Tag Archives: philosophy

Horse Drama, Part 2

30 Oct


I am trying to figure out if horse drama is a West Coast thing, or if there is also cow drama.  Or maybe I attract drama.  But I never attracted any sort of drama at all until I got back into horses, so I can only assume that horses bring out the crazies in people.

Maybe if I were wealthy and at a big boarding barn there would be no drama.  Maybe it’s that I am in a low- budget price range and get what I pay for.

Or it’s possible that more money buys more drama.  I wouldn’t know, since I don’t have more money to find out.

I think the crazy people selling horses and lessons don’t realize they’re crazy.  Being an introspective person, I immediately question if I am the crazy one and see all my flaws, imperfections and inconsistencies.   I see the times I inadvertently hurt someone or failed to be the person I wished I could be and acted badly.  The times I took the easy way out rather than confronting someone.

As a last resort, I ask someone if I am crazy.  Then I bring up the name of the person I suspect is crazy.  Most of the time (well, all of the time) I get a response that says something like “I should have warned you about her.”

So, from now on every time I encounter a new horse person, it seems I must check their references and check if they are crazy.  Why is it like that in the horse world?   A horse is an animal, a pet, a companion, a working partner– but also  seems to be a power trip and an ego boost for some people, or a crutch used to prop up a fragile sense of self.

Or maybe I’m reading too much into it.   Maybe it’s so simple that horses just attract some crazy people.  And some great people, too.

The Zen Of Talking to Yourself

22 Mar


Katie doesn’t have this problem.  Or so she says.  This is her person writing.

I’ve always been one of those people who organizes thoughts by talking to myself.  I used to think it was a mad scientist, artist or cooking show host trait.  But no, it is a Zen trait.

The kid with his locker next to mine in High School, Quinton, had it worse.  He would talk to himself as he rolled the combination lock, as he found his books and even when he walked.  I never knew if he was talking to himself, me or his locker.  He was a genius beyond genius academically, and one of my favorite people.  He was oblivious to social pressure, whereas I pretended to be a person who didn’t talk to myself.

I still talk to myself when I’m painting.   Zen helped me accept it.  Now that I comprehend that we are all the yellow ochre, chalky green and canvas itself, a conversation with art supplies (or combination locks) seems perfectly normal.

After all, painting a picture, opening a locker or even walking is the Universe having a conversation with itself.  So is playing an instrument, picking up trash, peeling an apple.  We’re just one face of the universe, and so is everything else.  We converse in various ways.  Sometimes we don’t respect the other faces we see- from plants, to the land to other creatures, human or otherwise.  Ultimately, that means we disrespect ourselves.  But when I see people making positive changes, caring, respecting our fellow earthlings (and ourselves), it gives me hope.  We are all one.  How we treat each other matters– readers, oceans and yellow ochre.  The little things matter.

The Insane Notion of Getting A Young Horse

15 Mar


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.

The Big Quiet

12 Mar


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.

On Icebergs and Introverts

9 Mar


Katie is busy eating hay this morning and was taught to never talk with her mouth full, so this is my post.

I used to think the reason introverted people ran into things lot was because we were lost in our own thoughts.  Now I realize it is because we’re icebergs.

What you see is not what you get.  Most of an introvert is below water.  That’s a lot of power.  An iceberg inadvertently sank the Titanic.  So if a quiet person bumps into you today, that was the rest of the iceberg.  We’re just bigger than most people realize and sometimes we don’t realize it ourselves.

Smile, It Really Is Funny

12 Feb


Katie is out enjoying her hay, leaving me to write my own blog post today.

Every day, the world conspires to make us forget who we are.  That is one of those trite phrases that usually precedes a superior smile and healing rendition of “Om.”  It’s one of those phrases that, unless you experience it, means nothing.  But if you’ve experienced yourself as who you are, which we all have- and remembered (which we usually don’t), then the phrase is a happy reminder.

It’s easy to think you are a student. mother, child, stall cleaner, unemployed air traffic controller…but the job we do has nothing to do with who we are.  Neither does our hair, clothes, health, possessions, successes or failures.  These have nothing to do with who we are.  But it’s impossible to get through a day without identifying ourselves with an external job or condition.  As long as we have a mind, we’ll see ourselves in relation to the world.

That’s why those saints and sages who lose their minds just laugh.  Because it is really funny.  It doesn’t seem like it most of the time.  But in those flashes when you see through the facade and see the world, and yourself, as they are, then all you can do is laugh and smile.

A Few Thoughts, In the Name of Art

23 Jan


Katie is out in the pasture today, so I’m off on a writerly tangent.
Since I started writing again, I feel like “God” is following me around, poking me with a stick.  “God” walks quietly and carries an invisible (but sharp) stick, because whenever I turn around to look, there’s no one there.

I’m not even sure it’s really God, since I’m not sure I believe in one of those.  It could just be a random stick poking me.

“Wake up, Kid,” a voice seems to say.

I’m not a kid, that’s for sure.  But artists and writers never really grow up.  Artists spend a lot of time looking at frost-covered leaves, watching shadows cast by clouds and finding pictures in the swirly patterns on wallpaper.  We still try to find the end of the rainbow and almost get there.   “Artist” is not mutually exclusive with any other profession.  Art itself is not exclusive, since it can’t really be defined.   Artists tend to be accepting of differences in other people,  especially paradoxes.  Diversity brightens an artist’s day.

That’s why you can walk into a room full of artists or visit an art opening and find yourself among old friends you’ve never met before.  Anyone who has faced a blank page or canvas and ended up putting some marks on it has walked the hero’s journey.  They’ve been poked by God-like sticks to get working and answered the call.

Most artists are loathe to define things. When you name something, you steal its power.  Words are limited, and often you stop really seeing something when once you name it.  Think of that beautiful bird at your feeder.  When you didn’t know what it was, you knew every detail of its stripes and colors.  Once it became a Variegated Thrush, it was just a bird.  It lost a lot of its magic.  Though still beautiful, it will never be seen in such completeness as the first unknown orange brown bird who appeared at the feeder.

Humans also label each other (liberal, conservative, vegetarian, tele-evangelist) and then we stop seeing who is really front of us.  No words can ever completely capture the essence of anything.  Neither can a painting or photo.  But that doesn’t stop us from trying.  Just be safe,  artists avoid being pinned down about many things.

God is one of those.  Many artists, being creators themselves, have a firm, unfailing belief in a universal creative force of some kind.  But define it?  No way.  That takes away the magic.  Of course, some artists are completely comfortable defining God/Goddess/etc., and some have ditched the concept entirely for secular humanism.

So whoever is poking me (or you) with a stick, saying, “wake up and write,” thank you. I’m not that interested in what to call the Stick-poker.  I’m busy drawing a frost-covered leaf.  You may call the Universal Stick-Poker of Creativity anything you would like.  And I won’t judge you for it.

Lance Armstrong, Heroes and Horses

21 Jan


The fall of Lance Armstrong is a not surprising given our culture’s obsession with building our own egos.  If our heroes are real, they will fall, because we are all human.  There is no way way to overcome the cycles of life…in cycling or any other sport.

When winning becomes so important that a person lies, cheats, steals or resorts to violence, then the point has been missed.  Usually spectacularly.  Think Tonya Harding.  There is really only a journey, no destination.  It’s the journey that holds the reward and the gold.  If you miss that, you will never be happy.  I think I will stick with Gandhi as my hero.  And maybe Nancy Drew.

That is why I like horses.  They have no egos.  Well, ponies do.  But that’s another story.  They spend more time eating than building an image for themselves.   In the horse world, there is also drugging and abuse for the sake of human ego.  This problem is rooted in our own minds and how we express ourselves across the canvas of life. What do we value?  Look around at our world and it becomes obvious.

So if you haven’t won the Tour de France, the Kentucky Derby, an Olympic Gold Medal or a golf championship of any kind,  be happy today.  Those are goals that bring 15 minutes of fame.  For the other 23 hours and 45 minutes in a day, you will not be famous anyway,  so you might as well have plan B.   Like freeing India from the British or solving the Mystery of the Old Clock.

Stall Vices

5 Jan


I have not kept a horse in a stall except at shows.  Growing up in the country, horses were kept out in pastures with shelter.  I had one wealthy neighbor who had stalls for their horses.  I remember approaching the jail-like bars and looking in at the horses,  then sliding the door open to release one for riding.

My own horse spent his days on five acres, across the street from our farm.  Even though we had an actual farm- a farm with cattle and hay fields and pasture, my dad said no horses were allowed.  So I kept my horse at my neighbors’ house where he lived with their two Appaloosas in a blissful pasture life.  When he wasn’t injuring himself or being forced to work by me.

Years later, when we got a pony for my daughter, we kept Gypsy outdoors with a three sided stall.  She only used it in the worst of rains or to eat.  It kept her hay dry.  We sent her for training one Spring at a large boarding and training facility.   The only boarding available was an outdoor paddock with a shelter.  One day there was a different horse in the paddock next to her.  It was a new horse who had come from a stall situation.  I went over to say hi.  The horse swung her neck in a wide circle, impressively making it large and symmetrical, just like you would want in dance class.  Then the horse shifted her weight side to side in a little one-two step and bared her teeth at me.

Gypsy, being a no-nonsense pony, looked at the horse in utter shock.  Gypsy usually runs over and charges any creature that might be thinking about coming into her territory and eating her food.  This time she was so shocked she just stood there with tilted head and ears back.

Then something stranger happened.  The horse did it again.  In some strange ritual dance, she repeated the head swing, one two step and teeth baring.   It wasn’t until later I realized this was a stall vice.  A horse confined to a stall, which is usually a 12 foot by 12 foot box, can get upset about it and develop strange rituals to deal with the stress and maybe to amuse themselves.  Not all horses develop stall vices.  Some horses love their stalls.  But many like wide opens spaces and to be part of a herd.

I started thinking about how this applies to people and our stall vices- over shopping, overeating, gambling, you name it.  We were originally a nomadic species, migrating and seeing new things.  An interest in novelty kept us trying new food in new places and surviving.  Humans still enjoy the vestiges of this when you seek out Italian or  Chinese take out (if this is not your native diet).  Now most of us spend days commuting in “shiny metal boxes” to quote the Police.  We might end up in another small box, aka 12 x 12 stall- and be stuck there for 8-10 hours.  That is when stall vices can kick in.  Our culture has a love affair with shopping, buying things that are shiny, entertaining and whose value is short-lived.  Even a new car depreciates quickly.  The value is in its newness.

Maybe I’ve taken it a step to far to liken people to stalled horses, but I hope you get the point.   Everyone needs exercise,  friends and good food.   A little personal space goes a long way. Unfortunately the wide open spaces don’t exist in the quantity they used to.  Things are confined.  Built up.  Every trail system, park or nature preserve, every open field where animals graze and every wooded hillside is a reminder of what used to be.  Today go out for a hike, bike, trail ride, trail drive, run or just find a scenic park bench and sit and admire something vast and wild.  Make it a good day.  Don’t let anyone box you in.

Note to followers:  if you see typos in the email, please visit the blog page where I have corrected them.  I often submit before the caffeine kicks in.  Thanks so much.  And thanks for reading.