Sunday, December 23, 2012

News I can't share

I have news. News I can't talk about. But in about a week I'll be able to.

But it's got me thinking about how sometimes we don't realize how important something is to us. We get tangled in all kinds of other considerations, missing the things that matter. In that tangle we can't see anything because everything is far in the distant. You end up making bets based on trajectories and predictions. You misidentify emotions, you ignore misgivings, you trudge to the next place, convinced it's right.

Even if it isn't.


Stephanie and I were riding a few days ago and I said "Sometimes I miss Smokey, but then when I'm on the trail with Lily I realize how relaxed and enjoyable this is, to be able to ride without worrying about what might happen." Given that Smokey had bolted on the trail a few times, it had taken the joy of riding right out of me.

We rode up some parts of the little trail we hadn't been on before, just up and down a rise or two. Then we got to the little hill on the trail that we always canter up. But this time we didn't canter. Lily and I didn't gallop either. She ran, full out, and the laughter bubbled up and out like fountain, clear and cool, and suddenly I felt what Lily, who loves to run, felt.

It feels incredible to run and leave 'em in the dust.

It's like the news I can't share. When you finally arrive to where you are going, you are often taken aback when you discover how close it's been all along.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Parade Whispers and a Gift

It was time for our small town parade. Our town might be small, but our parade is huge -- 80 floats.

This year I offered up Lily to Gracie, my daughter's BFF, and sat on the side line. Sierra rode Cody.

Why did Sierra ride Cody and not Lily? Because right now the most important thing to my daughter at this age is to look cool. She can get a little nervous on Lily because of Lily's hot nature. And when a teenager is trying to balance cool and a hot horse, bad things happen.

Gracie is a competitive rider, and I knew she could handle Lily without much help.

But there was a moment. Not that Gracie was in any peril, not by a long shot. But Lily was doing her version of "jigging," eyes getting wide, nervous pacing, and I could feel the nerves of both horse and rider getting a little frayed.

I walked over and said, "You're doing a great job with her, Grace. All the horses are getting a little up." I stroked Lily's neck, feeling the zipping energy on her coat. "Here's a couple things. Sing her a song. You'll help her breathe."  I stroked Lily's ears, and she bowed her head, softened her eye. She started to zen out. "Also Lily like strokes, not pats.  So give that a try instead."

I felt the energy, the prickly energy, drain right out of Lily and Gracie's perpetual smile lost its strain. They were ready again. Collected again.

I missed Smokey, right then, a deep dark ache that I try to ignore most of the time.

Lily and Gracie did beautifully in the parade. Cody and Sierra were a stunning and calm pair that allowed my daughter to keep looking cool to her friends along the parade route without the weight of worry.

I watched the horses carry their riders along their asphalt journey, full of ribbons and garland and bows and glitter, and remembered a parade a year ago, where I sang to my horse and calmed us both right back down.

Next year, I'll ride in the parade, one way or another.


On another note:

If you're a fan of my Crib Note series, I have a gift for you.

I've put together a pdf of my holiday Crib Notes (unedited, so if you are a frustrated copy editor, go easy on me) and it's FREE.

Just send me an email here and I'll send it your way. It's also available on Amazon for Kindle, but I can't make it free there, for some reason. So I have it set for the cheapest possible price, 99 cents.

You can find it on Amazon here.


My novel Matchbook is back from my editor and BFF, and she had so many fantastic ideas that now I have to work on it. I'll let you know when that is ready too!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Putting on a Jacket

It's terribly warm in Texas these days, it seems way too warm for December 1st.  It was 80 and a quick review of the history charts wins me a bet with my husband. It's much hotter than normal, the last time we hit 80 in December was 1998. So what is it? Global warming? Drought cycle? Spike in the number of women in menopause in Texas leading to higher temperatures?

They all seem like possible scenarios.

Still, 80 is a lovely temperature for a ride, and Lily and I took a trip over to see Cibolo and Stephanie. I miss riding with friends, miss the casual "hook ups" at the barn. I like that Lily is in a small herd without any barn drama, but my friend doesn't seem to ride either of her horses.  I'm never sure what to make of these kinds of situations, if it's helpful to encourage, even insist, that someone get on her horse. So in the absence of guidance, instead I extend an invitation now and then. But my schedule is so unpredictable these days because of shifts at work, I can hardly organize much in the way of outings.

(In my next life I'm going to be a trust fund baby. Because surely I'll have built plenty of character by that time. Then I can ride EVERY DAY!)

It was late in the morning before I could talk myself into getting up. It's the one upside to not taking care of your own horse - plenty of sleeping in without guilt. At the ranch that morning Lily and I have a brief conversation about the merits of loading, then we were on our way.

Cibolo: You going to eat that?
Lily: Yes. Stop staring. You've got yours over there.
Cibolo: Yours looks better.
Lily: Tough. It's mine.

She always seems to be pleased to be at her old barn again - not so much that she misses it, I think, but that she's glad that we are in a place where she knows the trails, will be traveling with a friend, where there's a predictability to things.

Can't say I blame her.

Stephanie and I tooled around on the trails, Cibolo was as shiny as a new penny, Lily had her extra paint splashes she gets when her winter  coat grows in. I tossed on my jacket halfway through, noting how it's nice to have a horse you dont worry about doing such things on.

We met some new corgi puppies, went around the nearly dried out pond, then galloped up a hill. The galloping was exhilarating (aren't they always - when you know you can stop your horse?) but also useful, since Cibolo had been reluctant to canter, let alone gallop.

