Archive for the ‘family’ Category

ASH BILL

June 1, 2018

Bill

In her last years of high school, my sister, Maureen, decided she wanted a calm horse she could trust. I suggested we look for a Quarter Horse gelding, and we found this beautiful chestnut Quarter Horse in a stable near Kansas City. We didn’t know the people there, so we wanted to be cautious. I asked if I could ride “Ash Bill” to see how he handled. He was terrific, getting every lead, neck-reining, responding to the slightest signal. Just standing beside him, I could tell how sweet and calm he was.

We drove Bill home and helped him get used to Towaco and our barn. Everything went great–Ash Bill felt right at home. The next day we saddled him, and Maureen took her first ride on her new horse. He limped. Poor Bill was as sweet as could be, but he was lame in his left foreleg at the pastern (ankle). We couldn’t stand thinking of Bill in pain, so we called Dad, a medical doctor (for humans), to hurry home for lunch and to bring his doctor’s bag with him. Dad confirmed that the horse was lame and had likely been lame for a long time. He even found evidence of a syringe having been used on that leg, and he surmised that the owners had injected a dose of Bute (Butazolidin) to numb the problem right before our visit to the stable. The previous owner, of course, denied knowledge of a limp, though we later discovered the stable had a shady reputation. It wouldn’t have mattered. We’d already fallen in love with Bill and wouldn’t have given him back. Thanks to Dad, we helped Bill live with his infirmity. Heat rubs and wraps made the limp go away. And when that didn’t work, Dad had a backup supply of Bute on hand. Turns out that Butazolidin is one of the few horse medicines allowed on raceday.

Winnie’s mom (in Winnie the Horse Gentler) is said to have owned a favorite horse, a Quarter Horse. Anyone remember the name?

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CINDY SUE

May 22, 2018

whole Cindy Sue and MCindy Sue and Maureen (2)

Maureen found her perfect horse in Cindy Sue–tall, skinny, flaxen mane and tail, high-stepping American Saddlebred, 5-gaited (walk (prance), trot, canter, rack, and stepping pace). Cindy was a show horse, and Maureen did win some ribbons with her. That horse (and my sister) deserved ribbons–both beautiful.

But Cindy wasn’t easy to handle. She was high-strung and frequently nervous. Several times she jumped our fence. We built up another rung, but that didn’t stop her completely. Cindy behaved better in a show ring than she did on fun rides in the pasture or on dirt roads and trails. Rabbits, cars, and sudden movements frightened her, and she’d shy. Still, she was a pleasure to look at, one of the most beautiful horses I’ve ever seen.

But she was no Misty. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (I Samuel 16.7)

MEANWHILE, MISTY & I . . .

May 19, 2018

Misty tank

Meanwhile, Misty and I enjoyed every day together. As you can see, she kindly shared her water tank with me in the summer. Misty and I also swam in the pond down at the pasture, but this water trough didn’t have craw-daddies, which made it my favorite cooling-off spot.

In I Kings 4.26, it says that Solomon had 4,000 stalls for his chariot horses, and he had 12,000 horses. As for me, I was perfectly content with one, my Misty. And this is how my characters seem to feel about their horses too: Ellie in Backyard Horses; Sarah Coop (“Scoop”) in Horsefeathers! Jen in A Horse Named Bob; Dakota in Starlight Animal Rescue; Winnie in Winnie the Horse Gentler; and Young Winnie in Winnie: The Early Years.

 

LANCER

May 16, 2018

lancer (3)

My sister, Maureen, continued her quest for the perfect tall, skinny horse. Instead of merely asking around or checking local want ads and for sale items, we ventured to a couple of stables. Maureen took one look at the tall, skinny American Saddle Horse in this picture, and “Lancer” joined our family. Lancer was a fine-looking horse, all right. He even went forward when asked, unlike her previous mount, Butch. Maureen didn’t want to ride him bareback, but loved transitioning to English. We both loved riding Lancer English, with the lighter saddle, the double reins, jodhpurs, English riding boots, even a bowler hat.

