This blog is dedicated to my friend, my mentor, and the best teacher I have ever had. Without him, I would not have embarked on this amazing journey. Split, this blog is for you!
Ponderosa Misty Icon, aka "Split," is a handsome gray Welsh pony who came to me via a phone call "out of the blue" (actually Peterborough, Ontario). Our first few months together were rocky to say the least, which made me question my ability as a horse owner, as a horsewoman, and as a rider. Forty years of horse ownership had not prepared me for this little gray pony!
But we muddled through and because of Split, I have begun a journey that is both spiritual and enlightening. I hope something here resonates with you and that you'll check back now and then.
We leave you with one of our favorite quotes: "The best whisper is a click!"

Monday, January 31, 2011

Stand Around and Think

Learning is a constant journey and I never know what twists and turns it's going to present from day to day. However, as I travel along this path, I've met some wonderful teachers, one of whom is Mary Hunter (stalecheerios.com), a clicker trainer from Texas. The other day she commented on her blog about training a young horse, one of her rescues, "This is where people often get into trouble. Rather than giving the horse time to stand around and think, they try and make the horse move forward."
That statement made me sit back and go, "Hmmm............How interesting." And I began to realize that her observation had implications that go beyond the realm of horse training. As human beings, I think we often push EVERYONE to go forward at our pace instead of allowing them time to stand and think. This is a hectic world we live in. We're connected to each other instantly at the click of a button on our computer keyboard. Technology has progressed to where the push of a button will cook our food, wash our dishes, turn on our lights, wash our clothes, dial our phones, pull up our favorite music.............and we're always in a hurry. I admit it - if something takes longer than 10 seconds to load on my computer, I get in a huff! Is this "hurry up and wait" attitude something that our animals are trying to warn us about? Could their "behavior problems" reflect a general dysfunction in our own society? Do I have too much time on my hands to contemplate such things? "Stand around and think." I'm going to have to take advantage of those times - when I'm standing in line at the store, when I'm stuck in traffic, when I'm waiting at the bank, when I'm waiting for my computer to load...............And I'm going to have to remember to give my animal friends time to stand around and think, too. Now that I reflect on it, I believe that my mini donkey has this down to a science. Nothing rattles her, she moves at her own pace, and when shown a new trick I'd like her to do, she literally stands there and thinks about it. The treat doesn't motivate her to do it........she decides for herself after taking everything into account, "Hmmm.......She wants me to do what, now? Pick up that cone and put it in that bucket. Well, I suppose I could. It doesn't appear to be a dangerous job. I already know how to pick up the cone so putting it in the bucket ain't such a stretch. And she does have that vest full of treats.........Alright! I'll do it!"
I like Mary's statement as it applies to our horses. Sometimes we get on and expect them to do what we want because WE know what we want. But that doesn't mean that the horse "gets it." Maybe we should give them the chance to stand around and think about it more often. Horses love the click.......but not for the same reason we humans have come to depend on the clicks in our lives!
Happy clicking, everyone! But remember..................the click doesn't meant instant gratification! Take some time to stand around and think!

“Don't underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering.” Winnie the Pooh

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Flight Of The Suet

My Christmas tree is still up. No, it's not artificial, it's real. It's up and it's decorated and I enjoy looking at it every day! Granted, it's no longer in the house.....I dragged it out onto my front porch. And it no longer sports Christmas decorations. Instead, I decorate it with suet and chunks of bread purchased from the day-old trays at WalMart, and crackers and pieces of fruit. The birds love it!! I have two hanging feeders - one on either side of the porch - and my Christmas tree. There are days when I have seemingly hundreds of feathered friends gathered 'round - all chirping and cheeping and squawking and enjoying the food I put out for them. Yesterday when I put new suet in the holders, there was one chunk of suet left over - just big enough that I couldn't fit a new cake in the holder. So I took that old chunk out and put it on the porch floor, figuring that some bird would be glad to have it and I was right! When I got up this morning, that chunk of suet was gone. This afternoon, Jelly and I went on our usual snowshoe walk and about 1/2 a mile away in the neighbor's meadow, Jelly's tail went into a wagging frenzy and she pounced on something in the snow. She looked at me with snow all over her muzzle and what looked to be a chunk of bread hanging out of her mouth! I went over to her to make sure she didn't have anything dangerous and was shocked to discover that she had found THE CHUNK OF SUET FROM MY PORCH! ha ha ha Probably some crow or blue jay had made off with the entire thing and dropped it in the meadow! I couldn't believe it! I managed to get the suet away from the dog and flung it off into the hedgerow for another bird to find. I figured I didn't need to deal with doggie diarrhea tonight!
Dogs are our link to paradise.
They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent.
To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon
is to be back in Eden,
where doing nothing was not boring- it was peace.
-Milan Kundera

