Thursday, December 20, 2012
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Now, don't get me wrong, I believe that horses were designed to be domestic and serve man. Indeed, domestic horses live longer than horses in the wild and for a variety of reasons: better diet, better hoof care, protection from predators, and so on. But we do, inadvertently to be sure, create problems for our horses through the life we ask them to live. One of the biggest and most life-threatening problems that you need to be informed about if you are a horse owner is Colic.
What is Colic?
At its most basic, its a tummy ache! It is a general term used to describe any sort of abdominal pain. It can be so mild that you don't even know it is happening or so severe that it becomes a medical emergency. In fact, colic causes more deaths in horses than any other disease! And, surgery for colic is very expensive! (I know, you are thinking: "What does a rich author need to worry about expenses for?" Well, I am here to tell you that "Rich Author" is an oxymoron unless your name is Stephen King or J.K. Rowling!)
So, What can you do?
First, you can know of and limit the risk factors that can lead to an onset of colic.
1) Horses are animals (much like children) who do best on a predictable routine. They tend to start worrying if there are any changes. As a result, any change of that routine can actually bring on colic. This would include especially: increased stall time do to an injury or weather; increasing or decreasing the work/exercise load; change in feed whether hay or grain.
Any changes need to be made gradually. If the horse is injured, hopefully you could at least do some hand walking. New feed needs to be introduced by mixing it a little at a time with the old feed. The same is true with exercise. Do not try a steep Colorado Mountain trail your first ride out in the spring for instance.
2) Dehydration. Horses need to have constant access to water to avoid GI trouble caused by impaction. (Food kind of balling up and getting jammed.) If it is freezing outside, make sure you clear water tanks of ice.
Horses drink a lot of water so be prepared!
3) Sand colic is another risk. If your soil is quite sandy it is very possible that the horse could ingest it. This can build up in the GI tract and cause loose stool and other upset. Some vets recommend a daily supplement that prevents this.
4) Parasites can cause intestinal inflammation which can lead to colic. Make sure you keep up on your worming schedule.
Now, even if you are very careful about all of these risk factors, even the best horseman/woman will experience a horse getting colic. The key to recovery is a quick diagnosis. Know the signs that your horse is uncomfortable or, worse, in trouble.
According to SmartPak.com the tell-tale signs are:
Looking at, kicking or biting the abdomen
Repeatedly lying down and getting up
Sitting in a dog-like position or lying on the back
Lack of Bowel movements
Reduced or absent gut sounds
Not eating or drinking
Stretching out as if to urinate
Elevated respiratory rate
Elevated heart rat
If your horse displays any of these signs call the vet and follow whatever he/she tells you to do! Let's help our noble and great horses live a long life!
Monday, November 26, 2012
Here is the video from the interview in Times Square with Ann Romney and Para-olympian Rebecca Hart. I am amazed that Lord Ludger is so calm in such a crazy environment! (Sorry about the ads but I don't know how to get rid of them!)
Thursday, November 1, 2012
I only know of one horse for whom a heavy metal band was named! Actually, I don't listen to heavy metal bands but I thought it was fun to make the connection with one of the most famous horses of all time. The second scene in Mists of Darkness-Book Two of the Mist Trilogy takes place at Churchill Downs when the evil unicorn Hasbadana sends his oppressive mist to the famous race track to "invite" horses to join his army. So, in honor of Mists of Darkness's impending release, I decided to do another blog post about a famous race horse...clearly one of the noble and great horses that is surely a unicorn now.
Man o' War was born in Lexington, Kentucky on March 29th, 1917. His owner and breeder was August Belmont, Jr. (1851-1924.) The Belmont Stakes had been named after his father. At the age of 65, August Belmont, Jr. joined the U.S. Army to fight in France during World War I. The foal was born while he was away and Mrs. Belmont named it Man o' War in honor of her husband's brave service for his country.
Upon returning from the war, August decided that he was done with the horse racing business and Man o' War was sold at the Saratoga Yearling Auction in 1918 for $5,000. The buyer was Samuel Riddle. The beautiful yearling proved to be a very wise purchase. With Jockey Johnny Loftus riding, Man o' War won 9 our of 10 races as a two-year-old. In those days, there were no starting gates. All of the horses circled around behind a piece of webbing that was stretched across the track. When the "barrier" as it was called was lifted, the horses started running. In his one loss, it has been reported that Loftus had Man o' War facing the wrong direction when the barrier was lifted and the rest of the field got a big head start on him.
