Saturday, December 28, 2013

Practical and Happy New Year's Resolutions

 I know I need to wish for peace and prosperity and the end of racism, pollution and educational SOLs.  And I do, really, want the best for the world but more practical resolutions are also on my mind and since they are often the same ones I make every year, they may be as difficult to conquer as peace and good will.

Promotional Resolutions:  What happened to marketing in 2013? Nothing. I did zip. That has to change if I am going to retire on royalties (kind of the same myth as Santa Claus). My website has not been updated for a year so my new book isn't even featured. Shame on me! So resolution #1 is putting more effort into marketing.  

Writing Resolutions:  I do fine with deadlines and books under contract. But I have a great, finished novel that is sitting in my computer. Just sitting. Why? Because an editor liked it and gave me revision ideas. I was busy with another book and with antiquing and with life and couldn't muster the energy to revise. No more excuses. Remembering Kate is worthy of a shot, at least, at being published. So get with it, me.

Family Resolutions: Loving my animals and family MORE!  My horses have gotten the short end of the stick this year. They are still healthy and as my husband says "I doubt Relish cares if he gets ridden," but I love horses too much to stop riding forever. Ziggy and Fang get plenty of attention, but like all little dogs, they are bottomless pits of love.  My son, daughter and husband are the greatest so I resolve to tell all family members how much I appreciate them.

Home Resolutions: Clean up my office! This is the hardest resolution to keep, yet should be the easiest.

Ya'll Resolutions: This resolution is for co-workers, students, grocery store clerks, friends, customers, waitresses and everyone in the world I come in contact with every day. I promise to be patient and kind and say 'thank you' for doing a great job. And for all Equestrian Ink bloggers and followers thank you for your input, great ideas, reviews, photos, fun posts and comments.  Have a terrific, productive and healthy 2014!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Smooth Jazz of Christmas Past


I didn't celebrate Christmas growing up, and I'm at a point in my life where I really don't mind. 

It takes time to come to grips with things that set you on the far reaches of society (if not completely outside of them). There is jealousy, there is resentment, there is eager adoption, and then, if adoption doesn't work out -- as it hasn't really, in my case -- there is smiling amusement. You puppies are so cute. I'll be over here listening to smooth jazz, just like I did on Christmas morning growing up.

Okay, it's not quite that serious. I actually do have a deep and abiding love of Christmas, one which I discovered over several years of working in a Christmas shop at the Magic Kingdom. You can do one of two things while listening to Christmas carols and wishing people a Merry Christmas 365 days a year -- go utterly insane, or get into the groove of things. I opted for the latter. It was easier, and it was happier, and there's nothing wrong with easier or happier in my book. 

This guy. My once and future Christmas memory.
And I have at least one really special childhood Christmas memory. It just so happens that it took place two days after Christmas, when my mother and I drove down the flat stretches of I-95 to Ft. Pierce, Florida, on a chilly, gray afternoon, to a cattle ranch a few miles from the Tropicana juice factory, and I fell in love with a skinny Thoroughbred named Amarillo Elbert.

(Interestingly, my musical memory from that trip is Nights in White Satin. We listened to a cassette tape of The Moody Blues on the way. I could recite the weird poem at the end. I still can. Party trick!)

So Christmas and I don't have the strongest relationship, but we have some good times together, and a few traditions, too. Like the gorgeous trees that my husband and I have laughingly carried home from the Gowanus Home Depot, avoiding the jacked-up prices at Brooklyn's neighborhood tree lots (this year we had to bring it home on the subway. It was the nicest smelling subway car you've ever been on.) The endless supply of Mickey Mouse ornaments I have from my time in the Christmas shop. Polish chocolates from the neighborhood market in my son's Christmas stocking. 

This is a very, very small sampling of my Disney Christmas ornaments. I have a problem.


Little things, but good times.

And I suppose no one could be too surprised, after reading this, that Claiming Christmas was the first Christmas story I ever wrote. Or that, like Alex, I've always been too busy working to give Christmas too much extra thought.

But the season is there, and sooner or later, I guess, we all find ourselves with little holiday traditions. Even if we were so busy we didn't even notice they were happening. 

And smooth jazz... man, that's just always going to be a tradition for me. I spend a lot of time listening to music that's cooler than I am, but you can't escape your childhood, can you?

My Christmas story this year is Claiming Christmas. My favorite chocolate surprise at Christmas is a Happy Hippo. And, since you know you want to hear it, my favorite smooth jazz song is Behind the Waterfall.  

Which, by weird coincidence, is also played at Disney.