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Just Breathe.........

Being short on time today (I had to substitute teach and had other obligations), I wasn't able to spend a lot of time with my animals. But one thing I love to do when I only have a little time to spend is just breathe them in.........seriously. This morning, Split and I stood nose to nose and just breathed each other in. I rested my head on his shoulder as he dug into his hay, buried my nose in his mane and breathed in that good, pony smell. Jingle has sweet breath. I love to hold her muzzle in my hand and kiss the side of her mouth....she smells like hay and donkey. Jelly has the softest beagle ears ever and I hold my face against those floppy ears and just nuzzle and breathe in beagle. Lucy the minipin/chi has a tiny little head and I will hold her and nuzzle the top of her head. I breathe them in and they breathe me in and we all hold a little of each other inside us. It sustains me and keeps me connected with them. I breathe in nature, too......snow, rain, sunshine, fresh cut grass, horse manure............Aroma therapy at its finest! Try it!
"I love to smell flowers in the dark," she said. "You get hold of their soul then." Anne of Green Gables (Lucy Maud Montgomery)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

On Just Being

Someone on one of my horse lists wrote the other day that she sat with her mare in the paddock, face raised to the sky, and together they "just were," with the sun and a light breeze playing over their faces. She said it wasn't a moment that most people would consider extraordinary, however, Friend's horse has, in the past, been extremely aggressive and untrustworthy, so this "moment in the sun" was absolutely glorious! They spent time together doing nothing......just "being." They've walked a long, difficult road to get to this point of mutual trust and understanding, and reading that post brought tears to my eyes.
How many of us take the time to "just be" these days? We all have so many obligations pulling us in so many directions that I think we forget to just be still......to "just be."
Quite often when I'm out walking Jelly on these gorgeous winter days, we stop in the middle of the meadow and I just soak in the beauty around me.....I "just am." And it's those moments that keep me grounded, make me remember that I am a part of everything, and that the Universe knows who I am and where I'm headed.
We've had some really cold weather here in NY lately but the other day after I'd cleaned the barn, it was quite warm outside next to the barn wall and Split and Jingle were out there, happily munching their hay, soaking up some UV's. I sat down on the stall door sill and just basked in the sunshine and within a few minutes, much to my delight, I was joined by my 2 furry equines! They left their hay to come stand over me while I scratched their chests and nuzzled noses with them. We were all content.......we didn't DO anything.......we just "were" in peace, in harmony, in silence.
My husband refers to my pony and donkey as "valium on the hoof." He's right......time spent "just being" with them is better than any drug yet created in a lab!
Take some time to "just be" with your horse or your dog or just yourself today. It's worth the "effort!"
We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.

Mother Teresa

Friday, January 21, 2011

Birds Or Meteorolgists?

My husband is obsessed with the weather forecasts. I think it's because he grew up on a farm and of course, in order to be successful, farmers have to know about the weather! My grandfather could step outside, smell the air, and tell you what sort of weather to predict! (Yes, he was a farmer!) When I was little, I used to laugh at him but as I got older, I realized that I've inherited that "talent!" I can smell snow and rain before it gets here. Strange, huh?
Grandpa was also the first animal communicator I knew but of course he didn't think of himself that way......and neither did I. I was always in awe of how he seemed to know what an animal was thinking or what it was going to do before it did it. Reflection in my old age has made me realize that he had "the gift" and to him, it was as natural as breathing. He could tell me what the birds were saying, what the dog was thinking, why the fish were biting, why the wind was blowing the way it was. His last name was MacLellan and I believe he had the Irish ability to see "behind the veil." Many of his weather predictions were based on the behavior of the wild animals around his home and it appears that I've absorbed some of that knowledge. I confess here in public that I am able to communicate with animals and I'm sure that was inherited from my grandfather as well! Others in my family have the ability but I think they've suppressed it or don't like to talk about it. But I digress.......
Here in the "Great Northeast," we've been inundated with snow this season! My husband eagerly awaits each weather forecast like kids wait for Christmas. He will run from TV to computer, switching channels and perusing weather maps and doppler radar reports and going to highway TV cams, etc. Recently I've been telling him when the weather forecasters are wrong and at first he would say, "But it's on the doppler radar......I can see the map....the forecasters say....." And I would counter simply with, "Yeah? Well the birds and the squirrels are telling me differently and I'm telling you, you'd better make sure the plow is working because this is NOT going to be a little storm! It's gonna be a whopper!" Was I right? Oh, yeah! Well, I wasn't right.....the animals were! When the birds swarm the feeders and chatter excitedly, when the squirrels are out in full force............you know they're gearing up for a storm!
John still listens to the TV forecasters and checks all his computer weather sites but ultimately, he will ask, "So, what are the birds telling you?" Aha! Progress! John is a scientist of the first magnitude and tends to "poo-poo" animal communication but lately he's shown some chinks in the armor.....I think he may be starting to believe!!
Weather forecasting.......it's definitely for the birds!
I found this little quote. Hope you enjoy it! Have a great weekend!
Be grateful for luck. Pay the thunder no mind - listen to the birds. And don't hate nobody.
Eubie Blake

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Unsung Heroes

My personal horse world is inhabited by a lot of unsung heroes. They're not going to make dvd's of their successes or try to sell you a lot of special equipment with their name on it. They're not going to appear at forums or the Equine Affaire or on RFD-TV. They go about their horse training quietly, with no fanfare, no desire for fame or fortune, no hidden agendas. They just ARE and they just DO. I am in awe of these women. They've looked into the eyes of horses that others have called "hopeless," "aggressive beyond saving," "stupid," "dog food," and have seen right into their souls. These women have seen the hurt, the abuse, the desperate cry for help and the need to be loved and accepted, and they've brought these horses onto their farms and into their lives. Life isn't a Disney movie...........there were no instant miracles or sudden conversions and everyone hasn't lived happily ever after. But the women who listened and who were enlightened and who ultimately were chosen by these difficult horses have persevered through trial and error, through tears and laughter, through self-doubt and small triumphs. They may become discouraged, they may doubt themselves, but like Winston Churchill intoned, they "nevah give up...nevah, nevah, nevah!" And they've been courageous enough to allow some of us into their world; to share their worries, their doubts, and questions with us. These are my heroes - the women who are able to see the positive; who are brave enough to step outside of the box; who can see right into the horses' souls.
I gave up on a horse once........it haunts me to this very day. I know it was the right decision at the time but boy, how I wish I'd known then what (little) I know now! But maybe I'm thinking about this in the wrong way......maybe that aggressive, unhappy horse actually set me up. Maybe he was here to let me know that I need to grow, to explore other options, to do some serious self-reflection; maybe I needed to be humbled. I guess I should be thanking that horse. He was an unsung hero, in a way.
Ladies of the zen and fluffyzen, I salute you (and you know who you are so don't go all "golly gee, aw shucks" on me! LOL) and your horses! You are an inspiration, and your efforts, your love and your dedication are sending ripples of hope and enlightenment out into the world!
Heroes take journeys, confront dragons, and discover the treasure of their true selves.--Carol Pearson

Monday, January 17, 2011

Horse Meets Dog

When I was done "dog sledding" the other day, I took Lucy into the barn with me when I checked on the critters' hay and water. Lucy is a minipin/chi cross who weighs about 8 pounds and she very neatly fits into the crook of my arm. I stepped to the stall door to peer in at the bucket - Lucy in my arms - and Split decided to come over to see what sort of strange growth had appeared on Mom's arm! He didn't come very close - Lucy was clearly sending out "GAH! What IS that?" vibes - she was shaking, her eyes were huge, and she pressed herself against my chest as hard as she could. Clearly this big, gray monster was out to eat her!! Split stood back, staring, ears going back and forth, and was soon joined by his partner in crime, Jingle the mini donk. There they stood, staring at Lucy as tho she was some sort of alien. Split finally took a few steps closer and then stretched his nose out to smell the dog. But, being the polite, gentle soul that he is, instead of actually trying to sniff Lucy, he began to sniff my arm and he nuzzled at my sweater with his upper lip, while keeping his eye on Lucy. Jingle, in the meantime, was watching intently, ears up, eyes wide (but soft and with interest). Finally, Split turned to Jingle and they touched noses for quite a few seconds, staring into each other's eyes, ears swiveling back and forth. They reminded me for all the world of 2 big bugs communicating thru their antennae! Their conversation was delightful:
Split: What IS that thing?
Jingle: Clearly it's a dog. Duh. It's Lucy, mom's granddoggie.
Split: Oh, yeah. What do you think of it?
Jingle: Kind of like a big rat but Mom seems to like it.
Split: Yeah.
Split then turned to me and again began to sniff and nuzzle my arm, this time moving a bit closer to Lucy who just pressed against me and prayed that she wouldn't be eaten alive! ha ha Again Split turned to Jingle and they pressed their noses together.
Split: I don't get it.
Jingle: Me, either, but you know how Mom is.
Split (sighing): Yeah. Hey, you think there's any hay left outside?
And at that point, he looked at me, turned and went outside. Jingle stood politely, knowing that if she stared at me long enough, projecting, "But I'm cuuuuuuuuute," there would be a peppermint in it for her. Yeah.....she was right! LOL What can I say? I'm a sucker.
Communication - it's around us, all the time, everywhere. Trouble is we humans stop listening as we get caught up in the day to day business of living. Clicking and CAT have helped me to realize that I have to listen all the time, otherwise I'm going to miss some really important stuff! And nothing brings that home like trying to "train" animals. I know who's getting "trained" here..........................
I've been referring to myself lately as "the old gray mare" but now I think I might try to be more like the owl! How 'bout you?
A wise old owl sat on an oak; The more he saw the less he spoke; The less he spoke the more he heard; Why aren't we like that wise old bird?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dog Sledding

Yesterday I went dog sledding. Not the kind with the huskies and a big sled and me yelling, "Mush!" I've never done that. No, this dog sledding involved a beagle, a plastic sled, and the hill in my back meadow. Yesterday was such a gorgeous day that I couldn't waste it so I grabbed Jelly, found an old plastic sled in the garage, and off we went. Poor Jelly! She wasn't quite sure what was going on when I plunked her down on the sled, sat down behind her, and quickly shoved off. But she's a brave girl and we flew down that hill, me laughing and screeching, "Lean, Jelly, lean!" and Jelly with her ears flapping in the wind and snow blowing up into her face! What a rush! When we reached the bottom and came to a stop, Jelly leaped out of the sled and proceeded to run thru the snow (bulldoze is more like it - about all you could see of her was her little brown head!) and she actually pulled the sled with me in it about 4' before we sunk to a stop. I was laughing and Jelly was "swimming" thru the snow, the sun was shining, and Split was whinnying to us as we sped down the hill. We were snow-covered and cold and it was just like being a kid again! Great fun!!!
In fact, I'd have to go so far as to say it was a perfect afternoon!
Later on, I introduced Lucy the minipin to Split and Jingle but that's a blog for another time!
Stay warm, everyone! And if you get the chance.......go sledding! Be a kid again!
~ Oh! the snow, the beautiful snow, Filling the sky and earth below, Over the housetops, over the street, Over the heads of the people you meet. Dancing, Flirting, Skimming along. ~ J.Watson

Friday, January 14, 2011

Who Needs The Gym??

Last summer when some friends and I were moving the panels of a round pen into a trailer for transportation to a new farm, I grunted, "Ugh! Next thing I'm going to write about is why farm women don't need a gym membership!" I revisited that thought when I was out snowshoeing yesterday. I usually walk my dog for 45 minutes to an hour every day. This is no little walk around the block, mind you! We go over hill and dale, thru the woods, over logs, under brush, you name it. I have holes and rips in my clothing that can only be explained by describing my encounters with hawthorns, pucker brush, and pricker bushes! Oh, and the occasional tumble onto my face when I trip over a branch cleverly concealed by Mother Nature. I'm sure she's laughing uproariously as I desperately cling to the leash while trying to extricate myself from the forest floor! But I digress...............
So yesterday I strap on the snowshoes and head out sans beagle (she's only 13" high and we had at least 2 feet of fluffy snow - you do the math! ha ha), looking forward to a leisurely ramble over.......well, hill and dale, of course. It was an absolutely picture-perfect day! The sun was shining and the snow looked as glittery as that fake stuff they use at Christmas time. The fir trees looked like someone had strategically placed cotton bolls (nope, that's not a misspelling!) on all the branches and the sky was literally a deep turquoise, with fluffy white clouds scattered throughout! It was breath-taking! As I slogged along thru the deep snow, I got to thinking, as I was lifting each heavily booted, snowshoe clad foot up high......You know, Nike and Sketcher and the rest of those guys who make those ridiculous "exercise and tone your leg" shoes have NOTHING on the snowshoe and a few feet of fluffy snow! I mean, I was getting all the exercise and toning I could hope for out there! And when you add in the amount of snow that accumulates on the top of your boot and snowshoe, you've got "weights." Now think how high you have to lift each leg out of the deep snow and you've got step aerobics! Holy cow! This is the perfect exercise! I walk every day but I've got to tell you, I was huffing and puffing when I returned home but it felt good! No stuffy, sweaty gym can compare with the crisp fresh air of a winter day! And I've never seen such gorgeous scenery in a gym! (Well, OK, *maybe* there's some nice scenery in the gym but those guys are really few and far between.......ha ha)
And after that little sojourn, I lugged water buckets from the house to the barn, tossed some hay, cleaned the barn and dumped the manure, etc. Gym membership? Who needs it??
The birds at my feeder are in a frenzy this morning. Does that portend another storm, I wonder? Well, no matter! My snowshoes are fired up and ready to go!
Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!!!!!

Of winter's lifeless world each tree
Now seems a perfect part;
Yet each one holds summer's secret
Deep down within its heart.
~Charles G. Stater

Monday, January 10, 2011

A New Year!

Yep, here it is, another new year. My grandmother always told me that the older she got, the faster time went by. I used to laugh at her but it's not so funny now!
I don't make New Year's resolutions. What's the point? You know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men, right? I do like to reflect on the previous year a little, in hopes that I will find some nuggets of wisdom; discover that I've learned something new; smile when I remember all my friends, old and new. Those things seem list worthy to me so I'm going to share my "Things I Learned And Value From 2010 List":

*Patience really IS a virtue!
*Observe without judgement. (Thank you, Mary Arena!)
*Energy is palpable.
*I have a really great husband!
*I have 3 wonderful daughters...........well, most of the time they're wonderful!
*Discovering one's personal spirituality is an on-going process and a helluva journey!
*I want to know what's in Mary's caves..........
*Animals talk to me.
*Walking is the most highly under-rated exercise there is!
*My animals all chose me.
*Some of my greatest and wisest teachers have 4 legs!
*Even after 25 years, it's still possible to miss someone that you love.
*Death can come swiftly or glide in gently........
*Friends are truly treasures!
*Welsh ponies, mini donkeys and beagles make great friends!

What's on your list?

"The horse will teach you if you listen!"
Ray Hunt