Thursday, July 30, 2009

Trailering Magic


Hope everyone is having a terrific summer with lots of fun riding.

During the years I was competing, summer always meant trailering to tons of away shows on the weekends. I was writing a scene for The Grimoire (which is almost finished) about loading a green three year old and I couldn't help thinking about my beloved Spencer.

He had always trailered really well until I moved to a new barn and the owner offered to go and get him. I didn't know a lot about this barn as I was moving to a different part of the state, but it was a large facility, very well kept up and I liked the barn manager when I met her. I had just bought Spencer some travel boots, figuring it would be easier than wraps. I don't know exactly what happened as I was following the trailer in my SUV, but Spencer must have panicked inside. When we reached our destination, Spencer limped out with blood all over his right rear lower leg and the boot was dangling by the one still connected strap off the bottom of his foot. The three remaining boots were partly off and Spencer was shaking his legs trying to free himself of them.

I got the boots off and started to lead him to the was stall and the poor guy staggered off the path onto the grass. The owner came up behind me and told me their barn rule was that horses were not allowed on the grass in front of the barn (here was a great clue I had not landed in a terrific place!). Anyway, from then on trying to load poor Spencer was a nightmare. Even though the boots hit the trash can and we went back to quilted wraps & polos, it was a struggle to get him in the trailer almost every time.

The memory has stayed with me, too and found a way into my writing. One of the fun things about writing about magic is thinking of fun ways it could be applied to one's own life. Here's the scene where I applied what I would have loved to do for poor Spencer:

“Come on, baby.” Gemma tugged on Jack’s lead rope. The recalcitrant horse planted his hooves at the base of the trailer ramp and refused to move. Sweating, Gemma tugged harder and was pulled off balance with Jack’s head toss. Stumbling, she swore.
Jack eyed her with disdain and gave a very human snort. Jumping Jack was a green four year old and was as stubborn as they come. His owner, a lovely, gentle middle-aged lady bought him because he was the prettiest horse she’d ever seen. Never mind the chestnut gelding was so high-strung she couldn’t ride him. Even when magically linked, Gemma had difficulty persuading him to her will. His owner didn’t stand a chance.
“It’s my job to fix that, which is why I’m going to show you in one or two classes today.” Gemma said aloud, blowing the hair out of her eyes. “Okay, pal this calls for a different approach.”
Jack tilted his head to the side with an expression that said I’d like to see you try it, lady.
“Well, you asked for it.” Gemma let the lead rope go loose in her hand. She closed her eyes and reached out with her mind to the horse, matching her breathing to his, seeking to calm, seeking a link to ensure collaboration between horse and trainer. She felt his resistance, an equine version of ‘No way, no how.’ She bore down, looking for openings past the iron wall of stubbornness which was so much a part of Jack’s personality.
Ah, there it is. With her mind she eased past his fear and anger, seeking to sooth.
Jack huffed out a breath and lowered his head. “There’s a boy,” she murmured, maintaining the link as she led him slowly up the ramp. “Remember this nice, calm approach when we’re in the show ring, okay?”
This time Jack stepped into the trailer without complaint. Gemma led him forward, clipped his halter to the strap attached to the wall, and eased out the small door in the front of the two-horse trailer.
Going around the back, she pushed the ramp up and closed the back entry to the trailer, effectively shutting Jack in with her own beautiful black mare, Abby.
Horse show days started early enough without cranky four-year olds. Refusing to acknowledge her own bad temper, she finished loading gear in the back of the pickup truck the trailer was attached to and headed out.

Now wouldn't that have been easier for my Spencer?

Happy summer, happy riding, and happy trailering!


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Equine artist Tom Chapman . . .

by Kit Ehrman

There’s so much I love about writing, but an unexpected bonus has been that writing has allowed me to meet a bunch of wonderful people whom I never would have met otherwise.

One person I’m privileged to have met (via e-mail) is ex-jockey and marvelously talented artist Tom Chapman. I was looking for a unique way to celebrate the release of TRIPLE CROSS, my Kentucky Derby mystery, when I found these wonderful Christmas cards by Tom titled “Christmas at Churchill.” I purchased a box or two and e-mailed Tom to thank him for the cards. We’ve corresponded ever since. What follows is Tom’s fascinating story and some of his wonderful artwork.

Kit: How did you get started with horses?
Tom: I was a senior in high school and getting ready to go to college or the army. I wasn't really excited to go to school though. It was 1972 and the army probably wasn't the best place to be at that time. My father suggested that I try to be a jockey. He had a friend who trained quarter horses where we lived in Montana. I thought to myself “Why not give it a try? I can always go to school if I don't like it.” I worked around the fairs that summer and later moved to Southern Cal to work on a horse farm. There I learned from the bottom up. I first started hot walking and cleaning stalls. Later I broke babies and eventually got to the track where I exercised horses. After about four years from the time I left Montana, I finally rode my first race on a filly named Zulla Road at Santa Anita Feb. 17th, 1977.

Rachel Alexandra

Kit: What’s it like to ride a half-ton Thoroughbred at 40mph in a race?
Tom: It's about the most awesome feeling you can imagine. The wind in your face, the sounds of the horses and jockeys all around you, the mane slapping your cheeks, and the dirt clods pounding your body just bring such a sensory overload. The power of the horse underneath you is something only another jockey can relate to. On top of all, this there is the competitiveness and the adrenaline coursing through your body.

Kit: How did you prepare before each race?
Tom: I would read the Racing Form and try to figure out who the major competition was, where I most likely would be laying in the race, and try to figure out how the race would be run depending on what riders were on which horses.


Kit: What did you dislike most about being a jockey?
Tom: I didn't like fighting my weight all the time. I also didn't like having to work on weekends and missing things my sons were involved in like baseball and soccer. I also hated it when a horse was catastrophically injured.

Kit: Is there a horse that has a special place in your heart, and why?
Tom: Moment to Buy was a three-year-old filly back in 1984. I won my only grade 1 win on her--the Hollywood Oaks. She beat the best three-year-old fillies that year. She also ran second to two older mares in two different races that year. Royal Heroine was one of them, and she went on to win the BC Mile against colts and horses. The other was Princess Rooney who won the BC Distaff that year. I have several others, but I don't think you have all week to hear about them.

Kit: What can you tell us about a jockey’s life that we might not know about? Some behind-the-scenes tradition or nuance that we might not ever consider?
Tom: The track is like a world all to itself. It's kind of like a big dysfunctional family that sticks together. Once a person is accepted into the family, they are always in. Sounds a little like the Mafia doesn't it? Anyway, I could go to every racetrack in the nation and run into someone that I know or at least a friend of someone I know.

