Saturday, November 28, 2009

Two Weeks Later

We went for a drive yesterday...behind our very own pair of Cream Draft Horses!

Lucy and Joy are, in fact driving a carriage, after just two weeks in training.  I'm very, very proud of them, especially since they're only four and three years old.  Drafts are bred to work, so I guess once they accept the inevitable, the process goes pretty smoothly.

The day was gorgeous--chilly, with bright sunshine and a few colorful leaves still clinging to the trees.  We watched the girls being hitched up, then jumped in the back of the cart and took off to the sweet sound of clip-clopping hooves.  Lucy is still a little lazy, and had to be urged to pull her share of the weight.  Joy is the stoic--keeps her head down and just goes along until somebody tells her she can stop now.

The best part was when we left the street and turned into the woods.  No clip-clops on the sandy ground, but the sight of those creamy horses going along through the autumn landscape just thrilled me.  They turned corners and stood still very nicely.  And they were both very glad to reach the barn again!

I finally got to see the dent Lucy put in the trainer's truck fender.  Oh, my.  So much worse than I expected.  And I guess I'll be a little more careful when I go to pushing Lucy around when she gets stubborn.  Clearly, I'm not the one with the muscles in this situation!

All the best,


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Rough Draft

This was THE week!  Lucy and Joy were finally going to Bill Long to be trained to drive.  To be driven, that is.  They've each worn the driving harness without protest, including the crupper--a loop that goes under the tail to keep the harness in place--and the bridle wth blinders.  Very encouraging.

But first, they needed to look like respectable driving horses.  Sunday, I brought them up to the cross ties and clipped the bridle path behind their ears--that gets their mane out from underneath the the bridle, obviously.  And I trimmed their whiskers so they'd look nice and ladylike.  So far, so good.

Monday was bath day.  I soaped Lucy's mane heavily, to whiten it, then went to wash the rest of her--not a small task.  Unfortunately, Lucy lost patience fairly quickly.  The rinsing process became a battle, especially regarding her mane.  Lucy DOES NOT want water on her head. 

Joy's bath was less combative, but left her in a really bad mood.  We all parted that evening on rather distant terms.

Next morning...Tuesday...I set about conveying the girls to their new school.  Lucy has recovered her equilibrium, and except for the blue black dirty soap scum in the mane behind her ears, we're back to normal.  Of course, she changes her mind when she's standing in the trailer and starts backing out before I can latch the bar behind her.  A butt bar, we call it.  Now there's one draft horse running around loose.  Great.

I get Joy, who's still mad, and coax her into the other side of the trailer with treats, which I--clever human!--leave on the floor just beyond her reach, so she can smell them and focus forward till I get the butt bar closed.

Then I go to fetch Lucy, who decides she needs some exercise before boarding the trailer again.  She gallops three full laps around the outside of the field, with Abby and TBone running along the inside of the fence.  I managed to divert her through the open gate into the paddock, which works well except for the fact that Abby escapes at the same time. 

Time out while I go fetch Abby.

Okay.  Abby's back where she belongs.  And Lucy's finally calm enough to stand still for a halter.  The treats I left for Joy work their magic on Lucy, too, and I get the butt bar latched.  Whew!  Everything else will be a piece of cake, right?

To my surprise, the girls traveled well, disembarked easily, and walked pretty quietly into their stalls.  I stood around babbling to Bill about them...until I realized I sounded like a kindergartener's mother on the first day of school.  I made myself shut up.  Then I went home to my three regular horses.

Wednesday evening, I saw Bill at the driving club meeting.  "How are my girls doing?"

He grinned, and I started to worry.  "Lucy wouldn't go forward pulling the tire," he said.  Training to drive starts with something light to pull, like a tire on the ground.


"She ran backward,"  Bill said, still grinning.  "And dented the fender of my truck with her butt."

Thus endeth the first lesson!


Monday, October 12, 2009


This is one of the hard parts about loving horses--the fact that other people don't.

