Sunday, July 31, 2011

Good Enough?

I get hand me down magazines from a friend of mine, and I was happy to see that Good Housekeeping has added "good enough" housekeeping, which certainly describes me. But after reading some of the more recent blogs where Francesca beat herself up over Qraq's weight loss and Linda talked about making mistakes with horses/donkeys that could lead to bad accidents, I began to think about 'good enough' when it comes to my own life.

My dog Jake was just diagnosed with Lyme disease. Because he reacts to the flea/tick treatment that you put directly on the skin (and which is most effective) I've only used tick collars this year. Obviously that wasn't good enough. He went from romping on his walk one day to barely able to walk the next. I immediately took him to the vet, but he was very sick. He recovered quickly and is now taking five giant pills a day. However, Lyme will always be in his body from now on. When he went in the vet they dipped him and found several ticks. How did I miss so many? We walk in fields, I know ticks are bad this year, he has long collie-type hair, I do check him, but it wasn't good enough.

And when does not good enough trickle into downright dangerous/criminal? A brief article in the newspaper this morning talked about a Pit Bull that had hung himself with his chain. Neighbors called it in. The owners never checked. A second dog was removed from the home. This was obviously criminal and the owners are being fined. But other cases aren't so clear. Across the street, the older farmer rents his pasture to a 'horseman' (put in quotes because although he talks a good game and on his property raises supposedly high-dollar walking horses, the ones turned out in the pasture are neglected). They are neglected in my eyes, but not in the eyes of the law. All have water and shelter (now) and four are very fat. Two yearlings in a separate pasture are not being cared for to my standards. They have grass, water and lots of weeds. No grain for a growing body, and the one has what looks like bumps/rash from an allergy. I mentioned the rash to the farmer who in turn calls the 'horseman'. It's hard to tell if anything is done. Criminal? No. Not good enough? Definitely.

But in my own life there are tons of not good enough examples so how can I judge? Still, as in the title of Good Housekeeping, I try to be "good enough" every day to ensure my family and animals are loved and cared for.
How is your good enough rating these days?

On a lighter note--make sure you check out Michele's THREE books for giveaway this contest. Also, go to for a giveaway of my book Gabriel's Journey. This is a super book for anyone who loves horses and history and if you have a reluctant guy reader it will draw him in with a Civil War adventure based on the true Battle of Saltville.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Great Summer Book Giveaway

I'm really excited to have my books included in the Summer giveaway. There are three books in The Michaela Bancroft Mystery Series, and I am currently writing the fourth book. For the giveaway, I'd like to give copies of all three books to the winner. You might notice that I am now writing the books under a pen name, which is A.K. Alexander (initials of my kids' names).

Here is a blurb from the back of each book, anmd if you would like to read the first chapters, please visit my website at

Saddled With Trouble:

Equal parts suspense and understated contemporary romance, "Saddled with Trouble" is a fast-paced murder mystery that revolves around Michaela Bancroft, a 32-year-old horse trainer whose personal life is quickly coming apart at the seams.

Struggling through an ugly divorce and in danger of losing her southern California ranch to creditors, Bancroft finds her already chaotic life turned upside down when her beloved uncle Lou is found murdered in a stable stall, impaled by a pitchfork. The distraught Bancroft vows to find the person or people behind the senseless homicide, but the deeper she digs into her uncle's secretive past (an ill-managed business venture involving an artificial insemination breeding program, rumors of infidelity, mysterious payoffs, etc.), the more potential suspects come to the forefront. Even Bancroft's closest friends --- trusted veterinarian Ethan Slater and her fun-loving roommate, Camden -- become prime suspects. Ignoring the advice of hunky detective Jude Davis, Bancroft continues snooping around and soon finds herself the killer's next target….

Death Reins In:
Racetrack veterinarian Bob Pratt is missing. When Michaela Bancroft’s good friend Audrey reveals to her that her brother has been gone for a few days, Michaela assures her that she will do what she can to help.

Then when Audrey is viciously murdered, Michaela is certain Bob’s disappearance is related.

Michaela will go digging for answers that will lead her from Palm Desert to Malibu, where a killer awaits to answer her questions personally.

Tacked to Death:CLUBBED…
When polo rider Sterling Tabor is clubbed to death with a polo mallet, suspicion falls on Michaela Bancroft.

Of an alleged affair with the murder victim send Michaela into a rage and on the hunt for her own answers.

When a seedy secret from the past comes to light, Michaela finds herself in the worst kind of trouble— the deadly kind.

A new tack shop and a gala polo match are reasons to celebrate for horse trainer Michaela Bancroft—until equestrian Sterling Tabor is found clubbed to death with a polo mallet. Worse yet, suspicion falls on Michaela…
The weapon belongs to Michaela, her prints are all over it, and rumors of her alleged affair with the victim aren’t helping. With her boyfriend Detective Jude Davis out of town, Michaela doesn’t stand a chance of proving her innocence and clearing her name unless she delves into Tabor’s mysterious life—and death—on her own. But in unearthing a real suspect and a motive, she discovers a deadly past. And Tabor’s shady friends are more than willing to throw Michaela off the track—for good.

To enter, please just leave a comment in the comment box.

Thank You and have a wonderful weekend!


Friday, July 29, 2011




Minus Pride, you got picked out of a hat (actually it was a small brown paper bag!) and have won a copy of my romantic comedy, "MUCHO CALIENTE!".

Please email me on

I look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy my story :)

Lots of love,


Thursday, July 28, 2011



Just a little reminder that there is still time to enter this week's GREAT SUMMER READING GIVEAWAY and win a copy of my romantic comedy, "MUCHO CALIENTE!". All you need to do is leave a comment, and tomorrow evening (Friday, July 29th) I will put all the names in a hat and have my husband pick one out.

I posted an excerpt here when I announced the contest the other day (just scroll down). You'll also find Chapter one on my website:

Good luck!

Wishing everyone a wonderful summer.

Lots of love,


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Blunders and Near-Wrecks

When I was a young teen and knew no better, I walked right up behind a mare and she kicked me in the chest - hard enough to leave a hoof print on my shirt. I stood in the corral for a few minutes with the wind knocked out of me, not truly cognizant of the fact I had been inches away from broken ribs or a severe head injury. But it truly scared me, and I learned my lesson (the hard way) never to walk up behind a horse without speaking to it, and never from directly behind, in the horse's blind spot.

Now, when I'm teaching young people proper manners around horses (don't run and no sudden movements, keep your voices calm and steady, stay in close with your hand on their rump when you walk behind them, these are large animals and they can hurt you) I sound like a stern old fraidy-cat. In fact, my daughter used to chide me, "Mom, you have too many rules." But anyone who has been around horses for very long will get hurt at some point, and the rules come from not wishing those wrecks on other people.

But even after many years around horses, some of us who do know the rules make tiny mistakes that often cause a wreck, or a near-wreck. You know, those  moments when you think - Man, that could have been bad.

When I was in my twenties, and I'd had horses for a long time at this point, I was holding my saddled mare outside on the lawn. I needed to run inside for a moment (just a moment, right?) to grab something. I've long since forgotten what it was that was so important, but there was no good place to tie my mare. (Yes, we all know the rules, right?) Always tie to something sturdy that the horse can't break, always tie high enough they can't get a leg over it, always tie short . . . well, knowing all this, and knowing that young women can be in a hurry to go riding, and knowing I had a good mare that never panicked, I tied her (just momentarily mind you) to the ring on the propane tank!

Of course I wasn't worried, because this was a good mare that never did anything wrong, so when I came back out with whatever it is that I grabbed, the mare had taken two steps backward and the propane tank was moving! I cannot tell you how many bad movie scenarios played through my mind in the next few seconds. All I know is that I walked quickly (with no sudden movements LOL) over to my mare, mumbling every soothing word I knew and quickly untied her. Whew! Disaster averted. Then I hit myself up the side of the head about seventeen thousand times, saying Stupid, stupid stupid! What was I thinking?? Well, obviously, I wasn't.

Fast forward many years later - to the present. Lots of caution used, many wrecks avoided, and now I have two sweet, charming donkeys in my barnyard, who never do anything wrong. On a pouring rain day (and I mean pouring buckets) I decide to brush the little darlings in their large stall. While I'm in there, I decide to dust them for lice. The lice powder is outside on a shelf in the aisleway. I go out the gate, close it briefly behind me, but I don't chain it because I am only five steps away from the shelf with the lice powder. (Are you catching my drift?) In those five steps, Mr. Big (named for his attitude, not his size) decides he is bored from the long days of rainy weather, and he should push open the gate and run outside. And he does!! (The little stinker.) Well, of course he's only going to go eat grass at the edge of the driveway, so I close and chain the stall door (so Mr. Chocolate won't get out) grab a halter off the peg, and walk out in the rain to catch sweet Mr. Big. No problem - not a big deal, right? Donkeys, like horses, are herd animals, and Mr. Big will not leave his buddy, Mr. Chocolate.

But Mr. Big decides he is really bored, and will dart down the driveway to see what is there. And what is there is a busy road where people drive 50 miles an hour. I madly dash through the rain back into the house, grab my car keys and prepare to follow Mr. Big up the road, and perhaps cut him off at the proverbial pass. But Mr. Big, thank God, decides it's too big a world out there and comes rushing back on his own. He trots right past me, going back up the drive-way, and I quick-like park my rig sideways, jump out and flail my arms at him. (At this point I am sopping wet, and I'm calling him a few choice names, also.)

Mr. Big allowed me to catch him after about ten minutes. I do not want to to say how wet we both are, or how big of a wreck that could have been, or what a squished donkey on the road out front might have looked like. I was so mad at Mr. Big I almost forgot to think - Why hadn't I latched the %$#*& gate?? But I DO NOT walk through that gate anymore without latching it behind me.

Ever had any Blunders, Wrecks, or Near-Wrecks that were actually Your Fault??

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My New Horse Venture

Shatar and his owner at the Arab Sport Horse Nationals
As most of you know, I've been in an struggle trying to decide what direction to go with my riding, if any. My dressage partner of 13 years has been retired, and I've been riding lesson horses.

As often happens when you quit looking for a solution to a problem, a solution falls in your lap. A few weeks ago, one fell into mine.

I was offered the chance to lease Shatar. Shatar is an older Anglo-Arab in my barn, who's been shown extensively at FEI levels, helped riders earn their USDF Bronze and Silver Medals, and was Reserve Prix St. Georges at the Arabian Sport Horse Nationals a few years back. His owner has two other horses she rides and shows. She doesn't want to let go of Shatar, and she'd like to lease him to someone who will ride him at the upper levels. Even though he's older, he's still supple, sound, and in great shape.

Also at Arab Sport Horse Nationals
I've ridden him in a few lessons and really enjoyed him. During my last lesson, I acutally rode my first canter pirouettes and also started learning some tempi changes. He knows it all so it's a matter of teaching me.

I'll also be able to show him next year. He's a trooper with tons of show miles and moves like a little warmblood. I may even enter the world of Arabian sport horse showing, something I've never done before. It could prove interesting.

Shatar is uncomplicated, though he doesn't give anything away. He wants you to work for it and do it right.

Hopefully, another positive by-product will be that I'll lose the 20 pounds I've put on since I quit riding.

So it looks like I'm back in the saddle. I'll start leasing him in September. Stay tuned for more as I learn how to ride an upper-level horse.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


“Mucho Caliente! – Wish upon a Latino Superstar” by Francesca Prescott

Just so you know; this is not a horse story, which, come to think of it, is rather strange for someone as passionate about horses as me. However, I’m sure you’ll find oodles of passion (and plenty of giggles!) in “Mucho Caliente!”, my romantic comedy.

Thirty-seven year old Gemma hadn’t reckoned on being seated next to Latino heartthrob Emilio Caliente on the flight to Ibiza. She’d bravely dismissed her cheating husband’s generous divorce settlement, opting instead for a creatively satisfying, financially independent, bohemian lifestyle on a Spanish island in the sun. Falling in love with a pop music superstar eight years her junior was definitely not part of her plan. Common sense dictates staying away from Emilio Caliente and his cinnamon kisses: his life is in turmoil, his latest single has bombed, the press want to see him naked and his hellacious manager seems increasingly deranged. But surely the chain of extraordinary events that insists on bringing them together is proof that love is oblivious to common sense? Does Gemma dare follow her heart and wish upon a pop star without undermining everything else she set out to achieve?

Here is an excerpt of this funny, hopelessly romantic story. I hope it makes you smile! And if you’d like to read more, all you have to do is leave me a comment. I’ll pick a name out of a hat next Friday. Good luck!


I suppose things could be worse. There was a moment when hara-kiri seemed like an attractive alternative.

First of all, Emilio didn’t recognise me in the water. Of course, the wet look isn’t
really moi, hairstyle speaking. Maybe the sun was in his face. But still…

It was when I collided with the largest and meanest jellyfish in the Mediterranean that, fearing imminent death, I started screaming for help. Did Emilio jump in to save me? No, he did not. He ignored me and continued to grind his pelvis towards his foot mike, lip-synching to his horrendous remix of Besame Mucho.

It was only when his bass guitarist pointed out to him that someone might consider doing something about the drowning nutcase in the water, that Philip, the skipper, a rather gorgeous, very gentle and polite young man with black hair, abandoned ship, swam towards me, flipped me over, grabbed me around the neck and put his lifesaving skills to good use. He dragged me through the water towards the boat where Emilio and his merry mariners were shouting febrile instructions.

Being rescued by a strong and sexy mariner still held its fair share of glamour in a damsel-in-distress-ish way. It was when we reached the foot of the ladder, and, to my horror, Philip placed a hand between my legs and pushed me out of the water and skywards from underneath that the sheer ridicule of my situation hit home. It was a move similar to the one performed by world class ice-skating couples: the man places his hand on the woman’s crotch, picks her up and twirls her gracefully through the air. I’d often wondered about that. Now I’ve experienced it. But I wasn’t wearing anything. At all. Nor did I get to twirl.

My gut feeling is that the overall effect had little in common with an old Esther Williams aqua-spectacular. I was thrust out of the water bare bottomed, my bikini top flapping around my ears, watched from the beach by a gaggle of hysterical Caliente’s Chicks, watched from the boat by a wide-eyed Emilio and his buddies. I caught a glimpse of surprise on Emilio’s face as he recognised me, rolled up his sleeves, grabbed my hand and pulled me onto the deck where I lay sprawled, gasping for breath, the inside of my thighs red, raw and blistered from the jellyfish sting, most of my goodies on show.

It was one of those red hot and icy cold paralysing moments when you don’t quite know what the next best move might be. You’re not feeling bad enough not to care what you look like, yet you’re too embarrassed by the way you look to actually move. So you wonder whether you should pretend to be, if not on the verge of death, then at least more or less comatose, therefore possessing a valid excuse for looking, such as I did in that particular instance, like a limp and battered dodo.

Worse, my wild, paranoid imagination kicked in and began to meddle with reality.

Shit, I thought, he thinks I’m one of them. One of Caliente’s Chicks. And hey, guess what? I am! Should I bring up the subject and test the ground? Or should I adopt a hoity-toity attitude towards the women on the beach? A member of Caliente’s Chicks? Who? Me? No way! But then - thanks so bloody much Celeste! - he knows about the T-shirt. If I deny any connection whatsoever to the Chicks, will he check? My name is probably on a computer somewhere. The truth is out there. Sooner or later, I’ll be exposed. I’ll be sentenced to ten years of forced labour on the pink and white boat in a baby pink sequinned bikini, serving cheap champagne to mindless twits like myself. My hair will be massacred by peroxide. Kirsten will spend hours smooching Emilio in front of me. I’ll have a choice between marrying the porky captain with the perky package or walking the pink plank.

I felt dizzy. I suspect my eyes might have rolled most attractively in their sockets. I might even have dribbled seawater. I probably had seaweed stuck between my teeth.

Yet some pathetic part of me was still hoping that it might cross Emilio’s mind that the lady doth need a touch of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. That he might seize the moment. Use it as an excuse.

I would have.

I waited, trying to squint through my eyelashes to see what level of concern I was causing. So far, silence. Should I roll overboard and turn myself into fish fodder?

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Winner!

aldercreek--you have won the grand prize! Okay, it's just a book. Wait, what do I mean by JUST a book?? Books are the best and horse books are even bestest.

So aldercreek, please email me at alison at alisonhartbooks dot com so you can claim your prize (be thinking of which book you want.)

A GIANT sized thank you to everyone who visited our blog, commented, and hoped to win. The BEST news is--summer is not over and neither is The Great Summer Book Giveaway!

So ya'll come back soon.

Last Chance!

Enter the The Great Summer Book Giveaway pronto. I'll be picking a winner tonight at 10:00 EST. YOu can leave a comment here or scroll down to the the official site (with three book covers) Good luck and stay cool!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Good Things

By Francesca Prescott

I was a bit low last week, as you probably gathered from my mournful post. My horse’s protruding ribs and bony bottom had really upset me; I blamed myself for not being more vocal about my growing concerns just as much as I blamed the owner of my stables for not feeding him enough for the amount of work he was doing. Thank you again to everyone who wrote in to tell me about personal experiences, and to offer advice and support. I really appreciated it.

With two weeks of being fed proper amount, and the recent addition of extra protein in the form of linseed meal (“tourteau de lin” in French) and soya meal (“tourteau de soya), I can definitely see a difference. Qrac’s ribs are not quite as scary looking, his back feels a little more padded, and his bum is not so “caved in” and bony. Of course, he has a long way to go, as he’ll need to rebuild all the muscle-tone he dissolved when he needed it for energy, but it seems like we’re on the right path. He’s also taking daily doses of Vitamin C. He seems calmer, more focused, and is far more pleasant to ride. He’s also cuddlier than ever!

Since my trainer is away for a month, coaching one of her students at the Junior European Championships in Poland, I took a lesson with somebody else the other day. His name is Greg Sheers, and he used to work as a groom for a rider who was reserve on the Swiss team during the Beijing Olympics. Greg recently arrived at my yard with a couple of young show jumping horses he’s training, and I immediately warmed to his quiet, sensitive manner and straightforward attitude. We’ve chatted quite a bit over the last few weeks, and I really like him. He strikes me as very trustworthy, and, well, there’s something really nice about his aura! So when he told me he also gives riding lessons to a couple of people in the Lausanne area (at the other end of Lake Geneva), I suggested we try working together at some point. My trainer, Marie-Valentine, can only come once a week at the best of times, and then there are weeks on end where she can’t come due to other engagements (usually competitions), and I knew she wouldn’t mind a little of equestrian infidelity! So when I arrived at the stables in the pouring rain on Tuesday afternoon, there was Greg, hanging up wet rugs. We had a little chat, one thing led to the other, and before I knew it he’d agreed to give me a lesson there and then. Even the weather behaved, the rain kindly taking a break during the 45 minutes we were in the arena.

I thoroughly enjoyed my lesson. We didn’t do anything fancy. We just worked on the basics: getting Qrac to slow down his walk, getting him to stay in a slow, regular rhythm, getting him to really focus on listening to me. We worked on walk-trot-walk transitions on a circle, focusing on getting them smoothly through the outside rein. We then did the same in canter, and I’m delighted to report that Qrac and I managed our first ever canter-walk transition! I was so proud!

The owner of the stables came down and filmed snippets of the lesson on her I-Phone, then emailed them to me last night. I watched them, satisfied by what I saw, but also thinking how much work and effort and concentration goes into trying to perfect those simple basics. It’s pretty crazy, really! I mean, if I show a none-dressage buff those three little videos all they’ll see is a black horse trotting slowly on a circle, going back into walk, and then back into trot. Boring as hell, right? Okay, so there’s the canter video as well, but unfortunately Steph didn’t film my canter/walk transition, not that it was anything to broadcast on CNN! Nevertheless, I’d have liked to see it, especially as it was on the previously dreaded right lead canter! I’d post these little videos if only I knew how, just to show you where we’re at.

But since I’ve no idea how to post them, I’ll post this one instead, just to show where I’d one day like to get! Besides, trust me, it’s far more interesting!

What about you? What are you working on with your horses at the moment? What do you enjoy?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A great horse in History.

I hope everyone is surviving all this summer heat and humidity. I am heading to Kentucky in a few days and although Lexington is beautiful and certainly horse mecca, I don't look forward to the forcast heat and humidity.

With all this hot weather, plus travel time on planes, I have been reading a lot more. I just started a book called (which was recommended many months ago by one of my fellow EqInk writers) The War Horse. The book has now been made into a highly acclaimed play; which I will be seeng in September when I will be in London. This is why a friend of mine sent me a link to a story about a true war hero horse named Sgt. Reckless.

Listed is the link to the youtube videos about her. I was enthralled when I watched yet I am puzzled as to why a book, to my knowledge, has been written about her let alone a movie.

More information can be found about this amazing horse at
There is more detail on the story of Sgt Reckless. The mare's heroism during the Korean war led to her being promoted to Staff Sergeant by the Commandant of the US Marine Corps.

Currently Sgt. Reckless is listed alongside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and John Wayne as one of our all-time heroes. Many years after her there is even a Sgt Reckless Fan Club on Facebook.

Let me know what you think of her story and happy reading!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Great Summer Reading Giveaway Continues!

Yee Ha! Congratulations to Jackie for winning a copy of The Horse Jar. You are going to love it! Now it's time to round up your young readers (or not so young) and once again lasso a chance to win a book for great summer readin'. Since I have a wide variety of books for all ages and interests, I'd love for you to ride on over to my website at
and take a look at the book section. I even have non (gasp!) horsey books for those of you who enjoy history or mysteries, as well as books that combine horses and mystery, and books that combine history and horses. When you comment, please mention which looks like the one for you (or for someone special.) My attic is overflowing with books, so I would love to send one to the winner! I'll pick a name at random from my cowboy hat Friday night July 22nd.

Until then, keep reading and thank you for hanging out at our blog whenever you get a chance.

Winner of The Horse Jar

And so to announce the winner of our second Great Summer Reading Giveaway

*drum roll please*

THE HORSE JAR, by Linda Benson, goes to HorsesAndTurbos - Jackie!

Jackie - if you'll email me linda (at) lindabenson (dot) net - I'll get the book sent out to you pronto.

Thanks to everyone who entered, and stay tuned. A new contest will be posted very soon, with more chances to win books!

We do appreciate all of you that read this blog, and this is our way of giving back.

Congratulations to the Winner, and thanks so much to all that entered.
Happy Summer! Happy Reading! Happy Riding!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Trouble in Paradise

Everyone makes mistakes. And it’s no use fretting over shoulda-woulda-couldas; the problem has been dealt with and everything will be all right. Still, I wish I’d spoken up more firmly, insisted, taken a stand, pointed-out the increasingly obvious: Qrac was losing weight. But my lack of confidence, my fear of confrontation, my tendency to believe that other people usually know better kept me from doing so. Consequently, I’ve been worried sick, losing sleep, mentally self-flagellating. I’m feeling slightly better now that everything has been hauled out into the open and discussed, and that my horse is beginning to look better.

Qrac hadn’t been getting enough food, but I didn’t know it.

You see, Qrac was a tad chubby when I bought him in April this year. He was also a little full of himself when he first arrived at the initial, temporary yard, so my trainer cut two litres of grain from his feed, taking him from six to four. He still got plenty of good quality hay, and was doing fine, with plenty of energy yet a lot less mischief.

