Wednesday, July 28, 2010

116 Lost Comments Suddenly Appeared. What's Up With This, Blogger?

Have you ever read my blog, posted a comment, and wondered where the heck it was? Well I'm wondering too. Two days ago I got a notice on my blog dashboard that said I had 116 comments to moderate. 116? YIKES! Some are from as far back as February 1st. For those of you who did not have your shared thoughts posted, thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my posts. I value your comments and view my online contacts as my modern-day pen pals.

Please accept my aplogies for whatever I did to bungle this up so hugely. Wierd thing was , some comments were posted all along and some were . . . sucked into the same black hole that eats socks and earrings in my house. They weren't there. Then they were. And I was so pleased to see them and read them.

Because I don't want to lose anymore precious comments, I've been trying to figure out what happened. Thing is, some comments slipped through and showed up, so I never realized that there was a problem. I still am not sure what "ghost in the machine" was messing with my blog. If you have been wondering what happened to your comments, check the settings of your dashboard. I have never turned "moderate comments" on, but had to do so to access the 116 comments that reappeared with the directive "need to be moderated".

Did a big of research to try to figure out where those 116 comments have been hiding. I learned that problems with comments are pretty common with Blogger. I had not knowingly made any changes in my comment settings, however I do have a customized blog. Here is a link to the Blogger Help Forum with my query "comments never appeared". There are dozens of possible answers but I still don's have a clue to the "mystery of the missing 116 comments". Just in case this ever happens again, please drop me an email or visit me on facebook to let me know you had something to share that didn't get posted. Thanks for your patience, friends.

ps the photos are of a grotto by Centerville Beach, Ferndale, California. It used to shelter an icon for an unknown saint. Sadly, it appears to have been vandalized.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Thank You Red Horse

I'm thinking of all the things I ask of my horse - to leave his herd and cozy pasture, haul my substantial self up and down mountains, be brave, and keep his head down when he wants to look all around for things that eat horses. Oh, and do weird things at Trail Trials. Does he enjoy any of this? I rather doubt it. Yet he keeps on trying and giving me what I ask of him. We have come so far together.

I'm no great rider and have to work for what seems to come naturally to folks who have grown up in pony clubs and riding groups. This is not a chore. It is what I love doing more than anything and if I had chosen where my spirit would land, I would have been born into a ranch family living high in the mountains.

We do some things a bit differently than when I started trail riding with Red a couple of years ago. No more treeless saddle. I ride in my Wintec Pro Dressage saddle with CAIR. It works well with Red's slightly swayed back and has the stability of a saddle tree.

No more bitless bridle. I'm still an advocate of going bitless, but have found the Myler bitting system most helpful in reminding Red to keep his head level. I can get off his face now. It really seems to have helped. We are still barefoot. Red was actually able to do several miles without boots this summer.

There is one thing that hasn't changed one little bit and never will. It is just as true now . . .

. . . as it was true back in the summer of 2008. I adore my horse and am so grateful that in my 5th decade on earth I have been able to fill my life with what I love most of all. Horses.

Red and I have come far and, Creator willing, have far to go. Thank you so much for stopping by to check in on our stories from the trail home.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Red, Forgive Me for Stepping All Over Your Toes in the Round Pen

OK, I am SO not a round pen expert, I probably have about 20 hours of working in round pens cuz we don't have one at Freshwater (that's why all my pictures are of my horses being lunged). This makes just about everyone reading this as experienced or more experienced than me. So please grant me your forbearance when you read on and find that I am questioning much of what I have learned.

Round pens - here's a summary of my prior learning. Great places to establish leadership and have a horse "choose you" which they do when they "join up". By using your body you can direct the horse's movement, make your body language and energy big or slow and they will mirror you. Step back and you can "draw them in". Direct the horse with the curve of your arm, twirl a rope at the hind end and off they go. When their attention is on you, decrease pressure. Step back or let them slow down. When they drop their head and lick and chew, decrease pressure. Change your energy when you want them to change theirs. Red is trotting, I want a slow trot. I breathe deep and easy, relax my core, move slowly and like magic he slows into a lovely, floaty trot. Oversimplified maybe, but am I at least describing something that sounds familiar?

OK. Now being on summer vacation is a cool thing. This means that I can sit in front of my computer, obsess, and still get things done. I've been watching the free Chris Irwin training videos at and State Line Tack (sick of hearing about them yet?). I've been working my way through his series of about working in the round pen. And I am horrified. Completely, utterly chagrined. Going to go buy all my horses bags of carrots and apologize for my clumsiness in and utter gauche behavior in the round pen (and I've not even started to think about the lunge line yet). Then I'm going to ask them about those nasty comments they were throwing me way that they thought I was too deaf to hear. HA!

Oh Oh. What am I talking about? For me watching a Chris Irwin video is like have a skilled equine language interpreter reteach me everything I thought I knew about equine language in all its subtle, subtle complexity. Example. Me and Autumn standing side by side, my right to her left. She turns her head and looks at something to her right. I wonder, "hmmm, what has her attention over there?" I probably tug on her head to bring it back around. (Sorry Autumn). Consider (as I did last night) that horses have the most amazing peripheral vision granted by Mother Nature. They don't need to turn their head to pay attention. What happened was she turned her head, extending her barrel into my space. She ever so subtly tested me. And I failed gloriously. What I did do was go after her head, with my typical predator face-to-face style of interaction.

What I now do (as of 3 days ago) is turn slightly to my left, reaching behind myself to tap her barrel, driving it back out of my space. Her head will straighten. I won't turn in to the right because to get to her barrel I would have to bring the energy of my core into her head and neck zone, an aggressive action. And I am striving, striving to break my predator style interaction with the face of my horses, and focus on a prey style of interacting with the body.

So back to the round pen. I have missed so much of the continual flow of subtle equine language. I'm writing this soon after my "ah HA" moment. I haven't been dancing with my horses, I've been stomping on their toes and screaming in their ears. I've been annoying them by twirling ropes in their faces, and losing gloriously in the constant game of "who herds who" when I thought I was getting their attention and acceptance of my leadership. Yeeesh.

One thing I love about life with horses is there is always more to learn. Right now I'm really enjoying the Chris Irwin video series as my learning tool. I'm not quite ready to attempt to articulate what I will be doing different when I work with Quincy over at Heart of the Redwoods in the round pen. But if I picqued your curiosity, you might be interested in watching this video "Round Penning Redefined" (the link only takes you to the videos, from the menu on the left select "RP Body Language", then select video #16 "Fundamentals of moving the horse" and video #11 "Reading the signs of trust" for a glimpse of what Irwin can offer). I will really appreciate hearing what you think.

And Red, er . . . sorry about those toes.

Postscript: Yeeesh, looking at these pictures I cringe looking at Red's inversion. I've been trying all kinds of mechanical means (no draw reins) like butt lift exercises, belly lifts, and lunging with a modified Richard Shrake rythym collector over the poll (I use a really old, really soft cotton rope). Chris Irwin addresses horse's inversion as part of their body language. I'm working on a post to help my own learning on what I can d0 differently in my interaction with Red that may promote a different top line response.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Birds of a Feather: From Humboldt to Zinder

There is a global mutual aid society that has existed for centuries.
The members consist of winged ones and hooved ones.
You can find them most anywhere, from Humboldt to Zinder.
Ah, we humans have so much to learn.

This post was inspired by the latest story at Ishtar's Ark.
Please visit Esther and say hello.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chris Irwin Training Videos - Free at and Stateline Tack

(Lyra and Moose)

Forgive me for continuing to carry on about the Chris Irwin free training videos available at and State Line Tack. It's just that the more I watch, the more impressed I am with Chris as a trainer and educator (and appreciative that this resource is available at no cost). I've watched the In-Hand series and the Riding: Basics series and have started the Round Pen videos.

What about Irwin works for me? He uses clear, precise language and illustrates each concept slowly with well video-graphed images of his interactions with the horse. He breaks concepts down into small, small micro-bits of information. I've heard some folks say they find this boring. I find it enlightening.

