I Am a Hero. Obviously.

Heroic Act #1:

A body was sprawled out in the grassy lanes between the paddocks, a large hat knocked off to one side. I recognize the hat. It’s John’s. He’s not moving.

If I had not been leading a very excited horse down this hill, I wouldn’t have had the vantage point to see him in the tall grass at the bottom.

He was waaaaay down by the tree in the middle.
He was waaaaay down by the tree in the middle.

I call out his name. No answer. Horse feels my nerves and begins to try the whole “I am a Dervish” thing, on the line, ensuring I can’t run straight down, or John will get trampled. I yell for trainer and co-worker, shouting “John is down! I think he’s hurt, HELP! Paddocks!!”

They run out of the barn, closer to him than I am, and like good horse people, instantly read my body language, following my line of sight, know where he is before I say a word.  I whip out my phone and start to punch in 911.

This is how John was rescued from a nice nap in the sun, in the grass, near his beloved horses.

I am a hero.

We’re calling it a safety drill, FYI.

Heroic Act #2:

Last night, in my dream, I finished bagging Hudson’s Happy Meals for the week. (Okay, aside: who the heck dreams about bagging grain?) I was suddenly, in the way of dreams, standing on my front porch: halter to clean in one hand, turning the key in the lock with the other. I open the door and am faced with a very large mountain lion. One pacing and eyeballing Husdon’s good leather halter in my hand. It smells like horse. The lion wants the halter.

Just throw the halter to one side...
Just throw the halter to one side…don’t clean it

But. But. It’s Hudson’s good halter…(horse people are unbelievably stubborn)

lt still takes a slight amount of stalking behavior from the mountain lion in my kitchen, to convince me I probably should hand over the halter if I want to live.

I do. Resentfully.

The dream should end here.  Smart people’s dreams end here. (The horse person lives, buys a new halter, the mountain lion has a light nosh on sweaty leather. Win win.  Right?)

Instead, I follow the lion as it stalks out of the house, halter in  mouth. Somewhat safety conscious, I stay back at least six whole feet. The lion doesn’t think six feet is enough.  We stare at each other.

I am not a brave person. But dang it. It’s Hudson’s good halter. Why didn’t I grab a can of tuna? Bait and switch. Too late.

What do I do? Dart forward and snatch the halter from the lion’s mouth.

The lion flattens his ears and hisses, begins to whip his tail. I immediately come to my senses and hurl the halter back at him. He picks it up, and turns to walk away.

Unbelievable! I run up and snatch it away again. I am highly aware this is a very very bad idea.

So I throw it back again.

I woke up on the third mad dash to steal the halter back.

Can we say: “Jane has problems letting go?

I could understand this dream if the lion wanted Hudson. I can see becoming uncharacteristically brave if I were trying to rescue my beloved horse. But…a halter…?

Since I was uncharacteristically brave in the face of a mountain lion (over a stupid halter), I’m sticking to “I am a Hero”.

Obviously.

What Does Your Horse Want for Christmas…?

Daisy sent me a dad’s response to his 7 year old’s outrageous Christmas list.

Yeah, I don’t think I’d give a seven-year-old $1,00 bucks either.

But it did remind me of Hudson’s last outrageous Christmas List. This year’s plan: don’t ask.

I repeat, Hudson: I AM NOT BUYING YOU A STEER.

So let’s here from all the horses out there! What would you like your human’s to get you for Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, Yule festival, Solstice…or just BECAUSE?

If your horse writes you a paper letter, email a photo to theliteraryhorse@yahoo.com, and we’ll post ’em. OOoo…send a photo of your horse too!

Too late, Jane. I WIN.
Too late, Jane. I WIN. It pays to bribe the cat to type. FYI, I promised her you’d bring a can of tuna.  Please pick some up. Also, pencils taste terrible. Why do humans like them?

Alice Takes a Tour Through…Is That an Orc…?

Alice went down the rabbit hole, and missed the bottle marked “Drink Me”.

