reflections
April 29th, 2011 The Wisdom of Horses

12:40 a.m. It’s been a lot of early mornings like this lately. I seem to be going through some creative phase where inspiration hits and I just have to write.
I haven’t been asleep. Just meditating and I had a strong impression to share a story I have never shared before. It’s about liberation. Not the liberty that is taught as “liberty” in a “natural horsemanship” kind of way but a true liberty. A liberty of spirit that courses through both human and horse in a way that is transcendental. I have touched it. But not before being shown the way by the horse that is entwined as one with my spirit. It’s true. She is ethereal, sentient and connected to all that is pure.
If you don’t know that transcendental means it is the ability to see the unseen. I also think it is the ability to see the unseen. Like looking at a picture and realizing there is much more than meets the eye.
This summer, which was particularly trying due to the fact that one of the roughest, toughest horses I have ever worked that was in my barn severely injured his leg.
My niche is problem horses. This one was beyond problem. So many arrogant, egotistical people had had their hand with him that he could read a human from a mile away and he had enough experience he wanted nothing to do with any of us.
Enter me and his new adoptive caring owner. She loved him more than life itself even though he would only give her moments of his time. Still, they had a bond and it was clear there was much to work with.
This horse had been so shut down by repetitious drills that he had developed quite a repertoire of coping skills. All very effective. Try to lead him and he would bolt. Try to pet him and he would quiver and then explode. Try to halter him and he would stand frozen only to burst into an explosive run to the other side of the pen. He had nowhere to go but to protect himself in any way possible. That’s how he was when I first met him anyway. It took Kirk and I 12 hours to trim him the first time. But we succeeded and the horse was much better afterward, though far from cured.
I was immediately intrigued. My sickness works that way.
Anyway, we brought him to the farm in Colorado and after a proper introduction turned him out into our 75 acre pasture with the rest of the herd. It took some time getting settled in. He was a stallion in his mind naturally and fitting in when there are already two resident stallion mindsets is difficult. But he quickly found his buddy we had hauled him home with and the two ripped off through the pasture to explore the boundaries. It was exhilarating to observe and I learned a lot about him watching him.
Soon he was choosing a young mare and while she flirted I watched as her Momma nickered warnings and encouragements to her. It was very tender.
Confident he would fit in I haltered up one of the horses I had in training and set out for a much needed ride. The kind of ride where I can clear my mind and let stories like this one flow.
That all came to an end when I came home to find the new horse, so magnificent and bold, severely injured. Injured along with him was the Momma to his new love interest. Both mustangs with particularly sour natures. People induced, of course.
Great.
Life is never dull with animals and this situation was dire. The horse was cut so severely I thought at first that his leg was broken. Upon a closer inspection I realized that he had seriously lacerated his right hind cannon bone. I rode up as close as I could to him and observed the bright red blood running down his leg. The wound was only minutes old but very serious. The kind of wound that makes you question whether or not the horse will survive and if it will, if it will be sound.
I knew from looking at the wound that one thing was in our favor. It was a vertical wound, clean cut. While severe, with proper bandaging, would heal nicely.
But how do you doctor a wound on a wild mustang that is so opposed to human touch that kicking defensively is the only option?
I knew from working this horse that this was the worst possible scenario ever. A true nightmare. A horse that is virtually unmanageable wounded so severely that nobody was going to be able to doctor that wound reliably.
Or was it?
I’ve been around wild mustangs a long time and I know the most damaged of them often will sacrifice themselves to address the very needs they have. Sounds weird but I swear it’s true. They have to offer themselves and test the human to see if we really are honest, true and open to their trust. I consider it the greatest honor in the world and tackled this project no differently.
Only the horse was uncatchable and here he was free as a bird out in 75 acres with an entire herd to protect him. Yes, he was cut badly but he had severed no tendons thankfully and was fully mobile. He took off at a dead run as I approached.
Saddling up, I whispered to my trusting mount I needed his speed and sure footedness. He promised he would never let me down. That’s the kind of horse he is. A one of a kind, one in a million, gem.
And he didn’t. I followed that horse for over an hour. My horse sped up when the horse sped up and ran when the horse ran. He ran hard. Several times he picked up other horses from the herd but they quickly abandoned him. None of them had the disdain for humans this horse had so they gave up the game in order to rest, eat and socialize.
Not this horse. He ran full boar, never stopping. Then, as I followed, not pushing him but gently signaling I would like for us to be one, together, so we could address his badly bleeding wound, he would look over his shoulder.
Twice he sped up, running full tilt. Anywhere. Just so long as it was away from me. And then I noticed him begin to look for options. I still did not push but followed on my horse, turning right when he turned right and left when he turned left. My body soft but ready for him to listen to me. My horse was beneath me working in tandem with me. When he locked eyes he would soften and encourage the other horse to respond in kind. The other horse refused and continued to flee. My horse continued to follow but never harsh in his own movement. That’s what I love about him. And actually, he is not my horse. He’s Kirks. But for today, he and I were a team and I knew he would not let me down. And he didn’t.
All at once the big buckskin stopped and quivering, stood waiting for me. He had never been approached before out in the open except to be chased with a helicopter and it was clear that he did not trust me. But as I approached he snorted, lowered his head and stood while I applied a halter. I led him over the corral and immediately called the vet.
The vet arrived and under the dim lights of his truck he sedated the big, lonely horse and waited for him to respond to the drugs. Then we cleaned and bandaged the wound. I called the owner and made arrangements to meet the following week for another bandage change. This was going to be a long process.
But the horse was in good hands and over the successive weeks he did his part and began to heal both physically and spiritually. The journey was a long one.
As each bandage change and doctoring passed (he was sutured once – the sutures did not hold) my trusting Aemelie, my sister horse, visited regularly as I worked on the big horse in the corral. She would stand steadfast along the rail and gaze in, watching my every move. It was clear she was there to comfort me as much as she was there to comfort the injured horse. It was uncanny.
Then one day, as the sun shone warm upon our backs and a wind softly blew she nicked, lowered her head and clearly invited me to jump up on her back. No bridle. No saddle. Just our spirits co-mingling as one and trust. The trust of a dozen ages that is an unbreakable and unimaginable bond. I obliged and felt a surge of pure ecstasy as I climbed upon her back. An unmistakable joy that is so pure, it can only be brought from the heavens.
She trusted me and I trusted her. Walking slowly she walked away from the corral as if to say, “calm your fears. Quiet your mind. Today we are soul sisters and I would like to share with you the gentleness of my world.”
She walked past the hay. Past the grass. And past the other horses. She walked purposefully, but not so as to dislodge my seat. She trotted softly several times and took her place upon a hill where one could see the far horizon. The view was spectacular. It was no wonder she stopped here. Several times during our journey she stopped, waiting while I readjusted. I was just amazed, enjoying her presence. Not a piece of equipment between us.
As she approached the herd, they approached her and she bobbed her head as if to say, “You see what I have done? I have brought her to you so that you may comfort her.”
The other horses crowded around, curious about this package Aemelie delivered.
One horse was pushy and abrupt. Aemelie shook her head at him and snaked her neck, laying back her ears. He backed off, obliging her demand he not crowd our perfect union. It was if she was protecting her precious cargo and I know she was. This is my horse. She turned a half turn and looked back toward the corral, and then looked at me, bringing her nose around to my leg and nuzzling it with her soft muzzle. Her touch was like the caress of a mother to her newborn.
I began to cry.
I cried because in that moment the stress of doctoring that difficult horse and the heavy weight of the responsibility I felt that he had been injured during my watch was lifted. It was if Aemelie was saying, “It will all be allright. You just need to trust. This process is his as much as it is yours.”
And I know she was right.
I’ve never shared this story so close is it to my heart but Kirk saw Aemelie carry me out to the pasture and into the midst of her herd and told me later, “It was as if she was willing you to become one of them.”
And I am sure she was because that is the wisdom of horses.