As a three-year-old, Man o' War was 16 and a half hands tall and weighed 1,150 pounds. Clarence Kummen became his new jockey when Loftus was denied a renewal of his license by the Jockey Club. Man o' War was not entered in the Kentucky Derby because his wise owner thought he was too young to go the 1 and 1/4 mile long race. If you have been reading my blog long, you know how I feel about racing these horses at such a young age. Anyway, Man o' War went on to obliterate all of the other horses he raced against until, by the end of the season, no one wanted to race him.
His final race was in Canada against the previous year's Triple Crown winner (though they didn't call it that back then,) Sir Barton. Man o' War won easily.
Man o' War won 20 out of his 21 races and broke numerous world, American and track records. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and the Hall of Fame in 1957. The AP ranked Man o' War as the greatest horse of the 20th Century.
Man o'War retired in Kentucky and sired many fabulous horses. He died on Nov. 1, 1947 at the age of 30.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
I am excited to tell you that author Alan Jordan has featured Mists of Darkness on his site: Launch Party. I appreciate his kind words! Here is just a part of it:
"In the near future, we will be interviewing the author, and you'll be able to hear that interview by returning to this page. Here's a brief summary of the plot, but be aware, the plot is not the important thing here, it's the writing that you'll enjoy:..."
Mr. Jordan his since interviewed me twice, once about Mists of Darkness (that will be coming out in print before the holidays!) and once about life as a writer...writing/publishing/marketing. If you are interested in writing, whether about horses or fantasy, or whatever, you might find the second interview particularly informative.
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Enjoy the beautiful book trailer made for Behind the Mist. If you are looking for a fun book to read for yourself or to give as a gift, get Behind the Mist. It is the first book of the Mist trilogy. The second book, Mists of Darkness will be out soon.
All copies of Behind the Mist that are ordered from the website will be autographed!
Click here to order Behind the Mist from the website.
It is also available in many book stores and all internet sites.
Monday, September 24, 2012
All of you know about those chain letters. The only one I ever tried was a children's book letter. Send a child's book to the top name on the list and within a few weeks you should receive 36 children's books. Well, I sent the book and got the grand total of ZERO books back. So, I wrote off chain letters... until this one!
Dear _________________ (Fill-in the Blank,)
Are you experiencing too many reserves and lower-place finishes due to inferior performance by your horse? Does he forget his own name in the arena? Well, this simple chain letter is meant to bring relief and happiness to you. Unlike most chain letters, it doesn't cost money. Simply send a copy to six other horse owners who are dissatisfied with the way their horses are working and showing. Next, bundle up your horse and send him/her to the horse owner at the top of this list, and add your name to the bottom of the list. Do not use a return address or the postal service may try to contact you. In one week, you will receive 16,436 horses, and one of them should be a real dandy. Have faith in this letter. Do not break the chain. One owner broke the chain and got her own horse back! Isn't that a hoot?! That is your laugh for the day.
MISTS OF DARKNESS will be coming out in print before the holidays. All books that are ordered through the website: www.behindthemist.com will be autographed! You can currently get Mists of Darkness for your Kindle. Just click here: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Mists+of+Darkness&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3AMists+of+Darkness
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Sunday, August 5, 2012
Above, you will see the fantastic show jumping of team Canadian Ian Miller on Star Power. Of course, you will not be surprised to learn that the equestrian events are my favorite Olympic sports and I was only able to see a little. I get tired of the track and swimming events, sorry. I want to share with you some information on the Olympian who has been in the most Olympics...Ian Miller, the 65 year old rider from Ontario, Canada. Ian has been an Olympic competitor for 40 years. The only Olympics he has missed was in 1980 when the Canadians and many other western countries boycotted the Moscow Olympics for political reasons. In Canada, Miller is known as "Captain Canada." He is a national sports hero. He has won the jumping world's World Cup twice but only one Olympic Medal...that was in China where he rode a clean round with a broken hand and still came home with a silver!
