Posts Tagged With: nature

Kentucky Horse Park

Kentucky Horse park.

Last month, guest Kathryn Jane told us interesting facts about the Kentucky Derby. This week I’d like to talk about the Kentucky Horse Park, a unique facility celebrating America’s horses.

Located in Lexington, the home of the Kentucky Derby, the Park is a tribute to the racing Thoroughbred. A huge statue of Man of War stands over his grave in a courtyard near the entrance. On the path leading up to the memorial are markers showing the stride length of a few of the most famous Thoroughbreds of all time. The distance that Secretariat covered in one leap vividly demonstrates why he is still the fastest horse ever. All throughout the park you will find statues and graves of many famous racers and other tributes to the state’s most important industry. In addition, at the Haman of warll of Champions you can see retired Thoroughbred, Standardbred and Quarter Horse racing champions exhibited daily.

The Park was designed as a living museum dedicated to all horses, not just Thoroughbreds. One of its most fascinating features is the International Museum of the Horse, the world’s largest museum chronicling the history of the horse and its importance to man. Associated with the Smithsonian, the IMH uses its 60,000 feet to educate the public about the horse’s unique contributions to human history. As you walk up a long, winding ramp you follow the development of the horse and its various roles throughout time. Also there are interactive exhibits about the Arabian horse, the Kentucky Thoroughbred, Draft horses, Horse Shows, the famous Buffalo Soldiers, and horse-drawn vehicles. In addition to the IMH, there are the American Saddlebred museum and the Wheeler museum, which details all aspects of the hunter/jumper world.

KHP tourOne of the most popular attractions is the Horses of the World. Over thirty different breeds live in the Park and are featured in daily shows or tours. Many unique horses with costumed riders are presented and after the shows visitors can meet and pet their favorites. In addition there are horse drawn tours and carriage rides, horseback riding and pony rides, and in the Spring mares and foals to visit.

If you are at all into horses and end up near Lexington, you should try to visit the Kentucky Horse Park. It’s a fascinating and totally unique experience that the whole family should enjoy—especially any horse crazy female members.

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Photo Kentucky Horse Park courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/rbglasson/3742826141
Photo Mar of War Memorial courtesy of http://www.fotopedia.com/items/kweaver2-JCMfVLC4B
Photo Horse Drawn Tour courtesy of myoldkentucky.blogspot.com/2007/10/kentucky-h
 
Categories: Horses, International Museum of the Horse, Kentucky, Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Horse Park, nature, outdoors, Racing, Show jumping, stables, Thoroughbreds, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 14 Comments

Falling For You Again

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kate curranToday I’m welcoming another Kate–Kate Curran, author of the recently released Falling For You…Again. Kate started her creative journey writing fiction, but got sidetracked to a career in photojournalism, specializing in agriculture. Fifteen years later, she went back to her first love and published three children’s books. Now she has switched her talents to romance. Falling For You is her second romance novel.

Here’s Kate Curran:

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Watson Falls

Watson Falls

Waterfalls intrigue me. Always have always will. Their beauty and mystery draw me both as a photographer and a writer. Some of my very favorite waterfalls are in Oregon.  Highway 138 from Diamond Lake to Roseburg is referred to as the Highway of Waterfalls. (http://tinyurl.com/mvkz9cs) Watson Falls is spectacular. Toketee Falls is on my must see list. And further north, east of Portland is Multnomah Falls. Spectacular. Someday I picture a waterfall in one of my books to add intrigue and color.

My early romance reading days consisted of Kathleen Woodiwiss, LaVyrle Spencer, Joan Johnston, Nora Roberts, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Heather Graham. These are the ladies who inspired me to write my own book

What prompted me to write a book of my own?  I’ve always got something to say J.  I would call my stories deeply emotional. I talk about family relationships, and I look for ways to resolve issues. They won’t be perfect, but my characters will learn to communicate and find better ways to resolve their issues.

My current book, Falling For You…Again is about a couple, Clare and Ethan Burke who have basically had a fairytale marriage until their 14 year-old daughter, Grace, dies in a boating accident.  Ethan almost dies in the same accident.  As the story begins two years later, Clare and Ethan are on the verge of divorce until Clare goes missing on a photo shoot.  A blizzard is eminent and they both discover their love is stronger than either of them realized.

To me this isn’t a story about death and dying, but a story of survival and that there can be happiness, and love and an engaged life after losing a child. A fan whose daughter died in her early twenties told me she wasn’t sure she could the read book, but she did. She said it didn’t bring her down, but uplifted her. And that’s what I want to give my readers. A few tears, some laughs, romance and an ending that warms their heart.

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They vowed to love each other forever, then grief tore them apart.

Clare and Ethan Burke carved out a life in Paradise Falls, Idaho. While Clare built a career as an outdoor photographer, Ethan taught eighth-grade science. They raised three children and had a happily-ever-after life until tragedy struck and their daughter was killed in a boating accident.

Two years later Clare and Ethan still love each other, but their grief has pushed them to the brink of divorce. Their problems become insignificant when Clare leaves for a photo shoot into the mountains and doesn’t return. With a blizzard looming, Ethan must move heaven and earth to find her.

Will they get a second chance or lose each other forever?

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Available on:
Amazon:  http://tinyurl.com/o4raxml
Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/402961
Barnes & Noble:  http://tinyurl.com/lb5zjv3

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Present day, Paradise Falls, Idaho…

Clare Burke bolted upright in bed.

The hazy light of dawn filtered through the French doors and sent a halo of light over the shimmering image at the foot of the bed.

“Grace.” Two years and two days since her death, and her daughter still came to her, comforted her.

Questions overrode logical thought, but rather than sort through them she blurted out the one that continually weighed on her. “Are you happy?”

Grace smiled that smile that would drive a hermit in search of companionship, then vanished.

Had she been real or imaginary? The lines were as blurred as Grace’s image.

Tears welled in Clare’s eyes, and her heart absorbed a wave of grief. Why had Grace been taken from her? Why her child? All she had left of the daughter she loved were memories. Memories of pursed lips hiding braces, purple-streaked blonde hair and the snort of teenage sarcasm.

The faint light illuminated the sky blue walls. The room should have made her think of wide open spaces, but instead it had become her prison.

She stared at the stack of self-help books on her nightstand. She knew the titles as intimately as she did herself. Learn to Grieve, Living Without Your Loved One and her more recent pick,  The Top Three Reasons Marriages Fail: Finances, Communication, and Emotional Detachment.

The knot wedged in her stomach wound tighter as she stared through a blur of tears at her husband, Ethan, sound asleep, twisted around the down comforter like a deranged pretzel.

When was the last time she’d felt truly connected to him?

Two years and two days.

They’d embraced life back then, now they tolerated it. They were shells of their former selves—colorless imitations of the vibrant couple they’d once been. Back then she would have told him about Grace’s visits. Now they were barely civil to each other. Ethan was here physically. Emotionally, he had become as untouchable as Grace.

The faint shriek of their oldest son, Jack’s, alarm filtered through the adjoining wall.

Tousled brown hair poked above the covers. A pair of matching brown eyes slowly opened and stared back at Clare.

“What time is it?”

Once upon a time that raspy voice had been her idea of a mating call. Now she felt a desperate ache that nothing filled. “Six.”

His knuckles grazed her cheek. “Still a while until we have to get up.”

Clare knew that tone, the darkening of his eyes, the wisp of a smile that had once held the promise of bliss. It would be impossibly easy to say yes, to curl into him and ignore the fact that sex for her had become as tempting as unflavored gelatin.

She pressed his hand to her cheek. “Could we just hold each other and talk instead?” Her words stripped the smile from his face.

He rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling. “Honestly, Clare, I’m all talked out.”

“I’m not.” She desperately wanted to recapture the closeness they’d shared, and the only way she knew how to do it was by talking.

He turned his head to look at her. “You never are.”

Three simple words and their bedroom became a war zone.

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You can contact Kate Curran at:

http://www.katecurran.net
http://www.facebook.com/katecurranauthorpage
http://www.twitter.com/katecurrankate3
http://www.goodreads.com/KateCurran
http://www.katecurran3.blogspot.com/

Categories: Books, dealing with death, death of a child, Love, nature, outdoors, romance, survival, suspense, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

Hunting—with Horses—not Guns

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small_210455752Man has used horses for many tasks throughout history—pulling plows, wagons and chariots, carrying loads on their backs, traveling long distances, and even hunting other animals. In fact hunting was probably one of the first uses of our equine companions. Their speed increased the chances of catching the faster prey and allowed the hunters to cover more ground. Almost everyone has seen the exciting buffalo hunt in the movie Dances With Wolves that vividly illustrated their importance to the American Plains Indians.

