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!