Saturday, February 28, 2009

My Boy Pete by Janet Huntington

I just came back from a peaceful, beautiful ride . The air was sharp and Colorado clear, with snow clinging to the sides of the mountain trail, and the sweet promise of spring pulled us into the hills. There was a faint shimmer of green under the gray winter grass and a subtle change in the light, winter is coming to an end. My good horse Pete huffed and snorted as he trotted up the steep incline, his ears pricked forward and his tail swinging in a cheerful rhythm as we went.

Pete is not the kind of horse I write about on my other blog, Mugwump Chronicles. He has never been a wild -eyed bronc. He isn't a mega-star in the show pen, although I believe he could hold his own. He is a cute, but not stunning, solid bright bay, 14.3 hh and has a nice, solid build. He has slowly but steadily grown into the sort of horse who will let his rider relax and enjoy a warm winter afternoon.

When I pulled up to the barn and got him out, I stopped to visit with another boarder while I groomed.

"You're not going out alone are you?" she asked, with a little concern in her voice.

I looked down at my sweats, tennies (they're skater shoes actually, I'm quite proud of them)
and grungy sweatshirt, and said, "I'm not really dressed for company."

"Well next time call me, I'll go with you."

I appreciated her offer, but I really wasn't in the mood for companionship. There aren't that many horses in my life I feel totally at ease just heading out on, but Pete is definitely one of them.

I don't own Pete. He belongs a good friend of mine who invested in him to help him out, and me. He is the last horse I have to sell.

Pete was bred by a man with a serious interest in cowhorses. He is by The Smart Smoke and out of a Doc's Oak daughter. If you're into cowhorses that's enough to make your mouth water a little.
He named him "Oak's Smokin Gun" and sold him as a prospect to a client of the trainer (Big K) I worked for. This client liked to train his own horses. Pete was supposed to be his next futurity prospect. For reasons only known to the client and Big K, this guy disappeared. Left all his horses, (close to $100,000 worth) at the Big K's and locked himself in his house.
Pete had maybe 10 rides on him. He languished at the Big K's, along with the other horses, for the next year and a half. Finally things got straightened out enough to start selling off these horses. The breeder took back the now three-and-a-half year old Pete, because it turns out he hadn't actually been paid.

Pete's owner came to me and asked if I would like to ride him. Because he was fast approaching four, the Big K wasn't interested in him. Pete was too old to make it as a snaffle bitter or a derby horse and would be too far behind to win as a bridle horse for several years.

The offer was I would ride him, then sell him and we would split the money. The little bay colt had always had a look to him I liked, so I agreed. He became known as Pistol Pete, and finally, just Pete.

I hate to rush a horse. So I approached him as I would a two-year-old, slow and quiet. By the time Pete was approaching five he was a nice, green-broke colt. He could stop and turn around, had a nice lead change and would look at a cow. He was a little lazy, a little too laid back for the tastes of the folks I rode with, but I got on with him fine.

I took a job with a quarter horse breeder and ended in kind of a tough place with Pete. His owner wanted him sold. I did too, but I really liked the horse. I didn't want him just sent down the road. He was too much horse to be just dumped, to my mind. And dumping him was in the wind. Pete was facing being fitted for a sale.

Enter my good friend, who wouldn't know one end of a horse from the other.

"I'll buy him. You keep riding him, sell him and we'll split the money."

I carefully explained the horrible odds on making money on a horse. She was OK with it. We bought out the owners half interest in Pete and I took him with me to the new place.

Pete progressed nicely. Sweet natured and fun, he kept getting better. I got him where I felt he was ready to go. Safe, solid and sane. Pete stood a good chance in the non-pro world. I put him up for sale.

Then he colicked. A long, stressful sand colic. He survived, but came out 100 lbs under weight, weak and withdrawn. He struggled to regain his weight. I'm not one to push a horse who's on the road to recovery, so Pete was taken off the market and turned out for several months.

Winter came and Pete was ready to be fitted up and put back up for sale. We began riding again and if anything, he was better. Willing and quiet, I was beginning to like him more and more.

Then the horse market crashed. Well, everything crashed. My back and my heart gave out, I quit training and took a job as a writer for a small paper. I turned my horses in training back to their owners. Except Pete. Here we were again. What to do with Pete.

I owe my friend and this little bay horse a fair shake. I like them both too much to treat them unfairly. So I have taken him as my personal horse until we find the right home for him. My beautiful yellow mare is out on pasture (and loving every minute of it) until I find a buyer for Pete.

I miss my lively and spirited mare. I want to be taking her on these mountain trails. Riding her in the cuttings. But we'll have time. I'm in it for the long haul with her. In the mean time, I can take my kind and gentle Pete into the hills. I can trust him to explore the trails with me. He'll get better on cattle, better at his maneuvers and eventually his real, final owner will come get him.

You may be noticing that I'm not the sharpest salesman in the world. True. But this is the kind of horse that could fall through the cracks. Odds have not been in his favor. But I am. I am in his favor.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Art of Hanging In There

Hi Everyone!

I've been so impressed with the interesting, informative posts by my fellow Equestrian Ink authors on the process of getting published. I thought I would share the circumstances under which I worked up my courage to send in my query letters for A Dangerous Dream.

As some of you may know, I wrote my first novel, A Dangerous Dream, while I was on bedrest with a twin pregnancy. I had never written fiction in my life but had always dreamed of doing so. My poor husband had lost track of which novels he'd already bought me among the stacks piling up in my bedroom, so in desperation I started making up my own stories while I lay there with the approximate mobility of a beached whale.

In between cravings for ice cream and lobster (my husband got major kudos from my family and friends for the amount of take-out lobster dinners he served me in bed), I started pecking away on a laptop (which was a considerable balancing act seeing as I had no lap). Before long my page count started growing even faster than my belly, which is really saying something.

Needless to say, when the obstetrician said we aren't going to hold off the grand entrance of the twins any longer and I delivered my two amazing boys, the nearly completed novel went on the back burner. It was a rude awakening (no pun intended) to realize that our newborn twins were not in sync on night time awakenings. Despite all attenpts to try for 12:30 and 4 AM, night feedings often were more like 11, 1, 3, and 5 AM. A few months later, when my brain was approaching the consistency of oatmeal, a friend suggested I join a group of some kind which was unrelated to my mommy job.

I was so involved with the kids the thought of doing something for myself seemed completely alien. The only other interest nagging at the back of my mind was the novel I had written. I joined Romance Writers of America and with absolutely no idea what I was doing sent off a couple of query letters to agents and got polite rejection letters.

