Thursday, January 29, 2015


by Francesca Prescott

Riding a freestyle to music is something I’ve always wanted to do. Apart from one unofficial competition years and years ago, and the hastily improvised program I did with my friend Josephine last November for our stables’ internal competition, I’ve never had the opportunity to ride one. Also, until last September I wasn’t allowed to ride an official freestyle test as I’d never passed an exam required in Switzerland to move up to a level where freestyles, aka Kürs, are offered at competition level. 

So I’ve decided that 2015 is going to be the year of the Kür for Qrac and I. I’m probably completely nuts, as choreographing a freestyle, finding the right music, and riding everything at the perfect moment has to be one of the most difficult things to do on horseback, apart from maybe…well, actually I can’t think of anything more difficult to do on horseback, but I’m sure there is something. Polo, maybe? I’m hopeless with balls and clubs and stuff like that.

I think I’ve found my music. I’ve spent hours and hours (and I seriously mean HOURS AND HOURS) going through on my computer, listening to the gazillion tracks I have on it, listening to samples of music online, buying tracks and albums that I think sound promising. I’ve watched umpteen freestyle videos of superstar riders on Youtube (oh the beauty, the perfection!), and pulled up recent videos of my horse and I during training or at shows (oh the evading quarters, the imperfection!), watching them over and over while playing various tracks.  I’ve been convinced I’ve found something perfect many times, only to change my mind because I like something else better. Also, depending on how “big” Qrac moves in trot, the tempo changes, making it hard to decide on a specific track. A friend filmed my lesson this morning, and Qrac was moving with far more scope than the previous time my lesson was filmed, so the track I thought too “big” for him last week seemed perfect today.

I guess I should aim for big, right? I mean, bigger is better. When it comes to trot, less is definitely not more.

As far as the style of music for my freestyle, I honestly thought I’d go for something poppy and Latino. When my friend and I rode our pas-de-deux to the new Ricky Martin track, Adios, late last year, I was sure I’d choose something in the same vein for my freestyle. But then I started to feel that using Latino music with a Lusitano horse was way too cliché, and that it had probably been done to death. Also, when you take the lyrics out of many top 40-type tracks they tend to sound a little bland, kind of like elevator or supermarket music. The mega high energy David Guetta/Avicii -style stuff is cool, but it’s not really Qracy and me. I tried tracks from musicals, but felt that none-Anglophone judges just wouldn’t connect with the likes of “Oklahoma!” or “Hair”, and French musicals really don’t do it for me.

Coldplay seemed like a possibility for a while; I think their riffs are great, but nothing really made me think “that’s it!”, and surely the judges are sick of Viva la Vida, and Clocks? I liked Princess of China for the canter, and also because I always feel like a princess when I’m riding Qracipoo. But I wasn’t totally convinced. And considering how often I’m going to be listening to this music, I need to be sure. I need to really love it.

And then I remembered a track I’d seen Carl Hester ride to at Olympia in London, when I went there just before Christmas with a girlfriend to watch the Grand Prix and the Freestyle. The particular track is Heart of Courage by Two Steps from Hell. Carl Hester wasn’t the only rider to feature this track in his program, and both my girlfriend and I had commented on how fabulously electrifying it was. I knew it wouldn’t work for Qrac; it's far too “big” for him, but I thought I might find something that felt similarly inspirational and epically elevating without being so overpowering.

So I bought a few Two Steps from Hell albums and had a good listen while fiddling with my training and show videos. Of course, ITunes helpfully intervened, suggesting that if I liked music by Two Steps from Hell, I might also like Audiomachine, and being a sucker for their helpful suggestions, I bought some of those to see if they were right, which they were to some extent, especially a couple of tracks on the album they composed for the movie Tree of Life. Still, Two Steps from Hell seems to work best, and after faffing around on the computer for another gazillion hours I’ve managed to narrow it down to one track for the canter, three for the trot, and one for the walk

Anyway, now I need to ride my freestyle while someone films it, see if the timing is right (not to mention whether Qracy and I can actually do what we intend to do!). Next, from what I’ve gathered, I send the video and my music choices to a professional who will lay down the tracks and edit the music according to the choreography, and then send me a CD.

And then we ride it to see if it works. If it does we ride it over and over and over again until we get it all beautiful and perfect, and we stop falling over our outside shoulder, and losing the quarters and the bend in the half passes, and the flying changes go through on cue, and the extended trot flows and we don’t fall on our nose, and we don’t mistake the wheelbarrow for a giant green fire-breathing dragon.

Will we be ready by April? All we can do is try. And it’s a fun, exciting, motivating goal to work towards.

Have you ever ridden a freestyle? If you have, or if you would like to, what type of music would you choose?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Imagine It

                                                            by Laura Crum

            This is going to be a short, sad, somewhat bitter, and unsettling random post. Don’t read it if you don’t like the sound of that.

            Since my husband died I have had so many people talk/write to me about how they can’t imagine what I’m going through, and referring to my “unimaginable” loss. I know they mean well. But lately a certain bitter truth keeps trying to jump out of my mouth. So here goes.
            Imagine it, people. Because you will be faced with it. If you love someone, either you or that someone will inevitably be facing what I am facing now—some day or other. The pain of loss is part of this mortal life. Most of us have lost loved dogs and horses and understand that grief. But some day you will lose your husband or wife or child or much-loved person of some sort, and/or they will lose you, and this pain will be your/their lot, as it is now my lot.
            I’m not sure why I want to say this. I only know that it keeps coming up for me, so I decided to put it out there. I loved and still love my husband very much. I always understood that death is part of life. I’m coping with the pain as well as I can, doing the things that need to be done so my son’s life and our critter’s lives can go on. I think it would be even worse for me if I had somehow been blind to this inevitable ending of the mortal life and felt unjustly cheated. As if my husband wasn’t supposed to die.
            But I know that we all die. And none of us know when we will die. We, or our loved others, could die tomorrow. Including our much-loved horses and dogs and cats. This is the way it is. Best to be clear. Possibly best if you imagine it ahead of time. Because Andy and I did some practical things based on our clarity that we might die that are definitely a help to me now. And, as I said, despite how desperately I miss him, I am spared that angry, I’ve-been-cheated feeling. Because I did and do understand that we are not in any way guaranteed any special length of life. I am grateful for the years we had together. I am grateful for the happiness we shared and the family we became. I will allways love him. I will always miss him. I truly believe his spirit watches over me and our son. And death is part of life. So imagine it.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Passages by Alison Hart

None of us are unaffected by passages.  On Equestrian Ink, we have all written about many different kinds of passages that affect us profoundly as well as in smaller, quieter ways.  Because we all have animals who we outlive, we often write about death.  When a horse--or one of us-- gets an injury, we write about changing our riding goals. When a book we've worked hard on finally gets published, we change from a writer to a published author.  When we switch jobs, get a new horse, start family or a new book, we are bombarded by new experiences.

Recently, I decided to stop teaching. I have been an educator for FORTY THREE YEARS.  (Purposefully put in caps because it translates into more years than the age of many of our blog readers.) Some passages--like this--we choose. Others are thrust upon us.  Amazingly, I kept my passion for teaching by switching up grade levels, trying out new methods/technology, going to workshops, mentoring others and dropping from full-time to part-time to keep from burning out. But last semester the frustrations outweighed the joy, and it was time to stop.

An exaggeration 
Yesterday, I began cleaning out my stacks and stacks of textbooks and materials, accumulated over FOUR decades. In many ways it was heart breaking. How can I suddenly stop a career that I was passionate about?  I also wondered what triggered this end of a job that was so important and shaped me for so many years.

As I grow older and have time to be more self-and other-aware (ie not so exhausted by kids and full-time work), I see examples of  people dealing with passages everywhere. I was working at the Antique Shop yesterday when one of my guy friends dropped in. "I am selling all my Civil War Re-enactment stuff," he said. I asked him why he suddenly stopped being passionate about re-enacting, which he has done for twenty-five years, and like the 'man' he is, he simply said, "I've moved on."

Not an exaggeration
My sister, a hoarder, has been consumed by her apartment full of 'things' for ten years.  Her emotional attachment to stuff and inability to make decisions created an unhealthy environment. Now poor health has forced her to leave her precious things, which will be auctioned off or thrown away. To me, this change will help her grow emotionally. To her, it is necessary, yet devastating.  How sad that ten years of her energy were spent caring about something that in the end did not matter, and that this passage in her life --unlike my choice to stop teaching--was forced upon her, not chosen?

These questions about life-changes and finding new passages will continue to stay on my mind.  I still love my horses, but do not ride.  There continues to be sorrow on that passage. Will spring motivate me to get on Relish? Right now, I continue to find fun in antiques--but how long will that last? Will one day the sight of an original Breyer horse in the box leave me cold?
What happens when my great health is no longer a given? My husband retires? My son and his soon-to-be wife have a child?

I can onlyhope I can face all these new changes with determination and joy.

What passages are you going through that have changed your life? Profound or small, they all matter.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Some Publishing News!

by Linda Benson

Hi Everyone - Just popping in to share a few things. First of all, for those of you who prefer to read paper rather than ebooks, The Girl Who Remembered Horses is now available on Amazon as a print edition. It has the old cover, with the horses galloping across the desert, but the book is still the same, so now you can read it either way!

eBook edition available on Amazon for $2.99
Print edition available on Amazon for $10.99, plus shipping.
Also, since my Cat Tales series is doing so well (yes, we made a quick transition there from horses to cats) I wrote another one, to follow The Winter Kitten, The Springtime Cat, The Summer Cat (which has some horses in it!) and The Autumn Kitten.
But since I ran out of seasons, I called this one The Newlywed Cat, and it was just released.
This short read is available on Amazon for $0.99
So there you have it. Whether you read on Paper or on the Screen, we've got you covered.
And just a reminder, the Kindle App is available for free on almost every device. You can get it on your tablet, computer, or even your smart phone. Several of my readers read my Cat Tales on their phones! (Yes, it amazes me also.)
In other news, we will soon be adding some new members to this blog. So look for new and interesting posts in the future!
Happy Reading! Happy Riding! And for those of you who are writers - Happy Writing!
And here's a question for you - how many of you read ebooks now?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Life and Death

                                                by Laura Crum 

            To those who have followed this blog for awhile, I want to say that I am sorry about my recent lack of posts. Losing my husband in November has been the hardest thing that I have ever gone through and it is all I can do to get the things done that must be done. I am not writing to speak of, or riding at all. So I have nothing to say that pertains on a blog about horse-themed fiction.
            However I know that some of you have been interested in my horses and “knew” them through my books and this blog, and perhaps would want to know that I had to put Gunner down about two weeks before my husband died. I did not grieve over much about Gunner—he was 35 years old and had a very good life. He had been getting steadily lamer on his arthritic knee, harder to keep weight on, and more prone to anxiety, due to loss of sight and hearing and typical old horse dementia. So when I saw that he was lame in both front feet one morning at feeding time, I did not bother with diagnostic work. I knew it was time and my vet agreed. We both think the cause was laminitis, but it truly doesn’t matter. Even if it was an abscess in the “good” front, it just wasn’t something I was going to try to take Gunner through, under the circumstances.
            My husband was in the hospital at the time, and I spent all day, every day with him, but Andy totally supported me in going home to be there when Gunner was put down. I have been there for all my horses and I wasn’t going to fail Gunner, who had been my horse for thirty two years. I let him out to graze for a while that morning, and was happy to see that not a rib showed, and the old horse’s enthusiasm for grazing was undaunted, despite the lameness. Gunner was himself right up until his end.
            And his end was quick and clean. The vet tranquilized him and I petted him and told him how much I loved him and when he was ready I sat in the barn for the brief minute that it took for the kill shot to take effect and for Gunner to fall. There was no struggle. Gunner is buried where he grazed that morning and I am happy that I could give him a good life and a good death.
            As for me, I would at times be happy to have that good death, but that isn’t a choice that I will ever make for myself. My son and our animals depend on me and I am taking care of them. I may not be riding, but Sunny, Henry, Plumber and Twister are all thriving, sound, and in good flesh and happy—so nobody needs to worry. Dogs, cats and kid are all fine, too. The garden is tended. I’m doing what I know my husband would want me to do.
            I’m not sure what else I can possibly have to say right now. I walk through each day, one step at a time, getting things done that need to be done. I haven’t any interest in social things at the moment, including facebook and the social life of the internet…etc. I hope you all are doing well, but I cannot face chatting about every day, normal things. I appreciate the kind wishes that have been sent to me and I wish all of you the best. I especially appreciate those of you who have reached out to me and done what you could to show love. It helps.
            I will try to keep posting here, but my posts may be a bit random and are not likely to be very cheerful. This is just how it is for me right now. Those of you who have read my books may know that my husband was the inspiration for the character “Blue Winter.” Go re-read Slickrock or Hayburner or Forged if you’d like to get a small inkling of what a wonderful person he was and is to me.
Death is part of life. But it can be very hard to bear.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Happy (belated) New Year!

By Gayle Carline
Horse Woman and Resolution Maker

I inserted "belated" into my title because I was supposed to post this on Saturday and didn't. You kids are probably too young to understand this, but as you grow older, you get Toddler Syndrome. I prefer this to Old Timer's Disease. 

I'm not forgetful. I just get distracted by shiny toys.

A new year means a lot to me. New possibilities, fresh hope, optimism at its peak. Of course, there are resolutions made, to be healthier, more organized, etc. Hopefully, you have some kind of resolution to have more fun, maybe be kinder to yourself, as well as others.

I've read lots of articles that talk about making resolutions for your horses. Personally, I think horses should make their own resolutions. All kidding aside, I think it's hard to make resolutions when it comes to my horses. When Snoopy was 4, I resolved to get him qualified to go to the AQHA World Invitational Show. Then he broke his leg.

My resolution was tossed aside and replaced with prayers for his recovery. One fused joint, one metal plate, six screws, and three years later, he finally did.

For the past few months, I've been dealing with Snoopy being off with his bionic leg. Not what you'd call lame, but just short-striding on the foot. The vet thought he had tweaked the deep flexor tendon, so we went through some medications and physical therapy. The tendon healed, but then the weather got cold and seemed to affect the leg.

He's coming along, slowly, and his attitude is still sassy. But what kind of goals can I set, apart from the goal of enjoying him every day, no matter what?

Do any of you have resolutions, horsey or non-horsey? I'd be interested in knowing what they are!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Value of Horses

by Linda Benson

I'm a lifelong reader of horse classified ads. Even though I'm not in the market for a horse, it's still a pastime that I enjoy. In fact, I've enjoyed perusing horses for sale ever since I was old enough to read and dream about horses, and I see no reason to quit now. I enjoy looking at horses, trying to imagine their stories, and seeing what people are trying to sell them for.

Gypsy Vanner Horse - one of the cool breeds that seem to go for big bucks right now.

Of course, those of us who own horses know that their "value" goes far beyond monetary: as companions, peace-of-mind givers, pets, friends, as well as their recreational value. But as to "value" in this post, I'm talking about how much actual money a horse is worth. What determines that?

Is it breeding? Color? Temperament? Training? Or just dumb luck?

We've probably all read horror stories about great horses (thousands of them, folks) that end up at auctions, and many get shipped off to slaughter. This is a horrible state of affairs, and makes me sick at heart. But what can we do to make sure this doesn't happen? How do we place a monetary value or our horses, and make sure that someone actually wants to keep them?

I look at Craigslist a lot, and try to compare the horses I see on that site, and what people are asking for them. (I look at a lot of dogs and puppies on there, too, but let's not go there right now *grin*) Anyway, I often see the same sort of quality horse (fairly nice conformation, possible papers or not but obviously out of registered stock, good flesh, good age) advertised from $0.00 (zero) dollars to oh, perhaps $2500.00 - $3000.00 in our part of the country (Pacific Northwest.) And all sorts of prices in between those figures.

And you know what I see? What makes a horse valuable, at least around here, is rideability. Which is a little bit different than training.

If a young horse has been ridden a little, even if its started right, and then sits for awhile, or is turned out to pasture, or bought by an owner that doesn't keep up its training, then it often forgets what it knows, gets a little sour, or just isn't in the habit of being used as a riding animal, and therefore resents it. And I see so, so many of these horses out there, and their value continues to decline.

There are multitudes of gorgeous, fat and shiny beautiful horses around the country here, that no one is riding. And after months of standing, they might throw a little crow-hop when first saddled and then asked for a canter - which scares the owner and they get off. So of course the horse will try it next time, and next time, and by then you have a horse that is 1) hard to ride 2) sits in the pasture/corral for another few months, and eventually is 3) very difficult to sell.

These are the kind of horses that sometimes end up for free (or offered as a trade for something more gentle) on Craigslist. On the other hand, I see horses that have had some recent riding (maybe a trainer/cowboy/cowgirl has acquired said horse) and given it lots of recent works or use, until the horse is performing well, and advertised for quite a bit of money. Will the horse continue to perform well? Probably. If it is ridden.

So let me ask you readers - because I know you come from everywhere - in your part of the world, what determines monetary value in a horse? Color? Breeding? Training? Temperament? Rideability? Or dumb luck?

I'd love to hear your views, so chime in!