This is Doranna Durgin’s WordPlay Blog. I’m glad you’re here–whether it’s to learn more about my books, or chat about dogs, horses, and reading. On Fridays, The Write Horse usually stops by for life with horse training, written by Patty Wilber.
This is Doranna Durgin’s WordPlay Blog. I’m glad you’re here–whether it’s to learn more about my books, or chat about dogs, horses, and reading. On Fridays, The Write Horse usually stops by for life with horse training, written by Patty Wilber.
It should be, in some fashion, totally illegal for a sky to taunt the way ours has of late. Especially when we’re going on three years of drought, with no measurable precipitation in the past 8 months.
(That means it might threaten and it might spit random drops, but those dry up pretty much before they even hit the ground. Even now, it’s rumbling thunder in the background of a dark, dramatic sky, but that only means chances for lightning-strike fires.)
Well, Mother Nature being who she is, we’ve seen plenty of drama skies and nothing by way of…you know…rain. Damaging wind storms, yes; amazingly unseasonal cold snaps (12F in early May), yes. But the wet stuff, no.
I know that other parts of the country are moldering away, overflowing, and aching for sunshine…but after three years, we’re drying up and heading toward blowing away.
It’s not a case of discomfort or inconvenience. It’s trees weakened and dying, forests vulnerable to beetle damage, flowers losing permanent ground to invading foreign species…birds no longer seen and bears moving in on people. It’s loss of variety, loss of species, loss of grassland–and for ranchers, potential loss of a way of life.
And if you think that doesn’t matter to you, you’d be wrong. It all matters. The world is robust and resilient, but once it reaches the point of going past resilience, it just plain breaks. And since we live in the world, that matters to all of us.
(Another way it matters to us, for anyone who did not mourn the passing of predators from our land, or the imbalances we’ve created in nature? Check this out:
According to parasitologists, 2013 will see an explosion of tick populations in many areas of the U.S…Two types of ticks are especially problematic: the deer tick, also called the black-legged tick, and the Lone Star tick. These ticks have now invaded about half the U.S., and in many states both are present. Together, these species are associated with nearly a dozen tick-borne illnesses, including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis.”
Irony for me, as I try to deal with the long-term-unto-chronic Lyme disease already in my life.
I hope those of you getting all those rains, and all those awful storms, find relief in your weather, too. But if you’re like me–even if you’ve been a flower child all along–you’re finding yourself more and more inclined to make resource management decisions as if they matter in the big picture.
Coincidentally, in my email today:
Advisory: HIGH FIRE DANGER WARNING TODAY FROM 12 TO 8 PM MDT IN BERNALILLO COUNTY & ADDITIONAL FIRE WEATHER WATCH THURS AFTERNOON THROUGH THURS EVE
This is for the vibrant little Papillion named Java (Black Mtn Cup Of Joe RA MX MXB MXJ MJS), who should still be here.
I should string that along, maybe–hey, I do write romance!–but I’ll be good. Of course I’m talking about dogs.
Here’s something I found myself saying in a conversation elsewhere this past week:
The conversation had been triggered, of course, by yet another …encounter… out in our neighborhood.
Picture, if you will, three Beagles running alongside a bike, neatly placed to heel and at the end of a brisk exercise session. Picture a quiet rural street in high desert grasslands and the end of a hot day with the sun just down, bringing coolness and a nice breeze.
Now picture the bike rider as she hears that ominous sound from behind–the charging footfalls of a large, loose dog, punctuated by grunts of sincere effort. I AM COMING TO GET YOU.
This is not a time for playing nice.
In general, I find I’m done playing nice.
Leash your dog. Contain your dog. Take responsibility for your dog. Keep your dog away from me and mine. You are not special snowflake and your dog is not a special snowflake–no, he isn’t–and the rules, both legal and moral, apply to you, too.
Because one day, your dog will come home broken, and I will be the one who did it. I am prepared to do it. I have the means to do it. And even though I’ll probably go home and throw up afterward, it won’t be my fault that it happened.
It’ll be your fault.
(Special shout-out to the young man on UNM campus who, after all four of his large, unleashed dogs had uncontrollably charged a canine friend of mine, carried on extensively at volume. “Wahh! You scared the %$#! out of my dogs!” Because my response is this: “GOOD. Then I did it right.” My defense tool that day? A batch of waving utility marker flags.)
Prevention, it seems, is everything. When it comes to managing dogs at home, or greeting dogs in public. It’s all too cute for me to say we should all practice safe petting, but you know what? We all should.
