Conversations with the Silent by Katie Cerminara

Katie and Sassy

Katie and Sassy

I met Katie Cerminara through her work with Canine Adventure. We needed someone to care for Biscuit over a string of upcoming out-of-town engagements. And, Bub and I were both working so much that we thought Biscuit might like to get out of the house and onto the trail for some adventure walks.

When Katie showed up that first day to meet Biscuit wearing jodhpurs to go trail walking, I pretty much fell in love with her on sight. And, Biscuit, did, too. Though not because of Katie’s outfit and passion for horses, but because she has a true heart for animals. Continue reading

See Ya on the Trail!

Macadoo of the Maury River

Macadoo of the Maury River

This week, I’m hitting the trail to share with readers my love of horses and a new horse story, Macadoo of the Maury River, the second in the Horses of the Maury River series from Candlewick Press, set in my beautiful home state of Virginia. Continue reading

Never Give Up

Judith & Latte

Judith & Latte

Sometimes I lay off blogging because I feel like I don’t have enough time to get my words right. The thought of doing what I’m doing now…just going commando in the post window freaks me out. Even just this second, I almost backed up to take out those … because I read a post elsewhere about how annoying and lazy it is to use …

So, yeah. I’m trying to be brave and nekked.

Originally, and probably still for a lot or maybe even most bloggers, I think blogging was like that. Just an organic recording of thoughts, impressions, and ideas. But, I’ve never blogged like that without at least the safety net of enough time to re-order, revise, and re-think. So here we go. Yah, boy!

Sometimes people ask me: What’s with the horses? Continue reading

A Place of Knowing Within

Stretching

Stretching

When our horse, Albert, passed away in May, my sister, Leigh, offered words and images that helped me move into, with, and through my grief. In her health care practice, hospice volunteer work, and honoring ministry for people and pets, there’s a common thread of accompanying people through transitions. In particular, she’s devoted to nurturing the bond between people and animals. She is also an artist. Her photography and artwork reflect these themes, too. The photos of Albert in this post were taken by my sister over the course of his life with in our family.

Continue reading

Angel, Sent from Above

Angel

Oh, hi, Angel!

I like looking at this pretty girl’s face – both sides! Even if just in photos on my phone’s camera roll. She’s the pony I wrote about in Wonderponies, earlier this year. In that post, I was still shaking in my chaps from a freaky trail ride where she was so awesome. In that post, I mistakenly called her ‘Saved by an Angel.’ Which I was that day.

Her real-true whole name is: Angel, Sent from Above. And, she is.

I’ve been riding Angel weekly since January. When Albert was still with us, whenever I went to get Angel from the mare field, I could see his old, white face leaning out his stall door up the little hill. Then, after my lesson, I would go up to the south barn to hangout with Buddy himself and try to help him shed out. [The Cushing’s made him a Curlylocks all year round.]

Anyway, Angel’s such a friendly mare. But, I wouldn’t call her needy, you know? With me, anyway, she’s not real snuggly, though she always comes walking up to greet me in the field or her stall. She’ll trade exhales with me – my favorite way to greet a horse. She’s solid as the earth. In the ring, the wash stall, or on the trail, you can rely on Angel.

Still, I would never call her a babysitter, either. What I mean is that I can’t not do my job and just let her carry me around. With Angel, I do have to work and think and act consistently.

She’s a good listener, and I can tell that sometimes I talk too fast or too slow with my aids. I tend to be a chatterbox with my hands, a space cadet with my legs. So, there’s some accountability there between us. She will let me do all the work if I really insist, ha!

Angel again.

Same Angel face. Other side.

All my life, since I first started riding about 15 years ago, I’ve noticed a pit in my stomach every time before getting on a horse. Usually, the feeling would go away and, sometimes, not.

It’s just that my brain is, well, I think it runs with a dull processor in some areas. I don’t right away get the mechanics of certain things – movements, shapes, procedures – until they’ve imprinted in my mind. Really.

It’s no exaggeration that I learned to put a saddle pad on a horse by looking at the pad and saying to myself, “I think it goes this way, so it must go the opposite way.” For years I did this every time.

Now, after so long of repeating the process, I see the way the pad should fit. Halters? Same story. I STILL, sometimes have to hold the halter out and let my eyes find the shape in order to get it right. Same story with posting on the diagonal. For years, my eyes just couldn’t detect, couldn’t isolate the movement of the horse’s outside shoulder that I was supposed to rise with at the trot. But, now I can see it, so that helps me feel it.

