Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Another Horse Story

by Laura Crum

I don’t usually post two days in a row, but I wanted to share this story and ask if any of you had experienced anything like this. My Sunny horse likes to test me, as I referenced in my earlier post this month (see “Picking a Fight”). Its been raining a lot here and I haven’t been able to ride regularly. But I do have lots of green grass along my driveway, so I’ve been trying to get the horses turned out regularly. Yesterday, I caught Sunny to turn him out for awhile and he tried one of his little games.

Now, Sunny feels good, yes, but he is kept in a large corral (100 by 100), and he runs and bucks and plays as much as he wants. So he is not a mass of pent up energy. When I turn him out he does not run around--he grazes steadily. Like all the horses, he is very eager for his “turn” to be out grazing. When I got him out of his corral yesterday he walked sedately beside me for ten strides, and then (when I wasn’t paying attention—of course) he leapt up in the air and kicked out. One little move. He didn’t touch me; he didn’t tighten the leadrope. By the time I looked back at him he was walking again—with a little gleam in his eye that said he thought he’d won one.

Sunny has pulled this trick before, and I always get after him for it. So I backed him off and whacked him a few times. And I swear, he tossed his head and stamped his front foot at me. Like the herd stallion. It was all I could do not to crack up, but I backed him off a few more times and whacked him until he made mouthing motions and had a submissive expression. He put his nose up to me very gently for a pat, which I gave him. Then I led him off and turned him loose to graze with no further sillieness. This interaction is totally typical of Sunny.

Sunny has many other such minor defiances of varied sorts, but they are all alike in that he never touches me or unseats me (when I’m on him), and they are very calculated on his part. He is never upset—either fearful or excited or angry—when he does them. He does not intend to hurt me. He is testing.

This horse just needs me to do the alpha horse thing. He is never the least bit frightened or truly intimidated when I get after him. It makes him feel secure. I am having to get over my wish that we could just “get along”. No, I must demonstrate my boss mare status every once in awhile or he’s not happy.

Do some of you have horses like this? Are there any tricks you know that can reduce a horse’s need for this sort of correction? I really am very fond of my little yellow mule, and I would love to find a path that works for both of us that doesn’t involve me whacking him, but so far I haven’t managed it. I am unwilling to punish him any more harshly than I do—and I’m pretty sure that it would do no real good, even if I were willing to do it. We get along just fine under the current system. And maybe this behavior of his is here to teach me something, as I said in the “Picking a Fight” post. But I can’t seem to get past my wish that I didn’t have to do this. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Horse Trainers--For Better Or Worse

by Laura Crum

Awhile ago I posted about my dilemma when I was asked to advise a friend about “Choosing a Horse Trainer” (see my March post of that title). Well, now I’ve got an update for you. And I am more confused than ever. This, folks, is why I stay home and ride my own horses and don’t hang out with horse trainers much any more.

Following the advice I’d been given on this blog, and my own instincts, I gave my friend “Mary”, a short talk on the basics of professional horse training. I talked a little about “Jane”, the horse trainer Mary was considering going to, and a bit about other trainers, including a young guy named “Bill”, whom Jane regards as her competition. (All of these names are fictional.) Well, to make a long story short, Mary went ahead and put her horse in training with Jane. I see Mary from time to time (she’s a mom in my homeschool group), and the other day I asked her how it was going. And I got an earful.

I have to tell you, it virtually made steam come out of my abused ears. I wasn’t annoyed at Mary, who meant well, but really, the whole horse trainer thing is (or sometimes is) such an ego game. Basically Mary went and asked Jane about Bill, saying some people had recommended him as a good way to get some miles on a young horse for not too much money. You can guess what Jane said.

Yep, story after story about how inept Bill was, how he’d almost gotten his students killed, wrecks he’d had with horses, horse deals where he was less than forthcoming…etc. Mary looked at me with big eyes, wondering if I’d known all this about Bill when I’d recommended him.

I didn’t know where to begin. I tried to stick to a civil, polite tone, as I said calmly to Mary, “You know, Jane doesn’t like Bill. She considers him her competition. You want to take every story Jane tells about Bill with a grain of salt. And you want to realize, you’re only hearing her side of it. Nobody’s standing there telling you how Jane almost got her best friend and assistant killed putting said friend on a dangerous horse—and of course Jane had no insurance and no money to help with the medical bills. Or the time Jane advised some clients to buy an unbroken three-year-old mare. The clients wanted a different colt, but Jane liked this filly. Said she was a good mover and would make a better horse than the client’s choice. That filly turned out to have a few issues (pretty serious ones)--she almost killed those people, and, of course, Jane blamed their lack of skill. They should have ‘listened’ to her advice. She tells a good story about that one, really makes the clients look stupid. Doesn’t bring up the fact that she picked the mare and convinced them to buy her. Jane is a good storyteller and she knows how to say just the thing that can make someone else look bad…while she makes herself look like a saint. I’ve known Jane for a few years. She’s a decent trainer, not the best, not the worst. She’s very plausible and seems humble and well intentioned, especially if you’re a new client. But she’s had her fair share of former clients who are very unhappy with her and with whom she’s not on speaking terms. Until you’ve heard their side of the story, you might want to reconsider believing her every word.”

Well, Mary, who’s been riding with Jane less than two months, went on and on about how great Jane was, and how (lets call her “Cindy”), who also trains horses, rides with Jane and is always saying how great a trainer Jane is.

I kept my mouth shut. What was the point in telling Mary that Jane and Cindy currently have a little mutual admiration society? They each go around saying how great the other is. This is oh-so-common in the horse biz. Two trainers will be “friends” for awhile. But what Mary doesn’t know and I do, having been around Jane for more years than I care to say, is that Cindy is about the twentieth such “friend”. These mutual admiration relationships never last with Jane. Eventually Cindy will say something that is less than perfectly complimentery about Jane’s horse training skills, and Jane will get offended and suddenly Cindy will be in Jane’s black books and Jane will begin telling stories about Cindy behind her back and ignoring her when she sees her and making subtle, amusing comments to her clients about Cindy’s lack of skill. I’ve seen this many times before.