The Look of a Champion, Barbaro

Kit: Besides winning, what did you love best about race riding?
Tom: I loved the competitiveness of it all. I just loved the adrenaline to the point that I was addicted to it. That is one of the reasons I eventually got into painting. On my days off, I would try to replace that adrenaline rush by skiing, paint balling and stuff like that. I would come home more tired than days when I was racing.

Kit: Who influenced you the most in your racing career?
Tom: I learned a lot riding against Bill Shoemaker and Fernando Toro. Everyone knows “The Shoe.” He was a real horseman. I was always amazed at the way horses ran for him without him even moving on them. Fernando Toro was the "King of the Turf" down in So Cal when I started. He rode the turf better than anyone. I also eventually excelled in turf races and a lot of it had to do with learning from him. People would call me the “Toro of Northern California” and I would say, “No, Fernando is the Chapman of So Cal.”

Kit: That's great. Tom, you’ve made a spectacular career change from race riding to painting gorgeous portraits of all kinds. I know you took art in high school, but your talent is spectacular. Is it mostly self-taught?
Tom: I have a God-given talent and I've been able to develop it. I did take some art lessons starting in 1993, but within a year I had outgrown the teacher. She did teach me a lot about color mixing and light and shadow but the rest I just picked up on my own. I also read every book I could find on art and I would try everything that was suggested.

Kit: Do you think your artistic skills and mindset had an effect on the kind of jockey you were, or are they totally unrelated?
Tom: I'm not sure about that. I know I was more involved with other things in life than most jockeys. Don't get me wrong, I loved raceriding and the track, but my life wasn't all racetrack. Maybe that is one of the reasons I got into art. I've always wanted to learn about different things like the stock market, real estate, politics, art, etc.

Kit: Do you usually paint from photographs, or do you sometimes go onsite to paint?
Tom: I usually paint from photographs. I may use reference photos, from 5 to 10 photos for one painting. I rarely just copy a photo. I also go on location to paint at times. That is usually just for a landscape though. I've always said, “If I can see it, I can paint it, and horses won't stand still long enough.”

Kit: How true. Do you use oils? Other mediums?
Tom: I mostly paint with oils on canvas but will do pencil sketches. I've also done a few murals with acrylics.

The Walk Home After the Last

Kit: What else would you like to tell us?
Tom: I've been married to my best friend, Kathy, for thirty-four years. Our lives together haven't always been easy. but we are closer now than ever. We both know and love the Lord and He has blessed us so much. We have three boys. Matt is 33, Luke is 23, and Daniel is 10. When people hear that they are so far apart, I know that they are thinking that I must have been married 3 different times. I'll jokingly tell them they are all out of the same broodmare.

Thank you, Tom!
Thank you, Kit.

Tom's Giclee prints are very reasonably priced.
Tom's website

Happy reading and riding,

Sunday, July 26, 2009

My "Bombproof" Horse

I had another post ready for today, but I decided to tell the story of my "bombproof" horse, Moses Malone. I've mentioned Moses previously in a few other posts.

Way back (too far back to even think about) in my late twenties, a timid riding friend and I decided to find a horse to half-lease together. Now, I'm not exactly a brave rider either but compared to her, I was. She's one of those riders that rarely gets beyond trotting. Nothing wrong with that, she was who she was.

We took a trip to Seattle and checked out several horses. One big warmblood we considered was quite impressive, but there were subtle red flags. The owner treated him like he was a bomb ready to explode any minute. We never saw any behavior that justified her caution, but obviously it was there. My friend refused to try him out. So that was the end of him.

We checked out a few more horses, all unsuitable.

Finally we showed up at this backyard barn. A very pregnant teenager came out and proceeded to show Moses to us. It was love at first sight. He was five years old and a rich chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail. Even my timid friend tried him out. He walked, trotted, and cantered (taking the correct leads) and seemed calm and agreeable. The teenager needed to find him a home for obvious reasons. She'd prefer to sell him but agreed on a lease with an option to buy in a year.

Moses had an interesting history. As a baby, he and his mother had been boarded in a small pasture. One day when he was several months old, the owner showed up and hauled away the mother, leaving him behind. Driving by his pasture every day, a woman noticed that he became increasingly thinner and thinner. Finally, she stopped and inquired with the neighbors. None of them knew who owned him, nor had they seen the owner in months. They did give her the number of the property owner. A quick call to him revealed that the absentee owner hadn't paid board on the horse for months.

So she loaded Moses up and took him home, naming him Moses because she'd found him "abandoned in the bullrushes." She attempted to find the owner with no luck. At three years old, she sold Moses to the girl I got him from. This girl added Malone to his name because Moses Malone was her favorite basketball player.

Moses proved to be an excellent horse for me, not necessarily for my friend. I found him to be bombproof, she didn't. While he was a mellow sort, he did seem to be sensitive to the moods of his rider. He also had one quirk. He liked to play with you if you weren't paying attention. All of a sudden, he'd shy for no reason. He was quick, too. One minute there'd be a horse underneath you, the next you'd be suspended in air and he'd be halfway across the arena. Within in a months, he had my friend's number, and she quit riding him. I kept him and bought him about six months later.

Over the years whenever anyone rode him who was overly nervous, he became overly nervous. He also checked out his rider to see what they knew. If they didn't handle him with authority, he took over, usually in the form of walking back to the barn and waiting by his stall. If they were heavy handed, he became annoyed and jigged the entire ride if it was a trail ride.

On the other hand, even if you were a novice, as long as you treated him fairly and confidently, he'd do anything for you. One time at an open show, a novice rider friend of mine hopped on him for a novice western pleasure class. She'd never ridden him before. They finished 1st in a class of 34 horses! Moses took care of her. She just sat there while he listened to the announcer and walked, trotted, and cantered based on what was announced.

I owned Moses for years. I rode him to Prix St. George, showed him to 4th Level. I also jumped him. He was a handy little jumper but didn't start using himself until he hit 3 feet, while I maxed out at three feet. I also did a stint showing him in open shows in western and English pleasure.

He wasn't a talented dressage horse, quite the opposite, but he was a wonderful horse just the same. We spent countless hours on the trails by my house. You could just loop the reins around the horn and enjoy the ride.

In his later years, I leased him to two men for a trail horse. A few years ago, I tried to get him back. The two guys were almost in tears. They said it'd be like losing a member of their family. I let them keep him. He's 30 this year, and to my knowledge still going strong. I loved that horse.

He'll always hold a place in my heart.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Bombproof-99% of the Time by Janet Huntington

I love Laura's tips on finding a bombproof horse. She had some sound ideas and a good definition of what the term bombproof means.

She was also careful to point out all horses can spook, jump, maim or mutilate. OK, I added the last few words but you get my drift.

My daughter's good mare Annie was everything you could look for in a bombproof horse.

She had carried both of us through the mountains on more than one three day trip at our ranch.
I had ridden her for several years and knew every tick, every tock and trusted the steady reliability that shone in her eyes 100 percent.

She was the kind of horse I could ride several miles from home, alone, to fix fence. I could get down, drop my reins, unload my gear and go to work. She would graze, or doze in the sun, but she never left.

She was never rattled, only became angry if you tried to keep her in a stall or run and I had only seen her spook once. It was the year of the Haymen fire and she could smell it traveling towards her. She ran to me and stayed close. That was it.

When my daughter was two she was sitting on Annie's back. I looked the other way for a split second and Annie shook like a wet dog. My twig of a daughter flew through the air and landed in a very prickly bush.

I ran and picked her up, half laughing, half panicked. Annie came over and nuzzled my sobbing daughter all over. She didn't take her muzzle off the kidlette until she quit crying.

Annie was a school horse for me for many years. She truly lit up when she was with children. She walked as if she was carrying a carton of eggs with the newbies and would lope a barrel pattern when they were ready.

I had complete faith in her when my daughter took her over. Annie was the ultimate definition of bombproof.

When the kidlette was 8 or 9 we trailered to the Garden of the Gods park to go on a trail ride.
We all unloaded out horses in front of the Rock Ledge Ranch and were tacking up.

Suddenly Annie lost her mind. She was snorting, blowing and jumping back and forth. The kidlette jumped out of the way, her saddle went flying and her pad slid under Annie's leaping feet.

I walked over to see what the ruckus was about. I'll admit, I said, "What did you do?" to my daughter. I knew my darling Annie couldn't be at the bottom of this.

Annie was really going nuts.

I followed her line of sight and realized she was freaking at the sight of the ranch caretaker, Andy, with his team of Belgians and their wagon.

Annie was horrified.

"Just ignore her, she'll put it together in a second," I said.

I was wrong.

As the wagon and team came closer Annie threw herself back, snapped her lead rope and took off. Towards the wagon.

She circled Andy and his team at a high trot, with her tail straight in the air.

I had to stop and admire for a second, she was probably 24 or so, and she looked absolutely beautiful.

I snapped out of it when Andy yelled at me. Annie was thinking of charging the team, she had her ears pinned and was darting in at them.

We ran in and began shouting and waving our arms at her. She just ducked us and kept running at the team. The Belgians were starting to get snorty.

"Go back to your trailer and I'll head back to the barn, maybe she'll go back to your horses," Andy called.

He was right. As soon as he was out of range Annie came trotting back, snorting and looking quite proud of herself.

We never did figure out why she hated wagons so much, she did the same thing a few years later at an AQHA show when the driving class began to warm up.

I was using a stouter lead rope by then and we were able to hang on to her. All I know was my gentle, reliable, bomb proof horse seemed to have a little German Shepherd attack dog in her.

And then there was that problem she had with ponies.....

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Finding a Bombproof Horse

By Laura Crum

Not too long ago I read a blog that stated there was no such thing as a bombproof horse. Well, in a manner of speaking, that’s true. Any horse is capable of spooking or throwing in a playful crowhop. However, there are horses that will pack a beginner or a child or a timid rider with steadfast reliability, never doing a stupid, violent, or “scary” thing, such that said beginner need never be frightened or come off the horse. This is what I call a bombproof horse, and I’ve known quite a few of them.

I own such a horse currently. My son’s horse, Henry, qualifies as bombproof. I’ve blogged about Henry a few times and inevitably, in the comments, someone will remark that they wished they had such a bombproof horse for their kid, or themselves. So I thought I’d write today about how to buy a bombproof horse.

First of all, if you are new to the horse business, or even kinda new, you need a knowledgable helper. Your helper can be your trainer, or a friend who has been in the horse business a good long while. But be sure that whoever your helper is, he/she is not in a position to make money on the horse you might purchase. I mean it. It doesn’t work out. If you take a “trainer”, the trainer can make money training or giving you lessons on what you purchase, but be sure he/she is not getting a commission on the horse from the seller. Again, it doesn’t work out. I’ve had a lot of experience of this. There are exceptions, but you don’t want to be betting that you’ll be one. The most important thing your helper needs to be is a long time participant in whatever sort of horse activity you favor. If you’re looking for a gentle trail horse, don’t take a helper that shows a lot but never trail rides. Take someone who has trail ridden for years.

Also, if you are not new to the horse business, but you haven’t bought a horse in a long time, or you are new to the area, it would pay to find a helper who knows the local horse market well, particularly the part of it you’re interested in.

Second thing, be clear about your priorities. If you want a bombproof horse, do not get hung up in breed, or beauty, or color, or whether the horse can win at a certain event. Do not expect to get a horse who is younger than ten. It might happen, but it isn’t likely. What you are looking for is a sound, healthy, reasonably well broke (for whatever you want to do) bombproof horse. Expect the horse to be in his teens (at least). I will avoid horses that are much older than twenty. They may be perfect, but you are not likely to get that many more years out of them. But there are sure exceptions to this rule.

As for what type of horse is most likely to be bombproof, well, its hard to generalize. Old rope horses can be great. So can school horses. I have a theory that overly pretty horses are unlikely to be bombproof. No rhyme or reason to it. Its just what I’ve seen over the years. Plain, solid looking horses are the most likely candidates.

The hallmark of a bombproof horse is a solid mind. The horse is sensible; he does not panic. He can be very willing, or a bit lazy, but he is not genuinely resistant. He has no impulse to be defiant. He will go along wiith a beginner’s wishes, even though he knows the beginner is not really capable of being in charge. He may be lazy enough to be hard for a beginner to get in the lope, or he may move out easily, but he will stop when you pull on him. The bombproof horses I have known were bright-eyed, alert looking horses. The dull-eyed horse is unlikely to be bombproof, despite his apparently relaxed demeanor.

Now the most important rule about finding a bombproof horse is also the most difficult one to follow. You, or someone you know and respect, has to have known the horse for at least six months. Unless you follow this rule, you can’t be sure what the horse is really like. Any horse can appear bombproof on a given day or week, whether because he’s been ridden down, or just because he’s in a good space. If you have only the word of a stranger who is trying to sell you the horse, and the horse’s behavior the day you go to see him, you really don’t know enough to decide if the horse is bombproof.

