Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A little more about me and my horse life....

Over at I found this interesting little survey/questionnaire. I'm one of those people who often likes to answer these kinds of things. I believe they can tell a great deal about someone in short and sometimes long answers. Depends on the question. At any rate, I think GHM had a good idea about adding to the blogs and passing along. So, here are my responses!

1. How old were you when you first started riding? This is one of those longer answers ... I didn't really have the opportunity to ride daily until I started working at a summer camp for girls in '04 at the age of forty-three. I spent that summer helping girls learn beginning riding/horsemanship skills. I had been taking beginner riding lessons from the camp manager. She ended up being short staffed at the camp that summer. I wasn't employed. She took a chance and hired me for the summer. Before that time I had only sporadically ridden. I really didn't know what I was doing when I was "riding", mostly on a few head-tail trail rides at parks and the pony rides at the state fair when I was a kid. One time, when I was about 13, I did hop on the back of a neighbor's horse while she was standing beside the fence in an open field. "Bonnie" took about 10 steps and I jumped off!

2. First horse ridden: I suppose I'll give that credit to Koko and Sheik. Koko was a 30+ year old Standardbred school horse at the facility where I was taking lessons. Not knowing my riding level at that time, which was zilch, that's who my instructor put me on. Sheik was the 20+ year old Arabian step-up horse I started riding at the end of my six week lessons that spring of '04.

3 First horse trotted on: Koko

4. First horse cantered on: Koko

5. First Horse fallen off of: I started working at the year around riding facility after summer camp ended. There were 3 of us as staff,plus the manager and grounds keeper. Kleo, a big (17h), nasty tempered sorrel QH mare who I did not like at all was the first horse I was really dumped off of . Kleo could be a great trail horse but her stall and arena manners were often not pleasant. She bucked me off in an outside arena. I'm pretty sure some of it was my fault. I wasn't balanced and she caught me off guard. I liked riding her out on the trails, but not in the arena. I'll give her credit, as soon as I hit the ground, she simply trotted around, faced me and had the look of "What are you doing down there?" It was the first time I was afraid of falling off or getting bucked off. The manager had left the ranch that day, supposedly for a few hours. I was the only one there. My thoughts as I lay on the ground for a few minutes, checking to see if I still had a hip that worked; "OK, good thing I didn't break a hip. What if no one came back for a while and I couldn't have moved, what could I have done?" Fortunately, my hip was only bruised, but uncomfortable for a very long time. From that time on I petitioned the manager to ALWAYS make sure someone was around when the staff was riding. As far as I'm aware, she never made that a rule, which saddened me. I would no longer ride there alone and it's one of the reasons I decided to leave the job I'd really loved.

6. Most recent horse fallen off of: My saddle slipped on my rather plump Bo as we were trotting down a small hill. Embarrassing, but Hubby was the only one to witness it. I immediately jumped up, arms up over my head waving like those gymnasts I've seen on TV to let him know I was OK.

7. Most terrifying fall: The one on Kleo

8. First horse jumped with: Ginger. She was also one of the school horses, and my favorite. Ginger loved jumping over V-shaped creek beds on the hill sides during our trail rides, but I had to train her not to jump over them because she was a school horse. Once in a while, I'd let her jump, but most of the time I had to slow her down and make her walk over the the creek beds, and the logs, on the trails.

9. First horse who ran away with you: Fortunately, haven't had that happen yet, but if it does happen I'm thinking it'll be my Spirit. Guess I should erase those thoughts so he doesn't get them!

10. First horse that scared the crap out of you: Kleo. Boy, if anyone could scare the crap out of you it was Kleo! One day, before one of our weekend programs I opened her stall door. She'd been eating at her grain feeder. She looked at me then walked to the back of the stall, with her right side facing me, so I didn't really detect any problems. I had her halter in my hand. Kleo is a BIG horse. She snaked that long neck and head with ears flat, teeth bared and I slowly backed out of the stall. I hadn't had a horse do that to me before of all the horses at the ranch and all the camp horses I'd worked with the previous summer. She'd never done that to me before, but I'd heard she'd done it to some of the girls in the past. Well, just so happens, I wasn't in a pleasant mood that morning either. Maybe Kleo picked up on that. I walked over to the staff member who I knew liked Kleo and got along with her, handed her the halter and said, "Here, you deal with Kleo this morning."

11. First horse shown : Never shown and really have no desire to be in shows. I loved going to shows, as a spectator, when I was a kid. Shows were the closest I could get to seeing horses.

12. First horse to win a class with: I think it would be thrilling to win a class and if I were to show, it would be in something like a trail class.

13. Do you/have you taken lessons: I took beginner lessons. I'm sure I could use more. I have lots of gaps in my riding instruction but still manage to enjoy my guys whether I ride or not. I'm always open to advice from my horse riding friends.

14. First horse you ever rode bareback: Koko, the aged Standardbred I took my first lessons on. My instructor wanted me to feel the horse movement and it was a great experience even if Koko was very senior horse. Koko loved doing lessons.

15. First horse trail ridden with: A horse named Abby. I'll never forget her! A strawberry Appaloosa. Abby was one of the summer camp horses that we weren't able to use in the classes because she was having "issues" for the beginning riders. One afternoon the manager told us since we didn't have any classes we were going to take the "issue" horses out on the trail. I let all the "kids" (the other staff members were all 18-21 years old at the camp!) choose their horses and figured I'd just manage what was left. I soon learned why no one chose Abby. The my first long trail ride ended up worst ride of my life and still holds that memory! To this day I don't know how I managed to stay on her over those trails! Abby was barn sour. She jigged all over the place. She was scared of everything. I'm pretty sure it was my sheer will to not be outdone by any of the youngsters that kept me on Abby over all the hills, rocks, trees, and creeks we traveled that afternoon. My neck and shoulders ached for days! We never were able to use Abby for riding that summer. She had dental problems and trouble keeping weight on so she pretty much ended up enjoying a summer of pasture grazing before going back to her home farm. All the summer camp horses were leased from a place somewhere in Illinois. They arrived at the camp in late May and returned to their farm in Mid-August.

16. Current Barn name: When I worked at the summer camp we all had to have nicknames, a tradition this camp had used since it's inception. When asked what name I wanted to use, at first I balked. I don't like nicknames. I then blurted out "Grace" because I felt pressured. I'd been given that nickname in college one year but it was always in reference to my not being very graceful.

17. Do you ride English or western?: Western

18. First Horse to place at a show with: Maybe I'll have grand kids who want to show one day???

19. Ever been to horse camp?: Worked for one summer at a horse camp in 2004.

20. Ever been to a riding clinic? Clinton Anderson, Ryan Gingerich, Julie Goodnight, but all of these were the shorter, abbreviated clinics at the Equine Affaire in Columbus, OH.

21. Ridden sidesaddle? Nope, and have no desire.

22. First horse leased: Never quite understood this concept, but I suppose it's a good idea if you're into showing or don't really want to own??? I'm from a small, rural area and I'm not even sure if people lease around here. They probably do I just don't travel in those circles.

23. Last Horse Leased:

24. Highest ribbon in a show:

25. Ever been to an 'A' rated show?: I wouldn't know an A from any other show.

26. Ever competed in pony games/relay races?: We used to hold relay games during the programs we hosted at camp and at the year-around riding facility. The girls really enjoyed those games and the horses seemed to enjoy them as well.

27. Ever fallen off at a show: I can see it happening to me. That's one of my problems, balance.

28. Do you ride Hunter/Jumpers?: No, but enjoy seeing them perform.

29. Have you ever barrel raced? No,but it sure looks like a blast. I always wonder about the wear and tear on the horses though.

30. Ever done pole bending?: We used pole bending at a walk and trot during our programs. Really helped the girls with their control.

31. Favorite gait: I really just enjoy walking my horses on the trail to enjoy everything around me. Maybe pick up on an up hill or a flat, but for the most part, when I trail ride, I want it to be like a nice leisure stroll and take in all the sights and sounds while I'm out there. No rushing!

