Talking the talk about writing about riding



I'm excited and looking forward to speaking at the DFWWW conference in February. Starting with Candy Havens as their keynote speaker, they have an amazing line-up of talent and I'm honored and humbled to be included. Forget all those other people, come see me!

I'll be talking about _Horses in Fiction: Writing about Riding_ But rather than go over all the usual stuff that's so easy to Google, I'm going to focus on some common errors and mistakes and try to offer some answers to those questions you didn't know you needed to ask.

This won't so much be geared to the author who's writing a character that is a horse trainer or breeder, or who has a horse as a main character, but more toward the author who has horses in their backdrop. Lots of authors have characters that ride, but have never given the poor beasts much personality. Real working horses and true companion horses have an amazing way of reflecting the thoughts and moods of their people, even more than many pets who spend a lifetime at the sides of their people, because a horse can truly be a partner and a helpmate through hardships in ways that other animals and pets sometimes can't and I hope to be able to help people bring some of that through in their stories.

Catching up - again

Time has gotten away from me again, but I'm going to try to get back on a more regular schedule. Of course, there is always plenty going on here for me to ramble on about.

November went by in a blur. I had an intense personal writing goal of finishing a round of edits on a finished novel and I got that done. Which I was very pleased about.

And then tragedy struck. Toward the end of the month, our beautiful black mare, CIMMI was euthanized in the wake of a horrific accident. I've been trying to work on a post but I've been consumed not just by her death but by the circumstances surrounding it.


At this point, I can only say that no matter how many horses anyone has, or has known, each one is special and leaves a gaping hole in your life and in your heart when they go.

Horses tend to keep a unique place in our lives and in our hearts ~ Carl Raswan wrote of Bedouin legends and in _The Arabian Horse as Your Friend and Companion_ (an article in Western Horseman) he wrote of the spirit of the high caste Arabian mare:

"The gift of an intelligent spirit was bestowed upon the mare of Ishmael and an intuitive soul to dwell within her beautiful, strong and symmetrical body. Psychic powers of her animal spirit were gifts of God, but her conscious mind developed through her intimate human association."

and he wrote that the Bedouin say: "Upon an unseen but not totally abstract pattern of beauty and perfection the spirit of God has created a harmonious animal and endowed it with a gentle and intelligent soul which has the capacity to understand his mission in this world as a companion to man. What obligation to man himself to understand such a divine creature which has been sent for his supreme joy and to delight his spirit as well as his heart and to share the fortunes and adversities of this illusory world."

He went on to follow the thought of how so many people only 'handle' the horse's physical form and mind rather than seeing the horse as something more, and how as his bond developed with his own mare, how her mood tended to reflect his.

Raswan also writes that he was told: "To the degree that an Asil (high-born) horse possesses thy heart, will she respond to thee. She will humble thy enemies and honor they friends. Willingly she will carry thee upon her back but she will consent to no humiliation. She is at once aware whether she carries a friend or an enemy of God. The mare that lives under divine orders, as a mute and obedient companion of man, has an insight into the mind of her master whom she may even prefer to her own kind."

So here is to CIMMI, who was indeed intuitive and carried many friends. And to all the good times from the wild galloping down the trail -- the tough trails and the easy -- the round and round the arena walks, the snipe hunts and all the fun, silly, just hanging out times.

Helpy-horsies

I often get emails asking if a horse would do this or that specific thing and most of the time my answer is "it depends". Horses are as individual as people. They can be bold or shy or have unusual likes, dislikes or habits.

I would buy a horse doing almost anything in a book if the author had developed it's character to foreshadow the possibility. One nosey young mare I raised had a long list 'did you see?'s, including changing the station on the radio and pulling the spark plug wires out of my truck. Another one loved to 'help out' with the welding by dragging the cables around and changing the settings. I heard last weekend that one of my grown up fillies has been rearranging the tool shed - the people had been blaming the grandkids, but the truth is out!


Right now, in my herd, I have a high percent of young horses. One thing I have noticed is that from about the age of about 1-2 years up through their 3 and 4 year old years, they are very anxious to have people-interaction and to please. These are the ages when they'll push their way between you and the riding-horse you're trying to halter and crowd the gate or when they'll do things like bite the saddle or pull the bridles off the hangers.

This age tends to be an in-between age as far as training because they already know the basics of how to lead and tie, let people handle their ears and hoofs and accept a light saddle pad and girth, but their baby bones and muscles aren't ready for a rider yet. They can feel neglected with the lack of training and that's where you can get into trouble with an intelligent horse because they start looking for ways, by their baby horsey logic, not only to help you out but ways get your attention. It can be good or bad, depending on how dedicated they are and what they come up with.


A couple of weeks ago, I was swapping horses between pastures and my trio of young fillies all got in the act.


One of the other young ladies got away from me before I unbuckled her halter and so we were doing the dosey-dance around the cedars in the front pasture. After watching for a few minutes, LUINIL apparently decided that ASILA couldn't figure out which way to go, so she trots out alongside her and starts leading her out to the pasture. (grrrrrr!) I cut loose with a bit of harsh language - shocking poor LUINIL - and when she turned and looked at me, I called her to come. She had the funniest look on her face, and looked at ASILA like "what the heck", and came right to me. ASILA kept running around, being silly and after a few minutes, here comes TELPE, nosing up and standing quiet with me and LUINIL.


What they were doing is showing ASILA that 'by me' is where she should be. Horses have an interesting concept, it's a little hard to explain. They don't really understand "come to me". They can learn the human version easily enough, but as a directive, it's not a natural phrase to them because "close-together'=safe is so deeply instinctively ingrained that it's never needed. "Go away" is, basically, a punishment with the reward being the removal of the "go away" allows them to return. Consider that a horse herd like a little pack of magnets. It takes an effort to pull one away, but for it to return you simply release it.


I'm not ASILA's 'mom', so it isn't natural for her to come to me. She doesn't like wearing the halter and rope and she had no way to know that I was trying to take it off of her. By LUINIL and TELPE coming to stand beside me, they created a .... go back to our magnet example .... 'pull' to bring her in to me. And it worked. After a couple of minutes, she slipped right up between the other two and I was able to take her halter off.


The other 'escapee' was our young gelding LANDROVAL. He had found a good patch of grass outside the gate and would dance around and circle without letting me catch his halter. TELPE came up, as close to us as she could, but it wasn't a strong enough pull for him. He would go to her then dart away again and snatch another mouthful of grass.

The third helpful young lady in this little saga is Miree (MIREYENION) who is practicing to one day be Boss Mare and so she's very much clued in to who is being good and who is being bad. She gets pretty upset when someone is bad - she'll be extra good, I guess to try to offset the badness(?). And she needs a lot of reassurance as to her goodness and the rightness of the universe.


So she was pacing at the gate, getting increasingly agitated with LANDROVAL's badness and when I finally caught his rope and walked him through the gate, as soon as I slipped his halter off and stepped away she lunged and took a huge bite out of his shoulder!!


