riding

Horse Power Revolution

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I’m down with a miserable cold this week, so I’m going to refer you to an interesting program on the history of the horse–The Horse Power Revolution. I think you will enjoy it. I should be back to regular posts next week.

http://www.history.com/shows/big-history/videos/big-history-horse-power-revolution

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Don’t forget I’m involved with two great promotions this month. The Winter Wonderland Scavenger Hunt gives you the chance to win gift baskets while discovering new authors and books. Check out all the intriguing offerings.
http://www.nightowlreviews.com/v5/Pages/Articles/Winter-Wonderland-2013

My book FOREWARNING is being featured on the Indie Tribe Special Christmas Showcase. Come take a look for more great new authors and books.
http://www.theindietribe.com/special-christmas-showcase-ho-ho-ho/

Categories: Books, history, horse power, Horses, riding, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Feet and Farriers

medium_132910292There’s an old rhyme we’ve all heard as kids.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

The poem is meant to show that small actions can result in large consequences. It also illustrates a basic fact of horse keeping: without proper hoof care, you can’t use a horse.

Cleaning a hoof

Cleaning a hoof

A hoof is essentially a long toe (or three fused together, to be exact). The outer wall is like a very thick toenail that wraps most of the way around the inner structures—soft tissues, ligaments, and bones. The sole of the foot is also made up of a fingernail-like material that is softer than the wall. It covers most of the bottom of the hoof except where the frog is located. The frog is a V-shaped, rubbery structure that acts as a shock absorber. In a wild horse that casually roams over varied natural terrain these parts of the hoof become hard and tough.

In contrast, domesticated horses that are kept in stalls, used on man-made surfaces such as stone, concrete and asphalt, and are asked to carry weight or pull heavy loads usually need protection for their hooves. In addition, man, through selective breeding, has greatly modified the horse, oft times creating a creature that would have no hope of surviving in the wild. Hence the invention of horseshoes and the development of the craft of the farrier or horseshoer.

Up until the Middle Ages, the distance a horse could travel was limited by how well its hooves stood up to the wear and tear of the load and the surface it was traveling on. Men tried different methods to attempt to protect the hooves, including the Roman hipposandal, a hard leather contraption they strapped on, but none were particularly successful. It wasn’t until sometime in the early Middle Ages that they began to work iron and bronze into horseshoes which they nailed on through the thick outer wall. Suddenly, horses could go much greater distances, which increased travel and trade.

Farrier at work

Farrier at work

When the farrier comes, he first pulls the old shoes, if any. Then he trims the hooves to make them level and even. Like fingernails, hooves grow and can be worn into lopsided patterns, so it’s important to rebalance the foot before putting on the new shoes. Just like people, horses feet are different shapes and sizes and the shoes need to be fitted to them.

Horseshoes can be worked in two ways—either by pounding a (cold) shoe that almost fits into the correct shape or by heating the shoe and reworking it to fit. If the foot is normal with no problems, cold shoeing is easiest. However, if either the type of work or physical problems demand something extra, then hot shoeing is the way to go.

Farriers have to study horse anatomy and physiology because they also deal with diseased and injured hooves that may require special shoeing. Laminitis and Navicular Disease are two problems that require long term, knowledgeable care. My husband’s horse, Koko, had a long ordeal with laminitis. Without our excellent shoer, we would have had to put her down much sooner. A good farrier is hard to find and important to keep.

No hoof, no horse.

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Single shoe: photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/lwr/132910292/”>Leo Reynolds</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
Cleaning a hoof: photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/64081615@N06/5861756930/”>eXtensionHorses</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
Farrier:  photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/duanekeys/228806896/”>duanekeys</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
Categories: blacksmiths, Farriers, horse care, horse shoes, Horses, nature, riding, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Eventing – Not For the Faint of Heart

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Cross-country

Three-Day Eventing is an Olympic and international equestrian sport that originated in Europe as a competition to demonstrate the fitness of cavalry horses. In those days, the armies wanted horses that looked impressive on the parade grounds, could travel across any kind of terrain at speed and for long distances, and then be ready and able to continue the next day. To test these abilities they developed a three day competition—in essence an equestrian triathlon.

The first day the horses demonstrate their dressage skills, performing intricate movements requiring high levels of training and obedience. The second day they show their courage, endurance, and ability to handle all kinds of difficult situations by completing a challenging cross-country course. The last day they prove their fitness by doing a precise and demanding stadium jumping round.

These tests developed into national competitions, culminating in becoming an Olympic sport in 1912. Initially, only military officers were allowed to compete. In 1952 male civilians became eligible, but women weren’t allowed into the club until 1964. Equestrian sports are among the few where men and women compete head-to-head. With a couple of exceptions—rodeo and racing—male strength is not a particular advantage and both sexes can be equally successful.

