Dancing Horses


I’m back! My Forewarning Cover 2hiatus from blogging and writing lasted longer than I expected but I’m getting back in the saddle again. Today I’m starting with a short post highlighting some delightful equestrian performances.


FOREWARNING on sale for $2.99 for this weekend only on Amazon and B&N


The first is from the Equitana Hop Top Show 2015 and features Alizée Froment and her horse Mistral du Coussoul doing a lovely freestyle, performing high level (Grand Prix) movements, with no bridle.



The next one is a Billy Ray Cyrus video of a horse line dancing to his Achy Breaky Heart song. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a You Tube video of the whole dance, so you’ll need to belong to Facebook to see more than this short bit.



Facebook link:  https://www.facebook.com/BillyRayCyrus/videos/633553463445547/?theater


At the 2006 World Equestrian Games the wonderful mare Blue Hors Matine surprised the staid dressage world by doing a marvelous freestyle to Hip Hop music.



Hope you enjoy the videos and come back again next week.

Categories: animals, dressage, riding | Tags: , , , | 20 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

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.

Categories: animals, dressage, dressage competition, Horses, Olympics, riding, Thoroughbreds, training horses, U.S. Dressage Federation, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 10 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 http://tinyurl.com/pmu4qpm

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

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 http://tinyurl.com/kkvzq8v

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

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

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





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: http://www.equine-world.co.uk


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

Horses at the Olympics

Olympic rings

If you were at like me you probably spent the second and third weeks of last February watching the winter Olympic Games. Ice skating, skiing, luge, bobsled, snowboarding, and a host of other events kept us glued to the TV, reveling in the skill and determination of the competitors. In 2016, we’ll again have the chance to stare in awe and root for favorites when the summer Games are held in Rio de Janeiro. My primary interest, of course, will be in the equestrian events. In years past only small snippets were shown by the networks, but now with wonders of the internet, we’ll be able to see much a larger number of competitors and get a major horse fix.

The earliest Olympics in ancient Greece were tests of skills that warriors needed and since horses were a vital part of battle, they included horse and chariot races. The modern Olympics began in1896 but it wasn’t until 1912 that the equestrian events we’re used to seeing were included. Horses are the stars of three events – dressage, eventing, and show jumping – and play a part in a fourth competition I wasn’t aware of before. The Pentathalon has a show jumping phase where competitors ride horses they’ve never handled before over a challenging jump course.

dressageEquestrian events are among the few where men and women compete against each other. This wasn’t true initially. Up until 1952, only military officers and “gentlemen” were allowed to take part. Starting with the Helsinki Games, all men could participate in all the events and women could ride in Dressage. In 1956 women were permitted to do Show Jumping and finally in 1964, they began to compete in Eventing. Now they contend on equal terms in all the riding disciplines.

Dressage starts with a Grand Prix test that all the teams take part in. The scores of the top three riders on each team are added together to get the team score and placing. Then the top 25 go on to do the Grand Prix Special test to compete for individual medals. The thirteen best then compete in the Freestyles. These are the crowd pleasing performances where the horses “dance” to music. The scores from these two tests determine the individual medalists.

Cross-countryEventing originated as a three day contest to prove the quality and endurance of cavalry horses. Today it still consists of three separate competitions: dressage, cross-country jumping and show jumping. On day one, the dressage demonstrates the horses’ suppleness, training and obedience. Because these horses are not specialists, they do somewhat less demanding tests than the dressage stars and their tests are scored by listing the number of faults. So the lower the score, the better. On day two, they show their skill and courage on a demanding cross-country course with difficult and often scary solid fences. The Show Jumping phase on day three demonstrates their fitness and soundness. Again the riders vie for team and individual medals.

medium_515302767The last equestrian event is Show Jumping, the exciting attraction that usually sells out. Everyone likes watching the horses and riders tackle the very challenging and technical jump course. Again, because these horses are specialists, the jumps are bigger and harder. The team and individual medals are well earned.

Have you watched the Olympic equestrian events? Which one do you like best? Have you ever attended an Olympics? I know I’d love to go to Rio in 2016. How about you?


Olympic rings: photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/joncandy/7267452456/”>joncandy</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Dressage horse: photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/jessicamulley/3118654629/”>Jessicastjohn</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;


Categories: animals, dressage, Horses, Olympics, riding, Show jumping, Three Day Eventing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Introvert or Extrovert?


Horses have different personalities, just as humans do. And the personality dictates how you handle and train if you want to have a successful collaboration with your horse. Today I’m partially recycling a post from two years ago when I first started blogging. I assume most of my current readers haven’t seen it before. 

Extrovert enjoying showing off

Extrovert enjoying showing off

You can classify horses as having one of four basic personalities. (Of course, there are other ways to categorize them, but this one works for me.) Just like with people, they can be Extroverts or Introverts. They also can be Thinkers or Reactors (emotional). So 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. And each type needs to be dealt with in different ways.

