The horse's pasture to the East...

Friday, December 31, 2010


The years race by, don't they? I remember hearing my two Grandmothers laughing in the kitchen like girls. I'll never know what it was they were giggling about. They wouldn't tell me. I was a little girl. But I remember what they looked like, sitting at the little table with the red linoleum top. For just those few moments, there were no years between us. They were girls, like me, that time  had worked on just a bit more.

More than fifty years have gone past since that memory. They ran through my hands like water from a leaky faucet. But, oh, haven't I had fun watching it run away from me! I learned from my Grandmothers that day. They were my best teachers. They told me " Honey, LIVE! Live every single day with no regrets. Live big, live hard, live well. Push yourself. Decide who you want to be, then be better. And remember to laugh. It makes things that much sweeter."

I always loved the "...then be better." part of that conversation. It gave me liberty to keep trying, to keep pushing, to have no limits. I've "failed" over and over in my life, but never at anything serious. I lost a business or two, lost our house, and lost quite a bit of money but those aren't things I count as "serious". I'm one of the luckiest (spelled W O R K) people I know. I still have my family.

I watched an old cowboy movie last night. In it, one of the leads says " Blood counts." It does too. But my family is bigger than that. I have "family" all over the world. We talk about our horses, our children, our spouses and lovers, our dogs, politics and religion (although I'm very careful with those subjects, even with my "blood" relatives), aches, pains, joys and sorrows.

And I have my horses. I spent the evening outside with them tonight, watching the sun go down. It was cold. The wind whistled out of the North...nothing like last night when it was still 60 at bed time. The year is going out on a hard North wind bringing ice in the buckets and making  branches in the tree clack like old bones. And I guess they are too. This year is nearly gone, just like all the others. And it's going out with laughter behind it, pushing it's way through all the cracks and crevices.

A couple of weeks ago I came out to the barn after taking the dogs in, to bring the herd in from OUTSIDE. They'd been out long enough on the hay field. It was time for grain and the second half of the day.

The barn door was open! I didn't leave it like that. I was pretty sure. But maybe it was the "pretty sure" part that was important here, so I shrugged and wandered on out into the field to see where they were.

I couldn't see them. That's not too unusual. There are hills and valleys, trees, and hidden places out there. And Apache especially loves to play Hide and Go Seek. They were probably just around the bend, hiding back behind the locust trees. I decided to go mix the grain and supplements first, then whistle them in. So I walked back to the barn, turning the corner to go in the doors, thinking about the games I wanted to focus on with them. I wasn't prepared for what I found.

Apache was up on the hay stack! He had his back hooves on the bottom row of hay bales and his front hooves up on the next row. He turned to look at me, then reached up and grabbed a bale and threw it over his head to Lucky. From the looks of things, he'd been doing that for a while too. There were bales all over the barn! My first thought was "HORSES DON'T CLIMB HAYSTACKS!" Obviously I was wrong about that one. And my second thought was " AND THEY DON'T TOSS BALES EITHER!" The only thing to do was to dissolve in a gale of laughter, of course!

I leaned back against the wall, slapped my hands on my cheeks and out loud, bent over belly laugh. And I didn't have my camera with me either. Why is it the best stuff happens when I don't have my camera? Well, this morning I DID have my camera. I caught some of it as it happened. They'd planned it while I took the dogs inside again, the rascals!

Bring up the Mission Impossible music. My Left Brain Extrovert is ready to play! The world is his oyster.

And I didn't leave that door open either. So who opened it? And where's Lucky and Willow?

Now I want to stop here for just a moment and ask you to think about what they had to work out on their own to accomplish what they did. I haven't directly taught them any of this. They learned and generalized by watching me.

I have a rope hung on the door because it's hard to open. It gives me leverage to pull an old, creaky, slightly crooked door with some ease. One of them had to figure that to grab that rope and which way to pull it to open the door. It slides to the side, not out. And then they had to go through a squeeze, an opening not much bigger than them and into their barn from a direction they usually don't go. Everything looks different to them from the outside.

Apache wasn't all the way up this time...just part way up onto the pallets that they hay is sitting on to keep it dry and well ventilated. I followed him in, so he's not the only culprit here. See those little legs back behind Apache? (the spots are probably spit from me laughing so hard while I took pictures! I'm usually pretty good with a camera, but I had to prop my hand on the table to shoot this. I was laughing that hard!)

Hale, hale the gang's all here! I didn't correct the reflections in their eyes because they're all little "devils" in this episode. 15 acres of hay on the ground, but it's much better when it's stolen goods! Not one of them is showing any remorse either. Look kind of smug, don't they? And look at Apache! He's going up the stack again! Well, one thing I've got to say. It's never, ever dull! And, just between you and me, I'm so proud of them my buttons are popping!

Something like this means that they, all three, have real self confidence. They're thinking and planning and accomplishing difficult tasks on their own. And they all have such confidence and trust in me that they just kept eating, even when I caught them. (No one ever takes me seriously when I'm laughing...sigh.)

I am having so much fun with my life! The hard things make me stronger. The "failures" teach me better than any of the "successes" ever do. The easy parts? That's where I catch my breath. I laugh every single day about something, even when I have to spend another half hour cleaning things up...again.

I hope you, faithful reader, find something to laugh about as your year runs out too. And I hope your New Year is never, ever dull. I know mine won't be. 2011 is going to be great!

This is the last sunset of 2010 from our place here in OZ. Look out 2011! I'm hitting the ground running this year.  YEEEEEEEEEE HAAAAAAAWWWW!  I am having so much fun!

I am, ever yours, Nancy, head back and laughing!

