Monday, March 31, 2014

The "Wild" Burros of Oatman, AZ

by Linda Benson

Since I am a longear lover, and since it was on my bucket list to see this place, when my husband and I had a few days to tool around the Southwest, we made a point of searching out the old mining town of Oatman, Arizona. Because I'd heard that wild burros come out of the hills here, and hang around the streets. How cool is that? I thought. As it turned out - very cool!

After a long and winding road (not nearly as bad as I had envisioned) I knew we were getting close.

Suddenly, we rounded another bend and it was pretty obvious that we had arrived.

Oatman is a delightfully funky little town, right on an ancient part of old Route 66, and it has capitalized on the appeal of these delightful donkeys. They might have come from feral stock, but this group of burros is not really wild at all, and have learned that they basically have the run of the place. (Hint: the word "burro" is an old Spanish term. Donkeys and burros are the same animal.)

They learn from an early age how to stop traffic.

And where to get food.

Actually, some of the donkeys become pests, as tourists hand-feed them alfalfa cubes (in truth,  too rich for these desert beasts) but if they become too pesky, they are occasionally relocated to a rescue operation.

But most of the donkeys are quite mellow. This one is Harley.

And this one, a baby sleeping in the street, I just wanted to scoop up and take home with me.

Mama and baby donkeys are everywhere, and really, the best thing is not to try and hand feed them, but just stop and give them a good scratch (because donkeys like to be scratched anywhere.)

I had so much fun here, I could have stayed much longer. It's an old mining town with lots of history, and there are plenty of gift shops, restaurants, a museum, and much of it is donkey themed.

So if you're ever in NW Arizona, take the time to find Oatman. It could even be considered a long day trip from Las Vegas. And especially if you love donkeys, you've got to put this place on your bucket list, too.

In fact, I can't wait to go back.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Guest Post by Lorraine Turner

Please welcome Lorraine Turner, who guest blogs for us today about how she came to write her brand new book called Calico Horses and the Patchwork Trail.


Calico Horses and the Patchwork Trail - a young adult novel by Lorraine Turner.

I live in a world of flip-flops and palm trees – no wild horses. I didn't even know they still existed. But I came to learn about them in the most bizarre way—through daily meditation. I began seeing images of horses running over fields of calico fabric. Vivid patchwork mountains appeared as I flew over them.
This continued until one day I saw three horses rendered in my own painting style standing on a hill. Who were these calico-covered horses and why did they appear to me? The final patchwork meditation gave me the answer. I was given a very clear message by these beautiful creatures: “We want you to tell our story”…and so I did.

In researching the novel I learned about the plight of the wild horses named after the colorful Calico Mountains located in Nevada. I added many elements to the story from personal experiences, such as when years ago I had to make the tough decision to relocate and uproot my children. As I learned about the mustangs and burros being stripped of their freedom I saw the truth in the powerful statement my three year old told me at the time I moved her from everything she knew: “Nobody asked me.”


This is the story of how Carrie, a girl ripped apart by divorce, helps the wild mustangs torn from the range. Together they face uncertainties brought on by the decisions of others. There is a strong element of magic realism throughout: is she a budding horse whisperer or is her troubled mind playing tricks on her?


In the book Carrie’s dreams are actually taken from my meditation journal. Here is an excerpt from Calico Horses and the Patchwork Trail.


Sunday June 29th:

I had another dream of rolling hills of fabric. It all began with those same lights flickering on sparkling water. Then I was looking down at the patterned lands that were made of patches of varying colors. I felt as if I were flying as I soared overhead. The hills had valleys and I dipped down into them as I looked all around me at the many colors of blue, pink, green, lavender, and gold. Then a black, misty fog covered the hills and all went dark. The darkness slowly became un-foggy as if the sun was beginning to rise. Black hills appeared and three horses were standing on the ridge. They were pawing the ground and I heard them snorting as they swished their tails. They were real horses but they were covered in patches of fabric. As I looked closely I could see that they were each made of the same swatches I had seen on the hills. Three beautiful horses covered in calico fabric. And then I woke.

* * * * *


As a meditation instructor and motivational speaker I encourage readers to move their thoughts into action. I will be offering Equine Water Color Workshops throughout the country, donating my services to help where I can. I hope this book touches the hearts of all who read. May it continue to raise awareness about the plight of all the wild horses and burros struggling for survival. A portion of all proceeds will be donated to organizations helping to rescue them, such as:
My meditations have already provided material for a second book in the series. Look for Unbridled Sea Horses and the Hurricane Trail as we learn survival skills from horses that for centuries have galloped over the beaches of the Outer Banks of North Carolina.