A friend called last week to ask if I would consider rescuing a yearling Thoroughbred.  He'd been brought down to North Carolina from Kentucky, where he was being starved, along with a number of breeding mares.  I don't know why the owner decided not to feed these horses or if he's been prosecuted.  I do believe he will suffer in the afterlife.

I went to see the yearling, and he's beautiful.  He's going to be a big, handsome bay, and he'll make someone a fantastic hunter/jumper one day.  I wish that someone could be me.

But I came home that afternoon and my dogs escaped again, which meant more driving, searching, worrying.  Fortunately, I'd  passed out flyers in the area they wandered to, so I got them back within four hours.  My electric fence wasn't functioning, because I hadn't had time to get it all hooked up.  Suzette is still stall-bound, needing daily walks and serious cleaning in her stall.  TBone needs to be driven and ridden.  Abby should get some exercise.  The drafts, Joy and Lucy, now have a harness they should be getting used to.  Five dogs to feed and keep track of.  Fall vegetable planting, pasture fertilizing and seeding, leaf raking...oh, and did someone mention house cleaning?  What a silly idea.

My husband asked me that evening, "Do you want to do anything in your life besides work with horses?"

The answer is yes.  I love my horses, taking care of them and being able to work with them.  But my "job", as I see it, is writing.  That's how I earn the money to feed the horses.  Some of it, anyway.  More important, writing is my purpose, my reason to exist.

So I have to admit that I've reached the limit of my horse capacity.  I can't do any more, even to rescue this sweet little boy.  I'm putting the word out to other horse lovers, hoping for someone in the community to step up and claim him.  It's a very hard decision, because I could love him.

At least I stopped myself from giving him a name.  It would have been so easy.

All the best,


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Public Service Announcement

Having spent 42 of the last 48 hours worrying about and hunting for two runaway dogs, I have a few pieces of advice for those who keep canine companions:

1) Get each dog a collar and a rabies vaccination. Then hang the vaccination tag on the collar. The number on that tag can help identify your pet if it gets lost.

2) Go to a nearby Pet Smart store, look in some of the pet goods catalogues, or search on line for a way to make ID tags for all your animals. Put the animal's name, your name and a phone number on the tag, then put the tag on the collar. This can apply to horses, donkeys, zebras and alpacas, as well. Or pet cows, for that matter. A leather halter with an ID tag can be invaluable during storm situations, when fences get broken and spooked animals escape.

3) Support your local Humane Society and Animal Shelters. My dogs wandered five miles up the road, farther than I would have believed possible. I came home from putting flyers in mailboxes this morning to find a message saying the nice woman who lived up there had secured them for me to pick up. The way she got my name and number...I had filed a report with Animal Control. Blessings on Mrs. Murchison and the guys at the Animal Shelter, who were kind when I called and kept my information right at the front of their list!

I'll be putting electric wire around my back yard to keep the dogs from digging out underneath the mesh we put up to keep them in. I just couldn't get it done before Fanny took off on an adventure and forgot how to get back. I'm thrilled I don't have to drive around looking for dog corpses on the side of the road anymore. Just not the way to spend a beautiful autumn day.

All the best,


Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Wow...April 27th was a long time ago. Not exactly posting every day, am I?

Well, the new school year has started, and I always love the chance to start again.

We've had some interesting moments on the farm this summer. One of them occurred when Suzette turned up lame on an August Saturday afternoon. The injury turned out to be yet another dreaded term for horse people: a bowed tendon. Dreadful because the horse requires stall rest and limited activity for months, and won't be fully back to work at the same level for at least a year.

So Princess Suzette has been confined to a 12 by 14 foot stall for almost six weeks now. The time has come to start walking her around, under control so she doesn't reinjure the leg. With a high energy horse like the Princess, control is never guaranteed.

But we'd been doing okay, she and I, walking around the paddock. Until last Sunday, when an open gate and an approaching tractor gave her too much to think about. She simply couldn't process all the options.

I don't recall exactly what happened. My neighbor says I went up into the air as I was falling backwards. I seem to remember being socked in the face with the nose of a horse. I know I have a sore shoulder and a big bruise on my foot.

Obviously, Suzette freaked out and decided to vacate the premises. I'm told she trotted across the paddock to stand with TBone. Her leg seems to be fine.

I don't remember standing up, or anything much at all for about 5 minutes. My husband says I didn't lose consciousness. But when he asked me the know, I really couldn't say.

Is there a moral to this story?

Never take any moment of your life for granted, with or without a horse.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Under Control

This has nothing to do with horses...well, except that horses can be inspiring and comforting and almost always make me smile, in the same way that Nie Nie's Blog inspires and comforts me, and makes me smile.

Stephanie Nielsen is the mother of four youngsters. Last summer, she went with her husband to take a flying lesson. The plane crashed, fatally injuring the instructor and severely burning both the Nielsens. After being kept in a coma for months to facilitate healing, they have begun to recover the life they shared before the accident.

The inspiring, comforting part is how Nie Nie's family has worked to support them in their struggle, how the children are learning to cope, how Mr. Nielsen (as she calls her husband) values and cares for them all. Nie Nie had more surgery last week, an ordeal we can't begin to conprehend, and when she turned to her dad in despair, he reminded her that Everything Is Under Control.

Don't we all need to know this? In the midst of even the most mundane of life's trials, it's a comfort to hear that Everything Is Under Control. Reading Nie Nie's posts always reminds me of the strength of the human spirit, and the ultimate power of Love.

Visit her blog and claim some comfort for yourself.


Something New Under The Sun

New to me, anyway. And I thought I was fairly up to date on Internet possibilities.

Last night, I discovered Blog Carnivals, yet another interesting idea from the folks at Google. A carnival is, well, a sideshow of blogs, I guess, all concerned with a specific subject. I was searching for horse blogs and found the Horse Carnival, where a number of writers post a link to a horse topic at their blog.

So if you click on the merry go round horse at right, you'll go to The Carnival of Horses, a list of blogs on horse topics. There are archives from previous months, too. I can't vouch for the quality or accuracy of any blog but mine. Still, it's interesting to see what others have to say about the horse world. For me, it's a chance to draw more readers to my blog, which I'd love to do. The Internet is about links, about connections. I've made some dear friends across the Web. I don't see it as entertainment so much as a way to communicate.

As a writer, I'm driven to communicate.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Not For Wimps

Horseback riding does demand a certain level of physical ability. Just getting into the saddle requires leg strength and balance; staying on with any degree of comfort, let alone style, makes you an athlete. That's one reason horseback therapy for the disabled is such a beautiful exercise.

Many riders have been heard to remark that when they're too old to ride, or to broken up from the inevitable falls, or too arthritic and weak...then they'll drive horses instead. And that will be good for them, as long as they aspire to no more than a little jog down a lane without traffic, behind an old, well-fed horse without imagination.

But driving is not an inherently safe and easy occupation. Our TBone is as placid a pony as they come, but he once thew my husband out of the cart. He bolts upon occasion, and has attempted to back us into the pond. These episodes call for delicate negotiation between driver and rider, if we are all to escape unhurt.

And then there is competitive driving. Combined Driving Events, these occasions are called, and there's nothing safe or easy about them.

The weekend of April 10-12 marked the Southern Pines CDE at the Carolina Horse Park. Friday was the simplest day, during which each driver and their horse or horses performed a dressage test for the judges. Simple, that is, if you don't include cleaning the harness and cart and horse(s), putting them all together correctly, then getting yourself dressed in your finest driving togs, including hat, gloves, and driving apron, and--only when it's all perfect to look at--performing an intricate series of maneuvers within a circumscribed space at a specific gait while looking as if you haven't got a care in the world. One-handed, even.

Try that with four 17-hand young geldings and see how relaxing a "nice drive" can be!

Saturday is "Marathon" Day, equivalent to the cross-country phase of Three-Day Eventing. In the first section, the driver and horse cover approximately 5 km of country within a given time--not too fast, not too slow. A vet check is performed, and the horse rested until pulse, respiration and temperature meet certain levels. The second phase of the marathon is a 1 km walk, which must be accomplished within 12 minutes.

Then the extreme driving starts. The team travels another set course within a specific time limit, only this course includes obstacles, or hazards, that must be negotiated as well. These hazards are mini-mazes with labeled gates designed to be taken in order ABCD.... Most hazards are quite solid, so misjudging your turn might slam your carriage into a post. Teams get stuck, grooms fall out, horses back and rear and kick...and if you're good, you still manage to clear the hazard and continue the drive to the finish.

I worked at one of the hazards on Saturday--there were many good examples of how to drive, several excellent demonstrations and not a few troubling performances, too. No one fell out or was hurt at my obstacle. But the water hazard defied several teams and drivers. Your horses must be brave, to persist through challenges like these.

On the third day, the same carriages and drivers and horses compete on the cones course, another maze where the gates are marked by cones set a defined distance apart. Each cone has a tennis ball sitting on top. Each fallen ball or tipped cone counts against the team. Time penalties are assigned, as well.

And this particular cones course offered plenty of excitement. One driver fell out of the carriage, leaving the horse to gallop back to the stable on its own, carriage still attached. And when one pony staged a protest at the entire proceeding, the other three ponies on his team joined in, putting the driver in a precarious position. Fortunately, neither humans nor equines were hurt (except for some pride on the drivers' parts, probably.) And the spectators all got a nice jolt of adrenaline to enliven the day.

Combined driving was developed by Phillip, the Prince of Wales, as an equivalent sport to the more familiar Horse Trials for riders. CDE driving takes place at the highest levels of equestrian sport, and is featured at the World Equestrian Games, including next year, when I'll get to watch from the stands in Lexington, Kentucky!

My point, in case you've lost track of it: driving can be as demanding and skillful as riding, if you put your heart into it the way these CDE competitors do. Wimps and sissies need not apply!

(These photos are not the Southern Pines CDE. I'll work on getting some of those.)
(These photos are not the Southern Pines CDE--I'll try to get some soon!)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Nightmare on My Street

There are certain scenarios that show up repeatedly on the list of Top Ten Worst Horse Disasters for most horsekeepers.

Last night, I endured one of mine. I'd been away from the farm for dinner with a friend. Retuning home at midnight, I looked forward to quickly throwing hay to the horses and crawling into bed. I drove to the back pasture, turned into the aisle between the two paddocks...and saw the gate to Lucy's and Abby's field standing wide open.

I didn't have to ask if the horses were still inside. The grass is always greener, after all.

I shone my lights over the unfenced part of the field, which was empty. And Suzette the Ever Vigilant was staring toward the front of the farm, which meant the escapees had headed in that direction. Fortunately, when I got back to the road, I saw the ghostly form of a Cream Draft horse within the darkness across the street, casually grazing on my neighbor's front lawn.

The dogs were going insane, barking at the strange visitors. TBone and Merlin, the geldings who live in the front paddocks, were galloping back and forth, whickering and neighing to demonstrate their manliness. So much for a quiet night in the country!

I fetched halters and lead ropes, but the girls wouldn't stand still to be caught. I went back for a bucket and grain, which captured Lucy's attention immediately, but the halter which fit her a year ago proved to be too small. In the process of moving the buckles, I dropped the other halter, then had to lead Lucy around with me as I located a flashlight and searched for the halter to put on Abby. Thank goodness she decided to cooperate. As our grande dame, perhaps she felt further disorderly conduct was beneath her dignity. Or maybe she was ready to head back to bed.

Lucy doesn't like dogs, so she cavorted on the end of the lead rope as we walked by the back yard with the canines barking up a storm and then the paddock with the crazed gelding dashing around and calling out. Dancing draft horses are a challenge, especially in the dark, with mud and puddles on the road. And me in street shoes. Thank heavens for Abby's good sense.

Finally, we reached the back field, where all was calm and relatively quiet. Suzette and Joy waited tensely in their paddock for the return of their sisters. Seeing them, Lucy calmed down and walked with Abby and me to the open gate. In a few moments, the truants were restored to their proper place.

I sorted out hay in the dark, slipped through the mud to give everyone her share, then walked back to the barn up front to do the same for the guys. At last, about an hour after I'd planned, I crawled into bed. Sleep was longer in coming, because the geldings were still keyed up, still calling back to their lady friends, asking for a date. Everyone had a late breakfast this morning except me...I haven't managed to find time to eat yet.

So, I encountered one of the Top Ten and we all survived. I'm glad it was midnight, and not 4 pm--the traffic on my little two-lane road is deadly in the afternoon. When we signal the motorcyclists who streak by to slow down, they flip us a bird and keep going.

Nary a vehicle interfered last night as I herded my girls safely back to their crib. That's the best outcome I could hope for. But, oh, what a night!


Monday, March 30, 2009


I've done the unforgivable in the World of Blog--I've let days go by without posting. Many days, in fact. My sincere and most abject apologies are offered. There is, however, a reason I've faltered.

Firefighters I've talked to watch "Backdraft" and notice all the mistakes; anyone who believes "Grey's Anatomy" shows how doctors really work needs to spend some time in the hospital.

And when I read or watch horses portrayed in unrealistic ways (like the animated movie in which horses lapped water like dogs--they don't) or when riders perform impossible feats (Zorro dropping 20 feet down into the saddle, as if either he or the horse would emerge uninjured) well, I get annoyed.

So I offered an online class through my local writing chapter on horse facts. I thoroughly enjoyed doing the research--spending hours every day looking at photos of horses, reading articles, viewing paintings and prints and historic writings. Though I haven't been blogging, I have been immersed in the horse!

One of the great sources I discovered in my work was the International Museum of the Horse, located at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. In addition to their on site exhibits, the museum has a terrific online presentation, "The Legacy of the Horse," which covers the evolution and domestication of horses around the world. Illustrated with contemporary paintings, drawings and photographs, this survey of horse history is a joy to absorb. The site also offers an encyclopedia of horse breeds, indexed by the name of the breed and by the part of the world where the breed originates. How cool is that?

Of course, amazing feats are possible with horses. Check out this video of Lorenzo the Flying French Man with his beautiful Camargue horses:

Poetry in motion.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"Horses are karmic and they come to us in our lives karmically, when it is time for us to truly learn. We must not miss this occasion to learn, as it will enrich other areas of our lives. When you are frustrated in this learning process, do not become angry with your horse. Remember the old Arab proverb that says, 'Your horse is your mirror.' Learn what your horse has to teach you, then apply it to something else in your life." Dominique Barbier

This quotation was sent to me by a new friend, a more experienced horsewoman, and states an undeniable truth. Maintaining a relationship with your horse offers the opportunity to evaluate yourself and your behaviour.

Like children, horses require patience and responsibility. They offer confidence and freedom in return. That instant when you've achieved unity with your horse, both of your minds focused and your bodies synchronized, is a breathtaking release from the mundane world. You might only be walking, but you feel like you're one with the wind.

Such moments of perfection are the reason we do the work, spend the money and take the time horses require. These beautiful animals can move us beyond ourselves. It's their natural gift, and we gladly receive.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Pioneer Woman

I wanted to explain this entry in my Links list.

The Pioneer Woman is Ree Drummond, a wife and mom in Oklahoma who sat down one day to blog about her life on a cattle farm. She's funny and fun, a little eccentric, and her blog is a bright spot in the day. Her photographs are delightful--life with cows and horses and dogs, the food she cooks and posts recipes for, the homeschooling she gives her four children and whatever else comes to her mind. She has a cookbook coming out this summer (I think) and she posts a serialized account of her romance and wedding with her husband, The Marlborough Man. No, he doesn't smoke. But he's one hundred percent the cowboy hero those ads convey.

If you get a chance, click on over and give yourself a smile.


Monday, March 2, 2009


The South has endured some strange weather lately. It's been colder this year than any year I can remember since leaving Washington, D.C. in 1996. This is March and we should be waking to sunny skies and flowers blooming. Instead, we got snow last night--not much, but still--and the high tomorrow is supposed to be 34 degrees.

Our snow was preceded by two days of significant rain, thank goodness. We need all the water we can get. But I always think a horse standing in the cold rain is a sad sight to see. Horses roll regardless of the weather, so they're usually standing there filthy as well as wet. My horses all have nice walk-in stalls they could retire to, with windows through which they could watch the weather without being in it. Do they take advantage of my generosity? No, they stand out in the storm, their butts to the wind, looking miserable. And I feel bad.

Sunday afternoon, we came home from church and went back to check on the girls--Lucy, Abby, Joy and Suzette share two pastures about an eighth of a mile behind the house. The two Cream Drafts, having been born into this weather, were fine. Abby, our grande dame, has weathered hurricanes and more since 1990.

But Suzette, the princess, was trembling. Sincerely shivering in the cold, wet day. I hadn't managed to get a blanket on her before the rain started; she was drenched and dirty, so I was distressed. A call to the younger daughter gave me hope--I could put a cooler on Suzette and keep her in a stall until she was dry, then put the blanket on.

Initial problem: Suzette hates stalls. She'll dig a hole 3 feet deep if shut up overnight, and look like it in the morning--dirty and sweaty. My daughter cautioned that Suzette couldn't be allowed to get sweaty under the cooler. Horses are better off too cold than too warm.

We threw a bunch of hay into the stall, since Suzette was bound to be hungry, yet she resisted coming in, even with a halter on. Once discovered, of course, the hay was a big hit. With her attention on food, we put the board across the stall front to keep her in. Then my husband, bless him, went to fetch towels and the cooler while I stood and watched the princess munch.

Suzette doesn't like blankets, either, and she's not too keen on being rubbed down. Eventually, we got the cooler on a body no longer dripping. A cooler, by the way, is a light blanket made of moisture-wicking fabric, wool in this case. Our working theory was that the cooler would pull the moisture away, and then we could put on the heavier, waterproof version and let her go.

Husband also brought me a chair--red, white and blue. I parked myself in the stall, allowing Suzette to wander around at the end of a lead rope, hoping that my presence would be enough to keep her calm and allow her to dry. Two hours later, I released my damp but considerably warmer filly back to the freedom of her pasture.

During the interval, we lived through only a few moments of horse-inspired terror--when I was taking the cooler off, for instance, and she jumped away with the leg straps still around her hocks. Her pirouette, kicking and turning in circles, energized the afternoon. The sirens out on the main road and the big, loud gunshot that followed also caused considerable excitement. Suzette is a control freak; she behaves as if she can protect herself and the rest of the herd from any and all evils, if only she can see them first. Don't we all?

There were sweet moments, as well. I enjoyed the time to watch and stroke the mare I claimed from birth. My neighbor from England recommended stuffing straw under the cooler to give additional layers and speed drying. I only had hay (at $8 a bale!) but after the first weird look, Suzette accepted the experiment. I remembered a Georgette Heyer novel in which the characters rubbed down their horses with straw after a long ride, and so I did the same for mine. Then I threw it on the ground and she ate it. Talk about recycling.

Finally, though, Suzette was bored with 3 walls and a board. She started to dig, but would stop each of the ten times I said "No!" I tried to get her blanket on, but she danced away. And then Joy gave her the chance she'd been waiting for...the 2 year old Cream Draft horse had been sharing the extra hay. This time, though, she got too close. Suzette whirled, backed, and kicked the board down. Joy retreated, as instructed.

I still held the lead rope attached to the halter, so I coaxed the princess back inside long enough to wrap her up, then removed the halter and let her go out into the and cold. We'd both had enough for one day.

Joy went in after Suzette left and finished up the hay. A good time was had by all. In the stall.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Four in Hand

At the feed store on Saturday I met Chester Weber, the winner of the 2008 silver medal at the World Four-in-Hand Driving Championships. He's also the six-time National Champion for the United States.

Competing with Chester the weekend of Februrary 27 in Ocala, Florida will be my own driving instructor, Bill Long of Southern Pines, NC. Bill is a five-time National Champion and the first American driver to win the Windsor Grand Prix, which offered him the chance to have dinner with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip of England. He attended the World Championships five times, as well.

The sport these men pursue with their four large horses is more than just a trot through the park. Similar to the ridden sport of Three Day Eventing, Combined Driving Events include a dressage performance, a marathon drive across country, and a cones phase. In the dresssage test, the driver and horses complete a series of patterns within a measured rectangular arena, with emphasis on the precision of their figures and the demeanor of the horses. In the marathon, driver and team not only cover a prescribed course of seven-plus miles, but they must negotiate a series of obstacles, or hazards--I liken them to mazes--which include water and slopes and offer numerous chances for accidents. Finally, the team drives the cones course, a series of "gates" marked by pairs of cones, where each pair must be taken in the correct order and direction. Sound easy? Not!

TBone and I have done some combined driving and hope to again, once he's fit after his foot surgery. TBone's a pony and my carriage isn't big, but I can tell you that getting through those obstacles and the cones course is a real challenge. I watched Bill at a local event recently, and was amazed at the delicate adjustments he could make to the positions of those four great horses, allowing him to whisk through a gate with only air to spare. Talk about driving to an inch! (That's a phrase from Georgette Heyer's Regency novels, some of my favorite books in the world.)

In 2010, the World Championships will be held in Lexington, Kentucky. So exciting! There will be dressage, jumping, vaulting, reining, endurance and, of course, driving. It's going to be the most wonderful event, and available for America to enjoy! We're hoping both Bill and Chester will be there, along with many other fantastic horses and riders and drivers from the U.S. Look it up here and figure out how you can spend a few days in Fall 2010 enjoying the world of horses!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

George Stubbs

I saw my first Stubbs paintings at the Yale Museum of Art in New Haven, CT. I could've sat in that huge room for hours, staring at the magnificent renderings of horses and other animals created by this amazing artist. This one is positively frightening--you feel the lion's teeth ripping into your shoulder just as the horse would.

Stubbs was an 18th century artist who did for horses what Leonardo da Vinci did for the human body--he analyzed equine anatomy through dissection. He had a gruesome reputation for studying cadavers, including the bodies of dead children. But his 1766 book The Anatomy of the Horse is as realistic and useful as a set of xrays. John Lienhard at the University of Houston has a nice write-up on Stubbs and his methods here.

Many of the classic animal paintings we're familiar with these days are by Stubbs, like the zebra print I bought for my daughter's room without realizing who'd painted it. Gift boxes, coasters, and place mats with beautiful horses on them often turn out to be Stubbs' work. You're probably familiar with this talented artist without knowing who he is.

At least, you were. Now you know!


Monday, February 23, 2009

My Herd

An introduction to my hooved friends...

We purchased TBone in the fall of 2000. He's a Spotted Saddlehorse, meaning he's got Tennesse Walker genes plus the "spots" that come from Quarterhorses. His official name is "Major Markings," which is true because he's a brown, white and black pony. TBone and my younger daughter learned dressage and eventing together. Now 14 years old, he's too small for her to compete, but we've trained him as a driving horse and hope to do some Combined Driving Events next fall, once he completely recovers from a surgery to deal with his navicular disease.

Abby is 3/4 Thoroughbred, 1/4 Quarterhorse, a combination called an Appendix. She's bay colored and our grande dame at 19. Abby has done eventing and second level dressage, which makes her rather impressive. She's been ours since June of 2003, our school mistress for teaching most of us how to ride and the younger horses how to behave.

Suzette is half Arabian, half Warmblood and all "Princess." She's our dressage prospect, a beautiful mover who loves to perform. She was born the night we had to euthanize my beloved Quarterhorse, Cruiser, so I always figured his spirit had decided to stick around in the new baby, so she's been mine since her birth, 7 years ago on March 14th.

4 year-old Lucy is the first of our American Cream Draft horse herd. We bought her and her younger sister Joy from Iowa--Cream Drafts are the only Draft breed developed in the U.S. With only about 400 in the world, they are an endangered group and our plan is to breed more of them and to publicize the American Cream Draft breed throughout the country. They're great horses--not as big as Shires, Percherons and Clydesdales but strong, beautiful and with lovely temperament. I'm hoping to have Lucy and Joy trained to drive as a pair in the next few months, then use them in parades and maybe as carriage horses for weddings. They look so much like unicorns, I think they would add beauty and romance to anyone's wedding!

I've also got five dogs, but I'll save them for another day.


Hoping For the Best

Hello, there. Welcome to HIWTHI. I got the title off of a barn sign a friend gave me. I think it's the absolute truth.

My purpose for this blog is to talk about life with horses. I'll be posting photos of horses, horse art, horse events and horse information. I intend to bring in guest bloggers to give us their angle on the horse universe. And I look forward to comments from horse people everywhere. Please feel free to drop in and tell me what's happening in your horse world!

I conceived a brilliant plan yesterday. I would take TBone and Abby to the back pasture to spend some time together, and bring Lucy up to the front to keep Merlin company. TBone and Abby have been close friends since 2000, and I wanted to make them happy. I thought Lucy could pacify Merlin without making him so reluctant to leave his paddock. He's been quite a bit of trouble recently, refusing to leave TBone if he could possibly get away with it. Since Merlin is a 17 hand Thoroughbred, he's pretty good at getting his way.

But if you want to make a horse laugh, tell it your plans. (I know, they say that about God, too. I see a very intimate connection between them.)

First off, yesterday afternoon was blustery and cold. The wind got up the horses' tails, as they say, and made them silly. Then the neighbor across the street hosted target practice for her grandsons in her side yard. Horses don't like gun shots. (Me, neither.)

Still, TBone and Abby gave little trouble on the walk back, maybe because they were moving away from the guns. Lucy was terrifically glad to see TBone, which is when I realized she's in season. (Something about the huge stream of urine she sprayed as she nuzzled him gave it away.)

Lucy did not like walking toward the gun shots--picture an American Cream Draft Horse dancing on two legs. Once she got to her new paddock, she charged around for a couple of hours, getting sweaty. Since she's busted through that fence in the past and gone trotting down the road, I was nervous, to say the least. Draft horses only stay inside the fence because they don't have a reason to leave. Give them a reason and your big strong fence might as well be paper.

Merlin had been to Aiken, SC to hunt for the weekend and returned about 9:30 pm. He was feeling sulky, though, and didn't give Lucy much attention--a good thing, because if he'd pestered her, there might have been broken boards, if not bones.

As we all settled down for the night, though, I realized the down side of what I'd done. Abby, a 1000 lb Appendix, eats about 18 lbs of hay a day. TBone, the Spotted Saddle Pony, should weigh around 800 lbs and eat 12 lbs of hay. But out in the field with Abby, there's no way to monitor his food. He'd end up eating all of his share and half of hers, getting fat fast. All the hard work I've done in the last three months slimming him down would have gone to waist. (Pun intended.)

So I got up this morning, when it was colder and blusterier, and reversed yesterday's trade with Lucy and TBone. There were no gun shots, at least. Now Lucy's back with the girls, eating as much hay as Abby, if not more. And TBone and Merlin are side by side again, the bachelor buddy geldings. All fence boards remained intact.

And that's the most I can hope for on a day like today.