Thursday, December 30, 2010


A couple of years ago a friend of mine reconnected with me after I sent out cards at Christmas and put my email address at the bottom. We hadn't seen each other for almost 40 years, since High School.

We caught up on marriages, children and grandchildren (Hers. I don't have any yet.) And then we got around to having ordinary conversations. She gave me an idea that I've been using ever since.

I told her that I was struggling with my New Years resolutions. There were so many things I wanted to accomplish! How was I supposed to choose? Her reply was "I don't do resolutions. I choose a word and work on that." Talk about genius! That took all the stress away. No more resolutions to break and feel like I'd failed myself...again. All I had to do was choose one word. How hard could that be?

I think I agonized over one word more than I ever did over writing resolutions! If you choose just one word, it becomes a philosophy.   gulp    I made lists and erased lists. I did research, read books, talked to friends and, in general, made what should have been an intuitive choice into a headache. Oh, the agony and the ecstasy! I confess that I even lost sleep over it. Living by a one word philosophy was not going to be easy.

So you're wondering what my word was. (This is so apt...and so funny!) SIMPLIFY   That was my word for 2010, my first year for living a one word philosophy. It gave me reasons to laugh all year long.

I have a tendency to suffer from "paralysis of analysis" (Pat Parelli, talking about saddle choices). I waaaay over do things. It's the Type A Nancy, former business owner and straight A student, who makes mountains out of teeny, tiny bumps...not even mole hills. I make everything too hard and it's always me I'm hardest on.

Every time the mountains appeared on the horizon, I saw the word. I should capitalize that. The WORD. And for 2010 it was SIMPLIFY. If I'm going to agonize, do it in a Zen way by following my one word philosophy. SIMPLIFY.

It wasn't a bad year either. I had my word posted where I could see it every day, and then I tried to adhere to it. I kept breaking things down in to smaller and smaller blocks (obstacles) to work on. Don't sweat the small stuff...and it's ALL small stuff. It's become such an important word to live up to that I've decided to keep it posted.

    This year I consulted the experts when it was time to make my choice. Apache said "You ASKing me?"

               Lucky said " ASK and ye shall receive...especially if there's Winnie's Cookies involved!"

                                                        And Willow said "ASK."

And that's my word for this year.   ASK   Another toughy. Ruminate and cogitate on it for a while. How many of us never ASK because we're too polite? Or we put it off because the answer isn't one we really want to hear? Or we're too doggone proud to ASK for help, to admit we need it. (There's that ugly fellow, ego, getting in the way. He runs the 'monkey brain'.)

It's going to be an interesting year! I plan to be doing A LOT OF ASKING here.

I hope your New Year is even better than this year. And I hope that this year was amazing, incredible, spectacular, AWESOME.    (Oops. There goes my SIMPLIFY, right out the window. See why I need to keep it around?)

I am ever yours, Nancy, laughing out loud!

Monday, December 27, 2010


I've made a new friend! His name is Houston. You'll love his full registered name. It's " Houston, we've got a problem." I'm still laughing about that one.

Houston belongs to a neighbor of mine, across the road from us. They have a very nice little ranch with long, lovely open fields...much flatter than our place. He's an 'only' horse. His buddy died a couple of years ago, so he gets pretty lonely over there by himself. I've watched him from the road. He stands as close to the fences as possible, gazing off towards his neighbor's horses.

His human partner has severe arthritis, so she isn't able to work with him much or ride him. He's just a bit chubby and out of shape himself. (Well, OK...he's fat!) She was one of the people I called the day we had Chaucer come to stay for a while. While we were talking about our mysterious visitor (Chaucer, also known as Beau), she asked what we were going to be doing this year for Christmas. I told her " I spect we'll be staying home. I think one of my sons may be coming in for a visit with his wife. It's going to be a nice, quiet weekend for us."

The conversation wandered around a bit, as they always do with neighbor ladies who are catching up with each other. And then she asked if I might not mind coming over to care for Houston while she and her husband were out of town. Of course I said yes! I never pass up the opportunity to meet another horse, especially one I've watched from the road for so long. I'd heard that he was a "keeper"...real sweet and easy to be with.

This was out first encounter without his "Ma" there. " Grrrrr. I'm big. I'm bad. I live up to my name!" I'm sorry. I just couldn't take him seriously. His nose was going the whole time, sniffing. " I'm bad unless you have carrots in your pocket." All I could do was laugh.

John went with me to record what happened...and to learn. He's a new Parelli student himself, and just as bitten by the "horse bug" as I am.

Look at the contrast in his face here. On the right side (his right), his eye is soft and his ear is towards me. On the left his ear is still back and his eye is harder. The muscles in his face are contracted on his left side too. Fascinating! John caught his change in expression at the exact moment it began to change!

"Grain? Carrots? wait. I don't mean it! BRING ME MY GRAIN! I didn't mean it. Honest. I'm nice. Really." See why he made me laugh? What a character!

 This is the second day, later in the morning. She'd told me that she's only letting him out into his field for an hour or two a day. She's trying to help him loose weight. (I"ll get to that later) So we didn't let him out the first day. I wanted to make sure he was comfortable with us and saw us as a source of pleasure. IE. Bringers of food. It's not too hard to tell that he's a Left Brain Introvert. This big boy is ALL about food. And he's bored and lonely too, which his human partner is aware of and most distressed about. She loves him a great deal, but is trapped by circumstances she sees as overwhelming. We let him out in his field for a couple of hours while we went back across the road to do chores for our own herd.

Guess the "Bringer of Food" title worked. Look at how nicely he's coming in to me!

