1 August 2013

A Reflection on Collection

Nerd alert, non-horse people stop reading now or be bored senseless. Horse people may be bored just as senseless. Beware.

I had an “Ah Ha” moment the other day. I was on Coyote bareback as usual but with a bridle for once. It was a muscle building exercise for me as much as anything, preparing to bring Nev home. Coyote was a little rusty and we were working through the basics: haunches in, leg yields, turns on both quarters, flexing and bending until I once again felt that I could control every inch of his body with him remaining supple and calm. I took contact with the reins and squeezed with my legs to push him forward and then IT happened.

I have read about IT forever. Everyone is always talking about IT. I know that I have achieved IT before, at least I sure hope so. But never have I really gotten IT.

IT is true collection. The kind that comes from behind not from pulling on the horses mouth until they drop their head. That kind I know, it’s not all bad. My horses have always had soft mouths and would give nicely to the bit. We, my horses and I, have accomplished a fair bit in our lives. They have done well at our chosen events we must have been getting IT? Maybe now it’s just that I can see IT so much more clearly.

It sounded so voodoo when they would talk about IT. All this about propulsion and forward movement, the most common statement I’ve heard is about pushing a horse into IT not trying to pull them into it with the bit. I worried all the time that I was doing it wrong but could never quite grasp what right would be. Then Coyote rounded up and reached for the bit his hind end clearly coming underneath. I stopped pushing and felt his top line drop.  Such a little thing and so amazing.

Knowing what that felt like but maybe not consciously looking for it I started riding Nev. He was riding nice starting to soften and beginning to yield, well to yield all his parts, when asked. I was not asking for any type of head set. I was asking for softness, to give instantly when I picked up the reins. Not when I pulled back but turning him and in circles. It was in circles that I started to get IT. I picked up the inside rein and asked him to pick up his inside shoulder and step to the outside. He stepped up under himself and rounded his neck giving me the proper head set because he was collected not collecting because he had the proper head set.

Whoa, deep.

All that voodoo was making sense. I and most people I know are going about this backwards. Collection should cause the head set. The head set does NOT cause collection. It’s a fine line, a horse needs to give it’s head to achieve collection but pulling on a horses head does not cause collection. I feel like such a nerd getting so excited about this.

We were working circles again. This time working on spins. I would get him going, say, to the left getting off the inside rein then apply the aids for a spin to the left for one step. When we had lots of forward he would reach clear across with the outside front leg and that one step of spin would flow. When he was dragging and trying to stop I could feel his withers drop, his head came up, he would hang on the bit and the step was not graceful.

I have been trying and failing to explain this amazing, to me, revelation to my mom for the last week. I think I’m not doing a very good job I just keep saying that it’s amazing dropping my chin to my chest and doing rounding motions with my hands. Every horse person does that right? Dressage people at least? This is probably not any better an explanation but it is so amazing to me that I have to keep trying.

30 July 2013

Playing With Ava

20 July 2013

History: Secrets

2013-07-13 09.48.13We went to check the stock tank, looking through the house was an added bonus. Last time we looked around the house the doors were locked and/or stuck shut, someone had forced the back door open in the mean time so we got to go in. The door opened to stairs, up to the kitchen or down into the basement. We went up. As much as I would like to check out some of these basements I’m too chicken.

The part of the house we were in was in amazingly good shape,the wood work was beautiful. The windows had been broken and barn swallows swooped about our heads, their nests decorating every corner. I had hardly topped the stairs when my husband turned to me wanting to know if I heard it. I hadn’t, and still didn’t hear anything.

We stood looking at the kitchen as the noise came again. I heard it this time, clearly. It seemed to be coming from the sink cabinet which was right in front of the door out. Or maybe just out side the window. Could it be the wind whistling through, something? The window? No didn’t seem to be. A snake? If it was in the cabinet it could be echoing making that noise. That was a little scary. Really the whole thing was a little scary.

But my will was strong and my husband brave. We carried on. We looked around the main floor the noise occasionally echoing in the background barn swallows blasting out into our faces. Coming to the stairs we looked up debating. The floor in the back part of the house was great. The floor in the front of the house was rotted and falling into the basement, what would the upstairs be like? Then to add to our quandary the hissing, whistling sounds came again, louder now. They seemed to be reverberating down the stairs.

