The horse's pasture to the East...

Monday, January 31, 2011

                            AUTUMN COLORS, pastel on wallis paper

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


You can see that I've changed my banner image. I thought maybe it was time I began to show my "other" side. I'm working on a series of pastels done from the horse's point of view...or what I imagine their point of view to be. Ever so often I'll include one in my BLOG just for the fun of it.

I've also put a followers list up...all of one, thank you very much! And proud of it too!...for you to include yourself on if you are so inclined. I have no idea how it works, so I'm hoping you'll be more tech savvy than I am.  * REALLY BIG CHEESY GRIN HERE * In return I'm going back to some of the BLOG's I read and try to figure out how to do the same...list myself as their follower.

I know that for me it really helps when I have an idea of who my audience is. I'm better at telling stories in person than I am when I write. As I find out who all of you are (checked my stats...more than a thousand hits now! I know someone's reading. Way cool!) it will be easier for me to imagine sitting with you at a table while we "talk", maybe having a late afternoon brunch.

So I'm hoping you'll be willing to stick your nose into my business, give me some feedback and critical reviews of what I'm writing about. Or even leave your opinion of my visual images, painted or photos. We love noses around here, especially big, soft, velvety, sweet smelling noses. The more the merrier!

You can see we're a pretty friendly lot . I'd love to be able to follow you back to your BLOG too, so be sure to let me know if you have one. With that thought in mind, I leave you with our herd leader, Lucky. He's a capable fellow who'd be happy to "show" you around.

I am, ever yours, Nancy...happy to see you!

Saturday, January 22, 2011


The dictionary gives the definition of a seed as : The part of a flowering plant that typically contains the embryo with it's protective coat and stored food that will develop into a new plant when sown. It also goes on to give almost a third of a page of other definitions, all of which have to do with beginnings.

Last year I read about an archeological dig in the Middle East where a sealed ceramic container, found in a tomb, contained hundreds of seeds that were more than five thousand years old. Of course, scientists being who they are, some of those seeds were carefully removed from the container and, with the help of some good soil, sunlight and water, were germinated. They began to grow!

So my question, after reading about that, is WHAT IS A SEED? Think about it. I'll give you a few seconds to chew on that one.   hmmmmmmmm,hhhhhhhhhmm, hhmmmmm. (Humming while I wait) Ready to answer the question? WHAT IS A SEED? Couldn't really answer that one, could you?

It's as much a philosophical question as it is one of biology. If a seed is the beginning of a plant's life, how could it sit dormant for five thousand years? And how could it still be viable after all that time? Worth thinking about, isn't it?

You're wondering about the direction I'm going to take. It's seed catalog time. I have them stacked in the bathrooms, next to my bed, on top of the cedar chest we use as a coffee table in the living room. They're coming in the mail every day this time of year. I used to be a Master Gardener, so they have me pegged as a sucker for all things green and growing. And they're right too! I love to design gardens, formal or amend the soil, always organically. I love to smell the dirt, dig in it and destroy my hands with it. During the growing season my fingernails are nearly always dirty and my knuckles swollen with all the digging and pulling I do. Of course, the horses have become a part of that too. Every single time they poop when I'm standing there, I say "Thank you! And the gardens thank you too!" It really is a gift back to the earth when you compost horse poop and urine soaked bedding. My vegetable gardens were a jungle of plants last year with twelve foot high tomatoes!

I asked for seeds for Christmas this year...and got them too! I love those kinds of gifts. They're simple, affordable and they give all year long. I'll have my own seeds from the plants I put into the ground this year that I'll be able to plant or save them for next year. Now that's my idea of what Christmas and gift giving is all about. It all gets paid forward in the flowers,herbs and vegetables I pick and share with my neighbors (although the lady next door threatened to come out and shoot me with rock salt if I left her anymore zucchinis on her front porch, last Summer!)

I love the Winter part of gardening too. I get to lay the ground work for whatever I'm going to do the next year. This year I'm adding in a wild flower garden along the west side of our little arena because I'm tired of weed wacking along that side. It's the perfect place to plant wild flowers. Can't use the hill there for anything else except weeds, so flowers it is!

This morning, while I was out doing chores and playing "TAG" with my horses, I realized that's what I'm doing there too. I'm laying the ground work with them by learning more about how to BE HORSE. Lucky or Apache comes along and tags me and off we go, with me starting as a mirror to their movements and energy levels. It's a simple game. I started it when I decided I needed to break my own patterns of being predictable, so I changed up the morning routines starting last week and I've been trying something new every day. It's turned into an interesting experiment too. They have no idea what I'm going to do, right from the beginning of the morning. And, oh, the conversations we're having!

They don't know whether I'm going to walk around the shed and meet them at the big gate or come out the back door, walk up the little hill and climb the fence. They don't know whether I'm going to let them out the donkey gate, the big gate or the gate to the side of the barn...or even out through the barn stall! Some days I carry my carrot stick with me, some days I don't. Some days I have cookies in my pockets, some days I don't. It's just lots and lots of Friendly Game. All three of them are intrigued, waiting at the gate and calling to me. "What's it going to be today Ma?" I've become "consistently inconsistent", something I used to try to teach to my students when we were working on visual textures or patterns. I'd say "I want you all to be consistently inconsistent, to work with both hands, to experiment, to dance and have a conversation with your brushes and paint." See why I love PARELLI? Suits me to a T!