But I kept quiet. If Mary’s happy, I guess its fine. But it really frosts me to hear Jane run Bill down, making him sound inept, dishonest and worse. I know Bill, he’s a nice guy. I’ve hung out with him at the roping arenas and watched him ride young horses. He’s pretty handy, does a decent job, means well. He’s a far better rider than Jane is these days. Yes, I’ve known him to come out of a horse trading deal to his own advantage, but not because he outright lied. People, horse trading is like that. Really. If you don’t know much about buying and selling horses, take someone with you who does. Jane, and virtually every horse trainer I know, has profited from buying and selling horses. Jane, like every horse trainer I know, was not always totally forthcoming about every little detail, particularly those details that were not in her best interests to disclose. Her saying Bill was not always forthcoming is the pot calling the kettle black.

Of course, there was no point in saying what I believe to be the truth to Mary. Jane is nice to you because you’re a beginner and look up to her. Jane is nice to everyone who tells her how great she is. Jane fawns over the big name cowhorse trainers, and is tickled when they speak to her at shows. Jane generally resents and distrusts those in the horse biz who could be said to be her equal, unless they fawn over her; she never loses a chance to make herself sound good at the expense of her “competition”. Always in a careful, subtle, quasi-humble, humorous way, of course. Jane is quite clever in that respect. Nope, no point in saying this to Jane’s admiring new student. So I didn’t. But I swear, the next time somebody asks me about local horse trainers, I am just keeping my mouth shut. End of rant.

So now, after that diatribe, I want to give a few positive updates concerning horse trainers. Horse trainers are not all bad…listen to this. Remember Harley, the high powered rope horse I helped place with a beginner, after much thought and discussion? Harley had suffered a suspensory tear from which he had failed to heal after over a year and was deemed unsound for rope horse work in the future. When I last reported on Harley (around Thanksgiving), he was doing well in his new home and looked sound to me after several months of steady hand walking and regular turn out. I told the people I thought Harley was fine for light (walk/trot) riding. Well, last week I heard that a competent local vet had pronounced Harley sound, and the owners had placed him in a training barn in order to take lessons and leg the horse up so they could use him for trail riding. The woman knew only one local horse trainer (a neighbor), so she placed the horse in her barn. The funny part? This is a dressage barn.

I can’t imagine how odd Harley must have looked in the ring, surrounded by the other students, wearing the beat up roping saddle I helped his owner to acquire for very little money. Harley is an old fashioned type QH, very thick bodied and short coupled, with that particular straight, rather inflexible carriage that is typical of horses that have done nothing their whole life but be team roping horses. Harley is a very well broke horse for a rope horse—he neck reins at the lightest touch. But he does travel like a rope horse.

“What did the trainer say about him?” I wondered.

It turned out that the trainer was very complimentary about what a nice horse he was, how well broke, what a good trail horse he would make for his new owners. This is a testament not only to what a good horse Harley is, but to what an insightful person the trainer is, to recognize the good qualities in a horse who would not fit her discipline at all. The short story is that she supported and encouraged the new owners, gave them helpful lessons, and they are now riding Harley on the trail. I am really tickled. And my hat is off to the dressage trainer who could see what a well broke animal this team roping horse is.

Positive trainer story number two: my friend and boarder, Wally acquired a three year old colt with 30 days on him—this would be three years ago. Neither Wally nor I felt up to training a young horse, so we needed to rely on a horse trainer (or two) to help us. Not something either of us liked to do—we’ve always trained our own horses. But Wally is in his seventies and I am in my fifties and neither of us is up to the job any more. So we developed a program for Smoky that revolved around lots of turnout and some training with a good hand.

We turned Smoky (who had been raised in stalls and pens—his idea of a big space was an arena) out in my sixty acre pasture, which has lots of topography—hills and creeks and rock piles—for most of his three year old year, sending him to our trainer of choice for sixty days of riding in August and September. This trainer was/is a cowhorse trainer, with many horses in his barn that were to be shown. Both Wally and I wondered how much interest he’d have in Smoky, a nice enough colt, but destined to be a rope horse/ trail horse—nothing fancy. Anyway, Smoky got sixty days as a three year old and ninety days as a four year old, with the same good hand. The rest of those years he spent turned out in the big field, running wild with my two retired geldings. He learned to handle himself-- running full speed downhill, slopping through the mud, jumping the creek, slithering through the rocks. He learned how to be a horse. As a five year old he got sixty days in the spring with his regular trainer and ninety days in the summer with a rope horse trainer, learning his trade. Then Wally brought him home and we both rode him. Wally roped on him, I rode him in the arena and on the trail. Wally took him on a pack trip. Smoky did great—we both liked him. We turned him out for this last winter (Dec, Jan, Feb) and in March he went back to the original trainer for sixty days as a six year old. Wally is due to pick him up at the end of this month and he called the trainer to ask how Smoky was doing.

Now this trainer is a real laconic, cowboy kind of guy, he never says much. Getting him to talk about your horse is like pulling teeth. Not this time. Trainer went on and on about how much he liked Smoky, what a nice horse he was, how he wished he had a million like him, how much he enjoyed riding him. And he said, “This horse rally likes his work.” All this about our humble little rope horse in the reined cowhorse barn. It tickled me.

Here is a trainer who appreciated the time we took to make the horse. Who agreed with the long turnout periods. Who wasn’t in a hurry to get somewhere with the horse (of course, it helped that we weren’t in a hurry) and who appreciated the point of just making a nice all around horse who would/will never be a showhorse. A horse who has been one hundred per cent sound throughout his training, and has a good chance to stay sound. So, thanks, Gary—we really like how Smoky is turning out, and a great deal of it is thanks to your patient skillful riding. And for those of you who are interested in the sort of schedule that works to make a sound, well broke horse who likes his job, the above is an example of something that will/can do the trick. (God willing and the creeks don’t rise, of course.) No, this is not a schedule for showing your three-year-old at the snaffle bit futurity—that Holy Grail of so many cowhorse trainers. This is a schedule for the long haul—and once again, I so appreciate the trainer who can respect this goal.

Yep, horse trainers—you got to love em and hate em in about equal parts. Or so I think. Anybody else have a differing opinion or a story to share?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Horse Hermit

by Laura Crum

That’s what I am these days. Most of my “horse life” is spent here on our property (where I cannot see another house from my front porch), enjoying my horses with my family. We ride in our ring, trail ride in the hills near our home, turn the horses loose to graze, feed them night and morning…etc. In some ways, it is almost like my horses are part of my garden, or part of my family. They are not an “event” that I do. They are just part of my life. I do not dress up in special clothes to interact with them. This weekend I rode Sunny bareback with a halter, in my cargo pants and sandals, after weedwhacking our home trails in the same outfit. I climbed on Sunny mostly in order to ride him up the hill from the front gate, where he had been doing his share of weedwhacking along the driveway. Once I was on him I was having fun, so I rode him in the ring for awhile.

