Friday, May 22, 2015

Memorial Day and Grandpop

Howdy Friends,  

This is the Thirteenth in my series of Grandpop stories based loosely on my Uncle Ed, a WWII Vet, and real life cowboy. I began writing about Grandpop, June 27, 2013, with what at the time I imagined what would be a standalone short story, "Perhaps I've Just Lived Too Long." You can read that story (and find links to go on) (HERE)   Folks said they enjoy visiting with Grandpop, so I wrote more. Frankly, I enjoy him too.

Memorial Day and Grandpop

My cousin’s younger sister and her children had swung by to spend the weekend. Memorial Day being the big kick-off to summer and all. I heard the girls giggling in the barn as soon as I pulled in. I knew they’d be romping, as kids are want to do in early afternoon warmth in a barn full of hay, horses, tack and love. Grandpop was like a magnet to young folks, where he was they would be.

Giving my eyes a chance to adjust to the inside light I saw Grandpop had his new mare standing ground tied while the girls worked happily brushing her. Grandpop supervised from a comfortable looking hay bale perch.

“Howdy Son!” He greeted. “You’ll need to fetch a horse if you’re joinin’ us. I figured on a short warm up, get the kinks out, ride this afternoon so we’re all set for tomorrow’s big deal.”

I can’t recall how many Memorial Day parades Grandpop had ridden in, as far as I knew he’d only missed a few over the years, ever since he and Mom set stakes here right after WWII. I can remember he’d been the driving force in keeping the parade alive a few times when interest faded from time to time. “Can’t allow certain things to disappear from life.” He’d told town council more than once.

Grandpop never was one to bother much with town business, but everyone knew him and most folks valued his opinion. There was that one year; I think I was senior in high school when the parade was pretty much Grandpop, a few veteran friends, mom, my sister and me, one fire truck and half the school band. He told me once if it’s only him and a horse, as long as he’s on this side of the grass he’d do his best to have a Memorial Day parade in town. “For the youngin’s. Need to make sure they keep rememberin’ Memorial Day is more than hot dogs and a long weekend.”

We started out four abreast, just as we’d ride in the morning in town. The girls looked great, smiles as wide as the meadow. The horses marched magnificently, as if they understood the importance of the day. Grandpop always did, and still can sit a horse as finely as ever anyone who has ever ridden. The years have taken a toll; his shoulders not quite a square, but the aura of the man gleamed when he sat a horse, or talked about the respect for our country, and honor of those who’d paid the ultimate price to keep her free, and safe. Of course he shined when he spoke of mom, us kids, grandkids, great grandkids, horses, love and God ... but when respect and honor for our country was the topic, he radiated.

We rode for an hour, Grandpop told the girls, although he’d told them before, Memorial Day was first known as Decoration Day when it started, right after the Civil War, as widows decorated the graves of those fallen in that great conflict. “It’s grown now to honor all those who’ve died while serving.” He explained. “Veteran’s day in the fall honors all who’ve served.”

We rounded the turn heading back to the corrals and the girls excitement grew for the next day’s ride. They would each be carrying flags. Watching their happy faces and listening to their questions I knew these two would never allow the meaning of Memorial Day to disappear from their lives.

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry

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Monday, May 18, 2015

"Motivational Monday" ... Determination-Dig in and Win!

Howdy Friends, 

That little bird was determined to secure a long strand of Kessy’s tail hair for her nest. I had just settled into my Coffee Clutch chair next to Kessy, Saturday by my side and Lil’ Bit on my lap. Kessy worked on her hay, Saturday fought back sleep, Lil’ Bit purred, but watched intently the tiny brown bird.
This tiny Carolina Wren would win!
When I brush Kessy and comb her thick long black tail and mane, I gather the hairs and pile them on an oak tree fork for the birds to use as nesting material. I wedge them there so they’ll stay and birds of all kind use them. The phoebes in the barn line their nests with Kessy hair, red-eyed vireos do too, and every fall we find another one or two neat little nests with a blanket of black tail hair woven snuggly inside. We have a little collection of bird nests on the back porch all with Kessy’s hair as the finishing touch.

So determined was the little wren to collect her horse hair building material she managed to dislodge the ball from the tree crotch, and drop it to the ground. She descended immediately upon it, grasped the most perfect strand and began hopping backwards, but the entire wad of hair simply bounced along with her.