It was a shortish ride, but a nice one. Lily didn't take a lame step. Maybe it's time to stretch our distance.  We're thinking of a ride to Bastrop. It's on our bucket list...

Speaking of bucket list, I just memorized this poem by James Wright called the Blessing.  Here's my favorite line from it, where he describes his horse's ear:

And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.

You can read it all here. This is my 6th poem I've memorized, the first one I've found that captures the magic of time with horses.

So here's my bit of own poetry, a haiku with a twist.

She arches her neck
Like the branch of a willow
and snatches a bite.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Lily Reminds Me That Training Never Stops

It was a beautiful November day. Stunning blue skies, the subtle colors of fall, cool but not yet cold, the absolute perfect day to go riding.

There's something about riding a copper horse in Autumn's softer light, the gleaming metallic look of her coat makes my heart shine.

It didn't start that way. I showed up right as Lily was about to be let out to pasture. I had reached Stephanie and we were going to ride together. Which meant Lily was going to have to get in the trailer.

She gave me that look. The "you've got to be kidding me" look.

And my self loading horse turned into a non loading horse.

We spent some time working through the issue. Part of it came from how little time we've had together, part from the call of the pasture, part of it that streak of "I don wanna" mare time of the month. Doesn't matter really, the main thing was that we had to work through it, slowly. And I had to remember my own advice. Slow. Steady. Calm. Clear lines.

Eventually we were on our way.

It was great to ride with Stephanie and Cibolo. He's feeling better, the anti inflammatories seem to be doing their job. Stephanie said Lily is Cibolo's rock. He is confident with her around.

That makes two of us.

It was nice to be back on the old trails, to be riding with my favorite horse riding partner, to be on my horse that I know as well as I know myself.  She balked at only one thing, the swim noodles handing from a tree. I love finding something she won't do because it feels like such a huge opportunity to work through something, to deepen the connection. Funny how it's solving problems that help you connect with your horse. I don't think I'd ever thought of it that way.

As for the noodles, I wasn't totally surprised that she didn't like them. She's never been crazy about things hanging from above. By our seventh pass she was over it.

We kept it simple, we cantered up one hill. We wiped down our horses, we chatted about people we knew, about being over horsed, about the beautiful day.

And when it was time to go, Lily loaded just fine. (Okay, it took two tries, but world's better than the morning.)

It was a lovely, lovely day.


Thanks to everyone who voted on my covers for Matchbook! I'm doing a poll on facebook and to my Crib Notes subscribers (via email) too.  I'm so excited and so grateful for everyone who has weighed in - THANK YOU!

Frankly every cover is getting votes at this point. I'll let you know how the votes go in the next few days.  I'm also going to be emailing out the first chapter for free, let me know if you'd like to receive it...

If you haven't voted, please check it out here.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Trailers and a Poll

Lately I've been working on trailering. But not with Lily.

Steph and I have been taking the long road with Cibolo, who has been having issues with trailering. He needed to go to the vet, and I had to take Lily anyway, so we planned the trip together.

Cibolo has been shooting out of trailers lately. It's scary for everybody. So we spent quite a bit of time just getting in and being comfortable in the trailer.

Then, a few days later, I offered to help Janis with her horse, who had had a terrible trailering experience when he made the trip to Texas from New Mexico. He needed to get over it so he could get back to loading safely.

I like working on trailering. It's slow. It requires you to stay quiet and calm. With Cibolo, it was all about waiting for his release in the trailer. Then it was about getting him to self load, which always makes him more confident.

With Gallo, Janis' horse, it was about waiting him out, saving the reward for the smallest try.   Like the  try of Looking At The Trailer.  Then the try of Sniffing the Trailer.  Then the try of Sticking My Head in the Trailer. Then One Hoof In. And, suddenly, the Whole Horse In.

It took an hour. Nobody yelled. Nobody waved plastic bags on sticks. Nobody got smacked.

Both need several sessions of work, it's the kind of work I look forward to. I'm probably the only person in the world that finds this kind of training relaxing...


I've been traveling an inordinate amount of time lately.  Horse time has been limited. But I do have one project almost done that I need your help with.

Years ago I wrote a book. It was picked up by an agent who loved it, but it never found a publisher. Then life got busy, I made a few changes, had a few more folks read it and tell me they loved it.

Anyway, I've decided it's time to get it out, and I need your help deciding on a cover. They are very similar, but I can quite settle on a single one!  (For now, I'm not going to tell you what the book is about, but in a few days, I'll spill the beans. The e-book will be available soon, hopefully by Thanksgiving.)

Here are the four covers:

Number 1:

Number 2:

Number 3:
 And Number 4!

So, let me know in the comments which version you like best! :)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Camping with Lily at the Storm Ranch Ride

We can come here any time. There's grass.

Hey folks. Lily here. Me and Miss B went for an adventure. Tell you what, it was about time. I had to give Miss B a little bit of a hard time about getting in the trailer since there wasn't anybody else in there.

No kidding. I thought you were going to 
run over me for a second.

Well, you didn't have to get all physical on me.

Girlfriend, if you're about to run me over, 
I'm getting physical.

Fine. I jumped right in after that, didn't I?

It was quite a sight. I was worried you
were going to run through the back wall.

I can move when necessary. And it was really necessary. But between you and me I was ready to get the heck outta dodge, if you know what I mean. We got these two new horses and there's a bossy skinny mare now and couldn't wait get some space from that attitude, know what I mean?

I don't think I've ever seen 
you so happy to get your halter on.

I'd have put it on myself if I could've figure out the knot.  

