Friday, October 17, 2014

"A Mighty Important Weekend!"

Howdy Folks, 

This is a pretty darn exciting weekend for ol' Dutch, and a whole bunch of other folks, too. This weekend will be our second Inner City Slicker day at Heartland Horse Heroes. I missed the first one, absenteeism driven by my cardiac adventure.    I'd written a story (you can read it here) about Michael McMeel and his program, Inner City Slickers, for at-risk youth for my Heartbeats column in Trail Blazer magazine and worked a year to bring it Heartland Horse Heroes, then went and missed the big day.
Michael McMeel

Michael always comes to an outfit's first "Slicker," that's what he calls the day the youngsters come to learn about confidence, self worth, trust and honor to the cowboy code, to make sure all the volunteers are trained and everything is just as it should be. Since I missed our big day I told Michael he had to come to our second Slicker so we could meet. During our interview for the story, and the communications to become affiliated with Inner City Slickers we had of course talked a lot on the phone, but by golly I wanted to meet the man who created a program that to date has touched the lives of over 10,000 young adults! And meet the former drummer of Three Dog Night, yup Michael sure was ... And he played at our barn dance too back in April, and of course I missed that too!

I know, I'm making this sound all about me, and by golly I must admit to some degree it is VERY important to me – But it's really about the youngin's and their challenges, dreams and desires, and FUN!
Michael and some of our volunteers from the Slicker this spring - Nothing happens without Volunteers -
Michael will be rollin' in a bit before noon today, and I'm sure gonna be at Heartland Horse Heroes to greet him, shake his hand, and drink a cup or three of black gargle with him.
About noon I'll mosey to the barn to meet our world class volunteers and we'll all give the horses a little "Therapy For Therapy Horses," exercises. Our horses are never asked to work without their release and relax exercises, we have the most wonderful volunteers who have mastered them ... Then at 1:00 the children from Buckingham Co School arrive for their Friday afternoon therapeutic riding session. We have a great group of children each week who continue to make terrific strides.
Friday afternoon therapeutic riding at Heartland Horse Heroes
Tonight we'll gather around a campfire for some volunteer orientation and visiting ... and Michael said he'll bring his guitar and pick a song or three. It's no barn dance, but it's gonna be great!
That's the "Cowboy Toothpick"
Tomorrow bright and early the young adults, who are the reason for this shindig, will arrive and the Slicker fun will begin. Michael has a well detailed formula for the day that helps youngsters who doubt themselves experience life changing moments. They'll be facing challenges that teach them teamwork, trust, self reliance, confidence, honor and respect. They'll rope a wooden steer, climb the cowboy toothpick, ride the barrel bull, climb the ladder, ride bareback, tell, and listen to stories and have an all around great day. And by golly I'll be there to see all the magic happen, this time.
Horses bring their magic to heal others

You all have a swell weekend too!

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Monday, October 13, 2014

"Abandon Kitty Update"

Howdy Friends!

Abandon kitty update – As I've shared before about 2 weeks ago some non caring individual dumped four half grown kitties at our house. Sweet little, big eyed, scared, babies. Three of the four we could catch and love on and we put them in the horse trailer intending to take them to the shelter for adoption. The fourth, who Ravishin' Robbie named, Bullet, was only ever seen streaking away from the cat food dish on the porch. All the shelters here proved to be full. However we were simply not in a position to keep four cats.
Lil Bit, Daniel Striped Tiger and Fluffernutter hangin' out in the tack room (We haven't yet caught a picture of Bullet)

Earlier this year Both our loving kitties, Tigger and Miss Kitty crossed the rainbow bridge, and after many years of their love, silliness and companionship, we surely miss them. Kessy and Saturday do too. We had made the decision at that time we would not have any more cats, we need to watch our pennies. Really.

We could not bear to keep them in the trailer after the second day, so we set up a feeding station in the tack room, and they loved it from the first moment. Well except for Bullet. He still shoots through the porch and seems to eat on the run. I think she/he is faster than the superhero Flash! The others, Daniel Striped Tiger, Fluffernutter, and Lil Bit, love the tack room, barn, Saturday and Kessy, and her 2 acre wood.

