Posts Tagged With: outdoors

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

Eventing – Not For the Faint of Heart

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Cross-country

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A DREAM COME TRUE

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

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A DREAM COME TRUE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Both books are available on Amazon and Smashwords

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

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

Personalities and Horses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cutting Horses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re up now, Shawn,” Pepper said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barns, Blankets and Basic Care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOREWARNING Excerpt

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Another 5 star review for FOREWARNING

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

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Forewarning Cover

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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.

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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.

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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.”

******

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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

Those Doodle Dogs

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Judy 2 (2)Today I’d like to welcome Judy Alter, best selling author of the Kelly O’Connell and Blue Plate Cafe mysteries. You can read  a short excerpt from her most recent release, DANGER COMES HOME, below.
First, in keeping with the animal theme of this blog, Judy is going to talk about her “doodle dogs.” I’m sure you’re just as curious as I am as to what those are.

Welcome Judy.

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I have had and loved dogs all my life—a few Cairn terriers (which we showed) but mostly big dogs—collies, labs, a Labradoodle_Brown (2)couple of Irish wolfhounds, bearded collies, and most recently, an Aussie. When I first saw a labradoodle, I fell in love with the gentle giant—he reminded me of my Irish wolfhounds. I decided then and there I had to have one, cost be darned. They were bred to be hypoallergenic service dogs and have the dispositions to make great companions.

By the time I was ready to get another dog (I still had an aging Aussie), it wasn’t cost that did me in—it was age. My older brother, a physician, advised sternly that a woman of my age (seventy-plus, thank you very much) had no business with an 80 to 100 lb. dog. He was right. I didn’t even walk Scooby, the Aussie, because he pulled me down twice in his unquenchable need to herd everything from school buses to strollers, from UPS trucks to motorcycles. Reluctantly I agreed.

Then I found a kennel that raised mini Labradoodles—bred from miniature poodles. I studied the Web site, corresponded with the owners, and finally sent a deposit. The big day came when the puppies were ready to meet their forever families—and for us, it was a family affair. One son, two daughters, and three grandchildren went with me. The Labradoodles were six weeks old and had just wakened from a nap; they were loving and sweet but quiet, and not one wormed its way into my heart. The owner casually mentioned she had one bordoodle left (border collie and poodle) and brought in a black bundle of energetic playfulness. She chased balls, she played with toys, she licked each of us in joyful exuberance—and she got her spot in my heart right then. She was eight weeks old, and we brought her home that day.Sophie on her first day with us (2)

Scooby, the Aussie, would have nothing to do with her at first, but gradually they really bonded, and he undertook to train her a bit. I only saw him turn on her once, when she tried to steal his treat, and she scooted away quickly, whimpering. When Scooby died, she grieved, slept in his bed, and briefly abandoned her house manners.

Sophie is two-and-a-half now, still full of exuberance. When one of her favorite people—my daughter, my grandson, the lawn guy, or the groomer—arrives, she is ecstatic with enthusiasm, barking, growling, howling (I’ve never known a dog with so many vocal intonations). She loves to play in the house and chase critters outside. I don’t walk her because at 35 lbs. she would easily pull me down in her zeal to chase another dog or a squirrel. Other than that and jumping on peoSophie 8.30.2013ple to tell them how much she loves them, she is well behaved—sits, stays, housebroken, crate-trained, a joy to have. When I work at my desk, she lies at my feet—until she decides she’s had enough of that and it’s playtime. Then she gives a “ruff” and presents me with a toy to toss.

I always think I love the current dog more than any other (except one classic collie I will never forget), but, truly, I do love this dog.

Every night, we sit on the floor and have a little conversation and a lot of petting, and every morning we wake up to a little talk. It starts the day off right to say good morning to my doodle dog.

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Now here is a bit about Judy’s most recent release, DANGER COMES HOME. Available on Amazon and other Ebook retailers.

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 Danger-MD (2).

In Danger Comes Home, dogs, drugs and death take Kelly O’Connell on a wild ride with a runaway girl and her abused mother, a relapsed former gangsta, and a drug-dealing gang in her own neighborhood. Add in an imperious recluse for variety, and as usual Kelly’s life is anything but calm. Husband Mike Shandy is right: she has a talent for trouble.

 

Excerpt

And so we chattered away about plans for the summer as we rounded the corner onto Magnolia. Pony Tail leaned against the building, idly watching us, and didn’t move. Thus began the longest two-block walk I’ve ever taken. I couldn’t ask Mona if she was as wired as I was, but I felt as though my back had a bull’s eye painted on it. Each time we took a step forward, I told myself we were that much closer to the office, but half of me didn’t believe we’d ever make it. There were people on the street ahead of us, and I didn’t dare turn around to see if Pony Tail—or anyone else—was behind us.

“You’re walking too fast,” Mona said. “Dead giveaway, slow down and tell me what you’re cooking for supper tonight.”

Wow! She’s better than I am at this. She’s probably had more practice.

