Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Gift--Heartfelt Thanks to Artist Karen McLain

As a few of my faithful readers are aware, my very good friend Linda's horse Shorty has been diagnosed with cancer and given six months to a year to live. Being quite heartbroken by the news, and feeling horrible for my friend, I got to thinking.....

I had found Karen McLain's blog a while ago and had contacted her regarding pricing and information in order to find out about getting an oil painting done of my horse Jackson. Since I always seem to have other things come up monetarily, that had been put onto the back burner for awhile. After Shorty's diagnosis and with Christmas coming, the wheels in my head started to turn. Wouldn't it be great if....

So I contacted Karen once again and explained the situation with Shorty, and that I would like to commission one of her oil paintings for Linda to have to commemorate their life together. I was having computer issues at the time so I went to a friend's house and shot her an e-mail to please call me. She called me back the very same day and we went from there. The whole experience was wonderful and Karen was a superb communicator throughout the whole experience.

Karen wanted to know everything about Shorty. From personality, age, to what disciplines he has been ridden; there wasn't much she didn't end up knowing about him without actually getting to meet him herself.

I told Linda about the gift. Why not keep it a surprise you ask?  I thought long and hard. If my horse had cancer and someone was having a painting done for me, I would want to pick the details out myself. Did she want to be in the picture? Would she want a close up or him running in the field? Halter or no halter? After her partnership with him of sixteen years, there were things I needed and wanted to know so that the finished product would be special. Although I love Shorty too, I have only known him for two years and he is not my horse. I wanted a masterpiece, and in order to make that happen she had to know. She told me that it didn't really hit her until a few hours after I had told her, and then she cried.

Last evening I was finally able to see her face as the letter from Karen was read to her (she tried to read it out loud herself, but....tears...), and she saw the painting for the first time. I had already looked at the painting and read the letter, and I CRIED when I saw such a perfect rendering of Shorty. Even though I had very carefully looked at Karen's paintings on her blog, you worry when giving a gift that is so important. That your expectations won't be met. That the horse you know won't be the one in the painting. I need not have worried. As soon as I saw it I gave a HUGE shout, "She got him! She captured him perfectly!" And Linda thought so too. His soul shines through; this is not a generic horse painting. She had also seen Karen's work on her blog, but she commented, "This is her best yet!" Of course it is... :).  I wish I had captured it all on video. Her face was a Christmas gift to me. She got a bit teary, but her best friend Lorri was sitting across from us wiping her eyes copiously for all three of us.

Thank you Karen. Your painting was a beautiful way to thank my friend for all she does for me and Jackson, show her how much I love her, and to thank Shorty for being the amazing horse that he is.  Folks, you will not regret a painting from this amazing artist!

Friday, December 25, 2009

THIS is a Wonderful Life....

Anne, Lorri and me...Can you believe that Lorri and I both have Anglo Arabs? They are SO different!

Linda on Red (Missouri Fox Trotter), Anne on Allie (Arabian) and Lorri on Ozzie (AngloArab)

On Wednesday we had wonderful 68 degree weather and it was the perfect day for us to hit the trails! I haven't been riding too much in the past month with sickness and weather getting the upper hand. Oh. And work. And the kiddo. There were actually five of us who rode out, but we took these pics without our friend Kathy (later pictured in pink) because she was being a slow butt... :) J.K., Kathy!
We took along tools to clear some trail, officially beginning our work on the annual Triple H Equitherapy Scavenger Hunt. We have changed the date from June to early May because we think the cooler weather in May will attract more riders. Adding new trails and obstacles are imperative to keeping the interest and freshness of the ride alive. Three of us cleared branches and forged trail on foot, while two held the five horses; I'd say we spent 45 minutes clearing and the rest was a relaxing, invigorating ride. Even though we waded streams, and traveled at a pretty fast pace for five riders, it felt as if we were all very much in sync and we all had a ball. If you have ever ridden with this size group, you probably know that this does NOT always happen! :)
As we rode, I reflected on the past year a bit, and how far I have really come with Jackson. When we trot now it feels like another extension of me; we have both gotten so much better at this gate, I am no longer thrown up into the heavens gulping at the stars. We can canter. Collection, check. (OK. Much more collection than ever before, how's that? :) On the bit? Most of the time. Doing things with such comfort and ease that they are automatic? OH YEAH! :) Lost 54 pounds? Done that too. That in and of itself has helped my riding immensely. There are people out there who are overweight and ride superbly. I am not one of them. I was a thin person in a fat body. Seriously. At my thinnest I weighed 127 lbs. at a height of 5'10. Of course, this was at the age of 22, and I was VERY thin. Realistically, I will be happy to lose another 10 lbs. for a happy 135-140. My horse loves the weight loss too. Did I lose the weight for my horse and to be a better rider? Absolutely. My dressage lessons have also been a wonderful thing we have started this past year. With Allison my instructor(who is 79 and was a Grand Prix XC rider in her time), it has really been an eye opening experience, and benefited my riding more than I can say. Although I don't know if I will ever be what you call a dressage rider, I DO take lessons to help our partnership, further our learning, and to aid in mine and Jackson's jumping abilities down the road. I firmly believe if you can perform classical dressage (at least the basics) you are ready for anything! In the next year it will be time to add the next piece of our challenge. JUMPING! We will also be working on obstacles and add a few competetive trail rides and our usual trail riding to the mix for variety and to keep it fun! They don't call him a sport horse for nothing and we both love changing it up!

Back to our ride. We did lots of different and advanced terrain: small spaces, up and DOWN steep hills, deep streams, switchbacks, etc. All the horses took it in stride. We even did a couple little jumps over a log and one drop off. Kathy was riding a seasoned Warmblood XC jumper, and Lorri did them at a wild hand gallop (gotta love those mares!), but Jackson is nothing if not practical, and is so attuned to me. He is one smart guy, and knows just what I am ready for these days! We popped the jumps at a trot...Don't get me wrong. This horse is SO MORE THAN capable of a wild, fun hand gallop in a heartbeat, and could run all day, but he knows that we have that on the list for next years post! :) What a good boy!
As it neared 5pm a really cool mist hung like a light cotton batting with the sunlight over the water. It looked so cool. I am in the light blue in the pics below...wish they were better, I had my camera, but Linda actually remembered to grab hers and take a few! Sometimes it is not a picture taking day, I felt the need to commune with the day, my horse, and my friends...

All I could help thinking was, THIS IS THE LIFE!

Happy Holidays and a very Merry Christmas to you all!
May your rides be many, fun, and fill you up in 2010!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Goodies Everywhere....

Below are my HOMEADE HOLIDAY HORSE TREATS! The recipe is from the November 2008 issue of Horse Illustrated but I will include it in case you want to try them! They were REALLY easy! I also included the peppermints after I baked them--just the old fashioned soft sticks which are really easy to break....I made a double batch because I was baking for seven horses--Jackson, Lorri's three and Linda's three. Each batch yielded 15 treats but you could easily make them a bit smaller--mine were a spoonful each--give or take a bit! I used one Granny Smith and one Red Delicous (for sweet and sour taste) and two average size carrots for a double batch...

Also note Miles with his yearly gingerbread house, and of course the torture of the cat turining her into a reindeer. Really, didn't go all that well. She is bent out of shape over the new dog and has declined to celebrate the Holidays this year.

Carrot/Apple Horse Cookies

1 cup grated carrot

1 cup grated apple

2 TBSP. corn oil

1/4 cup molasses

1 tsp. salt

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup flour

Combine the grated carrot, grated apple, corn oil and molasses in mixing bowl and blend well. Gradually fold in the salt, rolled oats and flour and continue blending. Drop the dough by spoonfuls two inches apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. ( I found it only took about 12 minutes in my oven so watch carefully!)


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jingle Bella Finds a Home

I have recently had an itch that needed scratched. The yearning for another dog. I kept putting it off, because I really want a Rhodesian Ridgeback. I am not in a place where I can have such a big dog. I have a fenced in yard, but my dog door will only fit up to a medium dog and the x-large size I looked into would come with a hefty $400 price tag. I have the kind that fits into a sliding glass door. Also, I do have a pretty small house, and a dog that is easily the weight of my son, well, I need LAND!!! Since my dog is only five months from being 16 years old, I admit, I am going to need some comfort when she goes. Canine comfort. And I love dogs. All breeds, all types. Small, big, large, extra large, full-bred, mutt, it doesn't really matter to me.

But how to find the right dog? I knew I couldn't go to the shelter. I just can't. I would cry and then leave with two or three and really turn my life into problem city.... So..the other day I went onto Craig's list just to look. I did not expect to see the little face peering out at me that I HAD to follow up on. I talk myself out of things. What if? is my mantra when it comes to things like this. And most of the time, I talk myself out of things by worrying. My biggest concern was my dog Dakota. Not that she would be mean to the dog, but that she would feel displaced or replaced. I have had her since she was 5 weeks old and she'll be 16 in April. I should have remembered that Dakota has no problems with other pets...

So, I found her on Craig's list on Saturday (and the lady removed the pictures that TOTALLY sucked me in, I must call and try to get them), and by Sunday morning I was on the phone. Her face wouldn't leave my mind. I told everyone at work I was waiting for a sign from God. Maybe the sign was that I found her so quickly and that I NEVER go to the pet section of Craig's List. Strangely enough, my friend Rose, another nurse, was the clincher. She said, "She needs a home. Adopt her." Now, no bolt of lightning came down, no sunlight blinding my eyes, but I look up to Rose, so her words were heard. Simple, true words. MY sign. Or perhaps she was just the impetus that made me make up my mind. At any rate, I found myself making a long extra hour trek after work ended at 7pm to go and get her. The owners had been evicted and I'm not sure what the woman who thrust her into my arms relationship was. She had scant information. She's had shots sometime in the past. Not sure how old she is, maybe a year or two. She may be indoor/outdoor. So really, not much help. Food. Oh, just give her canned whatever, no specific brand. (I am inwardly thinking, canned, cheap crap, no way. Science Diet or Iams mini chunks, YES!). But this little girl who weighs exactly 11 lbs. immediately curled up into my arms and nestled in like she belonged there.

The car ride home was uneventful, she settled onto the floor of the car in all my barn jackets and slept. I wondered at what ordeal she had been through in the past few days. I had told my son I would be late because I needed to go see about a Christmas present. I was only 1/2 hour past my normal time, so I actually did well. He was in disbelief when I opened up the car door. "Mom, WHO is that?" "Miles, It's our new dog."
His face lit up and his arms reached out. That's my boy. Loves pets and animals. And she stunk! I didn't want to put her through a bath after all she had been through, but there was no other option. I wanted her to be able to come up onto my bed, and NO WAY that was happening without a bath! She did fine and we dried her pretty fast with her wiry terrier hair. I LOVE terriers after having one as a little kid. One that looked exactly like Toto (with the same name) from the Wizard of Oz. The woman said she is a Norfolk terrier, but I looked them up on the internet. I don't think so. She has big pointy ears with little tufts of fur at the tips. Also, she has a mohawk right in the center of her head! She looks nothing like the Norfolk Terriers I saw pictured who have small ears that flop forward. But she is definitely a terrier of some type.

She is so calm and shy around loud noises and the other pets. She LOVES to sleep on the bed with me and also loves the dog bed I bought a few weeks ago, the one my older dog SHUNNED. We are teaching her to use the dog door, but she is afraid of the flap. Only one accident so far on the first night.

So I have learned: she may have fleas (already treated), she is itchy but haven't seen fleas--skin problem?, needs shots (check, I went and purchased her first one to give her until I get her to the vet for her Rabies and to get fixed), she isn't fixed; she's in heat, so I got a tiny little 11 lb. dog mess which is no big deal, she has no idea how to walk on a leash, she has worms (as evidenced by the butt dragging I've witnessed)but no tapeworms in her poop, and she is the sweetest, most loveable little thing I could've wished for. Thanks Santa Claus!

We haved named her Bella. Bells=Christmas. I'll probably end up shortening it to Bells anyway, because all the pets have nicknames. They told me her name is Sara, but she shows no response to that name so I know it was never Sara. Maybe for one day. Our other pets definitely have their noses bent out of shape. Especially two out of my three cats. This is evidenced by the fact that they have spent the past three days on top of the kitchen cupboards. Dakota, my dog, is feeling a tiny bit neglected, but she sniffs at Bella and has no beef with her...I am just trying to give everyone extra attention. I am sure they are thinking, "Christmas, this is Christmas? Bah, Humbug!" But all three cats were adopted, and Dakota is the only one I paid for in Florida. I will pay adoption/rescue fees now, but I won't buy a pet when so many need homes. I paid nothing for little Bella, but I would have, at least a re-homing fee. But, the woman didn't ask, and in light of the money I need to spend on her medical care due to neglect.... Of course I did buy Jackson three years ago, so I guess I'm not totally altruistic!

Today is my last day off out of three, I wonder how little Bella will fair with me gone and Miles not getting home from school until 4pm? I expect accidents since she is having problems with the dog door... But maybe we'll get lucky! Regardless, I feel blessed!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Winnah'!

Folks, we have a Holiday horseshoe winner! Since my son was home sick from school today, I grabbed my OLD first jumping helmet (the one I would have died in back in those days if I'd ever hit my head--really, NO cushioning!) and dropped the entrants names in. I then had Miles pick the winner. Julie from over at Equine Mine was the name Miles picked out.
Julie's advice to me was: "Here are a couple little mantras I like to remind myself of...."My horse has no goals, only I do" and "Make the right thing easy, the wrong thing difficult" and "Never take soundness for granted...everyday I ride I consider a gift." Wonderful advice Julie. Thanks.
If anyone does want a horseshoe, I make them for $15 plus s&h. I can make many different types, different sized shoes, colors, charms, stones, etc. I have recently had an offer to sell them on the Riverwalk downtown in a really cool eclectic gift shop, the owner is going to sell them for $35-85 depending on the beads, size, etc... I have not totally committed to this yet, we shall see...
I will also have another little giveaway sometime after Christmas so you may get a horseshoe yet! Thanks for all the comments, I really enjoyed them.
Come back over tomorrow and meet a new family member! I can't wait for you all to see her!!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Holiday Giveaway....

I've been wanting to do a little giveaway of one of my homemade beaded horseshoes and was going to do it in Oct. at my one year blogging anniversary but computer issues put a crimp in that! Here is your chance to obtain your own bit of beaded luck! Just leave me a piece of horse advice/wisdom/anecdote that you have found useful in your own dealings with your horse or the horses you have ridden. If you don't ride, but just love horses, leave me advice too! I will have the drawing on 15 December...if you are an anonymous commenter, please leave an ID or name of some sort at the bottom of your comment. The winner will be announced soon after, and I will obtain contact information then. I will mail internationally so leave me some sage advice folks! The horseshoe you win may not be one of the two pictured!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Amusing Little Update...And NEW additions!

Turkey Exploded. Stand By Please.

The now infamous Turkey Cake....

After taking the computer to the Doc and one power supply later, I am back to blog land again! Sure have missed being able to post! Just wanted to show you what Miles (my son) made for Thanksgiving. Of course, this cake stole the show, and it was his creation from A-Z. And before you ask where the feathers came from as all 10 people at my friend's house did before partaking in a slice, they came from the local craft store! :)We had a really nice day and Miles got to meet Lorri's new Rhodesian Ridgeback Heike, who, at six months isn't so new (or small) anymore, and then we all got to meet Linda's new horse Traveler who she had just picked up Thanksgiving morning. Traveler started out with the name Cowboy which was a resounding NO! He is a three year old QH with 60 days under saddle. I can't wait to ride him! But he is getting short rides so he'll grow properly yada da dum... but that is why he looks a bit gangly and non-muscular! I will post again and update the riding front, just wanted to say, "HELLO!" my peeps!

Traveler (ummm. Jackson's new twin?)

Heike. Lorri's new Rhodesian Ridgeback