Wednesday, July 30, 2008


We had an earthquake yesterday. If you live on the other side of the country from me, it might not have made your evening news broadcast. Or perhaps it did, because I got emails from all of my horse friends on the other side of the Mississippi, wondering if my stalls were still standing.

Everything's fine. And in case you have a map handy, the epicenter was in Chino Hills, which is maybe 10 miles from my house.

One thing you get used to if you're a native Californian is earthquakes. They're just a fact of life, no different than hurricanes in the South or tornadoes in the Midwest. We just deal with them. Unless holes open up in the streets, freeway overpasses collapse or water mains break, we just grab the nearest solid object and hold on until the shaking stops. In fact, I have a saying that I don't get out of bed for anything less than a 5.0. This one ended up being rated as a 5.4. But I wasn't in bed when it came.

So, where was I? I was outside, just starting to longe Wally. I happened to be facing in the direction of Chino Hills, and as I let out the longe line I heard what I thought was the wind.

"Huh," I thought. "It's awfully early in the day for the wind to pick up."

Then I heard a growing groan. Though I contemplated, "sonic boom or explosion" I quickly recognized the familiar tidal wave of noise and rattling as the seismic wave caused the earth to heave as it surged toward me.

Only when the wave hit did Wally leap into the air and spook, but that was probably because the iron panels on our block wall made a distinctive metallic rattle as they shook with the temblor. Then, Wally stopped and looked at me. He seemed momentarily perplexed. Then we both looked around us, saw that everything was still standing, and carried on.

I suppose it's a good thing that both Wally and I were born and raised in earthquake country.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Lameness

Near the end of Sunday's trail ride, Wally went very lame in his right hind leg. I was riding with my friend Natalie and we paused near my house to allow Wally to sip out of the automatic waterer one of my neighbors has mounted on their fence for stoppers by. Natalie's horse is a bit more physically fit than Wally. Okay, I admit it: Wally's a bit of a porker. So while Natalie's horse was still full of energy, Wally was pooped. I'm sure that's because our route had included a long trek to the golf course. And that requires slogging up a gentle yet definite slope to the top of the hill.

Anyway, all was fine until we stopped for Wally to take a drink. When he was finished slurping, I nudged him forward and... he couldn't walk. He was so lame behind that I hopped off to check his hoof for a nail or rock. But he couldn't-- or wouldn't-- budge his leg or foot for me. Fortunately, he had his leg cocked, so I could peer down and see that the underside of his foot was alright.

Thus began the walk home with me frantic as to what had gone wrong with Wally.

After I untacked him and gave him a shower, he barely made it back to his paddock. Then he just stood rock solid still, nickering at me, with his sore hind leg bearing little weight. It was horrible! I ran into the tackroom and grabbed him a peppermint. I knew that Wally was physically unable or mentally unwilling to move when he wouldn't come to me for his treat. Instead, he stood there, whinnying, as if saying, "Can't you please just bring it to me?"

Of course I did. And then I ran inside and called the vet.

Within an hour Jennifer was there. And in contrast to my dramatic pleading on the phone, Wally was at least 50% better. He was walking fine and cleaning up leftover scraps of his breakfast hay. Nevertheless he got an exam. Which revealed nothing: no response to her palpating his back or sacro-iliac area, no swelling or signs of trauma.

Jennifer gave him some anti-inflammatories with instructions to give him more if he wasn't better the next day. Yet he was! In fact, the next day (yesterday) he trotted and cantered around his paddock as if nothing had happened.

The verdict? Even though I know that Wally has some arthritis in his hocks, Jennifer doesn't think that's the cause of The Mysterious Lameness of Sudden Onset and Rapid Recovery. Instead it's most likely something to do with Wally's stifles, which fits with the scenario that this has happened twice now, and both times it was after I'd ridden him up some hills. Most likely he's straining the ligaments around his stifle, which causes pain and cramping. Or at least that's it in a nutshell.

Just to be clear, I am not galloping like a madwoman up and down rocky, winding hills. These are manicured, city-maintained bridle paths.

But Wally, in his porkified state, is apparently not fit enough to do such tasks. So for a while we're going to stick to FLAT trails and add more arena work to get him "legged up" as the race horse people say. I'm relieved that there is a solution to this problem. Wally, on the other hand, probably won't appreciate that solution, as it will require more physical exertion.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions, click on "comments" below or email me at:

Saturday, July 26, 2008

"Aunt" Cindy Rides Topper

After I finished giving my Saturday morning lessons at Sue's place (my former coach's facility) I had time to climb aboard Topper, my sister's Thoroughbred, and give him a little school over the jumps. I truly do enjoy riding Topper. Despite his occasional bouts of goofiness, he's quite the good boy. I've ridden him off and on since Jill got him through a Thoroughbred "rescue" organization, and I even showed him a few times before I got hurt. So when my mom and Jill arrived with Topper in tow, I pulled on my half-chaps, strapped on my helmet, and hopped on. Here's how it went:

First of all I must provide a close-up of Jill's knees as she balances herself on her walker. This is why SHE is not currently riding Topper: she just had her second knee replacement surgery. Notice the matching scars on her legs. If she were a horse at an auction, you would not want to bid on her.

Here I am aboard Topper. I'm patting him because in his mind he's thinking, "Uh-oh. All signs point to 'Bad'." He can already tell it's his Aunt Cindy on board, the lady who first introduced him to jumping, flying lead changes and the fact that hunter courses usually require at least 8 jumping efforts before a horse can pause for a treat.

Topper is a 2'6" horse, meaning he isn't really athletic enough to cruise around bigger, stouter courses of jumps. That's primarily due to the after effects of too much racing. But he's safe and reliable over the lower stuff like this, which is fine with me since my husband would throw a hissy fit if he knew I was jumping even this high. Since my accident I promised him I really wouldn't jump horses anymore. <*cough*>. And yes, I realize I'm jumping a little off-center here, but that's because Jill was dead ahead, taking the photo, and she was teetering on her walker. As I was cantering to the jump I had this horrible vision of Topper landing, galloping up to his Mom in hopes of getting a peppermint and ending up entangled in her walker. I didn't think Jill's orthopedic surgeon would appreciate that.

The schooling session is over and Topper is back in the cross-ties, awaiting his bath. But first he must consume at least a half dozen peppermint candies, payback for packing me around the jumps and putting up with my constant requests to keep galloping. Honestly, who on earth thought this animal had any talent or motivation to be a race horse? Topper says, "Eh, being a race horse required far too much effort. Plus I had to get up really early in the morning, and that just didn't fit with my social plans."


As always, I love to read your thoughts and your own past experiences. Just click on "comments" below or you can email me directly at:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wanted: Men Who Like Horses

"Where is my John Wayne
Where is my prairie son
Where is my happy ending
Where have all the cowboys gone?"

I'm not much of a country music fan but once in a while a particular song catches my attention. Most of the time it's the lyrics that get to me. That's the case with Paula Cole's song, "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone."

Before you get the wrong idea, I'm perfectly happy with my "cowboy" even if he is a retired schoolteacher. Ron has never even worn a cowboy hat except for the time he was coerced into modeling for a photo shoot on western wear for Horse Illustrated.

But right now I can think of four female friends of mine who are growing weary of The Dating Game. Their undying love of riding and horses just complicates matters. The small pool of men that are desirable gets even smaller when those fellows must also accept that horses are a permanent part of any possible love affair.

Believe me, I know this from personal experience. Before I was fortunate enough to cross paths with Ron, I was also caught up in the dilemma of finding a guy who didn't object to my horses. It was tough.

Let's see... I had a crush on Stan, one of my supervisors when I worked at Disneyland. Both of us even worked in Frontierland, the section of the amusement park developed around a pioneer town theme. But one day over lunch he made this remark: "I don't date girls who have a horse because all they ever want to talk about is their horse. 'My horse this, my horse that'... I just get sick of hearing about their stupid horse."

Alrighty then. So much for Stan.