My husband, bless his heart, encouraged me to keep going on writing so I went to an RWA meeting and was told about an organization called PRO for writers who completed a novel but hadn't sold one yet. She told me I needed a rejection letter from a publisher to join so I figured that would be easy enough to come by. In my sleep deprived state it didn't occur to me my two agent rejection letters would have sufficed, so onward I trudged looking for a publisher to send my book and get a rejection letter for a PRO application.

I learned that the turnaround on queries was generally fairly quick with epublishers so I quickly wrote out a query letter and sent it off to two epubs members of my local RWA chapter had published with and found to be reputable. About two months later, when my boys sleep schedule was finally stretching out, I was up early checking email and I saw an email from one of the epubs I'd queried. The subject line said contract so I took a sip of my coffee, blinked a few times, and tried reading it again. It still said Contract so I took a deep breath and opened it.

There it was. In place of the expected rejection was a contract offer. I jumped up and realized that for the first time in a long time the whole family was asleep. Drat! I looked at my heroic husband and didn't have the heart to wake him so I had to wait for the boys next call for food. My daughter, by the way, learned to sleep through just about anything. It didn't hurt that her baby brothers had her wrapped around their little fingers.

When Eric awoke and repeated my blinking re-read of the email we had a decision to make. We had never dreamed of having the opportunity to publish so soon and I was very concerned that the book could be made much better with more time and attention. Eric came up with the point that finally decided us. He reminded me that most authors wind up putting their 'learning book' in a drawer. Here was an opportunity for us to keep learning from it.

And learn we did. I had the opportunity to learn web design, online chats, an array of marketing and promotional venues, and the all important review process. Best of all, I got wonderful feedback from readers and the opportunity to be a part of Equestrian Ink. The epublishing market did not bring in revenue as a traditional publisher would have, but the learning experience was invaluable.

I suppose my story is that great things can come when you least expect it. I thought our miracles were complete with our beatiful, health three children, but we got a bonus. A second career and here's the best part - my husband is working with me on my current novel. It's a contemporary fantasy where the structure and function of an international society of witches mirrors that of the real life intelligence community. My husband was the TA in graduate school for a course titled Intelligence and Covert Operations. He never guessed he'd be using that background to help his wife write a novel!

The paths to publication are many and varied but never give up. Your own miracle might be just around the corner!


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Slaughter Issue, Con't. . . .

by Kit Ehrman
After the last equine slaughter plant in the United States was closed down, the plight of unwanted horses actually became worse, not better. Unwanted animals were hauled even greater distances under appalling conditions to slaughter houses in Canada and Mexico where the process is not as well regulated as it had been in the U.S. The method used in Mexican plants is particularly grisly. As it turned out, a bill that, on the surface, appeared to help horses actually had the unexpected effect of making the end of their lives more brutal.

So, a new bill was introduced that would make the transport of horses for slaughter illegal in the United States. HR 503, the federal Conyers-Burton Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, would eliminate horse slaughter nationwide and prohibit the export of horses for slaughter. Seemed like a great idea.

The bill stalled.

Meanwhile, with the economy in a downward spiral, poor hay yields, and grain costs escalating along with everything else, the plight of unwanted horses grows more precarious with each passing day. More horses are bound to suffer.

Now, the pendulum is swinging the other way. Twelve state legislatures are considering measures to support or actively encourage the reestablishment of U.S. horse processing plants.

Resolutions opposing the HR 503 bill are either under consideration or have passed in:
North Dakota
South Dakota

Bills amending state law to promote slaughter plant development are pending in:

This about face was engineered by Wyoming State Representative Sue Wallis and South Dakota State Representative Dave Sigdestad in a resolution submitted to the National Sate Legislatures Agriculture and Energy Committee with the intent of generating jobs and addressing the issue of unwanted horses.

And that is the issue, really – unwanted horses. The key here is for each and every horse owner to think long and hard before breeding their animals.

The racing industry, in particular, is at fault in this regard as they seem to need to produce a whole lot of horses to come up with winners, but at least they are taking measures to curtail abuse in their own backyard.

Magna Entertainment Group has adopted a company-wide policy promoting the humane treatment of racehorses. Any trainer or owner stabling horses at one of their tracks who directly or indirectly participates in the transport of a horse to a slaughterhouse or auction house that sells horses for slaughter will be prohibited from having stalls at the track. Having stalls onsite is a big deal, so this is definitely a deterrent.

Magna Entertainment Group tracks:
Golden Gate Fields; Albany, Calif.
Gulfstream Park; Hallandale Beach, Fla.
Laurel Park; Laurel, Md.
Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie; Grand Prairie, Texas
The Meadows; Meadow Lands, Pa.
Pimlico; Baltimore, Md.
Portland Meadows; Portland, Ore.
Remington Park; Oklahoma City, Okla.
Santa Anita Park; Arcadia, Calif.
Thistledown; North Randall, Ohio

Suffolk Downs also has a zero tolerance policy. Track management will deny trainers stalls if they sell a horse for slaughter. They’ve also partnered with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and CANTER and have set aside ten stalls for horses that need care until they can be moved to a farm or retirement facility.

Finger Lakes Racetrack has its own horse farm and adoption program. Visit the link:

Legislation isn’t going to save horses. It’s up to each horseman to make smart decisions and take responsibility for their horses.

They give us so much. It’s our job to look after them.

Happy reading and riding,

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I Love This Horse

Recent posts by a couple of the ladies on EI about medical issues with their horses made me pause to think about Gayliena, aka Gailey, my Hanoverian mare (If you're into breeding by Grusus/Grunstein out of EM Apfiel, Akzent/Cavalier.)

I'm not one of those dressage riders with unlimited funds. This will probably be the only horse I'll ever own of this quality. I would be devastated if something happened to her, not just because I couldn't replace her monetarily but because I'm so attached to her.

Granted, I haven't been the most dedicated rider this past year. I'm lucky to get to the barn 2-3 days a week, as opposed to 4-5 days a week before I became a published writer.

Regardless, I adore MY horse. She is my horse of a lifetime. This year she turns 14. I bought her as a green-broke 3 year old. If you've been following my posts on this blog, you know that she and I have been through a lot together, including trailering traumas, lamenesses, and various other issues over the years.

Yet, through all the ups and downs, I wouldn't sell her for any amount of money, and I did turn down some lucrative offers in her younger years. To be honest, I know she would have gone far in dressage with a better rider. She'd have won a lot of ribbons and probably easily been a Grand Prix horse. To give you an idea of how wonderful of a smooth mover she is, a doctor friend of mine told me once that if I would have just sold her my horse, she could have ridden up until she was 8 months pregnant.

Instead, she's stuck with me. I'm not a bad rider. I mean, I've been doing this for a couple decades. But my body isn't really coordinated, and this dressage stuff is hard for me. But I keep plugging on. Once in a while, I forget to try too hard, I relax, and it all comes together.

