Chap. 152 The Gatha at Ruatha-Lizard show

Chap. 152 The Gatha at Ruatha-the Lizard show

The air was redolent with the scent of roasting meat and fresh baked pies. The lanes between booths were crowded with people, their accents telling K’ndar they were from all over the planet.

They stopped in front of a magician, a young man semi-circled by children and adults.

“Pick a card, any card,” he said, flourishing a spread hand of cards. A young boy hesitantly pulled a card from the spread deck in his hand.

“Like this?” the boy cried, showing the card to the man. The magician laughed and accepted the card. “No, laddie, next time, DON’T let me see the card, aye? But show it to everyone else. Just not me,” he said, as he shuffled the deck. “Now let’s try again,” he said.

The child pulled a card from the proffered deck and showed it to the crowd behind him.

“The five of hammers,” K’ndar thought.

“Now put it back into the deck, lad, anywhere, I’m not going to watch,” the magician said, closing his eyes. He shuffled the deck after the card had been replaced and compacted it.  Making a dramatic show of running his free hand over the back of the deck, he pulled out…the five of hammers.

“Is this your card?” he asked. The boy cried yes, yes! and the crowd clapped.

“How did he do that?” Glyena asked.

“I don’t know, Glyena,” K’ndar said, just as amazed. Something whispered in his mind, don’t ever play cards with this man.

“Come on, let’s see more!” she said, tugging on his arm.

They heard children laughing, and K’ndar caught a glimpse of a fire lizard hovering in the air.

It was Francie’s lizard show. She was in costume, of course. He could see she’d added several tricks to her performance.

Her three fire lizards wore bells with Landing’s colors and their names on them. They were lined up perpendicular to a slalom course of tall, regularly spaced pegs.

“Now, children, Keeso, Sisi and Coora are going to race each other on the pole bending race, just like we do on horseback. Ready to see them race?” she asked.

“Yes!” the children cried.

“Okay then…are you ready, my lizards?”

Coora and Keeso chittered. Sisi looked grumpy.

“Ready, set…go!” Francie cried. Coora and Keeso flew through slalom course. Sisi didn’t budge from her platform. Keeso, having completed first, landed atop the winner’s platform. Francie slipped her a treat as she turned to the other green.

“What? Sisi! Why didn’t you race?”

Sisi snorted.

Francie turned her head as if hearing a tiny voice.

“What? You’re HUNGRY?”

Sisi nodded.

The children watched, enthralled.

“Mebbe give her a treat!” one cried.

“But she didn’t race!” another child protested, “She just sat there!”

“Now, Sisi, you must race, the WINNER of the race gets a treat. Do you understand?” Francie said to the green.

Sisi raised her wings and shook them.

“Does she understand you?” a child asked, enchanted.

“Yes, she does, fire lizards are very intelligent,” Francie said.

“Now then, we’re going to try this again. Line up, and this time you must race, Sisi,” Francie admonished.

Turning to the children, she said, “You know what? I might need your help. I’m going to count to three, on three, I want you all to shout, “go!” Can you do that?”

One child cried, “Go!”

“Not yet, not yet, lassie!” a man cried, laughing along with the rest of the crowd.

“You hafta wait ’til she says “three”,” chided the girls’ older brother. The girl blushed.

The laughter quieted.

“Okay, now, the winner is the one who flies the course twice and lands here first. So, are you all ready to help?”

The kids all shouted, Yes!

Francie, working hard to keep from grinning, called, “One—two…THREE!”

The children shouted “GO!”

Coora and Keeso dutifully flew through the slalom course.

Sisi arrowed straight past the course, turned at the end and flew back even faster to land on the winner’s platform. She raised her wings in triumph as the others returned.

The adults in the crowd roared, the children shouting “She cheated! Ma’am, she didn’t go through the course, she just flew right past!”

Francie put her hands on her hips. “Sisi?”

Sisi wheedled.

“What do you mean, where’s your treat? Yes, I KNOW you got here first but you didn’t go through the course! That wasn’t fair.”

Sisi popped up into the air, then flew the course by herself. She then returned to the winner’s platform and looked expectantly for her treat.

“What am I going to do with you, you naughty little green?”

Sisi chortled at her cleverness.

Francie looked at the crowd.

“Well, now I’m perplexed, children. What should I do? Does Sisi deserve a treat?”

The children were dumbfounded. They chattered to each other and called out solutions.

“No! She didn’t race!”

“Make ’em race again!”

“But…Keeso and Coora are tired now,” Francie said, “and Sisi didn’t race fairly.”
“Hold the green back, like a handicap,” a man yelled.

“That’s a good idea,” Francie said, smiling at the man. She’d planned on saying it herself but it was always better when a member of the audience brought it up.

“Okay, we’re going to try this one more time,” she said to her fire lizards.

She held onto Sisi, and said, “Okay, children, you know what to do, now. One. Two. Three!”

The children shouted “Go!”

Coora and Keeso flew through the course. Francie released Sisi, who flew straight up. She vanished, going between and reappeared just as suddenly to land on the winner’s platform.

The crowd could not contain themselves. They roared, K’ndar and Glyena with them. So clever, Francie, so clever.

Francie shook her head.
Sisi crowed, proud of herself. Treat?

“Okay, I give up. Sisi, you go sit on your platform. No treats for cheats. We’ll go on to something else,” she said, as Coora and Keeso returned to their platforms.

“That were right clever of her, ma’am, she’s smarter than she looks,” a woman called out.

Francie nodded her head in agreement.

“They’re like kids, you know,” she said.



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The Hardest Decision

It’s never easy to write the following words.

Raven was put down today. At about 0930, he began showing signs of colic.

The vet came out and worked with him until noon, when it became apparent that this wasn’t colic.

It was a twisted intestine.

I got there about 1100. He was drooling like a leaky hose. You could see that he was in pain. But he still…believe it or not…asked me for carrots.

I held his lead rope…completely unnecessary, and sang to him. I sing to my animals when they’re anxious or in pain. Whether it made a difference or not to him, I don’t know, but I like to think it did.

At noon, it was decided to take him to the vet’s clinic. Despite being in pain, Raven willingly loaded. Sue was with him.

No, I didn’t go. I’ve been ill and am on medication that needs to be taken at specific times.

She’d said in the past she wouldn’t put him through surgery.

When it was found that it was definitely a twisted intestine, Sue made the decision.

There was no need to put him through anymore pain.

As they walked out to the back pasture of the clinic, Raven reached down and snatched a mouthful of grass.

Raven was a wonderful horse. He was just perfect for someone like me. He taught me so much. He put up with my fumbling. He taught me what collection feels like. He was my friend.

He was 25 years old.

Thank you, Raven. I love you.


Raven 1974-2019

Raven 1994-2019

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Love will find a way

Sometimes, when I’m aimlessly wasting time, I go to craigslist to see what’s for sale, or, in the case of animals, what’s being ‘rehomed’. Craigslist’s policy is to NEVER SELL animals, so people use the term ‘re home’. It’s still ‘for sale’ but politically corrected. Craigslist says a ‘nominal fee’ for ‘re homing’, which to me means about$25 or gas money. But there are people who ”re home’ puppies for $1000 a pop. Pup

And, every once in a while, an ad catches your eye that says, no, impossible.

for instance:

Afghan Hound & French Bulldog Mix

Just the title alone makes you say, whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa???

And you just HAVE to click on it, just to see what this amazing mix might look like.

And, amazingly, it looks…well, like a mutt, but NOT a mutt that looks half Afghan and half bulldog.

But I’ll be damned, if it isn’t so.

They’re asking a $300 “re homing fee” which, for a mutt is a lot of money, but I’ve seen it worse.

Below is the bulk of the ad, and below that, the pictures. I held those out for last.


One dog for sale, he is an Afghan Hound and French Bulldog mix. Parents are in the second photo.

We are looking to re-home our 2 year old Afghan Hound and French Bulldog mix, Lucky. He has been in our home almost a year and just isn’t a good fit. It would be most ideal if he goes to an active home with a large, fenced yard, lots of one on one time, and loads of love and attention.

It’s most important that he goes to home with someone who is patient enough to handle a toddler all day long because he’s pretty much exactly like that: testing patience, checking boundaries, and constantly having his nose in something.

He is super friendly, very submissive and loves to play, and house trained.

We are asking a $300 re-homing fee to ensure his safety and happiness. Feel free to contact me with any questions.Result of Afghan bulldog cross

And the parents are legitimate, you can see the pup alongside what I assume is the dam. I’ve heard that bulldogs are so inbred that they must be bred by AI and have C sections to whelp, so I’m assuming the sire is the bull dog.

Afghan x Bulldog

How it happened, dog only knows. Or maybe it should be, only the dogs know.

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Learning riding secrets the hard way.

The best thing for the inside of a man is the outside of a horse.”  Winston Churchill

Sometimes, you learn about riding in unusual ways. Or painful ones.

I have been extremely ill the last two months. Out of the blue, I was hit with upper intestinal bleeding. I woke up with this immediate need to hit the bathroom, and instead of the runs, I passed ‘coffee ground stool’, blood clots, and black blood. LOTS of it. For 18 hours. I was hospitalized for two days, had to do a colonic cleanse despite the fact that it was ‘obvious’ it was my upper intestine or stomach.

That wasn’t all. Whatever demon had invaded my digestive system had many more evil tricks to play.

I developed dysphagia. If bleeding out is immediately life threatening, dysphagia can also kill you, but far more slowly and miserably. It means inability to swallow. Yes. I could not swallow anything solid. I’m told there are people who live for years with this, but to me, it’s not living and I was despairing that I’d never eat again. The idea of being fed through a tube in my stomach was not something I wanted to even contemplate.

But the demon wasn’t done! After a few weeks of blending everything, I could swallow again, but then I was hit with regurgitation. This isn’t vomiting. No, its one step below. Whatever you swallow doesn’t stay in your stomach. No, it comes back up into your esophagus to rest in your throat or just behind your sternum. Up and down it goes, or just hangs there for hours…sometimes days. The only way it goes into your stomach and stays there is to eat ramrod straight, do not bend over or do anything sudden for 45 minutes, and even then, hours later, it still might come back.

I had to worry most about inhaling the stuff that liked my throat better than my stomach, and when you inhale food, you develop pneumonia and have to take antibiotics…that kill the good bacteria in your gut, so you get C. Difficil. Which tried to kill me years ago.

Did I mention the pain? Despite the fact that it was my stomach and gut acting up, something in the mix decided to send pain to my chest and shoulder. Nothing touches it: not aspirin(which, I am now forbidden to use), none of the other ‘pain killers’, nothing. It gets worse at night, and the only way I can sleep is with an ice pack on my shoulder. Even then, the pain is such that I’m only getting about 3 hours of sleep a night. I have moved into the guest bedroom so that my dear husband can sleep.

I’ve had several blood draws, all of which say I’m anemic. Ya think! when one’s red blood cell count drops to 9.0 because of a bleed, you’re instantly anemic.

Oh, and I’ve lost weight. Yup, who would have guessed? I dropped 12 pounds in two weeks, and it doesn’t look as if I’ll ever get it back.

And through it all, I have yet to talk to a gastroenterologist…the doctor who looks in your stomach and  gut and diagnoses whatever it is that is trying to kill you. That’s because my insurance company, the one I pay a lot of money in premiums to every month, can’t decide if hemorrhaging for 18 hours constitutes an ’emergency’; is still trying to decide if I was truly admitted into the hospital as an “inpatient’ or was I just ‘under observation in a hospital’ as an outpatient, which, of course, means they don’t have to pay. That, and not being able to eat or sleep is something they don’t consider ‘medical’. Thus, they figure, if there’s no medical problem, they won’t pay for you to see a doctor who CAN make that decision.  But damn it, get that premium in or we’ll cut your ass off. Can’t lose a dime, now can they!

But that’s not why I write.

A few days ago, I was feeling well enough to go to the barn. Sue (who’s an RN) insisted I ride Raven bareback, as I always love to do.

You’ve heard that old saying, “just what the doctor ordered”? It’s true. That first ride…after two months of illness, feeling like death warmed over, staying indoors and trying to stay alive through blending every atom of food into a liquid, being atop a horse was …incredible. Raven, always intuitive, was VERY careful with me, he knew something was wrong. It felt so good to be on his back. It felt so good to be in his mind, feeling him responding. What astounded me was…me.

I had ‘forgotten’ how to balance. No, actually, I had NO balance. Losing 12 pounds caused me to lose that ‘set point’ for balance I’d developed over the years.  I weighed a lot less than before and that, apparently makes a difference!

But…unlike my other problems, twenty minutes or so of riding bareback helped my mind re-adjust to the new me (no matter how unwelcome it is) and I recovered that sense.

Today, …I am feeling so much better, and I’ll tell you how in a minute…I rode him in a saddle. Again, something is new. I haven’t gained an ounce back, but my balance was there. And…for the first time in my adult life, I found I had thighs that fit the saddle. Up until this weight loss, my thighs have always been, ahem, Rubinesque. Okay, let’s call them for what they were.  Thunder thighs. I never could ‘put the flat of my thigh’ on the saddle because I didn’t HAVE a flat thigh. They were nice and round. Fleshy.  Fat.

But now? They’re gone. No thighs. Well, yes, they’re still THERE, but there’s no meat on them…and now, I can put them on the saddle. It makes a HUGE difference in how I ride. I am astounded at how much difference there is.

Which is sad, because most women I know have thighs that are like mine were. It’s just how we’re built. Thunder thighs kept us women alive during the Ice Ages.

Is it fair to say, then, that the top notch riders have no thighs? Or thighs that are nothing but bone, like mine are, now, ‘correct’?  Damn it……

Honestly, I’d rather have the weight back. I refuse to go out and buy all new pants/jeans/etc. I swim around in my jeans. My belt ran out of holes. But I do like the way it feels to sit in a saddle, with thighs ‘flat’ on the panel.

Now how, do you wonder, have I healed whatever it is that caused me to bleed? Well, I still have the pain, but I can eat now, slowly and thoroughly chewing my food and it goes into my stomach and stays there-and comes out the other end without blood.

My acupuncturist…who IS willing to see me, and if you have never had acupuncture, let me tell you, it works, told me my gut was tissue paper thin and I need to build up my levels of iron and protein. I needed to heal my gut. How to do this?

Bone broth and collagen.

So I’ve been drinking a lot of bone broth and ingesting beef collagen. It’s a tasteless powder that one can put in soup, or a glass of water. I am convinced it has brought me back a lot quicker than could be hoped. No, I’ve not seen a gastroenterologist yet, but when I do, and they do an endoscopy to find out what the hell happened, hopefully they will find I’ve healed.

Hopefully. Hopefully I never have another bleed, because it was bad.

Because, while seeing what seemed endless gouts of my blood going down the toilet, I thought I was going to die. Then I was afraid I WASN’T.

I didn’t. And I learned that one’s weight has a great deal to do with riding, and a bony thigh makes all the difference in the world to riding.

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The Hollywood Horse

Sometimes, you know right away when someone buys the wrong horse.

Recently, a longtime friend of the Barnlord bought a horse for her 10 year old daughter.

The friend, Tessa, had ridden Western equitation and drill team for years, so she was an experienced rider (in an arena). Her daughter, Emily, though, was just starting out. She’d taken a few lessons from the Barnlord (who, in my opinion, is hidebound. You ride according to HER ways. She knows only one way to teach and is completely unwilling to adapt her training to each individual’s ability.).

I got the distinct feeling from Emily that she liked horses, but wasn’t really ‘into’ them, like you and I. (yes, if you’re reading this, it’s because you’re horse crazy, just like me.)

I witnessed the ”pre-sale’ ride. Two women, one, the owner of Recks, had trailered the bay, 15 year old QH gelding to the barn. Several of the barnizens were there. I got there half way through the ‘try out’ of the gelding. Barnlord was NOT there. The story from the sellers was that Recks had done drill team for several years, but had been stuck in a pasture for ‘a while’.

What I saw scared me.

Tessa was at the gate end of the arena, shouting instruction to Emily, who was perched atop a sullen and resentful Recks. His ears were pinned, his tail swished. He was pissed.

She tried to get him to trot to the left. He backed up, tossed his head, and refused. “Turn him to the right,” Tessa yelled and Emily obeyed. Recks willingly went to the right but his trot got faster and faster. He kept tossing his head and veering into the center of the arena rather than staying on the wall. He had his chin against his chest. This was NOT due to Emily’s reining. As this horse had been trained “Western Equitation”, the girl had NO contact with the snaffle bit. The reins flopped against the bay’s neck. You couldn’t blame the girl for hard hands. No, Recks had learned a long time ago that his neck was far stronger than a human’s arms. And his will was his own, too. No one was going to tell him what to do.

He began to run. Another person was riding her Arabian gelding on the wall and he barged in on them, almost hitting them. The person stopped her horse. Recks stopped too, wanting to chat with the other horse. “Kick him!” Tessa yelled and Emily, much against her will, kicked Recks. He spun around in a circle then took off again.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was standing next to another of the barn’s boarders and she was just as scared for Emily as I was. Emily wasn’t riding. She was a passenger atop an out of control horse. I fully expected her to come off. But somehow she stayed aboard.

Recks was galloping full speed along the arena wall.

Finally, Tessa and another person ran into the gelding’s path, waving their arms and yelling “whoooooooooooa” to get him to stop. (another thing I’d NEVER do.). I believe he stopped only because he was tired. He was fat and out of shape. He stopped because he’d accomplished his goal. The girl on his back was now visibly terrified.She was pale and shaking. Tessa ran up to her and congratulated her for “GOOD job!” and…believe it or not, “You stayed on him!”

So she had expected her daughter to fall off TOO!! What kind of mother is that? What sort of woman allows her daughter to be put at risk of possibly death because the horse is a real deal? I’ll tell you why, in a minute.

The two sellers didn’t find Reck’s performance (in my opinion, misbehavior) to be ‘odd’.

“Well, he’s been stuck out in a pasture for four years,” was their excuse.

You know, I’ve met plenty of horses that were pasture jewelry for years. Most of them needed some of the rough spots smoothed out, a bit of retraining, but they weren’t like Recks. This horse wasn’t pasture jewelry. He had an attitude. A bad one.

I said to the barnizen standing next to me, “If anyone can take the knots out of his head, it’s Barnlord”. One of the sellers glared at me. I had figured it out, and she was pissed because I might just get through to Tessa and convince her that the horse was NOT a horse for Emily. He wasn’t in pain. He wasn’t green. He was a horse with a truckload of vices, a horse who knew exactly how to get rid of the person on his back.

THEY knew he was crazy and wanted nothing more than to get rid of him. They didn’t give a shit that this was not just a horse who’s been loafing for four years. No, this horse had been stuck out in a pasture for that long because he was dangerous. And they KNEW it.  They had no morals. They were willing to sell him to a child. I wouldn’t have taken him had he been free.

Even if they’d thrown in the trailer AND the truck to go with him.

There are too many good horses out there, even ones who’ve been in a pasture for years, to waste time, money and health on a bad one.

WHY was Tessa so willing to overlook the obvious problems with Recks?

Recks was a Hollywood horse. He was a perfect bay, drop dead gorgeous and a beautiful mover. That’s what sold him. Despite the ashen look on Emily’s face, Tessa was smitten. The horse was ostensibly for Emily, but it was really because Tessa wanted him.She wanted him badly.

She bought Recks.

In the days after the sale, Recks settled in. He cribbed and wind sucked. He pawed holes in the stall mats. He proved to be a problem right from the start. Even giving him the benefit of a doubt, being in a new barn full of new people and horses, he created problems immediately.

Barnlord, being who she is, refused to admit the horse was problematic, because she and Tessa had been friends since childhood. Nor did she pay attention to the things he did to her, her help and to Tessa. He would pull when tied. He did not want to stand to be groomed. He didn’t want his feet picked out. When asked to do something, he would strike or cow kick.

Barnlord was accustomed to handling rank horses, but Tessa, and especially Emily, were not.

On the one occasion I saw Tessa riding him. He refused to stand to be mounted. Instead of standing quietly, he cowkicked at her. She put down a crossrail to force him to stand next to the mounting block and when he sidestepped, she cracked him with a crop. He bucked, but finally stood still to allow her to get aboard. Tessa could ride but he was completely uncooperative. He tried to run away with her, as he had done with Emily, but Tessa could handle him. It took her fifteen minutes to get him to take his left lead, proving that he DID know his leads. He just didn’t WANT to.  He wasn’t in pain. The saddle fitted him. He never had problems moving to the left when he was not under saddle. No, it was just Recks being ornery.

Barnlord tried to work with him. He reared when she asked him to go forward on the lunge line. When she put him in the round pen, he immediately began to run and refused to trot or even slow down.

So I was not surprised in the slightest to learn that Recks was up for sale. Again. “Emily is afraid of him,” Barnlord explained. No doubt about THAT.

Matt, my farrier, showed up to trim Raven. Barnlord barged in on us and wanted Matt to take a look at Recks. “He’s a great trail horse,” she said. I said, “But he’s not a horse for beginners.” (which Matt is NOT). Barnlord shrieked at me, “shut up, you don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re stupid,” and walked off to get Recks.

Matt looked shocked. I said, “That’s what I get from her all the time.”

She wanted him gone just as much as everyone else. But screaming at me wasn’t going to accomplish it. All it did was show Matt what kind of person she is.

But he’d already figured that out about her years ago. He trusts my judgement more than hers.

Last week, I was at the barn when Barnlord took Recks out of his outdoor pen and tried to get him to go through the gate into the round pen. He reared and backed up on his hind legs, pawing, but finally calmed down enough to enter the round pen. Once he was there, he began racing around at top speed. To the left.

I knew what she was doing. She was wearing him out so he’d behave for a ‘buyer’ who was coming to look at him later in the day.

She succeeded. He was wet with sweat when she finally took him out of the pen.

I left. I didn’t need Barnlord’s wasping me.

The buyer showed up later that day. He took one look at this gorgeous bay QH gelding, the one with the Hollywood looks-and bought him.

I hope the man knows how to handle a rank horse. Who knows, perhaps he might be the kind of horse that can be dominated by a man.

All I know is I am glad Recks is gone.

The Hollywood Horse


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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 my 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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