April 27th, 2011 This might be wierd….

This past week should have been in a photo journal. That’s considering you can capture happiness and the world setting its self right. I wish energy had colors so it could be interpreted.
I bought two milk cows.
I trimmed a number of horses for free. That always blows people’s minds. It’s one thing to expect the traditional farrier experience. Quite another to experience ….me! I know that sounds arrogant. But people who know me understand.
This week I grew acceptance that I am not just your ordinary horse’s ass. I am a special horse’s ass…
Now consider that for a moment. A horse relies on its ass for balance.
A horse relies on its ass for mobility.
A horse relies on its ass for expelling excrement.
I think it’s time we redefine the horse’s ass.
Typically we think of “a horse’s ass” as a negative bit of slang that defines someone who is annoying, stupid, rude, and arrogant. The connotation applies in many ways. I’ve called many people a horses ass. I’ve even been called a horse’s ass.
But this week I had a revelation that was akin to the religious uprising I witnessed every fifth Sunday at the church my parents forced me to attend. Perhaps it was the stuffed taco I ate that evening before bed or the ice cream float I scarfed down right afterward (not my usual diet but hey, even I fall off the wagon sometimes!) but I got up in the middle of the night and decided to doodle on my computer. When that wore out I grabbed my phone and began flipping through messages.
Several jumped out at me and I realized that I was looking at the evidence of my existence.
One text was a client that thanked me for being me. That’s always nice to hear! Another a client’s word of thanks for straightening out her horse. Another from a disabled client that feels his horse is his best friend and thanking me for all I’ve done (even though I haven’t worked with them at all for over two years!) and still, another from a client thanking me for working with her horse and making him behave better and for giving her other horse great hooves.
It’s a privileged life I tell you.
At dinner my Grandpa listened raptly as I told him about my adventures that day. He grins when he sees me come home head to toe, full of mud and so tired I could faint. I think he remembers those days. I love filling him in and answering his questions. He is learning a lot about hoof care that he didn’t know and he’s very receptive to it! We’ve inspected my equipment and he’s even taken it out of the truck to ask me about each piece. He’s quite a sounding board for all my lofty ideas. I find that we balance one another. Recently I had a personal problem that he brought wisdom to and dispelled all of my concerns with one simple sentence. “You have important things to do in your life. Don’t get side tracked.”
Like the horse’s ass, he brought balance to my life. His encouragement also mobilized my path and made me want to tackle the problem just so I could see that I actually could move past it.
Then my son and I finished off the evening by cyber chatting about a variety of different subjects including items we are both sure has us flagged for observation by our U.S. government.
How does all of this relate to the horse’s ass?
We aired our grievances and left the residue of it out in cyberspace somewhere. We expelled the excrement of the world upon our computer screens and exchanged LOL’s (Laugh out louds) and LMAO (laugh my ass off). It was fabulous to type until midnight and actually have my Son say HE was the one that needed to go to bed.
That was the night I was scrolling through my phone and it hit me. Yes, perhaps the taco is to blame for this weird epiphany or the late night chatting that left me with a sleep deprived headache the next day but metaphorically speaking, it’s definitely worth sticking your head up a horse’s ass and a thought worth exploring.
In some ways we are all horse’s asses and the next time somebody calls you that, it isn’t necessarily a negative!

April 22nd, 2011 Things that Bug Me

This month my horoscope said that I would be dealing with inner anger issues. When I read that, I thought to myself, “when haven’t I dealt with inner anger issues?” LOL
But there is some truth. As I grow through this new life situation of post Mom’s passing there are a lot of realizations that have hit home. Such as the fact I will be 41 next month. GASP! Where does time go?! And the fact that I have an honorable station now taking care of my Grandpa, who tells me to suck it up, quit whining and be thankful I am young and strong enough to enjoy the prime of my life. Thank goodness for old age and wisdom. That puts things in perspective.
As I adjust to all of the new developments; starting over….AGAIN! and learning how to live on meager finances…AS ALWAYS….many new developments have revealed themselves.
My astrologer once said, “You are already hugely successful in your career.”
I looked at him cross eyed and he said, “While YOU don’t believe it, think about what you have experienced compared to most people in your profession.”
He was right of course and this month more than any other I’ve seen some evidence of the validity of my work.
I think when you grow up just knowing with absolute surety that you are going to one day be mega-successful and aren’t by the mid-point of your life it’s easy to become disheartened. Especially when that belief has been bolstered by a life altering experience such as I have. For some reason that too makes you feel like you are on the right track come hell or high water. For the record I acknowledge that this is a common human experience!
But fame is easily bought. It isn’t easily earned. And I think that reflecting on these wisdoms that this is where I find comfort. While I don’t claim to have all of the answers or do all of the right things all of the time I do know that I am committed to earning my station in life. Not long ago an acquaintance shared with me that he thought I had proved my metal. I never really thought about that phrase but as we visited he said to me, “Do you know where that comes from?” I admitted that I did not.
“In days of old apprentice sword makers were tested on the strength of their blades.”
This made sense to me. I happen to know a little bit about blades and the metal that makes up a good blade. There are only a handful of people who understand the craft and I happened to be friends long ago with a man who made his own Damascus, a metal that is incredibly strong and beautiful and terribly difficult to make.
“When a sword-smith passed the test on their blades they were said to have proven their metal/mettle.”
Maybe that’s all baloney or maybe it is entirely true. It doesn’t matter because the metaphor meant something to me.
While I have not realized the success I would like to realize by my definition, I certainly have had moments when I have proverbially “proven my mettle.”
Like the time I captured Jenny the wayward donkey (Pittsfield, Maine) and made international headlines and was made fun of by David Letterman. Met personally with Pat and Linda Parelli to discuss my method, The Mirror Effect. Became good friends with Pro Rodeo Hall of Famer Charles Sampson. Had my saddle made by Pro Rodeo Hall of Famer Jim Weis. Met Andie MacDowell. Met Robert Redford. Met Monte Roberts and had him ask for some of my stories for use in his book. Or the time I trained next to Ken McNabb at the Mid-West horse fair and his client asked me if I would work with her horse instead of Ken. Or the time I gentled 4 mustangs in as many days and trucked them in my trailer t 1500 miles over a three day period so they could be adopted. – Think about that. Four wild mustangs all halter gentled and easy to load and unload safely into a trailer by hand like normal domestic horses in four days with three additional days on the road that included loading and unloading at various stops along the way. And I did that twice. Both times were witnessed by people who came along to see if I really could do it or not. Or the time I walked my wild mustang (who was wild just 14 days before) up the steps to the Dept. of the Interior in Washington DC. Or having been invited to Washington DC in the first place by the head of the BLM and the Secretary of the BLM! Or the time I used my oxen to bring in a few stray calves that Al Dunning’s people on horses couldn’t catch. Gentled many wild horses and other horses other people said could never be straightened out. Published two books (almost).
Looking back on these things and many other memories I have realized that this is not your average horse trainer’s experience. My Grandpa tells me I am lucky somebody hasn’t shot me yet. He’s joking of course because somebody already did! Just not because I am a horse genius and a smart ass.
I once had a Natural Horse (Parelli) fanatic accuse me of being jealous of another trainer’s fame in response to a blog I once wrote debunking “Natural” Horsemanship. I posted my blog in response to the fiasco over Linda Parelli mercilessly whipping ass on a horse that clearly didn’t understand what she was asking or why.
Admittedly the words stung but not for long. I am not the jealous type. I think they stung because I realized that I had failed in conveying my message to this person and that perhaps if they felt this way there were others out there that felt that way too. That they missed the simple message I had hoped to convey in the article bothered me. It bothered me because their comment clearly showed a lack of leadership. The cult of Natural Horsemanship is fraught with people who follow blindly and THAT bothers me since the premise of how Natural Horsemanship is sold IS leadership. Intuition is a wonderful thing and while I value the relationship between a teacher and pupils there is also beauty in one’s ability to think for themselves and value that trait in others as well. There is also great skill and love in being able to give people the tools to help themselves and those around them.
I grew up in a religious commune so I know a thing or two about the blind leading the blind and what the consequences are for unquestioned authority.
I’ve always had a connection with the fact I have a message and a special gift to share. A message that I know will define my legacy and impact the human race significantly in the way they interact with each other and with their animals. In fact, if I died tomorrow I think this will have been accomplished, at least with a few of the people I’ve had the privilege of sharing with. There is also the satisfaction of personal growth and on that point I’ve lived three lives in this one that has taught me a great deal and quite frankly brought a ton of satisfaction even if at the time of these lessons I cried like a baby.
Nobody can tell how long we will really be on this Earth but you hope that when you leave there will be someone that misses you and your gifts (as I do my Mom’s) and that because they miss you will use them to benefit others in honor of you. That’s powerful.
That was the original point of the Natural Horsemanship article. An admission that I too have had my moments where I’ve acted despicably but that going forward it’s possible to embrace the important message that creatures mirror us. That they are sensitive, sentient beings that rely on us for their care and give just as much. That it really is possible to just be decent to one another and not be selfish, self-centered or egotistical in how we interact with one another. That harmony does exist. That it begins and ends with experience, teaching and connecting through relationships. A cyclical journey that is measured by the quality of those relationships and what is valued within them. That we should bring harm to no one if harm can be avoided and it isn’t deserved. Trust me, some people need to be thumped up the side of the head and that in itself can be a gift.
And that’s what bugs me. That the quality of this special life I live on a daily basis isn’t everyone’s experience. There is such satisfaction in living a connected and genuine life. One that embraces the small miracles and strives to be better even when things are not. Perhaps this is where the real value of what bugs me lay. If it weren’t for this ambition and fame and fortune were somehow handed to me, where then would be my motivation?
Honestly, THAT bugs me!

