Monthly Archives: October 2013

Personalities and Horses

Last week I posted about how sex or gender influences how horses interact with the world and you, as a rider or trainer.  But that isn’t the only thing you need to be aware when handling these wonderful animals. Just like people, horses have very different and distinctive personalities. Some of these are easy to live with and others are quite challenging.

(I still haven’t quite caught up from being gone most of last month, so I am again reusing parts of an early post which ties in with last week’s.)

My first instructor in this area was my horse, Star, who I’ve talked about before. small_4888162686I became pretty successful in teaching her to do a lot of different things. Then her second son, Junior, came along and I discovered I needed a different set of tools to work with him. And this has been true with each horse I’ve dealt with.

You can classify horses as having four basic personalities. They can be Extroverts or Introverts. They also can be Thinkers or Reactors (emotional). This means you can have an extroverted-thinker, an extroverted-reactor, an introverted-thinker and an introverted-reactor. Then you add their gender and their experience into the equation and you have a complicated being that requires some thought to train effectively. Each personality type has its pluses and minuses and is good for different things and different riders.

Star was an extroverted-thinker. She was friendly, self-confident, rarely afraid of anything and willing to try whatever I asked her. She was also strong-willed and could be difficult. Horses are prey animals and, as such, are basically “scaredy cats.” In the wild they stay alive by being hyper-aware of their environment and ready to run on an instant. Domestication hasn’t done away with that basic instinct. A horse whose emotions dominate sees threats everywhere and can react without thinking. My Portia was a prime example. When I first got her, she would whirl and try to bolt at the slightest provocation. Typical extroverted-reactor.

Star, on the other hand, rarely reacted to anything. Her version of a spook was to stop, study the offending object for a minute and then go up and sniff it. She had grown up along a railroad track and had experienced earth moving equipment moving around her space, so she learned early thatsmall_4125411682 loud noises and big things weren’t usually dangerous. Given her basic self-confidence, she extended this attitude to the rest of her world. You could surprise her, of course. She wasn’t bothered by the fire engine racing down the street, but nearly jumped onto our neighbor’s porch when it suddenly blasted its siren right alongside her. Scared the dickens out of me too!

Because of her personality, Star was easy to teach, once we started communicating properly. She enjoyed learning, experiencing new things and exploring new trails. Portia liked to learn too but got upset easily, which shut down her brain. On the other hand, Glory, an introverted-reactor, is harder to teach because she’s afraid to try new things. And my husband’s horse, Koko, an introverted- thinker, could be down right stubborn about trying anything new. So I have had to adjust my methods for each personality.

Being aware of these personalities also helps you when you pick out a horse to own or work with. Some people do better with one type, and others do better with a quite different one. Since I’m more of an introverted-thinker, dealing with a horse of the same style would drive me bonkers in the long run. We’d probably both fall asleep. I do much better with the reactors who need to be calmed down. This wouldn’t be true of someone who had an emotional nature. They would be better at energizing a thinker.

What personality type are you?  What types do you like best?


photo credit: <a href=””>Clara S.</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;
photo credit: <a href=””>abejorro34</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;
Categories: horse personalities, Horses, nature, outdoors, riding, training horses, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Evolving Mermaid

Joanne Guidoccio is my guest today and she will be talking about mermaids, since a mermaid is the heroine of her debut novel, Between Land and Sea.

Guidoccio 001In high school, Joanne dabbled in poetry, but decided to wait until she had more life experiences before writing a novel. The original plan was to get a general arts degree and take a few years off to travel and write. Instead, she gave in to her practical Italian side and obtained degrees in mathematics and education.

While she experienced many satisfying moments during her teaching career, she never found the time and energy to write. In 2008, she took advantage of early retirement. Slowly, a writing practice emerged and her articles and book reviews started appearing in newspapers, magazines and online.

Her debut novel, Between Land and Sea, a paranormal romance about a middle-aged mermaid, has just been released by Soul Mate Publishing.


When I announced the release of Between Land and Sea, a novel about an overweight, middle-aged mermaid, I was surprised by the subsequent comments.

The typical male response was a Duchenne smile followed by a puzzled expression and several pointed questions…

Why is she so old?

 Just how overweight is she?

 What happened to her?

The men had preconceived notions of what a mermaid should look like—wavy auburn tresses, mesmerizing green eyes and a curvaceous twenty something body.

The women, on the other hand, were intrigued by a mermaid who did not fit the stereotype and wanted to hear more about her reinvention story.

When it comes to mermaids, there can be no real consensus on their appearance. After all, they are only fictional characters subject to the whims of different cultures and time periods.

According to Greek mythology, Sirens were originally thought to be deities who had fallen from their position among the Greek gods. There is some discrepancy regarding the number of Sirens who lived off the coast of Greece (or possibly Italy). Anywhere from two to five Sirens lived on this island and lured men to their deaths with their bewitching songs. Descriptions of the Sirens varied; in some of the older myths, they had the head of woman and the body of a bird.

In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus had himself tied to the mast and ordered his men to stuff balls of wax into their ears while approaching the Sirens’ island. Only by taking these drastic measures could Odysseus ensure that no one jumped off, swam to shore, or endangered the lives of the crew. The songs of the Sirens were so hypnotic that sailors would become distracted and often steered the ship into dangerous waters or onto jagged rocks.

Among seafaring people, there are several historical claims of actual mermaid sightings. In 1610, Captain Richard Whitbourne claimed he saw a mermaid in Newfoundland’s St. James harbor. A young boy in Scotland (circa 1820) is believed to have killed a mermaid by throwing rocks at it. Unlike the beautiful Sirens in the Greek myths, the dead mermaid resembled a three-year-old child, but had a salmon’s tail instead of legs. The villagers had a funeral for the mermaid and buried it in a small coffin.

Hans Christien Anderson immortalized a kinder, gentler mermaid in The Little Mermaid. While it was my favorite fairy tale, I felt so sorry for the mute ex-mermaid who could only smile when the handsome prince married someone else. Knowing that the prince’s wedding morning would only bring heartbreak and seal her fate as “foam on the crest of waves” always saddened me.

I wanted a happily-ever-after ending for the little mermaid and the prince. But when the Disney version was released, I still wasn’t satisfied. I realize now that I wanted to read about a different kind of mermaid, one who could enjoy a happy and successful life, with or without the prince. And maybe one who wasn’t quite so young or so beautiful.

Keeping this vision of an older and wiser mermaid firmly in mind, I wrote Between Land and Sea, the first book in the Mediterranean trilogy.


 betweenlandandseacoverAfter giving up her tail for an international banker, Isabella of the Mediterranean kingdom is aged beyond recognition. The horrified banker abandons her on the fog-drenched shores of southwest England, leaving her to face a difficult human journey as a plain and practically destitute fifty-three-year-old woman.

With the help of a magic tablet and online mermaid support, Isabella evolves into the persona of Barbara Davies. Along the way, she encounters a cast of unforgettable characters, among them former mermaids, supportive and not-so-supportive women, deserving and undeserving men, and several New Agers.





Isabella stumbled as she got out of bed and tried to balance herself on the stumps that now served as permanent legs. She willed herself not to cry as she recalled the magnificent tail that had been the envy of the Mediterranean kingdom. Her mother and grandmother had also been blessed with the same tail. Now only Annabella held this birthright.

She heard her stomach growl and thought longingly of her favorite kelp dish. She closed her eyes and visualized the steaming goodness that would satisfy her hunger. And then she remembered that she could no longer manifest her desires.

No more powers. No more comfort and ease.

Her lips trembled as she looked about the small, neat room filled with large wooden pieces and smaller metallic ones. She tried to move one of the larger pieces and then gave up in frustration. Andrew had promised her a beautiful home with servants, and now she must live this life of ordinary humans.

The flickering of a green light caught her attention. She approached and noticed the tablet lying on one of the wooden surfaces. It was blinking at her. Tentatively, she touched the green light. The blinking stopped and a smiling face materialized.

“Greetings, Isabella. I am Lisa738. Annabella has asked me to guide you through your orientation.”

Isabella frowned and tried to recall her connection to this lowly mermaid from the Numbers class.


Where to find Joanne…







YouTube (Trailer #1):

YouTube (Trailer #2):

Categories: fantasy, mermaids, nature, outdoors, romance, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 13 Comments

Sex and the Single Horse

Due to attending the Emerald City Writer’s Conference in Seattle last weekend I’m recycling another early post. This one deals with how the sex of a horse influences how you deal with him or her. Next week I plan to get back to my regularly scheduled posts.

There is an old horseman’s saying: You can TELL a gelding what to do, you should ASK a mare and must NEGOTIATE with a stallion. Many people either are unaware of how important gender can be or think it doesn’t matter. This can interfere with them getting the best from their horses.

small_4858113130  A gelding is a male horse that’s been neutered. As such, he’s no longer ruled by his hormones and tends to be more even tempered. Most are gelded when they are quite young and often remain “child-like” with a relaxed and playful attitude toward life. Of course, breed and personality influence things too. Some are bred to be hot and excited, such as the thoroughbred, and some are bred to be laid back and cooperative, such as draft horses. But in general, a gelding is easier to deal with.


Mares, on the other hand, are quite influenced by hormones. From early Spring to late Fall, they come into season about every 21 days unless impregnated. For some this issmall_2645376508 a big deal and they can be unpleasant or irritating to deal with. Most just get a little touchy and distracted. And just like with people, when someone isn’t feeling their best or isn’t attentive, it’s not wise to try to force an issue. Also because of the biological imperative to have babies, mares tend to have a more serious attitude toward life. This means they can get insulted quite easily. That can provoke a sullen shutdown, fearful withdrawal or determined resistance depending on their personality. But their mothering instinct is also a big plus. They want to cooperate and please and most will try their hardest for you if you ask nicely.

Stallions have small_2431865552one purpose in life – to breed and protect their mares and babies.  They are the ultimate alpha males. As such they can be quite difficult to live with and that’s why most males are gelded. Given how powerful and determined they are, you don’t want to provoke a fight. It’s unlikely to end well. All horses need to be taught to respect and obey humans, and this is vitally important with a stallion. The scent of a mare in season can turn an untrained stud into a dangerous time bomb and be a potent distraction for the well-trained. So, you have to take into account the forces driving them and figure out how to negotiate their cooperation. The results can be spectacular.


Have you noticed or had experience with sex differences in any animals? If you’re into horses, which do you prefer?


Brown horse and rider: photo credit: <a href=””>Highway of Life</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;
Mare and foal: photo credit: <a href=””>nomanson</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;
Stallion: photo credit: <a href=””>valeehill</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;
Categories: horse care, horse personalities, Horses, nature, riding, training horses, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

The Dogs in My Life

Morison-Knox_Karen-7748-Edit-webToday Ariel Moon is visiting to talk about the dogs in her life and how they’ve influenced her books.

Ariella Moon writes about magic, friendship, secrets, and love in Spell Check, Spell Struck, and the upcoming Spell Fire, the first three books in The Teen Wytche Saga from Astraea Press. After a childhood spent searching for a magical wardrobe that would transport her to Narnia, Ariella grew up to become an author and shaman. Extreme math anxiety, and taller students who mistook her for a leaning post, marred Ariella’s teen years. Despite these horrors, she graduated summa cum laude from the University of California at Davis. She now lives a nearly normal life with her extraordinary daughter, shamelessly spoiled dog, and an enormous dragon.

Welcome Ariel.


I was about five-years-old when a cocker spaniel-mix wandered into our neighborhood in search of food, water, and love. He was malnourished and had whip scars on his back. My family took him in, though in truth, the whole neighborhood adopted him. Blackie listened to my childhood secrets and licked my nose when I cried. His appearance marked the beginning of my life-long love of dogs.

Years after Blackie’s passing, my mother acquired a Schnauzer named Fritz. By then we had moved to a Christmas tree farm. An older German couple that arrived after Thanksgiving each year to pick out a Douglas fir particularly admired Fritz. I called him Wrong Way Fritz. If deer were in the apple orchard and I yelled, “Deer!” Fritz would run into the Christmas trees. If I spotted a squirrel among the Christmas trees and yelled, “Squirrel!” Fritz would dash to the orchard.

When I married, our first dog, a blond lab-mix named Tasha, would scale six-foot wooden fences to escape our backyard. She left behind Emily, a Jack Russell terrier. A breeder had scheduled Emily and her siblings to be euthanized because their noses were brown, not show-worthy black. Emily became my baby. She lived to be seventeen, and though she died twenty years ago, I mourn her still. Her companion, Miko, was a beautiful white shepherd. Madchen, another white shepherd, taught me a difficult lesson about recognizing — and avoiding—puppy mills. Rare dog-less years followed. Finally we rescued Jack, an overprotective Jack Russell terrier. Jack underwent a devastating personality change after we had him neutered —another painful lesson learned.

Our short string of bad dog luck ended with Honey, a black retriever-mix with golden paws. True, she had severe epilepsy and had to be heavily medicated. But she was worth every penny we paid for medication and vet appointments. Honey and I hiked everywhere together. When a seizure would hit her on the trail or in the middle of the street, neighbors would stop and wait with me until Honey could rise again. After she passed away, the whole neighborhood mourned. Around Halloween, when the veil between worlds is the thinnest, neighbors would stop me on the street and say, “I was just thinking about Honey.”

I immortalized Honey in my Young Adult series, the Teen Wytche Saga. She appears as Baby the —what else—black retriever-mix belonging to Evie O’Reilly, the protagonist in Spell Check, the first book in the series. Baby’s foil, Einstein, an unrepentant cockapoo, is an ode to all the strong-willed dogs I have known. Like Baby, Einstein appears in the first two books in saga, Spell Check and Spell Struck.

When Honey and I used to walk in our old neighborhood, we’d sometimes encounter a woman with two of the mangiest, toothless, such-a-mess-they-are-adorable, rescue Yorkies. I couldn’t resist giving them pivotal roles in Spell Struck.

In part, I include dogs in my books because they reveal character and add humanity and sometimes humor. The absence of canine companions in my upcoming novel Spell Fire, (November 2013, Astraea Press) adds an unspoken layer to the main character’s isolation. Since I couldn’t give my protagonist a dog, I gave her a dragon. Which brings me to Gracie, my daughter’s I-know-Honey-will-die-soon-so-here’s-a-new-dog-so-you-won’t-follow-me-to-college present. Gracie is the first magic-practicing animal I’ve ever lived with. No wonder. Did I mention her breed? Gracie is a Papillon-Chihuahua-Poodle-Dragon Hatchling-mix. I’m sure she will magic her way into some future book.


Spell Struck

 Book 2: The Teen Wytche Saga

What if the one person who saw through your lies and loved you, harbored a secret that could cost you everything?

SpellStruck_500x750Goth outcast, Salem Miller, believes her love spell failed until Aidan Cooper arrives at Jefferson High. When he chooses her over the popular girls, Salem knows magic brought him. But can she summon enough wizardry to save her sister? Salem fears Amy’s next suicide attempt will succeed. Magic brought Aidan. Maybe it can cure Amy. Salem’s last hope lies hidden within a damaged grimoire, nearly destroyed by a wrongful love spell. Was her rightful love spell enough to restore it?

Newest Jefferson High transplant, Aidan Cooper, doesn’t expect to be attracted to a goth. Then he realizes Salem is throwing a glamour—pretending to be something she’s not. Guess it takes one to know one, since his whole life has been a lie. But if his kidnappers discover he’s broken their No Attachments rule, he’ll never see Salem again. Worse, he’s terrified they’ll harm her when they discover she possesses the ancient grimoire. To protect Salem, Aidan must destroy the grimoire, and escape his captors.

While Salem races to unlock the Get Well Spell, Aidan scrambles to overcome his past. With their star-crossed paths at odds, will time run out for both of them?



Aidan lowered his hand. His finger pressed against my skin, shooting a delicious tingle up my arm. When I didn’t move away, he hooked his finger over mine. My breath caught. We stayed, frozen, hyper-focused, for what seemed like three lifetimes. Then Aidan trailed his fingertips across the back of my hand. The soundtrack, popcorn smells, and theater audience melted into the background. The world narrowed down to the unspoken grief and need entangled in Aidan’s touch.

I rotated my hand so my palm faced upward. Aidan hesitated. Our gazes locked in the flickering light. The spell link humming between us lit up like blue lightning. At least I think it was the spell link. Aidan plunged his fingers between mine. Our palms pressed together, igniting a current. Air shuddered from my lungs. Magic rippled from us in successive waves.

My heart stuttered. My breath ceased. Every cell within me vibrated. Troops of fairies or dragonflies took flight in my lower abdomen. It’s possible blue lightning shot from my boots.

Good thing I wasn’t holding the popcorn.


Buy Links

Astraea Press


Barnes & Noble

Where to Find Ariella Moon

Ariella’s website

Ariella’s Blog



Categories: Dogs and cats, Paranormal, Uncategorized, writing, YA | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Best Friend … Best Teacher

Today,  I’m  talking about a very special horse in my life and what I learned from her. This is a repeat of one of my first blogs, but I think it illustrates how important it is to get to really know your horse–how he/she thinks, reacts and views life.

small__389080670We all turn to friends for fun, companionship and support with life’s difficulties. If we’re really lucky a good friend can also teach us a lot about life.

My best friend when I was a kid was a horse named Star. I had started riding off and on when I was four, but I didn’t get a horse of my own until I was ten. A year later I got the love of my young life. Star was a beautiful, liver chestnut (dark brown) Morgan mare who turned into the best pal a kid could want.

She didn’t start out that way, though. Six months after we bought her, I was ready to give up and try for another horse. While she was sweet and loving on the ground, she had been badly handled under saddle and was very hard to control on the trail as a result. There were few professional horsemen in my area. Most people bought horses with some basic training and just got on and rode. If a horse gave you problems, you tried a stronger bit and maybe a tie down. The advice we were given by more “experienced” people and even books was the harsh “make her behave” variety. I now know, of course, that was exactly the wrong approach for her.( See my early post Sex and the Single Horse where I talk about “asking” mares.)

One day when I was at a really low point, I began playing around with Star on the ground. When we bought her we also bought her yearling colt, Comet. My dad used to play with him and taught him a couple of tricks. Of course Comet got lots of carrots and praise when he did them right. For some reason that afternoon, I gave Star the signal for one of her son’s tricks…and SHE DID IT. I was flabbergasted and tried again and she did it again. It was then I realized that she really wanted the pats and treats too, which had not been many because of her “bad” behavior.

The next day I went to the library and got a book on teaching tricks. I started with the simple ones, such as bowing, counting, nodding “yes” and shaking her head “no.” I soon discovered I had an astonishingly smart horse who would do anything for a carrot and praise. Over the years we developed a large number of tricks and even put on demonstrations at small horse shows. But I also discovered I had a horse who would try her best if you asked her, but would fight like mad against anyone who tried to force her.

I spent a lot of time developing a good relationship with Star on the ground and she learned to trust me. I changed to a milder bit and tried to listen to her as I realized how much she wanted to please. Eventually, we became an inseparable team. We competed in small shows, jumped cross-country, danced in parades, led a Western drill team and covered hundreds of miles of trails. When things got difficult at home, I’d take off on her and find my peace.

Star taught me a different way to deal with life. My family’s approach to life tended to be harsh and critical. She showed me a gentler way to handle problems. And to try and see what was really going on rather than reacting to appearances. She taught me how to be a friend by being my best friend.

Did you have a good friend who taught you something special or made a difference in your life? Who are the people you value?

photo credit: <a href=””>Eduardo Amorim</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;
Categories: horse care, horse personalities, Horses, nature, outdoors, riding, Trail riding, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Cats In my Stories

Welcome Andrew McRae today as he talks about how cats slip into his stories.



Andrew  is a misplaced Midwesterner who rolled downhill to the San Francisco Bay a quarter-century ago. He is the author of Murder Misdirected (2012) from Mainly Murder Press and “The Case of the Murderous Mermaid and Other Stories” (2013) a collection of whimsical murder mysteries. He has had numerous short stories published in the past few years; notably “Felony at Farquhar Farms” in the collection “The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Second Helping” (2012) and “Frankenstein and The Spanish Nun” in the collection “Moon Shot” (2013), both published by Untreed Reads.



Cats have a way of slipping into my stories, the way cats do. I usually don’t plan on a cat appearing in a story when I first set out to write it, but cats are good at sneaking into places not intended for them, as anyone who has ever lived with a cat knows.

There is a bookstore cat in my novel, Murder Misdirected. His name is Junior and he is handsome, as all male cats are. He sees it as his duty to greet customers and welcome them to his store. Junior also enjoys sunning himself in the bookstore windows and lying on the upper bookshelves of the store where he can keep a close eye on things.

Junior is based totally and completely on the real Junior, a cat who helped me with the writing of that novel. He did this by insisting on keeping my lap from being empty and cleverly batting the keyboard and mouse to see what improvements to my writing might result. Naturally, I in turn attribute any and all typos to Junior, not that that bothers him.

I have to admit that I received more comments about Junior from early readers of the manuscript than most of the other secondary characters. This was especially true during a particularly harrowing chapter in which all the main characters, including Junior, are in deadly danger. “No, not the cat!” was a typical comment.

In my recently completed sequel to that novel, so new as not to have a title settled on, Junior is back, furry as ever and even more pleased with himself.

In my collection of whimsical short mysteries, “The Case of the Murderous Mermaid and Other Stories” another cat makes an appearance. Her name is Precious. She has one eye, sharp claws, and she is based on a cat who lived with the pleasantly wacky mother of a friend of mine, and is the basis of a character, herself, in the story.

However, it is another cat who shows up most often in my stories, one that is not based on any cat with whom I have ever been acquainted in what passes for my real life.

She is a black and white cat of indeterminate age and origin. She is pretty, as all female cats are, but she has no set name. In a series of children’s stories about a toy poodle named Spot, she is simply called “Kitty Cat” and she has a way of disappearing, as all cats do, as she walks away with her tail straight up in the air. She also has a habit annoying Spot by slowly winking one eye at him. Woof!

In a series of stories in the slip-stream genre I have written, The Black and White Cat is sometimes seen strolling in the story’s background, while other times she is perhaps, but only perhaps, a mysterious entity who serves as the catalyst for the story’s action.

In a middle grade novel that I am finishing this month, The Black and White Cat is the cause of two children going back in time (and returning safely, of course.) That cat certainly gets around!

In one of her most tenuous appearances, she shows up in a science fiction mystery story titled, “Frankenstein and The Spanish Nun”. This story will be in the soon to be released “Moon Shot” anthology of short stories from Untreed Reads. There is a young woman in my story with the first name of Katrina, or ‘Kat’ for short. She makes her entrance in the story wearing a black and white headscarf. Cats can be so sneaky at times!


MD-BookCoverMurder Misdirected is the story of a pickpocket who one day picks the wrong pocket and finds himself on the run from the police, the FBI, and a killer.




MurderousMermaidPosterThe Case of the Murderous Mermaid and Other Stories is a collection of three whimsical stories of mystery and murder.








The Case of the Murderous Mermaid and Other Stories
Murder Misdirected
Available now in paperback and ebook from Mainly Murder Press,
Amazon and Untreed Reads.

Categories: Bookstores, Cats, Dogs and cats, Mystery, Short story, Uncategorized, writing | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Cutting Horses

My topic today is Cutting Horses. And no, I’m not talking knives and blood. (Smile)

small__8579683395Cutting horses are the elite athletes and performers of the Western riding world. Highly trained, fast and nimble, they excel at an important ranching task. In the old West, cattle roamed the range and were usually rounded up twice a year for various purposes, such as branding, vaccinating and castrating. The cowboys also sorted out animals from neighboring ranches that had become mixed together.

Cattle are herd animals, unused to being handled, and do not like to be separated from each other. You can’t just walk into a herd and lead a cow out. Instead you need to isolate the animal so you can rope it and get it under control, or send it into a different pen or herd. They tend to be quite uncooperative about this procedure.

This is where the cutting horse comes in. In addition to being trained to make quick dashes, sliding stops and spinning turns, successful cutters have a quality known as cow sense. They have an uncanny ability to “read” a cow and anticipate its next move. Once their rider has shown them the cow he or she wants, the horse will move it out of the herd and keep it from going back, no matter how hard it tries to return.

Cutting horse competitions grew out of this work and are hugely popular with Western riders. While any breed can small__5998112297compete, most are Quarter Horses specifically bred for the job. A small group of cattle is let into the arena and a couple of riders keep it together. A competitor walks his horse into the herd and separates out a cow. His horse watches the animal and counters every attempt to return to its friends. After less than a minute, the rider stops and turns back to select another cow and repeats the procedure. The ideal is to cut three animals in two and half minutes. A good cutter really enjoys its job and is a delight to watch.

Here’s an excerpt from my book Wyoming Escape that describes a cutting demonstration:

The last team missed their cow and left to sound of good-natured teasing. A few minutes later a small herd of cattle was let into the arena and two of the wranglers kept them grouped together.

“You’re up now, Shawn,” Pepper said.

“Guess you’re right.” He took off his hat, smoothed his hair and resettled the Stetson firmly on his head. Loping to the far end, he entered the pen and brought his horse down to an easy jog while approaching the cattle.

“What’s he going to do?” Mikela asked.

Pepper grinned and leaned forward. “It’s called cutting. Watch.”

As he drew closer, Shawn switched to a walk, studying the restless animals. Slowly and quietly, he headed Cherokee into the bunch, weaving through them. He seemed to find what he wanted and began to herd a cow with a bald face and a big white splotch on her back out of the group and into the open. The heifer suddenly realized she was alone, spun around and attempted to return to her companions. The colorful horse whirled and blocked her way.

The cow trotted to the side and again tried to dash back to the herd and again the paint stopped her. When she bolted in the opposite direction, Cherokee was right beside her, sliding to a stop and crouching as she put on the brakes. He stayed crouched, watching her intently. Each time she spun, trying to evade him, he swung around to meet her.

“Wowee!” Pepper exclaimed. “I wish I rode that well. That horse is so quick, I’d be grabbing horn and hanging on for dear life.”

Mikela watched in fascination. Cherokee seemed to be doing everything on his own. Shawn sat still in the saddle, his reins sagging, and did nothing visible. The bald face cow again charged for the side of the arena. The paint kept pace, slid to a stop, blocking her, then spun around to follow as she dashed the opposite direction. Sprinting after her, he stumbled and pitched forward slightly. The trip caught Shawn by surprise and he briefly lost his balance, jerked sideways and quickly recovered. After several more attempts, the heifer appeared to give up and stood panting. Shawn picked up the reins and turned his horse away, while the crowd yelled and applauded, wanting more.


If you want to see cutters in action, here are a couple of YouTube videos:

The Thrill of Cutting:

Houston Rodeo Professional Cutting Horse Competition:

photo credit: <a href=””>goingslo</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;

photo credit: <a href=””>United States Marine Corps Official Page</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;

Categories: cattle, Cowboys, Cutting horses, Horses, outdoors, riding, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Life With Other Friends

06 2012 VBauthor photoJoining us today is Vicki Batman, author of the recently released SAN DIEGO OR BUST!
Is her Mr. Right the RIGHT Mr. Right?

Like some of her characters, our award-winning author has worked a wide variety of jobs including lifeguard, ride attendant at an amusement park; a hardware store, department store, book store, antique store clerk; administrative assistant in an international real estate firm; and a general “do anything gal” at a financial services firm–the list is endless.

Today she talks about the animals in her life.


I’ll say this up front: I am a cat person.

I grew up with them. I love how they feel, their soft meows, their whiskers on my face, how they curl in my lap or by my leg or lay on my chest.

I’ve been lucky to have so many great ones in my life: Smokey-a huge gray fella born between our fence and the neighbor’s. Mischief-a big brown tabby who died very tragically. Snuffer-a large hairy gray guy who bumped heads so hard, you could hear bones crunch. Romper-a small, short hair gray tabby who adored Handsome. And Scooter aka Scootsie aka Scoo-sister to Romper and who adores my #2 son, but during the day, she sleeps in my office on a throw I bought in Cancun.

I love cats.

Then Handsome started circling ads for dogs. He began talking more and more about dogs. Everything became about dogs. And one day, I busted him for he had gone somewhere and met a woman who had the kind of dogs he was interested in- Malti-poos.

I have a hard time denying Handsome things after his bout with cancer. Two small dogs I could handle. I knew what to expect. But I did lay down the ground rules: training. Training. And—you guessed it—more training.

And here’s what he brought home:

champ and jones

Champ is the small white guy who looks like a little lambikin when his hair grows. He loves to play catch with his flat cat aka Squeaky.

Jones is the larger gray one, a big baby. He loves to run. And we don’t have any squirrels thanks to him.

They are smart, cute, loveable, and don’t shed. The ideal pooches.

Sometimes, I write about cats and doggies in my books and sometimes, they are named after my pals. In my story, “San Diego or Bust,” I didn’t have any. Instead, I wrote the trip from hell, the wrong Mr. Right, and exploding suitcase, and an obnoxious passenger.  Here’s an excerpt:



My boyfriend is a dirt wad. I just decided.

With a humpf, I dragged my pink tote up the narrow aisle to the plane’s exit, accidentally banging it into the seats along the way. The relieving notion of being back home in Sommerville caused the tension in my chest to fade a smidgen.

A quick peek to the exit told me where Davis, my boyfriend, stood waiting for the okay from the ground crew to head out. His glance my way didn’t look at all pleasant. Similar to one wrapped in disappointment with a downward tilt of his mouth.

I didn’t care much. I just decided.

The words creep, jerk, moron, and “why in the hell am I still dating him??” jumbled my thoughts around. My heart pounded as anxiety ratcheted inside me again.

Maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe I should not put up with him anymore.

The deepest part of me knew I shouldn’t be with Davis Griffith Swansea, III, any longer. I was just in denial. Over the past year, I’d had brief, momentary twinges of dumping him; then, he’d go and do something incredibly romantic like bring me Godiva chocolates—“I know how you love these.” Or buy me a new book by my favorite author—“I happened to see this today.” Or whisk me off to an intimate dinner à deux at the latest and greatest bistro–“I know you’ll like this place.”

My head had gone stupid.


Find “San Diego or Bust” at:

MuseItUp Publishing –

Find Vicki at:






Plotting Princesses:

Find “San Diego or Bust” at:

MuseItUp Publishing –

Categories: Dogs and cats, romance, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 18 Comments

Barns, Blankets and Basic Care


freeimage-144227When I first started submitting my horse stories for critiques and contests, I discovered many people had interesting misconceptions about how horses are cared for. I learned to include comments in my tales about how not all horses live in stables, and that it was often better for them to be out in pasture, even in a storm. These mistaken ideas surprised me given the images of wild horses on the plains and domesticated horses in large green pastures. So today I thought I’d talk a little about basic horse care.

First off, horses are grazing animals designed to move around and eat small amounts continually. Large pastures with plenty of feed are the healthiest choice. Of course, nowadays that kind of land is hard to come by and can be pretty expensive, so most people have to make compromises. Some use large fenced turnouts and provide free choice grass hay for the horses to munch on all day. You can do this with grass hay because it’s lower in protein and nutrients and close to real grass. Some feed small amounts of higher protein hay several times a day. While not ideal, this is closer to what nature intended and is easier for the small equine stomach to deal with. But most people feed larger amounts of highly concentrated hay twice a day, which fits best with human schedules, but is harder on equine digestion and makes them vulnerable to colic, the most common horse killer.

Because horses develop warm winter coats they really don’t need to be inside even in winter weather. They generally do just fine in snow and cold. Their hair fluffs up allowing air in to form insulating layers. In a herd, they huddle together and combine their body heat. The one time some sort of shelter is necessary is when they have to deal with wind and rain. Either by itself if okay, but if their coats get soaked, the hairs can’t fluff and provide insulation against a cold wind. Then they need some protection

Even though pastures and large turnouts that allow horses to roam and exercise are healthiest, they have some small__598978125disadvantages, mainly for the owners and riders. Number one, the horses get a lot dirtier and take more work to groom and get looking nice. They also develop heavier winter coats, which are harder to deal with, particularly if the animals get sweaty and wet. So, in general, it’s easier if they are kept in a stable or barn. Hopefully the stable will have large, airy stalls with plenty of ventilation and paddocks that allow the horses move around and go outside. Bad air from a closed up barn can cause serious respiratory problems.

Of course we all love our horses and want them to be warm and comfy. In addition to keeping them in a stable, many people put blankets on their equine buddies, something many horses don’t like. We used to blanket my daughter’s white Arab to try to keep her clean in our wet winters, but Duchess had different ideas. The minute it rained, she’d find a puddle and turn into sloppy, muddy mess. She was one of the reasons we had a water heater for our grooming stall. While our other horses didn’t usually wallow, they did often prefer to stand out in the rain, rather than be inside. Waterproof blankets-R-US.

What kind of things to you do for your animal friends that are really more for you than them? And how do they react?


photo credit: <a href=””>CharlesFred</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;

Categories: barns, horse care, Horses, nature, outdoors, riding, stables, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 16 Comments

Blog at