Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blue Moon Party!


For some of you, it's nearly here! Don't forget the Blue Moon New Year's Party! Just sign up using the Mr. Linky on the Blue Moon post. Then take photos of the moon as 2009 comes to a close and 2010 shows up!

Can't see the moon? No problem. Just take what you can and show us what it looked like in your part of the world as the new decade dawned. Heck, it's raining here, so no clue what will end up in front of my lens, but I hope to have some fun with it!

If you're reading this and haven't got a blog, but would like to participate, I've also got a Flickr group page set up just for your New Year's photos! Just create your own Flickr account (if you've not already got one), upload your photos to your page, then join the Blue Moon page.

Looking forward to seeing what you manage to shoot tonight. And Happy New Year, y'all!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

This Day, Last Year

This day, last year, I had Steve Holt! in training for the Mustang Makeover.


Today, I have no horses heading to makeovers, but I have got Tika in training, and as you know, I'm fond of looking back to see what life was like at this stage of the game with previous horses.

We had the four letter S word most of December last year. The ground was slick and white, so no hauling about like I'm able to do this year. Still, we had the round pen at home, which worked quite well for getting the long legged lad worked from the ground. I was thrilled when I was able to touch his head and get a bridle on three times.


Tika's worn it how often now? Too many times to count. She's not at all head shy like the boys were. Which is odd in a way, because when she first got here she'd step on her lead and you'd have though someone had fired a bullet into her chest from her reaction! She'd sit down on her haunches and her head would fling up into the air as her forefeet lifted off the ground, releasing the lead they'd just caught beneath them. She's very sensitive to pressure, but not to touch, which has been a real blessing.


Mom...your horse doesn't like me.

About this time, the snow was beginning to melt, and City Boy had helped me get Steve Holt! into the trailer a couple of times for our first journeys to the arena. A video in this link, posted December 30, 2008, shows what we probably did the day before. I was surprised to see him being sensitive to so much, especially considering what happened just two days later, on New Year's Eve.

This week, City Boy again traveled to the riding club with me to get some footage of Tika being worked. Darling, of course, worked her magic and put together a lovely little piece for me to share with you. I'm simply in awe of this pretty little mare...there's something very special about her.

Yes, it truly is a beautiful video, showing the special bond I've created with this lovely mare...I especially love the whiplash segment...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Steve Holt! visits the Vet


Today, Steve Holt! went to the vet. I've noticed that he's got an eyelid that appears to be a bit puffy, and when you look at him straight on, only one eye seems bright and wide open.


He does not appear to be bothered by it. His spirits are just the same as they've always been; he's goofy and and curious and enjoys life. He eats and pees and poops (important things, it seems, as these are the first questions out of both the vet tech and the vet's mouth upon visiting the clinic.) So what is wrong with our dear mustang?


Darling led Steve Holt! across the pavement and into the clinic, where the Good Doctor Plotts was waiting. He asked the pertinent questions, to which we answered yes, he's eating and peeing and pooping. He offered Steve Holt! a treat, which of course is what my ponies have come to expect from the man in the green jumpsuit. It was consumed vigorously, a good sign according to the vet, as it meant he was chewing without pain (although he added that horses can be stoic creatures...but the treat was hard and there was no hesitation at all with the chompers.)

A quick look at the teeth, and the Good Doctor Plotts pointed out that the 3 1/2 year teeth were coming in...and the baby teeth falling out. The left side had already been lost and new one in place, but the one on the right was loose and wiggly. No time like the present for a quick removal!


Sheesh! I wish it were that easy for us!

Next, it was time for the temp to be taken. No real reason to think he had any sort of abnormalities in this department, but it didn't hurt to take it, said the doc. Steve Holt!, however, was not convinced and attempted a little Irish Jig. Not one to like his toes tap danced upon, the Good Doctor Plotts ushered our youngster into the stocks where he had little choice but to stand and tolerate the less than dignified rectal thermometer. I'll give up the easier dental program for the thermometer under the tongue.


Once in the stock holder, the lights dimmed and our vet become an opthamalogist. Did I spell that correctly? A little light was shined into his less than happy eye, which was even less happy since the light began shining, and an equine opthical exam began. No flash photography, please.

A second vet came out to take a look. It seems whenever I'm at the vet, it's for an eye issue and I end up with multiple vets. Sandy had that lovely little laceration going, but Steve Holt! was not so serious. In the end, they suspected a mild case of herpes that was bothering him. Something he'd had from foalhood, and would have his entire life. Probably never bother him more than it was right now, they concluded, but if it should, and if I saw that his pupils were looking off, definitely call. Oh, and get him some over the counter tear stuff, because he has a dry eye.

And that was that. Steve Holt! was loaded back into the trailer and hauled home, where he promptly dunked his face into the cool tub of water waiting for him, undoubtedly washing out the last bit of bloody flavor left on his tongue from the unexpected dental exam.


Don't forget to sign up to take part in the Blue Moon Party! Just fill out your info on Mr. Linky!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Blue Moon


Ever wonder where the "Once in a Blue Moon" phrase comes from? Apparently it's when there are two full moons in one month. A blue moon doesn't happen very often, but we're about to experience one on New Year's Eve.

I don't know about you, but I just love photos taken in the moonlight. Big, full moons reflecting off the snow, illuminating the surroundings in an eerie glow, shadows cast about by old barns or livestock standing out beneath the stars. Pretty, pretty stuff.

Of course...clouds are rolling in here, so my plans of Blue Moon photography have been dashed. Still, moon or not, I think it'd be fun to see what the New Year looks like as it enters our lives. So I decided to host a Blue Moon Party Night for everyone to participate in. I went in search of that Linky dude so that y'all could sign up and let us know that you'd like to participate. I registered at Mr. Linky's website, got the code, pasted it here, didn't show up. At least not at my end. Does it show up at your end?

Well, Mr. Linky or not, if you'd like to capture what the Blue Moon or New Year looks like at the stroke of midnight in your part of the world, leave a comment and we'll get it figured out.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

I'm Dreaming of a Pink Christmas...

Best Christmas Gift Ever. Hands Down. A pair of pink rubber boots that cost about $10. City Boy bought them for me when he was unemployed. Not expensive or fancy, but the color had me laughing the moment I pulled them out of their box. I loved them and wore them to the grocery store that very morning.

There's something about the color pink that just puts a smile on faces. Take Darling, for instance. Sure, she's dressed in holiday red, but ask her what her favorite gift was and she'll tell you, it was the pink saddle pad that her grandmother gave her. Never mind that she's riding a gelding...he's just going to have to get tough enough!


Thing Two stripped herself of her red Christmas dress the moment she arrived to clad herself in pink.


Thing One managed to keep her holiday dress on, but played with a pink sock monkey.


Well, she played with it for at least a little while before deserting it on the living room floor. Dead sock monkeys aren't much fun, you know...


Of course, my favorite gift of the day wasn't pink...


...but I'm going to have to lose a little of my pink muffin top in order to truly enjoy it!

Hope y'all had a fantastic Christmas. I've had a nasty cold (held at bay by some wonderful drugs) that has left me with plugged ears and supreme lack of energy the past week. However, I feel a bit more energetic this morning and am hopeful that I will be back to normal soon.

Stay tuned, as I'm heading up on my 3 year bloggiversary soon! Wonderful prizes could be headed your way!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Scars are Tattoos with Better Stories

Since showing the videos this week of Tika, I've heard it a lot. "What's that bump she's got?"

Photobucket's a wattle. Or is that waddle? I'm not sure, except it flaps around down there and is a bit odd. It's like what you'd see on a turkey, except not the snood part, but the wattle part. I think I spelled it with a double D before, but now that I think about it, a T seems to fit.


Tika's wattle was visible while in the corrals, but why she had it couldn't be determined until she was here at home. A scar on her elbow, and a line stretching upwards until it reaches that little flap of skin, help tell the tale of Tika's sometimes difficult past. Something had sliced her elbow open at some point, and the wattle was formed as the skin healed.

Not only has Tika got the scar on her elbow, but on the back side of her gaskins, on both the left and right sides, are two more nasty scars, indicating that our lovely girl at some point likely tangled with barbed wire.


Life in the wild was not all glamor for our pretty girl, but thankfully she was able to break free (or perhaps some kind soul spotted her and cut her free?) from the wire and heal up. I've considered having the wattle removed. I don't think she feels anything in it, but I'm worried about it becoming caught on something, and that of course has the potential to cause pain. For now it continues to stick out like a sore thumb, though, attracting attention and starting conversations.

Latest video...and again, music by Teresa Farris:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Last night we hauled the boys up to the riding club. Darling was getting anxious to start going over fences again with Steve Holt!, so while she was warming him up in the round pen, I set up a vertical in the arena. I didn't have a tape measure, so called out to Darling if it was too tall. She didn't think so.

Unfortunately, Steve Holt! disagreed. Darling came trotting up to it and he slowed right down, nearly stopping, before lifting his daddy long legs slowly over the top. Except...they didn't go over. They went through. Or at least the first one went over, the second one got caught, and before I knew it he was using his nose to balance himself so the rest of his body didn't crash to the ground like the rails and jump standards were doing beneath him.

Darling, somehow..miraculously...stayed aboard, but her face was a bit paler than usual when he came up. Her eyes met mine and she began to laugh. "Guess he thought it was a bit high," she said, and I climbed off to make it a bit lower.

Steve Holt!, however, was having a bad night, and it didn't matter how hard he tried, he simply struggled with each request. He'd never refused a jump prior to tonight, but it obviously scared him when he became tangled, so we went back to a 6" trot over...though even that had him worried. Darling was frustrated that even the smallest of rails was causing the big boy to dive off and refuse, but eventually they managed to work their way back up to 12", and as soon as they met with success, I suggested she call it good. Today she's got a lesson, and hopefully Steve Holt!'s confidence level will have bounced back up a bit. And if not, Barb can help her overcome the set back.


On the Wadatika front...we've not done much since Friday. Early Sunday morning I hauled her up to the riding club to introduce her to new sights, and she did very well. Even climbed back into the trailer without much fuss. Yesterday was pretty full, so I didn't work with her. Fed a bit early this morning so that once it's light out I can haul her back up for a bit more work. The video is from Friday, and again a thank you to Teresa for the music!

Saturday, December 19, 2009



Today was filled up with paperwork. Lots and lots of paperwork. We had a Mustang U board meeting and are attempting to get our federal non-profit status in place. Filing fees go up as of January first, and that would be money better spent on feeding horses, so we're pushing to get it done. Have you ever filed this sort of paperwork? You gotta love the IRS. They like to use terms such as 'the consequences of your actions' as opposed to 'we're sending your lily white hiney to jail if you screw this up'. Really puts your mind at ease.

Sandy & Steve Holt! have gotten back into shape enough for Darling and I to head back to our riding lessons this next week. Steve Holt! began going over fences last night; first time in nearly 2 months. He's lost a bit of muscle tone in the hind quarters after his extended vacation through the month of November, so Darling is being careful not to over do it with him.

I had fun the other day going back through the Diaries and checking to see where Steve Holt! was in his training at this stage of the game compared to Tika. Kind of difficult since I'm not sure just how much time I'd put into Miss Sassy Lips earlier this fall, but we've only got 2 cumulative weeks, so we're not too far off the three week mark as best as I can tell. And with that to go on, I'm extremely pleased with the lip wagger.

I took quite a bit of video footage yesterday, and could easily have created a 10 minute video for you to watch...after editing. But Darling, the video expert, said you'd fall asleep trying to watch anything I created that lasted over three minutes. And since I don't want you bonking your little noggins when you hit the floor snoring, I cut it down to just under three. It's nothing more than the saddling portion of our workout, but note that Lippy stands pretty well with relative little back talk. She is heads and tails above Steve Holt! at this point of the saddling game, and 150% better than both the boys in accepting the bit. I'm very happy with this girl!

Special thanks to Teresa Farris for allowing me to use her music in my videos! Check out her album in the side bar.

Friday, December 18, 2009

No Longer Free


He'd stood up there on the ridge watching us intently. The others had slipped back over the knoll and out of site as we climbed up the hill towards them. But not this colt. He was keeping his eye on us. Ears flicked forward, he looked every bit the part of a young herd stallion.

Of course, it was nothing more than a training exercise for the young colt. A long yearling, we surmised. Very aware of his surroundings, but too young for it to mean much of anything.


As we reached our destination, we stood in wonder, wild horses all around us, mingling quietly with one another and not too terribly surprised at this human intrusion. The colt went back to grazing and paid us no heed. Darling was fascinated with how quiet he was in our presence. A second pinto colt wandered up alongside him, watching with a bit more hesitation. Darling began a slow approach towards the pair. A few steps, and a few quiet steps more. Then she'd stop and take a photo or two before inching in closer.


The first colt paid little attention. The second was a bit more cautious, and by the time Darling had gotten within 20 feet, he slipped off to the distance where he grazed with some older, wiser friends. The first colt, however, barely noticed, and Darling was eventually able to work her way to within ten feet of him.


We dubbed him Dibs..."Darling Calls Dibs", to be precise. She wanted him, she said, when the herd was gathered.

But since then, Darling has decided she wants to jump, and she's got Steve Holt! for that. Dibs, from the looks of his chunky yearling/coming two year old self, most likely would not fill that role. And since Darling does not want to part with Steve Holt!, who is a sure thing, the thought of Dibs becoming hers has diminished.

That did not, however, prevent the jumping of the heart and the longing to have her fingertips be the first to make contact with this striking young horse when she heard yesterday that Dibs has been captured.

We knew the odds were that he'd end up in the corrals...but there was a little part of us that hoped he'd stay free, roaming the high desert and growing into the herd stallion he was born to be.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's a Girl Thang, Baby!

wild horses,mustangs

I just finished reading Pony Girl's post on mares, and had to smile.

I've only adopted mares here. Oh, sure, I adopted Steve Holt! and Sandy, but they were assigned to me and of course they were difficult to part with after spending 90 days with them. I'd never have selected a gelding to train for myself though, and while I love them both...they're not girls. Girls have something that boys haven't got. Some magical little spark deep down.

Snotty? Cranky? Difficult? Yup, some times. But there's a cunning character that goes along with it. The boys can be goofy and playful and fun...but the girls will take care of you. There's an autopilot with a mare that I've not found in the geldings. Let them mother you, and they will. They'll tell you where you should be standing, where you oughtn't be sitting, and basically boss you every which way. But when the chips are down, they'll out perform and out think a gelding any day of the week.

Tika has most definitely told me where to go on more than one occasion. She's pinned her ears and flashed her teeth, and the girl definitely knows how to give some lip! But I've also experienced those tender moments...moments when I've wondered, as she's shielded me from the blowing wind with her neck curved around my body, does she miss her foal? Because theres no mistaking that maternal instinct as she moves in close and wraps herself around you.

Yes, I'm definitely a mare lover. Give me Mare-itude any day. Or as we call it around here, Tika-tude!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ditch Visitor


Let's just say the day didn't work out like I'd hoped.

When I got up in the morning, I called the weather hotline to see what was up with the schools. While the temps were high, the ground was ice, and as it turned out, buses were delayed by an hour. Darling would be happy with an extra hour of sleep.

While I normally would drive her around the corner on these dark, cold mornings, she walked to the bus stop on late arrival days, and this morning was no exception. Once she left the house I got busy with my routine. Feed horses, come inside and check email, read a few blogs, post on facebook. And in the middle of my routine I received a text message from Darling.

"How long do I need to stay down here and wait?"

What? She was still at the bus stop? I told her to come home, thank you. The bus ought to have picked her up 20 minutes ago. All we could figure is that her driver was running early. I took one look a the roads and decided Darling could have an ice day. I do not drive on slick as snot, icy roads, thank you.


The morning slipped into afternoon before I knew it, and it was raining a sleet like substance when I went outside to clean stalls. I figured it was too nasty to do much work with Tika, but that I'd pull her blanket off and brush her once I finished my chores.

While loading up my wheelbarrow, I heard a big thud from out near the house. I peeked out the window of Tika's stall, thinking I'd see the UPS truck or something, as it'd sounded like a door. But there was nothing but a pick up slowly driving past out on the road. Silly guy, driving on the ice...

I went back to picking, then started out towards the compost pile. THUD. What the heck? I looked out toward the road. While there are few leaves left on trees at this point, we've still got a brushy barrier up between us and the road, so I wasn't sure what I was seeing. Was that the roof of a car? Or was I simply seeing a snow covered patch on the other side of the road?

I set the wheelbarrow down and walked closer. Sure enough, there was a car in the ditch, laying neatly on it's side at a 45 degree angle. The young driver had just climbed out and was attempting to call a tow truck. I asked if he was okay, and yes, he was. Did he need anything? No, but thank you, just trying to get the truck to pull him out.

I went back to cleaning. Once done, I thought I'd put on some hot water and offer the ditch visitor a hot chocolate. With the water on, I ventured back outside to see if he'd like a cup, but he declined...though he said perhaps his girlfriend would. What? You've got a passenger in there? Well, get her out of that lopsided car and come inside to wait for the truck.


So my afternoon was spent entertaining a quiet college couple, learning all about them, and trying to put them at ease as they sat inside a stranger's house. By the time the tow truck came, I'd lost my desire to stand outside in the rain with my horse. Besides, she was looking way to snug as a bug in a rug inside that blanket of hers. I surely didn't want to remove my coat, and I doubt she wanted to remove hers!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Western Saddle and a Video


The snowfall continued throughout the day yesterday. Not much, and it really didn't amount to anything. Perhaps just shy of an inch? But this morning, as the air warms and the snow melts, our world has turned to ice. How is it ice can form in 40 degree weather? The ground is still hard and cold from the past two weeks of dreadful temps, and the melted snow turns instantly to ice.

But yesterday, with no ice and only a little bit of snow, Tika and I picked up the training level a notch. She'd stood so nicely for the English saddle that I decided it was okay to bring out the Western one. I wasn't too sure what she'd do about the stirrup and fender flopping over her back. For that matter, I wasn't sure what she'd do about my lifting it up into the air alongside of her, but she was fine. A little apprehensive, but not stark raving mad. So up into the air it went and quietly onto her back. The cinch was...a cinch! She's gotten used to my reaching beneath her belly and stood right there for me to tighten it up without making any attempt to move away.

Don't mind me...I look like a dork. I really shouldn't watch myself in videos. I'm bouncing up and down alongside of her...but not big bounces because I don't know that she's ready for big. And I'm trying to rock the saddle without banging into it...and it looks downright dorkie, lol! But hey, dorky is as dorky does, eh? And really, Tika didn't seem to mind that much.

Once finished with our little exersice in dorkiness, I slipped the bridle onto her and we worked a bit at giving to pressure. She does okay to the left, but struggles to the right. Guess I know what our lesson plan is for today, then, don't I? That is, if the ice melts...


Now, all you face bookers...Mustang U is hosting a giveaway, so you'd better trot on over there to see what it is!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Miracle of Miracles!!!


It began as any other day...except for the snow part. That part is not an any other day weather occurrence, thankfully. But it surely was part of yesterday. And as you probably know, I am not a fan of the four letter S word. There is, of course, little I can do about it falling, and training must continue.

Tika hadn't worn the saddle since Thursday. On Friday, the too small sheet had been her only training exercise, and I'd given her Saturday off. So I wondered how she'd react to the approach of the saddle. Turns out, better than she had a few days ago. There are still aspects that are not appealing to her, but she stood relatively still for it to be lifted upon her back as well as for me to reach beneath for the girth.


Naturally, I had my de-spookers handy to help with the ground work. Chickens are wonderful at getting horses used to things flittering and fluttering around their feet. And legs. And heads. I went to feed the other night and couldn't figure out what that dark thing in Tika's stall was. Turns out it was one of the hens roosting on the hay manger.


Years ago I learned not to fret when one of my mustangs appeared to slip backwards in training. Sunny was notorious for moving three steps forward, then two steps back. It has, at this point, become almost unnoticeable to me when a horse's training lags or reverts. Tika has decided she doesn't know how to lead. Of course, that's kind of hard to overlook, since forward motion is a bit on the obvious side. Rather than walk around the paddock with me once her saddle was on, she planted her feet and gave me some lip. A bit of Tika-tude.

That was okay. I got even with her by putting the bridle on. She was then mouthing the bit and forgot she didn't know how to lead. We went into the round pen where I began rubbing her with the reins, tossing them over her neck or the back of the saddle. This is something Tika is very uncomfortable with, and I always feel bad when I see that sudden look of uncertainty in their eyes. You've worked and worked at building that trust...then you dash it all with one flip of the reins. But it's a phase that will end soon. After a few flips of the rein across her back, I went back to rubbing and building confidence again. Tomorrow we'll do it again, and the day after that, and the day after that, until she realizes that nothing is going to bite her.


Once un-tacked, as we stood their in the snow, I decided to pull out one of the blankets. I knew it would be too big for her, but figured I'd put it on her just to help with the desensitizing. This time I slipped it over her head without undoing the chest, and she stood still as it slid over her back and across her hips. Reaching beneath was once again her weak spot, and she danced in a couple of circles before I got both straps up beneath her belly.

Now...this blanket has hind leg straps, and I wondered if I'd be able to get them on without a kick in the head. No time like the present to give it a try, eh? The left leg first, since that's her easy side. I ran my hand down her back to her hip, then down the back of her leg, rubbing in circles and talking to her. She didn't mind, so I moved to the front of her leg, across the gaskin and then to the inside where I'd have to reach to get the strap. She side stepped a bit, but otherwise stood still. It was only a minute, then, before that strap was secure.

I walked to the right side, and she began turning circles around me. Definitely not what she wanted to be doing. Wasn't the left side enough? She kicked out once...half heartedly, mostly out of discomfort and fear. I continued to work, but she continued to spin whenever my hand slipped towards the front of her thigh. So I grabbed the nearby lunge whip and began to stroke her with that. This really sent her into orbit and she dashed in small circles around me, kicking out at the object that was between her legs. But a couple of mintues of this was enough to convince her that she could A) not escape being touched and B) when she stood still, the banging of the object stopped. Once she began to relax, I rubbed the inside of her leg with the whip, then slipped the leg strap into place and quickly clasped it to the blanket.

And despite it being a bit on the long side, the blanket actually laid across her body nicely. I decided to leave it on her for the remainder of the afternoon, which ended up being all night, since it stayed snugly in place and I didn't want to take it off and let her get cold.

It was about that time that I looked up into the corner of her stall. I have no clue what drew my eye upwards to the ceiling, but...wonder of wonders! Lookie what I saw!

Photobucket's a miracle!

Back to the Future

Today's Sunday Stills word is Technology. Being as I live in my own little reality which appears to have more to do with the past than the future...let's face it, Living Legends doesn't exactly scream rocket science...I had to shift gears.

There was a time when technology meant a change in bit styles, or perhaps a new tree in a saddle. Or how about an upgrade from a hinge to a door that could slide across the front of your barn? Just imagine not having to kick that snow drift out of the way in order to get in to feed your livestock.


I wonder what my great-great-grandparents would think about the world today. Horseless carriages for everyone. Freezers and refrigerators inside every house. And imagine not having to hang your laundry out to dry! I bet they'd get a real kick out of how simplified we've made daily chores.

But just imagine what they'd think of this.


Or this.


This stuff scares me. I'm overwhelmed by fans and mother boards and daughter boards and modems. I'm clueless on how they work, except somehow they link me to all of you. I sit down to this screen and push a button, and instantly my words appear on your screen, in your home. No waiting months for a letter to cross the continent, or even overseas. I may not understand how it works, but I'm glad we've got it. Because not only does it connect us today (and tomorrow), but it's also my little window to the past, where I share with you a heritage that otherwise, you may never know.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Guess What Tika Did?


The temps have begun to rise. It was nearly almost not freezing yesterday! That was good news, because I left my hose outside in the cold and it was frozen. And while the water tubs had a good, solid layer of ice on top, the mustangs are ice munching maniacs and managed to chew and lick their way down to the water below.

If you were here yesterday, you may have noticed the photo of Tika. Did you see what she was wearing? Darling's English saddle! I know...didn't I just say I was going to wait until she stopped dancing around? Well, I figured the hunt saddle was less intrusive than the Western saddle pad, so opted to haul it out there with me on Thursday. She really didn't put up much of a fuss, and she's not at all concerned about things tightening up around her belly. Naturally, I've already had my long, trusty rope around her and pulled tight, just to see how she would react.

Tika's biggest issue is me being down there beneath her. Still makes her kind of nervous. It took a couple of reaches for the girth, but I managed to get it and once it was pulled up around her middle, she simply stood there. Some horses make me nervous when I saddle them up the first time. What if they blow before the saddle is secure, and it slips underneath their belly in the middle of a bucking frenzy? No such problem with this girl, and I hadn't anticipated there would be.

So Tika's worn a saddle. Then yesterday I thought I'd bring out an old sheet to see how she reacted to that. Again, something big and floppy going over her back was not on her hit parade of things to do on a Friday afternoon. I didn't think she'd have any problem with me slipping it over her head (I never unbuckle the you?), but I didn't want her to suddenly lose it when the blanket hit her back on both sides. So I unfastened the front, rubbed it on her face, neck, and down across her shoulder before sliding it over her body. She thought it a bit odd, but didn't panic.

This sheet is old. No back leg straps and even one of the belly straps had been ripped off at some point. But she wasn't bothered by on her body, so I fastened the one belly strap (and yes, the chest was secure at this point as well), got her a little bit of grain and left her happily munching. When I returned an hour later, the blanket had been pulled up around her girth area and was dragging on her right side.

Hmmm...desenstizing without the hard labor. I don't know if she was worried about it hanging down there or not when it first happened. She didn't appear to care one way or the other when I got there. I unbuckled the belly strap and pulled it off over her head. Enough training for the day. Neither Steve Holt! nor Sandy would have allowed that, even a month into training. Heck, it's all Sandy can do to tolerate things going over his head still!


Isn't she cute?

Now, there's a little matter of a prize for the book, Shadow Horse. I'd asked earlier in the week for what you'd be willing to do, or what you wanted someone else to do, in order to get a copy. Kathy M posted a story of her being wedged into the bars of a round pen panel. That's an image that has left me giggling the past few Kathy? You win, girl!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Alison Hart Guest Blog

I’ll admit it: I have been horse crazy since my first Steiff pony and Billy and Blaze picture book by C.W. Anderson. Decades later, I still ride, continue to read horse books (try Chosen by a Horse a memoir by Susan Richardson) and now I have added writing about horses to my passions.

Under my real name, Alice Leonhardt, and my pen name, Alison Hart, I have written over fifty books about horses. Many are contemporary, including books in the Nancy Drew and Thoroughbred series, my own Riding Academy series, and Shadow Horse, an Edgar nominated mystery, and its sequel Whirlwind (Random House Mary 2010). Most recently I have combined horses with history to create suspense-filled historical fiction. The two meld perfectly because human and horses have been intertwined as early as 3500 B.C. when horses were raised for milk and meat in Kazakhstan. (see the fascinating March 2009 article in National Geographic:

Since then, horses have been used (and exploited) by humans in all parts of the world. In America, horses became extinct about 10,000 years ago and were then reintroduced by 16th century Spanish Explorers. That gives me centuries of history to write about. My current books focus on the 1800’s when horses were necessary for transportation, farming, commerce—and war.

During the Civil War, both the Confederate and Union armies depended heavily upon horses. The animals were needed to pull wagons, cannons, and ambulances to and from battlegrounds. The horses also carried cavalry soldiers and officers into battle.

About 1.5 million horses and mules died during the Civil War.

From “The History behind Gabriel’s Journey” by Alison Hart.

Writing historical fiction means I have to know the facts. The Racing to Freedom trilogy (Gabriel’s Horses, Gabriel’s Triumph and Gabriel’s Journey) took over two years to research. I have notebooks and file folders of notes and photos from visits to Lexington and Camp Nelson, Kentucky, and Saratoga, New York; magazine articles, old maps, and scrawled notes from over two hundred books and online sources. My job as a writer is to use the facts to write a compelling story for young readers. Take for example, a scene from Gabriel’s Journey-- which is about an African American cavalry unit that fought at the Battle of Saltville, Virginia--that I created around the statistics on the number of dead horses:

I lead Sassy and Hero up onto the road. In front of us, a bulky mound lies in the center of the lane. The horse that was shot is dead. Blood oozes from its neck and shoulder. Already someone has stripped it of bridle, saddle, and gear. Soldiers lead their mounts around it or step over it. No one but me pays it any mind.

I remember Jackson’s words when we first visited Camp Nelson and saw the broken-down remounts: Horses don’t choose to fight, and they sure don’t get no enlistment fee.

And no glory neither, I see now. The body will be left for vultures and varmints.

My eyes blur. I lead Sassy and Hero around the fallen horse and say a silent prayer.

Whether it’s a pony on the prairie during the Blizzard of 1888 (Anna’s Blizzard) or a Morgan horse helping a runaway slave in 1850 (Bell’s Star), each novel I write must be filled with vivid scenes that not only convey our history, but bring it to life for readers.

Don't forget to leave a comment today if you'd like a copy of Shadow Horse! Tell me what you'd be willing to do, or what you'd like to see someone else do, to win!


Thursday, December 10, 2009

When Did I Move to Alaska?


There it is, my favorite tool

I tried. Really I did. I wanted to be out there working Tika while the sun was almost warming the air. But by the time I finished dragging the blasted hose out of the house...yes, to stay thawed, it's coiled into a trash can and they both live indoors...and watering, the sun had once again slipped below the tippy tops of the trees and all I was left with was mottled light and chilled air. When did I move to Alaska, anyway?


There's that shadow of mine, standing around, doing nothing.
As usual.

My fingers are too cold to do much work in weather like this. I recall two very short sessions a day with Steve Holt! last year during the month of December, and I'm not even working that much with Wadatika. But then again, she's a bit ahead of where he was, simply because she's been hanging around for three months and soaking it all in.

Yesterday I continued with the touching and desensitizing. I got my hand down to her pastern on the left side, and she picked up her foot...and then promptly put it down. But it was done nicely, you know? Not fearfully, no striking, no jumping out of the way. She also let me get down below her elbow on the right side, as well as reach under her belly from the right. Big steps for my ticklish girl.

The saddle blanket has her side stepping. With both Sandy and Steve Holt!, I'd had the saddle on by day 8. I'd wanted to do that with Tika, too (my timeline beginning this past weekend, when the trainers picked up their EMM horses), but I think I'll wait until she's quiet when I put the blanket on her. I'll have to go back and look at the boys to see what they were like.


Showing a bit of Tika-tude with those lips

There's something very different about this mare. Something I can't quite put my finger on. We stood there in the fading light yesterday, my nose burried in her soft winter coat. She stood like a mare protecting a foal. There's a tenderness about her once she lets you inside of her space. She curved her neck slightly around me, not tight like a hug, but a small gesture that said life was good.


Don't forget to scroll down and leave your comment on the Pick it up and Read post! You could win Shadow Horse by Alison Hart. Great Christmas gift!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tika's Progress


It's been cold. Way, way too cold. But it's a dry cold, so I'm happy! Unfortunately, I don't always get out to work with Tika while the sun is still visible. It doesn't actually show it's face in the morning until 9:40, and by 4 in the afternoon, it's descending behind the treetops. Sunlight, and the small amount of warmth that goes with it, is in short supply. But as long as I can see where I'm placing my feet, and where the horse is, I'm okay.

Tika thought that having a day off over the weekend meant we should take a week or two or six off. She didn't want to be caught, and any time I got close enough to start rubbing on her, the moment the second hand came up she was off like a shot. So out came my trusty training tool, the rope.

Have you ever tried to toss a rope over the back of a moving horse, when that moving horse is snugged up against a round pen panel? Let me tell you, it's easier to catch the panel. And I caught several panels Monday night before the rope finally landed on Tika's back. She stopped immediately, and although the rope slipped down her side, it didn't matter. In her mind, I'd won, so she stopped and let the halter slip over her lovely face. Which was a relief, as when the air gets as cold and dry as it is right now, it's not good for man nor beast to be running about and filling the lungs with frigid air.

Once haltered, Tika allowed me to lead her about and rub on her left side. Still a bit shy about the right, I can get over there for a moment or two before she begins to step away. On Saturday, I actually ponied her a little from Sandy. Not that you can get much done in a round pen that's only 25' across, but she didn't spook when I climbed onto his back, and she got the basics.

Last night she allowed me to run my hand the length of her body, from head to hip and dock of her tail, without moving away. Then I stepped to the right side to see how she'd react. To my utter delight, she allowed me to run my hand down the length of her body, past the hop and up onto her rump near the tail. What's more, on her more comfortable left side, I worked my hand down to her kneee, as well as under her belly where the cinch will eventually go.

Afterwards, I buried my face in her long, soft, fluffy coat, and she curved her neck gently around me in what I can only imagine as a hug. In reality I believe she was politely saying, "Please don't do that," but I choose not to acknowledge her actual feelings and will substitute my own. Someday, Tika will truly enjoy all this loving.