Star, the little Morgan mare I grew up with, 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. Once we started communicating properly she was easy to teach. Correct, fair treatment was key with her. She couldn’t be forced, but would give her all when asked. She loved to learn new skills, do different things and explore new trails. She really enjoyed life.

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. She needed very calm, relaxed handling. If she got upset I loosened the reins. Trying to fight with her would have brought on an explosion.

Glory, on the other hand, is a super-sensitive Thoroughbred who requires somewhat different handling because of her introverted reactor personality. She was basically timid, afraid of the world, and over-reacted to stimuli when I first got her.

Thinker, working hard

Thinker, working hard

Due to inappropriate handling she learned to shut down under saddle and would only respond if she was cued in exactly the way she had been trained. She was afraid to try. At the same time she was a panic attack waiting to happen on the ground. The slightest thing would provoke a frantic pull-back. My job was to convince her she was safe.

My husband’s horse, Koko, could have been the poster child for the introverted thinker type. Strong-willed and stubborn, she often had to be convinced to do what we wanted. Thank goodness she was also laid-back, sensible and good-natured. Her busy mind was evidenced by her quirky sense of humor and love of playing. She delighted in doing things like untying ropes (just to show she could) and flipping the barn light switches on and off.

What kind of equine personalities have you dealt with? What kind do you enjoy?

Categories: animals, horse care, horse personalities, Horses, nature, riding, Thoroughbreds, training horses, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Paints, Palominos, and Other Pretty Horses, Part 2

As I mentioned last time, horses come in an amazing variety of colors. I told you about the basic solid colors before; today I’m going to talk about some of the rainbow of other hues and combinations that can appear.

Almost everyone is familiar with the spotted horses the Indians rode in the old Westerns, and the golden palominos that Roy Rodgers and a plethora of cowgirl heroines raced across movie screens, so let’s start with these.

Horses with large patches of brown and white or black and white are pintos. (The term Paint is often used too, but that actually refers to a specific breed of pinto.) While there are several variations of pintos, the most common are the tobiano and the overo. A tobiano is has large rounded markings with smooth edges on a white coat. An overo has irregular splotches with ragged edges and usually are more dark than white. The horse in the movie Hildalgo was an overo.overo

Pinto foal









Trigger is the most famous movie horse of all time and he was a golden palomino. Palominos can range from very a light, cream color to dark bronze or chocolate, but they always have a white mane and tale.




Similar in color are buckskins and duns. A bbuckskinuckskin is actually a faded (color-diluted) bay and has the same black mane, tail and legs. A dun has the tan color and black points, but also has a black stripe down its spine and occasionally zebra-like stripes on its legs. An interesting variant of the dun is the Gulla or Blue Dun. As the name implies it has a bluish cast to its coat.


RoanAnother “blue” horse is the Blue Roan. Roans have white hairs evenly mixed throughout their coat. The Blue has a black base coat but the intermixture of white hairs give it a blue tinge. Strawberry Roans have a chestnut base, while Bay Roans keep the black points of a true bay.




The other spotted horse associated with the Indians of the American West is the Appaloosa. Appys come in a variety of patterns. The most commonly seen are the blanket and the leopard. A blanket Appy is a solid color over all its body except the rump, which is white and dotted with spots that match the solid color. The leopard is white and dotted with large and small spots all over its body. The Knabstrupper is a European breed that also has leopard markings.



blanket appy







As I said before, horses come in a amazing variety of colors. I’ve only touched on a few. Here’s a Pinterest site that has pictures of some really unusual colors.


Overo: photo credit: dog.happy.art via photopin cc
Palomino: photo credit: Just chaos via photopin cc
Buckskin: photo credit: Derrick Coetzee via photopin cc
Roan: photo credit: Just chaos via photopin cc
Leopard: photo credit: StarWatcher307 via photopin cc

Blanket: photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/luagh45/6423046297/”>luagh45</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Categories: animals, horse colors, Horses, nature, riding | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

A Mongolian Adventure


My guest today is Paula Boer from New South Wales, Australia. My first visitor from Down Under!

Paula at homePaula started her lifelong love of horses at age 7 when she first rode a pony on a ranch in Canada. Two years later in England, she started weekly riding lessons and became hooked. She competed in many horse disciplines, caught and broke in brumbies, and mustered on remote cattle stations in Australia. Her Brumbies children’s series is based on her own experiences with wild horses. Set in the Snowy Mountains of Australia, the first of the series, Brumbies, became an Amazon ‘Best Seller’ in 2012. Her most recent book Brumbies In The Outback has just been released.

But today, instead of talking about those experiences, she’s going to tell us about a fascinating adventure among the horse people of Mongolia. Take it away Paula.


