Posts Tagged With: animals

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.

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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

Meet My Character – A Blog Tour

desert

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

Using Animals To Promote Plot and Theme

DJ Adamson.

My guest is D.J. Adamson, an award-winning author who has recently released her noir mystery novel Admit to Mayhem.  Her family roots grow deep in the Midwest where she sets much of her work. She juggles her time between her own desk and teaching others writing at two Los Angeles Colleges. Today she’s going to talk about how to use animals in your stories to reveal character and theme.

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I remember Stephen King once saying that if you were writing horror, you need to put a dog or child into the plot because the vulnerability of someone innocent creates horror without a need for a lot of words or description. In his novella Secret Window, the protagonist finds his dog on his doorstep, killed. Horrible! Immediately the reader feels the protagonist is threatened by someone evil. And the reader is waiting for the next horrible act. Blake Synder’s book Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need picks up on another animal use. Synder states that if the character does something nice, like saving a cat, then the character is immediately endeared to the reader. By the way, I think the Cohen Brother’s offered a giggle to Synder’s book by having their character in Inside Llewyn Davis literally save a cat and carry it around most of the movie. A joke the audience may not have gotten, but those of us who write immediately understood.

I use a cat in my novel Admit to Mayhem, a Lillian Dove Mystery series to do both what King and Synder suggest. I want the use of Bacardi to say something about my protagonist:

Cat Bacardi’s my cat, named for his brown and yellow coloring and my first drinking preference of rum and Coke. At the age of twelve, if you add enough cola, you forget all about the sweet tang of rum. Plus, Bacardi’s hair frizzed out from his body as if he’d stuck his claw in a light socket. When my hair was shorter, I’d woken up many a morning with that same look.

My protagonist Lillian Dove is a recovered alcoholic with a 5 year sobriety; however, sobriety is not a dominate theme in the book. This is not another novel about a protagonist that cannot keep sober (be it alcohol or drugs). Instead, Lillian’s objective in the novel and series is to take on life anew, with all its emotional, behavioral, and mystery challenges. With the description and affinity to her pet, I wanted the reader to get a feel for Lillian’s troubling past without doing a lot of backstory.

The overall plot of the novel begins when Lillian discovers a house fire and she becomes the only eyewitness to criminal arson. She is in jeopardy from someone who wants to stop her from identifying them. The plot is paced with events to create Lillian’s angst, but again, I wanted to offer my reader the vicarious ability to feel her anxiety and fear. So, I put Bacardi in jeopardy:

        It came to me then what was missing.

       “Where’s Bacardi? Bacardi’s missing.”

        “Who?”

        “My cat.” I got down on my hands and knees and looked under the couch. Dust bunnies but no Bacardi. “Bacardi, where are you?” …I got in my car and drove one block after another, up one street and then the next, calling his name out into the night… “Bacardi?” I followed behind them, “Here kitty, kitty, kitty.”

        When I did get back to the condo, I couldn’t stay still. I searched each and every cranny I could think where he might possibly have crawled. Then I went back outside.

        I went without the Mustang this time. I walked and walked and walked the night away, calling.

        Several cats answered my calls. They patted quietly up to me purring as they rubbed against my legs. Others merely meowed back a hello. None were Bacardi. I know Bacardi’s yowl. It wasn’t until I came dragging back to the condo, exhausted, with a voice hoarse and feelings of failure that I allowed myself to truly take in the idea, “What if he never comes back? What if something bad happened to him?”

        Pike?

Pike is the major antagonist, and while Lillian may be threatened by Pike, and her mother may be threatened, having him possibly taken Bacardi is almost more than she can emotionally handle.

My novel is an amateur-sleuth novel which I classify as a soft-edged Midwest Noir. But no matter whether a writer is developing a conventional mystery, cozy, thriller or horror novel, the use of animals can help offer themes and provide movement of plot.

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Mayhem

 

With a contrary attitude to life and an addiction for independence, Lillian Dove admits she has not been a success in life. In fact, she considers failing as one of her addictions. Yet, when she comes across a suspicious house fire with a history of arson and murder, she instinctively attempts to help someone trapped. Lillian becomes the only possible eyewitness to criminal arson, and her life begins to spiral out of control.

