Back to Reality…Oops There Goes Gravity (The Super Model, Part Two)

If only our horse lives could stay in a sort of rosy, carrot and alfalfa scented fog of perfect bliss and connection.

Really Jane? What is my photo doing on a horse blog?
Our Reality and Gravity expert: Eminem

While my ideal state for relationships is All Bliss, All the Time, there’s a problem. That rosy, foggy, carrot and alfalfa scented state is strictly imaginary.

As anyone in any relationship anywhere is well aware.

This is partly why those incredible moments of connection are so sweet. BECAUSE THEY GO AWAY.  

Sorry.  Didn’t realize I was shouting.

Stand still so I can Disney-fy our relationships, dang it!
Why, Walt, WHY…?

Back to Reality:

The Super Model went back to being an ordinary horse.

I’ve learned this at the training barn: a surprising number of mares have “Blanket Issues”.  Even if they like blankets.  

The Super Model is more or less decent about having her blankets removed.  She is more or less psycho about having them put back on.  Often, a stud chain has to be involved, to keep all four hooves on the ground, and so we don’t end up pinned beneath her.  She would like the blanket to be put on very, very fast.


She wants to charge me down and swan dive into the head opening, her ears pinned, her lips curled, her eyes small and glaring.

I was lucky.  I got a two-day “You’re back! You’re back!” grace period.  Soft eyes and sweetness while I gently pulled blankets off and on again. She’d been on the road.  I assumed she’d finally given in to trainers requirement that We Stand Still For Blankets.

Day three: she had a change of heart about many things: mowing me down seemed like a decent option when a butterfly gently fluttered down onto a pretty flower. 

Rats. My job is to make her more afraid of ME than random nunchuk-wielding butterflies.  

Seeking World Domination and Arch Nemesis status.  Horrifying.

That unfair, totally wrong thing that our mother said? This hurts me more than it hurts you? It’s that hard to wallop The Super Model. I want to sob because she had been so sweet, and now I’m beating the crap out of her. More or less.

The good thing about horses…as long as we are fair and not acting out of anger, it doesn’t change how they feel about us. Once past the evil butterfly and in the barn, she nuzzles my hair.  

Awwwww. She still loves me.  

Later, she’d like to kill me when I’m putting her blanket back on.  Nothing like being in a 12×12 box with a 16.3 hot horse that is trying to climb up your body because you are not blanketing her fast enough. Note: this is not fear. She is impatient, and wants me to hurry up, preferably by making the blankets magically appear on her body, without all the annoying buckling, tweaking, and head insertion. I’m somewhat familiar with Reality.  I have the chain ready.  We work on standing still, quiet, and relaxed for blanketing.  Four times.

Oops There Goes Gravity:

I started laughing: it’s love. We don’t get to cherry-pick the warm fuzzy stuff and avoid the random bitchiness. (Shaun would verify this.) Love is all-inclusive. 

Damn it.




Why My Shoelaces are Fascinating

I surveyed The Potential New Training Facility with the Trainer. She’s vibrating with happy energy. We were standing in the parking lot, from which you can see practically the entire property. It’s a privately owned breeding barn, no boarders, complete with fully functioning separate barn to lease out to Trainer. The lease details are worked out to everyone’s satisfaction. All that remains is her signature. I can see she’s already in virtual moving mode: unpacking things in her brain, arranging horses and gear.

This is absolutely the right place. Her business had quickly outgrown my boarding barn.  She’s good. Makes me happy that other people see HOW good.

Facility has everything she needs in a good training barn. Huge arena, excellent footing, incredible owners, hot walker, turn outs, a ginormous (covered, lit) round pen….and the holy grail of Training Barns everywhere: hot/cold water wash racks AND washer and dryer. Oh, and full size fridge and freezer. (No more ice trips!)

Man oh man. I’m happy.  But also a bit sad.  I’m going to lose the Hudson-Vision that’s run in the background of all my barn days.  That was a perk, but definitely not a deal-breaker. Obviously, I’ll still see him.

“What do you think?”, she says, correctly reading my dropped jaw to mean this place is AWESOME.

“I think it’s fabulous”, I say, without an iota of hesitation.

We’ve already checked out the feed: top quality. Paddock water troughs cleaned weekly. Stall auto-waterers are huge, not the chin dippers, and cleaned out bi-weekly.  Place is immaculate. Horses are drop dead gorgeous. Healthy, obviously well cared for.

“Any issues?”, she says, hoping she hasn’t missed anything.

“Just one that I can think of?”, I say, gazing lingeringly at the property from the parking area.  “You realize we’ve stood here for 45 minutes, just staring, right? Do you think we will ever go to work?”

We both crack up. I continue.

“I think we’ll park, and then spend at least 30 minutes checking the tightness of our shoelaces. Right. Here.”