For a second it seemed she’d made progress, until Lil’ Bit could stand no more, and leaped from my lap to stalk the tiny industrious bird. Mrs. Wren let go her prize and flitted safely to a branch. Lil’ Bit gave the tempting hair pile a respectable investigation then wondered away to do whatever young cats do on early morning romps.

Mrs. Wren was back on the hair ball in an instant, falling from the tree would not stop her, and surely no curious feline with a limited attention span mattered much, so back to her task she must go. After all, somewhere in one of our buildings she had a nest to complete. Deeply restored in her endeavor she had managed to nearly jerk lose a most perfect strand—then our guinea fowl came cackling, strutting and bouncing her way. Forced by yet another interruption and hurdle to achieving her goal, Mrs. Wren flew to her safe haven branch, then from sight.

I wondered if she might give up, after all it seemed a colossal effort for a single strand of horse hair, no matter how magnificent. Then almost as quickly as the guineas wandered away the tough little bird swooped from the thick mat of green forest wall to the wad of horse hair. She wasted no time in finding the single hair she’d nearly freed from the ball, tugged, tugged and tugged and finally flew away with her prize trailing in the wind behind her like a kite’s tail.

I was about to pour my second cup of Folgers, most Coffee Clutch gatherings are at least 2 cuppers, when she reappeared fussing over that bundle of horse tail hair. I happen to know a perfect nest requires more than a few strands of hair. And I had no doubt Mrs. Wren would eventually have all she needed, she has the determination that will guarantee success.

We all have that same determination within in us. Some of us can, no matter the challenge dig deep and like Mrs. Wren, keep coming back until we too have grasped our prize or accomplished our goal. All of though have also said, “That’s enough, I’m done.” And sometimes that’s the correct choice.

But if we give up after a few set backs on something too important and our inner self tells us to keep trying, follow a new direction, give it another attempt, then it is best to follow that inner voice. Think of this tiny brown bird, all her set-backs, and her determination and find the drive inside to make hardship, bad breaks and obstacle, merely interruptions and learning curves. Dig in and win!

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Don’t Desensitize your Horse!

Howdy Friends,
We’ve all seen it, owners, trainers or friends working in round pens or rings, with a worried, sometimes terrified horse, waving a bag, a towel or some other object at the horse to “Desensitize the horse.” I understand some reading this think I’ve described an exaggerated scene, others will think it’s got to be done, and still others think they would never do that. I’m in that last camp—I would never do that or anything close. Nor could I recommend it.
“But they need to be taught a bag can’t hurt them,” some say. Or a pile of other explanations why “desensitization” is an important part of “training.” Training, another word I’m not real fond of. I don’t want to be “trained,” or “desensitized.” Do you? I’d rather be educated, or coached. Semantics, you think? No. Words should mean things, and they do. Take just a second here and truly ponder the difference you feel when you think, “train” ... or “educate.” They make you feel different inside don’t they?

So how do you help a horse understand flying bags and blankets, falling branches, loud noises and a mountain of other scary things won’t harm her? Easy. Education and confidence building. When a horse has confidence not much will frighten her. When she’s confident in herself, and her person, the scary things are simply, things—not life threatening monsters.

Confidence building is a long term strategy, and we can make it happen by being confident ourselves, and consistent in our manners, actions and support. Yes it takes longer than a weekend clinic on desensitization—which will surely get a horse less worried about the bag, flag, bucket or bang the weekend was designed to make unscary ... But in most cases it will not build confidence. What it most often builds is a worried compliance. I must point out that many horses are skilled in hiding their worry with compliance. But worry and fear can resurface in the blink of an eye, in a most dangerous way, when the next “scary thing” that had not been used to desensitize, suddenly appears out of nowhere. The weak link is the lack of confidence building.

It is totally impossible to desensitize a horse to every scary or worrisome object a horse and rider might ever encounter. And that is the flaw. And it is a big flaw, for when the desensitized horse has an incident after training, and the rider momentarily gets scared themselves and disciplines the horse for what is a natural reaction, the bond between horse and human suffers a strain, a little damage. That’s not a good thing. Not for the person, not for the horse.

Building self confidence within the horse is the answer. Conducting one’s self in a manner steeped in confidence, support and I might say mentorship, builds confidence in the horse.

Take time to understand the horse, as much time as she needs. When riding, doing groundwork, playing games, never push beyond what the horse is comfortable, confident with. Ever. In everything you do make sure the horse is ready to go to the next level. Revisit often things she has mastered, and enjoys doing. This will create layers, upon layers of confidence. Those layers of confidence will build a suit of armor ever present for any scary, unexpected or surprising thing that suddenly appears. And she’ll handle all the never-before-seens with inner strength of self-confidence—not suppressed fear.