Like a former trainer told me once, the horse doesn't care if it wins blue ribbons or scores high. It only cares that its treated well and ridden kindly.

So Lately, I've been pondering how lucky I was to have known this beautiful creature for eleven years. Last Thursday night, it was really driven home to me. I've been on deadline for a book. The only time I've managed to ride in the past few weeks was during my lessons. So I mounted up on Thursday night, feeling pretty good for the first time in several weeks. It was one of those all-too rare rides that all you can say is "oh, wow."

The second she started out in the walk, I knew we were in for a good ride, and we were.

When I think of dressage, I think of these moments. I hope that everyone who has ever tried dressage has had the good fortune to experience such moments when everything comes together. When your horse is up in front of you, eager to go, but waiting for your aids. When such raw power surges under you that you're in awe. When it takes the slightest pressure from hands, legs, and seat to perform the movements.

That's how I felt. As we moved into a trot, she started to fall on her forehand and plow into the reins. I caught her with some well-placed half-halts. She rocked back. Her shoulders came up. Her butt tucked under. I sat in. It was like sitting on a big comfy couch, yet with incredible controlled power. I can't explain it, but I wish I could. If you've felt it, you know what I'm talking about. I came across the arena in half pass. For once, my legs, seat, and hands actually did their respective jobs. I weighted my inside hip bone, kept my inside leg on, kept her bent around my inside leg, pushed her over with my outside leg. I stayed straight instead of twisting and kept some tension on the outside rein. Oh, wow, over she went like it was nothing!!!

Okay, now we're going to canter. Lately, she's been dumping and taking off. I asked for the canter. She lifted into this beautiful uphill canter, light on the reins, collected but ready to go. We did shoulder-in, half pass, haunches-in like they were the easiest things on earth. We came down the diagonal and changed leads. Again, easy as can be. Uphill and clean. We slipped from a canter to an uphill forward walk. She sauntered around the arena on a loose rein, quite pleased with herself, as she should be.

Wow! Wow! Wow!

I needed that boost, that encouragement to keep at this, to remember why I do this.

I love this horse.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rescuing Horses---Freddy's Story

By Laura Crum

Whenever I read Joe’s Thoroughbred Friends blog, I am overcome with the desire to rescue a few horses in need of homes. And right now, as I think all readers of this blog know, there are many, many horses in need of homes. What holds me back? I already care for twelve horses and am stretched to the max making sure that every one is cared for appropriately. See my post (“Happy Stories For the Season” Dec 08). In general, these are all horses that I rode and/or trained myself. I retired them and care for them because they are my legitimate responsibility. I have owned enough horses in my life, that just taking care of all of them is a fair amount of horses, so I don’t often rescue other horses. (And recently one of my horses colicked and had to go to colic surgery to save his life, which brought home the financial truth in spades—responsible horse ownership can be very expensive—see “Colic” Feb 09.)
I have never been in the business of rescuing horses. And, in fact, I have never driven down to the auction and bought a horse that was unknown to me, just to save him. Maybe I should, but I haven’t. The horses I’ve rescued were horses I knew, horses that I liked (see “Why I Have One Skinny Horse” September 08), or horses I felt sorry for (see “A Happy Ending” June 08). In this latter category was Freddy, a horse I rescued many years ago. Freddy is dead now, but I’d like to tell his story here, in the hope that it might inspire a few people.
Freddy was a rope horse. Not a particularly great rope horse, but a decent rope horse. He was a medium sized bay (about 15.2) with some white on his face, a nice eye, an absurdly short tail carried high, not much butt, a deep heart girth, and straight, well made legs with plenty of bone and not a bump on them. Like all horses, he had good points and bad points. He was completely sound. He would really stick his leg in the ground when you turned a steer on him. He could cover country outside in a fast determined walk that left most horses in the dust, and he could keep it up all day. He could run across broken ground faster and more sure-footedly than any horse I ever knew. He was great on a gather. He was also a nut case.
A friend of mine bought Freddy as a seven year old green rope horse. He roped on the horse for several years. All would go well until some little thing pushed Freddy’s panic button. The things that pushed this button were unpredictable. Freddy wasn’t like a normal spooky horse. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, he would panic. When he did he was violent, willing to run right through an arena fence, rear straight up…etc. My friend put up with this for a couple of years and made excuses for the horse as being green, but in the end, quite wisely, decided that Freddy was going to get him killed and determined to get rid of the horse before that happened.
And this is where I came in. I’d been around Freddy the whole time, and I felt sorry for him. He really was a nut case; he didn’t want to be a panicky idiot. He couldn’t help it. He had fear issues that sprang from somewhere deep in his past—a horrific looking scar on one pastern might or might not have had something to do with it. He was a pretty good rope horse when he wasn’t panicking. My friend was planning to price him cheap, and I knew some team roper would probably buy him. I also knew if he was bought by another team roper, he would either hurt the guy or find himself seriously beat up, sold to slaughter…you name it. No team roper was going to put up with Freddy’s aberrant behavior. I looked into those big brown eyes and made the choice. I bought Freddy.
I had ridden Freddy several times and I really enjoyed him as a trail horse, but I knew better than to think that I could get along with this horse on a regular basis. To be frank, I was scared to try. But I had a cowboy friend who could handle a tough horse and who kept his horses turned out in my sixty acre pasture. So I gave him the horse. I explained what he was. And my friend used the horse for many years. He team roped on him, gathered cattle on him, branded calves on him, rode him through the hills…etc. Freddy was one of the best head horses this guy ever had, and considered the best horse “outside” in that part of the world. Tales of him outrunning cattle who were headed in the wrong direction in rough country abounded. He never put a foot wrong. He was in great demand on gathers. My friend was often hired with the request that he “bring that short-tailed horse”. But Freddy remained a nut case. My friend had several close calls when the horse panicked. We discussed the horse many times. It was a tough choice. But in the end my friend gave Freddy back. He was too dangerous, even for this fairly tough cowboy.
I turned Freddy out for awhile. I didn’t know what to do with him. He was in his teens now, still sound and healthy. Another friend approached me, and asked if he could use Freddy. He wanted to rope and go to gathers and brandings. I explained exactly what Freddy was. This guy agreed to try him and be kind to him. In the end, he found he could get along with him (getting older helped Freddy a lot). Freddy was still a nut case. He could still do a good day’s work. I asked the guy to retire the horse if he kept him and used him and he agreed.
That was ten years ago. This last roper kept Freddy and used him successfully for many years. I saw them at the ropings, and Freddy looked good. He even had a long tail (a first for him—his tail just never seemed to grow). His new rider even appeared to be fond of him and to understand him. In the end, he was retired to the pasture. They sent me photos of him at Xmas. Last year I was told that he was having so much trouble getting up and down that they euthanized him. I thanked them.
The point of this rambling story? I stepped forward for Freddy out of pity. He was a horse that I knew, a horse that I was sure needed help. And I was the one person who was in a position to know his problems and want to find a solution that would work for him. Freddy had a decent life because of me. I’m glad I was able to make that happen.
If more of us were willing to do this, just as much we can, and step forward for the horses we know who need some help, a lot less of them would fall between the cracks. The true rescues, like Joe at TB Friends, wouldn’t be so overwhelmed. I offer my story as an example of what can be done, by all of us, one horse at a time. (And see Janet’s previous post about Pete for another example.)
If I could afford it, and had the room, I’d love to take on some of the horses that Joe and Cathy Shelton are rescuing, horses that are doomed, except for the intervention of TB Friends. I encourage everyone to check out this website and for those who are able, to consider adopting a horse from TBFriends.
To Joe, and the good work he is doing….
Laura Crum