We, I, nearly turned and ran. Only my curiosity held me in place. Of course we went up. The upstairs room was charming, open and airy. In one corner was an old cast iron bed and I could imagine this as the perfect master bedroom. Built into the peak of the roof the ceiling sloped sharply downwards with walls maybe four foot high and doors for access to storage behind. Looking in one side I saw lots of daylight explaining the rotted floors beneath and some stored stuff, what I don’t know. As I was pondering it my husband looked into the door on the other side then came for me.

He took me by the shoulders steadying me as he pushed me towards the other door. I wouldn’t believe it he told me but it would be worth sticking my head into the dark forbidding hole. My eyes took a moment to adjust but my ears wasted no time in picking up the mysterious sounds we had heard from below. There before me stood the cause of the commotion and not at all anything I could have guessed.

Two little, bigger than a chicken so maybe not that little, white balls of fluff acting all ferocious with their wings held out and backs hunched menacingly.  They were growling at us with all their might. Black heads with fierce beaks held low and threatening. I was terrified for a whole new reason. If these two large baby birds were here where was their mother? We oohed and awed briefly over the general cuteness then high tailed it out of there leaving the chicks alone in their rather unorthodox nest.

Outside we briefly pondered the breed of bird we had seen upstairs until the sight of a vulture circling overhead gave us our answer.

18 July 2013

History: Stories

2013-07-18 10.21.09When he was young the man had lived in that house that stands on the hill. He and his wife, the house didn’t belong to them. They worked for the family that owned the ground. That family lived in the house too. They lived on the ground floor with the man and his wife living upstairs. It’s not a big house. By today’s standards barely big enough for a single family, but the man and his wife had been happy there.

He would talk of how they used to sit in the dormer looking out the big window to the south across the valley and rolling hills. They moved on to other places and other windows. Years later long after the house was left to sit empty and his wife passed on he would drive to the house and sit. Looking up at the window where they sat together, so happy, such a long time ago.

2013-07-18 10.22.29

17 July 2013


I love old houses.

Old things in general. My husband calls himself an old man, I love him. But lately I’ve had a chance to explore some of the local abandoned houses. That’s what we called them when I was a kid at least. I don’t know that there is a better term, empty, falling down old relics? I believe that my old bed and my parents bed came out of abandoned houses and some furniture. It never occurred to anyone at the time that the stuff belonged to anybody. Besides way back then it was just old junk, not antique yet.

I am fascinated by the history of these places. I wonder about the families that built them. Often Lilacs are growing in the yards and I think how much the women must have treasured the hardy bush out here in this land with out the comforts and easy growing flowers of back east. The joy of their brilliant purple blooms must have been even greater then surrounded by the bleak endless prairie. With all our modern conveniences we forget the true value of water. When we turn on the faucet to let water run endlessly on our green lawn we don’t remember  the hard labor put into pumping water by hand or hauling it for miles to water a few precious flowers and a struggling garden that will have to feed the family.


11 July 2013

A Tale Of Two Flowers

They are both incredibly beautiful living on opposite sides of the yard. I know I thought they were quite nice back when they were first coming into their own but with each passing day they become more spectacular. And bigger much bigger. I have to water them at least twice a day. Like all beauties they are very high maintenance.

I knew it was getting bad when I invented personalities for them.

2013-06-24 08.19.53No names, unfortunately, that would be easier than calling them this one or that one. I am tempted to follow that train of thought but will force myself to stick to the point.

This beautiful creature is a very carefully kept woman. She would never be seen out with out full make up and always wearing the latest styles. I’m sure she spends lots of time doing her nails and probably not much working. Some how despite all that she manages to be likeable and sweet not causing me to resent having to water her twice a day at all. Plus the Nasturtium smell heavenly.


2013-06-24 08.20.55This girl is more of a down home farm girl type. I could almost picture her barefoot in overalls, but more likely jeans and boots. I see her hair in braids and not a drop of polish on her nails. Her beauty is natural she doesn’t bother with makeup. The scent of her old fashioned  heirloom petunias drifts through the windows at night filling the house with their heady scent. She is my favorite although the amount of water she consumes is quite ridicules.

