Book Report: Two Horse Books That Apply to Everyone

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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.

Here are the books.

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.

Here’s Apache. We have had a long and challenging relationship, but we will always like each other.

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.

Andrew. We’re a pair. I love him intensely.

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!

Dusty always seems concerned about something. Look at the wrinkles around his eyes and mouth. But he loves attention.

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.

Mabel is doing so much better. She’s not shut down, asks for attention, and has life in her huge eyes now.

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!

Horses Can’t Vomit, Just Ask Drew

Sometimes being the guardian of a companion animal is scary as heck. One minute you’re admiring how healthy your animal is and the next minute you’re hoping they aren’t dying.

How healthy this horse looks! No more ribs sticking out.

Right after I took this picture, something startled him or he took too big of a mouthful and he started coughing. That got me concerned. I tried to get him to drink some water, which was hard because the hose was behind some stuff. I mentally berated myself for feeding him where there was no water available and for not wetting his food enough.

Breathe and enjoy the sunset reflected on the Tahoe on our way home.

Then his food started coming out of his nose. I was trying to figure out what it was he had, and all I could say was he was SICK! I texted Tarrin and asked if it could be choke, once I remembered the name of it, and she said to get him to the vet.

I called the Texas Equine vets, thrilled they have emergency service. Lee got me there really fast. I’m so grateful for his support and patience after I was crying and worried. But we got Drew there in time!

Thanks, Mom and Lee. The wet area is from his ultrasound.

The vets and assistant were great. So was Drew. He walked into the treatment room like he always does it. He stood quietly for all the treatments, which looked pretty icky. He was sedated, of course, which relaxed him.

See, I’m relaxed.

Lee had never seen some of the procedures, so he got quite an education. When they put the twitch on Drew’s nose he was surprised! Drew was fine with it. He was very good when they ultrasounded his lungs. He didn’t seem to have aspirated much, if any, good. That’s good, since pneumonia is a common consequence of choke.

Before any gross stuff came out.

And the procedure for clearing the blockage was fascinating but messy. They pumped water up a tube, which came out along with stuck food. The good news is that I got him there quickly, so the stuff was fresh.

Going in.

It seemed to take forever to get the blockage cleared. The tube went farther and farther down. Horses have very long esophaguses. Drew was a real trooper.

After they were sure he was clear, they put in some oil to test that things are going through. We decided to leave him there overnight in case he colics, which is another possible consequence of choke. I sure wish horses could barf. That would have solved the problem.

More sunset to recover with.

I was so worried. Drew looked miserable with all that stuff coming out of him. At least I figured out what it was and that it was serious. The vets said sometimes people wait a long time before bringing the horse in, which can be bad. I’m sure grateful for the kind and competent staff at the facility. I love this little guy so much and just want him healthy and happy.

Kathleen was telling me that when Mabel choked last year, it was on similar food. And Tarrin said she’s had horses get into cattle cubes recently. Luckily they cleared theirs. I guess this isn’t as uncommon as I thought. But wow, there went what had been a great day so far!

Lee and I enjoyed our sunset coming home, though. And I’m feeling better after the support of my horsey friends and neighbors. Y’all rock.

Ducking and Covering

I was a child during the Cold War. I was petrified of atomic bombs. We had duck and cover drills in school, as if hiding under a desk would do us any good. I had nightmares about bomb shelters for decades. I don’t want to go to sleep tonight. Baby Suna might take over and return those dreams.

I never thought the threats would resurface. I thought our leaders were more interested in money than power. Maybe the current situation is about money after all.

Curl me up in a ball.

No one should have to live like this. Our brothers and sisters in the Baltics and Russia should not have to live in fear of their neighbors. They should not have to feel the need to fight their neighbors. I’m so disappointed in humans. Again.

In my mind I’m 6, not nearly 64 and covered in wrinkles.

I feel sick for the everyday people of the world who have lies fed to them to rile them into hatred. That’s here where I live, too. It’s so disheartening.

Sure, like I said earlier today, many of us are having good lives right now. It can go in a flash, though. I’ll leave you with a Bible verse, for the first time ever.

And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people.

Daniel 8:24, New King James Version

Applies to more than one would-be emperor, I think. Dark times. And we are unable to affect them. Powerless. Resigned. Curled up in a ball like the dogs.

Back to the Serenity Prayer for this pagan hermit. And I’m not gonna duck and cover. I’m not interested in living in one of those apocalyptic times.

(PS I do know more about nuclear warfare and such than I did at age 6 and think that other methods of genocide are now preferred.)

Scary, but Not the Halloween Kind, the Political Kind

If I hadn’t put out decorations in my houses, I wouldn’t remember that Halloween is in a few days. All that fun spookiness and pretending to be scared has fallen by the wayside in my circles. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY seems to have real fears right now. It doesn’t matter who you are or what social group you’re a member of, you’re probably scared, or at least really concerned.

People in the US seem to be the most scared, but friends around the world have been expressing their concerns to me or in public forums. The elections coming next Tuesday are alarming people. People are scared of fraud, roaming militias, unseemly riots, government failures, mayhem, the apocalypse, a military coup, bombs…you name it, if it’s bad, people are afraid of it.

According to an article in today’s The USA Today, 70% of US adults are anxious about the upcoming election. That obviously includes people from all parts of the political spectrum! The article describes what people around me have been saying:

The majority of American adults say they feel it. The anxiety, the fear, the dread. 

They feel it before bed and when they wake at night, at red lights and in grocery store lines, at desks and dinner tables. Quiet moments are no longer a refuge, but spaces to ruminate, contemplate, to grapple with how risky it is to hope.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2020/10/28/presidential-election-stress-how-cope-anxiety-and-fear/6049521002/

Only 52% were anxious in 2016 (I should have been MORE anxious). The thing is, no matter who wins, the other side will be doubtful about the results. I can see that. It doesn’t bode well. And taking deep breaths won’t help in that situation, will it? I have been wondering if there are any ideas I can share with y’all, my real-life friends, and my family (who run the gamut of beliefs and expectations).

For example, let’s not imagine the future this way, okay?

Thank goodness for Alia E. Dastagir, who wrote this helpful article, and thank goodness I found it when I was faliling around searching for ways to cope. I’ll share her ideas for dealing with the next few days, weeks, or months, but feel free to head on over to the original article for details.

Avoid doomscrolling. That means don’t obsess over the news and check outlets repeatedly. You could even take some time off.

Prepare for a period of uncertainty. Ugh, I don’t want to do that! I want things to be DONE. Well, too bad. We need to find ways to remain strong while waiting for things to settle down. And there’s where I’m grasping at straws. Dastagir did NOT tell me how to do that.

Dare to hope. Dastagir points out that many people in the US no longer dare hope. At least there’s a suggestion on this one, which is to focus on finding something you can actually DO. I think all the postcard writing some of my friends did helped in that way.

Avoid black-and-white thinking. That is easy to fall into, especially for some of us. WE’RE DOOMED! I have been doing a fairly good job of avoiding that kind of thing myself. I try to remind myself that we are all fellow humans, and that awful stuff has happened throughout history and at least SOME people make it through it…so, maybe I’m not doing such a great job of avoiding doom and gloom. But, we can all try together, right?

Don’t despair. This may be easier said than done, but we are implored not to despair if our candidate does not win. The psychology professor quoted in the article recommended that we try to avoid people who may be gloating or in ecstasy for the first few days after a contentious election is settled. That is what I did in 2016, though that was easier then than it is now.

This time, I may have to leave town.

This looks nice. Image by @ctayers via Twenty20.

Hey, do any of YOU have any good suggestions for how to deal with what’s going to be a hard time for at least half of us, no matter what the outcome?

It’s Always Something

People my age will remember early Saturday Night Live shows with Gilda Radner playing the irascible Roseanne Rosannadanna (not Emily Litella, as I said in my first draft). She’d end her confused monologues with the memorable phrase, “It’s always something.”

She was absolutely right, once you start thinking about things. Right now a lot of people feel like the world is in the worst shape it’s ever been in their lifetime. And there sure are a lot of calamities and issues these days.

I started thinking back through my life, which is a while, since I’m one of those Baby Boomers everyone thinks is so awful. What did I find? There was always something.

When I was a little kid, I had nightmare after nightmare about an atom bomb falling on my school. I had dreams where we’d be taken deep into tiled corridors that were supposed to lead to the safe area, but we never got there.

Little Susie in the 60s. Duck and cover!

Later, I thought that what happened after high school, if you were a boy, is that you went to a faraway place and fought in the war Walter Cronkite kept telling us about every night, where there were always charts about injuries, deaths and MIAs.

Next, a whole lot of propaganda got me scared witless about drugs. Someone was going to slip me LSD and I’d be thrown into a psychedelic poster of Jimi Hendrix and never escape! I was scared to death of sugar cubes. Meanwhile, Mother’s Little Helper was over there turning my mom into a basket case. But, those weren’t DRUGS. Hippies used drugs!

Watermelon, the gateway drug for chickens.

Time marched on. There was always some calamity that was going to cause the downfall of society, kill us all, or take away this freedom we’d been told we had (being White people and all that). As I got older, I was sure we’d never survive a succession of war-mongering poor-people hating presidents (my opinions; not always accurate).

There were social things to get all up in arms about. Seat belts! How dare they! What? Cigarettes are bad? Don’t be a litterbug! Plastic is evil! Etc.

Yeah, it’s always something. After a while, you realize that there’s always some crisis or something to fear. The news has to report something. There’s always a war somewhere, a drought somewhere, a big storm, a fire…some are just closer to home than others. So…

This line of thinking led me to post this status on Facebook a couple of days ago.

I figure I’ve made it through all of these things. I’m just going to continue trying to do the right thing, strive for a better world, and deal with whatever threatens me at the moment. What comes is going to come.

This poor grasshopper certainly didn’t see that bird coming or guess that it would be impaled on a fence. It’s always something.

I’m not going to be oblivious, complacent, or complicit with evil, meanness, or cruelty. I’m not going to be unsafe. I’m just not going to let it rule my life. This is the only life we get to live, and like Billy Joel said,

They say that these are not the best of times, but they’re the only times I’ve ever known.

Summer, Highland Falls, Turnstiles

I’ve been doing a lot better with it, with all the practice the pandemic has given me. I’m just gonna “roll with the changes” (REO Speedwagon?).

These curious heifers are just dealing with life as they keep getting moved from field to field. They just take it as a chance to meet new people. It’s always something, isn’t it, ladies?

Chickens Can NOT Catch a Break

I’m beginning to think my poor chickens are living under a black cloud, are haunted, or broke a mirror sometime in their past. They really just can’t catch a break.

Here’s a rat snake that was found in a shopping cart in Midland. So friendly.

You may recall that just last Saturday, I found an adult Texas rat snake curled up happily in the henhouse, with three eggs embedded inside him or her. That snake was removed, so I was really thinking all was well.

Nope. Wednesday night, Seth, the chicken tending volunteer, got scared witless when he saw TWO snakes in the hen house. He didn’t stop to try to identify them. For someone who lived in the boonies most of his life, he’s not real “ranchy.”

Here’s a cute spider to take your mind off snakes.

He called his mom, who told me. I said, hey, remember Tyler who lives right there? He can take care of snakes. Then I heard nothing.

I asked Mandi how it all went, and she said she wasn’t sure. He wasn’t talking about it. Wow. Nature is not kind to that boy (age 19). But I do understand that many people have big issues with snakes, even non-venomous ones.

So, I asked Tyler, who IS ranchy, what the heck had happened. He said the two snakes were the same kind and size as last week.

What, are they a family? If so, one of them ought to tell the others that the fun times at our coop don’t have happy endings.

Mostly, though, I feel bad for those poor remaining 8 chickens. We took care of one set of predators, only to be joined by another one. I think my friend Mike and I need to get working on the new and improved coop, not just talking about it.

Fearless. Am I? Are You?

Get ready for some heavy introspection! In the past couple of years, a big change has come over me. I’ve been spending some time reflecting on how the way I interact with people and the world in general has changed for the better. I’ve been wondering what the heck sparked the welcome change, and whether I could even describe it other than “I feel better now.”

Is this flower perfect? No. But it’s beautiful and capable of bearing fruit (because I see a rose hip).

I come from a “nervous” family, and always have dealt with anxiety, which coupled with being an “extra sensitive person” could be a real hindrance to someone like me, whose goal is a relatively calm life with relatively little stress.

After decades of trying to deal with my lovely symptoms through meditation and self care, I finally got some therapy, which was very helpful and healed up some of those deeply rooted issues from childhood.

This blue wall used to have a very busy mural on it. The blue wall and fake clouds remind me of how nice it is to have some of that background buzz diminished.

When I finally tried some medication, I noticed that the background buzz of anxiety went down just enough that I could really work on some of the other things that were holding me back, most of which were fears created by myself:

  • Fear of making mistakes
  • Fear of trying new, hard things
  • Fear of displeasing a loved one
  • Fear of rejection (the big one)

That’s a lot of fear. Those are pretty common, I know, but they sure were intrfering with that peaceful mental state I was aiming for. So, I worked on it.

Continue reading “Fearless. Am I? Are You?”
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