Speaking of broken hands. Did any of you read that stupid article by the woman who calls herself a journalist. She argued that Roller Derby should be in the Olympics but Dressage should not. She claimed that the most you could get hurt in Dressage was to break a fingernail. She continued to show her ignorance when she wrote that she didn't know much about Dressage, only that you have to jump over "little puddles without getting a foot wet and jump over little fences without knocking down a board." Well, she said one thing right...she doesn't know much about dressage...I would venture to say that she knows NOTHING about Dressage or any other equestrian sport for that matter!
Enough of my ranting. Back to Ian Miller. When Ian Miller competed in the Olympics this year, he did so as one of the oldest Olympians. As I mentioned before, he is 65 years old...and he isn't quiting yet. He still has his eyes set on Rio de Janeiro in 2016. He says he just keeps getting better. The key will be how his horse, Star Power, is doing. I want to nominate Ian Miller to become a Unicorn Rider. He certainly deserves the title. He is an inspiration to all of us and proof that Equestrian sports are a life-long sport.
Friday, July 13, 2012
Molly was a victim of Hurricane Katrina. She was rescued by Kay Harris. That should have been a happy ending but, alas, Kaye also rescued a pit bull who attacked the pony and mauled her off-front leg. The vets at LSU amputated the leg and fixed her up with a prothesus. Now, this precious pony brings hope to children who have also lost a limb. Watch the news story below.
Neville the Devil (see the post on June 25, 2012) made it on the Olympic Team. I seem to be focusing on horses (and, therefore people,) who overcome the odds. Most of us are struggling right now. Let us look to our animal friends for good examples of rising above and reaching our potential!
Sunday, July 1, 2012
From the USEF Communications Department
Lexington, KY - Fires blazing across the Colorado landscape have together burned more than 100,000 acres in the past few weeks. The Waldo Canyon and High Park fires near Colorado Springs and Fort Collins respectively have ravaged the natural beauty of the area, destroyed nearby homes, and left many displaced people wondering what to do next. For horse owners that uncertainty is even greater. Hundreds of horses have already been displaced and, while local Horse Parks, Fairgrounds, and Equestrian Centers have graciously opened up to evacuated horses, the cost of caring for those horses magnifies the stresses of an already trying time. Efforts to help are already underway but outside assistance is badly needed.
With the support of CEO John Long, the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) asks that equestrians, equestrian fans, and all people who share a love for horses make a donation to the USEF Equine Disaster Relief Fund. Cooler weather and calmer winds are helping firefighters in Colorado contain the blazes, but the cost of relocating, feeding, and caring for horses is a burden that local residents and humane societies will carry long after the fires have ceased to burn. With luck, many horses will be returning home soon, but some will have no home left to return to. With your help we can ensure that all affected horses are well cared for and help Colorado's devastated communities re-build.
Monday, June 25, 2012
In 2007, Boyd Martin moved to the US and set up an eventing stable in Pennsylvania. . In 2011, Martin's barn caught on fire. Six of the eleven horses were killed. Neville was the last horse to escape, Boyd leading him out of the black, smoke-filled barn by his cribbing collar! Neville miraculously healed from both the burns and the far more serious smoke inhalation. He spent an hour a day in an oxygen tank for two weeks.
Now, this USEF International Horse of the Year is gearing up to represent the US in this summer's Olympics in London. The final eventing team will be announced in July and I will let you know if he makes the team.
Friday, June 8, 2012
Thursday, May 31, 2012
She was admitted to become and "eleve" or apprentice rider. She was trained for hours a day on the lounge line then dismounted to clean stalls, tack and horses.
But now, things have changed for Hannah. In April, 2012, she made equestrian history when she and one other rider, Christopher Egger, were advanced to the level of "Assistant Rider" thus qualifying to perform with the Lipizzan stallions. Hannah is the first woman to reach this rank! Way to go, Hannah! All of us women equestrians both admire you and feel just a little bit jealous!
As you know, I love dressage and the Spanish Riding School has taken this art form to the highest level. I wrote a detailed post about the SRS on Feb. 22, 2012. You can read it for more information.
