Sunday, May 31, 2009

Conrad Schumacher--Part 5 (Final Post)

This post concludes my notes taken at the Conrad Schumacher symposium a few months ago. I hope you've enjoyed this series.

Training the Upper Levels, Preparing for the Show

Classical riding enables us to work the in a horse-friendly way in harmony. Classical riding makes horses equal in temperment. Thoroughbreds and hot horses cool down, warmblood’s heat up. Dressage has nothing to do with head and neck position.

At horse shows, classical riding is not enough. You have to do quality preparation before and at the show grounds.

  • Ride the test at home over and over.

  • Train for the movements at home.

  • Ride the horse other places.

  • Put markers on the ground where each piece of the test is ridden.


It takes a dressage rider twenty years to get there. You must have a lifestyle that you are on your horse every morning in the same mood. When you aren’t in the same mood every day, your aids are different in subtle ways, such as timing or intensity.

You need quality preparation. You must be secure in the saddle. The body part of the sport is the horse. The mental part is the rider. Everything is linked together by a training system.


Train at home with a warming-up concept and train it over and over. Make the horse ready for the work. The warm-up needs to make the horse excitable but controlled. You need to know what do I do, when and how.

Ride slowly in the warm-up. Ride for position first then ride for expression. The test at a show is not the place for schooling. You can only just “ride.”

Train the test until it’s perfect. Ride as good as you can.

The correct focus is mental fitness.

Wrists rotate in when ears come up at canter

Upper level Exercises to get the haunches under:

  • To raise the head use only the snaffle, one sharp snap, then stop.

  • Ride shoulder-in, move to inside track, still in shoulder-in, move back to track in shoulder-in (slowly almost reining back in trot to come back to rail).

  • Do the same but in renver.

  • Do the same in Canter shoulder-in

  • Reinback then forward w/o halt

  • Canter, make a square, (half-halt, turn).

  • Diagonal in Shoulder-in, then change at wall.

  • Changes: Four tempis: Say "1-2-3-I will."

  • Do 4 tempis on a circle

Classical Structure of the Dressage Lesson

Warm-up, preparing for the work phase.
Put the horse on the haunches to make them controllably excited.

Phase 1: Warm up the Muscles

  • Walk for 12 minutes first

  • Move on and trot slowly

  • Deep trot to help back for 2-3 minutes

  • Canter—medium to working canter, back and forth then more precise (10 strides med. 10 collected).

  • Back to trot, working trot to halt.

Horse should get in a more active mood.

Working Phase

Use the power of impulsion to achieve your goals.
When horses are relaxed in the minds, they can listen to the aids

  • Turn on haunches, trot, med. Trot.

  • Halt-RB-Canter

  • Short canter, bigger canter, short canter. On the spot canter, med. Canter

  • Medium canter. On the spot canter, medium canter.

  • Down long side HP left

  • Four tempis, start with collection finish with medium canter.

  • Canter Pirouettes (the pirouette is a Half Pass in a turn):

  • Ride half-pass around instructor. He taps hocks and croup with butt of lunge whip then let horse stretch down after about 3 or 4 of these.

  • HP to Pirouette, ride back(wards) and turn.

  • Down diagonal at medium trot. Halt @ X. Medium trot, Halt in corner.

Exercises for a big, lazy horse

Keep your hip in front for changes.
For a horse who is a bully and doesn’t listen, use shorter diagonals and bend/counter bend.
In half-pass point the neck where you need to go.


  • Shoulder-in in medium trot.

  • Haunches in, rein back on centerline, haunches-in.

  • RB 5 steps, one step forward, pirouette immediately.

  • Turn on haunches, immediate reinback (more control and improves walk).

  • Trot, reinback, trot.

  • Medium canter long side, halt.

  • Medium canter to collected canter.

  • Volte in corner, show diagonal, change at wall (keeps horse from running in the changes.

  • Half-pass, correct bend and counter bend of neck in half-pass.

  • Half-pass in canter, 8 strides in, straight strides, 8 back, change.


How long do you ride your horses: 20 minutes of warmup, 20 minutes of work, and cool down phase.

At Conrad’s barn: We don’t turn out horses but give them chances to move. Go outdoors to ride whenever possible.

Stretching: You should be able to stretch whenever you want. A horse full of confidence takes the rider’s invitation to stretch.

Hips in Front: Bring your hips forward, without leaning back. Scoop with seat.

A horse with tongue out has a lack of throughness and not giving in the neck. A very few do it by nature.

A horse with an open mouth gives in the mouth, not the neck.

To straighten the canter ride shoulder-fore.

For flying changes the hip in front keeps the horse straight.

Wide hands: Should be as natural and easy as possible. Keeping hands together tightens the shoulders. An open upper body makes it easier ride without stiffness.

More Preparing to Show

Drive forward only when you have a rounded neck.

Two traps at shows:

  • Open space makes the horse more forward than at home. Collect in warm-up more than needed.

  • Two-minute before the test: Don’t just ride around. Do something.

Pre-warmup routine: What works best for his riders is to learn to mediate the test. Sit somewhere, shut your eyes and ride the test in your mind five times the hour before the test. Live in the feel of what you want in the test. Feel your leg on the horse, his back underneath you, etc. When warming up have a clear plan. Find out what works best for your horse.

The Way to the Grand Prix Level

The main differences in Grand Prix are the piaffe/passage and the one tempis.

Work from the ground: Don’t need to do as much as the Spanish Riding School as we aren’t training the airs above the ground. Start at 3rd level. Use side reins so the horse stays round. Take the outside rein over the poll and through the bit ring. Frame the horse next to the wall with your body and the whip.



Think of it like teaching a dog to sit down.

First start with a nice collected walk in hand. Moving backward is the sign of a blocking neck.

Practice 2-3 times a week but for not very long.

Under the rider:

Volte in walk
Flex to inside
Strighten and piaffe
Volte (volte is the reward)


Walk, Leg Yield, Passage (Makes horse flexible in the spine)

One-Tempi Changes

Start with nice 2Xs
Counter Canter
Go down longside and do inside bend of the neck, outside bend, inside (get the first change in a corner, then change back in a corner)

Canter Pirouette

Canter Pirouette to Halt to Canter Pirouette

Unfortunately, as the symposium went on, I got more and more tired of writing notes. If none of this makes sense, let me know. I'll be glad to elaborate as best I can remember.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Changing Hats by Janet Huntington

My life with horses has taken dramatic twists and turns. I have jumped through hoops to keep them with me and have always felt the sacrifices were worth it.

I have had some wonderful horses in my life, some through success in the show pen, some through success in simply helping me become a better person.

Even the imaginary horses I rode as a wild little girl helped me grow. Watching the beautiful black stallion who ran with our car on endless family road trips not only kept me from getting car sick. He also fueled my imagination and fed into the stories I made up as the miles flashed by.

That imaginary black horse taught me patience and helped me develop an iron bladder that I still maintain today.

My first horse, Mort, unlocked the desire to train and a fierce sense of competition. He also gave me my first sense of responsibility. If I didn't work he didn't have hay. If I didn't come to feed him, he didn't eat. If I forgot to fill his water he didn't drink.

He was my entry into the basic elements of adulthood. Food, drink, shelter.
I learned what the payback was for being solid in my commitment. A warm, silky coat under my hand, an incredible sense of power and strength when I raced my horse through the trees and a welcoming nicker as I walked up to feed my friend every day.

