Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Horses, Joy, and the New Year

by Laura Crum

Today I want to share a happy story, in honor of the new year and the hope I think we all hold that 2010 will be full of joy. Here in coastal California its greengrass season—all the pastures are bright with new grass. Those of you who have read my posts know that I keep five retired/rescued horses turned out in a nearby pasture. The other day my kid and I went out to do a little reshuffling, and were treated to such a happy moment that it made us both grin from ear to ear. So I thought I’d share it.

First, the background. My five pasture pets have various histories. One is my thirty year old horse, Gunner, who has been my horse since he was three. I got him when he had thirty days on him, and trained him to be a reasonably successful reined cowhorse, cutting horse, and team roping head horse, in that order. I did all the work myself; I was his sole rider. I still have many trophy buckles, headstalls and blankets that Gunner won for me. Gunner is featured prominently in my mystery series starring equine vet Gail McCarthy, so many readers know him from these stories. Gunner was retired at fifteen, due to various arthritic complaints, but he still trots sound today. Needless to say I have endless loyalty to Gunner, and had always firmly intended to retire him and give him the best life I could. However, my other pasture pets are a mixed bag, and I’m never quite sure how I acquired them all.

One is a horse I trained for my team roping partner. Rebby was never technically mine, but I did all the training on him, and was/am very fond of him. I’ve told his story in some blog post or other—I can’t any more remember the title or when it was done. In any case my partner and I agreed to share the burden of retiring Rebby when this great horse was crippled at the peak of his career. At nine years old Rebby came up with an aberrant wobble in his stride. He didn’t seem to be painful, but he was uncoordinated. Many dollars and a year later, there was no definitive diagnosis. The likliest culprits were/are a strained sacroiliac joint or EPM. In any case, that was over ten years ago, and Rebby has remained exactly the same. He walks, trots and lopes with a weird waddle, appears to feel fine, and does not deteriorate. He’s a friendly horse (was a bottle colt) and we all love him.

Next we come to Danny. Danny was my horse. I’d known him since he was born, and always liked him. I bought him as a three year old with thirty days on him, just like Gunner. Danny was the last colt I ever trained. After I’d been riding Danny for a year I got pregnant at the age of 42. And I quit riding. I let my friends finish turning Danny into a rope horse and he made a good one. But he was crippled in a freak accident when he was seven (hit by a truck—it’s a long story, and I’ve blogged about Danny before, too), and I made the choice to retire this very nice bay horse who is and will always be slightly lame in the left hind.

Then, there’s ET. I’m sure I’ve blogged about him, too. ET was never my horse. ET was the funniest looking horse I’d ever seen, and a great team roping heel horse. He was sold from cowboy to cowboy and as he got older and older it was easy to see what his end would be. I’d always admired him—such a sweet, gentle, hard trying horse, and really talented. He looks like a cross between a dachshund and a giraffe and is missing an eye (I’m not kidding). He was named by a previous owner because of his resemblance to the famous space alien. And he is the hardest keeper I ever knew. But he makes me smile and to make another long story short, I bought him and retired him. ET is thirty years old this coming year (like Gunner) and like Gunner, he still trots sound.

And, finally Gray Dog. Gray Dog makes no sense at all. I have too many horses. And yet I let a friend foist this older gentle lame (of course) gray gelding on me. However, turns out I’m very fond of Gray Dog, too. My post on him was titled “An Old Gray Horse”, if you happened to see it.

My five pasture pets live with an OTTB mare that the pasture owner rescued many years ago. So we have six of these old useless horses on this twenty five acre property. The property is divided into one twenty acre field which has an underground spring and grows very strong pasture—in a good year it supports four horses with only about a month or so of feeding hay. There are also a couple of two to three acre separate fenced fields. Because ET is such a hard keeper, he must live by himself in one of the small fields and eat free choice equine senior delight. Gunner lives in the other small field and gets a ration of equine senior delight that works for him. Until recently, Gray Dog lived with Gunner because he was skinny when I got him and I needed to put some weight on him. But the small field didn’t like having two horses. As the green grass tried to grow the horses mowed it down until the field looked like a bumpy putting green, and it was apparent that I needed to change something. Since Gray Dog is now in very good flesh, I decided to put him in the big field with Danny, Rebby and Ariel—the OTTB mare.

And now we come to the story. I moved Gray Dog on a sunny winter morning. The fields were brilliantly green, and the air was warm. The three horses in the big field came loping over the hill, feeling good despite their various soundness issues, and greeted their new companion. Gray Dog flagged his tail and trotted in big circles. Ariel crowhopped like a filly. Danny and Rebby came over to the gate to nuzzle me and my kid. And then Danny and ET did something so cute it just made my day.

Each on the opposite side of their common fenceline, the two horses paced down the fence together very purposefully. Their necks were arched and they pranced a little, but they were basically walking. Down and down they went, maybe fifty yards away. My son and I watched them, wondering what they would do.

Suddenly, as if at a signal, both horses wheeled around and began to run toward us, jumping forward as if starting from the header’s box—or the starting gate. Side by side, with the fence between them, they ran flat out straight towards us, as hard as they could run. My thirty year old horse and my cripple. They ran like the wind. Racing each other for fun. Running for joy.

My son’s eyes were wide, his face virtually glowed. “Its like being in ‘Spirit’”, he said (we rented that movie not too long ago).

And it was, actually. There we stood, in the sunny, wide open meadow, watching two horses galloping right at us. They pulled up as they neared us, manes and tails flying, and made a big circle around us.

“Danny won,” my son said. “But ET ran hard.”

Both horses trotted and snorted, looking proud of themselves. Danny came over for a head rub. My little boy patted ET’s shoulder. And I thought how much fun it all was, just being with these old useless horses on this sunny winter morning. Even if I can’t ride any more, even then, there will still be much joy to be had with horses. And I am so grateful that I have been able to share this joy with my young son.

Happy New Year to all of you. May many joyful “horsey” moments come your way in 2010.

And if any of you have any happy moments with your own horses to share, I'd love to hear them. Also, don't forget about "Reader's Write" Saturdays. Send Jami something you'd like to post on Equestrian Ink--a short piece of your own fiction, a description of the book you'd like to write, your own horse's story--anything you think would interest our readers. Send to

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Reflections on 2009

This isn't really equine-related, so I hope that's okay. Is anyone with me that Christmas seems to have lost its meaning?

I used to love Christmas. These last few years, I've dreaded it. Christmas is for families, and my husband and I don't really have any immediate family to celebrate with.

I couldn't get in the mood, no matter what this year. I've talked to so many people this year who didn't even bother to decorate. The only reason I decorated is because I had the barn Christmas party at our house. Next year, I don't believe I will. I'm not looking forward to taking the decorations off of a twelve-foot tree. Ugh... I think next year we'll go to Hawaii for Christmas. We went to the San Juans for Thanksgiving and had a wonderful time. Treating ourselves to a trip sounds a lot better to me than buying each other a bunch of gifts we don't really need.

I managed to get a cold the day before Christmas. I'd planned this wonderful, old-fashioned Christmas Eve party, which to my surprise about a dozen people accepted my invitation to attend. I purchased prime rib, which I've never cooked before but thought I'd give it a shot. A friend was bringing his karaoke machine, and we planned on singing Christmas carols. It sounded like great fun to spend the evening trying to recapture the original spirit of Christmas. Unfortunately, I was too sick so I had to cancel. We did end up having a nice Christmas day and dinner with very good friends and my stepson and his fiance. I even felt well enough to enjoy it.

As I'm sitting here, reflecting back on 2009, I had to remind myself of the good things that happened this year. All in all, it truly was the best year ever for us.

My husband and I were not affected directly by the economic crisis. We are fortunate to have very good jobs. I'm happy to have both of my stepsons back in our lives after long absences for both. I'm thrilled with our new "man cave" addition. I'm glad my husband quit smoking. I'm grateful we were able to take several trips as we love to travel. I'm appreciative of our good friends and their support over this past year. They say people come into your life when you most need to learn the lesson they have to teach. That is the case here. Also, we both have our health.

I'm also thankful that the mystery behind my husband's identity theft has finally been solved, as best as it can be. Now there's a post for another day, even though it's not horse-related. It's certainly a lesson regarding protecting your identity, as the consequences of his identity theft are still with us in many ways.

As far as writing, The Gift Horse was published in February. It went into print in July and is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble (online). I really loved writing this book, and I hope you'll love it, too. I'm toying with several projects in 2010. I may try my hand at a suspense novel set in my hometown of Oroville, Washington. I'm finishing the last edits on Fourth and Goal as we speak, then I'll be submitting to several publishers. I have tentatively agreed to write four more books for my current publisher and need to get started on those.

Horse-wise, this was a very different year for me. I didn't show in one show. Of course, up until her bout with cellulites Gailey was going better than she ever has. I hardly rode at all, which is strange for me, maybe once or twice a week. As a result, I put on ten more pounds. Dressage really does burn calories. I'm also considering that I may not have a dressage-sound horse when all this is said and done. Which brings up a dilemma I haven't dealt with in years. Do I want another dressage horse? Will I just bring her home and trail ride if that's the cards fate hands me? After building the man cave, we really don't have any expendable income left for another show horse. So this may be something I'll need to face in the future.