In the first book of my trilogy: Behind the Mist, Nick is trained to become the first unicorn rider. In the second book of the trilogy: Mists of Darkness, Bethany begins her training in an attempt to become the second. It was just released exclusively on Amazon's Kindles for three months before you can find it elsewhere. So, I am nominating Hannah to become a unicorn rider some day!
Information for this post was taken from Equus.
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
One such horse is Valentino.
Valentino is a beautiful Tenessee Walking Horse Cross whose first few years of live were terrible. He had been abandoned in a field as a yearling. For over a year, he was all alone and neglected in this pasture. Some kind neighbors fed him and, finally called a horse rescue organization.
Meanwhile, Therapeutic Animal Partners in Spring Hill, TN, needed some new horses for its center to help handicapped riders. Director Terri Knauer watched Valentino in a training session at the state horse fair and immediately felt something special. He was, not only the right size for a therapy horse, and young enough to be trained for their program, but there was just something special about him...perhaps she knew he would be able to empathize with is riders more than others. She adopted Valentino and started training him for EAAT (Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies.)
He became the perfect Therapy horse...the one they could always "go to" with any need. Not only is he quiet and intelligent but he is so very patient! (Don't we wish we all had such virtues-in Behind the Mist, Nick struggles to develop the unicorn virtue of patience.) In her nominating letter to Path, Intl, Terri Knauer mentioned that "He loves toys and games and sometimes breaks a tense moment by pickiing up a toy in his mouth to help a frustrated rider." Another example: "One child came to the center missing the horse she used to ride at another center. On being introduced, Valentino gently blew on her neck then dropped his head so they could look into each other’s eyes, and the two held each other’s gaze for half a minute. That moment bonded these two and gave this young girl the hope that she could find love, trust, confidence and companionship with another horse."
Yes, horses are truly amazing! He really loves working with the handicapped riders. It's as though he is trying to teach them that they, too, can overcome life's challenges and reach the stars.
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Mists of Darkness is the exciting story of the evil unicorn, Hasbadana, as he begins to carry out his plan to rule all of the inhabitants of the earth. A mysterious, thick, black mist descends upon horse venues all around the world. When the mist just as suddenly disappears, horses have vanished. Deep in the wilderness in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Hasbadana begins training his enslaved army.
You will love reading about Nick and his horse Jazz who have now become members of the Legion of the Unicorn. Jazz has earned his horn and a new name: Lazari. Nick is the first unicorn rider. They join all of the unicorns of light as they struggle to find a way to stop Hasbadana in his wicked plan.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Anyone who knows horses understands what a remarkable feat this was. Horses are naturally terrified of fires...as they should be! They will panic, causing them to bolt, rear or kick. Madison was kicked and knocked over several times as she tried to help the horses. This did not matter, she kept going anyway, only stopping when the roof of the barn caved in. The four foot, ten inch teenager was a giant that day. I hereby nominate Madison Wallraf to be given the title of Unicorn Rider and inducted into the Legion of the Unicorn. Congratulations Madison. You are an inspiration to all of us, horse-lovers or not!
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
The answer to that question really varies. Domesticated horses usually have the advantage of better feed, veterinarian and farrier care and freedom from preditors that wild horses don't have. So, the horses that are lovingly being cared for by humans live longer than wild horses as a general rule. Small horses and ponys live longer than large horses...this is also true for dogs. Some breeds have a longer life expentancy. Arabians are known for living well into their thirties. I have a friend whose little arab is now 33. I wouldn't say she is going strong but she is still hanging in there. Thoroughbreds generally die in their twenties. I have a wonderful thoroughbred that is now 21 and is doing great.
The oldest horse I have ever heard about is Roaney, a mustang. Roaney was born in 1923. His first career was as a cattle horse on a ranch in Wellington, Arizona. In 1935 he was purchased by William S. Hart, a silent movie star where he was known for playing the part of a cowboy. Roaney became one of the many horses that he used in his movies. Hart was a close friend of Will Rogers and the artist Charles Russell.
Mr. Hart loved Roaney and provided well for him. He kept him on his "Horseshoe Ranch" in Newhall, California. On St. Patrick's day of 1966, Mr. Hart threw a 43rd Birthday party for Roaney, complete with a 60 pound cake! Several celebreties were in attendance. Hart stipulated in his will that Roaney would live out his days on the ranch and be buried there. Roaney lived to 45 years old (equal to 180 for a human!) He died on April 26, 1968. He now runs across the flower-filled fields of Celestia. (IF you don't know what that means, you need to read Behind the Mist!)