I have always been willing to make the trades that come with horse ownership. I rarely have new clothes, the Salvation Army and the Ark are my friends. I almost never take vacations or go out to eat. My cars are old and are rarely in the same decade as I am. I have a nice truck and a serviceable trailer though.

I raised my daughter with the same intensity I have with my horses. You would have to ask her if she appreciated it or not. Who needs quality when the kid is getting quantity?

I made my life work around her well being. When I first had to face the fact I would be raising her alone, she was four years old and had always been home with me. I got a job at a daycare and brought her with me to ease her transition into our new life. I stayed at the daycare until she was in the first grade, then I became a full time horse trainer. I took her with me.

If my daughter hadn't loved horses I probably would have done something else. As it was she got to spend her days with friends and a beloved old mare. My desire to learn kept expanding the level of my riding and the kind of horse I rode.

I changed barns five times in the progression of my career and I took my daughter with me. At one point in time she was being groomed to be the top in the horse show world. Her talent is immense and she was poised to jump.

I was proud and amazed to watch her surpass me in so many ways. But she stopped. The life wasn't for her. I was able to handle her pulling away because of what I had learned from the horses I rode. Patience, watching, silence and thought.

She had learned many of the same things. She was able to help me sort out the right and wrong of the horse show circuit. She helped me figure out what I really wanted and where I needed to go.

She made it clear she is happy with one little sorrel gelding. She would like to compete again, but only on the horse she loves. The most important part of owning a horse to her is watching her boy throw his head up and trot to the gate when he hears her car. His long happy nicker when he first sees her is all she needs.

So I have changed hats again. My daughter is grown. My world has turned upside down and I am no longer training. I write for a living now. Often about horses. I still sacrifice more than I should to give my horses the basics.

But I know the trade has been fair. I see the kindness in my daughter's face, the grace and strength in her movement and the goals she has set for herself in the world she in entering as an adult. I know it comes from what I've been able to give her and the lessons I've been able to share. It all comes from our life with horses. I wouldn't change a thing.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


By Laura Crum

OK, I have a silly confession. I have been guilty of buying several horses because I liked their color. And not buying other horses because I didn’t like their color. Recently I’ve been emailing back and forth with Janet Huntington about our favorite colors when it comes to horses, and it made me realize just how strong my predjudices are.

I know that to some people this won’t seem silly at all. There are folks all over the place who feel perfectly justified in selecting a horse based on color. Heck, there are whole breeds that are based solely on color. That’s fine, I guess. But I was raised with cowboys who were fond of saying they didn’t care what color a horse was as long as he could get the job done (though I noticed these same cowboys forbade me to buy a leopard Appaloosa when I was fifteen—based only on not wanting that loudly spotted horse on the ranch). Still, I was taught from the git go to look first at what a horse could get done as a cowhorse or rope horse, second at his confirmation, in the sense of soundness and athletic ability, and only last at whether he was pretty or not (and I was always told that the only point to a pretty head or a pretty color was resale value). It was sort of a sin in the crowd I ran with to admit that you wanted a pretty horse, or a horse of a certain color. You were supposed to want a good horse, and a sound horse, and the hell with color and pretty.

To some degree, I still believe this, so have had a hard time admitting that I do have predjudices when it comes to color. But its true. If you ask my favorite color I have no trouble responding. Bright bay. A bright sparkly red bay.

The first bright bay I bought was Burt, a horse I owned for thirty years. He died Dec 2007 at thirty five years old, and I did buy him partly because I love that color. He turned out to be a good horse and a wise choice, but hey, I didn’t know that when I fell in love with him and offered to buy him (I’d never ridden him or seen him ridden—I just liked his looks). So you can see what a sucker I am for bright bays.

I’m also a sucker for horses with a big blaze, of almost any color, including paint horses. My beloved horse Gunner also happens to be a bay (I’ve owned a lot of bays, naturally), but his big blaze was what caught my eye. In Gunner’s case, though, I can say that I bought him after being his trainer for six months, and I knew what a nice horse I was choosing.

I’ve always liked roans, particularly strawberry roans, but I’ve never owned one. And I’ve always liked palominos. So when a horse that fit my needs as a trail horse turned up for sale a little over a year ago and he happened to be a shiny gold palomino, what do you suppose was the clincher?

That bright gold color, of course. And I have to say, I’ve enjoyed Sunny’s color very much ever since I’ve owned him. It cheers me up just to see him standing in the corral.
Now, those are my favorite colors. On the other hand, I’ve never been crazy about grays—everybody else’s favorite color—though I will admit that my boarder, Twister, was a pretty attractive gray when he arrived at my barn five years ago. But he’s a lot whiter now, as is the nature of dapple grays.

Neither do I care for black or dark brown horses, though I’ve ridden some good ones. But the one color I actively avoided was sorrel, particularly a light orange-y sorrel, a color that is really common in the cowhorse bred QHs I’ve always owned. If I was looking for a horse and just the right one happened along and he was a sorrel, I’d find a reason not to like him. Until Henry.

When I was desperately looking for a horse to replace Toby, my son’s pony, who died Oct 07 of cancer, the one horse I knew of who would truly fit the bill was Henry. I wasn’t even sure if Henry’s owner would sell him—I was reduced to begging, playing the pity card, and offering more money than Henry was worth to clinch the deal. Obviously, I wasn’t going to let a little sorrel color stand in my way. And the funny thing is, Henry’s deep copper red is really growing on me. He’s not a washy light-colored sorrel, he’s fire-red, like the bright bays I love. OK, he doesn’t have those striking black points. But he has brilliant red sparkles in the sun.

Anyway, one of the things I’m learning as I get older and a little freer of my conditioning (hopefully), is that its OK to pick a horse partly because you like his looks. My little palomino gelding makes me smile every time I see his bright gold shape in the corral. Maybe that’s silly, but its true. I don’t think I’m ever going to become someone who buys the “wrong” horse for my needs because I fall in love with his looks or color, though. I value Sunny most of all for his reliability as a trail horse and his confident nature (see my two previous posts).

Anybody else have any favorite colors they’d like to share?

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Confident Horse

By Laura Crum

Someone asked how to make a confident horse on Janet’s mugwump chronicles blog the other day, and it got me thinking. That phrase, “confident horse” means something different to me than it might mean to others. I’ve trained quite a few horses in my life, some for myself, some for others. I’ve never made a horse that I consider a truly confident horse. On the other hand, I have owned three horses that were very confident horses. I asked myself what the difference was.

Of the horses I trained for myself, there were three, Burt, Gunner and Plumber, that I owned all their lives. (Burt is dead, Gunner is retired, I’m still riding Plumber at twenty years old.) I bought Burt and Gunner with thirty days on them, Plumber I broke myself. I did all the training on all three horses. All three of them won at various events, both with me and for others. All three were cowhorses. Burt won money at low level cutting and reined cowhorse, team penning, barrel racing and goat tying, Gunner at reined cowhorse, cutting and roping, and Plumber as a team roping heel horse. I have trophy saddles, buckles, blankets and headstalls aplenty from these three. They were and are good horses, who came through for me, and other riders they trusted, over and over again, whether that meant handling a tough steer, or the end of a twelve hour cattle drive in the face of a howling gale. I am absolutely proud of them. But they weren’t/aren’t what I call a confident horse.

