Alternative Care For Horses


Today I’m talking about some of the changes in how horses are now cared for. In recent years alternative or complementary medicine has become as important in veterinary health care as it has in human care. Chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, etc. are now widely accepted treatments for animals and more and more techniques are being developed as we speak. The top equine athletes regularly use complementary treatments. But it wasn’t always this way.

Portia at 29

Portia at 29

When I got my mare Portia over twenty years ago, alternative care for animals was in its infancy and generally frowned on by traditional veterinarians. While I, myself, had tried acupuncture for a chronic bursitis, I wasn’t really that open to alternative techniques. But trying to help my sweet mare cured me of that attitude and introduced me to a new way of looking at life.

Portia was a beautiful, grey Anglo-Arab with wonderful gaits, a very willing attitude and a delightful joy in life. While she could be silly, mostly she was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, after I’d had her for about six months, she developed unusual problems that the vets couldn’t figure out. First, she started having trouble going down hills. Then she began tripping over things if we rode at dusk. Finally she began to stumble and fall to the ground. Now lots of horses stumble, but rarely do they go down. This was weird as well as dangerous. And I had the bruises to prove it.

We went through a variety of diagnoses. Navicular disease—but the x-rays and the lack of response to shoeing changes and medicines seemed to rule that out. Weak stifles—but injections and keeping her on hill didn’t change anything.

This went on for about a year and a half and I was ready to give up on her when a friend suggested trying chiropractic. I hadn’t heard of equine chiro before and resisted the idea for quite a while. Then I heard about a vet who did acupuncture and worked with a chiropractor, and I decided to give it a try. If a vet was supervising, maybe there was some worth to it.

The acupuncture to relax the muscles, followed by chiropractic treatment to correct the misalignments in Portia’s spine and sacrum, produced an amazing and immediate improvement. I was ecstatic! I would have my talented, fun horse back again.

The jubilation only lasted a few weeks, then Portia started having problems again. It turned out that the chiro put things right for a while, but didn’t correct whatever was causing her back to go out in the first place. While I continued to use chiropractic on all my horses, I now began a journey through just about every alternative modality that existed, in an effort to find a solution to Portia’s trouble.

Finally, I encountered a woman who was learning a new-to-the-USA technique called Integrative Manual Therapy. For the first time we got improvements that lasted. She was actually able get to the cause of some of Portia’s problems and many times fix them.

Jacquie’s main work is with people and she only occasionally works on horses. Both my husband and I have gone to her and benefited greatly from her work. Through her I’ve met several other manual therapists, most of whom also work both with humans and animals.

IMT is only one of many alternative techniques that have been more easily accepted in the animal world because the results cannot be simply discounted as a “placebo effect.” When a horse moves off better after being worked on, it’s not a trick of the mind. Something has changed.

Stem cell therapy is another “alternative” veterinary treatment that has led the way to acceptance in human medicine. While still considered experimental by insurance companies, it is used quite commonly on animals. Hopefully, it too will soon be standard in human medicine. (My knees would certainly appreciate that.)

When I began writing fiction seriously a few years ago, I thought it would be interesting to have a protagonist who was a Manual Therapist. The story possibilities were many, and I might also introduce some readers to alternative techniques. The result was my book FOREWARNING.

I’d love to hear your reaction to the heroine, Kasey Martin, and the work she does.


Here’s a small excerpt from FOREWARNING, showing Kasey working on a horse.

Then she puForewarning Covert both hands on the horse and just stood there. After a minute she shifted position and again stood without moving.

“What is she doing?” TJ asked Billy, who had come into the barn too.

Billy glanced at Kasey and gave a shrug. “She’s listening,” he replied.

“What do you mean, listening?” TJ turned to the younger man with a disbelieving frown.

“That’s what she calls it—listening to the body, to figure out what needs to be done. I’m no expert. I just know she does some pretty amazing things. Watch.”

So TJ did watch while Kasey finished her initial assessment and stepped back to make notes on her chart. Then with a determined expression, she placed one hand on the mare’s spine and another low on her left hip. She kept them there for almost ten minutes while talking softly to the horse and Ben. As far as TJ could see, she was doing nothing more than lightly touching the horse.

All of a sudden, Doll let out a big sigh and visibly relaxed, dropping her head low and almost closing her eyes. Kasey stepped away, and tension seemed to flow out of her as well. A few moments later, with a much calmer expression, she moved back to the horse. She continued to hold her hands in different spots for varying amounts of time, changing their position after Doll sighed or yawned. Obviously, something was happening, but TJ had no idea what.

At one point Doll swung her head around and touched her ribs, just behind her front legs. Kasey nodded. “I know,” she said, and kept on with what she was doing. A few minutes later Doll twisted around again and touched her side a couple more times. Kasey smiled and responded. “I’ll get to it. I know it hurts. I need to take care of this first.”

TJ widened his eyes in disbelief. The horse is telling her where it hurts? At that point, he almost left in disgust to go back to the house, but hesitated when he saw how seriously Ben and Billy were watching. Pushing down his skepticism, he decided to wait and see how her treatment played out.

A while later Kasey finally switched her attention to the area Doll had touched. The mare bobbed her head up and down a couple of times, then let it hang in total relaxation. After spending a good ten minutes working on the area, Kasey stepped back.



You can buy FOREWARNING on Amazon
Also at Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo and Smashwords

Categories: alternative medicine, animals, energetic healing, Forewarning, healing, Horses, Romantic suspense, Uncategorized, writing | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment



Since the title of my blog is Conversations With Horses, today I thought I’d talk to a couple of horses. Fictional ones, of course, featured in my book Forewarning. They are based on ones I’ve known and hopefully will give you an insight into horses’ minds.

grey horse 2The first horse to appear in Forewarning is Paris, a brash adventurous type, who finds a gate unlatched and decides to explore. (Unfortunately, a young filly follows along.)

So Paris tell us about yourself.

“My real name is Harrbit’s Parisienne. I’m a beautiful dappled grey Anglo-Arab. That means I’m half Thoroughbred and half Arabian—horse royalty. I was bred for Three Day Eventing and I loved to jump, particularly in the show ring where people noticed and admired me. Something bad happened to me before I came to live with Kasey; I don’t like to talk about that. Kasey fixed me up but I don’t get to jump any more. I miss all the attention and fussing and special things associated with showing.

What do you do now?

I alternate between having foals–oh how I love my babies—and being a trail horse. Dancer and I make really nice foals and Kasey lets me keep them for six or seven months and then waits until the following year to breed me again. After my babies are weaned, I become her trail horse and ride the mountains with her. I love exploring new trails. I get enthralled and walk so fast other horses have a hard time keeping up. But I don’t like it when things change on familiar trails. I have to look very carefully to be sure that big branch or rock slide isn’t something to run from. Once in a while, I’ll play games with Kasey and pretend to be afraid when I’m really not. She usually figures it really quickly and stops my fun. That’s okay, I love her and always run to gate when she comes.


Now I’m going to skip to the most important horse on ranch—Dancer, Kasey’s regal stallion.

medium_2568292756“My name is Willow’s Sundancer and I am a chestnut Trakehner stallion. My breed developed in East Prussia in the 1700’s and were used as cavalry horses. It is the oldest of the European warmbloods. Like Paris, I was bred for Eventing too, but I also quite enjoy dressage. Kasey bought me as a yearling and trained me. We competed for a few years and I was very successful.  I had lots of admirers, which is why I am so popular as a breeding stallion. I have offspring all over the world,.

Now I have an even more important job—protecting the ranch. As a stallion, I must make sure my herd, which includes Kasey, is safe from danger. While I may romp and play, I never relax my vigil. I’m very aware of everything that goes on and ready to take action if necessary. Of course, I’m also quite interested in the ladies and wish I could live with the mare herd. Unfortunately, Kasey doesn’t agree. I definitely could do without the pesty geldings. They can be so ridiculous at times.