32. Ever cantered bareback?: Nope

33. Have you ever done dressage?: No. I don't know that I'd be that patient.

34. Have you ever evented?: No.

35. Have you ever mucked a stall?: Daily

36. Ever been bucked off?: Yep. Good old Kleo. Oh, and there was the little black pony Gloria. Well, she didn't buck me off, but she would often buck when asked for a trot. We discovered her saddle was bothering her. She didn't like heavier riders on her, even the girls. We finally checked out her saddle and found the tree was broken. We fitted her with a different saddle and she quit bucking when asked for a trot.

37. Ever been on a horse that reared: A couple, but not real big rears, wasn't so scary. More like small jump ups.

38. Horses or ponies. Horses, but I've been around a few ponies with great personalities, some not so great. We had Dani at the ranch. She had her lovely pleasant days and her grumpy mare days. Dani was probably a cross between an Icelandic and I don't know what. She was a gorgeous bay with an extra full black mane and tail. The manager called Dani a Halflinger for a long time until I pointed out she looked more Icelandic than Halflinger. She could have been a cross. Speckles looked like a POA (Pony of the Americas). He had the characteristics of a miniature brown, white spots on rump, Appaloosa. He had a fun personality. He could open up the gates like a pro! Which, naturally, made things a little more time consuming for us human caretakers around the place when it came to making sure gates were securely closed and chained. He was a great little trail pony!

39. Do you wear a helmet?: YES!!! I wish I could convince Hubby to do the same. What is it with men????

40. What's the highest you've jumped: Not very, probably only about 4-6ft over a V-Shaped creek bed or a 2ft-4ft high log on the trail.

41. Have you ever ridden at night?: Not yet.

42. Do you watch horsey television shows?: Of course!!

43. Have you ever been seriously hurt/injured from a fall?: Thankfully, no.

44. Most falls in one lesson: Didn't fall during my lessons but then I didn't do much that would have caused a fall, except maybe just getting on at first.

45. Do you ride in an arena/ring?: I don't have an arena, but I do have a round pen out in my field. I use it to start out on my horses, especially this time of year when they've had so much down time. I use it so I can keep them separated when I'm working with them.

46. Have you ever been trampled by a horse?: Thank goodness, no.

47. Have you ever been bitten?: Yep. Speckles.

48. Ever had your foot stepped on by a horse?: Speckles and Spirit. My Spirit used to be kind of gangly when I first got him. He was just a 2 yo. He has since been doing much better at where he's going. Speckles, I often wonder if that was just one of his "tricks" because I wasn't the only one who got their foot stepped on by him.

49: Favorite riding moment: Any time I took a trail ride when I used to work at the ranch. Beautiful landscapes. My friend and I would take a couple of hours and take our pick of horses and then just pick a trail for the day. We were "training". What better kind of job could you ask for?

50. Most fun horse you've ridden: Probably Ginger, from ranch where I worked those 2 years. She and I bonded. She was a good all around horse. I hope she still is! I haven't been back over there since I left. Couldn't bear to see all the "guys" I'd helped care for and work with during the time I was there.

Thanks GHM for getting me to think about some fond memories! And, some other things I need to get busy on!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Threat of Brush Fires

I knew this year was going to be a bad one for brush fires in our area. Our topography consists of beautiful forested hills, smaller versions of the Smoky Mountains. Actually, our area is often referred to as "The Foothills to the Smokies". However, with the breakage of trees from the winter ice storm and wind storms comes the threat of brush fires. Dry Brush in the form of treetops and broken limbs lying in heaps all around the hillsides. Logging done on a nearby property leaving more debris. Also, the stupidity of people burning unwanted brush on a blustery, warm March day. That's what happened yesterday.

Yesterday was an exceptionally warm, nice, pre-Spring day. Around 2pm I was spending time with the horses when I smelled wood smoke in the air. The day was very blustery with gusts of warm winds. I began seeing smoke rolling into our valley. Wonderful! Some idiot actually burning dry brush on a day like this! I just don't understand what goes through a person's mind! Anyone with any kind of common sense should know, you do not burn brush or anything, on a dry, windy, March day.