If you know about a senior citizen horse that deserves to be honored, send me an email at: email@example.com.
Behind the Mist is available now as an ebook!
Get it for our Kindle at Amazon.com, Your nook at Barnes and Noble or on Smashwords!
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Staff Sgt. Aaron Heliker riding with Rainier Therapeutic Riding founding Debbi Fisher.
I have just started a job with PATH, International: Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship. It is in Denver and is the certification and training organization for the many wonderful horsemen around the country who are helping children and adults find valuable therapy through horses. A friend sent me this article written by Nancy Bartley for the Seattle Times. I know you will find it heartwarming. These horses and horsemen who help our injured service men are heroes...truly some of the "NOBLE AND GREAT" ones, as I call them in Behind the Mist.
Seattle Times: by Nancy Bartley:
After six tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Aaron Heliker's luck ran out.
A roadside bomb left him with third-degree burns, a traumatic brain injury and nerve damage to one leg. But the unseen wounds became the most disabling of all.
The 27-year-old who rode motorcycles, was a whiz at auto-body work and had wanted to be a soldier since he was old enough to ask his mother to "buy some army pants" could no longer tolerate being around people.
He was anxious, hypervigilant, expecting attack. Memories rushed in of his last tour in Afghanistan, the five-hour attack by insurgents his convoy fended off, the soldier he found bleeding to death but was unable to help.
To block out the memories and the surges of anxiety that made him feel always ready for battle, he began to drink. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and sent to a lockdown mental-health facility for veterans.
Faced with overwhelming physical pain, afraid of being close to anyone, and so mired in despair that he could see no hopeful future, Heliker didn't want to continue living.
Then he met Fred.
A white Frederiksborg gelding, Fred is one of the horses in Debbi Fisher's Rainier Therapeutic Riding program in Yelm, where servicemen are matched with horses they learn to groom and eventually ride.
"I really liked him so I postponed my death for a week," Heliker said. "In an office I feel cornered but out here (at the farm) I feel at peace."
Horses are ideal partners for traumatized service members because "they're kindred spirits," Fisher said, and have similar fight-or-flight reactions to perceived threats.
Training a horse not to jump away at a blowing piece of paper, for example, becomes a model for the soldier's own life. Fisher takes 75 soldiers a year — both active-duty and veterans — without cost to them or the government.
When it comes to helping with rehabilitation, equine-assisted therapy has become well known across the country. Texas' Horses for Heroes started in 2007 as a model, and nationwide a number of groups have followed, Fisher's included.
Search for purpose
Fisher, 53, has spent 40 years riding and training horses. After her first husband, an Air Force pilot, died in a car crash in 2006, she felt lost.
Seeking a purpose, she knew there was a need for helping soldiers with physical and emotional difficulties, and had heard of the Horses for Heroes program. The idea of starting a program took off after she married Bob Woelk, who became the co-founder.
The program was just what Heliker needed. Nothing else had worked, he said, not treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington, D.C., not therapy at a clinic in Texas, not the lockdown PTSD treatment facility in Oregon — not even his beloved service dog, Chopper, his companion to help with anxiety.
Fred's ability to mirror Heliker's own emotional state, requiring him to calm himself in order to do as little as brush Fred, has made it possible for Heliker to get used to staying in control.
Not long after meeting Fred last June, Heliker canceled his plans to die, and over the course of nine months went from taking 42 pills a day to four.
As far as Dr. Murray Raskind, a psychiatrist at the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle, is concerned, programs that get service members exercising and out among people are excellent.
"All of those things are good," he said. "Physical exercise relieves depression, anxiety and stress. It gets people out of their isolated state from being in their 'bunkers' ... and gets them interacting with other human beings and (in the case of the riding class) connecting with an animal. Many people feel more comfortable around animals."
But, Raskind said, it's not a substitute for conventional therapy.
