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The Horse Lover's Blog

Train Like an Editor

My resolution to blog at least weekly has been stymied by my real job, writing books. At the moment I am working on revising my middle-grade novel RESCUE, due out from Boyds Mills Press sometime in spring 2018. I am so happy to be reunited with the wonderful editor Rebecca Davis, with whom I worked at Greenwillow Books a decade ago. And Rebecca is teaching me something about horse training.
Here's what it's like to be edited by Rebecca. You open the manuscript--these days, electronically, back in those days, on paper. You kind of gasp, because there are sooo many notes. Cautiously, you start reading through them. You start smiling.
Because a huge percentage of those notes are "I love this." "This made me (smile, laugh, tear up)." "I love Joni (my main character)." In other words, this is a very +R experience--positive reinforcement, for you non-trainers. What it does is make me very happy to work, eager to improve those sections where Rebecca has questions, hopeful of making her love those sections too.
So how can I do that for my horses? I actually am riding Robin with Rebecca in mind--along with all the other things I have to keep in mind, like position and keeping breathing, etc. Robin knows the basics. I don't want to click and treat her for just walking.
So it's meant that I try harder things sooner in the riding season, and the session, than I might have otherwise, and I click and treat the earliest try. Yesterday I took a shot at haunches-in, which was our achievement last season but which we find challenging. We got an approximation and I hopped off, which got an excited nicker. Robin knows that when I do that, a peppermint is sure to follow. I'm aiming for peppermints in every training session, and lots and lots of nickers.
Be a good horse trainer. Be like Rebecca. Read More 
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Your volunteer fire department

The fire department rescues Gale from a snowy ditch. Her legs weren't even touching bottom.
This is a cow story, but it applies to horse lovers and horse owners as well. Sometime in the wee hours, my parents wee cows, very short-legged, barrel-shaped Irish Dexters, went walkabout. They explored the hay barn and the shed where the grain is stored--safely in an old chest freezer. They ate all the bird seed out of the feeder.

Then they trudged a quarter of a mile up the road to the neighbors' house to check on their bird feeder. When my husband and I arrived to help, one cow was being escorted back down the road, one was waiting at home and mooing very loudly, and one was still at the neighbors, thinking about taking a shortcut through my horse fence.

I lured her away from that and we got her headed down the road, but when she came to our parked car she veered off into the ditch, which is especially deep in that spot and full of fresh snow. She floundered, sank, and gave up, apparently ready to wait there till spring. Clearly my husband and I and my 87-year-old dad were not going to shift her.

Enter the Westminster Fire Department. About twelve guys arrived with a Rescue truck and a winch, the sheriff parked at the top of the hill, my large animal vet and next door neighbor appeared on the scene, and after a lot of digging and thinking, they put soft shackles on her hind legs and dragged her out backward. Once they had her on the road they let her lie up on her breast for a few minutes while they spread kitty litter all around her. Then Stephen (the vet) bumped her in the shoulder with his knees while somebody else tailed her up. She got to her feet and headed for home, none the worse for her ordeal.

My takeaway--the volunteer fire department is the best, when you need a lot of muscle in a hurry. I appreciated how thoughtful and quiet they were, and knew they had the cow's health and safety in mind. If you own large animals in a rural area, get to know those guys. Donate, bake for them when they're on a rough call, or volunteer yourself if you are that kind of person. Sometimes large animal veterinarians give classes on rescuing animals. Maybe you could underwrite one for the education of your fire department.
Also, keep kitty litter on hand. I would not have thought of it, but I think a bucket rides around in every fire truck in Vermont, and that's as it should be. Thank you, guys! Read More 
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