Gailey is feeling good. She's been turned out every day and is leaping and bucking around her paddock. I'm going to ride her on Monday for the first time in over two months. At first, I'll just walk her. Her leg and hock are still swollen but not painful. I've had several people tell me that she needs exercise at this point to get the swelling down.  So that's what I'll tackle next. We both need the exercise.  ;)

Last, but not least, I'm thankful for the success of this blog and all the people we've met because of it, as our readership continues to grow.

Please send me a bio and picture so we can all get to know our readers for our Readers Write Saturdays. You don't need to use your real name, if you'd prefer not. We'll welcome anything that's appropriate, such as an equestrian-themed piece of writing, a story about a horse in your life, or just a bio about you. Just send me an email to

This has been a rambling post, but I hope you enjoyed it. Have a great 2010!!!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Reader's Write Saturday--Linda Benson

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. As Laura announced earlier this week, we are going to be doing a Reader's Write Saturday where we get to know our readers. Send us a bio about you, your horse, or anything that might be of interest to our readers. We'd love to get to know all of you better.

So if anyone is interested in writing a post for equestrianink, send it to me at, and I'll post it on the next free Saturday.

Our first participant in Reader's Write is fellow writer, Linda Benson. Welcome Linda!!!

Hi Jami - Nice to meet all of you. I enjoy reading Equestrian Ink. My name is Linda Benson and I am a horsewoman, animal lover, and children's author. I also blog at about horses, writing, animals, and other things.

Over the years, I've done lots of things with horses, including team penning, endurance riding, jumping, as well as owning a horse brokerage business and a successful saddle shop. I've even raised donkeys, and enjoyed learning another kind of equine mind. But more than anything, I have always loved to trail ride. At the moment, I ride an old quarter horse gelding in his twenties that packs me safely around the woods behind my house. I got Buddy last August as a very skinny rehab/rescue horse, and he has made amazing progress, which I've talked about in my blog.

I have two published children's novels, and an article coming out in Equus magazine about enjoying riding as we get older.

My next novel, called THE GIRL WHO REMEMBERED HORSES, is out on submission right now with my agent. It takes place in the future, during a time when humans have all but forgotten horses and their connection to mankind. Except for one girl, who dreams about them. Even though this manuscript is set in the future, I wouldn't call it a fantasy. I tried very hard to make all the horse details ring true - so that a horse person reading it might think, yeah, this could actually happen this way.

I live in the Pacific Northwest, and I've found a schedule that works pretty well for me. I write in the rainy winters, and I ride in the lovely summers. Right now I am pretty much chafing at the bit, wanting to get back on my horse. Hopefully, right after Christmas I will get the old guy out and saddle him up, whatever the weather.

Cheers. and Happy 2010!
Linda Benson


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Winter, Horses, Books, and Life

by Laura Crum

Its that time of year again. The days are short and chilly and we have rain (or snow) and the horse corrals are muddy (or frozen). Most of us aren’t riding as much as we were and its easy to feel guilty about that (see my previous post on “Taking a Break”). Its also easy to feel down this time of year and focus on problems, like my saintly kid’s horse who wasn’t a saint on his last few rides (see my previous post on “The Lazy Horse”). These last six months have brought me the loss of three friends—two to death and one to disagreement, and its easy to feel sad about that. My husband and son have colds…well, I could go on, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that the winter season can get you down.

But Monday night was the solstice. We lit candles together as a family and acknowledged that we’re turning the corner…now the days will begin getting longer. We’re headed toward spring. And I thought about all the things in my life that are beautiful and delightful, as the candles sparkled in the winter night.

My husband and son are happy and (besides the colds) healthy, as are my horses, dog and cats. Henry may be lazy, but he’s hale and hearty, after going through colic surgery at the age of twenty. How grateful I am for that. We built a little addition to our house this summer—a small separate house with two rooms and a bathroom—much needed, as we live in a 650 sq ft house. This new little house turned out great and we’re so happy with it. I’m grateful for that. We live in a beautiful place where I can keep my horses at home and go trail riding out my front gate. I’m really grateful about that. I have the use of a lovely pasture just ten minutes away to keep my five retired/rescued horses—I’m thrilled about that. I have good friends and family around me. My life is great—I’m very lucky. I try to say “thank you” every single day.

On the writing front, the eleventh book in my mystery series about equine veterinarian Gail McCarthy comes out this spring. Titled “Going, Gone”, it revolves around the murder of a livestock auctioneer, and includes kill buyers, rescue horses, and a heroic horse blogger. Not to mention, for those of you who are fans of mugwump chronicles, “Going, Gone” features illustrations by mugwump herself. I’m sure you will all agree that the book is worth its purchase price for Janet’s drawings alone.

I hope that those who have enjoyed my books in the past, or enjoyed my blog posts on EI, will read “Going, Gone”. Many of my horses are used as characters in the story, and my local trails provide much of the background. I think you will find lots to interest you, and I’d love to get your reviews. The book should be out in April—it can be ordered from the usual sources or directly from the publisher—ordering info is on my website.

Currently I’m hard at work on book number twelve. The publisher has agreed to buy this book and release it in Spring 2012. Since my goal has always been to write and publish a dozen books in this series, I’m pretty tickled to be working on number twelve, knowing it has a berth. I’ve been very fortunate in my writing career, and I’m grateful for that, too.

Finally, I’ve very much enjoyed writing blog posts for EI, and getting to know those of you who write back. Season’s greetings to all, and I hope many blessings come your way. The earth is now tilting back toward the sun, for us in the northern hemisphere; may the coming year be a good one. Cheers--Laura

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Lazy Horse

By Laura Crum

So today I’m going to ask you all for a little horse training advice. Here’s the problem:

I’ve written before about my son’s horse, Henry, a twenty-one year old QH gelding, who was a good team roping horse in his day and who is an excellent babysitter now. Henry is steady and reliable, and has taken my kid on many, many trail rides. We have not had one truly difficult or dangerous experience—knock on wood. But Henry, like all horses, has his faults. A former owner allowed the horse to graze under saddle, and Henry has never forgotten this. Same owner fed Henry treats by hand, and Henry hasn’t forgotten this, either. These things haven’t caused much trouble—we don’t make a practice of feeding him treats by hand and my son is able to be forceful enough with his bridle and crop to forestall the grabbing at vegetation. But there is one more problem. Henry is lazy.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Part of the reason I bought Henry is because he is lazy. My number one priority is to keep my kid safe, and Henry being lazy is a good thing. Henry does not run off—ever. Henry doesn’t jig or prance, almost never spooks. Henry is laid back at virtually all times—he is both reasonably well broke and lazy enough not to want to exert any effort he doesn’t have to.

The problem is that Henry does not want to lope as many circles as my son likes to lope. The older my kid gets the more competent he gets and the more he likes to lope along, rather than walk or trot. And though Henry is fit and sound and believe me, is never worked past a very light sweat, he is getting more and more adamant about not loping.

Because my son is gaining in competence, he has worked through this issue several times, developing a different way of applying his crop, becoming more focused on getting a good depart from the walk rather than letting the horse trot…etc. And he can lope Henry quite successfully….until the horse decides he’s had enough. At which point, on our last two arena rides, Henry came up with a new behavior. And this behavior was so frustrating for my kid that both times I climbed on the horse and gave Henry an “adjustment”, something I haven’t had to do in six months.

I rode in my son’s saddle, I wore the same soft boots with no spurs that he rides in, used the same mechanical hackamore and English riding crop. And I learned something. Henry was being a royal pain in the ass. I had to use a lot of force, with both bridle and crop, to correct him. I got it done and Henry minded his p’s and q’s (for me) quite sweetly, and loped exactly when told. But as soon as I put my son back on him he reverted. And I could see that my son wasn’t going to be able to work through this problem very easily.

What is Henry doing? Once he’s decided he’s done loping, he ignores the cue, puts his head down between his knees, bulls into the bridle, and just trots faster. He also uses this device to go where he wants to go…back to the other horses, to the gate, to the barn..etc. So, something has to change.

Now, here are the parameters. My son is cuing Henry correctly. Until Henry is done with loping, they get along fine. Henry is being flagrantly disobedient because he doesn’t want to continue loping circles. When I “fixed” him, I merely punished him effectively between bridle and crop and he quit defying me…and went back to doing what he was told. I need to find a way for my son to effectively discipline Henry and still stay safe.

That last phrase is why I don’t want to go to the obvious—put spurs on him. Henry minds very well with spurs. He’s been ridden with spurs his whole life, like many rope horses. But spurs can be truly dangerous. An old man of my acquaintance died last month…partly because of spurs. While making a team roping head run, he missed his dally, lost his balance, spurred the horse by accident, and the horse dumped him. A broken neck, and death, resulted. It is just too easy for a little kid to panic and grab a horse with the spurs, or lose his balance and gig a horse hard without meaning to. I’m not ready to put spurs on my kid.

I could get him a more deadly whip. But I don’t think I want to go there either. What I plan to try is putting a bridle back on the horse. I think Henry will be unable to bull into a bit the way he is currently bulling into the hackamore. Lets face it, Henry was ridden in a proper bridle with a bit his whole life until I got him. I put the mechanical hackamore on him for two reasons. First, many horses are more relaxed and comfortable in this, and this was true of Henry. Second, my kid, like many kids, would sometimes pull on the horse when he didn’t mean to, and this can be easier for a horse to tolerate in the mechanical hack. Overall, I just wanted Henry to let down and forget about being a ropehorse and pup around for my son.