The only way to be sure you are getting a bombproof horse is if you, or your helper has known the horse for awhile, or you are buying the horse from someone you trust who has known the horse for awhile. It is impossible to be sure about the horse otherwise. This is why a helper who is involved in the horse business is so important. If said helper can tell you, “I’ve seen this pony around for years, I’ve seen him packing beginners, I’ve never seen him doing a stupid thing,” that goes a long way.

This is the main way I buy horses. I keep an eye on horses that fit my needs, and when/if they come for sale, I buy them. Or if I need a horse, I make an offer. This is how I bought Henry. My son’s pony had recently died of cancer. I knew Henry, I’d known him for many years, and I knew he was what I wanted. I offered more money than this nineteen year old gelding was really worth. And I got him bought. He has been worth every extra penny, to me.

All the usual things apply when buying such a horse. Have the seller ride him first, then ride him yourself. But do not assume that you can tell much from this. Unless you can find someone who has known the horse for more than six months, you are really operating in the dark. What you can tell from riding your prospect is whether you like the “feel” of the horse. And bombproof or not, some horses fit some riders better than others. So, your test ride is to see if the horse gives you a good feel. Don’t go any further if you don’t like the feel, no matter how perfect the horse seems. Again, its been my experience that it doesn’t work out. But do be sure you try the horse in the application in which you plan to use him.

I can give an example here. When I first tried Sunny, my trail horse, I tried him as a replacement for Toby. For my son. I’d known Sunny for a few years; I knew he qualified as a steady, bombproof horse. I tried him in an arena, and decided he was too lazy, ill broke, and resistant for my son. I bought Henry (for more money) instead.

A few months later I decided I needed a bombproof trail horse for myself, in order to give my son a steady lead on the trails. I tried Sunny again, this time for myself, this time out on the trails. He was perfect. He is still a resistant, lazy, not very well broke horse in an arena. But to ride down the trail, he is a jewel. So try the horse in the ways in which you plan to use him. If possible, take him home on trial. Some sellers will allow this, some won’t.

The big question that I ask the seller is, “Has anyone ever come off of this horse? Ever. For any reason. If so, tell me about it.” The answer to this question, if the seller is honest, and has owned the horse at least six months, is very instructive. The other thing I do is try to determine exactly why the seller is selling this horse. This I don’t usually ask directly. I just pay attention and get them talking about the horse and their current situation. I try to figure out why they’ve decided to let this horse go. Its good if there is a logical reason that does not amount to some “issue” with the horse.

If neither you nor your helper has known the horse previously, and you don’t know the buyer (not an ideal situation), ask if you can get in touch with a previous owner of the horse. If you can get this contact info, use it. You will often get a very helpful, honest opinion from a previous owner. Be clear that you are looking for “bombproof”. Ask if anyone has ever come off the horse. Ask if the horse was ever lame. If you can’t talk to a previous owner, try to talk to someone who knows the horse but is not the seller (or the seller’s trainer). It is very important (I can’t stress this too much) to talk to someone who knows the horse and is not trying to take advantage of you. Be sure you understand “horseman speak,” too. No one likes to talk bad about someone else’s horse. If you tell the previous owner or trainer what you are looking for and there is a long silence, followed by, “Well, I guess he might fit,” consider yourself warned off.

Final point. And this is a very simple rule. Don’t buy a lame horse. Some exceptions to this rule apply, but not many. I can save you an awful lot of time, money and grief here. You will not enjoy your bombproof riding horse if he’s lame when you want to go for a ride. And even managable lamenesses take managing. And it usually costs money. Possible exceptions are things like bone spavin and minor arthritic stuff that many older horses have, that they warm up out of easily and quickly.

You actually do not usually need to do the often quite expensive vet check, if you follow these rules. Someone you trust has known the horse for at least six months. Said person can say with clarity that the horse has never done anything “scary”; no one has ever come off of him/her, horse has always appeared sound. You ask to contact horse’s regular vet and then ask he/she what issues horse has had. Finally, most important, you jog the horse in circles on hard ground (pavement or packed gravel, arena will not work) both ways. If the horse limps, don’t buy him. Do the jogging after you ride him, so the horse is thoroughly warmed up. Again, if he limps, don’t buy him. If you can’t tell if one is lame, you should have a helper who can. Period.

The seller is liable to say the horse is bruised, or has new shoes, or he’s “barely off”. Fine. Say you’ll come back in a month. Try the horse again. If he limps, at all, don’t buy him.

On the other hand, if he doesn’t limp, don’t be put off too much by the idea that he has some scary “incipient” problem. I’ve seen people vet check sound horses, get told the horse had incipient ringbone (determined through X-ray) and turn the horse down. Then they get to watch the horse stay sound for somebody else for the next ten years. My rule is, if he limps, don’t buy him. If he doesn’t limp, and it all seems right, I’m Ok with it. I rarely do vet checks any more. I certainly didn’t do one on either Henry or Sunny.

Long term health problems are another issue. When I bought Toby, our pony, I was told he had Cushings disease and had had a run-in with cancer. I accepted him because he was sound and seemed perfect for my needs. But I found that managing the Cushings with meds, removing the tumor when it reoccured, and giving meds to try to prevent it coming back, cost me far more than ten times Toby’s purchase price. Not to mention the time, trouble and worry. And Toby died of kidney cancer two years later. Would I still buy him, knowing what I know now? Yes, I guess I would. We loved Toby, and he taught my little boy to ride, but it was a sad, expensive business in the end. It’s a story worth remembering if you are looking at an older horse with known long term health problems.

On the other hand, Henry, who had never colicked or had one known health problem, colicked a year and a half after I bought him, and had to have colic surgery to save his life. Talk about expensive. So, you never know. But I am still glad I bought Henry. Yesterday my son and I went for a two hour ride through new country on Sunny and Henry and we had a blast. Both horses were steady and quiet, ears up, looking around. Deer crashed through the brush..etc, but not a spook or a jiggy step was ever seen, let alone anything worse. We had a delightful, peaceful, magical ride through the redwoods and neither of us had one anxious moment. (And by the way, we have had well over a hundred trail rides just like this on these two horses.) Our bombproof horses are worth every penny I spent on them. And I hope this blog will help someone else find just the horse they need.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Horse Crazy

It's Monday morning and I am recovering from horse show hangover--not the same as a drinking hangover, but it does feel similiar. The body aches, and I feel fatigued--but no headache or stomach issues to go with it. LOL. And, I didn't even show! But I was the water girl.

