The horse's pasture to the East...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


 I was scrolling down through my Facebook page and found a posting by Parelli Natural Horsemanship. It's a list of their core values as a business, a school and as a community of people focused on making the world a better place for horses and humans.

I love it! It's evolving (as in "Make your good better and your better best.") so as it changes and I find out about it, I'll post the newest versions too.

This is the first and only organization I've ever chosen to be a part of for this long a period. The above list is one of the reasons I stay with it. Thank You, Parelli, for making it so easy for this loan wolf to become a member.

I am, ever yours, Nancy, smiling at the way things go...

Monday, October 24, 2011


Sometimes an event, maybe even a small, insignificant event, can change your course in ways you don't expect.

This morning, while coming back up from the compost area, a locust flew from my right (North) and stopped in  the air in front of me, hovering. It made a high pitched "brrrr...rrrrr...rrrr" sound. I stopped to watch it and, out of curiosity, counted. How long was it going to hang in the air in front of me? I counted past thirty. It gave me plenty of time to wonder at how handsome and efficient an insect it was. I had no idea that locusts did that, hovering in the air for long periods of time.

I know that they can travel in huge masses, flying on the wind and settling on crops and landscapes, eating everything in their path. But today is very still, no more than a light breeze, and it was only one locust that looked much like the bottom one in the picture above.

It's wings were dark with a white stripe up towards the connection to the body. It must have been the wings moving against each other that made the high pitched whirring noise. I've had wood bees scan me (I think they're usually called Carpenter Bees for the hole they drill into the surface of anything made of wood). I've never felt a locust stop to sing and look at me. 

Just as the locust began to fly on to my left (south), I looked down and there, on the ground in front of me less than three feet away, was a large, mature Copperhead. It was precisely where I would have stepped. It moved on towards the right (north) at exactly the same time the locust moved on to the left. If I had not stopped to look at the hovering locust...if I hadn't stopped to study it and wonder at it, I would have stepped on or right next to the Copperhead and most likely have been bitten in the leg. 

The locust stopped again, hovering in front of me and about a foot from my left shoulder, still whirring, until the Copperhead had disappeared into the woods about fifteen feet to my right (north). It flew on, never hitting the ground, off into the pasture towards the woods several acres away. And I stood there, listening to a locust sing in mid air and watching more than three feet of Copperhead slither past me.

It was a single locust, out of season, that saved me from serious injury.

We live in snake country out here. I'm usually very careful about where I walk or what I lean over and pick up. I carry a walking stick with me to flip rocks and logs over or to poke underneath them before I step over or sit on anything. But this time it was a locust who was my warning system.

Being with my horses is a meditative experience for me. It meshes perfectly with my life as an artist. During the day I'm usually here by myself, working and playing with my horses, working in the barn or on fences, planting my gardens, painting or sketching, and sometimes writing about my life, here, on my BLOG. Most of what I do is quiet, without words, and experienced  from the right, more intuitive side, of my brain. 

The older I get, the further into living in quiet I go, the easier it is to still the constant voice that jabbers away in my brain. I've become more connected to my horses, dogs and cats, the cattle that live here in Summer and the wild life. There are no radios, no TV, and most of the time the only music I listen to comes from the sounds of the wind and trees around me, the birds and frogs that sing through three seasons of the year. 

I've been reading a book that a friend gave to me; ZEN MIND, ZEN HORSE written by Allan Hamilton, MD. He's (you're going to love this!) a renowned Harvard trained Neuro Surgeon and a Natural Horsemanship Clinician. Both John and I have read it and now I'm reading it again. It's an excellent book that very closely parallels the techniques and philosophies that I've been learning with the Parelli System. 

In the book, Dr. Hamilton discusses and compares the brain of a human and the brain of a horse and how they function...the differences and similarities. Not surprisingly, he also talks about the two sides of his own personality and the ways that his mind works in his polar opposite roles as a Surgeon working with highly precise instruments, putting his emotions to the side to perform his operations and the Horseman, working in an environment where your intuitive side has to reign, making snap decisions for you. 

This morning I was in a place I call the "Zone". I open myself to the rhythms of the world around me. I let time go. There are no watches or time schedules in the "Zone". And, for the most part, there is no voice in my head. I'm in the moment, feeling, smelling, tasting, touching, hearing and seeing. It's really a very sensuous place to be. I always feel more connected and fully awake when I'm in the "Zone". When you spend as much time with super prey that weigh, on average, around a thousand pounds each, as I do,  it's not a bad place to be. Things with horses can change in a nano second.

I'd been aware that something was making them nervous, keeping them up closer to the barn this morning. And Miniver, my dog, had come over and kept putting herself in my path too. She weighs around 100 pounds, so she's hard to ignore when she does that. Usually I pay more attention to her when she behaves so protective, but I was visualizing my last session with Lucky and Apache, playing at Liberty together out in the pasture. I was not as focused on my surroundings as I should have been. So I wasn't as in the "Zone" as I thought I was either. 

All of the animals around me were. 

But I did reconnect with the "Zone" when I listened to the locust. 

My question for myself is "Why didn't I do a better job of listening to the horses and Miniver?" and the sixty four thousand dollar question is "Where did the locust come from and why did it hover in front of me at that precise moment?" (I'm not questioning the snake. It was in it's habitat, doing what it always does.)

