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October 2009

Winning Bet near distribution

For those who have been waiting and wondering, we are running through the proof copies of Winning Bet (ISBN: 0-615-32165-8), the pre- and teen-targeted novel starring our Morgan mare, Bonnie Blue. In the book, 15-year-old Emma Duncan and the mysterious Enrique must show Bonnie to a blue ribbon win before she is sent to the slaughterhouse. Initial reviews were great, and we’re just running through the proof copies now for any technical errors. Thanks to those who volunteered to be on the test-read team! Bonnie, who was last seen lounging contentedly in her sun-filled day turnout, munching grass hay breakfast leftovers, took offense at her earlier “Worst horse photo in the world” write-up and demanded that we show her true cover shot. Stay tuned: Within weeks we plan to have distribution directly or through places like Amazon and Barnes and Noble -- just in time for Christmas!

Worst horse photo in the world

At this point, Bonnie was sick and tired of posing beautifully for her "cover" shot. (Click to enlarge.)In my pre-horse days, I spent much of my time looking at pictures of horses. To me, just looking at the pictures provided a connection to that mystical creature, the horse. The horse-in-pictures habit made me a pretty good judge of conformation, too! My favorite horse pictures of all time are in Robert Vavra’s Such Is the Real Nature of Horses, but I love all horses, and in almost every photo of a horse I see some special gift. This one photograph, however, has no redeeming value other than fun. I couldn’t resist showing it off. It has to be the worst horse picture in the world. You can see from this where they came up with the word Hippopotamus. The picture is actually a shnoz-shot of our very own Bonnie Blue, star of the scintillating new novel Winning Bet. It’s one of the cover-photo shots that well, never actually made the cover.


Weekend before last was homecoming weekend in our town. In freezing, snowy weather, the university held its game, and the high schools did the same. That Friday I had a homecoming of my own -- with my horse. Sometimes the day job, writing and running a stable get in the way of what started this whole thing: the horses, mine specifically.

He was a little puzzled at first, but here’s the great thing about horses, they forgive you whenever, unconditionally. All you have to do is ask. OK, not ALL horses are this way, but the good ones are. We hit the river trail for a short, two-mile ride, mostly walking, trotting, and watching geese glide, fish jump, and dogs walking their people.

For mental health, there is nothing like the feel of a warm horse under you and the sound of a running river. Horses are health providers. Witness all the hippo-therapy programs out there. And to think, “All I pay my psychiatrist is the cost of feed and hay, and he'll listen to me all day. (-- Unknown)”

Rein contact: Mark it with Vetrap

We used bright yellow flexible bandaging for visibility. (Click to enlarge photo.)
When my son was little, he struggled to maintain proper contact in the leather reins we were using. No matter how hard he tried, the reins would slip through his fingers, and pretty soon there was little or no contact between him and his horse. Sally Swift beautifully describes proper rein contact in Centered Riding , but trying to describe “feel” to young riders is difficult, mostly because young riders don’t have highly developed abstract thinking skills. Professional teachers know that abstract thinking will come with age, but while they are young, children need concrete examples. Sadly, most of the kinds of tape we tried over the years quickly fell off. At our (awesome!) 4-H jumping clinics this summer however, we discovered a new solution to the marker conundrum: Rein markers made out of Vetrap. All you have to do is wrap the Vetrap around the reins at the spot you want the rider to mark, and tear off the remainder of the roll. The “sweet” spot will be different for flat work (longer reins) as opposed to jumping (shorter reins). Don’t ask your rider to “make do” with one marker for two jobs. The Vetrap marks are only for informal training. Do not take them to a show and expect the judge to look the other way. Of all the tapes we’ve tried in the past, the Vetrap stuck and stayed the best.

Mandatory stable registration splits group

FORT COLLINS, Colorado --The word “must” split the group in charge of developing new land use rules for equestrian operations Tuesday night. Must stable owners register with the county or should it be optional?

Working group members split in a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” consensus test of this line: “The owner of the equestrian operation must complete and sign an Equestrian Operation Registration Certificate prior to operation.”

Under this proposal, even stables with “Use by Right” would have to register with the county.

“I don’t think they should have to do that,” said working group member Wendy Chase. Working group member Jill Cook added, “I think we’re gonna get a lot of negative press for “must”. It changes the whole demeanor of this group.”

Working group members asked what would happen if equestrian operations failed to register. “If it’s in the code and you haven’t done it, and the neighbor complains, then you start not being compliant. Ignorance is not an excuse,” said Hoffman.

Several working group members supported the position that business owners should expect to have to register. “If you’re gonna do this (run a stable), you’re gonna have to fill something out,” said working group member LuAnn Goodyear.

Study facilitator Linda Hoffman tabled the debate for further discussion -- time permitting -- before the proposal becomes official. County commissioners are set to vote on new rules for equestrian operations on December 14.

Working group member Joe Andrews suggested that language from the Right to Farm policy be included in any proposed rules to protect the agricultural nature of equestrian operations. As the proposed rules read now, “This takes the Right to Farm Act away from us,” said Chase.

Under the new plan, equestrian operations would use a formula to determine what level of review they would undergo for county approval. Review levels include use by right, administrative review, minor special review, and special review. There have been no specifics attached, but the intent behind Administrative Review was to make it more affordable for small-to-medium stables to get approval.

“We’re talking about this administrative review being a few hundred dollars,” said Hoffman.

In the administrative review rules, several working group members urged removal of language limiting equestrian operation hours to between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. Others said hours were important because they protect neighbors.

“The point is we’re protecting neighbors who don’t have a voice,” said Hoffman. (There is no provision for public comment under Administrative Review.) “We’re at the point where we’re trying to find a balance.” The group redefined hours to apply to “routine” operations (versus all operations), and changed hours to between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Safe and adequate access and adequate on-site parking would also be required for approvals requiring review.

The working group's proposal will be discussed by the Agricultural Advisory Board and the Environmental Advisory Board, according to Hoffman.

Hoffman said she is receiving phone inquiries primarily about the proposed transition program for existing equestrian operations, and the working group will need to deal with the issue in more detail, especially with regard to what constitutes an existing business.

Next public meetings:
•Thursday, October 29, 2009-6:00 p.m., The Ranch, Thomas M. McKee 4-H Building, Crossroads Blvd and I-25, Loveland, Colorado.
•Tuesday, November 3, 2009-6:00 p.m., Larimer County Courthouse Offices Building, Hearing Room, 1st Floor, 200 W. Oak Street, Fort Collins, Colorado.

No second chance at good first impressions

We turn horses out every day into sacrifice lots where they can play without worrying about overgrazing the rest of the property. We bring them back in again at the end of the day for dinner and a later night snack. As I completed this routine yesterday, the horses that handled well reminded me how important it is for a horse to learn decent ground manners. Mostly, it keeps whoever is handling your horse in a good mood. Transfer that to a horse’s sale value, and good ground manners take on new importance. “Brats” create a bad first impression, and there are no second chances at good first impressions. In this “panicked herd” economy, we would all be doing our horses a favor by training for that good first impression,Teaching your horse to stand quietly in a strange place is a good first start. (Click photo to enlarge.)
just in case the worst happens, and we can no longer afford our friend. Also, if others are handling your horse, you really want your horse to get the hugs, kisses and special favors that go along with being one of the “good ones.” The first frost has come and gone. Show season is over, but the next six months make a great time to take on a long-term goal with your horse. How about making his life better with good ground manners, or at a higher level, competitive showmanship skills? One of my favorite practical training resources is John Lyons. You'll find ground work and a wealth of other tips in his Trail Riding Series - Training From The Heart 3 DVD Set.