 

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You can get Admit To Mayhem at:

http://www.amazon.com/Admit-Mayhem-Lillian-Dove-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00N1L0RVC/

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To learn more DJ and her books, go to:

Website:  http://djadamson.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/D-J-Adamson/154012774648993?ref=hl

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/@adamson_dj

Categories: animals, Cats, Mystery, writing, writing characters | Tags: , , , , | 8 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?

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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

Fat Cats and Dead Bodies

Janet Cantrell

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Ready for some dessert bars combined with mystery? My guest today is Kaye George, AKA Janet Cantrell, Agatha nominated mystery novelist and short story writer. Her cozy Fat Cat mystery series debuted yesterday! with FAT CAT AT LARGE, featuring Quincy, a pudgy, adorable feline. An accomplished escape artist, especially when he’s on a diet and hungry, Quincy leads his human, Chase, co-owner of a Minneapolis dessert bar shop, into serious trouble.

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What prompted you to write Fat Cat?

The basis of this plot was the idea of my editor at Berkley Prime Crime, Danielle Stockley. I took to it right away, since I’ve had many beloved cats, some of them on the chubby side. Also, the series was to take place in Minneapolis, a place where I loved living.

Do you like to bake as much as your heroine does?

I won’t say I bake like Charity Oliver does. Chase bakes a lot! She co-owns a dessert bar shop, after all, so it’s her livelihood. But I do love baking. I’m not adventurous and usually follow recipes, but writing this series has encouraged me to try things I otherwise wouldn’t, since each book includes a dessert bar recipe. (Also a healthy cat treat recipe.) I will say that I prefer baking to cooking. Unfortunately, I like to eat what I bake, and definitely don’t need to eat a lot of dessert bars!

How do you develop your stories?

I’ve settled on my own method for my last several books, based on a combination of several classes I’ve taken from Kris Neri, Mary Buckham, and Margie Lawson. These aid in developing the main characters and the story of the crime. When I start writing, I use a spreadsheet I’ve developed that works for me. I keep track of my characters, hair and eye color, what car they drive, mannerisms, etc. on one sheet. I put the timeline with major plot events on another, then fill in details as I’m writing them. I like to color code themes and suspects. I can tell at a glance which subplots or characters I’m leaving out for too long—or dwelling on for too long.

If you were a color, which one would you be?

I hate to say blue, because that sounds sad. But I think blue is very nice, the color of the sky and water. Because my eyes are blue-ish, I like to wear blue to make them look more so. Otherwise they just look muddy gray. But blue is soothing and smooth and I’d like to be smooth and calm all the time!

What’s your next project?

I’ve finished up book two, Fat Cat Spreads Out, and am awaiting the edits on it while I start in on book three, as yet untitled. I’m also polishing Requiem for Red, which is the sequel to the Cressa Carraway book, Eine Kleine Murder. On the short story front, I’ll have stories in Murder on Wheels (being published by Wildside Press) and Memphis Noir (pubbed by Akashic Noir) in 2015. Choke, my first Imogene Duckworthy book, is now being offered as part of a boxed set of humorous mysteries, so that’s not a new project, but a new packaging. The audio recordings of the next two, Smoke and Broke, will be done by the end of the year.

Coffee or tea? Beer or wine? Sweet or tart?

Tea and wine (although Scotch would be better). And definitely sweet!

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FAT CAT AT LARGE coverWhen she’s not dreaming up irresistible dessert bars for her Minneapolis treatery, Bar None, Charity “Chase” Oliver is running after her cat, Quincy—a tubby tabby with a gift for sniffing out edibles. But what happens when this cat burglar leads Chase to the scene of a real crime?

The jig is up for Chase’s adorable plus-size cat, Quincy. His new vet says “diet”—that means no more cherry cheesecake bars. From now on he gets low-calorie kibble only. But one taste of the stuff is all it takes to drive him in search of better things. Quincy’s escape is the last thing Chase needs after the nasty run-in she has with underhanded business rival Gabe Naughtly.

Chase tracks Quincy down in a neighbor’s kitchen, where he’s devouring a meatloaf, unaware of the much more serious crime he’s stumbled upon. Gabe’s corpse is lying on the kitchen floor, and when Chase is discovered at the murder scene, she becomes suspect number one. Now, with a little help from her friends—both human and feline—she’ll have to catch the real killer or wind up behind bars that aren’t so sweet.

INCLUDES RECIPES FOR PEOPLE AND CATS!

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The wooden floor planks creaked as she tiptoed across the living room. Chase flinched with each footfall, her nape hairs prickling. No one appeared at the top of the stairs to her right, yelling at her to get out, so she kept going. She hoped Quincy was in the kitchen, where the food was. If not, she would have to think about exploring further. Quincy could be crouched inside an empty room, scared. For all his fierce bravado, he was a small animal, and vulnerable in so many ways. What if this household owned a pit bull? Or a mastiff? She almost whimpered aloud thinking about it.

Chase braced herself with a deep breath, inhaling another whiff of the delicious aroma, and peeked around the corner into the kitchen. Sure enough, Quincy sat on the counter, devouring the meatloaf. But what caught Chase’s attention was the man, lying on his side on the floor beside some scraps of paper, his back to her. She knew him.

She breathed his name. “Gabe? Gabe?”

Quincy turned his head toward her and blinked his gorgeous amber eyes, then returned to his task. Gabe must be injured, she thought. She knelt and shook his stiff shoulder. No response. She rolled him onto his back. Gasped. A steak knife was stuck in his chest. That couldn’t be good! She reached toward the handle to pull out the knife, touched it, then hesitated, and started to draw her hand back.

A soft voice from the doorway said, “What have you done?”

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You can find FAT CAT AT LARGE at:

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/fat-cat-at-large-janet-cantrell/1118663280?ean=9780425267424
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Fat-Cat-At-Large-Mystery/dp/0425267423/

Learn more about Kaye/Janet by joining her:

website: http://janetcantrell01.wix.com/fat-cat-mysteries
blog: http://janetcantrell.blogspot.com/
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/janet.cantrell.167
goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7855179.Janet_Cantrell

 

Categories: animals, anthologies, Books, Cats, cozy mysteries, Mystery, Short story, writing | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Introvert or Extrovert?

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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

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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

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palomino

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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leopard

blanket appy

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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.

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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

Paints, Palominos and Other Pretty Horses, Part 1

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Horses come in an amazing variety of colors, most of which have been created by man. Genuinely wild (not feral) horses, like the Przewalski’s horse, are a tan or dun color. All the color combinations we see today including wildly colored spots are a result of controlled breeding. One site I looked up listed over fifty different color names.

We’re all familiar with the basic white, black, brown, and grey. Did you know there are variations in these base colors? A true white horse has pink skin, but most of the “whites” we see are actually light greys and have black skin. The Lippizans of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna are an example. They are born a dark color, usually black, and gradually lighten as they mature. They go through various stages of grey until most of them turn a snowy white. However, they keep the dark skin they started with.

 

Grey mare gone white with dark foal that will grey out

Grey mare gone white with dark foal that will grey out

Flea-bitten grey

Flea-bitten grey

Most grey horses follow the same pattern. They start dark and gradually lighten. Many will also turn a snowy white and can look quite unusual when you give them a bath. If they originally had white markings—a blaze or stockings—those areas will look pink, while their dark skin will show through on the rest of the body. Greys have different color variations. There are dark, steel greys that have an even mixture of white and black hair. Dapple greys have their dark coat covered with white circles or dapples. Rose greys have a pinkish tinge because their base color is brown instead of black. Flea-bitten greys are those that have tiny black or brown spots flecked through their coats that make them look freckled. Some start flea-bitten and lighten with age. Others start darker and turn flea-bitten.

 

The most common color is brown, either chestnut or bay. There are very dark browns that often look black but their muzzles and eye areas are brown. Going down the brown color scale there are liver chestnuts with quite dark coats, chestnuts—reddish brown, sorrels—light red-brown, often with flaxen (blond) manes and tails, and light chestnuts that look almost tan.

Liver chestnut

Liver chestnut

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Sorrel

Sorrel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bays also come in a variety of color tones but always have black manes, tails and legs. The black on the legs usually extends to the knees and may be partly or mostly covered by white makings. Mahogoney bays can be so dark you can’t easily see the black points, but they still are bays. Blood bays have a rich, dark red color, while copper bays have more of an orangey color. The lightest is the golden bay.

Bays with white covering their black points

Bays with white covering their black points

Bright Bay

Bright Bay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The least common of the base colors is black. True blacks have no lighter colors other than white markingsblack horse. Most blacks will fade (turn rusty colored) when out in the sun. Some have a blue-black coat that doesn’t fade. Even if sunburned the area around the muzzle or eyes is still black. Many blacks start out grey or dun and don’t turn dark until they shed out their foal coat.

Next time I’ll talk about the wonderful color combinations that are so popular in the horse world.

What’s your favorite color?

Categories: animals, horse colors, Horses, nature, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 17 Comments

Stubborn as a Mule

Mule.

Most of the time on this blog, I talk about things related to horses. Today I’m going to discuss another type of equine – mules.

We’ve all heard expressions such as “stubborn as a mule” and “mule-headed,” implying that mules are uncooperative and unpleasant. If they actually are that bad, why were they developed in the first place and why are some people so devoted to them?

Mules are a hybrid cross between a donkey and a horse. Usually a donkey stallion (jack) and a horse mare because the mother has the most influence on the size of the offspring. A hinney is produced by breeding a horse stallion to a donkey and is usually smaller. (Both are referred to as mules.) Almost all mules are two mulessterile due to having an odd number of chromosomes (63). VERY rarely a mare mule may reproduce, but there is no record of a fertile mule stallion.

Mules come in all shapes and sizes from minis (36”) to drafts (17 hands). The average size is slightly smaller than a horse. However they have the hardiness and endurance of a donkey, which made them invaluable for farming and carrying cargo. President George Washington was convinced that they were superior to horses for agricultural work and devoted a lot effort to developing a useful breed of mules. He’s considered the “father of American mules.”

 

While tractors and mechanization reduced the mules’ role on the farm, they are still valued for their ability to carry weight. All over the world they still serve as pack animals, transporting cargo in areas where vehicles can’t go. Due to their sure-footedness, they are invaluable in mountainous areas. They are used for packing trips, carry riders down into the Grand Canyon, and even pack muletransport military supplies in the Afghanistan.

Today, at least in the Western world, they are mostly used for pleasure. Mules can do anything a horse can and are now being shown in every type of class from English and Western Pleasure to Dressage and Reining. They even have their own exclusive event, known as the Coon Hunter’s Jump. In the South, farmers would hunt raccoons that were raiding their farms and during the chase would often encounter wire fences which were hard to see. So they’d put a coat or blanket over the wire and ask their mules to jump over from a standing start. The mules are so good at this type of jumping it evolved into a contest. Instead of running up to a jump as horses do, the mules clear up to six feet from a stand still!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kO-ULQOzV6s

What about the reputed stubbornness? It depends on who you ask. Mules are extremely intelligent – some say smarter than horses due to the hybrid vigor that also makes them stronger. They tend to have strong opinions about things. While horses can be literally worked to death, a mule will stop and say “no more.” They also will not accept harsh handling. So someone who tries to force a mule will encounter stiff resistance. But if you “ask” you can get a very willing, loyal partner. Many people dearly love their mules and prefer them to horses.

I once went on a day long trail ride on a Tennessee Walking Horse mule. While she didn’t gait, she did have a wonderful, ground-covering walk that was very comfortable to ride. How about you? Have you had any experiences with a mule? Gone into the Grand Canyon or packed into the mountains?

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Mule photo credit: http://tinyurl.com/oh37tl5
Pack mule: http://tinyurl.com/nzezt8s
Two mules photo credit: http://tinyurl.com/m8lvtde

 

Categories: animals, Coon Hunter's Jump, Horses, Jumping, Mules, nature, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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