Thank you so much for stopping by our blog, Lorraine, and good luck with Calico Horses and the Patchwork Trail. Here's the link on Amazon:
And you can learn more about Lorraine here:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Career?

                                                by Laura Crum

            Someone asked me the other day if I was happy with my writing career. I have to admit that I was so taken aback that I didn’t know what to say. I ended up babbling something inane, like, “Well, sure. Sort of. There are worse things.” And then I spent some time thinking about it. So now I am going to answer the question.
            It’s true that I have had a good long run as a published author. My first novel, Cutter, was released by St Martin’s Press in 1994. Since then, I’ve had eleven other books published. I was paid (perhaps not a vast amount of money, but I got a check) for all of them. In these past twenty yeas, writing novels has been my “job.” So I guess you could call it a career. The thing is, I never really thought about it that way.
            I certainly have not become a “best-selling” author. My books have brought in the grocery money, maybe. I am very lucky that my husband has a job that keeps us solvent. My career as a mid-list author would certainly not have supported me. Does this make me a failure?
            I think it depends on how you look at it. Best-selling authors who make good money would probably say I was a failure. People who have always wanted to have a book published by a “real” publisher, but failed to attain that goal would probably say I was a success (twelve published novels and a good many readers over the years looks like success to the unpublished or self-published, I find). From my own point of view, I am content with the way the author gig worked out for me. I wouldn’t mind a few more readers and a few more book sales. I do believe there are horse people out there who haven’t yet read my books who would enjoy my novels, and I’d like to reach those people. It wouldn’t be a bad thing if my books paid for the groceries AND the whisky.
            The main thing in my mind is that I enjoyed writing those novels. I wove a lot of my own life into them and I was really happy to have a career that allowed me to stay home with my beloved animals and garden, and later, with my son. I was fortunate in that I didn’t need to make a lot of money, so the fact that I never did make a lot of money didn’t trouble me. I was just tickled to be paid for doing something that I genuinely enjoyed doing.
            And yes, there is the ego gratification factor. When I first started writing mystery novels (before I was published) I used to think that my life would be complete if I walked into a book store and saw my name on the spine of a book for sale on the shelves (this was before Amazon, too). And you know, it happened. Twenty years ago I walked into my local bookstore and there was a book with my name on it. Yes, it was very gratifying. But in the end, I realized that nothing had really changed. I was still the same person, with the same problems and the same strengths.
            Before I was published I would go to talks given by authors and think that if I were the one giving the talk, if the people were there to see me, my life would somehow be a different life. And now that I have many times been the one giving the talk, I can tell you that my life is not vastly different. Yes, I can say that I am a published author and that does impress people (at least a little), but nothing of real importance in my life has changed. I have good days and bad days, happy times and sad times, just as I did before I was published.
            The lesson here for me is that “fame” (and in my case it was a VERY small amount of fame) doesn’t do the things for you that you might imagine that it will. The admiration of strangers just isn’t as fulfilling as you somehow believe that it will be. That’s been my experience, anyway.
            In the end, writing the novels and having people read them and (sometimes) enjoy them and tell me so has been a very happy experience for me. Being paid (even a small amount) for doing this has been rewarding. It has been satisfying to express my insights about the world and describe the things that I’ve loved in words—words that are read by others. Being able to stay home with my family and critters and garden has been vastly rewarding. So I would have to say that I am happy with my “career.”
            I probably could have made almost as much money working an eight hour day five days a week for minimum wage for the last twenty years, just to be realistic. But you know, I do believe I’ll take being an author. Even a lowly, mid-list author. It suits me.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Coming Together of a New Book

I have been working on Murphy Gold Rush Dog, the second book in the Dog Chronicles  for the past year (it seems), and it's always interesting to come to the final stages when editors, the artist and I are all working together to make sure the book is the best it can be.

Peachtree Publishers in Atlanta, Georgia, has published many of my books--all historical fiction. They've done a superb job and I am proud of each one.  Many have been about horses including the Gabriel Trilogy, which began with Gabriel's Horses, and Emma's River, which is for younger readers.  The Gabriel books were nominated for many state readers awards and were Junior Book Guild selections, so our hard work paid off.

Each book that I write for Peachtree is a huge undertaking, starting with the idea, which I wrote about in one of my last blog. Research comes next, and then the writing--both take up the most time and require the most effort, but these last stages such as I am working on with Murphy are also important.  My editor is very thorough, and I respect all her changes and input.  Everything is done electronically and via email so I never have a first or second draft in my hands. But if I did, there would be lots of RED--cross outs, changes and questions.  I have to do a bibliography and historical section as well, so there are many facts to check--tedious but important since these books sell to schools, and reviewers and librarians are sticklers for accurate information.

The best part of these last stages is seeing the artwork. Michael G. Montgomery is the illustrator for Darling Mercy Dog of World War I -- the first book in the Dog Chronicles--as well as for Murphy.  His art is stupendous!!!  and I hope he will continue with the next book.  I've added the cover sketch for Murphy and it is so exciting to see my words and description come alive. Hopefully by next post I will have a copy of the completed cover to show.  But I'll have to wait until fall to hold the actual book in my hands!

On another matter--I hope spring is FINALLY arriving at everyone's house!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

St. Patrick's Day with Mounted Police Horses

St. Patrick's Day... so that just happened.

I just finished a breakfast of warm buttered soda bread (and I'm about to have second breakfast, of more of the same) and thinking about my St. Patrick's Day past. A lot of snow, for some reason, despite the fact that I've lived most of my life in Florida. Snow at horse shows, snow at work, snow when we all thought we could reasonably expect something more like spring. And last year's snow, at the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Riding home on Apollo with Sgt. Besom (on Teddy, left).  Central Park, St. Patrick's Day 2013
Always snowing. An Earstagram view.
Readers might remember that this time last year, I was working for the New York City Parks Department's Mounted unit. Here's something readers might not have known: St. Patrick's Day is apparently also the annual New York City Regional Suburban Teenager Day of Public Drinking. 

I don't think this holiday is recognized by any municipal laws, but it's definitely observed. It seemed like every teenager from every bedroom community in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut hopped a train with a 64-oz Gatorade bottle filled with liquor-cabinet contraband, and came to Central Park to get drunk and puke in public. Like you do.

And it's the charming job of the Mounted unit to chase the drunken teenagers out of the park! 

A rare snow-less view of the Pond, Central Park
So there I was, on the back of a spotted draft horse, snow flying in my face, using my horse to move a group of about a hundred inebriated high school students out of a charming rustic gazebo along Central Park South, listening to glass shatter and what were essentially children screaming obscenities, all to the soundtrack of bagpipes and drums and brass bands, and all I could think was, "Thank God for this horse."

Perfectly adorable Apollo.
I was riding a truly amazing horse. His name is Apollo, and his stoic gaze and striped forelock are still a fixture in the mounted unit. Massive, spotted, and resembling nothing so much as a pinto army tank, Apollo might be the most wonderful horse in the world. Solid and bombproof, he also has a naughty side, and when he decides to play a trick on his rider and spook at a squirrel or start a quarrel with his partner on patrol, he'll do it so covertly that you'll never be able to blame him for it. 
Mounted police horses are truly the most amazing of horses, right up there with hippotherapy and therapeutic riding horses on my equine deity list. Last night, I read this article at The Atlantic Cities: "Are Police Horses a Dying Breed?" Despite its negative, click-bait title, the writer points out many of the ways in which police horses are not anachronistic, and are being reintroduced in some departments which had previously phased them out. It's worth a read, and a share, to support our working horses.

Oh look. Snow. Central Park 2013
I'm endlessly thankful for my year with the Parks Mounted unit, for the experiences, the people, and the amazing horses I met there. Working horses are a breed of their own, to be treasured. I hope someday to write about mounted police work in my fiction.

And before I sign off, let me share a few things. I have a new Facebook page: Natalie Keller Reinert: Horse Books for Grown-Ups, where I will be sharing lines and sneak peeks at my upcoming eventing novel, Ambition. Come and like that if you are so inclined! 

Gina McKnight was nice enough to post an interview with me at her blog Riding & Writing. In this interview, I discuss scintillating topics such as the use of butter in mashed potatoes, and being boring and making outlines of your work. You should totally read it. 