Obviously I’ve gone insane but I am happy with my insanity.

10 July 2013

Faith Like Potatoes

It was a pretty good movie really much better than the somewhat similar and yet completely different Machine Gun Preacher. That just made me cry as I clutched my child to my chest. Faith Like Potatoes was good and sweet with a nice message. But more to the point, I was digging potatoes yesterday. Yes this is all somehow related.

The plants are still growing and the potatoes maturing even though many are a good eating size. So I have been groping about in the dirt trying to unearth enough for a meal with out causing undue harm to the plant. I had dug all the way down a row and come up with two decent sized potatoes. I was happy with that, until I remembered that The Goblin Child had eaten all of mine last time. I had already dug through the whole row I was hot and sweaty and tired and The Goblin Child only has so much patience which was starting to wear thin. I decided to try the next row but figured that it would take awhile and I really needed to get going. Looking heavenward I asked God for help finding a potato but told Him never mind it was a silly little thing to trouble Him with. I walked over to the row stuck my hand in the ground and ran smack dab into the biggest potato yet.

Apparently it wasn’t too silly a request for Him to grant.2013-06-29 12.21.31

1 July 2013

Concerning Murder

2013-06-05 16.25.49I did it. It was an accident but that doesn’t change the outcome. I took the life of a beautiful living thing.

My flower basket had worms. We discovered them one day. Hundreds of tiny worms devouring one of it’s leaves. I was in a panic, what if they continued to multiply? What if they spread to my other flowers? I picked the leaf off then searched frantically for any other leaves bearing the destructive intruders. Finding a couple of other infected leaves I smashed them under my heel on the sidewalk.

Still worried I wanted something else I could do to prevent further desecration. Vinegar I thought, vinegar cures every thing. So I grabbed my handy dandy spray bottle of vinegar and squirted the flower thoroughly hoping it would kill the bugs. My Mom recommended a systemic bug killer so I picked up a bottle and dispensed it liberally. Shortly there after the plant began to wilt. I poured the water to it thinking it was getting dry like my gigantic flower baskets are prone to do. Nothing helped and I moved the very wilted flower far from the others so it didn’t spread.

I blamed the chemicals I must confess, isn’t that the current mode of society? Chemicals are evil, systemic insecticides are of the devil. Now, much later with the dead browns remains of the formerly glorious flower laying in a heap in the yard my grandmother mentions using vinegar as a weed killer.

“That can’t work” I thought “I just used vinegar to kill bugs on my flower basket”. Oh how the mind hides in denial. Doing some Googling I finally came to grips with the sad truth. I murdered my beautiful plant. This article said it best. Vinegar works by drawing the moisture from the leaves, thus the wilting that no amount of watering would fix. I learned a good lesson the hard way. Next time I will do a little more, any at all, research before I go taking drastic measures.

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16 June 2013

Oh Hail!

It’s that time of the summer again. We had just been discussing how mid June is prime time for hail. Then here it came, all kinds of warnings for South Dakota but nothing for us. We watched it coming on the radar but as the clouds came over we could see day light under them. So dismissing the threat I proceeded to wash dishes.

Then something thunked hard on the roof. I thought at first that one of the floor pots had blown over but upon examination I found huge hail stones falling almost gracefully from the sky. The sun shown the whole time and we were lucky not to have much wind with it. What a great  Fathers Day, I’m not sure if it was a good present because it didn’t do near the damage it could have or a bad one because we got hail. Either way happy first fathers day dear.

If the fields are any thing like the garden they should be fine, same for the pastures. Like the horses the cattle probably just stood there and enjoyed the back rub.  This was as good as something as bad as a hail storm can get. For us at least, I hope every one else was as lucky.

12 June 2013


It may not have been the best of conditions for his first ride outside but he took it all in stride. After a handful of uneventful rides in the indoor it was time to change it up a little. Paula got a couple of circles inside at a lope, his first, then they headed out to the round pen.

The nose flies were out full force but a thick coating of Swat on his muzzle deterred them long enough to get a quick lesson in. Out of the deep sand he looked like he had a little more go to him. Paula didn’t comment to much but she didn’t cuss him to badly either. All in all they looked pretty good.

And it was light enough outside that my camera didn’t take blurry pictures.