Eventing has become a popular activity for all levels of riders. You can start out on very easy Beginner Novice, Novice or Training courses, then move up to Preliminary, Intermediate and Advanced. You can also take part in one day events known as Horse Trials.

A horse and rider compete either as individuals or, at the international level, also as members of a team. Scores are computed on the numbemedium_2568292756r of faults a pair collects. As in golf, the lowest score wins. You acquire faults through mistakes in the dressage test and refusals, course mistakes or taking too long in the two jumping portions. Three refusals or a fall of horse or rider will result in elimination. Horses are also eliminated if they don’t pass the daily vet inspections.

The most important qualifications for the horse and rider are courage and fitness. The horse has to trust her rider and be willing to go where asked, sometimes jumping blindly, not knowing what is on the other side. Of course, the rider has to be equally brave, trusting that the horse can do what he asks and will keep him safe.

One year I served as a jump judge at a local Intermediate championship. This involved sitting by a large wood pile jump and watching to see if any horse refused, totally missed the jump, or fell. While I had done some cross-country for fun, I’d never tried anything the size of that wood pile. The sight of those horses tearing downhill and then having to slow and gather themselves to jump had my heart in my throat a good part of the time. Unfortunately, one rider did not get her mount back enough so the pair did not make it and fell hard. The rider got up sooner than the horse. There was no question of it doing anything more that day. That was the inspiration for a similar incident in my book Forewarning. My heroine Kasey Edwards is a former Three Day competitor.

Just as vital is the athletic ability of both. Top ranked riders cross-train, ride multiple horses daily and are extremely fit. They also put in long hours conditioning their horses to be able to finish the grueling second day.

medium_8123864734Unlike most other Olympic sports, Three-Day Eventing started as an Olympic event and then developed as a more general contest. The Badminton Horse Trial in Great Britain was the first major non-Olympic event and is still considered the most prestigious. The premier Three-Day in the US in the Rolex, held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky.

While the limited TV coverage of Eventing in the Olympics used to concentrate on jumping falls, the increased public interest has resulted in actually being able to see portions of all three events. Below are a couple of videos.

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Three Day Eventing:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Fqjo9EST8I
2012 Rolex:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfYJjdggyq0
The Cross-Country Ride to London: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8aShtqmJ_o

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photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/21795222@N06/2568292756/”>clickerjac</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;
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/zlatko/8123864734/”>Zlatko Unger</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Categories: dressage, Horse Trials, Horses, Kentucky, nature, Olympics, outdoors, riding, Three Day Eventing, training horses, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

A DREAM COME TRUE

GloriaToday I’d like to welcome Gloria Alden author of the Catherine Jewell mystery novels The Blue Rose and Daylilies for Emily’s Garden. Gloria is a former third grade teacher who is spending her retirement writing short stories and novels. Her published short stories include “Cheating on Your Wife Can Get You Killed,” winner of the 2011 Love is Murder contest; “Mincemeat is for Murder” which appeared in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, “The Professor’s Books” in the FISH TALES Anthology; and “The Lure of the Rainbow” in FISH NETS, the newest Guppy Anthology. Her latest novel Ladies of the Garden Club will be coming out soon.

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A DREAM COME TRUE

When I was a young girl, I galloped everywhere hitting my thigh to go faster on my imaginary horse. I galloped through fields and woods leaping logs, galloped across the road to my cousin’s house or to my grandparents farm and sometimes further down the road to another cousin’s house. Sometimes I rode Wildfire, and sometimes it was Thunderhead or Flicka or another horse in my stable of horses. I dreamed of someday having a ranch in the west with hundreds of horses.

I think my love of horses came from the story my dad told of a pony he rode one summer in the mining town in Pennsylvania where he grew up. My grandfather was foreman of the mining stable. The superintendent of the mine bought a beautiful black pony for his son, and it was kept in the mining stable. The pony tossed the boy the first time he tried to ride it so the superintendent asked my father, about the same age as his son, to ride and gentle it. All summer my father rode that pony, but the superintendent’s son never got over his fear of it so the pony was eventually sold.

During my galloping period, I read every horse book in my small rural library numerous times, and at Christmas I usually got a horse book, too. I dreamed of horses and drew pictures of horses, but I was thirty-eight years old before I finally got my first horse. My husband heard of a horse for sale and took me to see it. Of course, I fell in love with that strawberry roan paint. I thought he was beautiful. A few days later he was delivered. We had no barn, no saddle or bridle or even a lead rope. We did have hay, grain and a water bucket.