Turning forty is a major milestone. Wanting to escape the possibilities of surprise parties or reminders of creeping age, I jokingly said to my husband I wanted to go to Outer Mongolia. It wasn’t only the remoteness that appealed to me, but the fact that the country has more horses than people. So we went.

Mongolia 2Horses canter around us across the open grasslands. Their hogged manes and lean hides accentuate their movements, muscles taut and necks stretched low. Riders of all sizes wave their arms, flap their legs and twitch the long ends of their reins to gain that extra effort from their mount.

The annual horse races in Mongolia are a splash of colour against a backdrop of rolling green hills. Clothes and tack are made from assorted materials knotted together or tied with rawhide. Our guide tells us that many competitors have ridden for hours to come to this event. The horses will race more than once over a distance of forty kilometres before being ridden home again.

The horses respond instantly to every command – spinning, barging, galloping or sliding to a halt to gain advantage over the other competitors. Riders jostle amidst an equally raucous crowd cheering on their favourites and shouting advice. The race winds over hills, through rivers and down valleys, the riders knowing the route from experience. No specific tracks mark the way. Cheers and jeers announce the invisible finish line where horses are swamped to be cared for in preparation for the next race.

The day after the race I had my chance to ride these tough horses. Despite having competed the day before, the ponies felt keen as we mounted up. I cantered through flowers that grew as high as my horse’s nose. Suddenly there was much shouting. Turning to see what the commotion was, I was signalled to return. Believing the situation urgent, I galloped back to the anxious guides. I pulled up as they leapt from their horses. Grinning, they indicated my girth had come undone and was dragging on the ground!

That event resulted in a comradeship I hadn’t sensed before. We climbed through vast stands of conifers, the smell of pine needles rising from under the horses’ hooves. We crossed grasslands where the horses nibbled seed heads as they walked. Herds of horses dotted amongst the lush feed in every valley.

Mongolia 3We learned that everyone in Mongolia can ride. There are more horses than people. There are statues of horses, horses carved into musical instruments and furniture, even drawings of horses on their banknotes. Horses provide transport, entertainment, food, drink and income.

There are no fences. The herds roam freely, ownership identified by brands. Twice a day the mares come in to feed their foals tied to lines in rows. The mares are milked for human consumption before the foals are permitted to drink. Children nurture the foals that are to be theirs, creating a lifelong bond. I can’t think of a better way to live.


Brumbies in the Outback

Brumbies Outback book 4Ben and Louise discover that life on a remote cattle station is very different to their Snowy Mountains home. Missing her horse, Honey, Louise struggles to adapt to the outback. Ben has a graver concern: he is desperate to prove that Brandy, his stallion, is fit after a serious leg injury, otherwise he may be destroyed. From mustering and working cattle, to tracking and taming desert brumbies, both friends are challenged by their experiences.




As the sun rose higher, more and more cattle thronged in to the mob. Ben had forgotten how slow a muster started. There had been little for him to do with the experienced stockmen chasing back cattle that didn’t want to stop. Although he’d hoped to have a chance to chat to Jacinta, they needed to keep their separate posts. Looking across to where Louise sat on Splash, he thought she seemed relaxed in the shade. The pony appeared to be asleep; an old hand at this game, he knew he’d need his energy for later.

A shrill whistle alerted Ben. Graeme signaled for them to start walking the cattle out. He had explained earlier how he wanted everyone to work—Ben and Jacinta on the wings, the head stockman and one other in the lead, and Louise with the remainder of the riders on the tail. They planned to keep the cattle close together and move at the pace of the slowest calves.

Ben’s chestnut mare pranced as she closed with a large Brahman bull, his neck hump wobbling with each step. Pushing his horse into the bull’s shoulder, Ben guided the old male back towards the mob. He turned without complaint, lumbering his great bulk with plodding steps. Pleased how his horse responded to his leg aids, Ben patted her neck.

Settling in for a long walk, Ben rode automatically, watching the cattle for any that might try to stray. Every so often, another small group would come running in from the scrub to join the herd, chased from far away by the buzzing helicopter. The heat had returned to the day and dust clung to his sweaty skin. Ben took a long swig from his canteen, letting some of the cool water dribble down his chin. While trying to re-secure his water bottle, the chestnut mare shied.

“Whoa! Steady there!” Ben slipped sideways, almost coming off. Grabbing the mane, he hauled himself back into the saddle. Overhead, a kite flew low with a snake in its claws, the writhing body of its meal casting shadows over the horse. The reptile had been easy prey while slithering away from the thousands of hooves trampling the dust.

“So that’s what spooked you.” Ben shortened up his reins and sat deep, preventing the mare from bolting as she continued to panic. As he brought her back under control, the helicopter appeared from behind a small bluff with a roar.

Too much for the green horse, she snatched at the bit and broke into a gallop.

Categories: adventure, animals, Australia, Brumbies, Horses, Mongolia, riding, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.