Though I still enjoy trail riding farther afield and gathering cattle with my team roper friends, I have to say that it is these regular daily interactions with my horses that are my greatest pleasure. Watching them graze below my house with their just getting slick coats shiny in the spring sun—it doesn’t get any better than that for me. Unless its sitting in my chair in the barnyard, just after five o’clock in the evening, a glass of wine in my hand, listening to them munch their hay. What a great thing that is—listening to horses munch hay. And then there’s watching the smile on my kid’s face as he lopes his lazy, red gelding, Henry, around the ring. That is maybe the best of all. Unless its sitting on Sunny in the spring sunshine, marveling at the silver and gold light sparks on his palomino neck. I could go on and on.

Once upon a time I valued my horses mostly for what I could do with them. Cutting, team roping, horse packing in the mountains…this was what I had them for. I still loved them, but I sure placed a priority on what they did for me. I spent over twenty years training, competing, progressing as a horseman. Many good times were had, and I remember that period of my life very fondly.

Now I value my horses more for who they are, for what its like to be with them. For what our life is like together. I have enough skill to “read” them fairly easily and know how to get along with them, but certainly I am not training or competing…or progressing as a horseman (at least, in any obvious way). In fact, some might say I’m stagnating. I tend to view it as contemplating. I’m more into “being” than “doing”.

In a way, this is very tame—perhaps its an old lady’s way of having horses. My progress with my much loved garden has been similar. Once upon a time I agressively planted and weeded and tended, let alone all the planning I did of new garden features. I must have planted over a hundred different old rose varieties out here, during the many years that I obsessed on acquiring these plants. And then there was the pond I dug, and my collection of California native plants and Mediteranean plants. Oh, and the bulbs. The list of things I created and developed in the garden is endless. And now?

Now I watch the garden grow. Oh, I’ll weed and water a bit, mostly I just observe the wild garden. I love to see what survives and how it combines with the native flora—I delight in each new bloom I find. I don’t feel much like “messing” with it any more. I just like to see how it evolves. (My husband still “farms” the vegetable garden, so there is one area that’s agressively tended, still.)

I don’t in the least regret my more active periods with horses and garden. This active work is what taught me to be a horseman, so that my horses are a pleasure to me, and to understand my garden, so I appreciate what I see. I could not, I think, as a beginner at either thing, have moved right into the contemplative phase I’m in now. No, I needed the active phase, where I learned and did so much, to be able to be contemplative in any deep way. It is hard to truly love something that you are mostly ignorant about.

Because I live a fairly solitary life here with my family, animals and garden (not to mention writing my books), I find that I really enjoy the connections I’ve made here on the blog with other horse people. I can remain in my little horse hermit mode, and still share insights with others very much like myself. Its been great fun. I know that many of you that write in here lead pretty active horse lives, showing and training and interacting with many other horse people (and I, too, lived that life for many years). I’m curious if there are other horse hermits out there, who, like me now, are mostly enjoying their horses in a quiet one-on-one way. Or maybe I’m just really aberrant?

I do sometimes get into “guilt mode”. I’ll read about what someone is doing with their horse, or get talking to one of my team roper friends who’s still actively competing, and I’ll suddenly wonder what’s wrong with me, why don’t I feel any draw to do that any more? Where did it go, that urge to actively train, compete, progress? Why am I now content with such a quiet horse life?

I don’t usually get much answer to this sort of questioning—just the clarity that that’s where I’m at now. And I’m content with it.

Anyway, someone once wrote to me that we go through different phases in our lives with horses, and I was wondering if any one else had hit this particular phase or had any insights to offer on this subject. Any other horse hermits out there?

And, now that I’ve admitted to being a hermit, if anyone actually wants to meet me (not that I am all so exciting to meet in “real life”), and you happen to be in central California, I am doing a book talk/signing with my friend, author Laurie R. King, on Thurs, May 6th at 7:30 at Capitola Bookcafe in Capitola. Also one at M is for Mystery in San Mateo on May 15th at 2:00. Both of these stores have websites, if you want more info. Or email me at

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Day at the Races

Because the Kentucky Derby is coming up on Saturday, May 1st I felt inspired to write about horse racing once more.

Statue of Seabiscuit at Santa Anita Racetrack

This time I did a cool photo montage which hopefully will give you a taste of what being at the races is all about. Because the post has lots of pictures, and because I didn't want to reload them all over again, feel free to jump over to my personal blog to see them. Enjoy!!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

In Case of Fire...

There’s a sign posted on the tack room door in the barn where I board my horse. It’s the type of sign you might buy in a tack store or order online. It’s not homemade but commercially produced. It’s a leftover from the previous barn owners.

Every day I walk by it dozens of times, and every day I’m annoyed by one phrase on the sign. Sometimes I’ll even stop and read it, even though I have the phrase memorized. I’ll ponder the content and wonder what possessed someone somewhere to make a statement like this.

The subject of this sign is what to do in case of a fire. Sounds pretty innocuous, right? Well, it should be. It has a list of bullets of what to do in case of a fire. I have an issue with one bulleted item:

If you can’t rescue all the horses, save the youngest and most valuable first.

Okay, youngest, I understand that to a point, but only to a point. How young are we talking? Should an unbroken three-year-old be rescued before a Grand Prix schoolmaster who’s fifteen years old? Why take the youngest first? Because they have more useful life ahead of them? I might concede the age thing but not completely.

But most valuable?

Now that statement annoys me. Are we only talking purely monetary value? What about the uninsured horses? Should they go first or last? After all, the “valuable” horses are probably insured for mortality.

So how is value truly defined? Just because Jane Smith spent $100,000 on her horse does it truly have more value than a thousand-dollar Quarter Horse? Are dollars the only way to define the value of a horse?

The warmblood across from Gailey is for sale for a good chunk of money so we know someone (a trainer, the owner) has placed a large monetary value on him. Is he more valuable than the little Arab in the stall across from him? The one whose owner loves her dearly and can’t afford another horse if something should happen to her? This owner has worked religiously over the past few years to bring her little mare from a green-broke five-year-old to a quite nice second level horse, while the owner of the expensive warmblood rarely comes to the barn and pays the trainer to ride him. Shouldn’t there be some value placed on hard work?

There’s another type of value which doesn’t have a dollar figure or hours-worked figure. Sentiment. Just because my horse didn’t cost more than my house, doesn’t mean I don’t love her and place great value on my partnership with my horse. Can you really place a value on love? I’d be devastated if I lost Gailey in a fire because she wasn’t deemed valuable enough to rescue. I put great value on her. I love that horse. In my mind, I want her rescued first.

So how stupid and callous is the statement: save the most valuable horses first? Even though the sign is hanging in my barn, I don’t believe the ownership or barn workers “buy” the value statement. What types of barns would agree with this statement? Would someone truly rescue the most expensive horses in a fire and leave the rest to their fate?

Are there show barns in Florida or California in which staff are briefed on which horses are most valuable? Do they get special care and privileges because of their value? If there are, I wouldn’t want to board there. I know some horse owners place little value on sentiment and treat their horses as a business. Perhaps, this particular sign was geared toward a racing barn not a boarding stable? How many barns display this same sign or some version of it?

I can’t place a value on the horses in my barn because they’re all equally loved and cared for by their respective owners. Their value is not for me to measure, nor is it for me to choose which ones live and die in a barn fire based on monetary value. I would simply remove the first horses I came to, which is why my mare is in the first stall in the barn. ;)

I am sorely tempted to find and post a different “in case of fire” sign so I don’t have to look at this one each time I’m saddling up or going in and out of the tack room.

The value of a horse or any other animal isn’t in their purchase price, but it’s in what these generous animals give to us and what we give back to them. It’s in the soft nickering when we walk into the barn in the morning. It’s in the big brown eyes that follow us as we’re saddling up, hoping for a treat. It’s in the great ride in which we were in harmony with our horses. It’s in so many things money can never measure.

If I ever feel currency is the only measure I use to value my horses, I’m hanging up my spurs and taking up golfing or some other sport not involving a living, breathing animal.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The End of the Road?

by Laura Crum

I’ve written on this blog before about my collection of retired/rescued horses that I keep in a pasture near my home. Among these horses is thirty year old ET—a horse I rescued when he was seventeen and had become a “trading horse” who was headed for nowhere good. I bought ET partly because he was sweet horse who needed a friend and partly because he was so unusual. He wasn’t named ET for nothing. You never saw an odder looking horse. His resemblance to the extra-terrestrial of the old movie is striking.

ET is a registered QH with a good pedigree—he’s by a son of Two Eyed Jack and out of a Blondy’s Dude mare. ET himself is about 14.3 and despite being a team roping heel horse all his life until he was twenty is still perfectly sound today. So his confirmation, if odd, was/is certainly functional. More than that, ET was a very good team roping heel horse, winning many dollars and awards for many tough young cowboys. But nobody ever kept him, nobody ever got attached to him (except me). Why? Again, he is the oddest looking duck you ever saw—I would guess that’s the reason.

ET looks like a cross between a giraffe and a dachshund. He has a long, thin, neck, and holds his head very high—not just when ridden—its his natural head carriage. He also has a very, very long back—the top half of him somewhat resembles a sixteen hand TB. Underneath this are his very short—but well made—legs. Add to this that the horse is missing one eye (said to have been lost in an accident—he looked like this the first time I ever saw him), and is slightly Roman-nosed, and you have one odd looking critter.

ET has always been a hard keeper—he’s a long, skinny snake of a horse by nature. When I first took him on, I gave him to a friend who roped and had little kids. The friend roped on ET and his kids rode the horse. Everybody was happy. The guy kept ET turned out in a large pasture—it seemed ideal. But about the time ET turned twenty this friend returned the horse to me.

“He’s getting too old to rope on,” he said, “and it costs too much to feed him.”

ET couldn’t get by on the pasture any more. And my friend said the horse was stumbling a lot. We wondered if he was losing vision in his one good eye, or just had cordination problems due to getting older.

I took ET home and gave him to a woman whose horses were all really fat. She kept them in little pens and fed the heck out of them. She didn’t ride, but she got the horses out every day and hand grazed them, led her kids around on them…etc. She always kept two horses and she had just lost her mare to colic. ET seemed like the perfect choice.

“You can’t make him too fat,” I said. “Go ahead and feed him all you want.” I told her the horse should be fine for leadline work at the walk, but advised against riding him any faster, because of the tripping issue.

Again, at first all was well. ET was plumb gentle. The woman’s kids loved him. When I went to see him not a rib showed. She took good care of him. We were all happy. I checked on the horse regularly for awhile and then I began to trust that it was a good situation and ET had found his forever home. This was a mistake.

ET stayed there about five years. I took to calling once in awhile to see how things were going, rather than visiting. Another mistake. One day I called and she said she was having trouble keeping weight on him. She fed him all the hay he would eat and some grain. I told her to start him on equine senior delight—this is not the equine senior most people mean, but a feed that is produced by a small mill around here. It had done wonders for my old horse, Burt, who lived into his late thirties. Well, this gal said she would do it. I trusted her. Mistake number three.

About six months later, the friend who had first taken ET came to visit. His kids, teenagers now, wanted to see the old horse. So we went by. What an eyeopener. ET was thin—way too thin. He looked as though he hadn’t been out of his small (and muddy) pen for a long time. I asked the gal what was going on. Wasn’t she feeding the feed I recommended?

Turns out she’d lost her job, had no money, her kids were older and uninterested and she had a new boyfriend who was taking all her attention. She had discontinued feeding ET the senior feed because it was “too expensive”. I picked the horse up the next day.

So now I had this very skinny twenty-five year old horse. I put him in a pen, wormed him, and fed him free choice equine senior delight. Three months later he looked fine, and I turned him out with my herd of retired horses, who were all fat on lush pasture. ET was in heaven. You never saw a happier brighter-eyed old horse. But it didn’t last.

By mid-summer the other horses were still fat and ET was too thin. I took him out of the pasture, and put him in a small field next door and kept him on free choice equine senior delight. It worked. ET rebounded, and was once again slick and shiny. But he moped, missing his friends. So I gave him my old horse, Gunner, for company.

Gunner and ET are the exact same age—they’re both 1980 foals. And Gunner, too, could no longer get by on pasture. I figured I’d feed them both equine senior delight and they’d be happy. Expensive, but workable.