“Wanna risk it?”, she says, clearly understanding I just said: where do I sign up?

“I’m good with shoelace obsessing”, I say.

We crack up again.

That was a few months ago.

We’re all moved in. Everyone is happy. There’s a winery across the street. We’re surrounded by grape vines and apple orchards. Since its private property, no rider has misused the fantastic standing offer by neighbors to ride along the rights-of-way that cut through the vines, orchards and fields. TRAILS.

I took these cell photos yesterday morning, from the parking lot.

We call this the Infinity Arena....
We call this the Infinity Arena….who needs an infinity pool? We have horses to ride!

Riding in this arena feels like a cross between flying

Imagine being on horseback here...
Imagine being on horseback here…      (photo credit)

and riding atop of the Great Wall of China.

and riding the same time. Except arena is wider...
okay….arena is slightly wider…but you get the idea.        (photo credit)

Who cares if you missed a cue?  LOOK AT THAT VIEW. (There may be a few horses taking advantage of this.)

Check out the orangish row dots at lower right. Wine grapes. Hills of them. Maybe Hudson could use a teeny tiny bit of training after all?

There's a winery behind me too.
Obsessing over shoelaces. Will I ever get them tight?  (Um. No.)

Life is good.  The people are exceptional. The horses, fantastic.

And I have the Best. Shoelaces. Ever.

Murphy Monday: Fine. Are those Balloons…?


This out-of-control, wildly bucking, primal flight-panic moment brought to you by The Two Year Old Who Will Not be Fazed.

And Daisy, who took the picture of Murphy’s first time under saddle, complete with, yes, it’s touching him…The Girth.

(Hudson is still certain The Girth will kill him, even when it goes up one hole every 15 minutes.)

Daisy saddled Murphy, removed his halter, and waited for typical two-year-old reaction.

She’s still waiting.

Murphy is captivated by a birthday party just off-screen, complete with helium-filled balloons waving spookily in the wind. Or not spookily at all, if you’re Murphy.  I think he’d carry one in his teeth.

He’s definitely my nephew.  I bet he smells cake.

Phixing Phil

I’m sure “Hudson-Caused PTSD” is a valid diagnosis that can be found in the DSM-5 , the go-to book for all psychiatrists. Hey. I wonder if the DSM-5 comes in a “For Dummies” version? For the psychiatrist who can’t understand Shrink-Speak either?

The wacky guy on all the “Dummies” covers is kind of the perfect promotional tool for making  psychiatry accessible.

Please hold while I Google irrelevant but now imperative question. And…no DSM-5 For Dummies.

But I did find this:

Do we laugh? Or are we very very afraid?

Well. That’s settled.

Back to Hudson-Caused PTSD. Being a good friend, I texted Bella to let her know I accidentally broke Phil. And I had every intention of superglue-ing him back together again:

Thanks for letting me ride Phil. He was great. FYI: He’s  afraid of hay now. Sorry! There’s 10 lbs of carrots in your garage if he gets hungry?  Will fix. Promise.

That night I lay awake in the dark, staring at the ceiling, trying to think through some sort of Phix Phil Plan. There was one imperative, non-negotiable variable that revolved around Hudson: He can’t know anything about whatever phix I phigure out.

Plan A is an exercise in Magical Thinking.  Still, it was fun to visualize before I crossed it off:

Plan A: Yell at Hudson. Make him apologize to Phil and take it back.

Nope. Don’t see this happening.

Plan B: Outsmart Hudson into taking it back

I’m kind of into Plan B. I like to imagine I am at least as intelligent as my horse.

Tricky. Hudson obviously outsmarted me on the “Let’s Make Phil Deathly Afraid of Hay” thing.

How can I make Hudson show Phil  the hay barn is horse manna? I plot. I pretend I’m Hudson. Ah-ha. Got it.  Though I see a potential problem. However, it’s a problem that Hudson has brought upon himself… It wouldn’t affect Phil… This could work.

Just before the dinner cart makes its rounds, I tack up a hungry Hudson…and active the Phix Phil Plan.  (Code-named, because all tricky plans need code names): Gotcha. There are three phases.

Phase One: flattery. I tack Hudson up first, spending lots of time getting ready. When he feels good and important, I ask him if he’d rather walk alone, or pony Phil.

Hudson: I believe I’d like to boss pony Phil around today.

Jane: Whatever. I’ll get him.

Phase Two: temptation: Before getting Hudson, I opened the hay barn doors and angled an open bale of alfalfa so it was barely sticking out into the road. I also did a scariness check: nothing spooky.  Bonus: there’s a trash can full of baling twine, that Hudson will believe might contain grain.

Phase Three: deceit. (You were already with me at hay-happens-to-be-in-the-road, huh?

I mount up, pick up Phil from the tie-post. We make one round of the access road, including passing the hay barn. Hudson ignores it nearly completely. His nostrils widen at the scent of alfalfa. I pointedly angle my body toward the road, away from the barn.  His ears signal minor disappointment. Phil snuck past the hay barn, and is flooded with relief when it didn’t jump him. Hudson has better things to think about than Phil.  Food.

On to round two.

We pass closer to the hay. I abruptly angle away, as if I’ve made a grievous riding error.

Hudson buys this.  Completely. Well, geeze. He could at least FAKE astonishment at my terrible riding.

Round three. Hudson wanders through his shoulder toward the hay barn. I sigh as though giving up. He gleefully buries his head in the alfalfa.

Seriously? She’s that out of it? LUCKY DAY!!!

Phil jumps out of his skin, and has to be coaxed to stay with us.

Hudson said this was BAD. Very very Bad. I do not understand why he’s happy.

We do this several hundred more times, with Hudson drooling in anticipation, and Phil trying to find a way out of the crisis:

Can I just wait over there…?.

FINALLY, Phil takes a bite. I have an excellent grip on the reins, to keep Hudson from warning him off.

Oh. This is FOOD? CRAP! Did you hear the noise it made when I tore a bite off?  It was like a rifle shot!  Can food shoot?  (chew chew chew) Hudson seems fineI’m brave.  I think I can handle this…

Mmmmm…this serial killer tastes goooood…

Ha. I tricked Hudson into giving the message: “Hay Barn Good. Nom nom nom.” Message received.  I rode Phil  – alone – past the hay barn. He wouldn’t go up to eat, but he didn’t shrink away from it either. Phew.

I text Bella: We’re good. Phil is fixed. You can ride him past the hay barn again.  

Can you guess what problem I created in this trade-off of trickery?

Hudson now believes it’s perfectly acceptable to attempt to trot to the hay barn for food, with every rotation of the access road.  Because I subtly encouraged his glee and ‘misbehavior’.

The next day I was able to call “one-time freebie!” to Hudson, and he accepted that answer.

I sure hope he doesn’t spend time thinking over the “free hay day”. If he figures out I tricked him, it’s cement horse shoes for me…

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.

Let The Human Training Commence!

Dear Equines and assorted Bipeds,

I was invited to a St. Patrick’s Day party in tack room #2.  My human was unable to attend, so I stepped up, and fulfilled her social obligations.

Jane owes me.

Am I right, or am I right?

Green is not my color.

Googly headbands are never my color.

Alas, I am a good sport. And yes,  a very attractive mare has caught my attention.  She was balancing a human foal on her back, and trying very hard not to drop it.

Personally I would have let the foal fall off.  There was a lot of heel action going on. Definitely the humanling was using the reins as handles.  Her mouth is gonna be sooooore.

This is why horses should train you.

  1. If you get a little dirt in your teeth, you will never forget how to avoid getting a little dirt in your teeth again.
  2. We know what you feel like up there, long before you do. LISTEN.
  3. Really? You’re going to begrudge us a few measly carrots/cookies after #2?

Yes, yes, humanlings do fall into a different category.  You’re cute when you’re foals. It’s difficult to reisist the huge grin and enormous “I love you” eyes.  Probably why we cave and catch them, or put up with  all that kicking.

I was rather shocked that Jane figured out I trained her to feed me on hoof command.  (That was just a little side experiment.)  She’s smarter than I thought. Not as smart as an Equine of course, but perhaps a little faster, cognitively, than a boulder.

There, there, Jane.  Don’t mind the boulder comment. You out-smarted me on the hoof thing, so clearly you are back in command.

(What is it humans say? Whoohahahaha?)

Jane’s addendum: Uh-oh, sounds like the training gauntlet has been tossed. No matter what he wants you to believe, Hudson is good-hearted, so I expect the training “attack” will be subtle. Now. How many of you have been trained by your horse?

When Your Horse Is Smarter Than You…

You get trained.  Well Trained.

I take some comfort that I know I’ve been trained.

It only takes me hours to figure it out.

Returning Hudson back to his paddock, I stopped short and smacked myself on the forehead with the flat of my palm: Jane! You did not teach Hudson to pick up his sore hoof using carrots as a reward.  

Hudson taught YOU to give HIM carrots on demand, by firmly planting that hoof until a carrot was waiting to be offered.

Oh. No. No no no no NO. Seriously? Please, please, PLEASE let me be wrong.

I immediately turn around and reach for his ‘Sore’ Hoof.

Hudson immediately shifts 1100 pounds to the Hoof He Can’t Bear to Lift…

…while he activates his carrot scanner, turning his neck toward me and whuffling the air near my back pocket.

DANG it. He got me. Again.

This is the third or fourth time I’ve belatedly realized I’ve been trained.  It’s embarrassing. I’ve never been the owner who gets trained. I’ve always been the bossy owner: Stand still! Feint a bite in my direction while I tighten the girth and you die! Hoof, NOW. Don’t even look at that grass while I’m leading you.

I wonder if he and his pals in Mensa Equine trade Dumb Owner jokes in secret meetings. He has the intelligence, will, and scientific curiosity to finagle himself into being the dictator of a small country.


Insight: I’m the small country.

(Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to unload 100 pounds of carrots out of the trunk, and six giant tubs of Mrs. Pasture’s cookies….I think I feel the need to throw away all the worming paste too.)

Murphy Monday: In Which Murphy says “Phhhbbbbbt….”

Daisy, Shaun and I walk the short hill to the winter paddock.  We startle a heron on the way past the lake.

We chat and hike. It’s warm.  Sunny.  Strangely spring-like. Daisy calls Murphy, and he begins to walk down the hill to greet us, stopping after a few steps. Somewhat reluctant. Daisy hikes up and halters him, leading him down. When he gets to us, we mob him, and he perks right up.  Hugs!  Kisses!  Brushing! Neck rubs!

Then we had a little matter of “What is this Leading thing of which you speak?  Leading? I don’t understand “leading”.

But he was incredibly polite about it. He didn’t fight. I put my hand on his butt.  Daisy gave another tug and release. Murphy instantly remembered “leading”.

Ah, the more difficult part of horse ownership.  Leading balk? That means the lovely play time ends, and we go for a walk around the property, outside the paddock.  It was beautiful!  (And my hand pushed on his butt a lot.)

Our boy is 8 months old.  Do you believe it?

I could not seem to get a decent picture of him, no matter how hard I tried.  I was stuck in “frame every photo badly”.  The hazy sky made for flat, low light, with little contrast. Except for the dumb photographer, this would be an okay-ish photo.  Can anyone spot the problem?

You saw it! Most horses DO have hooves.

Murphy wasn’t feeling the photo shoot either:

Oh no…sudden lack of affinity for the camera…could we be seeing glimpses of the teen to come? So uncool of me to photograph him.


New Study of Human/Horse Bonding: Horses Remember

From Discovery News, by Jennifer Viegas:


Horses not only remember people who have treated them well, they also understand words better than expected, research shows….

(click on link to read article)

Check it out, it’s an interesting read. The part in which test horses respond strongly and positively to handlers with food treats doesn’t surprise me.

After all, I respond strongly and more positively to people who have food treats!

It made me think about Tiny, the big draft horse that Lily rescued, and the problems he came with. Part of Tiny’s unconventional rehab program was to receive cookies from his rider after he executed a rider’s request, while she was still in the saddle.

In Tiny’s case, the request was: “walk, please”.

He’d been so over-used as a school horse that he completely shut down. Put a rider on his back, and he refused to move. Not an inch. He didn’t do one bad thing: no bucking, no whirling, no head tossing, no backing up, no rearing. He simply shut down, planted, and endured.

Lily, on a hunch, fully aware that this was considered very bad horsemanship, stuffed her pockets with cookies. When Tiny took his first step forward off her leg and stopped, she held out a cookie, which he politely reached around and took from her.

It was the beginning of every positive change for Tiny. Contrary to what we all expected, including Lily, Tiny did not train us to give him cookies before he’d do anything. He started trying to please, was rewarded, and tried harder. Instead of needing more and more cookies, he needed less and less, until he was simply getting a few at the end of the ride.

I don’t recommend this as a general training method, but it worked for Tiny.

Nice to read the science behind food rewards: how it syncs to horses trusting people, and creating a stronger emotional bond between horse and human.


I believe the Discovery article was written in reference to this paper, and the work, in France, of these scientists.  Click for abstract: Positive interactions lead to lasting positive memories in horses, Equus caballus.

Paper is available for purchase, but not to read online in it’s entirety….

Murphy Monday: In Which We Ace a Step Up Trailer

Murphy is proving to be incredibly sensible, thoughtful, and courageous.  Hudson says it’s because they’re related. (Hudson is convinced their identical twin whorls make them blood relatives. Oh, brother…)

We used a step up this time, since that is the kind of limo that will deliver him to the inspection.  A ton of new ideas, sensations, expectations…he did beautifully, thanks to Hilary’s quiet instruction.

Loading: Barbie is chomping away, completely ignoring everyone.  Daisy offers Murphy the horse equivalent of chocolate.

Hilary gently put one hoof on the mat…


Oh. I should do what with my leg?

Guys? This is awkward? Are you sure this is what…oh. More?

Dude. This is, like, work!

Climbing down? No one said anything about climbing out!

Thinking about it….thinking about it…

…got it!


If I get more time, I’ll see if we can get the backing out photos up.

Good boy Murphy!