I was supposed to ride in the show--would have been my first dressage test as Krissy has done her job as a jumper and now it's time to do some low level dressage work, which I am enjoying. I'm not sure that my mare agrees because I still jump her once a week and that's when her ears prick up and she gets a little energy in her step. Anyway, we dind't get to do our test yesterday because Krissy has a puncture wound on her scapula! I swear this horse will hurt herself or get sick if the opportunity presents itself. I believe I will be putting my vet's children through college if we keep this up.

Anyway, sans the disappointment of not being able to ride, my little girl and her pony Mister Monty did have a great show. She also showed our trainer's pony--Tahoe, and did quite well. This was my daughter's first walk, trot, canter test. Let me start off by saying that I am just a little tiny bit proud of this kid who is only 8 years old. We started the day by helping our trainer feed at 5:30 in the morning and we had horses on the trailer by 6:45. My daughter's first test was at 8:12 with Monty and she wound up getting second place. The second test she did with both ponies and out of 15 in the class she took 5th and 6th places. Not too mention it was 95 degress out. She is a trooper. She helped water horses all day, check the feed bags, and hose them down when needed. I only heard a couple of complaints and that was at the end of the day.

Both of our instructors were there with their horses and their tests weren't until later in the day, so we didn't wind up back home until about 5:00. I mused at the end of the day seeing all of the riders and their horses--this sport to the common man probably makes no sense. We work our butts off, provide the best care for our animals, our lives essentially revolve around the horses. People who aren't around horses often are usually surprised when I talk about how each one has a distinct personality and can show all sorts of emotion ranging from jealousy, grief, anger, joy, and love. What equestrians are all about is the passion they have for their animals. Horses give us so much pleasure. They are truly our friends and companions. I feel blessed to have them in my life and will continue to get up at the crack of dawn to feed, clean up after and take care of them in return for all these gracious animals give back. I am happy to say that I think my youngest child agrees with me. My sons think we're crazy and I'm sure my husband feels the same way but would never voice it. However, I will be horse crazy until my last day!

Have a great week and hug a horse.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Going Home . . .

by Kit Ehrman

As we deal with our horses, both as caretakers and trainers, I think it’s important that we not lose sight of equine emotions. They may run deeper than we suspect. A case in point:

Many years ago, when my boys were small, my good friend and neighbor asked if I would like to borrow her elderly, medium-sized pony so that my children would have the opportunity to ride something more size appropriate than being led around on my old, rather overweight gelding. I agreed, and soon Star, a chestnut mare with a coarse head, joined my barn.

Star settled in, but looking back, I believe she was never truly happy with the forced change. She could see and smell and hear her old home where she had once been the matriarch. On my farm, she had my six-year-old, rambunctious, Thoroughbred mare to contend with. Although Flare was mostly well behaved, every now and then, she tried to play with her new pasturemate. At age thirty, Star was in no mood for shenanigans of any sorts. She wanted to eat and rest and be left in peace. She did, however, bond quite nicely with my boarder, a sixteen-year-old large pony.

Admittedly, Star was a bit of a grouch. As I considered her, I didn’t think she was pining for home, but she never seemed truly happy, either. Was this her innate personality or was she missing home? I couldn’t tell.

Three years passed. As with all my horses, Star enjoyed a roomy, immaculately-cleaned stall; daily turnout in a lush pasture; supplemental hay and grain; excellent veterinary and farrier care; candy and treats; fly spray and baths when it was hot; a blanket when it was cold; and a strict routine she could rely on. She had companionship and did very little work. As it turned out, she was not a willing tutor for my boys, but that was okay. They preferred bumping their go-carts across the fields and daredevil races down the lane.

Then, when Star was thirty-three, my pony boarder and Star’s buddy left the barn. Star missed her; that much was clear, and as the days passed, she seemed more and more depressed. The only companion that she’d had on my farm was gone.

I noticed Star looking across the pasture toward her old home more and more. I called Star’s owner and told her that she seemed unhappy and I thought she wanted to come home. A couple weeks passed. I can’t remember, now, what the holdup had been. Maybe my neighbor didn’t have an open stall, or maybe she simply didn’t think the situation was urgent. In any case, Star went downhill quickly. She seemed distressed. I made another call, and my neighbor didn’t delay this time in taking her home.

The next day, my friend called and told me Star had died that night. The old mare had lifted her head and pranced down “her” barn aisle, whinnying, and no one who saw her could have mistaken her joy at returning home.

We are both convinced that she wanted to go home to die.

When it comes to your horse’s emotions, be observant and trust your instincts. I should have reacted faster, and I’m sure if Star could have talked, we would have never moved her from home.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Missing the Show Season?

I've had a bit of a melancholy summer. Which is weird considering that a lot of good things have happened to my husband and me:
  • We built an addition on our house, and it's beautiful.
  • We both have great jobs that we love and have been fortunate enough to be doing financially well in this economy.
  • My husband has renewed his relationship with his three grown children, and it's going well.

So what's wrong with me? I wish I could put a finger on it. I know part of it has to do with horses. I've been in love with horses since I was a very little girl. So life without horses isn't an option for me.

This year, I chose not to show. Am I missing the excitement and camaraderie of horse showing? Am I wandering aimlessly in my riding rather than pursuing a goal? Is that such a bad thing? All of my friends are off to horse shows, while I stay home. I rarely ride my mare, maybe once or twice a week. That's not much for me. I still take lessons, and they're going amazingly well considering how little I do ride.

All these great plans I had for my life, all the things I wanted to do but didn't do, are starting to catch up with me. Many of them have to do with horses. I always thought I'd get my dressage medals. Yet, I'm not even close to getting my Bronze, let alone silver or gold.

On top of that I miss the friendships. I met most of my dearest friends through horses. Anymore it seems as if I go to the barn, ride, and leave, without really socializing with anyone, and I'm a social person. One of the reasons I board my horse is because of the people at the barn.

So here I am, wondering where to go from here. Should I bring the horse home and buy a nice Quarter Horse for my husband and ride into the sunset? Should I attempt to make a new commitment to my riding? Do I ever really want to go through the stress of showing?

I wish someone could give me the answers, but I know that I'm the only one who can do that. I appreciate everyone's patience as I struggle to make sense of whether or not showing is in my future. It seems as if this issue has been the subject of all my posts lately.

Have any of you quit showing and found horse activities to replace it? Do any of you keep riding and taking lessons to pursue a goal unrelated to ribbons and points?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Black and White

When I say black and white many of you (being the good horsey folk you are) immediately think of Paints.

Lately, for me, black and white have begun to mean positive and negative, action and stillness, presence and absence.

