Thursday, August 26, 2010

Where Do We Take The Blog?

I try to help with my writing at the paper.

I have a "horse page."

On it I have a rescue of the week, an adoptable horse ready to go from either of the two rescues I work with.

Then I maintain a local events column, giving out listings for local clubs and events.

I also write a weekly column.

This column has gotten me involved in all kinds of things related to horses.

I am notoriously fair in my writing. I present facts as I fin them and always go to both sides.

If you want I'll start posting the articles I think you might be intersested in.

Here's some of the problems I've either tackled or am in the middle of tackling.

1.There are countless registered, trained, quality horses showing up at auctions, rescues, in fire sale ads and so on.

There are over 40,000 mustangs being permanently maintained on ranches in Nebraska and I think Iowa.

These horses are being paid for via federal aid.

This bothers me, but on so many levels I can't even begin to write a story on it.
Too many angles.

2. Mustang Makeovers

In 120 days Mustangs are being exhibited jumping through hoops of fire, being shot off of, working cattle and doing really crappy reining patterns.

Then the horses are sold along with many other mustangs.

I love the idea of Mustangs being promoted as rideable, loveable, useful animals.

I hate the idea of what these horses go through to get that trained, that fast.

I can guarantee that with that much training there's not much "broke" that's going to stick.

The people who are attracted to these things rarely have the knowledge to handle the horses they are being encouraged to buy.

So how does this actually help the mustangs?

3. Birth Control for Mustangs.
Hasn't anybody heard of gelding?

4. Horse Whispering
This whole concept has gotten too many green riders to think they can be trainers. Shudder.

Oops..Gotta go.

The picture is of the kidlette on a young vanner mare, I told you guys I'd post it if I ever found it. The mare is wearing a serretta and being ridden with a bit.

It's her first ride.

I'm on the longe line. You can see it's relaxed. Kidlette is working the reins left to right, she's getting her to give in each direction.

I talked about the speed breaking we did on these vanners in another post. I usually worked the serretta because I had good timing and a feel for it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What I Do

This is part of what I do on the "reality" side as a writer for the El Paso County and Fountain Valley News. Of course the story doesn't stop here. I'm investigating the 80 year old woman who lives alone in a falling apart spook house. She's taking care of her two remaining horses.
My mother (retired social worker) is concerned about her mental health and is forcing me to look at the humanity side of this situation, not just the horse.
We went to her property, couldn't get her to answer the door, but took pictures of the remaining horses. There is a stack of hay, water, shelter and 2 very thin horses, although not as bad as Majestic.
The gate opens into a small pasture with lots of very green grass, so obviously they have been kept off it until recently.
I'm afraid she'll founder the other two.
Where are this womans kids (she has 5)?
Why is she alone?
Is she slipping mentally or is she hiding the fact she finacially can't care for these horses?
Is she truly an evil bitch who was dumping her companion of 20 + years or did she really think she was going to go ride?
The Sheriff's Office is going to investigate and nosy old me is following this to the end.
I'm hoping we'll end up with the horses safely surrendered and the old lady (evil or no) getting some help.

Horse Abandoned Along Fountain Creek

By Janet Huntington

The little bay Arabian mare peeked around the corner of the barn. With a friendly nicker she left her hay to get a scratch behind the ears. Her backbone and ribs stand out is stark relief and her hip bones are a lesson in the skeletal structure of the horse.

“Majestic” is barely alive, but her eyes have a spark of interest and she keeps working on her feed. Wisp by wisp of hay she is slowly coming back.

Majestic has a body score of one on the Henneke Body Scoring System, the lowest rating possible on a scale used by veterinarians and emergency responders.

“By the time a horse gets this far down their organs have begun to fail, it takes months of starvation for a horse to get to this point,” DeMuesey said.

Majestic could have simply disappeared along the banks of Fountain Creek.

DeMuesey first heard of the horse’s plight when she received a phone call from a neighbor.

He said he had stopped to help an elderly woman who was trying to unload the horse from a trailer at I 25 and exit 116. The horse was down in the trailer and the woman was trying to drag her out with a rope tied to her leg.