Merry Christmas boys and girls!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Perfect Horse




                                                           by Laura Crum


            Sometimes I hear people (in real life and on the internet) talk about finding the right horse. It’s a great and appropriate topic. The trouble is that these folks often seem to me to be looking for something that is virtually unattainable—some sort of “perfect” horse. A horse that never does anything wrong, is never lame, is talented at the event the person wishes to pursue, is pretty, is young…etc. This horse does not exist. Like people, all horses have strengths and weaknesses; the trick (as in friends and husbands) is to find the one you can live with.
            I have had five “forever” horses in my life. They all were good horses. None of them ever dumped me or hurt me in any way. I truly loved all five of them. Two are dead and they are buried here. Three are still with me. Did/do they have their faults? Yes, of course.
            So today I’m going to describe (briefly) my five good geldings and let you see their faults. I’m hoping that this will help some potential horse owners who are trying to sort out what might be the right horse for their needs.
The first horse I owned who really became “my horse” was Burt, a bright bay QH gelding that I bought as a five-year-old with thirty days on him. Burt was a kind, willing animal, not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but also not inclined to bucking or being spooky. Burt did, however, have the constant impulse to jig. I never cured him of it, and many rides were executed in his prancing walk. Burt was my ranch horse and he never quit me, never dumped me, and had tons of heart. He was always completely under control—nonetheless, much as I loved Burt, his jigging drove me nuts, and I vowed I would only own horses in the future who could proceed at the flat-footed walk.
            My next steady mount was Gunner, a well bred cowhorse that I bought as a three-year-old with thirty days on him. Gunner had no inclination to jig. Or to buck. Gunner was a spook. He did not bolt or do more than make one jump, but the jumps were amazing—absolutely sudden, twenty foot sideways leaps with no warning at all. One either grabbed the saddle horn or was left sitting on air. I got good at grabbing the horn. I was in my twenties and early thirties when I rode Gunner, and he never dropped me. He did, however, find something worth spooking at on virtually every ride. His spooking was a pain in the butt, but it didn’t threaten me at that time. I’ll be the first to say that I couldn’t ride a horse like that today. But Gunner was in every other way a good-hearted, reliable horse that I won on at reined cowhorse, cutting, and team roping, as well as a mount that carried me on many gathers, pack trips and trail rides. I was very happy with him.
            When I retired Gunner, I began riding Flanigan. Flanigan was a seven-year-old broke team roping horse when I first got on him. He was neither inclined to prance nor particularly spooky. He inclined toward being lazy. But…Flanigan was cinchy, and if a certain careful protocol was not followed in his saddling and warm-up, he would buck. I owned Flanigan in partnership with my friend and team roping partner, Wally, and Flanigan bucked Wally off numerous times. Being a cautious sort, I was always careful with Flanigan’s warm-up, and though the horse bucked with me occasionally, he never bucked me off. Flanigan was a superficially grouchy, aloof critter, prone to pinning his ears and acting hard to catch. Underneath this unpreposessing surface, however, the horse had a heart of gold. I competed on him successfully for many years at ropings, and crossed the Sierra Nevada Mts on him numerous times on pack trips. I took my baby for his first ride on Flanigan. There never was a better horse.
            When Flanigan died at the age of 21 (and I still miss him), Plumber became my main mount. I had known Plumber since he was a foal; I bought him as an unbroken three year old and broke him and trained him myself. When I started using him as my main riding horse he was about eight years old. I’d trained him to be a decent team roping horse and trail horse, and I enjoyed riding him. Plumber had no huge holes, other than the fact that he wasn’t very athletic. He was also more of a puppy dog than your average horse, nickering whenever he saw me. He was willing to do anything I asked, but he was also a big baby. He didn’t spook like Gunner (he wasn’t athletic enough) or jig constantly like Burt, but he was frequently a little spooky and jiggy. He got anxious easily, and needed a lot of patience and reassurance. Nevertheless he was a reliable horse. For several years I rode everywhere with my toddler in front of me in the saddle and Plumber took very good care of us.
            Plumber is now twenty four years old and retired. He’s still sound, if a little stiff. My mount for the last six years has been Sunny, the little palomino gelding shown in the sidebar. Sunny was a middle-aged horse when I got him and settled in his ways. Of all my horses, he most resembles Flanigan. But there are differences. Sunny is no puppy dog, but he is much more overtly interested in me and my doings than Flanigan ever was. Sunny also has not much inclination to pin his ears. He is not the least bit cinchy. But, like Flanigan, he is more inclined to laziness than other vices. Sunny is neither jiggy nor spooky. He doesn’t buck…a small crowhop is the extent of it. Sunny’s big deal is testing in small ways for dominance. He assays a gesture at a nip or a kick, or tries to crowd my space or balks as if he will refuse to go…etc. I have no trouble straightening him out, and I find this quirk more amusing than annoying, but I quite understand that I will not train it out of him. Sunny will always test me. As long as I remain dominant (and I intend to), Sunny and I will get along fine. On the trails, that is. I bought Sunny because he was a good trail horse, and he is a real delight to ride outside, steady, solid, reliable, tough. You can go anywhere in perfect confidence on this horse. The arena is a different story. You can darn sure walk, trot and lope around, and/or chase or rope a cow, but Sunny is too clunky and lazy to be much fun in the arena, and he is much more resistant there than on the trail. Sunny dislikes arena work and lets that be known.
            So, what do my five main lifetime mounts have in common? Not much. They’re all horses, but they sure are different. I enjoyed and enjoy every single one of them (and I kept or am keeping all five until the end of their days); I would have a hard time picking a favorite. I guess I just don’t run to one type, because I liked each of these horses for their own unique traits. I will say that I’m very happy to be on steady little Sunny these days, as my chief goal is pleasant trail rides, either by myself or with my son.
            In the end, I think my main point here is that you have to be able to tolerate some faults in a horse or you will never truly be happy with your equine partner (same applies to human partners). Anybody else have any thoughts on this?
           

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Some Thoughts on "Happy" Holidays


                                    by Laura Crum




My little house—sort of the Mexican cantina Xmas lights effect. I’m trying to simplify this year. Less presents, less parties, less Xmas decorations. I have to say that I find the whole “retail Xmas” thing overwhelming. My idea of seasonal spirits is sitting on the porch at 5:00 watching the Xmas lights glow in the early winter dusk—with a whisky sour in hand and 50’s era Xmas music wafting out the open door to the house (yes, I live in coastal California, and this is why I can sit on the porch in the evening with the house door open this time of year).
The truth is that I am at heart an introvert, as are most writers, or so I think. Introverts are drawn to writing and reading and solitude as extroverts are drawn to parties and people. I can pretend to like parties and people, but I am most comfortable on my porch watching the sunrise and sunset with only my family and animals around.
Sunrise, sunset from my porch this December (and yes, we just watched “Fiddler on the Roof” for maybe the 10th time.)



Lately I have had some sad experiences, and this turn of events has intensified my introvert tendencies. So my version of “happy” holidays involves lots of quiet alone time contemplating some interesting (to me and my husband) garden projects we are doing.
We built a small greenhouse this month—and my husband intends to use a system called aquaponics to help us raise even more of our own food. Here is the little greenhouse, waiting to be filled with plants and fish.


We currently raise our own grassfed beef and most of our fruits and veggies. We’ve been eating the wonderful apples from our Fuji tree for three months now. Something to be grateful for here, for sure.


And this week I was reminded of the pure joy in a lovely ride on our good horses. It was 70 degrees on Monday, warm even for here (in winter), and we were motivated to haul the horses to the nearby redwood forest (Forest of Nisene Marks) and go for a ride. It was magical.


I hadn’t ridden Sunny other than maybe once a week here at home for over a month and he was absolutely flawless on the trail. Calm and quiet, trotting and loping merrily up the little hills, careful on the downhills, trooping steadily along, looking around happily at the scenery. No balking, no spooking, no jigging. Such a good horse. Here we are looking down at Aptos Creek.


The other horses (my son’s Henry and Wally’s Twister) were equally good, negotiating the tricky spots on the trail and the funky bridges with aplomb.


We crossed the creek—very low this dry winter.



As I patted Sunny’s neck on the way back to the trailer, I was reminded of why I bought this very good trail horse…and why I will keep him for the rest of his life out of gratitude for what he has given me. It is such a joy to be able to pull your horse out of his corral after a month off and head down the trail with zero issues. All six of us (three humans and three horses) enjoyed our ride equally, as far as I could tell. A lovely day and a great gift—made me very happy.


So my current holiday message, which I remind myself of whenever I feel stressed, is “I am so grateful for what I have.” Followed by “Don’t reach out to other people, just wait to be guided.” Then I take a deep breath, look at my garden and horses and husband and son, and realize that all is well. In this moment, all is well. And this moment is all we ever really have.
Being aware of my own joy and content in the present moment—this is what happy holidays means to me. I would love to hear other thoughts on the subject. Cheers--Laura

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Meet Christine Meunier

by Linda Benson

Christine is a young horsewoman from Australia. She's already had a varied and broad career with horses, as well as authoring (for now) three books about them. She also has a wonderful website called EQUUS http://equus-blog.com/ where she not only highlights careers with horses, but does horse book reviews and blogs about horse-related information in general. So much talent and diversity, and I'm  happy to share with you her books (below.) But first, in Christine's own words, please read how a very close call with a horse almost caused her to lose everything. She is, indeed, a survivor.