Well, I got it done. And now I’m faced with wanting Henry to step up a little more and lope when he is asked to lope, even if he doesn’t feel like it. So, I’m going to put a bit back on him, and possibly a tie down, we’ll see. It sounds counter intuitive, but many horses, like Henry, who have worn a tie-down their whole lives, will raise their heads when one is put on them, as if they are feeling for that steadying restraint. I will have to try the horse in various headgear and see what works. But I have to find something in the way of a bridle that Henry can’t bull into and defy the signal to bring his head up.

The other thing I’m going to do is already happening. In the past, I have gotten past Henry’s “lazy” issues by giving the horse time off from arena work and doing trail riding, which he enjoys. Then when we go back to the arena, he’s more willing to lope. Its been raining for awhile, so Henry is getting some rest. And I have to admit, the two “lazy” episodes happened at the end of a week in which Henry had been ridden five times. And I have some sympathy for the old horse getting sick of loping circles.

Nonetheless, the fact remains that Henry is not being asked to do anything that is beyond him, not even close. He is merely being asked to do something he doesn’t want to do. And he needs to learn to obey my kid under all circumstances. When he puts his head down and refuses to bring it up, he is essentially out of control and he clearly knows it and is taking advantage of it. And this is not OK.

So there you have it. That’s the problem I’m currently working on. Anybody have any thoughts?

Oh, and also, we at equestrianink would love to get to know you all better. We were thinking of a “reader’s write” Saturday, where we could put up posts you have written about you and your horses and writing about horses. So if anyone is interested in writing a post for equestrianink, send it to Jami at jamidavenport@att.nete and she will post it on the next open Saturday.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Taking a Break

By Laura Crum

I mentioned in a post awhile ago about “finding balance” that I have a really hard time feeling Ok about not riding four or five days a week. Today I want to explain why I feel this way, and ask if any of you struggle with this “guilt issue”. I know that for me, it can really take the pleasure out of having horses and I am always working on finding the right balance in my life and not obsessing on riding. So, how did I get to be this way?

Well, I was raised to be a bit of a zealot about riding my horses regularly. My tough old team roper uncle, who was my first and main teacher, felt that you should ride your competition horses (and practice horses for that matter) virtually every day to keep them legged up. The horse trainers I worked for in my twenties espoused a similar ethic (though they didn’t always practice it). During the ten years Gunner was my main mount it was a rare day that I didn’t ride that poor horse. I bought him as a coming three year old and retired him at fourteen, due to various arthritic issues. I firmly believe those issues were caused by early and fairly intense training, and just an awful lot of miles.

By the time I was riding Flanigan and Plumber, my ideas had changed. My team roping partner was a more relaxed guy, and though he liked to ride and did ride regularly, if the weather was bad, and/or there was some other reason, he was perfectly happy to let a horse stand for a few weeks and then go roping on him. And lo and behold, nothing bad happened. The horse wasn’t too fresh; the horse didn’t get hurt. The horse didn’t even lose that much condition. This went on for years.

I learned something. You don’t have to ride a broke horse into the ground all the time to keep him going. It’s a fallacy.

I began riding my horses when I felt like riding. Sometimes that would be four or five days a week. Sometimes it would be once a week. The horses did fine. Plumber and Flanigan both stayed sound and competitive until they were twenty—far longer than Gunner had done.

Now, I grant you this won’t work on every horse. I’m not arguing that point. But on our fairly easy going mature QH team roping horses, it actually worked better than riding every day. The horses felt better, seemed happier, had less lameness and overall just did better.

I should add into this equation that I keep our horses in large (100 by 100 on average) corrals where they can run around and play if they feel like it, so they are not stuck standing in a stall or small pen when we don’t ride.

So, anyway, hey, sounds great, right? I’m riding when I want to, the horses are happy, no problem.

Well, there is one slight problem. I was raised by my zealot uncle (in the horse biz, anyway). I’m a Catholic school girl. The problem, in a nutshell, is guilt. I feel guilty if I don’t ride five days a week. At some deep level I still believe I’m “supposed” to. That the horses need this.

Fast forward to the present. I spend my riding time trail riding and riding with my son. Our mature easy going horses do just fine whether I ride them once a week or five times a week. They’re reasonably fit and I never demand too much of them. A long trail ride is a three hour ride. If they start to puff, we rest and let them air up. They are never ridden to the point of being really tired.

So wouldn’t you think I could let go of my guilt issue and just enjoy these horses?

Well, sometimes I can. And sometimes I get sucked right back into my old way of thinking. This fall we rode a lot. The weather was good—my son and I went riding three or four days a week. Week before last we rode six times. And then the weather got cold and wet. Suddenly I’m back to riding one day a week if I’m lucky. And I start to feel guilty.

Oh, and lets not forget the mud. I live in a part of California where we get a lot of pleasant weather all year round. It virtually never snows—it doesn’t get real hot or real cold. But in the winter we get these long rainy spells. And during these rainy spells the horse corrals get muddy. Even big corrals get muddy in heavily used areas. And I look at my horses, squelching through the mud and feel guilty. Never mind that none of these particular horses have ever had one mud related problem in their lives (if any of them had a tendency to develop abcesses, I’d be more concerned). But there is nothing like muddy corrals to ratchet up the guilt factor.

It took a conversation with a friend, another recovering “ride em every day” horseman, to show me what I was doing to myself. Between work and such, she is lucky to ride one day a week sometimes, just like me. Her corrals are muddy, too. And, as she pointed out to me, her horses are thriving. They are both sounder than they were when she rode more often. She reminded me of what I already knew, but had forgotten. Its Ok to take a break. Its Ok to ride when you can. Its Ok not to push too hard. Both our horses and ourselves benefit.

Now I’m taking a break, while the rain rattles on my tin roof. My horses are dozing in their sheds, taking a break, also. And we’ll all enjoy a trail ride on the next sunny (non-muddy) day—guilt-free. Or that’s my goal, anyway.

Anyone else have this issue? How do you cope with it? Any suggestions?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Claustrophobia and My Mare

I really enjoyed Michele's post and your comments on animal communicators. In fact, I've been planning a book in which the heroine is an animal communicator. I think it would be a hoot to write.

One really good book I read on the subject is called "Spoken in Whispers" by Nicci Mackay.

For those of you who've asked, my mare, Gailey, is finally getting over her cellulitus. This weekend was her first turnout weekend. The picture above shows my hubbie hand walking her Thanksgiving weekend. As you can see, she's lost a lot of weight.

On a personal note, I did have the misfortune of tripping across an animal communicator whom I didn't consider legitimate. I went to her for acupressure on my horse, not for her opinion on my horse's mental state and didn't appreciate her grandstanding at my expense in front of a bunch of spectators.

Don't get me wrong, I do believe there are people who are in tune with animals and can communicate with them. I also believe there are plenty who take advantage of the human owners. This particular person was quite arrogant and made me feel about 2 inches small. She treated me like I didn't know my mare, while she had her figured out. It didn't set well with me, but I gritted my teeth and kept my mouth shut. People who truly have these gifts are usually much more humble.

I do know this horse. I've owned her for 11 years. We've been through hell and back together. Many of you have read my old posts on her, including our trailering issues.

So this woman proceeded to tell me the mare was being belligerant, and she could get her to load in the trailer frontwards (I load and haul her backwards).  She also said she could "fix" her because the mare was a bully (she can be) had my number (only when I let her). She volunteered to have her husband assist me as he was a disciple of a well-known horse whisperer. The minute she said that, I knew I had her. You see, the man who told me to NEVER load my girl frontwards because of her extreme phobia regarding hitting her head happened to be her husband's mentor. I informed her of such, which rendered her speechless and her spectators in shock. I politely thanked her and left.

Which brings up the real subject of my post this month. My mare is claustrophobic to the point of it being a severe phobia. I've learned over the years to work around it. Unfortunately, not everyone who handles her understands her like I do.

If you knew her history, you'd understand where all this originated. As a youngster, she grew fast. As a result, I don't think she realized how big she was. At a few years old, she was being led into her stall. The barnworker didn't bother to open the stall door completely, and he left the latch sticking out. The latch embedded itself between two ribs and almost punctured a lung. She still carries the scars. Six months later, she was caught in a fence at the same boarding stable. She still has those scars, too. Add to that, a trainer who wenched her into a too-small trailer a year later and a broken nose from hitting it on the trailer.

I worked for years with natural horsemanship trainers to cure her issues to a point. I've outlined most of those experiences in past posts, so I won't bore you with any of those details.

Here's the problem. During her recent two-month convalescence and confinement to a stall, her claustrophobia issues have come back. It's really odd, as I'm the only one handling her. She balks coming in and out of the stall. Normally, I don't have problems with her unless someone else has scared her by yanking on her lead rope until she throws her head and hits it on the stall door.

Currently, she has been leaping in and out of her stall, after balking in the doorway. Not exactly a safe thing to have a 1500-pound horse going in and out of a stall like a horse breaking from a starting gate.

To handle her fear of stall doors, I don't turn and face her and pull on the lead rope when she balks like most people would do. I've learned that I need to stand at her head facing the same direction and walk out with her. I repeat until she follows me calmly. I've been working on this for the past month, yet she still leaps in and out of the stall door. It as if she believes a troll is hiding on top of the door to smash her on her head. I'm puzzled because she hasn't had any episodes that I know of what would have triggered this reaction. I don't understand what's going on.

So I, too, have been entertaining calling a animal communicator. Michele's post was quite timely for me. I'd be most interested in hearing anyone's theories as to what may have dredged up this old behavior.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Talk to the Animals

I have a question for you...Has anyone ever used an equine communicator? I have actually had a gal "talk," with our pony Monty and it was a pretty amazing "discussion."

Monty came into our family about a year and a half ago. He was fabulous. For seven months Monty was fabulous. My daughter took lessons from a wonderful teacher who is also a dear friend, but who is also a school teacher, so when she had to go back to her day job, she let us know that she had to back off of lessons and working with Monty. She was still able to do a couple of days a week, but I knew that with Monty being a new guy with us and with my daughter being small and although she'd been riding for a few years--she needed that extra attention. There was another trainer where we were at, at the time and I had watched him with some of the kids and thought he was pretty good with them, so I approached him.

Long story short--pony didn't like this guy. It wasn't long after they started working together that Monty had his first bout of colic, then Monty began to colic about every 3 weeks. Then he started doing things like bolting with his kid, and acting like a nervous wreck inside his stall. I started scratching my head wondering what the hell had happened to our fabulous pony?!?

My gut began talking to me, and my gut was saying there's something really wrong here. Monty colicked again, and at that point my vet looked at me and said, "Get him out of here, change everything about his program, or you might lose him."

There is so much more to the story, but it would be about ten pages long, so this is the short version.

Needless to say, I called up Terri (where we'd gotten Monty from, and she'd told me if there was ever any issue to bring him back and we'd figure it out). I told her the problem and within twenty-four hours we had the horses at her place.

Monty and Krissy have now been at Terri's for 9 months--and guess what? Not one colic, no silly pony shenanigans to really pique the fear factor for the kid or me.

So back to the equine communicator. This gal came to "talk" to the horses not long after we got up to Terri's. She had no prior knowledge of Monty and the issues. We told her we were concerned that Monty had had a tendency to get fast with his kid.

She wrapped her arms around the pony and after a few minutes looked at us and asked, "Who else rides him besides the little girl and Terri?" We said that I did and occasionally another working student (a young woman). The communicator said, "No. The man, who is the man?" She looked right at me and a shiver went down my spine. "You know who I'm talking about," she said. I nodded. "Yeah well, the pony doesn't like him and is afraid of him, and he has reasons to be." Now--there is still a lot more to this but for time sakes, I'll keep to the short version. Then she wrapped her arms back around him and asked all of us (my vet included here) to send him light and love and let him know how much he's loved. All of a sudden this lady begins sobbing. I mean--totally sobbing. We were all looking at each other... She apologized and explained that this happens about once a month with a horse. She told us that he had just let go of a ton of grief. That Monty never understood that he was anything more than a commodity. He never understood that he could be or was loved. Now maybe this sounds crazy to you, but this is what I can tell you happened afterward:

Up to this point Monty was never affectionate. He did his job but he never seemed happy. He didn't seem to care if his kid was there or not. He just did what he was supposed to do and that was that. The communicator told us to constantly talk to him and tell him how much he is loved and that he is now a part of a family and will always be a part of our family, because he had a fear that we weren't going to keep him. I did this with him for a week straight, and the most amazing thing happened after about a week. I was in the barn with him by myself and I took him off the cross-ties, and removed his halter to put the bridle on. All of a sudden, Monty just placed his head right in my chest and stomach. He just stayed like this with me for at least a minute or longer. Then he very gently (not pushy at all) rubbed his face on me--it was like when a cat rubs on you, not when my silly mare pushes me all over the place. I scratched him between his ears and told him hown special he is. And I swear he sighed. It was like this moment of true understanding for him--as if--"I get it. I'm part of the family." Since that day, as soon as he sees his kid or me, he jogs on over, he lets out a little nicker, he paws on the ground until we make it over to him, and it's obvious he feels like he is loved.

Both Monty and his kid are thriving together. He has been off his ulcer meds for two months now. He's fat and happy (maybe a little too fat), and he's settled.

Now I don't know your feelings on people who communicate with animals but I have to say that I am a total believer. I really believe that the lady who came and talked to Monty helped him and us a great deal, and I am really grateful for that.

Call me crazy or tell me if you've ever had anyone "talk" to or with your horses.

Have a great weekend,


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Feeding Treats

By Laura Crum

Awhile ago I read a, shall we say, spirited discussion on another blog about feeding horses treats by hand. Some were for, some were against—enthusiastically so. So yesterday, while my little boy and I were giving each horse in turn an apple that we’d picked from our apple tree, I thought, with an inward smile, that at one time I would have been amongst those who were adamantly opposed to feeding treats. In fact, in theory, I still am. Ah, the difference between theory and practice….

I decided this would make a good subject for a blog post, so today I am going to discuss, not whether we should or shouldn’t hand feed our horses treats, but rather why it doesn’t matter as much as I used to think it did, and the difference between theory and practice.

First off, the way I got to be one of these folks who sneers at hand feeding treats (in theory, anyway) has a lot to do with how I was “raised” in the horse biz. My tough old team roper uncle would no more have considered feeding one of his horses a treat than he would have considered calling them pets. I was raised to think of people who behaved in this silly way as somewhat ridiculous, not real horsemen who we, the real deal, looked down upon. It wasn’t said outright, but everything implied it. At some point or other I absorbed the viewpoint that not only was it “silly”, but it made horses pushy, rude and mouthy. To some degree, I still subscribe to this viewpoint. I don’t, in general, feed my horses treats by hand. But…

At a later point in my career with horses, about the time I took up team roping, in my thirties, I began to get a little less rigid about how I treated my horses. I began to play around more. If I ate an apple, I’d hand the core to my horse. If I drank a beer, I’d pour some in my palm for Gunner, who turned out to absolutely love beer. I didn’t worry about making Gunner pushy, mouthy or rude (and he wasn’t). I just enjoyed having fun with him.

Then I had a kid. I began by teaching him not to hand feed stuff to the horses. It just makes sense. Why lose one of those little fingers? But my kid got older. He read books, he talked to other kids, he had ideas of his own. He wanted to feed his horses cookies and apples and carrots. I taught him to put the treats in the manger. But then he wanted to hand them to his beloved pony. I let him. The pony had very good manners. No harm resulted.

Eventually my kid wanted to give his horse, Henry, a birthday party, complete with heart shaped cookies to be hand fed to each horse, “to show that we love them.” I couldn’t say no. Some of the horses take treats nicer than others. I handed the grabby ones (who I believe have been hand-fed by previous owners) their treats, and let my kid hand over the treats to the polite ones. We got through the party, though I couldn’t suppress the occasional inward eye roll. This was certainly not the “cowboy way” I was raised with. But we did have fun.

And now, from time to time, we go down to the barnyard and distribute apples. Mostly we put them in the mangers. Depends on which horse. Do I think this is a good idea? Sort of. I have to say, anything that makes us feel connected to our horses and helps us enjoy them is not really a bad thing. I don’t, however, allow my kid to feed the more mouthy horses treats by hand. It just makes sense to me. I don’t want to spend my time punishing these horses for grabbing. Its better not to encourage them.

So what do I end up with? In theory I don’t believe in feeding treats by hand. In practice, well, I sometimes feed treats by hand and I sometimes don’t. Depends. How’s that for a nice clear statement? In my own defense, let me quote the famous Zen teacher Suzuki Roshi. “You’re perfect just the way you are, and you could use a little improvement.” That pretty much sums up my practice.

So how about you guys? Any insights on this subject?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

General Lee

by Laura Crum

I’ve owned quite a few horses in my life. And because I rode my uncle’s horses, and rode for various trainers, I also rode a lot of horses that weren’t mine. Once in awhile, out of a clear blue sky, I’ll remember some horse I haven’t thought about in years. And the other day I remembered General Lee.

General Lee belonged to my uncle. He was a “trading horse” of no particular interest or value. He’d been somebody’s backyard horse and my uncle had acquired him for a few hundred. Once it was clear that the horse would not make a team roping horse, my uncle’s only purpose was to sell the animal at a profit. To this end he offered to loan me the horse for the summer, with the idea that I could put a few miles on the animal and make him more salable as a riding horse.

I was off at college at the time. I had just sold Hobby, a gelding I’d trained to be a reasonably successful reined cowhorse. In the fall I would buy Burt, a green broke five-year-old that I kept until his death in his late thirties. But for that one summer I did not have a horse. I agreed to take General Lee.

General Lee was a middle-aged gray gelding turned white, with a thick cresty neck and a heavy-boned, coarse frame. He looked a bit like an old war horse—thus the name. We always referred to him as “the General.” He was easy enough to climb on and ride, but not either well broke or reliable, as I found out. He was capable of bolting, rearing, constant jigging and stupidities such as turning sideways while descending steep hills. He was not a particularly endearing horse. I kept him at the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo campus and rode him through the hills there. I have memories of times he nearly got me killed and also happy memories of riding through that beautiful landscape on the old white horse.

One moment in particular sticks in my mind. A sunny summer afternoon, I was riding through the hills alone on General Lee. As we neared a place where the railroad tracks crossed the dirt road I was on, I could hear the train coming. I stopped, a ways from the tracks and waited. I was not entirely sure how the General would react to a train. The train, when it appeared, turned out to be the Amtrak, and the General turned out to be indifferent to trains. I stood by the side of the tracks and waved back to all the people waving at me from the windows. For a moment I saw myself through their eyes and imagined how colorful I must appear. A young blond woman on a white horse, way out in the middle of the wide-open hills, miles from any town. I realized just how lucky I was to be this person. And then the train was gone.

Summer wore on. I put some miles on the General. I let my friends ride him--with mixed success. No one was hurt, at least. The horse remained an ill-broke, not-too-reliable critter, but he was fun to have around. If you weren't an anxious rider, he was perfectly servicable as a trail horse.

When fall came, I sent the General back to my uncle. I never knew what became of him. Presumably he was sold to be a riding horse. But my uncle was perfectly capable of hauling such a horse to the local livestock auction and letting him take his chances. I never knew. I never even asked.

I was young, about twenty. I had been around my uncle and his somewhat callous way of treating horses all my life; I took it for granted. In my later years I began to think for myself and developed a huge distaste for such callousness. But at that time it did not occur to me to be concerned about the fate of General Lee.

When I think of the horse now, I feel very sad. He was one of many trading horses that my uncle went through over the years. I am sure that many of them did not come to a good end. And I rode and enjoyed lots of them. But General Lee was, for one brief summer, “my” horse, under my control. I could have kept him, if I chose, or found him a home. Today I would naturally assume this responsibility. Then I didn’t think to do so.

I remember that moment as the train went by and I wish I had thought to value what that horse gave me.

Its one of many things I wish I could do over. I wish I had had more understanding when I was young. I wish I’d done my part to place that old white horse in a good home. But its too late now. I can only do the best I can for the horses I have in my care, including my rescue horses and retirees. And I can help, once in awhile, to place a horse like Harley (see last month’s post—“A Thanksgiving Story”) in a forever home. And I can say “I’m sorry” to General Lee and all the others that I just didn’t step forward for.

I know we can’t help them all. And I’m not really beating myself up. I just think that most of us carry a little of this particular sorrow—the pain of all the horses we’ve known that we didn’t/couldn’t help. When, once in awhile, such a horse crosses our mind, we think, “I wish”….or at least I do.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hiking Versus Riding

By Laura Crum

I think I’ve posted before about my resolve to hike the trails near my home as often as I ride them. The primary reason for this is that I am getting stout, and need the exercise far more than my horse does. But there are other reasons.

My husband is not a horseman and prefers to hike, and though he will hike with us when my son and I ride, we are not, in that instance, much of a group, as the horses outdistance the hiker, especially on the uphill climbs. Of course, when we hike, my husband, son, and dog all outdistance me, particularly on the uphill climbs. But, in general, we are together as a family unit far more when we hike than when we ride.

Another reason I hike is that I feel it is good for my young son to get the exercise, and another (and very different) experience of being in the woods. Yet another reason is that the trails are muddy after a rain and can be slippery, also it isn’t nice (in my opinion) to tear them up with our horse’s hooves when they are wet—makes them unpleasant for both hikers and horses for a long time.

A final reason that I hike as often as I ride is that some days I just don’t feel like dealing with the horses—to be quite honest. My trail horses are very reliable, as I’ve posted before, but I have to cross a very busy road (upon which the cars dash by at 50 miles an hour) to get to the trails as well as skirt my neighbor’s properties, and though this is generally not a problem, there are days (when my neighbor is running a weedwhacker, or the nearby church is having a party, or the wind is just blowing really hard, or something doesn’t feel right) when it seems too stressful/risky to me to put my kid on his horse and push our way through the unpredictable outside world to get on the trails. Some days are just like that. So we hike. Other days it seems easy and doable to go with our horses, so we ride.

I think I have mostly adhered to my goal of hiking as much as I ride. I hike more in the winter and ride more in the summer, but it balances out. And its interesting, hiking the same trails that I ride. It gives me two very uniquely different perspectives on the same ground. This last weekend I had the (to me) fascinating experience of doing the exact same route twice in a row. On Saturday we hiked it and on Sunday we rode it. Both days were glorious—bright, sunny weather, the trails dry and lovely—no dust, no mud. (This is one of the reasons I live on the California coast—we get many, many such winter days.) Because I had been thinking about this subject, I tried to pay careful attention to the differences in the way I saw the trails and the landscape. I had a lot of fun with this and thought I’d share my thoughts and ask if any of you have insights to contribute on this subject.

So, first off, the easy one. Hiking is much harder than riding. Many times during our hike, I had the impulse to wish I’d brought my horse, particularly as I was gasping for air on some steep climb. I can’t recall ever once wishing on my ride that I had gone on foot. That tells you something.

This particular route (about two miles) takes me an hour and fifteen minutes on horseback and two hours on foot. There is a lot of elevation change. We mostly walk the horses, though will occasionally trot or lope. When I am done hiking it, my leg muscles are worn out (OK—I’m not in very good shape). I can ride it without any effort to speak of at all.

But there are things about hiking that I like, besides the obvious benefit to my health. I see so many more details when I hike. I examine tiny mushrooms, new flowers, banana slugs and salamanders…I could go on and on. I rarely notice these things on horseback. Even at the walk, on a horse, the landscape just seems to flow gliding by, sort of like an Impressionist painting. Beautiful, filled with light and shadow, shape and color, but not much detail. When I hike I see the details. I stop and peer at things, special views I hadn’t noticed before, a particular tree lit up with light…etc. When I ride I tend to keep moving.

Besides seeing, there is hearing. I don’t hear much when I ride. The noise of the horse’s footfalls and the squeak of the saddle drowns out other noises. I need to shout a bit to be heard by my companions. If I want to listen for something, I often have to pull my horse up. Being cut off from the tiny sounds of the woods is a bit of a disconnect.

Riding is a great deal about connecting with the horse. I am always aware of what my horse is feeling—the landscape is more of a background. On foot the landscape (and my own reactions) assume the primary focus.

On horseback I feel empowered in a way I don’t on foot. I am perfectly happy to ride the trails alone, or take my son out for a ride. On foot I prefer to go with my husband…I just feel much more vulnerable on foot…to predators with two legs or four. (And yes, there are lots of mountain lions in these hills, and I have met some very odd seeming people on these little used trails.)

And on horseback I feel empowered in another way…it’s hard to explain but I think all horse people know what I mean. Somehow being a horseman is magically elevating (literally elevating, too). I won’t say that one feels “better” than pedestrians, but there is some element of this. I know this feeling from both sides as I often meet riders when I hike and hikers when I ride. I am always concious of the subtle distinction. As my husband says, he feels he should shout, “make way for the horse people.” He’s joking, but I know what he means. Somewhere, deep in our DNA, is the clear conciousness that horses make us superior, give us power.

And then there is just the simple thrill of being carried by the horse. The pleasure of rocking along on his back, the elemental fun of riding. This is always present.

Finally, the interaction with the horse is both the chief delight of riding and (sometimes) a pain in the butt. My trail horse, Sunny, is reliable and mostly cooperative and for the greater part of the ride I simply enjoy his steady, willing power that takes me through the hills effortlessly. But near the end of the ride, when Sunny sometimes gets cranky and prepares to give me his signature crowhop (see my last month’s post titled “A Quirk”), I am annoyed at his (albeit minor) show of attitude. On Sunday’s ride I talked him out of his little acting out issue, but I was aware that I was slightly ticked that I had to bother with this. So, again, interacting with the horse is both the chief pleasure and also the main nuisance of riding versus hiking.

All this considered, I find I am back to my original premise. Which is that I need to both hike and ride. Both for my health, and this odd assortment of reasons. I’d love to hear anybody else’s thoughts on this subject. Cheers--Laura

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Felice--The Happy Jumper

I started taking dressage lessons in my college years. I didn't own a horse at the time, but a friend of a friend of my sister's had a horse she wanted to find a good home. It had some soundness issues but could do dressage. We checked out this pinto, and I immediately wanted the horse. A day later the person backed out and the horse was no longer available. I was bummed.

The friend knew of another horse, so we checked her out. Felice was a six-year-old Anglo-Arab mare, gray, over sixteen hands. I lived with my sister that summer. She had access to a barn and pasture next to her house. So Felice came to live with us.

Looking back, I'd have to say Felice was a little hot for me at my level of riding. I'd been taking weekly dressage and jumping lessons for about a year, but I'm not known for my coordination or my nerves of steel. Felice liked to go and go and go. What else would you expect from her breeding?

Felice had been evented by a teenager since she was three years old. The teenager loved that mare. She had straight, short pasterns. By the time, she was five she'd been diagnosed with navicular disease. Her owners had her nerved, hoping to continue to jump her. She couldn't stay sound, and she stumbled. So they'd given her away to me with the caveat that I'd return her if I ever decided I didn't want her. I spoke with people who knew the horse. Many of them mentioned, disapproval in their voices, how hard and often this mare had been jumped at a young age.

My veterinarian recommended a horseshoer. He said if this guy couldn't keep this horse sound, no one could. I begged the shoer to come out. He finally agreed, even though he wasn't taking new clients. The man was a miracle worker. He rolled Felice's toes and put pads on her front feet. She stayed sound and didn't stumble as long as he did her feet. Anyone else, she immediately went lame.

Felice and I had a few good summers.  We lived next to an arboretum with bridal trails and an abandoned golf course. The two of us galloped across the golf course and went miles on those trails. We even attended a couple horse shows within riding distance, and I received my first ribbons.

Felice LOVED to jump. It was a shame she couldn't jump any longer. Once a week, I rode a few miles to take lessons at a nearby equestrian center. I'll never forget one incident. I was in a group lesson. We were taking turns cantering around the arena. There were a few small jumps set in the middle of the arena. When it came time for me to canter. I steered her to the rail and asked her to canter around the arena. She was having none of that, not with jumps in the arena. She ignored me and headed for the jumps, popping over all three of them, turning around and jumping them again. Jumping excited her and scared me. Plus, jumping made her sore. We avoided places with jumps after that.

Felice knew a lot more than I did at the time. In fact, she did changes like nobody's business. All you had to do was switch the weight in your hip bones and slightly move your outside leg back, and she'd change. She'd do lead changes every stride if asked. She did half-passes, shoulder-in, haunches-in with the slightest cues from me. I wish I'd owned her about ten years later when I was good enough to appreciate all her talents.

I owned Felice for two years, keeping her at my sister's, six hours away from where I attended college. I didn't get to see much of her during the school year, and I couldn't afford to bring her to college with me.

My sister moved, and we no longer had the free barn and pasture at our disposal. I was graduating from college and didn't know where I'd end up. Felice needed regular riding or she became almost too hot to handle. You couldn't wear her out on a lunge line either. Lunging made her hotter.

So I contacted the teenager's mother and asked her to take her back. She picked her up while I was away at college. I told her several times to make sure that my horseshoer shod the horse. He'd agreed to continue as she was such a nice horse, way too young for her problems, and he felt obligated to keep her sound. The mother blew me off, said they had a good horseshoer.

Several months later, I dropped the mother a note to see how Felice was. She'd had the mare put to sleep. They couldn't keep her sound. I was devastated and so very sorry that I'd ever given the mare back to them. Someone would have loved to own that mare, as well trained and responsive as she was. She didn't deserve to lose her life at eight years old. To me, they had an obligation to her since they'd overjumped her in her youth and contributed to her navicular disease.

Several years later, I ran into the "teenager," now an adult and a well-respected horse trainer. She asked me how Felice was? My mouth fell open. I didn't know what to say. This girl's mother had never told her I'd given the mare back. She thought I'd kept the horse. I didn't have the heart to tell her what really happened so I merely said Felice was fine.

She probably was fine, galloping around horse heaven and jumping jumps to her heart's content, pain-free and happy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Thanksgiving Story

By Laura Crum

First of all, I wanted to let you all know that I'm not the only writer left on this blog. My fellow authors have had some health problems--themselves, their family, their horses (and I hope your mare is doing well, Jami)and/or they are very busy right now and unable to post. As a group, we've all agreed that we need to prioritize the important things (family, health, horses...etc) over writing blog posts. So, currently I'm holding down the fort. But I'm sure the others will be back as they feel able. Anyway, today I wanted to share a story about something I'm thankful for, in honor of Thanksgiving.

Awhile ago I wrote a post about a horse named Harley—a good team roping horse who suffered a suspensory tear, and after two years of rehab and two surgeries was still not sound enough to be a rope horse. Harley was pasture sound, however, and my uncle, who owned him, wanted to find him an appropriate home. A friend of mine, who had loved horses in her youth but hadn’t ridden for years, was interested in taking Harley. Though she had some land, she didn’t have a horse corral, merely a pen where she kept her goats. She really didn’t know a lot about horses, and I was torn over whether it was a good choice to give her this fairly high-powered, though well broke, horse. Some of you wrote in, and most said I should give it a try. This was my feeling, too, so I went over to my friend’s home, helped her make a plan for horsekeeping, and several weeks later my uncle delivered Harley. So here’s the follow up.

My friend’s husband built her a nice corral and shed for the horse. My friend’s twenty year old son took a big interest in the project. Between them, this family groomed and handwalked and grazed Harley every day. Last week the friend reported to me that Harley looked sound to them, but would I come see. I went over there last Weds and Harley did indeed look servicably sound. Trotted in a straight line on hard ground, he didn’t bob. The family asked if he was sound enough to ride. I told them yes, he was plenty sound enough to be walked and trotted lightly. The son climbed on the horse bareback, with a halter, and walked him around, and though Harley was reasonably cooperative, it was clear that the horse had a lot of life, and it would be better to ride him with a saddle and bridle.

I found an old saddle that they could buy cheap, and loaned them a bridle and saddle pad. On Saturday, I brought the gear, and a friend of mine who used to rope on the horse, over to their house, and Mark (the friend) gave them a first lesson. Harley did great. My friend’s son rode him very successfully. I think they’re off to a good start as a partnership. Harley looks happy and in good flesh. He’s come back to riding horse soundness. And he’s such a nice horse. I was really tickled.

So here’s a happy story for the day before Thanksgiving. I am so grateful that I was able to put Harley and this family together. They are enjoying and benefiting each other, and to think that Harley was about to be put down if a home couldn’t be found(!) What a waste that would have been. It is just so much fun when we are able to facilitate something like this. I wanted to share this story and thank those of you who advised me to give this situation a chance. And if anybody else has a happy ending story to share, I’d love to hear it. Happy Thanksgiving!--Laura

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sitting in the Barn

By Laura Crum

Today I want to write in praise of a simple pleasure. Sitting in the barn, watching your horses. Perhaps watching them munch hay, or just watching them be horses. Swishing their tails, playing “bite face” with each other, nibbling grass. Seeing that all are healthy and relatively content. Just enjoying being near them, not needing to do more. Is there anything nicer than this?

Not that having a good ride isn't wonderful, too, as I wrote about last time. But there is a unique, subtle pleasure in just being with our horses when we aren't trying to accomplish anything that I think is valuable, and we miss it if we are always busy trying to get something done.

The other day it was chilly and I didn’t feel like riding. My son also didn’t feel like riding. I lectured myself a little bit about exercising the horses (my usual guilt trip), but I just wasn’t motivated. Still, I walked down to the barn in the afternoon.

The horses were glad to see me, as usual. The ones who like to nicker nickered at me. The other two came up and stood near me. I sat down on the haystack and watched them for awhile. It was very restful.

I admired my little palomino horse and my older brown gelding, both of whom are in good flesh and look content. It made me happy to see them looking so healthy and strong. My son's sorrel horse, Henry, looked good, too, despite having gone through colic surgery last spring. My two boarders are thriving. All of the horses are woolly, as I don't blanket and they have their winter coats. But I like fuzzy horses in the winter.

I watched the horses and the breeze. I watched the blue-gray California quail who emerged from the brush and began to peck at the hen scratch. My son was swinging in his swing that hangs from a big liveoak in the barnyard.

That restless little voice inside informed me that I should get a horse out and brush him and saddle him and tie him up, at least, even if I wasn’t going to ride. I should do something. But I just sat there.

My son was perfectly happy to swing for awhile. Then he wandered along, visiting with each horse in turn. Then he sat on the hay with me and we talked about each horse and his particular personality. After that my kid went over to the chicken coop and began naming our “teenage” chickens, considering them old enough to have names.

I just kept sitting on the haystack, watching the horses and the trees and the wild birds. And it came to me that I should do this more often. Just relax and enjoy being with my horses. Take in the deep pleasure that their presence is to me. In a way, its like stopping to smell the roses, rather than always busying oneself with tending the garden. We need to do both. And I for one have a tendency to busy myself too much.

So that’s my post for today. A suggestion that we should all take time to sit down and relax in the prescence of our beloved horses, not doing anything in particular. Just being together. Just sitting in the barn.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Nice Ride

By Laura Crum

Don’t you just love it when once in awhile you have one of those idyllic rides that make you realize why you fell in love with riding to begin with? Yesterday was one of those days for me.

I have been riding very sporadically, between being busy and the weather…etc. Two days a week is about my average. And I actually haven’t been feeling very motivated to do that. But yesterday was sunny and in the 70’s and my friends were going to gather the cattle and do some practice team roping. For the first time in awhile, we loaded Sunny and Henry and went along.

And it was glorious. My son pushed cattle on Henry and I helped run the chutes. We both loped big circles in the huge, beautifully groomed arena. The sun shone brightly. This particular arena has the cattle field on one side and a forest of mixed oaks and redwoods on the other. Not a road or a car to be seen. I loped along on my steady little yellow horse thinking that hey, I’m having fun. My son had a grin from ear to ear. What a pleasure.

It dawned on me that sometimes, between the work and the worry factors, horses can seem almost a burden (well, they’re never quite that, but I’m guessing you know what I mean). So its really nice that we get rewarded fairly frequently with these delightful moments. For me, these days, they mostly occur as I do the mundane tasks of feeding and such, or when I’m riding along the trail. I haven’t been very excited by riding in the arena for awhile. So it tickled me that for once I was thrilled to be loping big circles on a horse who felt good (hadn’t been ridden in a week).

Sunny’s energy was high, he enjoyed the loping as much as I did. His long mane (it hangs several inches below his neck) flared in the breeze of his motion and I was amused to see how much of a kick I got out of watching the shiny gold light sparks on his palomino neck and seeing his shaggy cream colored mane swing and lift in the rhythm of his stride. It felt in some ways like being a teenager again and admiring my horse because he was so “pretty”. At times I think I’ve spent too many years in the horse biz to be seduced by the cute factor, and/or the thrill of just flying along on the back of a horse, but it turns out I’m wrong. Those things can still get me.

On top of which I get the thrill of seeing my son discover these delights. In class yesterday, when he was asked what he would be grateful for on Thanksgiving, he said, “Our horses—especially Henry.” And when we got to the roping arena, big and wide open for loping in the winter sunshine, he said, “I just want to live at this arena. Then I could lope forever.” And I knew just what he meant.

So, anybody else out there have any inspiring horsey moments to share? The ones that get us through the difficult times and make all we do with horses worthwhile. Sometimes its just the little things…like loping circles in the arena on a sunny November day.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Goodbye to Howie

These past few weeks have been stressful for me horse wise. My mare is suffering from cellulites, as you probably know from my last post. It’s a slow healing process, but she’s on the road to recovery.

A week after my mare contracted cellulites, another horse in my barn also got it. Silhouette in Time, aka Howie, was a wonderful old gentlemen, a Thoroughbred schoolmaster, who’d been successfully competed by his owner to Intermediare. In his early twenties, he was teaching a new generation of riders. One rider won her first blue ribbon on Howie this past summer. He taught his riders the upper level moves with the patience of a saint, never giving anything for free, making you do it right to get the desired results.

I knew Howie pretty well, he was stabled across from my horse for a few years. Originally, Nicki evented Howie. Eventually, she focused on dressage. Howie wasn’t bred for dressage or conformationally predisposed to being a dressage horse. Because of his amazing heart and fighting spirit, he tried for his owner despite his physical shortcomings and took her a very long way. I believe Nicki won her silver medal on him.

Howie had a predisposition to cellulites. He contracted it a few years ago, and Nicki almost lost him, but he’d pulled through.

The day before this latest bout of cellulites, he’d been used in two lessons, one in the evening, and showed no signs of distress. When a student went to the pasture to get him for a morning lesson, one hind leg was swollen to twice its size, and he didn’t want to move. The vet was called, Howie was treated with an IV of antibiotics, among other things and put in a stall for the night.

Sometime during the night, Howie lay down. He tried to get up and couldn’t. In his fight to get on his feet, he kicked out the entire front of the stall and was found early the next morning lying in the aisle way amidst broken boards. I understand it took several people to help get him to his feet. He was put in a pasture and blanketed.

I saw him later than afternoon, obviously in great distress. Several of us, including his owner, watched him and wondered what to do. Shortly after I left, Nicki took his temperature. It was 105. A few minutes later, Howie went down, and he wouldn’t be getting up again. The infection had gotten into his bloodstream. The vet came out immediately and put him to sleep.

Howie was put into a trailer for his last trailer ride and taken to Nicki’s parents’ farm and laid to rest.

All of us who knew him are heartbroken over the loss of this sweet old guy.

Enjoy those green pastures forever, Howie.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Getting it Right

I grew up riding, but not showing or ever really having any formal instruction. I trail rode with my dad and some friends, and I did the occasional back yard show. I had a lot of fun. Now my little girl is riding and she has the opportunity to do both showing and trail riding--and learn from the best. I am sort of living vicariously through her because the kid has the balance of a cat and can seriously ride.

I know that I can ride but there is this part of me that is a perfectionist (nicer word for control freak). I'm like this in most aspects of my life except for my messy car (it's a disaster but that's another story). For me, I want to be the best that I can be at everything that I do. When I take a lesson, I really listen and do my best. I try really hard. I really, really want to be a good rider. It's that simple--and a good horse person. That part is easier for me because I love the animals. I could be with them all day, every day and not get tired of talking to them, grooming them, feeding them cookies and hugging on them. Doing all of that is like meditation for me. It's my solace. But the riding is where I feel I lack and I know there is always room for improvement for everyone, but I guess I'm kind of insecure. Not that I'm ever afraid I'm going to come off. I know it's a possibility but I've got a good seat that I attribute to the bucking bronco of a pony I had as a kid. My downfalls are that I tend to get stiff in the elbows, and I grip with my knees a lot of the time when I need to be using my lower leg.

Where am I going with this, you ask? Not sure, but here's the deal--I have discovered that even as an adult I need confirmation that I'm getting it. I'm fortunate to have Terri because she's good at both teaching me and at letting me know when I'm doing it right. But she also likes me cause she's my friend and like a sister to me. She's also a stickler for correct position. So it was pretty cool when a few weeks ago she asked me if I would ride Monty in a clinic that Brian Sabo was teaching for instructors. Essentially it was about the intructors not the riders. However, I couldn't help feel good and smile when I heard Mr. Sabo tell the instructors that I was a good rider!

Am I just plain silly for caring about this, this much, or do you "out there" in Internet land ever feel this way in your lessons or when you're showing or even just out on the trail? Is getting it "right" a big deal to you? I sort of feel like a little kid worrying about this, but it really does matter to me.

Have a wonderful weekend.
Happy Trails!


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Quirk

By Laura Crum

My horse, Sunny, has an odd quirk. Its not something I feel I need to fix, and I’m not sure how I’d fix it if I wanted to. It’s a strange behavior, one I haven’t run across before. I thought I’d describe it and ask if anyone else has a horse who does anything like it. Maybe I can learn something.

I bought Sunny two years ago. I knew his background—he’d come from old Mexico via a horse trader, and was brought into this county by a team roping friend of mine (see Sunny’s photo on the sidebar). Sunny was a mediocre team roping horse, but a steady reliable mount and “cute”, and my friend sold him to a woman who wanted a trail riding horse for her daughter. I knew the woman slightly and knew that her daughter and various other beginners used Sunny for many trail rides during the three years she owned him. Nobody ever came off of him. However, the woman’s daughter outgrew her interest in horses and Sunny was for sale. I needed a gentle bombproof trail horse to give my son a lead as we began trail riding together, and my old gelding, Plumber, was too jiggy and spooky to be the right one. So I bought Sunny.

Sunny proved to be just what I needed on the trail. He is steady, quiet and reliable…you can ride him anywhere. Up and down steep, tricky trails, in the surf, across muddy little creeks, along busy streets, you name it. He rarely spooks, he does not jig to speak of. But he does have one little quirk, which I have never really figured out.

The very first time I took Sunny on a trail ride, he gave his usual stellar performance. I was very happy with him. We were almost home and the horse and I were both relaxed, at the flat-footed walk. Crossing a piece of level, sandy ground, Sunny, for no apparent reason, “caught himself”, and gave a very minor crowhop. He did not put his head down, he just hopped his butt in the air and scooted forward a stride. And then he was fine. It was a nothing, but it was odd.

I was puzzled. I checked to see if the back cinch had flanked him. No. I looked down to see if he’d stepped on a stick or something prickly. But there was nothing there. I kicked him up to a lope to see if he was planning on trying me. He loped off like a gentleman. I shrugged and rode on home, figuring it was just a momentary aberration.

But Sunny’s quirk persisted. He didn’t do it every ride. But maybe one ride in six, he’d have a little “moment” like this. I hardly knew what to call it. He never put his head down. He was never really out of control. He never came remotely close to unseating me. He always walked off quietly when he was done. But he also didn’t quit doing it. It was annoying rather than threatening, and at first I mostly ignored it. But I got curious.

I couldn’t figure out why he was doing it. It always occurred very near the end of the ride. Sunny would have been calm, quiet and cooperative throughout the ride, as he always is. He might have had to pass various spooky/difficult stuff, and he was reliably steady. And then, when we were almost home, for no apparent reason, he’d do his little thing.

Sunny’s quirk could take many forms. If there was a horse behind him, it would appear that he was kicking at that horse. If my neighbor’s tractor struck a rock as we rode by he would appear to be spooking at the sound. If I had to kick him up to a lope as we crossed the road, he would seem as if he were attempting to bolt. Sometimes he just appeared jiggy for a few minutes and hopped his butt around. But I was aware that all these behaviors were various manifestations of his quirk. I just didn’t understand why he did it.

It felt as if he were giving me the finger. If I could put words to his gesture, I thought they might have been, “OK, I’ve taken you on one more ride. I came through for you. But I’m nobody’s sweet little pony. Get it?”

This made sense as far as it went, but I failed to see why he needed to do it. We get along well for the whole ride and then at the end he needs to give me the finger? Why?

I remained puzzled by Sunny’s quirk. He continued to do it once every few rides. I could never predict when. Sometimes when he was fresh, sometimes when he’d been ridden a lot. Always very near the end of the ride, but not in the same place every time. He never made any effort to get me off—that clearly wasn’t the point. But it was a gesture of defiance—it did have some negative component, that seemed obvious.

It was annoying and puzzling. I tried punishing him for it. This made him a little jiggy when he was about to do it; he was gearing up both to make the gesture and be punished. I could feel when he was about to do it (due to the increased energy) and I sometimes just stopped him and made him stand. When I had time, I turned him around and went back out for another ride. None of these things made much impression that I could see; Sunny’s quirk remained the same. Every few rides he produced his crowhop (for lack of a better word). Once he made his little gesture, he walked calmly and quietly home.

So here I am, after two years of owning and riding this horse, still no wiser as to why he needs to do this. Sunny clearly gets along well with me, he nickers when he sees me, he comes through when I need him. But he retains this odd behavior. As I began by saying, I’m not sure I need to fix it, or how I would fix it if I wanted to. But it interests me. I would be fascinated to hear if anyone else has had experienced something like this and what your take on it might be.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Inter-equine Relationships

The funny things that horses do.
By Terri Rocovich

I am always puzzled when people make the comment that horses are not very smart and even go as far as to say they are stupid. To me, these people have never spent time just observing horses and watching their complex social interaction and interpersonal relationships. I have a fairly small training barn that averages about 12 horses in residence and I love watching the interaction between each of the horses. I am a strong believer in letting a horse be a horse, even if they are a high priced dressage or event horse, they still need to have friends and be part of a herd. Because of this premise, we figure out which horses get along and every horse at my facility, with a few exceptions, has a turn out partner that they can get time to hang out with, graze together and often times play to their heart’s content.

One of my horses is a 20 year old thoroughbred named Pete. Pete is a precocious character whom has a sweet, kind nature but who also has a very high opinion of himself. Pete has had a good life, being the favored son and enjoying much success competitively but Pete has also had very complicated relationships with his fellow equines. When I first purchased Pete back in 1999, he fell madly in love with my mare Carrie. He was obsessed with her and she, being the ultimate equine cougar, exploited his attachment to maintain control and make herself feel younger. When Carrie passed away, Pete suffered through every stage of grieving and would not even consider accepting a relationship with another horse for several years.

Now 4 years later, he has developed an interesting friendship with one of my other horse’s Hank. Hank is a paint/pinto (I always get the definitions confused) who I took in as a rescue 3 years ago. I will tell you more about Hank’s amazing journey in another blog, but he has become both sibling rival and partner in crime to Pete and I think he is helping to keep Pete young. The other morning I got a kick out of watching the two of them taunt each other. Hank has been on a bit of a diet lately (I kind of went a bit overboard on the rescue him nutritionally thing) and he finishes his food before Pete. Their paddocks share a pipe fence (they have stalls with attached paddocks) and Pete, purposely pushes his feeder closer to the fence so Hank can see him slowly finish his food but Pete keeps his hay just far enough way that Hank is not able to grab any through the fence. Hank responded by taking his nose and sliding shut the door to Pete’s stall, essentially shutting the door in Pete’s face. Pete of course took his nose and slid the door open again which Hank in turn shut the door again and turned his butt to Pete’s corral.

Now you tell me that horses don’t think, don’t plan their actions and don’t have all the nuances to their relationships that we have to ours. Pete and Hank at various times compete with each other for my attention, they love each other, they hate each other, and they are each other’s playmates and rivals. They entertain each other by removing the other’s fly mask or bell boots and have become artful at redecorating each other’s blankets in the winter.

They are only one example on the many interesting interactions that happen daily around here. I love watching it all. It is always fascinating watching the changing dynamic when a new horse comes on the property. What kind of funny things do your horses do? Do they have a BFF? A rival? Do they get jealous of each other or a newcomer? Do you think your horse is smart? I know mine are, although we do have a few in the barn who ride the short bus. I’d love to hear your stories. Tell me if your horses play tricks on each other or have lovers quarrels or sibling tiffs. It is all so interesting and entertaining to me, certainly better than any soap opera or reality show that I have ever seen. Maybe that is it. Horse lovers need their own daytime drama – “As the stable turns”, or “All my Foals” or “The Stallion” or “Survivor – Pasture edition” what do you think?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Horse with a Heart

I'm very happy to welcome back guest blogger Francesca Prescott.

He was coming down the long side of the arena the first time I saw him. Big and bay and muscular, he had an elegant, easy walk and a confident, somewhat debonair allure. His broad forehead and kind, golden eyes were enhanced by a neatly plaited forelock. He wasn’t a particularly big horse, but he was round, compact and well-proportioned, and his thick, strong neck was shown to advantage by a set of perfect plaits. His tail was thick, long and glossy. But what struck me most about Kwintus the first time I saw him was the perfectly symmetrical heart-shaped white mark on his forehead. Okay; geometrically speaking, the white mark is actually more of a diamond shape. But to me it will always look like a heart, probably because I fell in love with this horse the moment I laid eyes on him. He had something special; a charisma, a presence, a gentle and endearing “cuteness” that made me feel happy. I glanced at Olivia, my fifteen-year-old daughter, hoping she felt the same way. I knew my eyes were sparkling, but were hers?

This magical moment took place two and a half years ago, when Olivia and I travelled to Germany accompanied by our trainer, Marie-Valentine Gygax (who, in my opinion, has to be the best, most patient and enthusiastic dressage trainer on the planet), to look for a dressage horse suitable for both of us. Our needs were pretty straightforward: we wanted a horse with three good gaits and a good character at a good price. Ideally, we’d imagined buying a horse aged between eight and ten, but we were open-minded, which is a good way to be when you want to buy a horse. As a case in point, during our first trip to Germany two months earlier, we’d fallen for a six-year old mare with a sweet character and a trot to die for. Unfortunately, a few weeks later, an intensive vet check revealed that the mare had a triple heart defect. She and we were not to be. It was a major disappointment, not to mention a financial setback for our limited budget. We’d already spent a substantial amount of money on plane fares and car rental, and during that initial horse-hunting weekend, had clocked up 800 exhausting and exhilerating kilometers dashing from one yard to another to try various potential mounts (Horse shopping? What a rush!). And while there was no end to the offer of dressage horses for sale in Deutschland, many of them were either beyond our means, or, for one reason or another, not suitable for a young rider and her middle-aged mother. Most of the good quality horses we could afford were young and inexperienced, and the idea of buying something so green made me nervous. I was an experienced rider, but had hardly ridden at all for seven years, having lost my nerve following a bad accident with my four-year-old Dutch warmblood. I was also concerned about putting my inexperienced daughter on something bound to unexpectedly explode, which at some point most young horses inevitably do. No, I wanted a horse with a little more mileage, one that was “safe” and uncomplicated. Basically, I was looking for a schoolmaster. But the problem was that nice, ten-year-old schoolmasters always come with stratospheric price tags. Without access to a stratospheric bank account, keeping an open-mind was definitely a must.

A few weeks after our veterinary tribulations with the cardiac-unfortunate mare, Marie-Valentine rang to tell me that Holger Münstermann, her contact in Germany, had found a few more horses that might be of interest to us, so I booked the flights and the three of us soon flew back to Germany. Unfortunately, when we arrived, one of the horses we were supposed to see had already been sold, another was lame, and yet another turned out to be a complete dud. We were shown a very nice ten-year-old mare, but I wasn’t completely convinced. Apart from not being a schoolmaster, she also had a weird habit of wobbling her lips while being ridden that got on my nerves. I was beginning to get worried; we’d flown all this way twice, and our equine budget was wasting away on travel expenses. Wasn’t there anything else we might see?

“Well, supposedly there is a very good horse at my friend Norbert’s yard, not too far from here,” said Holger, “The thing is that this horse is already fifteen-years-old. I wanted to show him to you the first time you came, but was told he’d just been sold to Japan. However, that sale fell through. I wasn’t going to mention him this time because I remember Marie-Valentine saying that fifteen might be a little too old. But I’ve been told that he’s an excellent horse, the ultimate schoolmaster and has competed up to Prix Saint-Georges.”

While my interest sparked and my ears pricked, my daughter looked disconsolate. “I don’t want to look at a fifteen-year-old horse,” she sighed. “I don’t see the point.”

“A fifteen-year-old horse who has done Prix Saint-Georges can teach you everything,” replied Holger, sitting back in his chair, stretching his legs and crossing his hands behind his head. “In fact, for a young rider like you, an experienced horse like this might really be ideal. It’s worth going to take a look at him, anyway.”

But Olivia wasn’t convinced. She thought she’d be taken to see something resembling the poor old burnt-out riding school horses she’s spent years coaxing around arenas back home. Having lost her heart to the prancy little six year old mare with the heart malfunction, she didn’t want to be coerced into settling for an ironing board with a cast-iron mouth. Nevertheless, between the three of us, we managed to convince her to give this old fellow a chance, and drove over to Norbert Van Laaks’ stunning stables.

Well, it didn’t take long to convince anyone. Because, as I mentioned earlier, this “old fellow” had nothing in common with an ironing board. We watched, our mouths curled up at the corners, as one of Nobert’s riders put Kwintus through his springy paces, our curly mouths widening into delighted grins when Marie-Valentine took over to personally test the horse prior to handing him over to Olivia. When my daughter swung into the saddle, she discovered equestrian sensations she’d only ever dreamed of. Within a few minutes she was over the moon and beyond, being given a private lesson by one of the most notorious trainers in the world (Norbert Van Laak coaches the Canadian team) who talked her through her first flying changes, appuyés and pirouettes. Kwintus’ ears flicked back and forth as he did his best to understand her somewhat muddled instructions. The elegant little horse was the perfect gentleman, even obliging her with a pirouette on the wrong leg when Olivia got her aids in a twist. As far as I was concerned, that was it. With that unbalanced, wonderfully wonky, extra-generous pirouette, I was terminally smitten.

Finally, it was my turn. I’d ridden maybe ten times in seven years, but as soon as I sat on Kwintus, I felt as though I was…well…coming home. Frustratingly, while my body remembered everything, my muscles had a terrible time coordinating the memories. I bounced and jiggled most mortifyingly, but Kwintus didn’t bat an eyelid. It was as if he was saying, “Don’t worry, I know my job. Just try to let me know more or less what you want me to do, and I’ll figure out the details. I’ve been here before, so no stress, honey.”

Kwintus is now seventeen years old and in better shape than ever. He lives the life of Riley fifteen minutes away from my home in Switzerland, and whinny-chuckles whenever we greet him with a “Hi, Kwint!”. He introduced my daughter to dressage competitions, winning her a first place during their first outing together with an impressive score of 69%. He’s given me back my confidence and taught me all the high level fancy stuff. Riding him is as riding should be: sheer pleasure. On top of this, he also has a great sense of humour, and is the most affectionate, sweet-tempered, generous horse I’ve ever known. The marking on his forehead may be - geometrically speaking - shaped like a diamond, but Olivia and I definitely see it as a heart.

Of course we do; we love him to bits!

With love,

Francesca Prescott
“Mucho Caliente! – Wish upon a Latino Superstar”
An effervescent romantic comedy
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