By Laura Crum

All of us who own horses have dealt with colic. At least, all of us who’ve owned more than a few horses and for more than a few years. Colic is relatively common in horses, and by far the likeliest cause of death. And yet some of us skate through many years of happy horse ownership without ever facing that dreaded situation—the horse who is about to die of colic. I was one of those someones until five years ago. At that time I lost my great horse, Flanigan, to colic. Surgery was out of the question for Flanigan, because he had the pre-existing condition of a diaphragmatic hernia, diagnosed a year previously. So the decision to euthanize him came fairly easily, though it caused me much grief.

The next five years passed without another serious colic. My son’s horse, Henry, a reliable, bomb-proof mount, much loved by us all, had a couple of mild colics that resolved easily with a little banamine. And then…

Several weeks ago Henry had another mild colic. I treated him, but the symptoms returned. I had the vet out. We oiled Henry up, gave him fluids, more painkillers. But the symptoms returned. Henry was never very painful. His heart rate stayed normal. His breathing wasn’t much elevated. He wasn’t ever sweaty or distressed. He was merely uncomfortable. He looked at his sides. He stood camped out. He wouldn’t eat his hay. He wanted to lie down.

We spent thirty-six hours (and two sleepless nights) treating Henry. We walked him, we kept him from rolling, we gave him banamine and fluids. Every time the drugs wore off the symptoms came back. I cannot describe how helpless and depressed I felt. Henry is my son’s beloved horse. I desperately wanted him to get better. But he didn’t.

Early Friday morning, Jan 30th, we hauled Henry to the closest equine center, convinced that despite the apparent mildness of his symptoms, something was seriously wrong. At the equine center, X-rays showed what they said was a large pocket of “gravel” in Henry’s large intestine. Surgery was recommended. I stared at Henry, who still looked calm and relatively normal. Was this really a horse who needed surgery? The surgery is both expensive and also a danger in itself. 20% of horses that go through it have serious complications. I had no idea what the right choice was. In the end I asked the surgeon to look me in the eye and tell me what I should do.

He took off his sunglasses, met my eyes (pretty tear-filled by now, I will admit), and said “If he was my kid’s horse I’d operate on him right now. I wouldn’t wait.”

“Okay,” I said. And I left Henry there for colic surgery.

Do any of you know exactly what colic surgery entails? I didn’t. I do now. The vets at the surgery center explained the process to me very carefully. After lying the horse down, they open his belly, making an incision from belly button to near the sheath (in a gelding). Man, it’s a long cut.. Then they take the large intestine out of the horse’s body, drag it several feet away and open it up (This is to avoid contaminating the body cavity and the subsequent risk of peritonitis). In Henry’s case they found a section full of one gallon of black sand and small enteroliths (these are stones the horse makes in his gut—they looked like river rocks) ranging from two inches to one quarter inch in diameter. This is what they expected to find. But in the course of cleaning Henry’s large intestine out, they found another stone, in a place they hadn’t expected it, much further up the colon. They had to make a second incision to take this stone out. It was bigger than the biggest grapefruit you ever saw and weighs over fifteen pounds. I kid you not. It is on my desk as I type this.

While all this was going on, I was at home, alternately biting my fingernails, leaking tears, and trying to appear relatively normal for my son’s sake. Four hours later I got the call that Henry was coming out of the anesthetic, shaky, but okay…for now.

Henry stayed at the equine center for five days. The young vet who took care of him called me every day to let me know how he was doing. Henry, as she said, was a “rockstar of a patient”. He recovered smoothly, had a good attitude, was easy for them to handle. Our family visited him several times at the equine center and took him for walks. It cheered us all up to see how normal he looked, even just one day after his very major surgery. They showed us the bucket of sand and stones that came out of him and gave us the big stone to take home. It cheered me up to realize that I’d made the right decision. Henry would never have survived without surgery. It was his only chance.

I examined the bucket of “gravel” that was removed from our horse. The black sand never came from our property. There is no sand that looks like that here. We have owned Henry for a year and a half and my son has taken him on over one hundred rides. Three hour trail rides over many hills. Twenty minute loping sessions in the arena. Henry has always been sound. He had plenty of strength and air. He never showed the slightest sign of weakness. And yet Henry was packing that load of sand and stones, not to mention the big stone, on every single one of those rides. It boggles my mind.

After five days we were allowed to bring Henry home. He had a big “belly band” around his middle, supporting his incision and keeping it clean. He had to be fed four small meals a day. He had to be kept in a stall. He had to be hand walked for ten minutes two to three times a day and allowed to graze on green grass. I’ve been keeping quite busy with his care, especially since it has chosen to rain pretty much non-stop since I brought him home.

But I’m getting it done. Henry’s bandage stayed clean, he got his walks and meals and grazing. At his first re-check he was said to be healing well. He is still not out of the woods. He will have three months of rehab before he can return to normal use. We still have the risk of potential hernias and future colics to get through. But I am grateful we have come this far. We’ve given Henry a chance.

For any of you who ever face the same choice, I can only say that I’m glad I listened to the surgeon. I had Henry operated on before he was too far gone to save. I will be eternally thankful I made that decision.

Here’s to Henry…
Laura Crum

Monday, February 16, 2009

When it Rains it Pours

Tough week for Krissy and me. First off we have been getting some weather down in sunny San Diego. Last week's rains made put all of the arenas under water, so the best we could do for the horses was hand walk them through the muck when we had a few moments of reprieve. Then the rains stopped and things started to look up. By Thursday I was able to use the back arena and make a track that didn't land me in the mud. Then, my trainer noticed a small cut that was fairly deep on Krissy's fetlock. Looks like she clipped herself in the stall. The vet comes out and gives her a few stitches, a pressure wrap and antibiotics. Good deal.

Friday I take her out for a hand walk and no problem. Saturday I visit her and she seems depressed, lethargic and just not herself. At this point I'm simply thinking it's because she hasn't been out much. She loves to work so it would stand to reason to me that she could be feeling mopey due to the lack of exercise. That evening as I am heading out to The Southern California Writers Conference where I was teaching some workshops over the weekend, and I get the call from one of the trainers that Krissy isn't eating, and she didn't want to get up. Change of plans! I head out to the ranch. My trainer has had her up and walking and grazing. She'd been given a shot of Banamine and pooped! Yeah!

Not so fast. Yesterday while in a workshop, I get a text that she has 105 temp. I finish the workshop and head out. Lucky for me, everyone at the barn is on top of it and the vet had already been out and buted her up, oiled her and what not. The vet determines it's a virus. This morning 5:30 I can't sleep and so I head out to check on her. Thankfully, the fever is down, she has perked up and she wanted breakfast. All good signs. Fingers crossed she stays the course and continues to get better because at this point I think my vet could start a nice little vacation account and then some.

It's always something, isn't it? For the love of horses, I tell you. A friend was joking with me about all the money we spend on the animals and how we could probably have weekly massages and wear Monolos and take fantastic vacations. I laughed and know she's right, but I wouldn't trade the love I feel and the pleasure I get from my horse for any amount of designer shoes, and she gets the chiropractor far more often than I do! May sound crazy to some, but I know everyone here can relate.

Have a great week.


P.S. If you want to see a slideshow of Krissy, visit my other blog at I would post it here, but I didn't post it on that blog (a friend did) and I'm not sure how to do it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Shameless Promotion: The Gift Horse--Available February 17

Okay, forgive me, but I'm going to do some shameless promotion. I try not to on this blog, but I'm really excited about my new release, The Gift Horse. You can purchase it from Bookstrand in ebook form on February 17 or pre-purchase it now. It'll be in print in about two months and available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble at that time.

The Gift Horse is my first actual equestrian fiction book. My others had horses in them, but this book actually features an opinionate Hanoverian mare as a secondary character. It's a mainstream romance with dashes of comedy and mystery. I hope you'll check it out.

I especially want to thank Carolynn Bunch of Carolynn Bunch Photography who generously allowed me to use a horse show photo she took of my mare on the cover (see above).

Here's a short blurb, and you can read the first chapter on my website.

The Gift Horse

Book Three of the Evergreen Dynasty Series

Never look a Gift Horse in the mouth?

CARSON REYNOLDS would dispute that statement. After all, it was a gift horse that got him into this mess in the first place. Carson has never backed down from a challenge, but he’s never faced a challenge like this one. It’s the project nobody wants. It’s doomed to fail from Day One because of lack of money, lack of planning, and no lack of a difficult, interfering sister. Carson’s mission is to transform a run-down horse farm into THE premium horse training facility in the Pacific Northwest and transform the disorganized resident horse trainer with a penchant for self-sabotage into a confident, professional equestrian of international caliber.

Unfortunately, City Boy Carson doesn’t know one end of a horse from the other, and the large creatures scare the heck out of him. His situation is compounded by a love-sick, 1500-pound mare with a crush on him , his growing attraction to the grungy horse trainer, a disruptive sister who insists the trainer be fired, and a demanding father who has lost faith in his son’s abilities.

Tired of running from herself for six years, SAMANTHA MACINTYRE has returned to the scene of a horrific barn fire allegedly caused by her carelessness. She accepts the head trainer position at that run-down facility with the hope of defeating her demons, proving her innocence, and earning a permanent position at the new equestrian center. With lofty aspirations, but no money and no horse, Sam will do anything to ride the talented, though difficult, horse Carson received as a birthday gift from his family. But first, she must pass the test: compete the horse for one season, impress Carson, and best his sister’s preferred trainer.

As Sam gets closer to the truth regarding the cause of that long-ago fire, small mishaps begin to escalate into larger, more serious, accidents. Carson’s horse knows the real perpetrator, if only those dimwitted humans would listen. With no where else to turn, Sam confides in Carson and together they delve into the actual cause of the fire. With the help of an opinionated equine, they face a surprising reality--that love is more important than ambition, money, or blue ribbons.

Let me know what you think of my book if you read it.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Why Do We Do It? By Janet Huntington

I have been embroiled in a fascinating talk over in my “other world” at mugwump chronicles for the past few days.

I think we’re struggling towards an understanding of what constitutes cruelty and what is simply necessary training to accomplish a task.

The hardest part of this conversation, for me anyway, is it forces me to define what I’m looking for in a horse, the goals I want to achieve on the horse and how I’m going to reach them.

I have always had a curious and slightly obsessive mind. I get onto something and by golly I’m going to find out how to achieve it come hell or high water.

If I latch on I can’t let go until I really have a handle on it.

I started training horses professionally because I was making more money at it than I was illustrating and my daughter could come to work with me. It was that simple. If my little girl hadn’t been as entranced in the horse world as I am I would have done something else.

I started to learn to train from professionals because I wanted to know how to train a horse.
I wasn’t happy simply learning a sport or how to better my horsemanship, I had to know how to train them. So I became a pro. It was the only way to get enough horses to ride to fuel my need to learn.

One of the first things I learned was how unintentionally cruel I had been in the past with my horses simply from ignorance.
Because I didn’t know how or why things were done I used equipment that did more harm than good, used feeding programs that wreaked havoc on my poor horse’s gut and rode the poor suckers into the ground without thought.

It took me a long time to forgive myself. I could only do this by deciding ignorance was forgivable as long as I decided to do something about it.

In order to obtain knowledge the first thing I learned was to shut up. I mean really shut my mouth and watch.

Trainers did not want to hear my naive little self passing judgment on how they did things. Neither did clinicians. I noticed neither breed were particularly forthcoming if they felt I was there to attack. Since most trainers and clinicians have egos as big as the sky and as fragile as a hummingbird egg, I was able to get them to open up by being polite, attentive and quiet. I never named names or denounced anyone.

I learned to ask questions about the mechanics of a technique, or the thought behind a concept. I never told a reining trainer what I had just heard at a Ray Hunt clinic, nor did I raise my hand and ask Richard Shrake why he didn’t teach us to use a twisted wire the way the pleasure horse trainer I was currently riding with did.

I resolved to watch, compare and analyze without an opinion until I completely understood what I was seeing. Sometimes it has been really difficult. Often my mind was blown by the world of possibility I had opening in front of me.
This got the people I rode with to open up and really tell me how to get things done. It earned me some respect. Not as the greatest rider, but one with some serious insight. I’m proud of that.

