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2009 Columns

2009 Columns:

Courage in a Christmas Gift Book

     Can you believe a horse would save your life by standing over you when you were down, defending you from impending danger? That’s one of the true stories in a new book, Horses That Save Lives, by Cheryl Dudley, published by Skyhorse Publishing. Cheryl lives in Pullman, Washington and is a freelance writer and Director of Public Relations of the College of Education at the University of Idaho. She also has a master's degree in English literature.

     Cheryl is a former editor of the Appaloosa Horse Club’s magazine, and her first book, Legendary Appaloosa, won the American Horse Publication’s 2007 book award. She also has written articles for magazines including the Appaloosa Journal and Trail Blazer and for various Chicken Soup books. (More)

A Mind to Hear

     Because of Lady’s personality, I give her more freedom than I do our other three horses. I turn her loose to eat grass by the barn and I trust her to come when I call. We sometimes turn the others loose, but I have to go after them.

     When it’s time for Lady to go out to her paddock, I open her stall door and she goes where she is supposed to go (most of the time). When it’s time for her to come in, I open the paddock door and she goes to her stall. When I open the paddock door for the others, I know Traveller and Rocky will go into their stalls, but Ginger would stop and snitch bites of hay if I didn’t lead her. Lady is smarter than most, and it’s great to have a horse you can trust, but she is still a horse. Like the others, she has a mind of her own. I try to be ready for those rare occasions when she decides not to stick to the program. And I talk to her a lot.  (More)

Milestone Moment

     A friend’s recent experience is too precious not to share. She had purchased a horse several months ago, whose laid back nature and lack of energy turned out to reveal some minor health problems! With treatment, the horse is feeling better and she has resumed her riding lessons. The horse is still quietly good natured, and this recent incident was a real surprise!   (More)

Dare to Ask for More

     It amazes me how much some horses are willing to do for their owners. They become willing partners in our horse show endeavors, in racing and in countless other activities. And we sometimes have more difficulty than they do learning how to work together. 

     In August, we went to the Illinois State Fair in Springfield and watched an afternoon of the Society Horse Show, with classes for Missouri Fox Trotters, Tennessee Walkers, Arabs and Morgans. I was hoping for some inspiration for my column.

     When we stopped for supper at Cracker Barrel on the way home, I started thinking about a certain trainer that we had watched schooling his horse before the show. I actually had felt sorry for the lovely bay Arab as the trainer used draw reins to slow the horse more and more, getting more of that fancy head tuck and even more collection. He was asking a lot, I thought, and his horse was trying to give him everything he asked for. Later, in every show class this pair entered, their number was called for the winning blue ribbon.  (More)

Through Other Eyes

     Ever wonder how horses think about the world around them? Search for “how horses think” and you’ll find hundreds of books about a horse’s perceptions. Cherry Hill’s “How to Think Like a Horse” was rated #1 in horse books when I last checked.

     Consider this scenario: while riding down the road, I see a picturesque big rock ahead—while my horse sees a hiding place for a hungry predator! I can’t change the way he sees things, but understanding his perspective helps me to deal with his fears. I definitely do not want to punish him for being fearful or do something that will end up hurting him. But I can walk him all around the rock at a safe distance and give him time to think about it. With my own calm, patient leadership, I can help him relax and become more confident. I can help him learn to trust me beyond his own natural instincts, as he learns to “see” things through my perspective.  (More)

Soak It Deep!

     Whenever I think about finding a new home for Lady, her special nature comes out and captures my affection. Once again, I appreciate her trust and acceptance of the things I do to her and I know it would not be easy to ever part with her. I’ve never owned another horse that has been so lovingly cooperative!

     Her feet have become a worrisome issue. In spite of hoof supplements and my efforts to keep a clean dry stall, I’ve struggled with continuing problems with thrush and cracked heels. The bulbs of her heels keep peeling and her frogs keep wasting away. I have tried several different treatments, but none have produced lasting results. Her paddock is deep mud (it just keeps raining), and I know I should be cleaning her hooves out on a daily basis, but with four horses, I don’t have the energy to do each one every day! And who wants to pick up hooves that are plastered with wet mud? Fortunately, the other three horses don’t have as much problem with their feet at the moment. (More)

National Trails Day

     Being a member of the Illinois Trail Riders, I attended their annual meeting during the Illinois Horse Fair in March. I was reminded of the question, “What can I do to preserve and promote equestrian trails?” June, by the way, is Great Outdoors Month and June 6th is National Trails Day.  (More)

Effects of Balance

     During my first two riding lessons on Rocky this spring, I was frustrated with one particular issue—keeping his body straight and on the rail. His head and neck were either bent toward the outside or he was heading toward the center of the arena. Going clockwise was easier and I thought that was because of my stronger right leg. Going to the left was totally exasperating! I was trying to use my inside leg and rein with a rhymic pulse to keep him straight, to put more weight in my outside stirrup and NOT use that outside rein pulling too much. But something wasn’t working.  (More)

Moving On With Hope...

     After weeks of anticipation for the Illinois Horse Fair, I can’t believe it has already come and gone! The weather was warmer this year than usual. Instead of cold biting wind in our faces, walking back and forth was quite enjoyable! I didn’t find many bargains; my only purchase was a dressage girth for my Courbette saddle.

     Speaking of dressage, I enjoyed watching two lessons by dressage clinician Lilo Fore and actually shed emotional tears at a certain Grand Prix level Swedish warmblood ridden by a Star West student. There’s a certain feeling that wells up from my chest whenever I see a good Piaffe or an extended trot with those front toes barely grazing the ground! I had to start riding lessons again.  (More)

On The Path of the Horse

         “If you never buy anything else, get this DVD, The Path of the Horse,” advised the newsletter from So I did. I watched this documentary of Stormy May’s six week journey to learn from various innovative horse trainers, and I enjoyed its creativity and the photography and thought it very interesting. I later realized that this DVD was an introduction to a new philosophy regarding horse-human relationships, with much more to follow.

     Then I received information on a series of free January teleseminars on The Path of the Horse. You had to register in advance at, and participants could direct questions to the seven “visionaries” featured on the DVD. Wish I could have listened in, but the timing didn’t work for me.  (More)

A Year of Hope...

     I love to plan. Planning gives me hope and I love the anticipation of something new and different. I received my first seed catalog not long ago, and even though I don’t garden anymore, just the memory of that process helped raise my spirits. Now is the time to make lists and plan for the year ahead. The coldest days of the year are hopefully behind us and I’ll soon be riding on that wooded trail behind the barn again. And March 6 through 8 is the Illinois Horse Fair in Springfield, which means it’s almost SPRING! I’m excited—after last year’s cancellation, this year’s Fair is long awaited! Hope to see you there!

     I feel I need to look ahead right now, after two months of watching a son’s battle with cancer from an anxious point of view. Sometimes I just need to deal with my own life again instead of other thoughts while waiting for his slow progress toward remission. Our four horses have had only basic care for some time, and I’m sure they are ready for our special attention.   (More)

2008 Columns

2007 Columns

2006 Columns

2005 and Earlier Columns


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