So do not pet my dog (or any dog) without asking; do not bend close and loom over him or stick your hand in his face. What are you, three years old? Be nice!
(And don’t be surprised, if you do ask to pet, should I smile and say not now, thanks. There are often things going on in their world that you may not have noticed–such as the fact that we’re actively training.)
While we’re at it, practice safe pettiquete in general. Do not let your dog get close to mine, or sniff mine, or offer an unyielding stare and stiff tail from up close and personal. I don’t care if your dog wants to be friends. Mine are busy being with me. When it’s time for them to play, I’ll arrange a playdate with their beloved pals–dogs I know and trust and love.
If you or your dog are in my space, you or your dog are the problem. I’m not going to take chances with my dogs in order to spare yours.
In this most recent case, the charging behemoth in question had an abrupt change of heart when he saw my reaction, which is practiced and unequivocal and very, very fierce.
Not that it’s always possible to stop tragedy, and I know that. I don’t go out without some way to protect us, but sometimes things just happen too fast when people think the laws don’t apply to them or their dogs; sometimes the dogs are just too big, and too aggressive.
As Java’s grieving family well knows.
Longshot was born in September 2010, and he had a contracted tendon (see last week’s post, The Longshot Update for more info.)
He recovered and went home.
Then I got a yearling (Lacey), so Longshot came to live at my house to keep her company.
Then they turned two and I got another one (LT), and the three of them went to summer camp (See The Three Amigos).
Then Longshot went home for the winter (Lacey had LT for company–plus I got Toots, who is just one year older…do we sense an ominous (for the bank account) horse accumulation trend??–LT and Toots are prospects–for sale–really! Just make me an offer (a really big offer!)
And now, enough of the back story; we will get back to the real story: Longshot is back, and I am getting on his back, and his back is not up against the wall.
I started and showed his full sister Squirt and his half brother Tabooli (same mom). I did a tune up on his cousin Fancy and a tune up on his half sister Cinco (same dad), so I am familiar with the blood line. Plus, I am familiar with Longshot himself since he has spent a lot of time living here.
I figured Longshot’d be a drama-less start.
Since mid May, we have one day of ground work and he has been under saddle 19 times.
Longshot is not the super sensitive type and he has a bigger “not doing THAT” (i.e. stubborn streak) than any of his relatives. But he rarely bucks, even when he plays.
If he is stressed, he simply quits moving. This can make him somewhat frustrating to train, but it means he is unlikely to come apart.
He will spook at things that appear strange, but he has a very short flight distance–he won’t go far.
He likes the company of the other horses (unlike Toots who is more of a loner), which does mean there can be buddying up/ herd bound issues especially when he is in unfamiliar territory.
So, that first day, I tossed a saddle on him and he flinched a little, but not much.
He worked in the round pen with a drag rope, some tarps, a butt rope etc. The usual array of objects I like a horse to try out before I try them out from on top.
I do not want them careening around the place in a panic with all that stuff flapping, so I keep them on a line until I an reasonably sure they can manage.
Longshot really did not care.
I messed with the stirrups, stood in them and since he didn’t raise his head, swish his tail, or move his feet and then he closed his eyes (I swear he’s narcoleptic!) by day two I got on.
Moving? Who needs to move? But then he did kind of amble around.
Here are my notes from day three–Ride two :
“Ride 2-well he is not in a hurry about anything although he will go. We already know he doesn’t startle at much–but that also means he doesn’t respond too much! He walked and trotted with me on him. His ground work was markedly better than the 10th. He seems to need a soak-in period to process what I want. I used reins today and he was of course clueless, but I did get walk, trot, back, whoa, some turning, move the butt and decent sideways. Most of it was pretty kindergarten, but hey that is a lot for ride 2–and absolutely no drama in his body–well except he argued with his face because he did not know what I wanted…”
By ride four we were in the arena and he showed a little life by spooking at the arena drag, and he was moving his parts enough to open (but not shut) a rope gate. And he could trot. And steer–sort of. And stop. All of it a bit begrudgingly. Just think of the sound they do on TV when a person is on downer drugs and people’s voices are distorted, slow and deep. I have no idea how to put letters together for that sound. But trying to convince Longshot to move any part freely was an effort.
Truthfully, I was a little depressed about this and I kept comparing him to Squirt who was super laid back but eager to try new things. That comparison thing is bad! It only gets in the way of seeing what is right for the horse under you.
But take the bridge for example. On day five, I figured we’d try the bridge. I mean SQUIRT loped on ride three, opened and shut a gate on ride four and went over the bridge like it was not even there.
