their property about 15 years ago. When they first had the horses, they used to sneak out at midnight on Christmas Eve to see if they could hear them talk, but they never caught them!

• The most wonderful tradition I’ve heard people speak of is the extra time they spend with their horses during the holidays. An extra grooming, a long scratch to an itchy spot, a hug and a kiss on the nose is the best present our beloved horses could have.

Do you have any favorite holiday traditions you'd like to share? Hope you all have a happy, safe Holiday Season and a wonderful New Year.

If you have time, I’d love it if you stopped by this evening to chat with me at The Romance Studio at I’ll be chatting at 9 PM EST about my new release Never Trust A Matchmaking Witch, romance, comedy, fantasy and, of course, the horse world.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Winter Safety and Fire Prevention

Last Thursday there was a boarding barn fire in Tacoma that killed 15 horses. The owners tried to get into the barn to rescue the horses. They could hear them inside, but the smoke was too thick and the heat too intense. The barn had a heat detector but not a smoke detector, as the dust in the barn had set it off too often. The cause of the barn fire was determined to be a space heater in the tack room. It had fallen over and ignited some items next to it. The pole barn, with wooden beams and stalls, was filled with 5 tons of hay.

You can read the details here:

Now's the time to check out your own barn for safety from barn fires. I can't think of a worse thing to happen to our horses than to die in a barn fire.

Please make sure if you have a space heater in your tack room that it is the type that turns off when it's tipped over. I'm not an expert on this, but at my barn, we use the old-filled, radiator style space heaters, which seem to be me to be the safest kind.

Check your wiring for any sign that a rodents may have chewed through it. Keep your tack room free of dust and keep items away from the heater. Even a heater that turns off when it falls over could ignite something near it before it cools down.

Of course, the biggest and most obvious: No smoking around the barn.

I found several good articles on barn fire prevention, which certainly tell it better than I would:

Penn State Fire Safety in Horse Stables
WSP Fire Safety for Barns
Rutgers Fire Prevention and Safety Measures around the Farm
Equisearch Preventing Barn Fires

As far as my weight challenge, no change this week, but that's not bad for this time of year. Also, I rode my horse three times this week, and I wrote about 5000 words.

Also check out my Holiday contest. You could win a book by one of the Equestrian Ink authors.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Brighten Up Your Winter Days Contest

Brighten Up Your Winter Days Contest

I'm running a Contest from December 13th through December 20th for members of my newsgroup. I'll announce the winners on December 21st, by a random drawing of entrants that correctly answer four questions and are newsletter subscribers.

  • It's very simple to enter:

    • Subscribe to my newsgroup if you haven't already at
    • By looking on my blog, Equestrian Ink Blog, and website, answer the following questions:

      1. What does Carson get for his birthday?

      2. What is the location for my first two books?

      3. I write an equestrian fiction blog with several other writers. Name one of them.

      4. Name one blog I like as shown on my personal blog.

    • Send the answers to me at
    • Make sure you use the same email address that you used to join my

The Prizes:

  • One print copy of Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed?

  • One print copy of The Dance

  • One print copy of your choice from one of the authors on equestrian Ink

  • An electronic version of Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? (2 winners)
  • An electronic version of The Dance (2 winners)
If you already have both of my books, you can substitute for a copy of The Gift Horse, which I will send when it is available.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Santa meets the penguins

By Mary Paine

Hi Everybody!

Well, I pulled out the decorations for Christmas and found Spencer and Topper’s stockings with the rest. This will be my first holiday without a horse in my life in more years than I can remember. I just had to put their stockings up, so they’re in a place of honor in a light display on our screened porch. I won’t be shopping at Beval’s this year, but I’m picturing them up in heaven with an endless supply of Mrs. Pastures Cookies, warm oatmeal cookies and a nice holiday platter of apples and carrots.

My family, animal loves all, still found a way to incorporate them into our holiday celebrations. We took the kids to Breakfast with Santa at the zoo. They had a blast with costumed characters dressed up as zoo animals and, of course, they sat on Santa’s lap. My daughter was there for quite a while having an intimate chat with the gentleman. She had a long list for him.

We were there the first day they started a new program. They allowed the penguins to walk on the sidewalk among the zoo visitors. How Chrstmasy, right? My daughter, son and I were right up close for this and they waddled right by us. Unfortunately my son turned around just as a curious penguin was right in front of us. Apparently, the sight of his backside was an appealing target for the penguin, who walked right over, grabbed hold of the seat of my son’s pants with his beak and held on!

My daughter, mindful of the zoo keepers earlier warning that penguin’s poop tends to be projectile, lifted the sneaker nearest the penguin as high as possible. Now she will walk through a stall that hasn’t been mucked yet without a second thought, but apparently penguins is where she draws the line.

Perhaps it was her resemblance to a stork and the penguin just wanted to say hello to another bird species, but the penguin disengaged from my son’s derriere and started nibbling on the bottom of her sneaker while she held it aloft. She was doing some interesting balletic movements that entertained both the penguin and the crowd quite a bit. My verbal coaxing was of absolutely no interest to our penguin friend whatsoever. Fortunately, a keeper reached us and retrieved said penguin, saving me from having to pluck the little fellow off my daughter.

My husband, who stayed with our other son and the stroller at the edge of the crowd said he knew when her heard the uproar of laughter from the crowd it had to have something to do with us. Hmmm. He mentioned later that he and our safely strollered son did observe the penguins without the up close and personal experience the rest of us had. They did join the crowd in being entertained by the three of us. As a matter of fact, here’s a picture of my son (the one who escaped the personal penguin interaction) with one of his usual Christmas laughs.

Happy Holidays from the Paine family. Best wishes for a safe and joyous New Year!



Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Little Palomino Plug

By Laura Crum

Some of you may remember that I wrote awhile back about my new horse, a little (14.3) grade palomino gelding I bought about a year ago now to ride the trails with my son. (See my post “The New Horse”, May 08) Now this horse is not the least bit fancy. He looks a little out of place in my corrals, which (other than Sunny) are occupied by some pretty nicely bred Quarter Horses. Sunny looks like a cross between a pony and a QH. Or maybe a miniature draft horse. He’s coarse, and a bit clunky to ride. I have no idea how he’s bred; he was bought by a horse trader in a sale in El Paso, and was said to have come from old Mexico. I was told he was about eight to ten years old. The vet said he was somewhere between twelve and fifteen. It figures. I was neither surprised nor bothered by this info. Par for the course in the horse trading world.

Sunny is not a particularly well broke horse. He’ll walk, trot, lope around an arena in his clunky way, and do a passable stop. He carries his head low and rock steady—its just his natural head carriage. He does not have much rein on him; I frequently resort to direct reining him when I mean business about the fact that he is to go where I point him. You can rope on him, but he’s too slow and clumsy to be much good at it. His gaits are nothing to brag about, though he is sure-footed outside. He makes an effort (almost every ride) to see if he can be the boss. He isn’t dangerous; he just tries his rider in small ways. The vague gesture at a nip or kick, the small crowhop, the half-hearted attempt at balking. He spooks once in a great while, though overall he’s not a spooky horse. Fortunately he’s too clunky to spook as effectively as my old cutting horse, Gunner, and since I spent ten years riding one that can really move, I’m not threatened by Sunny’s boogers. I may have to grab the horn, but I stay on (cursing the little shit). Sunny never gets away with dominating me. I win every round. But he doesn’t give up. He’s a persistant critter.

At this point, you may be wondering what I see in the horse. Believe me, at times I wonder this, too. However, Sunny does have some virtues. In fact, he has exactly the attributes I need right now in a mount. Sunny is a reliable trail horse. Okay, I just got back from a two hour ride and he made two sudden, 90 degree, swinging gate spooks, one at a green tarp and one at a hostile stump. But overall, he’s very steady on the trail. The spooks are the exception, not the rule. And once he’s had his little jump, he goes right on, quiet and calm. He’s been on a lot of trail rides in his life; he’ll go anywhere. Nothing bothers him. Not crossing busy roads, not wading in the surf, not going solo through the wild woods, not deer leaping out of the trees under his nose. He does not jig. He’s surefooted and a trooper climbing hills. He’s slow but steady on any steep descent. He will stand like a park bench under any circumstances, if I decide to stop for awhile. And he gives my son’s bomb proof trail horse, Henry, a quiet, reliable lead.

Since the one thing I was looking for when I bought Sunny is a solid, reliable trail horse to ride with my son, I’m quite satisfied with my purchase. Sunny didn’t cost much and he’s sound. I run him and Henry barefoot and they do fine (saves me a bundle). Sunny’s an easy keeper, too—always a good trait in a horse. And I actually enjoy his ornery little personality. He’s a smart horse, and I like smart horses. His attempts to dominate me amuse me. And when I decide I’m gonna teach him something (like how to take his wormer like a gentleman) he learns fast. Though I have to get the point across with a certain degree of firmness. Yep, little old Sunshine and I are on the same page.

But here’s the real truth. I have a hard time admitting this, but I like this horse partly because he’s so darn cute. I don’t mean fancy, well-bred cute. I mean little girl’s dream pony cute. Sort of giant stuffed animal cute. Everybody reacts to the horse this way,. Experienced horse people, tough old team ropers, one and all get a grin when they look at Sunny, and want to pet him. Little girls mob him. I rode by the local boarding stable on my way to the trails and a teenage girl came running out of the barn screaming, “That’s the cutest horse I ever saw!”. A middle-aged lady stopped me and begged to give the darling palomino a carrot. And I smile every single morning when I walk down the hill to feed the horses and see his bright gold shape in the corrral. Sunny is just that cute.

I never had a palomino before and I am constantly surprised by how much I enjoy his color. What is it with that bright gold shiny coat. He even sparkles in the sunshine in the winter, despite the fact that I don’t blanket and he’s hairy. I just enjoy looking at the side of his neck while I ride.

So here’s the deal. Its all very well for me to go on and on about how cute the horse is, but it just so happens that I took Sunny for a ride through the hills this afternoon (it was 70 degrees and sunny—weatherwise—here by California’s Monterey Bay) and for once someone was there to take photos as I got ready to go. The local newspaper occasionally decides I am worth a story (local mystery author with horses), and they sent a reporter and photographer out today. And now you can see for yourself. Below are a couple of photos of me and my little palomino plug. Is he not every little girl’s dream come true? And can you see why he makes me smile, little recalcitrant mule that he is?

The photos are courtesy of Shmuel Thayler, photographer for the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Thanks, Shmuel.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Recommended Equestrian Books for Christmas

I promised a post listing recommended reads for horse-related books for Christmas. This list does not include all the fabulous books by the authors on this blog.

Some of you alread added your favorites in a previous post. I hope you don't mind adding them again here. (I borrowed the covers from Amazon so the "Click to look inside" doesn't really work.)

Here are a few of mine:

That Winning Feeling by Jane Savoie
Non-fiction--Even if you don't show, this is a great book for improving your attitude and changing your life.

Horse Play by Judy Reene Singer
Fiction--This is a great read by someone who has obviously been there.

Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss

I found this book in a bookstore in the San Juans. It's a wonderful story of a determined young woman with a gift for gentling horses, set in 1917 Eastern Oregon.

Believe by Buck Brannaman
Non-Fiction--This book chronicles Buck's life with horses. Very good read.

Taking Up the Reins
By Priscilla Endicott
Non-Fiction--The author's year in Germany with a dressage master.

What are your favorites?

I'm putting it on the line

Okay, I'm not losing weight. In fact, when I started this, I weighed two pounds less. So I added a gadget at the top of of this blog where I'll mark my progress. I would never tell anyone what I weigh now, but I'm telling you guys. I'm embarrassed that nothing fits any more.

I also only rode two days this week. I am just so darn busy. Maybe after the holidays, I'll get back to something resembling normalcy.

I did have a lesson this week. My mare feels off. It's nothing obvious. You can't really see it from the ground, but I know her really well. She feels funny behind especially to the right. We're going to monitor it to see if it gets worse or better. I did have a great lesson, though. I'm really working hard on not pulling. I have no clue what my riding goals are for 2009. I don't see showing in my future. I've had too many demoralizing years of attempting to show and finishing in the lower end of the pack. You can only do that so long before you're not having much fun at all.

Now's a good time to be thinking of New Year's resolutions. Let's all take the next few weeks and think of what we'd like to change for the New Year. We can do a New Year's post and add our resolutons here as comments.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

And the beat goes on. . .

Hi Everyone!

Well, I made it. Never Trust A Matchmaking Witch was released yesterday and I'm still standing (I think). Now it's the nail biting wait for reviews and sales figures! Unfortunately, I've been biting into much more than my nails, as my bathroom scale attests. I've been telling myself (ahem) I needed the sugar to keep going since I don't drink caffeine. As excuses go, I thought that was a pretty good one!