Burt, Gunner, and Plumber, all three, trusted their rider to take care of them. They obeyed directions no matter how tough the going got. They stayed broke under stress. But that isn’t what I mean by a confident horse.

Last week I posted about my trail ride on Sunny, my little ill broke palomino plug. A lot of people wrote to say how rare and valuable these “solid minded” horses are (I’m quoting Janet here). And this, for me, is another way of describing a truly confident horse.

To my way of thinking, a solid minded horse, or a confident horse, has confidence in himself. He doesn’t so much trust his rider to take care of him, or obey his rider (though he may/does do both these things) as he has confidence in himself to deal with whatever comes up. His main distinguishing trait? He is not anxious.

I have been privileged to own three confident horses in my life (Flanigan—see my post, Flanigan’s Story June 08-- Henry, my son’s trail horse, and Sunny, my current trail horse). I did not train any of these horses. They all came to me as mature, broke horses.

So what does this tell me? That I’m not a good enough trainer to train a confident horse? Maybe. But I think the answer is a little more subtle. I’m going to try to explore it here, and I hope you will all chime in with your ideas.

My three confident horses had/have some things in common. All of them came up the hard way. Flanigan was broke by some midwestern cowboy (unknown to me). The horse was cinchy and apparently the cowboy tried starving him into submission. The horse trader we bought him from told us it took six months to feed the horse back to a decent weight. Flanigan had known some hard times. Sunny, my trail horse, came from Mexico, where, so I was told, they rode the H-E-double hockey sticks out of him. Hard times again. Henry, my son’s horse, was a team roping horse his entire life, and though I have no reason to think he was treated harshly, a team roping horse tends to get the rough corners rubbed off over the years.

Besides having come up the hard way, all three horses were/are essentially lazy horses. At the same time they were/are all what the old cowboys use to call hard-twisted—they can take a lot and not get rattled. I am willing to bet a lot of money that Flanigan and Sunny, at least, would have been pretty broncy when they were started.

So what does all this tell me? That the confident horses that have come my way have a certain “picture”. I don’t think I would have chosen any of them for myself as a green horse, or to start. I tended to look for more mallable, sensitive, responsive horses. I did not choose horses that wanted to buck. The three horses I mentioned earlier, Burt, Gunner and Plumber, were just that. Sensitive, willing, no buck. They made good horses. But not tough, solid minded, confident horses. They weren’t the type.

So, here’s my theory. Confident horses are often horses that, contrary to what you might expect, have been through some adversity and come out the other side. They have proven to themselves that they are tough enough to take what life dishes out, even when its not easy. This gives them confidence in themselves. The kind of horse that can survive this way and be all right is a tough minded, hard twisted personality to begin with. If Burt, Gunner, or Plumber had been subjected to that kind of start, they would, I think, have ended up blown up and worthless. But the ones who have what it takes to come out the other side can become confident.

Given a sympathetic owner who appreciates them and can get along with them, these confident horses really shine. No, they are not usually sweet. They are often grouchy, or at the least, standoffish. But they know how to take care of themselves and will take care of you right along with them. (See my last post, “Trail Ride”). I needed to give my well broke, sensitive horses confidence—and they would come through for me. I could/can draw confidence from my confident horses. I could take from them rather than give to them.

Yes, you still have to be in charge. But you can tell a confident horse what to do and let him take care of the rest. You don’t need to babysit him. No horse is perfect. My confident horses would/will all spook, for instance. But they don’t spook often, and when they do, there’s a legitimate reason. They make one jump, take a look, realize its not a problem and that’s that. They don’t prance around like anxious ninnies for no reason. They don’t bolt. They aren’t worried. They are confident in their ability to handle the world.

So, I’m curious here. I’ve put forth one theory about confident horses and how they get that way. Its fits the confident horses I have known. I also feel that I’m having a hard time describing exactly what I mean by a confident horse. Again, to get a better picture, read my “Trail Ride post. I’d love to hear anybody else’s ideas on this subject.

Happy Memorial Day!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Guest Blogger--Heidi Thomas--Cowgirls Compete with Men

I'm very happy to introduce Heidi Thomas, who has made Equestrian Ink one of her stops on her blog tour.

Please leave a comment of substance to be entered in a drawing from today’s blog stop. Check back tomorrow to see who the winner is, give us your mailing address and wait for your prize!

Cowgirls Compete With Men
A petite young woman mounts a 750 to 900-pound steer, and hangs on to nothing but a rope tight-wrapped around one hand. That she stays on this bucking, twisting, snorting beast for ten seconds, eight seconds or even two seconds, seems a miracle.

This is the intriguing picture of my grandmother I have carried in the back of my mind since I was a little girl.

My grandmother, Olive May “Tootsie” Bailey, grew up the daughter of homesteaders during the early 1900s in the Sunburst-Cut Bank area of Montana, near the Canadian border and east of the Rocky Mountains.

Although she no longer rode in rodeos when I came along, “Gramma” was an avid horsewoman and ranch wife, equally at-home on the back of a horse as she was in a dress and heels. She and my grandfather, Otto Gasser, were partners in rural Montana ranching as well as an urban family of friends.

The 1920s were the heyday of rodeo, where the cowgirl was as much a part of the festivities as the cowboy. The first cowgirls learned to ride out of necessity to help on their family ranches. At an early age they learned to ride horses, rope cattle, and stay in the saddle atop an untamed bucking bronco.

In 1885, Annie Oakley, a diminutive sharpshooter in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show, paved the way for other women to be recognized in the rodeo arena.
Two years later, Bertha Kaelpernick was allowed to enter a horse race in Cheyenne’s Frontier Days only because the arena was so muddy the cowboys refused to participate. To entertain the crowd, she was coerced into riding a bucking horse.

Despite the terrible conditions, she managed to stay in the saddle, and put the men to shame. She continued to compete and often beat such legendary cowboys as Ben Corbett and Hoot Gibson.

Following in Bertha’s footsteps years later, Prairie Rose Henderson of Wyoming forced the Cheyenne organizers to allow her to ride. She went on to become one of the most flamboyant cowgirls of the era, dressing in bright colors, sequins and ostrich plumes over bloomers.

Lucille Mulhall, whose father, Colonel Zack Mulhall, ran a Wild West Show, was described in a 1900 New York World article as “only ninety pounds, can break a bronc, lasso and brand a steer, and shoot a coyote at 500 yards. She can also play Chopin, quote Browning, and make mayonnaise.” Both Teddy Roosevelt and Will Rogers have been credited with giving Lucille the title “cowgirl.”

Between 1885 and 1935, many women proudly wore that title and competed with men, riding broncs, steers and bulls. They also roped and tied steers (usually wearing long divided skirts) alongside their male counterparts.

In early rodeos, women and men competed in the same arena, drawing from the same stock. Women rode broncs, steers, bulls, and did steer roping as well as trick riding, Roman races and relay races.
I know that my grandmother, Toots Bailey Gasser, rode steers in small Montana rodeos. Other cowgirls, such as Marie Gibson, also from Montana, rode steers, bulls and broncs throughout the US, Canada and even London. While each cowgirl had her specialty, most participated in multiple events.

Vera McGinnis, Tad Lucas and Fox Hastings were probably best known for trick riding. This demonstrated numerous types of stands and vaults, performed while the horse was galloping at top speed. Other maneuvers included crawling under the horse’s belly, hanging just inches from the mount’s pounding hooves.