(Hello? To self! We already know that Longshot is not Squirt…)
But being the optimist (or just as stubborn as Longshot), we went for the bridge. And, yep we went over the bridge. Never sweetly, but at least he showed SOME try.
On ride 10, we had a turning point. I put a cavesson on him (you can see it in the picture) to entice him to keep his mouth shut when pressure is applied to the bit and was using a training fork just to keep him from putting his nose in the sky. We went to the round pen to see if loping was in his future.
We did some warm up. It was ok until I asked him to move his shoulder to the left. Nope, not doing it.
We got in a fight.
I fought dirty.
I used my spurs.
And, huh. His attitude became a whole lot more compliant.
So, we loped. Very nice.
Then my erstwhile (is that the right word? erstwhile?) cow partner, otherwise known as Fancy’s Dad or Seasoned Hunting Friend #2, asked if I wanted to go to the Brazos Box Ranch.
How many horses can I bring??? (ok, so I get demerits for rudeness!)
Well then, it had to be Longshot.
Why on Earth would I take a horse with 12 rides ever in his whole life to the ranch to ride?
Because it would work. And Squirt’s dad took HER to the back country on 20 rides by me and only one ride by him. Not that I’m preparing to compare.
Ride 13, at the ranch. I went out alone towards dusk.
Well, no one else wanted to go and he’d been there over night and had done nothing all day while we set up fence.
He was a little squirrely leaving his pen mate, Squirt, but as soon as he got over the hill, he was fine.
Until we got to the stream. He was alarmed by the whole idea of a stream. Why would that water MOVE like that?
Ok, so first we walked along it (crabwise, as maybe it was going to rise up out of the bed and suck us in), but then the trail went across, so I got off, he snacked on some grass, he put his foot in and followed me over, just like that.
And then he rushed up the bank. Whereupon my rein broke.
Seriously? Ugh. I knew there was an issue with that rein and I had failed to fix it at home. Oh well. Tied it in a knot to the bit and got back on.
Rode down farther and traipsed across a few more streams. La de da.
Fixed my rein back at the cabin. Baling twine is useful.
The next day, we headed out to check a fence job.
We crossed more water.
He wore saddle bags for the first time.
We saw an elk calf! So new that its instincts were to freeze in place.
We went cross country over a lot of dead fall (and he stepped over everything, Ho Hum), through a bog, and up a very steep rocky ridge.
Except for getting tired on the steep hill and complaining that his muscles hurt and he should not be required to move his legs any more, no obstacle was an issue. He was extremely sure footed.
Nice view from the top!
My only complaint is that Longshot is a VERY slow walker. He has a slow jog, too–nice if he were destined for a western pleasure show future, but (hopefully, for us once and will be again cow punchers) his future may be ranch work.
We rode the next (and last) day at the walk, trot and lope on the trail, and since he did water the first ride at the ranch, saddle bags and varied and challenging terrain the second day, for his third day learning experience: Hobbles.
After the ride, I put them on, stepped back, and he began to eat. Ho Hum.
When he went to move, he carefully placed one foot and then the other. Ho Hum.
He took to that better than Squirt. (Not that I am comparing!)
Thinking old Longshot is gonna make a horse.
By Patty Wilber First Published in January, 2011
6/2013. Just wanted to refresh everyone on who Longshot is, so that next week when I talk about his training progress, there will be some context!
1/2011. A while back I said that red boys were my LEAST favorite horse color/gender combo. So this year I fell for not one, but TWO red boys.
Winston, my midlife crisis, who, based on a two second decison making process, came to me from a kill pen in Abilene, TX, got healthy and and is now in a fine new home,
and little Longshot who was born in September with contracted tendons in one front foot.
Research indicated that a splint might help him, so his Dad gave it a go.
The thing that put me over the edge was the absolute center of calm this foal possessed. “Either that or he’s missing a part of his brain,” says his Dad.
It was not clear that the initial splints were going to work, so Longshot ended up at Albuquerque Equine with Dr. Dralle. Dr. Dralle recommended a dose of tetracycline to loosen the tendons, along with more splints.
Dr Dralle warned that despite the gauze, cotton, vet wrap, vet bubble wrap, and custom shaping, the PVC splint could put pressure on the tender skin of the foal, causing damage. He suggested would be best if the splint stints were no more than 12 hours in length.
After his vet visit, Longshot came to my temporary “rehab clinic”. (His Dad was going out of town).
With the invaluable help of my husband, the splints were changed. This usually involved Longshot laying on top of Jim, asleep, while I apologized for my slow splint removal due to the increasing dullness of my scissors. (It is really hard to cut off layers and layers of elasticon tape!)
Dr. Dralle came to see him after a few days and because the tendons around his hoof were still very tight, we decided to go for a second dose of tetracycline. This pretty much maxed out the tetracycline option and the vet budget, so we kept our fingers crossed.
One of my splint jobs did cause a pressure spot on the back of his leg, but over all it didn’t seem that there was much damage to his skin due to the splints.
He went home.
He started shedding skin off his leg (there WAS tissue damage).
He limped and laid around a lot. Mellow? Too mellow.
Banamine (a pain killer) really seemed to help him.
He got a respiratory infection. He rattled.
The hoof on his bad leg wants to grow WAY too much toe, so while checking on his respiratory issues, I held him (he fell asleep) and he got his toe rasped a little. (There is not much hoof to work with, so just a little rasping is all that can be done.)
Two courses of antibiotics got the rattling under control, and he has gotten stronger.
I went to see him last Sunday, to help with another trim job and to get pictures for this post!
The bad leg is hairier than the other legs. I have seen horses in poor body condition grow excessively long coats, and girls with anorexia may develop downy hair growth called lanugo (which is especially noticable on their arms), but I didn’t realize that extra hair growth might occur in specific locations like this, apparently in response to trauma.
The coronet band, where the hoof grows, also seems to have sustained some pressure damage. It is growing out normally in all but one spot.
Maybe the vintage hoof dressing is helping (price tag of 2 bucks for a big jar so you know it has got to be OLD).
In 2013, I have a spot reserved to begin his training. Either he is going to be the easiest horse I have ever trained, or he is going to sleep through the whole thing!
Tune in next week to find out!!!
Dear AKC: This one’s for you.
(A Dog Agility Blog Event: Improving Agility Organizations: I’m not picking on the AKC–it happens to be the agility venue in which I primarily participate. Being active in agility, obedience, rally, and tracking means such choices must be made. (!!) )
As agility trainers and handlers, we’re constantly re-evaluating what works with our dogs. At least, we should be. When things don’t work, then we change something. And we do it quickly enough to keep small problems from becoming big problems, or else…boy, do we got big problems!
Another factor paramount in training is consistency. Not only consistency in defining and reinforcing behaviors, but consistency in our criteria…consistency in who we are as trainers. Our dogs know what to expect from us.
Or they should–!
Well, people are trainable creatures, too.
We respond to our circumstances and our experiences, and we make decisions based on those factors. When trialing experiences are profoundly inconsistent, it matters. When frustrations go unaddressed, it really matters!
Last year I wrote a r/a/n/t/ post about the last T2B course I ever ran, and why–after too many intensely technical and demotivating courses that didn’t in the least fit the published intent of the game–I quit entering my dogs. I would love to take part in this game…if it only stayed more consistently true to its purpose.
I stopped running FAST for the same reason. When it takes a calculator and a batch of experienced handlers bent over the course map, desperate to find any potentially successful strategy, then it really kinda isn’t fun any more. It’s more like “taking things too far.”
So, dear AKC, pay attention to the courses you approve–and the message those courses give our judges about what you’re looking for. Please make sure they fit the spirit of the game as you defined it in the first place. Consistency is your friend, and inconsistency is just really annoying.
And when you hear this feedback–any feedback–not just from one person, but from a steady trickle of people, it behooves you to act on it at more than a glacial pace. Because, seriously? It took you a decade to institute the PACH? I remember bemoaning the lack of it at the very first trial when preferred dogs were running. It took how long to allow grandfathering from regular classes to preferred? Both logistics that were more than sensible and obvious from the get-go?
And how long did it take before we didn’t have to prove our jump heights on the spot? And while we’re at it, when will it be possible to shift from a B-class to an A-class? Because, seriously, you’d rather write Letters of Shame taking away runs instead of allowing the easy entry fix?
These are the kinds of things that matter to us. They change the decisions we make about our entries, about our dogs’ careers, about sometimes about our interest in the sport.
(You can bet I would have made different decisions about my limited entry money if I’d known the PACH would be grandfathered in a year after Belle retired–she was 100 points short of PACH2 not because she wasn’t perfectly capable of earning that title, but because with multiple dogs to support, I based my entry choices on the extended absence of any such title.)
At the least, the failure to respond to obvious clamor engenders a mutual lack of respect; at the most, it pushes people away. And an organization like AKC should know better, if only from all that mutual love of dogs. Re-evaluation and response…change, when necessary…and as necessary. Not a decade later.
Consistency and responsiveness. Because as with handlers and our dogs, it’s not just about managing, it’s about thriving. And it’s about creating a kind of teamwork where handlers, clubs, and trial secretaries feel they matter.
It has nothing to do with our dedication to our dogs, or to our training, or to doing the very best for them–those things are ours to nurture–it has to do with that next layer, the competition layer. Because when we matter, we invest in what we’re doing with all our hearts…sort of like our dogs. And when we don’t, sometimes we just stand in the middle of the ring and stare at you and think, very loudly, “What jump?”
by Rena Beagle
My name is Rena Beagle. I am New here. I came from a place where things are Very Different than they are here. I did not have Boy Beagles in my pack, and that is a good thing now. But the ground There also had softness and dampness and greenness, and Here it has dryness and dustiness and pokey parts. I have not Approved of those things yet.
I miss my Past Mom. She found me in a shelter and she Gave me a Home. She taught me agility and obedience and took me to Show Off what I could do in trials. I run in AKC with a PAL listing. That is Purebred Alternative Listing. That means everyone knows I am a Beagle even if I do not have Papers.
(One day I will tell you how MORE people know I am a Beagle than they know my brothers are Beagles. It gives the new mom a funny face.)
So I am a CGC dog and I have my Open Agility standard and jumpers titles (that is in the middle between novice and excellent) and I have my obedience CDX (that is in the middle between novice and utility). But then things Changed and we could not play this way. I was sad about this and my Past Mom was sad about this.
That is why I came Here.
I am still getting used to Being Here. The Boy Beagles were not hard to train, but the new mom is taking longer. She has Different Ways and she says we will do mostly Foundation Activities until we know each other better. That part is Okay. She is Complicated. She says I can boss the boys but I cannot Boss Her.
I have not Approved of this yet.
I am writing my Past Mom about these things. She writes me back. I will Share my part with you so you can see what I Mean. If you like to hear my Thoughts and my Letters, maybe I will come back and do more.
And now I will give you a photo that is of me sharing space with the new mom and our new pack. We are a Good Pack.
By Patty Wilber
Cometa’s eye has really improved since last week!
His eye actually opens more than that but since he has been in the pirate mask, his eye has been in the dark so the light makes him squint.
He is on eye steroids for a few more days and then we will see if he can see. I have not opened the vet invoice from Wednesday yet…
And now for our feature presentation!
The Pecos Chapter of the Back Country Horsemen worked in the Pecos Wilberness…no no I mean “Wilderness” this past weekend and one of our tasks was to haul 600 pounds of trace element salt from Jack’s Creek to Beatty’s Cabin (about 16 miles round trip).
What does “worth your salt” mean anyway?
Apparently, “centuries ago salt was so valuable that many people used to have part of their pay in salt.
It’s mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible (Ezra) in the context of the pay of the Persian king’s servants.
According to the Roman writer, Pliny the Elder, Roman soldiers are also supposed to have been paid in salt.
It’s also where the word ‘salary’ is supposed to come from (the Latin word ‘salarium’).” (from http://uk.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080125125348AA6VLMV)
The salt is for the Big Horn Sheep. Someone thinks the sheep are worth their salt!
I knew the sheep were introduced to the Pecos area and I knew the sheep liked salt, but didn’t know more than that. Here is what I found out.
“Bighorn sheep were extirpated from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the early 1900′s (Bailey 1931, Barker 1976). Restoration efforts began with a translocation from Canada 13 in 1932, but no bighorn sheep survived past the mid-1930′s (Lange 1978). A second translocation of 24 bighorn sheep in 1965-66 from Banff National Park, Alberta and from the now extinct Sandia population was successful. In 2002 this herd was estimated to have 340 bighorn sheep based on results of a helicopter survey, hunter-guide reports, and mathematical modeling.
“Considerable human interaction, driven primarily by a craving for salt (Hass 1992), has been reduced in the Pecos Wilderness population by consistently providing trace element salt blocks to Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep (NMDGF files).” From the Long Range Plan for the Management of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep in New Mexico 2005-2014
Livestock salt probably comes in a few forms, but the two types I am familiar with are trace element salt blocks (which I have always called “mineralized”) and, just plain salt.
The plain variety is white, and some publication I read somewhere sometime suggested that there was no reason to spend the extra money on mineralized salt for your equines, so I buy the plain. Every pen has a block of salt and some of the horses (Cometa in particular) really like to lick the blocks, making artistic grooves…
The mineralized salt is reddish/brownish, and that is the sort we were to haul.