I've gotten good feedback on the book so far. The idea of a paranormal romantic comedy appeals to people in these uncertain times, as does the $2.99 price tag for the ebook. Of course, in my mind, the equestrian setting is perfect for a lighthearted romance since so many of my happiest memories involve horses.

As part of the promotion for Never Trust A Matchmaking Witch I'm participating in a Holiday Tour of Author Websites that Writerspace ( is hosting. When it came to decorating my site, there was only one picture that leapt to mind.

Among the many wonderful aspects of my years with Topper and Spencer was enjoying taking photos of them. I want to share this one with you in the spirit of the holiday season and in remembrance of two of my very best friends:
I also want to share a brief excerpt from Never Trust A Matchmaking Witch. Hope you enjoy it!

Susan stopped in front of Misty’s stall and arched slowly with a hand to the small of her back, feeling her sore muscles stretch. Just this one last stall to clean and she’d be done.

“How’s it going?” Brad’s huge bay hunter enthusiastically crunched a carrot Brad was poking through the bars of its stall. The powerful, athletic horse made a fitting pair with the tall, rugged-looking man in boots and britches, a thick quilted vest zipped over his expensive sweater.

His hazel eyes glinted at the view of her stretching her body in a gentle arch. She snapped to attention, tugging her sweatshirt down. She could have jumped in the shower, but, oh, no, she had to be practical. She felt grubbier than ever next to the handsome surgeon waiting for her to reply.

“Fine, thanks.” She stuck her chin in the air and tugged on the stall door, which of course was stuck.

“Here. Let me help you with that.” In a moment Brad was beside her, sliding open the door with ease then pulling her pitchfork and bucket in.

“Thank you.”

“No problem.” He grinned over his shoulder at her. “I’m used to it.”

“You clean stalls?” Susan blurted incredulous and then bit her lip.

“Well, not lately, but as a kid I did plenty of them. Want some help?”

“Oh, no. I can handle it. Uh, how’s Jen doing in her lesson?”

“Alicia’s working her and Ritchie over a gymnastic. She loves it.”

“A gymnastic? Isn’t that the wrong sport?”

“Not in this case.” He laughed, and she noticed deep creases by the sides of his mouth. He was too manly by far to have dimples. “Come look,” he added.

He placed a hand at the small of her back to urge her forward and a warm tingle flowed through her core and down her arms. Just a common courtesy, Susan told herself. She preceded him through the wide doorway to the indoor riding arena.

Together, they climbed the bleachers that lined one side and were separated from the riding area by a low wall.

Susan cast about for something to say and her eyes lit on the ceramic owls set in the rafters in the four corners of the barn. “Interesting decoration.”

“What is?” Brad asked.

“Those.” Susan pointed at the nearest owl.

Looking where she indicated, Brad said, “Ah, those aren’t decoration.”

“They’re not?” Susan frowned at them.

“Nope. The plan is to scare other birds out of here.”

“Why would we want to do that?”

“Well, cleaning up after them isn’t a fun job.”

“Oh.” Knowing the odds of her being the one doing the cleaning, Susan looked back with gratitude at the owls, then blinked. They had moved. Hadn’t they? They were in the center of each wall instead of the corners.

“Is anything wrong?” Brad was looking at her closely.

“No. Nothing.” Susan looked again. The owls were in the corners of the barn. I really have been working too hard, Susan thought. She glanced at the owls again, and one winked at her.

Susan jumped sideways against Brad’s shoulder.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” His arm came around her.

“Fine. Thanks. those owls have any moving parts?”

“I don’t think so.” Brad frowned at the owls.

“I just thought, you know, to scare the birds, they might have them move or something.”

“I’ve never heard of it, but good idea, though.” Brad grinned at her. “You should send the idea in to a horse magazine. Barn owners everywhere would be thanking you.”

“I’ll think about it.” Susan smiled back at him, forgetting the owls as she got lost in his warm hazel eyes. She must have just imagined the wink.

“See those?” His thigh brushed hers as he leaned forward to point toward the center of the ring.

Susan nodded, noting Jen astride the trotting Ritchie before looking to the area he indicated. Three jumps, in relatively close succession, were set up down the far side of the ring. The first was a cross-rail fence Jen was used to jumping, followed by a straight rail that looked a little larger than what she was used to. It was the height of the last fence which had Susan sitting forward in alarm. “Jen’s not going to jump those three, is she?”

“Sure. That’s the gymnastic.”

Susan stared at Brad, all inhibitions lost. “How high is that last fence?”

“Well”—Brad considered a moment—“I’d say about two nine to three feet.”

“What!” Susan jumped off the bench. “Jen’s never jumped that height before.”

“Relax, Susan. She’ll be fine.” Brad tugged her back down on the bench beside him. “Alicia knows what she’s doing. That’s the whole purpose of a gymnastic. The horse is set up correctly to jump so the rider can focus on her balance and strength over fences.”

“What if she loses her balance?” Susan’s small fingers gripped her knee.

“She’ll be fine. Alicia has the jumps spaced to be easy for Ritchie. This way, Jen can focus on her position. Watch.” Gently, Brad pried Susan’s fingers off her leg and held them loosely in his hand. Even through her agitation, Susan’s body reacted to his touch, and she glanced down at their joined hands before Alicia’s voice jerked her attention back to the drama at hand.

“Okay, Jen. One more time. Remember, don’t jump up his neck. Weight in your heels as you close. Let him come up to you over the top of the fence. Ritchie, slow and gentle for her now.”

“Does she always give instructions to the horse as well as the rider?” Susan wondered aloud.

“Not generally, but Alicia and Ritchie have been together so many years, I swear sometimes he understands her every word. Watch.”

Happy Holidays, Everybody and Happy Reading!


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Last Horse . . .

by Kit Ehrman

I grimaced a little when I typed my title for today’s post because I still hope I will own a horse again. But right now, that’s not possible or practical for me. Anyway . . . the last horse that I had the privilege of owning was an Appendix Quarter Horse mare whose registered name was Suntan Suzie. I called her Flare. Think “solar flare. “ “Flair” would have worked as a barn name, too, because this girl was flashy—a brilliant chestnut mare with a glorious blaze down her face.

She dispelled the “temperamental mare” theory because she adored people, loved attention, and was a sweetie-pie through and through. So, as many of you alluded to in your replies to my November 17th post, there is that thing about mares being temperamental, but a lot of it comes down to personality.

I could tell when she was in heat, especially a strong heat in late spring because, if I let her, she’d stop in the barn aisle and pee in front of my gelding’s stall. Geez. But even with the hormonal flux, she was well-mannered, and she was always a willing mount. But most of all, she was a “people” horse.

Did I mention personality? She sure had plenty of that. She also had a thing for shoelaces. Don’t ask me why, but my kids would stand on the fence, and she’d be right there, nuzzling them and smelling them; then she’d tuck her velvety nose between the fence boards and play with their shoelaces, turning them a pasty green.

During the years that I owned her, I didn’t ride nearly as much as I would have liked, being busy with two small boys who were not into horses, preferring go-carts they could hotrod and put back in the barn minus the grooming and mucking out. When it was time for me to get out of horses, for various reasons, I knew I was making the right decision for Flare.

Unlike my kids, I loved the barn work part of horse ownership, so she got great care, but she wasn’t being ridden like she should have been. She wasn’t getting a whole bunch of attention either, since I wasn’t riding much. She needed . . . no, she deserved more attention. I was delighted when I found the perfect owner, a nine-year old young lady who was into 4-H and had two nine-year-old girlfriends.

Flare went to a trainer’s barn for a month before the girl’s mother bought her, and this is a story Flare’s trainer recounted.

She told me . . . the girls had come out to ride one afternoon, and they had Flare cross-tied in the barn aisle while they groomed her. Unbeknownst to the trainer, her non-horsey boyfriend had decided to work on the cement barn aisle. He pulled out a machine (don’t know what kind it was or the job it did, but it resembled the huge wax machines they use on the floors at Wal-Mart). He powered it up and was sweeping it back and forth across the aisle. When Flare’s trainer walked into the barn, there were the girls, fooling around with Flare, and there was her boyfriend, sweeping this huge machine across the floor right under Flare’s nose.

The mare didn’t move an inch. In fact, the machine seemed not to bother her at all. If they hadn’t known it before, I think that one incident was what sold everyone that Flare was the perfect mare for these girls.

So, let’s hear if for mares who are sweethearts!

Happy riding and reading everyone!