We put him in a shed and a few days later my husband and young teenage sons started building a barn – a large barn with five stalls. A week after my horse arrived, I now had a saddle and bridle.  I was ready for my first ride on my very own horse. Now, mind you, my riding had been very limited over the years. Mostly it was while we were on vacation and found a riding stable where you paid for an hour ride with a group on trails following a guide. Seldom did we move out of a walk, but maybe we’d trot a little and once in a great while gallop for a few minutes. Neither my husband nor I had ever saddled a horse, but we’d watched while these trail horses were saddled so we knew how to do it. Or so we thought.

As soon as the horse was saddled, I mounted and headed down a trail into the woods beside our home. He was a high stepper and both of us were eager to be out and on the trail. I was euphoric. His ears were perked forward interested and curious as we went along. And then I turned him around to head back. Maybe I should have thought twice about buying a horse named Rebel because as soon as we were heading back, he took the bit in his mouth, and I couldn’t slow him down. He was heading home, and just where that home was in his mind, I didn’t know. It was then I felt the saddle slip. I learned from that experience, you always tighten the girth, wait a bit for the horse to relax and then tighten it more. Anyway the saddle slipped and ended up under Rebel. Fortunately, I was able to kick my feet free from the stirrups and landed on the ground still holding onto his reins so he didn’t end up in some other county. He jumped about trying to get rid of that thing, but fortunately, I was able to unbuckle the saddle and not get kicked or stepped on.

So at the end of my first ride on my very own horse, I walked home with a saddle on my back now leading a docile horse. It wasn’t exactly the way I had envisioned that first ride. Eventually, Rebel was sold. He was a rebel. Over the years there were other horses and ponies. Once we had five at one time, one we boarded for a friend. My four kids joined 4H, and I became proficient at saddling and caring for horses. I learned to pull a horse trailer to take them to shows and for riding lessons and even took riding lessons, too.ponies2

Then there came a day when I had to move. I had to sell my last two horses because I didn’t have the money to put new fencing around the pasture of the small farm I bought. The house needed too many repairs and the barn needed a new roof. But my love of horses never went away. However, I down sized the dream. Now I have two totally useless small ponies – sisters – that I rationalize keeping as being compost makers for my gardens, but it’s really because I love them.

What dream did you have when you were young? Did it ever come true?

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blueRose_flatIn The Blue Rose Catherine Jewell enjoys the small quiet town she’s recently moved to where she’s a botanist at Elmwood Gardens and also has a small garden center, Roses in Thyme. At least she does until she discovers a body with a garden fork in his back at Elmwood Gardens. John MacDougal, the police chief of Portage Falls, has never had to deal with a murder in his ten years as police chief. As he questions the suspects, many who are Catherine’s co-workers and friends, she works to divert his suspicions elsewhere since she’s sure none of them could be the murderer. When another body is discovered, they start working together, and in spite of their inexperience and several close calls with death, they solve the murders and restore calm to the little town of Portage Falls.

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In Daylilies for Emily’s Garden Catherine Jewell is excited about restoring the gardens at the estate ofdaylilies_frontPreview1 the reclusive Emily Llewellyn. Everything for this project is arranged through Charles McKee, her secretary and companion. Catherine’s curiosity of this eccentric recluse is piqued when her only contact with Emily is through brief glimpses of her through a window before she quickly disappears. Catherine’s excitement dims a little when she discovers a dead body. Meanwhile other unsettling events are going on in Portage Falls. A bypass coming closer to town threatens wet lands and the residents are divided on the next phase of the construction.  When environmental activist Bruce Twohill comes to save the wetlands some consider him a savior while others like Police Chief John MacDougal are suspicious of this stranger. Another dead body is discovered and the buzz around town thinks it’s connected with the first body.  Returning characters from The Blue Rose plus new and interesting or quirky characters add color to the small town of Portage Falls in this second book in The Catherine Jewell Mystery Series.

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Both books are available on Amazon and Smashwords

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You can contact Gloria at:
Website: www.gloriaalden.com
http://writerswhokill.blogspot.com

Categories: Horses, Mystery, nature, outdoors, ponies, riding, Romantic suspense, Trail riding, Uncategorized, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Personalities and Horses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/pictureclara/4888162686/”>Clara S.</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
 
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/abejorro34/4125411682/”>abejorro34</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
Categories: horse personalities, Horses, nature, outdoors, riding, training horses, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sex and the Single Horse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Brown horse and rider: photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/highwayoflife/4858113130/”>Highway of Life</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
Mare and foal: photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/nomanson/2645376508/”>nomanson</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
Stallion: photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/valeehill/2431865552/”>valeehill</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
Categories: horse care, horse personalities, Horses, nature, riding, training horses, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Best Friend … Best Teacher


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/bombeador/389080670/”>Eduardo Amorim</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
Categories: horse care, horse personalities, Horses, nature, outdoors, riding, Trail riding, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Cutting Horses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re up now, Shawn,” Pepper said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Thrill of Cutting:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlnZ5roGPF4

Houston Rodeo Professional Cutting Horse Competition:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCRzUjn4I7I

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/goingslo/8579683395/”>goingslo</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/marine_corps/5998112297/”>United States Marine Corps Official Page</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

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

Barns, Blankets and Basic Care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/charlesfred/598978125/”>CharlesFred</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

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

THE HORSE NEVER DIES!