The neighbor talked the woman into taking the horse and trailer to his ranch and used a tractor to pull the horse out. He then called DeMuesey.

“The first time I saw her she was laying on the ground. She was nothing more than a bag of bones, I was sure she was dead,” Dreamcatcher Equine Rescue manager Julie DeMuesey said.

“She had let us talk her onto her feet by the time the vet arrived and it turns out the only thing wrong with her is starvation and age. So we had to give her a chance.”

The elderly woman kept repeating her story. She said she was planning on taking the horse on a trail ride. She insisted Majestic was her favorite riding horse and she didn’t know why she had fallen.

“She kept brushing the mare off with a broom,” DeMuesey said, “she not only had no brushes with her, but there was no saddle or bridle.

“If the mare hadn’t fallen in the trailer I’m sure the plan was to dump her along the creek.”

By the time the sheriff’s department had arrived DeMuesey had convinced her to surrender the horse. The woman was allowed to return to her home in Colorado Springs.

Situations like the one Majestic was found in are happening more and more.

“Since the slaughter plants closed there isn’t any easy solution to getting rid of an unwanted horse,” DeMuesey said.

“It used to be an unwanted horse would be dropped off at a sale and the owner could pretend the horse would find a new home. But even the kill buyers aren’t going to take on a horse without weight on them. Not when they have to haul them to Mexico or Canada to the slaughter plants,” she stated.

Majestic is calm and friendly. She has obviously had a life of kindness before now. How she ended up on a desolate highway exit, starved and neglected is anyone’s guess.

DeMuesey is concerned about the woman who surrendered her also.

“People are too proud to ask for help,” she said, “instead of waiting until a horse is in this condition and then dumping them, a phone call to a horse rescue or the humane society will get immediate assistance.”

Horse owners in trouble or neighbors aware of starving horses in the Fountain area should first call the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region. If they still need assistance a call to the Fountain Fire Department at 382-7800 will generate an investigation.

“Area rescues will do what they can,” DeMuesey said, “we’re stuffed to the brim with horses, but we’ll do what we can to help.”

Like finding room for one more; an aged, starved little mare with sweet eyes and a soft nicker.
Dreamcatcher Equine Rescue can be reached at 719-266-2199 . The expenses to rehabilitate a horse like Majestic are high. Donations are always appreciated.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Trail Rides and Mojo

I have all kinds of training posts, thinking about stuff posts and so on that are half way done.

I am ADD in my thinking these days, so I flit around and create obstacles in every aspect of my life.

You guys aren’t the only parts of my life I’ve been spacing out on, believe me.

BUT! I have been riding. Riding and riding. Not training (much) just going and doing. I think about things while I ride. Where I’m heading, how god-awful awkward I am when I rope, finding little holes in my training that have led to pretty problems with my horse in the show pen.

I take delight in my horses. All three are a joy to ride, good minded and solid in their own way.

So I’m still circling and dodging many of my self built obstacles but I do have a bit of a tale to tell.

The kidlet (excuse me, I mean Clare) my good friend Kathy and I went for a trail ride on Sunday in the Garden of the Gods park.

There was weather expected in the afternoon so we got up at Oh-my-God thirty and had our horses trailered in, unloaded and saddled by 9 a.m.

There were all kinds of little niglets and weight to this ride. Clare wanted a ride with just the three of us. As she prepares to pull away and get on with her growing up she has become sentimental.

Kathy is essentially Mom#2 to Clare and Kathy’s daughter, Sarah, is her horse riding buddy and soul sister.

We all felt the weight of not having Sarah with us. Of course she was hanging at a beach house in Florida. I don’t think she missed us as much as we missed her.

So this carefully constructed plan had started with a good dose of sentimentality hanging on our saddle horns.

The next little knot was tied around Kathy’s neck. Two and a half years ago she was body slammed into an iron corral rail at a high speed (remember Captain?).

She spent 2 weeks in ICU and came out thoroughly shaken. Kathy spent almost a year simply taking care of her horse Rosie. She fed her and cleaned her pen, groomed her and enjoyed her, but didn’t, couldn’t ride.

She finally came out and rode with me for her first time and everything went fine, but she was still afraid.

