Wednesday, August 25, 2021

You Know It's Our Fault, Right?

It's the arguments that drive me nuts. People justifying the existance or way of maintaining certain breeds of animals in their life because they grew up with one that acted just like Lassie, or was every bit as smart as Trigger. 

The argument intensifies when we slather our humanity all over these animals. We might have our "heart" horses or insist dogs bred for generations to bite, maul and kill are really "nanny dogs" waiting to return love in equal amounts of the love given - but that's how we feel, it makes no allowances for the reality of the animal.

Then, if none of those heart felt loaded arguments work we fall back on our rights. Maybe this is an American thing, but it certainly seems to be the go to when facts start overcoming emotion. "It's my right to own this dog breed, it's my right to keep my horse in a box and ride it on asphalt, don't tread on me while I'm stomping all over these creatures."

I understand the emotion, and I also understand a need  to justify molding animals into the shapes we want. It's just that I think animals have rights too. The right to breathe and the right to move come to mind.

Instead, we change their size, their jaw width, even their ability to breathe, all to fit our personal needs. 

We expect our domesticated animals to tolerate our ape-like grasp, our need to be the boss, our need to be loved in spite of crawling all over them, putting bits in their mouths or muzzles on their faces. The crazy thing is, they do. If that's what we want, our animals will accomidate the best they can, within their genetic limits.We humans of course, can't be content with that, and dip our fingers in their gene pools like muddy feet in a basin of holy water. 

I'm not saying our experiments are good or bad, I'm just saying we need to accept responsibility for our mutant Frankensteins. 

The first thing I'd like people to understand is that when we modify one gene for behavior it can rise up in the physical too. We aren't quite good enough at creation to anticipate how our yin will get along with our yang. 

I randomly looked up best couch potato breeds. Bulldog, St. Bernard, Basset Hound, French Bulldog, Pekinese, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Chow, Pug, Great Dane all topped the list. Fighting dogs, life savers, royal dogs, hunting dogs, all kinds of sizes and coats, there was quite the diversity. 

At least until I looked up their chronic, breed related ailments. Shortened sinuses, popping eye, joints that don't join, skin that doesn't fit, legs that can't run, noses that can't scent and hearts so small that all their love can't stop them from bursting and killing them in their first decade.

You know who did that? We, the human race did. We've got a nice list of couch potatoes though.

It's not just our ignorance of the damage caused by genetic tampering that gets to me. There's the things we do to our domestic animals for our personal convenience, and then scream from the roof tops, "But he like it this way!!" 

My example here is an awful, heartbreaking injury/infection mess that too many horseowners deal with. Its called cellulitis, a diffuse or widespread swelling of the skin and subcutaneous tissues (that area directly below the surface layer of the skin) caused by inflammation usually associated with bacterial infection. Some of these horses will exhibit mild signs with cool to warm swelling, minimal pain and no lameness. Other more extreme cases of cellulitis will show impressive leg swelling (two to three times the normal size), warm to hot skin that is often painful to the touch, an elevated temperature (102 to 103 degrees Fahrenheit) and notable severe lameness.

The lymphatic system is supposed to clean up those bits of bacteria as blood flows through the the body . When circulation is compromised the toxins aren't flushed properly and can become trapped. Then, those bacteria can get their party started and bring on the cellulitis.

 Healthy lymph flow back into the circulation is encouraged by activity and muscular contraction. Horses in the wild cover long distances at walk each day while stalled horses, and horses in small pastures have long periods of inactivity. In addition, horses have no muscle to contract below the knee, making their legs especially vulnerable.

 You know what prevents this? Strolling for miles, grazing choice bits here and there, front legs pulling, sagging backs and almost continuous movement. It's how horses are made, and what it takes to keep them healthy.

We, us, people, are the ones who keep them in boxes, covered in blankets, sheets, leg wraps, neck sweats and all of these things inhibit movement. We do it for our convenience. We do it because we don't have the room to meet their needs. We do it because a horse's mind is so malleable we can convince them this is what they need.

Cellulitis is our fault, created by forcing a horse to adapt to a confinement that they can't physiologically sustain. 