Maybe it's a good thing Alice didin't Drink Me. She might have come back with a catapillar
Maybe it’s a good thing Alice didn’t Drink Me. She might have come back with a giant caterpillar. (FYI, this would not have stopped us from bedazzling and riding said caterpillar.)

Unable to go through the small door, she took a left somewhere in the tunnel and got lost. Presumably she wandered through Lórien, had a chat with Gandalf, spent a little time in The Shire…

eiss-visiting_sh
Who cares about one ring to rule them all? SHADOWFAX.  How we know this was meant to be? Look, there’s a buckskin right next to him. 

Alice popped back out of the rabbit hole with a Friesian.

(And possibly an elfin archer. I figure she stashed the archer somewhere.)

Straight out of Lord of the Rings, if we pretend he will gray out:

1374276_535973246473377_462430418_n
We think the White Rabbit stole her flip-flops.

We all call him “Shadowfax”. No one will ever know his real name, because none of us care.  Shadowfax is AWESOME.

IMG_3848
Hudson is modeling stellar trail behavior. Shadowfax is going to be a trail Friesian. Hudson’s left ear: “Dude. Turkeys. Fun to chase”. Hudson’s right ear: “Jane, stop eavesdropping, so impolite.”

Shadowfax has spent his life as an Arena Flower. Going outside the giant sand box was new and scary. Alice rode him in a bridle, and wore footwear for the first few, “getting to know your newly leased horse”, rides.

After hanging with Hudson and the rope-horse crowd that warm up on the access road, Shadowfax settled down, and Alice went back to the back to the hippie-chick self we all know and love.

Bareback in a halter.

Ready to get down in The Shire.

It was weird to ride with a horse that towered over Hudson. He’s usually the biggest guy there. Alice said “I think they’re the same height.  Look at their withers.”

Hey, look at that. They are.  But Shadowfax’s NECK and HEAD are up in the stratosphere.

“Is it strange to have NECK in front of you?” I ask.

It makes my teeth ache, that tall neck, right there, ready to up and smack you in the face at first spook.

“Yeah”, Alice says, “It’s a little hard to get used to.  I feel like I can’t SEE.”

She holds up the reins, mimicking a little old lady peering over the steering wheel.

Carlos has teased the crap out of Alice. In addition to the unseen stashed archer, she’s come home to ‘anonymous’ gifts.  Gifts with which she may appropriately ride into Middle-Earth: glow in the dark sword, plastic bow and arrows, a lovely shield, a slighty dented tiara…

Oh. And us!

Running Water, Chaos Theory, and Sparrows!

There are two ways to look at this:

  1. I’ve been riding Ginger for Laurie.
  2. Laurie has graciously indulged me by allowing me to ride Ginger.

I think the photo below shows that #2 is the correct pick. They’re beautiful together:

Copyright: Centerline Photography
Copyright: Centerline Photography

Ginger is an orange ball of fire: opinionated, believes “forward” is an understatement, and is…impatient…with the idea of anything approaching what she would call ‘sedate’. Anything less than Mach 10 is sedate to Ginger.  Slowing down takes far too much time and energy. She’s also a total glamor girl. Think Lucy before her comedic talent was discovered.

Lucille Ball famously said: "I'm not funny.  I'm brave." I think Ginger would say the same thing.
Lucille Ball famously said: “I’m not funny. I’m brave.” I think Ginger would say the same thing.

She’s also a mare’s mare. She reminds me what it feels like to be a hormonal teenager: out-of-sorts and crampy, making a benign issue a problem because we girls just feel like THERE IS A PROBLEM. THAT THING I JUST SPOTTED MUST BE IT. FIX IT, dang it.

I so get this.

During a recent ride, Ginger decided the wash rack that butts up to the arena was The Problem. There was a hose.  Water was coming out of it.  WATER. Do I understand what she’s saying?!?  WATER at one o’clock!

This is a horse that loves her baths.

