Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"Ride Through The Rough Patches"

Howdy Folks,

He stopped under the oak on his way to the barn, looked out to his mare, and whistled. She raised her head, then after a pause, came to his side. Draping his arm over her neck he let her bear his weight. They stood a moment, him leaning on her, she accepting the weight. She was a good mare, always seemed to know when to corral her attitude and just be a friend. She did that today.

Rough patches are a part of life. Someone once said it's the rough patches that make the rest of life shine. Rough patches come sometimes out of the blue. Other times a body can see them coming, but when they get here they're just as rough as any other kind. Losing a friend, sometimes you can see that coming, and he had, for a while now. But now that it happened the time hadn't really done much to ready his heart for the heaviness. Walking back from the grave was when the real finality set in.

Not much to do about it. Just have to move on, get along with things, they say. Recently there had been too many, losing friends, rough patches. They all feel the same, so dammed final. Some friends are closer than others, and those make the widest rough patch. This was a wide one.

Without lifting his arm, he started for the barn. The mare knew to follow. Holding her head low she took his weight and stopped when he did, at the tack door. He wasn't much in the mood for all the preliminaries, so he brushed only where the blanket fit, slid on her halter, tossed up the saddle and swung right up in the barn, then rode out the door. His dog trotted behind.

He didn't ask for anything, just a slow steady walk, hadn't even bothered with reins, today just the rope would do. His mare knew what to do. She knew the trails. He could just sit, think about their old friend and ride through the rough patch.
His plan was to let his mare do the heavy lifting, he would simply sit and think. Part of the strategy of riding through a rough patch was doing nothing. Let the horse do the work while he contemplated then, as the familiar gait softened his hard heart, he could begin to see the beauty in the world around them. The mare knew her duty, accepted it and without a single misstep did it. 

The sun warmed their backs as they moved slowly along the wooded trail. Before long he realized there were a great many butterflies about that spring afternoon. The mare walked softly onward, and before he realized it he found himself looking for butterflies. They were everywhere, on the wildflowers, the tree branches, the greening grass, even the mud along the trail. He lost count in the thirties.

Watching butterflies he decided to hunt wildflowers too. The best place for wildflowers was a small ravine by the big stream, but that meant a mighty steep decline. It was this time last year they were searching for the same wildflowers and he knew his mare would remember the tricky path, and she did.

Their walk, with a little slide mixed in, was rewarded with a grand bouquet of wild flowers. Some dozen varieties grow in this little lost haven, some in bloom, some not quite ready yet, but all splendid. It was here they enjoyed the best bird watching of the rough patch ride too. By now his heart was a little lighter, and it was time to head back. First they had that steep hill to negotiate, and his mare took it in stride, as was her duty this day.

Back on the safe trail though, something must have told her he'd shed some of his heavy heart, and she decided she'd earned a bit of a heel kicking romp. She tested his resolve with a quick head tossing flatwalk, then without waiting for a cue, or permission, shifted seamlessly to a slow canter. Her silliness painted his first smile on his face. He wondered after the initial crowhop if she was truly trying to make him laugh, which he did, or just flat being naughty. He thought reins would be nice right about now … Then let go a hearty laugh and turned her loose.

When life plants rough patches in your way, lean on a friend and ride right through it.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Tigger, A Dear Friend"

Howdy Folks,
We lost a dear friend and avid Coffee Clutcher yesterday ... Our sweet little Tigger crossed the rainbow bridge to frolic with her pal Sweetness.
Tigger and Sweetness loved laying on our bed together ...