I'm not pointing fingers. I am however, saying we have to keep our animals real needs in the forefront of our thoughts if we choose to tend them. We have fallen in the habit of treating the results of our manipulation as the problem. It's not. 

I don't have the answers, I have ideas, which I'll certainly share. I can't see the value of treating a symptom without understanding the cause. When we discover we created the mess, I'd like to admit it and start to mop it up.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

HAY!! Good Morning! - One More Thing


It's going to be sporadic and weird around here, at least for a while. I'm moving. I have lived somewhere or the other in Colorado Springs since I was twelve. Still going to be in Colorado, but I'm headed for the Western slope, where there are fewer people, most of whom are of a nature I understand.

My horse Mort and I came together two years after my family arrived here. He saved me from a downward spiral that I don't believe I could have pulled out of, no matter how many well-meaning nuns my parents threw at me. Mort, and my dog Jud, were my rocks, my moral compass, and my protectors during my initial foray untangling human nature. 

Horses are my passion, and dogs are my best friends. The genetic wheel dropped me into the humanity slot, which rolled me into my immediate family, so I'm a member whether I like it or not. Lucky me, there's a few gems in the bunch, and the effort is worth while.

In 2017 I was diagnosed as autistic. I was 59 years old. 

It was an enormous relief. It explained so much. Years of therapy, delving into whys and hows, always feeling just outside of ...  almost everything. My therapist did a fine imitation of that forehead smacking emoji after she read an article I found on autistic adult women. 

She said, "Now what will I do with you? Autism isn't my field of study."

"Clearly," I said.

She may have thrown a wad of paper at me, I'm not sure. 

All our years of work turned out to be caused by a wiring issue. Well, hell, I could live with that just fine. 

Plus, all those years with her kept me with at least one foot on the planet, got me through raising my creatively challenging daughter, and prevented my mind from snapping like an old, spongy rubber band, you know, like the ones you yank out of the shower drain, twisted around a snarl of hair. So we still hang. 

Therapy kept me sane enough to care for my dying partner, Jim. I'm sure many of you know, but I'll repeat just for clarity, my partner Jim had a massive stroke while on the operating table for the surgical removal of a blood clot that went from his ankle to his groin. 

Within 24 hours my life had turned upside down and I became his full time caretaker, which ended my evolving career as a writer for a small town newspaper.

I hung in with my horses as best I could, kept up hiking, writing, doing what I try to do, but as his mental and physical health faded and my Parkinson's Disease began to amp up my outside life began to fade away. 

Friends and assistance from his children disappeared into the Netherworld. I've known this from my cancer years, long term illnesses become boring. We're supposed to get better or dead, but for God's sake, don't dawdle. People get bored. 

In order to maintain, I began to let things go. First, riding, then hiking, eventually writing, drawing, reading, watching TV, visiting friends, all of it, put to the side so I could maintain my single minded focus on Jim.

I wasn't playing martyr, I was doing what I felt needed to be done in order to keep Jim's butt out of a nursing home, one of his greatest nightmares. When you choose a life partner, you've got each others back, and that's that.

Three years and some months ago, Jim died. 

Three years, some months and two days later, I found out his children had systemetically been emptying his estate. The end result was I was broke and going to lose my home.

The last three years I have been fighting for my house and my way of life.

This week will be the end of all the shit. 

I can sell the house, get into the mountains and take a breath. I may be buying another place, or a field with a yurt on it, won't know for a bit, but it will be mine. 

I've been reading. Hanging with my horses and dogs. Pretty much quit people, I get along better through the written word. I'm drawing again. For the first time in my life I am about to be unfettered from obligation I did not choose. It's heady. I never knew old age could be this sweet.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Good Morning

 Words and phrases I don't ever need to hear again, at least not in this life.



Fur Baby

washed out of the program

back yard breeder

quality breeder

adopt don't shop

Quick confession. I just can't go back to the old format. Back then, I told stories of horses I was currently training. Those stories brought up some good training discussions and the blog readers and I enjoyed them. Then, the work I wrote about and the conversations we shared triggered horse memories from when I was a kid. So, more stories ensued. 