Fisher started her program in 2010, the same year Madigan Army Medical Center closed its PTSD program, and when 18,000 service members were returning to Joint Base Lewis-McChord from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Soldiers are referred to Fisher's program by the Warrior Transition Battalion at the joint base.Other recreation programs are offered as well, but the riding program is among the most popular.
At Rainier, each rider starts slowly by learning to groom the horse, leading it and eventually riding.
Sessions last eight weeks and run four times a year. Participants can repeat sessions and remain in the program as long as they want. Ninety percent are active-duty soldiers, the rest veterans. Some stay on as volunteers, including Heliker.
"Through this equine-therapy program, I've seen soldiers building relationships, confidence and their self-esteem," said Phyllis Lang, an occupational therapist with the Warrior Transition Battalion.
Fisher donates the use of her eight horses and operates in donated arenas. She says the program costs $700 per rider, which she raises through donations.
Two times a week, Fisher arrives with a caravan of horse trailers. Heliker and other volunteers help unload horses, saddle them and lead them into the arena with a class of waiting service members — many who have faced the worst of war but are now uncertain about the 1,200- to 2,000-pound animal before them.
Heliker, who has spent nine years in the Air Force, stays in a camper on base. Living in a barracks is uncomfortable right now because he feels safest when alone or with a few trusted people.
While he continues to take part in therapy through the Wounded Warrior Battalion, he volunteers much of the week — mucking stalls, feeding horses and helping other service members. On Wednesdays, he rides with the advanced class.
He knows how easy it is to go the way some older vets from the Vietnam era did — disconnecting from everyone. So he talks to one, Ed Wilus, who also rides in the program. Wilus tells him how he gave up a family and job and spent years avoiding his problems by drinking. He ended up living under bridges.
Heliker began building a relationship with Fred when he realized the horse needed to trust him or the animal wouldn't cooperate. On days when Heliker was angry, Fred reflected it. Heliker had to calm himself down to get the horse to work with him or face spending the afternoon chasing Fred around a field.
Gradually, Heliker grew calmer all day long, not only trusting the horse but also forming a close bond with Fisher, whom he regards as a second mother. He is also rebuilding his relationship with his mother, whom he shut out of his life after he was injured.
Sue Heliker, who lives in Grand Valley, Pa., said the son who had been the family clown disappeared on the battlefield, replaced by the lost soul she saw at Walter Reed in January 2011.
He had stopped talking to her about convoys along the dangerous Highway 1 south of Baghdad — the stories had become so familiar to her, she felt she had traveled the highway.
He had stopped speaking of July 4, 2009, his birthday, when he was the lead gunner on a convoy going over a mountain pass in Afghanistan and his group was ambushed and trapped by small-arms fire for five hours. He didn't even tell her he had suffered a small stroke on his sixth deployment.
So when he was hospitalized for PTSD at Walter Reed last year, his parents gathered around him not knowing how to make things better.
"Look at me, Mom, look at my eyes. I'm dead," Heliker told his mother.
"I looked at him and knew there was no way I could save him," she said.
When he ended up at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and was referred to the riding program, his mother wondered if it would do any good. But after just three months, she could hear the change in him over the phone.
"You sound so peaceful. You're like the boy you were before you went into the military," she said. "How does a horse do that?"
"When I'm around the horse, he reminds me of a giant puppy dog," Heliker said. "You can hug him. You can talk to him. ... It's just relaxing. There's no pressure, just you and your best friend."
Even though he's sad his military career is ending — he expects to be discharged soon — he's beginning to think of new possibilities, such as training to become a horseshoer. For the first time in a long time, he's thinking of the future, and of horses that will be in it.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
While the US struggled through the great Depression and pinned its hopes and dreams on a funny looking little hero of a horse named Seabiscuit, our friends in Australia and New Zealand had their own hero to carry them through the Depression. Their National Icon was a large, chestnut thoroughbred named Phar Lap.
Phar Lap was foaled on Oct. 4, 1926 in Seadown in the South Island of New Zealand. Sydney trainer, Harry Telford convinced wealthy American Businessman, David J. Davis, to buy him as a yearling, sight unseen based upon his pedigree. When he arrived in Australia he was a gangly, awkward colt with warts all over his face! When Davis saw him he was so angry he refused to spend another penny training him. So, Telford offered to train him for nothing in exchange for 2/3 of his winnings...if there would ever be any! Telford had him gelded so he would concentrate on his training better.
