Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wally as Poet, Part II

I came home today from teaching my riding lessons and went straight to the medicine cabinet. I had to give the lesson horse a quick school through a grid of jumps and it jolted my neck and set off painful muscle spasms. Needless to say, I wasn't in any condition to ride Wally as planned. It made me feel guilty. He stood at the gate, nickering at me, wondering why I was ignoring him. I couldn't resist his cute face. I went into the feedroom, grabbed a handful of peppermints and apologized. In response, Wally wrote this haiku:
Mother is unsound
She's creaky like old race horse
I know a good vet...
Hopefully I can saddle up Wally and trail ride him tomorrow. Otherwise he may have something even worse to say about me!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Wally as Poet

Wally occasionally greets me in the morning with small patches of hives. Oddly, he only gets The Bumpies on exposed parts of his body, which prompted my vet to surmise that it's some sort of contact allergy. Yet I've tried switching fly sprays, feed, shampoo and bedding. I've had Wally sleep outside in his paddock on dirt and inside in his stall on shavings. Nothing seems to matter. So my solution is to clothe him from head to toe before he goes to bed. It beats dosing him daily with antihistamines. The bad news? My horse looks like a professional wrestler before sunset. After I dress him in his pajamas, Wally always looks so humiliated. He's undoubtedly the most expressive horse I've ever owned. In fact, he recently began composing poetry to convey his feelings. He favors haiku, a Japanese form of poetry that is both succinct and descriptive. Haikus always have 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second and 5 again in the third. Here's the first haiku that Wally allowed me to share:
I have allergies.
Mother dresses me funny.
I am embarrassed.
With the cold, wet days of winter weather upon us, Wally will have plenty of free time to write plenty of haiku. Who knows what he'll write about next!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

That Christmas Eve Legend

I have a friend named Di (short for Diana) who lives in Ireland. She's a lifelong horsewoman, a former three day eventing rider, who owns a small herd of Irish warmbloods that live in the pasture surrounding her house. Di shares tales of their funny quirks and flirtations with disaster. Each one is a mischief maker, much like my Wally.

Di was the first person that told me the legend about horses-- indeed all barnyard animals-- being blessed with the ability to speak at midnight on Christmas Eve. It's a popular bit of folklore in Ireland and throughout Europe, and I think it's rather intriguing. If you want to read the history of the legend, just click on this link which will take you to the December 24th segment of the Holiday Countdown on Horse Channel:

The Curious Case of the Talking Horses at Midnight

I think this legend captivates me because I would define myself as a spiritual person. I definitely believe there are miraculous things that happen. Usually we're just too busy or too close minded to notice them. Now, does that mean that I'm certain that tonight at midnight Wally will begin conversing? Though I'm not above tip-toeing out to his stall late tonight to see if I can overhear him pontificating, I'll probably stay inside, snuggled under the thick comforter on my bed. Rather than risk the disheartening possibility that Wally will remain silent, I'd prefer to just continue to believe that maybe, just maybe, the legend is true. And wouldn't that be wonderful?

Of course, that then prompts the question: What would Wally say if he did speak?

Part of me thinks he'd say nothing profound. He'd simply chatter about his addiction to peppermint candies or how he relishes freshly baled orchard grass. But then there's another part of me that's confident Wally would utter what I'd love to hear most: That he's grateful he ended up in my backyard; that I'm kind to him; that he enjoys our trail rides; and that he regrets constantly grabbing things in his mouth (like the reins, the lead rope and my shirt sleeve), but he just can't help himself. To hear him reveal such sentiments would make my Christmas that much merrier.
Merry Christmas! And if you'd like to share your thoughts, click on "comments" below or email me at:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Horse Wear for Christmas

I've only got one more Christmas present to buy and instead of feeling invigorated, like I'm headed out on a hunt, I'm rather melancholy. Buying the final present signals that Christmas is pretty much over. Or at least it's winding down. I think I'm feeling this way because this last, straggling gift is nothing glamorous. I'm on my way out the door to buy a two-piece rain suit for Ron.

The other day, when it was pouring rain and Ron and I were outside, schlepping sandbags across the horse trail in an effort to avoid erosion, we both looked at each other and decided we resembled Sissy Spacek and Mel Gibson in the climatic scene from the 1984 film, "The River." The two stars, husband and wife, were fighting the forces of nature to keep their ranchland from being washed away by floods caused by a relentless storm. At least I had on my famed Goretex parka. Mel-- I mean Ron-- was clothed in only a corduroy shirt, jeans and his muck boots.

I gave him that pair of muck boots last Christmas. When he opened the box, he stared at the rubberized shoes, then looked at me and said in an odd tone, "No one's ever given me a pair of muck boots before."

Well, this Christmas he's going to open a box and discover a men's size medium rain suit. And he'll probably say, "No one's ever given me a rain suit before."

But much like the muck boots, he'll end up by wearing the rain suit more often than he'd like. And so it goes when you live your life around horses. Even Christmas gifts are influenced by the amount of time you spend tending to the beasties.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Dear Noah: Please send ark..."

Okay, it can stop raining. Right. Now. As much as I like winter clothing, especially my pretty cashmere sweaters and my snazzy waterproof Goretex parka, I'm really getting sick and tired of peeling off wet socks and towel drying my hair.

For those of you who live in regions where winter comes on with a vengeance, you probably don't understand how devastating it is to Southern California when it rains-- hard-- for several days in a row. We're a bunch of cowards. We become overwhelmed with anxiety when the sun doesn't shine for a couple of days. That's because we simply aren't prepared for cold, stormy weather. Ever. There's too much asphalt and too little infrastructure so any amount of measurable rain results in flooding. And where it doesn't flood, there is mud. Everywhere.

Fortunately, I live on a hillside that's mostly granite and boulders, so I don't have mud. Instead, the water runs off in sheets of glassy wetness. And I also have several in-ground drains. But we've had so much rain for so long a period that my drains simply cannot escort the water off the property fast enough. That means that Wally's turnout is looking less like a sandy paddock and more like the Mississippi delta.

At least Wally's covered stall is cozy and dry... for the most part. When the wind blows, the rain comes down horizontally and blows inside the stall, so there are some wet spots along the inside panels. But otherwise he's quite pampered. Still, when I fed him this evening, he looked at me like, "I've had enough of this wet, cold weather. I am not happy. I would much prefer to get out, thank you very much, so will you please make it stop?"

Believe me, if I had any power over the weather, I would exercise it. If I could control the weather, it'd be perpetually 78 degrees. But then, where's the challenge in living in that type of climate? And when would I ever get the opportunity to wear my Goretex parka? After all, nothing says "feminine glamor" like Goretex.
Got your own winter weather woes? Share them by clicking on "comments" below.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas in My Town

It's getting closer to Christmas! Last night Ron and I attended a party on our street, hosted by one of our horse-owning neighbors. Their house was decorated in a Cowboy Christmas theme. After that, I began to notice some of the other holiday decorations around me. Here's just a sampling of what Wally and I are encountering these days on the local trails:
This sculpture sits in my neighbor's front yard. She added the velveteen cap and cape about a week ago. "I call it 'Santa Horse'," she said.

This afternoon a quartet of riders came down the trail. Each lady was wearing a red sweater and they had their horses decked out in holiday doo-dads. I particularly like the hair accessories on this Haflinger mare. Doesn't she look festive?

And then there's this intriguing display around the corner from my house. The people who live here own several horses, and this statue of a palomino sits alongside their driveway. Since the day after Thanksgiving, the palomino has taken on some Christmas apparel. And it has also acquired a rider. From a distance, when I ride past on Wally, it looks like a monkey. But once I got closer, it's obviously an elf. Either way-- elf or monkey-- when you stick some tinsel and a pair of fake antlers on a horse statue, it ends up being cute. Or at least provocative. I hope that Christmas has come to your town, too!
Click on "comments" below to share your thoughts and ideas.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Never Break One's Own Set of Rules

So today I saddled up Wally and headed down the trail, ignoring one of my own Rules of Engagement Related to High, Frisky Horses. That particular rule would be, "When in doubt, longe first."

But Wally looked so lackadaisical there in his paddock. I thought, "How high can he possibly be?"

I soon found out.

Everything was going fine until I passed a pile of overturned trash cans. Now, usually Wally is very ho-hum about such things, but today he acted as if each topsy turvy trash container was a portal to hell. The next sign that Wally was too high for his own good-- and my safety-- was that we turned the corner and headed past an open pasture where two gals were galloping their horses around the outskirts of a recently furrowed field. I glanced down at Wally's shadow on the ground and I could see that he was holding his tail aloft, sort of how John Henry looked when he pranced to the starting gate.

Oh dear.

As one of the riders sped past me in the opposite direction, Wally began to snort and strut. Anyone who's been aboard a really high, rambunctious horse knows that sound: it's much akin to the snort of a fire-breathing dragon. Or a vacuum cleaner.

My options were limited. I could:

A) hop off and attempt to control Wally from the ground, as I led him with my bad arm for the mile or so it took to get home

B) go the discipline route and try to get his attention focused back on me (which would require me to take a tighter hold of his mouth, not a good idea with a horse who was already bubbling to the brim with energy, much like a bottle of champagne about to pop its cork)

C) stay on and rely on another one of my Rules of Engagement Related to High, Frisky Horses: "When in Doubt, Go Forward!"

I settled on Option C. And thus I rode home much like Neptune aboard a sea serpent, with Wally beneath me gallumping along at a rollicking canter with an arched neck, enflamed nostrils and a flagging tail.

I rode past my house and went straight to the arena, where Mr. Wally was treated to about 30 minutes of flatwork. We leg yielded diagonally across the arena. We sidepassed. We loped circle after circle after circle. We made numerous loops at the extended trot. My neighbor, Audrey, rode in on her mustang gelding and asked how Wally was today. I told her all about the near-explosion on the trail.

"You're so brave, Cindy," is what she said.

No, truly, bravery had little to do with it. I merely ran out of other options. (See: A through C, above).

Naturally, once I was satisfied that Wally was both tired and submissive, I left the arena and revisited the same exact trail route I'd taken earlier. You know, just to see if Wally would behave. Or maybe I was tempting fate. Whatever.

Fortunately, Wally was fine. He even waltzed past the cluster of over-turned trash cans without so much as flicking a sorrel ear at them. However, despite my eventual success story, I know that next time, when it's cool and breezy and Wally hasn't been worked in a couple of days, I'll stick to my rules.
Have your own "rules"? Want to share those or any other thoughts, just click on "comments" below or email me at:

Monday, December 8, 2008

But I Want to Ride MY Horse!

"You can have 10 horses and every single one of them can have some reason why they can't be ridden."

That was what my vet said this morning when she handed me some additional meds to keep on hand for Wally. I had just whined that what I needed was a second horse for back-up, for days when Wally was-- for whatever reason-- out of commission. My vet's point was that the average horse is forever finding ways to maim or lame itself, so adding another one wasn't necessarily going to help me out. When I grumbled she added, "Welcome to the world of horses."

No kidding.

As you might recall, I spent a minor fortune on Legend shots for Wally, in hopes that it would stave off the arthritis in his hocks that made him a little creaky on some days. Perhaps that was accomplished. I can't tell yet. What I do know is that last week, once I had him tacked up for a nice trail ride, he was lame in his right hind leg. Not, "Oh my God, he has a broken leg!" lame, but definitely off at the jog. So we turned around and headed home.

I was in the depths of despair because not only did I really need a ride that morning to alleviate some pre-holiday blues, but I began to worry about Wally. What if he was never sound again? What if I had to stow him at my parents' place in perpetual retirement? What if I had to start shopping for yet another horse? What if... ?

I can make myself crazy doing that.

Fortunately, the whole incident seemed to be nothing more than a strain, the result, no doubt, of him running around during a turnout in the arena the day before. He'd acted like an utter fool, gallumping and bucking in huge ovals like he was trying out for lead bronc at the National Finals Rodeo. After 5 days of rest and a light longe on Saturday, he seems perfectly fine. I'm going to tack him up and ride him this morning.

Luckily, I always have plenty of horses in town to ride if Wally is temporarily out of service. There's a barn full of hunters at Sue's and my sister's horse, Topper, is happy to indulge me. But I want to ride Wally. I know every single thing about him: the way his hooves feel when they hit the ground at the jog, the way I can sit his lope like I'm in an over-stuffed recliner, the manner in which he struts down the trail like he's lead stallion in some phantom herd of fine mares. In other words, I enjoy riding any horse, but I want to ride my horse.

I'll bet most of you feel the same way.
You can click on "comments" or email me at: to share your thoughts.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Countdown to Christmas

'Twas the nightmare before Christmas... Oh wait. I think I just stole those words from a Tim Burton film. My apologies. But despite the fact that I utterly LOVE the holiday season, I'm starting to feel overwhelmed: Too many gifts to buy, too many crafty things I planned on making (in too little time) and too much food concocted with cream cheese. My budget, my mind and my stomach are just not cut out for the six weeks that run from mid-November through New Years Day. At least I had fun decorating my Christmas tree, as you can see by the photo. Since I'm mesmerized by anything bright and shiny, our tree is covered in mostly sparkly glass ornaments, and thus the flash on my camera was completely blitzed out by the reflected glare. If you're anything like me and you start to countdown the days until Santa comes to town, click on this link to the Holiday Countdown on Horse Channel: Ways to Keep the Holidays Horsey.
Yes, I wrote each of the entries on the holiday countdown. But our webmaster (webmistress?) Leslie organized the whole shebang. I think it turned out really cute! Each day there will be a different creative tip, a smidgen of horse-related holiday trivia or some other idea to keep your holidays merry and horsey. Let's hope they remain stress-free, as well! In the meantime, I need an Advil.
If you're also feeling a little overwhelmed, click on "comments" below or email me at:

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Short Yearling Uglies

During the winter of their first year, young horses are often referred to as "short yearlings." That's not because they're short in stature. Instead it's a reference to the fact that they're approaching being officially one year old on January 1st, even if their actual birth date is several months later. You hear the term "short yearling" used in the world of Thoroughbreds a lot, however, I think it's appropriate with all breeds of horses. After all, the term "weanling" doesn't quite fit something that's chowing down on hay and pellets and wearing a halter that would fit the average 15-hand horse. Unfortunately, short yearlings are also often ugly yearlings. They're undergoing a growth spurt and they're shagged out with their first crop of winter hair. As Exhibit A in My Study of The Short Yearling Uglies I present recent photos of Cowboy:
If you look closely enough, you can ascertain that Cowboy's hair coat resembles that of a Mongolian yak. And his color is now that of soured milk. Or room temperature mayonnaise. Thankfully, despite my less than complimentary descriptions of his cosmetic attributes, his overall conformation and movement remain pleasant.

As Cowboy attempts to strike a dainty pose while he walks elegantly over the damp ground, he seems to be saying, "There really is a cute horse inside me. It'll be revealed come spring time. I promise!"
Other attributes of the typical short yearling uglies? How about a butt that's several inches higher than the withers, a stubby tail that's perpetually held out like a stiff broom, and a head that seems destined to be three times too large for the body. Wrap it all up in a fur coat more suited to a goat (is that a beard on that coat's chin?) and some winter time mud splotches, and you have a colt that hardly resembles the fancy, glossy-coated fairytale equine prince of just a few weeks ago. But I have faith. Fortunately, the Short Yearling Uglies is just a temporary affliction.
Click on "comments" below to share your thoughts!