Daniel Striped Tiger pretty much hangs out in the tack room. Lil Bit and Fluffernutter roam the barn and stay close to Kessy. Lil Bit is soundly smitten with Kessy, was from the second day. We think Tigger showed her the way, Tigger loved Kessy. They all purr so loudly it sounds like a distant train! Lil Bit won't miss a Coffee Clutch, Fluffernutter enjoys Coffee Clutch too, but wonders around a little more, following the chickens.

The Appomattox shelter informed us they have a program for free spay and neuter, $10 rabies and distemper shots – so we signed them up!  Today we took Daniel Striped Tiger – and Bullet, who we trapped with salmon for bait, to the clinic. In two weeks we can take Fluffernutter and Lil Bit ... And folks we learned from the clinic, cats can become pregnant at four months of age. Sadly these are. We also learned most areas have free or greatly reduced spay neuter clinics for feral cats, and they nip their ears for identification so they never need be trapped again. Bullet will sport a nipped ear.
Lil Bit loves sitting on Kessy's back.
Our dear friend Chris has donated a month's worth of kitten food. The tack room, Kessy's barn and playground are all a bustle with the pitter patter of tiny feet. It looks like the Coffee Clutch is gaining new members. The only ones here not real convinced this was a good idea are the chickens; Robbie says they'll get over it.

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry

Monday, October 6, 2014

"Visiting Woodson's Mill"

Howdy Friends,
Yesterday, Ravishin' Robbie and I took a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway to enjoy the beginning of fall's changing beauty. Robbie has long wanted to tour Woodson's Mill, so yesterday we finally did. What a spectacular gem hidden just across the Piney river from the village of Lowesville, a few miles from Crabtree Falls, another must see near the Parkway.
Front view of the majestic building - note the 2 water wheels on the ends - The left wheel powers an electric generator for lights, the wheel on the right turns the grinding wheel, and has turned that wheel since 1840
Mill race bringing water to the giant wheels
Smaller Wheel, this one powers the generator - All power for the mill comes totally ecologically sound from the waters of the Piney River, and has been meandering through the mill race since 1794
These giant cast gears have been transferring Piney River's power from the water wheel to the heavy grinding stone wheels almost continually since the earliest days of our nation.
Yesterday was the final day of milling until spring so luck was on our side and we had a grand tour. We also bought some 100% whole wheat flour and 3 grain pancake mix.  ... "We produce all-natural grits, flours and meals in small batches, by hand, from the best local ingredients available. Our grains are stone-ground slowly to preserve the oils, moisture content, nutrients, and flavor that are often lost in high-speed milling. We do not add preservatives of any kind. And, all the power for grinding comes from the Piney River’s water, which runs the Mill’s overshot wheel and our hand-dressed millstones, making the entire process renewable and sustainable." William Brockenbough – From their website.
Grinding the day away - In the background on the higher level you can see the housing surrounding the slowly turning stone wheel. Turning as it has since 1840. - In the foreground sacks of wheat are being dumped into the floor base of elevators (the small square tubes just behind the scale running floor to ceiling). The elevator's belts and buckets carry the wheat to bins on the third floor, all powered by water, power distributed by a series of very efficient belts.
Woodson’s Mill was built in 1794 by Guiliford Cambell. In the 1840's the Fulcher family added 2 runs (mill stones) the same stones used today! Half a century later Dr. Julian B. Cambell Woodson expanded the company to include an icehouse and lumber mill. Changing attitudes about stone ground mills, the new thinking of a hurry up world, and Dr. Woodson's death in 1963 silenced the mill's grand stones temporarily. During the stones quiet years Huren T. Cambell owned and guarded the mill, refusing to sell any of its timeless equipment, ever hopeful it would again resume operations. Then in the early 1980's J. Gill Brockenbrough purchased the mill, restored it and lived there until his death in 2001. 
The stone wheel grinds patiently, gently inside its housing as it has for over a hundred years -  Not the hopper on top. Below the platform you can see the big belts transferring power from water to stone.
Everyone of the handful of owners loved the grand old mill, and milling way of life.

