I was looking for a book about horse breeds but didn’t find anything helpful. Most were for children. But I saw Horse Color Explored: Over 150 Breeds, Types, and Variations, by Vera Kurskaya (2017) and that piqued my interest. I was interested in knowing more about the genetics of horse colors than I’d read about in the ever-informative Equus magazine.
I was not disappointed. The book was originally in Russian, but the translator, Dr. Michal Prochazka, did a great job making the book read well. I enjoyed reading about the research Kurskaya has done. She must be a neat person to know, judging from her writing style.
The book is beautiful, with hundreds of great photos of horses from all around the world. I learned much about Russian breeds, but she also shared many interesting tidbits about horses from here, Europe, and Asia.
Here are a few random things I learned from this book:
Bay is the most common color (Apache is a bay Paint, and Mabel is a dark bay)
Like dogs, there is no true albino horse, just horses with giant white spots.
Gray horses change color (dark to light) at different rates. Homozygous ones change faster than heterozygous ones. (Droodles was originally bay, judging from his mane, tail, and body hair.)
Palominos are diluted buckskins. (Dusty is a buckskin.)
There’s no conclusive research to show temperament and color correlate. So, relax, red mares.
Appaloosas often have sparse manes and tails. Their genes are complicated. They also have striped feet.
Bay dun horses are closest to the “wild” type of horse. It blends in well with savannas.
All the dilute color genes (Cream, Pearl, Champagne) were discovered recently. They may be recent mutations or hid before.
Anyway, this is of limited interest to most folks, but if you like genetics or horses, check it out!
My friend Louise, who is a frequent commenter here, sent me this book after I’d commented that a short film based on it looked sweet. Sweet. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse (2019), by Charlie Mackesy, is way more than sweet.
Everyone with a tender heart, even one hidden deep under layers of armor, should read this book. You deserve to spend time in the world these characters reside in. You need to hear the reminders that love and kindness are what truly matter and that we all are worthy of these things.
The book is gorgeous, too. It’s printed on beautiful, thick paper. The text and images are all hand drawn in the minimalist pen and ink of the author/artist. Your eye just wants to linger on the images, many of which say volumes with no words.
Louise knew I’d treasure the book, and I’m so grateful she sent it. Lee read it, too, and he also laughed at the mole’s love of cake. I cried at one of the few things the fox said. He treasures friendship as much as I do.
I’m passing the book around the family, then I’ll leave it in the tack room for guests to find and enjoy. I encourage you to buy it and share it. Give it as a gift to a friend you treasure. I know I’m gonna drag my local friends into the tack room to sit with a few of these poetic pages and remember the world we want to create.
I’m too tired to write my planned post so hey, here’s a book that I just received and am already loving. Block by Block Crochet: Quilt-Inspired Patchwork Blocks to Mix and Match, by Leonie Morgan, came out in 2021. It’s a great reference book for anyone like me who likes to get creative with color and blocks.
Every single pattern Morgan shares, from a simple solid square to more complex motifs, has given me ideas for using up my stash or making something special and new.
Morgan did a great job of not over-complicating things with the patterns. She tells what techniques you’ll use, gives a sample of what multiple blocks will look like together, and gives the patterns both in words and charts. You’ll be glad for the charts if you’re American, because the instructions are in UK English. With crochet, that matters more than in knitting, because we call the stitches different things. (Our single crochet is double crochet in UK terms. It’s not hard to translate; you just have to remember.)
Since I’m having to rest my hand a bit each day, dreaming of what I can do with these crocheted “quilt” squares is a great break. I’m such a sloppy quilter that I hesitate to see things. But now I can play with yarn like I would fabric.
Yep, this book was $18 well spent, plus it got me free shipping on the black yarn I want to use in the next project. Hmm. Maybe I’ll use it with one of these motifs!
My new blogging strategy does include continuing with book reports. They are among the least-read posts, but the people who do read them seem to enjoy them, and I like having a record of what I read over the past few years. So, let’s go!
Rating: 4 out of 5.
My friend Johanna recommended the book Piglet: The Unexpected Story of a Deaf, Blind, Pink Puppy and His Family to me, saying it reminded her of me and my dogs. Once I started reading it, I could see how she came to that conclusion!
Piglet is an example of what could have happened with Carlton if he hadn’t lucked out and had spots on his ears and near his eyes. That’s a double dapple or double merle or one of those genetic issues that can happen when two dogs with the dapple or merle gene breed and get homozygous.
So, little Piglet ended up very pink and both blind and deaf. The fact that he has ended up being a social media star and an ambassador for both animals and people with disabilities is an amazing testimony to the creativity and determination of the veterinarian who adopted him, Melissa Shapiro.
Along with her family (especially Warren, her wonderful husband) and their six other dogs (and some birds), Piglet had a lot of supporters and helpers when he was little. I found it fascinating to read about how he figured out his world with his nose, including remembering people by their breath!
Shapiro’s pets did remind my friend of our pets, but the difference is that Shapiro has a lot more discipline and organizational skills than I do, so her dogs have a lot more skills and control than ours. But, the love is the same! I enjoyed getting to meet all the other pets in the household as well as Shapiro’s children, who thrived in the supportive yet disciplined environment in which they grew up. I had to smile huge smiles as I saw how each of them became their own person and braved the world with the confidence their parents helped them develop. Good job, Shapiros.
It’s hard not to like this book. It also makes you want to run out and contribute to Piglet’s nonprofit that supports educating people about the many accomplishments both humans and animals can have when they don’t allow disabilities to limit them. The Piglet Mindset is a great thing to have! Many readers will find themselves looking at disabilities differently after reading Piglet, and that makes is a truly wonderful book to have.
Check out Piglet’s Facebook page and his nonprofit and follow the extreme cuteness and pluck of this little dog. He has a lot of life left in him and a lot of work he can still do!
I recently finished two books by Crissi McDonald, a horse trainer and clinician who lives in Colorado with her husband Mark Rashid, who wrote the previous books I read. I had a theme.
I think they are self-published, but the quality is quite good. She must know a good proofreader. The books are Continuing the Ride, in which she talks about recovering from a bad injury from a horse accident, and Getting along with Horses, which talks about how your attitude can affect your experience with horses.
McDonald is an engaging writer who has honed her craft through blogging and participation in writing groups. In fact, Getting along with Horses started out as blog posts. Good idea! She is good at both telling stories and sharing what she’s learned. I’ll sprinkle some quotes in this review. Here’s one (and I forgot to get the page number, but it’s from Getting along with Horses.)
Riding a horse, or being around horses, is a shared experience. Horses are power sheathed in silky coats. They sweat, they feel a full range of emotions, and they’re accepting of humans and all our crazy ideas. They can’t be fully controlled. And yet. The thrill of a gallop is a freedom mutually felt. The serenity of grazing is something we can be included in. As we share experiences with our horses, we come to see the world through eyes that aren’t blinded by our particular definitions of the world. This world doesn’t belong to just us. We share it with every other living creature, plant, and river. Being with a horse allows us to consider other ways of life, and what is important to them.
Crissi McDonald, Getting along with Horses
What made me happiest is that much of what she says about working with horses applies to dealing with humans, so I got lots of food for thought about dealing with people around me as well as my equine companions.
When McDonald talus about recovering from her injuries I could see how her words would help anyone dealing with trauma. She shared how giving herself permission to go as slowly as she needed to go actually sped up recovery. And I love that she didn’t bring anger or blame into the discussion. Things just happen and dwelling on blame just makes it harder to go forward. That is not just a horse thing!
Fear makes it hard to do your best with your horse partner, but it’s so reasonable to have fear. Horses are unpredictable, large, powerful, and easily frightened, themselves. I’ve had to work through my own fear with Apache after my own fall (not a bad one at all) and my lack of confidence in both him and me. No wonder we’ve had all the issues.
What I like best about these books is that McDonald doesn’t come across as preachy or authoritarian, just as a fellow horse lover who’s trying to figure things out, just like you are. She’s also willing to follow her instincts, even when they aren’t all scientific. I do that, too.
When she talked about the importance of your intentions in horse work, I felt relief. A lot of people avoid that, since it comes across all woo-woo or something. But intent has always been a powerful force in my life. Just because we don’t know how something works yet doesn’t make it real. Like gravity and germs, you have to get to the point where people can measure things! I digress.
Two Quotes That Apply to Us All
I’ve written a lot about the importance of remaining calm in the midst of chaos. During the coronavirus pandemic, the chaos waits for us every day. We see that the pleasures and places we thought would always be there no longer are. We watch the numbers affected by the virus go up. No one knows where this train stops. Or even pauses.
As much as anyone can, I’ve tried to stay informed without spinning emotionally out of control.
Crissi McDonald, Getting along with Horses, p. 105
My Favorite Topic!
Name-calling a horse, or anyone for that matter, may be borne of frustration or anger, but I can guarantee you that the only result will be to perpetuate an adversarial relationship. Name-calling is a lack of imagination, it shuts down our innate curiosity, and it smothers learning. Wanting to have a partnership with your horse and name-calling are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Since when does seeing your horse as an enemy to be vanquished yield a harmonious and pleasing relationship?
Crissi McDonald, Getting along with Horses, p. 19
Anyway, these two books felt like hugs to me, much needed hugs. I feel validated on my path with horses, and I have new insights to help me on that path. Guess I better go follow Crissi McDonald on social media!
Another thing they used to say in La Leche League was that we preferred to give information rather than advice. I’ve talked about this before, but I have feelings about it. So here I am again.
When we were helping women with their babies, we’d let them know what we knew, what the current research says, and what our friends had experienced with their babies. Women would listen to all the information, then make up their own minds about what would work for their families. We had run into so many mother-baby pairs that we knew what is best for one might not be the best for another.
And you know, people seemed to like that approach. Lecturing and saying “you should” often makes people shut right down. People tend to dislike hearing that they are wrong, and often spend a lot of time justifying their own actions rather than taking in new ideas and considering them.
I’ve chosen to take that approach and apply it to potential “arguments” and conversations. Ooh, and I also apply it to exchanges on social media. I find my own self shutting down when I mention an issue I’m having only to find half the world telling me what I should do. It feels like people are ordering me around, even though I know perfectly well that, in their minds, they are giving suggestions! Thus, I try to answer anyone’s questions to make it clear that I’m just giving one data point, not my authoritative expert declaration.
As I recently read, the older you get the more you realize you aren’t an expert at anything! You know you have more to learn. The more you know the more you realize you don’t know, or something like that.
I got to thinking about this when I was reading a book (Getting along with Horses: an Evolution in Understanding) by Crissy McDonald, the spouse of Mark Rashid. She talked about mentioning sharing a photo of a horse that was hobbled (a way to keep them from wandering off when you don’t have a fence). Now, she knew what she was doing, the horse had been trained to be comfortable with the hobbles, etc. But people on social media just started yelling at her that she was abusing animals…before asking her pertinent things like what the horse’s experience with this was, how was she using the technique, etc. There was no effort to be curious about what she shared.
Sigh. Been there myself! Seen it happen to others so many times. I know that there are people who increase their self esteem by putting others down to build themselves up. I know there are people who honestly believe they are experts on most things. There are folks who just love to argue/debate. There are people who just don’t know much social etiquette. Like Crissy, I do my best to send good thoughts to people like that and simply not engage. You’re not going to teach these “experts” anything. They don’t want YOUR lecture any more than you want theirs, right?
So, treasure those around you who are willing to pass out information and let you decide for yourself how to use that information in your unique situation.
Consider, after reading all my information, using the techniques of just offering up things you know, experiences you’ve had, or opinions, not getting all invested in whether your input is acted on. Perhaps the other person has something going on that makes your information inapplicable, and that’s no reflection on you (or me).
Well, I got that off my chest. Two rants in a row. Whew.
I will admit that softness is a thing I always wanted to have with horses, but I thought I was just making up, since nothing seemed soft about dealing with them for much of the time I’ve been around them. I have always been told to be harder, be more assertive, and be more of a leader (which is what I learned about in the previous book about passive leadership).
I know why that all is, of course, but I was intrigued to read how Mark Rashid and some of the people he’s worked with have gotten to a different level with horses, to where they don’t have to do much at all to work together as a team and achieve goals. The softness does require concentration, attention, and effort, so it’s not a breeze. And it’s a lot of working with energy and intent – something that I actually am good at! How about that?
I got some great ideas about how my attitude and intentions when around the horses can make things go better, and I was eager to try them out when I got back from my trip.
Who knows if it’s “working” or not, but I have enjoyed keeping positive intentions and kindness in my heart as well as taking everything that happens as the right thing. It’s been nice to think the horse has a voice in what we do, too. That was great with Mabel when she was sick, and in both my lessons last week. I’ve continued it all week when I work with Drew and Apache.
Another thing Rashid talks a lot about is aikido concepts of meeting force with less resistance. I don’t explain it well, but he told a story of when a man showed up at the ranch where he worked all bent out of shape, aggressive, and rough. Rashid’s mentor didn’t react much, just asked quiet questions and moved slowly in response to the man’s aggression. Soon, the man quieted down, and the mentor was then able to give him some suggestions. The idea was the more violent the guy got, the more passive the mentor got, so that the average of their energy was in the middle. Rashid talked about doing that with horses as part of his softness energy work.
I thought about doing the same with people and even got a chance to act on it when someone in my life got angry and acted out. I didn’t respond until they began to settle down, and I am pretty sure that happened faster because I didn’t add energy into the mix. That wasn’t easy for me, but I breathed and thought of lovingkindness. I’ve been doing that a lot these days.
Back to the book. An added bonus to this book is that he included some stories from people he’s worked with, about how they found softness in various aspects of their lives in addition to the horses they worked with. That was invaluable to me. This book was well worth reading and had way fewer typos than the previous ones.
As usual, Rashid tells a lot of stories about his younger days with his mentor, as well as stories about people and horses he met during his clinics. One of the things that struck me with this book is how well he combines intuition with knowledge of how both people and horses work. His clinic attendees must really get a lot out of their interactions.
From this book, I learned how important balancing your reactions to things, so that horses can mirror your reactions and minimize their own reactions. His discussion of using energy to cue horses as much or more than physical cues makes a lot of sense to me. I can see where I’ve done my own horses a real disservice, but at least I have a plan for what I can work on moving forward.
I just hope I haven’t ruined poor Apache’s life with all my emotions, fear, and inability to remain calm no matter what. I’m getting better, though, and hope I can be more consistent. That’s the other thing Rashid talks about, how horses learn to trust people through consistency. That has always been hard for me, since most of the time I’ve been with Apache I’ve not lived with him, and have been gone a lot. But you know, I also have to live my own life, so I’ll just do the best I can. I’m sure that’s what he’s doing too.
And I will try my best to forge a good relationship with Drew, now that I am getting more training and have learned more. I guess the oldest “child” is always the one that has to deal with inexperienced caregivers.
I recommend any of his books to people who want to learn more about how the relationship between horses and people works. The more you learn, the more nuggets you can take and apply to your own life with equines. Plus, you’ll grow to love the horses he has worked with as much as Rashid did.
You may remember that a couple of days ago we were surprised by a fire alarm in the building where we are staying, right in the middle of important meetings I was supposed to be holding. Going down all those stairs, then trying to train people in software from an overly sunny condo balcony was hard on my nerves. I am not convinced that it was traumatic, but it was most assuredly unnerving. I ended up getting rid of all my nervous energy by taking a very, very brisk walk up and down the Myrtle Beach boardwalk, which is about a mile and a half.
I felt a lot better after that and was able to get through the day. I must admit, however, that I walked more briskly than I realized, because my legs still hurt today…and I’m used to doing a lot of walking! I’m sure I look like I’m old and arthritic when I try to haul myself up out of a chair or go downstairs.
Here’s some more of that synchronicity that’s been happening to me ever since I declared myself someone who didn’t believe in such things. I sat down in bed last night to read more from Mark Rashid, the horse trainer who talks about people’s relationships with horses and how horses’ minds work. One of the first stories I read in Whole Heart, Whole Horse: Building Trust Between Horse and Rider was about a horse who had been through some rough times just could not settle down and whose person had tried “everything” to get it to do her bidding. Except one thing.
Rashid suggested that if the horse wanted to run, to let it run. Sure enough, after the horse ran all its energy off, it calmed down. He shared how his mentor had done the same with another horse that was a bundle of nerves. They just ust let it go run and run until it got all of the nerves out of its system and felt better.
Huh, I guess that works with people as well as horses, because I’m just great now (other than sore legs), even after enduring a sales meeting!
I remember letting Drew loose to run and run soon after I got him back in July of 2021, too. He came back much calmer and has not acted jumpy or upset since then. Rashid posits that it’s how animals who get scared often, like prey animals, get rid of their post-scare adrenaline and go back to calmly grazing and otherwise going about their normal prey-animal lives. Interesting.
Back at the Ranch
As you can see from the photos above, Drew got a visit from Bonnie, the equine dentist, yesterday. He has a cracked tooth, so she looked at it and did some work to make it less likely to get worse. He did just fine and thanks to sedatives, he was not traumatized. Dental care is really important for young horses whose teeth are still coming in, so I’m grateful that she was able to get him seen along with her horses.
Now Drew is back home with his friends at our part of the ranch after his little vacation among the green g
We’ll see if tomorrow brings more adventures than canceled meetings and gale winds, but I’m afraid my fun field trip on another boat tomorrow may be canceled. I may just have to watch the lifeguard making fun tracks in the sand that will soon get overwritten by the high tide. That’s fine. I’m safe and warm and my family is mostly all right.
I read another horse book on my way to South Carolina, Horses Never Lie, by Mark Rashid (2011) (Sara tells me it’s pronounces Rash-idd). It’s the kind of book I enjoy reading, with lots of stories used to make the point, rather than a lot of pontificating and such. It also backs up my gut feelings about horses and explains why some methods of horse training (such as forcing a horse to keep going on and on until it bows to your wishes) make me uncomfortable.
The book talks about passive leadership, a concept Rashid explains in his comments for the second edition to have been a hard one to make sure people understand. I like the idea, and it makes sense after my limited amount of horse observations.
The idea is that horses don’t necessarily follow a leader who pushes, prods, bites, kicks, or hits them (human or horse), but rather a leader who is calm, seems to have a clue what they are doing, and treats them with respect. That’s what passive leadership is. In horses, these leaders don’t set out to lead, they just end up leading because they are the horse with the most chance of keeping the rest of them safe, at least in the other horses’ eyes.
The dominant horse (mare, stallion, or gelding) is obeyed, but never trusted or sought out for companionship. Interesting ideas when you apply them to people. Rashid provides helpful examples, both of how horses act when left to their own, and how they act with people. I know that I’ll be a better horse leader having read this, which is good, because I have been repeatedly told what a sucky leader I am, because I can’t “make” Apache do what I want to do. Now I see that sometimes I am letting him have a say in his life, and sometimes I do need to show him leadership…just the right kind.
In any case, there is always more work to do when it comes to horsemanship, and the big lesson I’m getting right now from the books I read, from my trainer, and from wise friends is that you should take what works for you and leave the rest – but make informed decisions based on your learning. Where did I hear that before? Oh, yeah, back when I was a La Leche League Leader and trying to figure out how to best feed and parent my children. Ha, maybe I’ve just moved on to a different species for my caring and nurturing focus.
By the way, if you’ve read this far but didn’t read the review of the horse book I read before this (hardly anyone read it), I encourage you to read the Horse Brain, Human Brain book. It also provided great insights into both human and horse behavior that can be helpful.
Why the Three-Star Review
You may have noticed that I gave this book only three stars. Well, besides the fact that not every book can have five stars, I just got annoyed by the typos in the book. My guess is that it was self-published, but if I spot three typos in a book, I get disappointed. In this one, I found three separate instances of the letter “a” appearing where there should be a letter “u” in the word. And it wasn’t some weird dialect of English either.
Ran for Run, p. 91 and 176
Rash for Rush, p. 201
Ok, yeah, editors should not read self-published books. I know that. The last one I read had a whole bunch and the person wasn’t even interested in hearing about them. OK, fine. Hope someone buys it anyway.
By the way, yes, I know my blog has typos. A lot of posts are written on the phone, and my ancient and chubby fingers end up making some doozies sometimes. I would appreciate it if you pointed them out so I can fix them. I typed this post. Let’s hope it’s not too bad.
I’m probably going to read another of Rashid’s books, so I didn’t get all that upset with the typos; I’d just prefer to not see any. Back to staring at the ocean.