Happy Thanksgiving!

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Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

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Be sure to stop by next Wednesday for a chance to win Mary Pat Hyland’s new book In the Shadow of the Onion Domes.

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Have a great holiday.

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Photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/ewan_traveler/4146442781/”>ewan traveler</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

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Dressage For The Average Rider

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International level dressage is wonderful to watch and attracts large audiences who delight in the dancing and skipping horses doing intricate figures. But as enjoyable as it is to observe, it’s even more fun to do. Of course at the high levels, the riders are full-time professionals and the horses worth millions of dollars. That doesn’t stop thousands of average horses and riders from joining the fun.

Dressage is the French word for training and refers to the basic training all horses should have. It’s not limited to English riding; the principles apply to Western too. In fact, you often see demonstrations of Western dressage.  The aim is to develop a relaxed, attentive, supple horse that responds effortlessly.

One of the nice things about dressage is it is an absorbing activity that you can do alone without being part of a team—although a trainer is vitally important. You can compete if you want, but the training pyramid provides levels to achieve and can give you a sense of accomplishment without having to show. It takes years to move up the levels, so there is always more to learn and accomplish. This feature is probably why dressage has become so popular with educated, professional women. They like something that requires concentration, dedication and measurable goals.

palominoYou can do dressage with any horse but one with the correct conformation and native ability will make it easier to advance up the levels. You want one with a good mind, a willing disposition and the physical ability to do what you ask. A horse specifically bred for dressage (usually a warmblood) can be pricey, but you can also find ones with a lot of talent in other breeds. Off-the-track Thoroughbreds often are good choices because of their work ethic and athleticism. My OTTB mare Glory was quite talented and trained to Third Level.

One way to verify how far you’ve come in your training is to compete. The U.S. Dressage Federation defines a series of “tests” at five advancing levels, starting with Training and culminating in Fourth Level. (The international level tests are overseen by FEI (Federation Equestre International) Each level has four tests that list the series of movements required at different spots in the dressage court. At non-championship shows usually one judge sits at the long end of the arena and gives a number score for how well each movement was performed and also comments on how it could be improved. Once you have achieved acceptable scores at one level, you can go on to the next. (Unless you are extremely dedicated and put in a lot of time, you usually advance one level per year.)

Here is a video of a Training level, Test 1 ride.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Wrl3GVOgMQ

Compare it to this Second level test.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TB1YAUd0clI

In addition to the basic tests, you can also compete in a Freestyle at each level. This is a performance set to music where you demonstrate all the required moves for that level, but with your own choreography. Watching horses do the same moves over and over at the lower levels is only interesting to other dressage riders, but audiences of all kinds love the Freestyles.

Here is a video of an Amateur Adult Rider doing a delightful freestyle.
https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=826846100706629&amp;fref=nf

Categories: animals, dressage, dressage competition, Horses, Olympics, riding, Thoroughbreds, training horses, U.S. Dressage Federation, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

A Wedding in the Redwoods

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My older daughter got married two weekends ago in a lovely ceremony in a California redwood forest. Some people expressed an interest when I mentioned it so I thought I’d tell a little about it. I’m afraid I was too busy to take pictures, so I only have a few my husband managed.

Wedding party

Instead of a church or any other formal venue, my daughter and her guy chose to have their wedding at a unique B&B where they’ve often stayed. It was the second marriage for both so they did it their own way. CJ had eloped the first time and wanted a real wedding complete with a gown and being given away by her father. Joe chose to wear a nice suit but no tie. Their attendants were their three daughters. And instead of a wedding cake, which she dislikes, CJ made brownies, cookies and tiny cheesecakes.

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Table2

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The original plan was to have the dinner and dancing outdoors on a large lawn and Joe strung lights around the area. Unfortunately, rain suddenly threatened (and actually did arrive–the first time the B&B ever had rain for a wedding) so everything was moved to the covered porch area. We all helped set up the tables and decorate. Our younger daughter who is a fantastic artist directed things and did a wonderful job.

 

 

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Entry & stage2

Luckily the rain stopped by noon and the ceremony was able to go as planned. The bridal party stood on the porch and the guests gathered on the lawn to watch. The B&B’s little white dog decided to join the party, to everyone’s delight. And half way through the sun came out to smile on the couple. After pictures on the lawn we all adjourned to the wrap-around porch and a delicious catered meal.

 

First dance - making use of blanket

First dance – making use of blanket

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The wedding was small–family and close friends–about 50 people in all. A very congenial group and lots of fun.

Dancing followed on the deck. Because of the possibility of inclement weather, CJ and Joe had chosen microfleece lap blankets as wedding favors. By evening, most of the people on the porch and deck were making good use of them. A lot of the guests were staying at a nearby B&B so the party didn’ t end early.

A somewhat unconventional wedding that fit the newlyweds perfectly.

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Horses As Healers

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horse and childAs I mentioned last week, the heroine of my upcoming book Forearmed is a child psychologist who uses horses to work with her troubled clients. Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy is a new and growing field and I thought I’d tell you a little about it today. Mostly I’m going to give you links to some interesting sites, rather than repeat the information given there.

Because horses are prey animals and super sensitive to their environment, they are also ultra aware of the humans around them. My horses can tell instantly what kind of mood I’m in and react accordingly. If I’m upset, and depending on their personality, they can be standoffish until I calm down. If I’m sad and unhappy they may be more lovey and stay close. And interestingly my moods usually shift quite quickly under their influence. I’ve always said that my horses keep me sane (though others may debate that).

Therapists are beginning to use this equine sensitivity to help troubled patients, particularly children and teens. Horses can tell them a lot about what is going on with their clients and help the kids approach the world differently. I’ve helped out at a local clinic and found it fascinating.

Here are links to sites that can tell you a lot more about EFP.

http://www.pathintl.org/resources-education/resources/eaat/201-what-is-efpl

http://equine-psychotherapy.com/equine.html

And here’s one that shows how horses can help heal grief.

http://www.horseconscious.com/therapies/horses-healing-human-grief-equine-facilitated-psychotherapy

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photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/walkadog/3432890728/”>Beverly & Pack</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
Categories: animals, children, Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy, healing, Horses, psychotherapy, troubled teens, Uncategorized, using horses to heal | Tags: , , , , , | 17 Comments

Meet My Character – A Blog Tour

desert

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My friend and critique partner, the talented Heidi Noroozy, invited me to participate in a Meet My Character Blog Tour, where we talk about a character in one of our books. Today I’d like to introduce you to the heroine of my upcoming book FOREARMED.

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1.) What is the name of your character?

Callie Burns

2.) When and where is the story set?

It’s set in southern Arizona, in the desert country outside Tucson, and is contemporary

3.) What should we know about him/her?

Callie is a child psychologist who uses horses to work with troubled kids. She was drawn to this work because her childhood was marred by her father’s PTSD episodes. She also has intuitive abilities which help her in her work.

4.) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

Callie finds a dying man while riding in the desert and becomes involved with finding who killed him. The police aren’t interested a dead illegal alien but her father fears the bad guys might come after her, so he insists on guarding her while investigating the murdered man. She’s drawn to the attractive Ranger who came to help, but has to keep her distance because he has very rigid views about people who try to sneak into his country. When one of her patients is threatened, she has to step outside the law and question her long-held beliefs.

5.) What is the personal goal of the character?

To live a quiet life helping children and find love with a safe, comfortable man. The last thing she wants is a repeat of her parent’s volatile relationship.

6.) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

The title is FOREARMED

7.) When can we expect the book to be published or when was it published?

I expect to publish it as an e-book in December. FOREARMED should be available on Amazon and all the other book sites at that time.

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The following authors are next up on the tour. They will introduce their characters next week. Be sure to stop by their blogs.

Susan Schreyer, author of the Thea Campbell mystery series, lives in Washington with her husband, two teenage children, a couple of playful kittens, and the ghosts of an untrustworthy rabbit and a demanding old cat. She spends her “free” time writing stories about people in the next town being murdered. As a diversion from the plotting of nefarious deeds Susan trains horses and teaches people how to ride them, and when the weather gets to her she works in a veterinarians’ office. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Guppies Chapter of SinC, and is co-president of the Puget Sound Chapter of SinC.

Marsha R. West, who will be blogging next Tuesday, writes romantic suspense where experience is required. Her heroes and heroines, struggling with life and loss, are surprised to discover second chances at love. Marsha, who loves to travel, lives in Texas with her supportive lawyer husband. They’ve raised two daughters who’ve presented them with three delightful grandchildren. Her first published book, VERMONT ESCAPE, was e-released by MuseItUp in the summer of 2013 and her second TRUTH BE TOLD in 2014. Her third book, SECOND CHANCES releases from MIU in January  2015

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Desert photo:courtesy of Creative Commons http://tinyurl.com/pmu4qpm

Categories: animals, blog hops, Books, Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy, healing, Horses, Mystery, riding, Romantic suspense, suspense, Uncategorized, writing characters | Tags: , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Wedding Bells

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wedding bouquetWedding bells for my daughter this week, so I’ll be MIA for a while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/treacletart/538425862/”>Christopher_Hawkins</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Riding an Earthquake

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buildingTwenty-five years ago on October 17, 1989, my daughter and I were out riding our horses when the great Loma Prieta earthquake hit the San Francisco Bay Area. One of the most destructive quakes in California history, it knocked down part of a freeway, collapsed a section of the Bay Bridge, destroyed numerous houses and killed 69 people while we never FELT a thing.

It was a lovely fall afternoon as we saddled our horses and prepared to go for a ride. The ranch where we kept them was in a rural area south of San Jose and, it turned out, not far from the quake epicenter. They say animals frequently act peculiarly before a quake but ours seemed fine. However, as we left the property I glanced back and was astounded to see a horse rear up, go over backward and actually fall over his paddock fence. Several people rushed to get him, so we continued on our way scratching our heads aridingt the bizarre incident. Something really scary had to have happened to make a horse do that.

A few minutes later we were riding through a small valley and approaching an old orchard. My daughter was in the lead. Suddenly the abandoned school/farm worker bus ahead of us started shaking. My immediate thought was that was a dangerous place for kids to be playing. Then a giant roar of wind swept through the orchard and over us and both horses spun for home. I held my jittering mare in place while my daughter’s horse tried to climb on top of us. The hills around us seemed to move up and down in slow waves, then roar of wind swept over again from the opposite direction. Quiet returned except for an air raid siren wailing in the distance.

We had no idea what had just happened. I’ve lived most of my life in California but I had never been outside when a quake hit before, so I didn’t know what it was like. We had quakes all the time and they were no big deal. The siren made me wonder if one of the test rockets at the nearby UTC facility had blown up. The horses calmed down, so we continued on our way. A few minutes later the trail went behind some houses and we found a woman in her backyard having hysterics. That’s when we discovered it was an earthquake not an explosion, so we turned back.

crushed carWhen we got back to the stable people were huddled around a car, listening to the radio describe all the destruction, while the ranch was untouched. We put away the horses and hurried home, keeping our fingers crossed. Earthquakes send out waves of energy. When they come close to the surface they do the most damage. Our house appeared to have been passed by the deep part of the wave and while it was shaken there was little damage. You could see the direction of the energy by the way the water had gushed over the long ends of our pool and direction the living room étagère had tilted. Luckily the piano had caught the shelves and nothing had broken. Our only casualty was a figurine that had fallen in my daughter’s bedroom.

We spent that night glued to the TV and radio while the Bay Area tried to sort itself out. San Francisco, unfortunately, got caught by the upper part of the wave and was hit hard. It’s a bizarre experience to listen to all the turmoil going on in an area less than an hour away while your life is going on as normal. It was even more bizarre to have watched the hills dance.

How about you? Have you had experience with disasters?

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Building photo credit: Creative Commons http://tinyurl.com/kkvzq8v

Horses photo credit: Creative Commons http://tinyurl.com/kjcgxl2

Crushed car photo credit: Creative Commons http://tinyurl.com/mynfnbr

Categories: adventure, destruction, earthquakes, Horses, Loma Prieta earthquake, riding, San Francisco, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 19 Comments

Using Animals To Promote Plot and Theme

DJ Adamson.

My guest is D.J. Adamson, an award-winning author who has recently released her noir mystery novel Admit to Mayhem.  Her family roots grow deep in the Midwest where she sets much of her work. She juggles her time between her own desk and teaching others writing at two Los Angeles Colleges. Today she’s going to talk about how to use animals in your stories to reveal character and theme.

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I remember Stephen King once saying that if you were writing horror, you need to put a dog or child into the plot because the vulnerability of someone innocent creates horror without a need for a lot of words or description. In his novella Secret Window, the protagonist finds his dog on his doorstep, killed. Horrible! Immediately the reader feels the protagonist is threatened by someone evil. And the reader is waiting for the next horrible act. Blake Synder’s book Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need picks up on another animal use. Synder states that if the character does something nice, like saving a cat, then the character is immediately endeared to the reader. By the way, I think the Cohen Brother’s offered a giggle to Synder’s book by having their character in Inside Llewyn Davis literally save a cat and carry it around most of the movie. A joke the audience may not have gotten, but those of us who write immediately understood.

I use a cat in my novel Admit to Mayhem, a Lillian Dove Mystery series to do both what King and Synder suggest. I want the use of Bacardi to say something about my protagonist:

Cat Bacardi’s my cat, named for his brown and yellow coloring and my first drinking preference of rum and Coke. At the age of twelve, if you add enough cola, you forget all about the sweet tang of rum. Plus, Bacardi’s hair frizzed out from his body as if he’d stuck his claw in a light socket. When my hair was shorter, I’d woken up many a morning with that same look.

My protagonist Lillian Dove is a recovered alcoholic with a 5 year sobriety; however, sobriety is not a dominate theme in the book. This is not another novel about a protagonist that cannot keep sober (be it alcohol or drugs). Instead, Lillian’s objective in the novel and series is to take on life anew, with all its emotional, behavioral, and mystery challenges. With the description and affinity to her pet, I wanted the reader to get a feel for Lillian’s troubling past without doing a lot of backstory.

The overall plot of the novel begins when Lillian discovers a house fire and she becomes the only eyewitness to criminal arson. She is in jeopardy from someone who wants to stop her from identifying them. The plot is paced with events to create Lillian’s angst, but again, I wanted to offer my reader the vicarious ability to feel her anxiety and fear. So, I put Bacardi in jeopardy:

        It came to me then what was missing.

       “Where’s Bacardi? Bacardi’s missing.”

        “Who?”

        “My cat.” I got down on my hands and knees and looked under the couch. Dust bunnies but no Bacardi. “Bacardi, where are you?” …I got in my car and drove one block after another, up one street and then the next, calling his name out into the night… “Bacardi?” I followed behind them, “Here kitty, kitty, kitty.”

        When I did get back to the condo, I couldn’t stay still. I searched each and every cranny I could think where he might possibly have crawled. Then I went back outside.

        I went without the Mustang this time. I walked and walked and walked the night away, calling.

        Several cats answered my calls. They patted quietly up to me purring as they rubbed against my legs. Others merely meowed back a hello. None were Bacardi. I know Bacardi’s yowl. It wasn’t until I came dragging back to the condo, exhausted, with a voice hoarse and feelings of failure that I allowed myself to truly take in the idea, “What if he never comes back? What if something bad happened to him?”

        Pike?

Pike is the major antagonist, and while Lillian may be threatened by Pike, and her mother may be threatened, having him possibly taken Bacardi is almost more than she can emotionally handle.

My novel is an amateur-sleuth novel which I classify as a soft-edged Midwest Noir. But no matter whether a writer is developing a conventional mystery, cozy, thriller or horror novel, the use of animals can help offer themes and provide movement of plot.

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Mayhem

 

With a contrary attitude to life and an addiction for independence, Lillian Dove admits she has not been a success in life. In fact, she considers failing as one of her addictions. Yet, when she comes across a suspicious house fire with a history of arson and murder, she instinctively attempts to help someone trapped. Lillian becomes the only possible eyewitness to criminal arson, and her life begins to spiral out of control.

 

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You can get Admit To Mayhem at:

http://www.amazon.com/Admit-Mayhem-Lillian-Dove-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00N1L0RVC/

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To learn more DJ and her books, go to:

Website:  http://djadamson.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/D-J-Adamson/154012774648993?ref=hl

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/@adamson_dj

Categories: animals, Cats, Mystery, writing, writing characters | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

Dressage

 

The-Spanish-Riding-School-image

 

The last time I posted I talked about the Olympic equestrian events: Dressage, Eventing and Show Jumping. I’ve done articles on Eventing and Show Jumping previously, so today I thought I’d take on Dressage – my personal favorite.

If you’ve been interested in horses for a time, you may have seen the old Disney movie The Miracle of the White Stallions. It tells the tale of how the Spanish Riding School of Vienna survived the Second World War and how General George Patton helped save the Lipizzan breed of horses. During the film the School puts on a performance for Patton and demonstrates the beauty and precision of Classical Dressage. I fell in love with the idea of dressage then, but it was many years later before it became popular in the US and I was able to take instruction in it. As much as I have loved doing many other types of riding, dressage became my favorite.

Dressage is a French word for training. Its aim is to develop the horse’s athletic ability and a willing attitude using a standardized progression of exercises that challenge but don’t overtax. The ideal is a calm, supple, attentive horse that responds to its rider’s slightest commands (aids). Both horse and rider should appear relaxed and effortless. One of the fun things about dressage is that there is always more to learn and achieve.

Training starts at the basic walk, trot, canter level and slowly progresses to the Olympic level. It takes several years for the horse to develop the strength and athletic ability to do the high level movements. The first objective is to teach the horse to move in a regular, even, rhythmic way. This is important in everything they do. The second is to achieve relaxation, being comfortable and willing. Then comes willing Contact, Impulsion (pushing, carrying power), and Straightness. The last level of the training pyramid is Collection. This is where the horse has developed enough strength to transfer some of his weight to his hindquarters, which frees his front end to do the difficult movements we see at international competitions.

Piaffe

Piaffe

 

The Piaffe is a trot in place with high front knee action and very little forward motion. The horse “sits” slightly, bringing his hind legs under and lifts his front.

 

 

 

 

Passage

Passage

 

The Passage is an elevated, slow motion trot, usually with a slight pause in the movement.

 

 

 

 

Extended trot

In an Extended Trot or Canter, the horse reaches forward with his front legs, covering a large amount of ground, in contrast to a collected trot or canter, which has high knee action and doesn’t move as much.

Tempis

 

The Tempis are flying changes at the canter and, depending on the competition level, are done every one to four strides. In Grand Prix competition (Olympics), the horses look like they are skipping as they change every stride.

 

Half pass

Half pass

 

The Half-Pass, done at the both the trot and canter, is a diagonal movement where the horse goes sideways and forward.

 

 

 

The last high level movement is the Pirouette where the horse canters around in a tight circle with one hind leg almost stepping in place.

High level (Grand Prix) dressage can be exciting to watch, especially the Freestyles, where the moves are choreographed to music. Look for Dressage in the next Olympic broadcasts and you will see some beautiful dancing horses.

Here are a couple of videos that show them dancing to music.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=DptNN7CdfSM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKQgTiqhPbw

 

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Spanish Riding School:allfamouswonders.comPiaffe: “Andalusier 1 voll versammelt”. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -Passage: “WC07b” by nickage (User:Fotoimage) – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -Extended trot: “WCLV07f” by Fotoimage – Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons -Tempis: “WC07d” by nick – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Piaffe: “Andalusier 1 voll versammelt”. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
Passage: “WC07b” by nickage (User:Fotoimage) – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
Extended trot: “WCLV07f” by Fotoimage – Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons -
Tempis: “WC07d” by nick – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
Half pass: http://www.equine-world.co.uk

 

Categories: dressage, Horses, Olympics, riding, Show jumping, Spanish Riding School, training horses, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

See you tomorrow

I’m traveling today. Will post tomorrow. See you then!

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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