Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pie and Sovereign like to be groomed

Pie and Sovereign are the friendliest geldings! Everyone who has dropped by to meet the new boys agree that they are very good-natured. In the pasture, they immediately trot over to greet their visitors with kisses and horsey sneezes. They are doing very well with their lessons too. I have been working with them to walk at my pace on the lead without the chain, and both seem to have it down in the barn and in the pastures. This is day three for cross-tie work and I am thrilled with their progress. Initially, Sovereign was completely baffled by the concept of stopping and standing still in one place. From his stall he watched intently as Pie stood "in the vicinity" of the cross-ties. I kept the lead on and slowly groomed Pie's head and neck. Then, Sovereign tried, but he had too many "ants in his pants" - he just couldn't stand still. I limited their practice time to a few minutes because they both have little baby attention spans. I tried later in the day and they did better. Yesterday, both successfully stood in the cross-ties and were groomed thoroughly, including picking out all four feet, but I still was hesitant to step too far away. Today, I pretended that I needed things in the tack room and would pop in and out of there calmly. Both horses stood quietly - Sovereign even seemed to be daydreaming! I think they like the massage aspect of grooming and now they understand the idea behind the cross-ties.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Foster Thoroughbreds' First Lesson

Yesterday was Pie and Sovereign's first full day at Honeysuckle Faire and our first opportunity to start the retraining. Both horses have very nice barn manners - no nipping, kicking, etc., and they are calm yet eager to investigate their new home. I took Pie out first and walked him around the barn interior, making sure that he walked beside me safely and allowed me to set the pace. I did put the chain over his nose as a precaution, but he did not need it. I stopped him multiple times at the cross-ties so he would be in that habit. Next, we ventured outside and opened the gate. He stood perfectly while I opened and refastened the gate chain. It was terribly windy and cold, yet Pie was calm. I walked him around the small paddock area so he could learn the boundaries. After a few laps, I took his halter off and let him play. I went inside and repeated the entire procedure with Sovereign. He, too, was well-behaved. When I walked him around the paddock, Pie was already out with us and Sovereign remained calm. I removed his halter and they had a well-deserved play. I kept them in the small paddock because of the wind, but they seemed to enjoy their time! What wonderful boys!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

We welcome you to Honeysuckle Faire...

Suave Lord and Sly Pioneer are happily settled in our barn! Maizie has been chirping "We welcome you to Honeysuckle Faire, we've been expecting you" to the tune of Crackerbox Palace all day. They are unbelievably calm and quiet. What nice horses! They both seem sensible and relaxed. It is hard to believe they were foaled in 2004 and 2005. Within the first few hours of their arrival, the name "Suave Lord" morphed into "Sovereign" given our proclivity toward anything British and our love of evolving pet names. "Sly Pioneer" became "Pie" in my brain (after National Velvet's "The Pie") and "pi" in Brian's brain (as in math's pi 3.1415926...). Barn names do evolve in time, and rightly so, when personalities properly emerge. Already it was fun to observe their different reactions to their new environment. Pie was pensive and watched if Sovereign would take a carrot or allow a kiss. If Sovereign said it was ok, then Pie would timidly chance it too. We carefully picked out their stalls while assuring them that the fork was safe and we were their friends. They didn't once whinny or pace or paw or get excited. How lucky we are to have them!

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Here they are! The sweet boys! Pioneer is above looking adorable and below giving Suave Lord a kiss! Bliss.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

February fete

Here are the yummy treats we baked for the horses for Valentine's Day. They look like tiny little molasses cupcakes! (Click on photo for a close-up.) Yummy Gummy Zoo! Maizie, Brian and I tried a bite last night. They were very "natural" tasting, like Euell Gibbons baked them! Here is the recipe:

Thoroughbred Molasses Yummies
1 cup oats (ground)
2 cups sweet feed (ground)
1 cup molasses
1/4 cup water

Mix all ingredients together and drop by spoonfuls into greased mini muffin tins. Push down in tin with back of spoon. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool for 2 minutes and pop out onto wax paper. Remember not to feed too many each day!

Monday, February 16, 2009


Mom and I were just on the phone cracking up about how my little Shetland pony, Dimples, ran off with me when I was in first grade. Dimples was the sweetest little dappled gray with flaxen mane and tail. She was maybe Small Pony size, although, now, it seems like she was more large dog size. 

It was a warm April day and her winter coat was itchy and the spring mud looked so inviting and she was tired of me learning to post. She started to fold her little legs to roll in that lovely mud, and mom yelled, "Dimples, you get up!" Dimples got up and took off and cantered around and around the ring. I was scared to death. My friend, Joanne, had come to the barn that day to watch me ride and I remember her hanging on the fence laughing hysterically at the sight before her. 

Dimples lived 33 long years with us and she really was a joy to be around. She never picked up any nasty "spoiled pony" habits that some ponies get. That day, she was just itchy! In her old age she would get such a thick winter coat (probably thyroid trouble) that she looked like she had a pair of bell-bottoms on! It was the Seventies, after all!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Horsey Valentine's Day

Maizie and I are going to bake horsey treats today for Valentine's Day. I am having a dinner party tonight and I should be making people food, but it is more fun to do horsey things! Besides, we have to really get ready now because the foster Thoroughbreds are coming! Hooray! Carrots and apples are always the best snacks to give, but for a special treat we will have our "cookie" jar filled after today. Brian will be mad because he can't "sample" what we are baking.
When I groomed Tess a few days ago, I offered her some carrots. She nibbled them slowly and looked at me like, "don't you have anything better?" It was a chilly day and the carrots were cold and boring. I hope Maizie and I can come up with something yummy and gooey with molasses!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Horses in the Green Valley

When Tardy (Penny Lane) passed away I decided to not get a new horse. This was a difficult decision because my family had horses in our barn since 1957. Mom, Grandma and I didn't know how to BE without a horse. We were lost for a while. My daughter, Maizie, though, was 2, and I wanted to spend quality time with her. I could do both, I knew this, but I didn't think I could do both well. So I waited. The thing that kept me from going insane was reading and re-reading Vian Smith's phenomenal book, Horses in the Green Valley. The late, Mr. Smith, who lived in England, wrote about horses and how to appreciate them in a manner that feels right to me. He reiterates my own beliefs about our relationships with horses. Here is an excerpt:
She should be called Big Ben, having a similar regard for punctuality. When you're five minutes late, she neighs and listens and gives another minute. Her second neigh is much less tolerant, her third is authoritative, her fourth a bullying sound, followed by a mumurous grumbling like an old woman asking herself what things are coming to. When your footsteps come at last, she grunts and paws her door, demanding to be first because she's the eldest and has been here the longest and such qualifications count at feed time. She's an Exmoor pony and my sons learned to ride on her.

I don't believe Horses in the Green Valley is still in print. I love to give this book as a gift to my friends and I can usually find it used at

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

everything in my own sweet time

Here is a priceless picture of me "the headless horsewoman" taken by my mom in 1981. I am on my lovely large pony, "Penny Lane" (aka Star, Tar-Tar, Tar Baby, Tardy). I like to think that mom was so thrilled by Tardy's beauty that she forgot to put my head in the viewfinder!
Today it was warm and sunny so I continued my work on our trails. I opened new trails that I don't even think dear, sweet Tardy ever saw. She was the first horse I rode without a bit. This was long before the Bitless Bridle had made its way into my life and I rode her for years in just her halter. She and I had adventures riding all over our farm that way. What a good girl she was. When I showed her, she never refused a fence and even jumped the fences on her own when she was turned out! She was very social and liked horse shows way more than I did. She loved to steal Coca-Cola cans out of spectators' hands as they walked by her when we were waiting at the "In" gate for a class. I am 5'3" so I was able to ride her at the walk until she was 32 years old. We have never sold a horse in my family, so Tar was with us until the end. How lucky we were to have known her. Here (below) is a snapshot of us in another show. This photo is tattered from being in my wallet for many years, but at least I have my head!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Then, as it was, then again it will be

My grandfather was born today in 1917. In the late 1950's he found a 45 acre farm (above) which at the time seemed "way out in the boonies" but now is surrounded by sprawling Suburbia. He always said it was because of mom's horses that he even considered buying a farm, and for that he was grateful because he loved his farm. Most summer evenings you could see him on the tractor, wearing his pith helmet, pulling the bush-hog to make us new bridle paths. Once, a neighbor told me that she thought my grandfather made the most beautiful network of trails. That was the architect in him. Here (below) is our farm in the 1980's, with my grandparents on the tennis court and our two horses turned out.

Today I worked on the very same trails as my grandfather did many years ago. He passed away in 1990 and our trails haven't been the same. I don't have a bush-hog - only a saw and some trimmers. Still, it was like working in his shadow, especially today on his birthday. I have to look for that pith helmet.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

inspiration is what you are to me

Here is my mom (center) on her Thoroughbred El Capitan (Tam) and her friends at a local horse show in September 1958! The love of Thoroughbreds runs deep in our family. I emailed her another slide of her schooling Tam on our farm in October 1959.

This is what she emailed back:

That picture was taken with poor timing. It should have been shot about half a second earlier. Tam and I look stupid. I am so surprised that he is folded so well with his hind legs. He did not have the best form for a hunter/jumper but I loved him. He was so comfortable to ride and did elementary dressage really well. He was very smooth and sure footed in spite of losing his sight to cataracts. He had a lot of zip and spunk and was a challenge for me to ride. I have a lot of great memories of him. He could really buck, but it was never malicious, just lightheartedness. We had many great years together. I loved to stretch him out at a full gallop around the farm as a finish to our workouts and then I would cool him out on a loose rein and sing to him. He loved that and he was a loner. He never minded going out by himself. That is how the Baja boy was. Only Baja was not as sure footed as Tam.

Can she talk horse, or what? I will never hear the end of it if I don't put up a shot of her looking better over the fence - so here she is schooling Radcliff at a show in August 1958.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

a new sign

The snow is perfect for helping me to make new trails. Our woods are so thick in spring and summer with Honeysuckle vines and wild Roses and all our lovely brambles. Now, with the snow, I can clearly see in the woods where the new paths should be forged. I am going to work the next two weeks on opening some of these new bridle paths. Our far fences are finally in place which makes the entire 40 acres more contained. We had to let the eastern part of our trail grow shut at one time to keep the motor bikes out. (Hilariously, our farm borders the neighborhood where Bret Michaels grew up and I've heard rumors that he was one of the dirt bikers in our woods!) Now that it is fenced on the far border we can re-open that path! 

This past summer, I was riding Baja bareback over in that section and a neighbor had left apples out for him to eat. Of course, I had his bitless bridle on so apple eating was no problem! I got off to help him "organize" the apples (in other words, to keep him from gobbling them too fast!) and then I couldn't get back on! We walked through that closed section of the woods like two explorers looking for gold (only we were looking for a mounting block!) He walked beside me just as happy and calm as any dog or human companion. It was easy to forget that I had a huge, refined, Thoroughbred horse by my side. What a special friend and summer memory of the Baja-boy!