Riding in a hunt was dangerous and exciting. Who knew what might happen. A rider could get knocked off, a horse could trip and fall, or a prey such as a wild boar or bear could turn the tables and attack. It was a great way for warriors to hone their skills and horsemanship. As a result, hunting became a favorite pastime of the noble and wealthy.

Of course the basic purpose was to supply meat for the table or to get rid of unwanted intruders that threasmall__6465633813tened crops and livestock. One such pest was the wily fox, which found farmyard poultry easy pickings. While farmers could use dogs to track, the foxes were smart enough to backtrack and confuse their trails and lose their pursuers with relative ease. At that point a human was needed to redirect the hounds, and only someone on horseback could keep up with the chase. (Foxes can run up to thirty miles an hour.) As forests were cut down to create arable land, the number of deer decreased, causing enthusiastic hunters to switch to chasing foxes instead, particularly in Great Britain.

A whole culture developed around fox hunting in England, dictating what to wear, who could be part of a hunt, where you rode in the group and many other niceties. The most important member is the Master of the Hunt, who runs the whole show. He’s responsible for the care of the hounds, organizing the hunt and supervising all hired personnel. Often he also serves as the Huntsman, the one who controls the hounds during the chase. His assistants are the Whippers-In and they help make sure the hounds don’t go off chasismall_3137633691ng some other animal rather than the fox. Traditionally, male members of the hunt could wear red coats (often known as “pinks” for some unknown reason), while women wore black or navy coats with colored collars. Only members who have been “honored” by the Master are allowed to wear these colors. Everyone else wears black or navy.

While the original idea of fox hunting was a way to help eradicate a notorious pest, that rational is less valid today. In England, hunting and killing a real fox has now been outlawed. In the US, the emphasis has always been on the chase and foxes were rarely killed. Nowadays instead of pursuing real animals, most often the hounds and riders follow a scent trail laid down by someone dragging a bag smelling of fox. The “first field” of riders follows the trail exactly, going over all the obstacles. The “second field,” sometimes called Hilltoppers, takes an easier route, going through rather than over gates, and going around other obstacles, and sometimes stopping to watch the other riders from atop a hill.

Running full bore across uneven terrain, jumping ditches, hedges, streams, fences and other obstructions is a thrill that’s hard to beat. While the original rational for fox hunting may be long gone, the appeal of the chase will never fade.

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Buffalo photo credit: http://tinyurl.com/l67cwka
Old print photo credit: http://tinyurl.com/mxc2fpx
Fox hunt photo credit:  http://tinyurl.com/m8mrjkm
Categories: dogs, fox hunting, Horses, hounds, hunting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Sheep and Writing Stories

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borrowed chickens.

Please welcome my guest KB Inglee. KB writes historical short stories which have appeared in several print anthologies.  Her story “Weavers Trade” placed second in Bethlehem Writers Roundtable. Many of her story ideas come from her job as historical interpreter at two living history museums near her Delaware home. And sheep are often her inspiration.

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When I was 7 my sister was given riding lessons as a Christmas present. How can that be fair when I was the one who devoured every horse book in the library and turned our back yard apple tree into a whole stable of horses? The first story I wrote was about a horse named Star.

Imagine my surprise when I realized my first novel had not one single animal in it. It was set in a time when horses were common forms of transportation. I didn’t have so much as a cat in the kitchen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you are going to write historicals, you need to do the things your characters do. I visited a living history museum near my home and discovered a flock of heritage sheep. I learned to give tours, tell the story of the family that lived there. My first published work (Farmer’s Daughter, Miller’s Son) is a kid’s look at the time period. I hand stitched a set of appropriate clothing. All the while I was longing to get my hands on the sheep. I wanted to do any animal type work my characters might have done: drive oxen, plow with horses, and raise chickens. I don’t remember when I was first invited to work with the sheep, probably I got to feed them when the regular shepherds were out of town. In ten years I worked myself up to head shepherd.

I was of an age where I was happy to move from 1200 pound animals with heavy feet with iron shoes to something smaller which didn’t break bones when it stood on my toes. I have been present at the birth of lambs, had had to put down old and sick animals that have been my friends for years. I can tell you how the industrial revolution changed agriculture and how the market value of sheep has changed over the years. I can process wool from the back of the sheep to the back of the person. I even butchered a sheep.

author vs sheepIf I have a muse at all, it is these animals. Like my protagonist they appear gentle but they will happily knock you down and walk over you if you are in the way. Like my protagonist they are patient and can stand around for hours waiting. If you have food, then they will push and shove to get to it, just as my protagonist will to find the answer to a problem.

If I am stuck for an idea or the way out of a plot problem, all I have to do is stand among the sheep. I can dig my fingers deep into the wool, listen to them breathe, watch them interact with each other and with me and the visitors. It may be a form of meditation.

There are still no animals in my narratives, but I have a whole flock involved in the writing.

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Here are some of KB’s stories, available on Amazon.

Joseph's captivity.

“Joseph’s Captivity”, Untreed Reads, 2012
A grumpy Joseph finds himself exiled, not to Egypt, but to an island
off the coast of Maine in the early colonial period.

Fish Nets.

“Netted”, Fish Nets, Wildside Press, 2013
A pile of string helps uncover a murderer

Magic Bullet.

“The Magic Bullet“, Death Knell V, Infinity Press, 2013
An article in French and an old gun provide the clues to solve a series of armed robberies.

Categories: animals, anthologies, history, living history, Mystery, outdoors, sheep, Short story, suspense, Uncategorized, writing | Tags: , , , , , | 15 Comments

Gaits – Not Gates

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Today I’m going to talk about how horses move—their gaits. Contrary to what the movies usually show, horses do more than walk or run flat out. In fact the most commonly used gait of all, the trot, is only seen if they are pulling carriages. So what is the reality?

You’re probably familiar with the horse’s four natural gaits—walk, trot, canter and gallop. But did you know that some horses have six or more gaits? I’ll talk about the basics first.

small_10020981376The walk is a slow four-beat movement. First a rear foot moves, followed by the front foot on the same side, then other rear foot followed by its front. With this pattern three feet are always on the ground providing a smooth, easy ride. Horses vary greatly in size, shape and energy, but an average walk is about four miles per hour. Some have much faster walks, in the six mph range.

A good rider knows to keep his/her body still and quiet so as not to disturb the horse’s balance. If you allow yourself to move in the saddle, the horse has to constantly deal with a shifting weight that can interfere with his equilibrium. Therefore, it’s important to keep your upper body still—but not rigid. Your pelvis needs to move with the movement of the horse’s body. At the walk, this means allowing each side of your pelvis to move forward and back independently as first one rear leg steps forward and then the other. At a normal, casual walk this is usually no problem. At a speed walk, it’s surprising how tiring that can be.

The trot is a faster two-beat gait where opposite pairs of legs move at the same time. small_369623604As each pair goes forward, the horse’s back drops a bit, which causes the rider to feel a jar when the feet land and the back rises again. Learning to ride a trot comfortably is a beginner rider’s hardest task. The easiest way is to learn to post, which means rising out of the saddle and sitting back down in rhythm with the gait. Some horses do a slow jog that has very little bounce and is much easier to sit, but it doesn’t cover a lot of ground. If you want to go a long distance fairly fast, you’ll be doing most of it at a trot. This applies whether you are riding or being pulled in a carriage or coach. The trot is the “working” gait for going places. Something to keep in mind if you write about people traveling distances.

small_2431865552The horse’s third gait has a couple of names. If you are riding English style it’s a canter, but it’s a lope when you ride Western. Either way, the canter is a three-beat leaping gait with a moment of suspension, but is much smoother to ride than the trot. Here the rider needs to let her whole pelvis move forward and back with the movement. The canter or lope is a controlled fast pace that allows you to cover ground quickly, for a shorter period of time.

The gallop or full out run is the fourth standard gait and used for racing or fleeing a predator in the wild. It’s a four-beat, stretched out, ground-covering canter that can only be sustained for a relatively brief period of time—one to two miles. Despite what you see in the movies, horses can’t run fast for long periods. Usually the rider stands in the stirrups when galloping.

In addition to these standard gaits, there are a number of additional gaits specific to certain breeds. These horses are unusual and fun and I’ll talk about them next time.

Here’s video about gaits:

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Race photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/kubina/185495090/”>Jeff Kubina</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
Horse walking photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/63942879@N05/10020981376/”>Katherine Mustafa Photography</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
Horse trotting photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/nikkis_pikkis/369623604/”>nikki_tate</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
Horse cantering
Categories: dressage, Horses, nature, outdoors, Racing, riding, Thoroughbreds, training horses, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Animal Instincts

Patricia RosemoorWebUSA Today Bestselling Author Patricia Rosemoor has written 95 published novels that have generated more than seven million sales for eight publishers. Her fascination with “dangerous love” has led her to bring a different mix of thrills and chills and romance to each book. ANIMAL INSTINCTS and CRIMSON DUET (2 related holiday novels at a discounted price) are now available at digital retailers.

Welcome Patricia!

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What fun, a blog that specializes in books with horses, romance and mystery. I’ve done a few of those myself, including BORN TO BE WILD for Entangled last year. And my new Entangled Ignite, ANIMAL INSTINCTS, definitely has animals, but, alas, no horses.

            The vet was blocking my line of sight. I looked down beyond her. A wounded animal lay on the ground. Not a dog, but what looked like a scrawny coyote, its side open and soaked with blood. What was a wild animal doing here? Where had it come from?AnimalInstincts500 FINAL

I went around the camera equipment and was able to sense its heartbeat. Wanting to know if it was aware, I tuned in to it and got the weirdest sensation…help me…please…almost as if I could hear what it was thinking rather than seeing images as I normally did.  Animals never communicated with me like that.

            …hurt…can’t move…hide…

            A little spooked, I rubbed my arms and thought, We’re going to help you…won’t let you die. Then I looked to the vet.

            “Um, in case you didn’t realize it, the coyote’s alive and needs your help.”

            “It’s still alive?” The vet zeroed in on the animal. “Don’t get too close.” And glanced up at me. “Oh, it’s you.”

            “Skye Cross,” I said, but she didn’t volunteer her name.

            She knew my face like I knew hers. I had a habit of showing up when animals were in trouble, so many of the ACC vets and officers recognized me on sight.

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Skye Cross is a pet supply store owner and animal rescuer. At the beginning of ANIMAL INSTINCTS, she thinks she’s seeing that rescued dogs from a fight are safe. But they’re not dogs, they’re predators. Later she learns they’re something else altogether, and hero Luc Lazare is one of them!

bigstock-Black-Leopard--Years--4788401I loved writing this book. Actually, it practically wrote itself.

Of all the heroines I’ve written, I identify most closely with Skye. I’ve had a lifelong love with animals. Didn’t always have them because I was “allergic” and my parents wanted me to stay away from them. So I had an outside cat. When I was older, my parents did get me a dog. But once I was on my own, I started adopting cats and rescuing them from the streets of Chicago. My husband and I rescued a few dogs, too, one of whom made his home with us.

My love of animals brought me to the Lincoln Park Zoo so often that I decided to volunteer there, which I did for eleven years. And while I was still at the zoo, I decided to volunteer at the brand new PAWS Chicago adoption center. I helped socialize cats who were usually wary of humans, and helped convince visitors to adopt now. Many cats and dogs had been taken off the street by Animal Control, and on a daily basis, PAWS went to AC and took the adoptables.

PAWS also sponsored some Humane Society of Illinois meetings about passing laws against dogfighting. Wanting to spread awareness of this terrible practice, I thought to write a story in which murders were linked to dogfighting, but I became convinced that it would be a hard sell, so I switched it to shifter fights, with seeming wild animals as the combatants.

The holidays from Thanksgiving to the New Year is a time of giving, and I’m hoping that this year, those of you who can will support an animal shelter or sanctuary or zoo, whether it is by volunteering, buying gifts that help the organization or by donation. Here are a couple of places that I support:

PAWS Chicago, with it’s adoption center, spay and neuter clinic, and at the forefront of animal advocacy.

Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the last free zoos in the country.

And for all you horse lovers, the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, where I did on-site research (South Dakota) for TOUCH ME IN THE DARK, my third book in The McKenna Legacy series.

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ANIMAL INSTINCTS buy links:
Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/ko2lqu9
BN: http://tinyurl.com/kftlhhd
Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/m2uvz2r
iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/m99o29p

You can find Patricia at
Website: http://patriciarosemoor.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PatriciaRosemoorAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PRosemoor

Categories: Books, Dogs and cats, fantasy, Love, Mystery, Paranormal, romance, Romantic suspense, shape shifters, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Draft Horses – Gentle Giants

219597161_deb25f55f6_nEvery winter when I was a kid, my friends and I looked forward to the week before the Pasadena Rose Parade. That was the time when the Budweiser Clydesdale horses came to town and stayed at our local stable. We’d all ride (horses or bikes) up to the barn and hang out for hours watching their handlers bathe and groom the gentle giants. We’d never seen horses that big—approximately twice the size of our own. The average riding horse stands around 15 hands tall (five feet at the withers, where the neck joins the back) and weighs about 1000 pounds. The Clydes stood 18 hands (six feet) and weighed around 2000 pounds. They were so big their grooms had to stand on long tables in order to reach the top of their backs and necks. Their feet were three to four times bigger than our horses’ hooves and their huge horseshoes were said to weigh five pounds. They were a wonderful, exotic sight.

Of course 50 years earlier they wouldn’t have been exotic at all. For millennia draft horses were the tractors and trucks of the world. They pulled plows to work the land, logged the forests, hauled freight wagons and coaches, and sped the early fire wagons to their destinations. During World War I, the U.S. shipped more than 1,000,000 horses to Europe to haul artillery and pack supplies and ammunition.

The conformation (build) of draft horses differs from that of riding horses because they are used for pulling, instead of carrying. In addition to being big and medium_343344475powerful, they have an upright stance, which is better for working in harness, and huge hindquarters that, combined with their over-large feet, give them tremendous pulling power. Most also have lots of hair, known as feathers, on their lower legs, heavy bones and either straight or roman noses. They come in a variety of sizes, ranging from about 1300 pounds to over 2400. The largest horse on record, a Shire named Samson, was 21.2 hands high and weighed approximately 3,300 pounds.

No matter the breed, one characteristic all drafts have in common is a calm, sweet temperament. While a fiery, aggressive attitude might be desirable or at least tolerated in some riding horses, a 2000 pound hot-head would be extremely dangerous. So they’ve been bred to be patient and docile. Children routinely handle the powerful animals. The faithful, loving farm horse is not a myth.

Drafts were vitally important to American agriculture from about 1820-1920. Before that oxen were cheaper to use. But a revolution in farm machinery required bigger, more powerful and faster animals, so the work horse came into its own and helped create the breadbasket of America. Then in the 1920’s the motor vehicle entered the picture. Tractors and trucks took over and the number of drafts decreased dramatically, with some breeds actually becoming endangered.

In the 1960’s people became interested in them as pleasure animals medium_410928490and their popularity grew. Today they are mainly used at shows and parades, in pulling contests and for carriage and wagon rides. However, some are again being used for logging and farming too.

Drafts are also sometimes crossed with lighter riding horses to create sturdier sport horses used for jumping and cross-country competitions. While most drafts are used in harness they most definitely can be ridden and you will see them both on the trails and in the show ring.

Here are a couple of videos showing draft horses in action.

http://tinyurl.com/mg92hu4

http://tinyurl.com/k5vbsne

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Clydesdale photo:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/trinity/219597161/sizes/s/in/photostream/
Draft photo:  http://tinyurl.com/mfw3ce2
Three horses photo: http://tinyurl.com/ms8al65

Categories: Clydesdales, draft horses, Horses, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Evolving Mermaid

Joanne Guidoccio is my guest today and she will be talking about mermaids, since a mermaid is the heroine of her debut novel, Between Land and Sea.

Guidoccio 001In high school, Joanne dabbled in poetry, but decided to wait until she had more life experiences before writing a novel. The original plan was to get a general arts degree and take a few years off to travel and write. Instead, she gave in to her practical Italian side and obtained degrees in mathematics and education.

While she experienced many satisfying moments during her teaching career, she never found the time and energy to write. In 2008, she took advantage of early retirement. Slowly, a writing practice emerged and her articles and book reviews started appearing in newspapers, magazines and online.

Her debut novel, Between Land and Sea, a paranormal romance about a middle-aged mermaid, has just been released by Soul Mate Publishing.

THE EVOLVING MERMAID

When I announced the release of Between Land and Sea, a novel about an overweight, middle-aged mermaid, I was surprised by the subsequent comments.

The typical male response was a Duchenne smile followed by a puzzled expression and several pointed questions…

Why is she so old?

 Just how overweight is she?

 What happened to her?

The men had preconceived notions of what a mermaid should look like—wavy auburn tresses, mesmerizing green eyes and a curvaceous twenty something body.

The women, on the other hand, were intrigued by a mermaid who did not fit the stereotype and wanted to hear more about her reinvention story.

When it comes to mermaids, there can be no real consensus on their appearance. After all, they are only fictional characters subject to the whims of different cultures and time periods.

According to Greek mythology, Sirens were originally thought to be deities who had fallen from their position among the Greek gods. There is some discrepancy regarding the number of Sirens who lived off the coast of Greece (or possibly Italy). Anywhere from two to five Sirens lived on this island and lured men to their deaths with their bewitching songs. Descriptions of the Sirens varied; in some of the older myths, they had the head of woman and the body of a bird.

In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus had himself tied to the mast and ordered his men to stuff balls of wax into their ears while approaching the Sirens’ island. Only by taking these drastic measures could Odysseus ensure that no one jumped off, swam to shore, or endangered the lives of the crew. The songs of the Sirens were so hypnotic that sailors would become distracted and often steered the ship into dangerous waters or onto jagged rocks.

Among seafaring people, there are several historical claims of actual mermaid sightings. In 1610, Captain Richard Whitbourne claimed he saw a mermaid in Newfoundland’s St. James harbor. A young boy in Scotland (circa 1820) is believed to have killed a mermaid by throwing rocks at it. Unlike the beautiful Sirens in the Greek myths, the dead mermaid resembled a three-year-old child, but had a salmon’s tail instead of legs. The villagers had a funeral for the mermaid and buried it in a small coffin.

Hans Christien Anderson immortalized a kinder, gentler mermaid in The Little Mermaid. While it was my favorite fairy tale, I felt so sorry for the mute ex-mermaid who could only smile when the handsome prince married someone else. Knowing that the prince’s wedding morning would only bring heartbreak and seal her fate as “foam on the crest of waves” always saddened me.

I wanted a happily-ever-after ending for the little mermaid and the prince. But when the Disney version was released, I still wasn’t satisfied. I realize now that I wanted to read about a different kind of mermaid, one who could enjoy a happy and successful life, with or without the prince. And maybe one who wasn’t quite so young or so beautiful.

Keeping this vision of an older and wiser mermaid firmly in mind, I wrote Between Land and Sea, the first book in the Mediterranean trilogy.

*****

 betweenlandandseacoverAfter giving up her tail for an international banker, Isabella of the Mediterranean kingdom is aged beyond recognition. The horrified banker abandons her on the fog-drenched shores of southwest England, leaving her to face a difficult human journey as a plain and practically destitute fifty-three-year-old woman.

With the help of a magic tablet and online mermaid support, Isabella evolves into the persona of Barbara Davies. Along the way, she encounters a cast of unforgettable characters, among them former mermaids, supportive and not-so-supportive women, deserving and undeserving men, and several New Agers.

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*****

EXCERPT

Isabella stumbled as she got out of bed and tried to balance herself on the stumps that now served as permanent legs. She willed herself not to cry as she recalled the magnificent tail that had been the envy of the Mediterranean kingdom. Her mother and grandmother had also been blessed with the same tail. Now only Annabella held this birthright.

She heard her stomach growl and thought longingly of her favorite kelp dish. She closed her eyes and visualized the steaming goodness that would satisfy her hunger. And then she remembered that she could no longer manifest her desires.

No more powers. No more comfort and ease.

Her lips trembled as she looked about the small, neat room filled with large wooden pieces and smaller metallic ones. She tried to move one of the larger pieces and then gave up in frustration. Andrew had promised her a beautiful home with servants, and now she must live this life of ordinary humans.

The flickering of a green light caught her attention. She approached and noticed the tablet lying on one of the wooden surfaces. It was blinking at her. Tentatively, she touched the green light. The blinking stopped and a smiling face materialized.

“Greetings, Isabella. I am Lisa738. Annabella has asked me to guide you through your orientation.”

Isabella frowned and tried to recall her connection to this lowly mermaid from the Numbers class.

*****

Where to find Joanne…

Website: www.joanneguidoccio.com

Amazon: http://is.gd/AVpoVs 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/joanneguidoccio

Facebook: www.facebook.com/BetweenLandandSeaJG

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/jguidoccio/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7277706.Joanne_Guidoccio

YouTube (Trailer #1): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xipZ6quZDOs

YouTube (Trailer #2): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfiKOQe_yuU

Categories: fantasy, mermaids, nature, outdoors, romance, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 13 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

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