Sometime ago I read one of his books, Horses Don't Lie: What Horses Teach Us About Our Natural Capacity for Awareness, Confidence, Courage, and Trust. I enjoyed the book yet find these videos more fully present Irwin's phenomenal knowledge of equine physiology, psychology, and mechanics in a very easy to access format.

(Steamer and Joe)

I find Irwin's descriptions of equine/human interaction somewhat unique compared to the work of other trainers I have viewed or read. How? Perhaps it is his emphasis on the physiological rhythm of the horse and his clear descriptions of how our common behaviors disrupt that rhythm causing irritation for our equine partner and resulting in the elevation of the head and inverting of the back. Sometimes this is so subtle it could be easily overlooked, sometimes it is pronounced and becomes an ingrained way of moving for the horse.

A small example of behavior I'm changing after watching some of Irwin. Familiar though I might be with concepts of predator/prey, I continue to interact with horses by frequently approaching their head. It is one of the first places I engage when showing expression. Yet approaching the face and neck is predator behavior used for both the expression of aggression, dominance, and affection. It is a hard-wired stressor for horses. Following this way of thinking, each time I reach out to stroke Red's face, he is more than likely going to elevate his head and invert his back - adrenalin is triggered, stress increases. If I want to massage his face - I will start behind his withers and slowly work my way forward.

(Moose and Lyra)

Check out Chris' video on predator/prey behavior - click HERE.

Here is a list of the topics covered in Irwin's series of training videos:
Aggressive Behavior
Clinic Lessons
Introducing Clippers
Language of Lunge
Long Lines
Riding: Concepts
Riding: Basics
Riding: Progress
Riding: Collected
Round Pen Body Language
Standing Tied

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Solutions Instead of Slaughter: Train Your Horses

I have a good friend who told me several years ago, upon my return to a life with horses, that "an untrained horse is a dead horse." If you want to give your horses a permanent life preserver, make it your job to ensure that they are saddle broke and safe.

Anytime you read the farm & garden adds on Craigs List (come on, admit it, I'm not the only one here addicted) you will see horses for sale "ground work done, ready for saddle" or "had two months professional training 8 years ago". Sad fact, in these hard economic times, not many folks are going to pay to take on a training challenge. Kill buyers, however, will be very interested in these horses.

FUGLY fans, you might remember the story of a lovely buckskin mare who was slaughter bound:

"That pretty buckskin pictured is a classic example of an “unwanted” horse. She was a broodmare, got dumped to kill, “rescued” by CBER, off to a hoarder haven (remember that picture I posted a long time ago of the trashy chick’s myspace pic with all the guns? … that one), wound up back on the lot, re-rescued by Save A Forgotten Equine, who finally after a couple of tries found the right trainer for her and now here she is with her owner, who loves her. Happy ending. No longer “unwanted” but a happy, contributing member of equine society who now has a good home because of it. The difference was simple. Training."
(for entire story, click HERE).

Horse rescues! Are you listening! The folks out there who can take a halter trained horse and provide the training to turn that horse into a ridable partner are rare. Fund raise for training for the horses in your care.

Trainers (especially ones who support slaughter)! Offer your skills to your local rescue - one horse at a time. FUGLY featured the story of the Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue Foundations "Trainer Challenge". What a creative, effective concept. Please visit this rescue and read about the 2010 "Challenge of the Unwanted Horse". Just click HERE.

Photos are of an "undertrained" I know, my good friend Quincy.
Very green, he will be available for adoption at Heart of the Redwoods Equine Rescue.
You can follow his story on his own page by clicking HERE.

afterthought: some readers might protest that they don't have the skills to train the horse in their backyard that they bred because they wanted a cute little baby horse. Years later it's not so cute and at extreme risk. Solution: part A . . . if you don't have the skills, do not breed the horse. Solution: part B . . . see the next in this series.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I Turned My Center and She Followed - Dancing with Autumn

Today Autumn walked calmly and turned every time I asked her without increasing her speed. Autumn is a sensitive girl, and gives 200 per cent. She has been very rushy, moving faster and faster into each gait. My efforts to direct her energy have met with frustration - hers and mine. My leg on her side has seemed to deliver the message "more speed". Friends riding Autumn have had the same experience and have commented "she doesn't know how to move off the leg."

