Monthly Archives: December 2015

New Years Eve Reflection

I was just sending my granddaughter an email and thought this might make a good post for New Years.

When it comes to the end of the year we reflect on the past and make resolutions for the future.  As we come closer to “old age”, I think we reflect back more than look to the possibilities of the future.  There really isn’t that much future left.  I was speaking to a woman the other day who has been carrying emotional baggage since she was four years old, she’s now in her early 60’s.  I told her that she really must be aware that there isn’t that much time left, so she needed to be kinder to herself from now on.  After burying her parents a few years back, the thought that her generation was next to go, hit her.

But I’m not looking for this to be a morbid post, more like a time to sit and think about the people and animals who have made a positive influence on our lives, and what they have taught us.  If the humans are still with us, don’t hesitate to say Thank You, and mention what they have meant to you.  I did that this past summer when I spent time with our youngest son.  I told him some moments that we had spent together that made lasting happy memories that I will keep forever.  He wasn’t aware that they were special to me, but he does now.  When I say simple, I mean just that.  One evening, when Bob fell asleep before dinner, I took my son to an old diner that I had gone to with my parents, when I was his age.  I guess he was around 10 at the time.  We walked into that diner and back in time.  Nothing had changed.  The booths were the same pink vinyl they were 30 years earlier.  The same counters, and juke boxes were present.  The only thing he remembered about that night was that I wouldn’t let him have a chocolate shake (because they always made him sick), but finally let him have it anyway (and he got sick).  I stepped back into my childhood, and in my mind, my parents were there with me.  This became a most precious memory because about 10 years after that it burned down.  It was the OB Diner in Point Pleasant, New Jersey (it stood for Ocean Bay.)  His fondest memory of me, when he was a child, was that I taught him how to fold fitted sheets.  Hello!  Is this a claim to fame or what?  Somehow I was hoping for something more breathtaking.  Actually, he explained that no one had ever taken the time to teach him something that he still uses today. (His wife has thanked me.)  I find that hard to believe since he is operating the same heavy equipment that his father had.  But he’s mentioned the sheet thing several times, so I guess it did have some kind of an impact on him.

But my email to my granddaughter was about the horses that I have loved (that she knew) and what they have left me with.  I will list the lessons I have learned from them, but what I want you to do is to think back and actually acknowledge the wonderful gifts that your horses have given you over the years.  Also with each new horse that you will have in your life, I want you to beware of what they are trying to teach you.  It’s a gift, accept it as such.  Actually it’s more of a blessing.

Lady – I will always take care of you.  Chance – Each horse will help make you a better rider.  Mac (mine) – Trust me, I will give you confidence.  Scarlet – Don’t be repetitious.  Diamond – Set your sights high and go for it.  Shadow – Celebrate life everyday.  Rosie – You don’t have to like everyone.  Chester – Who says I have a disability?  Toy – If you love to do something, do it with all your heart.  Lad – Don’t mess with perfection.  Jiggers – Pay attention at all times.  Wilson – Give me a purpose and I’ll rise to the occasion.  Lily – Don’t count me out until the fat lady sings.  Mac –  Always say Thank You when someone helps you.  Kissie – Just do it. Maggie – Be devoted to the one who matters most.  Desert – Laugh everyday.  Magic – Pay attention and keep things under control.  Savannah – Be a good friend, love your job, and know where you are the happiest.  Indy – Be grateful for a second chance and people who love you.  Zoey – Quiet times together are the best.  Dawn – Snuggle, it feels good.  Friday – No matter how grouchy you feel, smile and say Thank You.  Mikey – Love children, they love you back, and usually have something sweet to eat.  Joey – Don’t ever believe that you don’t matter to someone.

With all the horses I have known, I could go on, and on, and on, but I won’t.

It’s your turn to reflect on what they have taught you.

May you have a Happy, Healthy, New Year, filled with all the good things that horses can bring into your life.


It’s Christmas, What Do You Mean You’re Going To The Barn?

Even though she’s been gone for 13 years, I can still hear my mother saying that to me.  Her voice is so loud and clear.

Christmas, with all the lights twinkling on the houses, bells jingling from the sidewalk Santas, the smell of baking cookies coming from the oven.  The tree in all it’s glory standing tall in the living room.  The presents wrapped and placed carefully under the tree.  The Christmas carols playing in the background.  The snow gently falling outside.  As a kid, these are the things that meant the most to me.

People were always nicer then.  Strangers smiled and wished you a Merry Christmas.  It was the most wonderful time of the year.  Now it seems they just mug you for the what you have just purchased, and run off into the night.  No one is allowed to wish you a Merry Christmas anymore, it’s politically incorrect.  Some stores will not allow the sidewalk Santas who collect the money to feed the poor.  (I won’t shop there).  Oh everything is still decorated, but with out the reason for the season, the birth of Jesus.  They decorate so that you will come and spend all your hard earned money in their store.  Stores are decorated before Halloween now.  They play seasonal music, but certainly not carols.  Instead of being a warm peaceful time, it’s become a shopping frenzy.  All the commercials on TV are proclaiming their huge Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Brown Thursday sales.  Has anyone really watched or took in the meaning of a Charlie Brown Christmas?  I always watched it, but until I really watched it, I didn’t hear the message behind it.  Wow, is it still allowed?

The one thing they can’t take away from us is our visit to the stable.  My mother would say that I needed to go to church on Christmas Eve, not the barn.  And I, being the wise guy teenager that I was, would say “What better place to be on a Christmas Eve other than a stable.  Jesus was born in a stable.”  So off to church I’d go and then to the barn.  They used to say that if you go to the barn on Christmas Eve you would see all the animals bow down at midnight.  I’ve been in many a barn and have never witnessed that, but I do believe that they worship in their own way.  I also still, to this day, go into the barn at Midnight to check.

The barn has always been an amazing place to be at Christmas.  Up north is was usually very cold, icy, and/or snowy.  But the sounds of the horses munching on hay, with the chill around you made it really seem like Christmas to me.  That is how it must have been on that first Christmas.  The chilly night, the smells of a barn as only we can know, the animals munching on hay.

People may go to a candle lit church, with beautiful music being sung, with the story of the first Christmas being retold, but we, as horse people, can really relive the first Christmas like no church can possibly put on.  I still go to church on Christmas Eve, but then I still go to the barn at Midnight too.  When I was in my 40’s, and Bob got into Fox Hunting, my mother said to me one day, “Well I guess you’re never going to grow out of this are you.”  It was not a question, it was a statement of fact that she resigned herself to.

Have a Blessed Christmas, and “Go To The Barn”, it’s the right place to be for Christmas.  And don’t forget the carrots and apples.

Have a very Merry Christmas, and to all my Jewish friends “Happy Chanukah” a few weeks late.

Both holidays are politically incorrect.  So am I.

Angels In Disguise

I had a woman come to ride the other day.  She hasn’t ridden in about 20 years or so.  She had grown up on a ranch and ridden English when she was younger.  She had a wonderful energy about her, and so I did not hesitate to put her on my advanced horse.  I would know in the first 60 seconds if this match would work.  The horse was comfortable, so I was comfortable.

Now this mare, if she didn’t like you, would have taken off and shown her what for, but she didn’t.  We worked in the field for three-quarters of the lesson and then proceeded to go for a short trail ride.  In the field at home, the mare was quiet, responsive, and secure.  Everyone was relaxed and enjoying their time together.  When we went off the property, the mare was a little nervous.  She was telling me that she didn’t totally trust this woman to take care of her.  They rode through the scary stuff, and the horse started trusting the woman more.  We all relaxed and finished our ride home with smiles.

When we got back she hosed off the horse (remember this is Florida it’s 80 degrees yet) and the mare just put her head down in the woman’s hands, closed her eyes and just enjoyed the face drying that was offered.  Such a sweet, gentle soul.  Until we went to turn her out into the pasture.  The mare (quiet little dove that she was).  Took off bucking and leaping into the air.  My husband who was standing there laughed and said “and you thought she was a quiet horse.  She’s showing you that she has got a lot more in her than you know.  She was just being nice.”

Yes she was.  She was herself when she was running and bucking, but she also allowed us to see that she can be an Angel with the right person.  I’ve seen this horse respond differently, to different people, many times in the past.

As horse people we have all seen our crazy horses put their heads down gently to let a child pet them.  We have seen them take baby steps for the little ones, or handicapped riders we have put on their backs.  They are not all trust worthy, but most are.  They sense the need and respond accordingly.

I think if we had looked carefully, we would have seen her tuck her wings close to her body, so she could let everyone know that she had spunk and spirit.  However, the wings could be seen if we believed, and looked hard enough at the right moment.

There are angels amongst us, but we as horse people already know that.  And I thought the feathers I find in the field are from the Eagles.  Just goes to show you what I know.

Trust – It’s Hard To Come By These Days

I know I’ve probably written on trust before, but it’s hit me smack in the head the last couple of weeks.

People used to give you their word and a hand shake, and it was cast in stone.  Now they don’t even swear on the Bible, and even if they do, it doesn’t mean anything to them.

Since I’ve lost all my old trusted horses in the last few years, it’s become a real stumbling block for me.  Old age, cancer, and now lightning have taken my old dear friends over the Rainbow Bridge.  Convincing the horses I have left that they need to be lesson horses has become a real challenge.  They were not intended for this job, nor do they want it.  Finding a “School Master” is one of the most difficult horses you can look for.  Even more than a child safe horse.  When some one has either one of those types of horses, they hold onto them.  It’s like waiting for someone to die so you can get that great house or apartment with a view.  Now I have to start from scratch with new horses.  Trust on both parts takes time, and I don’t have time.  This makes me nervous, and in turn, makes them nervous.

I tried asking Zoey to help the other day with a beginner lesson.  She was so worried she wouldn’t leave my side, and only her left side.  What is up with that?  I’ve always worked her on both sides.  A crash course in trust doesn’t work.  Standing there trying to explain it to her didn’t work either.  Now I’ve got a new prospect.  This should be interesting.  (By the way, it worked out great!)

I recently wrote about trusting old faithful products.  Products you’ve used forever and liked.  They have been changed.  The manufacturer got back to my neighbor and told her, yes it has been changed, but now the product will be even better.  The jury is still out on that.

There is so much out there on the internet.  Information you need, but can you trust it?

People have been talking about horses dying from Creeping Indigo poisoning here in Florida.  Well my neighbor found some in her pasture, and went into full attack on the weed.  Then I found some.  Okay to the internet.  The videos on the internet show horses dying of this toxic weed.  People crying, not knowing how to get rid of it.  And pretty much, it’s close to impossible.  Horses love it, it tastes like candy to them.  It’s poison to dogs, birds, cattle, sheep, rabbits, just about every animal.  Very pretty and spreads under the grass like crazy.  Then I read that a horse has to eat 10 lbs. of it in 3 weeks to be affected.  There is no cure.  This was not a native plant, it was brought in, for whatever reason, and is taking over, just like a lot of other things here in Florida.  I spoke with someone at the Extension Center, and they are not overly concerned.  It’s been here since the 50’s, according to the internet since the 20’s.  The only time people have a major problem with it is if their pastures are in poor condition and the horses don’t have anything, other than that, to graze on.  Do I want it here?  No.  Am I going to try to get rid of it?  Yes.  I’ve managed to get rid of other toxic weeds, but this one may be a little harder.  You really can’t find it.  My pastures are in great shape and chances are the horses won’t even get down to the weed, but better safe than sorry.

So now let’s go to people.  Government, friends, neighbors, coworkers, relatives, who can you trust?  At least one of them has done you dirty in one form or another.  Now listening to all the debates – one more form of craziness.  Not to mention the bombings, and threats.  It’s getting really scary out there.  Can you really trust the person sitting next to you?

How do you sort this all out?  You gather all the information you possibly can (but what can you trust?) and then make an informed decision (you hope).  If you get the feeling something isn’t right, listen to your feelings.  Don’t make yourself crazy or paranoid, just pay attention.

With horses, it’s a little easier.  Takes a little longer, but they are honest, and usually up-front about everything.  They call the scary things the boogie man and stay away from him.  The good things like carrots and some people, they move toward.  They judge you by your energy and body language.  Animals can pick up on what is calm and normal and what isn’t right.  We need to learn from them and be more like them.  They are always paying attention and are aware of their surroundings.  Think about that as you are walking through a mall parking lot this year.  We get so focused on what sales we’re going to hit, and what our friend is talking about, we don’t notice the ax murder following us.

Why can’t everything in this world be more like horses?

Who do you trust?

Views From The Observation Tower

Many places have observation towers available for you to look at wondrous views.  But there are other areas of observation that may not be that grande.  Of course you have the towers at the airport which keep all air traffic running smoothly, and then you have children who get down on their hands and knees to watch ants hard at work.  They are very fascinating creatures. They lift many times their weight, and it seems like they never have a day off, or anytime to play.  I wonder what they do for fun?  In Florida, they bite people.  If all the ants in Florida got together, they could take over this state in one day.

My question is, how much time do you spend observing your animals?  Most people don’t.  Are you really aware of their likes and dislikes?  Do you know what really concerns them?  What’s normal for that particular horse, and what isn’t?  I’m a very happy student of equine behavior.  What I’m finding out is that I don’t clearly observe my dogs as much.  I’ve dealt with prey animals my whole life, but now I’m learning how to observe the predators.

Many years ago I ran into one of my first instructors, while out riding.  We stood and chatted for a while, and then he said to me “The whole time we’ve been speaking I’ve been looking over your horse.”  He told me about his conformation faults, injuries that have left tell-tale marks, and I don’t remember what else.  I was amazed, and interested.  Why would he even care?  However, forty years down the road I find myself doing the same thing.  I evaluate horses conformation, old injuries, body language, and energy without even thinking about it.

I have no idea why I do this, but in many cases it has served me well when evaluating a prospective horse for purchase, training, or conversation with the owner.  Maybe I do it just for fun, to see what I can pick up on, or maybe just to test my skills.  Mostly, I’m unaware of doing it.

Sometimes you can catch something before it becomes a problem, or just have an answer before the question is asked.

It’s like figuring out a puzzle, even with some pieces missing, when no one asked you.

Actually it’s just Observation.