We went backward, forward, skittered sideways, bounced up and down, and in general showed our displeasure at having to pass near running water at a speed below Mach 90.  I identify. When hormones are involved, I do NOT back down once I’ve staked out an issue, true or not.

Fairly soon, we’re standing quietly opposite the wash rack, while the water is running, talking to a friend. (We know it’s still going to kill us, but we’re very brave.) We try to focus on the conversation.  Sparrows are flitting in and out of the arena, picking up hair for their nests.  All the horses are shedding.

A bit later, we quietly go to work, and it’s awesome. We are cantering nicely in our least favorite direction when it happens.

Two sparrows come tumbling over each other into the arena, straight at us.  I don’t know if they’re fighting, or it’s spring baby making time.  I feel a wing hit Ginger’s belly. Birds whapping near one’s privates are definitely an allowable meltdown issue.  Ginger pays no attention to the birds. Not even a blip on her radar. We keep cantering.

This is where Chaos Theory comes in.

A plot of the Lorenz attractor for values r = 28, σ = 10, b = 8/3.
Whatever. It’s a butterfly! If they flap their wings in Australia, we WILL have a tsunami in California. Who knew?

The birds should have tumbled out, right?

No. Because we hit a Chaos loop.  Running water scared us, therefore the universe hurled us squalling feathers. Her hooves gathering upward in the canter pushed the rolling ball of birds up and in between her front legs.  I feel them tumbling and richocheting between her legs, their little heads whapping like ping-pong balls.  I feel a wing hit a stirrup, feel the Ball ‘O Birds being gathered back up and into the churning cycle of her front legs. They tumble and flap and toss.

I gauge Ginger, wondering if she is going to go all “Today is a good day to die” on me.

Calm cantering.

Except for the sparrows bouncing and rolling and flapping between her front legs, just another day in paradise.

If I stop her, it’s likely the birds will crash to the ground and get pulverized in the process.  If I don’t, she might notice at some point BIRDS are pinging around between her front legs. My slow thought process takes a couple more canter strides to come up with a solution.  (Hey. How often do birds get caught in our horse’s legs?! It’s not like I’ve had to practice this!)

Down into the trot. Hopefully, that will give the birds time to get out sideways. We trot, the birds shoot out of the spin cycle (they’re fine), and Ginger politely asks to canter again.

As if a downward transition to release frantic, trapped sparrows was a normal part of any workout.

And she thought the hose was the problem?

Note to self: next time I decide THAT THING OVER THERE is the problem, check for sparrows.

Would You Like Some Fries with That?

My entrance into helping at the training barn caused a disturbance in the force.

The former helper was male. The training barn is heavily weighted to mares at the moment. Apparently, they looked forward to their cabana boy.

They were not exactly unhappy with me. Ears swiveled at each other: “It’s not cabana boy! Is this good or bad?”

The geldings response was instant and welcoming: Awesome. Dude, look! It’s a chick! One youngster was oddly gleeful: “Mommy!! Where have you been?!?”  Um. Right here, I guess?

The mares decided to hold a sorority meeting after the barn was closed up for the night.

Girls in a herd are much trickier to navigate than boys.  Ask any high school boy who’s been brave enough to attempt cutting a girl out of the herd. It usually doesn’t go well.

I think about this. It’s never good when one is left out of a sorority meeting.

I was new: I expected to get the horse version of super-glue-to-the-chair, notes passed behind my back, and a blackboard scrawled with derogatory “Teacher is…” phrases when I walked into the barn.

I wasn’t going in blind. The trainer gave me a rough overview of personalities, quirks, and habits.  I was looking forward to one quiet alpha mare in particular.  Barn staff had nominated her as “Least Likely to be Difficult”. Very sweet mare.  Her quirk: she dislikes having her blanket touched. Problematic, since I’ll be taking it off and putting it on at least twice a day.

The next morning, I walked into a barn of unusually docile mares. Sweet faces innocently hang over stall doors. Stupidly, this did not activate either my Mom Mayday Siren or Substitute Teacher Hazard Warning Lights.

Awww… They like me! How cool is that?

I unblanket, groom, bandage and lunge the higher-strung Alphas before the arena is packed.

They were perfectly behaved.

Relaxed, and in the rhythm, I went on to the less-amped alpha and beta mares, leaving Miss Least Likely for last.

Fortunately, beyond The Mare Stare of Death, and slight ear pinning, she’s never acted her feelings out. I remove her blanket under the Death Stare. Try to coax her ears forward. Nada.

Oh well.  We go about grooming and working.

Apparently the Sorority of Mares had a secret nomination and a hazing plan.

Guess which mare drew the short straw?

Returning her to her stall, I quietly pull the blanket over Miss Least Likely’s head, adjust it, and reach under her belly for the strap to fasten her blanket, pleased her ears are momentarily forward.

(I’m making progress! She likes me!)

A flash of movement and a searing pain on my butt instantly told me that while I thought I was cooing this message: “Its safe, you can trust me.” She received this message: “YOU can be the Alpha Mare, I, Jane, am a wimp, please take over.”

You could do a dental ID on this mare by photographing my rear. It’s clear she’s had excellent dental care. Beautiful teeth. Nice and even grip.

Mares 1. Jane 0.

Luckily, she was self-correcting. She had a violent reaction to biting me: assuming (somewhat correctly) I was going to beat her to death, she backed up, reared, and hit her head, looking shocked and startled. She was convinced I’d somehow managed to correct her from afar. I glared at her, to reinforce her mistaken idea I’d actually done the correction. It’s hard to glare when you are mad at yourself for being stupid, not the glare-ee for acting horse-like. But I took one for the team.

Before I shut the stall door behind me, I notice every single mare in he barn is on high alert. Our interchange had been closely monitored. Oh. Good. Miss Least Likely’s huge reaction did me a favor: they all believe I aggressively turned on her and instantly dealt out alpha mare justice.

I’m not about to set them straight. I glare at them too, until they turn away, or put their heads down.

I calm Miss Least Likely by ignoring my throbbing butt, forcing myself to relax, and unnecessarily adjusting her blanket until the tension drains from her body. When she pins her ears, I get in her face. Her ears go forward, relieved. She didn’t really want to be the boss.  She lowers her head and nudges me: I had to. I drew the short straw. Sorry? Do over?

I rub her face.

Do over.

Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens…

I love Julie Andrews.  Musicals. Dance numbers. Theatrics.

Why I love my work:

The hills are alive with the sound of hoofbeats!

Also, distant mooing, closer bleating (goats next door), and the high-pitched squeaky-toy noise when this guy whinnies:

We sticked him out: not much taller than a corgi.
We sticked him out: not much taller than a corgi.

No daycare!

I don’t have to haul a sleep-befuddled Hudson out of bed, coerce him into a halter, carry him outside and stuff him into a car seat. No strong arming the seat belt across his chest while attempting to also pull it out of his mouth. He lives there. Hudson-vision plays in the background all day.

Bonus Points!

I’m not checking the weather icon on my desktop 6 times an hour because I’m certain:

      • Hudson is sweating to death under his blanket, or
      • Shivering wildly because it was supposed to be warm, or
      • He’s hungry. Lonely. Tired. Over-energized, or
      • Has figured out how to unlock the new horse-proof gate clip.  Again.

Mondays are awesome!

We all know how rare it is for horse owners to make it to the barn on Monday. It’s usually just me and a dozen potential My Little Ponies. While other horse owners are whacking away at the 72-hour-long Monday, I’m:

      • Singing badly to upbeat Rancheria music
      • Kissing noses
      • Rubbing necks
      • Getting hugs
      • Checking legs, and…wait for it…
      • Brushing! Lunging! Sometimes – gasp – even riding!

My friend’s horses are in the barn!

    • I get to send Laurie bad iPhone photo ‘postcards’ from a ‘talking’ Ginger.  Because horses, especially mares, are so good at expressing themselves, I get some unmistakably emotive shots.  This cracks all of us up.
    • Sample: GingerI got to run wild and free!  In that big sand box! Without tack! This is how it’s supposed to BE, mom. BTW, can I wear my pink jammies tonight? Love those.

Lots of personalities!

As I’ve flowed into the rhythm of the training barn, and come to know the horses, they’ve also come to know me.

      • Grace has a compulsion to rest her muzzle on the small of my back – if my shirt hikes up – when I bend over to check her front legs. No lip movement.  It’s not a mouthy thing.  So sweet. Shirt doesn’t hike up? No ‘kiss’ from Grace.
      • Ginger’s stall is right next to the tack room/grooming area.  We get to ‘talk’ all day.  She’s a lovely chatterbox.
      • Candy Boy has a reaction that I read as fearful: he pins his ears and glares at me (without real substance behind it) when I approach with the halter.  He wants to come out and play so bad.  My opinion: some aggression is aggression, watch out!  Some is fear masking as aggression.  I wait quietly out of reach outside the gate, and chat him up.  Nothing happens until his ears go forward and his eye gets soft. When I finally do halter him, he stands happily, barely containing his excitement. Oh I correct him.  Frequently.  But we have an understanding. Politeness gets you warmth and politeness.

(There’s much more, but that’s all I have time for today, because I have to go play work!)

 

  

My Funny Valentine, Sweet Comic Valentine…

Dear Jane,

Ahem. It is Valentine’s Day.

I find it quite unacceptable that you have not come to see me.
You claim to love me. It’s Valentine’s Day. Do the math.

Strike that. I will do the math for you. I do not trust the human public education system.

If L = mass of love claimed, and V = 1/365, Then G would represent a ‘floating’ factor, giving us an equation that looks something like this:

(L + V) x a factor of G136*= 20 pounds of carrots, minimum.

*(please assume guilt to the 136th power)

If you must be away, consider this word carefully: delivery.

I am not asking for carrots in a red, heart-shaped box, or a dozen long-stemmed carrots nestled in white baby’s breath. The manifestation of your love for me does not have to be fancy, pretty, or expensively arranged. It only need be pleasantly edible.

I’m a simple, industrial-plastic kind of guy.

Perhaps the visual aid below, of what I look like when off-roading, will jog your memory:

20130214-163419.jpg

Please get the guy from Palace of Fruit to schlep the sack to my paddock.

Humph. I bet Woodrow gets cookies. I bet Bella scratches his back.

I bet Bella shows up.

Nudge,
Hudson

P.S. Miss Smokey would appreciate a can of tuna for padding this out on the keyboard. Put it on my expense account.

Horses Save us Money!

Most of our significant others have the mistaken impression that this is the green stuff we feed our horses:

Stock Image: Fifties Picture. Image: 64981

© Photographer John Hix | Agency: Dreamstime.com

But in higher denominations.

It is not the least bit telling that I had to find this photo on the internet. Because my wallet has a single dollar bill. That’s just smart, right? With all the muggers waiting  in all the non-existent alleys in this small town, it’s better to leave,  um, “excess” cash* in the bank. (Do NOT let your significant other read the stuff after asterisk.)

*I know, I know: “excess cash” is a foreign concept. I’ll save you Googling time: excess cash is money beyond what one needs to pay one’s “household” bills.

In which there are no line-items entitled “Hudson’s dentistry”,  “Dover breeches sale”, or “supplements”.  (Those things are covered under “dentist”, “clothing allowance”, and “emergency medical savings”.)

How horses save us money:

  • No fancy gym membership fee!

Theoretically, we get all the exercise we need from riding.  Or more common: hours spent trudging after horses in pasture, because acreage causes horses to forgot they have names. What grain is. And who we are. (Ask Daisy.)

  • No pricey hair stylist fees!

It all comes down to helmet hair.  Which ‘style’ works best with baseball hats and riding helmets? The universal (men and women) pony tail. Hair elastics: $2 for 100.

  • No pricey hair products!

I just bring home a little ShowSheen, to make it seem like I meant my hair to be COMPLETELY FLAT, I mean sleek.  Like J-Lo.

  • Target is our friend!

Everything except the boots and breeches: Target sale racks. The secondary purpose of our clothing is to serve as giant horse napkins anyway.

Target, (pronounced Tar-Jay to confuse friends who refuse to shop anywhere but Bloomingdale’s) has a wide choice of colors favorable to the horse woman: “alfalfa slime” green, “hit the dirt” arena gray, and “winter mud” chocolate.  I’ve even seen some bright “Furicin” yellow in their workout wear! Check out the teen section for “I’m confused” pattern mixtures.  I’ve spotted Horsewoman Cammo. Hides all the colors above, even Betadine.

  • No Botox! No Filler!

Since we are regularly smacked in the face by Dobbin’s 50 lb boney head in our attempts to hug his sweet wittow bittee adawabol face, we all have giant lips, nicely snug skin (covers the swelling) and, if we’re lucky, bruising. (see below)

  • Half the make-up costs!

Because of the black eye (technically purple, green, or yellow), we only need to use those outdated colors – perpetually on sale – on the remaining eye that is not black! Win-win if you have two black eyes.

This photo (Google Images) illustrates my point, nicely covering all stages of bruising:

makeupstyleideas.com

We just happen to have horse-related proof. What a coincidence!

(Warning for the non-horsey, graphic photo.)

Jane’s not-supermodel eye yesterday morning (no make up) after hugging Hudson the day before:

Oops. I missed.

Ta-Da! Five minutes later, with 75% off bruise-green eye shadow, we have something one would only see on a runway of a famous designer. (Granted, after hiring a truly sloppy makeup artist):

Instant Runway makeup!

Fine. I do need to invest in some 90 % off red eyeliner. And be slightly more careful in application. And possibly wax my brows again.

The great thing? I’ve only covered the personal-care expense category.
How does your horse save YOU money?

In Which Jane Yells “Pick Me” and Gets…Picked?!

One of the trainers at our barn needed a bit of barn help.  Did I mention she’s a terrific instructor? Positive.  Cheerful.  She knows how to use her words.

Given some of the life events over the last year or so, I haven’t um, exactly ridden much.  Oh I’ve been packed around daily.  Not the same as real riding.

Riding: that state in which you tell the horse what to do? And meandering doesn’t just “happen”? And tack is involved? And you sit upright, instead of laying your head on horse’s butt while he grazes?

Trainer put the word out she was looking for someone she could teach to help her out on the ground, preferably with some horse knowledge.  If we knew of anyone, let her know.

Ever the mature 3rd grader, I thrust my hand in the air and waved wildly. “I will!! I will!!”

In front of other people.  (Sadly, I am not exaggerating.  Points for enthusiasm?) Gah.

Momentarily taken aback, she said, “Really…?” Pause. “You want to…?”

I had one horrible moment of very adult embarrassment, presuming she was thinking: “How will I politely get rid of this ancient broad who might fall and not get up?”

This is usually an agreement for the 20-something beginning rider.  Not the 50-something sort-of rider that trainer has watched dozing on Hudson’s butt.

Luckily, she was actually thinking (or so she claims): “It could work? I won’t have to spend so much time training…”

I can do many key things: bandages, blankets, basic grooming, lunging, tacking up, read body language, and stay out of the strike zone. I don’t panic.  I’ve uncast horses, treated abscesses, can give shots, eye medication, deworm, check capillary refill rate and know when a tendon is iffy.

Most importantly, it’s possible I’m the best carrot-dispenser on the planet.

It’s the riding part I’ve never quite gotten down.

Hudson was a bit put out.  He’d begun to enjoy doing a lot of nothing outside his paddock.  After our first few rides however, he came out of the arena on jetpacks, proud as proud could be: every stride swung with “I’m a working man. Did you SEE that? I am AWESOME.”

You sure are, buddy!