I have to stop and tell you here that it really is easier to get a horse to bond up with you when he's as lonely as Houston is. On his side of the road, since his nearest horse buddy in the next field died in October (a lovely, gentle and ancient quarter horse of more than thirty years), he can only hear neighboring horses. From his point of view, he's ALONE! Very scary situation for a horse.

Doesn't he have a nice posture, as he's coming to me? His head is down and his ears are focused on me. If you can't tell, I'm already in love with him. He is a total character.

Look at that massive neck! He is way, way over weight. But his conformation is very nice and square. His back is still level. He's a Tennessee Walker, by the way. Somehow these gaited horses keep showing up in my life.

What a nice greeting! It was a lovely, long "Horseman's Handshake". We took our time here...several minutes of sniffing, licking and chewing on his part. He was processing who John and I were, friend or foe. It didn't take him long to categorize us as "Friends".

And here it is! Our little "breakthrough".( John, if I haven't told you before, used to be a very good journalistic photographer. He's doing a great job of capturing all the important moments here, isn't he?) His head came down and the change in his energy was palpable. He completely gave himself to me, just like that! I didn't know whether to laugh with delight or to cry because it was so poignant.

Look at how soft and willing he is here. He's so vulnerable at this moment! We spent several minutes just standing there, getting to know each other. There was no hurry. It was all on his timetable, his pace. And he just kept offering and offering! I tried to brighten the picture just a bit here. I want you to see the softness in his eyes. At one point they were closed in a kind of Ecstasy. He was that relieved to have company that spoke "horse" !
This was the real surprise of the morning. I'd left my halter and lead, Carrot Stick and Savvy string outside the fence. I wanted to greet him just as equipment...if possible. I gave him the same signal I give to Lucky and Apache when I want them to Circle around me and go into their paddock. I visualized it, then ever so softly pointed in the direction I wanted him to go, leading with my eyes and shoulders...AND HE DID IT! His leg has just come forward there (left lead) and he's beginning his walk around me. SON OF A GUN...HE DID IT! I am having way too much fun!
After he had his tiny, wee bit of grain (just enough for incentive and to give him his supplements) and a lovely slurp of water, he came to me again just as if we'd been together for years. He was as soft and easy with me as my own herd across the road. I put this image in so you can see his chunky body. If you imagine him in better shape, without his tubby belly, he's a very nice horse. His human told me that he's 17 years old. I think he still has great potential!
"Want to play...dribble, dribble, dribble? How about going out for a ride? A nice grooming? Scritching? Got carrots?" Oh, the conversations we were having. Look at that focus.
We spent more than an hour there with him. The whole morning was at his speed, and it was all about Friendly Game. I moved at his pace, accepting what he had to give me. Look at the expression here! He's practically in my lap at this point. What a great, wonderful, sweet, shaggy bear of a horse he is.

This was when I knew it was time to stop. It was perfect! He let me find his scratchy place! I've never had any horse except Lucky allow me in that close, that intimate, and with such complete abandon THAT QUICKLY before! I stopped here, turning and leaving him half asleep with contentment, making these soft, little crooning noises. It was that profound for him.

As we drove out, his person drove in. We stopped at the end of the drive and I told her how things had gone while she was out of town. Then I offered to help her with him. She said " We'll see. I need to think about that." Good answer! Always be cautious and thoughtful about who you let work with your horses.

We went back home and spent some more time outside with our guys, playing at Liberty and just hanging with them. When we went inside, there was a message waiting for me. Houston's human had called. The message said " I don't know what you did, Nancy. But I want you to come back and do it some more! And I hope you'll teach me too!" Her voice had tears in it.

Maybe she will be one of my Parelli Recruits?!

I am, ever yours, Nancy...smiling at the wonderment!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Sometimes the games we play aren't easy to define. I've been incorporating Parelli's Seven Games into everything I do with my herd. The more I stay with the program, the more consistent they are. It works two ways. Yesterday I used the Games for everyone when my friend brought three of her Grandchildren for a Holiday visit.

She spent a lot of time with horses when she was a girl, so she has some horse sense. But her Grandchildren are suburbanites who spend most of their time in fenced in yards and in carefully supervised play time with their friends. Coming out to our place is like going to a National Park. It's big, wide open and yesterday I had the horses OUTSIDE, so there were no fences between them and the horses. It isn't like seeing wild horses, but from their point of view it was just as exciting.

We practiced some simulations before we went out to visit, playing Friendly game, Wax on-Wax off, Porcupine and Driving. It was a diverse group too. The youngest was 3 years old and has Downs Syndrome, the next is 5 and has been out before, so she became the instant expert. And their cousin is 12 years old and quite full of himself, as all healthy 12 year old males are. Grandma is my age and has been a friend for many, many  years. Her children grew up with mine, next door neighbors.

When they all felt confident enough, out we went to bring the horses in for their morning grain. I'd saved that for them to do. It can be so empowering the first time you interact with  horses if it's done right and set up for success. I wanted them all to go home with an exciting story to tell their Mom's and Dad's.

I had things set up so all they had to do was mix the grain, add some carrots and whistle the horses in. I LOVE THE PARELLLI'S! I have to stop here again and say my "Thank you!" for giving me a program I can follow and apply. My horses came in and gave those kids the morning of a lifetime!

The kids did exactly what we'd practiced. They walked out about twenty feet down the path, whistled my three note signal that means "REALLY GOOD THINGS ARE WAITING!" to the herd, cocked over onto their legs and waited.

I swaney. Sometimes I think those horses are psychic! They were way out in the field, so far you couldn't see them because of the hills. But when the 12 year old let loose the whistle I'd taught him, heads came up and in they came, right on cue. But this time the energy coming across the field was low and wild and wonderful "woohoo!", the way it is when I call them.  Lucky went to the 5 year old and leaned way, way down to carefully touch her hand and then slowly walked into his grain bin with her right next to him, perfectly matching energy to each other. She held the bucket for him so he could have the first bite, and then her Grandma picked her up so she could empty the rest into Lucky's green bin hanging on the fence.