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You can learn more about Judy and her numerous publications at:  http://www.judyalter.com

And catch her blogs at:  http://www.judys-stew.blogspot.com
and:  http://potluckwithjudy.blogspot.com

Categories: Books, Dogs and cats, Judy Alter, Love, Mystery, nature, Puppies, suspense, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 18 Comments

FOREWARNING – Free Sept. 19-23

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

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Forewarning Cover

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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.

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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.”

******

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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

Free Book Spotlight

Today I’m spotlighting Time Will Tell by Sandy Lloyd. This is the first book in her Timeless Series and is set on a Kentucky Thoroughbred farm. If you like horses and think time travel is intriguing, come take a look.

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TIME WILL TELL is free on Amazon September 16 through September 20.
Link – http://amzn.to/10zmPM0

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TIME WILL TELL - Front Cover (for Kobo and Book Interior)

Libby Edwards, a gifted horsewoman, unwittingly wishes herself back in time to Louisville, Kentucky just before Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby become a reality. During Libby’s journey in the past, she stumbles upon her destiny. Unfortunately, he’s in the wrong century. In 1874, there’s no electricity, no internet, no modern medicine, no antibiotics—no Starbucks! And even worse than that, women have no rights. Libby has no desire to stay.

Widower, Colin Thorpe, a renaissance man of his time, has big dreams. He is a horse breeder who names his thoroughbreds after Mythological Gods because he has a reverence for past cultures and an appreciation for the unexplainable.

Libby and Colin can’t resist falling in love with each other. After all, Colin accepts Libby for who she is and she understands Colin’s dreams better than his deceased wife ever did. Yet he grasps early on that Libby doesn’t belong in 1874. And because his wife never adapted to the move from Virginia to Kentucky, becoming bitter and unhappy in the process, he won’t take the chance of the same thing happening to Libby. Can these two lovers find a way to be together despite their challenges?

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TIME WILL TELL is free on Amazon September 16 through September 20.
Link – http://amzn.to/10zmPM0

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Here’s an excerpt.

Libby heard the laughter again. That’s when she noticed the heat—not terribly hot—but warmer than minutes earlier. She looked up into the green tree, now fully leafed. Through a narrowed gaze, she spotted a boy about ten years old, dressed in what looked to be homespun clothes. He

hung on to a tree limb while standing on the branch below.

“Hello.” Her voice held none of the apprehension coursing through her. She forced herself to remain calm.

“How’d you do that?”

“Do what?”

“Appear from nothing. Are you magic?”

“No. I’m Libby. What’s your name?” she replied, hoping to distract him from asking more about her appearing from nothing, because she had no ready answer. She glanced around, still trying to figure it all out.

“Nathan.”

“Nathan? That’s a nice name.” Libby placed a hand over her eyes to shade them. “Hey, Nathan? What’s the date?”

“Are you daft?” Everything about his look said he thought so. “How come you don’t know?”

She laughed and shrugged. “I must be daft because I don’t know. It’s also why I’m asking.”

He contemplated her reply before nodding. “It’s June nineteenth.”

“And,” she prompted.

“Huh?”

“What year?”

He stared at her as if she were a Rubik’s cube. Finally he smiled. “Eighteen seventy-four.”

Libby blinked. “Eighteen seventy-four? Are you sure?”

When he nodded, his look now indicating he thought she’d lost more than just her marbles, she fought to keep the panic out of her voice. “Where do you live, Nathan?”

He pointed toward the main house. Without the treelined drive, the roof was barely visible from where Libby stood. “We live in the caretaker’s house. Behind the big house. My ma is Mr. Thorpe’s housekeeper and my pa runs his stables.”

“Stables?” Libby looked to where the boy pointed.

Nathan nodded. “Mr. Thorpe breeds horses.”

With her eyes on the landscape, reality hit her. Thorpe? The same name of the man who owned this land in her own time—Sam Thorpe. Of course. That made sense, but what in the world should she do now? Libby kept her shaded eyes on Nathan as her mind churned.

The trees. It had to be the trees, especially since she’d made a wish under them. Only, being in 1874 wasn’t exactly the answer she’d expected.

Thoughts of Dave, Bev, and her dad, along with Sam, Doug, and her new job went through her mind, as did the memory of riding Thorpe’s Pride the day before. As much as the idea of seeing the past intrigued her, she had no desire to be here. Apparently her wish had something to do with it, and she just had to figure out what. If the oaks truly had some kind of power to make wishes come true, then they had to be her ticket home. Or maybe all she had to do was wish herself home. She closed her eyes and wished. “Please take me home!” Libby chanted the words over and over.

“Whatcha doin’?”

Nathan’s voice slipped into her thoughts and was a clear indication that wishing wasn’t working.

“I’m thinking out loud.” Maybe she needed to do something while she was here. Or learn something. Yeah, that seemed like a decent explanation. Maybe discovering something in the past would help her deal with Dave so that her wish could come true. Or maybe she was just plumb crazy. Either way, it didn’t matter.