Today was different. Today was magic. So what happened?

Yesterday I stumbled upon the FREE Chris Irwin training videos featured at and Stateline Tack. I have been watching his series on Horse In-hand work and started the Riding: Basics series. What I watched today emphasized the physiological movements of the horse, awareness of our own body language and center, and the importance of joining and working with the rythym of the horse's movement. Irwin is an amazing instructor - calm, slow, precise and thorough. I watch him and I get it. No mystical blabbering, very practical and common sense.

So what did I get and how did it work out so that Autumn walked calmly up and down the lane? I attended carefully to the serpentine-like movement of Autumn's head and back as she walked, feeling her barrel bump my legs - right when she was on the right forehand and left when she was on the left forehand. I "expanded" my following seat to mirror her serpentine movement as well as her back and forth movement. Without ever pulling on her face, only using the reins to provide a boundary where I did not want her to go, I simply settled into matching her back and forth and side to side.

I aligned my body and from my core turned, pointing my belly button in the direction I wanted her to go. I was careful to time requests for right hand turn to when she was on her left forehand and left hand turn to when she was on her right forehand. I was off of her face the ENTIRE time. We walked up and down the lane at Freshwater. Never ONCE did she rush forward. There was no jigging or head shaking. She was relaxed and carried her head level. It was an entirely different ride from any we have so far shared.

Am I excited. Heck yeah, can you tell? For those of you to whom this is basic equitation, bear with me. I am SO excited about the information I am able to access and understand as I watch Irwin. His teaching style works extremely well for me. If you are interested in checking out Chris Irwin's videos, click HERE. Happy trails!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Why I LOVE My Older Horses . . .

. . . well, first I have to admit that I am an older horse owner. At 58 I have no desire for wild rides up logging roads, sticking to the back of my bareback pony like burr. That was decades ago. I do want plenty of forward action on the trail and in the arena. If you have ever visited this blog, you may know that my little herd has grown to three: Red, Lyra, and Autumn.

Red is an 18 year old Appendix Quarter Horse gelding. He is willing with a huge heart. He gives me his all in whatever I ask him. He came with issues and has made amazing progress. A highly intelligent horse, he has been started in Trail Trials. Emotionally he is high strung, a vigilant horse who worries about what is under each leaf on the trail. His health needs include contracted feet that I manage through my own barefoot trimming, a somewhat slow to get going left hind leg that has a puffy tendon sheath from an old injury, and stifles that need a bit of nurturing.

Lyra is my 25ish year old TB mare. She was relinquished to a local rescue, starved. Adopted, her owner was hospitalized and she was left in a stall to starve once again. Re-rescued and adopted by a friend of mine, she became my girl when my friend had to sell her. I couldn't bear to see high-needs (emotionally) Lyra return to the market. Lyra is someplace over 25, judging from her teeth. She is healthy but very difficult to keep weight on throughout the winter. It is essential to have her teeth done every fall. Her feet are a challenge and this year she had a nasty abscess that blew out her back heel. She is a delight to ride in the arena with a floaty, consistent trot that goes on forever. On the trail she is psycho. Someone once trained her to give kisses for carrots. She has become very affectionate and will now approach me, asking to come into the barn.

Autumn is a 23 year old Appendix Quarter Horse mare. She was left to starve in the general pasture last winter and when I rescued her was days away from death, according to my vet. Sweet, earnest, and a hard worker Autumn is my finest trail horse. So far nothing has spooked her. She has amazing stamina, is sound (if you give her about 10 minutes to warm up her creaky left hind leg), has lovely hard feet, and is just a delight to ride. She is a horse I can have friends (intermediate riders cuz she is sensitive to subtle aides) ride.

So you have met my geriatric herd. I adore these horses who give me their all. I ride every day, taking turns between horses. Hard core competition might be beyond their physical capacities, but they are more than capable of fulfilling my most demanding riding needs - a full day of trail trials or a 15 mile ride.