April 21st, 2011 HOOF HEALTH vs HEART HEALTH

When Kirk first started trimming hooves I playfully called him the hoof whisperer.  The guy has a knack, no doubt.  The horses love him and he can straighten out most any problem given enough time and owner cooperation.

There are many factors that affect the health of the hoof.  Farrier capability is only one of them.  Most people never consider that the environment can be an equal factor. 

Some time ago Kirk started working on a 20+ year old horse that a person had rescued from certain death.  The horse was foundered and had a long history of lameness.  Previously a show horse she had given her family many years of pleasure and wins.  But in her teens she developed chronic founder. 

This is not unusual.  Horses suffer chronic lameness as a result of repeated stress.  While horses may not be “lame” they are often building toward a future of lameness as stressors to the hooves cause damage and injury.  This is a difficult concept for people to grasp since they ignorantly believe that if a horse is “sound” that it cannot therefore be lame.  Experience has taught us differently.  Studying x-rays we have seen horses pre-lame with coffin bones that look like swiss cheese and horses with ring bone and navicular that are still in working condition but headed for problems.  We’ve seen some of these horses develop these problems only to be steered toward expensive remedies.  Some of these horses we’ve also helped with proper trimming and time allowed for healing.  In several cases we’ve seen coffin bones regenerate and ring bone calcifications and navicular symptoms disappear…without the use of shoes, pads or other therapeutic options.  We’ve seen these changes with just trimming.

But after years of padded shoes for their beloved mare and multiple doses of bute and other treatments (not natural hoof trims) they decided to put her down.  Enter our client.  She is familiar with the benefits of natural hoof care and wanted to give the mare a chance.  She brought the mare home and called us to see what we could do with her.  Eleven weeks later she was walking, trotting and bucking around the pasture.  However, she was not cured.  The mare suffered intermittent bouts of lameness.  Progressive trimming continued to help but as her hooves were trimmed shorter she continued to be intermittently sore.

We have seen this before.  As the hoof is trimmed the initial problems are addressed.  But with some horses the issues continue to present themselves at different levels of the hoof growth process.  The structure of the hoof is both complex and simple.  With this mare, we expected the simple issues were at play.  She needed continued growth of healthy hooves balanced with lots of turnout.

You see, the hoof that has been restricted by years of shoeing often is not the size of their full potential.  Hooves that have been restricted by shoes are narrow at the bottom. As healthy hoof material grows down from the coronet, it is bigger, more pliable and healthy.  The lower portion of the hoof is not and this mare presented the typical “pinch” points.  These are horizontal creases in the hoof wall that show where the hoof has atrophied.

It’s a difficult process to explain this to people.  They see the horse in pain and think they should provide any relief, included re-shoeing the offending hoof.

Horses develop new hoof material ever 3/10 of a second.  This is an incredible statistic if you think about the fact that horses have an average of 1200 lbs per square inch on the bottom of their hoof.  For most horses this equals a ton of pressure per hoof!

Since Kirk is a scientist by nature these statistics fascinate him and he now uses this knowledge to the horse’s advantage.

Gravity and pressure can do a lot that a farrier cannot.  In rehabilitating the hoof a great farrier can guide the growth of the hoof and speed healing by using gravity and pressure to our advantage.

For this mare he prescribed lots of turnout and a proper diet.  Dietary matters are a whole other issue which I will cover in another post but equally important to the rehabilitation of horse hooves.

The mare had severely contracted heels and frogs.  Some of the worst we had ever seen.  If you were to visualize a soup can, that’s exactly what each of her hooves looked like.  A natural hoof displays wide, developed frogs, elastic digital bulbs, concavity, sufficient sole depth and connected laminae.  She had none of these.

Our definition of lots of turnout and the owner’s definition of lots of turnout were on opposite ends of the spectrum.  We advocated for the mare to be turned out onto our 200 acre pasture where the mare would be encouraged to move with the herd throughout the day.  The owner was reluctant.  She didn’t want the mare stressed or injured by our other horses.   Instead, she turned out intermittently in her 5 acres.  The rest of the time she was penned in a corral where the footing was hard as concrete.

Movement stresses the hoof and elasticizes the soft tissue and laminae and encourages blood flow.  This is critical in the growth process of hooves that have atrophied.  The old, dead hoof must be removed frequently.  Like a scab on a wound the old hoof material will pinch and bind until it is removed and healthy new hoof can build underneath.  Without movement the hoof does not elasticize and the horse will not abrade the hoof.  This was the case with this mare.

Now, it goes without saying that other factors also impact a situation.  In this case the mare was aged with a long history of pain.  The horse’s body, like a human, will hold memory of that pain.  And in this case x-rays revealed “irreversible” damage to both the coffin bone and the navicular bone.