Then there was Ken. His ego would not allow him to be less than an expert in anything, so he persisted in going riding with me. Unfortunately, he couldn't ride. At all. His lack of balance on the back of my mare caused him to yank on the reins and bounce on her back. He was offended when I began to offer him tips on How Not to Get Bucked Off of My Mare. And that pretty much ended my relationship with Ken.

Later on I was engaged to Karl. He rarely came to the barn. He grudgingly tolerated my horse, an off-the-track Thoroughbred I'd retrained as a hunter and trail horse. But as the time approached for us to set a wedding date, he began to demand that I choose between him and the horse. He actually said these words: "I think you love that horse more than me."

Uhm, what was I supposed to say to that?

Since I had a diamond ring on my finger, I did something totally out of character: I actually sold my horse just to appease Karl! But soon I realized I had also sold a part of my identity. I wasn't happy and I began to resent Karl. Our engagement ended and soon afterwards I bought another horse. In fact, I bought two!

My luck changed with the last guy I dated before I met Ron. Farrin was a cute but poor surf bum. I didn't envision him as a potential lifelong soul mate, but at least Farrin had a passion for an outdoor physical activity. He knew what it was like to be involved with a group of people who had their own lingo, who wore specialized clothing, and who woke up each morning with one purpose in mind: "How much time can I set aside to enjoy the one thing that gives my life meaning?"

Farrin gave me two gifts while we were dating. One was a gold pendant of a galloping horse. The other was a crystal horse made from blown glass. See? At least he understood how much horses meant to me.

That experience made me realize that I didn't necessarily have to find a man who loved horses or riding. I just needed one who thought it was perfectly fine for me to indulge in an activity that might not include him.

That's why when I met Ron I snapped him up. Because he has his own interests and hobbies, he understands mine. In fact, right before we became engaged, he went off on a scuba diving trip to the Caribbean. I was headed out of state to a horse show. When we re-connected two weeks later, our relationship was not only intact, it was stronger, because we shared the photos and memories from our respective adventures. That's when I knew I had found Mr. Right.

Some of my horsey women friends also found their Mr. Right. Leslie's husband willingly helps her out at horse shows. He couldn't bridle or saddle a horse if he had to, but he's perfected the art of applying hoof polish and Show Sheen at the backgate. Jennifer's husband wasn't a horseman, but he took basic western riding lessons from me, got his own horse and began trail riding. That gave him a better insight to his wife's love of horses. Debbie's husband is a confirmed animal lover, so her horses were simply incorporated into his menagerie. Liza is one of Southern California's top professional trainers, but her husband has a career in the construction industry. Their jobs have nothing in common, but they make use of their own talents. That leads to healthy mutual respect.

So, you see, there are some Mr. Rights out there for horsewomen. They just don't always look like cowboys. While I grant you that they may be hard to find, once they're discovered they're worth the effort.

Share your experiences-- good or bad-- by clicking on "comments" below or emailing me at:

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Cowboy Question

My sister, Jill, is still recuperating from her knee replacement surgery, so a couple of times a week I am shuttling over to El Ranchito. That's the pet name we gave to our parents' little spread on the other side of town. My temporary assignments are to exercise Jill's horse, Topper, and turn out my mom's warmblood mare, April, and her palomino colt, Cowboy. As you probably recall, Cowboy was a bit of an experiment. We bred April-- a big, fancy Oldenburg/Trakehner mare-- to a much smaller cremello AQHA stallion in hopes of getting a sweet, useful, all-purpose riding horse. You know, a nice "family" horse. At least that was the plan.
Young Cowboy is maturing so quickly that he seems to change every time I see him. He's no longer a yellow fuzz ball. He's become quite elegant and leggy. Plus, he moves with a great deal of suspension, much like his (mostly) Trakehner mom. Genetically there's a 15.1-hand Quarter horse in there... someplace. I just can't quite see it. This makes me wonder if Cowboy himself is a little conflicted. Does he emulate his sire, the all-around working Quarter horse? Or does he envision himself following in the hoofprints of his mother's side of the family, which boasts a long heritage of champion hunters and jumpers? Who knows. Perhaps the young palomino may suffer from some sort of equine schizophrenic angst! With that bizarro concept in mind, here are a couple of Cowboy pics I snapped today:

Here Cowboy is momentarily pausing in the shade of the mulberry tree. I can't decide if he's studying an imaginary jumping course or figuring out which mythical steer to cut from a herd. I guess that's what happens when you're 1/2 warmblood and 1/2 Quarter horse.
(*Note my parents' curious Labradoodle lurking in the background, just outside the arena. Since he's the same color as Cowboy, he doesn't think I can see him. But I can).

Now Cowboy decides to demonstrate his best impression of a young jumper galloping down to the final fence in a timed jump-off. Or maybe he's chasing a steer. It's hard to tell. But notice how his mother seems to be thinking, "Sheesh. I wish this kid of mine would slow down. I mean, I have an awesome extended trot, but this is getting ridiculous. Can we just WALK for cryin' out loud?"

In time, we'll be able to tell whether Cowboy will be a "cowboy" or a hunter/jumper performance horse. Or, I should say, Cowboy will let us know what he wants to be.


As always, I welcome your comments and emails. You can click on "comments" below or email me at:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Supplemental Income

When I bought Wally over a year ago, the seller was upfront with me about Wally's hocks. They have arthritic changes. Wally's creaky hocks certainly don't prevent him from being a wonderful horse for recreational riding, but it's always lurking in the back of my mind that I need to baby him a little.

Wally was on an oral joint supplement when I bought him, and my vet, Jennifer, suggested keeping him on it. I gambled once and tried stopping the supplement, just to see what would happen. Well, guess what? Wally didn't go lame, but he seemed stiffer at the jog. While I realize that's hardly a scientific study, it was enough of a scare to prompt me to rush out to the local vet supply store and buy another canister of joint supplement.

I'm a confirmed comparison shopper, so I stood in the aisle for at least 15 minutes, comparing amounts of glucosamine in one product versus MSM and chondroitin totals in other products. I also got caught in the trap of, "Surely the most expensive supplement is the best, because it must cost more to make the superior product."

Yeah, right.

So now Wally is back on his daily joint supplement, pricey as it is. Each time I fill up the itty bitty scoop with the pelleted supplement I think about how much each one of those tiny green pellets cost. It's like I'm feeding Wally a heaping spoonful of granulated gold.

This most recent purchase of buying an equine joint has led me to this discovery: Owning a horse is expensive!

I know. You came to this conclusion a long time ago.
Fortunately I've learned to appreciate the cheaper things that help make my life with horses enjoyable. Not every purchase has to be a big ticket item. About twice a month I'll satisfy my urge to buy something horsey, but force myself to stick to something cheap. A squeeze bottle of tail de-tangler, a new lead rope or a funky cowgirl t-shirt off the sale rack are some of my latest finds. And each one cost less than a dozen dollars, which leaves me more money for Wally's next jug of diamond dust. I mean joint supplement. For other suggestions of nifty, thrifty ideas to use around the barn that cost under $20, click on this link:Not Everything Horsey Costs a Fortune
It's the latest installment of HI Spy on Horse Channel. If you can think of other things that cost under $20, add them to the comments section at the end of the article. Who knows, your ideas might end up in Horse Illustrated magazine!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Wally as Tour Guide

Today I decided to let Wally write the blog. It was an interesting experiment, as I had to hold the reins with one hand, the camera with the other, and take mental notes of Wally's commentary while I was riding. But here it goes, in Wally's own words:

"It's a lovely summer morning and I'm headin' down the trail just across the street from my home. As you can tell, the neighbors spend a lot of time with their landscaping. But I can't figure out why no one around here grows anything edible, like carrots. Or corn. Or peppermint plants."

"Huh. This looks interesting. If I hadn't gorged myself on my usual breakfast of orchard grass, alfalfa and a scoop of beet pulp sweet feed, I might have the energy to actually get excited about heavy machinery. But nah... I'm too lazy. Instead, I'd like to imagine that if I come back as a human in my next life, I'd like the job that guy has: holding a sign and standing still a lot."