A couple hours later a firetruck with sirens blaring hurries up my little dead end country road. A single rider ATV following behind. Evidently they were checking to see if the fire had crept over the hill. They both returned back down the road about five minutes later. A neighbor phoned me and said the fire was actually two hillsides over but moving up the first hill fast because of the winds. Hubby came home from work at his usual time and said he saw firetrucks two roads over. People standing at the end of the road and the fire department had the road blocked off. Our fire departments are all volunteer. His guess was that some homes had been evacuated.

Smoke was hanging heavy in our little valley. Not much you can do when the situation isn't in your control except pray. I asked Hubby if he'd ever thought of a contingency plan for the horses. He looked at me kind of funny, as if to say, "You're worried about the horses, what about the house?" But then I think he realized that since the horses have been a big part of our lives, they are always in my thoughts when situations like these present themselves. He simply said, "Well, we'll just have to see, and no, I don't have a plan."

We don't have a trailer to move the horses. We just haven't had it in our budget. I want a small stock trailer, but other purchases and projects have been priorities. Last year, it was helping with #1 son's wedding. The year before it was a new roof on the house. The year before that it was a tractor. So, anyway, if I needed to move my horses out, I'd have to call a friend of mine who does have a trailer. I'm sure she'd help us out if she could. She has offered her trailer in the past.

Through the evening we were outside working on cleaning up some of our tree debris. Definitely NOT planning on any burning of any kind. The smoke died down, then just before dark the winds picked up again. Smoke filled the air. We could hear the beep, beeping of fire trucks down the road which meant some of the fire must have come over the hillside down that way. Naturally I was nervous. Does Bach's Rescue Remedy really work? I'm not sure but I gave myself a few shots.

I then realized that since I've had my horses I have been more concerned about a myriad of things I had never concerned myself with before them. From storms, to feed, to fires to's nearly like having children in my care again. I'm sure for the most part I overreact. Though I try not to. After all, what will be will be and you can't be prepared for everything you just deal sometimes.

Fortunately, this time, we were blessed with rain over night. We may not be so lucky the next time some yahoo around here decides to burn their brush on a windy day. As tolerant as I try to be, there are some things I just have little tolerance for, and one of the big ones is lack of common sense. You are often at the mercy of the people around you who ignore common sense. I'm not perfect, but I feel I have a good grasp on what is sensible and what is not, except maybe for my over emotional reactions to events that seem to endanger my horses. Where the heck does that come from?

Already, 2009 has been a very long year and it's only March. I don't want to dwell on "What's next?" I want to be able to look forward and smiling say "What a great year!" by the time December 31 comes around. So, I guess I'm going to have to keep repeating my mantra:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Feels like one of those years.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Book-Ten Feet Tall, Still by Julie Suhr

I absolutely loved this book! What a life Julie Suhr has had, a full one indeed.

Written in an easy flow as if she's sitting right there telling you her story of her endurance riding life. Honest. Vivid. Loving toward the many horses she's been involved with, yet very sensitive and down to earth. Amazingly, Julie didn't get into endurance riding and The Tevis Cup until she was in her 40's, in the 1960's, when endurance riding was still a relatively new sport, especially for women.

As the cover states: "The very personal 70-year odyssey of a woman who still pursues her childhood passion."

Often, these kinds of non-fiction books can be laborous and tend to be boring but not the case with this one. Each chapter is a story in itself about a particular aspect of Julie's experiences through the years. She spends much time on the favorite subject, the horses who have carried her, always helping her feel Ten Feet Tall.

Later chapters she devotes to the horses she lost along the way. I actually put off reading that chapter for a few days, but once I started reading she handled it with dignity. She describes being torn at making the decisions she had to make on the lives and deaths of some of her horse partners. Sometimes, not sure if she'd made the right choice. She never wanted her horses to suffer.

She covers the aspect of getting older and still riding. I am truly amazed by this woman!

The publisher makes aware the fact that all profits from the sale of the book will be donated to the American Endurance Ride Converence Trails Committee and the Western States Trails Foundation Trails Committee. What a wonderful contribution to her sport.

I highly recommend this book as a look into one woman's journey through the world of endurance riding if at all interested in the sport. Many things have changed over the years, but some have remained the same.

The book can be purchased at and