For awhile it worked. ET was dominant, so he ate what he wanted. But Gunner was a chowhound. He cleaned up whatever equine senior there was left and when ET returned to eat more it was all gone. Gunner got fatter and fatter and ET, predictably, got thin again.

I had one small field left. I moved ET there. He could see Gunner and the other pasture horses. He had three acres of lush green grass. He got free choice equine senior delight all day long. Once again he rebounded and began to thrive.

OK, I thought, this is how he has to live. He still gazed longingly over the fence at his buddies, but overall he seemed reasonably content. And this situation has worked for some years. ET turned thirty this spring, and I was pretty happy with how he looked. For the hardest keeping horse I have ever known, at thirty years old, he looked pretty darn good. But…

A month or so ago, ET started to lose weight again. Nothing had changed in his situation, he still ate about the same amount of feed, but he was failing. I wormed him, and upped his equine senior delight, but it didn’t help. And he began to behave aberrantly. He had always been gentle, but now he began to shove over the top of me when I came to feed and spook away violently when I tried to blanket him. I couldn’t/can’t be sure if he has lost most of the vision in his one eye—and/or his hearing-- or if he is getting a form of “senile dementia”. My old horse, Burt, lost a lot of his vision and hearing near the end of his life, and sometimes seemed a bit dazed and confused. I never knew exactly why, I just took it for granted. Old people get like this, too.

But now I am faced with a hard choice. How far do I let this go? I am not going to invest money in diagnostic work, treatments..etc. This may sound harsh, but the horse is thirty years old. I have done my best to give him the retirement he deserved. But I have ten other horses to care for, let alone my family and other critters. I’ve been down this road before. Realistically, if ET can’t live a decent life with the conditions I’m providing, its time to let him go. It is not a time for pouring a bunch more money into him, or putting him through any stressful procedures. I am not hauling this old horse anywhere, ever again. When it is his time to go, I will have him euthanized in the field where he is now living.

What I struggle with in these situations, is where to draw the line. Usually I feel the horse himself will let you know, and I am waiting to get the message from ET. And yet, I don’t want to wait until he is suffering. Yesterday, when I tried to put a horse blanket on him (which I have done many, many times) and the old guy freaked out and almost ran through a fence, I began to think maybe the time has come. I remember another horse blogger, I’m not sure who, that had an old mare with similar problems, and I remember that she eventually chose to put her down, partly because she was becoming a danger to people. I think we may be getting there with ET.

Anyway, if any of you would care to chime in with your advice on how/where you drew the line in a similar situation, it would help me to hear your stories/insights. Thanks--Laura

Monday, April 12, 2010

Magical Memories

By Terri Rocovich

I don’t know if it is old age descending or a mid-life analysis or what, but lately it does not take much to spark an old memory from the mental tapestry of my experiences with horses and they make me smile. Raised from a small child with horses in my life, like many of us, every childhood memory, every crossroad, every coming of age experience, all involved a horse to some degree.

Yesterday it happened again. I took a big group of my students to a local schooling dressage show and we had a great day. One of the younger girls who will soon be 10, rode a lesson pony of mine named Tahoe. Like many of the horses that I was blessed with as a child, Tahoe is a wise senior citizen of nearly 28 years who knows his job as a schoolmaster and guardian of horse crazy little girls. Tahoe has probably performed more dressage tests than I have in my career and probably, if he could speak, could teach more about the 20 meter circle and how to ride a test than I can.

So yesterday, Tahoe and his current charge rode Training Level Test 1 and ended up with the Blue Ribbon. You could have powered every major city in America with the light of that little girl’s smile as she proudly walked around the warm-up area with the blue ribbon hooked onto Tahoe’s bridle. Even Tahoe seemed to be smiling, or almost smirking, at the other horses as if to say “I still have it you young whipper-snappers; don’t count me out!”

As I watched Tahoe and his little girl with glee, I found myself thinking about the very first blue ribbon I ever got. As the youngest of 3 horse crazy girls, I was often trapped in the shadows of my two older sisters and was at times doomed to be the perpetual recipient of hand-me-downs, including the 4 legged variety. One of those second-hand equines was a retired thoroughbred named Luigi. Now Luigi was basically older than dirt when my Dad bought him for the family, so by the time he was passed to me, he was pretty much a living equine fossil.

At that point in my life, weekends were often spent at the local gymkhana shows where my sister’s and I rode. On this particular day, I was getting to ride Luigi in the show on my own for the first time. Luigi was more than just a little long in the tooth and a bit haggard looking, I think he was about 32 at the time, and had mastered the art of only expending the exact amount of energy that he needed to. So in between classes he would lower his head and snooze, even leaning on something solid like a post if there was one by him.

Boy did I used to get teased about this but I didn’t care. Luigi and I had a special bond and I think he knew that that day was important to me. So when I woke him up from his nap to ride my Single Pole class, something really woke him up and after slowly walking into the arena (to conserve energy of course) he flew down and back on the course like the former race horse that he was and we won the class to the amazement of everyone there. I can still remember the pride and pure joy and I still have that trophy to this day. I hope that every person whether they have horses or not, can experience that feeling of elation at some point in their life. I was 6 years old when that happened and can remember the details of that day as if it were yesterday.

What great memories do you have that always bring a smile to your face and lighten your heart? I am sure like me, that there are many. I would love hear them so please share.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Chase Scene

by Laura Crum

Those of you who read my mysteries already know that I use my real horses as characters in the stories. I change them some, and I give them different backgrounds or problems, or whatever I need to further my plot line, but their appearance and behavior is much as they really are. This helps me to create believable equine personalities, rather than generic made-up horses. In my latest book, “Going, Gone”, Sunny, my somewhat cross-grained but abosutely reliable little palomino trail horse, has a starring role. At a certain point in the story, my protagonist is chased through the hills by the villain—your classic horseback chase scene. Gail, our heroine, is riding Sunny, with only a halter on his head. Our villain, who shall remain nameless (so I don’t spoil the book for you) is chasing her with pistol in hand, riding a horse he has leaped on bareback with a halter. OK, OK, I know, its not a terribly believable concept, but the book has got to be at least somewhat exciting. Oh, and lets not forget, this all takes place in the middle of a blowing storm.

Now I have never been chased through the hills by a villain on horseback. I have, however, ridden the terrain that this chase scene traverses many times—though the fastest I ever went was a high lope (on a sunny day with no one in pursuit). So here’s my idea for today. I’m going to give you a brief excerpt from my chase scene and I want your feedback on how believable it sounds. As fellow horse people, feel free to tell me what I got right and what I got wrong. Don’t hold back. Some of you have done a lot more exciting things on horseback than I have. Here we go:

"Staying on was the problem. Plunging downhill at the gallop, I was slung from one side of the horse to the other like a rag doll despite my grip on the horn. I made an effort to check Sunny with the leadrope, desperate to stay aboard, and felt him slow a bit. I pulled myself upright and risked a glance backward up the drive.

Nothing but trees tossing in the wind. I blinked. Still nothing. If he’d run after me, he would be in sight by now.

I slowed Sunny to a long trot, fast enough to keep moving down the hill briskly, but a lot easier to stay with. I did not want to fall off. He had to be coming after me. He’d incriminated himself too thoroughly. But I still didn’t see him.

I was almost at the bottom of the drive. I could see Tucker Pond ahead, brown and ruffled, its reeds waving wildly. Sunny pulled hard against the leadrope, wanting to go home. Rain and wind spit at us. We were on level ground. Dropping my hand, I gave the horse slack and let him go.

In one stride we were galloping. I could hear the echoing thuds of Sunny’s hoofbeats as he thundered along the trail by the pond. His ponderous, rolling gait smoothed out as he drove harder and we started up the hill.

Sunny grunted with effort, the wind whipped my face, the ground pounded beneath me, the trees tossed and moaned above and the storm howled. Everything seemed to be whirling around in a noisy inferno, punctuated with cold and wet. I couldn’t see much. All I could hear was cacophony.

A sudden eerie white light flared; a moment later the sky boomed. Part of my mind noted that this was thunder and not gunfire. I hung on and let the horse go.

He galloped on up the hill, his breath coming harder now. A few more driving strides and we were nearing the top of the climb. I could feel Sunny easing up and used the leadrope to slow him as we dove into the tangled shrubbery, still following the trail.

Branches slapped me; I ducked low over the horse’s neck. Sunny stumbled suddenly, throwing me forward. I grabbed the horn in time to avoid being flung off his back. Pulling on the lead rope, I slowed him to a trot.

“Easy,” I said. “Let’s get home in one piece.”

Sunny was tired. He checked down easily and trotted through the brush, breathing out long rolling snorts as he went. We passed the ruins of the Richardson house, half blotted out by vines and mist. I pulled Sunny up at the black skeleton of the swingset and could feel his flanks heaving.

“Easy,” I said again. “Grab some air. We’ve got a ways to go.”

I looked back at the trail behind us. Sunny stared, too. The oak trees tossed above the green leaved vinca. Strange wraiths of mist twisted between the redwoods across the valley. Raindrops swirled around me in gusts. Sunny’s ears went sharply forward and his head came up. And then he neighed.

For a second I didn’t understand. And then I saw. Charging through the brush, coming toward us, a horse and rider. Galloping. A dark horse with a dark clad rider.

Oh shit. He’d mounted one of the horses in the corral. He was coming after me.

I tugged on the leadrope and thumped Sunny’s ribs with my legs. But the horse danced in place, his eyes on the oncoming horseman. Using the leadrope, I whipped his sides, and he leapt forward in a sudden lunge. I ducked forward over his neck and heard the sharp crack of the pistol above the storm.

Come on, come on. He was right behind me.

I didn’t look back, just rode for all I was worth. We were charging up the hill between the oak trees, headed for the ridgeline. Sunny was running as hard as he could, excited by the shots and the galloping horse behind him, but he wasn’t a particularly fast horse. I hoped the dark horse wasn’t either.

Trees swept by, raindrops beat against my face. I could feel Sunny digging hard, grunting as he drove forward up the slope. I wasn’t hearing any more shots. Nor could I hear following hoofbeats on my trail.

I risked a glance backward as we topped the ridge. He was still coming, but we’d pulled away. He was bareback with a halter; I had the advantage. I spun Sunny and headed down the hill at the long trot.

I absolutely had to stay on. If he caught me, he’d shoot me. He was chasing me against the odds because if I got away I’d ruin him. I just had to stay out front, not fall off, and make it home. I knew exactly how hard it would be for him to hit me with a pistol from the back of a moving horse. Especially with him riding bareback, especially if I were moving, too. The odds were in my favor. Unless I fell off.

As if on cue, Sunny stumbled again, and I lurched forward over his shoulder, saving myself at the last second with a grab for the horn. My heart seemed to bounce up my throat into my mouth, and I gasped for air, checking the horse with the leadrope as I pulled myself upright. My God.

I could hear crashing on the slope above me and kicked Sunny forward. I couldn’t stop. He’d catch me. But I couldn’t fall off either."

OK—I can’t really give you more than that without giving the villain and the plot away. But I’d welcome any input you have to offer on writing horseback chase scenes. I’ve included such a scene in most of my books, and I always try to keep them believable. So, how did I do?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Picking a Fight

by Laura Crum

Joy said something in a comment on my post titled “Gratitude” that got me thinking. I hope I’m not misquoting you terribly, Joy, but it was along the lines of the idea that a horse that you’ve owned awhile will inevitably begin to reflect your own issues, and thus give you an opportunity to work on them. This thought interested me a lot, and I began mulling it over in regards to my horse, Sunny.

I’ve written a lot about Sunny on this blog, and in my latest book, “Going, Gone”, so many of you probably have an idea what this horse is like. But, to summarize, I bought Sunny a little over two years ago because he is a very reliable trail horse, and I wanted such a horse to give my young son a steady lead on the trails. I did not think of Sunny as a horse I was buying for myself when I bought him. I thought of him as a family horse, one my husband, and perhaps my son, could eventually ride.

Well, my husband obliged me by riding the horse twice, and then pointed out to me that he had never wanted a horse and preferred to walk. I, on the other hand, began using Sunny regularly, as my little boy and I were both very interested in trail riding, and Sunny was far better for this than my usual riding horse, Plumber. And virtually the first thing Sunny did was pick a fight with me.

I order to understand this in context, you need to know that I had known Sunny, in a roundabout way, for two or three years. I “knew” him as a gentle, bombproof horse that anyone could ride, and who had been reliable on a lot of trail rides. But I hadn’t been around him that much. Imagine my surprise when the “gentle” horse turned his butt to me when I went to catch him and popped his back feet in my direction, threatening to kick me. He didn’t get anywhere near me, you understand, but the gesture was plain.

OK. I beat his little butt up and caught him and that night I called the previous owner and said that I would have to return the horse if he kicked (we had an agreement that I could return the horse any time within the first thirty days). I told her that I was buying him as a gentle family horse and that kicking was not OK. No horse that I have would ever theaten to kick me. I was concerned for my son’s safety…etc.

We had a long discussion about Sunny’s kicking behavior. The upshot of it was that Sunny had never once hurt anyone. He did offer this behavior from time to time, usually with a new rider, and he had only connected once, and never left even a mark that time. Based on this info, I kept Sunny and decided I could deal with his little issue.

This issue turned out to be much more “global” than occasionally threatening to kick. Sunny would also threaten to bite while being cinched, attempt to step on your foot when being saddled, move into your space on the leadline, and balk and crowhop in an attempt to thwart his rider while being ridden. In none of these gestures was Sunny particularly serious—he was just testing. In essence, he was picking a fight to see who would be boss.

At this point you may be wondering what in the world I saw in the horse, and the answer is that I sometimes wondered myself. Sunny was also somewhat rough gaited and not terribly well-broke. But he was a great trail horse. His little “pissant” attitude translated into a calm, cold-blooded, level-headed confidence on the trail. He wasn’t bothered by much of anything. He’d seen it all—from wild animals, to traffic, to mud, to surf, to switchbacks and sidehills, and none of it bothered him. He was a willing trail horse for the most part, able to tackle anything; he gave my son’s horse an absolutely steady lead, and he allowed me to relax and keep my attention on my kid. Such horses are not easy to find. Thus I put up with his quirks, though to begin with I bemoaned them.

Why, I would ask, does this stupid little horse have to keep trying this crap? Because he did keep trying it. No matter how often I kicked his butt—and I always won, Sunny was really no challenge for any halfway experienced horseman—Sunny persistantly tried his dominance games again and again. He seemed to like being defeated. At first I found it annoying. After awhile I got curious.

My curiousity really got piqued when I (briefly) turned Sunny in with my son’s horse, Henry. Sunny’s owner had reported that she kept Sunny turned in with other horses and he was always “low man”. And, at first, it seemed to work out fine. Henry was easily dominant—end of story.

Except that Sunny wouldn’t let it be. Every day or so, he’d mount a sneak attack on Henry and try to kick him or bite him when Henry wasn’t paying attention. Henry, rightfully aggrieved at such insubordinate behavior, would lambast Sunny, and Sunny would retreat, defeated. But he always tried it again. I got tired of all the bite and kick marks on Sunny’s shiny gold hide and I worried he would get hurt. So I kept the horses separate after that. But the message was plain. This was Sunny’s behavior pattern with horses and people.

I began to wonder what it meant, what Sunny really wanted. The horse was always very interested in me; he followed me around the barnyard far more than the other horses did. He nickered when he saw me. He gave every sign of enjoying our new partnership. And he continued his dominance games. For the first time it struck me that Sunny wanted me to “beat him up”, that he was happier after I did this, that it made him feel secure. He picked fights on purpose so that I could continually reestablish my alpha horse position—just as he had with Henry.

I tested this theory once in awhile. Some days I’d get Sunny out and feel him crowd me just a tad as I led him through the gate, and even though he hadn’t done much of anything, I’d work him over a little with the leadrope and back him off the top of me. Sunny would make submissive mouthing motions and be good the rest of the day. I had satisfied his need.

Well, this was Ok as far as it went—I somewhat understood my horse, but it still left me just a tad bit aggrieved. I wasn’t sure I wanted a horse I had to beat up all the time. However, Sunny did what I needed him to do, and I became more and more fond of him, and just accepted my role. And Sunny’s dominance testing became more and more minor and token—very symbolic—he no longer offered to kick or bite, he allowed me to worm him without much fuss (compared to twenty minutes of sillieness when I first got him)..etc. All was well. And then I read Joy’s comment, and a whole new idea hit me.

I can be a fairly confrontational person. I don’t hang out with other people a lot, and when I do, I try to be very respectful of their space and their right to their own ideas. But God forbid anyone should not be respectful of me and my space. I am nobody’s yes man or doormat. The minute I feel I’m being condecended to, or manipulated, or in any way infringed on, or when I see someone trying this sort of thing on an animal or a kid, the you know what really hits the fan. Because I am not likely to be subtle in my response. I will either walk away and be done with that person or situation, or I will let them know, very directly, how I feel about said situation. As Mrs Mom said to me once, I’m a “shoot from the hip” type of person. I thought it was a very accurate comment. And after reading Joy’s comment, I wonder if Sunny didn’t come to me as a way to work on this part of my personality.

Sunny seems to need me to confront him and set boundries. As fond as I am of him, I am still required to set him straight on a regular basis. Maybe I should regard this as an opportunity rather than a burden? This is kind of a new thought for me, but it does resonate. So I thought I’d ask you all—have you experienced this sort of thing with your horses? Do you feel that you somehow get the "horse you need" rather than exactly the horse you want? What’s your take on it?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My Old Saddle

Today I’d like to pay homage to my old saddle. I’m sure many of you have a favorite saddle – one that fits you like a glove, one you’ve hung on to over the years because it’s so comfortable. English, Western, endurance, or any kind of a saddle, a horseperson tends to get attached to the equipment that works best for them.

Here is mine:

I have owned and ridden this saddle for about twenty-five years. I got it with a little trading horse that I bought and resold, but the saddle was so comfortable that I kept it. And kept it, and kept it.

I have another good name-brand saddle in the barn, and it’s nice also. In fact, I owned a saddle shop for many years, and had the luxury of bringing any saddle or piece of equipment home to try on a horse (gosh, that was fun.)

But this old saddle is the one I still choose to ride most days. I’m guessing it was made in the 1950’s, and although it does not have any markings on it, it appears to be a custom saddle. I’d love to know the maker. Notice the unusual tooling, and the braiding on the swells (which used to be red.)

The only thing I’ve done to it is add silver conchos, long saddle strings, and have a crupper ring put on the back for a little mutton-withered mule I owned for a while. It’s definitely a tough, well-made saddle.

I’ve logged literally hundreds of miles in this saddle. I trained for endurance rides with it, and in fact rode the Tevis Cup (one hundred miles in one day) in this saddle. If it looks a little rough around the edges, that’s why. It’s been used.