And finally, I'd like to publicly thank Castleton Lyons for continuing to sponsor the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award. Other People's Horses was a semi-finalist in the 2013 book competition, which honors horse racing in full-length literary works. To have my book selected as the only fiction semi-finalist was an incredible honor. I wish the finalists all the best, and hope to see them again with a new horse racing novel in the future!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Difficult Horses

                                                by Laura Crum

            Advance warning—this is not one of my “feel good” posts.

            I have an acquaintance who rides what I consider to be a difficult horse. I’ve known this horse, in a roundabout way, since he was born, and I knew some of his relatives, and I can attest to the fact that they were all difficult to some degree. This gelding was started by a competent guy (not the current owner), who rather rapidly discovered that he didn’t care for the horse. He got him broke so that he was reasonably useful…and he sold him. The horse had some ability, but he remained nasty.
            What do I mean by nasty? He would and will kick at people or horses when he is so inclined, including when he is being led and when under saddle. He balks at any new thing, and if it strikes him as a real problem, he is willing to escalate his resistance so far as rearing and going over backward. He launches into bucking fits at unpredictable moments. And he will pull back for no obvious reason, and keep pulling until something breaks.
            The guy that has this horse has been persisting with him for years. He got the horse cheap, and you CAN rope on him. He knows how to do it and though he is resistant, he can perform. He is reasonably athletic. You can gather on him and ride him through the hills, too—as long as you’re willing to put up with his crap. He’s dumped his owner a few times, and kicked more than one person and quite a few horses. He dumped (and hurt) a child that his owner was dumb enough to put on him (just meaning to lead him around with the kid on his back). He appears lazy and calm until something lights his fire—and then he is violent. He is, in short, a supremely untrustworthy horse.
            His owner is a middle-of-the-road type of horse owner. He knows a little, not a lot. He “gets by” this horse by persisting, but he is not changing the horse’s attitude or fixing his problems. To be frank, I strongly suspect that even a very skilled horseman would have a hard time doing this. In my view, the horse’s bad attitude is partly genetics, and he has had many years of getting “solid” in his negative behavior. He could get better, sure. I don’t think you could ever trust him. I think he will always be willing to kick you…or dump you.
            Now if this is the kind of horse you want to ride and own, well OK. I sure don’t. But I totally respect each horseman’s right to choose the horse that he/she wants to work with. I don’t look down on “Frank” for keeping this gelding. But I damn sure am not going to put up with Frank endangering me or my son because he’s riding this horse.
            Because Frank can’t control the horse’s impulse to kick. And I have numerous times been riding alongside him, talking, as we all do, and the gelding has kicked out at my horse. I’m pretty good at reading horses, and I usually saw it coming and Sunny is wary and so far the piece of crap horse has not connected, but I am this close to just not riding with/around Frank ever again. I have told my son not to get close to him on horseback. And you know, it’s awkward. But that horse’s bad habit is truly a danger to others—both horses and people. One of the few fatal riding accidents that I personally know of was a child riding in a group lesson who was kicked in the neck by another horse in the group. The child was wearing a helmet--they all were-- but this was no help. Not to mention all the horses I’ve known of who had their legs broken by being kicked by another horse. It is something to take seriously.
            The thing that gets me is that one day when Frank’s gelding kicked at my horse for no good reason Frank looked at me and said, “I sure wish he was more like your horses. He’s a real pain to deal with.”
            Now my horses are not perfect equine saints. But they would not fire at another horse while I’m on them—to be fair, Sunny will hump up and aim a “fake kick” occasionally at a horse that crowds his butt on the trail. But kick hard at a rider alongside? Never. I’m not saying this is because I’m such a great hand. But I do know enough to pick out horses that are reasonably well-mannered—and to have trained quite a few horses that are reasonably well-mannered.
            So when Frank said this I was quick to answer. “You could find a rope horse that was as well-behaved as my horses. There are plenty of them out there. You don’t need to ride that bad-tempered SOB.”
            Frank shrugged. And that was the end of that. I did not pursue the subject, feeling that it would be rude.