One of my most favourite things to do with my time is writing.  One of my favourite topics to write about is horses.  I’ve been blessed so far with an interesting and varied career with horses and have found that being able to write about what I’ve done, seen and dreamt of doing has formed into stories to inform others.

This is how my debut novel Horse Country was formed and finally released (after over 10 years of writing!) in July of 2013.

More recently, it has been my pleasure to create a horse series for pre-teens and release the first two in this series this month!  The Free Rein series focuses on three 10 year old girls who are horse crazy, but don’t yet have their own horses.  As well as exploring horse care and learning to horse ride, it looks at the Christian faith.

Over my horse career I have been blessed to work with racehorses, stud horses, riding school horses and trail and endurance horses.  My travels with horses have been interstate in Australia, over to Ireland and France and then on to South Africa.  These opportunities to travel and learn about many different breeds and disciplines have helped me to further create realistic situations that arise with people learning about horses.

In July of 2012 I experienced something unusual whilst working with racehorses in my local town.  I went to work at 5.30 on a Saturday morning at by 7.30 that same morning, my husband received a call that he needed to come to the hospital.  I had been kicked in the head by a horse and was unconscious.  I was then induced in a coma, flown a few hours away to a hospital in Melbourne and in a coma for the next four days.

This experience is one that I am still recovering from – my memory isn’t as good as it should be, and my stamina to work for extended periods of time (even a full day’s work) aren’t yet back to what they were prior to my accident.  This accident has shown me how much I still adore horses, working with them and writing about them.

Although it has been a setback for my career, it has provided me time and opportunity to invest in writing about this incredible animal.  For this, I am extremely grateful.  Horse Country was able to be finished and published because I had a lot of time on my hands, and the Free Rein series has formed also because of extra hours that I find cannot yet be utilised for my normal 9 – 5 job of teaching horse studies.

It is my hope that through each of my stories, people will read, learn and be inspired to pursue a career – a life! – with horses.

 
 
If you’re interested in the Free Rein series, check out http://www.freereinseries.com/ and http://www.facebook.com/FreeReinSeries
 

Horse Country follows the lives of four women working in the horse industry and can be found at http://www.horsecountrybook.com/ and http://www.facebook.com/HorseCountryBook
Thank you so much for stopping by the blog, Christine, and we are very glad that your close call turned out okay. Best of luck with your writing and publishing career, and of course, with all your horse activities in the future!




Saturday, December 14, 2013

Merry Christmas from our crazy family to yours!

I really do love the holidays, even though I find myself galloping from one activity to the next, trying to get the house decorated, perhaps some baking done, parties, shopping... well, I'm sure you know the drill. You're probably living at the same breakneck speed.

What's Christmas without a family portrait?


Christmas is special for my horses because it the season of Candy Canes. Yes, those delightful, striped hooks of minty-fresh sugar. Snoopy and Frostie both love them. I remember the first time I fed Frostie a candy cane. She was only four years old. As she crunched into it, she pursed her horsey lips and inhaled like Hannibal Lector describing fava beans and Chianti. I wish I had gotten it on video.

I did video Snoopy's way of eating candy canes. Dropping them into his feeder breaks them, and forget hand-feeding him. He's a sweet boy, but he's a land shark.

video


What kinds of special things do you do for your horses during the holidays? Do they get stockings?

PROMOTION:

This week, beginning at 9 a.m. PST, I'm offering Snoopy's memoir, From the Horse's Mouth, at the discounted price of 99 cents on Kindle. It's normally $3.99, so this is quite a steal. You can buy one for yourself and give three more as gifts for that price.

Snoopy has written a book for all ages, about growing up to become a champion, then suffering an injury, and having to fight to return to health. The reviews have all been complimentary. Readers have overwhelmingly labeled the book, "Sweet, funny, uplifting, and endearing."



Click on over to Amazon and check it out. I think if you're a horse lover, you won't be disappointed.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Good Horse Books for Xmas!


                                    by Laura Crum

            This blog was begun by a group of authors who wrote horse-themed fiction. Pretty much all sorts of horse-themed fiction—the original writers had published romance and mysteries, primarily. Over the years we were joined by authors who wrote children’s books and YA fiction, as well. And not too surprisingly, all of these authors were/are horsewomen themselves.
            The common bond linking all the EI authors is not just love of horse-themed fiction, but love of actual horses, and much of the time we blog about subjects to do with our real lives and our real horses. It is the fact that we all own (or have owned) horses and spent many years in the saddle that make our horse-themed novels believable and worth reading by others who also are horse people.
            So often, as Aarene pointed out in a facebook post not too long ago, horse themed novels are very disappointing to horse people, because the authors quickly reveal their ignorance about horses. As in the “highly praised” novel I read not so long ago (or rather, started to read and then skimmed and then tossed in the trash) that featured an abused, dangerous rescue horse that is re-trained successfully in three rides by a teenager who has never ridden and is afraid of horses. Yeah, right.
            One of the best things about all the books written by authors here on the EI blog is the fact that the horse background is accurate and effortless, coming from horsewomen who really know whereof they speak. Perhaps some books will be more to a given reader’s liking than others, depending on the sort of genre and style that is preferred, but the horse background arises from the author’s lifelong history owning and riding horses, and is accurate when it comes to detail.
            My 13 year old son has really enjoyed reading some of the YA fiction written by our EI authors, and today I am posting his review of Linda Benson’s “The Girl Who Remembered Horses.” My kid read Linda’s “The Horse Jar” quite a few years ago and liked it very much and was eager to read this new book, which is geared to slightly older readers.
            I read “The Girl Who Remembered Horses” first, to get a sense for how it would work for my son, and thought it was just about spot on perfect for a 13 year old. I really, really wish someone had given me this book for Xmas when I was thirteen. Sahara, the young heroine, is a wonderful portrait of a young girl learning to believe in herself when faced with rejection and lack of support by the people around her. And part of what gives Sahara strength is her bond with horses.
            This is a message that would have been so helpful for me to hear in my awkward early teens, when I was both horse-obsessed and a social misfit in the intolerant world of junior high. “The Girl Who Remembered Horses” would have been a real comfort to me, and would certainly have been a book that I treasured and read over and over again.
            And now, let us hear what a 13 year old boy thought of the book:

Star rating: 4 stars

            A week or so ago I finished Linda Benson’s book, “The Girl Who Remembered Horses,” in which civilization has been wiped out and the surviving humans are back to living primitively. The people (most of them) do not remember the use of horses, they think of them as something they can kill. But one girl in the “Traders Clan” has vague memories of “animals with long necks, manes, and thundering hooves!” Her memories become more complex and are proved true when she visits Gardeners Camp and reads a book on horses. Now she must convince her clan of the true meaning of horses (but can she?).
            This book was a good one and really fed my imagination on what the land might be like in the future. And the book had some twists and turns, which I liked as well (though I did predict the ending).
            I think any horse lover over 10-12 would like this book.


            To find “The Girl Who Remembered Horses” on Amazon, click on the title.
            

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Books For Kids--for Xmas!


                                               by Laura Crum


            Every year I have given my child books for Xmas (other things, sure, but always books). He really likes to read, and at 13 years old, currently devours at least a couple of books a week. I usually read the books he’s reading—for fun, because I like to read, and to see what it is he’s taking in. And so I have gotten the pleasure of re-discovering children’s books and YA books.
            Now I am going to admit something here. I am not an adult who would normally seek out YA books to read. I know many adults do, and many YA books are fantastic reads for any age. It just hasn’t been my habit. Most of my adult life I loved mysteries, and lately I’ve been obsessed with memoirs. But I read (and loved) the Harry Potter books when everyone raved about them, long before I read them to my child. And this, in particular, opened my eyes to how delightful “YA” books can be.
            I rediscovered some great favorites from my own childhood when my son read them (the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and Treasure Island, for instance), and I discovered some new delights (the Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart was one). And today I am here to share my own and my son’s impressions of a book written by one of our Equestrian Ink authors…Alison Hart.
            My son has read and reviewed a few of Alison’s books on this site previously; I am going to post his review of her latest book, “Darling, Mercy Dog of World War I.” This was a book that we both enjoyed very much. I particularly appreciated all the background information that Alison wove so skillfully into the story. I learned a lot that I hadn’t known before about WWI—I hadn’t even known that “mercy dogs” existed.
            “Darling” is written from the dog’s point of view, and like “Black Beauty” and “War Horse” this provides a very engaging approach to what, in many ways, is a pretty grim subject. And yet, it’s necessary, I think, for our children to grasp these dark truths, in order for our world to change for the better. There is much heroism in “Darling,” both human and canine, and it s a very inspiring book in many ways.
            And so, without further ado, here is my 13 year old son’s review of “Darling:”


`            
            Star rating: 4 and 1/2

            I recently finished Alison Hart’s book: “Darling, Mercy Dog of WWI.” It’s about a dog who enjoys life in England with Robert and Katie Rine, the kids of her family, and her friend Rags (another dog). But when she is called away to WWI everything changes. As a mercy dog, Darling must “find the wounded” but she also must face dangerous things such as gas bombs, barbed wire, and of course, enemies to her side.
            This book was good, really made me feel how it might have been during WWI and had a hopeful ending.
            I would recommend this book to kids my age (13) or younger. The book says that it’s part of a dog lovers series, but I think anyone would like this book.