I haven't tried to train anything except my aging bladder for the last several years. These days I don't hold back and I keep few secrets. Those of you who read this blog from the beginning will remember how long it took me to admit I have an arm amputated just below my elbow.

I'm old, I have Parkinson's Disease, one arm, and skinny legs. 

There, it's all out in the open. 

I still want to write, but I think there will be more of it if we just see what happens. Are we good?

I do, however, have a new project. Scrub, my Foundation bred dun gelding started watching me about a month ago. I step outside and he might be across the field, but when I look, he's pulled away a bit from the other two and  fixed me with both eyes. The only time he doesn't is when he's running or flirting. 

I think he wants to engage. 

Go ahead and accuse me of humanizing him. I don't care. The keen attention he gives me tells me its time to begin my project. I want to do some liberty work, but make it happen for reals, you know, train him at liberty. I watch the videos of these dancing horses, and the handler invariably has a whip, long or short, and the horse tosses its head like an Arab in a halter class.

I'm going to try to teach Scrub by triggering his curiosity. See f I can keep him interested and curious enough to work with me. No saddle, no halter, no whip, no treats.

Scrub is the horse I started by teaching each step just once. I didn't repeat cues, I showed him once and when we seemed to have it down, I quit for the day. Forever after, whatever we learned one day was part of what we built on the next. It kept me occupied during my long and difficult easing out of the working cowhorse world. I ended up with a curious, willing horse loaded with try. He is friendly and a troublemaker. 

I'll attempt to take pics, maybe some video, as this unfolds. We can talk about it. In my bizzaro world, this will be fun. It's funny, while I'm laying this out a story popped into my head. Guess we'll see where this goes.

Monday, May 24, 2021


 I had an interesting text convo with a reader from the old days, one who pretty much hung around and made it to the new days with me. 

We were talking about her head shy horse and what to do with him. She certainly didn't create the mess this poor horse is in, but she's dealing with it now, and it's one bitch of a problem. He's so afraid of anybody handling his head or face he's potentially dangerous, although he doesn't have a mean bone in his body. 

In some ways, a good minded horse that becomes so frightened he'll crawl a wall to get away from you is more dangerous than an angry, touch-me-and-I'll-kill-you, evil-minded bastard. The bad-minded horse will engage, where the good one might kill himself, or you, in a blind panic.

This particular horses is stalled at night with daily turnout at his new home. This is perfect for a mind reset. For most of his prior life he never came out of his stall. Did his owners create the problem through ignorance, or cruelty? I don't know, and it doesn't particularly concern me. 

My concern with a horse like this stems from his complete inability to cooperate. A horse who doesn't understand the need to cooperate with humans ends up at auction, or passed from one bad situation to another until he's dead. It's that simple. 

I get cooperation through mutual respect. I want the horse to be clear with my expectations and in return I acknowledge their mental and physical needs.

A great example is my dun gelding, Scrub (aka Odin). As a foal, he did not want to be touched by humans, anywhere, any time. So, I didn't. I handled his mama, gave her scritches, checked her feet, doctored a nasty puncture, all the usual stuff I do with a broodmare on pasture. As time went on, his curiosity overcame his distaste and he began to sniff me and pull at my shirt. I ignored him until he almost crawled up my leg trying to get my attention. Then, I scratched his butt, right above the dock of his tail, and quit right when he started to really get into it. 

Fast forward to his three-year-old year. He still preferred minimal handling, but he tolerated what I needed to do with him. I could halter him out in the field, lead him away from the herd, he stood for the vet and farrier, loaded in a trailer, and then rode quiet. He never raised a leg in threat, bit, or shoved into me. When it came time to ride him he was soft and easy. 

Through all this, he came to appreciate being groomed, liked people to find his scritchy parts, and would come to visit periodically of his own accord. He absolutely hated having his ears handled, or a hand placed between his eyes. So, I didn't. He would spook and blow if a person walked up to us and extended a hand to pat his forehead, so I defended him and always asked for space.

There was no reason to do anything else, as long as I didn't need to doctor him or put on a bridle. Then, I expected him to tolerate me, and he did. The rest of the time, I respected his need not to be crawled all over. 

These days, many years later, I can scratch his ears, rub his face, mess with his forelock and whatever else I can think of, he is the friendliest booger you could ever want to meet. I waited for him to choose contact and it paid off. 

Can I kiss that soft part between his nostrils? I don't know, I'm not all that kissy. 

I want a horse I'm working to do my definition of his job.  That's pretty much all there is to it with me as a trainer. The rest is up to them. I give them choices, and find when a horse knows there are choices to be made, they try harder to sort out what I want. They also know some things don't come with choices, and when I tell them it's time to listen, they snap to. They also think. If there is an obstacle that worries them, they know I'll give them a reasonable amount of time to sort it out. It helps save us from complete shut downs, spook and bolts, or tossing me on my head.

Anyway, back to the head shy horse.

There are a few things about this horse that tells me he's going to be an easy fix. The first is he will approach his new owner in the field and ask for attention. The second is, as long as he's wearing a halter, he will come to the front of the stall and allow her to attach his lead. This tells me he is indeed a kind and forgiving horse. It tells me he knows that accepting the lead is his ticket out to the field. It tells me some bonehead really effed him up, but I digress. 

What I recommended is that she stand outside his stall and offer him the halter. Hold it open for him to stick his nose in and wait. Wait as long as it takes to sort out what he has to do to get outside and let him choose to be haltered. It's his job to accept the halter. She might be waiting a while (sometimes days) but it always works. No halter, no field. The key is to be still, to wait, to ooze horseaii. Probably no eye contact. The important part of this is no cooing, no reaching toward him, and no quick movements to grab him, because 'good grief, his freaking head is right here and I've been waiting a year and if I can just throw the leadrope around his neck...' because now, whether you catch him or not, you took away his choice. He has you pegged as yet another sneaky bastard and won't fall for that again. 

I'm just realized I'm going to have to change my advice a bit. Since he already makes the connection between the lead and going out, she might want to try standing at the stall door with it (as she does now) and a second halter and lead hanging on her arm. Wait until he comes in for the lead and take him out. Then, add to his job description daily, maybe rubbing him with the second halter a bit, then the next day, draping it over his neck, etc. Eventually, he will let her put the second halter on and understand his job. No sneaking, open communication, just making it a little easier for them both and building on what he already knows.

I respect the space of all horses in stalls. It's their safe place and I want it to stay that way. I don't punish them by tying them in the stall. I don't give shots, vet them, pick at them, play with them, none of the stuff we humans think of while they are trapped in a small space with no way out. When I clean their stalls I try to maintain a friendly, business like attitude, and get out. I'm the same when I feed. I expect the horse to be quiet, get out of my way, no aggressive anything, no bumping me, and no pawing or banging the stalls at feed time, or ever, for that matter. It's my job to feed, clean, and respect their space, and theirs to give me mine. 

Don't get me wrong, I talk to them like we're doing coffee at Village Inn, but the rules stay the same.

When the head shy horse accepts the halter without fear it's going to be an enormous step forward in their working relationship. It will show up in every future step they take together. 

If you're wondering about friendship between them, well, that will come later, all she has to do is wait.

P.S. Back to the blue Corriente next time...

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The Blue Corriente

I settled into my new life as the reporter, columnist, and cartoonist for a small town newspaper. It was a bit surreal, dressing for work, leaving my dogs home, and boarding my horses. 

The job was interesting, the people I wrote about were fun and tickled to be featured, and my writing skills took a satisfying leap forward. 

I didn't miss the job of horse training, but I missed the time in the saddle something fierce, and the cows, I ached to work cows. Lucky for me, I found a boarding stable a few blocks from the office, run by Jay, roper/rancher/boarder who knew his way around a horse. 

We got along fine, he honored my request not to tell boarders about my training background, and I began to enjoy getting on my horses and just, you know, riding. One afternoon, Jay asked me to help him sort a lame steer out of his holding pen and soon after, told me I could work his cattle. 

I was in heaven. Did I care if they were Corriente roping steers? Not a whit. I was creative in how I used them anyway, I didn't want them ducking under a loop because I'd been taking them down the fence, and for the first time ever, I could just dink with them. So, I did. 

I trailed after them at a walk, played with the bubble (the air space between horse and cow), picked a random spot in the arena and made the steer stand quiet, ran them up the shoot for the ropers, and taught my horses how to wait patiently in the box. I even played with learning to rope,  ranch classes were beginning to take off and I thought I might give them a try. That didn't last long, I only had one thumb left, and the gnarled, twisted, and sometimes missing pieces of the ropers fingers made me nervous. It was the most fun I'd had in memory and both me and the horses were becoming pretty handy, you know, practical handy, not just show pen handy. Jay spent a lot of time watching me work. At first, I'm sure he was keeping an eye on his cattle, but eventually, he just seemed to enjoy it. 

One cool evening I turned my horses out in the arena and kept an idle eye on them while they rolled. Clouds of hair and sand came off them when they stood and shook. Jay came up next to me and handed me a beer. I rolled it across the back of my sunburned neck and felt like I was back where I belonged.

"I wondered if you'd work a cow for me," he said.

"Sure, what do you need?" I was puzzled, Jay could work his cattle anyway he needed.

"There's a blue heifer in the pen. She runs crooked right out of the gate," he said. 

"I'm guessing you hazed her pretty hard?" I said.

"Well, that's the tricky part. She'll hook you if you crowd her and she'll turn right into a horse when she feels a loop. "

Now I'd like to think Jay would have shared this tidbit before I started pushing her around, but you never know what some of these old cowboys consider funny. Corrientes are small, quick, and horned. An aggressive one would normally be a quick cull at a roping arena. "Jay, just what are you setting me up for?"  

"Ah, nothing, she's just a real looker and I want to turn her out at the ranch. If she's nuts she isn't going to do me any good, and if she's mean, even less. I thought you could do some of your cowhorse stuff on her and get her moving off a horse instead of into them."

"OK then," I said, "tomorrow after work?"

I saddled Madonna and long-trotted along the rail on a loose rein. She knew we were working cattle as soon as I slid the hackamore over her nose and was focused and cheerful, a place she only frequented when there were cattle. She was going well in the two-rein, but the hackamore kept us honest. A bridle made it too easy for me to correct instead of ride and gave Madonna something to fret over instead of pay attention. 

She was justified in her worry because she fed off mine. I was getting used to the new drug cocktail my neurologist has concocted and had lost trust in riding with a steady hand. The entire purpose of a horse straight up in the bridle was perfect communication between hand and horse. If my mare couldn't trust me we were never going to get there. 

The blue heifer was easy to spot in the pen filled with black, brown, and speckled steers. She was a beautiful blue roan color, doe-eyed and dainty. I could see why Jay wanted her to work. She was huddled in hock-deep mud with about four or five dull, used-up steers. A sour steer might be the dullest, slowest, pile of hamburger a person ever met. She watched our approach, bright and alert.

Madonna was beginning to fuss. She didn't like mud, she hated pools of pee in mud, and she knew we were going to jump a rusted bunk feeder to get to our target. In situations like this, it helped to be mounted on a horse bred to face and follow the things that spooked her most. As soon as she knew which cow we were after she hopped the jagged-edged feeder without a second spook. 

I rolled my shoulders until they cracked and sat back. I can curl over my horn like a circus monkey when I'm nerved up and I did not want to come over a shoulder in that muck and face plant in front of a stabby little heifer. 

We shoved between two sullen steers, and when they didn't get out of our way Madonna pinned her ears and bit first one then the other, hard enough to make them scatter. She snorted, I looked up to focus on our cow and she was gone. It took me a minute to find her, tucked behind the barn wall, a good fifty yards off.

"Dammit Madonna, keep your eye on the ball," I said. Her ear flick told me she was about to say the same to me. 

This was going to be a long afternoon.

***Mugs here: I'm thinking of switching over to WIX. I can't comment on the comments here at blogger and am about to lose my email notification abilities. Any thoughts? I've been out of the game too long.

***I tried to make it easier to comment...did it work?

Sunday, May 16, 2021

House Breaking


Technically, I'm having a tough time housebreaking my puppy POTUS, and it doesn't help that he is so freaking enormous, I forget he is a baby. He's five months old and doesn't have the nighttime routine down yet. Today, I found out why.

At five am, I opened the door to let the dogs out. Paladin, the Sarplaninac was first out the door. The pup trotted out with her and sniffed the ground. Good start to the morning and it made me hopeful. Then Paladin lifted her head, sniffed the incoming breeze and a low growl rumbled from deep in her chest.  POTUS darted back inside and sat next to me. He didn't pee in the 40 seconds he was out.

I took him upstairs and opened the kitchen door. Brockle trotted outside and sniffed the air to the southeast, the puppy followed and did the same. Then, Brockle moved to the fence and began to bark. POTUS flew back and sat behind my legs. I grabbed my jacket and coaxed him outside. He came with me, but he cried and leaned against my legs, he wanted me back inside.

My two older dogs have taught him well. There were predators nearby, they had work to do, and the puppy was not invited. He listened to them without question and didn't pee outside because the big dogs told him to stay on the porch. I wish I trained as well as they do.

Previous me might have made assumptions about this pup. The first would be wondering if he may be timid. The second might be that POTUS is going to be difficult to housebreak. Go back to the waaaay previous me and I might have taken this as deliberate disobedience. Lucky for both of us, I know he is not timid. He is aware of his environment. He gages both my and the big dogs' reactions before making most decisions, well, except for stealing my slippers, those he just grabs and runs.

If I forced him outside or was angry while mopping yet again, I would be in direct contradiction with the big dogs. Their logic is sound, the puppy is not old enough to encounter coyotes. I wonder if this type of contradiction could plant the seeds of fear aggression. 

There are a lot of solutions out there. There are charts and crates and alarms and leashes to tie them to my waist. I'm certainly not criticizing any specific method. Current me has become more of an observer and thinker before acting kind of woman. POTUS is bright, sensitive, and already developing quite the vocabulary. He understands where I want him to poop and more than happy to oblige until he is forbidden to evacuate anything but the immediate area because the big dogs are on alert. 

My solution is this - I'm moving the final feed of the day back two hours. This will push poop time back to bright daylight, and fewer coyotes. Also, if the dogs are working, I'll leash him and go for a short, calm, walk away from the action until he poops. 

I'd like to think this is the solution, unfortunately, there is a small glitch in my system. Brockle and Paladin are complete jerks. Any given quiet, boring day, they will position themselves strategically so neither POTUS, nor the little dogs can go outside without passing them. Then, they take a nap, because they made a rule where nobody can go out until they decide to let them. This normally doesn't happen until there is at least one good dump in the house from somebody and I get to bring out the mop.

"Move," is a command all my dogs understand and comply to. I use it often. If I catch on to what they are doing, I can holler the name of the culprit, then "Move!" and the troublemaker will move aside. Because of this, no rotten dogs have been whacked with a mop in my process of sorting this out. I'm pretty sure this is not truly my big dogs being punks, but an instinctive positioning to guard us while they sleep. I prefer to humanize them and consider them dirty, rotten scoundrels messing with the weaker members of the scrum.

The dogs being blocked have learned to rat out those doing the blocking. They will bark until they have my attention and I fix the situation, although, on snowy winter days, everybody stays quiet, and my mop time triples. I'm pretty sure the scrum then morphs into a cabal, the dogs unite, and devise a plot to poop in the basement en masse. Then, they blame the current government.

Damn dogs.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Conversations On the Fence

 Boy oh boy, have I been through it the last eight, nine, ten years? Has it been that long since I wandered off the blog?

I am not the same Mugs who left here. Life has educated me in many ways that I wasn't prepared for. 

I'm quieter. I think, observe, mull, dwell, and absorb the chaos that swirls around me. Then, I spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to meditate. I'm too twitchy, my mind jumps from here to there and does not want to focus on an inner light, thank you very much. I can't escape the appeal of a deep interior quiet though, so I keep trying.

If any of you old-timers join back up with this particular posse, I'm not sure you'll agree with my turn of thought. I am still horsaii to my bones. If I didn't have my dogs, well, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be. The last few years I've been both making peace and searching for it. Ironically, I have cut some long-term ties I thought were forever, sometimes, with a sudden sharpness I never knew I carried. So, the conversation could be interesting and I hope a few of you join in.

The one thing I know, an unshakable fact, is that I am myself here on the Chronicles. Maybe a little writing will help my current search for who the hell I actually am.

Long ago, I hid from the readers of this blog the fact I had one arm. I didn't want it to become a focal point around my horsemanship. Now I don't give a shit. I've survived too much to think it matters. 

I have Parkinson's Disease too and was recently diagnosed as living a lifetime of clinical depression AND plunked down about three-quarters of the way around the spectrum. 

There, the worst is out of the way. I talk about it now because I realize how intrinsic all these things are to my life with horses. Since this blog was always about living with horses, to hide any of it is kind of a lie, and I'm not willing to go there.

And here is a story:

"Stop asking your horse what it thinks when you're on the fence."

I can't say the Big K was shouting, but I could have heard him just as well from the other side of the arena. "We could have stepped into that turn a little earlier," I said.

"You missed a plus half at least," he said.

"It was a good turn," I said.

"It could have been a great one, but you have to pick the perfect moment and tell that mare to turn. You can't go into a huddle and talk about it. Your horse doesn't understand a score sheet, she's just going to pick the softest route every time."

"Mmmm, you mean like a real cowhorse? I lost points because she set up that turn the way she did?"

"You lost points because you didn't set up the turn, she did."

"But she had a valid point," I said.

The Big K didn't think I was funny. The little group of eavesdroppers sure did though. He muttered something about needing a beer and stomped off.

"So Madonna, do we want to follow him and buy him that beer? Nah, me either." I stepped down loosened her cinch and led her back to the stalls. We were out of the money that day, by half a point.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Summer Break

 Well hello there.

I hope everybody is doing well. 

I'm not sure how things are in your world, but mine is pretty damn shitty. Sometimes everything feels so grim I don't want to try anymore. 

I'm not going to dive into personal beliefs, and God knows, I'm not talking politics, ever, and so this is the last time I'll bring this up. Part of my trouble is I don't know how to help, and haven't known for a long while. 

But I remembered something today. I tell a good story, and I know stuff. Not all stuff, but enough to share it here and there. I can offer distraction. I can help by offering our imagination another place to be.

So, let me dust off my hat, put a little oil on my spurs and a lot on my boots, because it's time to start up my stories. They won't be the same, because I'm a totally different person than the Mugs you knew, and have worked hard to get that way, but hopefully I can still spin a yarn. 

In the fields behind our neighborhood, the grass was so tall I could let my feet swing as I rode and kick the heavy heads off the bunch grass. Seeds would scatter and I felt a bit like Johnny Appleseed - more like Janet Spread The Weeds - but I didn't care. The sun was hot on my pink and peeling shoulders, and Mort walked along without a head toss or a jig. I had hours before chores and summer vacation was still new enough to stretch ahead like a fresh-graded dirt road. 

Mort stopped and started stomping and swatting his tail at a horse fly, so I sidled him next to a scrubby elm and reached for a leafy fly switch. Almost crazy from that buzzing horsefly, he leaned in and started to rub himself on the trunk, then under some low branches. I squawked and wrapped my arms around a branch, and he slid out from under me. 

He was involved enough in grunting and rubbing on that poor little tree that I wasn't worried about him leaving, so I slid to the ground and inspected the damage. My belly was scratched up, so were my legs and arms, and the new pink skin on my sunburned shoulders had been scraped raw. I blew on the little beads of blood that appeared and hopped around until it didn't sting so much. A little baby oil should fix it right up. Another good sunburn or two and I'd be ready to tan all summer, reason enough to ride bareback in  cut-offs and halter top, even if mom said I looked easy.

Mort ambled over and lipped at the bark imbedded in my arm. 

"Yeah, you did that, you shit," I said.

I took a quick look around  to see if anybody heard me cuss. Silly, since we stood alone in a big empty field. I swung up onto his back and he ducked his head so I'd vault all the way over and land on my butt. I was ready for him though, hooked my elbow over his withers and dug my heel into that little hollow right under his hip bone. He didn't get me off, but decided to get a little froggy to pay me back. 

I sat on my pockets and let him ease into his long trot. Karen and I planned to ride out to look for baby antelope and her house was still fifteen minutes away.