I get this kind of attention from my Right Brain Extrovert, Apache, who rarely misses an opportunity to play the game back. Look at that focus! And Lucky's right behind him too. They're both ready to GO!
And the BIG GATE to the OUTSIDE is open here too. They're choosing to stay with me, on the inside! HUGE!

That's a development I hadn't anticipated. OUTSIDE is a big deal to these guys. That field is big, one of our hay fields. During the Spring and Summer it's a lush ocean of grasses, 14 or 15 acres of it! And it's all on the OUTSIDE of the fence.

Before, I'd open the gate and they would walk out politely, touch my hand (all gates are entered and excited that way here. I've seen people get seriously hurt at gates.) and then they take off for the morning and I only get to see them as they canter or trot past while they're playing. Even in the Winter when it snows and the grass is covered, it's still OUTSIDE...on the other side of the BIG GATE. They don't usually come back until I whistle my three note ditty to them, calling them in for grain. And then the BIG GATE gets closed and the fun is over, from their point of view.

But this morning I gave them their grain with the BIG GATE open and I gave it to them first! "HUH?" This was Lucky's reaction. "But that's not how we do it! We go out, try to get into the barn (and sometimes succeed!), run, buck, roll, play and then you call us and we come in." Completely flummoxed Lucky. Look at that face! "What do you want to do Ma?"

I love the way this is going! They spent the whole morning exploring the opened gates...which are always opened...with new enthusiasm. All the barriers are down. And the conversations are getting more and more interesting!

And then we did this. And the best part of the running and bucking was when they came back to me, tagged me, and stood there thrumming with anticipation...waiting. I slipped and fell more than once, but out we went, running (well, OK, they were cantering and I was slipping, slogging, falling, and laughing) across their field, making patterns in the snow in big circles and zig zags.

We were laying the foundations for our Spring Gardens, preparing the seed beds, with our "earth work". I rolled and they rolled. I jumped up and they did too! We were, all of us, wet and snowy with more snow down our backs than under our feet.

I just can't wait to see what kinds of seeds we plant this Spring, what blooms and how many colors we have!

I am, ever yours, consistently inconsistent...Nancy, laughing at the gardens we plant when we least expect it!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


We're in the thick of it now, aren't we? It's the middle of January. I haven't seen blue sky for days. There's more snow coming in and all I really want to do is to snuggle up on my favorite old sofa with a stack of good books, a pot of hot tea and a plate of little sandwiches and cookies. An upstairs maid to keep the fire going and ask me " Will there be anything else My Lady?" would be nice too. (must be the English in me)

Since I'm like all you other working stiffs, just trying to keep my head above water, I'll set that little fantasy to the side for now.

I do have some new books I'm reading. I bought them when we went on one of our "cheap dates" this past weekend (would have been cheaper if I hadn't bought them, but I'm a sucker for information). We went to a local oriental restaurant and shared a meal, then hiked over to the local Border's to look at books. Usually we look at books, pick up a stack of our favorites and go to the little coffee shop at the back of the store to drink some overpriced, too sugary and creamy hot stuff and eat a big gooey, "guaranteed to make your jeans an extra size larger" cookie. We read passages to each other, talk about our day, watch people. It's a nice way to spend an evening.

I've been studying about energy, spirit, how to use my body to speak to my horses (and other animals and people too). It's a never ending subject. Most good literature has to do with changes in the life of the protagonist and antagonist too. In my book (pun intended), that all has to do with our basic soul or spirit. In other, communication and growth. How interesting! And since my word for 2011 is "ASK", I'm indulging in research whenever I have a question that has to be waiting. Nothing is too simple or unimportant if it pops into my head this year.

The first book is "THIS I BELIEVE" taken from a series of NPR essays written  by all kinds of people, famous and unknown, about their philosophies. The idea came from one of the editors who, while in a waiting room, read about a series of essays from the fifties from another radio program. Some of the essays are from the fifties series. It's fascinating reading for me since I was born in the looking through a window in time and seeing the world my Mom saw from her point of view (and not the one I had as a child).

I love this kind of book. I can pick it up any time during the day and read another essay, then set it aside and go back to work. During lunch I read '' Life Grows in the Soil of Time ", by Thomas Mann, a Nobel Peace Prize winning author from the first half of the Twentieth Century. In it he says " Time is related to-yes, identical with-everything creative and active, with every progress toward a higher goal." WOW! Now you know why I had to buy this book. Every single essay is like that. Talk about syncronicity!