So, I’m thinking that maybe I’ve always started out feeling kind of scared or unsure because I know there is so much about horses and riding that my brain struggles to translate. Because I know so much of the technical, mechanical parts of riding, I just don’t recognize or can’t easily replicate.

You know what, though?

Never have I felt a pit in my stomach near or on Angel. We’ve become friends at a good time in my riding life. I’ve worked through some of my spatial-mechanical challenges. My yoga practice, which I started the year I cracked my sacrum in a riding accident [THAT horse’s name was Achy Breaky, no-lie], is helping me now even more than I could have imagined. Especially, with releasing my calves, opening my hips, breathing in and breathing out.

The absence of a scary stomach lately is partly due to this deeper awareness of my own body and breath, I think. And, I’ve figured out how a few things operate by now.

But really, I credit Angel, Sent from Above, who is very likely really truly sent from above.

Angel last winter.

Angel last winter.

Pony Power

(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

Stephen Leslie of Hartland uses horses to weed an onion field. (Photo link: Valley News – Jennifer Hauck)

Rarely, when reading about sustainable farming, does the discussion explore the use of horses on the 21st Century farm. This week, Nicola Smith, staff writer for the Valley News in New Hampshire featured author-farmer Stephen Leslie, who uses draft ponies instead of tractors on his farm. In her article, Horse Power Returns, Smith describes how Leslie and his team of two Norwegian Fjord ponies live and work together on a 60-acre organic farm. His team of two 950 pound draft ponies (Cassima and Tristan) equals about a 20-horse power tractor. Leslie’s not alone in his preference for horse power over the roar of an engine. In fact, the article estimates that 400,000 U.S. farmers today are using horses.

According to Leslie, the author of The New Horse-Powered Farm: Tools and Systems for the Small-Scale, Sustainable Market Grower (Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 346 pages, $39.95), some of the benefits working the farm with horses include: less soil compaction, no fuel, and the joys of working with “a living, breathing, intelligent animal.”

The New Horse-Powered Farm by Stephen Leslie

I learned a lot from Smith’s article and definitely want to check out this book. When I first wrote about CSAs and the sustainable food movement, back in 1998, I was just learning to ride horses. What I found so interesting in this article is how much Leslie values his relationship with his two ponies. Even though the setting in this article is a working farm, I think the point is similar to what folks in therapeutic riding and animal therapy know to be true and what every pet owner knows: Human beings benefit physically, cognitively, and emotionally from animal companionship. Earlier this year Reuters published an equally fascinating article about how South Koreans are using horse therapy to help teens unplug from the Internet.

Coming Soon…Chancey of the Maury River App

I wrote Chancey of the Maury River (Candlewick Press) because I love horses. The friendship between our late horse, Albert, and my daughter inspired the first story.  Albert himself inspired so many folks, not only me. The second in the series, Macadoo of the Maury River, comes out this August. And, I’m having a total blast writing the third book, Dante of the Maury River, right now.

Riding, shoot even just brushing, a horse makes me happy.

And, honestly, I’m crazy for all the assorted riding outfits and accoutrements. I am! Can’t help it, I’ve always liked playing dress up. Even something as mundane as getting Albert a new halter or fly mask would bring out my inner equestrian-fashionista.While I don’t show, I’ve LOVED helping my daughter select show clothes and get all nice and turned out over the years.

For the longest time, I’ve imagined how fun it would be to create a barn dress up game based on Chancey. Last year, my husband and I founded Dogtown Pursuits because we’re both fascinated by the limitless creative opportunities with digital apps. In partnership with Three Hats Media (who also made this awesome app trailer), we’re just about ready to release a Chancey of the Maury River mobile app complete with an awesome barn dress up game, new story material in the form of Claire’s diary, and some fun facts about the different breeds in the Horses of the Maury River series.

This fall, the fabulous Michael Portis (Three Hats) and I will deliver a 2-hour workshop at the 2013 James River Writers Annual Conference in Richmond, VA.  Check back for more details on the program:

DIY BOOK APPS with Michael Portis and Gigi Amateau

Creating a book is simultaneously an artistic and entrepreneurial act. Beyond self-publishing and e-books, the 21st Century author can act as content creator and digital entrepreneur. In this dawning era of book apps, this session will examine our role and a process for creating book apps.