Blend in and stay by these trees. That’s what she needed to do.

Libby looked down at her clothing and an indelicate snort popped out. Yeah, right. I’ll blend in. The same way pepper blends with salt. She was pretty sure women didn’t run around in the late nineteenth century in jeans and short hair.

She sighed. Considering her gender and the time period, one where men ruled, blending in might be a bit of a problem.

So, what could she do? Pretend to be a boy?

“That’s it,” she said out loud, laughing because it made perfect sense. With her size, everyone would think she was a young male teenager. It shouldn’t be too hard to pull off. Without makeup, Libby knew she was pretty plain. “Not real original, but so what?” It always worked in all those novels she’d read.

“What’d you say?”

“Nothing.” Libby craned her neck and grinned at the boy now situated on the branch with his legs swinging freely. “Nathan, do you think your dad—er, pa—could use some help with the horses?” She needed this kid. He was her lifeline to survival. “I’m looking for work and I’m a pretty good handler.” She slipped off her engagement ring and stuck it in her pocket. Boys didn’t wear diamond rings in 1874.

“I dunno.” Nathan shrugged. “I wanna help him, but he ain’t got time.” Then his voice became suspicious and his eyes narrowed. “Hey, where’d you come from? How come you just appeared outta nowhere?”

Libby smiled. Smart little guy. Hopefully he’d be an ally. Taking a chance, she confessed. “I came from the future. See these trees?” He nodded, his expression solemn. “Well, I think they brought me here. Only I don’t know why. I’m hoping you’ll help me.”

“Sure.” Nathan’s legs started swinging faster. “I’ll help ya if’n you’ll be my frien’. I ain’t got any since Tobby left to work on the docks in Lou’ville. I get to see him when we go to town. But that ain’t very often. ’Course, he was older’n me. But we’re still friends. Now all I have to play with’re prissy girls.” He hesitated a heartbeat. “So how ’bout it? You wanna be my frien’?”

“I’d love to be your friend, but you’ll have to keep my secret. You can’t say anything to anyone about me appearing out of nowhere, especially adults. They’ll think we’re crazy. OK?”

“Sure.” Nathan beamed and scooted over on the branch. “Wanna join me?”

“OK.” Libby lifted herself up into the tree and climbed. In moments, she sat with her legs swinging back and forth, imitating Nathan.

“Great.” The boy grabbed a branch to pull himself up and stood. “I’m glad you’re not some prissy girl.”

She stilled the impulse to smile. “I take it you don’t like prissy girls?”

He shook his head.

“How come?” Libby would have to make sure he didn’t discover her true gender.

“They’re bossy an’ think they know everythin’. Take Clara May Johnson.” Nathan rolled his eyes. “She’s as prissy as they come. Always bossin’ me aroun’, tellin’ me what to do. She thinks she’s so smart. She’s my sister’s best friend.” He stopped to take a deep breath. “My sister Sarah’s not so bad—only when she’s aroun’ Clara May. An’ I have a new baby brother. He’s only two though. It’ll be awhile before he can climb trees like us.” His words died and he remained quiet for a drawn-out moment, eyeing her thoughtfully. “So where in th’ future are ya from?”

“Same place, only a hundred and thirty-eight years from now,” Libby answered honestly, propping her chin on her hand and looking out over the landscape. From her position she could see for miles and the view didn’t look much different than it did in the future, except for the missing buildings. Twin Oaks, the horse farm in her time, had more stables along with another bunkhouse. Also missing were the cabins. “I’m pretty sure the trees brought me through time.”

“Really?”

She nodded.

Nathan’s eyes grew rounder. “They’re magical, just like you. I can tell.”

Libby offered a conspiratorial wink. “Remember, no one can know.” Hopefully, returning home would be as simple as wishing herself there. It had to work. Of course, it might take some time to figure out the correlation between her being here and her wish. In the meantime, it would be fun to have a look around and experience life in the past. At least for a day or so.

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If you’d like to read more about Libby and Nathan and 1874 Kentucky, Time Will Tell is free on Amazon
September 16 through September 20
http://amzn.to/10zmPM0

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Sandy authorpicfABOUT SANDY:

Sandy Loyd is a Western girl through and through. Born and raised in Salt Lake City, she’s worked and lived in some fabulous places in the US, including San Francisco and West Palm Beach. She now resides in Kentucky and writes full time. As much as she loves her current hometown, she misses the mountains and has to go back to her roots to get her mountain and skiing fix at least once a year. Otherwise her muse suffers.

She has published eleven books – four contemporary romances, four romantic mystery/suspense /thrillers, a time travel contemporary/historical romance and two historical romances that are sequels. She strives to come up with fun characters – people you would love to call friends.

Time Will Tell is the first book in her Timeless series.

Categories: Books, Horses, Kentucky, Love, Paranormal, Racing, riding, romance, Romantic suspense, Thoroughbreds, Time travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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