Friday, July 3, 2015

Stable Relation

A must-read book for any hard working, horse loving woman who has risen above family conflict & secrets, life's hard knocks - and built a future abundant in love and humor, aided by the healing bond of horses.

Stable Relation by Anna Blake.

Reposted from:

The Thing About Horses and Healing: a Memoir.

VinniePasture1 We see them from the road and use phones to take photos. We keep a legal distance but most of us have seen neglected horses and reported them to authorities… or been haunted, wishing we had.
The photos are long distance and slightly out of focus, just like this one. It’s easy to see ribs showing and they might be visually lame to the eye. You know the horse is in trouble.
So what’s with the pudgy bay in a fly mask? Consider it his photo from the Witness Protection Program.
If you don’t recognize him, this is Vinnie, from Ruby Ranch Horse Rescue, here for evaluation. I like this photo of him, blurriness and all, grazing with a fly mask with one ear torn off. It’s hard to see but there’s a bird perched on those pointy withers of his. Oh, and it’s hard to see his ribs now, too. This is his “after” picture; I first wrote about Vinnie (story here) and readers have asked for an update.
Vinnie’s swell. He is more socially interactive now. It took over a week, but he started lying down in the sun eventually. We weren’t sure he could. He’s up to date with vaccines and he’s received a series of Pentosan injections. He stands quietly while I give them; they’ve been nothing short of a miracle for Vinnie. Now he gallops for fun; he comes at a run when I call him in. His stride is wildly long and joyous.
When he arrived it was just the opposite. And we still doubt he will be ride-able with an old injury that means his hind end looks like an egg beater from time to time. But his heart is big and full, he loves being scratched, and it looks like he is headed to foster later this month and hopefully a forever home soon. Yay, Vinnie.
It’s good news, isn’t it? We love these stories and part of it is selfish. Vinnie heals us all a little bit when we hear about him. It’s the crazy thing about horses…
I’ve had a couple of occasions when it was my job to ask people for money for horse advocacy and rescue. I don’t play fair; I ask the tough question first:
“How many of you have been rescued by a horse?”
Then I watch. Invariably most hands quickly go up, with easy smiles and some laughter. Some of us were rescued from being cosmetic zombies, tech junkies, or victims of fashion. We’re saved from boredom and complacency. We use horses as an excuse to be outside in the sun instead of cleaning the house. Each of us has a way of describing that irresistible smell that’s part sweat, part fly spray, and part dream-come-true.
But as I look around the group, some jaws are set and their eyes seem distant, hidden under furrowed brows. They straighten their shoulders a bit but there is no smile. They raise their hands resolutely and hold them high and still–as if testifying, as if standing to be counted. For them, rescue is a life-and-death personal issue. I recognize these committed hands because I raise mine the exact same way. In that moment we lose our humor because the depth of gratitude we feel toward horses is immense. We literally owe our presence in the world to the memory of some old horse.
About then my voice seizes up. I don’t want this to be about me because there are so many others with the same experience. I’m common in this group. So I continue to ask for money and notice quite a few of us have something in our eye. We act like its dust because we’ve developed some pride, but we’re fooling no one.
And so, when we see a photo of Vinnie like this, we see ourselves, even as we celebrate him. That’s how rescue works–it’s contagious. It doesn’t matter who does it first, horse or human, but it starts in a small, seemingly insignificant way and eventually radiates out in all directions. In the beginning, it’s rough. Horses reflect our fear and hurt, but if we ride it out, smelling mane and trying to forge a language with a horse, until in the end, we reflect their confidence. We become good lead mares in our own lives.
Riding is a school of humility and selflessness, its practice if it is done well, tends to make better Human Beings –Nuno Oliveira
We started young. Lots of us came to positive horsemanship because of rough handling as children. We learned firsthand that violent dominance would never build trust, and lots of us escaped to the barn. Horses were the safe haven we found there. They spoke the language we hoped to hear in our homes.
There’s a barn joke that horses are cheaper than therapy. I have done the research and it isn’t actually true. But the more time we spend with horses, the more we heal. As we move forward with our horses, it gets easier to let go of fear in our human lives and forgive ourselves of our pasts. For some of us, being with a horse is our first taste of honesty. It works like church because even the angriest atheist can see the divinity in a horse. They’re undeniable miracles and some of it rubs off on us. Like salvation.
The thing about horses rescuing us is that it works impersonally, just like gravity, healing each of us whether we think we need it or not. We just say yes and whether we need a healing from helmet hair or total abandonment in the world, horses will carry us through it. When the day comes that we realize the debt we owe to horses, we work to do better for them. We learn to ride more kindly and communicate more clearly. We discover we have compassion to spare, so we give back by helping horses.
For some of us, horses are just a “hobby”, an overwhelming passion that drives our lifestyle, finances, and everyday choices and activities. It’s like having a combination gambling addiction and an obsessive-compulsive disorder, that we proudly brag about, while spending every spare moment, year after year, in the company of horses.
And then for a lot of us, it’s something bigger than that.
Stable_Relation_3D_Cover[1]Stable Relation: I’ve written a memoir about the farm I grew up on, the farm I have now, and the horse that carried me in between. I didn’t write it because I think I am so very unique or important; indeed my experience is more common than it should be. I wrote it for all of us who share the experience of being healed by the animals in our lives. Stable Relation is available now on Amazon (book link here) and soon everywhere else, in paperback and eBook. With a big gratitude-scratch to my Grandfather Horse, who gave me my voice.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Horse Advocacy: May 2015 Important News

Reposted from Horse Advocates of Colorado:

The Sherri Brunzell/Dual Peppy Trial Begins May 26th.

As I write this, we’re just over a week away from the beginning of the Sherri Brunzell/Dual Peppy trial. Remember the first news report on that Friday afternoon, September 19, 2014? A neighbor had followed her dog into the barn to find ten acutely neglected horses and another fourteen dead on the ground, in various states of decomposition. Just to be clear: more than half the herd dead, sharing the same barn as the survivors.
Then the best/worst thing happened: one of the horses was recognized from photos on the news. He was the famous stallion, Dual Peppy. The local community was outraged already, but this drew the attention of horse owners around the world. The Sheriff’s Office told the public that the situation was in hand, although no vet had been called in. The community outrage grew; untold numbers of calls and emails were sent to the Sheriff’s Office from all over the country and parts of Europe. Three days later, a vet was called in and the survivors were transported to a safe place.
I think the second reason this case inspired so many emails and calls from the public was because the scene in the barn was easy to visualize. Reports said the manure was several feet deep, skeletons were left where they fell, some partially covered by tarps. The majority of the herd was dead–some reportedly as young as 3 years old. Photos were few, but the descriptions were so ugly that people outside the horse world were inflamed as well.
These victims were well-bred Quarter Horses with an estimated worth of over 1.5 million dollars, which is not to say their lives were worth more than a backyard horse, but it was more shocking and drew extra press attention. It’s a case that could help swing public opinion on horse welfare and eventually have an impact on horses with names like Blackie and Molly; horses with no famous relatives.
When the first explanations from the owner were made public, every horse owner in the county knew the excuses were as lame as these horses who needed emergency farrier care. Brunzell’s husband admitted “she doesn’t have a regular veterinarian due to expense and ‘unsatisfactory results.'” And “She felt it would be better to spend the money on feed for the horses than on veterinary bills.”
I remind you of the details of this horrific case because eight months have passed, including one postponed trial date. Outrage dims as time passes–after all, there are new atrocities every day. But these horses still remain in Limbo–they are still waiting.
Until the case is decided, the horses (and four llamas) are under the control and care of the Colorado Humane Society. They have gained weight, had veterinary care, and overdue farrier work. They have been safe from their owner who denied them the bare essentials required and left them hidden in a barn.
Our District Attorney feels the county has a good case, but if Ms. Brunzell wins, these horses will be returned to her.
Please stay tuned to the Horse Advocates Facebook page for locations, times, and updates. We will be in court from start to finish–please join us there if you can. A full courtroom sends an important message. Watch the news reports on television and post comments or call the station. Write a letter to the newspaper articulating your thoughts on this case. Talk about this story with your friends and share posts online.
Most of all, remember the 14 good horses who did not make it out of that dreadful barn. Remember those lost, as well as those who survived; remember this crime like it happened yesterday. Join Horse Advocates of Colorado in asking for a conviction with sentencing to the full extent of the law. Speak out and be heard.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A May Flower?

Aww, my little flower. 
A bright spot on this wintery Mother's Day.

Wishing all daughters, sisters,  and mom's of human kids, and mom's of fur/feather/scaly kids a happy day.

I hope the sun is shining and flowers blooming in your neck of the woods. 

We impatiently await our May flowers.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Awaiting May Flowers

What do you see in this picture?

I see Winnie the Pooh

The clouds were building as I left my office at lunchtime today, to meet a mule farrier at my barn.
Before I exited the parking lot, Winnie's head had become detached from his body.
Rain showers in the forecast.
The grass is greening.
Birds are nesting.
May flowers will soon be in bloom.
Please, no more snow showers.

Lola, the mini mule, has been lame for weeks.
The vet was out, but didn't find anything obvious.
We both agreed her toes looked long, even though she's been trimmed regularly.
A round of Bute was prescribed.
She didn't improve much.

My new farrier was out for a 2nd trim, but he didn't trim much off.
He said her sole looks like she wants to hold onto everything.
No improvement and those toes still look long and getting longer.

The chiropractor was out.
He adjusted her hip.
No improvement.

The poor little girl can't run and play.
It's not like her to walk so slowly to her feed trough.

So I asked some friends who own Long Ears for a farrier recommendation.

The mule farrier was out today.
Yes, her toes are too long.
Yes, she's walking too far back on her heels.
No, she hasn't been trimmed properly.
So he got to work and...
uncovered a black, oily abscess in her front left frog!
 Hooves are trimmed, frogs cleaned and trimmed.
Lola is walking better already.

Yay for the mule farrier!
Yay for my new New Farrier!
Before and After
May goals:
  • Lessons, lessons, and more dressage lessons. 
  • Plotting, planning, and hoping to attend a dressage schooling show.
    • I'll make my decision in a couple of weeks. It will be my first show in over 30 years; my first dressage show ever; and Team Misty's first show together.
    • We'll ride a western dressage Intro level test.
April 2015 recap:
  • April was very cold and snowy. I missed some goals.
    • Didn't exercise as much as I intended (can't blame the weather for that).
    • Misty's tail didn't get washed and whitened (I CAN blame the weather for that) .
  • Two dressage lessons a week and seeing progress.
  • I received my gel injection to my knee and it helped.  I can walk up and down stairs a little better.
  • Almost didn't make our trail ride; had to cancel once due to weather. But on the last day of April Misty and I went on our first trail ride together since our July 2014 accident. It was stressful for me, but Misty was great.  The weather was lovely. 
  • Misty got a new headstall with a little western bling; some silver heart-shaped conchos to add a feminine touch to that big head of hers.  It's for that schooling show we are most likely going to attend this month. (Headstall and reins made by Buckaroo Leather)
My Heart Horse
Following our trail ride, I dropped her new headstall off at a local saddle shop, to have the poll strap shortened on both sides. I can't have that long strap covering her pretty hearts.

Big head, big heart

Friday, April 3, 2015

April Showers

April Snow Showers.
We interrupt spring to bring you this wintry weather. 

Use caution.
Those roads are deceptively slick.

This morning's commute.
I hope the driver is ok.
But alas, spring is in the hair!

Misty is itchy and shedding like crazy.
April goals:
  • Continue dressage lessons
  • Get Gel-One injection into my injured knee
  • Go for a trail ride (first one since my accident)
  • Wash and whiten Misty's tail
  • Exercise 4 days a week
    • Pilates
    • Elliptical
    • Walking
    • Yoga
March 2015 recap:
  • Rode when the weather and my work scheduled allowed. March was cold and snowy.
  • Continued my dressage lessons; worked on walk/trot transitions, body position, seat and leg aids, and rein usage; got to get rid of that annoying counter-bend I get us into from time to time. We are improving, but I can still get Misty and myself twisted like a pretzel.
  • Misty and I camped at the Jefferson Country Fairgrounds and attended a western dressage clinic on fundamental skills. We had some big spooks inside the indoor arena when the sound system picked up some interference and the speaker made loud static/hissing noises. All the horses spooked. After the 3rd spook, I dismounted and took Misty out of the arena. As you can imagine, my fear adrenaline was running high due to last year's trail accident. My legs turned to rubber. They changed the channel on the speaker and I waited 15 minutes to make sure the problem was fixed and then I rejoined the group and rode the rest of the day. It was a good experience.  Always good to get Misty out and about and we bond on these little trips.

Relaxing at the fairgrounds.
Do ya think our hobby is just a little risky?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Best of March

four, four leaf clover,
      The best thing about March is?
  1. College Basketball
  2. Lingering Snow and Cold
  3. St. Patrick's Day
  4. Spring Skiing
  5. Daylight Savings Time
       If you picked #5, you are an equestrian!   

Of course I want a snack after my mud bath.
 March 8, 2015 is DST.
Daylight Saddle Time.

If we're not covered in mud, we're covered in hay.
February recap:
  • I'm still in chronic pain, but perceive it lessening slightly. I saw my orthopedic doc and he said to expect a full 2 years for soft tissue damage to heal. 
  • February teased us with a few days of unseasonably warm weather.  Team Misty had some good riding lessons and I was very pleased to discover I can do a posting trot without pain in my knees.  
  • On the cold days, I appreciated my new Stickyseat polartec fleece riding pants; they are warm and comfortable.
  • Began doing Pilates and Yin Yoga to become a better equestrian.  Hurts my knee to do postures like "Child's Pose" and "Cat-Cow", so I have to improvise.  Still can't kneel on my knee or upper tibia/shin. 
  • Gained more confidence in my riding.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Hello February

Hello February. 
You're looking a little drab this morning, but welcome. 
Your job is to get us one month closer to Spring. 

Gray Mare on a Gray Morning
January recap:
  •  I prefer to ring in the New Year in my sleep, waking early and refreshed on January 1st, relieved to have the stress of the holidays behind me, and hopeful for a better year ahead. That's just what I did.
  • My dressage instructor encourages us to have a positive mantra to say or think at the beginning of every ride.  It can be as simple as "I love my horse."  Any positive thought that connects us with our wonderful mount. Now, whenever I settle into the saddle, I take a deep breath, let it out slowly, give Misty a rub on her neck and say, "Go Team Misty."
  • January was pretty cold and snowy, but Team Misty squeezed in a few productive dressage lessons. We are still taking it slow, literally.  We are in  "...walk detention..." while my injuries continue to heal and I get my balance, rhythm, and confidence back. I'm still in chronic pain, but I perceive my aches to be lessening ever so slightly.  I haven't used my cane much in the last few weeks and last time I saddled Misty, I was actually able to lift my western saddle onto her back in one motion, instead of getting it 3/4 of the way up her side and having to push it onto her back.
  • It is difficult to ride in the winter.  I have not been on the trail since my July 2014 fall (broken left elbow, frozen left shoulder, badly injured right knee), but I hope to enjoy some short trail rides in April or May.  I have trail riding plans for the summer, but my priorities are western dressage first, trail riding second.  Therefore, I've increased my dressage lessons to twice a week, which means, if I'm lucky, I get to ride once a week when the weather and my work schedule cooperate.
  • I attended a western dressage horseless clinic on the last day of January.  A lot of good information was shared.  I'm enthused.  We pretended to ride our horses in a tiny dressage arena inside the lecture hall. We were instructed to use our corners, ride with correct posture, turn properly with our shoulders and waist while we rode a mini circle.  Surprisingly, I could really feel it in my core.  My horse was a little lame.  I had to lie down and ice my knee when I got home.  But I like my local western dressage group; they are good peeps.  They are all about community, encouragement, and honoring the horse.  I look forward to associating with this organization.
Good things are happening.  The daylight is lengthening.  I'm looking forward to more ride time.  Oh, and the minis, Lyra and Lola, are still beloved members of our herd. They just didn't want to leave their breakfast in the barn for a photo op.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Baby Steps - making my way back

This is filthy fuzzy Misty, today at my trainer's farm, waiting to be tacked up, but more interested in the horses being ridden across the street. They are usually napping.

I'm working my way back, slowly, from my July trail riding accident.

My first, ride about four weeks ago, I simply sat in the saddle while my trainer gave me a leadline ride.

(I wear an elbow pad on my left elbow and a brace on my right knee; they still hurt.)

 I felt awkward and had no balance. Once in the saddle, I wasn't sure how I was going to get out of the saddle with my bum right knee. I have to slide slowly down Misty's side to ensure my left foot meets the ground first. It feels odd, but I'm getting better with practice.

My second ride was great; just at the walk but I rode independently in my weekly O.L.D.G. lesson. (Affectionately O.L.D.G. = Old Lady Dressage Group, coined by the husband of one of the old ladies.)

Then there was an attempted ride at the next group lesson, but my knee hurt and my confidence waned. Silly, the wind was picking up, there was an unfamiliar horse and rider in the arena, the lesson group was moving at a faster pace than I could handle.  I got on, then got off and went home; mad at myself for being such a wimp, and afraid I'd never be able to ride, let alone rejoin the group lesson.

So today, I opted for a private lesson. My trainer worked Misty on the ground and lunged her so she was supple and relaxed for me. I mounted and we worked on half figure eights along the rail, 20 meter circles, and serpentines at the walk.  And breathing and engaging the "sit bones" and turning my shoulders (my left shoulder being one of my injured body parts). 

Baby steps. I'll probably take a few more private lessons before rejoining the group. But it feels good to reconnect with my horse and I'm not giving up.   We'll continue to take it slow.  Fortunately for me, the walk is my favorite gait.  There's so much to learn and improve on just at the walk.