In the Roman race, the cowgirl would stand with her right foot on one galloping horse and her left foot on the other. (The horses would have had to be very well trained to stay together, and the rider obviously had great balance and strength.)

The relay race required three laps around a track, and the rider had to change horses, and sometimes saddles, after each round. If they weren’t required to change saddles, many cowgirls perfected the “flying” change, leaping from the back of one horse to the other without touching the ground. Vera McGinnis is credited with inventing this move.

After Bonnie McCarrol and Marie Gibson were killed and several other women badly injured in rodeo accidents, cowgirl bronc riding became increasingly rare in the West, leaving only relay racing open to women competitors. But women’s rodeo gradually eroded nationwide for several reasons:
Small, local rodeos were no longer financially lucrative and livestock was in short supply in the 1930s, leading to the demise of the Wild West shows.
· Men held the central control of the sport.
· Many well-known women rodeo stars retired.
· World War II, with tire and gas rationing, did not allow travel as in the past.

From the mid-1930s until the late 1940s, cowgirls became mere props in rodeo, “glamour girls” whose beauty and attire were emphasized instead of athletic skill. In 1948, 38 women formed the Girls Rodeo Association (GRA) to give women an opportunity to compete in calf roping, barrel racing, and trick riding. In 1968, barrel racing finals were finally included in the men’s Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) National Finals.

In 1981 GRA changed its name to Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) and today has more than 2,000 members. It sanctions 800 barrel races a year in conjunction with men’s PRCA rodeos. But women still do not compete with men.

As an entity of its own, Professional Women’s Rodeo Association (PWRA) puts on events in women-only rodeos that include bareback riding, breakaway and tie-down calf roping, bull riding, and team roping.

It’s been a long time coming, but as Rene Mikes, a corporate accountant from Denver and a bull rider, says, “It’s not a guy sport anymore.” But despite the heroic efforts of many women, including Cowgirl Hall of Fame and world champion bull rider Joni Jonkowski of Montana, women for the most part still do not compete with men.

Cowgirl Dreams is available at (for autographed copies) or from
Join me on my next stop tomorrow at Jean Henry Mead’s “A Western Happening” Please leave a comment and at the end of my tour, I’ll enter your name in a drawing.
For the itinerary of all my stops on this tour and a list of prizes, go to my blog

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Query Letter Connection

Hi Everybody,

As promised in my last post, I have some information to share from last year's Backspace Writer's Conference on writing query letters. Since I am focused on fiction, these notes are specific to fiction queries. There are a couple of general items that apparently happen quite frequently. One is that the query letter is titled Dear Sir/Madam or some other generic format. Agents prefer to be addressed individually and although it's fine to query more than one agent at an agency, it is best to query only one at a time.

The second point is to research the agents preferences for submissions. Their preferences vary. Some want only the query letter, others prefer to also have a certain number of pages of manuscript as well. Most agents now accept email submissions and some only email submissions but it's always good to check. I always start with the agency's web site for genres they represent and and then also There are some great sites to gain information about agents and the types of work they represent. These sites often also include submission requirements. I always check The Association of Author Representatives at as well as Publisher's Marketplace at

Often, if you write in a particular genre there will be an organization of writers in that specialty which will include lists of agents. For example, Romance Writers of America has a list of agents representing romance.

The agents who spoke at last year's conference varied to a degree in what catches their eye in a query letter, but there were a some general themes that stood out. First, state up front what your genre and word count is. Then, succintly describe the novel. Here is where your writing style needs to shine. I've heard people say this section of the letter should sound similar to back cover copy. It needs to catch the agent with not only the content, but the strength of the writing. They also often said no 'What would happen if' statements and if there's humor in the book, reflect it in the summary.

It is helpful to include a brief statement about your previous experience as a writer if it is applicable. For example, I included the titles of my two novels but not specifics about the medical writing I have done beyond a brief statement I have expertise in that area. If you have expertise in the area about which you are writing, this is great to add. For example, horse people writing equestrian fiction write compelling narrative because they've lived it.

Well, folks, I'll be flying to New York next week to sit in front of between 12 and 18 agents. I'll post their comments on the query letter when we get back. They say to be prepared for open, honest feedback. Okay, here I go...


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Scattered . . .

by Kit Ehrman

Sadly, I’ve been offblog for a while. My husband and I are trying to sell our house, and it’s been frustrating and hectic and time consuming. I believe this will be our twelfth move. Except for the townhouse we rented when we first got married (and our current house) we’ve always lived on horse farms, and to my mind, there’s no better place to be. I love living in the country. I love looking out the windows and seeing pastured horses or, at times, horses in the backyard, putting my birdfeeder at risk. I especially loved having the horses close at hand where I could check on them day and night.

And like the humans in our family, my horses were accomplished at relocating. My worst move was one where I wasn’t personally involved in transporting them. I had three horses at the time, plus my sister’s horse. Four horses to move six-hundred miles, and I wasn’t going to be there when they were loaded into the trailer. Instead, I would be flying with my six-week old son, lugging his baby bag and car seat through Chicago’s O’Hare airport with mere minutes to catch my connecting flight.

Meanwhile, strangers were loading the horses onto a trailer. I figured my horses would load okay. After all, I’d loaded them singlehandedly numerous times. But still, you never know what unforeseen circumstance might make a horse balk. Then, the hauler would have to find my parents’ farm to pick up my sister’s horse, and he could be a bear to load. But he was in the barn alone, and I hoped the desire to be with other horses would come into play. Apparently, it did because the horses arrived in Indiana twenty-four hours later, none the worse for wear. It was such a relief to get them off the trailer and into their stalls.

This move, if we succeed in selling the house, will be a short one, as we’re only moving a couple of miles away. Too bad I don’t have any horses to move this time.

For an interesting article on the ultimate in horse transport, visit:

clipped from

First-Class Treatment for U.S. Team’s Horses

Tim Dutta has learned that satisfying his well-heeled clientele means attending to the smallest of details. One of his frequent fliers loves orange Gatorade, for example, but turns up his nose at lime. Another drinks water only if it has been sweetened with a touch of apple juice. Some ease their nerves by nibbling on wet hay, while others take it dry.

His clients, of course, are not human but equine — Dutta is a shipping agent for the United States equestrian team, responsible for flying the team’s horses to Europe for the first leg of their trip to the 2008 Summer Olympics.

 blog it

Kit Ehrman

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Conrad Schumacher--Part 4

Next up was a 2001 Arabian Stallion. This little horse was extremely talented and looked like a much bigger horse. If I was looking for an Arabian sport horse to breed my mare to, he'd be the one.

Conrad Quotes:

Don’t look on the horse like you’re a policemen.

When the horse is behind the vertical but comes up when the rider gives, that’s OK. If the horse drops behind the vertical and nothing is in your hand, that’s a problem.

It’s not good to always have the neck in the same outline. It makes horses stiff. Have them a little up, a little down, etc. Move their necks around.


Next was another large warmblood on the lazy side.

Big horses must be trained carefully and need to come more over the back.

Exercises for big, lazy horses that like to run:

  • Go down the long side in medium trot, walk just before the corner, turn on haunches (immediately), and go into medium trot. Repeat in every corner. This gets the horse in front of your leg. Works well for a lazy horse. Repeat many times until the horse is forward and coming over the back.

