A Year Ago Today

One year ago today, we brought home a scrawny, shaggy gray pony with a white star and a clever eye. I always said I didn’t want a gray (because of the melanoma risk – ironically enough, given my husband’s condition!) – but I also say you shouldn’t pick a horse for color, so.

I chose her out of a group of more than twenty one- and two-year-old mustangs held at Elm Creek, Nebraska. (Which is a WONDERFUL facility, just so you know.) I knew going in that I wanted a friendly, curious horse. An eager, slightly bold temperament makes gentling and training much easier for me, I’ve discovered, and it’s more fun to work with a horse who wants to work with you, too. But I also wanted a horse with decent conformation and a body type that might be more suitable for the sorts of things I like to do. (One lovely horse, for example, was utterly sweet but so tiny she’d probably only mature to 13 hands. I have long legs and like to jump, so… not a good candidate for me.) Another – a friendly black with a curly mane – had such a long back and awkward hock angles that I was afraid she wouldn’t hold up to any kind of rigorous riding.

As soon as I walked into the pen, this gray walked right up to me and rubbed her nose on my hand. She followed me around, snuffled my hair, let me stroke her neck and shoulder. She was small and rough around the edges, but her legs were correct and well-proportioned, I liked her hip and shoulder angles, and she seemed to have a good back. She loaded like a pro and rode quietly all the way home.

It took me several weeks to name her – but when she jumped out of the pasture (never mind the 6′ fence) I decided Cricket suited her.

Her training this past year has really just been gentling and basic Manners 101, but she has proven eager, willing, and friendly. She is super athletic (we had to build a 7′ steel pipe fence to keep her in) and smart, and I am having such fun with her. Now that she is two, her proper training will begin – though she won’t be started under saddle for another year at least.

Anyway! Here’s Cricket on her One-Year-Gotchaversary. I expect you’ll be seeing a lot more of her.


(She’s eating soaked alfalfa, which is why her face is a mess!)


(Here she’s giving one of the dogs the stink-eye.)




Glass and Heartbreak

The last eighteen or so months have been difficult. I developed a chronic tick-borne illness resulting in auto-immune triggered food allergies, I had to put my beloved war mare (my first mustang, Gypsy) to sleep, and then my father-in-law passed away unexpectedly. I hit a deer and wrecked my truck, my son wrecked his knee, and then two months ago my husband was diagnosed with melanoma. The last six weeks have been a blur of doctor’s appointments, surgeries, and lab tests. (Luckily things have gone well and we are hopeful that it was caught early enough.)

I used to think I was a pretty strong person, but I told a couple of close friends that lately I feel as if I’m made of glass and heartbreak. It’s easy to feel fragile when life keeps throwing sharp rocks at you. (One of them said glass lets the light in even if it cracks a bit, which was exactly what I needed to hear and so beautiful.)

And yet there have been good things, as well. I got to see Mayan ruins in Mexico (described in an earlier post), I adopted another mustang (mentioned earlier as well – more to come on her), we got two house cats, my son got his license, and my daughter just graduated from high school. I’ve been blessed with some amazing personal and professional opportunities, too – including a 6-month writing course from The Writing Barn taught by the incredible Carrie Jones which wraps up this month.

Though my plans went off the rails a bit for a while, I’m anxious to get back on track. I have several major projects ahead and I’ve decided to be ruthless about minimizing distractions and simplifying my life wherever possible so that I can focus on them.

Instead of posting updates on Facebook, I intend to blog semi-regularly here on a loose schedule: Random Musings Monday; Tricks and Tools Tuesday; Wild Horse Wednesday or Writing Wednesday (depending on the focus of the week); Thankful Thursday; and Food, Fitness, and Farming Friday. Don’t worry – I won’t be blogging every day! It’s just that if I feel like writing about a specific topic, those are the days you’re likely to find it. (Cats will appear at random, because they have no agenda but their own.) ((Book reviews will also appear at random, because I read a lot.))

Anyway! Here’s to forging ahead even when the road takes a couple sharp curves, and here’s to letting the light in. 🙂 Thanks for reading.


(photo taken in the White Mountains of New Hampshire last summer)


Ha! It’s been a year since I last logged on, but I’m in the process of reorganizing and redefining significant pieces of my life and I figured it was a good time to knock the dust off this blog.

But first, I’ve been reading a lot about the GDPR regulations and, while I’m still processing the information, I just want to be clear: I have not installed any external plug-ins and no personal data will be stored permanently for any reason. If you decide to post a comment, the contact information you choose to share will be used for that purpose only. So! I’ll figure out where and how to post a more formal privacy policy, but in the meantime, there you go. 🙂

Day Two

So, this happened yesterday evening, when I went out to do the last check:


That’s the baby’s tag, off her neck. 😀 Now she looks like a proper member of the family.