So here's the thing about the trailer situation. When I ride in the trailer solo, I like the back spot because it's closer to the door. I don't mind the ride, but when it's time to exit the trailer, I waste no time. And if it's a long way to the exit, it makes me nervous. Now, I don't get nervous since Miss B loads me right there with the door on my tail.

Everybody's happy. And no one
is getting run over, either.  

This is my neighbor, River. She kicked at Cibolo once. She's got a red ribbon on her tail, say's it's bad girl bling.

When we arrived I decided immediately that this was a real good place. Grass was EVERYWHERE.  Miss B  sets up her electrical yarn thing and I notice we are under a big tree.

That's thanks to Miss Donna. She got there early.

It was a nice spot. Plenty of company, lots of hollering, nice shade. Tough not to like. Then Miss B said we were invited to go on a short ride. We don't do much long rides since my shoulder is a little touchy, but I was excited to hit the trails. It's been a long time we've been somewhere new. We were going out with Miss Donna and her little "I think I'm still a stallion, look at me" skinny horse. I give him the eye roll treatment. Please hon, I like a horse with a little meat on him, ya know?

Oh geez. Are you in heat, again?

Not yet. But it's always around the corner, you know.  

Anyway, we hit the trails and pretty soon we hook up with two more riders. Before you know it, we are trotting down the trail. I feel great! I show these horses how to make some time in a nice long trot that would've brought some ribbons in the show ring. They are all young ones, so I ignore all their snorting and dancing around. Trail's calling, boys, we got miles to go, don't go wasting energy!

You were very calm. Everyone was
 impressed. Even about the chair.

It was a chair. Goodness, you'd think these boys never been out of the barn. I took the lead a few times, then had to circle back when I out trotted them and they got worried. But I felt great. Trotting all that time, no problem!

We headed back and had some food. Miss B and Miss Donna went to the rider's meeting (which they should really send the horses to, in my opinion, since they're doing all the work). 

Can't argue with you there.

Darn straight. Another thing I like about camping is I get all kind of special stuff. Extra carrots. Watermelon. That kind of thing.

Although we learned you
 don't like cheese nips.

At least I gave them a try. Next morning, Miss B went out first thing to do something called scribbling...

Scribe. I was the scribe for the
 vets at the vet check.

Were you scribbling?

Well, I tried to be neat, 
but they talk fast...

Like I said, you were scribbling. I worked my way through my hay. Every now and then a real sweaty horse would come back, saying they'd been riding for miles and miles. I was a teensy bit sore from yesterday, but Miss B said we'd ride around camp later, just looking for some grass or something.

We rode a little, but I don't know, I just was off, I guess. Miss B took off the saddle and after lunch went for a walk. I think Miss B wanted to see how I was doing. We found some nice flowers.  But when I did some circles to the right I was feeling it a little, so we figured it might be time to take it easy.


Still I trotted those trails. I'm on the road back, I think.
I hope so.

We're both ready to head out for more adventures.

Darn straight.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Respect, Trust, and Journeys

Everyone in this picture looks contemplative, 
even the dog who is on her first pony ride.

I was thinking today about Lily.

I've been working with her to get better about lifting her rear feet, something that has been sketchy for a while.

It got me thinking about how I can get her to do things that she's otherwise reluctant to do with others. This time I am focused on working with the farrier to bringing her along.  Last time she danced around like crazy and it took a good deal to get her to a point where he could trim just a bit on her hinds. This leg sensitivity all started when her shoulder went out, I suspect that her lameness had made having her hinds stretched back painful and she's guarding against it.

She has that kind of reaction to things. Guarding.

So I've worked for a few days on getting her to let me hold her leg against mine. We've come a long way over the last few months, she never yanks her leg out of my hand any more. She now offers them a bit more politely. But the minute I touch them to my leg she worries and pulls, somewhat gently (in horse terms), putting the hoof down, always careful not to step on me.

This is how I know it's not a mean spirited thing. She practically falls over to avoid stepping on me.


I'm at the ranch with the farrier. It's beginning to rain, dashing my hopes for a leisurely training session with the three of us. There is no real shelter where we are, so we have to be practical.  I hold her hooves while he uses the nippers to cut off the worst of the wall. She holds her hooves nicely, only one pull away, which we attribute to fatigue. She won't rest against me at all. We're not there yet.

He straightens up, the half moons of her trimmed toe littering the ground around us. Her hooves are a bit ragged, but as usual he's done an amazing job. "They aren't pretty, but they will be fine," he says of her rear trim. His Spanish is lilting, his handlebar mustache accenting his perpetual smile.

 We are working to bring her to a better place together. It'll take time. "Es mucho mejor," he assures me. She's much better.


It's got me thinking about respect. To be honest I don't know if Lily respects me.  She trusts me, but that's different, isn't it?  She knows that I won't let anything bad happen to her.  She knows that my requests will be pretty reasonable. She knows I will pay attention when something is bothering her and I'll react appropriately, I'll take her concerns seriously, dismissing them only when they are unreasonable (we do not spook and resist the canoe. it's a canoe. deal with it.). The rest I'll work with her to get through it.

 Like the time she was nervous to have her teeth floated. She had usually had a little calming med beforehand, but the dentist was just taking a quick look. No way, Lily said, head held high, eyes wide, searching me out. At first I tried a stern approach and then woke up. This is Lily. That doesn't work. I took the file from the dentist and gently touched Lily with it.  She calmed down. Then I handed the file back. She was ready. We proceeded to get it done.

Now I lay her hind leg against mine to clean out her hooves and she goes longer and longer each time. Each time we make it past another goal post.