  • Trot—reinback—trot.

  • Shoulder-in—Half Pass—Shoulder-in---Half Pass (Makes the horse work on the spine)

  • Start the diagonal at the walk, then trot, half pass on diagonal (same direction as first turn on diagonal).


  • Over-prepare for the horse show so that the show movements are easy. Many riders ride about 70 percent at a horse show. This doesn’t mean you drill the show movements, it means you ride movements that are more challenging so show movements are easy to ride.

Develop working patterns: These patterns are more difficult than what a test would require or what you’d encounter on the show grounds. Start three weeks before a show.

Practice riding corners: Put a cone about 2.5 meters from corner and ride between cone and the wall. A properly ridden corner gives you more horse when you come out of it.


  • Put a cone about 2.5 meters from each corner and ride between cone and the wall. Add two more about 18 meters out to make a 20-meter square.
  • Ride a square in the walk, trot, and canter, riding outside the cones.
  • With the cones in the corners, circle in a counter canter. Don’t go between cones and the wall when in counter canter. Do a flying change, then ride between cone and wall in true canter. Do a flying change to counter canter, repeat. Don’t cross between cones and wall in counter canter. After changing to the correct lead go between cones. (Prevents horse from running away after changes).

Training Mental Fitness

How do you become more confident on the horse? Not through riderless pursuits or through working out. Mental fitness must be trained on a moving horse without wearing out the horse.

Next came a woman who rode preliminary-level eventing on a large Hanoverian (Is there any other kind?). Only 1 percent of the riders in Germany are eventers, yet Germany does really well in eventing because of the dressage background.

A rideable horse can be brought to the outside rein, not held onto it. If you can bring the horse to the outside rein, he is rideable.

The German system works for everyone because it is based on the experiences of thousands of riders and horses. The French and other systems were based on what worked for one rider and certain types of horses. Not everyone can ride like that one rider.


A dressage horse needs to be a rectangle not a square, but not because of a long back. Instead because of a huge front part and long lines. A short back is a stiff back. A rectangular type of horse is easier to corner, like a Porsche. Too long a legs, such as a square horse make it difficult to corner. The neck should come out of the shoulder at a 90-degree angle.

The horse should have a good, natural connection from mouth to hindquarters.

Headbone should not be higher than the first bone of the neck. The horse should have a wide jaw for freedom in the neck. You should be able to put a fist in the space underneath the jaw. You can tolerate the absence of one of these characteristics, but not both.

The mouth needs to be big enough to accommodate a double bridle.

The horse needs natural active hind legs.

Tail which moves easily indicates a flexible spine.

Joints need to be big and stable, with straight feet.

The end of the withers should be the middle of the horse.

In Germany they say look at the horse at 3 days, 3 months, and 3 years to determine how it’ll turn out. If not, you’ll get the wrong impression.

Temperament: A good temperament is 85 percent of the battle. You can’t put it in, it must be there. Look for quiet eyes.

Conrad doesn’t go by bloodlines too much, unless it to avoid a bloodline.

Each year in Germany there are 80,000 mares, 55,000 offspring, and 5000 elite horses. Too many buys and not so many good horses.

Starting to Work on the Upper Levels

Avoid trouble in the changes by training everywhere, not just on the diagonal, or the horse will connect a problem with changes with the diagonal.

There is a solution to every problem.

The next horse was an older mare built downhill with a flat croup. She was brought out in the conformation section as an example of very poor conformation, yet a horse who can do the work with proper riding.

If you have an horse with an active hindleg and willing to go into the hand, you can overcome conformational issues.

Walk/canter transitions get a horse better balanced. When riding the canter, think about reining back. Work to get haunches under in the reinback.


  • 10 canter strides, 5 walk strides, repeat.
  • Center from reinback: I walk step, RB, Canter,
  • If changes are croup high, circle in the corner, go to next arena letter, change, immediately volte.
  • Trot down the long side, shoulder-in to renver. At the end of the arena, circle 20 m. and hold renver, keeping bend with body and not hands.

I hope you're all enjoying these posts. I have a few more weeks to go. I'll try to post next Sunday.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Trail Ride

By Laura Crum

As those of you who read this blog know, my son’s horse, Henry, has been slowly recovering from colic surgery. He’s back to being a riding horse again, and my son can walk, trot, lope him in the arena. But I’m going to wait a few more weeks before I ask him to climb any steep hills. So this means that when I go out on a trail ride these days, I go solo.

Fortunately, my trail horse, Sunny, goes as well by himself as with other horses, and I feel confident on him. So I don’t mind being up in the hills by myself. Yes, I occasionally remember that several pastured horses have been jumped by cougars very near here, and I get a funny feeling when I meet a stout guy carrying a machete, but overall, I’m fine. But then there are those days...

Like Saturday. It had rained most of last week, and then we had a couple of days of sun. I was keen to go for a ride, but wondered if the trails would be dry enough. Some parts can be pretty slippery when its wet, and I am not a fan of slithering down steep hills. OK, I’m a chicken. I thought I’d go for a trail ride anyway; I just planned to take the ridge trail, which though steep, is sandy and never slippery.

I saddle Sunny, who hasn’t been ridden in a week (just the way my life is going these days), and head on out. In order to get to the trails, I have to cross a very busy road, upon which the traffic zooms by at 55 miles an hour. Sunny is good about standing absolutely still on the shoulder with vehicles zipping past his nose, while I peer at the nearby blind corner, waiting for a break in the traffic. However, to get to the ridge trail, I have to cross this street and enter a narrow bridge that leads to a church parking lot. To my chagrin, the church appeared to be having some sort of event. The parking lot was full of cars, and worse yet, the bridge was ornamented with a bunch of balloons that were blowing wildly in the stiff breeze. Just great.

I contemplated the ballons. If Sunny chose to spook at them, he would be spooking right out into the traffic, which could be lethal. I decided it wasn’t worth the risk. I rode Sunny back across the field, crossed the road, and took a narrow trail through the forest. It was damp under the trees, and I wasn’t sure how slippery the trail would be. I paused at the foot of the first steep climb, surveying the ground. Shoot, I thought. Do I really want to do this? Maybe its not such a good idea.

Sunny felt my hesitation, and when I asked him to step forward he balked. Not such a good idea, boss, I could hear him saying. Why don’t we go home.

That did it. I kicked him firmly and we scrambled up the steep hill. To my relief, it wasn’t slippery. The forest trail was overgrown and full of trees that had fallen in the recent storms. We picked our way through it all successfully, but I will admit, I wasn’t having fun. My idea of fun is a pleasant stroll on an easy trail in the sunshine. Not bushwhacking through brambles and downed timber in the drippy shade.

But OK, we make it over the first ridge and are strolling along sandy trails in the sunshine. Now I’m having fun. Sunny packs me along, reliably calm and confident, not needing me to babysit him, steady in himself. I direct him; he does the rest. This is why I own him, I remember. He’s a clunky mover and not very well broke, but he has that invaluable attribute of being “solid-minded” (I’m quoting Janet here—she gave me that phrase in an email).