I'm going to be licking and chewing on this one for quite a while. Oh, and if you want a really good read (and I can suggest it even if you aren't a horse person!), I would definitely put a copy of Dr. Hamilton's book, ZEN MIND, ZEN HORSE on your holiday list this year. 

I am, ever yours, Nancy, smiling at you from the "Zone"

Monday, October 17, 2011


Ever find yourself drifting off the subject in the middle of a conversation? Or maybe just distracting yourself from finishing what you started? I remember, a few years back, listening to a lecture on how to keep yourself motivated by Dr. Stephanie Burns. She told her audience that it all depended on what kind of person you are...a person who likes beginnings, a student who likes to be out there in the middle or a super goal oriented person who seeks the goal at the expense of the path you need to take to get there.

Myself? I love beginnings. I always liked the first day of school. I loved the smell of my new box of crayons, all of the blank notebooks with lots of space for possibilities, my new clothes...all of it. And I still do. It's always exciting, finding a new subject to learn about and to do the research on. There's all the new people to talk to about it and websites to find and read. Even though I'm goal oriented, it was always the beginning I liked best. 

The hard part for me is the middles...the vasty, boggy, get lost in the fog (also known as distracted) and wade in it up to my knees middles. Middles always seem so long, so unavoidable, so dull. I always "did my middles", especially because I wanted to reach the goal so I could start another wonderful, bright shiny new beginning. I like the adrenalin rush, the small bit of stress that puts me outside that comfort zone we all love to talk about, so I can learn something brand new.

When I can get to the other end of my day and say " Look at that! I learned something new today.", then I feel like it was in the "best day" category. "That was my best day ever!" I still get to say that ever so often and I still love the feeling it gives me. It's all I can do to keep from picking up the phone and calling a friend to tell them goofy things like " Hey, I learned how to make a poultice with a paper baby diaper soaked in apple cider vinegar and Epsom salts, some vet wrap and duck tape." Uh can imagine how exciting that is for most people, can't you? Or, how about " I know what Thrush smells and looks like. I learned that today when my donkey's hooves were kind of oozy and smelly." 

It's new and I love to figure out the puzzle, how it works, what to do with all of the information I didn't have before. But then come the middles...the long, dusty, musty middles where the Thrush comes back and I still have to deal with it again. Course, I do it because the end goal of clean, healthy hooves is out there beckoning so (you knew this was coming!) I can start again.

This year has been one with endings I didn't want to get to and beginnings that still leave me in awe of how much there is to learn! I have another horse to play and work with. She isn't mine. She belongs to a friend and lives up the road a bit, but still close enough for me to get over to play with her a couple of times a week. Her name is Mercedes. She's helping me to fill that place in me that loves grey mares. I can't have one of my own right now so I get to do something that's second best...begin again with a friend's horse. That a double beginning! It's the first time I've seriously tried to work with someone else's horse when they weren't involved. 

And there's Miniver. You might say she's one of my huge beginnings (pun definitely intended. She's still growing too, so she's going to get bigger!).

And there's Abby, my newest and youngest study buddy. She isn't able to make it out every week, but ever so often she comes to see us with her Grandma. She's a true natural with all of the animals. She loves everything about them...the smells, the bond, the interactions and even the hard work. She loves to muck out the stalls and sweep the barn! Now that's what I call a true horse-woman in the making.

There's new relationships to foster. (That's me, Nancy Doolittle)

And John who's just beginning his journey with Apache! 

And....ta da! new study buddy group. We meet once a week and it's fascinating every single time. It's sort of like a wedding...something always happens! I'm a bit further ahead than they are so I've been having a lot of fun showing them the ropes (another pun intended!).

It's been a year for more beginnings than I'd realized before I started this story today. No wonder the year is flying by so fast! Whew...lots of "outside the comfort zone" time for me. 

But if you go back to the beginning (there's that word again!) of this BLOG entry, you'll find that I've also distracted myself too by wondering a bit from what I intended to talk about. 

I'm in the misty, vast, sometimes overwhelming in it's size middles with Lucky. And with Apache too since he and I still play together when John can't. I'm here, smack dab in the middle, trying to keep my head on straight and my focus on the goal. Although I can't let myself do that with too much intention since horses have only one goal...survival. If I get too direct line Lucky knows that and he responds by being evasive.    sigh...

See what I mean? It's getting more and more complicated and Zen and anything Zen is going to twist your mind around. 

So I've decided to treat everyday like the beginning that it is. I go to bed saying "Whew...did a lot today. Got all kinds of things done. Good for me!" And I wake up the next day saying " Hot dog! I get to start again. Doesn't get any better than that!" and off I go, through the gate , wading through the middle and ending again, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning because it's so hard to get my head to turn off. I'm having that much fun!

I'm not sure that's exactly what Dr. Burns was suggesting to us when she talked about keeping yourself motivated but it's working for me, at least for now. 

I'm out the door to set the playground up in a new design so we can approach our games from another point of view. This is my middles time of the day and you, dear reader, are my distraction. And it doesn't get any better than that!

My fan club awaits! 

I am, ever yours, Nancy, laughing