Click on "Darling" to find the book on Amazon.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

An Old Woman and Her Horses


                                                by Laura Crum


            That is how I see myself these days. Sort of like a cat lady, only with an over-abundance of horses rather than cats. I know, many of you will protest that mid-fifties isn’t old, and in a way you are right. However, I am old in the way of hours spent in the saddle aboard a horse. I spent twenty-five years (from fifteen until forty) non-stop riding, training and competing on a wide variety of horses, in three different very-demanding events. Not to mention many hours on the trail and horse packing/camping in the mountains. My mystery series was born out of my desire to convey some of the magic and delight I found in all those years spent horseback.
            I took a break in my forties to have a child and raise him (oh, I rode occasionally, but it was always with a kid in the saddle in front of me or ponying my child’s leadline pony). Then, when I turned fifty, I bought two solid, older geldings and for five years my boy and I rode the trails non-stop. We rode at least two or three days every week through all kinds of terrain—our local trails through the coastal hills, the beach, the redwood forest, the mountains. And these years provided the inspiration for the last four books of my horse-themed series.
            And now? Well, the short answer may be that I’m tired. Those of you who have spent thirty years steadily horseback (and for many of those years I rode seven days a week), might understand. Or maybe you are in a different space mentally and are just pushing on to new horseback achievements. Those who are in an “earlier” stage of your horse life (at least in the sense of lifetime hours spent in the saddle) may find my attitude kind of perplexing. Because I still love my horses. I just don’t have a lot of motivation or ambition to ride right now.
            I’ve been through this before, and I’m aware it may be a stage. I’m not fighting my head about it (too much). I’m pretty accepting that this is how I feel at this point in my life. I still ride (maybe once a week), mostly here on my own property. I cruise my little yellow horse around the riding ring for awhile and then let him gallop the quarter mile up the hill from the gate to the house a couple of times. This seems to be enough for both of us at the moment.




            My horses are older, too. Sunny, my riding horse, is in his late teens (I think). Henry, my son’s riding horse, is 25. Both horses are sound, but both are obviously a bit stiffer and slower to warm up and move out freely than they were when I bought them, six years ago. They don’t seem to mind a lighter riding schedule—at all.
            My other two horses, Gunner and Plumber, are retired. A lot of my horse life right now is taking care of 33 year old Gunner. He’s got an arthritic knee that is getting worse and he’s having a harder time keeping weight on than he did a year ago. His appetite is not as good as it was. But he is still bright-eyed and perky and seems to enjoy life. I let him out to graze every day (which he is very eager to do), and I give him pain meds, and I feed him (and all the others) three times a day. Lately I’ve been blanketing Gunner every evening and taking his blanket off every morning, hoping to help him keep weight on. Along with all the regular horse chores (and all the other life chores), it keeps me busy.
But I don’t begrudge the time spent with my retirees. I enjoy it. I look at them and think how lucky I am. I bought both Gunner and Plumber as three year old horses. Gunner had thirty days on him; Plumber had never been ridden. I trained both these horses myself and went on to ride them all their working lives. Both horses won many competitions and carried me for many miles. They are still my horses today and greet me with eager nickers every time they see me. Plumber is twenty-four and I’ve owned him for twenty-one years. Gunner is thirty-three and I’ve owned him for thirty years. How many horse people can say this? If I did nothing but look after these two beloved horses, I would consider myself so lucky.
And then there is life. That sometimes annoying part of life that has nothing to do with horses. The truth is that I have had a difficult and emotionally draining autumn in many ways and I find my desire to be with my horses--watching them graze, or eat their hay, or just brushing them-- is stronger than my desire to hitch up the trailer and go somewhere, or even to head out my front gate and cross the busy road to get to our nearby trails. My son, at thirteen, is more interested in riding his bike than his horse these days, so I have been doing a lot of riding the trails with my husband and son on two wheels rather than four hooves.


Actually, riding a bike rather than a horse is probably a good thing, as I am, if not truly old, definitely getting stout and stiff, and pumping that bike up a hill is a hell of a lot more exercise than letting Sunny carry me up the same hill. So I ride my bike as much as my horse right now.
I’m not sure what the future will hold for me horse-wise, in terms of riding. I may ride a lot more in the new year, and I may not. I’m pretty sure I’ll ride at least occasionally—I can’t imagine my life any other way. One thing I do know, the five horses I have here have a permanent home with me and I will take care of them until their time is done. If this means my entire horse life is taking care of a bunch of retired horses, so be it. These horses have paid their dues and given me years of good times in the saddle, carried me for so many, many miles, taken good care of me in all kinds of “interesting” situations. Every time I feed them, or turn them out to graze, those many happy riding hours are present in the moment, as I run my hand over their shoulder or touch noses with them. Time past as present as time present.
Does anybody else out there share this feeling? I do sometimes feel like the only slacker in an internet horse world that is full of people busy doing lots of very active things with their horses. Not that there is anything wrong with having a busy, active horse life. Not at all. I was that person for many years, and enjoyed it very much. It’s just not where I’m at now. And I’m curious to know if there are others that share my current emotions.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Giving Thanks

I know this is not a very original post since we just finished Thanksgiving here in the states, but it seems that I and my family are blessed and I need to spend time reflecting on all the things that make life so wonderful.

My family, of course!  We show love in many way, especially lots of teasing and bad jokes that others could find offensive. My kids still love to be with us and have found boyfriends and girlfriends who fit in as well.
We enjoy vacations and holidays that are filled with laughter though not much in the way of intellectual
discourse. Apples to Apples is as sophisticated as we get!



My animals, always!  Our family has never been without animals. They are an important part of our
life even with the cold morning feedings and walks and the occasion poop or throw up accident.  Ziggy and Fang, Relish and Bell, and Chuck (the cat) require constant attention. But what would life be without them? I am thankful I do not have to find out. Too many people must make that choice due to economy, weather, health or a change in their living situation.


The bounty of my life! My class just finished reading
I am Nujood Age 10 and Divorced, which is a memoir about a young girl living in Yemen.  Poverty, lack of education, and laws and religion create a living environment that is horrible for women.  For some lucky reason, I was born in the United States where all things are truly possible. I was blessed with a good family, a good brain and good health which helped me make choices that have brought me great happiness. I am thankful for all that was given to me and I wish that ALL children in the world could be so blessed.

What are you thankful for?  I'd love to hear.  Happy Thanksgiving all!
PS. I picked a winner for my book who did not respond. I hope that person goes back to the post and checks for her name!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Chill Factor




If you’d told me four months ago that before the end of the year I’d be riding Qrac, my nine-year old Lusitano, alongside bulldozers, streamrollers and pneumatic drills I’d have said you were mistaking me for someone else.  If you’d insisted, gone on to say, “Seriously, Cesca, you’ll see; pretty soon you’ll be cantering around an outdoor arena while workmen dressed in fluorescent clothing clank about with tools and giant pieces of equipment! There will be a giant crane swinging overhead, lorries rumbling in and out of the property loaded with all sorts of building materials. There will be welders creating mini firework displays in dark corners, giant sheets of plastic flapping about in gale force winds. You name it, there’ll be it! And you’ll be riding in it!”

By then I’d probably have checked your forehead for fever, whereupon you might have nodded knowingly and carried on telling me fairy stories about Qracy and I plodding past cars and tractors and miscellaneous trucks on country lanes, reins long and loose. You might have mentioned us ambling past curious cows, trotting and even cantering along dirt tracks flanked by apple orchards swathed in anti-hail nets swelling and whooshing in the breeze.

Pff! At this point I’d have been really worried about you, potentially suggesting a quick trip to the hospital.

The thing is: those fairy stories came true. Since moving to our new stables in mid-August, Qrac and I have experienced all of the above and more. My spooky, pretty volatile Lusitano and I have had to learn to cope with living and working on a building site, with trail rides mandatory when heavy rain turned the arena into a gloop-fest.


I hadn’t planned on moving Qrac to the stables in my village before the beginning of December, when the new stable block and indoor arena are scheduled to be completed (by the way, they open this coming weekend! Woohoo!), but circumstances beyond my control decided otherwise: I tore the ligaments in my ankle while on holiday, needed crutches, and couldn’t drive the 60-odd kilometres to where Qrac lived. Luckily for me, someone moved their horse out of the village stables, freeing a box and allowing me to bring Qrac here four months ahead of schedule from one day to the next..

Frankly, when I took the decision I hadn’t given much thought about what it might be like working him in conditions that, at times, have been pretty crazy. If I had I’d probably have decided moving him early was far too inconvenient, not to mention dangerous, and I’d have sent him down to the south of France to his breeder (Elevage Massa) for a few months of training. Had I done that, right now I’d probably be on my way to Les Arcs-sur-Argens to pick him up, returning with a finely-tuned horse well-versed in the art of beautiful half-passes, magnificent flying changes, and in possession of a far more established, far more balanced extended trot. Viewed from a purely dressage point of you, this would have been great. But I’d have missed him like crazy.



And you know what? Now, less than two days away from the official opening of the fabulous new installations, I’m really happy Qrac and I were here to witness the construction almost from start to finish (the foundations were down before we came). Sure, there were some pretty hairy moments the first few times I worked Qrac in the paddock with bulldozers bulldozing away approximately two metres from the rail, and buses and trucks zooming by on the adjacent road. He spooked. He spun. He tensed up. He wasn’t always one hundred percent with me. But thanks to all this commotion we've both been forced way out of our comfort zone. Qrac has developed coping skills he never knew he had, and I've gained so much confidence. 



We've done more hacking in four months than in two years at the previous stables, heading out in beautiful weather as well as horrendous weather, learning that we’re quite capable of dealing calmly with things previously considered totally out of the question. We’ve done other “different” things too: we even had a jumping lesson, both thoroughly enjoyed it (Qrac quite fancied himself as a show jumper!), and will probably do more of that once the indoor arena opens this weekend! Oh yeah, and we did a dressage competition, too, ten days after I got back into the saddle after my injury, practicing the test alongside diggers and heavy machinery. We did ok, all things considered!



But I’m ready for an indoor arena now. The past two weeks have been particularly trying; the outdoor arena is pretty much frozen due to insane northern wind bringing us arctic temperatures. Hacking out is horrible, the wind so strong that Qrac has to put his head down and really turn on his rear engines to get us back to the stables. Still, seen from a positive perspective I know I wouldn’t even have considered riding him outside in such conditions! But when you’ve got to go, well, you’ve got to go. We’ve gone, been pretty blown about, got somewhat rattled in a couple of areas (the clanging flagpoles and flapping flags at the village dump, the hail-nets covering the apple orchards, the bamboo hedge near the vet’s house, and various renegade plastic bags), but made it back to the stables without too much ado.

The indoor!!!
So when the indoor opens this weekend, and we’re once again able to enjoy riding in the lap of luxury, I know I’m going to continue going out hacking as often as possible, trailering to different places, doing more cavaletti work. Variety really is the spice of life, but isn’t it funny how it sometimes takes an incident to make us realize this?


How about you? Have you been forced out of your equestrian comfort zone and reaped all kinds of benefits?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Something New


                                                by Laura Crum

            Today and tomorrow (Nov 27th and 28th) there is an Amazon “Countdown Special” on the third novel in my mystery series, Roughstock. Roughstock has always been one of the most popular novels featuring my protagonist, equine veterinarian Gail McCarthy. It’s rated 4 and 1/2 stars on Amazon. Roughstock is regularly priced at $2.99 as a Kindle edition, but as a Thanksgiving deal, it will be 99 cents today (the 27th) and $1.99 tomorrow (the 28th). On Friday the 29th it returns to its previous (quite reasonable price) of $2.99. So now is the time to get a great deal on the Kindle edition of one of my best-liked novels. Click on the title to find the Kindle edition.




            To give you an idea if you would like this book, here is a brief synopsis and a couple of quotes from reviews.

While attending the annual Winter Equine Seminar at Lake Tahoe, Gail finds one of her fellow horse vets dead, and another accused of his murder. The trail leads back to Gail’s hometown of Santa Cruz, California, and through the twists and turns of the team roping world, plunging Gail into a confrontation with an unlikely killer. An endurance ride, a horse in trouble, some tough cowboys, and a thrilling horseback chase scene on an isolated beach all add up to a must read for horsemen of all disciplines who enjoy whodunits.

“A very American spin on Dick Francis’s racing books…Crum’s lifelong love affair with horses permeates her writing. For those who like whodunits and horses, Crum knows the equine industry and it shows.” –Western Horseman

“A fascinatingly detailed look at the life of a veterinarian…with Gail’s bright personality and Crum’s illuminating conclusion. It all adds up to a satisfying mystery with lots of heart. This one is a must.” –Publisher’s Weekly

For reader reviews of Roughstock on Amazon, as well as more info about the book, click on the title.

            I’d like to point out for those who are shopping for Xmas gifts for horse loving friends, that today, Weds the 27th of November, you can purchase the first three novels in my horse-themed mystery series for 99 cents each as Kindle editions. Cutter, the first book in the series, is set in the world of cutting horses, Hoofprints, the second book, revolves around skullduggery in the western horseshow arena, and Roughstock centers on team roping and endurance (quite the combo, if I do say so myself). All three books are 99 cents each today, Weds the 27th, making a great gift for less than three dollars for anyone who reads on Kindle and likes horses and mysteries. The entire twelve book series features equine veterinarian Gail McCarthy, following her through twenty years of her life.




            Those of you who have read Roughstock, (or any of the other books) I would love it if you would add your insights in the comments, including what you liked and didn’t like about the book. Endurance riders, feel free to tell me what I got wrong about endurance—its not my sport and I included the endurance aspect because I thought/think it was interesting. My only research was chatting with endurance people and working as a scribe for my friend who is a vet, on one endurance ride. So yeah, I may have made mistakes for sure, and I don’t mind being called on them.
            Anyway, if you haven’t read it and you read on Kindle, get Roughstock today for 99 cents. I’m betting you will enjoy it.

Happy Thanksgiving!