Tigger loved the Coffee Clutch! Most mornings she'd beat me to the barn and either march about telling me it's time to sit with Kessy, or hop into my chair ahead of me and anxiously demand, with her squeaky meow, I sit. Once I'd settled she'd curl up tight on my lap. Only the coldest mornings found her unwilling to join us for our morning routine … For about the past month she'd been too weak to be part of the Coffee Clutch most mornings, then last week she began scarcely leaving the house. She did wander out on the warmest afternoons to lay with Kessy at her hay, she loved doing that, and Kessy loved it too.
Tigger was a Charter Member of The Coffee Clutch ...
Our daughter, Abbie, found Tigger roaming the streets of State College, PA a few days before graduating Penn State in '98. Knowing the tiny kitten had nowhere to go, she brought her along home. Abbie moved on to her first big gig pretty quickly, Tigger stayed with Ravishin' Robbie and me. I named her Tigger, because we almost always name our cats after Winnie The Pooh … and because she surely could bounce! And if you're a Pooh fan too, you know, "That's what Tiggers do!"

Ravishin' Robbie and Tigger were particularly close, and for many years Tigger seemed glued to her. Didn't matter much what Robbie was doing, Tigger would be there snuggling and supervising, either laying on her keyboard in the office, or on her kneepad in the garden. Ravishin' Robbie loves her walks in the woods, and Tigger never missed one of them. Some days they'd be gone for hours.

Over the years Tigger helped welcome and make feel at home several cats, dogs and horses. Her best friend for over ten years was Sweetness; who also came to us homeless. To some degree Sweetness stole Tigger from Robbie! Those two ate together, slept together and surely roamed the world together. Sometimes watching Tigger and Sweetness trot off into the woods made me think of the movie, "Homeward Bound." … The day we laid Sweetness to rest, Tigger came and sat with us as we wept.
Saturday and Tigger sunning together - just outside of this picture is Kessy, sunning with them ..
Tigger, like Saturday, adopted Kessy too. The three of them made quite the "2 acre wood roaming team." And Tigger not only loved our Coffee Clutch, but loved hanging out with Kessy. She'd lie on Kessy's hay inviting Kessy to eat around her. She'd rub on Kessy's face as Kessy munched her hay, and rub on her legs too. That bond got increasingly tight after Sweetness crossed the Rainbow Bridge last year. If we wanted to find Tigger, we looked for Kessy!
Kessy and Tigger taking in the sun together ...
Tigger loved evening TV time as much as I do, too. But for this Ravishin' Robbie was her first choice – whenever Robbie sat still enough for Tigger to settle in ... You know Robbie, always doing something!
Tigger always had a flare for adventure ... Here we are, (a lot of years ago,) when Tigger was first learning to ride, River, my strawberry roan TWH, who carried me the last years of my endurance riding adventures. Tigger did manage to master the saddle seat on the lunge line. I thought she sat River better than me!

We laid Tigger with Sweetness last evening, together they will romp the fields and woods again.

Ah, Tigger, you've been a great friend, brought us many smiles, warm laps – and leave us with sad hearts, but buckets of memories, too. Kessy will think of you as she munches hay and basks in the sun. Saturday and Miss Kitty will do their best to fill in taking care of Kessy and managing Coffee Clutch … Robbie will miss your gardening advice and walks ... It will be a long time before Coffee Clutch feels normal again ... Bless you, Tigger and say howdy to Sweetness for us.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Friday, April 11, 2014

"The Last Wild Horse In America Died Today - Feature Friday"

Howdy Folks,
We looked up and they were no more … Just as this year the Black Rhino in Africa was poached to wild extinction, our own Federal Government will, with reckless abandon and determination, do the same for America's wild horses.

Proud horses, families and bands yanked apart and driven mercilessly by helicopter and other violent means, to greatly overcrowded corrals where they stand, broken hearted and bewildered, awaiting their uncertain future ... Often that future is years in those filthy, overcrowded corrals while their health and spirits deteriorate. Their future dims. 
Accustomed to wide open spaces to run and live free, suddenly they have a mere few square feet in those concentration camps, with little or no protection from driving snow, or blistering heat, and too often a gross shortage of water to drink. Out of reach are their familiar sheltering valleys and watering holes. Hooves that are used to traveling tens of miles a day grow long with neglect … confused foals try to understand. Confined band leaders search for their families. Fights occur regularly because separation is not possible. Crowded as they are, sickness is a constant.

Once the wild horse was one of our proudest and most magnificent symbols of the great American Spirit. Even the United States Congress declared it to be true in 1971 when they recognized them as, "Living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West, which continue to contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people." Today that same Congress considers them, "Feral nuisances" that need to be gathered and removed, often sent to slaughter.

Shallow, transparent excuses like, "overgrazing, and land management," are the most sited excuses for this race to annihilation. In many cases cattle and sheep roaming those BLM managed grasslands outnumber the horses 100 to 1 ... Causes one to wonder who's actually doing the over grazing.

Many wonderful and concerned folks have been working hard and politely to defend and protect our wild horses. I've written about some of those fine people. Thousands more have contributed donations to help those folks defend the noble wild horses. In response those government employees and departments, "charged with managing millions upon millions of acres grazing rights and other management practices," continues to run hell-bent toward the extinction of our wild horses, in a most disgusting, brutal and underhanded way.
On any given day there are over 30,000 wild horses in Bureau of Land Management (BLM) long term holding pens, and another 11,000 in temporary holding pens. These 40,000 wild horses, burros and Mustangs outnumber those running free today; the BLM estimates the number of still wild horses at about 20,000. A number so low it virtually guarantees extinction. Many of the herds now clinging to freedom are too small to continue viable genetic bases. The BLM does not own the wild horses, they are charged with managing the grasslands. The American people own the wild horses.

From Laura Leigh founder Wild Horse Education - "Very little of what happens to our wild horses and burros on public land actually has to do with wild horses and burros. Livestock interests and extractive industry drive our public land policy. In the 12% of public land occupied by our last American herds it is no different. If we are not careful the industrialization of public land will not only change the physical landscape, but will extinguish our American spirit in the form of the wild horse." 
I weep in fretful fear of the day headlines scream, "The Last Wild Horse In America Died Today."

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry 

Photos courtesy of Laura Leigh and Wild Horse Education -

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Howdy Folks,
 I wrote this story about Springtime for our friend Jessica Lynn of Earth Song Ranch  for her newsletter. If you want excellent herbal blends for your pets and horses, be sure to check with Jessica.

For most of us, Springtime took its good old time drifting in, but it appears to have stopped by for a visit almost right on schedule. Here in Appomattox, VA the past few days have brought closer to summer than spring temperatures. We've already touched the mid-eighties! Completely dashing my hopes for a white Easter. We missed a white Christmas, even though we had just about the most snow ever recorded, so I was looking for a white Easter.
I'm fond of all seasons, love to see the changes. Each season has its gifts and promises. No single season do I hold favorite and my joy comes in the changes of the beauties of nature. 

Summer brings the full blooms of flowers, wild and domestic. Busy birds feeding fledglings, hummingbirds buzzing at the feeders, beautiful full foliaged trees, half grown deer bouncing with their mommas – lightning bugs and thunderstorms too. Rides through the woods taking in the beauty, the birds, and the sounds. The evening call of the Whippoorwill. Fall changes the landscape and scenery, painting the forests and mountains with colors so spectacular I must stop my mare as we ride and take in the view. Pumpkins and squash from Ravishin' Robbie's garden. Flocks of birds gathering in preparation of the coming winter. Winter brings a quietness, a resting time. Rides along sparkling snow covered trails, winter birds, and animal tracks in the snow. Birds at the feeders putting on shows to delight. Evenings snuggled inside with my Ravishin' Robbie. Oh yes, and Christmas too.

Springtime brings a gentle awakening. Riding trails lined with dozens of delicate wildflowers, birds in their most magnificent plumage courting and building nests. My favorite, Bluebirds checking out nest boxes, by middle spring Ravishin' Robbie's hummingbirds are back buzzing her feeders. Courting songs of birds of all species filling the air, especially during Coffee Clutch in the mornings. Trees sporting brand new bright green leaves, spring peepers singing into the darkness. And Robbie's strawberry rhubarb pie.
Springtime is here and rebirth is in full bloom. Treat yourself to some time on the trail, in the gardens or on the porch to take it all in.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry