Posts Tagged With: nature

Barns, Blankets and Basic Care

.

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

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

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

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

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

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

.

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

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

THE HORSE NEVER DIES!

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

.

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

.

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

.

Take it away Shannon!

*****************************

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

.

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

.

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

.

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

.

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

.

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

.

Happy Writing and Riding!

*************************

Shamrock Stable, Book 1 – NO HORSE WANTED

    .       

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

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

****************************

.

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

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

.

You can contact Shannon at:

www.josiemalone.com

www.shannonkennedybooks.com

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

FOREWARNING Excerpt

.

Another 5 star review for FOREWARNING

.

Magical.
“A great mystery to the very end. Lots of great realistic characters made this book fun and the main character’s talents believable.”

.

Forewarning Cover

.

Grieving and guilt-stricken after her husband’s suicide, Kasey Martin has closed her energetic healing practice and retreated to her Oregon horse ranch. One night, she rescues a badly injured man, and against her better judgment, uses her neglected skills to save his life. This starts her on an unexpected journey of healing and danger.

Complicating her life is Jim Bradley, an old friend who has long been in love with her and wants her to return to her work. When criminals looking for her patient invade the serenity of her world, she must use her skills to save all three of their lives.

.

.

Excerpt:

With each step down the deserted hall to the waiting room, the band around Kasey’s chest drew tighter. The frantic desire to scurry back to her ranch, to run from what she had done, almost made her turn around. She suppressed the urge. She needed to find out if the man would be okay, to find out if she had helped—or hurt—him.

She stopped in the ladies room to wash the blood off her hands and clean up a bit. Her mother’s brown eyes and heart-shaped face stared back at her from the mirror as she dried her hands. But the auburn hair she smoothed and gathered into a low ponytail again was her father’s legacy, as was her empathic sensitivity. He possessed an uncanny ability to understand animals and deal with their problems and had been known as a “horse whisperer” long before the term became popular.

His ability to feel emotions extended to people as well as animals, for which Kasey was grateful. Her breath caught as she thought of his gentle love and support. He’d helped her understand and deal with her sensitivity, showing her it was a gift rather than a curse. How often during this past year she’d wished she could turn to him for help, as she had as a child. That wasn’t possible. He had his own pain to deal with, and she couldn’t burden him with hers.

Leaving the restroom, she continued down to the waiting area. Tonight was the first time she’d been to the hospital since Brian’s death, and the small, chair-filled lounge stirred up painful memories. Memories of the man who had been her life. To her relief, the room was empty, and she chose a seat in a corner where she wouldn’t be easily seen.

Exhaustion dropped her into the chair with unexpected force. She tried to focus on the television in the corner; instead the night’s events kept playing over and over in her mind. The blood on the man’s too-pale face. The raw, charred skin of his palm. Her hands focusing healing energy. Her hands focusing healing energy.

Her legs began a restless dance, so she jumped up to walk off some of the tension. What she really needed was to go for a run. Since that wasn’t possible, she returned to her chair and started a deep breathing exercise—in for four counts, hold two, out for seven counts and hold for two. Eventually the rhythmic pattern took effect. Her eyelids closed, and her head flopped to the side in a restless doze.

***

Jim Bradley paused at the door of the waiting room and gazed at the sleeping woman. Damn, she’s lovely. Not that Kasey would agree right now, of course, given her mud-stained jeans, green rubber boots and ratty sweatshirt. To him, she looked wonderful. He let the desire he always suppressed when around her thrum freely through his body. For this moment, he didn’t have to be on guard. For this moment, he could just enjoy looking at her and contemplate a time when he could let her know his heart. Soon, he hoped. Soon.

Kasey shifted in her chair and Jim quickly brought his feelings under control, directing his thoughts to the surgery he had just completed. Now was not the time to reveal his yearning. She had enough to deal with tonight. He pulled his shoulders back and headed into the room.

“You’re going to a get a heck of a stiff neck if you stay kinked like that much longer.”

******

.

Available on Amazon

 
Categories: alternative medicine, dressage, energetic healing, healing, Horses, Mystery, nature, outdoors, Paranormal, riding, romance, Romantic suspense, suspense, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FOREWARNING – Free Sept. 19-23

.

FOREWARNING – Free on Amazon, Sept. 19-23!!

.

Forewarning Cover

.

Grieving and guilt-stricken after her husband’s suicide, Kasey Martin has closed her energetic healing practice and retreated to her Oregon horse ranch. One night, she rescues a badly injured man, and against her better judgment, uses her neglected skills to save his life. This starts her on an unexpected journey of healing and danger.

Complicating her life is Jim Bradley, an old friend who has long been in love with her and wants her to return to her work. When criminals looking for her patient invade the serenity of her world, she must use her skills to save all three of their lives.

.

.

Excerpt:

With each step down the deserted hall to the waiting room, the band around Kasey’s chest drew tighter. The frantic desire to scurry back to her ranch, to run from what she had done, almost made her turn around. She suppressed the urge. She needed to find out if the man would be okay, to find out if she had helped—or hurt—him.

She stopped in the ladies room to wash the blood off her hands and clean up a bit. Her mother’s brown eyes and heart-shaped face stared back at her from the mirror as she dried her hands. But the auburn hair she smoothed and gathered into a low ponytail again was her father’s legacy, as was her empathic sensitivity. He possessed an uncanny ability to understand animals and deal with their problems and had been known as a “horse whisperer” long before the term became popular.

His ability to feel emotions extended to people as well as animals, for which Kasey was grateful. Her breath caught as she thought of his gentle love and support. He’d helped her understand and deal with her sensitivity, showing her it was a gift rather than a curse. How often during this past year she’d wished she could turn to him for help, as she had as a child. That wasn’t possible. He had his own pain to deal with, and she couldn’t burden him with hers.

Leaving the restroom, she continued down to the waiting area. Tonight was the first time she’d been to the hospital since Brian’s death, and the small, chair-filled lounge stirred up painful memories. Memories of the man who had been her life. To her relief, the room was empty, and she chose a seat in a corner where she wouldn’t be easily seen.

Exhaustion dropped her into the chair with unexpected force. She tried to focus on the television in the corner; instead the night’s events kept playing over and over in her mind. The blood on the man’s too-pale face. The raw, charred skin of his palm. Her hands focusing healing energy. Her hands focusing healing energy.

Her legs began a restless dance, so she jumped up to walk off some of the tension. What she really needed was to go for a run. Since that wasn’t possible, she returned to her chair and started a deep breathing exercise—in for four counts, hold two, out for seven counts and hold for two. Eventually the rhythmic pattern took effect. Her eyelids closed, and her head flopped to the side in a restless doze.

***

Jim Bradley paused at the door of the waiting room and gazed at the sleeping woman. Damn, she’s lovely. Not that Kasey would agree right now, of course, given her mud-stained jeans, green rubber boots and ratty sweatshirt. To him, she looked wonderful. He let the desire he always suppressed when around her thrum freely through his body. For this moment, he didn’t have to be on guard. For this moment, he could just enjoy looking at her and contemplate a time when he could let her know his heart. Soon, he hoped. Soon.

Kasey shifted in her chair and Jim quickly brought his feelings under control, directing his thoughts to the surgery he had just completed. Now was not the time to reveal his yearning. She had enough to deal with tonight. He pulled his shoulders back and headed into the room.

“You’re going to a get a heck of a stiff neck if you stay kinked like that much longer.”

******

.

Free on Amazon, Sept. 19-23!!

Categories: alternative medicine, dressage, energetic healing, healing, horse personalities, Horses, Mystery, nature, outdoors, Paranormal, riding, romance, Romantic suspense, suspense, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Apples, Apricots and Appetites

.

small_3808887607Like most people you probably know that horses love apples as treats. Did you know they also love lots of other fruits and even some people food you’d never expect? Although horses have delicate digestive systems and can colic easily, they will eat a surprising variety of things.

I discovered these unusual horse appetites when I was a kid. One house we lived in had two mini-orchards. One contained citrus trees—three orange, a lemon, grapefruit, tangelo and tangerine. The other had apricot, plum, apple and peach trees. We planted pasture grass under the traditional fruit trees, but for some reason, the area under the citrus trees was left bare—except for after the winter rains when the weeds popped up. Then we’d let our three horses into the area to enjoy the fresh greenery.

However, we soon found that they liked the oranges and tangelos almost as much as the weeds. They’d search for fallen fruit we hadn’t picked up yet and eat them, rind and all, making a slobbery mess. The one exception was the grapefruit. For some reason they were horribly bitter and totally inedible. One day my horse Star discovered this fact, to her regret. She bit into a downed grapefruit, quickly spit it out and spent the next few minutes with her head in the air and her upper lip curled up, telling the world how bad it tasted.

The fruit in the pasture area proved just as much of an attraction. We always enjoyed watching them deal with the pitted fruits. They’d pick up an apricot or plum, carefully roll it around in their mouths until they’d gotten all the soft flesh removed and then spit out perfectly clean pits. (We made sure they only got a few. Didn’t need sick horses.)

I’ve been told horses often like watermelon, bananas and other tropical fruits, but I couldn’t prove it by any of my horses. But I can testify that they like sodas and beer. I would frequently share an orange soda with Star. She’d raise her head up while I poured some in her mouth. (This only worked for sugar sweetened soda. I haven’t encountered any horse that will touch diet drinks.) My brother would occasionally give his horse some beer, just for the fun of it. This affinity for beer was well known. They even featured a drunk horse in the old, silly movie Cat Ballou.

Of course, the favorite treat of all time is any form of sugar. Sugar cubes, lifesavers, peppermints are all to be found in horsemen’s pockets. I used to take handfuls of sugar cubes from restaurants when I was a kid. The famous Spanish Riding School of Vienna even has sugar pockets in their formal riding coats!

Writing this post made me realize that I haven’t included any treat fiends in my books as yet. I’ll have to remedy that. I lost more than one jean pocket to a horse looking for a treat. That definitely belongs in a story.

Do you have any animals with unusual appetites or behaviors? What’s the most unusual thing you’ve seen an animal eat?

.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/italintheheart/3808887607/”>leoncillo sabino</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Categories: Horses, nature, outdoors, riding, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 20 Comments

Cues from Mother Nature

Glory #2

.

Last evening as I was grooming my horse Glory, I was shocked to see she had already started growing a winter coat. It’s the middle of August, was 102 degrees the day before, and her coat is thickening? My immediate thought was “we’re going to have a cold winter.”

Then I mused about how someone living in 2013, just outside a major city, still looked to the old farmer’s indicators for clues to the weather. Almost everyone else I know listens to or reads the weather reports. With satellite photos, graphs and charts, the meteorologists predict our climate—with about fifty percent accuracy. Those of who deal with animals probably have a slightly better record.

Early this summer the people at the barn where I board Glory were all commenting on how their horses weren’t losing their winter coats. Normally by June, they are sleek and shining, with all the long hair gone. This year they took much longer to shed and some of the older horses never did sleek out.

Turns out the horses knew something even the meteorologists didn’t. It was going to be a cool summer. In fact, in spite of a few high temps, this has been one of the coolest on record for our area. Since thirty degree drops in temperature overnight are common here, those older horses that had lost their muscle and bulk really did need the extra warmth their shaggy coats72 dpi - Lightning storm provided.

Now it appears they are preparing for a early, cold winter. Shorter days, with less light, provide a physiological signal for animals to shed their short summer hair and replace it with a longer, denser coat. Because of this many show barns leave their lights on at night in an attempt to keep their horses sleek. (The lights also affect the reproductive cycle, but that’s a topic for another time.) The rest of us just live with the heavy coats, and maybe use blankets to try to keep them from getting too dense.

But what causes animals to grow heavy coats one year and much lighter ones the next? How did they know to hang onto their extra hair this summer? How does Nature know what the climate will be? I’d really love to know the answer to those questions.

Until then, I’ll continue to monitor my animals and prepare for a cold winter this year. I’ll be curious, come Spring, as to how accurate their predictions are.

How about you? Are there any unusual happenings that you pay attention to? Any cues from Mother Nature?

.

Weather plays an important part in my novel Forewarning. Take a look at an excerpt to see how.

http://www.amazon.com/Forewarning-Horses-Healing-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00DP5VOHK/

Categories: Horses, Mother Nature, Romantic suspense, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Weekend Snippets #7

Welcome back to Weekend Snippets.
Today I’m starting snippets from my soon to-be-released book, FOREWARNING.
.
Forewarning CoverGrieving and guilt-stricken after her husband’s suicide, Kasey Martin has closed her energetic healing practice and retreated to her Oregon horse ranch. One night, she rescues a badly injured man, and against her better judgment, uses her neglected skills to save his life. This starts her on an unexpected journey of healing and danger.  Complicating her life is Jim Bradley, an old friend who has long been in love with her and wants her to return to her work. When criminals looking for her patient invade the serenity of her world, she must use her skills to save all three of their lives.
 .
***
Here’s a short bit from the beginning.

 

Kasey Martin jerked awake, her heart galloping like a horse running from a cougar. Wide-eyed, she lay frozen and listened to the night. Wind howled through the eaves, thunder rumbled in the distance, rain pounded the roof. A typical storm in the foothills of the Oregon Cascades.

She sat up and stared into the deep black of a night with no city glow to lighten the dark. No help came from the night light in the hall, either. The tempest had knocked out the power again. All she could see was unrelieved black. All she heard was the downpour and Goliath, her Border Collie, snoring on the floor.

 

FOREWARNING will be released on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Smashwords in mid-June.  Please check back for the exact date.
.
Be sure to check out more fabulous snippets on the  Weekend Writing Warriors website and also Snippet Sunday, on Facebook.
.
Happy reading!
Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 25 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.