I have discussed an experiment on my blog, Mugwump Chronicles, where I am working with a colt I have owned since birth.

I am trying to teach him in a way that is effective enough that I only have to teach it once.
No drilling, no repetition, once he learns it, I assume he understands it.

I am very aware that repetition will come into his life simply because he needs it to strengthen himself physically and mentally for where I want to take him.

Plus, I'm pretty sure I'm not a good enough trainer to make it to a NRCHA derby without having to show him something more than once.

But I'm sure going to try.

At this point he leads, ties, picks up his feet, loads in a trailer, gives his nose when I put pressure on him and backs a step. He's just two. So he does everything I need him to for his age.

I spend a lot of time thinking of my next step, because I always want it to be related to the last and to set me up for the next.

Sometimes it's a month or two before I think through my next step. Because there is such a gap in my handling of my little guy I have been worried it would have a negative effect on his training.

I have been surprised to find it has, if anything, enhanced it. When I walk into the horses on pasture he watches me closely. When I look back at him he drops his head and turns to the side. It doesn't matter if I skip past him for weeks at a time, this is still the friendly, welcoming response I get.

When I do go to pet him or catch him he is interested and willing to go with me. I almost think the wait in between sessions works him as much as the actual handling time. I haven't bored him. He hasn't shut me out from a lack of understanding or too much repetition. I haven't given him any bad habits from a lack of focus on my part either.

So my negative space becomes as much a tool as my positive.

It's really making me think. What I'm not doing is every bit as important as what I am.

Here's an example of my thoughts.

Most horses lean into the rider as she mounts. Not a lot, he just sets his inside foot and braces to support himself as she gets up.

No big deal, right?

When I work a horse I am very insistent he learns to curl his body away from me. He needs to keep his shoulder and rib away from me. I do this as a safety measure and as beginning lessons in foot placement. If my horse curls away correctly he also crosses his feet correctly for future turns and lateral work.

I also want my horse prepared to move away at any time out of respect for my position. I've learned through hard experience that a horse who leans or pushes on me is being rude and it will effect our whole trainer/trainee relationship unless I stop it.

So what am I teaching my horse when I let him lean into me as I mount? I'm not sure, but it has to be a confusing cross signal at best.

When I worked for the Big K he didn't put up with a lot of leaning over their back, practicing putting weight in the stirrup or repeats of stepping up and down. He would put the saddle on a young horse, let him stand tied all day for several days and then prepare them to ride.

He would let me pony a colt, lean over it, rub on it and bang on the saddle but he didn't want me hanging off it's side.

When it was time to get on I tipped the colts nose, put my foot in the stirrup, stood up and immediately balanced over the middle of the colt. Once the colt would tolerate me I stood up, hesitated and threw my leg over.

I asked him once why he did it that way and he said, "I don't want you hanging with your head over the side of a colt when he blows. Besides, they're just 'feelier' this way."

When I went out on my own I went back to my old way. Putting my weight in the stirrup and gradually working my way onto the horse.

It went easier, the youngsters were better prepared when I got on and I felt I was doing a better job.

Except I had leaning colts again. I was creating a stiffening of the inside shoulder and rib. Which I had to work out again in order to begin training.

I hate it when he's right. The colts we stood over, then rode, were balancing briefly on the outside to support us. They moved away in order to get ready for us to mount. I'm not talking feet moving, just where their weight went as we got on.

So there was a consistency in expectations. I wasn't unconciously encouraging the very behavior I work so hard to eliminate.The young horse is learning again to keep his shoulder clear of the rider. That's where K was getting his "feelier." Hey, the guy's a trainer, not a communicator.

My thought here is, if I'm not unconsciously creating a lean in my colt, by repeatedly stepping up and down, or hanging off him, my training will be much more effective, simpler and clear. And I won't have to repeat myself.

By sitting back and doing nothing until I am sure my next step only builds, doesn't confuse, I am still going to end up with a competitive colt in time for the derbies. My negative space will only give both of us time to think. I hope.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Knowing When To Quit

By Laura Crum

Some horses are born resistant. All the good training in the world won’t make them cooperative. I know this from personal experience. Last month I did a post titled “A Failure?”, that told the story of Ready, a horse I broke and trained and failed to turn into a cooperative riding horse. I later discovered that all the horses that traced back to Ready’s dam were failures as cooperative riding horses. I mentioned that I failed on a couple more of them before I figured this out. In the comments on this post, stillearning and I discussed her current horse, who she fears might be another naturally resistant horse. I thought I would write today about the way in which I discovered that the horses of this one particular lineage were virtually impossible to turn into good saddle horses, in the hopes that it might help others to make that all-important decision of knowing when to quit.

First off, I want to talk about what a truly resistant, uncooperative horse amounts to, in my book. Such horses are lazy, and will do almost anything to avoid work. Their hallmark is the tendency to do stupid, violent, dangerous things, including things that might actually hurt them, in an effort to avoid cooperating with a rider. The worst of these horses virtually seem to have a screw loose. They are so determined to avoid cooperating with a rider that their instincts for self preservation just disappear. The funny thing is that because these horses are lazy, they often appear suitable for beginners—as long as the beginners just want to walk around the pen. The lazy, resistant horse is willing to do this. He appears bomb-proof. But he isn’t. It can be a very dangerous mistake to make.

However, not all lazy horses are in this category. And some horses can be very resistant to work that they don’t like and cooperative about work that they do like, as was pointed out in the comments on my post about Ready. My trail horse, Sunny, likes trail riding and dislikes arena work. He is frequently lazy and resistant in the arena, but is a cooperative partner on the trail. He also is level headed and smart and never considers any violent manuever, in any situation, nor does he do foolish things that might get himself hurt. Sunny has a mildly resistant nature, yes, but its more amusing than a problem. I enjoy him and feel quite safe on him.

In contrast, let me tell you the story of Breeze, another horse I broke and trained who did not work out very well. When I began to work with Breeze, I had not yet realized that horses that traced back to Ready’s dam were not good choices. I had sold Ready, but had simply considered him a resistant individual; I hadn’t yet made the leap of understanding that he was genetically programmed to be so, and that this programming came from his dam.

Now Ready’s dam produced big, pretty colts who were very easy going and laid back and appeared quite cooperative as long as you handled them from the ground. Their resistant nature only became apparent when one broke them to ride. Others besides me were fooled by these colts and two people, one of them my uncle, used colts out of this mare as stallions. So in due time my uncle had a couple of three year old colts by this new stud. And one of them was Breeze.