If I sound a little sentimental about this saddle, well, it’s true. I even wrote a song called My Old Saddle, had it copyrighted, recorded, and hand delivered it to Ian Tyson, cowboy musician. That never went anywhere, but oh well.

“My old saddle has carried me
Up on the mountains and through the streams
And I’ve sat there and watched the moon rise through the trees.”

My old saddle has fit every horse I’ve owned. Here it is on my old high-withered quarter horse, Buddy. My saddle doesn’t have a padded seat, and these days I ride it with fleece saddle cover, which makes it super comfy.

On another note: Horse Racing Update. If you marked your calendars for the April 9th match-up between Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra in the Apple Blossom, it ain’t gonna happen. At their respective prep races on March 13th, Rachel came in a disappointing 2nd against 3 other fillies, and her connections decide not to run her again so soon. Zenyatta, racing in a field of eight, won handily and is now 15 for 15. She is set to ship to Arkansas today to run in the Apple Blossom Cup on April 9th, as promised. And Zenyatta, with her come from behind style, is worth watching absolutely any day of the year, so if you can find it on television, tune in.

Anyway, back to Saddles. You've just heard about my great old favorite saddle. What kind of saddle do you ride? Do you have a favorite, go-to, never-part-with saddle that you cannot do without? Tell us about it.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Second Birthday, Equestrian Ink

A little over two years ago, I was contemplating how best to market an upcoming book of mine. This book was an equestrian romance, the very type of book New York publishers claim doesn't sell. I came up with the idea to do a group blog written by equestrian fiction writers. After checking out my bookshelves for author names, I contacted Kit Ehrman, Michele Scott, Mary Paine, and Toni Leland. They agreed to join me, and we published our first posts in March of 2008. Everyone was assigned a day to post every other week. We were off and running.

Over the past two years, contributors have had to drop out and new ones have joined. Laura Crum has been our rock. I am grateful to her for picking up the reins and posting when others are unable to post. Janet from Mugwump Chronicles joined us for a time, as did numerous guest bloggers along the way.

Our regular contributors have come from all walks of life in the horse world. As you know, I'm the dressage nut, but we represent trail riders, western riders, horse racing, harness racing, horse trainers, etc. It's been great fun, and we've made a lot of good friends. Our readership has grown from under a 100 a month that first month to over 3000 a month.

As I contemplate where we've been and where we're going, I'd like to know what your favorite posts were from EI over the past few years and what you'd like to see.

My biggest undertaking so far for EI was my series on a Conrad Schumacher rider symposium I attended. It began with this post in April of 2009: I have to admit my motives were not altogether unselfish. That was such an incredible clinic, I knew if I posted my notes, I'd always be able to find them and refer to them.

For me, my plans for future posts include a series on horse barns. I built my barn in 1995 from my own plan. At the time, I owned a 15-3 Quarter Horse. Now I own a 17-1 Hanoverian. You can bet there are things I would change about that barn, but I'll save them for next time. I would love some guest bloggers on this subject with pictures of your barn or a barn in your area, including what you like about it, and what you'd change. Email me at

On that note, I'd like to thank all of you for supporting us, and I hope you've enjoyed our posts. We feel this is your blog, too, so please let us know what interests you. Since we're all writers, would you like to see more on publishing and writing? Would you rather see more training articles? Etc. Give us your ideas.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Escape

By Laura Crum

The other morning I got a phone call just as I walked in the house after feeding my horses. It was my best friend, Sue. “My dad’s horse got out last night and they can’t find him. I’m on my way over there now. Can you help?”

Sue’s dad lives across the road from the pasture where I keep my old, retired and/or rescued horses, so she had reason to suppose I might be useful. I headed out and embarked on the effort to find Doc.

The first info I got from Sue was not encouraging. Doc had apparently pushed his way through some not very good wire fencing that was confining him in a place where he could graze.

“But your dad’s whole property is fenced,” I said. “How could he get out?”

Unfortunately, that night the front gate had been left open because they had had company. And there was no doubt that Doc had walked out the gate…and onto the very busy road outside. There was fresh horse poop on the road. But after two hours of searching, calling 911, and talking to neighbors, they had not found Doc.

Sue and her parents were beside themselves, as was inevitable. All the issues were huge in everybody’s mind. The horse, a dark sorrel, had been loose for who knows how long, perhaps most of the night, possibly on the road. He could have been hit, he could have caused a major accident. He could be causing one right now. And they couldn’t find him.

On the other hand, the fact that the cops knew of no such accident and driving the road did not reveal the horse was, in a way, a good sign. Doc hadn’t been hit on the street or we would have found him.

I searched the pasture where we keep our old horses. All of our horses were there, but Doc wasn’t. Sue and her parents took off to search some farmland nearby, in the direction in which they’d found the horse poop.

I walked in the opposite direction, around the outside of the small pasture where I keep my horse, Gunner. As I reached the far fenceline, I noticed a sorrel horse in a corral behind the next door house. There hadn’t been a horse there for awhile—the corral had been put up by a former tenant. And then the neighbor walked out of his house and said, “Are you looking for him?”

Sure enough, it was Doc. He had come walking down the man’s driveway late the night before and this good Samaritan, hearing the horse in his yard, had gotten up and put the animal in the corral and gone back to bed.

The best moment, for me, was calling Sue on her cell phone, hearing her discouraged voice, and telling her, “I found him, and he’s OK. No harm done.”

A happy ending for sure. But also a wake up call. Keep those front gates closed, folks. Its really worth it. I used to be pretty casual about keeping my front gate closed, and then, about ten years ago, my friend and boarder left a corral gate open. The front gate was also open. But in my case the horse roamed around my property all night grazing, judging by his poops, and was there by my driveway in the morning. But I became very strict about shutting the front gate after that.

The reason Doc walked out the gate and my escapee, Dunny, didn’t, is probably that I have several horses here. Dunny didn’t want to leave the herd. Doc lives alone in an area where there are many horse properties. He no doubt ambled out looking for companions.

Anyway, it’s a point worth remembering for all of us. Keep the front gate closed, and if you don’t have a two gate system, its wise to think about building one, especially if you live on a busy road.
So that was my adventure for the day. All’s well that ends well, but I sure don’t want to go through that worry again any time soon.

How about you? Any escape stories? Any tips?

Happy Easter to all! Cheers--Laura