His first race he came in dead last and he didn't even place in his next three. However, as he matured, his achievements slowly started to accumulate and so did his reputation. In fact, criminals tried to shoot him early in the morning of Nov. 1, 1930. They missed and he went on to win the Melbourne Stakes that afternoon. Three days later he won the Melbourne Cup. In 1931, he won fourteen races in a row!
Eventually Telford had enough money to become joint owner of Phar Lap whose name comes from a Thai word that means "Lightening."
His nicknames included "Big Red," just like Man 'O War and Secretariat,) and "Australia's Wonder Horse."
In 1932 Davis insisted upon bringing Phar Lap to America to run in some races. He ran his last race in Tijuana Mexico for the largest purse ever offered in America. He was then taken to California.
On April 5, 1932, Phar Lap died by Hemorrhaging to death. A necropsy revealed that hte stomach and intestines were severely inflamed. Since that time, theories have abound as to his cause of death, the most sinister of which involves U.S. Gangsters who poisoned him so he wouldn't mess up their bookie businesses. In 2006, a team of researchers in Australia concluded that it was almost certain that Phar Lap was indeed poisoned with a large dose of Arsenic. This supported the Gangster theory. However, Arsenic was a common tonic in those days and most horses were given it in small doses. In 2008, a study of six hairs from Phar Lap's mane suggested that he was given a massive dose of arsenic 30 to 40 hours before his death. Very Suspicious I would say!
Phar Lap's remains have been divided up between his two countries. His Hide is in the Melbourne Museum, His Skeleton in in the Museum of New Zealand and his enormous heart, like Secretariat's, is in the National Museum of Australia.
He is an icon in both Australia and New Zealand and a worthy nominee for Unicornhood!
Here is a clip from the 1983 movie about Phar Lap titled "Phar Lap: Heart of a Nation."
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
I have a dream that someday...someday... I will be able to ride like the riders of the Spanish Riding School. That "someday" may not be until I'm in heaven but at least I have something to look forward to.
Today's blog is dedicated to the riders and stallions of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.
In the third and final book of the Mist Trilogy, "The Rising Mist," (Not yet released) the Legion of the Unicorn is sent to earth to rescue ten of the Lipizzaner Stallions that are kidnapped from their stable in Vienna. I have always been fascinated by these stallions and went to visit their home when I was in Vienna.
Their story is a fascinating one and was captured in the Disney Movie,"The Miracle of the White Stallions." It truly was a miracle that they survived World War II (have I told you that I hate war?) Note: it wasn't just World War II that threatened them. For several hundred years they have had to be protected from man's wars by men themselves.
The story of the resue during World War II is an interesting one and actually took part in two places. During WW II, the high command of Nazi Germany, to which the citizens of Austria had voted overwhelmingly to support before the outbreak of the war, sent the Lipizzan breeding stock to Czechoslovaki including the breeding stock for the SRS that were stabled in Piber. This occured in 1942.
The Stallions in Vienna were moved to St. Martins in January of 1945 as bombing raids drew nearer to the city. At this time, the horses in Hostau Czechoslovakia were threatened by the advancing Soviet Army who might have slaughtered them to feed their hungry troops. In the spring of 1945, the head of the Spanish Riding School, Colonel Alois Podhajsky (definately a future unicorn rider) arranged to put on a performance for General George S. Patton. Both men were Olympic riders by the way. At the end of the performance, Podhajsky asked Patton to take the horses under his protection which Patton, to his immense credit, did.
Meanwhile, a U.S. Army Tank unit under the command of Colonel Charles Reed directed "Operation Cowboy" which saved the breeding stock in Czechoslovakia. They rode, herded and trucked 1,200 horses, including 375 Lipizzans, 35 miles across the border into Kotztinz, Germany where they would be safe.
If you want to learn more about the Lipizzan's of the Spanish Riding School, both the history and their training techniques, watch these two videos. They are beautifully done and you will learn a lot!
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
If you are my age, you must remember the Saturday Morning T.V. Series "Fury." If so, this will look very familiar to you! It ran from 1955 to 1960 on NBC. I watched it every Saturday morning until the last year when I started taking riding lessons on Saturday mornings. Like any young, horse-loving girl...I LOVED Fury. He was beautiful and brave and loyal to his beloved "Joey."
So, I looked up some information about Fury. Most of the information comes from the website:
Fury was discovered on a Missour farm by the famous trainer of animals for movies and television named Ralph McCutcheon. Mr. McCutcheon immediatly recognized the star potential in the 18 month old colt. He purchased the colt and moved him to his five acre ranch in Van Nuys, California.
The T.V. Series "Fury" stared Peter Graves as "Jim," Bobby Diamond as his son "Joey," and William Fawcett as "Pete." Reruns were carried on NBC from 1960 to 1966 under the title "Brave Stallion." "Brave Stallion" also ran internationally. The stories were based upon the Books by Albert G. Miller. Maybe, someday there will be a television series about the Legion of the Unicorn based upon the Mist Trilogy books!!!
Fury was only 26 months old when he starred in one of the many "Black Beauty" Films. He also starred in "Gypsy Colt," for which he had to do lots of tricks. Then in "Giant" with co-star Elizabeth Taylor. The young Elizabeth Taylor was in lots of horse movies. I wonder if she loved horses???
Fury's name changed frequently depending upon the current role he was playing: HIghland Dale to Beauty to Gypsy to Fury.
The beautiful black horse loved to be bathed and curried, especially on hot California days. His favorite trick was to roll in the sandy dirt between scenes, forcing his grooms to bathe and curry him. He suffered from Heaves (Like Asthma in people) so he had to have all the dust washed out of his hay.
Fury won three Patsy awards which are the animal equivalent of Oscars.
Order the new fantasy, Behind the Mist, for horse and unicorn lovers!Great for middle grade readers to adults.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Let me include this by way of introduction:
The legendary British film director Sir Ridley Scott launched a global film contest for aspiring directors. The contest was called, "Tell It Your Way." There were over 600 entries. The rules of the contest were that the film could be no longer than three minutes, contain only 6 lines of narrative, and be a compelling story.
The winner was "Porcelain Unicorn," by the American director Keegan Wilcox. It's a story of the lifetimes of two people who are totally opposite, yet very much the same. All told in less than three minutes. Maybe you too can see why it won.
May we never forget the brotherhood and sisterhood of all men.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
If you haven't seen War Horse yet...why not? You will love it! If you watch the movie and find yourself saying "Yeah Right. A horse wouldn't do that." Think again. While the story is fictional, the horse, Joey depicts authentic horse behaviour. A study of 20 Anglo Arabs and 3 Saddlebreds in a stable in France showed some interesting things about a horse's intelligence. Three main conclusions were drawn.
1) Horses remember people who are kind to them even after a long separation,
2) Horses understand words better than expected and
3) Horses possess excellent memories.
Horses are willing to include humans in their "Herds," even as the leader. And they never Forget Human Friends. They are very forgiving but they never forget! In the study, one trainer used kind words and edible treats to train. Another did not. After an eight month separation, the horses gravitated to the kind trainer, licking and sniffing as they greeted her. This is how they greet their horse friends, and is a sign of affection, not just searching for food. The horses that were trained without food rewards were also four to six times more likely to display negative behaviors such as biting and kicking.
The research was led by Carol S. Ankey. She concluded that "Equid social relationships are long-lasting and in some cased lifelong." She found that, while we are accustomed to training dogs with verbal commands, most horse trainers use tactile sensations such as bit, leg and seat pressure. Yet, horses learn and memorize human words better than dogs. We can incorporate this into our training (and every time you ride a horse you are training for good or ill,) by using more words. Unfortunately, you can not speak when showing in dressage but you could certainly do more speaking during training.
Now, lets compare this to the movie: War Horse. First, the English boy who so loved Joey started training him with a whistle and a reward of treats when he came. It was this whistle, years later, that the horse remembered and enabled the boy and the horse to be reunited. Also depicted in the movie was a close friendship between Joey and the big, black Frisian. Both horses were captured by the German army but they stayed together and looked out for one another until the Frisian died.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
If you haven't read Behind the Mist yet, you can order it on its own website: http://www.behindthemist.com/ or wherever books are sold.