I am a bit of a skeptic when I hear “irreversible” because I know that horses are extremely resilient and given the proper recipe can and do respond as nature dictates.  These types of changes do not occur overnight.  But additional to this mare’s issues she also needed to elasticize her tendons.  Restricted movement would not allow her to accomplish this.  She had no motivation to move in the five acre pasture like she would have following our herd as they made rounds around the 200 acres.

The mare had only periodic periods of comfort and it was concluded by the owners vet that the reason was the degeneration of the coffin and navicular bones.  Both Kirk and I were reluctant to support the diagnosis.  Only four months into therapy with this mare we both knew the mare had not grown out a fully connected hoof (she still had old hoof stacked against new hoof growth) much less been given the benefit of moving enough to detoxify fully.  Compared to a person this is like asking a human to heal a broken bone in 2 weeks instead of 8.

I have seen horses with proper environments and the time necessary, rebound.  Even aged horses. This includes bone regeneration.  While I accept that some cases are not reversible the scientist in me believes that with experimentation the right recipe can be found to provide the horse optimum health.  In this case optimum turnout was never explored.  The owner decided to return the mare to shoes rather than give her greater freedoms outside of the corral and small pasture.  It still remains to be seen whether or not the shoes will help.  My money is on “they will not help”.  But I understand the owners desire to help her horse.  It hurts one’s heart to see an animal suffer even if we know that the suffering can be a sign of healing.

Shoes restrict the hoof and once placed will cause the digital bulbs to contract and the frog to contract.  Sure, a shoe may elevate the heel enough to improve the inflammation from the navicular bone but so would applying an epoxy wall sans shoes or booting with pads or allowing the heel to grow during trimming.

At the time of the x-rays even the vet agreed that the mare’s toe was still too long.  This coupled with a lack of heel support, the vet concluded, contributed to her bouts of pain.  Toes can be reduced manually with a rasp or grinder. 

In any case, we are still following this mare’s progress and will continue to learn what can be done in seemingly hopeless cases since we believe the mark of a truly great farrier is one that refuses to give up.

April 18th, 2011 BIODIVERSITY NOT WHAT IT SEEMS

THE COWBOY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY?
There are times in our lives when we know we’ve been put her for a special purpose. I had that realization some time ago and wrote about it in my book, The Mirror Effect. I had it again this weekend at the movie premiere Wild Horses in Winds of Change. Wild Horses in Winds of Change is an award winning documentary about the plight of wild mustangs. I don’t agree with all of the information in the film and have my own ideas of what I’d like to message to be, but that will be for a different time. The premiere gave me an opportunity to share that with others and this blog is allowing me to share these ideals again.
I’ve been working with wild mustangs for a very long time now and have been very successful in my career with wild horses. Wild horses have brought me to the coolest places. Like walking my wild mustang ShoGun up the steps to the Department of the Interior.
That was a great day!
I had only had ShoGun for 2 weeks and he was literally the hardest mustang I have ever gentled, but he has also become one of the best! The good ones always are sensitive and I’ve worked with horses long enough to know what I am looking at and saw that immediately in ShoGun. I stuck to my guns about ShoGun even when I was being pressured to take him back to the holding pen.
That wasn’t an option. I would have died happy if ShoGun had killed me. Died happy trying to give him a chance outside of those bloody holding pens. Holding pens are not an acceptable option in my opinion. These horses are taken from the wild and warehoused. It is little more than prison and for all of you that are pro anti-slaughter, it is more cruel in my opinion to leave horses in these holding pens or have them adopted out to live in small corrals because nobody can tame them than it would be to slaughter them humanely.  The percentage of horses that are adopted out that are successful is low.
Excess horses is a fact….given the public land parameters that are present. And as a fact we must deal with them. Warehousing them is not an option. Adopting them out and having them stand around in small corrals is also not an option. That is not a life for a horse.
This weekend Wild Horses in Winds of Change was featured at our local movie theater The Blue Fox and it caused quite a stir.
Not only because of its controversial message (which comes off as being anti-slaughter…which doesn’t bode well for the hard working ranchers that make up much of the population of Grangeville, Idaho) but also because a clip of me walking ShoGun up the steps to the Dept. of the Interior is included in the film. It’s only about a second long and you can’t even tell its me in the clip included in the movie.
But I programmed a power point to run before the movie introducing our business information and also including the full clip for people to see. It all came together well and gave me a platform to speak about a topic that I am experienced and knowledgeable about.
Wild horses, ranching and land and animal stewardship.
In preface, let me say that Americans as a whole have gotten completely away from their roots. I for one, don’t wish to follow in those footsteps. I don’t want to be dictated to about my food choices. I don’t want to be told how I should live my life so that I do not offend someone else. If I grow something, meat, vegetable or otherwise, I don’t want to be told how much under market I should sell it for.  Our dairy farmer’s have this priviledge at present. 

America is about free trade, democracy and competition. All of these things allow me, as a rancher, to offer my products with marketing that supports my effort. If I take extra time to keep my livestock from being stressed I should be able to educate my consumer why purchasing my philosophy and the manifestation of that (meat or well trained horses) is worthy of fair payment. I don’t wish to put my opinion ahead or above someone else’s but I do want to be respected for what it is that I can do and the beliefs that help me accomplish that. I would do the same for another given the chance.
Since I work with horses and have seen what the anti-slaughter mandates have done to my market, I whole heartedly am standing up for mass improvements. I know ranches that used to gather wild mustangs and train them as ranch horses that are no longer able to do so thanks to the fact the herds are gone. If they are able to gather mustangs from their native range, ranchers don’t gather them because they don’t need extra horses these days. There are too many on the market. There is no market, even for a well trained horse.
As Mara’s movie played I watched as several people got up and walked out of the theater. Apparently they felt like I did. That the plight of the mustangs is much deeper than its face value. Perhaps they are disgusted, like me, about how our taxes are being mismanaged by the government and horses that we value deeply are being abused and traumatized.
Perhaps they are upset like I am that people who should be working together are drawing lines in the sand in preparation for battle.
In a state where ranchers are plagued by wolves and strapped by government farm programs that keep their yield requirements high and their payments low, It’s no wonder that Mara’s movie lost some of its support. Ranchers here have given all of the blood they can and like the snow of winter, are powerless to change these dysfunctions. They are tired. Broke and content to help each other, nothing less, nothing more. The fact their hard work and years of service are being threatened and spit upon by people who know nothing about environmentalism is an insult. That this movie is asking for change falls upon the ears of people who have been saying that for years and have still witnessed the abominations of the government putting them out of business and ill at ease financially.  All this in a land and state (Idaho) that is abundant in rich soils and adequate rains.
If you listen to the movie though you can see that what Mara is trying to do is develop discussion about the facts behind the problems.
In fact, I had a discussion prior to the movie with Mara asking her if she was willing to consider a new agenda for the movie. One that is more wide spread in its embrace than the one she has now. She said she was aware of these concerns and had even included them in a longer segment but cost efficiency prevented her from being able to cover ALL of the facts so she simply went with the ones that were most widely supported.
The environmental conservationists have the most support and that is the market Mara’s movie plays to even though subtlety her message is one of government stupidity.
Since I now have a part in this film I encouraged opening this for discussion and prepared to listen without interruption. I also encouraged the audience to think about how they could help too, in any small way and shared with them that while they may feel powerless that we still have the gift of our voices and THAT ALONE is enough to usher in change. Many had not thought of things in this way but I know that communication alone about these matters can bring us the therapeutic values of thinking forward solutions of issues that while large are not insurmountable with gathered collective support. This led to my being asked, “Why did you walk ShoGun up the steps to the Dept. of the Interior?”
This is the long answer:
Coming back to Idaho I have been reminded why I left the West in the first place and what calls to me to come back.
I am died in the wool rancher. I can’t explain it any other way. It has to be that way. What in the world would make a girl want to grovel in the dust, mud, sleet and snow to work with horses nobody else wants to touch? To trim an average of 24 hooves a day and suffer the consequences of sore back and shoulders daily with no health insurance or retirement benefits?
I can’t explain it either. But something feels wonderful inside me when my hands are dirty and my bones are aching and there standing in front of me is a horse happy with its world…finally.
Horses that are licking and chewing contentedly because I unlocked years of bodily pain simply by trimming their hooves and giving them a good energy boost with my healing hands that somehow have a way of rubbing them in just the right way to make them feel safe and secure and content.
My career has a niche component. I work the horses nobody wants to take the time to work. They are rank, wicked fast with their teeth and hooves and deadly volatile. But not when I am done. They are different. Better. I love that about my life and the gifts I’ve been given.  Somehow it makes me feel like I can duplicate that in my own life too.  Sometimes.
For some reason I have this knack for being able to solve difficult horse problems and make a statement while I am doing it. I think its because, Mara states in her movie, “what we do to the horses we do to ourselves.” When I work out a difficult problem with a horse its assumed I can do that with people too. Sometimes, but sometimes not, but I do try. Sometimes is good enough most of the time, and gives me a satisfaction that I am following through in the energy of my life. 
Just day before yesterday I worked a stallion (he’s a gelding but castrated late…but still a stallion in his mind) that bit me as I laid him down. No kidding. The horse was going to his knees and he reached over and deftly grabbed ahold of me and bit me. A last act of defiance before we got to the meat of problem he was having with his owner. We got through it together though and when we were done the horse was respectful and safe…for the first time in the four years he’s been owned by my client.  That horse now has a chance and his owner is happier because he’s not out his investment.  And I am happy because I have another really great story to tell.
He’s not a bad horse. Like ShoGun, he has learned from his environment and needed encouragement. This encouragement helped him understand we could get along together safely.
I see the state of our world (Agriculture) much like these hard to train horses. Ranchers and farmers today are struggling. They’re angry because they see their way of life being sucked from them and nothing is being put back in return.  This just isn’t right.  Ranchers today face more adversity than at any other time in history.  This, with every single one of them knowing they are not the pariahs.  They are the wise heroes that know what many conscientious people do not.  That it takes experience to truly understand their struggles.  It takes the honesty of the ages to pull them through and the collective support of everyone to keep the backbone of our country functioning.
They need someone to listen to them and provide solutions that are advantageous to them. They are so busy just trying to survive they don’t have time to fight. If they did they are too scared to. They are hemmed in by government controls just like these poor horses.
Three times this week I’ve been invited to trim ranch horses and I have heard the stories of these ranches. They are being pushed away from their roots. One rancher had to sell his cows because wolves have taken such a toll on his herd. His cows grew so frightened to leave the barn they would not even follow the feed wagon!  Repeated calls to the game warden and state representatives, senators and even judges yielded no help.
If you are having a tough time trying to grasp this concept, imagine if you went out to the garage one day and your car was not there. It was just gone. You rely on that car to get to work every day so you can get a paycheck. No car. NO paycheck. Nobody is going to buy you a new car. It’s just gone. You are out that investment. That’s what loosing livestock is. It’s a stake through the heart of the rancher.
Another rancher has had his lease on BLM land cut short. He’s spent years developing the land he grazes on and improving water conditions.
This is equivalent to getting a speeding ticket every day as you go to work, assuming you have a car, or been able to replace your car. Pretty soon you will quit driving to work because you can’t afford it. That’s what it’s like for a rancher. They rely on the grass that’s at a reduced cost to feeding hay to fatten their livestock so they can realize some profit from them. They rely on the fact their cows should be able to graze unmolested without stress. That’s what makes healthy, happy cattle fit for our menus. Cattle that must be moved cost more. More cost equals slimmer profit margins.
The third rancher has similar issues. The government has filed on his water rights.
This scares the S*** out of me.
My own family has had our water rights filed on by the Forest Service. Looking at the biodiversity treaty it all makes sense. Our land sets right in the middle of the corridor the government wants to lock down. File on water and the land is useless. Ranchers are forced to hire expensive attorney’s they can’t afford. Giving up is easier. The government gets easy access to land and resources that aren’t theirs. All in the good name of preserving and conserving land the ranchers have been conserving for years! It just makes me ill.
The sheep ranchers here have been kicked out of their grazing land by the BLM which claims the domestic sheep threaten the health of the wild sheep.I spoke with the state veterinarian.  She has been involved in the sheep program since 1969 and is the State’s authority on the issue.  She told me there is absolutely no scientific evidence that supports this argument.
Ranchers with streams that flow into the Clearwater or Salmon rivers have been prevented from access to these waters for fear they will upset the spawning runs of the Steelhead and the Salmon.
Ranchers on the Salmon and Clearwater rivers can no longer graze cattle to the river’s edge for the same reason. Summer pastures are vacant. Cattle prices are up now due to the demand and little supply. Beef is coming from resources that are no longer natural.
Other ranchers I talked to are having to pull their winter range cattle early. The BLM is shutting off grazing leases and the water that comes with them.
Wolves are protected and ranchers powerless to protect their livestock. They find it easier to quit and go to work for wages than steward the land and livestock. They cease to give us fresh food as they seek to make wages that allow them to shop at the grocery store instead of caring for their families with gardens and fresh food. They are too busy to weed and tend gardens when they must pay taxes on land that is gaining in value for developers and as taxes are increasing beyond what they can make, forcing them to sell.
I am telling you, becoming a vegetarian is not an option for me. I refuse to do this simply because growing food and harvesting it from the EARTH is a human privilege. Plus I like eating meat. And I like the satisfaction that comes from hard work and good stewardship and the gifts that the Earth gives us. Animals and humans have a balance in our eco-system that is ethereal that can’t be purchased in the grocery store. Humans are quickly screwing that up.
When I read the RANGE magazine this December it all started to make sense. Thanks to the good sense of my Uncle and Aunt who have ridden for the biggest ranches in the U.S. and share with me the pride of one’s own hard work upon the land, I learned about the BioDiversity Treaty and turned to the Winter issue of the RANGE magazine for a more in depth look at the facts. If you read the conventional definition of what this Act is, it sounds pretty good.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convention_on_Biological_Diversity

But if you are a rancher that deals with the fact that everything must be looked at triple twice cross wise before you leap to a conclusion, you would know that this all just sounds too good to be true. If you are that kind of person, you are right.
The BioDiversity treaty is a triple dog down throw your Momma to the wolves threat!
The BioDiversity treaty is threatening to put our ranches out of business. Corporate cattle now make up 80% of our food resources. These are government owned cattle operations. I’ve seen it in action right here in our own auction yard. They are driving prices of cattle so high ranchers can’t afford to sell and they can’t afford to buy either. Sell valuable animals and you have no stock left to work. Buy high and you risk losing your investment.
These government agendas are getting wide spread support from well-heeled environmentalists. These environmentalists are unknowingly being used as pawns to shut down our western culture as we know it. They aren’t educated and they aren’t productive in their solutions.
True there needs to be reform in how animals are treated at our auction and slaughter yards. This is a fixable problem. Continued strife and volatility are not.
Ever wondered why people who preach anti-violence are so violent when protecting their belief systems against abuse? Me too. That’s one to marinate on. Wouldn’t action to change be a better solution? You can’t go all one way or the other with a problem. We have seen what that is doing to our horses.
Horses that are warehoused are being abused by being kept in environments totally unnatural to them. Horses cannot be slaughtered and if they are they are now trucked thousands of miles to facilities with no regulations against animal cruelty. Horses are so excessive they are now being neglected even by owners that truly love them. A recent article about 180 well-bred Andalusions that were left to starve on their 500 acre multi-million dollar ranch in Joseph Oregon illustrates these points all too well. Forced with starvation the county stepped in to foot the bill (in case you missed that, the citizens of that county who pay taxes are now paying for the care of these horses now, horse lovers or not). The horses are being sold at auction with no concern about who buys them at a no reserve price tag.
More and more people are leaning on governments and each other to resolve a problem that never should have started in the first place. In our hurry to be conservationists (that being we conserve everything instead of making the hard choice to conserve responsibly –yes that means you put sick animals down to make way for others that can serve their environment, etc) we are instead becoming destructionists.
That mentality is driving the BioDiversity treaty. The BioDiversity treaty allows the government access to our public lands, lands we preserve through our taxes and effectively shuts out all public.
Look at the BioDiversity maps if you are still unsure about all of this. There is a great article in the Winter issue of Range Magazine that outlines what it will look like when the BioDiversity treaty is ratified.

http://rangemagazine.com/specialreports/05-fall-taking-liberty.pdf

This is very close to happening! Do your research as I have and you will find the RANGE magazine has not printed politic propaganda. This is REALLY happening! The United States is the ONLY country that hasn’t signed it. They haven’t signed it because if word got out about what they are doing there would be a revolution.
I hope we do reach a revolution. This is what it is going to take. For the record, I will be riding at the front of it. And if it comes to it, I will be heading up the posse. Regardless of the target upon my forehead and back. At least my children will know I died for my ideals and beliefs that include our right to make our living from the land if we choose and support the wholesome practices of our forefathers.
Let’s not forget that biodiversity includes management and nobody does that better than the people working the land that know the land and that love the land. Government and BLM/Forest Service or land use officials are not these people.
Folks, I am telling you, this is the biggest threat we’ve had to our freedoms since the civil war.
Mara’s movie is right on this point at least (I don’t necessarily agree that the answer is continued anti-slaughter regulations or ramped up adoptions – more on that opinion later). The government has every reason to remove wild horses from the ranges where they want total access to ALL of the resources.
Ranchers are being left holding the bag. They pay for grazing, improve water and keep fences mended and meanwhile have to contend with public lands that are being crowded with too many animals. To top it all off THEY are being blamed.
This pisses me off.
Ranchers are not ignorant. Their livelihood relies on their good stewardship of resources. This includes the wild horses. With no options, they are being driven out of business.
Remember, there are MILLIONS of acres available to wild horses and other species. But the government is herding wild horses onto smaller and smaller lands. They draw boundaries and expect the horses to abide and knowing they won’t heed these imaginary lines, they are cancelling out areas and threatening the wild horses as a national symbol. At the very least the government’s management is culling valuable genetic qualities of these horses that are ALSO important to the diversity of the natural lands they roam on.
Madeleine Pickens’ sanctuary is not a solution either. For one reason. You cannot possibly keep the land eco-diverse with 40,000 horses running over it. The million acres set aside for this sanctuary is not equipped to feed this many horses. Horses that reproduce. To keep land healthy you have to have a wide variety of natural practices in play.
These issues are enough of a smoke screen that environmentalists don’t even see what’s coming. The very lands they want to preserve will be closed to them too. The day is coming when they won’t be able to grow gardens, share crops or claim being organic as a way of life without passing stringent government regulations first. Their very support of BioDiversity is about to blow up right in their own back yards.
In THE COWBOY WAY magazine I read another article that chilled my blood.
The federal government now has a mandate underway that would literally regulate EVERY small farmer. Since that’s all that’s left (there are not BIG ranches) left any more, this is very troubling. This act states that you legally could not even trade vegetables with your neighbor without being in violation of federal food laws.
To top it all off, there were several more articles outlining the BioDiversity treaty and how it is effecting ranchers.
One of the rancher who has been wrangling with the BLM for over twenty years says it best,
“We will continue to be trod upon so long as we are all made to be afraid. I’m not afraid anymore. I ‘m too desperate to be afraid. These acts threaten my livelihood, family and future generations and if I don’t step up and do something my way of life will cease to exist.”
I share this sentiment and THAT is why I walked ShoGun up the steps to the Department of the Interior. If you know what I know you should be scared too. Europe and other countries already have many of the liberties we take for granted locked down. Our government is quickly following suite. Don’t believe me? Read:

http://rangemagazine.com/features/spring-11/sp11-range-global_governance.pdf

SCAREY!!!!
I’ve lost sleep over this one and then I saw Mara’s film and realized that if we don’t start saying something soon we won’t have the chance to!
For more information on the mustangs this article does a pretty good job of helping you read between the lines.

http://rangemagazine.com/features/winter-11/wi11-range-mustang.pdf

Please folks, get involved. It’s time.

April 10th, 2011 Quiet Contemplation

Quiet Contemplation

The quiet of nature is tonic for the imagination.  Harmony amongst the beasts becomes easier in the quiet.  All of nature has a quiet to it.  At least that’s what I think.  Even in the chattering of a squirrel, the bark of a raven, or the cackle of a tom turkey there is quiet.  Working with horses there are times when the quiet is your barometer of how perfect nature is. 

Riding my mare as a kid I coveted the quiet of nature almost more than life itself.  I felt that if I could just ride, listen and think peacefully and die this way that I would die satisfied.  I still feel that way.  My best work has been done in the presence of natures quiet. 

No interruptions.  Pressing matters evaporate into the stillness.  Perhaps that is why working with horses is so therapeutic.  Nature allows us to place our burdens at her feet and she absorbs them with her quiet, vanquishing worries and soothing hurts.

Nature.  Harmony.  There is not one without the other.  

April 7th, 2011 True of False? NPI stands for Never Pray Indiscriminately

FINALLY! I was able to see an episode of Dr. Drew Pinsky’s last night. I am not much of a television watcher but Kirk asked me one day if I had ever heard of Dr. Drew. I hadn’t so he informed me that Dr. Drew is a psychologist that works with celebrities and that Dr. Drew seemed to hold many of the same views that I did regarding people.

This intrigued me but I never followed up on it. I was too busy and didn’t make the time.

Then, the other day Dr. Drew was mentioned to me again during a conversation I was having about the elements of blending people with horses and what we can learn by observation and experience of not only working with other professionals but also in learning our own strengths and growth opportunities.

I love to learn so the fact that Dr. Drew came up again was a wake up and take notice flag letting me know I needed to check in and be present in this information. The fact that Dr. Drew wrote a book that is almost the same name as my book, The Mirror Effect, also intrigued me. Turns out, after watching his show and doing some of my own reading I have found someone I can rely on for good example and great advice. Thank you Dr. Drew! There is no doubt that his years of dealing with the uglier side of human nature has helped make him the broad minded, open individual that he is. The world is constantly looking for examples and from the little bit that I know, I think Dr. Drew also offers us horse loving individuals something.