This morning, as soon as she saw me, she came to the rails to say hello and get a few scritches on her forehead. She let me rub most of her body – legs are still a bit of a caution zone, but she’s slowly relaxing under my hand – and then she let me rub her with the halter. I can slip it over her nose, but the smallest halter I have is still too big for her (Trinity was a long yearling when I brought her home, and this baby is likely just a smidge over a year) so I need to hit the feed store tomorrow to find one that will fit.

I saw a hint of spice this afternoon – she didn’t like the wind flapping my shirt when I reached to pet her, and gave me an ugly bitey face – but a quick stomp of my boot and a warning buzz had her scooting backwards and rethinking her attitude PDQ. A second later, when I invited her toward me again, she walked up and calmly investigated every stitch of my clothes. No big deal. 😀

I forgot how much fun it is to play with a baby, to see them figure every little thing out for the first time. I love, love, love this part.


There’s a hint of shine under all that scruffy fuzz…

(First name I had picked out doesn’t seem to fit her, so I’m trying another.)

First day!

I’ve found that if you let a new horse stand alone in his new home for too long, with nothing to occupy his mind, he’ll start to think that either this is the best deal ever and he never wants to work at all, or he’ll start to worry about what’s coming next and instead of settling in, he’ll get more and more anxious. So I think it’s important to introduce a routine in a gentle, easy way and to offer some glimpse of what your expectations are right from the start. I like smart horses, so the sorts of horses I tend to bring home tend to need something to think about – before they think themselves into trouble.

The challenge, of course, is to do this without overwhelming the new horse.

So, today I let the gray baby (name to be announced tomorrow!) mostly just relax and chow down while I sat on the corral rail nearby and read my book. (Reading a book is the fastest way I’ve found to catch a horse’s curiosity. Odd, but totally true!) She came over to sniff my hair, my hands, my jeans, my boots. Let me brush the forelock out of her eyes. She got used to seeing me with a hat and without, with long sleeves and without, with sunglasses and without. (Every mustang I’ve ever known thinks sunglasses are secret weapons and have to be convinced otherwise…)

And then I started to teach her the rules. (With Trinity’s occasional help from outside the corral.) Right now, there are only two she needs to know: 1. She can’t turn her butt to me. 2. When I walk up to her, she should stand still until I ask her to move.

She is doing really well with #2 and let me rub her head, neck, shoulder and back several times. I can reach for the tag around her neck, but I don’t trust her to stand still *quite* long enough for me to cut it off yet. That will come in the next day or so, I expect.

#1 is a little harder – her preferred defensive move appears to be a double-barrel kick so I REALLY don’t want her to get the idea she can swing her butt to me. She is sweet and mild around me – unlike the moments she feels she needs to protect her hay from Trinity *coughcough* – so I don’t want to make a huge deal of it. There’s no point in frightening her, but she needs to learn the rule. So today I taught her to turn and face me when I kiss to her. It’s an easy, adaptable cue that can form the basis for all sorts of conversations later, so it’s generally the first thing I teach. Took her a little bit to figure out I wasn’t just making weird noises for no reason, but I think she’s got the idea now. 🙂 Tomorrow I’ll build on it.

Already she’s looking less tucked-up and her eye is softer, so I think she’s doing pretty well. And tonight she discovered the wonders of soaked alfalfa shreds with a scoop of Horse Manna sprinkled on top. 😉

Life’s best adventures…

…begin like this:


In other words, there’s a new wild mustang on the farm. 🙂

It all happened rather suddenly… my husband and I had been talking about adopting another for a while, but when we lost Gypsy it became a higher priority. And then the wranglers told me they’d be shipping horses east for satellite adoptions, so if I wanted the largest selection I needed to come quickly. My husband, who has always been distantly supportive of but largely uninterested in my horse hobby, decided he wanted to be involved this time and said, “Let’s leave this weekend!” So… yeah.

We drove to Elm Creek Wild Horse and Burro Corrals in Nebraska (there is a closer facility, which I may visit this fall, but Elm Creek has a huge variety of horses and *excellent* wranglers) and spent almost two hours playing with 30 wild yearlings.

Before we arrived, I told my husband I was looking for learning potential more than athletic potential. I’m 40, and at this point in my life I care far more about a good mind than I do about fancy movement or athleticism (though I don’t regret choosing Trinity for those reasons at all, and I still like a horse with a decent build). I also said I didn’t care about color – “I’ll consider anything but a gray,” I said. (Note: I like gray horses! I just don’t want to deal with melanoma.)

So. I slipped into the corrals and was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the choice available to me. I saw a bay roan and a red roan that tempted me – except then I’d be choosing based on color, and I swore I wouldn’t do that. There was a darling cream-colored filly with brown tips on her ears and large, soft eyes – but she was so, so small and her feet needed a lot of work. I saw several gorgeous sorrels – including one with a curly mane and tail – but they looked too much like Gypsy and my heart just wasn’t ready for that. There were a number of nice-looking bays and blacks, and several grays.