Still, something was missing, and I think I felt it right away. Lancer was a good horse, but not a friend, not like Sugar and Misty. He was hard to catch and didn’t seem to enjoy rides on our country roads. I’m not sure how long Lancer lasted. I don’t think he was high-stepping enough for Maureen. She still loved horses, but she had lots of other interests too. And by this time, she was in high school and well on her way to becoming homecoming queen. She knew her days were numbered for acquiring the horse of her dreams–tall, skinny, high-stepping, 3-gaited, or maybe 5-gaited, flaxen mane and tail. And so the search went on . . . .

I’ve written about Lancer in several books, though always with a different name. He reminds me of Bold Beauty in the original Winnie series. If any readers can think of “fancy” horses in my other horse books, I’d love for you to refresh my memory.

BUTCH

May 11, 2018

Butch

While I continued to enjoy Misty, my “backyard horse” and bestest friend, my older sister, Maureen, began to dream of fancier horses. At first, she just wanted a “tall, skinny” horse. And eventually, Butch came into our lives, thanks to a previous owner, who seemed happy to give the gelding a new home for a token amount of money. Up to this point, every horse we’d encountered had been good-natured and bomb-proof. So we weren’t at all surprised when Butch unloaded at our house and backed down from the truck with no problem.

I had to admit Butch was a handsome horse. Not only that, but he seemed friendly and calm. He led easily to the barn, where he seemed to feel right at home. He didn’t bite or buck or rear. We could not wait to ride him.

And then Maureen rode him. I can still see my sister sitting tall in the saddle on a sunny afternoon, urging Butch to walk up our dirt road. Only Butch had his own ideas. He walked backward. And backward. Maureen stopped and started over. Butch walked backward. When urged on, he trotted backward.

That horse never walked forward–not one step, not with a rider on his back. We didn’t have Butch for long. In fact, I have to admit that this picture isn’t actually our Butch, though the resemblance is nearly perfect. Neither Maureen nor I could come up with a single picture of Butch. I suppose Maureen wasn’t in a picture-taking mood, and I was laughing too hard to take a good one.

I haven’t yet started writing the fourth book in the new series, Winnie the Horse Gentler: The Early Years. But I’m planning on giving Winnie a problem horse that only wants to go backward. Should be interesting to see how she handles the problem. . . .

BEST (HORSE) FRIEND EVER

May 8, 2018

My Misty (2)

Although Misty doesn’t look his best here, he was always his best. And he looks a lot better than this Dandi anyway, if you ask me. I remember the day Dad took this picture. I’d rushed home from school to see Misty. As usual, my friend met me at the fence and put his head in my lap for a snuggle and a good scratching. Later, I’m sure I brushed that mud from his winter coat and went for a ride, bareback. We likely stayed out until supper. We would have stayed out longer if it hadn’t been for that annoying activity called homework.

In the Winnie the Horse Gentler: The Early Years series, Winnie forms a deep friendship with a big ol’ plow horse named Chief. Winnie often climbs the top rung of the fence so Chief will join her and put his head in her lap for a snuggle and a good scratch. Sound familiar?

I hope I never took Misty for granted. I remember being grateful for the gift of Misty’s friendship. But I didn’t know then that all good gifts come from God. And it was only later that I came to understand friendship with God through Christ. I’m still thankful for Misty. And now I’m not only thankful, but I know the One I’m thanking. I know Who deserves my thanks.

MISTY

May 3, 2018

Misty (2)

After the loss of my first horse, I was afraid I’d never find as good a friend as Sugar. I was so wrong. This amazing black gelding came into my life: MISTY.

My Misty was the sweetest, most wonderful horse a kid could have. We were never sure of his breed, but I always considered him a Morgan. Misty had a Morgan’s calm, trustworthy nature and good sense. We bonded instantly. I could ride him bareback the first day, barely signaling turns and gaits, as if he could read my mind. In the mornings, I’d open my window, and Misty would stick in his beautiful head to say hello. I could hardly wait until school was over so I could see my friend again.

4-H Horsemanship came to town, and Misty was the perfect horse to teach me the tricks of the trade. He was a natural, getting the right lead before I even knew what that meant (leading with the inside leg at a canter). He rode as well with an English saddle as he did with western gear, so I was able to learn both.

In the first book of the new series, Horse Gentler in Training, from Winnie the Horse Gentler: The Early Years,  young Winnie teaches a horse o say yes and no.  I really did teach my horse to say yes and no, much as Winnie teaches Royal Princess in this book. Misty proved over and over that a horse can definitely be a kid’s best friend.

 

ANGEL & ROCKET

April 30, 2018

Angel and Rocket

The bottom picture shows Angel and Rocket in our pasture. Some of our horses let us ride them into the pond, and some did not. We set up jumps in the back pasture, and there was a very short trail  that circled the pond behind the trees. I learned to drive our old station wagon on the long, dirt lane that led from the gravel road down to the pasture gate. Far too young to drive on the road, I’d steer down the lane (under the supervision of my dad), then back up the long lane when done riding. To this day, I’m better driving backward than forward.

The top picture shows the pen, or the fenced-in yard beside our house. You can see how close the house is to the fence. Farther to the left was my room. At one time, the outside wall of my bedroom formed one side of the pen. If I opened my window, I could hop out and join the horses . . . or they could stick in their heads. In the bottom right corner of the first picture you can see the rim of a round, metal horse’s trough. On hot summer days after a ride, that trough became my tiny swimming pool. My horse drank while I cooled off.

Two of the books in the Winnie the Horse Gentler series feature foals. In Gift Horse, Winnie helps with the difficult birth of a foal. Then we see more of that foal in Friendly Foal. I was, of course, remembering Rocket and Angel.

SUGAR THE SUPER HORSE

April 24, 2018

Bareback on Sugar

I want to pay a final tribute to my first horse, Sugar. She put up with me when I was just beginning to ride and to understand horses. She taught me about friendship and loyalty, and I credit her with my lifelong love of horses. Sugar is the Pinto I write about in the first chapter of Horse Dreams, the first book in the Backyard Horses series, the shaggy mare that becomes a best friend. She probably made an appearance or two in the Winnie the Horse Gentler and Horsefeathers! series, but I’d have to look that one up. (Or, if any of my wonderful readers would like to inform me, that would be great. Many of my horse-loving readers know the details of those books better than I do!)

I remember sitting by Sugar’s side on that last day. Her chest barely moved, and I watched it to make sure it did. Her breath was raspy, but she didn’t seem to be in pain. I stayed out in the pen with her well after dark, missing supper, until I couldn’t take it anymore. I returned to the house and curled up on the couch. I pretended to be asleep, but minutes later I heard my sister ask Mom, “Should we wake her up?” And Mom answered, “No. It will keep.” And I knew Sugar was gone.

But not completely. That night I broke out a fresh Big Chief tablet and started writing down everything Sugar and I had ever done together–the morning rides before school, the “explores” after school, the races with Maureen and Rocket, the Cowboys and Indians games with neighbors and cousins. When I ran out of stories, I made up more. I created “Sugar the Wonder Horse,” followed by the sequel, “Sugar the Super Horse.” So maybe that first horse taught me even more than I thought.

A COLT IS BORN!

April 16, 2018

Angel MMPAngel birth

On the day Rocket had her foal, my sister, Maureen, (in the foreground) and I (the braided wonder on the other end) were granted special permission to stay home from school. Sarah, my best friend, (short hair, middle) took the bus to our house after school to witness the big event. We’d had many dogs give birth. Midge the kinda-terrier graced us with 9 puppies every year, puppies that proved harder and harder to give away. But Rocket’s foal was our first. The birth seemed miraculous to me then, and I’m convinced to this day that all births are miracles. Within minutes, the colt was standing on wobbly legs, his curly tail twitching. After hours of rejecting each other’s names for the nameless foal, we settled on Angel. I was thinking of Angel when I wrote Gift Horse and Friendly Foal in the Winnie the Horse Gentler original series.