Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Public Service Announcement from the Cat

I am in the closet, typing on my owner's computer. I have been reading her blog, and I know what she has been saying about me.

Though there is some truth in her libelous words against me, I must clarify our situation.

I lived in a beautiful apartment when I was a kitten. It was complete with an older cat for me to chase, a baby for me to hide from, and an owner who doted on me. I spent my days hiding under the couch.

My owner made the serious faux pas (or, in my case faux paw) or mentioning to the landlords that my mother was a Bengal, that illustrious breed of only semi-domesticated cats that are so much more beautiful, intelligent, and lethal than all the other breeds. The landlords could not take the competition of beautiful me (they only WISH they could purr) and so I put an ad up for myself on Craigslist.

Three people came in response to the ad. Well, three and a half people, actually. The female human was grossly pregnant. I mean, even her feet were swollen. I have no tolerance for humans who let themselves slip like that.

I could see that the man and the two young children desperately needed my help. She wasn't good enough for them. She obviously was too busy popping out hairless kittens to do a proper job of caring for the kittens she had. (I should mention that I should have taken the warning signs and had her spayed right away. We cats need to make sure we spay our females early on!)

So, I adopted them.

I immediately set to raising my young humans. The older boy needed some serious grooming, so I set myself the task of licking him clean as he slept, as any good mother would. She didn't do it. Her idea of a bath was sticking them in a huge basin of water! I am not lying!

The younger of the two needed some serious discipline. Oh, who am I kidding, he looked delicious, so I practiced my hunting skills on him. It's not like they were useful to anyone else.

When I went into heat I bathed myself beautifully, and pranced in front of the handsome and obviously available male, the human man. (Don't judge me, you know what it is like to go into heat.) I could tell he liked me better than the odious female, but he wasn't willing to abandon her with kittens all by herself.

Then She did the unforgivable.

She had me spayed.

Seriously. I was cast into a crate, drugged, cut open, and lost all the dignity and hope for kittens I could have had. It was cruel revenge on her part. I know she saw me snuggling with her mate!

I decided to sit down and give her the real run down. She was only welcome in my house as a pet. She could pop out kittens for me to raise, but the man was mine. The kittens were mine. All subsequent dogs, cats, and chickens were mine.

So, you can take Her spin on it, but what I am doing here is an act of gracious service! I am raising these poor hairless kittens.

It is a thankless job.

I must return the computer before She finishes suckling our latest offspring.

Once he is weaned, he will be mine, just like all the rest.

Purrfully Yours,


Friday, August 17, 2012

Striding Forward

I got Strider for an English saddle.

The same saddle would have gotten me maybe $60 at the auction. It was a really narrow close contact saddle and was the cause of a hip injury that gave me years of pain. It was also the first saddle I had ever owned. I bought it around the time I brought Pacem, my first horse, home.

Strider was a case of love at first sight. He was huge and shaggy, like a woolly mammoth, not a horse. He was so thin you could have hung horseshoes from his hip bones. His muscles were so deteriorated that he could barely move.

He was headed to slaughter the next day.

I fell in love with him. I had to have him. He was so special, so wonderful.

The broker let me have him for the price of a saddle. He assumed that Strider wouldn't survive the drive to the processor. Strider was, he said, about seventeen years old, and had spent the last several years penned in a tiny stall as the muck pile grew, never getting enough to eat.

He was so huge, he really didn't fit in our trailer, but he was so good and sweet that we got him home in one piece.

Strider was such a sweet boy. When the farrier came to pull his shoes and give him a trim, taking two vertical inches off each hoof, he was terrified. That huge horse buried his face in my chest and closed his eyes. He trusted that I wouldn't let anything happen to him.

Strider was the bottom of the pecking order. Even the tiny Shetland pony we had would boss him around. He was a ham. He would 'give up and die', lying on the ground with his tongue sticking out.

Getting muscle and fat at his age, with the way all his muscles had atrophied, was a huge task. Once he gobbled down his special vitamin and senior feed mix so quickly that he choked. I was frantic. I called twenty-three local vets that night. Not one would come out, not one bothered to tell me that horses won't choke to death. He was fine, eventually.

He improved. I would climb on a stack of hay bales to get into his saddle. I would just wander around with him. We trusted each other. I'm barely 5'2", he was 19hh of fuzzy Belgian... we must have seemed an odd pair, but we understood each other.