I need her to move past  trusting just me to trusting the farrier and the dentist. Not sure how to get there, maybe since her shoulder is better that will help. But I imagine it's a lot of what we are doing now. Taking time. Doing things step by step, not skipping a single thing. Only then moving on. Horse rules, horse time.

What we have going on, it doesn't seem like respect at this point. It's not that level of surrender, or maybe my idea of respect is a "I will do what you say no matter what" kind of thing, part fear, part dread, part discipline.  Maybe what we have is a step on the journey. Maybe it's a whole other journey.

Damned if I know which. But it is something to think about.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fly with me

We are home - at our lake home. The place is a bit of a wreck, but we aren't holding it against her. Actually, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, but something changed recently. My house became a bit of an abused friend, who you realize you should never have abandoned. Now I'm working every day to bring her back, and with her, myself.

DH has moved back from Arlington where he was working, and even though he doesn't have a job, we decided anything is better that being separated, better than everything falling on my shoulders. So we are all under one roof again as of this week. We have a garage full of things to unpack, roomes still left to paint.

But it's coming along, it's coming along. Yesterday we replaced the sconces that were broken by the renter. Today I unpacked four more boxes. I have tendenitis (I think) from painting. We are turning rooms from half finished ruined monstrosities to our home again.

So much to do.

Lily has stayed at the ranch, my friend offering to let her stay there for the cost of hay. A real blessing. I went to see her today, the rain has turned the paddocks into mud pits, and she's done her best to turn from paint sorrel to bay.

She's in the middle of a love triangle, the bay arabian mare out there trying to pick who to hang out between her and the paint gelding. Lily, as usual, takes it all in stride.  Speaking of stride, she is sound, the egg butt shoes are making a real difference. We are enjoying one another again, she loves being a single person's horse. She's even going out alone with me.  It's lovely.

But I wish she was outside my door right now. Maybe someday. But not a day I can see from here, frankly. I try not to let it get me down.

It's hard, some days.

Getting the house in shape has been made a little more difficult by all the travel I've had lately. So I thought I'd return the favor of all the fabulous rides I've been on with everyone and give you a ride through the more interesting sky I flew.

I always try for a window seat when I fly. But often times there's not much out my window. Sometimes we are deep in clouds, everything in a cloud is just gray endless fog.

But this time it was my favorite kind of sky. Where the clouds themselves are a landscape.

Carefully hiding my cell phone, I began snapping pictures (we weren't quite at the 10K foot mark)

What was stunning to me was this space we were flying in, the thin layer between the popcorn floor and wispy ceiling reminded me of the poem by Octavio Paz, Between Going and Staying, where he beautifully describes being suspended in time.

It's a poem I've memorized (I've been dealing with my stress levels by memorizing poetry, something I strongly recommend), here's a bit.

Between the going and staying, the day wavers, in love with its own transparency.
The circular afternoon turns into a bay where the world in stillness rocks.
All is visible and all is elusive; all is near and can't be touched... 
Click here to read the whole poem. Translated from Spanish.

Soon enough we left behind the lumpy floor and slipped into flattened layers, where the clouds looked as thin as dimes and where the world's curve beckoned us forward.

Wind currents drew shapes in the light bits of dust above us, carving the sky's poetry where only we could read it and wonder at it's creativity.

Below us  a sudden patch of flat clouds appeared, reminding me of spilled flour. When Mireya was young I gave her a whole shallow pan of flour so she could "draw" on it, so she could feel the lines as they left her fingers.

Soon the world below was peeking through, reminding me of the landscapes that house all I hold dear. The ground we would touch again, wheels screeching, metal holding its wide hands against the wind helping the plane transform from creature of the sky to lumbering giant of the ground.

 Yet some of me would remain in the sky, between layers, in the fold between fingers of the sky, where the wind shapes the dust into hundreds of different landscapes, where heat, cold, and the thinnest air holds wonders.

Which you can see if you score a window seat.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Horse keeping

A solid trail horse is more than safe for their rider. They exude a calm that can help every horse in it's company. Woody is one of those horses.

The few times he has startled, it's been so surprising, he seems quite chagrined about the experience.

He also has a funny side. He loves watermelon. He swings his hips in the water like a salsa dancer. He now likes to actually swim a bit and we are giving him the nickname Michael Phelps.

Even Mireya, who is still a bit cautious about the horses, actually rode him in the water, and proclaimed it the best day ever. She asked if  we could go every single day.

He flips his feet out in the trot, bending his head at the poll, looking like he belongs in the Queen's livery.

He and Lily have worked through hay sharing, and Lily will buck and have a fit if she doesn't get to go with us. So more often than not, I ride with both, ponying one or the other, and they stay in synch. It's lovely, really.

I've learned a great deal in this first horsekeeping experience. For example:

  • Scorpions hide in hay at night. Wear gloves.
  • Mud in egg butt shoes turns into concrete in 6 hours. Pick out often.
  • A black horse is impossible to find at night.
  • Mud must be rolled in. Period.
  • Manure disintegrates quite quickly. Unless your horse rolls it into his coat.
  • Fly predators work.
  • Round bales last longer, but some are baled in a way that makes them impossible to pull hay from.
  • Grooming becomes less important than simply being with your horse. Especially after they rolled in the mud.
  • Riding is just one goal. 
  • There is such a thing as too much twine, netting, and wire. Stop hoarding.
  • Alfalfa is harder to get out of your boots than hay.
  • Horses at home are pretty affordable, if you ignore the added cost of the land. :)

I look forward to the day when horse keeping is a permanent fact of my life and not merely a fun summer vacation.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The joy of horses at home

There are certain things you revel in when your horses are at home with you. Things I never experienced when boarding. I imagine everyone list is different, and I certainly hope you will share yours with me, but here are two I've found.

The power of scent.  Because I can see my horses anytime at home, and because it not about riding I do things I'd never take the time to do at the boarding place. I head out to the pasture and stand with the horses, then lean over and just inhale. Suddenly I'm soaring back to my first ever trail ride as a child, riding nose to tail on a sorrel horse through the desert trail in Texas. The smell of horse, the salt, the coat, the sun, the slightest hint of wind, they wrap around my mind in a thousand dazzling lines, all telling me that this is where I belong, with this animal, borrowing a bit of its straightforward view of the world, of its appreciation of things that are simple. Water. Grass. Blue skies. I am back, yet here, Both the past and present meld into one.

Giving. When I am home, working, I step out and go deliver a carrot, or some watermelon. At first the horses looked at me and moved away, convinced that there was work. Sometimes there is. But now, because I come out as often with something to give as well as work, they are curious, often crossing the entire field to greet me.

I would love to hear your thoughts...

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Our Summer at the Ranch

The title of this post is purposeful. Because we will be here for the summer, and no longer. I've spent a very stressful few weeks learning about eviction law, making last attempts with our tenant, facing the fact that we are moving back in a month or so.

We have and continue to enjoy our time here. The adventures have been many.  I'm going to start sharing a few of them here so I don't forget them, so that each is tied onto the chain links of this blog, charms of bracelet of my humble horse life. I share them with you because you've been with me on so much of this journey, I can't imagine going on without you by my side, so to speak.

So here is one story.

 I've grown close to the big black horse, he's dropped some of his stoicism. It all happened when we went on our first ride away from home.

Woody and I met the old crew at the lake, but we were early. Early because I didn't want to go, not really. It had been a bad few days, and I wasn't in a good place. I hadn't yet taken Woody out on the trailer since we loaded up at Trail Riders. That trailer loading hadn't been smooth. So I made a deal with Woody. If he wouldn't load, then we'd just work on loading and I wouldn't go riding.

I hooked everything up, backed up the trailer, got Woody out of the paddock. He snorted at the trailer, put a hoof in and took it out. I smiled, and got in the trailer, preparing my self for a trailer loading session. Then he followed me into the trailer, shifting himself into position.

Damn. Apparently we were going.

You know, technically this means you can't put your horse in the lake and then go trail riding...

I had given myself a 30 minute lead time for trailer loading, 28 of which we didn't need. We got to the lake early, and I was happy to learn that Woody had no issue with being the only horse around.  We milled about, and I took him by the water, mostly to see his reaction. He was curious, but not eager to walk in. After a time the crew arrived and we proceeded to have the best trail ride ever.

Riding a calm and experienced trail horse is a joy. A true, incredible joy. We stayed with a few friends who had more challenging rides, serving as the calm influence. Our ride back to the trailer and parking location was simple, quiet, lovely. We unsaddled and prepared for the lake.

We followed our group to the shore and went into the water. Woody was reluctant, but I walked in, just as I had in the trailer. And he followed me.  Soon he was moaning, swinging his hips in the water, playing, loving the lake. I saw something change in his eyes, something in his spirit.

On our way out of the water he did something, something he does now every time we do something special together. He gave me the tiniest little bump with his nose, not aggressive, not pushy, a tiny bump, like I've seen him give Lily, the precursor to affection.

I laughed, and we had both had lunch before heading back. Knowing that things between us were very different.

And it made me smile.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Mystery Horse Unvieled.

I've been gone some time. I don't want to go to much into it, suffice it to say our renter is not paying her rent and we are scrambling. I don't know if we'll be facing an eviction and two mortgage payments, moving out of our lovely dream, or if this is just rough water that will pass.

But it's made it tough to write.

Still, I remind myself that is just one part of life that is difficult. Everything else is going very well. DH has mowed the entire place, and it's simply stunning. Every day we discover a tree, a frog, a feature of the land, something that makes us feel so fortunate to be here. I want to live here forever...

Like this guy, who decided he loves horse trailers.
He had the most amazingly yellow markings on his
legs, the color of daffodils.

And we found a family of birds built a nest in Mireya's bike helmet. we've moved it to a cat proof perch, and once flying lessons start will move it to a grassy area.

Hey. Got a worm? Bug? How about some grub, lady!

Every day there seemed to be a dozen things to get done. Fix the internet. Figure out trash collection. Get hay in here without paying an arm and a leg. Recycle 500 cardboard boxes.  But it's just the usual kind of stuff when you move, really.

Then, there are the other things. There really have been just two challenges. The first is the scorpions. My first night here I nearly packed my bags to leave after killing five scorpions.

I have a thing about scorpions, which you can read about here. 

But, I'm a rancher woman now, and I cow girled up and bought me some poison. Yeah, that greenie, love the planet thing went to heck in 24 hours. Now that the hordes have slowed down, I'm willing to consider less damaging methods. Unless I see a whole bunch more of the buggers. Suggestions are welcome.

The second challenge has been the burs. We have a small dog that is the mayor of bur town. She's a bur miester. Burs will leap fifty feet to embed themselves in her fur. It's absolutely incredible. We've shaved her down but I'm thinking we are going to have to go all the way down to keep her bur free. Or maybe that's just the impossible dream...

She does take her ranch duties quite seriously, though.
She has already figured out how to drink from the horse
trough and assist with hay distribution.
 But that's not why your here. Heck, that's not why I'm here! LOL.

It's the horses. And I'm here to tell you it is incredible to live with your horses. Yes, horses. First of all Sierra is riding Lily almost everyday, bareback throughout the property. They've bonded and you can see the confidence in both of them.

And while Lily is still a little tender, she is much improved. Still having challenges keeping her weight on, so I plan on supplementing with some alfalfa. 

Even Mireya is more comfortable doing horsey things.

I remember when getting her to lead a horse was filled with anxiety.
You go, girl!

And then, of course there is our second horse, a visitor for the Summer, a horse that belongs to my good friend Trail Rider, but who doesn't get much riding since Trail Rider is moving into reining. A good, solid trail horse, the horse I've coveted for a long, long time...


Ah, yes. THAT Woody. If you just got here, you probably haven't read many of my Woody Stories. Here's a funny one from back in the Canyon the insane horse days.  I like this one too.

Woody is here just for the time being, he is TR's horse, and I'm enjoying him. He's not a pocket pony, and I am careful not to expect that from him, but we had an adventure the other day and I think something clicked. I'll write about it another time, but suffice it to say, I got a horse hug today from a big black horse.

Funny, isn't it? I'm back to riding a big black horse. Like the one I started with. Notice any similarities? Loose reins, flying shirt, little less speed, little less lean.

But it feels the same.

You can learn about Star, my first horse here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Unfolding the future

We went over to our new house and did our first mowing. And we quickly came to the conclusion that we are going to need a riding lawn mower. LOL

We managed to clear out Lily's paddock, as well as the paddock for horse number 2. Which will remain a mystery because I love to have suspense on my blog.

From the end of a driveway, a dream can look so simple.

It's funny, I've been thinking of how this journey has unfolded. Unfolded is such an apt metaphor. Like a piece of paper that has been folded over again and again, you have no idea what the paper will look like once it's unfolded. All that is left of its original shape are little creases throughout, showing the inverse of the journey itself.

When you weed eat wildflowers you will get a face full of petals.

I have to remind myself to stay firmly in the present, to embrace the gifts I have and not drift into contemplation of what is next. To walk the line between planning and dreaming, living and imagining.

Along the road in front of our new place.  Here they can grow as big as they want.
Granted there's an element of dreaming that brought me here (and I do believe in dancing with the one that brung ya), but for a while I just want to sink my hands into the dirt, wiggle my toes in the creek, marvel at the intricacies of the wildflowers, listen to the cicadas call out for love in their loudest, most earnest thrums.

And I wouldn't mind having my own spatulas and more than a single box of clothes.


I appreciate all the suggestions on Lily. We actually had a nerve block way back when and since it was so helpful in her treatment (not), I really don't see a point in another one. Basically the pain is in her shoulder. They can xray it (again) or block it (again) and they will tell me to take the same course of action. Shots, supplements, physical therapy. Basically it's what we are doing.

My focus is on adjusting her angles and getting her in a shoe that might help her out, I've seen it work on other horses with shoulder issues. She's on MSM, and I'm hopeful the combo along with regular chiro work will help. My main concern is that she's comfortable enough to still get around comfortably. I feel like I'm on the right track, already she seems slightly better. If all she can do is walk the trails and she can remain healthy doing it, then we are all good. If not, then I'll do right by her.

I've had that water trough for two years. Now I have a place for it.

But it makes me realize that having our own place, where a wonderful horse can have a nice retirement, is a priority. I can see it's a priority that is in process of unfolding into reality.

Friday, May 25, 2012

We have a home

We have found a home. Oddly enough, we aren't moving out of our community because rents in the DFW area have gone crazy the last two months.

This is what happens when people can't get loans for a home. Everyone turns to renting. At least that's my theory. I was getting alerts every day about houses where the status was either getting updated because they had rented in less than 24 hours or their price was going up by hundreds of dollars a month, pricing them right out of our budget.

So we decided that unless there's a big promotion or something, our budget is better served by staying put, sort of.

I called a friend from around here who's home was empty. She was not sure she wanted to rent it, but made a sudden turn around. It's got 6 acres, room for Lily and a companion.

Tall ceilings like our home, open living room too.
 We also have a lovely creek in the backyard...

Right now, it's got water... Come on rain!

The place needs a serious mowing since plants are about as high as my hip. We've got a friend with a tractor and we're hoping to borrow it to do some shredding.

The rent is affordable, she has no issue with our crazy number of animals.

It's a dream, at least for a year. Now I just need to get hubby home.

All in due time.

It's interesting, this place is very much in line with my dream and when I think of the gyrations it took to get here I'm amazed. Other issues have arisen (I may be up for a new job, or not, our work department is losing cohesion, Hubby loves his job and wishes he could find a  way to stay).

But at least we have a place to land for a while.

We move in mid June.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Crib Notes - The Perils of Chlorine

It's been a while since I posted from my Crib Notes column regularly. Just in case you've missed them, here's one!

Chlorine Makes An Early Entrance    

Chlorine is back.
It just took one day of temperatures over 85 for it to tangle its chemical fingers back into my life. It does this every warm spring, try to slip in before summer, before I have my game plan in place.
When I was a kid we were friends, chlorine and I. We hung out all Summer,  and slowly chlorine destroyed the elastic of my swimsuit and ate through my towel. It was worth it. I was young, elastic was over-rated , and thin, holey towels were the official flag of a successful Summer.
Now it’s different. And it’s not about the towels or the elastic. It’s not about the concern about what chlorine is doing to our skin since its job is kill more things in the water than I want to think about.
It’s about the hair.
I always counted myself lucky to have dark hair that was safe from the green tinge you foisted upon my fair-headed friends. I had no idea a worse danger lurked.
Curly hair.
Keep in mind I spent many a night during my pregnancy wishing that our second little bundle of joy would be born with her dad’s curls and not my straight hair. Sure enough, sense of humor soundly intact, the good Lord gifted Mireya with a riot of curls. Curls so springy they attract attention anywhere she goes.
It took just a few years for me to realize that this was how I was going to be taught the value of patience. Still it seemed worth it – until the first chlorine attack.
Add a little chlorine and terrible, terrible things happen to Mireya’s hair. Curly hair, which is already an adventure around here, turns vicious when joined with chlorine. It mats up instantaneously, becoming utterly un-comb-able.  No amount of conditioner can slick it into submission once chlorine has its death grip on each of the 5 million twisting hair shafts.  In no time Mireya looks like she should be singing lead in a Reggae band, dread locks scattered all over her head. Let me tell you, “dread” is the right word.
This time we’ve got our game plan. It involves  everything from buying a swim cap to slicking her down with half a bottle of conditioner before she’s allowed to get within five feet of chlorine. Still I know that when suddenly someone just jumps in the pool and we’ll be back to the tub, spending our evening coming out mats that inspire thoughts of buzz hair cuts.
Still, at least we’re prepared. I bought a case of conditioner and, as a back up, I’m teaching Mireya all the words to Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up.”
Just in case.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I Need Your Vacation Input - Off Topic

Enough is enough, ya know? We've decided that we need a vacation this August. I've got enough miles on Southwest airlines to score a free ticket for each one of us, but the only question is where? What's a good place to go on vacation in August? Here is my criteria:

Cooler than Texas in August. (Sorry Phoenix!)
Lots of natural spaces.
Relatively reasonably priced for a vacation in terms of lodging. (I'm thinking this leaves out San Francisco and Lake Tahoe)
Somewhere Southwest flies (which is actually just about everywhere.)

Any ideas?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Lily continues to limp

It's been pretty hectic at work and home. We remain in limbo in terms of our home plans, and are taking a month off to embrace limbo-ness. Frankly I'm sick of having the rug pulled out from under us repeatedly and am going to shift to chilling out and blooming where I'm currently planted. In 30 to 60 days, we'll have to reach some sort of decision. By then the super hot rental market will cool and we can make a more realistic choice.

Lily is also in limbo. When L came checked her she recommended we get her re-shod so her heels in the front wouldn't be so compressed. I switched farriers to one that works more in that way. Ruben speaks only Spanish, but I speak Spanish, and remarkably Lily was as good as gold with him.

Ruben is one of those Hispanic men who ends up shoeing many high dollar horses after something goes wrong. He comes recommended by a vet that specializes in lameness issues. Lily, who can be a pain to trim in the back, acted like she considered him to be an expert and therefore worthy of her best behavior.

Weird how horses do that.

Unfortunately Ruben didn't feel shoeing was going to help her, but he's going to come back out with an orthoepaedic shoe that helps a mare he has with a bad shoulder. He feels the issue is in her shoulder, mostly because of the way she responds to being shod. She doesn't jolt in pain at any point and mostly tries to stand in a way to take pressure off her shoulder.

So we shall see. She's sound at the walk for short times and we've ridden out to find good grass patches. We're working on little things, like stopping with thought, turning with a look, not fussing when a weird noise crops up.

It's fun in it's way, but I long to do much more.

But in the meantime, we embrace limbo. I sprayed her with a bengay like product. I brush her out and teach her a few tricks. I let her lean into me and give her alfalfa because she loves it and is losing weight.

I tell her she's the best horse ever. She tries to trot for me when  I ask, then stumbles. Then limps. I apologize, but she knows I have to check, and we walk back slowly, letting the kinks work out.


It's funny, the last time she had her teeth done she had to be put in the stocks. I wasn't there, and for some reason she worries more. When L first came this last time, Lily started to worry, wouldn't let her come near her with the rasp. I took the rasp from L and carefully lay it against her shoulder, her neck, her face.

Lily relaxed and I handed the rasp back to L. Lily let her do her work with minimal fuss.

It felt good to be able to help her through, but wish her sense of security was better. Perhaps this is just what pain does to a good horse. Creates insecurity.


Lily gets bute at the end of our little sessions, but I hesitate to give her a daily dose or anything like that. But after work, even as little work as we are doing, I want her to be able to relax.

I wish I knew what to do.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

What Lily Taught Me Today

Lily is still having soundness issues. As long as I keep it at a walk, she can go for a bit, but that's it. Even a long walk is too much.

She's getting some bute and I have someone who does body work coming out to see her on Tuesday. I'm going to see what she thinks - if it's conditioning or if this is it. If this is as much as Lily will be able to manage.

If the latter is the case, that has some implications, most of which I'm going to shelf thinking of at this point.

Today, after checking that she was sound at the walk, we went for a short ride, stretching our comfort zone for riding alone.  (Well, HER comfort zone, anyway.)  We got just a ways further than we have before when all alone, mostly because I didn't want to push it. I rode in a bareback pad to ease the weight a bit.

When we came back to soft ground we did a very short trot. She was sound at a short trot counter clockwise, but bad clockwise.

We could, I suppose, always go left. Lord knows it's my tendency anyway.

My lesson from Lily today was about my knee. Since we are only riding in a halter, I'm working on more leg and body cues. I found that slightly rotating my left knee into her (and I do mean slightly) and she would turn right. I didn't even need to cue with my foot or calf.

Same with the right, although not as good as the left.

So today's lesson is it takes even less than you can imagine.

Then it was time for lunch.

Note: two flowers in the halter, as is our new tradition...

A nice day. We will see what the body work produces.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Two Flower Lily

It's been a long two weeks. I deleted my whiny post to that effect, cuz ... it was whiny.

Suffice it to say we have rented our house out and don't have a place to live. It seems pretty challenging to move this time of year, when everyone and their brother wants to move.  Several good options have disappeared under our feet before we can even look at them.

So I'm a bit philosophical. It's going to take some time.

Instead I'm working hard to embrace the now. I'm a nester, miss having my own nest, but you've got to enjoy the place you are. Life does not exist in the tomorrow. It doesn't live in the yesterday. It lives now, and that's the only place joy will be, if I focus on it, embrace it.

 Lily and I went out with Stephanie and Cibolo today, she was tender at the trot, so we kept it at the walk. I believe a long warm up and conditioning will help her, but I need to slow it down. Our solo ride on Saturday had a little too much speed. As I researched how to condition a horse I realized that I need to bring her back more slowly, take a few weeks doing nothing but walking.

We had a great time, I can't get over how relaxing it is to ride Lily, how fun it is to be on a horse this broke. At one point on our ride there was a shuddering noise behind a storage building. She stared at it, a bit startled, but kept going. I laughed.

"If I'd been on my other horse I'd be halfway back to the barn," I said.

 Stephanie laughed too. "And my horse would be chasing yours," she said.

But because we have a calm horse, everything remains calm.

 We worked on a trail obstacle, a large flat rock a lot like the one on America's favorite trail horse. Initially Lily refused, but on the second try we worked through it and she walked right over it. Cibolo required a bit more conversation, but he went over it and snorted with relief at the end. LOL

Lily and I are cleaning up our side pass. I learned to tie my lead rope properly and to use it as reins instead of carrying the separate lead rope. Just all the things that are fun to do.

I brushed her tail until it was smooth, and her coat gleamed. On the trail Stephanie found some flowers. I worked them into her rope halter.

Lily Two Flower

I remember the countless times when people have told me it's supposed to be fun.

And now, it is.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Difference

We rode out today, the long route that takes us all the way through the neighborhood, past dogs barking, along the road and over it, down into ravines, over deadfall. We crossed water, stopped at the pond, gloried at the wildflowers scattered about like wishes of elves.

Lily and I were the lead, not because we knew where we were going, but because she keeps a good pace. For a while she kept leaning to the left, attempting to will us back to the barn. After a while she resigned herself to the trail, to forward, the sweat darkening her coat In this early heat that has descended in Texas.

Three days earlier I was taking shelter with my co-workers in Dallas in the 11th floor hallway of our building. I'd flown into town for a meeting and we were nearly done when we were warned to listen for sirens. They went off a few minutes later and our little committee moved immediately to the stairs, then up a floor to join the others.

We sat there, those of us from out of town wondering somewhat about our flights, but also worrying over our friends here who had children and spouses somewhere out there where the sky had turned into a collections of angry, whirling gray whips. Tornados dropped down and set to scrubbing away homes, trees, buildings, vehicles, while we stood there, staring at our phones, watching the maps on our screens shift in a color pallet that said yes, these are dangerous times.

That was three days ago, and today I was under bright blue skies, purple and yellow dotting green hillside. It was strange to have the destruction be so completely gone, to have the world right itself so quickly, almost like those terrible plot twists when the problems are all solved when the heroine simply wakes up.

And yet, here we were, my copper horse leading, moving, impatient to go. I wondered if she was enjoying it, it was only when we neared the barn and she slowed, acted as if she wanted to turn back, to be out longer, that I thought maybe she did.

There are many differences between rides with Lily and the rides I had with Smokey. I realize now I'd come to a point where I was waiting for the sky to darken, that I wanted just to stay in that hallway until the sirens stopped with him. Now I simply go, without any prep time or emotional negotiation. The fear is gone, gone as if it had never been there. Sometimes I find myself looking for it, when the road is slippery, when I get disoriented and take a wrong turn.

But it's not there either.

I miss my boy's joy de vive, his youthful curiosity. I look for it, for the happy side in my mare, but my glimpses of it are fleeting, so much so I can't be sure they were there at all. She is, instead, dutiful. Completely in my hands.

Perhaps, in time.

About a week ago we cantered out alone, up a small incline. I felt different, the thrill of the canter without the edge, the wondering if we were going to stop.

Of course we will stop, I felt her say. Why in the world would I not? This is what it is to ride a horse that is finished. That knows her job. That will work, and push through, not for a need to please or for curiosity. But because it's what she has the discipline to do.

Next time I'll stop and tie a wildflower in her mane, so she'll know. She brings me joy and peace. I will look for the patches of green that she seems to like the most and maybe it will bring her of that lightness of spirit I miss a bit from Smokey.

Already she is responding to my style of riding, many times we move as one, smooth and together as I've ever felt. Now I am just looking for it to deepen.

Tomorrow we'll ride again.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Oh! The Places You'll Go! (with apologies to Dr. Suess)

Oh the places you'll go with your steady dear mare!

The places you'll go riding along with nary a care.

Calm and steady, with just a ear twitch here

A ride to the water hole, way over there!

Oh, the places you'll go on your sweet sorrel mare !

The streams you'll cross, the hills that you'll dare!

Adventure for one, adventure for two

Riding is joy, for her and for you!

Oh the places you'll go, the things you will see

The journey is simple once confidence flows free.