As you might expect, Breeze was a pretty colt and easy to handle on the ground. I had no misgivings at all. I agreed to start the horse for my uncle. At this point in my life I had worked for several horse trainers. I’d started many colts, and trained my own colt, Gunner, to be a competitive cowhorse. I felt perfectly confident that I could do a good job on my uncle’s colt. No problem.

And at first there was no problem. Breeze was easy to start. I got him walk, trot, loping around with me on his back with no issues. He had a nice stop. I taught him to watch a cow. All very easy, very relaxed, no pressure. I rode him for sixty days, turned him out for the winter, and started back up with him in the spring of his four-year old year.

Breeze acted as if he’d been ridden yesterday. I got him going again just fine. At this point I was pretty happy with him and was considering buying him. The only thing stopping me was that my uncle had put a high price on him. So I kept riding him. And, as was appropriate to his stage of training, I started to put a little more pressure on him.

At the time I was riding cowhorses and cutters, not team roping, so what I taught Breeze was what I knew—how to work a cow. But now, instead of being happy if he moved when the cow moved, I was asking him to sharpen up and be quick. I had my spurs on and when the cow moved, I demanded that Breeze “fire”—jump right out with the cow. And Breeze seemed to be handling it. He got pretty handy. He showed no resistance. I was happy.

Until the day that I worked a fairly stingy cow, asked Breeze to stay with her, and the horse bogged his head between his legs and bucked me off, hard. With no warning. I was dumbfounded. I’d been riding this horse for six months now, I’d been his sole rider, and I hadn’t a clue he was capable of this. I got back on and we finished working the cow, but I wasn’t happy.

I rode Breeze for another month. He never bucked me off again, but he tried several times. However, now that I knew he had it in him, I was ready for him and stayed ahead of him. But I still wasn’t happy. I never did like to ride a horse that would bog his head and really buck.

I gave him back to my uncle and told him the story. My uncle could ride one that bucked. He said he would finish Breeze up as a rope horse. And he did. The horse bucked him off a couple of times, but a year later you could rope on him, and he was for sale.

By this time I’d taken up team roping, and was looking for a horse to be a back up for Gunner, who was getting a bit arthritic. Call me stupid, but I decided to try Breeze. I’d liked the horse so much at one time, and he appeared to be over his bucking issue. I tried him. It only took one ride.

Breeze looked good, but he felt awful. Stiff, resistant, uncooperative. He was doing the work, but you could feel throughout his body that he he was resisting it. Breeze didn’t want to be a rope horse, just like he hadn’t wanted to be a cowhorse.

At least I was smart enough to pass on the horse. My uncle sold him to a rancher who occasionally went team roping, and I saw them around for years. Breeze still looked like he was no fun to rope on; he propped the guy as often as not. One day I asked the guy how he liked the horse.

He shrugged. “He’s not much of a heel horse,” he said. “But he’s fine to gather on. And he’ll watch a cow pretty good in the corral.”

I smiled. “I taught him to watch a cow,” I said. “But not to be a rope horse,” I added hastily.

“Well,” said the guy, “he does watch a cow real well.”

I saw Breeze in this guy’s pasture for many years; as far as I know he kept the horse until he died. So I guess that’s a happy ending of sorts.

But the story goes on. Because Breeze had seven brothers and sisters. I started two more of them for my uncle. And both of them, so easy to handle on the ground, tried bucking, bolting and rearing, as forms of resistance when ridden. The second one, I recognized the pattern, and after a few rides, I took her to a guy who was a real good hand, and he put thirty days on her. Same result. After that I refused to ride these colts. My uncle sent them to various professional trainers. Same result.

Breeze is actually the only one of them that found a successful niche in the world. A roper bought the second one, worked with him for almost ten years, and after yet another bolting episode, hauled him straight to the sale. The mare that I worked with briefly ended up at the sale, too, I found out later, and got bought by a guy for a riding horse. I don’t know what happened to her. At that point I’d learned my lesson. Neither I, nor anyone else, could fix these horses. They were born resistant.

I could go on and on with stories of the dangerous, violent ways in which some of these horses behaved, but I’ll end with Ikey, a horse I see fairly often these days. Ikey is a grandson of this same mare. He is a big good looking horse. A competent roper trained him and Ikey looks like a decent rope horse when he’s having a good day. Ikey is also lazy, so lazy that this roper puts his young son on him and lets him plod around the arena and down the trail on the horse. As I mentioned before, these resistant, lazy horses often appear quite gentle if they’re not asked to exert themselves…and nothing pushes their buttons.

Unfortunately, I have seen Ikey dump this kid more than once…when something startled the horse. Ikey is capable of bucking, rearing and bolting, just like all his brethren. It renders this horse virtually useless as a rope horse (not to mention dangerous as a riding horse) because nobody knows when something will set him off. I would no more put a kid on him than I would push the kid off a cliff. But you can’t tell the guy that owns him that. He refuses to see it.

The lesson I’ve learned from all this is that some horses are born resistant. You can’t fix them. And, when buying a young horse, it pays to look at the sire and dam and all relations that became riding horses. Are they horses you would like to ride? If they aren’t, think again about your choice.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A New Diet and A New Query Letter -- Things are Cookin'!`

Hi Everybody,

I was sitting down to blog last night when I heard cries of "I want my Mommy" from down the hall. I curled up next to my three year old to comfort him and I fell asleep! Well, here it is 1:30 in the morning and my family is all happily asleep and I just woke up to do my blog and another hour or so of work. To be honest, some of my most productive writing time is at the oddest hours!

I was formally discharged yesterday from my physical therapy from my back injury (Yeah!) but it's going to be awhile until I can start riding again. It was a mild injury and full recovery is predicted, but boy is it taking its time! In the meantime I'm starting a three-time per week workout routine to strengthen my core (which should help with riding in the long term). So everybody, as you're doing your no stirrup work, you're also, I've discovered, strengthening your back against injury. (Yet another of the many advantages of riding!)

I also got on the scale at the doctor's office as part of my follow-up and (Yikes!) I've had a ten pound weight gain! Oh, my gosh! Okay, I decided to A) panic and B) pull out the diet. I'm going to meet with the nutritionist later this month but I'm starting back on the diet she set up for me in the meantime (Yes, I admit I drew some chocolate comfort during the back injury ouchy moments. Unfortunately, there were a lot of ouchy moments and therefore a lot of chocolate). Ummm, along with absolutely no exercise, about ten pounds of ouchy moments.