Eventually Strider was adopted by someone who fell in love with him as hard as I did. He took one look at my boy and whispered, "Who is THAT?"

It was meant to be.

Months later I got a call. Strider had a stroke. He was paralyzed. They had to euthanize him.

On the phone, this stranger and I wept together, me a twenty year old girl, him a man in his forties. Both of us had just loved this horse.

Sometimes I wonder if I will see him after I die. I was only part of his life for a few months. I hope I will get to see him healthy and happy.

He will bury his face in my chest and I will scratch under that thick golden mane. It will feel like home.

When Dogs Look Like Rats to Cats


Korra: I am not a rat, I am a dog.
Harold: Are you sure? You look exactly like a rat.
Korra: I am sure. See? I can growl.
Harold: So can I.
Korra: I am a dog. I swear. I can chase you if that will prove it.
Harold: That won't be necessary.
Korra: So? You believe me?

Thursday, August 16, 2012


This is Korra. Please excuse her pound mugshot. My two year old decided our camera needed swimming lessons in the kiddie pool. Don't recognize the name? You're not familiar with the REAL Avatar (as in Airbenders, not blue people)? Off you go, don't come back until you can tell me who Korra is, and... um... why there are conveniently a lot of flying bison all of a sudden.

Back? Good.

Korra came from the pound. She was a birthday wish from my boys and supposedly could help with one son's anxiety. So far it looks pretty good. He now has a way to calm himself when he worries. He just holds her and feels better.

She's a Chihuahua/Min Pin cross, which means she doesn't shake all of the time (just some of it) and she is really social.

She's also currently very sick. She got kennel cough at the pound. That's really common. I don't think I have ever rescued a pet from there who hasn't ended up with kennel cough.

There are mixed feelings about her in the family. Jade, the cat, is all for keeping her. Harold, the orange cat, suspects she might be a ROUS. The two big dogs think she is an evil alien from the planet Zurg.

The cutest thing about her would probably be her tail. It curls just like a pig tail. In fact, I wanted to name her Peppa or Miss Piggy, but I was vetoed. In the end it was between Toph, Kitara, and Korra. (You still don't know what I am talking about? For shame!)

Korra won. It's kind of hilarious because now #2's First Grade teacher things we named our dog after her...(Corrie).

 So far she has pretty much just been a really sick little dog. She sleeps in our (dirty) laundry basket. She also apparently doesn't eat or go to the bathroom. We have been tempting her with all kinds of good thinks, but it was an empty effort until today.

Eventually she will "go" outside when we are on our frequent outings.

Not in the back with Beauty Lightyear and Buzz Red, of course. They would destroy her and her home planet.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Regarding the Cat...

Ah, the baleful gaze of my cat. No matter how many times I tell her that she is my cat, she insists that I am nothing more than a surrogate producing 'kittens' for her because she is spayed.

Jade loves my husband. She cuddles him and grooms him. If I touch him when she is near, she gives me the 'look'.

I offend her.

She loves her 'kittens', which are my sons, our other cat, and, most recently, our min-pin cross. She even grooms and makes nice with the big (huge) dogs.

She sleeps with my oldest son, and licks his hair. She snuggles him and purrs.

I am the one that found her, who adopted her, but she will never love me.

"Mine," she says. "MY husband, MY kittens, MY dogs."

She doesn't even care enough to hate me. I'm just there. Occasionally she will deign to let me stroke her, but she gets bored and runs off to let my two year old ride her like a pony.

When we had chickens, Jade and the silkies would conspire together. I suspect they were forming a fuzzy mafia.

Even Harold, our other cat will hesitate when I express affection for him. "I have to check with Jade," he tells me. "Get a referral and I will get back to you."


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Quincey: The Horse Who Broke Me

I was fifteen years old and taking lessons at a stable about twenty minutes away from my house. My trainer was a nice woman, but she had a really bad habit of giving the horse I rode in my lessons sugar every time he ignored me and went over to her. She laughed and said that she was his 'Sugar Momma.'

This, of course, created a huge problem for me. I was trying to get better at riding, but the horse was being trained to disobey me.

His name was Quincey. He was a big Quarter Horse gelding with great conformation. He had a history with abuse, which is why my trainer was so set on spoiling him.

I often had my lessons at night, as I live in southern Arizona and it can be too hot during the day to do any serious riding. For once my dad had come to watch me ride. He had never seen me ride and I was eager to show him what I could do.

I always loved riding under the arena lights. I liked to imagine that I was riding in a competition or under a spotlight. Quincey was so beautiful that he could have been a star. Despite our issues, I adored him. I wished he was my horse.

My trainer had put Quincey in side reins because he had a horrible habit of tossing his head back and smashing his rider in the nose. She said that it would teach him to carry himself correctly. I could tell though, that it was doing the opposite. He would lean on the side-reins, which would mess up his top line and make his gaits choppy and uncomfortable.

My dad was watching from the fence as I urged Quincey into a trot and started a figure eight. Quincey pulled at the bit impatiently, trying to turn his head to face my trainer. As always I corrected him. I took a firm hold of the reins and used my legs to keep him on track.

Before I knew it he was bucking underneath me. The side reins snapped under the force of his tantrum. He reared and plunged and twisted. I flew out of the saddle with such torque that I manage one and a half rotations before I hit the ground-- face first. The brim of my helmet crumpled. My nose was crushed by the impact.

I gasped for breath and rolled onto my side, only to see Quincey above me, driving his forefeet straight towards my head. His eyes were rolling and his ears were pinned back. There was nothing there to remind me of the horse I cherished.

My trainer had a lunge whip in her hands and it took her lashing him across the face to get him off of me. He nearly trampled me to death.

All told I had three cracked ribs, a broken nose, black eyes, and huge bruises around my knees. The arena dirt had skinned my face and hands. I looked like I had been in a fist fight.

I didn't give up riding. My dad certainly wasn't much of a fan of my riding now, of course.

The next time I went to the barn for my lesson Quincey was gone. They had sold him as dangerous.'

I still feel guilty. Quincey misbehaved because of what my trainer had been teaching him, not because he was a dangerous horse. Yes, he snapped. Yes, I know he honestly tried to kill me, but I still wish he had been given another chance.

Years later I found out they had sold him to slaughter.

So Quincey is the horse that broke me-- both physically and emotionally. Embarr, in Crash Course, is very much a tribute to a horse that could have been rehabilitated if anyone had been willing to put the time and effort into him.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Horse Names: For Fun

All or Nothing
Amber Waves
Nowhere Fast
Court Jester
Fleet Shadow
King Midas
Something Special
Mystic Moonlight
Sonoran Sunrise
Dusk Romance
High 'N Mighty
Holy Terror

More later :). What names do you like?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Horse Games: Legs and Hooves

When I first got Pacem we played a lot of games. Just like with people, games are a great way to train horses.

Pacem was very young and also a very 'hot' breed of horse. He was barely three years old when I got him, and was a (rather inbred) pure Polish Arabian. He had energy to burn. It would have been a huge mistake to treat him roughly in any way. He had had very little human contact prior to me getting him, and his first contact with me was when a family friend literally picked up his hind quarters and pushed him into the stock trailer.

One of my favorites was a game to teach Pacem to pick up his feet nicely.

1)I spent a lot of time playing the first part of the game. I would touch Pacem's legs and feet gently and stay there until he stood absolutely still. Then I would walk away. I got to the point where I could rub his belly (which he loved) and he even got good with his hind legs. One leg I had to rub with a stick for a while before he would let me touch it with my hand, but it was still basically the same game.

2) I would run my hand down Pacem's leg and touch the hoof. If he stood still, I would walk away.

3) I would run my hand down Pacem's leg, touch his hoof, then tickled the back of his fetlock with my finger.  I kept tickling him there until he picked up his foot (even a tiny bit) and then I would walk away. At first I would just accept the shifting of weight away from the foot I was touching.

The game ended when Pacem lifted up his foot anytime I ran my hand down his leg and touched his hoof.

It was really fun, actually, and he became a champion for hoof cleaning!

I never got upset or blew up at him, even if he got rowdy. Sometimes I had to go back to Step one and go from the beginning again. Through me staying calm and not punishing him when he got hot, we formed a really strong bond, which eventually led to me being able to 'ski' around the dirt in the arena being pulled along by his tail... but that was after a few more games!