Hope you enjoyed meeting the horses. You can learn more about them and others on the ranch in my book FOREWARNING

If you have horses, what are they like? What kind of personality does your animal have?


Grey horse: photo credit: *Chutor at 6 years via photopin (license)

Categories: foals, horse personalities, Horses, Jumping, Three Day Eventing, Trail riding | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Riding or Equitation


After some time off, I’m getting back on the blogging horse again. Recently someone asked me about a term for teaching riding, and that seemed like a good topic for today’s blog. When we talk about teaching the horse something, we usually call that training. The horse is in training or he’s training the horse. When we focus on the rider, it’s called equitation. This refers to much more than kicking to make them go or using the reins to turn or stop. It concerns the position of the rider’s body, legs, hands and head, how she handles the horse, and the effectiveness of her cues.

Most people are unaware of how much a rider affects the horse’s balance. A 150 pound rider equals 15 percent of a 1000 pound horse’s weight. Fifteen percent may not sound like much, but it is a significant amount, particularly when it is moving around. If you’ve ever carried a toddler in a backpack, you’re aware of how much their weight shifting can affect your balance. The same is true of a horse, though not to quite the same extent since they have four legs. Nevertheless, a lopsided load, whether human or a pack, will make the animal work to keep its balance, make it harder to do some things and may affect its soundness.

hack_eqIdeally, a rider sits straight and tall, but with a relaxed back to absorb the movement of the horse. His head, shoulders, hips and heels should be in a straight line, except for hunt seat (jumping). This applies across all disciplines, English and Western. The stirrup length may vary, depending on the type of riding. For jumping, the stirrups are shorter. In today’s show ring the stirrup length is long for dressage, saddle seat and Western. But for trail riding, most people use somewhat shorter stirrups to give themselves the ability to rise out of the saddle if necessary.

Hunt seat

Hunt seat

In addition to being straight, a rider must also be still or quiet in the saddle. Every movement she makes causes the horse to have an easier or harder time doing his job. Imagine how difficult it would be for the horse to jump a fence with a 150 pound weight shifting back and forth. Or, one of the common things we see, going downhill with the rider swinging side to side. Of course, some movement is required but keeping your weight centered is very important. In jumping, the rider moves up and forward to free the horse’s back, but still remains over the center of gravity. In roping, the cowboy swings his lasso and leans forward but keeps his weight even.

Being still implies quiet movements. A good rider communicates with his horse subtly, with few visible cues. A well-trained horse will respond to the lightest of aids and does not need to be jerked and treated harshly. The more invisible the aids, the better the equitation.

Recently I happened upon an old John Wayne movie, The Undefeated, which also starred Rock Hudson. Wayne knew how to ride, of course, but wasn’t particularly pretty in the saddle. Not so Hudson. He was playing a Southern Confederate gentleman and he really looked the part on a horse. Tall, still, elegant, he was the epitome of a cavalry officer. Look the movie up sometime, if you want to see an interesting contrast.

Hope this is helpful to those who are writing stories with horses in them and interesting to others.

Categories: animals, Cowboys, dressage, Horses, hunting, riding, rodeos, teaching riders, Trail riding, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Happy Holidays!


Christmas tree

For my last post of this year I’d like to wish everyone a joyous holiday season.

Happy Holidays to all!




If you’re looking for a fun read during the holidays, take a look at my two books. I featured Wyoming Escape last week. This time I’m spotlighting FOREWARNING.


Forewarning Cover 2



 When Kasey Edwards finds a badly injured man, she knows she has to take an action that terrifies her—to use her abandoned energetic healing skills to save his life. Following her husband’s suicide, she had closed her healing practice and retreated to her ranch. Now she is thrust back into the world she rejected and into unexpected danger. Her old friend Jim Bradley, who has long been in love with her, pushes her to return to her work. When criminals looking for her patient invade the serenity of her world, she must use her skills to save all three of their lives.


Here’s an excerpt from when she is waiting at the hospital:


With each step down the deserted hall to the waiting room, the band around Kasey’s chest drew tighter. The frantic desire to scurry back to her ranch, to run from what she had done, almost made her turn around. She suppressed the urge. She needed to find out if the man would be okay, to find out if she had helped—or hurt—him.


She stopped in the ladies room to wash the blood off her hands and clean up a bit. Her mother’s brown eyes and heart-shaped face stared back at her from the mirror as she dried her hands. But the auburn hair she smoothed and gathered into a low ponytail again was her father’s legacy, as was her empathic sensitivity. He possessed an uncanny ability to understand animals and deal with their problems and had been known as a “horse whisperer” long before the term became popular.


His ability to feel emotions extended to people as well as animals, for which Kasey was grateful. Her breath caught as she thought of his gentle love and support. He’d helped her understand and deal with her sensitivity, showing her it was a gift rather than a curse. How often during this past year she’d wished she could turn to him for help, as she had as a child. That wasn’t possible. He had his own pain to deal with, and she couldn’t burden him with hers.


Leaving the restroom, she continued down to the waiting area. Tonight was the first time she’d been to the hospital since Brian’s death, and the small, chair-filled lounge stirred up painful memories. Memories of the man who had been her life. To her relief, the room was empty, and she chose a seat in a corner where she wouldn’t be easily seen.


Exhaustion dropped her into the chair with unexpected force. She tried to focus on the television in the corner; instead the night’s events kept playing over and over in her mind. The blood on the man’s too-pale face. The raw, charred skin of his palm. Her hands focusing healing energy. Her hands focusing healing energy.


Her legs began a restless dance, so she jumped up to walk off some of the tension. What she really needed was to go for a run. Since that wasn’t possible, she returned to her chair and started a deep breathing exercise—in for four counts, hold two, out for seven counts and hold for two. Eventually the rhythmic pattern took effect. Her eyelids closed, and her head flopped to the side in a restless doze.


Jim Bradley paused at the door of the waiting room and gazed at the sleeping woman. Damn, she’s lovely. Not that Kasey would agree right now, of course, given her mud-stained jeans, green rubber boots and ratty sweatshirt. To him, she looked wonderful. He let the desire he always suppressed when around her thrum freely through his body. For this moment, he didn’t have to be on guard. For this moment, he could just enjoy looking at her and contemplate a time when he could let her know his heart. Soon, he hoped. Soon.


Kasey shifted in her chair and Jim quickly brought his feelings under control, directing his thoughts to the surgery he had just completed. Now was not the time to reveal his yearning. She had enough to deal with tonight. He pulled his shoulders back and headed into the room.


“You’re going to a get a heck of a stiff neck if you stay kinked like that much longer.”


I hope you enjoyed this excerpt and want to read more. FOREWARNING is available on

                   Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords





photo credit: <a href=””>PKMousie</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;
Categories: energetic healing, Forewarning, healing, Horses, Mystery, Paranormal, Romantic suspense, suspense, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Free For Christmas!



Christmas is coming and WYOMING ESCAPE, my tale of danger and romance set on a Wyoming dude ranch, is free on kindleunlimited.



Wyoming Cover - 5.3x8.

Mikela Richard’s morning run turns horrific when she stumbles upon a dead body and then is chased through the woods. The next day is even worse when she discovers a second body in her office and realizes a dirty cop is responsible. With a past experience that makes her distrust the police, she goes on the run until she can unravel the mystery of the strange computer thumb drive she found in her car.


She ends up working as a cook at a Wyoming dude ranch where she meets Shawn Saunders, a Marine home on medical leave. Shawn recognizes the type of fear in Mikela’s eyes—it’s one of the things he’s come home to forget. Even though he knows it’s a bad idea, he can’t stop himself from trying to help her, while she’s even more afraid to let him. 


Here’s a short excerpt from when Mikela visits a new foal one evening:
A few minutes later, the old wooden floorboards creaked beside her. “That’s the loosest I’ve seen you since you got here,” a soft, male voice spoke from the shadows.


To her surprise, Mikela wasn’t startled. Somehow she had known he was there. Not raising her head, she shifted, resting her cheek on her arms.


“Babies have a way of doing that,” she responded. “They sleep so sweetly, all your cares seem to melt away when you watch them.”


She straightened as Shawn came to stand beside her. “Watching over your family?”


“Something like that. Enjoying the quiet and getting back into the rhythm of things. It takes some time to adjust to normal life after I return. The horses help a lot.” He leaned down and rested his arms on the top of the stall door, a soft expression on his face as he watched the pair sleep.


“How long do you have?”


“Eleven more days.”


“Then back to Afghanistan?”


“Unfortunately, yes.” He shifted, still keeping his gaze on the sleeping foal. “Let’s talk about something else.”


“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to … remind you of unpleasant things.” She automatically put her hand on his arm in a comforting gesture.


He placed a big paw on top of hers. “No problem.”


They stood joined for a long moment. Then Mikela gently pulled away. His touch set her pulse racing, made her want what she shouldn’t. She couldn’t afford to give in to the attraction tugging at her. He was so different from the men she usually encountered. Certainly poles apart from the one she’d married. She shook her head. Let’s not go down that path tonight.


Mikela knew she should leave, but her feet didn’t want to cooperate. She remained beside him, absorbing the peace and calm of the horses and his quiet solidity. When she put her hand back on the stall door, he reached over and covered it again. This time she let it stay, accepted the connection. Suddenly she felt herself aching to be held, to be enveloped in strong arms, to feel protected. The horror of the last two weeks suddenly pushed its way to the surface. Tears welled and began to stream down her face.


At the sound of her sob, Shawn spun around and reached for her. “What’s wrong, Mike?”


The soft concern in his voice released the damned up flood. She shook her head and started to turn away, but the next thing she knew she was pressed against his warm, hard chest as he rocked and murmured to her.


“It’s okay. Whatever the problem, it’ll be all right.”


When she tried to pull away, he kept her close and ran his hand up and down her back, soothing and gentling her. The comfort he offered was too enticing. She collapsed against him and let herself go. Several minutes passed before her sobs quieted. She took a shaky breath and became aware of his musky scent and the dampness beneath her face. His shirt was wet from her bawling. Embarrassed, she stiffened and tried to step away. But he didn’t release her.


“Sure you’re done? Sounds like you burst a water main. Might be more coming.” He pressed her head to his chest. “You’re fine where you are. Get it all out.”


Mikela relaxed against him. She’d already made a fool of herself—staying in his arms a little longer couldn’t make it any worse. When her breathing had returned to normal and her face was dry, she raised her head and drew back. This time he let her go.


“All better now?” he asked. “Want to talk about it?”


“Better, yes. Talk, no.” She wasn’t up to coherent speech yet. She knew she’d have to give some explanation, but certainly not the real one. “Sorry.”


“What’s to be sorry about? We all need to let go once in a while. It clears the air. I’ve seen things I’d like to cry about too.”


She tilted her head to see him more clearly. “I thought it was okay for guys to cry now.”


“Civilians, maybe. Marines, no way. Not in public anyway.”



I hope you enjoyed this piece and want to read more. WYOMING ESCAPE is available for the Kindle on Amazon.
Categories: adventure, animals, Books, Christmas, Cowboys, Dude ranches, fear, Horses, Mystery, romance, suspense, Uncategorized, Wyoming | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Dressage For The Average Rider


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.

Compare it to this Second level test.

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.;fref=nf

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

Horses As Healers


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.

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


photo credit: <a href=””>Beverly & Pack</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>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



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.


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.


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


Desert photo:courtesy of Creative Commons

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

Riding an Earthquake


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?


Building photo credit: Creative Commons

Horses photo credit: Creative Commons

Crushed car photo credit: Creative Commons

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





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.




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.








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.



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.



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:


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

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