I am a child of the city. Growing up in Manhattan, my horse crazy childhood days were mostly fueled by books. Not the kind of books you find in book stores today — teenage paranormal romance, anyone? Nope, I read horse books. Even today I can picture the place in the stack of my local library on York Avenue where the horse books were shelved. I can remember walking home with a huge stack of hardcover books, their pages smudged with the fingerprints of too many small girls to count. I would lie on my bed, inhale the aroma of paper, and let my imagination soar.
I read everything. Every Walter Farley book, every C.W. Anderson book, every Marguerite Henry book, and the famous ones like My Friend Flicka and Black Beauty.
Who didn’t dream of being Alex Ramsey in the Black Stallion series? Or Steve Duncan, taming the glorious Island Stallion. It didn’t matter to me that most of these stories featured horses and boys. I had no trouble imagining myself being the one who magically connected with the wild, troubled horse.
Another book that sticks in my mind, Riders from Afar by Christine Pullein-Thompson, told the story of
an American family who rents a Castle from an English family for the summer. The American kids learn a lot from their new English friends, and the “Yanks” turn out to be better riders than had been anticipated. The book culminates with a foxhunt, which seemed completely out of reach to me at the time.
Other books that I remember reading include “Harlequin Hullabaloo” by Dorothy Lyons. That poor girl trying to dye her lovely pinto into a solid color! And then there was “Afraid to Ride,” a book that I realize that has inspired the novel I’m writing now, where the protagonist is overcoming her fear caused by an accident.
What about you? What were your favorite horse books growing up?
One of the things that brightens my non-riding days is . . . watching other people having fun riding horses. Yes, that seems masochistic, even to me, but I’ve been watching the Longines Jumper Series (broadcast live over YouTube by the HorseNetwork) religiously, gasping at the height of some of the jumps. And, I’ve been watching Geoffrey. These short videos always make me smile. They also make me want to visit New Zealand, so that’s another goal once I’m back on two legs.
Okay, it wouldn’t be much of a competition if I tried to run 22 miles, even if both of my legs worked, but in this annual competition in Wales, more than 630 runners and 60 horses compete (the initial race, in 1980 had 4 horses and 29 runners).
This yearly competition in Wales attracts more than 600 runners and 60 horses.[/caption]The competition started 37 years ago when Gordon Green, the manager of the pub in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales was inspired to organize the race after listening to two customers debate whether a human could beat a horse under the right conditions and distance.
So far, a human has won twice. But many times, the fastest human has surpassed the speed of many of the horses. And the payoff is pretty good. The purse is more than $32,000.
California Chrome’s first crop of foals is being born. The first is a strapping big colt out of Pay the Man on January 20th at Calumet Farm. While Chrome needs no
introduction, this youngster’s dam is impressive in her own right. Pay the Man is the highest-earning Ohio-bred filly in history. She won 27 of 76 starts over nine seasons of racing for $1,058,511, highlighted by 21 statebred stakes victories and 14 additional stakes placings. She was purchased as a broodmare for $95,000 and this is her third foal.
California Chrome’s second foal was born just two days later, also a colt.
California Chrome was bred to a reported 145 mares in 2017 with a stud fee of $40,000. Prepare for a cuteness overload.
People who have known me for a long time will remember my magnificent Trakehner gelding, Kronefurst. But hardly any knows how close he came to being auctioned off to pay back board. It’s a story worth retelling because it shows you how quickly even a much loved, well bred, sound horse can find himself in dire circumstances through no fault of their own.
Many years ago, when I was looking for a new horse, one of my friends in upstate NY told me she’d found one that I had to see (thanks, Kathy!). A mutual friend had him at her barn. I was skeptical. Our friend had a Quarter Horse barn and is an avid Western rider. But I flew up to try him out.
I found a fairy tale horse. Kroni was six years old, almost black and had a sculptured, Arabian head (Trakehners have a lot of Arab blood). He was at my friend Hope’s barn as a last resort (thanks, Hope!) when the barn he was at threatened to sell him for back board. Kroni had been used as a breeding stallion for two years but when he wasn’t approved by the American Trakehner Association, his breeder gelded him and sold him to a teenage girl.
Unfortunately, that young woman had some family issues and ran away from home.
Her parents refused to pay board on the horse and the barn wanted to put a lien on him. That would have sent him to public auction, with no guarantee of the quality of his home. And that might not have ended well for him because Kroni had some quirks that made him a tricky ride. His had a low palette and a thick tongue, which made many bits uncomfortable. His sire was known for having a temper and Kroni definitely showed it at times, especially if he’ll felt trapped. He could throw a wicked tantrum when he didn’t want to do something and if you started a fight, he was determined to win.
Enter Hope, who was Kroni’s guardian angel. She paid the back board and told the teenager that she would help her sell Kroni to a good home for a fair price. I flew to upstate New York to try him, he was vetted, passed and I brought him home.
Kroni was a challenge for me to figure out. I was lucky to have some excellent trainers who found ways for me to work around his quirks and convince him to be on my team. One of my trainers commented on how lucky he was not to go to auction. One of his evasions was rearing, and had he gone to the wrong home, it could have gotten worse (he was truly surprised when I after he reared I didn’t get off an put him away). With that kind of “baggage” his chances of finding the right situation would have diminished quickly. People would ave bought him because he was beautiful but they might not have been prepared for the training challenges that he presented. Honestly, even I had my doubts at times.
