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Calming Signals: Are You Listening?

A nice thoughtful article.

Relaxed & Forward: AnnaBlakeBlog

WMcalmingsignalIf you are standing next to your horse and he looks away, do you think he’s distracted or even disrespectful? When your horse yawns, is he sleepy or bored? If he moves slowly, is he lazy? These are important cues from your horse, are you hearing him correctly?

When it comes to communicating with horses, some humans are a bit like a self-obsessed rock star who throws a temper tantrum and trashes the room, but then assumes everyone wants his autograph. By equine standards, we ignore those around us and begin by screaming bloody-murder and escalate from there. Part of respecting a horse is remembering that their senses are much keener than ours. We can whisper.

It is just like man’s vanity and impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions.  ~Mark Twain. 

Horses give us calming signals, just like dogs. Norwegian dog…

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How Do We Talk With One Another?

Excellent approach to the current controversies.

Marsha R. West

I keep reading FB posts from folks who are sick of all the politics on FB. Just get over it, they say. The election is over. They are correct. The election is over. However, the art of governing goes on. I’ve seen posts I don’t like and I just hide them. I’ve not unfriended anyone, because over and above their thoughts on politics and elections, they are good people. We just see the world differently. Hard to remember sometimes. Bottom line, democracy is messy. MP900341744

So how do we move past this impasse, where even Facts are questioned and Truth? Truth appears to be in the eye of the beholder.

My newspaper ran a guest editorial in Wednesday’s paper and the author, Chris Satullo, a former columnist and editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer made suggestions for talking with people we disagree with. I’m sharing some of his comments below, but I’ve…

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Gratitudes

Last week, my online friend Jo-Ann Carson suggested doing blogs on the things we are grateful for, and I agreed to contribute. So I’m returning to blogging by talking about three things I appreciate. Of course, my loving, supportive husband and my fabulous kids and grandchildren are at the top of my list, but today I’m focusing other things I’m so glad to have.

sunset-2a

I’m extremely grateful for the wonderful horses that shared my life for so long. They taught me so much and gave their unconditional love when things times were difficult. I was born horse-crazy and never had any fear of the big animals, even as a toddler. I was convinced they would never hurt me. One of my earliest memories was of Babs, my brother’s horse. She was a sweet thing that I used to ride around the neighborhood when I was three or four. I also used to pester her when she was grazing, trying to make her do a trick. One day she’d apparently had enough and I went crying into the house with the top of my head all slobbery, saying Babs had pulled my hair. One of my first lessons in respect for another being.horse and child

(Not me, but could have been. 🙂 )

All the horses I’ve dealt with have taught me different things. One of the most important was that praise and carrots accomplished much more than harshness. As a twelve-year old with no formal instruction, I was able to teach my Star circus tricks with just carrots and persistence. The habit of praise and reward are so ingrained in me, I do it automatically with any animal I encounter.

Another set of things I’m very grateful for are the spectacular sunsets I can see from our new house. We are now up in the hills with a wooded slope on one side that drops down into the canyon behind us. Since this area is Regional Open Space, our only neighbors are deer, wild turkeys, raccoons, hawks, vultures and lots of other birds, including a large owl who has recently started coming by in the evenings. Unfortunately, coyotes are also part of this open area, as we discovered when our elderly cat disappeared on Labor Day.

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On the other side of our house, we can see a portion of San Francisco Bay and with this view comes mind-blowing sunsets. For most of my adult life, I’ve lived 30-40 minutes from the ocean, so I’ve seen many wonderful sunsets. However, the ones I see from up here are simply spectacular. I’m not sure why they seem so much better, but I certainly love them.

spectacular-clouds

The last thing I’ll give thanks for today is my new knee. Last March, after many long years of my right leg not working properly, and many attempts to make it better without surgery (including a type of stem cell therapy), I finally gave in and had my knee replaced. The surgery went well, but the anesthesiologist gave me a medicine I had told him I couldn’t tolerate, so the aftermath was more unpleasant than it needed to be. Despite that, I recovered well and am now amazed at being able to walk normally again. Even when my knee didn’t hurt, I couldn’t move freely and had to be careful. Now I can do stairs and hike the hills much more easily. Next month, I’ll do my left knee and should be able to take on the trails behind our house with little problem. I don’t look forward to the recovery phase, but I’ve found an excellent physical therapy clinic and know they’ll make it as painless as possible.