Older horses appear in great numbers in the adds on Craig's List. Many are for sale because the children they carried have grown and moved on to other interests. Please consider an older horse when you are horse shopping.

For a wealth of articles about living with older horses, click here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Is Mark Rashid an Advocate for Horse Slaughter?

Yesterday I found out that Mark Rashid is pro-slaughter. I was stunned and sickened. Rashid had been one of my greatest influences. I think I have all of his books. I was so impressed about his awareness of the great sensitivity of equines. I am still a little too shaken to know exactly how to address the situation. First, here is a link to his blog where he expresses his pro-slaughter sentiments.

I think I will start with what I love the most, the horses. In the general pasture there are a number of horses that might be considered "cast offs". No one really comes to interact with them or care for them. Thank goodness someone DOES pay their monthly board. They live as part of the herd, and they are my friends. In the "solution" Mr. Rashid describes, they would be fated to have a hook inserted in their hamstring, be hoisted up, and while still alive they would have their throat slit and be bled out. Supposedly they would be stunned by a captive-bolt gun but come on, adrenalin, terror, and the poor aim of barely trained slaughter house minimum wage employees guarantees that many will be at least partially conscious to feel the horror of their death.

Consider Steamer. I know little about this sweet boy. He had been in the GP for about 2 years. He is the wildest and most skittish horse in the GP, it has taken me months and months to become his friend. Now, as soon as he sees me in the distance his head comes up and he makes a beeline to me for scritches and perhaps a little crunchy treat.

He is a dear, timid soul. He is a loyal friend to Ricki. He has become my friend too. Is he a "surplus" horse? Perhaps. To a pro-slaugher advocate he might be a good candiate for slaughter. I don't think he is trained to ride. However, he is also an emotional, sentient creature with preferences and desires. He feels intensely. Have you watched the Chambers of Carnage featured by the Canadian Horse Coalition as part of their expose showing the abusive practices of Canadian Slaughterhouses (warning, this is extremely disturbing footage)? For any horse, this is beyond hell. For my friend Steamer? Torture.

Do you still believe in the myth that horses who end up in the slaugher pipeline are old, lame, or otherwise physically impaired. Please watch the following slide slow. Bear witness.

I realize this post is an emotional response and doesn't offer any solutions. Allegedly Rashid complained to a friend of mine that the do-gooders who are against horse slaughter react emotionally without offering solutions. Solutions are important and there are some good ones out there. I'll be ready for a more cognitive response come my next post. Right now I'll still too disturbed.

For further information regarding equine slaughter, please visit this sites:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Unexpected Gift: Please Consider an Equine Rescue . . .

. . .when you are looking for your next horse. If they are not yet rehabbed, realize that the emancipated horse you first see is not the horse you will have in six months.

Rescuing Autumn was something I did not anticipate that January day when I took my weekly hike through the general pasture at Freshwater. Really, it was Autumn who made sure I became personally involved when I saw her struggling to get up, too weak to gain her feet even after several tries. She looked directly at me. Nickered loud and insistent. No doubt at all about what she was asking.

She was such a frail wisp of a horse I never once believed I would be able to ride her. If you told me that six months later she would be breezing through a 15 mile ride, barely breaking a sweat, I would have marveled at your creative imagination. I never thought Autumn would be my horse. The plan was to rehab her and rehome her. So how come I changed my mind?

I guess part of it is concern for her future well-being. This is a hard time for horses and I worry that if I place her with another, she might again fall on hard times. Then there is the special bond I feel with her, we have come far together and I just enjoy her company. When it comes to a quality trail horse, she is simply awesome - she full of energy without being skittish. I have yet to see her spook at anything. She gives you everything she has; an earnest, sweet horse.

We have logged quite a few trail miles this summer. Friends have ridden her. She is just as wonderful when riding solo as she is when on the trail with 30 other horses. Autumn is 23 years old. Don't let age put you off when adopting. With quality care, horses live long lives. I anticipate many more years of exploring new trails with Autumn.

I still marvel that this sweet girl was abandoned.
I am so lucky she is part of my life.

Here are links to reputable local equine rescues.
Maybe your next horse is already waiting for you.