I have purchased salt in 10 pound blocks and 50 pound blocks, and I know of people who have purchased “designer” salt in loose form (for a gob of money, too).
Our sheep salt was in 50 pound blocks.
We saddled and pack-saddled and tied on our saddle bags and cantle bags and pommel bags and coats and water and radios and spot locators–yes we were (over?) prepared. Then we loaded 100 pounds onto each of the horses: Lacey, Squirt, and Cinco; we put 100 pounds on one mule and 200 pounds on Chance (the other mule).
Chance was wearing a metal frame pack and he thought the whole thing was a little odd, so he unloaded the first a-salt (via various airs above ground manuevers) in fairly short order.
Once reloaded though, he was regrounded.
I box hitched Lacey and Squirt’s loads and the thick and unwieldy rope on Squirt’s lash cinch gave me fits. There is a new rope for that rig sitting on my kitchen table at this very moment.
Then we headed out! Richard and Peter both ponied two animals each (and I was kind of proud of Squirt, since I trained her to ride and pack–she figured out how to be the second horse in the string without a hitch–wait–she had a box hitch–oh well, you know what I mean!)
I ponied Lacey, and we had two out riders, Siri and Julie.
It was balmy and sunny–just the perfect temperature for riding. The trail is steep climbing out of Jack’s Creek and then opens out onto a lovely meadow.
Despite the dry (there was NO recorded runoff for the Pecos this year–0% of normal?) there were still several small creeks to be crossed. After Canyon de Chelly, Toots and Squirt were pretty good over water. Lacey has always been willing to follow Toots and only jumped the muddy stuff once or twice.
Toots and Lacey are both good drinkers, but with her head down like that, Lacey stepped over the lead rope more than once. Then Siri would gamely get off and fix it for me!
After a couple of hours, we made the forest service cabin just south of Beatty’s Cabin. We unloaded.
We had a late lunch break on the porch at Beatty’s Cabin and then headed back.
We made good time back–I THOUGHT Toots was a fast walker, but it turns out she is only Medium Fast. Richard’s lead mare can really step out, and Toots is going to have to step up to keep up!
Fun trip and I know my girls are definitely worth their salt!
I will be out of town next week, so will post a rerun blog about Longshot as a foal with his contracted tendon. He is now 2.5 and the next new post will feature “The Training of Longshot”.
Here’s the thing about me and the blade…at any given time, one of us is just a little bit mad.
Usually it’s the blade, but you never really know.
Anheriel is its name, and it thinks a lot of itself. I suppose it has reason, the little bastard. I didn’t understand its nature when it latched onto my brother, and neither did he. Eventually it drove him to the wild road.
That’s the nice way to say it. Bug-fuck crazy is another. Or just plain evil…take your pick. So when my brother died and the blade moved onto me, I knew what was coming.
I’m fighting it, let’s put it that way.
But damn, the thing comes in handy, too. How could it not? Yeah, it goes looking for trouble. That’s its whole gig. Elemental spirit trapped in a blade and turned into living metal, now on a search for redemption. So yeah, it can take the form of whatever bladed weapon it wants. Anheriel hangs out as a pocket knife most of the time, but if someone calls up the asshole factor, they’re gonna be looking at a specialty tactical blade–agate handle, sweet sharp blade, strong cut-back…deadly.
I told you it thinks a lot of itself.
Now and then it has an excuse to show up as a saber. It likes that. Things never end well for the other guy when that happens.
They never end well for the blade wielder, either. Not in the long run. A demon blade needs a human to get the job done–the looking for trouble, the resolving it. The redemption. But the damned things can’t help but be what they are–insidious, devious darkness. So they get into a wielder’s head…into his soul. They use up wielders and throw them away, hunting for the one who’ll be strong enough to hold fast. Because it’s always there–that little whisper, that little suggestion to go too far. To take advantage of the strengths it provides. Because unless the bad guy has a blade, he won’t be faster than I am. Simple truth, that. And if he hurts me, I’m not staying down. Healing fast is a bitch and I pay the price, but I can take a licking and come back for more. And the way the blade cleans up the scene…it’s so easy to take that one step too far. To go from stopping trouble to being the trouble.
That’s okay. As it turns out, I intend to be the one who’s strong enough–maybe the first one. And I’ve already gotten this far.
So what am I doing here? You’d think I’d have enough of this kind of thing. But one thing I’ve learned from Natalie is this: If I’m going to fight this bastard of a blade, I’ve got to get in its face. I don’t wait for it to come to me with its trouble–not any longer. I go looking. And I make my own choices. And this little gathering…hell, yeah, it’ll keep that demon busy.
