Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Draft Horses

In the not-so-distant past, draft horses were an essential part of life for farmers. They did most of the work tractors do now. The popularity of the tractor after World War I in the United States put many draft horses out of work. There are some farmers, such as the Amish, who still make use of draft horses, though.

Draft horses are cold-blooded, which in horses means they have a quiet and calm temperament. Horse clinician Clinton Anderson has said, "When was the last time you saw a spooky, reactive Belgian draft horse?" That's not to say they never spook. They are still horses and horses spook. It just takes more to rattle a draft horse than other types of horses.

I admit that when I think of draft horses, the first ones that come to mind are the famous Budweiser Clydesdales. When I was in Fort Worth in April 2012, I had the chance to get up close and personal with one member of the team.

There are people who ride draft horses, although I'm not one of them. Being vertically challenged, I need a mounting block to get on any size horse. I have a bumper sticker that reads: "Ride a draft... It'll make your butt look smaller!" and a t-shirt that reads: "Make your butt look smaller - ride a draft!" I love having the bumper sticker and the t-shirt, even if I don't ride a draft myself.

There is a horse rescue dedicated to saving drafts and draft crosses from slaughter, abuse and neglect. http://www.gentlegiantsdrafthorserescue.com/

Draft horses may not have the popularity they once had, but they're noble horses and deserve to be honored and used even in the 21st century.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Everything Old Is New Again

Has it really been more than a month since I had a blog entry? I'll try to be more faithful from now on. (Although as I typed "try", in my mind I could hear Yoda telling Luke Skywalker, "Do. Or do not. There is no 'try'.")

The first piece of fiction I wrote that was published professionally - actually, the only piece of fiction I wrote that was published professionally - was a short story about a young girl attending a Bible camp. I no longer remember the name of the story nor the name of the magazine that published it.

Once the first draft of the novel I'm working on is finished (the working title is A Horse for Anna), I'm going to rewrite part of it to submit as a short story to a children's magazine. My preliminary research has led me to fourteen potential magazines to try. Before submitting any work, I'll read sample copies of the magazines. To save money, I'll likely read them at the library rather than buying them.

Since my only professionally published work of fiction was a short story for a magazine, why not try it again before submitting a novel-length story?

I'd be in good company. Some of my favorite books are those in the Dragonriders of Pern series by the late Anne McCaffrey. Part of what would become the first novel in the series (Dragonflight) was first published as a novella in Analog, a science fiction magazine. That story, Weyr Search, won the Hugo Award (voted on by those attending the World Science Fiction Convention) in 1968. Another part, Dragonrider, won the Nebula Award (voted on by members of the Science Fiction Writers of America) in 1969.

I took a short break from my work on the novel to work on a science fiction short story I've had in my mind for many years. Once that story has made it to the final draft stage and I've read several sample copies of Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine and the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, that story will be on its way to whichever magazine seems to be the best fit. I do have some other science fiction stories in mind that have the potential to become a series.

The ventures into science fiction short stories and turning part of the first novel into a short story do not replace my plan for children's novels about horses. It's merely any additional form of creative writing, meant to augment my main writing focus.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


I started thinking about apprenticeship after reading an article in the March 2012 issue of Practical Horseman. (Yes, I'm more than a year behind on that magazine. I only subscribed to it for two reasons: 1) there was a cool checkbook cover as a subscription premium and 2) I thought it might useful to know something about English riding in addition to Western. But since my writing and art are now focused on Western riding, I let the issues pile up for over a year.)

The recommendation in the article was to find a trainer you respect and admire and ask for him or her to take you on as a apprentice. I know Clinton Anderson (see June 17, 2013 blog entry) ended his apprentice program quite some time ago. It wasn't drawing the caliber of people that his Clinician Academy does. So who could I ask about becoming an apprentice if the time comes that I'm ready to make that choice?

Then it hit me who my choice should be if pursue becoming an apprentice. It looks like Ken McNabb has an apprenticeship program. He's a regular contributor to Performance Horse Digest. When I signed up for his mailing list, the confirmation email referred to the Ken McNabb apprenticeship mailing list. He's based in Wyoming. He's a Christian, so that's a plus in his favor. Not that I couldn't learn from someone who doesn't share my faith, but it is nice to know there's an opportunity to learn from a fellow believer.

If I want to look into an apprenticeship closer to home, Dennis Auslam is based in Morton, MN. I don't know if he takes apprentices or not, but it wouldn't hurt to check when and if I'm ready. Actually, it could be better to check with him first. That way I wouldn't have to haul everything I own to Wyoming. By time I'm ready for that step, I'd have my driver's license and so I could make the trip back and forth as needed. He also contributes to Performance Horse Digest every month.

I'd be happy to be an apprentice to either of these men. Not only do they know horses, but they're both family men and are grounded in high moral principles.

Maybe the time will never come for me to look into becoming an apprentice to a horse trainer, but if it does, I already have two possible leads.

Monday, July 29, 2013

What Did You Do With My Opportunities?

That was the title of my pastor's sermon yesterday (July 28, 2013). Pastor Matt's sermon has caused me to do a 180 related to my post from July 11, 2013.

Yes, becoming an artist would be the bigger challenge. It would be the more difficult road.

However, I have more talent in the field of writing. In many ways, pursuing the children's novelist choice would bring more glory to God. My novels would be based on my faith and the Gospel would be clearly presented in every story. Not in a "preachy" way but as a natural part of the story. The stories will be structured in such a way as that if faith was removed, the stories would collapse.

The children's novels would allow me to write about some of my favorite things: Jesus, children and horses. It won't be easy, though. The writing will be the easiest part. Then the stories will be passed on to my first reader. So far, so good. The hard part will be finding an agent or publisher. There's a lot of competition out there. My work has to stand out from every other wannabe children's novelist.

More new authors are going with the self-publishing route, but I'm not sure that's the right route for me to take. All the expenses would be mine, but so would most of the profit. I'd also have to create a business in the state of Minnesota if I plan to sell novels, whether from my website - once I have a website, that is - or selling them to stores. It would be harder to get my novels into the hands of my target readers if I only sell from my website. With an ISBN, I would be able to market my novels to places like Barnes & Noble, Amazon, LifeWay Books and other stores. Without an ISBN, my only choice is to sell them from my website or at horse shows.

I won't give up working on improving my drawing skills. Once my skills improve, I'll look for ways to reflect my faith in my art as well as my writing, perhaps even doing art of the horses from the novels. An artbook would make a good tie-in to the novels. . .

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." I Corinthians 10:31, NIV+

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Protect Your Brain

There is one basic safety rule when it comes to horses that is frequently ignored, particularly at horse shows, especially when it comes to Western events. The rule? When working with horses - even on the ground - always, always, ALWAYS wear a helmet designed for horse back riding!

No matter well-trained a horse is or how experienced the rider is, accidents can happen. In 2010, Olympic dressage rider Courtney King-Dye suffered a traumatic brain injury when her horse tripped and fell. She wasn't wearing a helmet and she is still recovering from her injury. English riders seem more willing to trade in their traditional hats for helmets than Western riders are to trade in their cowboy hats for helmets. Effective April 1, 2013, the USEF (United States Equestrian Federation) requires helmets for all dressage riders, who normally have worn top hats.

At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, British Dressage rider Charlotte Dujardin became the the first gold medalist to wear a helmet in dressage competition. After having fractured her skull in a riding accident previously, she has become a strong proponent for helmet use.

14 year old barrel racer Megan Sparks was featured in an online interview in Western Horseman. She wears a helmet instead of a cowgirl hat. She doesn't care what other people think of her. She knows how important it is to protect her brain.

I do have my own riding helmet, which I bought before I went to Fort Worth in April 2012. Even though the stable I used for the two trail rides has loaner helmets, I felt more comfortable wearing my own. I knew it would fit me and I knew the history of its use. I also used it later that month when I took advantage of the free horse rides at the Minnesota Horse Expo. Even if I only use one or two more times - or even if I don't use it at all again - I will replace it before the first time I go riding after April 2017, as helmets need to be replaced every five years, even if the rider hasn't fallen. If the rider falls, the helmet needs to be replaced immediately. While I like my cute pink helmet, when I replace it, it will be with another Troxel helmet, this time one with a more Western design. If Schatzlein's Saddle Shop doesn't carry the particular one I want, I'll ask them to order it for me.

Minnesota 4-H requires helmets for all members and volunteers when riding. Unfortunately, that rule only applies to riding, not to groundwork.

Even when doing groundwork, it's a good idea to wear a helmet. No matter how cautious you are or how calm your horse normally is, accidents can happen even on the ground. Better to wear a helmet and not need it than to need it and not be wearing it.

If you spend time around horses, be sure always to wear a helmet. Protect your brain!

Saturday, July 20, 2013


To a team competing in Ranch Sorting, hearing that number from the judge tells them they first need to move the cow with number four on it into the next pen. A total of eleven cows will be in one pen, with numbers 0-9 on ten of them and one with no number. After cow number four has been moved, the remaining cows are moved one by one in numerical order into the next pen. If a cow goes into the next pen out of order - for example cow number seven moves into the next pen on its own before cow number six has been moved - the team is disqualified. If the cow with no number gets into the next pen, the team is also disqualified.

Ranch Sorting is almost like a carefully choreographed dance between the two riders and their horses and the cows. The riders need to read each other's cues. The horses need to understand what their riders are asking them to do. The horses and riders together need to control the movements of the cows. It's a timed event and the team that successfully sorts all ten numbered cows the fastest is the winning team.

Since I am still a horseless cowgirl, I've never competed in Ranch Sorting. I've only seen it once. At the 2011 Region 3 American Quarter Horse Championships, the Ranch Sorting championship was held on Sunday afternoon. I fell in love with it that day. If I had a more competitive nature, it's one of the events I'd love to try.

To be successful in Ranch Sorting, the key ingredient is a horse with cow sense. Just like not all cats are mousers, not all horses have cow sense. There are some horses who are spooked by cows. It also requires a partner with whom you can communicate easily and who also has a horse with cow sense.

There are nine competitive levels, all the way from beginner to pro. So if I competed, my partner and I would compete against others who are at the same skill level we are.

If I ever get over the "I really don't want to compete" attitude, Ranch Sorting would be one of the events in which I would want to compete.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Take Delight In The Lord

"Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4 (NIV+)

There's a lot of information packed into that one verse. I think some people only read the last part of the verse "He will give you the desires of your heart" and ignore the condition for having that happen "Take delight in the LORD."

What does it mean to take delight in the Lord? To me, it means He's at the center of my life and everything I do revolves around Him and His will. Nice words, but I fail to reach that ideal more often than I do reach it. Why is it hard at times to take delight in the Lord? After all, everything I have comes from Him. How can I not take delight in the fact that the Creator of the Universe actually cares about every detail of my life?

When I take delight in Him, the desire of my heart becomes what He desires. If I really do take delight Him, I will already have the desires of my heart.

True, there are other things I want - I want to be a successful children's novelist and horse artist. I want to spend the rest of my life with my very own cowboy of faith. But with Jesus at the center of my life, all the other things I want are just dessert.

From now on. I want Jesus to be the last thing on my mind when I fall asleep and the first thing on my mind when I wake up. This cowgirl wants to ride for His brand first, last and always.

"Whom have I heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You." Psalm 73:25 (NIV+)