            But I would like to put something out there to the world. I (again) totally respect Frank’s right to want to keep and work with his horse. I also am NOT willing to put up with being endangered by a horse that is not my horse and that behaves in a way that I absolutely would not tolerate. If I owned that gelding, I would sell him so fast it would make your head spin. And I would buy a gentle, solid horse that was deserving of the very good forever home I provide for my horses. Those who know me know that I do love my horses and take really good care of them. But I have no interest in investing such devotion in a horse like that gelding.
            (Most of you know that when I bought Sunny I found that he was willing to offer a sort of “bluffing” kick at someone who walked out to catch him. He never connected, mind you, and he wasn’t kicking hard. Even so, I was very close to rejecting him for this behavior. I took him on a trial basis, and rapidly realized that Sunny was merely testing. Once I established that I was in charge, he did not offer that behavior any more. In effect, I found that I could train him out of his negative behaviors—though it was more like reminding him of his manners—and since he was in every other way a reliable, willing trail horse he became a “keeper” for me. But had he persisted with the kicking behavior, or EVER kicked out hard in an effort to connect with a person, he would have gone straight back to his former owner.)
The point of this post is not to discourage or denigrate anyone who has a cranky, kick-prone, difficult horse that they love. Though I would suggest that it is YOUR responsibility to make sure that horse does not endanger others, not the responsibility of the others to somehow know that they must grant an absurd amount of extra space to your horse, because of its issues. But I would like to say, to anyone new to horses, that all horses are not created equal. Think twice before taking on a horse with a cranky, difficult attitude that is prone to violent, dangerous acts, in the belief that you can “fix” the horse with love and treats. Be fully aware that it is perfectly possible to choose a horse with a calm, sane attitude—one that is very unlikely to ever hurt you. Think hard about what you want your life with horses to be like, and what will give you the most joy. If there are children in your family, think about their safety, and what will help them have a good experience of horses. And think about how you will feel caring for and handling this horse for many, many years when it is past riding age.
            My advice would be to reject that pretty critter that is so prone to pinning its ears and kicking, and so resistant when you are on its back. Go look a little further. And see how you feel when you are handling/riding a horse that isn’t so adversarial and does what you ask willingly. Don’t be too fixated on “pretty” or color or such. Don’t put “rescuing” a particular horse in need as your bottom line. If that sucker cripples you or even kills you (and it does happen), it will not seem worth it. If you want to compete at an event, certainly you’ll want a horse suitable for that event. But even within those parameters, there will be sane, willing horses and resistant, difficult horses. I know which one I’d choose.
            Finally, different horses work for different people. The folks who had Sunny before me had a bit of trouble with him, from what I’ve heard. But I get along with him really well. So a horse who has a “bad” attitude for one person may be cooperative for another person. Also, when you buy a green horse or an unbroken horse, how that horse turns out will have a lot to do with what kind of training you put into it. And I don’t mean to “dis” rescue horses; some rescue horses are jewels. I have known several horses (like Wally’s Twister or our Flanigan) that came to us with an untrusting, fear-based attitude, and over the years we owned them proved to be wonderful, reliable horses as they learned to trust us. And there is that thing called persistence. Many unlikely seeming horses became great partners for their person because that person persisted (those were damn lucky horses, in my opinion.)
 What I am trying to say here is that just like people, some horses are saints (like our Henry), some have quirks but within their parameters will give you SO much if you are the right match for them (this would be most horses I have known), and some are resistant by nature, including a few that are downright nasty—and they won’t be trained out of this attitude. I know a lot of horse lovers won’t believe this, and also won’t like to hear it, but in my lifetime of training, owning and riding horses, I have known quite a few horses with this sort of resistant attitude. And my choice is not to own or ride or interact with this type of horse. It is so frustrating, and a novice horse owner is so often defeated and discouraged (not to mention frequently scared or injured) by such a horse. I’m not a novice at this point in my life, and I’m quite aware that this sort of grief is completely avoidable. There are so many good horses in the world that really need a forever home. It’s win/win when we choose one of these for ourselves and give them that home that they deserve.
            And hey—I’m happy to hear dissenting opinions. I’m sure that everyone who has a cranky mare that likes to kick but is, in the owner’s opinion, a great horse, will heartily disagree with what I’ve said here. Fire away.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Something New

by Laura Crum

Today is a perfect spring day where I live, and I will be spending my time with the horses and garden. Here I am, getting ready to turn Henry out to graze.

I had prepared a somewhat controversial post, but it just seems like too nice a day for arguing.  And then, this morning, I had the pleasure of reading a lovely interview by Elizabeth Speth on her blog, "Mostly Beautiful Things." Elizabeth is a wonderful writer and her blog is a true delight. She has taken the time to write about my life and books, and I enjoyed her post very much. So please, check out "Mostly Beautiful Things." Here is the link.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Rain, rain, NO DON'T GO AWAY!

By Gayle Carline
Mystery, Horse, Humor Author... sometimes all-in-one

I know what you folks back east are thinking. Is she crazy? We don't want any more precipitation! You're right. You don't need more. Unfortunately, California is in such a drought, I'm thinking of driving to my brother's house in Illinois, loading a truckbed with snow, and bringing it back to Orange County.

It's not global warming. It's global weirding.

We had a big bunch o' rain last weekend, but not enough to make a big dent in the dust, especially since we're experiencing beautiful 70-80 degree weather that's drying everything up. It's great for riding, but awful for the garden.

Our arena. The wind and rain obliterated all signs of the tractor's drag,
but would you believe it was completely dry within three days?

The horses stood in their stalls for most of the rainy weekend. We got them out to hand-walk them as much as we could. Frostie can be hand-walked fairly well, as long as nothing in the landscape has changed. She notices when a trash can has been turned around, or a chair has fallen over. My friends who have a child with Aspergers have recommended I get her tested.

Snoopy wants to grab everything in his mouth. The lead rope, the bushes we walk by, my jacket, my hand. We have tried all sorts of remedies to his mouthiness. Nothing works for more than a few seconds. I usually just hold the end of the lead rope in my left hand and pop his nose with it if he gets his face too close to me. After two or three tries of this, he will walk with his mouth pursed closed, as if pouting - for about a minute. Then he forgets.

I should perhaps get him tested for OCD.

The bad part of the rain was that I was supposed to show Snoopy at a three-day horse show, and then help our young riders at a one-day show later. None of that happened. No one wants to ride in the rain in all their nice clothes and shiny saddles, and REALLY no one wants to have their horse slip and injure themselves in the muddy footing.

So now my next show isn't until the end of April.

In the meantime, I'm getting MURDER ON THE HOOF ready for its May/June release, and enjoying my 15 minutes of fame in America's Horse. Here's a picture of me showing Snoopy the magazine. Snoopy finds my knuckles much more appealing than the picture.

What's on your list of things to do? And what, if anything, is the obstacle in your path?

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Still Riding

                                                by Laura Crum

            I post a lot about other things here on this blog, but I AM still riding. I don’t post about my riding very much, because it’s just not that exciting. Short trail rides and just exercising the horses here at home is all I am mostly doing. Some days my son and I get Henry and Sunny out and ride them at the walk and trot in the riding ring for twenty minutes or so—until they are warmed up—and then let them gallop up the hill from the front gate to the house a few times (less than a quarter of a mile). And that’s it.
            Not very interesting blogging material. We are just trying to keep our older horses from getting stiff—and also keep them a bit legged up. The goal being that when we do want to do a more ambitious trail ride (which for us is a two-three hour trail ride) the horses will be comfortable doing it.
            There isn’t much to say about it. Our horses are well behaved and my son and I enjoy cruising around in the spring sunshine. It’s very relaxing. The horses enjoy it, too, as far as I can tell. They certainly meet us at the gate to be caught. We turn them loose to graze afterward…and I KNOW they really enjoy that part. We all seem to get a kick out of the short gallops up the hill. It’s a pleasant part of the day for all of us.
            But I am not teaching these wise old horses any new tricks, or preparing for any exciting event. I am not improving as a rider…rather the reverse. I cannot now do many things on a horse that I could easily do in my younger days. I don’t mind. I enjoy my horse time now as much as I ever did.
            It’s a lot about sharing time with my son. It’s a lot about wanting my horse time to be relaxing and stress free. It’s a lot about not wanting to work hard at the horses (just call me lazy). I want the horses to enjoy our riding time, too. They’re older horses who have given us a lot and they’ve earned an easy life. And I just don’t have goals any more with my horses—other than to share a pleasant life together with them. 
            There’s nothing wrong with any of this. It doesn’t make for an interesting blog post, though. Or for a very exciting horse life.
            On the other hand, if you are a horseperson who is longing for a pleasant, relaxing, drama-free life with horses, I am here to tell you that this is entirely possible. Choose a reliable, older horse, do things that are well within his/her capabilities, avoid events that are about sorting out who is “better” than who and/or who can complete the goal and who can’t. You must also have a bit of luck. But within these parameters it is entirely possible to have an enjoyable, stress-free life full of horseback riding fun. We can serve as an example.
            Henry and Sunny sharing a bit of camaraderie on a sunny spring day, while my son and I chat.

            Riding down the hill for a gallop back up.

            Galloping up the hill…I usually wear a helmet for this, but took it off at my husband’s request for a photo with my hair blowing in the wind. (This photo was taken last summer—see shiny horse—but the activity looks about the same right now, only on a fuzzy horse.)

            Good little fuzzy horse ready to go riding.

My son and Henry riding our local trails to the Lookout, about a mile or two from our front gate.

We do the occasional beach ride.

And we go riding in the woods.

Henry’s favorite part of the whole deal.

Sunny likes this part, too.

            It has rained for a week straight now, so I’m glad we kept up with the riding while we could. Today everything is sodden and muddy, and I am definitely a fair weather rider. But at least we are not whining about drought any more (at the moment, anyway). I hope the rest of you are having some early spring riding fun, as well.

Monday, March 3, 2014


                                                by Laura Crum

            Those of you who have read my posts for awhile know that I once used to compete on my horses—a lot. For fifteen years I hauled somewhere, pretty much every weekend. First to compete at cutting, and later, at team roping. I hauled to the Sierra Nevada Mountains to go on horse camping trips—dozens of times. I logged a lot of miles pulling a trailer full of horses. Down major freeways thick with traffic, and down one lane dirt roads in the mountains. I hauled my horse Gunner to Nevada, Arizona and Washington over the years, all in the interests of some competition or other. And I never had one serious problem.
            Yes, there was the occasional vehicle breakdown or flat tire, and though it was no fun at the time, we got through it unscathed. The worst that ever happened to any horse during my many years of hauling was a scratch or scrape. I do not put this down to my skill, by the way—just luck.
            Somehow or other, over the years, hauling got harder for me. You would think that after fifteen years of going just about everywhere, it would be, if not easier, at least routine. But the truth is that, at a certain point, I was over it. Just like I was over competition. Over the stress, over the worry, over the intensity of hauling my beloved horses down a four lane freeway of seething traffic. No, nothing truly bad ever happened to me, but I was all too aware of what could happen. So when I got pregnant at 42 years of age, I just quit.
            I quit competing and I quit hauling. Oh, I will still haul my horses around when I need to, but I avoid it when I can. And I find it a great relief not to haul any more.
            But my friend/boarder, Wally (who keeps his horses with me and has been my partner on several horses) still hauls pretty much every weekend. And for a while, he was hauling a horse we were partners on (Flanigan) and my own horse, Plumber, as his two team roping competition mounts. And I worried.
            Every weekend I worried that I’d get “that” phone call. That my horses had been hurt, or colicked, or that Wally had gotten in a wreck. Those of you who have done a lot of hauling will know that my fears were not unrealistic. Hauling to events is stressful for horses. Their chances of colicking, getting hurt…etc are much higher than when they are leading their “normal” lives. I could tell endless stories of horses that died due to colic/injury/illness sustained while hauling/competing. It’s just a fact of life.
            But for many years this did not happen to us. Until the day that I DID get the phone call. Wally was at a weekend roping in Paso Robles. And, just as he arrived in town, someone in a jacked up pick-up ran a red light, going fast, and T-boned the horse trailer. Fortunately they hit the tack box and the horses walked off, apparently uninjured. The trailer was a total loss. And the hit and run driver was nowhere to be found.
            It seemed that we were lucky. We bought another horse trailer that Wally and I now share. But a couple of years later our good horse, Flanigan, developed a diaphragmatic hernia, and a year after that he colicked and died, probably due to complications from that hernia. He was 21 years old and the best horse either Wally or I ever rode.  And I recently learned that the probable cause of his hernia was that horse trailer wreck.
            (For those who have never heard of a diaphragmatic hernia—and I was in this camp before Flanigan got diagnosed—basically the wall between the chest cavity and the abdominal cavity is ruptured, and the intestines get mixed up with the lungs. Flanigan’s chief symptom was labored breathing—our vet first treated him for heaves, then for allergies, then for a possible lung infection. When nothing worked he suspected a tumor. We were just discussing sending the horse to the closest equine hospital—Davis—when I mentioned that Flanigan had very loud gut sounds, abnormally loud or so it seemed to me. And the vet got this funny look on his face and said, “He could have a diaphragmatic hernia.” And, after a fancy ultra-sound at Davis, it was clear that this was the problem.)
            My current vet (not the one who had worked with Flanigan) and I were discussing colics and their outcomes, and I mentioned Flanigan and that he had not been a candidate for colic surgery because of the diaphragmatic hernia. And my vet asked me. “Was he ever in a trailer wreck?”
            Startled, I said, “Yes. But that was years before he developed the hernia.”
            And my vet said, “They did a study on it. Most horses that have a diaphragmatic hernia have either been in a trailer wreck or they are chronic cribbers. And yes, it does sometimes show up years after the wreck.”
            That was when I realized that maybe we hadn’t been as lucky when it came to that wreck as we had imagined at the time.
            Trailer wrecks remain a nightmare of mine, so you can be sure that when Wally left for Arizona with our friend Mark last week, bound for a fun few days of team roping competition, I crossed my fingers that they would have a safe trip. It’s a twelve hour drive—no small thing. And when I didn’t hear from them for a couple of days, I was a little concerned.
            And then I got the call. I could tell by Wally’s voice that something was wrong. “Are you OK?” I asked.
            “We’re OK, but Mark’s trailer isn’t,” he said. And then proceeded to tell me that someone had rear-ended them and the trailer was totaled.
            “The horses,” I said, barely able to get the words out. “How are the horses?”
            “Oh they’re fine,” Wally said. “They weren’t in the trailer.”
            “They weren’t?” I parroted in confusion. I could not imagine a scenario in which they’d been hauling the trailer without the horses.
            “No, we were taking the trailer to town to fix a flat tire. The horses were back in their corrals. Kind of a miracle, really.”
            I let out a deep breath. Yep, kind of a miracle.
And yes, I am so grateful. But I will admit, my paranoia about the dangers of hauling has only increased, if anything.
            So I will end this blog post on a realistic note. Hauling horses has a downside. But so does most everything. Driving to town on the freeway has a downside. And I’m not about to give up driving to town. The positives outweigh the possible negatives for me. With hauling, the downside got bigger than the positives for me. And this was, of course, because I had burned out on competing and didn’t really enjoy it any more. So the stress of hauling my horses to get to those competitions just wasn’t worth it to me. But there were many years (a solid twenty years) when it was worth it—and I totally understand why it is worth it to others who are still very interested in competitions (or rides or other events). I can absolutely remember the days when my determination to get to a certain cutting (or roping or pack trip destination) completely outweighed the daunting miles of hauling that lay between me and the goal. And I am glad that I felt that way, because I have very happy memories of many great pack trips and roping competitions, and cuttings. And who knows…I may yet be in that mental space again.
 But…folks, be careful. Shit happens. It really does. May we all be as lucky as Wally was last week. And also remember not to take our horses for granted—ever. Because things can change in the blink of an eye.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Fame! (I wanna live forevah...)

By Gayle Carline
Horse Lover and Author of a Few Books Here and There

Okay, I don't want fame, in the way that celebrities are famous. I mean, who wants to be chased by people who want a candid photo and a sordid story? I'm not even certain Miley wants that.

What I would like is to sell enough books each month to make a living. It doesn't have to be a Dean Koontz living (he's sold half-a-billion books, BTW). A middle-class, why-yes-we-can-go-winetasting-this-weekend living is fine with me. The way to do that, of course, is to become noticeable enough to readers that they recommend me to other readers and start pushing my books up the ratings chain.

Two things happened in the last two weeks to give my Snoopy book a boost.

One was a visit from Julie Preble of Horse and Rider Magazine to my table at the Pomona Horse Expo. I had sent FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH to that magazine, as well as other publications. Julie interviewed me for the Horse and Rider YouTube channel, and held a giveaway contest for a free copy of the book (click on over for a chance to win). Here's the video:

I pretty much hate seeing me on video, but I'm still happy to be interviewed.

The other thing was that I got a good-sized article in America's Horse about the book. America's Horse Magazine is an AQHA publication and goes to every AQHA member as part of their membership. That's worldwide, kids. I'd link to the article, but you have to be a member to read it. Here's a picture of it:

As icing on the cake, Snoopy and I are on the table of contents.

Did all of this rocket me up the charts? No. But it sold a few more books, which I hope will translate to a few more books, and a few more after that. Right now, I could pay the gas bill. Maybe soon I can pay the gas bill and the phone bill.

How about you? Do you have a passion that you'd like to make a living doing? Writing? Riding? What are you doing about it?