I also quietly made up my own mind. I know why I don’t use braided snaffles because I’ve used them. I know why I’ll use a half-breed bit but not a mechanical hackamore because I have worked hard to learn how they work. For me mind you.

I still won’t judge because someone else rides differently than me. Especially in a field I don’t understand.

I was able to quit training because I achieved my original goal. I know how to train a cowhorse. I may not be the best (not even close), but I sure know how it’s done. I can happily putter on my own and create a horse I want to ride. So I’m happy.

Now I’ve turned my sights on the written word. I’m learning a lot from this site. Thanks everybody. Laura Crum has been wonderful and truthful. She gets my “trainer brain” and is helping me shape it into a “writer’s brain”.

I’m watching, listening and asking questions. I feel the same excitement in my belly every morning as I did my first year on the NRCHA circuit.

I can’t wait.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Guest Blogger Sherry Ackerman!

Hello everybody,

I'm delighted to introduce Sherry Ackerman as our guest blogger today. Sherry is the author of Dressage in the Fourth Dimension. Here's a wonderful piece about her world and her wonderful horse, Lippy!

Guest Blog by Sherry Ackerman

My love affair with Lippy started about 10 years ago when I was having breakfast with Arthur Kottas who was, at that time, Chief Principal Rider at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. We were breakfasting at a gorgeous Viennese cafĂ© when news came that there were some Lipizzaners for sale…cheap….in the Pacific Northwest, USA. It was a distress sale and, if anyone were interested, they needed to move quickly. Well, here I was sitting in Vienna, home of the Royal Lipizzaner, so the synchronicity seemed meaningful. I asked to see the pedigree and, when it arrived via FAX, Herr Kottas confirmed that one particular mare had outstanding breeding. There was a small, color photo in which she looked rather attractive. I’m a gambler (if I wasn’t, I really couldn’t write books!) so I decided to take a chance. I wired money back to the States and made arrangements to have her shipped to my home in California just after my return date. It seemed like a good plan.

I waited excitedly for the van to pull up on her arrival date. When it did, I could barely contain myself….that is, until the cowboy who had been the driver announced “Good luck, Lady!”, unloading the skinniest, dirtiest, rankest horse that I had seen in a long, long time. She was skin and bones, her feet hadn’t been trimmed in a dog’s age, her coat was matted and dull. When my husband first saw her, he said, “Sherry, why did you buy such an ugly horse?” And, not only was she ugly, but she was mean….really mean. She bore her teeth and went after anyone who tried to come near her. I sat on a fencepost and contemplated the situation. Well, this was clearly my problem because I now owned her!

It didn’t take long to figure out that the photo I had seen of her had been taken some time ago. She had never been started under saddle nor in harness. She was just a big, rank mare and that’s where the buck ended. I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. Some days the most I could do was walk through her paddock without her charging, like a bull, at me. It took months to get a halter on her. Even feeding her was dicey. There were days that she was so ill tempered that I just tossed the food over the top rail of the fence into her paddock. But, not being adverse to pushing rocks uphill, I just kept at it. I felt like I was living the Myth of Sisyphus.

Here she is today…my very best friend. I’ll always remember the day that I call the “turning point”, when she began to trust people and try—just a little—to cooperate. Today, she is the gentlest horse that I own. I trust her with anyone, anytime. She’ll pack a beginner around or give an experienced rider a perfectly balanced canter pirouette.

One of the things that I realize about myself is that the story of Lippy is, to some degree, a snapshot of how I operate. For better or for worse, this is how I write, as well as how I buy horses. I can always feel a “book coming on”. I might be having coffee in the morning and, all of a sudden, I feel the Muses stirring. It’s just there…a sense of urgency and enthusiasm. It always seems like a good plan at the time. Some people might consider it impulsive…and they’re not entirely wrong about that. I start scribbling things on scraps of paper and the more I scribble, the more I feel a stream of ideas. It is chaotic. It isn’t entirely rational. It is the creative process in its most raw and unformed sense. Like those first few rides on Lippy, it can get pretty rough…not really knowing where the ideas are going, but just staying with the motion. Then, at some point, reality kicks in and I have a good, hard look at what I’ve written. It can be ugly. It’s as if that cowboy is right there, saying “Good luck, Lady!”. But, again, taking Sisyphus as my model, this is when I get down to the technical aspects of my craft. I roll up my sleeves and get to work. I coerce my colleagues to read the drafts, try the material out on my students…in short, work at infusing the process with some fresh ideas from outside of myself. Sometimes the feedback is right up there with getting bucked off. Then, it’s about picking myself up off of the ground, dusting myself off and getting back on with it. This is always the “turning point”—the place where the creative chaos integrates just enough order to keep the manuscript balanced on that delicate precipice between exciting and safe. It has to be safe enough that my publishers won’t freak out. They remind me occasionally that I am not Friedrich Nietzsche. But, it also has to be exciting enough to a strong build in the book trade. My new book, Dressage in the Fourth Dimension (New World Library, 2008) has turned out just like Lippy. It’s sweet and gentle…yet strong and powerful. It’s pretty, but it’s also pointed. But, I think the thing that contributed the most toward its being a success was that I was able to get it written without breaking its spirit….just like training a horse.

Sherry L. Ackerman

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Road to Publication con't. . . .

by Kit Ehrman

During my “Road to Publication” post on January 27th, I mentioned that I’d provide some specific pointers and ask some hard questions for those looking to get published.

What follows is a list I compiled and saved in an email draft because I receive so many queries from writers who want advice on how they can break in. One question (complaint, really) that I hear time and again is: “How can an agent or editor make a decision about my work based solely on a one-page query letter? They won’t know how well I can write unless they read the whole manuscript?”

Believe me; I understand this sentiment and sympathize with the writer’s frustration, but once you look at the other side of the equation—what it’s like to be the gatekeeper—you can see the validity of the “query only” limitation that is often part of the submission process.

A query letter serves the purpose of letting the agent or agent’s reader know if the project is something they’re interested in pursuing; therefore, it has to be extremely well written.

Editors and agents are swamped with submissions so, imagine if you will, the office receiving 200+ manuscripts a week instead of 200+ query letters. Query letters are a necessary evil of the publishing business because the competition is so fierce.

There are many things every writer can and should do to improve her odds. Ask yourself:

• Have you edited the manuscript many, many times?
• Have you studied the rules of grammar? (You need to understand them before you can break them for effect.)
• Have you learned the industry’s conventions such as proper manuscript format?
• Has your manuscript been through an objective critique group?
• Have you hired a professional freelance editor to give you input? (Get references if you go this route.)
• Have you had a lot of readers, who are familiar with the genre you’re writing in, read the manuscript and give you feedback?
• Is the manuscript as perfect as you can possibly make it?

The Query Letter
• Have you attempted to get writing credits to include in your query letter by entering contests or publishing short stories in genre-specific magazines?
• Have you studied what should go in a query letter?
• Have you polished your query letter ruthlessly?
• Have you shared different versions of your query letter with your critique group to see which one is most effective?
• Have you studied books on querying agents? (The Sell Your Novel Toolkit by Lyons is a good one. So is a book by Kathryn Sands about making the perfect pitch.)

Selecting An Agent
• Have you researched possible agents carefully?
• Do you know how to select the right agent for you?
• Have you looked through the acknowledgements pages of books similar to yours so you can determine agents who like the kind of thing your write? Oftentimes, an author will thank his or her agent in the acknowledgements.
• Have you gone to writing conferences where you can verbally pitch your book to agents?
• Check out a website called Predators and Editors that lists agents to avoid.

Acting Professional
• Have you joined the organizations relevant to the genre you’re writing in so you can become familiar with the publishing industry?
• Have you attended conferences in order to network with other writers, authors, and industry professionals?

I highly recommend that you go to Miss Snark’s website. She’s a New York literary agent. This site is no longer active, but there’s a wealth of information here. Beginning with this link, you can see how she evaluates the hook in a query. What gets her interest, etc. This is very insightful for seeing what works and what doesn’t. Here’s the link where the hook evaluation begins: Also, search this website because you’ll find a lot of useful information about the industry in general.

It takes talent, luck, and perseverance to get published. The best way to deal with the query process is to start on the next book while you’re doing it so you don’t become obsessed or depressed by the process. And you’ll be glad you have another book that’s partly done when you do get published, because once you are, you’ll have to promote the first book while you’re writing the second.

Good luck!
Kit Ehrman

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Why do I do This?

While this post could apply to writing, as in "why do I write when I don't make any money at it?" It's not about writing today. It's about riding.

I had my first lesson last Thursday in over four weeks. I didn't want to ride that night. In fact, I considered different ways to get out of it. My trainer has a policy that it you don't give her 48 hours notice of a cancellation, you still pay. Many times, this has forced me to go ahead and take my lesson even when I didn't feel like it.

So I trudged into the barn, resigned that there was no way out. My mare is in the first stall as you walk down the aisle. She had her butt to the door until she saw me. She turned around and poked her nose through the bars, happy to see me and probably wondering where the heck I'd been all these weeks.

Ever since I sold my first book and started writing "professionally," it's gotten harder and harder to drag myself to the barn. I have so little free time that I sometimes wonder why I continue to juggle all these balls. Lately, it seems like riding would be the first to go, especially riding dressage.

As you know from previous posts, Gailey has been in her winter shying mode, and it's been driving me insane. So that makes me dread riding all the more. Since no one had ridden her in a week, I wasn't expecting a fun time of it. So I saddled up, feeling a little better because I do love this horse. She seemed genuinely happy to see me, too. I walk to the arena, climb on, and started warming up. My mare is wound up and raring to go, which isn't always a bad thing. When she's like that, it's easier to get her to sit on her hindquarters and get her shoulders out of the ground. She has huge powerful shoulders, and she'd much prefer pulling herself along with those shoulders.

With low expectations, I walked around the arena, then trotted. My mare likes to overpower me with her big gaits so she can fall on her forehand and tow me around. So from the first stride of trot, I kept my legs on, did half halts, and kept her at a controlled pace. Usually at this point one of us starts pulling, she starts going faster, and so it goes. That didn't happen. I reminded myself not to pull, but to take then give until she started increasing her speed instead of her power, then it was take-give again.

Okay, I've ridden dressage for probably 30 years now. I understand the basics. I know how it's supposed to work. I also know that as an uncoordinated adult, the doing is much harder than the understanding. I've never been great at coordinating my seat, legs, and hands. I also have a tendency to stiffen and pull rather than relax and ask.

As our lesson starts, and my trainer asks for more power with no more speed, I actually do it without pulling. Then we canter. Lately, this has been the gait I can't seem to balance. Much to my surprise, I did it. I have this bad habit of half-halting at the bottom of the stride instead on the up-side. That night, I kept her up and balanced between my hand and legs.

And wonder of wonders, no pulling. So by now, I'm having a good time. Everything is coming together. I've totally forgotten that I'd dreaded doing this an hour before.

At a break I talk with my trainer about not having the ambition to ride and reasons that I, and many others, keep doing this. Besides all the obvious reasons which any horseperson knows--that uncontrollable love of horses--we discussed our friends who don't ride. What do they do in the winter? They sit on their butts in their warm houses and watch TV. Riders don't do that. They go to the barn no matter the weather. Dressage requires the horse and rider be in shape so you have to ride. If I didn't have this horse and I didn't ride dressage, I'd be one of those women sitting on their butts, especially now that I'm writing seriously.

My instructor's personal trainer at the gym mentioned to her that all the riders he see are actually pretty toned. I also know that when I get massages, the masseuse is always surprised how in shape I am when I tell her I don't "work out."

So I now have renewed ambition to ride again rather than give it up. I know it gets me out of the house in crappy weather. I know it keeps me in relatively good shape. I know it keeps me young, compared to all my friends of the same age. And most of all, I remember once again why I do this.

So I guess I'm going to keep slogging to the barn even when I don't want to ride. Once I put my foot in that stirrup, I forget why I didn't want to do this.

When it all comes together on the back of a horse there isn't a greater high on earth

Friday, February 6, 2009

Using Animals in Fiction as Secondary Characters

I'm popping in before I go to work to let everyone know that I blogged today at The Romance Studio on using animals as secondary characters and writing scenes from an animal's point of view.

I know a lot of you are interested in writing equestrian fiction, so you might want to check it out:

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Guest Blogger--Patti Brooks, author of Fame and Deceit

I'm happy to welcome guest blogger, Patti Brooks. Patti is the author of an equestrian fiction book, Fame and Deceit. Welcome, Patti!!!

Setting my stories in the horse world is a given as I’ve been immersed in everything horse since, at age nine, I earned my pony’s keep by giving ten-cent pony rides. Writing was in my blood as well and as a teen I sold my first article to a national magazine for $3.00. That sealed my fate. I spent my life with horses and writing.

I kept a notebook of story ideas with the thought that since I am a professional horse trainer, someday I’d be bound to break a bone and be laid up for six or so weeks and then I would write the first of many books. Sure...dash off a publishable first novel in six weeks!

Fortunately I did not break a bone but I did learn my way around a computer and a non-horse story was put in my lap, begging to become a novel. Four years of research and another four to polish sufficiently to catch the eye of a publisher and that story became Mountain Shadows ( a historical set in the Prohibition era in the Adirondacks). I am pleased that it has become required reading in a number of Adirondack high schools. It taught me I had to make time to write and for me that meant starting my days at four a.m.

Now that I had some basics, I thought my first book set in the horse world would be a cinch. Certainly did not need four years of research to get my setting down. I lived my life surrounded by all things horse.

I took part of a number of workshops and found them priceless. But I was surprised at the feedback encouraging me to flesh out the horsey stuff. I always fret about being too preachy. I want to tell an intriguing story, not teach my readers how to train a horse.

When I sent Fame & Deceit out in the world to find first an agent who would then find a publisher I could work with, I received oodles of stock rejections and quite a few requests for the entire manuscript. Some of those came back with worthwhile suggestions that I acted upon, some came back saying horses don’t act like that, and others came back saying an audience of primarily horse people wouldn’t sell enough books.

That is what frustrates me! Why couldn’t Fame & Deceit be as successful as Tom Clancy’s first novel, Hunt for Red October, that is set in the submarine world? Certainly more people would be intrigued reading a murder mystery with horses trotting through it than with submarines lurking under the seas! Were his readers mostly sailors? Course not.

But even if a reader has to like horses to enjoy my novel, that is hardly restrictive. The American Horse Council’s independent survey indicates there are 13 million people in the US over eighteen that consider themselves to be horse people. I’d be happy selling a book to half of them!

But there’s another rub! I was fortunate with my first novel to receive dozens of letters from kind folks who praised the book. Unfortunately, so many of them proudly told me they passed the book on to friend after friend. Given what an author makes on the sale of one book, readers need to be encouraged to send their friends to the bookstore to buy the book. Just before Christmas (four years after the book came out) a woman sent me a handwritten note saying she passed her copy on to fifteen people. Heart-warming, but not wallet-filling.

These are things I grumble about, but it won’t stop me from completing the next book in the series.

Patti's Bio:

There were times when my husband, Bob, and I had as many as a hundred Morgan Horses on our farm in East Lyme, CT. Although I’ve been an avid horse show exhibitor, my real love is competitive distance riding and being open to take on off-beat endeavors. With my Morgan stallion, Peppertime, we appeared in TV commercials and were chosen to jump out of a horse-size birthday cake to celebrate the bicentennial of the Morgan Horse.

I have served as President of the New England Morgan Horse Assn. and was inducted into the American Morgan Horse Association’s Hall of Fame. Currently she is sePrving a term as President of the Eastern Competitive Trail Ride Assn. and teaches a fiction writing class at a local community college.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Aging and Our Horses

I don't know if any you have ever found that riding and relationships change with your horse as you age. I found that out this weekend. I mean, I kind of knew it already. I'm definitely far more cautious than I was when I was a kid with the horses. When I was a kid, it was all about get on and ride like hell. When I came off (which I often did) I seemed to bounce. I might have shed a few tears, but not many because all I really wanted to do was get back on the horse and ride like a mad kid again. Plus, I had my dad always telling me, "get back on. Wipe yourself off and get back on." Of course, he'd make sure I was okay first, but once he had, I dind't have a choice. So, I would get back on. I'm actually thankful now that I had an ornery pony to teach me how to be tough and ride. I don't have a lot of fear because of my bucking bronco, racehorse of a pony who used to buck me off almost daily from ages 8-10, until I finally learned how to stay on.

However, what I have gained as I've aged is a lot of respect for the animal, and a realization that at any given moment my horse could use every ounce of muscle and hurt me, and the only thing I wuld have going for me would be my brain. My respect for my horse and my brain probably saved my life on Saturday (okay I might be exxaggerating a bit, but it at least saved me from getting hurt).

Krissy is 16.2 hands and because of regular work, a good maintenance program, and a lot of extra feed, she has muscled out, filled out and is one powerful mare. She is half warmblood and half TB. Most of the time her warmblood brain is in charge. But something was in the air on Saturday. I will give her the benefit of the doubt here, she did have a few distractions making her crazy. I took her out into the jumping arena. It was great--just the two of us and my trainer--and the fifty or sixty goats and their babies on the property next door tromping through the cornfield (you getting the picture), plus the kids next door jumping around on pogo sticks, and a horse turned out having a great old time. We decided to hold off on jumping and just do some flat work. The goal was to keep her focus on me and not all the chaos around her. Yeah right! Walk, trot around and she is okay. She's very aware of goats, pogo sticks and other horse, but she's listening to my aids and she's trying really hard to be a good girl. Krissy has a very good heart and a good mind, so I don't get too worried, but I do know she has a flight system deeply embedded in her body.

It was time to canter. The departure was great, going around was fine, until--one of the other riders decided to start taking down jumps and rearranging the course. I know what you're thinking--couldn't she have waited? Crossed my mind, too. All it took was for her to move a pole over into the bushes to send Krissy over the edge. With a toss of her head and more power than I have ever felt underneath me, she decided to take off. For a split second I thought, "I'm dead." I could hear my trainer yelling, "Sit back, sit back," which I did, but after I decided I wasn't ready to die, I heard this voice in my head--"Turn her, turn, her, turn her hard." It was my dad's voice, and I was a little girl on a fiesty pony again trying to run away with me. I turned that mare into me to the right and she stopped, and I was grateful that she did! The gal moving the rails apologized and said that she dind't expect that because Krissy is always so even tempered. I know, but the bottom line is that she is still a horse, and a horse has a mind of her own.

Krissy tried this stunt three more times with me, until she finally realized that she could trust me and she was safe and all I was going to do was turn her and stay on. By the end of an hour of helping her with her fears, she started to relax and forget about goats, pogo sticks and the wind in the trees.

I think we both came away with a little more respect for one another.

How about any of you? As you've aged (ooh hate that word) have you found the way you ride or treat your horse is different than maybe a few years ago or if you had horses when you were kid, is it different now?

On a separate topic: A quick note! I have two books out today. My first children's fantasy is out today--"Zamora's Ultimate Challenge." Ages 8-12. This a fun chapter book and for those of you with kids, just go to my site and check out the excerpt and the contest. If you have boys and they like video games then they'll enjoy this book, and girls will love the characters from The Pegasus named Isaac to Chelsea the Mermaid. One reviewer wote: It's a cross between The Narnia Chronicles, Spy Kids, and Lemony Snickett. Pretty cool!

Also out is the fifth book in the wine lovers mystery series: Corked by Cabernet. More murder, romance, wine and food, and laughs. I hope you'll go to my site and have a look around, read the excerpts, enter the contests, etc. Thank You.