4Shoes 'BOOKENDS'; Morgan Horses

4Shoes 'BOOKENDS'; Morgan Horses
“Hold fast to dreams, For if dreams die, Life is a broken-winged bird, That cannot fly.” ~Langston Hughes *pictured: '4Shoes Bookends'

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Short & Sweet Sunday Sermon

The first step towards change is awareness. The second step is acceptance. -Nathaniel Branden

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Short & Sweet Sunday Sermon

For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the seas, & everything in them but on the seventh day He rested. -Exodus 20:11

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Monday, 9 March 2015

Words to Live By


The Honourable Jack Layton, MP & NDP Leader

     "My friends,
Love is better than anger.
Hope is better than fear.

Optimism is better than despair. 

  So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.
And we'll change the world."

John Gilbert (Jack) Layton  (July 18, 1950 – August 22, 2011)

Written just 2 days before his death (cancer) in a letter to his fellow Canadians, Jack Layton's final, poetic, & powerful words still move me to tears as readily as they did when his passing was announced on every newscast, everywhere in the world.
So simple, so profound, & so timelessly resonant.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Hazardous Riding: Alcohol May Impair My Judgement

Today's story is about a time when I was riding a newly retired racehorse -- a Standardbred, like this example of the famous Canadian pacer. 

Re-rigging a former pacer to accept a saddle & rider is little to no problem because (in general) this breed is very tolerant & co-operative. Learning to take direction from above instead of from behind takes a little more effort, but perhaps the biggest challenge for the horse can be switching off the race mentality & learning to think differently.
A race horse capitalizes on it's evolutionary instinct to flee at top speed; a riding horse needs to keep that flight instinct under wraps & surrender his own judgement to that of the rider. Patiently taught, a horse can learn to control his fears & obey the cues of the rider; successfully carrying out tasks that he may (at first) think unreasonable builds his trust. The most rewarding riding partnerships I've had are those where the trust between me & the horse has become easy & mutual. 
My dear friend & faithful riding partner back in my home province was a transplanted Labrador gal trapped in a cowgirl's body who'd found her true self there in the middle of Canadian horse & cattle country. Marina & I both owned & rode several horses each; we would hack out together 3 or 4 times a week & then go team penning for fun on Sundays. Together, we are still as horse crazy as they come. I miss that gal & our adventures together every gatdang day...
One pleasant, sunny evening I had ridden Angel the two miles to Marina's place where she had her sorrel QH mare, Lightening, all saddled up & ready to ride. We headed out for a good 8 or 9 miles of pasture & ditch riding, arriving back to her place just as dusk was beginning to fall. As was our custom, we let the horses rest in the corral awhile & built up a big bonfire to warm ourselves alongside while enjoying a chinwag & a few adult beverages.
In all truth, that evening we killed a few soldiers & then a few more, & just for good measure, one last cooler for the road. But I wasn't driving...
When the flames had burnt down to coals it was time to head for home. It may have taken the both of us to fetch Angel up from the corral & tack her back up. I believe I might've even needed just a bit of a boost up into my saddle; Angel seemed a really tall 16 hands right about then & my stirrup felt like a real stretch from the ground. It didn't help matters any that, by the time, I was a good 3 sheets to the wind. In that state of mind (hammered) nothing could have convinced me that I was not an even better rider(!).
By this time it was going on 11pm & there was very little light left in the sky. While we'd been sitting around getting our happy on, dark clouds heavy with rain had rolled in. Waving goodbye as I rounded the corner out the driveway, I nodded as Marina yelled for me to be careful & to take it easy. I kissed at the big bay & we took off at a good clip, hoping to make it home before the skies opened up on us.
About 3/4 mile along there was quite a large stand of bush straddling both sides of the gravel road; circling the bush would add another 10 minutes to the ride & the temperature was dropping fast. Wanting to shave some time & save the distance, I pulled up onto the road & pointed our noses straight through the middle.
As I said, we were traveling @ a brisk speed, so when the mare pulled up short I may have been somewhat less than graceful in keeping my seat. Remember that bond of trust I mentioned earlier? I was testing it just a bit (Have another drink why dontcha Mrs. Shoes?). 
I squeezed her sides & gave an impatient little cluck, but that horse wasn't about to budge. She snorted & pawed & really wanted to go back the way we'd come.
As nice as it had been when we'd headed out, I sure wasn't dressed to get wet, & my hands were getting pretty damn chilly. By this time low rumbles of thunder were starting up in the distance & the air was getting that little electric tingle to it, which made the mare even more excited. I looked around for any hazards but, though I could see very little else in the almost darkness, there was clearly no traffic coming from either direction so I wanted to go on. I softened my voice to a gentle murmur & reassured the nervous mare that all was well. Again I squeezed her sides with my legs & encouraged her forward with my hands & my seat; Angel quieted under me and gave in to my kissing and coaxing. 
"It's okay old girl, there's nothing to be scared of. Let's get on home now."
The big mare started slowly down the road, still a little bit doubtful maybe, but trying hard to please me. Her toes practically dragged over the gravel, but I was sure there was nothing to worry about & that once we'd gotten on down this stretch of road that the horse would likely never again balk at similar requests, bad weather & dark clouds be damned.
Halfway through the span of bush, Angel put the brakes on HARD. She began to tremble & her breath became ragged, but her feet were rooted to the ground. WTH? No amount of urging could convince her to move.
Just as I was becoming (unjustly) frustrated, a moose leaped out of the bush up ahead! He planted himself squarely in the middle of the road, maybe 50 yards in front of us. Angel stood frozen in her tracks, save for the trembling.
Well okay, I thought, it's just a moose. A really big moose true; Angel & I together were still dwarfed by Bullwinkle. But, I reasoned, he's a wild animal. Surely once he recognized me as a human he'd run back into the bush to avoid a person. 
Wouldn't he? 
Obviously, the liquor was still doing my thinking for me...
So I commenced to hollering & waving my arms at that young bull, "Get the hell out of the way, you big moose! F&*^ off now! Git! You! Git ON now GOTDAMMIT!!"
The moose didn't even flinch - go figure. We had us a Mexican Stand Off. He swung his head low & let out a grunt; Angel was shaking but she stood her ground firmly, trusting me entirely. Fool horse.
I was still just sitting there pondering when the first few fat, cold drops of rain pelted me back into some sort of sensibility. Gently drawing back on the reins I said to my horse,
"You were right & I was wrong, okay? Let's not make a big deal about it, but how's about we just back up some and take the long way around like you wanted to in the first place, huh? There's a good girl now."
But for those few raindrops plopping down that had kicked my brain back into

gear the storm held off & we managed to get home in good time. I gotta say though, skirting around that stand of trees, both me & the mare had our eyes rolling around double-time, just in case Bullwinkle had staked his claim on the area as a whole.  
Our partnership was firmly cemented that night as Angel showed me that she could put her fears aside and trust in me, despite my sometimes flawed judgement. For my part, I learned to have a much stronger faith in her instincts.
It really didn't occur to my drunken self how lucky we had been until some time later as I was telling Mr. Shoes about our adventure. He tucked his chin into his chest & peered at me from under his raised eyebrows and said,
"You do realize that rutting season started about 3 weeks ago, don't you?"

Sunday, 1 March 2015