All the way through Lucky was the perfect gentleman, standing quietly to the side while his bin was filled. I never moved. She handled all of it. OH MY. I was so proud of Lucky...and proud of my little friend too. It was the perfect match for the two of them too. Both of them are Left Brain Introverts. He chose his little person just as if they'd been together for years.

Apache chose the little 3 year old girl! He came up to her and carefully, gently touched her hand. The amazing part was that he stood there and waited his turn without moving, matching himself to her tiny self and waiting while Lucky (Big Kahuna around here...alpha) took his turn. I walked the "littlest horseman" along with Apache, taking him to his shed stall, but I think he would have walked with her alone! He was attendant on her, not me. I was as neutral as I could be and still move along with them.

She held the big bowl, using all of her strength to do it, so Apache could have his first bite. Apache was so gentle with her! He took just a little nibble out of the bowl, no pushing at all, then he stepped back while I held her up so she could put it in the corner bin for him. When he stepped forward to eat, she threw her arms around his leg and gave him a kiss! He stopped eating and leaned down and touched her on the top of her head. Golly.

Willow chose the 12 year old. She came in and grabbed the edge of his jacket and led him to her spot! He was so startled, he followed. I was close to crying, I was so moved by the love and careful, respectful way my horses had interacted with those little girls. Willow made me laugh out loud! That was exactly what that ornery young man needed!

All three of them closed the gates and doors for me. They latched them too (with me checking afterwards) and then helped to coil the ropes I put up as temporary fencing. The morning couldn't have worked out better! Before they left, after lunch, we all had to go down to say goodbye to the horses!

Yesterday we were writing our own movie and every "take" was a "cut and print"! I sent them all off with big smiles on their faces! It couldn't have been more perfect!

It doesn't get any better than that! Sometimes the "miracles" that happen, happen because we worked for them.

I am ever yours, Nancy, smiling because I'm amazed every single day!

Friday, December 17, 2010


Sometimes you just never know where life is going to take you. You walk around a corner and things change in ways you would never suspect.

This morning, at 5 AM, when John went out to let the horses out of their paddock and into the pasture, there was a horse in the yard. It wasn't one of our horses. It was a big, handsome gelding bigger than Lucky (who's 15 hands 3 inches).

I knew something was up when he came flying in the door so fast after going out. Early morning time is very important to him. This time of year it's sometimes the only time of day he gets to see the horses. He usually stays out to "be" with them, just leaning on the fence or standing with them while they eat some hay. But this morning he hit the door only moments after he'd gone out.

I was up and pulling boots and a sweater on before he got to the bedroom. My heart was in my throat. I was afraid it was something bad!

" Honey! (pant, pant, pant) Honey!"  (This was driving me nuts. Just say it! Take a breath, relax, and tell me the bad news.) "Honey...there's a horse in the yard, outside the fence."  Whew. No big deal. Apache, gate master, has been at it again. "NO, I mean that it's ANOTHER horse, a big horse, not our horse!"  ??

Another horse? Oh my. This was going to be interesting. I know all of the neighbor's horses. They sometimes get out and come to visit. I wonder who it is this time?

I walked down to the barn with John and, sure enough, there was a big horse standing there contentedly eating from a pile of hay that John had put out for him. (A + John!) He was a big dark bay gelding, about 16 hands and some inches, stout and in his long winter coat. He turned and, very politely, walked to me and touched my hand! Oh my. I loved him already.

His eyes were very calm and soft and he was just plain happy to be here! Lots of contented sighing going on. When he came to me, he stood very patiently while I ran my hands over his great thick neck and down his back. No tension at all in this big guy. But when I picked up some skin to see if he was dehydrated, he definitely was. The skin didn't spring back the way it should. It stayed up for much too long. He needed water!

John acted as the bucket person. He filled it and held it while the big horse drank...and drank...and drank. Then he went back and filled it again. And, again, the horse drank and drank. He ended up drinking more than two buckets full. Later in the morning I filled another bucket for him and he drank again.

I stood there for a while with him playing FRIENDLY game with him. What lovely eyes he had. When I turned and walked through the gate, he followed. It was that easy. He knew he was safe and was content to stay a while.

I could tell he'd been here most of the night. There were piles of frozen poop everywhere in the yard. He and my herd had already settled their differences on their own. Dominance issues were determined without us, thank you very much! They turned and walked out into the pasture in a line...Lucky, Apache, Willow and our visitor coming up behind. It was funny to watch because he was, by far, the biggest physically. But Lucky was still in charge. They all seemed to be happy with the arrangement, so I didn't interfere. And everyone was thoroughly exposed to each other, so whatever was going to happen, was going to happen. It was done before we came onto the scene.

I've spent the day calling Vet's offices, calling neighbors and calling the Sheriff's department. They sent out two very nice officers, one of them a country 'boy', so he knew what to do. And then they took off up and down the road to knock on doors, trying to find the people he might belong to.

John had gone on to work, but before he went he named our gelding visitor. His barn name, at least with us, is Chaucer. Suited him too. He's a big stout fellow with a stolid air of mystery. Sounds like a "Chaucer" to me! While the officers were out hunting down neighbors, I called my farrier to see if he was in the area. He was! He came by and gave Chaucer a trim for me. Chaucer's hooves were in terriblE condition...way too long. He was tripping and obviously very uncomfortable.

He stood very nicely for us while the farrier did his job. And when he walked off, he was noticeably lighter on his feet. In the meantime one of the officers called and told me he may have found the owner! Turns out Chaucer lives up the road a mile or so from us. The lady who owned him was very surprised that his hooves had been trimmed. She'd been trying to rasp them (I did not see any evidence of that, but maybe she was embarrassed so she told me that?). I smiled and told her it was no problem at all and sent them on down the road.

Lucky and Apache were distraught that part of their herd was leaving. Bonding had happened that quickly! They cried and so did Chaucer (who's real name was Beau). Later I heard from one of the neighbors that the fences at Chaucer's home were in terrible condition. I'm not going to be surprised if he comes back for another visit. If he walked out once (and there were no scrapes or wounds, so I think he did walk out), he'll do it again.

The best part of the day was standing there while I made my calls and watching the four of them interact with each other. All Lucky had to do to direct his herd was to lift his head and flick an ear. Apache wasn't as subtle. He wanted to play! He'd put pressure on zone two, then on zone three and off they'd go, especially once Chaucer's hooves were trimmed up. My little Kahuna had big old galumpy Chaucer moving all over that field.

Willow had to go up to Chaucer just once and bite him in the chest and that was it. He recognized the lead mare, even if she is only 34 inches high and weighs just 250 pounds!'s all in the attitude. #1 ATTITUDE, 7 KEYS TO SUCCESS , Pat Parelli. Now I know that's supposed to describe the horseman, but in this case it described the horses.

I am ever yours, Nancy, smiling at the weird days too!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


My Grandpa carried a pocket watch. Like most farmers, he ran his day by it. He kept it in his vest pocket, hooked with a gold chain. Whenever he flipped it open, I knew something was going to happen.

" I think it's time we had a tree, don't you? Let's go see if we can get those lazy horses up and cracking. We'll need help with this."  And then he smiled at me. He was going to take me with him!

I watched while he got the harnesses ready. They hadn't been used in a while, so all the leathers needed to be checked. I know they were well cleaned and oiled because I was the one who did that. It was a job I took seriously, even though I didn't know how they were used. I'd never seen Penny and Sun hooked to the wagon before.

I climbed up on the hay bales and brushed them, first Penny and then Sun. They stood quietly, patiently for me. This was old hat to them. They'd spent their lives pulling that wagon. Sun kept turning to nudge me here, push me there. "You missed a place. I itch here." She was excited! We were going out to work.

It took a while to get things done. The wagon was dusty and the harnesses needed to be checked one more time, and then adjusted. Time is different when you're little. There is no past, no future. You're in the "now" all the time, so everything is intense, and new. I can still close my eyes and remember how the bells sounded, the creaking of the leathers and the quiet sniffling and occasional snorts and sighs coming from the horses. They were as anxious to go as I was.

At last it was time! Grandpa swung me up onto the bench seat next to him and out we went, through the barn doors, into the sunshine...just me and my Grandpa and our horses. I was on top and everything was perfect! Every time they took a step, the bells on the harness rang in a rhythm, matching their time. I was feeling pretty important, up there on that bench.

We had a saw and some ropes with us, stowed away in the back of the wagon. And under the seat were some old blankets in case it got cold. Cold? Never occurred to me. Grandpa had told me to keep an eye out for the perfect tree. I was too focused to be cold. It was my first tree ever, the first one that I got to pick. I was going to take home the prettiest tree that anyone had ever seen!

That day spreads out in my memory, going on forever. It probably didn't. Penny and Sun were very old by that time. Grandpa would never keep them out too long. They were retired and his friends. I run it through my mind every Christmas, though, when we go out to find our own tree.

This year, for the first time, we bought a tree. We've done such a good job of clearing all the fields around here during the past nine years that there are no more cedars small enough to cut! And now it isn't permissible to cut on the neighbor's land. Used to be most everyone was happy to have the cedars removed from their fields. They're a weed tree in Kansas. People aren't as easy about having you on their land to help by taking a tree as they once were.

This morning, though, while I was outside doing chores and spending time with my herd, I did find a treasure to add to our store bought tree. It's a tiny nest made of hair from Lucky, Apache and Willow! It had blown out of a tree or from under an eave during the big winds that we've had the past few days. It's like a jewel, it's so well made. Lucky's red hair and Apache's black hair make up the outside of the nest. Willows soft, woolly grey hair is on the inside, put there to keep the babies warm.

I showed it to Lucky when they came in for grain. He sniffed at it and was indifferent. It wasn't grain or carrots. Apache picked it up and flipped his head up and down, then dropped it. It wasn't a tool to steel and hide. Willow curled her upper lip in a flehmen. It was interesting, but only for a moment. It was grain time and she's as serious about her tiny bit of breakfast as Lucky is about his! So it was official. The wind had brought a gift to me!

When we went out to get my very first tree more than fifty years ago, one of the things we took with us were a package of cookies my Grandma had made. They were Grandpa's favorite cookies were made with molasses and ginger. I'm going to give that recipe to you, as my gift. He loved them with his coffee. " Perfect for dunking!", is what he told me. I make them every Christmas and hear bells in the harnesses when I eat them. If you listen, you might hear them too along with the sounds of two horses pulling a wagon, all those years ago.


1. Soften and mix together :  1/3 cup real butter, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1 brown country egg, 2/3 cup molasses.  It should make a nice, gooey, brown mixture.

2. Sift together and stir in : 2 3/4 cups unbleached flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp sea salt, 2 tsps cinnamon, 1 or 2 tsps ground ginger (I like two tsps of ginger. So did Grandpa. ) Mix just until it's a nice dough, but not too much.

3. After chilling the dough (nice because you can make it the day ahead of time), Roll out the dough about 1/8th to 1/4 inches thick (thin is better!) and cut with cookie cutters. This is going to make about 5 dozen cookies, so do it in stages. Keeping the dough cold is a good idea. It gets sticky as it warms up. Place the shapes about 1 inch apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet.

4. Cook at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool and ice if you want to. I like them plain with tea or hot chocolate.

I always gave Penny and Sun one of these cookies too. They didn't dunk them, but they did love to eat them!

I am ever yours, Nancy, smiling and remembering

Friday, December 10, 2010


Energy. It's a funny thing. I've watched videos on youtube showing the effect that words have on something as simple as a drop of water. Dr. Masaru Emoto did his experiment using water that is frozen and filmed at the moment the word is uttered. Then he repeated the idea using rice, growing it in a controlled atmosphere, again showing the effects that violent language as opposed to language promoting peace, love and kindness have on a living entity.

It's an old experiment dating back to the sixties, showing the effect that the word "love" has on growing plants. When I repeated that experiment for a class when in college, I was amazed at what a little love and attention had on a plant. The plant that was neglected (all I did was water it and give it exactly the same growing conditions, fertilizer and soil) was half the size of the other, it changed my approach to everything I did. The impact was that profound for me!

I'll never be perfect. No one is. That's part of being human...learning, practicing, making mistakes and trying to relearn again. I do try to keep that idea in my mind when I'm with people. It's better to give them positive feedback, positive attention, positive emotions than it is to castigate and criticize. If I can't keep it on the plus side, I do my best to politely walk away. One of my favorite quotes from Pat Parelli is "Don't walk the extra mile for someone going in the opposite direction." I decided to interpret that as "Smile and walk away, politely."

When I'm with Lucky, it's even more obvious when I'm not using my energy in a positive way. He lets me know when I'm being unclear in my requests, when I've forgotten to be polite and passive in the proper position, or when I'm not being honest with myself or with him about how I feel that day.

Both of my horses are extremely sensitive, as are all horses. They've survived for millineum by being hyper aware of what the other horses in their herd are saying with their bodies, and what Predators are doing. They know when to turn and run in a nano second, and they do without questioning it because the herd survives as a group, not as a collection of individuals who question each other. " Oh yeah? Who says that lion is hungry? he could just be stretching or something." Wouldn't be any survivors in a herd like that one in very short order. They are masters at interpretation of the finest details in their environment. Run first...question later.

Lucky and Apache have allowed me to become their alpha mare. It's something I never take lightly. I identify so clearly and deeply with this that I've even begun to have dreams where I walk with them and, as we move together, I lean over on to all fours and become a grey mare. It feels so natural for me that, when I wake up, I'm sometimes surprised that I'm in a human barn and I'm wearing a human body! Sounds wacky doodle, I know. But that's the way it's been this year for me.

Something has happened to my ability to work/play with Lucky. Sometimes, when I'm in 'the zone', I think what I want to do with him and HE DOES IT! And when I'm deeply in to my 'zone', where time has taken on that strange liquid feel, he knows what's going to happen before what happens happens. And SO DO I! For me it's better than dancing, better than painting, even better than chocolate. Describing it in words is inadequate. It's become a kind of spiritual quest for me.

I don't always hit that 'zone', but when I do it's magic! It centers me like nothing else I do.

Yesterday, when a friend of mine and her two sons came for a holiday visit, I took them outside with me when it was time to being my herd in from OUTSIDE. (for those of you who are only just finding my BLOG, OUTSIDE is when I put up a rope to keep them away from the road and let them outside the fences, into the hay fields. They love it! So much room to run, so little time to do it. And, of course, the grass is always greener on the outside of the fence!)

She hadn't been out for a while, so getting her reaction to the new level of communication and trust between Lucky, Apache, Willow and I was informative, not to mention the strokes to my ego. They were at the back of our long fifteen acres hay field, so far that you could only just see their backs because they were standing on the down side of the hill. They always know when I'm there. I know they can hear and see me. But I didn't do anything except whistle my three note tune to them once.

Heads came up, ears turned towards me and KAWANG!... in they came at a canter which became a race. The energy coming across that field towards us was awesome! It was a full out "WOO HOO!". They were, all three, galloping before they'd crossed half of that field. I stood and waited, "YEE HAWING!" with them because I know how much they're having. I love watching them stretch out and let out all the stops.

Lucky always wins. He's longer and taller and has this amazing power coming from behind. He zigged just before he got to me, doing this beautiful flying lead change from his left to his right lead. Oh my! Gorgeous. Lucky skidded to a stop long enough to touch my hand, then gaited into his paddock and up to his feed station, tossing his head with his mane flying.

Apache was next. He's like a locomotive. He puts that head down and GOES, pushing from behind. He gets so exuberant, though, that he usually starts bucking and jumping for the shear joy of it. UP AND DOWN, UP AND DOWN like he's on a giant pogo stick. Sometimes he does what he did yesterday. He slides to a stop right in front of me, about ten feet away and then jumps up and down over and over. Then he prances over to me, neck arched, and says "SO THERE! He's fast but I can jump!" and then into his stall he goes, turning to look out at me while waiting for his grain and carrots.

Last but never least is Willow. Donkeys are different physically. When they run, because of where the head connects to the neck and the neck to the body, they run with their head up and, in Willow's case, her head just a bit to the side. She did a buck and fart too. She never jumps up without coming down with a "TOOT!" It's so undignified...and so Willow. She always makes me laugh. She slows herself down by running in a circle, bucking and farting. I totally love having her! She is so much fun. And she's even funnier when she does her buck and fart circle because she's having a temper tantrum! Wish all tantrums were that easy to handle.

I turned to tell my friend's kids where the buckets of grain were, and there they were, all three, standing in a row with their jaws dropped. It was, I think, the first time they'd had a chance to see what happens when your relationship becomes "Parelli" 100%. To most horse people (and other's for that matter), it verges on the miraculous. Horses are usually evasive when their humans enter the environment. And they certainly don't have a race to see who gets to their person first!

Now I'm going to give you the real secret to cooking and baking. Put LOVE into everything you do, the same way you put your heart into your hands when you're with the horse you love...or the dog, child, lover, friend, whomever you're with. Really think about it. Wish them happiness, peace and success. LOVE THEM while you cook.

If you think about what a simple word can do to a drop of water, think about what your LOVE can do to the meal, or muffins or cookies you're baking! Profound, don't you think?

I am, ever yours, Nancy...smiling (and now you know why I always sign like that. I'm sending my story to you with LOVE)

Keep it positive. Keep it natural! (Love it when any of the Parelli staff signs like that!)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


They say the third time is the charm. I'm hoping that's so. I've tried to post on the previous two days and lost both stories and sets of photos...very frustrating.

Last Saturday, in Lawrence, we had the Horse Parade. It's the largest parade of it's kind on the country...all horses all the time. There were more than ninety different kinds of buggies, carts and wagons and more Outriders than I could count. And most people were in costume too.

The parade started with the Color Guard from Fort Riley. We had a chance to stop and talk to them at the Park they were stationed in. Their saddles are all authentic, right down to the last detail. So are their uniforms.

We saw beautiful Frisians, Paints, Shires, Shetlands, Quarter Horses, Belgians, Mules, Donkeys. You name it, they were there.

There was even a Doc's buggy with the beleaguered, exhausted Doc "asleep" in his buggy while the horse took him home.

There was a Chuck Wagon with all the pans rattling on the sides (and the horses never batted an eye either!) and a restored Wells Fargo Stage Coach.

And then there were the Buffalo Soldiers riding side by side and singing gospel and marching songs. We met them last year. Their rigs are authentic too. And their uniforms are even made out of real lindsey woolly fabrics.

That palomino horse and the buckskin were both very calm and even tempered geldings. They both wanted to know if I had cookies. They knew which pocket I usually carry them in.

The Shires with their sparkle fringe on were real crowd pleasers. All the little girls "Ooooohhhed and aaahhhhed!" over them. Their rigs were perfect too...shiney and well oiled. And the bells they wore sounded the way a Hallmark card always looks! They moved together in a very nice rhythm, soft and easy down the street.

Standing in front of us were three little girls, all about five or six years old. They were the perfect age for that certain kind of life long love affair to start. And they were with their

Dad's too! I stood there and listened to them giggle while they ate their cotton candy (pink, of course!). They were a sticky mess by the end of the parade. Each of those Daddies, one by one, carefully washed off their daughter's faces using their fingers and some spit...a time honored method.

They, very seriously, discussed what kind of horse they were going to get for Christmas. One of them chose the Mini Donkey that went by, gamely pulling a cart all by itself with a rather large person in it.

They all start out at the Fairgrounds, so the parade is actually about fifteen miles long by the time they circle back to the starting point.

The weather was perfect for it too... cold, crisp without a wind. There were hot chocolate vender's up and down the street selling their "hot chocolate water" (it's never made with milk anymore, mores the pity). John and I bought some. It smelled great and was very nice to hold, keeping hands warm. The only thing good about it to drink were the gooey little marshmallows. I drank it anyway.

It's a tradition.

Most of the bigger wagons had side walkers or riders. I was glad to see that. The horses were much calmer with their people and pasture buddies around them.

The best part of the parade for me, though, is the sounds. I love the sound of hooves clopping down a street. Massachusetts Street is no longer cobbled the way it used to be when I was a girl, but some of the crosswalks are. So, just for brief moments, I could hear the sounds

from a century ago, when all you saw were horses and carriages and wagons in downtown Lawrence.

I managed to get a shot of one of the cowboys as he rode down the street on his nice, little Quarter Horse talking on his cell phone! Sort of ruined the image, but it cracked me up too. He was one of the "real deal" cowboys who came in from their ranches to ride in their day to day gear. I didn't much care for the tie down he had on his horse though.

Some of the wagons were all gussied up with ribbons and greenery, bells
and sparkles on the horses. I saw a few horses that shouldn't have been in the parade too. They weren't ready for an environment like that, with thousands of predators staring at them. They were buggy eyed and hot wired with fear. And I can't say their riders were handling that well either. The ones I saw were angry, which makes their horse think they need to be afraid. Scary loops they were caught up in, and most of it was human ego driven too.

But, all in all, it was a wonderful parade. The people watching it were as much fin to watch as the folks participating. Horses are such an important part of our history and, I think, people are hungry for that connection still even if it's only for a brief hour at a parade.

In honor of the day, I'm going to share my Grandma's shortbread cookies. They're over the top indulgent Christmas cookies made with entirely too much butter...most excellent with tea or hot chocolate (not the made with water kind!).


1. Heat your oven to 375 degrees. Have an ungreased cookie sheet ready and some cooling racks. If you have a half coyote/half dog living with you, don't go off and leave these to cool for even a few minutes unattended. You'll come back to a spotless counter and a happy cookies, crumbs or anything at all except a cookie sheet on the floor.

2. Mix together thoroughly a stick of real butter (1/2 cup), a 1/4 cup brown sugar, a dash of sea salt, the egg yolk from a farm egg (save the white) and a tsp of vanilla (only the real stuff please).