I go up a nice trail, and then decide to avoid a hillside I know will be slippery. I choose a route that leads toward home and is an easy trail. As I go along I notice that there are no fresh horse footprints on this trail. Not one. This gives me pause. But I continue along, figuring I will just see what’s what. I am nearly home when I find out what’s what. There is much tree fall on this trail, too. I can step over or go around most of it. But eventually I come to a tree that bridges the trail just above chest high. Too high to go over (for us) too low to go under. The way around is blocked by fallen timber on both sides. Hmmm…This just isn’t my day, I think. I retrace my steps to the top of the ridge (takes half an hour) and start down the ridge trail, my original choice. I figure that the parking lot should be empty by now. I’ve been gone two hours.

Wrong. I come down the ridge trail quite successfully, but as I make my way through the small woods behind the church, not only do I see that the parking lot is still full of cars, but my way is directly blocked by a large bouncy house full of screaming kids. I stop. Well, drat.

At this point I’m really sure that this isn’t my day. But I also figure I can get Sunny by both the bouncy house, the crowd, and the balloons on the bridge, partly because of who Sunny is and partly because all these things are between us and home. Sunny is not barn sour and walks calmly on the way back, however, like all horses, he’s quite aware of home and has a much brisker pace coming back than going out. If he spooks at the balloons, I think, well, he’ll be spooking back towards the parking lot rather than out into the street, and I can handle that.

OK, then. I put my gaze straight ahead, on the trail, and I send Sunny forward. He marches along, glad to be headed home. We stride right past the bouncy house. Neither of us gives it a glance. The kids inside are so absorbed in bouncing, they don’t even notice that a yellow horse has passed by. We cross the crowded parking lot, ignoring all and sundry. We approach the bridge and Sunny sees the ballons, still blowing wildly in the breeze. He gives them a look.

They’re just balloons, I tell him. I’m sure you’ve seen balloons before. That’s the way home.

Sunny doesn’t understand my words, of course, but he gets the message. He walks steadily up to the balloons, though he keeps watching them closely. Now for the tricky part. I have to park him right next to the bouncing, leaping balloons and wait for a break in the traffic. I need to be right next to them in order to see.

Crossing my fingers that an unexpected gust doesn’t send the balloons right into Sunny’s face, I wait. And wait. At least three times I start to send Sunny forward, only to see a car appear around the blind corner. I stop him and back him up. Sunny remains calm. He does not prance. He backs up over and over again, as I need him to, and stands quietly, right next to the balloons as the traffic whizzes by. I am feeling a little frazzled at this point, but Sunny is fine.

Eventually I get a spot to cross. I trot Sunny across the road (if you walk across this road, a car will be upon you before you get to the other side). Sunny marches happily up the short culdesac that leads to my front gate. I am relaxed. We have made it through a ride with some adversity and done well. I am not paying attention much, and when Sunny spooks it catches me off guard. I am used to spooks, however, and am not rattled. What does rattle me is the fact that Sunny is spooking at my neighbor’s car, which is pulling out around the corner of her driveway at a brisk clip, headed right for me.

The neighbor is paying no more attention than I was. She doesn’t see me. I kick Sunny in the direction he was spooking in and we go sideways fast. The neighbor sees me and screeches to a stop. We both apologize for not paying attention.

All right. That’s it, I think. The next time I start out on a trail ride and get the heebie jeebies, I’m staying home. I pat Sunny’s neck as we walk up our driveway. Thanks, I tell him.

And I know why Sunny is my horse. For all his faults, he is the thing I need. A solid-minded horse.
Cheers—Laura Crum

Monday, May 11, 2009

Burt, the Sometimes Bad Horse

By Laura Crum

Janet posted last week about the “bad horses” that ran her down in the frenzy of feeding agression. She found a solution that worked. This reminded me of my horse Burt, who I posted about in “Farewell To A Friend” (June 08). Burt is gone now, but he lived to be 35, and he still had issues around feeding agression right up until the very end. Obviously, I failed to train it out of him. I thought I’d post his story here and see if any of you had any insights. I still wonder if there was something I should have done differently.

I bought Burt as a five-year-old with thirty days on him. I had never ridden him or handled him. I bought him because I liked his looks. Burt turned out to be a gentle, cooperative horse. His only big fault as a riding horse was the tendency to jig. Burt had a lot of go. But he was willing, and had no buck, very little spook, was easy to control. I made a nice all around cowhorse out of him. I went to work on a northern California commercial cattle ranch and took him with me. And it was at this point I discovered another big hole in him.

Previously, since I was in college at the time, I had kept him in a boarding stable where someone else fed. On the ranch, I kept Burt in a large pen, maybe forty by one hundred, behind my house. There was a big wooden feeder in the middle of the pen. Every morning and evening I carried Burt’s hay out to the feeder. And Burt zoomed around me, bucking and kicking. He did not kick at me, or run at me directly, but he came way too close. He was not, in a word, respecting my space. I set out to teach him some manners.

I knew how to deal with aggressive horses. When I was a teenager, I kept my horse in a corral down the road, along with a couple of neighbor girls. One of these girls had a gelding named Amigo who had learned to be very agressive when someone came to catch him. He would run at you, try to kick you…etc. The girl was afraid of him and this made things worse. He started coming after me when I walked out to catch my horse. At fifteen, I had no clue how to deal with this.

I told my uncle, who was a tough old cowboy, and he came up to sort Amigo out. We walked in the pen and Amigo came after us. My uncle had chosen a two by four from the fencing pile as we walked through the gate. He told me to get behind him. He let Amigo run right up to him and decked the horse across the jaw with the board. He did not tap him. Amigo staggered back and looked at my uncle. My uncle decked him again. Amigo wheeled to run away and got whacked one more time. My uncle told me to carry a whip or a stout stick when I walked in the corral and hit the horse if he came near me. Amigo was never a problem again.

I figured I knew just how to deal with Burt. When I brought his hay out the next morning, I carried a stock whip with me. I walked in the pen, set the hay down, and proceeded to go after Burt with the whip. Well, I whacked him a few times in the front legs as hard as I could and he dashed away. But he kept coming back and running wildly around me. I wanted to drive him off so he stood in the corner, and I kept after it. Eventually I got him in the corner, but he was just beside himself. I was pretty sure if I got after him any more he’d try to jump out or go through the fence. So, I quit. Burt seemed backed off. I fed him. He did not run near me, but he did dash up to get his food. Hmmm, I thought. I didn’t quite get what I wanted.

This went on for weeks. I could drive Burt off but I couldn’t get him to stand quiet and wait. I could stand there for ages (as much time as I had) and he still dashed around. He did not run up to me aggressively. But he didn’t stand still. If I cornered him he gave every indication that he would crash the fence. Bear in my mind, this was a horse that I also failed to cure of jigging. I could see that Burt’s “aggression” at feeding time wasn’t exactly agression. It was an extension of the same nervous, anxious energy that made him prance. When Burt was put in a herd of horses, he was bottom man on the totem pole. His feeding agression was more feeding anxiety. “Am I gonna get any food. I’m so worried…etc.”

However, whatever the reason, if he went flying right by me, kicking up his heels and kicked me in the head, it wasn’t going to matter much why he did it. I kept after it with the whip, but I really wasn’t getting anywhere. I was just making Burt more agitated. He kept his distance better, anyway.

I almost convinced myself I didn’t have a problem. I wasn’t the least bit scared of Burt. I kept my eye on him when I fed him, but in all other ways he was completely gentle. Days when I had a little extra time, I would refuse to deliver his feed until he stood still, but it didn't seem to really sink in. Burt was never the sharpest knife in the drawer. Anyway, I convinced myself it wasn’t that big of a deal.

Until the day I had Burt in the main corrals down at the ranch and the owner walked through Burt’s pen with a flake of hay for another horse. Hungry Burt went zooming by, kicking up his heels, and missed the ranch owner’s head by inches. Now the ranch owner was clueless. He didn’t know squat about horses. He hardly realized what had happened. Even as I leaped into the corral to fend Burt off, the owner ignored the horse, saying over his shoulder to me, “He’s gentle, isn’t he?”

“Uhmm, yeah,” I said. “Except at feeding time.”

I definitely had a problem.

To make a long story short, I never cured Burt. I usually keep my horses in pens where I can feed from outside the fence (so much more pleasant in the winter) and Burt was no problem under those circumstances. But when I lent Burt to a ranch family for their teen age girls to team pen, barrel race and goat tie on him, I warned them about the feeding agression. The parents were real horse people, they’d worked on ranches all their lives. The husband had gone to the NFR as a saddle bronc rider. He was plenty tough. And plenty savvy. He looked at my gentle gelding and shrugged. No, really, I said, you have to watch him if you go in the pen to feed him.

I called a month later to ask how Burt was doing. Great. But oh yeah, Bill, the husband, had walked in the pen to feed the horse and Burt had missed his head by inches.

“What did Bill do?” I asked, hoping that this tough cowboy would cure my horse.

“Nothing. But he keeps an eye on him now.”

Well, drat. Score: Burt: 2 Horse Owners: 0

Eventually I lent Burt to a nice woman who wanted to trail ride. I warned her about the feeding agression. She said she had a pen with a big feeder by the fence so it wouldn’t be a problem. This woman wasn’t really a horseperson. But Burt was, as I said, in most ways a gentle, safe horse, and she got along fine with him. Unfortunately, Burt learned to turn over the heavy feeder. She would arrive to feed him and find it upside down.

Well, this gal may not have been a horseperson, but she was smart. And had time on her hands. She stood by the fence with Burt’s feed and waited. Burt fussed and dithered, frantic to eat. He never stood still, but eventually (it took about half an hour) in his fussing, he turned the feeder back right side up. She put the hay in it.

You can guess the rest. The next night it took half the time. This gal managed to turn Burt’s feeding frenzy into a useful tool. Soon Burt would smartly put his feeder into position as soon as she appeared. Score 1 for the horse owners.

I eventually took Burt back as an old horse and retired him. He still had plenty of vim and vigor and it really showed at feeding time. I have to admit it brought a smile to my face to see my thirty years plus gelding gallop in for his equine senior. And yeah, I still had to fend him off. In fact at thirty-five years of age, when I jerked his feed away to remove a large clump (Burt was prone to choking), the old goat actually struck with a front foot. Came nowhere near me, but still.

No, I didn’t beat him. I stared at my bright-eyed old horse in exasperation and told him not to be stupid. And then I gave him his feed back. Obviously I never cured him of the feeding agression. Maybe I just didn’t try hard enough. But to the end of his life, Burt’s vivid, energetic personality never failed to bring a smile to my face. And it was that same energy that took him to thirty-five in good health, and made him jig, and caused him to be such an ass at feeding time.

I’m curious now if anybody has any ideas on what might have worked on such a horse. More persistance with the whip? Not feeding him until he stood quietly and respectfully? Clearly I failed with both these approaches, but maybe it was for lack of trying hard enough. Anybody have any other ideas for curing this problem?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Agent-Author Day at Backspace

Hello Everybody!

My fellow Equestrian Ink authors and I have all discussed the road to publication. Right now I’m branching out in new directions as a writer. After completing two romances for the e-publishing market, equestrian themed, of course, I’m currently completing my first contemporary fantasy, The Grimoire. This novel is a turning point for me as more than just a new genre (although the equestrian world is still a core setting – this time in Virginia horse country). I’m planning to take The Grimoire to a conference in New York at the end of this month to look for agent representation. The end goal will be national distribution with a major New York publisher. Nothing like aiming high!

I attended this same conference last year and learned a great deal about agent-author relationships (If anyone is interested in my sharing my notes on this, just leave a note in the comments section and I’ll post on it). It’s called The Backspace Writers Conference. The url is This time I’m participating in their Agent-Author day where I meet with 15 agents and they each review my query letter and first two pages of my manuscript.

What I gathered from the conference last year is that a letter querying an agent on whether or not they would like to review one’s manuscript needs three central points: an introduction that will catch their interest, writing that really sparkles in a paragraph giving a high-level overview of the story, and a closing paragraph briefly explaining the authors background, including their knowledge of the field they are writing about, be it fiction or non-fiction.

I thought a good way to share what I learn at Backspace is to post my ‘before’ query letter and then post my ‘after’ query letter when I get back from the May 28 conference. I’m fully expecting to be raked over the coals, but it will be worth it to end up with a winning query letter!


Okay, folks, here’s the before letter and the first two pages of the manuscript:

May 28, 2009

Dear Agent XXX:

I appreciated the opportunity to participate in The Backspace Conference Agent Author Day and want to thank you for your positive feedback regarding my work. The Grimoire is a completed 80,000 word contemporary fantasy novel which I am submitting for your consideration.

Gemma Morrin is a talented witch who shares her family’s ancestral home with a perfect roommate, her great-grandmother Fiona. Wonderful, irreverent Fiona cooks, loves to garden, and generally refuses to allow the fact that she is a ghost limit her in any way. When a witch from Fiona’s ancestral coven, The Foreseers, shows up bedraggled and frightened, Gemma’s calm world is shattered. The Foreseers have been decimated by the wizard Cathaoir in his pursuit of a key central to the coven’s power. The Foreseers convince Gemma to protect the key from Cathaoir while they regroup, but to stop his search she must get close enough to him to use her unique ability to alter his perceptions without being killed. Cathaoir meanwhile has begun a campaign of escalating terror attacks on Gemma’s family and town to coerce her into turning over the key. To add to the chaos, Connor Hogan, a mortal man with whom Gemma is falling in love, discovers her witchcraft. It takes a lot out of a guy when his girlfriend's transparent relative floats in, sits cross-legged right beside him and offers him a snack she made especially for him.