"Here I am, waiting for the signal to change so my mom and I can cross one of the busier streets in town. She taught me to stand patiently at the curb by reaching down and handing me a peppermint candy while we waited. I didn't quite have the heart to break it to her that I was perfectly happy to stand still even without the peppermint bribe."

"Sometimes I get to cross paths with some of my buddies in town. That's Little Bay horse on the left and Bigger Darker Bay horse on the right. While the human Moms yakked about the weather, we horses were planning a midnight corral break to go visit the mares up the hill. That's the beauty of secret horse languages: The humans never really know what you're thinking! Of course, I doubt it'll happen, but we horses have to dream, you know. Oh. And the human on the right mentioned that I had a 'big gorgeous butt.' Obviously she has particularly good taste."

"And now here I am, crossing the final little street right in front of my house. My mom is always amazed that I never seem to be barn sour. Why would I be in a hurry to get home? While I admit I love my house (although once again, notice the plants: NOTHING EDIBLE!), there are so many adventures that await me on the trails. Why hurry home when fun is only over the next hilltop?"


If you'd like to leave a note for Wally you can click on "comments" below or email me (and I'll forward your thoughts) at:

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Snooping on my Friends. Sort of.

In yet another sign that the entire world is connected by the Internet, there is a website where you can keep track of many of the horse shows in the western states. You can enter classes online, check the schedules and even read the results as soon as they're posted by the horse show secretary. I've developed a fascination with that aspect of the website.

If I judged one of the horse shows listed on the site, I can go home that evening and see who I was pinning all day. Since I'm not actively competing anymore, it's educational for me to see just which horse or rider I found particularly intriguing during the day. Usually my discovery is met with this reaction: "Oh, no wonder I liked that girl on that chestnut horse. They won the regional medal finals last year!"

But another reason I go to that website and check horse show results is to see how some of my former horse show pals are doing. We don't always stay in touch via email or by phone, so it's convenient for me to look up the latest rated show and see that they did well in their hunter or equitation class. I have one friend who switched from competing in hunters to doing the jumper division. Plus she's doing it on a new horse. It's fun for me to keep track of her progress. "Good for her!" I'll think to myself, "She's moved up to a higher level of jumpers and she won a ribbon!"

Then again, I guess I'm also living vicariously through the exploits of my past buddies. Sometimes I get a pang of... jealousy? Or maybe it's that in some small part of my being I still have a wistful attachment to All That Was Good about horse shows. I used to love the manic preparation beforehand, like re-stocking the tack trunk. And then there was that barely containable excitement I felt when I pulled the horse trailer into the showgrounds. I'd be bubbling over with enthusiasm while I checked the stabling chart to find our stalls. No one could rip open a bag of shavings and get a show stall in crisp order faster than me! But my favorite part of horse shows? The "do or die" adrenaline rush of riding through the in-gate and starting on course. There's nothing like it.

All of those feelings still seem real and valid, yet as time goes by they become harder and harder to access. I guess I have this fear that someday they'll evaporate, just like the dew on a bale of fresh alfalfa.

Don't get me wrong. I'm quite content riding Wally on the trails. And whether I was really ready, emotionally, to leave the world of horse shows as a competitor, the decision was made for me when I was injured. What's done is done. But at least I can still check the horse show website, and cheer silently for the ones still doing it.

You can always contribute your thoughts by clicking on "comments" or emailing me at:

Friday, July 11, 2008

"*@*!#*! That Hurt!"

My sister Jill recently had yet another knee surgery (I'm not sure how many knees she has, but I believe they have all been remodeled or replaced by now), so she's totally out of commission for the time being. That means that I am driving across town several days a week to our parents' place so that I can turn out Cowboy and his dam and clean their paddock. I'm also playing stepmother to Topper, Jill's Thoroughbred.

Now, none of this truly bothers me except that I'm constantly injuring myself whenever I handle either the mare, the colt or Topper. They're just little bumps and scrapes, but nonetheless I'm beginning to resemble the walking wounded. Today, when I took the lead chain off of Topper so he could run loose in the arena, the end of the stud chain swung back around and thwacked me in my bare, bony shin. Of course, I was wearing shorts, so now I'm sporting a bloody lump on the front of my leg. And it's turning a wonderful shade of hematoma purple.