There is no doubt that the world is beginning to take notice of their inner selves a lot more lately (hooray!). The era of instant gratification and narcissism is coming to a close. It hasn’t completely left us yet but we are making strides to enlighten ourselves and seek better paths for ourselves. Media makes it easier for us to self-assess and learn more about where we are in the world. That gives us choices about how we want to proceed, if at all. We are also starting to become aware that we can do that and encourage others along their journey too. There is still risk, but today people that are more self aware are stronger and can help themselves better.

Twenty years ago when I was working horses for wages I was sorely tried and tested on many of my ideas, methods and theories. I didn’t feel like I had a lot of help. But I stuck with it even though many times I was outside of the norm and the action cost me. And I am glad I did. Like the time I quit as the trainer for a well known community figure after disagreeing on how to proceed with training his race horse. I was pressured to continue by him and his partner at the track (his best friend owned half the horse and was with the Police department. He threatened to ticket my truck if I didn’t keep training the horse–which still had the out of state plates on it because I had bought it from my brother, but I held fast on my decision. The cop ticketed my truck. I paid the ticket and relicensed the truck. I did not go back to training the colt. I knew that I could not accommodate their expectations of him.
The argument had started one evening on the track as I instructed the rider to gallop the colt in a warm up. The owner was there and he went over to the jockey and told him to breeze the colt instead. The difference between a gallop and a breeze is warm up to full throttle. The colt was not ready to throttle full speed down the back stretch. He hadn’t been on the track long enough to be conditioned for that and his diet (despite my objections) had been too rich. I sensed a disaster was coming and stood toe to toe arguing with the owner. In the end, I lost the argument because I was not the owner. I was the trainer. I watched horrified as the colt came out of the back stretch. I knew we were in trouble. The colt was about to tie up. Tying up is a painful and often debilitating and can be fatal build up of lactic acid in the muscle. The hamstrings essentially contract and the horse cannot walk. If the bout is serious enough the horse will urinate brown liquid instead of yellow from the kidney tissue damage from such an episode. Sure enough. The colt came off the track and before I could grab a hose to soak his rear legs (cold water helps to constrict blood capillaries and can help prevent a more serious episode of tying up) with cool water the colt was on his tippy toes and in horrific pain. I was so angry with the owner for ignoring my concerns that I was tempted to quit right then and there. But I didn’t. I felt I owed it to the horse to stay on board and see if I could work it out. The owner and I talked it over and he assured me that he would listen more closely to my concerns. He lied, even if it wasn’t deliberately. Some people are just prone to their own weaknesses. This guy’s was his need to brag about his race horses. Somehow that made him feel like a big shot. Even if it was at the expense of his horses. (Attention: this is where I feel vomit at the back of my throat).
After the colt recovered enough (after I spent 3 nights up straight with him peeing brown urine) I put him back into light training and began to bring him back up to condition. I posted explicit instructions on how the colt was to be taken care of. Instructions designed to keep him from being permanently crippled while increasing his conditioning so he could race again. A delicate process to say the least. The colt began to make progress and I grew encouraged about his future.
Then one night I arrived and the owner had already had the colt saddled. This was a bad sign. I had not authorized the horse for a work out that night, only turn out. Sure enough, I found out that they had tried to break the colt out of the starting gate. Something this colt was not ready for. The horse reared up in the starting gate, flipped over backwards and crushed the jockey. The colt injured himself too, though not seriously, physically. Mentally was a different story and that was what concerned me the most. The owner and I had another round of words. I quit and moved on to other horses. I knew the colt should not be raced. Over the next several weeks I watched as the owner, free to do whatever he wanted, entered the colt in his first race even though he knew (because I had told him) that the colt was not ready to race. When the colt refused to load or break from the gate properly he was demoted to the trainer’s list, and remanded for remedial starting gate training. This is a trainer’s nightmare. No trainer wants to see their horse on the trainer’s list. It requires monitoring by the track steward and hours of retraining. A colt has to break cleanly for several races before it can be put back on the ready to race list. This colt never did. He continued to be a problem. The jockey had recovered from the colt going over backwards but the horse never did. He suffered several more serious bouts of “tying up” and was eventually retired a “loser” from the racing circuit. There was no need for this. The colt was a great horse with excellent breeding.
His owner and I had disagreed on the strength of the colt. I told the owner the colt wasn’t ready or conditioned properly for a race. The owner disagreed. I told the owner the colt wasn’t ready to break from the starting gate. The owner made him do it anyway and cost the horse a bright future. I quit before the horse raced his first race but my intuition wasn’t misguided. The colt never did race to his full potential and came away from the experience with a physical condition (not to mention the mental conditions left from his experiences) that would likely plague him for the rest of his life. Once a horse ties up once they often will do so again and again.
However, even that opportunity and the experiences I had taught me a great deal that have helped me to this day.

In reading Dr. Drew’s book, The Mirror Effect – How Celebrity Narcissism is Seducing America, a paragraph jumped out at me that goes a long way in explaining not only why this owner thought so little of his horse but why people in general get into problematic situations with their horses.

Dr. Drew writes, “Narcissistic traits are often a liability when it comes to interpersonal functioning. When narcissistic individual’s emotions become unregulated, and the people around him or her don’t comply with his or her needs, the going can get a little tough. If you can’t empathize with the needs of others, conflict is inevitable.”

The same is true for the narcissist’s interactions with animals, particularly with horses.

Dr. Drew goes on to describe a test called the NPI (Narcissistic Personality Inventory). A test that measures a person’s tendencies toward narcissism. Now, understand, narcissism is not all bad. Everyone has tendencies toward narcissism. Just some are more involved with it than others.

In my book, The Mirror Effect, one of the key fundamentals I outline when speaking about living our lives authentically is the ability to do so without harming others. “Others” includes people as well as animals in my book.

Now I know that life circumstances bring us many imperfect moments so I admit that while I would love to dance on a rainbow daily that I am also realistic enough to know that the rainbow is there because some amount of rain fell. Sometimes that rain is too much rain and that can mean catastrophe. I’ve had a few of those times in my life.
But because of those I also know the importance of knowing one’s self well. So when I saw the NPI, it brought back memories. I’ve taken the NPI before but it has been some time. I wondered, what would it reveal about me today? I mean, other than the fact that I am opinionated, overly confident and destined to be successful?

You see, the NPI measures our likelihood toward self absorption. In my world, this is the root of all evil. Self absorption leaves no room for the good of others or for animals. (I am feeling more vomit in my throat…)

Dr. Drew prepped my curiosity by enlightening me through his book to the fact that most celebrities he’s worked with score in the range of 18 on the NPI scoring system. Narcissistic people score 20 or above.

If I had to grade the colt’s owner, he was oooohhhhh…..about a 50. Scoring horses, I think they would fall somewhere in the average range. Say, about a 15. Horses are not narcissistic by nature, but they can be made that way. Horses that are narcissistic are the ones that for lack of a better way must find the way to get their way, even it if means hurting someone else. They aren’t wrong for protecting themselves, the upper side of narcissism, but they are wrong when they misbehave and cause harm to another. Make sense? I know, it’s a complex subject. But one we can learn from in this big question of how do we reach a balance within ourselves and with our horse? I’d be justified in saying that being harmonized with yourself much less your horse is a constant work in progress. But they do it (their lives depend on it), so should we (even though our lives don’t depend on it…which is a shame. If it did we would have nicer people in the world…but I digress….).

So I took the test. You can too.

http://psychcentral.com/quizzes/narcissistic.htm

And found out that I am average. Full disclosure, I scored a 15. I think when I took this before I was just above average. No wonder. I was in my mid-twenties then and could still afford to be a bit big for my britches. That particular level of narcissism actually enabled me to tackle some of these difficult projects, like the race horse training and helped me to learn valuable knowledge that serves me well to this day.

Now days though, after hours of thoughtful teaching from the most wonderful creatures in the world (both animal and human) I can say I am happy with my score. It revealed some things I knew already and underscored how valuable these assessments can be, wanted or unwanted.

What’s your NPI? If it’s bad, my advice? Pray Discriminately. You’re going to need it.

April 7th, 2011 The Advent of Right and Wrong

I had a very stimulating conversation yesterday with of all people, my satellite internet installer.  Out here in rural Idaho it pays to get to know important people.  In the big city Mr. Installer wouldn’t be anybody but out here he is no less than a super hero in my book.

For the past four months (geez…has it been that long?) I have made an almost daily pilgrimage into town to the local coffee shop where I plug in my pathetic old computer…yes, I did say “plug in”.  My computer is a trooper, especially considering that I can short circuit most electronics given a day or two.  That’s no joke.

Just ask my internet installer.  His computer refused to fire up.  He’s had it 5 years and never had a problem.  My computer fired but took forever and a year or so to finally get warmed up enough where he could start setting coordinants.  That’s nothing unusual.  My computer always takes forever and a year to fire up.  I drink a cup of hot chocolate, down a liter or water or two and wait…because that is what I have been trained  to do to keep my computer happy.

This is really no laughing matter.  I crashed two computers before I got this one.  It was supposed to have wireless.  It does but has never worked despite having two NASA qualified IT techs work on it.

My installer tried to get his to fire up yesterday but eventually gave up.  No worries.  I’m used to this wierd energy I carry with me.  The folks at my old job at T-Mobile had banned me from being anywhere near the IT department and accused me of launching ghosts into their system.  NO JOKE!  I said nothing to Mr. Installer.  It’s a long story anyway and I didn’t want to interrupt Mr. Installer from telling me why he thinks whiners are rediculous and people who can be thankful their kid is healthy enough to have a nose dripping snot cause their healthy enough to have a cold instead of leukemia are his heros.  Trust me, the computer situation gave us a lot of time to visit.  We had a lot of time to talk and he had some very wise insight into why we have so many screwed up people in the world.

This guy is a shaman.  He and his wife have NINE kids!  I think that either makes you a glutton for punishment or one of the enlightened few that are truly meant to be parents.  He said he’s both.

Anyway, he told me that one of the first things he teaches his kids is the difference between right and wrong.

He said….”You know when they bring home that first page of spelling in first grade?”  and I said, “Yeah.”

“Well, my lessons to my kids starts right there.  Who in their right mind tries to teach a kid to spell and gives them ONE as their first word?”

I knew he was warming up so I let him go off.

“You take all this time to teach a kid the alphabet.  A, B, C…and what each letter sounds like and then….for their first spelling word you give them ONE!”

I was already laughing because he had already accused me of being too smart to have understood this concept and he was right about at least one thing, that I did miss this one in school!  I just took the teacher’s word for it that ONE was spelled ONE, not W…whhh….whhh….WON!

That’s not enough wrong according to Mr. Installer.  Nope.  He went off on a tirade about the next word his kids have been asked to spell.  You guessed it.  TWO!

“It’s not bad enough that now my kid thinks they don’t know how to spell!” he said.  “NOW the teacher backs it up by asking them to spell TWO!”

OK…now you are probably where I was and yep, you guessed it.  Mr. Installer went completely off the deep end coming up on spelling word number three….that being THREE!

His apprentice offered him ice water or something to cool off before he blew up, I think is what he said.  And then offered to change the subject but Mr. Installer was going to right this wrong for everyone, including me that day.

“My kids never had a chance.” he said.  So I figured that being a responsible parent I’d teach them how to spell a word that wouldn’t confuse them and would be sure to help them the next time their teacher asked to spell any more stupid words.  Did I mention that I hate spelling?  Yeah, well, I taught them to spell with one middle finger!”

Yep, and that’s the difference between RIT  and RONG.

April 5th, 2011 Mule Musings

I am going to bare a bit of soul here and share a story about a love I once had.

We dated all through high school (I went to prom with him at 14 – I was almost 15!) and we married right out of high school.

He was a bright individual although he made me question my faith in him when he decided to join the Air Force. Perhaps that is when I noticed he would say, “speak to me.”

Everyone says I talk a lot. Not compared to him. He even talked in his sleep. Sometimes he would say, “speak to me.”

Sometimes I would. Sometimes I wouldn’t but his asking/demanding always bugged the heck out of me. I can choose to speak to someone. I don’t cotton to being told to entertain. Of course, I have to be honest and say I don’t cotton to being told what to do period. Fairs fair, right?

Then, the other day I met a mule that needed me to…well…speak to him. He wouldn’t leave me alone! The more I would rub his head the harder he would push into me. The more I worked on his hooves, the more he would lean on me. The more I would rub his back the harder he would push into me.

I found out he was a young mule but he’s really a big mule despite his age and tonight while I was thinking of things to write it hit me. His need for attention is really rooted in his insecurity that my attention might drift off him and on to one of the other horses that were there that day. And that is when it really hit me that like this mule my ex-husband’s demand to focus attention on him was really about his insecurity that my attentions might drift too.

Hmmmm……I think there really is something to this Mirror Effect stuff. No offense to the mule.

Turns out upon reflection of these events that I learned something about myself. I’m not good at providing security upon demand. I divorced the husband and left the mule in his good owner’s care. Next!

April 5th, 2011 WHAT THE F^%$#$ IS WRONG WITH YOU?

When Kirk is mockingly exasperated with me he will blurt “What’s wrong with you?”
I added the F&^^%$.

This always makes me laugh because he is really making fun of his Mother. I don’t know the family history that makes him mimic his Mother but I do know his Mother and this is why I laugh when he does it.

I am not making fun of Kirk’s Mother. You have to understand. She is an incredibly bright, accomplished woman that raised five kids. FIVE KIDS!

I have six dogs and I can’t imagine what FIVE KIDS must have done to her.

The other day I worked on a mare that’s been a brood mare for most of her life. She had not seen a farrier for awhile (not uncommon) so when I came at her with my tools she gave me that look that said, “What the F&^%’s Wrong With YOU?”

I get that. It’s easy to get into your own way of doing things and her way was working out just fine. Stand around, nurse a foal, wean a foal, repeat.

She let me handle the front hooves pretty well and even one of the rear hooves but when it came to picking up the last rear hoof, nothing was happening without her say so.

She planted her hoof like it was held in concrete and nothing was going to make her hold that one last hoof up for a trim. I liken this to rolling the front tire of your tandem axle trailer up on to a block to change a flat tire. You can’t just NOT change the one flat tire. You can’t deflate all of the others to match the flat one either.

Fortunately for this mare I’ve seen this before and fortunately, knock on wood, I’ve never left a horse with a flat tire…or in this case, three flat tires and one inflated one.

I gave that mare a good bribe (a.k.a. rub down) and went back to coaxing her to work with me on the last hoof of my long day.

Nothin’ doin.

So I looked back at her and telepathically said, “What the F&^^%%$’s Wrong With You?” and laughed.

P.S. She did cooperate after I paid a few more tolls (a.k.a. sweet talking and wicked scratching) with her…and now you know the rest of the story.