So, what are you grateful for? In this difficult time, it’s wise to focus on the good things in our lives. What makes you smile? What inspires you to dance?

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Exploding 3 Amazon Myths About Author Rankings

Good intro to an important article f or authors.

Jo-Ann Carson

I read an awesome article, Mythbusting the Amazon Algorithm Reviews and Ranking for Authors, by Kate Baum on SPR (Self-Publishing Review) recommended by an author on the Guppie loop. I can`t reblog it as it’s not a WP blog, so I thought instead  I’d examine three of the myths she talk about. I highly recommend the whole article

“MYTH 1 – Nobody knows how the Amazon Algorithm Works

TRUTH – Yes they do.

The Amazon Algorithm is an A9 algorithm, a pretty run-of-the-mill product search engine with a personalization built in. A9 is a company in Palo Alto that creates product algorithms, code that tells Amazon’s website how to sort and load product lists for each customer’s experience. Anyone who wants to read about how this algorithm works has to do nothing more than search for information online and read the manuals, forums, science articles, and a myriad…

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Memories

Memories of a sweet, loving friend

Writing Wranglers and Warriors

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Kate 2Kate Wyland
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We put down my last horse three weeks ago. Glory (officially Fallen Queen) was 31, mostly blind from cataracts, had Cushings disease and arthritis. I hadn’t ridden her for the past two years because her blindness caused her to stumble and, with her arthritis, I couldn’t take a chance on her falling. As long as she was in a familiar place her lack of sight hadn’t seemed to bother her too much until recently. Then things changed.

A couple of months ago, she somehow hurt herself in her stall, cutting her upper eyelid, and injuring her hip and front leg. Presumably she got tangled in a fence when rolling and had a hard time getting free. We had to have the vet out for her eye, but the other stuff healed quickly. She became jumpy and nervous after that, not understanding why she hurt and what…

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Dancing with Conscious Beings

Good article about something I’ve been aware of for years.

Tango with Horses

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Horses are sensitive.  They are cognitive, meaning they are capable of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses (Oxford dictionary definition). They are sentient.  They are conscious.  (There is an interesting philosophical history of these terms on Wikipedia should you be interested. )

On July 7, 2012 a group of neuroscientists met at Cambridge to discuss the overwhelming amount of research that has been done that proves that non-human animals are conscious in a way very similar to humans.  Witnessed by Stephen Hawking, these prominent scientists signed a document entitled The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, stating:

“Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds…

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A Magical Evening

I’m re-blogging this because I want to share this with everyone, particularly my horsey friends.

Source: A Magical Evening

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Alternative Care For Horses

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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.

******

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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

Riding or Equitation

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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

Idea Hunter

Fun post on hunting up ideas. Useful for lots of things besides writing – including out-of-the-box training techniques.

Writing Wranglers and Warriors

PortraitThis post by Craig Snider.

There are typically two breeds of writers. There are the types who have lots of writing ideas. And, then there’s the kind who, well–don’t. For that breed with lots of ideas. We hate you. And, as such, you are not the topic of conversation today… So there. For the rest of us, how can we find an idea that inspires us to take up the pen and begin a story? Let’s see if we can try to find out.

Idea hunting is a skill passed down from our knuckle-dragging forefathers. It takes patience, skill, and yes, a little bit of luck. The first thing to know about idea hunting is that it isn’t an exact science. It is, in fact, something more of an art. Though, practice will help alleviate the level of difficulty.

To be a good idea hunter, you need a 

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