The Grimoire is an introduction to The Foreseers, whose mission and history is yet to be revealed. The nature of their work requires secrecy, and as such much of their workings have been designed to mirror those of the intelligence community. In developing the world of The Foreseers, my husband and I relied on our contacts and his background as assistant instructor for the course Intelligence and Covert Operations while we were at Yale. The magical creatures integrated into the story have been drawn from various mythologies and cultures so that they can function across numerous cells of The Foreseers organization. I drew on my experience showing in hunters and equitation in creating the Virginia horse country setting for The Grimoire. Although most of my writing and editing experience has been in the medical communication field, I have e-published two romances since December 2007, A Dangerous Dream and Never Trust A Matchmaking Witch. More information regarding my background and writing is available at Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

Mary Paine

Chapter 1

Virginia, July, 1948

Meara chose this night to change her fate. Witchcraft, the power and the glory of it, she honored but knew was not to be her destiny. There were those, family and friends, who would suffer for her choices. She hoped they would come to understand that she yearned not for this life, but for one freed of the burdens of the gift.
She stood on the balcony, the wind pressing her thin white robe against a slim body poised on the last brink before womanhood. Her arms were raised, hands cupped in a pose as ancient as the call to the elements she made. Candles flickered and flames rose up in a circle around her as she chanted, head thrown back as the vivid blaze of her hair fell down her back.
Meara had selected her time carefully, the energy of summer bringing strength and endurance as she performed this, her final spell, under the fullness of the Mead Moon. She prayed its energy would bring the rebirth she sought.
Eyes closed, she tilted her face upward and the aquamarine pendant she wore glowed as she chanted. “With strength and sight do I now entreat, the Goddess to grant the future I seek. Bind me not with this great power; my destiny begins from this hour.” Lightning cracked and lanced across the sky as the wind rose howling to whip around her. “This power send beneath the seas. This is my will, so mote it be.”
Meara held her position, only the faint tremor of her hands betraying the force she exuded to bring about this change. Young though she was her power was not inconsiderable as she summoned the full breadth of her strength. She staggered as the lightning sliced down and seemingly through her as if to rend her in two.
Torrential rains began to fall and a glimmering white mist appeared, spinning in ever rising swirls. She struggled to remain erect, seeking to channel her will. The haze arched and funneled into a small brass box standing in the center of the circle. As the mist disappeared inside, the lid closed and the box rose up, turning three times before arrowing out, buoyed by nothing but air as it rushed toward the sea.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Part 3--Conrad Schumacher

A young rider on a tense schoolmaster was the subject of the next segment: How to deal with a tense horse. Since I'm a tense rider myself, and I've made my horse tense, I found this part especially helpful.

To relax a tense horse, in the trot stretch down on the long side then gather back up in corner. In counter canter, stretch on the long side, retake in corner, etc. Counter canter is a great exercise for horses that have a tendancy to run thorugh the aides. A horse can’t run in counter canter. The stretching over the topline helps disodedience.

Make sure you ride your changes with a straight neck. Don't bend the next back and forth.

Ride with quietness and determination.

In the reinback, take horse back with hauling on the reins. Turn one wrist inward, once the horse steps back on step, give with the wrist. Only do a reinback using one hand. Reinback is a good influence on the horse when done properly and without tension.

Recommended Exercises:

  • Mark off a 20-meter circle with four cones (one to the inside of each circle point). Put markers (Conrad used a handful of shavings) in 2 long human steps from each cone, then two more steps. Ride between cones and marker 1 for one circle then ride on marker 1, then ride between markers 1 and 2, then on marker 2. Then go back out doing the same thing. This really helps accuracy and helps the horse listen to the outside rein.
  • Half pass in walk then half pass in trot.
  • Half pass a few strides of walk then a few strides of trot, repeat to the end of the arena.
  • Half pass right, Volte left, half pass left.

At each lunch break, Conrad answered questions from the audience. I found this question and answer especially interesting.

Q: Why are so many horses ridden in this clinic with the poll low? Shouldn’t the poll be the highest point?

A: In the old classical school, the poll was always the highest point because the horses were built downhill and on the forehand and needed to be ridden up. The rider avoided taking the horses down to keep them off of the forehand.

This is not necessarily true with modern horses. Some horses need to be ridden behind the bit and over round to loosen their backs (this is very interesting as my trainer rode my horse yesterday in a clinic with a German trainer, and that's how he wanted my horse ridden in order to get her back up). As long as there is feel in the reins and horse hasn’t dropped behind the bit, this is fine.

Conrad did comment that the "current trend for the head between the legs is rubbish."

Some Misc. Notes:

When warming up, work the stiff side on the circle, go large for the hollow side.

Walk/halt or trot/halt on both sides. Walk/canter, flex neck to inside before asking for canter.

Get the neck really round to stop the bullying horse.

For half pass training, the renver is a good exercise.

Believe it or not, this concluded only the first morning. I'll try to post next Sunday the next installment. I hope you're enjoying this and that you might find some of his exercises useful.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Bad Horses

The last place I worked out of before I threw in the towel and retired as a horse trainer was a small 70 acre facility.

The couple who owns it raise foundation quarter horses.The wife was my friend and had taken a couple of those foundation horses and had some serious success in NRCHA competition.

I moved in with 10 head and set up shop. The goal was to help them start colts, improve both husband and wife's performance in the show pen and continue on with my own training business.

I fed at night, they fed in the morning. There was a large pasture with young horses in it and another turn-out for broodmares with babies, cattle and our big arena.

This couple had always impressed me with their horsemanship skills and their sensible approach to horse keeping. I soon had an important truth pounded home yet again when I started to feed their horses.

You don't know anything about people until you live with them.

These mares launched an assault on me as I carried their hay like a coyote on a cat. Bam! I got hit with a shoulder. Another mare starting lunging and squealing at the surrounding horses. Whack! I was about run over by a frightened, bolting filly.
Horses were grabbing hay from my hands and I got a good pinch from some teeth in my back.

The mares knocked me over, the hay flew everywhere and the horses went to eating.

I lay on my back, contemplating the crystal blue sky and wondering if the bite on my back was bleeding.The mares snorted and stomped at flies,content in their explanation of how things stood,and settled into the scattered hay.

I got up, dusted off my butt and went back into the barn. I dug around until I found a longe whip.I picked up another load of hay and walked out into the pasture. The mares slung up their heads, saw the new load of hay and came running in for round two.

I set the load of hay down and squared off holding the whip like a batter at the plate.

As the mares came running up I let go with everything I had.AAAAGH! I shouted at them. Whap! The whip cracked across them. I didn't care what it hit. Some horses were hit on the legs, some on the chest and some across the face.Yes,I left marks.So had they.

I didn't look, I just kept swinging. These horses had been treating people like animated bags of feed for so long they became angry when I whipped them. They squealed and kicked at each other and me.

Stepping into them, I cracked the whip on them as hard as I could. The grulla boss mare in the back shot me with a wicked look as she drove the younger horses at me.
Finally the fillies in the front decided I was scarier and bit harder than anything behind them.They broke off to the sides and bolted.

I headed straight into the grulla and just pounded on her with that whip. She spun and tried to kick me and I yelled again swinging all the harder.
I was pretty taken aback and a little freaked when she started backing up to me with her ears pinned.This mare was truly a bitch.

I shouted louder and started whipping her hind legs. She kicked at the whip and I just kept at it.The grulla broke and tried to circle around me back to the hay. I stopped her this time with just a crack of the whip.

I ended up driving them all back out to the field. Once I was sure they would wait until I said different they got the rest of their hay put into feeders.When I left they warily came up and quietly began to eat.

A short while later my new bosses came home from work.We stood visiting for a few minutes and I filled them in on the day. I didn't mention the pasture incident.

"How'd feeding go?"

They flashed a quick glance at each other.

"Took me a few minutes longer than I thought, but it went OK," I said.

"We usually sneak the food out before they see us with the hay."

"I just explained to them it was best if they waited to get their hay before they came up."

That was the end of the conversation. I was pretty much blown away. How could two people with so much going for them on horseback be such total idiots when it came to pasture management? I found out later a visiting brother was put in the hospital when he tried to help feed. They considered it his fault for being in the wrong spot.

By the time I left the horse training biz each horse knew to wait patiently until I walked away before they ate. Not only was I safe but the horses quit brawling with each other. They were too busy wondering who I might bite next.