Today I’m going to switch my animal loving guests to Mondays, while I’ll continue my posts on Wednesdays.

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My first Monday guest is Shannon Kennedy, who also writes as Josie Malone.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs a child, Shannon loved to dream away the days in an old cherry tree on her family’s pony farm. In her imagination, the tree became a beautiful Arabian stallion, a medieval castle and even a pirate ship. She got in trouble for making her bratty little sisters walk the plank, but hey, they never broke any bones. On rainy days, she headed for her fort in the hayloft. While the rain thudded on the cedar shingled roof, she read books, eventually trading Carolyn Keene for Georgette Heyer. Today, she lives on the family ranch in the Cascade foothills. Now, she’s teaching the kids and grandkids of the ones she taught way back when we started. She’s had a lot of adventures over the years and plans to write all about them.  Hope you enjoy reading about them!

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Take it away Shannon!

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I live on the family farm, a riding stable in the Cascade foothills. I organize most of the riding programs, teach horsemanship around my day-job as a substitute teacher, nurse sick horses, hold for the shoer, train whoever needs it – four-legged and two-legged.  And write mainstream western romances as Josie Malone for SirenBookStrand.  I write young adult realistic fiction under what the kids at the barn call my “real name,” Shannon Kennedy for Black Opal Books and Fire & Ice YA.

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Writing what I know means horses show up in most of my books. Because it’s fiction, the horse never dies – unlike real life. My veterinarian, Dr. Tim Cavenaugh of All Creatures Great and Small up in Arlington, Washington says, “We choose to love those who have a shorter life span than we do,” and I’ve lost my share of dearly beloved horses over the past forty years. In March 2011, my equine companion of almost twenty-four years, Lucky Lady died of cancer and I’m still grieving her.

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So, what can I tell you about horses? And how do you make them authentic in your books? First, remember that although they’re big, they’re also surprisingly fragile in spite of their size. A horse has one stomach so it is not like a cow, a goat or a deer. The stomach is small, so the horse eats approximately twenty hours a day in the wild and sleeps four hours, usually in naps.

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Adult horses still lie down but not for long, about fifteen minutes. Lady used to empty the whole barn when she snored. She would lie down for a half hour and her weight; all eleven-hundred pounds would press on her lungs. She would groan as if she were dying. I’d run down to the barn and get her to roll up on her chest. Then, she would go back to normal breathing. Of course, once I interrupted nap-time, she would stand up and give me the look that meant “Just where are the carrots, Mom?”

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I love horses and I was thrilled when I found a publishing house that does too. My latest series from Fire & Ice YA centers around Shamrock Stable, a fictional “down-home” riding stable near Marysville, WA. The first book came out in this summer. No Horse Wanted is the story of Robin Gibson who wants a 1968 Presidential blue Mustang for her birthday. When she gets the opportunity to choose a horse of her own, Robin isn’t happy.

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I based the horse she rescues on one that I actually brought to our barn several years ago. Lady made a guest appearance and my wonderful editor allowed me to dedicate this book to the two horses that inspired it. The second book in the series, No Time For Horses will be out in October. Deck The Stalls, a holiday novella comes out in November/December. I hope you enjoy the Shamrock Stable series and the horsy facts that make the stories authentic.

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Happy Writing and Riding!

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Shamrock Stable, Book 1 – NO HORSE WANTED

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No Horse WantedThe only thing that Robin Gibson wants for her sixteenth birthday is a 1968 Presidential Blue Mustang. Following their family tradition, what her parents promise her is a horse of her own, one with four legs, not four wheels. Mom competes in endurance riding, Dad does calf roping, her older brother games and her older sister loves three-day eventing, but Robin proudly says that she doesn’t do horses. She’ll teach her controlling family a lesson by bringing home the worst horse she can find, a starved, abused two-year-old named Twaziem.

Robin figures she’ll nurse him back to health, sell him and have the money for her car. Rescuing and rehabilitating the Morab gelding might be a bigger challenge than what she planned. He comes between her and her family. He upsets her friends when she looks after his needs first. Is he just an investment or is he part of her future? And if she lets him into her heart will she win or will she lose?

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http://www.fireandiceya.com/authors/shannonkennedy/nohorsewanted.html

http://www.amazon.com/Horse-Wanted-Shamrock-Stable-ebook/dp/B00F6EMBK2/

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You can contact Shannon at:

www.josiemalone.com

www.shannonkennedybooks.com

Categories: Horses, nature, outdoors, riding, training horses, Uncategorized, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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