I nearly chose this one:


because she was the first one to walk up to me, and had no hesitation in making contact with my hand. She was a stout little baby with a kind expression, but in the end, I chose this one:


She looks a little rough around the edges, I know, and she’s a gray, which I swore I’d never choose, but I quite like her. When I stepped in her corral, she immediately approached and let me rub her nose, forehead, cheek, and neck. She followed me around, and when I asked her to back off she sensibly stepped back and waited for me to rub her face again. She let me run a hand down her back and over her withers, and when the other babies spooked at something she gave a little “huff!” but didn’t freak out.

She loaded in the trailer calmly and without fuss, though I did get to see a GORGEOUS elevated trot with a flagged tail, and she rode home like a pro. When we opened the door to let her out, she calmly stepped down and began chomping grass. She had no hesitation sucking water out of the stock tank even with the hose hissing and spraying water – something it took my generally fearless Trinity months to do.



She has juvenile warts – really, really common in mustangs after the stress of capture and transport – and she needs to be dewormed again. Her winter coat hasn’t completely shed out, so she’s matted and dirty. She’s not much to see, yet. But when I look at her, I see the lovely horse she’ll grow into and I’m glad she’s here.

(And it broke my heart when the wrangler said, “I’m surprised you didn’t go for the roans or the palominos. No one chooses the plain ones!” I told him I was perfectly capable of looking beneath the color of the coat to find a good horse, and I’m sorry I was ever prejudiced against grays. Of course, if anyone has advice on how to prevent melanoma, I’m anxious to hear it! Plus, it will be loads of fun to watch her coat change as she grows.)

Trinity was very anxious when she heard the trailer rattling into her pasture, and then when the baby stepped off, she got SO EXCITED.


The baby is a bit of a firecracker – she kicked at Trinity when she thought she was going to lose her pile of hay, and she has no problem asserting herself – but she’s respectful of people and their personal space, so she’s not quite as physically dominant as Trinity was when we brought her home.

I’m looking forward to working with her and seeing what she’ll be like once she settles in. Right now, she’s a little uncertain of her surroundings and tired from the long trailer ride, so I’ll keep things pretty low key for a few days.

First goal: remove the plastic tag from her neck and brush the mats off her coat.IMG_2782

(Her goal is, I believe, to suck up every blade of grass in her pen before someone else gets it!)



Books read in May…

  • BAYOU MAGIC by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  • THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON by Kelly Barnhill
  • THE READER by Traci Chee
  • FEAST OF SORROW by Crystal King
  • THE PERFECT DISTANCE by Kim Ablon Whitney
  • SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder
  • DRAGON TEETH by Michael Crichton
  • THE UNTOLD by Courtney Collins

Catching up, part 2…

This is the post I never wanted to write.

I’ve started and deleted it a number of times, because there’s no good way to say that Gypsy – my first mustang, my war mare – is gone. (For those that don’t know her, I wrote about her here.)

She was in her twenties and had been showing signs of what I assumed was mild arthritis, but she came out of the winter in good shape. She started exhibiting severe separation anxiety, but she’d lived her entire life in a herd, so I couldn’t blame her for being upset at suddenly getting left alone.

And then, on Mother’s Day, I found her in obvious distress. Her back was tight, abdomen cramped, steps short and uneven – left stifle obviously swollen. I hoped it was a soft tissue injury that might improve with rest and bute, but her condition deteriorated drastically over the next couple of days. Her resting heart rate, the last day, jumped from her usual 32 bpm to 68 bpm and she quit eating. She was basically breaking down in front of me, and though it broke my heart to do it, I had to say goodbye.

In retrospect, what I took to be mild arthritis in her hocks must have been more serious. She was a range-bred mustang who spent at least 8 years in the wild, so hiding pain was instinctive. I wonder now if this partly explains her separation anxiety, too. We think she took a bad step or slipped in mud and, maybe because her hocks were compromised, her stifle took the brunt of the force and couldn’t compensate. Her age and temperament probably contributed to the rapid progression of damage, though the vet assured me it could have happened to any horse and the prognosis would have been poor no matter what.

All I know is, she’s gone and the hole she’s left in my heart is too big for words.



My big red mare, in her copper-penny spring coat.


Passing the torch…


I’ll always miss her, though.


Catching up, part 1…

So, JP’s summer camp experience didn’t go the way I’d planned.

We got nine inches of rain the week he was here and his dry lot turned to a soul-sucking (or at least shoe-sucking) bog of heavy clay mud. Because of his foot issues, standing around in mud was NOT what he needed. My husband hauled in sand and screenings to at least give him dry bedding in the loafing shed, but an island of dry in a sea of muck wasn’t at all adequate for a big ol’ horse with bad feet. I hauled him back to my trainer’s barn for replacement shoes and had to leave him until the not-so-dry lot finally drained. Only, then we got another four inches, and another two inches… My husband tried cutting ditches around the lot to help with water flow, but when you get over a foot of rain in two weeks, there’s just not much you can do to keep things dry.

And then Gypsy tweaked something in her stifle, and I had to move her to the lot despite the mud. (More on that in the next post).

Unfortunately, JP’s summer camp here on the farm had to end much too soon. (He’s going to his new family this week, I think, and will have loads of fun playing with children – so all’s well that ends well, really). He was such a cool horse and I was looking forward to a couple months with him, but I didn’t have the flood-proof facilities he needed.

While he was here, I had the chance to truly appreciate a QH’s cool unflappability and gentle patience. JP was completely quiet – even with storms rolling overhead, trees shaking, and rain slanting in his face, he was easy to handle. And he was… simple in a sweet hearted way. Straightforward.

But I also realized, once again, that I’m a committed mustang person. Even when I’m tempted to tear my hair out, I really love bonding with challenging, sensitive, reactive horses. Mustangs are just *smart* – they have a self-reliance domestic horses don’t often get to develop, and I love that about them.

I also found it curious that neither Gypsy nor Trinity had ANY interest in befriending JP. Trinity made ugly faces at him over the fence and then adamantly ignored him the rest of the week. Gypsy pretended she never even saw him. I’ve noticed them behave this way with other domestic horses, so I can’t tell if their attitude was coincidental – were they just not in the mood to make friends? uninterested in an older gelding? uninterested in JP just because he’s JP? – or if they really can sense differences between mustangs and domestics.

I’m disappointed the summer camp experiment didn’t last longer (just watch: we won’t get another lick of rain until September… :S) but glad we had the chance to give it a try. It gave me several things to think about…


I keep seeing, in the online circles I frequent, these “Why you should never date a horsewoman” memes. They’re meant to be tongue-in-cheek funny, I know, and I admit it’s easy to laugh at the peculiar quirks we recognize in ourselves.

But I have to say, those cutesy memes really drive me crazy. Hay-caught-in-the-bra crazy. Boot-stuck-in-the-mud crazy. Crazy, okay?

The thing is, they often carry an underlying smug condescension, a good-old-boy’s back-slap humor that says the patronizing indulgence of the patriarchy should be celebrated, that it’s okay to poke fun at what a woman considers important, that it’s okay to make her feel selfish and/or guilty for having a passion that doesn’t involve her man. (Even, oddly enough, when they’re written and shared by women.) Those memes tend to say, “Aren’t men great for putting up with silly women and their horses?

No. No, they’re not. What they are is lucky.

If you fall in love with a horsewoman*, and she happens to love you back, you’ve found a woman who isn’t afraid to get dirty. A woman who knows how to work hard, how to do a job right without expecting anyone to notice. You get a woman who values substance over shallow surfaces, authenticity over appearance.

If you love a horsewoman, you get a woman who can be comfortable in her own skin because her horse sees who she is inside. You get a woman who knows the importance of clear communication and the peace of companionable silence, a woman who knows how to listen and how to speak her mind. A woman who understands how to be vulnerable and when to be brave.

If you love a horsewoman, you love a woman with dreams, goals, and ambitions of her own – a woman who knows how to pursue her passions and who will support you while you chase yours, too. You have a woman who recognizes the importance of patience, but who also knows there are times you just have to grab mane and kick on.

If a woman has a heart wide and deep enough to love a horse, she has a heart with more than enough love for you. Sure, she might spend time at the barn (or in the pasture, or on the trail) that you wish she was spending with you – but when she returns, she’ll be so lit with joy and love and enthusiasm that she’ll light you up, too.

I would argue that horsewomen make the best life partners, because if they can build a partnership of mutual trust and respect with a creature that outweighs them by a thousand pounds, a creature strong enough and quick enough to kill them – well, then, they’re capable of facing everything life has to throw at you standing bravely at your side.

Sure, she may show up with hay in her hair or muck on her boots or random grass stains on her shirts, but there is genuine beauty in doing what you love and being who you’re meant to be.

She may spend more time cleaning stalls than cleaning the floors in your house, but you can figure out how to mop, too. Maybe dishes will wait an extra night for washing or the laundry won’t get folded right away. Maybe dinner won’t be waiting when you walk in the door. But if those are the things that matter to you, then a) what the heck is wrong with you? And b) you can hire a housekeeper or kitchen staff, if you feel that strongly.

Or c) maybe you don’t deserve a horsewoman at all.

But if you’re man enough to catch one, you’re a lucky man, indeed.


  • Note: I freely admit not all women who say they love horses are actually horsewomen. I’m not talking about the fake ones, okay?