Where would you live in Fiction?

I read a LOT of books. Being that I am a scientist, the vast majority of what I read is termed ‘non-fiction’ and is almost always hard science, natural history, or, lately, history. For instance, the last non-fiction books I read are “The Third Horseman” (the Spanish flu epidemic), “Spooky Action at a Distance” (quantum physics and entanglement) and “A Genetic Switch” (the mechanics of a genetic switch. The last two being so thick and chewy that I had to read the first several chapters of both of them three times before I ‘got it’. )

My husband reads, too. His specialties are anything natural history and photography. Consequently, most of our furniture consists of good reading lamps, some comfortable and well worn easy chairs under them, and 14 or 15 bookshelves stuffed with (at last count) over 3000 books. Any burglar breaking into my house is going to be sorely disappointed as there is nothing to steal.

After the New Year, tired of swallowing a diet of shock, disgust and dismay at the filth and destruction wrought by President Moron and his Republican suckups, I needed a break. As a kid and young adult, I read a lot of fiction, most of it devoted to animals in general, horses in specificity, some historical fiction, and science fiction. “Shogun” was my favorite, but Kipling’s “Kim” and “The Jungle Books” will probably be three of the five I intend to have cremated with me. Got to have something to read in the Great Beyond, right?

Thinking that I’d enjoy retreating from this insanity of real life, I picked up a trilogy I’d not read in years…Anne McCaffrey’s “Dragonriders of Pern”. Then I found that she’d written a finale volume titled “All the Weyrs of Pern.” A Trilogy Plus One.

I immersed myself in the four books. Oh, my, what a wonderful vacation!

You know that the book was a good one when you miss the characters (and their world) when you finish the book(s).

I miss the dragons. I miss the agrarian world that is Pern. I miss a world that has plenty of technology but no guns.

White Dragon

This is Ruth, a mutation of the regular dragons. Ruth is the only white dragon known.

My stars, if I could, I’d live on Pern. I don’t care if girls aren’t supposed to ride anything but goldens or green dragons, I’d want a brown. Big enough..like my horse..to be effective but not so silly or hormonally addled as a green, and not a breeding female like a gold. I’m picky as to who I sleep with and I’m not interested in being Weyrleader.

dragon size

Relative sizes of dragons. White dragons are about the size of a horse.

That, and I’d want a fire-lizard, too.

Ultimately, were I able to live in a fictional land, it would be Pern.

So here is my question to you:

Considering the fiction you’ve read, if it were possible to dive into the pages and into that world, where would YOU want to live?

And why?

Where would you live in Fiction?


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The things horses fear

Originally posted 2013.

These days, horses don’t have much to fear. Oh, there are the usual things: horse trailers, veterinarians, unexplained noises, etc. But the things they evolved to fear: lions, tigers and bears (oh my), are no longer threats to them.

Despite living in safe civilization, they still know there are things out there that want to eat them.

An acquaintance of mine bought a farm near Wolf Haven (a sanctuary for wolves in western Washington.). Her horses had never once, in their entire lives, heard wolves howl. Wolves had been exterminated in Washington State over a hundred fifty years ago.  Nevertheless, their first night in their new barn, they panicked when the wolves began to sing. It took them over a week to become accustomed to the howling.

Horses don’t understand extinction. Her horses, despite living in suburbia, knew instinctively that howling wolves heralded danger.
Millions of years of evolution cannot be erased by a few thousand of domestication.

Like an underused and unchallenged immunity system, if they can’t find something real to fear, horses will make it up.

That made up thing is a Horse Eating Monster.

You can see it for yourself, in any horse you know.

From what I’ve experienced, there are two types of HEMs-visible and invisible.

The most common HEM is the Invisible Horse Eating Monster.  IHEMs are virtually everywhere. They lurk in the most unexpected-and, to us, illogical places.

Every arena I’ve ever been in has an IHEM in it.

I managed to take a picture of an invisible HEM. This 4th level dressage horse has been in this arena so often it probably could do a test with its eyes closed. During this particular test, the horse had passed this point at least five times in the prior five minutes.