3. Sift together and stir in 1 cup unbleached flour. It's going to make a nice, short cake kind of dough.

4. Roll into balls about the size of a small walnut and dip into your saved egg white that's been slightly beaten, and then roll in either shopped walnuts or pecans. I like walnuts better for this recipe.

5. Place about 1 inch apart on cookie sheets, and bake for five minutes. Remove from oven (I just pull the shelf out) and quickly press your thumb gently on the top of each cookie (use a spoon if you're worried about getting burned. There's an art to doing this with your thumb without hurting yourself.) and return to oven to bake for about eight minutes more.

6. Cool on racks and put a dab of your favorite jelly in the depression when they're cooled. You can really spruce these up if you want to with tiny edible silver balls on top of the jelly, or bits of maracino cherries, tiny bits of mint leaves, chopped candied ginger, whatever suits your fancy and whim of the day.

It's only going to make about two dozen cookies. I don't make more than that because I like to make them right before I serve them for a fancy tea. You could make more though. I'd use some parchment or wax paper in between the layers when you store them or put them in a Christmas box or plate for a gift.

Enjoy! You'll love the way these smell when you're cooking them, and they're extra nice when the weather is cold and your appetite is up.

I am, ever yours, Nancy... hoping this post will publish successfully

Friday, December 3, 2010


Remember what it was like on Christmas morning when you were a kid? It was overwhelming for me. I'd get so excited the night before that I couldn't sleep, couldn't eat and when the cousins were over for the holiday, I couldn't stop talking either.

The Mom's had to post sentries outside the bedroom doors to keep us in bed until morning, at least until we all collapsed from exhaustion. I was nearly always the last to sleep. The anticipation was wonderful and terrible.

I'd toss and turn, talk to my dog about what I thought I was going to get because I was absolutely sure I'd been good enough to get everything I'd asked for, and then I'd toss and turn some more.
Well, today my new Paintshop Photo Pro program arrived in the mail. There weren't any wrappings to take bows to save. But I still feel like a kid in a candy shop with deep pockets and all the time in the world to choose what I want.

I'm still learning how to upload photos and how that works on this BLOG site, so there's a random feel to how they're being used tonight. This doesn't tell a story the way I'll want it to. For now I'm sampling and playing. Sort of like I did with Lucky and Apache today.

Yesterday a friend of mine, another Parelli student further along on her journey than I am on mine, found my Blog entry. In it I'd complained about being thoroughly stuck smack dab in the middles.

She reminded me that there are five zones, seven games, and any number of patterns . Then she said "Keep it light and try something new that you haven't done before. "
I thought about that suggestion for a while. How do I take what we've done before and make it different? Where do I begin? And how do I sustain it?

No place like the beginning.
I sent Lucky out of the barn doors and asked him to wait for me, using my twenty too foot rope. And I played with him from much further out on the line. I tried to stay at least fifteen feet away from him. We weren't pretty together. But oh, the conversations we had!

He'd turn and flick his ears at me, more concentrated than I've seen him in quite a while. " Like this? Again? How about the other way?" He kept trying to come in, so I'd let him but only for a brief moment. Then out I'd send him with a new request. " Let's go sideways to the next tree."

We got tangled in our was much harder to keep our focus from that far away. I tripped and laughed. He came to me to see what was going on. He's just as pretty from the ground when I'm laid out flat with the giggles as he is when he's standing in the sunlight and it makes that gorgeous line across the topline of his back.

In short ... WE HAD A BLAST! All I had to do was change the perspective by changing the distance. By the end of our session both of us had our energy up and our ears forward. Maybe I"m beginning to get the hang of this? We shall see. At any rate, when we finished today he was still licking and chewing when I took his halter off and gave him his massage. The deep sigh he gave me as we finished said it all.

You can see from the photos that it was one of those "many and varied" kinds of days. My favorite kind of weather too with crisp, clear air and clean blue skies.

I thought I'd give my "kind of random, whatever you have in the fridge" sandwich recipe to match the feeling of the day. It isn't really a recipe. Just something I made up to go with the creative juice I'd just shared with Lucky this morning. I'll give it to you the way I made it. John loved it and had me make him another one, so I guess it must have passed the test.

NANCY'S STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART SANDWICH RECIPE, to be served with creative juice and random laughter :

1. Start with the best rye bread you can find. We bought ours at a local bakery, where they bake the bread in a wood fired stove.

2. Assemble : Left over baked sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in to thin slices ...thinly sliced red onion ...thinly sliced yellow summer squash ...slivered red pepper ...slivered green

pepper and shitake mushrooms.

Heat your favorite iron skillet at medium high and pour a tablespoon or two of olive oil in to it. Stir the vegies in it until lightly browned and flavor with soy sauce and diced candied ginger.

While that's browning, turn your other skillet to the same heat and spread your two slices of bread with mayo on both pieces. Add some chow chow pickle relish on one side.

3. Carefully pat the vegies on top of the relish side and gently press the

other piece of bread on top. Spread real butter on it and put it in to the hot skillet to brown, buttering the other side as it lightly browns. Turn it over and let that side brown. If you want to, add a bit of freshly grated sea salt...but not too much...on the outside of the sandwich.

I served it with Brazilian Lemonade. That's a mix of coconut milk (about 1/4 cup) and limeade (about 3/4 cup) mixed well.

Your sandwich will be a bit messy, with things coming out the sides. That's OK. Hold it over the plate while you eat it and then eat all the fallen out parts with your fingers, licking them afterwards. Sandwiches are supposed to be finger food!

I am ever yours, Nancy, smiling again.

(The new photo program has a thinify setting and settings for painting out wrinkles and blemishes. don't be surprised if I miraculously begin to grow younger before your very eyes! *huge grin here* )