Owned and operated today by Sarah and Will Brockenbrough with love and respect for the simpler, times, they preserve, promote and treasure a dying art – and fabulous building, with history as deep as our own nation's.
Visit their website to read more of their story and order some wholesome GMO free flour, corn meal, grits, batters and some great old fashioned pancake mixes. If you're near enough, be sure to visit and meet some outstanding folks. They love telling the stories of this historic landmark and the people who built it, ran it, treasure it and share it today.
The mill lake. A storage of power.
Yup, that's me, giving you an idea of the size of the small water wheel.
Be sure to order some!
What a lovely visit we had! Hope you all enjoyed reading about it, and if you ever have the chance, do yourself a favor and drop in, meet some swell folks, step back in time - and linger awhile.

 Gitty Up, Dutch Henry

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"Clarity – In Writing and Horses"

Howdy Friends,
Ever since I started writing I've been struck by how many things important in writing are also important in living with our horses. I've written about a few of them already, today we'll think about, clarity.
Kessy helping me with clarity
I remember being told when "We'll Have The Summer" was in the editing process at the publisher they came across a scene that failed to totally embrace and engage the editor because it felt as if not all the information was there. I even remember the scene today. I remember I was horrified, it was a very important scene and the story needed the reader to be crystal clear, completely consumed by Sam's worry, fear and reflection. What had I missed? 

I read the scene, and the pages leading up to it, over and over and to me everything was perfect. It took me exactly where I wanted the story, the cadence, and the tension to take the reader. So I called the editor and insisted they must be missing something, it was very clear, to me.

The editor was an understanding woman, and with kindness in her voice she explained. "That is often the case, as writers you can see the scene you want to write, you have all the information in your mind working for you. Your readers don't have those little tidbits, so the writer must be sure convey them in their writing, so the reader has enough information to see clearly the story you are telling. But not too much information as to make it boring."

She then asked me one question that shined the light on my omission, and as I recall the fix proved to be a very simple few words. Those words I'll never forget. "But not today."

There you have it, as writers we know the story. We know all the details, our job is to make sure we give those sparkling details to our readers, not in a boring "information dump," but in lively, engaging words and thoughts that sweep the reader along in the essence of the moment, the scene. We want them to have all the information so they can travel with us.

Every bit of this thought on "clarity," is equally important when we are working and playing with our horses. It is our responsibility to be sure we are crystal clear in our information, desires, requests – without giving a boring, "information dump." We need to sweep them along in our scene. We know the complete story, our job is to convey that information in a kind, understanding way that will embrace them and carry our horses into our scene. Step back in our minds and ask ourselves, "How does my horse see this scene? I'm not being boring am I? Are there enough sparkling details to tell her the whole story?" Be sure to write the scene so your horse can see the whole picture. For the pleasure of it.

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry

Thursday, September 25, 2014

"Earning The Trust Your Horse Wants Give"

Howdy Friends,

Over the years I've known more than a few horses, loved some deeply. My mare Kessy took a long time to accept and offer trust, and love. She will always maintain her strong-willed independence; it's a huge part of her – that part that made her easy to be misunderstood. She uses her powerful independence now to offer a loving, caring bond. And I accept it with joy in my heart.
Kessy is always ready to pitch in ... Not bad for a horse who took 6 months to understand a hug ... Like me, she's a little weak on spelling and grammar, but she has great subject ideas to write about.

That deep trust can only be earned, in Kessy's case it took years. Oh she dialed in rather quickly, but the deep trust took years, and our bond continues to strengthen. She has been, and continues to be one of my finest teachers. 

We've been partners now for a bit over 4 years, and before we met her independent nature had caused her to be handled in a way that chipped away at her ability to find trust easy to give. She had developed a strong personality of resistance, defense and defiance. Not because she was mean or stubborn and liked to bite and snake people, but because she was misunderstood. It took 6 months for Kessy to accept a hug - six more for her to give a hug back.

I learned from my mentor, Diane Sept, a philosophy that works every time it's employed. "Ignore the negative and celebrate the positive." It works like magic, not as quickly as magic, but just as completely.

Gaining the trust of a horse can happen quickly, or as in Kessy's case take a long time, all it takes is respect, and not asking for things they are not ready for, can't do, or are afraid to do. In everything we must offer respect, trust and confidence. Then that list of not ready fors, can't dos, and afraid ofs, gets shorter and shorter. The list of Can and Will dos grows longer. Trust becomes deeper as confidence builds.

It also takes awareness on our part. An awareness of our horse's limits, worries and attitude. I believe it is wrong to push a horse beyond her comfort zone ... That to me is not trust building - that is bullying ... I believe we must understand their limits and stop short of them, relieve the pressure, then the next time that limit will be stretched farther, by the horse, not the human. That builds trust. A trust she can count on to be there.

Sometimes we hear advice such as, "push them through it." I'd rather give them the confidence to build up to getting through it on their own. Sure anyone can "make" a horse do something, but to build trust we need to invite them, and allow for time to build trust, in us and themselves.

Another piece of advice I find hard to take is "you can't let them win." I find that especially offensive. Win what? Usually that advice is thought to be useful when things are going wrong, the horse is thought to be disobeying, refusing, acting up, when almost always they are either not ready for what is being asked of them, are confused or afraid. In those cases I like to stop, let her relax; perhaps visit something she is totally confident in doing so she can feel the joy of accomplishment. Revisit the challenging thing another day, but ask for less.
Kessy is always ready to help me ...
Asking ourselves every step of the way ... "How does my horse see this thing I want, as a demand or a request? Am I building confidence and trust? Am I celebrating the positive?" ... builds trust she can count on and wants to give.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Monday, September 22, 2014

My Mare's Diet

Howdy Friends

Recently a few friends asked about my feeding protocol for Kessy. I'm a simple fellow, and as in everything I do I like to keep feeding simple too. Sure years ago when I played in the Competitive and Endurance world I bought into feeding all this, and lots of that, all kind of seeds, grain, beet pulp, supplements, and on and on. But I soon realized what I reasoned to be the many problems with all that.

 As I said last week in our Coffee Clutch, "Practices For A Healthy Happy Horse," – "Horses are designed to be forage eaters." It is my belief that, just as with we humans, most health issues can be traced to diet and exercise. The epidemic of ulcers in horses is just one ready example. My personal rule for all things equine is, "No shoes, no stalls, no grain, limited grass, and seeing everything from the horse's point of view."

Kessy's feeding protocol is very simple, and part of that protocol is housing. Exercise is key to good health and I include it in diet discussion. Kessy enjoys a Paddock Paradise habitat in the trees, no grass, a run-in, no stall.

We use the one inch slow hay feed nets located at several locations in her paradise to encourage movement. We feed tested hay and I weigh each bag. Kessy weighs 925 pounds; she gets a total of 20 pounds a day in her nets. I fill the bags morning and evening, exactly 5 pounds in each of 2 bags – the one inch nets keep her happily busy for the day and night. I hang the bags so they just touch the ground so she is eating in the grazing potion.
Kessy and her pals enjoying the day
Morning she also gets exactly half of pound of soaked timothy cubes. In that I mix, 1 teaspoon sea salt, her enzymes and vitamins ... I have used Advanced Biological Concepts for 15 years, they are totally organic and gmo free, and I'm happy to recommend them, and their support team. I feed their ABC-Plus Enzymes, their A and B mix vitamins and Rush Creek minerals. Minerals are free choice as well as Redmond salt. Water of course is always available and tub kept spotless.

Evenings Kessy gets exactly half a pound of soaked timothy cubes with her enzymes and one teaspoon iodine salt. Bedtime she gets a handful of fresh vegetables, and a slice of apple.

That's it, simple. I see no need for costly and crazy supplements that can confuse the digestion system and even the immune system. Kessy looks great, hoofs rock crushing hard, coat as glossy as a new penny, eyes glistening, attitude sharp. She's a happy girl, and that makes me happy.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry