Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Language of Horses


In contradiction to what we often see in movies and on TV, horses do not constantly make noise. They don’t whinny every time someone rides them, nor do they “scream” if they are hit by a whip (as one misguided author wrote). As prey animals, they tend to be quiet, not wanting to attract attention. They do, however, have very effective communication, using both vocalizations and body language.

small_2645376508A mare talking to her foal uses a low, soft whicker to show affection. She greets a friend, of any species, with a slightly louder, rumbling nicker or, if she’s excited, a higher pitched whinny. If you walk into a barn at feeding time, you’ll probably be barraged by both loud and soft greetings, according to the different personalities and how hungry they are.

Squeals are also a common way that horses communicate. When horses meet for the first time, they sniff noses, sometimes getting quite noisy about it, then often they’ll squeal and strike out with a front foot—a dominance behavior. Mares in season tend to squeal a lot too, usually adding a slight, threatening kick to tell others to keep away. The squeal and kick also say “stay away from my food!” My mare Glory has to assert herself this way whenever the gelding in the next stall looks at her while she’s eating her grain. You’ll also hear squeals as an expression of high spirits and playfulness.

Horses are herd animals and bond very strongly. If they are separated from one of their friends they’ll often neigh repeatedly, calling to them. If another horse answers, it may start a “conversation” that doesn’t end until the looked-for horse returns. Since a neigh is a high-pitched vibrating sound that can be quite loud, this can get old very quickly. My Portia had a bellow that could hurt your ears.

About the only time you might actually hear a horse scream is when a stallion is challenging a rival. A fight is a noisy affair.

small__6087150424The one sound you don’t ever want to hear from your horse is a groan. Horses tend to be quite stoic and tolerate a lot of pain. By the time they hurt enough to groan, they usually are in big trouble and you’d better get the vet out ASAP. The groan associated with colic is one of the scariest a horse owner can hear. However, the hurting groan is different from the grunt and groan you often hear when they roll. That’s just a “oh that feels so good” sound.

I had originally intended to talk about body language too, but that would make this post too long. I’ll save it for next time.

So the next time you see a movie where the horse whinnies as it does something, you can shake your head and mutter “Hollywood.” What silly things have you seen horses do on screen? Or have read about in a book?


Mare and foal: photo credit: <a href=””>nomanson</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt
Photo: photo credit: <a href=””>NatureNerd (probably outside)</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;
Categories: animals, horse care, horse personalities, Horses, How horses talk, Mother Nature, outdoors, riding, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 24 Comments

Wildlife in Suburbia




Please welcome Kelly Cochran, author of Buying Time: An Aspen Moore Novel, the first in her humorous mystery series. Buying Time was a finalist in the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Award and is currently, a quarter-finalist in the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. Kelly is a lover of all animals and has even been known to have her husband capture and release spiders to the outdoors.


My entire life I’ve lived in the suburbs. I’ve never had to wake up in the morning to feed the chickens, slop the hogs, or clean out the horse stalls, and therefore, I’ve never lived on acres of land that are a natural habitat for wildlife.  Animals, in the suburbs, include the neighbor’s dog, the robin on the perfectly manicured front lawn, or the relentless squirrel frantically digging to find the nut he was sure he’d buried under the mulch.

The only similarity between me, the suburban dweller, and those who live in rural settings with acres of land, is the wish to keep development to a minimum. So, when my suburban home, located only eight miles from the St. Louis city line, became a condominium complex for groundhogs, we protested and took action to stop the over-development of our community.

Gregory-1A call to a critter control company that relocates animals ended with traps being set in the front and back of our home. In the end, one raccoon, and two groundhogs were caught. One of those groundhogs was Gregory, who’d been a part of our lives for several years, even making it into our Christmas letter twice. I was sad to see him go, but the man said he would take all of them to a 300 acre property far from our home and release them. What animal wouldn’t love acres and acres to roam? The next time I saw the man he informed me that Gregory was now in a better place. Well, I’m not sure about you, but in my youth, when a person told you that someone was in a better place, they didn’t mean a 300 acre piece of land. I could only hope that Gregory was indeed living out the rest of his life on those 300 acres.

Two years later, I noticed leaves left over from the fall had been disturbed at the corner of our porch. My husband said it was just the wind. I didn’t give it another thought until the next day as I headed out the front door to the get the mail and I came across Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Moe, and Bob.

babies-1Although I thought the groundhog babies were adorable, my husband said they had to go. We kept an eye out for momma, but she never showed. Luckily the man we use to trim our trees said he’d take them to his house and keep them in one of his rabbit hutches until they were old enough to release in another location. Over a period of a week, we enticed them with cantaloupe and were able to trap a few. The others we ended up grabbing with our hands (gloved of course). By that time, the crew had grown to include a brother named Charley and two other unnamed siblings. Total count: Eight!


The truth is, even though I didn’t want our suburban lifestyle overrun with wild animals, I missed those little babies in our front yard….until I looked out at the pool in our back yard!





Aspen Moore has a new life in a new city, complete with a new career. As a personal concierge, she sells her time to those who don’t have enough. One of the perks of her business is focusing on other people’s lives so she doesn’t have to face the demons in her own.

When Aspen’s most loyal customer dies and his suicide looks eerily like murder, she anonymously tips off the police so she won’t expose a secret she desperately needs to keep. But, murder and mayhem are a bothersome duo and she soon finds herself caught in a web of chaos.

A string of crimes, long enough to make a real detective sweat, threaten her livelihood and ultimately her life. Aspen’s only hope to untangle the mess before they cause permanent damage is to track down who’s responsible. Pursuing the truth means solving the mystery of a decade-old land deal, while juggling a quirky DJ and his dog, an eccentric paraplegic, a curious set of twins, and a flirtatious neighbor with spy gadgets.


Buying Time is a quarter finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest.  Read the excerpt, see the fine reviewers’ comments that helped Buying Time advance in the contest, and leave your own review of the excerpt! 



Buying Time available at Amazon
Twitter: @KellyLCochran
The Series:


Categories: animals, critter control, ducks, groundhogs, humorous mystery, Mystery, suspense, Uncategorized, Wildlife in suburbia, woodchucks | Tags: , , , , , | 16 Comments

My Pants Will Say What?

Fun blog about a somewhat scary future. I’m not sure I want my pants talking to my refrigerator.

Writing Wranglers and Warriors

by Neva Bodin

Recently I received a magazine in the mail know105182105411111CDPn as Website Compass. It is touted as “The World’s #1 Internet Magazine.” And it’s scary!

It says, in the future, my toaster will be able to communicate with my refrigerator, which will then tell its secrets to my smart phone. So far, I am not smart enough for a smart phone, and I’m not sure I want to invite one over if it’s going to share all my secrets! I bet it doesn’t stop by sharing with just the refrigerator!

website magazines2

The article,  Smart Revolution, page 2, says “And that’s just the beginning. Some researchers predict that by 2020 there will be 50 billion connected objects—about seven times more than people on the planet.”

I’m beginning to believe we don’t need to worry about revolutions between humans, but revolutions between our appliances! Perhaps that’s fodder for a…

View original post 376 more words

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Kentucky Horse Park

Kentucky Horse park.

Last month, guest Kathryn Jane told us interesting facts about the Kentucky Derby. This week I’d like to talk about the Kentucky Horse Park, a unique facility celebrating America’s horses.

Located in Lexington, the home of the Kentucky Derby, the Park is a tribute to the racing Thoroughbred. A huge statue of Man of War stands over his grave in a courtyard near the entrance. On the path leading up to the memorial are markers showing the stride length of a few of the most famous Thoroughbreds of all time. The distance that Secretariat covered in one leap vividly demonstrates why he is still the fastest horse ever. All throughout the park you will find statues and graves of many famous racers and other tributes to the state’s most important industry. In addition, at the Haman of warll of Champions you can see retired Thoroughbred, Standardbred and Quarter Horse racing champions exhibited daily.

The Park was designed as a living museum dedicated to all horses, not just Thoroughbreds. One of its most fascinating features is the International Museum of the Horse, the world’s largest museum chronicling the history of the horse and its importance to man. Associated with the Smithsonian, the IMH uses its 60,000 feet to educate the public about the horse’s unique contributions to human history. As you walk up a long, winding ramp you follow the development of the horse and its various roles throughout time. Also there are interactive exhibits about the Arabian horse, the Kentucky Thoroughbred, Draft horses, Horse Shows, the famous Buffalo Soldiers, and horse-drawn vehicles. In addition to the IMH, there are the American Saddlebred museum and the Wheeler museum, which details all aspects of the hunter/jumper world.

KHP tourOne of the most popular attractions is the Horses of the World. Over thirty different breeds live in the Park and are featured in daily shows or tours. Many unique horses with costumed riders are presented and after the shows visitors can meet and pet their favorites. In addition there are horse drawn tours and carriage rides, horseback riding and pony rides, and in the Spring mares and foals to visit.

If you are at all into horses and end up near Lexington, you should try to visit the Kentucky Horse Park. It’s a fascinating and totally unique experience that the whole family should enjoy—especially any horse crazy female members.


Photo Kentucky Horse Park courtesy of
Photo Mar of War Memorial courtesy of
Photo Horse Drawn Tour courtesy of
Categories: Horses, International Museum of the Horse, Kentucky, Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Horse Park, nature, outdoors, Racing, Show jumping, stables, Thoroughbreds, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 14 Comments




Alice Fitzpatrick

Today I’d like to welcome Alice Fitzpatrick author of the Kate Galway mysteries. Toward the Pebbled Shore, the first book in the series, was a semi-finalist for the 2012 and 2013 Unhanged Arthur Award 
for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel and a finalist for the 2013 Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel. Her novels are currently looking for their forever home with an agent and a publisher.

Take it away Alice.


That folly was past now—but still he could not visualize her except against the background of the great white house in Riverside Drive, with the peacocks and the swimming-pool and the gilded tower with the roof-garden. “The Incredible Elopement of Lord Peter Wimsey” by Dorothy L Sayers

I have always been fascinated by peacocks. As a Brit now living in Canada, I spend an inordinate amount of time during my trips home touring Georgian mansions and exploring ancient castles. For me, no British stately home is complete without a pride of elegant blue peacocks, their green trains trailing across a wide expanse of lawn. These iconic birds are as familiar as the maid in her black uniform and stiff white apron or the mistress in the morning room sipping tea in a sweater set adorned by a single row of pearls.

Having grown up reading the novels of Agatha Christie, when I came to write my own books, there was no question that I would choose the Peacock 3traditional mystery known as the cozy. These books are often set on a rambling country estate, a seemingly uneventful place. Yet it isn’t long before the shrieks of peacocks are announcing the discovery of a brutal murder.

Although not native to Great Britain, these magnificent birds have been in residence for almost two thousand years. It was the Romans who brought them to the island, and the peacocks have never looked back. They soon became a favourite of feudal lords, landed gentry, and aristocracy. At a time when powerful men were looking for conspicuous ways to express their social position, the exotic peacock was an impressive symbol. There was no more ostentatious display of wealth than a roast peacock, often served with full plumage, on a medieval banqueting table.

As far as I can determine, no peacock has ever figured prominently in a mystery novel. What these birds are experts at, though, is providing atmosphere and, if the writer is so inclined, symbolism.

Geoffrey Chaucer was one of the first British writers to use the peacock to refer to people who swagger and preen: “And yet as proud a pekok can he pulle.” Early Christian artists interpreted the many eyespots on the bird’s 200 tail feathers as the all-seeing eyes of God and the Catholic church. Because the peacock sheds these feathers annually and it was believed that its flesh did not decay, the peacock came to symbolize renewal and resurrection.

Peacock 5-1But to most of us, peacocks simply represent pride. Thus a peacock strutting through the garden of an estate allows the writer to pass comment on its inhabitants. My own novels, set on an island off the west coast of Wales, feature an abandoned gothic castle complete with peacocks who have reverted to their wild state. To the islanders, the peacocks are a reminder of the hubris of the rich Victorian industrialist who designed and built this architectural monstrosity.

So if you are looking to add a bit of exoticism or social commentary to your novel, look no further than a peacock. I’d like to say that they’d appreciate the gesture, but if they’re as vain as we believe they are, they’ve come to expect it.


 Toward the Pebbled Shore

Kate Galway is no stranger to death. After all, she’d grown up under the shadow of her Aunt Emma’s suicide, her body having washed up on the beach the year before Kate was born. Now Kate has returned home to an island off the Welsh coast where she is forced to confront family secrets that are better kept hidden, including that her aunt was murdered and the killer is still on the island.


Eyespots 1DS Lazarus sat on the sofa in Kate’s cottage with Constable Byron Finch beside him. Lazarus had undone the top button of his shirt and pulled his blue and beige tie, wrinkled and puckered, to one side to get it out of the way. Lazarus was the kind of man who would look slovenly even if you put him in new clothes. What was it someone said about Dylan Thomas — he looked like an unmade bed? Lazarus wasn’t quite that bad — more like an untidy sofa — but it gave him the appearance of a man who coasted through life, quite content with his lot, happy to take orders, while ducking any responsibility.

Kate resisted the temptation to go over and brush what looked like toast crumbs from his jacket.

“So when was the last time you saw Hannah Sutherland?” he asked.

“The day Siobhan and I were attacked in her garden.”

“We’ve heard about this from the deceased’s sisters. I’d like to hear your version of the events. When was this?”

“A week ago — last Sunday. And no, we don’t know who attacked us. It was dark.”

“Were you at the Hall on a social call?”

She looked at Byron and, knowing what was coming, he lowered his eyes. “No, Siobhan and I were digging for a tea tin we’d seen Hannah bury in the garden earlier that day.”

“And why were you digging up a tea tin in the middle of the night?”

“Sgt. Lazarus, even on Meredith Island, eleven o’clock is hardly the middle of the night. But that aside, we thought that it might contain some evidence into the murder of my aunt.”

Lazarus glared over at Byron. “There’s been a second death? Why wasn’t I told?”

“It was over fifty years ago, sir.”

Kate was impressed with Byron’s ability to keep his voice steady and calm.

Lazarus leaned back. “Oh.” Painfully aware that he’d made a fool of himself, he focused his anger toward Kate. “Regular little Dorothy Sawyer, aren’t you?”

Kate resisted the temptation to smirk. “If you mean Dorothy L. Sayers, she’s the writer. That would make me Lord Peter Wimsey.”

Lazarus ignored her comeback and carried on. “Did you report the attack?”


“Why not?”

“We have no police on the island. We handle things ourselves.”

Lazarus’s eyebrows descended and knit themselves together. “I hope that doesn’t mean you take the law into your own hands. The police force doesn’t hold with vigilantism.”

Kate was really getting tired of this fool. “What are you implying, DS Lazarus? That we convene secret courts in the pub at midnight, pass judgment in dark hooded cloaks, and then throw the offender from the highest cliff . . .” and Kate left the sentence hanging to allow the image to work its way into Lazarus’s brain.


You can follow Alice at:



Categories: Books, cozy mysteries, Mystery, peacocks, suspense, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 18 Comments

No blog this week

No blog this week due to a family emergency. Be back next week.

Happy reading, writing and riding.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Blog at