Suddenly he stopped-and right after I snapped the picture, he bolted.


Do you see anything?

Me neither.

But I bet this is what the horse saw:


Having seen how velociraptors work in “Jurassic Park”, I’m betting I would have run like a rabbit. Too.

Visible HEM’s are everywhere. They’re simple or complex, animated or inanimate, every day or not so common items that don’t seem to pose a danger-but the horse sees it differently.

What differentiates a common, every day item from a Visible HEM is impossible to discern.  We cannot tell why one horse is terrified of an everyday object and the horse that lives right next to it doesn’t even acknowledge its existence. We can’t even classify them as to what we THINK the horse may fear, and what we subsequently learn it does fear.
Each horse sees things in a different light, I suppose. For instance, I’d not owned my Arab gelding, Jordan, for very long when I got on him, bareback, to ride down our gravel road.

Anyone who’s ever owned one will agree that Arabs are already prone to being spooky. I believe that an Arab isn’t an Arab unless it has a spook a day. Once the requisite spook has erupted, your Arab will then be amenable to your every command.

Jordan was a card carrying, CMK line Arab. I’d already ridden out many of his spooks. As I rode, I saw that one of my neighbors was having a cement driveway poured. I thought, uh, oh, Jordan’s going to spook at that big, noisy, rotating machine.

Pfffft. Jordan passed it as if he’d been foaled next to it.

We continued on and further up the lane, I saw a neighbor’s herd of llamas grazing in their pasture. A hedgerow of Scotch broom separated the fence line from the road-as well as from Jordan’s view.  (He was …ahem…short).

As we passed, seven llama heads reared up, curious to see the horse.
This is what I saw:several llamas

This, obviously, is what Jordan saw:


Suddenly we were flying, me hanging on his mane for dear life, as Jordan fled for home.

I don’t even remember feeling him turn around. One moment he was fine, the next moment he could have beaten Secretariat.

I could never ride him past that pasture again without wondering if he was going to bolt. He never did. I think he was a bit sheepish at bolting at what he later learned were merely animals.

I will admit to a certain amount of pride in that, not only did I ride out his bolt, but also stayed aboard while he galloped home-bareback. I could never get him to run that fast again, either.

Visible HEM’s are all around us. We can see them, but they disguise themselves. The visible ones are things that you and I would never think of fearing. For instance:

Plastic sack

What appears to you to be a simple, plastic shopping bag,looks like THIS to a horse;


I’ve been involved in ‘desensitizing’ or ‘habituation’ sessions. This is an excellent way of teaching a horse that a Visible HEM is really nothing to fear.

Today’s training session involved a stuffed toy animal.  In this one, a big stuffed bunny is being towed behind…and, by backing the horse, pulled TOWARD the horse. That’s Raven in the middle, with Sue on his back, the only one riding ‘English’. Raven wasn’t ‘fraid of no bunnies, but one of the horses was. The picture is fuzzy, I’m sorry to say, but one can still see the doubt all over his face.


After watching the other horses strangle the bunny without problems, that horse was fine.

And then, there are horses that simply have no fear. Horses like Deck.

Deck was one of my neighbor’s horses. His height (16.2) and his feathered pasterns betrayed the draft horse in him, but he was mostly QH-the old fashioned, foundation type QH. The one legible brand of the three on his hide told of having lived and worked under the wide blue Wyoming sky, with the scent of sagebrush and ponderosa pine in his nostrils.

Deck was quite possibly the bravest horse I’d ever known. He was first used in the rodeo, hazing the bucking bulls. Those bulls, hopped up on steroids, their testicles crushed by leather straps, are still furious when they unload their cowboy. They sometimes take it out on anyone in their way.

Deck knew his job was to protect the cowboy on the ground. It didn’t matter if the bull was meaner than Bodacious, Deck would intervene. He clearly thought of cattle as creatures of very little brain, and seemed to get a kick out of teasing the bull into leaving the rider to chase him.

Deck’s next job was to carry rich city dwellers up into the mountains of Montana and Wyoming to hunt elk. He could be counted on to be a calm, unflappable mount. Men who’d never sat on a horse in their lives on the way up into the mountains came down it believing themselves to be ‘natural born horsemen’. It never occurred to them that their suddenly realized ability to ‘really ride’ came solely from Deck’s babysitting.

Deck gained a reputation for being fearless. Nothing frightened him-not lightning strikes in the mountain tops, not the scent of cougars, not the howling of wolves, not packing a freshly killed elk carcass down a mountainside. One time a hungry bear entered the hunting camp, and while all the other horses panicked on the end of their highline, Deck stood there, ears up, tail swishing, at the very end of the picket line (and closest to the bear), glaring at the boar to ‘bring it on’”.

Deck was retired from the outfitting business, and given to the outfitter’s daughter, who lives near me. She and her husband foxhunt, (although in this part of the country, they don’t chase foxes-they chase coyotes.) On the first day of hunt season, her experienced field hunter was lame. She knew Deck had watched her gelding school over fences, but she had no idea how he’d take to the really big obstacles, and the hurly-burly of the chase.

She needn’t have worried. Deck ignored the pack of noisy hounds that surged around his feet.  He hung back at the end of the field of hunters, observing the other horses, until he realized what the objective was. While his style over obstacles would never gain him points in a hunt seat class, he never balked at a single one. He even seemed to enjoy it, although he undoubtedly wondered why they were chasing madly about for no reason he could discern.

It was thought that Deck feared nothing. Not rodeo bulls, not cougars, wolves or bears. Deck feared no gunshots, not the smell of a dead elk, no howling winter blizzard, not a trailer or a jump.

He was trustworthy and gentle-so much so that the woman put her year old daughter on his bare back and led them, teaching her daughter to ride.

Then, one day, a HEM entered the barn.

Deck, who’d been minding his own business in his stall, took one look at it and bolted. He was so terrified he broke through the wooden paddock fence and ran as far as the property line, (about fifty acres). There he stood by the fence and trembled, refusing to come in even when he could hear dinner being served. Only after dark did he allow my neighbor to coax him back to the barn, slowly, one step at a time. It took almost an hour to get him to enter his stall. For days afterwards, the slightest unusual sound would send him running to the end of his paddock. He was never the same after that. Perhaps it was his age-he was in his mid-twenties by then? His courage had left him. He’d finally seen a Horse Eating Monster.

The woman said it broke her heart to see this gallant old horse terrorized…but she had to laugh, too. The HEM that had so badly frightened Deck belonged to her toddler.

Here is a picture of it.

corn popper

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The Warmblood Mammoth

It’s late January. The days are lengthening, although it’s still cold, and rainy.

You don’t think of late January as the beginning of spring. We still have three months of possible snow, ice, and always, more rain.

But, in these days of climate warming, the birds are responding by starting to sing earlier. A house wren has been singing all week, and yesterday I heard robins beginning to practice. A pair of Anna’s hummingbirds coming to the feeder we put under a heat lamp on the back porch.

Hooray, spring!

But then, a single swipe of Raven’s hide makes me say. Damn it. Spring already.


Raven is a registered Hanoverian Mammoth, if his coat is any judge. The clip I gave him in October has fuzzed back in. The rest of him is deep and woolly. If he had horns, he could be mistaken for a yak.

The scattered hairs that came off him today are only a foretaste of what will soon become an ebony blizzard. Soon any grooming will be not so much grooming as it is whacking through the undergrowth with a woefully dull machete.

I foolishly will attempt to remove it with a shedding blade (surely the most valuable tool in my grooming kit) by dragging it over my beast.  The hair comes off in swathes-but not neatly. No, most of it goes onto my lips, or in my mouth, or my eyes. I’ve learned to not wear anything that might bear a static charge (like nylon, or wool, or polyester, or fleece) as then the hair clings to me. What hair can’t find a spot on me begins to fall, scattering in the lightest current of air. Huge clumps of it hit the floor, only to immediately skitter like dust bunnies to every crack and crevice in the barn. Sweep? Pfft, sweeping merely breaks clumps into a gazillion individual hairs and it artfully dodges any attempt to corner it into a dustpan.

Add to that the fact that it’s not clean. It’s grungy with a winter’s accumulation of dander, lanolin, dried sweat, dried manure that won’t groom out, and plain ol’ dirt. Even when he’s been groomed daily and blanketed all winter, somehow, the hair has accumulated schmutz. Don’t attempt to wash the hairy horse. Oh, my, no, you will end up with a hairy horse that will NOT dry and be up to your knees in wet, smelly hair. It will clog up the wash stall drain and no matter how you try, you will not be able to get it all picked up.

For the next several months, wherever he goes, Raven will have a light aura of airborne hairs surrounding him.

Blading him will remove an entire horse worth of hair only to reveal: more hair. Why can’t it all come off at once, like when you shear a sheep? Why can’t it come off a horse in one neat blanket?

Sometimes I’m tempted to clip it. I’d need a weed whacker. My clippers would take one look at the job and quit.  Clipping him would leave him cold, even under a blanket, and would bugger up the new summer coat he’s growing underneath the old one.

I often hear people wonder why their horse is shedding when there is still snow on the ground.

It’s not the temperature that starts him shedding. It’s the lengthening of daylight. We turned the solar corner in December.

I welcome the return of the sun.

I just wish it didn’t come with a hair coat.

The Warmblood Mammoth

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Pioneering in the 21st Century

Pioneering in the 21st Century


Living in a place where there is no crowding.

Where there are mountains you could be the first to climb.

Where there is no crime.

Where there are no traffic jams

Where you work from where you live.

Where you don’t need money or a credit card.

Where you don’t have to pay taxes!!

Where the only artificial sounds are the ones you make.

Where you don’t have to worry about being flooded or wildfires.

Where you needn’t worry about getting a sunburn.

Where you never have to worry about bugs biting you.

Where there is no pollution, or disease, or garbage.

Where you can feel light as a feather.


Where the winters are a year long.

Where the outdoor temperatures averages about -80°F

Where the sun is small and weak.

Where winds and sandstorms blow for months at a time

Where everything-even the sky-is red.

Where there are no cities, no restaurants,no highways.

Where there is no television, no internet, no movies.

Where you can never go outside wearing anything other than a spacesuit.

Where you live with a few other people who you may not like.

Where you will be working non-stop just to survive.

Where it takes 8 months for a delivery of anything.

Where there are no mechanics or surgeons.

Where you will by necessity be a vegetarian

Where you will never be able to eat a steak.

Where you will never be able to have a pet.

Where you are bathed constantly in cosmic radiation.

Where you can’t quit your job and go back home.

Where there is no life whatsoever.

Where there is no liquid water.

Where there is no oxygen.

From NASA archivesThis is what your life on Mars will be like

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Colonizing Mars is doomed to failure

Colonizing Mars is doomed to failure

No, it’s not horse related, but should you wish to read my most recent blogpost, please go to my blog The Horse Mad Scientist. Click on the link above.

I do this because I’m so tired of word press arbitrarily changing things that never needed changing, and now because it’s adding ads that I didn’t ask for and don’t get a dime for.

Thanks you.

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Now you know why I hate Word Press

Today, not only did I have to jump through a thousand hoops just to log in to MY wordpress blog, but they are sticking ads that I have NOT authorized, NOT chosen, and do NOT want to inflict on my readers. By the way, I don’t get a dime from these ads. I don’t WANT ads. I never did and have no plans on ‘monetizing’ my blog.

In the past, I got so sick of these people arbitrarily changing protocols, changing the way one posts/composes/edits, changing the appearance of my blog. It’s why I shifted my ops to Google’s blogger.

So…if you want to see what I’ve posted, and you want to contact me, please go to:


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Think horses can’t?

Please go to my blog, The Horse Mad Scientist, to see how a mare got even for having her mane braided!

Think horses can’t?

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