Rosie is a wonderful, quiet minded, goofy little horse. She is Loki’s half-sister and Kathy has owned her since she was a few days old.

Kathy trained her herself, with a little riding from me and the rest through instruction and hard work.

Rosie is a fun little horse who can spin on a dime, will toss out a dolphin buck here and there to remind us who’s who and has enough cow to keep Kathy on her toes.

She is also Kathy’s dear friend and was totally OK with staying at a walk until Kathy was ready for more.

I conned Kathy into giving up her self care barn and moving Rosie to my barn. She has been riding more and more and getting her “ride” back. I have my favorite person to ride with.

Clare and Kathy both wanted to run up the valley, the same one I ran Sonita up.

So we had that little niggle to contend with. Kathy hadn’t let Rosie run since her train wreck. She looked a little strained.

This was a big next step for my arena baby. Both Clare and Kathy were better about getting their horse out than I was. Madonna looks at this trail riding as a huge adventure. She hadn’t had to tackle anything like these rocky, steep, trails before, so I was hoping she would still like trail riding after today.

So off we went, excited and eager, our little niggles trailing behind us.

The ride was fun and the park, as always, breath-taking. I noticed a few things.

When your horses are barefoot you can see them feel the rocks to find the best path. I kept thinking how a shoe must flatten their foot and take away the feel. Because all three of us ride on a loose rein it was interesting to note how careful and thoughtful each horse was about finding the best path.

All three horses would put their noses down like a horse doing the bridge in a trail class. They would snuff and look and then pick their way.

It was so different than my old way of tightening up in a tough spot.

These days our horses never scramble, never panic, they just kept going along. As long as we stayed centered and aware they did too.

We didn’t have a single refusal all day. All three horses willingly climbed bare rock, dropped down a 2-foot ledge and crossed all kinds of bridges.

A wonderful feeling came over me. I realized my fear has subsided.

I had no thoughts of danger, no times when I had to force myself to relax, nothing. Kathy and Clare were the same. Of course the kidlet is always that way. But here we were, two old fifty-something ladies, cruising along.

My mojo is back. I have come back to being a happy, confident rider. Is it because I only ride my horses? Probably.

But I’m working my colt, easing my fried ex-show horse through her anxieties and riding my Madonna, who although is wonderful, can be a lot of horse.

So it’s not all cake, but I’m not afraid anymore. I trust my horses and my ability and they trust me. Cool realization to have riding on a beautiful day in a gorgeous park.

We came around a bend to the bottom of the old reservoir. Kathy was looking pretty anxious, so I suggested we lope a few circles in the field before we headed out.

Clare made a face but did it anyway. Kathy got a little tight and Rosie picked up the wrong lead, but she fixed it and pretty soon all three of us were loping lazy, loopy circles in this beautiful field of green grass.

“Screw it,” Kathy said, “I’m going!”

She and Clare rode out of their circle and headed up the hill. Madonna and I followed behind at an easy lope.

They sped up with every stride and soon were flying.

My little yellow horse watched with interest but stayed in her lope, comfortable on a loose rein.

She sure isn’t Sonita.

“C’mon,” I said, “we’re way behind.”

With a scoot of my seat she took off up the hill after them.

On the way home I looked over at Kathy. She sat in the back seat of the truck, a sly smile on her face.

“What are you thinking about?” I shouted over the chug of the diesel.

“We had to look so cool running up that hill,” she answered.

Talk about mojo.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mouthy Mondays...

Finally! Mouthy Monday returns. And so hopefully do I. My schedule is erupting. It looks like I will be able to schedule some time for my cyber friends again. I have several half written posts, I have stories in my head and a few interesting ideas I'm dying to share.
So Iwill be trying for 2 posts a week through the month and then I'll have some breathing room.

I don't think I've posted this story. It's lovely, funny and brave. So if you've already read it, I apologise, but it seems worth a reread to me.

Talk to you soon.


When I was in the hospital, they initially put me in a ward for the thoracic surgery candidate-type patients.

The nurses were awesome, very competent and friendly. I think they enjoyed a patient who, while definitely the worse for wear, wasn't one of the pain-med fuzzy, post-surgical majority.

The day after I was diagnosed, (it was understood that I'd be moving from the Thoracic section to Oncology, but they were still sorting out rooms,) one of my regular nurses came in and sat with me for a while. She wasn't used to things like this, she said. She hadn't expected that I might have cancer and or that surgery wasn't in the cards. She handed me a box of tissues, but really, she needed them more than I did.

Hey, a nurse who can cry over you is a wonderful person indeed, but it's a little unsettling, y'know?

Once I moved to Oncology, I had another visitor. This time, it was the hospital chaplain. Without hesitation, she also handed me the ubiquitous box of tissues, then waited for me to... oh, I don't know. Vent? Bawl? Rage at the universe? Who knows?

I didn't bother. I think she was a little disappointed.A few weeks later, after I was cozily ensconced back in my home sweet home, the phone rang. It was a nurse who worked for my insurance company, assuring me that "We're in this together." (Presumably as long as the premiums continue to arrive in a timely manner.) We went over my treatments, my meds, how I was feeling, what side effects I had or could expect, etc. etc. etc.

And then she asked how I was handling my depression."If it happens, I'll let you know," I assured her.

"It's only natural," she soothed, apparently still reading from a script that I'd unwittingly deviated from. "Has your doctor prescribed anything for it?"

"Uh, not unless you count the Lorazepam." (Lorazepam, by the way, is an anti-nausea medication, but it works mostly by knocking you unconscious for four hours. Thus, it is also considered an anti-anxiety medication.)

"If I need anything though," I added, "I'll definitely ask."

There was a long silence at the other end of the line, then she clarified. "You're not depressed?"

"Cartwheels in the streets? No," I said. "Depressed? Also no. It is what it is."

Which has, in a way, been my catch-phrase through the entire mess. It is what it is.

Now to be completely honest, I did give depression a try about ten years ago. Post-divorce, I was so depressed that I was practically catatonic with it.

I never even went to a doctor or counselor, because, you know, no one cared about me anyway.

All it did was give me raging indigestion. So yeah, I'm not going to sink into a blue funk over cancer, but shouldn't I, at the very least, have been scared out of my tiny little mind?

Over the weeks and months, even a few of my closest friends have given me the doubtful eyebrow twitch and expressed a belief that I am not emoting as honestly as I ought.

I haven't bawled, or shed more than the occasional private tear, or raged at the unfairness of the universe.

Instead, I've cracked jokes and played video games.

My friends don't think it's... well, healthy.

In fact, it got to the point where I was starting to wonder about that myself. It's not that I don't care. It's not that I'm not concerned. And though I am serene in the knowledge that my Redeemer lives and that there is undoubtedly a niche for me in Heaven, that doesn't mean that I haven't earned the right to at least a moderate hissy-fit or two here on Earth.

This is what I've come up with. I've spent the majority of my years working, in some capacity, with horses. (Oh come on, you knew I'd bring horses into this, right?) From summer camp, to riding lessons, to stable management school, to actually managing a stable, to giving riding lessons to kiddies, to training and mucking and grooming and even owning a succession of four-legged carrot-crunchers myself, I have dealt with horses on and off for thirty-three years.

Horses are reactive creatures.

What's more, they're prey animals.

Lions and tigers and bears, (oh my!) think that our equine friends taste mighty fine .

Naturally therefore, horses are always instinctively on the lookout for the next bug-eyed horse eating monster. (Especially the tricky ones shaped like trees, rocks or plastic grocery bags.) At the first hint of danger, most horses will gather themselves, leap into the air, bolt for the horizon at Warp factor 9, and ask questions later.

Horses, to be succinct, are paranoid freaks.So, what's the worst thing a human can do around a horse?Show fear.

When you're trotting along on a brisk October morning and a flock of birds erupt from some nearby trees and your horse's head shoots up in the air, ears at rigid attention, and he plants his feet, bunches his muscles and snorts a triple exclamation pointed countdown for launch, what does the smart rider do?

Exhale. Sigh.Relax.

And then, just maybe, if you're lucky, ol' Thunderguts will pause a moment and think things over.

Hmm. Rider isn't scared. Rider is... bored? This is boring? Why would– oh. Oh!

Those are birdies! Oh. Ha. Yeah. Oops. This is embarrassing. Uhm, we can trot again, right?

Yeah, okay. Sorry. On the other hand, if the birds explode from the trees and you snatch up the reins and start shouting, "Whoa! Whoa!" I can guarantee that your hayburner will be making tracks for the next county.

Maybe you'll still be on board when you get there. Maybe not.

The fact is, your tension and quick movements and shouting only reinforces the scariness of the situation.

My rider is freaking out and she's a carnivore who eats cows in a bun!!!! Eeeeek! Those birds must be piranhas with wings!!! We're all gonna dieeeeeee!!!! Time to jet!!!!!!!!

It's not foolproof and it's not fail-safe, but the relaxed approach beats out the panicked one 999 times out of 1,000.

So, you practice.

You practice the exhale.

When the excrement hits the oscillation in the tiny little mind of your loyal steed, you learn not to take the time to evaluate what the "danger" actually is.

By then it's too late. No, at the first sign of tension, you perfect the practice of sighing meaningfully.

You learn how to relax your muscles and sink down into the saddle and become just a little heavier under the weight of your utter boredom in the face of the unexpected.

You learn to center yourself.

And eventually, when he finds himself (or herself) not being eaten by those vicious plastic bags and menacing rocks, your horse starts to pick up the same habit.

He draws his confidence from the rider on his back, or the hands on the reins, or the schmuck at the other end of the lead rope.

He learns to exhale too.

So maybe, just maybe, my lack of reaction isn't really a lack of reaction at all, but just a long established habit.

Maybe all those years with the horses taught me an invaluable coping skill that I never realized I had until my friends started bugging me about how much I wasn't... well, bugged.

Maybe in a small way, I've learned the art of the exhale.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Some Call Them Cliff Hangers. I Call Them Chapters.

Hey all. How you been?

Had a cool little ride on my colt today and some satisfying rescue stuff is going on.

Madonna has been trail riding.

I'm learning to rope.

Fun summer.

Thanks for the kind words from you all when I was gone.

As for the other comment all I've got to say is this.

1.I'm honored. I think I have my first troll.

2.This ain't Netflix baby. I don't write on demand.


I arranged to keep her in one of the small dusty pen in the indoor arena.

We had to build a chute from panels and herd her from the broodmare pen to the arena. Tally was so bug eyed and snorty I had no doubt she would try to blast through the wire if I approached her.

For several days I just let her be. I set my chair with its back against her stall and would take my breaks sitting there reading, or doing my books.

If I had a student I could coach from my chair I did so.

I never looked at her while I sat in my chair, I just went by the sound of her feet.

At first Tally would rush to her corner as soon as I came near. She would cower there, her head to her knees and sweat running in rivulets down her shaking legs.

I began to wonder what I had taken on. My experience had never covered a horse like this one.

"You should have let me put her in a hole," the boss said, "the poor thing is so crazy she's going to worry herself to death anyway."

He had a point. Nobody had abused Tally. There may have been mistakes made, but none a normal horse couldn't overcome.

"I'm going to give it some time," I said.

I stood up and turned to look at her. She tried to climb away from me and skittered half way up the wall at the back of her pen. It was like I had an antelope trapped in the 10 x 12 stall.

"I just need to find the key to her, that's all."

The boss shook his head and left, the worry on his face scared me more than anything the mare had actually done.

Days passed and I continued to keep my eyes away from her. When we cleaned her stall we just walked in and cleaned. It was hard to ignore her frantic scrambling against the walls, but we did the best we could.

One morning the sun was so bright and the air so clean I couldn't bear keeping the doors closed. The temperature was cool and the breeze was stiff but I didn't care.

I opened the arena doors and welcomed the smell of the frost on the creek. I sat in my chair with my coffee and my cross word.

I was lost in my puzzle when I felt just a whiff of air against my coat.

I tried not to stiffen or hold my breath. I felt it again.

Tally was sniffing my jacket through the panel rails.

I felt a tentative pull on my sleeve.

I couldn't help my smile but I caught my whoop before it escaped.

We were ready to begin.