I usually don't tolerate aggression like that, but I also have a policy not to interfere in 'horse business' as long as they don't kick or bite when a person is close. But in this case - she was right, he had been bad - and she was soooooo proud of herself, I just couldn't help but give her just a tiny bit of praise. She's not normally a biter or an aggressive mare - and I can't help but think there may come a day when I need her to watch my back.

The Sense of Honor

Any of you who like a little more plot with your romance should pick up _The Sense of Honor_ by Ashley Kath-Bilsky.


I can't recommend it highly enough and I have to say, this is the kind of romance I like to read. It is romance enough in that the story is about how they meet and overcome their differences, but rather than the soft focus we see in so many books, it's wrapped in an honest-to-god story with plot twists and conflict oh!my. Ashley writes with a delicate balance of elements, both emotional and technical, that, as a reader, I find wonderfully fulfilling

If you saw my long post earlier this month, you see I have varied tastes, from erotica to high fantasy to pulp to hard science fiction. (just got back my Hammer's Slammers book that I loaned out and it's due for a re-read.) I love them all for various combinations of reasons, but it's a rare gem that combines so many of the elements that I like in one story as well as Ashley does in The Sense of Honor. No exploding spaceships, of course, but a little of just about everything else.




Silly Wabbit



Silly things horses are afraid of or have strange reactions to :

1. Most things unnatural: metal, plastic, square things

Here we have a horse that's very well started over jumps trying to figure out how to navigate around a milk crate. *sigh* I was riding this young horse today through some pretty amazing (mostly natural) stuff. They've buried a pipeline along our back fence and it's a nice track for a little back-n-forth kind of work. They initially had to bulldoze their way through some massive cedarbreaks and this week the company has come back to shred the mess. So we have these house sized piles of cedar shavings about every couple hundred feet. He never batted an eye. *good boy!*

2. Windows, mirrors, shiny things that reflect bright lights or very strange horses that shimmer and stretch in odd ways. .... would a shield wall be a problem for a fantasy horse?

3. anything that has changed: you can ride by a trash can a thousand time with but if, one day, the lid is off (or on, if the lid has typically been off) it's a whole new monster.

4. Anything flappy:

5. Anything, even non-flappy things, on a windy day: And I have to say a word in their defense on this one. Their hearing is a major element of their prey-instinct flight response. You can't hear or smell very well on a windy day, so it makes good sense to be more alert.

6. Things that move in the shadows: Like if you've had a dog running along side you for 12 miles or so and it darts into the woods after a rabbit and at some point later, emerges from the woods. The horse is likely to have a meltdown when the dog leaps out from under the trees.
Or worse.
When the dog is following, dodging along the side of the trail, in and out of the shadows, bushes and trees. It makes the horse move funny .. trot trot trot FREAK trot FREAK trot trot FREAK. It's a little hard to ride if you've eaten recently.

7. Nothing. This is the one that truly amazes me on occasion. I keep telling myself that just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that nothing is out to get you and that I should be more appreciative of being saved from nothing on the occasions that it is out to get me. ... but I'm a hard sell on that one.

hmm. and I'm sure I'll think of more, but I'll go ahead and post this. What are your horses favorite spooks?

More kids, photos and horses for sale ~

I have to sell this horse. He's a fantastic guy, just gelded last year and coming along wonderfully in his training. He's been under saddle and trail ridden casually since he was three, he'll be seven in January, but he spent several months this spring in formal training and is started with dressage and jumping and has a solid base to start endurance riding, hopefully next month.

But this is the one that was bitten by a brown recluse spider in July, so he's been out of work for four months.

Today was his first ride in a long time and I wanted to snap some practice photos. I didn't get what I wanted, but I couldn't help but to share this one. Look at the matching expressions on their faces. Could it be any more clear that they are both bored to tears.

Not just their faces, but their entire bodies. Both of them. "Are we done yet?" Slouched and strung out, sloppy hands, no length of stride. *ARGH* What a terrible photo of such a talented horse and rider, but I know every teenager mom and horse mom will be wiping away the little tears of laughter in recognizing the attitude.

We frequently hear jokes about how pets and owners resemble each other, but I think that while most people think of physical traits, it more fun, and more author-worthy, to consider how pets, and especially horses who your characters might be working alongside, to use the emotional or attitudinal resemblance and contrast.

Does your hero's steed reflect his flawed traits and contrast with his noble ones or provide balance to his temperament? Is she a typical mare that pushes his buttons when she tries to boss him, or does he dote on her quirks? Or is he a typical gelding that just doesn't really give a darn as long as he's not having to work too hard?

Kids and fun photo stuff

Everyone, even the dog, is having a great time with our half-built house. The first floor is framed and they got a good start on the second floor before the rains came.

The kids decided that the planking that's laid down on the second story makes a better than average stage and so we've had regular concerts, mostly 'metal', but I can still pull the mom-card once in a while and get a little Johnny Cash or Queen.

added note: This is what I get for letting him read over my shoulder. I have to add that he likes to play Iron Man. I'm not sure if that's a genre, a band or a song, but there ya' go. He likes to play Iron Man.

They found two old bottle rockets left over from somewhere and set those off last night. It was a little interesting to see them set off from so high, but more worrisome to wonder what, other than the rockets' themselves, was going to catch on fire. Fortunately, we had a wonderfully uneventful evening and got the concert and light show settled down in time for the neighbors to hit the sack.


Knowing your market

The Greyhaus Literary Agency was near the top of my list after researching the available agents in preparation for the RWA National Conf in Dallas this spring, and I elbowed my way in and snagged an appt with Scott in the great dial-up land-rush type rumble that assigned appointments. I met with Scott and even though he rejected both my books in record time, he was very nice about it. :)

And I keep reading his Scott's Thoughts because I like the things he has to say. I like that he's not nicey-nice. I like that he's forthright without being rude; I find that to be a rare talent. Not that I didn't love Miss Snark, and not that I don't cruise by the Evil Editor on occasion. But when I read Scott's posts, I get a sense of .... I knew that was true!, but nobody else would say it. He has a way of saying things that makes sense, and in a way that I can apply it to myself and use the information. So I was delighted to see that instead of the very infrequent updates on his 'Thoughts' page, he now has a blog, and one post in particular, a rant, really struck home for me.

The thing about markets.

I'd dearly love to be a Baen author, not just because I love so many of their books, but because of their sense of community. But I don't think I could write military SF if I had one biting me on the ass, or even if it squirmed in through my ear and ate my brain. Fantasy, sure, but I like more sex in mine then they do. I've heard Mike Resnick say that you shouldn't reject yourself. Meaning that you shouldn't not submit something because you think they won't like it, but I also know that you have to submit to the right market in order to have a chance of selling. And I'm not so silly as to sit and try to pound a hexagonal peg into an oval hole.

We all talk about the New York market and the small presses and the micropresses and the ebooks, but Scott's post is about something that I've only ever heard mentioned one time before and it struck me as a profound truth. A Big-T "Truth". I took his post to mean that the home-town market, the immediate-family market and even the market of one are valid markets and should be recognized as such by authors in general; that it would save a lot of heartache if people could accurately identify their market.

This subject is near to my heart because I've had a difficult time finding my market. My historical has fantastical elements, and romantic elements, but not enough to be a fantasy or a paranormal and not enough to be a romance. It's too complex, it's too bloody, it's too historically accurate, it's too realistic, it's too implausible.... but - heck - it was fun to write. And I'm still enjoying the re-writing because I love the story and the world and the characters. But it has a folder full of 'rave rejections' (love your writing and your story but ...). It gets good scores in the contests, but a certain (unfortunately large) percent of people simply don't identify with the protag. I think that she's 'done right' because no one seems wishy-washy about it. I get a love or hate kind of response. But I think it's going to require a love-love response to sell that novel to a 'real' publisher and that would require a different story. So I keep writing, even if, at this point, I'm not sure where my market is.

My Bookshelf ~ Grok!

Little cabin nestled back in the woods... My local group camped here a couple of weeks ago and we had a great time. It was incredibly refreshing to be able to sit and work in such a cozy natural environment. We cycles through writing and visiting phases all day and we all got an incredible amount of work done.

and I've been on a reading jag: jag2 /dʒæg/ –noun
1. a period of unrestrained indulgence in an activity; spree; binge: a crying jag; a talking jag. 2. a state of intoxication from liquor.
3. Northern, North Midland, and Western U.S. a load, as of hay or wood.

But now that I look it up, it strikes me that it's a noun and I would have said, without thinking, that it's a verb, because it's something that you *do*, but I guess if you're 'on' it - is that what makes it a noun. Enough digression. I'll start a side panel for my reading because I find it interesting to see what others are reading and hope that others might find some gems in amongst my favorites or current reads.


So here are a few old favs and what's been on my desk in the last few months:

Patricia Briggs - all of them. I started with Dragon Bones and she's been my most recent obsession, (and not to mention that she writes delightful horse-characters, most especially Duck and the Lass in Hob's Bargain.) but I've caught up with her and we had to order "Mercy's Garage" t-shirts in order to take some of the edge off the wait for Iron Kissed.

RED GARNIER ...not much I can say about Red on a family-rated blog, but if you like a little plot with your sex, this is one author you don't want to miss!

Lilith's Brood by Octavia E. Butler It's a series bound in a single book. It's uncommon and well worth reading.

John Ringo, most especially his Council War series, but I haven't read anything of his I didn't like. You might beware what I like. His characters are larger than life and hard-hitting. They don't pull punches and there's never any soft-lenses or misty focus in his tangled high-stakes games of wars and love.

Sails and Sorcery. An anthology of Tales of Nautical Fantasy published by Fantasist

Children of Hurin I loved every word of it and, yes, I'm a die-hard Tolkien fan. I love The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and I've read most of the Histories, but when I want the familiar comfort of slipping far away it's my old dog-eared copy of the Silmarillion that I reach for.

CJ Cherryh - I currently have well-worn copies of the Faded Sun Trilogy and Arafel's Saga, but I haven't read anything of hers that wasn't worth reading at least twice.


Holly Lisle - too many good ones to mention, all the way back from Fire in the Mist and The Rose Sea up through Last Girl Dancing and Talyn. Regardless of if she's writing mystery, suspense, romance or fantasy (and it's usually a wonderful mix), I haven't seen anything of hers that doesn't make me want more. Also check out her series of writing clinics.

Stranger in a Strange Land and too many others to list by Heinlein. Also Asimov. ER Burroughs, both Tarzan and John Carter ... and yes, I read most of the Gor series at an impressionable age, but I'm not going to list it here... Conan: Howard, Carter and DeLisle are my favs, but I'll read all of the series. ... I love Arnold as Conan in his fur loincloth. I had to post the picture ... just because. :) I don't think any real reason is needed to post a pic of a hunky guy with a big sword.

...and I'm realizing what a foolish project it was to think I could browse and list all the books I've recent read, re-read, or intend to read shortly, so I'm just going to mention three I picked up this weekend The Sense of Honor by Ashley Kath-Bilsky, High Seas Cthulhu (an anthology of swashbuckling adventure meets Mythos), and Every Inch a King, a delightful rollicking fantasy by Harry Turtledove.

Who's on First?

In response to a comment about horse training in a previous post, Trish said >>>"I was literally laughing out loud! My daughter has been trying to train her Chocolate Lab with both hand and voice cues. He has learned several commands so she started to try for lie down while signaling with the palm of her hand moving down. He gave her a funny look and raised his paw and copied her hand movement -- looking supremely confident."

I laughed until I cried when I read that. I have been there so many times, and there is nothing you can do except hug them and tell say "good dog".

#

More than just the daily living with the horses, I think the time I've spent specifically as a trainer has opened my eyes in new ways. Once you get past the usual sit/stay and start asking for more, you need deeper, more specific, more subtle communication.

One thing that I put in my bag of tricks and pulled out to use as an author is the lesson that you have to really get in their skins and think like they do, you have to understand them in order to write realistically, even if you are using an outside point of view.

Trish's example of the dog learning to wave illustrates perfectly how well a miscommunication can work. You *think* you're talking about the same thing, and you can sometimes get a long way before you have that "Who's on First" epiphany.

I'll never forget the moment this came clear to me. I take a great deal of pride in the fact that my young stallion GWAIHIR does some wonderfully fun liberty tricks. One of the first things I taught him, as a very young foal, was to come and stand with his left shoulder at my right shoulder. Getting him to walk with me, stop and turn was simply a matter of him staying in place when I moved. Once he learned that he should keep our shoulders about 18 inches apart, even a turn to the right was simple because when I moved too close, he moved away.

All that we did, we did mostly with visual cues, some hand cues, but mostly body language which is the horses natural way of speaking. I thought that once he had learned something 'in his language' he could then learn it in mine so as time and lessons went on, I added voice cues to a lot of what we did.

One of the fun things he learned to do was to weave a pattern through a line of cones or poles as I jogged straight down the line. We started this with hand signals, I'd wave him away and then draw him back and I eventually taught him the words "left" and "right".

With all of my human arrogance, I thought I had really done something special. ... until the day I asked him to go "left" while I was standing on his right side instead of on his left. I expected him to curve away from me but instead he moved closer and started becoming agitated when I didn't move away to keep the proper amount of distance between us. I repeated the cue and he tensed, raising his head and backing his ears to let me know he was getting upset with me. Moreso when he was younger, but he gets tense when he thinks he isn't doing something right (and might not get a treat). He's very communicative, both vocally and with his body.

The thing to remember about my confusion in this situation with the left and right is that horses brains are very divided. You have to teach them most things once from their left side and once from their right. So I naturally assumed he didn't understand the cues since I was on the wrong side. So I went around to his left side and we did a few "left"s and "right"s - all nicely done.
So I go back to his right side and slowly, carefully and clearly, ask him to go "left". Again, he moves closer to me. He's getting agitated again, so I ask him to go "right"... thinking I'm giving him the correct cue for what he's doing so we can have a success and go from there. But he moves away - to my left!

My brain dropped into that slow molasses Jell-O 'huh?' mode where time slows down just a little and everything seems a somewhat foggy because you know you're missing something important.

What I figured out is that when I thought I was teaching him "left" and "right", he was learning "toward" and "away". He was getting upset with me for asking him to do something that he couldn't do - in his understanding, I asked him to move into my space, but then I didn't move away and give him that space, and he knew not to get too close or push on me with his body.
And when it comes down to it, "toward" and "away" or "in" and "out" are the more correct interpretations of the body language that we used for this 'trick'.

I had taught him the wrong words for the concept of what we were doing.

It's humbling to realize when they - the animal - is right and you - the human - is wrong, but when you live with them and listen to them and really have open lines of communication, the relationship develops into more of a partnership than anything else. This was a huge mental and emotional step for me as a horse trainer, but also an eye-opening (mind-expanding) lesson that can be used by any author who writes animals, aliens or even cultures that are foreign to their characters.

It boils down to knowing your characters, being firmly in the characters point of view, and even when you're writing from another characters POV, you still have to remember where each character is 'coming from' because we don't all see things in the same light. Even the most common day-to-day elements such as housing, clothing, eating can show extreme differences in culture or even just attitude, and showing that comes down to using details rather than vague adjectives. Remember that when a Texan talks about a "dry summer" it isn't necessarily the same as a "hot" or "dry summer" in Michigan. You could use details of temperature and average rainfall or you could let it be a delightful conflict of misunderstanding. As long as your reader is clued in, it's something you can have use to add depth to your story and have a lot of fun with at the same time.

How Many What?

Why is that such a common and such a difficult question?

When someone hears that I have horses, they'll ask a few nicey-nice questions and then pop the big one ... "how many?"

My jaw drops and my mind goes blank. It's not that it's a bad question, and I don't consider it rude, but it's a little more complicated than that.

"How many what? How many horses or how many equid? We do have a donkey you know. Are you asking how many I own or how many I feed each day because not all of mine are living with me and not all the ones that live with me are mine. And what about the co-owns and the leases? Do I count them as half a horse each or do the ones that live with me each get a count of 'one' with no count for the ones I own that aren't here?

The jaw flaps a little as I try to make up a number, because, really, once you get over about four, it doesn't really matter. Not until you have to buy wormer and that's by weight, not by head. Vaccines are by head count as are feed buckets.

So, I own, outright: Gwaihir and Gandalf (who is not a horse), Telpe, Miree, Landroval, Luinil (who is technically leased although she hasn't left yet), Beri, Cimmi, Witness, Vaniah and Shahin. That's eleven if you count the donkey, but the last three don't live with me. Marah, Morwen and Glamdring do, and I co-own them with my Uncle. He pays their bills and I do all the work. Halaalwe is living here in exchange for Witness living at the breeders. Sarah, Hadha and Asila belong to someone else who boards them here.


So, I guess, I own somewhere between eight and a half horses, or thirteen depending on how you count the co-owns and the leases, and a donkey. I have fifteen here that I feed every day, but only eleven that I buy vaccine for, and only nine for wormer because anyone under 500lbs only counts for a half. ... so how many do I have!?

Surprise!

I had a wonderful surprise in my inbox this afternoon, a note from Red Garnier that I'm one of the winners in her PATRICK HOLDEN READING FUND drawing for a $25 B&N Gift Cert.! This was from a fun contest held by the main character of her book DEVINE ASSISTANT. Be sure to check him out and also her new release Bona Fide Liar, which is hot HOT HOT!

Thank you, Red! Just keep writing and keep me on your list! I'm already watching for the next one. :)

Complacency (...less about me, more about the horses)

There was a terrible tragedy at an endurance ride a couple of weeks ago, two experienced riders raced for the finish, and then for whatever reason, kept running. The camp was a distance away, on the other side of a paved county road. The two horses hit a car. Both horses were killed, the car was totaled. One rider got an ambulance ride, the other rider and the driver were care-flighted out. This kicked off a flurry of safety posts on the horse-lists and someone found a news article that quoted statistics that said more horseback accidents land people in the hospital than motorcycle accidents, and that the average injured rider is someone with over 27 years of experience, on a well-trained horse, on a bright sunny day in an open field.

On the surface that seems crazy. But, thinking about it, a couple of things occur to me. Mainly that a rider may be more likely to survive a horseback crash than a motorcycle crash. And also that it seems to boil down to the laws of probability. There have been years of my life when I rode four or five hours a day on a regular basis. Even now, I ride, usually, at least a couple hours, three or four days a week. Consider that many horseman might ride, at most, on weekends and maybe a couple of nights a week ... I'd say most only ride a few hours a month. And in view of all that, it stands to reason that the person who rides 500 hours a year is more prone to injury than the person who rides 20 or 30 hours a year.

and, I suspect, that the main problem isn't the hours, but that we get complacent. I know I do - and that's when injuries happen. I got stepped on this afternoon, and not just a little 'oops', but a real honest-to-god tangled up foot under the horse and nothing to do but wait until he got his balance and moved.

I was in the training pen working with GWAIHIR on his tricks and trying to tune up his bow because he's gotten a little lazy about it and I stepped in too close to encourage him to a deeper bow. He was trying to do what I asked and I was in the way. He needed to move his hind legs back and his left hind hoof landed square on my right foot. It's not a good idea to use violence or harsh language in these cases because for the horse to leap away, they have to 'shove off' (the ground) and it's better if you can get them just to lean away and lift their foot off yours. In his case, because he was down in the bow, he had to rock his entire weight back on his rear end before he could step off. and, yeah, it hurts.

But the thing is, someone who isn't accustomed to horses tends to be, on the whole, more careful. So in the case of a character in a novel, it wouldn't be unusual for an experienced horseman to do something inane in a moment of inattention; to walk up behind a skittish horse and get kicked, or to be too casual around them and get stepped on. Many horses will step (sideways) toward you when you tighten the girth and it's not uncommon for them to catch a foot if you're not paying attention.

Another common mistake would be to underestimate a horse that they don't know well, or to overestimate the abilities of a young or untried horse. For example; many horses will cross a very wide creek or wade into river, but refuse something that's narrow enough to jump. Many young horses have no problem leaping up a steep bank, but won't easily go down a steep incline, especially into water. Remember the Man from Snowy River and his mountain horse? It's something they have to learn because going downhill with a rider, especially with any speed, takes a lot of balance and strength that has to be developed if it's going to be in the horse when the hero needs it. I'm waiting for the day they film a scene in which someone is captured because their horse refused a long downhill slope.

Too much fun?


Arrrgh, Matey! It didn't matter that Talk Like a Pirate Day was three days past. Little details like that will never slow down Fencon fun!

Conventions like these are what you make of them, and you should always come to Fencon prepared to have a great time. Education and fun and games galore, you just have to take advantage. Go ahead and mark your calendars now for Fencon 5. They always have a great program of panels with agents, editors and authors and more fun stuff than anyone could possibly take in during the short three days. Chat and autograph sessions with authors, educational panels and workshops, gaming, filk, costume contests... the Saturday night show is always great and don't miss the Yard Dog Traveling Road Show.

glances nervously at date... I know, Iknowiknowiknow... It's only been a day since the last post! but whatheheck!? Fencon is worth it!

Conventions, Contests and Horses - Oh My!

...had a FENtastic time at Fencon4 this weekend. I didn't make as many panels as I would have liked, but I got so much out of the workshop with Toni Weisskopf that I felt that it more than balanced out. I really enjoyed listening to her, and learned a lot from all the critiques, not just mine. I also found it interesting on another level - maybe only in my own mind - because of her parallel but different perspective of being the one who makes the decision to buy when the previous workshops were by well-published authors. Of course, Mike Resnick is an editor as well as an author, and on board with Baen now, but it seemed that she came at the work from the other direction - and umm. not sure where I'm going with that, maybe just that I found it interesting.

I know my masochistic tendencies are showing, but I loved that she marked the spot where it got tossed in the reject pile. I'm pathetically ecstatic to have gotten to the bottom of the fourth page. go!me.

A couple of things struck home for me. Mainly, that thing they say about researching your market. Yeah. Do that. Know your market, and know the editor or agent you're submitting to. It may not really be possible to find out if they like cats or not, but a good feel for the flavor of that house will help you land in the right place.

In other news, I gained my own bit of recognition - it was fun because they were nice about it, and a little funnier once I'd had a couple of drinks. Fencon always has a short story contest and they announce the winners at their opening on Friday night. Well. I work weeknights - luckily enough I can take my work with me when I travel - but it keeps me in the room Friday nights. So when they announced the winners on Friday, they made the point that I had also won third place the previous year and not showed up for that certificate either ... THEN, at the show on Saturday night - the announced it AGAIN! LOL! and I finally got to go up and get my little bit of spotlight for both years. So anyway - that was fun. I enjoy contests, although I don't think they count for much on the grand scale, I've had a nice little run lately. Four entries to the Cisco contest garnered two firsts and two thirds and I'm especially proud of my 2nd place into RWA Ohio Valley's Summer Sizzle contest. (A couple of those are announced under my married name, just because things are slow to change over.) But the best thing about the Fencon and Cisco wins are the stories. _Love Me_ is a fun rendition of the old-tyme serial cowboy sitcoms .... railroad coming to town, evil rancher, beautiful daughter, requisite sidekick and the handsome stranger that's the hero; and _Sunshine_ is a Pirate Vampires in Space story. I figure that if I can do well enough with fun stuff like space cowboys, pirates and vampires, I should be able to write just about anything. :)

I was glad to get home yesterday afternoon. It's hard for me to be gone with so many horses, there is always something going on, it seems like. But I think in this case, the extra day away was good. We've had such a weird year with so much injury and sickness that it's been getting me down but when I got back Sunday, the days away gave me enough perspective to see that things are on the mend. The spider-bit horse is healing (as is the snake-bit dog) and the snots, excuse me, "respiratory crap" that's been going around is finally getting better instead of worse.

The first visit back is always fun because it seems like their personalities really come out when they're pushing for attention. And believe me, after me being gone for three days - they're attention deficient. GWAIHIR, my stallion, is trick trained and has the personality to be a lap dog if he weighed about a thousand pounds less. He'll start spontaneously tricking when he's real excited and so when I was trying to feed him last night, he kept picking up his bucket and throwing it, and then he would trot over and strike it. (He's trained to charge and strike a target.) And when I leaned over to turn his feeder right side up so I could put the grain in, he starts bowing. All of which is cute enough that I finally just gave up and asked him for a couple of tricks - which I enjoy as much as he does. But then the thing you have to remember is that he does about fifteen trick and he has about fifteen or so cues, but it's like the cue is only a guideline, not a rule. So you're never really sure which trick you're going to get when you cue him. And that's something that's definitely needs to be in a story some day ... when the hero is trying to impress the princess and he asks his horse to bow and the durn beast sticks his tongue out. *grin*.

Even in today's society where horses are more pet than livestock in so many cases, it often gets lost in the shuffle that they all have their little mannerisms and as a horseman, I'm always delighted to see an author give a horse some simple bit of personality because it just seems to add a layer to the whole thing.

We have a mare, BERI, also has an odd eating habit. She eats standing on three legs with her left foreleg tucked up. I'm afraid I'm responsible for that. Her mother was a terrible 'digger', she would paw and paw at feeding time and any time was tied up. So poor Beri, I always used harsh language when she started to dig. Sometimes, she'll paw in the air, but more often she just holds that leg up while she eats.

Our chestnut horse, Glamdring, was aggressive at feeding time as a baby. A horse has to pin it's ears back to act aggressively, to bite or anything like that and so I taught him that he had to perk his ears (happy horse) in order to get his feed. He *knows* this, but he still fusses about it. Any of you who have teenagers know what I'm talking about. So there is me, standing at the feeder with a bucket of grain - and there is he, ears pinned, tossing his head up and down ... dipping his nose in the empty bucket then looking at me and pretending to chew - as if I don't know I'm supposed to pour the feed in the bucket. "Ears," I say. And he'll flip his ears forward and back too fast for me to pour the grain and so we start over with the pinning of the ears and the tossing of the head. Funniest thing is that sometimes he'll put *one* ear forward and keep the other one back. I'll pretend not to notice and he'll get mad but will eventually turn his head to SHOW me that he has an ear forward. As if I couldn't see his left ear from where I'm standing on the right side of the horse. (he clearly thinks there are times that I'm not so smart *LOL*). And the problem with that is that he's so cute when he does it that I usually give in, and, horses being creatures of habit, once you're rewarded them for something three times, it tends to become a regular habit. Which can be something of a problem if you laugh when they've done something bad or even the least bit obnoxious. So if you need an odd thing picked up and tossed, pushed over, stomped on, kicked, smashed or bitten - just work in a couple of incidents through the early parts of the story and if the horse suspects a carrot, a bit of oats or even a good scratch'n at the wrong moment he'll be more than happy to wreak havoc as needed.

Time Warp!?!

I can't believe how fast the month of August has flown by. I never intended to be a prolific blogger, but I did intend to be regular. I could claim that I've been on vacation!?, but the truth simply is that I've been pulling in a lot of different directions with all that we've had going on here, both good and bad.

First, I have to brag. My brother took this shot of my foals while he was playing around with some new filters on his 'toy'. I thought it very well captured my Bedouin Horses in Texas in a wonderfully surreal kind of way.


Otherwise, in short order - a new truck to pull the trailer I got last year. This is quite a step up for me as I've been driving an '83 Chevy, which I love, BUT, it's done more than it's share and while it's still strong, it's ready for a retirement home with someone who will baby it instead of running it all over the state.





We lost our beloved, snuggly, old-man rat, Loki, (who was so warm and wonderful to take a rat nap with) and so ...
Tiri, and now also,

Elizabeth, have joined our family.





Ratties are one of those things that are a little hard to explain to people who haven't experienced them. They're incredibly sweet and loving and always willing to help out around the house. They're especially good with paperwork and like to help with the schoolwork and the filing, although I have to admit that while Tiri is very efficient at getting the desk cleared, it's a little hard to find anything again since alphabetizing isn't her strong point!





We have a pipeline going in along our back fence, (no pictures of that, it's just ugly. Imagine a dirt highway where there used to be native cover.) complicated, of course, by the crossfencing and horses. AND have started building our new house. I had some cute pics of the kids driving the heavy machinery, but I didn't find them easily.





Horses ~ of course, lots going on, as usual.

Glamdrings brown recluse bite: YUCK! This is about six or eight weeks old, after it was healing nicely and after he ripped his stitches out three times and then ripped out the staples. It was closing up and healing, but he won't quit rubbing it on the fence and he's ripped it in new and improved ways, so it's back to the vet for him, where he's spending another week or so in a comfy stall with the vet techs ooo'ing and ahh'ing over him several times a day and giving him the pampering and scritches he so dearly loves. I've tried to cuss him in a gentler tone during the twice daily treatments he was getting at home, but I'm not very good at pampering when he has the medication rubbed on the fence before I can get out the gate. grrrrr..... Of course, he's for sale *head in hands* and this bite comes at the worst possible moment, he's been with an eventer for dressage and jumping and has been coming along really well - and we were just about to get some video and update his listings and - I know, I know ... it's back to Ye Olde Booke Of Horsekheepers, (transcribed, of course, by the Ignoble Gertrudick c. 1429 from the ramblings of an aged captain of the guard) :: Chapter XXII Yea, It Be that Badde, section VIVALaXIII On Other Matters of Weaknesses of the Flesh and Selling...//snipped//Yea, though thee train and toil and scramble for success in the arena and on the trail, and Yea, though thee seem to have that success within thy grasp - it is but the light of the train barreling headlong through the darkness of the tunnel toward you. Knowest thou that the horse that thoust toilest most with, with dreams of fortune, shall be the one that shall suffer untold bizarre and inane trauma and set thyst dreams back of their furry-coated asses and send them screaming into the night.

*ahem* ... moving along.

AAS SHAHIN SHAHIL has been picked up and is out on a breeding lease and ASF VANIAH was picked in the same week, going as a second family horse and possibly to be bred.

The weanlings, AELFLEAH 'Yoda' and Little 'Blue' have gone home, as well as the black TB mare, Shadow (also for sale, and, I might add, unhurt!) that I was riding in exchange for GLAMDRING's training, so my barn is feeling a little empty right now - which is sad, because I really love playing with the babies, kinda nice each evening at feeding time.



and ... um... LOL! ...isn't that enough!?! I'll save the rest for another post! That's not cheating is it?
.
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More on Horsekeeping


One thing that I hear a lot of yapyap about that doesn't really seem to sink into people is that horses are a 24x7x364 kind of responsibility. It's more appropriate to say that you have to keep up with them 28 hours a day, 10 days a week, 400 days a year. You simply don't take time off without taking a chance.

that doesn't mean you have to keep your peepers on them literally all the time, you take reasonable and calculated risks, because usually they're going to be fine. It's just that when things do go wrong they tend to go horribly wrong. And that tends to increase exponentially by the number of horses.

Yes, I've come home late from a party and found one cold and stiff the next morning. There's no good or easy way to deal with that.

Yes, I've gone casually to the barn and found one standing in a puddle, yes a puddle - horses are big animals, of blood. And that's something that can, usually, be dealt with. Pressure with one hand, cell phone with the other. ... as an aside, blood is not good for cell phones. - and I've stood and watched the vet drain puddles of blood out of a horse's stomach (via nastrogastric tube) when the guts shut down and were refluxing blood and fluids into the stomach.

So with 18 horses, I take calculated risks on a daily basis. I even travel on an irregular basis. Three day weekends are ok. Leave Friday, gone all day Saturday and home on Sunday. Any longer is hard. It's difficult to ask someone to take on, not just the physical difficulty of feeding 18 horses, but the emotional responsibility.

For the RWA National Convention, I left early on Wednesday morning and didn't get home until the next Sunday. My mother and youngest son pulled the load for me, and I have to say they did a good job with it. There was a minor incident, a relapse of a lameness that I that I suspected - Marah had a hoof abscess the previous week and needed to be up for a few more days. She's ok, just still moving slower than I would like.

But the 'biggie' was something that had apparently be going on for some time.

Leah came down from Dallas with me on Sunday and we went for a ride that afternoon. We rode around the back of our property and found where a fence had been washed down at some point during the recent flooding. ...not just down, but pushed down and washed across a popular trail - five strands of rusty barb wire tangled in with branches and flood debris and still attached to the downed fence posts.

No matter how long it had been down - apparently the horses hadn't been to that corner - it had to come up. A mare and a two fillies had followed us on our trail ride and were nosed in to the good flood-fed grazing. They would remember that and come back.

So regardless of the fact that I had a guest, regardless of the fact that I'd been gone for an exhausting week, regardless that I'd spent the last week in the A/C and it was hot as a witches cauldron down in that valley - regardless of anything ... once we got back to the barn, I gathered up my boys and we went back down and cut the downed wire out and brought it up out of the pasture.

Because that's what it takes - you can't be perfect, things are going to happen, but you have to handle the things that you find when you find them and know you've done the best you can.

and/but :) as a writer, it's fertile ground for conflict. Horses will find a way to debilitate themselves in the most innocuous circumstances, and usually when you most need them. You can ask any horseman about the preparation for a high-profile event. You can train for years, feed, condition, make all the lower level training events and the morning that you're packed and ready to leave, your prime athlete will come limping up to the gate, not just with a shoe pulled off, but with a section of hoof missing.

When your hero needs his mighty steed, it's likely that the stud has been kicked in the balls by a fractious mare, the mare will likely have been bitten in the back - where the saddle should go and leave the hero the choice of an elderly plowhorse or a half-trained colt.

RWA National Conference - part II

Wow - what a whirlwind of a week. It will take me some time to get my head together, but I know I had a fabulous time. "Cheers!" to everyone who helped make this happen - from the organizers, speakers and volunteers to the members and attendees who make it all worthwhile. I've organized events in the past and raise my mug to those who managed to pull this off. (especially year after year).

The workshops were wonderful. I attended so many, the days started blurring! But I loved getting all the handouts spiral bound with the blank notes pages with between each class so at least my note are clear ;)

I especially loved Jane Porter's class on the Alpha Hero - she almost had me in tears a few times ... ok okokokokokOOOOK. ~ goosebumps *and* tears. ~ so there! She's one of the most engaging speakers I've ever had the privilege to workshop with and once the plastic quits smoking, I'm headed to the nearest brick and mortar to see what I can find of her backlist.



... just one more, because I just can't resist the primal alpha male.

Other favorites included the Chilling Villains workshop by Karen Rose and Madeline Hunter; The Men We Love by Tami Cowden; and I had a surprise favorite in a two hour class on real life hostage negotiation and how to use it in fiction by Angela Knight and her husband Michael Woodcock. I'm not sure why I went since I don't write contemporary, but I'm glad I did, and I hope that if I ever get nabbed, that Officer Woodcock is on duty.

The scheduling was just as tough as it could be. There were so many good workshops, it was really hard to pick. I hated missing Mary Buckham's workshop, but I did get a chance for a short visit, at least long enough to let her know the piece she helped me with in a recent online class finaled in the Sizzle contest.

I had an incredible time visiting with Leah Braemel who is every bit as delightful in person as she is online. But I have to admit that I was something of a bad influence as I was determined to be sure she had the full Texas Experience and so I tempted her away from the conference a couple of times. Even so I managed to meet Red Garnier and many wonderful people from all ends of the earth that it's going to take me a month at least to catch up with everyone.

I think I'll go for a long ride tomorrow!

Sue L

RWA National Conference


Leah Braemel is here and we're having a great time here in Dallas.

After spending the morning at the conference in workshops about creating spunky heroines and conflict, we skipped over to Fort Worth's 'Northside'. We had lunch at Risky's and discussed the morning's classes over a couple of cold brews.


I think Leah was getting a little carried away with it all. ... what do you think? ;)

Shameless Brag

A wonderful surprise waited for me in my inbox this morning, my scoresheets returned from the Ohio Valley Romance Writers Sizzle Contest. They had sent word a couple of weeks ago that I finaled with _Thunder Jewel_ in the 'Sizzle' category, but it was really nice to get the scoresheets and see what the judges had to say.

I try to do a several contests a year, and don't have a lot of experience yet with the RWA contests, but I like getting the feed back from 'fresh eyes'. These judges did take the time to explain their scores and I greatly appreciate that, especially in combination with the comments returned with the scene.

So I'm off to Dallas next week for the RWA National Covention where I'll be pitching Thunder Jewel as well as a couple of others - so wish me luck!

Real-life Horsekeeping

Pasture management is a big topic among horse keepers. you can Google for information by county, how many acres it takes to support a horse or cow or goat on native pasture in a particular area. You can improve pasture by regular maintenance, mowing and seeding. it's typical to cross-fence and rotate pastures - all this can be Googled. Cows - as far as I know - are pretty straightforward, (Google again) but horses have such a complex social system that they take a little more management.

I have two largish pastures, a medium sized one, two smallish pastures, a 'run' that's really an alley between two pastures but easily accommodates an occupant. In addition to all that I have a barn with three pens designed with sheds, a holding pen and a riding area.


When I sort the horses into their pens and pastures, I consider their own statuses within the herd, their pecking orders... who gets along with who. I try to keep buddies together and separate trouble makers. If I have any skinnies or fatties, they have to go where they can be fed according to their special needs. Of course, the stallion has to be were he can't get to the open mares. Fencing is another consideration. We have some old fence, some new fence, some solid pipe and horse fence and some electric fence .... I have two generations of foals that were born and raised during our recent drought conditions that have learned they can slip through electric fence because for those years there literally wasn't enough moisture in the ground to conduct through their little hoofs - ...soooooo ... what's the bottom line in how the horses are sorted?

When all the machinations are done, and everyone is sorted, it finally comes down to the number of feed buckets I can carry at one time. That's where reality rears it's ugly head. Depending on if they get one, two, or three scoops of grain per feeding raises or lowers the number of buckets I can stack and carry and still open and close gates and, one-handed, pour the grain from the buckets into the feeders.

It seems to me that, when we research for our novels and stories, that we need to remember that things don't always work in real life they way the manual says thye're supposed to, and that there are usually circumstances that the manuals don't take into consideration - like how someone could possible carry 25 lbs in six buckets through two gates without the donkey tipping them out of your arms or the mares getting into the alley next to the stallion.

In the horses' eyes

I often see horses in stories that are just kinda hanging around in the background; too many authors tend to move them around like cardboard cutouts being placed around a set.

It doesn't have to be that way. It's not that hard to get inside a horse's head and let them add a little flavor and depth to your scene.


The main thing to remember is that horses, while they can be aggressive, protective and dominant, are prey animals. Their instincts are geared toward survival: food, water and protection from predators.

A horse's first line of defense from predators is escape and so you have to consider that anything that inhibits that escape - in the horse's mind - puts that horse's life at risk. Domestic horses have to be taught to let their handlers pick up their hoofs for cleaning and farrier work - remember that with one leg off the ground, especially if someone is holding it, the horse has no escape should a wolf pack round the corner. So, effectively, holding a horse's hoof in your hand is - in their mind - the equivalent of holding their life.

The same with the ears. There are times that the horse's ears must be handled, for cleaning or bridling, but without their ears being free, again - in the horses mind - they are placing their life in the handler's hands ... trusting the handler's ears to hear the scrap of a claw on a rock or the whuff of hot breath on the breeze.

Any time the wind is high, that also inhibits the horses' abilities to hear an approaching predator. If you need a normally well mannered horse to give your hero grief, whip up a thunderstorm with some high winds and the horse will be dancing around in the breeze, trying to do triple duty with his eyes since he can't hear or smell predators from downwind.

In these photos, the year-old
TELPE has just been released back into the pasture after a couple of days of being stalled and she's eager to reaffirm existing relationships. Specifically, who will protect her from predators, who will she need to protect. See how she's flaring her nostrils and perking her ears? "I can smell and hear very well," she's saying.

Notice that both TELPE and MIREE are moving, while SHAHIN, the red mare, has all four hoofs firmly planted. That's quite deliberate. SHAHIN is the 'boss mare' and as such, she moves her feet for no one. With the simple act of being immobile, she reassures TELPE that she'll lead her to feed and water and protect her from predators.

Always remember that your hero may be able to quiet a skittish horse simply by being still and strong.




Whirlwind

It's been a whirlwind spring and I'm looking forward to settling into the lazy days of summer.

We didn't have our best rides at the Bluebonnet a few weeks ago, although we had fun, none of us got to ride as far as we'd have liked to go. My son and I had a wonderful fun gallop of only 17 miles and BERI made it 92 miles of a 100 mile ride before the trail got to her.

The previous two months had been so busy that at that point, we decided to take a break. Stuff was piling up at home and my homeschooler just started a new program that we needed to get into. - and the last few weeks, while busy in themselves, gave me a chance to get caught up, sorta caught up, on stuff that needed do'n.

We're on schedule with the school, he's got about another week before he's out for the summer.

As far as what's up with the horses, we're still breeding, we breed late in the year compared to most people. There is one mare here for GWAIHIR and I have SHAHIN out being bred to ZEUS. We're teasing MARAH daily to she can be AI'd, hopefully, to what semen we have collected from GLAMDRING, who is now gelded (and FOR SALE!). We plan to breed both WITNESS and my son's black endurance mare, CIMMI, to ZEUS later this summer and those four foals will be for sale. We do offer pretty deep discounts for foals purchased in utero so don't hesitate to contact me if you like the looks of one of these combinations.

In writing news, I got the partial of _Bloodcup_ and the synop and first few pages of _Thunder Jewel_ mailed off, as requested at the OWFI convention. I entered a scene from _Thunder Jewel_ in a 'Sizzle' contest, _Bloodcup_ in the Celtic Hearts contest, and the first paragraph of _Star Shot_ in another hook contest - even though I got my applecart soundly trounced in the last one. AND, I'm in the process of polishing up an article for the RWA Yellow Rose club :) I just love talking about my horses, I hope they aren't sorry they got me started. note to self: insert links to these contests and clubs


In other news, we're going truck shopping this morning - umm... afternoon - it'll be the second drive for a couple of them and I may get to bring one home. These aren't new trucks by any means, but newer then the wonderful old workhorse I've been driving.

writing and riding and writing

Another week gone by and we're on the road again early in the morning to the Bluebonnet Endurance Ride. I'll hopefully have a ride report and some photos next week.

I spent last weekend at the OWFI conference and had a wonderful time. I got a request for a partial from my agent appointment and she graciously spent a few minutes talking with me and offering advice about a couple of other projects I'm working through. I highly recommend this conference. It's two full days of workshops and lectures - I took some good tidbits from every single one I attended. My favorite session was when they put three agents up front and Robyn Conley read aloud. Everyone had the chance to turn in the first few pages of their manuscripts at check-in. Robyn shuffled the stack and started reading. Each agent would raise their hand at the point they would reject the work. When the second one rejected, they'd each take the mike and explain what they liked about the work and what the trigger was that cause them to throw their hand up. - yes, I turned mine in, but it didn't come up in the shuffle before we ran out of time.

But back to the subject of mud - from the Hog Scramble, and probably the Bluebonnet too - it's an excellent way to slow down your hero if you need to create conflict. You'll need to plan ahead with storm clouds, or setup unpredictable weather in your world. Depending on the type of soil, maybe clay (slick mud), blackland (thick and clumpy), or as in the Piney Woods of East Texas, soft and boggy. Not only does the mud greatly increase the horses workload, promoting fatigue, it exponentially increases the chance of injury to the horses' soft tissues, ligaments and tendons.

When a horse travels, especially at speed, they have a rhythm and an energy cycle and exchange. Using this, a horse can actually run past the point of having the strength to stop and live. Mud tends to break that easy rhythm because they're having to tense and brace when each hoof lands and rather than springing back off the ground with returned energy, they're having to wrestle each step out of the muck.

Not just mud, but any kind of terrain. Hills, steep or rolling, or rock, (like at the Heart of the Hills ride earlier this year) will also tend to slow a horse down and raise the chance of injury. Mud or hills, either one, will cause a horse to show tight muscles and soreness in the large muscles of the rump and down the tops of their back legs. A strained, stressed or pulled tendon will express itself in the horse bobbing it's head at the trot, or an unevenness of gait at the canter and when the rider dismounts to check the legs, they may be able to feel some heat in the injured leg. Depending on the severity, the horse may point that toe out, or hold it up so only the tip of the hoof touches the ground. There is a lot of good, easily available, information on the 'net about "bowed tendons" so I won't go into it here although I'll be happy to answer any specific questions if you want to email.

riding-riding-riding ... and writing

... can't believe it's Thursday, I had intended to post on Monday -

- We had a fabulous, tough ride last Saturday, down in the Sam Houston National Forest. Didn't wreck the truck this trip! But lots of lessons learned, again. I always think that there should be a point at which you 'know stuff', but I guess, if I get too old to learn it's time to hang it up.

The biggest issue we had this weekend is that I tend not to take a Limited Distance ride of 25-30 seriously, and the conditions were tough enough last weekend to bite me in the back cheeks for it.

We had a long first loop, 20 miles, and the going was tough enough that my son was showing signs of heat stress before we got back. He stayed in camp while GWAIHIR and I ran the last loop. It was a shame as it was his and CIMMI's first non-completion, but some things you don't mess around with and heat stress, IMO, is one.

There was a deep mud on the trail which makes a lot more work for the horses. It changes the way they move and balance because the hoof slips or sinks a little each time it lands and the added stretching and tension and work increase the chances for an injury, especially a pulled tendon. If you can see the brown shading up the grey horses legs in this picture, that's mud from flopping belly-deep in a sloppy bog.

One of the important things about being in a bog is to stay on top of the horse, otherwise you're likely to get fallen on and/or trampled as they get out. Depending on the horse, they'll struggle and eventually get out or quite fighting.

GWAIHIR managed to get out of everything we got in, but I did get off to let him lunge and scramble up one tall bank. It's generally a bad idea to go across/up/over first and ask the horse to come to you because they have a tendency to come directly to you and if you don't leap out of the way you could get leapt on, but in this case, the bank was tall and steep enough that I didn't want to be underneath if he didn't make it on the first try.

One of my other mare, BERI, did her first 75 mile ride with another rider. We had debated over entering that distance since she hasn't been distance riding recently, she's been doing dressage and jumping. But this is cross-training at it's finest as she finished this unexpectedly tough trail in about 13 hours.
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I don't have the winning time on the 75 mile ride, but in reference, my son and I have done our last few 25 mile rides in about four hours. We took the full four hours to do our first 20 miles and GWAIHIR did the last ten in about an hour and a half - so, overall, about 1 1/2 mph below our usual pace.
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Photos by John Adame ~ link to his photo pages in the lefthand menu.
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In writing news, I'm headed up for the OWFI conference in the morning. Oddly enough, I'm looking forward to an indoor weekend, sitting in the back of the class and taking notes and planning long lunches. If you're there ... umm .. here... 'mail me and we'll do lunch or hit the bar for a couple of hours.
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Sue L
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The formatting is driving me nuts. I'll have to figure it out later.