After five weeks, feeling relatively secure with him, I moved him to the yard where my other horse, Kwintus, is now enjoying his retirement. The owner of the stables put Qrac on the minimum food ration, claiming her feed is very high energy compared to “regular” feed, and since he was new and young and pretty fiery, this was the best way to go for the first few days. I figured she knew best, and didn’t argue.

What I didn’t realize it that she was feeding him an amount of food normally given to horses at rest. Also, she never put it up, at least not until ten days ago, when she finally admitted that Qrac’s ribs were seriously showing, his hip bones starting to protrude, and that his overall appearance was pretty poor.

What upsets me is that I’d told the owner of the stables quite a few times that Qrac was getting thin, but she didn’t want to up his grain, claiming he had plenty for the amount of work he was doing (I’m a dressage rider). We weighed him, and he was ok, just over 500 kilos, but I still figured he was about 20 kilos under his ideal weight. She agreed to give him an extra kilo of hay per day, but wouldn’t add more grain, assuring me it would just heat him up, make him more difficult to control.

Since Qrac had plenty of energy and was working well, I didn’t argue. Also, when my trainer came to give me my weekly lesson, she couldn’t see his ribs as they were covered by the saddle and the saddle blanket.

But I couldn’t help thinking that, considering the amount of work Qrac was doing, he should have been building muscle. This wasn’t happening. And when I weighed him a month later, he’d lost close to 30 kilos. That’s a lot of weight! Clearly, the poor guy had been burning his muscle reserves.

I called the vet and told him what has happening, asking him whether the fact that Qrac was losing weight might have something to do with the chemical castration (which is what the owner of the stable claimed). The vet assured me that all the horses he’d treated had always put on weight, and asked me to find out exactly what Qrac was eating, to get it all down on paper so he could take a look at it two days later when he came to give my horse his second chemical castration shot. This was when I discovered Qrac was still on an amount of food for a horse at rest. Stunned, I immediately asked the owner of my yard to up his grain to an amount suited to a normal working sports-horse.

When the vet came, we did a blood test to rule out any other problems. He also asked when the horse had last been wormed, which, as far as I know, was back in April, at the stables where he’d been temporarily, but I couldn’t be sure. He gave me some worming paste, and told us to add soy meal and flax meal to his diet to up his protein intake as, in his opinion, despite the alfalfa Qrac was receiving, his feed didn’t contain enough. He also prescribed a daily dose of vitamin C to boost Qrac’s immune system. And he gave my horse his second chemical castration injection.

The next two days were horrendous. Qrac had an even stronger reaction to the chemical castration shot than the first time (chemical castration is two injections, a month apart). He ran a very high fever, and clearly felt awful. Thankfully, his temperature went down slightly twenty-four hours later, and finally disappeared on day three. Riddled with guilt and worried sick, I walked him in hand for a few days, and when he looked well enough, saddled him up and took him for a quiet hack. He seemed fine, so the next day we did some light work in the arena.

Now, with the recent addition of extra protein to his diet, and ten days after his food has been upped, Qrac is beginning to fill out again. His coat is shiny, his ribs less obvious. He looks better. Yesterday evening, after walking him for half an hour, I headed down to the arena and worked him for about half an hour. He was fantastic, the best he’s ever been outside of a lesson with my trainer. He seemed more settled, more focused, more stable in his tempo, far less “scatty”. I was so relieved.

I don’t know why the owner of my stables kept Qrac on such a low diet for all those weeks. I don’t know why she didn’t notice Qrac’s weight loss, or listen to me when I told her he was getting thin. I blame myself for not putting my foot down, for being such a pushover, for letting my horse down. Assertiveness has never come easy to me, and I’ve always been aware that it’s something I need to work on. This awful episode with Qrac has given me one more reason.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Do you supplement your horses with soy or flax? Have they responded well to it, or has it caused digestive problems (such as colic)? Do you prefer to feed alfalfa? Have you ever called on a nutritionist to help you determine what to feed your horse? Thank you for your feedback.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I'm Back Again

I'm back again.
It's been three weeks.

I turn off the road onto the driveway to the barn where I take my lessons, and my horse is boarded. Funny, I didn't really miss it while I was gone. In fact, I been seriously considering cancelled my lessons and being 100 percent horse-free. You've probably heard this from me before in the past several months.

Yes, I considered it.

But then I considered a lot of things, such as giving up horses completely, spending time and money on other things, things normal horseless people spend money on like clothes and vacations and new cars. Yeah, stuff like that. I considered it long and hard during my three-week hiatus.

I dreaded going to the barn that day. I had too many things to do, didn't really want to ride. I arrived at the barn fully intending to give up my lesson spot that evening. After all, there are plenty of clients dying to have a prime spot like mine in the early evening.

I walk to the arena to get my horse assignment. (If you've been following this blog, you know that my wonderful dressaage partner of thirteen years has suspensory issues and cannot be ridden and has been retired to broodmare status.)
I've been assigned Ciro to ride. Now Ciro is as close to a push-button dressage horse as I've ever ridden. He's FEI level, knows all the tricks, and is incredibly supple and sensitive. His owner has gone boating for a month and wants him kept in shape.
I groom Ciro, saddle and bridle him, and head to the arena. It always take me a while to get the stirrups adjusted correctly on someone else's saddle. I walk him around the arena, then trot as the other lesson is finishing up.
My lesson starts. I'm still wishing I was home working on my latest book. We start by getting him round and over the top and lifting his shoulders. Once he does that, I can sit him somewhat easily. Then we do shoulder-in, half-pass, haunches-in at the trot.

We go to canter. He has a lovely canter. You just plug your butt into the saddle and sit there. I do canter half-passes. He makes it simple. Enjoyable. Just like it should be.
I've ridden him enough to know that it just takes a touch to lift him into a canter and a switch of legs and seatbones to change leads. We head down the short diagonal, and I do two changes, ending up on the counter canter. Easy. Really easy. He's just rolling along. We do some more all over the arena.

Dang, this is fun.

I guess I won't talk to my trainer about giving up my lesson time. Not yet, anyway. :)

(Oops. I accidentally posted this to my Jami Davenport blog yesterday, not my Equestrian Ink Blog:)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Equestrian Ink Great Summer Giveaway - THE HORSE JAR

The Equestrian Ink Great Summer Giveaway Continues!
Because we appreciate our readers so much - and because we think Summer is a great time for Reading - we are giving away one of our books each week! This week you can win THE HORSE JAR, by Linda Benson. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this blog post. You have until Friday night, July 15th, 2011 when a random winner will be picked.

THE HORSE JAR is a children's novel, but many horse and animal minded adults have enjoyed it, too. It's published by Mondo Publishing, which sells directly to schools, so you won't find it in bookstores. But here's your chance to own your own copy! It's a horse story, a dog story, and a story about a girl who goes after her dreams . . . oh never mind - here's the blurb:

Annie Mitchell has worked so hard to save her money for the one thing she has been dreaming about for years - her very own horse. What Annie didn't count on was how much hard work it would be convincing her parents that she can take care of one. But she does what she can to prove it to them, and just when things seem to be going her way - Annie is faced with the most difficult decision of her life! Will Annie's choice sacrifice everything she's worked so hard to get? Will she lose the best friend she has ever had? She never knows what to expect - and neither will you!

For more information on Linda Benson and her books: or or you can follow her on Twitter

Just leave a comment below to enter! Good Luck, Everyone!

The Winner of The Gift Horse

I apologize for not announcing the winner last night. I wrote down all the names and put them in a bowl. My house guest drew the winner.

And the Winner is:  Redneck Geologist

Contact me at and we'll make arrangements so you can receive your book.

Thanks to everyone for participating and for reading our blog.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


I have never been the type of person who accepts or deals with change easily. I thrive in an environment of consistency and routine with all things familiar. So when change is forced on me, as it always inevitably is, I struggle with it, even though many times it is for the best. So, today marks one of those times of change and yes, I am struggling.

Hank, who is the paint on whom I am pictured on the sidebar of this blog, sadly has to be retired at the age of 10 due to lameness. As I have previously written about, after moments of glory in his brief career as an Event and Dressage horse, he has developed sidebone so severely that nothing has helped for him to regain soundness and all the vets can tell me is either nerve him or retire him. So I have chosen the latter. Nerving, which I am sure that many of you are aware of, is the practice of surgically cutting the nerve to the afflicted area. A procedure relatively common in dealing with chronic issues in the foot like sidebone and navicular. It does not solve the problem it just takes away the horses ability to feel it.

Now I am not going to debate, or pass judgement, on the humaneness or appropriateness of this procedure, I am just saying that I have a moral issue with it and do not feel it is the right decision on Hank's behalf. Sidebone is the calcification of the collateral cartilage in the foot exacerbated, if not caused by concussion. So odds are it would progress at an greater rate if he used himself uninhibited by pain. I would rather have a pet and take care of his needs for the remainder of his life rather than nerve him and use him and have him crippled in a few years. My choice, I know.

So that brings me to my issue with change. Because Hank seemed unhappy watching all of the other horses in my barn being ridden, I made the choice to take him to a friends house to be a pasture/barn mate for her horse. She even has comfort pads in her barn stalls which will be easier on his sidebone. But the transfer today was much more difficult and emotional for both of us than I thought it would be. He seemed unsettled and confused and I was just pretty much a basket case. How do I explain to him that I am not deserting him rather I am trying to give him more happiness. I think he will settle in eventually but I am not so sure about me.