Hear that, Anheriel? Bring it on.
So there you are. Devin James, ladies and germs.
And as it happens, I’m giving away a couple of copies of the book along with the Smackdown blog. The giveaway closes at the end of the month, and it uses one of those easy Rafflecopter entry systems–it’s over on Devin’s post at the Supernatural Smackdown, where I also had fun providing Devin’s unique stats. Go for it!
By Patty Wilber
Good News first! Progeny #1 graduated from Loyola Law School last weekend!
Her boyfriend (Mr. Chocolate Covered Bacon Roses) was able to fly in from Hawaii, Progeny #2 was there, and so were her wonderful grandparents (my mom and dad), so we had a most excellent weekend!
Semi Good News second: The Law School Grad immediately (Tuesday) moved to Hawaii with the Bacon Roses Guy and her cat Baxter, which is FABULOUS for them. On the other hand, my heart hates that she is so far away (not that I was jetting off to LA all that often to see her when she was there).
I think all my emotion is a result of the fact that she is entering a New Era in her life–kind of like when mom’s cry because their kids are off to kindergarten. Except I didn’t shed a tear when they went to kindergarten. Nope. Not a one. I had trouble when they graduated from college (!!), and now this moving to Hawaii thing! Go figure.
And now for the Bad News: Cometa broke his head.
(He got in an argument with his pen mate, it seems. Apparently, The Boss of the Universe is now Boss of the Universe, Except for That One Other Boss.)
On Monday, as we were flying home from the graduation, I got a call from my stall cleaner, who, while shoveling horse excrement, actually took the time to look at the horses. He saw Cometa’s eye was swollen. I was impressed. Many people are not that observant.
We got home in the evening, thank goodness and …EW!
Eye didn’t like it. Cometa was eating and acting normally, but he needed some vet help.
Next day, the vet came. She also said, “EW! ” and then, “That looks bad.” Great. Now I feel much better (or not!) I was hoping she’d lie to me, at least a little.
Look how swollen he is above his eye and how his third eyelid is protruding. He could not move his eyelids. He had a bit of blood in his left nostril.
She sedated him and peeled apart his ginormus eyelids. She dilated his eye with atropine and was able to see that his eyeball was still intact and his lens appeared whole. There is perhaps some internal damage.
Then she gently palpated his forehead, which exhibited “crepitus”…creaking and popping noises above one of his sinuses. He did not break the bone around his eye, but the bone above that sinus–a bit smushed.
The fracture probably contributed to his exceedingly gross eyelid edema.
The vet gave him IV (in the vein) banamine (a pain killer with anti-inflammatory properties), and globbed a lot of antibiotic (two kinds) in and on the eye to both prevent infection and keep all the protruding tissue moist.
Eye put a fly mask on him for the afternoon and a friend luckily had a horsey pirate mask (because she recently had a horse with an eye ulcer–on the left–same side), so by afternoon, we had the boy re-gooped,
Too bad it is not closer to Halloween.
Learned this song when I worked at horse camp: K-Arrow! Lucky so now, 33 (yikes 33?) years later, I can put it in a blog.
Meanwhile, the horse is on a banamine 1x/day, antibiotic application 4x/day and we will wait until the swelling goes down enough to reassess the damage.
He is feeling pretty perky--banging the gate at meal-times to make sure no one forgets him (as if), keeping his (one) eye open for unsecured gates, and begging me to let him out with the youngsters in the north lot.
NO Cometa! Your eye is Not Good, your nose is still leaking a little blood, and you have a divot in your head!
By Thursday, some improvement had occurred.
He may lose some vision, but that remains to been “seen”.
The vet will return next week and if all is going well, we can start him on steroids (in his eye, oh joy!), to further reduce inflammation and speed healing.
Eye yi yi.
By Patty Wilber with my assistant, Lupo
Part II of the Canyon de Chelly Adventure!
There has been a dearth of moisture in the Land of Enchantment, making New Mexico the state with the USDA’s most dire drought rating.
So, on Day 2 of our trip, in Arizona, just barely across the border, we awoke to rain. Ok, that is overstating it. We awoke to a slight drizzle. Haven’t seen that in months. But no matter, We, being Back Country Horsemen (four of us) or Experienced Distance Riders (one of us) were Prepared to Ride, even if the drizzle progressed to actual rain. We did not drive all this way, get health certificates and Coggin’s tests for the horses (which no one actually checked) to get washed out!
But first, JD’s tossed shoe (from his attempts to out-compete Peter’s mare, Squirt for possession of my mare, Toots) needed tacked back on. Our guide, Justin Tso, got his cousin to come do it first thing.
I waited it out in the “comfort” of the trailer.
Then we got going. We loaded the horses in the trailers and drove to our trail head because the day’s trip was to be a one way ride down into the canyon back to our lodgings. We would then shuttle up to get our vehicles.
Fortunately, there were many amenities at the parking spot (or not).
If you look to the far lower right of the map, you can see a horse icon. That is where we parked. We rode down Bat Canyon (farther right on the map) into Canyon de Chelly and back to the Thunderbird Lodge (left of the map) along the Canyon floor .
The aroma of the sage in the damp was invigorating. It made me sneeze! We rode towards Bat Canyon. We did not see any bats. We reached the edge.
On Saturday before we left, I took Marcia for a test ride on JD (he’d been here a couple months). We went into a nearby “canyon”–very small compared to Canyon de Chelly–but with a rocky and technical descent. She called me ” The Crazy Rock Lady” (or something similar).
Take our Saturday “practice” descent of 50 feet and expand into two miles.
The Bat Canyon trail dropped down along a spine with a lovely CLIFF on the left but a comfortable trail bed–except for the that one rock slide spot where the horses could slip, lose their footing and plunge over the edge! The scenery would be lovely on the way by…
Made that. No horse issues. Human breathing issues.
Then the trail hair-pinned left, and veered very steeply, clinging to the canyon side. The track was ancient. Justin said perhaps dating to the times of Anasazi (they were the makers of the cliff-side ruins.)
The good point about the rest of the Bat
out of Hell Canyon trail was that it had a berm, so I never felt like I was going to pitch off the edge. However, it was highly eroded, so the foot-bed was anything was smooth. There were huge rocks, small rocks, rocking rocks, tilted rocks, slippy rocks and mini gorges. At no time were all four horse hooves at the same angle. Every step required planning by both the rider and the horse.
Any equine with a poor sense of body awareness or one that was too tightly wound would have ended up sprawled on its knees or with a twisted ankle. Many people might have had the same experience if they were to walk this trail. And, as I mentioned, it was STEEP!
There was nowhere for six animals to comfortably stop, so there was nothing to do but try to maintain an even, measured pace that all the animals could accommodate, and forge ahead. Near the end, several of our trusty steeds were showing signs of muscle fatigue–their legs were quivering. Some us might of been hyperventilating.
Toots, the squat tank, is so muscular and low to the ground, she’s a like a little ATV! She handled it really well–and brag brag–then went to a show on May 11th and won Ranch Pleasure, took a second in Ranch Trail, and a third in Reining!)
JD was also magnificent. So, may be I’m not so crazy? In fact, four of our five horses have covered my “crazy rock lady trails”, three of them extensively. I use those trails for training because it is interesting for the horses while helping them learn to use their bodies and watch where they are going. It is good for the minds of the show horses and boy did it help on this trail!
There are no pictures of the descent. We had to steer!
The rest of the ride was easy and spectacular!
According to Justin, there was a woman that used to live near this spire and she wove rugs with the spider pattern. I know very little about Navajo rugs, and did not find anything listed as the “Spider Pattern” in a quick search. Apparently, there is no one left who knows how to do this pattern. The rock is named after her.
On Day 2 we covered nearly 21 miles!
On Day 3, we rode to Little White House Canyon–see map. We rode along the paved rode with cars whizzing up behind us. I found that a little unnerving and was happy that Tulip was bringing up the rear when the motorcycle cavalcade roared by. All the horses handled the traffic well. We cut South and got out on some flat rock and wide open spaces.
Then we hit sand dunes. Think those are marked on the map.
Little White House Canyon was smaller and more intimate than Canyon de Chelly. It also gets far less tourist use, so it was just us. There were, of course, lovely rock formations.
And the Little White House Ruin.
This is a stand of Russian Olive that has invaded,choking out the native vegetation, but it did make a nice fore-ground for the photo!
Removal of the Russian Olive has brought the water table up quite a bit in Canyon de Chelly!
On the way back, Justin pointed out an ancient trail from Little White House Canyon to White House Ruin in Canyon de Chelly. Not enough time to ride that, but it sounded intriguing!
Or exploring Canyon de Muerte (the northern branch), or riding to the end (37 miles) on a two day trip…or…for something completely different, maybe Nevada?
There are so many places to explore! I sure enjoyed this trip with a great group of friends and a bunch of horses I also know personally (especially Toots! Thanks Wendy!).