This morning, while out doing chores, I took the book with me and read aloud from another one of the essays. Lucky, Apache and Willow were in the barn with me, eating hay right off the stack. I'd like to think that during the munching and crunching, they were enjoying it as much as I did. They sure did make a good audience. Not one of them yawned or said " I'm boooored."  * really big grin here*  The essay I read to them was by Kay Redfield Jamison, a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, one of the places my Mother was accepted to as a student. (She chose Chapel Hill, North Carolina) A quote from her essay goes " I believe that curiosity, wonder, and passion are defining qualities of imaginative minds and great teachers; that restlessness and discontent are vital things; and that intense experience and suffering instruct us in ways less intense emotions can never do." Juicy stuff to chew on, isn't it? Or at least that was the herd's opinion.

The other book I bought is by Thich Nhat Hanh, a teacher of Buddhism and, in that world, recognized as second only to the Dali Lama. His book is titled "YOU ARE HERE". In it he talks about the value of living in the moment, of finding your way to peace in your life through meditation. At this point you're wondering about a cowgirl from Kansas who reads about Buddhism.

I'm one of those true American mutts. I'm 1/2 Jewish and 1/2 everything else, raised in the German Lutheran church, the Catholic church and the Episcopalian church. And now I belong to no formal religion, but am instead an explorer when it comes to spirituality. And, not surprisingly, horses have become a major component of that for me.

When my head is muddled and my heart is sore, I go out to their pasture and stand with them, sometimes in the middle of the night under the stars, and just "BE". It clears my head out and settles me like nothing else I've ever done.

When I picked up "YOU ARE HERE" and read from it, it was one of those head slapping moments for me. At least some part of my personal belief system is Buddhist... one of those "AH HA!" moments. Here's one of the quotes that caught my attention. " If you are facing a sunset, a marvelous spectacle, give yourself a chance to be in touch with it. Give yourself five minutes, breathing deeply, and you will be truly there. Touch the beauty of nature." I do that every day, when I am outside with my herd. This place and this time in my life has given me great peace of mind and body. It's why I laugh so much. It's all so perfect, just the way it is.

I guess in my own way I'm creating my little Winter nook in my life to read about philosophy while I study my Parelli discs, read one of Pat Parelli's books and wonder at the path that has brought me here. I think that takes me to the second in the 7 KEYS OF SUCCESS... "Knowledge" and, perhaps, the sixth "Imagination".

I am, always yours, Nancy, ruminating and cogitating on the way the world turns...with a smile!

Friday, January 14, 2011


I'm an artist. That's how I always answer people when they ask me what I "do". "I'm an artist." The usual response is raised eyebrows and a polite " Oh. How unique. Are you good?" That used to stymy me, that last sentence. "Are you good?" How in the world do you answer a question like that?

"Oh, but of course I am daaaaaarling." or maybe " Dude." and then there's "Oh, gee, shucks, I don't know." I kind of liked experimenting with the answers just to watch the reactions. I had a million of them and all of them in different accents too. Sometimes I answered in French or with a German accent. Other times I'd do an Evangelistic Healer kind of thing. It usually depended on the whim of the day, how the wind was blowing and whether or not I cared about how they responded.

Now I just smile and act mysterious. There is no answer to a question like that. I just AM. It's part of my hardwiring, like having blond hair or eyes that change colors. And I'm not sure that I care whether "they" even like the work anymore. What I care about is whether I was able to communicate clearly with color, composition, technique, light, subject matter. In fact I kind of like it when I rattle someone's cage a bit. Not all Art is meant to be pretty. I want an emotional response.

But lately I've found myself falling into a pattern of doing the same thing. My paintings aren't necessarily all the same, but they way I approach them is. And so is my day. I get up about the same time, stumble into the bathroom for the inevitable and then stop to look at myself in the mirror so I can lament the passing of the years. " AAACK! I'm in the Twilight Zone! " or some other equally silly but predictable response.

I do certain things before I go out for barn time, walk to the barn down the same path, start my day in the same way and then I go back to the house to work. Since I've chosen the word "ASK" as my thing to focus on in 2011, I stopped to ask myself a question this morning. " Why am I repeating myself? I'm an Artist. I should be more interesting than this. Am I caught in a pattern?" The questions just popped into my head. They came at me so hard and so fast, I sat down on a chair in the hallway, just to break the pattern long enough to think.

"Why am I repeating myself?"  It's a good question, don't you think?

I sat there doing my "Thinker" imitation on the little wooden chair in the hallway, wondering about the way my mind works. I sat there long enough that Gypsy, my ancient dog, came to me and set her knobby old head on my knee and asked "You OK?" I patted her head and ever so gently rubbed her arthritic shoulders while I ruminated and cogitated. She waited, always patient with me but ready to go outside when I was. And then I found my answer. "BREAK THE PATTERN."

That's what we've been taught to do when our horses start to set a pattern going in a direction we don't want to go, either from fear or because they're testing to see what the limits are, to see what we will do. They like to be reassured that we're still focused and the leader because if we're not, then they sure will be. It's a survival thing for them...that need. So, being the leader, we set the patterns. They're comforted by that and so are we.