The real breakthrough came when I took a bit out of his mouth. Bits were uncomfortable for him, but he responded very well to subtle pressure from a bitless bridle. Without the bit, the tension left his body and he was very tuned into my seat and leg.
We also had to find him a job that he enjoyed. The first time I hunted him, it was obvious that he had been waiting for us to figure out that he was a foxhunter, not an eventer. I hunted him first flight in an LG bitless bridle and he was always a perfect gentleman — brave, obedient and keen to follow the hounds.
He foxhunted right up until the end of his life, which was cut short by an aneurysm. He was one of the lucky ones, kept out of the “system” and channeled into a discipline that suited him. Not every horse is so lucky.
All across the country, horses are going through low end auctions, fueled by the threat that the horses will sell to kill buyers and be shipped for slaughter. These auctions do not guarantee soundness, do not allow vet exams, and encourage phone bidding during the auction where you might find yourself bidding against the house. This particular horse is from an auction house in New Jersey, but this scenario is played out over and over again in many places. This just happens to be the horse that’s in front of me today.
The sales video shows a horse that can barely walk. A horse that was sound less than a year ago. A horse that now has an unsightly bump on his croup and dicey looking front legs.
But, what are you supposed to do? Pay the exorbitant “bail” money? Let the horse get sent from auction to auction or on to a kill buyer? Probably the answer is to cut the brokers out of the equation and buy directly from New Holland or similar auctions. A horse like this probably cost $200 or $300 on Monday. By Wednesday the price was up to $870. At a lower price, someone might want to take a chance on a horse or help the horse over the rainbow bridge.
Not every horse that goes through these auctions is lame. And some of them are tremendous jewels in the rough. I saw a Hungarian warmblood mare
on the same auction site about two months ago. I contacted her breeder, who, although she was not in a position to take her back, was able to provide information to a prospective buyer, who took her to a dream home in Virginia. The mare is sound, sane and a spectacular mover, although very green. The new owners sent me video that brings tears to my eyes because the horse looks so happy.
For $1K she was a pretty good deal, even with the mark up that the buyer had to pay the broker. But the heart string marketing that tries to extort $820 for a horse that can’t walk? That’s just criminal.
What do you think? How would you help the horse who fall through the cracks? Should their be options for owners to euthanize damaged horses at a reduced rate so they are not tempted to get the last dollar out of a horse at an auction? Although I don’t approve of ransoming sick and old horses, I admit that when I can find a previous owner, I contact them to see if they might take the horse back. It’s a long shot, for sure, but if it was a horse I used to own, it would be worth it to me keep the horse out of the system.
At the hospital, they have Reiki volunteers. I’ve heard of Reiki but never had the chance to try it before. However, since it’s billed as a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing, I signed up.
Reiki comes from “Rei”, which means “Higher Power” and “Ki,” which means “life force energy.” It is a therapy that uses touch (or near touch) to direct life force energy to channel healing energy into the patient. Reiki practitione
Reiki treatment increases your supply of life force energy and helps you heal quickly. It promotes relaxation, makes you feel at peace, and reduces your stress. You start moving toward your unique physical, mental, and spiritual balance, and your body’s own healing mechanisms begin to function more effectively.
Reiki is administered by the hands, placed lightly on or near the body of the patient. The healing energy from the body and hands of the Reiki practitioner flows to the patient. The patient then experiences feelings of relaxation, mental clarity, pain relief, decreased anxiety, and a sense of well-being. Research has shown that this occurs because the activity of parasympathetic autonomic nervous system in the patient increases significantly.
Reiki for Horses
Horses are considered to be good candidates for Reiki because they are very attuned to our emotions and energy. While I’ve never practiced Reiki per se on my own horses, I use the Masterson Method on them, which has similarities, and they have all responded well. What does a response look like? Licking and chewing, blinking, yawning, and profound relaxation.
Reiki’s effectiveness is not dependent upon physical contact — there is no manipulation and no chance that you can hurt your horse during it. From what I’ve read, it helps promote a deeper connection with your horse, but to achieve that, you need to bring to the practice a meditative calm. This certainly holds true when I work with Freedom. He’s a very twitchy horse and sometimes I can barely lay a hand on him, but if I’m very quiet and still he eventually tunes into me and starts to relax.
Does Reiki Work?
I’ve had three different practitioners work on me last week. These were short sessions, only about 15 minutes. Mostly I felt a profound relaxation and peacefulness. Not an easy thing to do with my mind racing and my body banged up. As with a horse, I noticed increased gut sounds, too :).
I’d like to believe that by directing my energy toward healing, that I’m helping the process. Anecdotally, and in the small amount of research available, there are a lot of stories about bones healing faster, or reduction in pain, anxiety or depression. However, these are difficult parameters to measure. I’ll just have to go with the fact that it made me feel better and that similar practice has helped my horses demonstrate relaxation and reduction in stiffness and tension.
And I will not turn away the next volunteer.
How about you? Have you tried Reiki on yourself or any of your animals? What kinds of results did you experience?