Well, fortunately I have this diet specifically designed for my height, age, amount of weight to lose (plus now ten more pounds). It's pretty simple to follow. It's three meals and three snacks. Snacks are things like 1/2 bagel with peanut butter with cheese or yogurt, lunches of 2 oz. tuna or chicken salad with light mayo and vegetable, sensible breakfasts and dinners. Should be do-able, right? I even get half a cup of ice cream and half a banana for bedtime snack! Consulting with a nutritionist has given me the healthiest, best weight loss plan I've ever had. I'll keep you posted on the results!

At least all this time lying around has given me lots of opportunity for writing! I posted my draft query letter before my May conference. Well, here's the newly minted final version. It's a much tighter letter, with a higher overview of the storyline. It also emphasizes successful books to which it could be compared. I heard over and over again that agents want to know where a book will be shelved in the bookstore. Here's my best effort at delivering that:

June 22, 2009

Dear __________________:

I have just completed The Grimoire, an 80,000 word contemporary fantasy that will be enjoyed by readers of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series and Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson novels. THE GRIMOIRE, the first book of The Foreseers series, is available for your review.

Gemma Morrin is a talented witch whose world is shattered when a witch from her ancestors’ coven, The Foreseers, shows up bedraggled and frightened. The Foreseers have been decimated by the wizard Cathaoir in his pursuit of a key central to the coven’s power. Gemma must use her unique ability to alter memories and perceptions to protect the key while Cathaoir engages in escalating terror attacks on her family and town in hopes of coercing her into relinquishing it. THE GRIMOIRE’s full cast of characters includes a mortal boyfriend coming to terms with Gemma’s powers, magical family, and a fun-loving but ghostly roommate.

The Foreseers organization has been designed to mirror the intelligence community. In developing the world of The Foreseers, I relied on my husband’s background teaching the Yale course titled Intelligence and Covert Operations as well as our contacts in the industry. The magical creatures integrated into the story are drawn from numerous mythologies and cultures. I created the equestrian setting for THE GRIMOIRE based on my experience showing in hunters and equitation.

The majority of my writing and editing experience has been in the medical communications field. More information regarding my background and writing is available at Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

Mary Paine

Well, folks, that''s it for now. Happy Fourth of July weekend!


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Too Many Horses

By Laura Crum

There are times when my life seems reasonably well-arranged. Yes, I have a lot of horses, but they are all in situations that are working fine. Everything is going well. I’m content.

And then there are the other times. Like last month. All of a sudden, or so it seemed, all my horses were coming home to roost. Or at least coming home to loaf around my corrals and eat hay. It was borne in upon me quite forcibly that eleven horses was too many. Not for the first time.

How the heck did I get in this position? (My husband asks me this question with great frequency.) I don’t need eleven horses. I don’t even want eleven horses. My barn and corral setup is designed to accommodate four horses. Normally I keep four horses here. Four horses that are ridden regularly. My older gelding, Plumber, my trail horse, Sunny, my son’s horse, Henry, and my one boarder, Twister, (who pays for the hay). It works well. I absolutely don’t need more horses . What is the point of the other seven?

Well, one of them is Gunner, I horse I rode for many, many years. He did everything for me. He features in my mystery series. He is one of the best horses I’ll ever be privileged to own. Gunner is 29, still pasture sound, and has been living turned out in my 60 acre pasture for the last ten years. His companion is Danny, a horse I bought and trained, who got seriously injured when he was seven. Danny has a slight limp, but is pasture sound, too. He and Gunner were having a happy time out in the big field until I got a new neighbor there. The neighbor proceeded to turn a motley herd of mares, babies, young stallions…etc into his own piece of crap field next door.

Overnight, my pasture situation went from very good to very bad. I had spent an inordinate amount of money fifteen years ago to replace the shitty barbed wire fence around my pasture with strong, tight, smooth wire fence. In twenty years of steady horse keeping in that field, only one horse has ever gotten a serious cut (and I still don’t know how she did it). However, there were never any horses on the other side of the fence, just cattle.

Suddenly every time I walked out to look at the backside of my pasture, there were bent T-posts and loose wires. I shuddered to think of the antics which caused this damage.

The horses on the other side of the fence were a mess. Needless to say this guy had not replaced the shitty barbed wire in his field. Three horses were cut so badly they could barely walk. The stallions were breeding the mares willy nilly. The mares were having foals. All totally unsupervised. Phone calls of complaint elicited no response. And my horses spent all their time hanging over the fence socializing.
I couldn’t stand it. I brought Gunner and Danny home. Now I had six horses in a four horse setup. This wasn’t good, either. Since I don’t ride Gunner and Danny, I felt they needed to be turned out somewhere where they could graze, not spend their lives standing around in corrals. I farmed them out to a friend’s pasture, where I already keep three other retirees that are too old and/or crippled to get along in my big pasture. I drive out there every day to feed Gunner and the other very old horse their Equine Senior. Gunner is doing fine. I am a basket case.

Juggling all these horses around, trying to make sure they all have a decent life, all get the care they need, all look happy, not to mention making sure I don’t go broke in the process, and have time to spend with my family, work on my books, ride the saddle horses….its making me crazy. Not to mention we’re building an extra bedroom and a bathroom this summer, with all the confusion and expense that entails. You can imagine.

Too many horses. Janet wrote about this in a previous post. Too many horses can bankrupt you. Too many horses can make you crazy. Why do we do this to ourselves?

I know the answer for my own situation. I love my horses. I won’t dump them when they get old and/or crippled. I have adopted a couple of others who were good horses—that were about to be dumped. They didn’t deserve that. And I was the person who could do something about it. Sort of like the Good Samaritin story…I rescue the ones that I happen to see in the ditch. I don’t go looking for them. But if I stumble upon them, then I think its my job to do what needs doing. And I still want to have riding horses for myself and my son. I mean, for me, that’s part of the point of having horses. I want to ride. So I bought a couple of sound, steady trail horses. Voila. Too many horses.
Sometimes I ask myself what I can do to change the situation. And I don’t have any answers.

I’m not gonna give up and abandon the pasture pets. No one else will take them off my hands and care for them. They’d have to be euthanized. And I can’t bring myself to do it. Not while they look happy. Nope. I’m gonna stay the course with them. I just hope I don’t end up bankrupt, in the loony bin, or divorced—all very possible/probable outcomes of trying to maintain too many horses.
Janet started this discussion awhile ago and I’d like to continue it. Any one have any insights to contribute on this subject? Where does a person draw the line? I am still paying the bills, and the horses all look good, seem happy, get decent care. My husband has not left me (yet). We are not in significant debt. Its all staying together. But I’m walking a fine line and I know it. Am I doing a good thing here, or a bad thing? I can’t really tell. I have no good answers. I’d welcome your thoughts.