I know I tend to assign a full range of human emotions to all my animals, but how do we know they don't feel the same as we. He is less than a 1/2 hour away and I can bring him home any time, so why do I feel so horrible. Have any of you experienced a similar situation? Even with my new horse Uiver captivating so much of my time I think I am grieving as much for Hank's lost career as much as anything else. Silly, I know. I also wonder what all my other horse's think (see there I go assigning human emotions). What do you all think, am I certifiable or just slightly eccentric?

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Fourth and the Flies

Wishing everyone a horsey Fourth of July and hoping that no critters get freaked out by fireworks this year. We are careful to make sure our horses are in the pasture with the best fencing and our dogs are locked in the garage before we leave for Staunton's fireworks display. Neither horses nor dogs appreciate either!

I have been doing informal research on fly control this spring since they are on my mind and my body (and my horses' bodies) in pesky numbers. After taking polls and getting feedback from Facebook friends and fellow bloggers, I've concluded that it takes an arsenal to keep flies under control, and even then we 'humans' are losing the battle. The problem is made worse because you and your barn may be battling flies, but if a neighbor is not, then it's tough to decrease the numbers. I use several methods that work for me, and after 'researching' will try a few more. But my neighbor has heifers on his fields all winter, and the manure is never cleaned up. Now he has horses that belong to a renter (who I have never seen attend to the horses)on a back pasture. There is no fly control at all. When I ride past, the flies cover the horses' faces and backs. No masks, no sprays, no manure picked up.

But back to fly control. What works best for my two horses is bringing them inside during the hottest part of the day. Like Terri, I use fans to keep flies out of the barn. My husband mounted two huge dairy fans that hang from the ceiling. Turn on those suckers and the horses stay cool and bug free even in our hot, humid weather. However, after about five hours, Relish has had enough of his stall. He starts bellowing at anyone who will listen. Farnum fly masks--which I have found to be the most durable-- go on in the afternoon for turnout unless I know I can't take them off at night. Anal, I know, but I see too many horses who wear their masks 24/7 for weeks at a time. Terri mentioned Equissential Fly Masks, which I have not tried.

I use Endure rollon for riding--only putting it on Relish's face. If I ride early enough (before 8:00 am) the flies aren't too bad. A facebook friend recommended Quiet Ride Face Masks, and after going to the website, I'm eager to try one to reduce the amount of fly product I use on Relish.

Skin so Soft (find an Avon lady) was the clear winner for spot treatment. Linda recommended Clear Swat (around tender areas or wounds) and Laura recommended Bite Free by Farnum (which she warned was expensive); Tri-Tech 14 and Bronco were also products that people endorsed. Like Terri, I also use Equispot, which is dotted on like the flea/tick dog product. It's supposed to work for two weeks, but seems to lose it's effectiveness after the first two week period I use it. Perhaps the flies get immune to it or it could be they are more brazen later in the season. However, it definitely helped to control ticks when my horses were turned out in the neighbor's field, which doesn't get mowed often.

For those who get tired of sprays, Francesca and Terri both recommended feeding garlic granules, which is growing in popularity. (Terri mentioned her barn now smells like a "cheap Italian restaurant" a description I loved!) Fly/yellow jacket traps work well--but put them out early in the spring. Also set them away from the barn--you want to attract pests to the traps, not invite them inside. Lastly, several people mentioned fly predators, which attack fly larva in the manure. Because I have two horses and compost my manure, I don't have enough of a problem to warrant predators, but I would love to set a bunch lose at my neighbors!

Let us know your favorite product for controling and killing flies so we can all enjoy riding pest-free. Also don't forget the GREAT SUMMER BOOK GIVEAWAY! Lots of terrific books for lazy-day reading for you (and your kids) will be given away July through August. Tell your friends! Scroll down to Jami's blog, which kicks off the contest.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Equestrian Ink Great Summer Giveaway--The Gift Horse

Perhaps it's fitting that we start off our great summer giveaway with my contemporary romance novel, titled The Gift Horse. To enter just comment on this blog post. I'll draw a winner at random next Friday night, July 8. You must be 18 to enter. You can choose either a paper or electronic copy. I am willing to ship to anywhere in the world. Every week for the next month or two, we'll post another of our author's books.

The Gift Horse BLURB:

Never look a Gift Horse in the mouth?

Carson Reynolds would dispute that statement. A gift horse got him into this mess in the first place. His mission: transform a run-down horse farm into the premium facility in the Pacific Northwest and a disorganized horse trainer with a penchant for self-sabotage into a winner.

After six years, Samantha MacIntyre has returned to the scene of a horrific barn fire allegedly caused by her carelessness. She accepts the head trainer position at that run-down facility to prove her innocence and to ride the talented, temperamental horse Carson received as a birthday gift. But first, she must pass the test: compete the horse for one season, impress Carson, and best his sister's preferred trainer.

As Sam and Carson get closer to the truth and mishaps escalate into serious accidents. With the help of an opinionated equine, they face a surprising reality--that love is more important than ambition, money, or blue ribbons.

Read the first chapter here: