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!?


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.