Warwick Schiller makes the right thing easy

Warwick Schiller flew under my radar at first. The Australian transplant (he calls California home now) watched the horsemen of the Horsemen’s Re-Union with me last April. We talked about what they were doing and who was doing well. He’s friendly, knowledgeable, and outgoing.
It doesn’t take much research to discover he’s actually more popular than many of his peers at the Re-Union. (Heck, he’s got twice as many facebook fans as the event itself!) He’s one of the best reiners in the world and recently returned to the States from Australia’s Equitana where he’s hailed as a fan fave and has been featured as an All Star.
What I like about Schiller is his no-nonsense approach to teaching. He’s easy to understand and delivers his message without fuss or condescension. You can find scores of his free video tips on line – another vote in his favor. Most are formally produced. But I like this one for its spontaneity and off-handedness:

Honored to be Ignored

We’ve had some mild days this autumn. They come after a stretch of cold ones that had my girls anxious for hay at all hours. They seemed to be girding themselves for the long winter ahead.

But yesterday, we got into the 50s. The warm interlude had the horses more relaxed than usual. They looked downright dopey, like you might look if you had to keep your heavy coat on while standing in someone’s living room for some time.

One, then another lied down along the fence line in the sun.

Soon, all but Comet were down, eyes fluttering, mostly closed. Comet slept standing. I’d never seen the down/up ratio so high.

I grabbed the camera and slipped into the pasture to capture the moment. I started taking shots from afar, sure that they’d stand as soon as I got close.

Nope.

They let me walk amongst them.

What a cherished position.

They continued to sleep, breathing regularly, moving their ears to different sounds, letting out slow, quiet farts. I could hear their stomachs gurgling as I passed from one to the other.

If they were humans, they’d have just had breakfast. They’d be listening to classical music and dozing off with the Sunday paper in their laps. I’d be that fidgety kid being ignored.

Oh, what an honor to be ignored!

 

Looking for a Good Time

Horses waiting for ride

As a kid, I was pretty clueless about horses and riding. My mom and grandma taught what they could to a stubborn but enthusiastic girl. Mom sent me to English lessons for a while. I can still hear the drone of the instructor’s voice across the dirt of an outdoor ring: “Heels down. Toes up and in. Shoulders back. Hands lowered…”
When I was 12, I was invited to take care of a Welsh pony. Her owner was going to college. I’d do everything but pay the bills. Pretty nice arrangement.
Honey and I had a great rapport. We rode several times a week in the woods and fields of Harpswell Neck. Mostly on our own for hours at a time, we’d ride south along the now defunct Navy pipeline. Riding bareback, I got tossed off every other ride. When I relaxed and got distracted, Honey’d move laterally. It was a little game she liked to play, I’m sure.
Rides were fun alright. When I called her from the field, she came running. It wasn’t for grain. It was for the good time. It was for my girlish affection and our clumsy camaraderie.
Twenty-five years and a million miles have passed, but that’s what I was feeling yesterday as we set out saddles for another ride. The horses took notice and gathered around.
“You gonna take me?” they each seemed to ask.
I’m pretty sure they don’t care that I ride a little better than I did as a twelve-year old. They’re just interested in the good time.

 

Dog is Good. Horse is Good

What do you do with all those catalogs that come as junk mail?

Do you browse through them?

Recently, they go automatically to the recycling bin for me. I don’t even thumb through.

More often, I’ll browse and shop on line. And when I like something, I’ll bookmark it.

I stumbled across a small, cool outfit recently: Dog Is Good.

The company is smarter and more fun than Life is Good.

Turns out Horse Is Good, too. Just scroll down to Horse under their SHOP menu.

Check ’em out. Christmas shopping solved for all your horse buds.

You’ll occasionally see their products in the NickerNews ads and if you click and end up buying, I might just get a few cents for a cuppa coffee!

Chincoteague Ponies just peachy

The Fire Chief of tiny Chincoteague, Virginia (population 4,347) may not be a horseman, but he had an idea that the Chincoteague ponies would take care of themselves if given the chance.

The manager of the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge thought so, too.

So instead of containing them during Hurricane Sandy, the two departments (Together, they share responsibility and ownership of the herds.) let them have the run of the place.

“They had free range of the entire refuge,” said manager Lou Hinds.

The hurricane did a ton of damage to Assateague and Chincoteague Islands, the thin slivers of sand that are as vulnerable as the Outer Banks when it comes to big storms.

But the horses appear to have weathered it just fine.

“Sometimes it’s better,” said Chief Harry Thornton, “To turn ‘em and let them ‘em do what they know to do best… They knew something was up. When we open those gates, they know it’s time to head to higher ground.”

He said the ponies usually head to an area known as White Hills on Assateague Island, a sandy knoll that surrounds the historic lighthouse and rises 20 to 25 feet above sea level, according to the Washington Post.

This Post photo shows them checking out the carnival grounds immediately following the storm. Watch video here.

Horses: Nonplussed or Verklempt

grazing while hobbledOk, I love words, especially when you can have fun with them. Forgive me in advance for this post’s tangents.

Yesterday, we took a long ride across the Greencastle Bridge and into the next town of North Liberty. I’ve become quite fond of snack breaks and for this eight-mile ride, there was no exception. I knew just the spot – off the path with a nice view and plenty of grass for the horses.
This time, instead of holding onto our mecates, we hobbled them. Both Comet and Pep have been hobbled and know the deal. Pep does almost too well with hobbles. I’ve seen her lope/hop quite well with them. She set to grazing right away and stayed close but mobile. I thought, ‘She’s nonplussed.’ a fun, fancy way of saying unfazed.
Comet, as you mightn’t be able to see from this first image, was unimpressed. She’d grab a mouthful and then stare at us. I could see her fussiness brewing.
I struggled to think of that odd Yiddish word that I’d heard in Saturday Night Live skits years ago…Verklempt.
Mike Myers brought the term to pop culture as Linda Richman on SNL’s Coffee Talk. It means overcome with emotion.
Comet was most definitely feeling verklempt.

And here is what happens when a verklempt horse has no Coffee Talk friends on the couch to help her out of her state. She launched herself. No one paid her any mind. We were nonplussed. Get over it, girl.
She went to grazing but mostly stood and stared, making it clear she was wholly dissatisfied with the arrangement.

When I got home I did some word research. Nonplussed is decidedly not unfazed. In fact, it’s a weird way of saying ‘fazed’ or ‘perturbed.’

Yeah, Comet was those things, too.

Equine Therapy in Child-Size Doses

Us horse owners are so lucky. We get to soak up good equine vibes daily. And we get to share. This summer, I had the privilege of introducing a young friend to trail riding. Gracie, a four-year old suburbanite, took to it quickly. She had an easiness and natural ability that synched well with her charge, Peppermint.
Pep, in turn, seemed mindful of her rider’s beginner status and pulled no pranks while I rode Shea and ponied her those afternoons.
Summer faded to late fall and those rides became mini memories until I received an envelope and card from Miss Gracie in Virginia. (see photo below)
What’s even better?
Her granddad told me she dressed up as a cowgirl for Halloween.

I Wanna Go

A friend turned me onto a Los Angeles Times story about Mary Breckenridge. At 64, she crosses the High Sierra with two mules and a saddle horse. She’s done it for years and has some incredible insight about being alone in nature and relating only to the outdoors and to her animals.

Lately, it’s a topic that’s fresh on my mind as I consider the growing ranks of formal “equine therapy’ — for veterans, kids with diabilities, adults with mental and physical handicaps. Seems like everyone is beginning to realize and quantify how good it feels to hang with horses.

It’s more complicated than that, of course. But horsemen and women know this intuitively. Wasn’t it 200 years ago that someone uttered: “There’s something about the outside of the horse that’s good for the inside of a man”?

Check it out here.

The newspaper did a fabulous job with photography and video. I highly recommend checking out the video (which you may have to scroll to the bottom of the story to see. The Reporter’s Notebook, a daily journal kept by reporter Diana Marcum, is equally enthralling. (You can find a link to it within the story link above.)

 

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