But when do you break the pattern in a way that fosters creative thought? How do you keep them engaged and interested in what you have to "say"? There are more ways and more reasons than one for learning how to "BREAK THE PATTERN". It was up to me to break my own patterns, to be more outside my own comfort zone to take the learning to a higher level. It's time to get past the usual January Doldrums that come with grey, cold, windy, "I just want to hibernate!" weather.

I decided to BREAK THE PATTERN by approaching it like playing with Legos. I was going to start with lots of little bright colored pieces of information and then wing it! My walk to the barn was the first piece in the equation. I walked out the back door, up the hill and climbed the fence into the paddock instead of walking out the front and going my usual route. HA! The looks on their faces were worth it. They were standing at the other gate waiting for me and here I come, around the corner and over the fence (not easy to do when I'm wearing my heavy duty Winter clothing and big boots!). "HEY! People don't do that?"

You've heard that one from me, haven't you? " Horses don't climb haystacks." While I was sitting on top of the fence enjoying the view, I made another spontaneous decision. (This was fun! I felt better already.) Every time they checked in with me this morning, a usual part of their ritual, I was going to literally drop whatever I was doing and follow them, synchronize with them, and do what they were doing. I was going to mirror them, become as horse as I could, and see where it led me.

After they got over their surprise at seeing me on top of a fence, we did our nuzzling up together...a part of the ritual I never want to change! And then I hopped down and set up the ropes, letting them OUTSIDE. When Luck;y came up to me to touch me with his nose, I followed him.

He stopped and looked at me, flicking his ears at me and asking a question? " Huh? What are we doing?" I answered with a nice long sigh and waited, matching the way he was standing. We were two twins in the mirror with some minor differences in size and shape. And then, after he'd gone back to grazing, I ran my hand down his back towards his tail (Jerry Williams taught me that. It's a nice way to end a session.) and walked back towards the barn.

I was in the barn stall, mucking it out, when Lucky came to check in with me. He leaned into the stall and touched me with his nose...and I dropped my rake and followed! Talk about surprise! We walked out of the barn doors together, stopped to look at the pasture to the north of us (there were three does coming down out of the woods), and then we turned to the east and walked out into the pasture. I had my hands in my pockets and walked with him, matching his pace (Thankfully it was slow and easy! The snow had drifted out there and was 18 inches deep in some places.). He brought his energy up so I did too, and then he stopped. He took a bite of grass, then walked out a bit more...and so did I, well except for the "biting the grass" part.

After a bit, I turned and ran my hand down his back and walked back to the barn. And he followed! He came right up next to me and kept my pace, a beautiful, perfect floating head right next to me. I was feeling kind of giddy and silly at this point, so I started running in big zig zags, sort of a loose version of Falling Leaf. And there he was, right next to me...and so was Apache! Oh, this was getting better and better. But I didn't want this to be work. This was supposed to be PLAY. It was time to stop.

We stood there together for a bit, relaxing, and then they went back to grazing. I ran my hand down both of their backs and quietly walked away. I wasn't keeping track of time, but I'm guessing we never played more than a few minutes here and a few more there, like they do when they're out in the pasture together. They graze for a while, then run and play for a while, then go back to grazing...turning it on and off like a water spigot.

I was filling water buckets when Apache came and tagged me. (I did stop to turn off the water here) We turned and trotted off out into the pasture. Apache is my Left Brain Extrovert. He always trots. He loves to move his feet. I get plenty of exercise when I'm with him. I wasn't very graceful, loping along next to him in my big boots, but I did keep up. That was when I realized he'd slowed down enough to allow me to keep up. That's HUGE coming from Apache. His favorite game is to try to outmatch me, to outwit me. He wanted me to play with him that much!

By the end of the morning Lucky had come to get me four times and Apache had come for me three times. And it was all at their suggestion, on their territory and at their pace. Oh the soft eyes they gave me. Before I came back inside, they were both in my pocket, nickering and sighing. I think I may have played a total of maybe fifteen minutes give or take with each of them over a two and a half hour time. Chores definitely took longer with play time interrupting them. And it was worth it too!

I left them as mellowed out as I was when I came inside. We were all practicing the number one Principal of Horse-Man-Ship... "Horsemanship is natural."

We built an awesome "lego sculpture" together this morning, with all kinds of wicky, wacky parts in different colors, sticking out here and there. It just doesn't get any better than that, at least until it does!

I am, ... WAIT! Break the pattern. ... Nancy, standing on my head with my hands behind my back   *REALLY BIG GRIN HERE*

Monday, January 10, 2011


Ever have one of those days where everything sort of slips sideways and you feel like you've walked through the glass with Alice? I've been so worried these past few days. It's probably part of getting older. I've been feeling like the world doesn't make sense to me anymore. Everyone is so angry, so filled with venom. I've been loosing sleep, trying to understand it. I just don't seem to have the ability anymore to hold the pain that other people feel away from me. And then I walked out the door this morning and followed a rabbit, down the hole into the world the way it's supposed to be.

I went down the hill and slipped off the edge, into a place where all the lines were muted. The "uglies" were gone, covered up and asleep. And I could hear the trees talking, moving slowly together at a pace we usually can't hear or see. And the animals were in charge. Time was "now". There were no debts, no little numbers taking the wild places away. The loud noises and smells were at an end and we were all children together, living in that place where time is suspended. All of the guns were quiet and the angry people were at peace.

The smallest details were as relevant, as rich, as important as any of the "big" things or the "big" places. Everything counted. The quiet snow, endless snow...the cool, grey skies had no edge. The light was alive, moving with the thousands of little flakes, every single one of them different and alike. And all the individual flakes that had gone over the end of the hill with me, that used to be ordinary drops of water, came together and made it perfect. They all came together and tucked the world to bed with a blanket of white. And then the snow kissed us and told us it would be OK. That we would all be fine.

You know, it's not that I'm loosing my mind. It's more that sometimes I just have to let go of the tether and allow myself to follow the quiet. I need that comfort. I have to find my way back to the places I went when I was very young, when time stood still. I go to the world that lets the animals talk to me. And I love their voices too.

There is no subtrifuge, no story that isn't real. They don't gossip or complain. Instead they teach me, lead me, back to who I am. And they remind me of what the world is meant to be, what it really is. There are no radios, TV's with talking heads, no music that hurts to listen to. Instead, there's a place where my mind can wander and they go with me.

Today I left the place we all "think" is real and went to my own Wonderland. I remembered how to laugh at the way snow feels when it goes down your neck when you make snow angels. Lucky took me there. We, both of us, rolled in the snow today.

I followed Apache in to his places, where ancient sunflowers turn into strange creatures with snow caps on and fence lines are irrelevant.

The snow was his disguise and the paths he took me on were places that I'd never been before. He was the Snow King, a magical steed who has the ear of the Gods.

And a little donkey became Princess Willowmena, heir to the Throne of Oakland. She was carried away into the world of the Mundanes where she found a Fairy Godmother who saved her and granted her every wish except the one she wanted most.

And a great and magical steed, red like the fires in the Spring, came to her and said " I will take you to your wish. I will give you your dreams. But will you take your Godmother with you, over the Edge and into the land of the Snow King? Will she follow you?"

And the Red Steed took Princess Willowmena and her Godmother with him to the land of the Snow King, where the skies never end and the Edge is always there, waiting for you to walk over.

And when they came to the Snow King, he gave them a task to do before he could grant Princess Willowmena's wish. He told them, in his terrible and wonderful voice, "You must cross the sacred Ocean and find the Butterfly Queen. Her wings have never fluttered and she is in despair. Bring her to me so that I may heal her and take her pain. Then I will give you your wish."

And so their journey began, into the place that is over the Hill, off the Edge and into the world where time has stopped and Snow Angels speak to the trees.

We're on a road that takes us only forward and sometimes sideways, but never back.

We're in the world of Heart and Desire.

I am, ever yours, Nancy, dreaming

Sunday, January 9, 2011


When I was a kid, snow was a big deal. It meant sledding and ice skating, skiing and hikes in the snow. Sometimes it meant having an extra day off too. What kid doesn't love that? I spent part of my childhood in Kansas, part in Wisconsin and part in Maine...all places known for their weather extremes. And I'm still here too, living and working in the Midwest with the weather in the fifties one day and the teens the next.

I love the unexpected weather patterns. I'm not sure I would be happy in a more moderate climate now. Meeting the challenge of the wild swings from one end of the spectrum to another is part of the fun for me. It's another part of the puzzle to solve. And there's a certain empowerment that comes from being able to deal with it successfully. Course, I have a lot of friends who also think I'm a bit daffy in that regard!

Today we spent the day getting ready for a snow that's been fore casted for tonight and tomorrow. We made sure the wood was cut and stacked inside, ready to burn. We went out to walk the fence lines and to test them to make sure the back up battery was ready. There's extra grain in the barn and extra groceries in the house. We've battened down the hatches and now we're waiting.

But for the horses, it's WOO HOO! time. They ran and bucked and jumped and were, for the most part, down right silly today. Apache snuck into the barn and tried to climb the haystack. Lucky tipped the water buckets over just before I carried them in to rehang them. And he stole my gloves too, big red rat that he is. He put them into the water bucket just before he tipped it over! (Good thing I keep lots of extras.) If he'd had eyebrows and a "Snidley Whiplash Mustache", he would have twirled it and wiggled his eyebrows up and down and said "Bwa ah aaaahhhhhh!" I think they know the snow is coming. Both of them love it!

Here they are, playing Ring Around the Rosey with the gate. I snapped it because Lucky had that " Who me? I didn't do anything." look on his face. Sure enough, he'd just committed the Great Glove Caper here. Apache's just going around the gate to tip the last bucket over. It was a complete hoot here today!

We let them stay OUTSIDE longer than usual because they were having so much fun, romping around. It was like have a Summer Camp with a bunch of really, really big over excited kids. The best part was the way they kept trying to engage John in the fun! They've begun to see him as an integral part of the herd now. I loved watching his face when ever Apache would run up to him and tag him with his nose, always a sure invitation from him to come out and play.

