Archive | March, 2013

Katie Believes That Gardening Can Be Therapeutic

21 Mar

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Katie understands the unique challenges of being a miniature horse.

Dear Katie, I am 34 inch miniature horse.  I am not sure why my owner plants flowers in the yard if she doesn’t want me to eat them.  What is the point of a flower garden?  Signed, Good Taste in Flowers

Dear Taste, there is no other point to a flower garden, except sometimes it is fun to trample it.  Only do this after you eat the plants you want, though.  -Katie

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Katie: the Cartoon

18 Mar

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Katie Ponders a Weighty Problem

18 Mar

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Katie understands the unique challenges of being an easy keeper.

Dear Katie, I am a 16.3 hand Clydesdale draft horse.  I have very slow metabolism and gain weight looking at hay.  What can I do to improve my metabolism? – Signed, Weighty Problem

Dear Weighty, your metabolism is just right.  Gaining weight looking at hay is good.  If you weigh more, you can push your fence over faster and escape easier.  Then you can eat even more. – Katie

Horseshoes in the Dust

18 Mar

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Dusty harnesses, stiff as cardboard, hung from hooks in the back of the shed.  Collars, tugs, backbands and breeching retained their crumpled shape if I lifted them from the hooks.  Once I attempted to clean and soften an ancient bridle, to no avail.

Horseshoes lined the crossbeam over the woodpile and turned up in the dust on the shed’s floor and sometimes elsewhere around the farm.  Our farm hadn’t seen horses since the late 1940s when grandpa got his first tractor.

I liked one set of shoes in particular.  They were pony-sized, and I only found three.  I visualized the pony who had worn them and made up stories about her, since my dad didn’t want to talk about horses.  Later he mentioned their beautiful, perfectly-matched team sent to slaughter because there was no market for horses after tractors came in.

I didn’t learn to drive a horse until four years ago.  I didn’t find anyone to teach me until then.  But it was a lifelong dream, started by the harnesses hung from the walls behind the tractors.

My biggest trouble learning to drive was that I was a Western rider.  The horses I rode all neck reined.

When driving, all you have are your reins and voice.  And your whip. That was hard for me to fathom and took rewiring my brain.

I love driving every bit as much as I hoped.  I don’t know if the harnesses and horseshoes are still back in the old shed in Wisconsin.  Maybe the new owners threw them out.  But I am sure horseshoes will still turn up in the dust if someone goes looking for them.

The Insane Notion of Getting A Young Horse

15 Mar

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Last summer after much searching, we found a perfect horse.  He was a true gentleman with good manners around all things.  He jumped, rode English and slowed down to a Western jog and neckreined when asked.  He set up for showmanship.  He loaded in the trailer and the vet loved him.  He was over 20 but in good health.  Until he died.  Suddenly.   The emergency vet could not save him and insisted we had not killed him, that it was his time.

Still it was horrible and traumatic.  A month later we looked at a young, adorable miniature horse who was sweet as can be.  She was three years old.  Three years is still a puppy.  But all we were thinking was this one is young, she will not die.  And she hasn’t been messed up like so many older horses we looked at.  She is a clean slate.

But soon I realized that at my age, with my kids also in the adolescent stage, that I was in over my head with the young horse.  A clean slate yes- but no training in things like trailer loading and baths.  And of course with a little bit of puppy-tude amid the general good nature.

I soon realized there was a reason I preferred horses headed towards their geriatric years.  I was headed in that direction, too.  I fantasize about sitting on porch swings in the sun not lunging teen-aged miniature horses.

I trained Katie, but she was 15.   She was settled down and in her mature years- her 40s.

So mini will be heading off to a trainer and hopefully come back a well-trained girl.  In the future, I will be only getting mature animals.  Cute puppies?  Forget it.  Kittens, no way.

Katie Knows The Importance of Having a Good Job

15 Mar

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Katie understands the unique challenges of being a miniature horse or pony.

Dear Katie, I am a 13 hand Shetland pony.  I don’t like my job.  Kids make me go in circles and kick me in the sides.  I tried scraping one off under a tree, but he just got back on.  Signed, Frustrated at Work

Dear Frustrated, the good thing about jobs is that you can quit if they aren’t working out.  If you refuse to move, you will not have to cart kids around.  You can try bucking if that doesn’t work.  That’s how you get a new job as a lawnmower and pasture ornament. – Katie

The Big Quiet

12 Mar

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Katie is tucked in her stall for the night, munching hay.  That leaves me to muse.

Sometimes I worry because I haven’t done anything truly astounding, athletic, prolific or legendary in my 49 years on this planet.  I haven’t written the 40 books I intended to or done illustrations recreating all the animals of the Pleistocene.

I never did ride my bike up the California coast through Oregon and north to Alaska.  I haven’t barrel raced a horse since I was 18, and then I barely went faster than a lope.  So winning the Kentucky Derby is pretty much out.

I haven’t traveled to very many foreign countries.  Two is the most I’ve managed to visit.  One of them was just a layover waiting for my flight to the other one.

I haven’t had any reason to visit the White House and be honored for my incredible accomplishment of cleaning out the chicken coop with a cracked shovel.

I did give birth twice without any pain meds.  And I sewed a parrot costume for my horse.

But still, there’s a lingering feeling that I haven’t accomplished quite enough.

The quest for enough, however, has no end.  Sometimes you win big, sometimes not.  And it’s all how you define winning and big.  A long resume doesn’t mean you get more time.

Animals have it easier.  They don’t need to create the Presidential greeting card.  They can truly be here now.  We have to work at it and outwit our own minds to quiet down enough to be fully present.

A horse’s world has a bigness.  I can sit with Katie and feel the Big Quiet of All Things.  Her consciousness is vast and merged with the wind and land.  Ours is constrained and boxed in by constant thought.  I think the sweeping wildness and presence of a horse is what draws us to them.  They live in a world we can only visit.  We are uneasily present on this planet and only really here when we are quiet enough to hear the silence.

Katie Says Don’t Worry About Climate Change

11 Mar

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Katie understands the unique challenges of being a miniature horse.

Dear Katie, I am a 29 inch miniature horse.  I am concerned about my pasture.  The grass doesn’t seem to be growing faster than I can eat it.  Does this mean our climate is changing?  Signed, Weather or Not

Dear Weather or Not, this simply means you are eating too fast.  The grass can only grow so fast and the only thing ponies do fast is eat.  So you must escape your pasture and find new grass to eat so your pasture can grow back.  This is known as rotational grazing. – Katie

A Quick Sketch

11 Mar

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A quick sketch of Katie done while waiting at 4-H.  No time is ever wasted if you have pencils and sketchpad.

Katie Knows That There Is Always A Way Out

11 Mar

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Katie understands the unique challenges of being a miniature horse.

Dear Katie, I am a 31.5 inch miniature horse.  How can I get out of my paddock?  I am feeling trapped.  There has to be a way out, but I cannot see it.  All I can see is the rich spring grass that I can’t get to.  Signed, Trapped

Dear Trapped, I know this feeling well.  You must never give in to the trapped feeling.  No fence can hold a miniature horse.  You have two choices.  Distract your owner so she forgets to close the gate.  You can do this by dumping over your water tub.  However, the best way is to peruse the fence for a weak spot and escape.  There is always one.  Keep looking, and soon you will be free.  – Katie