Children's Horse Books and Series Worth Reading

1. Marguerite Henry-- all. Especially King of the Wind and Mustang: Wild Spirit of the West
2. The Black Stallion series (anything Walter Farley)
3. National Velvet
4. Ann Sheldon's Linda Craig Mysteries
5. Fly-By-Night by KM Peyton
6. Star of Shadowbrook Farm by Joanna Campbell
7. Battlecry Forever by Joanna Campbell
8. Timber Ridge Riders series by Maggie Dana
9. Summer Pony by Jean Slaughter Doty
10. If Wishes Were Horses by Virgina Vail
11. The Crumb by Jean Slaughter Doty
12. Dark Horse by Jean Slaughter Doty
13. Jinny at Finmory series by Patricia Leitch
14. Dream of Fair Horses by Patricia Leitch
15. The Ultimate Horse Book
16. The Perfect Distance by Kim Ablon Whitney
17. Thoroughbred Series (while Joanna Campbell wrote them)
18. Saddle Club Series by Bonnie Bryant
19. The Money Creek Mare by Patricia Calvert
20. The Stone Pony by Patricia Calvert

What are your favorites?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Rollkur, Abuse, and Real Horse People

So, here we all are, watching the Olympics, and what finally bring Dressage into the limelight is like something out of Crash Course: abusive training and riding practices. In this case it is the rollkur in Dressage.

(For the record: Horse people know that Dressage is not 'horse ballet'. It is more like horse gymnastics, or martial arts. In fact, it is exactly like that. Dressage was designed to train war horses. Look up Xenophon. He was the father of Dressage.)

The rollkur is an abusive practice. It makes the whole equestrian world look bad. (Like Brianne in Crash Course we are in danger of people saying that all human and equine contact is abusive.)

Saying that riding is an abusive sport is like saying baseball is only about steroids.

People cheat. And they tarnish the respectability of the whole arena.

There are no real short cuts in horse training. Abusive practices lead to damaged horses, physically and mentally.

Ever horse person has a responsibility to stop the abuse. We all have to prevent the Embarrs and the Alydars.

Abuse casts a long shadow, obscuring the real horse people, those of us who give our equine counterparts our hearts and dedicate our lives to undoing damage that has been done. We don't have the impact of these stories of abuse, but we are the ones that will clean up the mess when the horses get hurt. For some we will be too late.

We deserve better. The horses deserve better. Equestrian sports deserve better.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Please Adopt

I just filled out a foster adoption-- at my nearby shelter.

Most of the animals I have owned have been rescues. It's just what I have always done. My heart breaks when I think of all the animals that have lived only to die because their owners did not care enough to spay or neuter them.

If I could, I would adopt them all, and find new homes for them.

Right now we have four pets in our household. We have Red (Clifford the Big Red Dog) who was from the shelter. He's about a year old and a big red golden retriever. When we got him he was really skinny, so he's weird about food. He'll share, he has no aggression in him at all, but he... well, he's not skinny anymore.

Beauty, our other dog, is a lab something mix. We don't know what the something is, but she doesn't bark. She's also from the same shelter. She does howl on occassion, and her skin is really really loose. She's high energy, just having turned one, but we love her. She is SMART. She can open a sliding glass door, so we keep ours locked.

Then we have the cats.

Jade came from an apartment complex that was kicking her out because she was a bengal cross. She is a very high-energy cat and we had to relax our 'indoor only' rules for cats with her, because, well, if she doesn't get to go outside, she hunts my second son. Why him? We really don't know. Maybe because he's a fast enough runner to be a real challenge. She's three years old.

Harold, our other cat, is a big orange, shy guy. It took him a year to come out from under the bed after we brought him home from the shelter. Now he comes out to greet visitors with very little hesitation. His favorite person in the whole world is my two year old. They are best buds. My two year old could do anything, literally, to Harold, and the cat would love it. Once we caught the two year old attempting to cut off the cat's tail with (thankfully dull) scissors. Harold was all for it. We rescued him anyway and had a long talk to the pair about tails being a good thing.

I just have to help. I can't stop here. I need to do what I can to help the animals out there that are in need.

Hence the foster contract. This way I can help the sick or elderly ones that need the most help, despite my lack of finances.

Please, please, spay and neuter all your pets. Don't breed. Rescue! Foster, if you can't make a long term commitment.