He'd sneak up (or as much as a 1000 pound horse can sneak) and touch John, then turn and run around the end of the barn to "hide" behind the dried up sunflowers that we leave standing for him. It's one of his favorite games, Hide and Go Seek. Pretty soon his nose and then his eye would come around the end of the barn, checking to see if anyone was going to come find him. Then off he'd go, down the whole length of the field snorting and bucking. " I won! I'm King of the Cimmaron !"

When it was time to come in, we walked out to find them hiding back in the trees, waiting for us. Apache just couldn't stand it though. He had to come out and taunt us. " Nah ne nah ne boo boo!" then he'd run back into the trees to "hide". Even better, when he came out again, he chose to go to John! That's HUGE! It was John's breakthrough today. I was so proud of both of them. They walked, then trotted together all the way back to the barn! And, even more surprising, Lucky followed them too.

It was John's Day! And he's been walking around with a smile on his face because of it too. There's no finer tribute from your horse than when they choose to voluntarily play with you and to walk with you as a partner.

I hear all the time from other friends that it's no fun when it's cold. There's no good time to "work" with your horse. I have to beg to differ on that point. I think it's one of the best times of year for it because the days are shorter and the time spent is more in fun. There's a general feeling of relaxation around here. Our goals are set to the side, or at least the schedule changes, and it's more "Friendly". I'd say we've been putting gold in the bank, the best kind, because it's from the heart.

Today John practiced some of the finest qualities of Horse-Man_Ship. He did NOT act like a predator. He thought like a horse and he used the natural power of focus to make a connection that will, I think, have a profound impact on his partnership with Apache.

It just doesn't get any better than that, at least until it does!

I am, ever yours, Nancy, comfy cosey and smiling at you BIG TIME! (Oh boy! A snow day!)

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Well call me little Tommy Tippy Toes! Guess who came to me today and asked to play at Liberty? He offered it! I love the way things are going. Maybe it's my excitement every time I go out there, but all of my herd is TURNED ON! We are all having so much fun.

Let me set the stage for you. It was fifty degrees today...a major chinuk here in Kansas this time of year. It was sunshiny and still, just beautiful. So John and I spent the day outside, working on the fence line for the new pasture and adding dirt to the raised gardens before the weather comes back in this weekend. The horses love it when we're all outside, so they were up next to the fences watching us and calling ever so often.

I walked over to say "Howdy!" and Lucky "Oooohhh whoooo whoooed!" at me, then turned and looked over his shoulder at me. "Wanna play?" The invitation was that clear. Pat Parelli is right. When all you do is hang out with your horses, it's like putting money in the bank! There's a new level of communication between us that I have no words to describe. Right now, every thing we're doing is magic. We're not necessarily graceful, but we sure are having fun while we find our way through this new level of partnership!

We played for 45 minutes, and he still wanted to keep going! Trying to control my monkey brain self, who wanted to "keep working" wasn't easy for me. But I wanted to end it the same way it did for Apache, with him wanting to have more. He was so excited, he talked to me the whole time!

Lucky is one of the most verbal horses I've ever been around. He nickers, neighs, calls, croons, and even sighs with a little sound. The horse just flat out likes to talk when we're together. Everyone who comes to visit comments on it. Today was no exception. He talked and talked while we played. John told me later that he could hear it over in the field he was working in (Located next to the one we were playing in).

We played Circles that turned into Figure Eights, Figure Eights that turned into Falling Leaf. We played Stick to Me that turned into Walk/Trot Transitions and Transitions that turned into Liberty! We played lots of different kinds of Friendly games with scratching in all the itchiest places and rubbing on his belly, a comfort zone for Lucky. The horse just kept offering! He even changed direction on the Circle, which is very hard for him because he can't see any real reason for doing a Circle, and he was (before I had him) abused on the circle with rough handling while being lunged.

I did use a few cookies at first, but they ran out in fifteen minutes! The rest of the time was just him, having fun. Me too! We even played some cutting games together. I was the "cow" and he was the "wrangler".

I called it at the end. He wanted to keep going. He followed me back into the paddock, the perfect "floating horse", completely in sync with me. Having this happen two times in a row, once with each horse, is going to spoil me! I love every thing we're doing together.

OH the conversations we're having ! This is my shout out to Pat and Linda Parelli and all of their Professionals... THANK YOU...THANK YOU...THANK YOU! The educational system you've put together has given me my dream. I have two horses who want to be with me VOLUNTARILY! You've made my world and theirs so much better than I thought it could be.

I just can't wait for the next time. Can't wait to see what happens next!

I am, ever yours, Nancy with a grin from ear to ear!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Every day is a surprise, when it comes to my horses. I never know what's going to happen. Some days I go out for early morning chores and they're all waiting at the gate, "Oooohhhh whoo whoooooooing!" and ready to go. Other days they're standing in the sun, under the eaves of the barn, catching some rays. "Hey Ma. How's in hanging?" and then they go back to sleep.

I love that kind of uncertainty. It keeps me on my toes, focused and ready to laugh, ready to move, ready for anything at all! Ever so often I have a day like for the books.

I went out in the middle of the afternoon because I knew the weather was going to be so nice. It was sunny, not much wind and in the forties. That's positively balmy for Kansas in January. Didn't want to miss the opportunity to work with Lucky without having to bundle up or wear gloves. (I work much better when I can feel the ropes without gloves on.)

I set the arena up and the area outside, along the drive. This was going to be fun! All we've had time for the past few weeks is Small Games in between chores and having a cold. I loaded my pockets with broken Winnie's Cookies, Lucky's new addiction, and walked out into their field to whistle him in. It wasn't our usual time, so he was out munching on acorns or grass at the back of his meadow instead of waiting at the gate. And we fell out of the habit of working while the Holidays took over.

But look at who came in first!  Apache, my Left Brain Extrovert was happy to see me and ready to go! He offered. And I never turn that down no matter what my plan was. It's such a gift, especially from my rascal.

I didn't have my halter with me, or my carrot stick. I usually go out as just myself. It's such a nice opportunity to walk in together at Liberty. Our connections are getting stronger every day, so I like to encourage their participation as a partner, not as an animal that has to work.

He came to me with such a soft look in his eye! And he was ready too. He came to me head on, no shyness at all. Looked me square in the eye, flicked his ears at me and said " I'm ready. Let's play!" Oh my. Gives me chills every time. It's such a tribute from a thousand pounds of scary smart horse when they want to be with you.

I started with Friendly Game, giving him a quick massage, especially on his haunches. It's a game we've played together since he was a colt. He loves to relax into having all of those muscles rubbed. But I kept it short. His capacity to begin to take over and get into an ornery state of mind is HUGE!

After we played our Friendly Game, I suggested we walk together. We were in perfect sync! Magic. Now I know Apache pretty well by now, so I also know that I have to "keep ahead" of his ideas. So I made my little click with my tongue and took us up to a trot after only 7 steps of walk. I vary that too, by the way. He counts and will begin to do things very quickly when I'm not suggesting them. I want the 51% of the partnership...and so does he. It's always challenging to keep it under control and still let him think he's teaching me. I love that! It's so complicated with him.

I brought us down to a walk in ten steps, then stopped and backed up four steps. He already had the pattern! He was ready to repeat it, so repeat it we did. Then I threw him a "Nancy style fast ball". I lifted my front left leg ( I sometimes identify so deeply with them, I begin to think in terms of having four legs too. Kind of wacky doodle, I know.) and I held it there, waiting. So did he! The tension was almost too much, and that's EXACTLY what Apache loves.

I put my leg down and tapped the ground. He put his leg down and tapped the ground! Then I did something I've seen in the videos on Youtube, but I've never tried. I figured there was nothing to loose. The worst that could happen was that he wouldn't try it too. I put my leg straight out in front of me and started a Spanish Walk (I think that's what it's called.). First one leg out straight, then the other one. AND HE DID IT! We did that for six paces, then I stopped and gave him some Winnie's Cookies. It was so over the top amazing, I had to let him know how happy I was.

I don't usually give him any treats when we're working. He loves the games so much the treats are irrelevant to him. He ate it, but his focus was still on me. I was right. It isn't goodies he plays for. He just flat out loves to play! We started off again  at a walk, then transitioned up to a trot, back down, then back up. By then his energy was so high it was electric! That air was fairly crackling with excitement. So I decided to send him out away from me in a big Circle. If he started his "Up and down like a pogo stick" bucking, I wanted him a bit further away. He's never hit me, but no sense taking any chances.

"Circle? You want Circle? I'll give you Circle!" and off he went in this lovely, light canter. WOW! Leaving him alone and just hanging out with him for three weeks was giving me all kinds of pay back. He was so beautiful and so hooked on, one ear on me like a radar dish. After he had Circled for four times around,  I stepped back and he changed direction...JUST LIKE THAT!

I was having a hard time seeing at this point because I was crying. Silly me. I just couldn't help it though. Here it was...THE DREAM!...and I hadn't been expecting it at all, much less from Apache. I disengaged him after about six times around and stood there with his head on my chest, rubbing his neck and ears. I'd had nearly fifteen minutes of THE DREAM with him. It was perfect, and time to stop. I wanted to leave him wanting remember how much fun we'd just had the next time we played together.

He was still so hooked on that he followed me back into the paddock, a happy, peaceful "floating head" right next to me, matching me step for step. We went up under the eaves of the barn and staid there for a while, catching some rays. It was all so NATURAL, like we were just good pasture buddies who'd spent a few minutes playing before stopping to take an afternoon fiesta.

I played with Lucky too, on line. He stood quietly under one of his trees, waiting until Apache and I were finished. Sometimes I think they have this stuff planned out!

This time we were practicing some of the Eight Principals of Horse-Man-Ship. # 1 Horsemanship is natural (did that one in spades!)  #3 Communication is two or more individuals sharing and understanding an idea (and it was his idea this time!) #6 Body language is the universal language (I never spoke a word while we played) and last but never least #7 Horses teach humans and humans teach horses. I'd dub him Professor Apache this time around! Yesterday was a true gift that I'm STILL thinking about.

I know I say this all the time. But it just doesn't get any better than that, at least until the next time when it DOES get better.

I am, ever yours, Nancy, smiling and shaking my head in wonder!

Sunday, January 2, 2011


My Mom wore penny loafers. I still remember waking up in the morning and listening to her scuff down the hallway to the kitchen.

I'd lay there in my bed with my dog curled up next to me, burrowed down into the covers just exactly right. I loved my little room at the end of the hallway. I designed it myself. All of my furniture was white and the walls were a clear, soft lavender color...just the color you see at the end of the day along the rim of the earth as the sun goes down. That was why I chose it.

Schotsi, my dachshund (She really wasn't supposed to be on the bed. It was one of our stolen pleasures.) and I would watch the sun come up through my window and listen to Mom get breakfast ready. She'd hum and sing one of her favorite songs while she scrambled eggs or made oatmeal. "Sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening, sugar at supper time. Be my little sugar...and love me all the time!" I loved getting up. New day, new things to do, new adventures, people, places to go. I never knew what was going to happen and I loved that feeling. Still do too.

When my sons were little, I'd do the same. I loved repeating that pattern. It made me feel like my Mom was right there with me, maybe sharing a cup of that coffee she loved so well while she sat at the kitchen table, watching me get the day started for my family. She died right after my first son was born, so it was always in my head that she was there, talking and laughing with me about whatever adventure the boys had been on the day before. And I always knew when she really was there because I'd find a penny, just like the pennies she wore in her loafers.

I'd find my penny on the floor next to the stove, or under the kitchen table and sometimes I'd find it in my pocket, even when the jeans I'd put on that morning were fresh and clean from the laundry. I never questioned my pennies and the odd places they showed up. They were there, so my Mom was too.

Today, when I went out to whistle in the horses, there at my feet was a penny. It was inside a hoof print left by Lucky. (I can tell my horse's separate hoof prints. Apache's is perfectly round and thick walled. Lucky's is more oval and slightly smaller than Apache's.) Now how in the world did a penny end up in my melting paddock inside Lucky's hoof print? And a new print too. The sides were still sharp. I could even see the outline of the frog. I squatted down to look at it. Maybe it had been there before and now it was frozen into the mud? It wasn't. It was sitting on top.

I smiled as I picked it up. Mom was there. She's been my Penny Angel for all of these 36 years since she died, always there when I needed some comfort or there when I had something wonderful to share. Today I think it was because I felt like celebrating. It's a new year! A new start! Anything is possible.

As I squatted there in my cold little paddock, I felt a presence over me. When I looked up, there was Lucky leaning over looking at me! His ears were forward, asking a question. "What's going on Ma? Any carrots down there? You OK?" I stood up and ran my hand down his neck and settled into him, thinking about how he made me think of warm beds in the morning, and I smiled at him too. I told him " Just the penny angel, leaving us a gift to start the new year with. Wanna see it?"

By then Apache was standing next to me, on the other side. I held up my dirty little penny so they could see it. Then I held it down so they could smell it. They both took their time, examining it thoroughly with that amazing upper lip a horse has. And then we just stood there, watching the sun go down together. We didn't do anything flashy, nothing at all in fact. Just stood there and sighed together.

Here's an interesting thing I've noticed this year, maybe because I'm a bit more Savvy than I was last year? When I'm not taking them out every single day and and working on something...patterns, games, precision, whatever my monkey brain is obsessed with at the moment...they're softer, happier and more connected. Aaahhhhhh. How interesting! Horses love doing nothing, just hanging and being in the moment. And they're letting me know that by coming to me right away, every single time I'm out there, because this year I wasn't able to keep working with them through the holidays.

I'd caught a cold and family were coming (first doggone cold in nine years!). Something had to give, so "training" was where I gave. Hmmmmmmm. How VERY interesting! Doing nothing is important too. Stopping and resting, just being in the moment like my herd, was what they'd needed. Maybe THAT was why I'd found my penny. Maybe the Penny Angel was telling me that allowing myself to relax and enjoy my life with them was just exactly right. I know the horses were telling me that.

So my new focus this year is digging into and really trying to understand what Pat Parelli wants us to know about the Qualities of a Horseman. Tonight I thought about #2 RESPECT (respect for the herd and their needs), #6 FEEL (putting myself into their hoof prints), # 7 TIMING (understanding the time to work and the time to rest), #9 SAVVY (always working on this one...never ending self improvement!), and #10 EXPERIENCE  (This one comes with time and deliberate practice of ALL aspects of horse-man-ship, including knowing when to rest).

Oh my. A whole new year in front of me, all brand new and shiney like the perfect new pennies my Mom always wore in her loafers. Anything is possible!

I am, ever yours, Nancy, grinning because it's only just begun!