I find some solace in knowing that I'm not the only horsewoman who is covered periodically in bumps, bruises, cuts and scrapes. Believe me, I've heard other tales of maiming.

One of my favorite stories is from several years ago. An acquaintance of mine walked out to her pasture, loaded up with a handful of Rhinopneumonitis vaccines for her band of broodmares. One by one she inoculated her mares, stuffing all of the syringes in the chest pocket of her blouse. She claims the last thing she remembered was trying to give her oldest, most "testy" mare her Rhino shot and then... She came-to on the ground. With one of the Rhino syringes stuck in her chest.

She was fine. The mare was fine. The needle and syringe... Not so fine. Now, whether or not she was inadvertently vaccinated against Rhinopneumonitis, no one officially knows. But there's a lesson there--- someplace. I think the lesson is something about always taking a halter and lead rope with you when you head out to vaccinate a herd of mares. But there are also a few laughs involved, too, and that's what matters right now.

Another one of my gal pals was working around her backyard corrals and did the classic Stepping on the Wrong Part of the Heavy Metal Rake routine, whereby the hefty wooden handle flipped up and whacked her in the cheek. Naturally, she got a doozie of a black eye. And when she tried to explain what happened when she went to work the next day, most of her co-workers sort of went, "Uh-huh. Right." They seemed certain that she'd been on the losing end of a fist fight. No, she'd just lost a round with a rake.

There are countless other stories I can add to the list of Barnyard Bang-Ups. I had a horse's standing martingale break at the most inopportune moment, so that its poll smacked me in the face as I was leaning forward. That was a very special black eye.

I once extricated a struggling horse that was choking itself from being tied incorrectly. It was setting back, pulling against the tie rope snugged to the hitching post, while also strangling itself. My reward for freeing it? Once the pressure was relieved the horse reared up and backwards, slamming into me and knocking out my front teeth. That was an expensive trip to the dentist!

Just about anyone who spends any time around horses ends up battered in some fashion. I guess we can wear our wounds like battle scars. Such is the reward for spending our lives around horses.

You can share your thoughts by clicking on "comments" below.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

"So, you want to write about horses?"

Ah yes, the glamorous life: This is me at 6:30 a.m., fresh out of bed, trying hard to finish writing an article ahead of deadline.

Over the years I've gotten plenty of emails and letters from readers who are aspiring equestrian journalists. I can understand why my job seems to appeal to a lot of horse lovers. I have the liberty to make my own work schedule and I'm getting paid to write about horses and to interview famous horse people! What could be greater than that?

But let me assure you, there are some less than glamorous aspects to my job. Before you decide you want to pursue becoming an equestrian journalist, consider the following:

First of all, you will never get rich. Horse publications are lumped together with other hobby and special interest magazines. They never pay as much as mainstream publications. However, writing about horses is a good supplemental income-- if you write consistently-- and it's the perfect job to support a horse. Just don't expect to support yourself. Or a family.

Second, you will have to accept that, ultimately, your editor determines what you're going to write about. For example, you might want to share your theory of horsemanship with the world, but unless you're a household name along the lines of George Morris or Pat Parelli, chances are you won't find an editor who's interested in your thesis. The exception? If you have a proven, successful history in an equestrian sport or performance event, you're awarded an element of "street cred." Then you can indeed write from your own area of expertise, although once again it'll be limited. Unless you're Olympic medallist Debbie McDonald writing about how to execute a perfect dressage freestyle performance, you'll still be confined to writing insightful tips for amateur and novice riders... not that there's anything wrong with that!

But most of the time you'll be assigned to write what sells magazines, and that includes mundane topics like how to properly hitch up a horse trailer, the latest fly care and de-wormer products, and tips on grooming a horse for competition. And then, one day, you might get to interview George Morris or Pat Parelli!

Third, it takes a long time to establish yourself and get steady, regular work. I think the first article I ever sold was for the old Pacific Quarter Horse Journal. That was a couple of decades ago and I was paid a whopping $25. But it got my foot in the door and I could officially claim that I was published. Over time, I proved to various editors that I could take any assigned topic, hunt down whatever sources were necessary to gain expert insight on the topic, and turn it into a readable, informative, yet entertaining article. And even more important? I never missed a deadline! By building a good reputation, I found myself in the enviable position of never having to seek work: it came to me.

So. How might you get started as an equestrian journalist?

1. Get an education. While a degree in English, communications or journalism might not be required, the ability to competently compose a standard 5-paragraph expository essay is.

2. Branch out. Though your background might only be in gymkhana games or dressage or working cow horse events, you'll have to develop an appreciation and understanding of all types of riding disciplines and breeds. Otherwise, you'll be truly limited in what you can passionately write about.

3. Practice your interviewing skills. Learn how to handle a small tape recorder or take detailed notes in your own shorthand. Get used to approaching professional people by being professional in your own demeanor. For example, when I've interviewed celebrities about their love for horses and riding, I force myself to focus on that specific topic. I refrain from gushing about their latest movie or how awesome they look. That tends to make them think I'm a crazed fan. Or a stalker.

4. Come up with fresh ideas to impress an editor. Editors plan their magazine's content almost a year in advance, with little room for last minute additional articles. If you're the new writer in town, you have to offer something snazzy to get room on an already crowded page.

Still interested?

If so, the surest way to connect with an editor is to solicit a copy of the publication's Writer's Guidelines. That will include precise information on how to submit articles for consideration. At the same time, do a little research on the magazine itself. What are its demographics? What type of articles are regularly found on its pages? Is the tone typically light and entertaining, or strictly informative? Look through the last 3 or 4 issues to see which topics have recently been covered. There's no sense in promoting the article you've written about the plight of the American Mustang if the magazine just ran a three-part series on the exact same topic.

Finally, allow yourself to be humble. Accept the smallest of assignments just so you have the opportunity to prove yourself. Eventually, you'll find your own voice and develop your own style, just as I have. That could lead to book deals (I just finished my fourth!) and other fun jobs like writing ad copy for horse care product manufacturers (now that pays well!). You might even expand your horizon beyond horses. Besides Horse Illustrated and Horse Channel, I also write for a variety of other publications that are not horse-related. People are often surprised to hear that, but conducting research, interviewing a source and composing an article is the same regardless of the subject matter. Recently I wrote an article profiling an environmental activist and another one on how to select the perfect pair of gym shoes.

Your life could also have such variety. It just takes some determination to convince an editor that you're serious about writing, and time to build your reputation. Then you can be like me, sitting here in my pajamas, typing away on a computer!

Click on "comments" below or email me at: to share your thoughts.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

How I Spent My Fourth of July Vacation

Well, the potato salad was a big hit at the neighborhood barbecue. If you're into collecting recipes, here it is. I'm sharing it because it also travels well as part of a picnic lunch. So if you plan on packing a cooler for your next horse show or day-long trail ride, you can whip some up and take it along:

2 or 3 lbs. fresh small red potatoes
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped

4 oz. mayo (1/2 of the small jar)
5 oz. sweet pickle relish (1/2 of the small jar)
2 tablespoons honey mustard
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
Dash of salt and pepper
1 bunch fresh tarragon, leaves only, coarsely chopped (find in produce section)
* You can increase the amount of dressing if you'd like by simply adding a little more honey mustard, mayo and relish.

Cut the small red potatoes in half or quarters; boil with the skins on, just until you can insert a fork into them. Drain and allow to cool. Mix dressing and spoon over potato mixture and gently stir to coat everything. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours so that the tastes blend. YUMMY!

Now that that's out of the way...

The rest of the holiday weekend was spent putting a thick layer of soft sand into Wally's turnout pen, as that's where he sleeps at night. I really want to avoid him getting any bedsores on his fetlocks and hocks from lying on hard ground, so Ron and I made three trips in the truck to haul in a couple of yards of sand. Who knew that you had to "shop" for just the right kind of sand? Anyway, there we were, in 100+ degree weather, shoveling sand from the back of the truck into a wheelbarrow, and then dumping it into Wally's paddock. Over and over again. And then I had to use the big heavy metal rake to smooth out all of the sand.

For those of you who have ever seen the classic Paul Newman movie "Cool Hand Luke" you kind of get the mental image of what Ron and I looked like yesterday afternoon. It was as if we were on a chain gang and Wally was the foreman, watching comfortably from his perfectly shaded, fully covered stall. (His "cabana").

Of course, when I woke up this morning I could see where Wally had rolled and slept and then gotten up and rolled and slept some more. And naturally he'd peed and pooped numerous times, all in the new, soft sand! So essentially what I created yesterday -- slaving away in the heat-- was a giant litterbox for my horse! And yet I love him.

I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Fourth of July! You can share your thoughts by clicking on "comments" below.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy Fourth of July! Now please, pass the potato salad...

Tomorrow is the big whoop-tee-do holiday and I'm planning to get up really early and ride before it gets too hot. But then, what would Fourth of July in Southern California be without triple-digit temperatures? Once Wally has his after-ride shower and is tucked away, out of the afternoon sun in his "cabana," I'll begin the task of preparing my annual Tub of Potato Salad. Yes, that's right: I can easily morph from trail riding/stall mucking/tack-cleaning horsewoman to Queen of the Kitchen... as long as it doesn't involve baking cookies. I simply cannot bake a decent batch of cookies, but that's a topic for a different sort of blog. Or therapy.

The potato salad will then be shuttled down to our neighbor's house, where the festivities begin about 5:00. Since we all either own horses, ride horses or appreciate horses, the conversation often leads to something about horses, which is nice. Nothing like grazing my way through a potluck supper while discussing recent trends in horseshoeing or the most effective paste de-wormer.

Once the sun sets and we've all consumed our fill of guacamole and... potato salad... and whatever gets grilled on the barbecue, most of us will head off to the community park which hosts the annual fireworks extravaganza. One year a pinwheel ran amuck and flew into the crowd of spectators, briefly creating havoc, but I believe that technical advances in securing pinwheels to posts have increased since then (i.e., use a bigger nail). So I doubt that'll happen again.

Fortunately, Wally isn't bothered by the various displays of fireworks in our area. Due to the danger of fires starting in our dry foothills, fireworks are illegal around here, except in organized, official displays at parks and stadiums. Nonetheless, Wally can still hear the "boom!" and see the high-flying pyrotechnical displays as they ascend into the nightsky. Wally being Wally, I think he actually enjoys the show. And why not? Horses played a big part in America's war for independence. You can read about some of the horsey historical trivia I researched in this short article on Horse Channel:
Horses That Helped America Gallop to Freedom

Now go get ready to celebrate the Fourth of July. And think of me, elbow deep in chopped red potatoes and pickle relish.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Wally's Water World

Wally says, "Hey, don't you know it's not polite to stare at a horse when he's in the shower?"

I hate to keep repeating myself, but it's hot out here. Summer has definitely arrived! But once again, I always keep my horse's comfort in mind. Just like all of you, I fret about my horse standing in the sun all day or baking in the heat. So I toss him into his covered paddock (his "cabana") during the afternoon. Or I turn on a pop-up sprinkler that Ron installed. It's located right outside Wally's turnout pen. Honestly, I didn't mean for Wally to use it as his personal shower. It really was designed to knock down the dust, especially so that when we're hosting a BBQ our guests don't make comments like, "My, what gives this cole slaw that crunchiness?"

(Answer: "Oh, that would be the dust from Wally's turnout paddock.")

But as you can see, Wally enjoys the spray from the pop-up sprinkler. In fact, he'll trot right into the water as soon as he hears it shooshing through the air. I'm glad Wally sees the pop-up sprinkler as something meant for his summertime comfort. However, I have news for him. I ABSOLUTELY draw the line at buying him a wading pool, Water Wiggle or Slip 'N Slide. Sometimes even Horse Moms have to say, "No."

Share your cool comments on a hot summer day by clicking on "comments" below or emailing me at