Don’t desensitize your horse ... Empower her!

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry

 To have a look at my latest book, "It's For The Horses, An advocate's musings about their needs, gifts, spirit and care," CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

"It’s for the Horses," now available!

Howdy Friends,
Well by golly It’s for the Horses, An advocate’s musings about their needs, gifts, spirit and care is finally released and available here on Amazon ... Or you can email me to order an autographed copy (by Kessy and me).

With this book I hope to help horses and their people everywhere realize the most wonderful partnerships possible. Spirituality, communication, understanding, nutrition, health care, horsemanship, exercises, foot care are a few of the important subjects discussed in “It’s for the Horses.” No matter your discipline, I promise every horse owner or caregiver will find more than a few things of interest in this book.

Here is what Bobbie Jo Lieberman—Editor-in-Chief, trailBLAZER magazine had to say. “Dutch Henry is on a mission to help people see their horses with new eyes, to listen with new ears, to touch their lives with greater sensitivity and awareness. It has often been said that our horses are our greatest teachers. Dutch Henry, who has opened his heart, mind and soul to the horse, is living proof of that statement. Enjoy the learning as we join Dutch on a remarkable journey.”

And Yvonne Welz—Owner/founder “The Horse’s Hoof Magazine” said, “I received a free review copy of this book, and it was an absolute pleasure to read. Dutch's genuine and compassionate love for horses shines through every single page. Written in such a conversational, friendly tone, his stories will keep any reader entertained, yet here is a wealth of practical, useful information and how-to advice for all horse owners. The major theme of this book is seeing things from the horse's point of view, which expands into his practical advice for more natural methods of horse care and overall good horsemanship. One of my favorite parts of this book is the section on groundwork, stretches, and pre-ride exercises - simple, useful techniques that you can put into practice immediately, for the benefit of your horse. Just about every horse topic you can think of is touched upon here: communicating with your horse, understanding the horse's nature, building trust, diet, barefoot hoof care, natural dentistry, teaching manners, gaited horses, saddle fit, the spirit and emotions of the equine and so much more.”

You can order on Amazon here. I promise it will help you to hear, and bond with, your horse on a level you may have not even imagined.
Gitty Up, Dutch Henry

Monday, May 11, 2015

"Motivational Monday— Adversity as a Blessing?"

Howdy Friends,

Life is a vast conglomeration of many things. And isn’t that a most wonderful gift? We are offered so much as we traverse this world, love, wonderment, beauty, friendship, adventure, families, friends and the list could more than fill a book. Along the way we are blessed, each of us, with our share of adversity too.
Our Fringe Tree in Kessy's yard is a beautiful and fragrant gift.
 Adversity as a blessing? I’m pretty sure none of us feel that way in the midst of a visit from the trouble making adversity monster, but when it’s behind us we are most often strengthened by the trial. Still I suppose I’m not real sure about calling adversity a blessing, how about more of seasoning? Or just simply a part of our wonderful life.

Being happy is much more fun than being angry, stressed or worried, so let’s think about the adversity challenge just a second, and how we can turn sad into happy. Many of our Coffee Clutch and Facebook friends know of my motto, “Ignore the negative and celebrate the positive.” That’s the first rule, works just as it sounds it might. Now of course not every bad thing can be ignored, some things simply need to be faced head on, dealt with. But every good thing can, and should be, celebrated.

Here is the trick, face the bad head on, with only as much effort and attention it requires to deal with it. No matter if it is a big bad or a little bad. Don’t dwell on, procrastinate, worry and fret as that only feeds it, empowers it. It can turn little bads into big bads, and empower big bads to consume you. No, instead jump right in, take charge and fix it, even if your fix is not perfect, that will starve it, weaken it and it will become resolved and go away. I’ll never forget what a friend told me once as I struggled long and hard with a mighty big bad, “A year from now you’ll look back at this and it’ll be okay.” He was right.

Don’t worry about getting it just right, that’s what bad wants you to do, so you hang out with it. Then it can grow. But if you deal with it so it’s over, gone and out of mind, it disappears into nowhere land and your world is swimming in happy. And you can look back at it and know it’s okay. Remember this, our first reaction, strategy and plan is almost always our best and strongest plan ... I’ll bet you’ve noticed that already. So why dwell on the bad trying to make it perfect. Bad cannot be made perfect, only handled. And each time you handle it, your happy becomes stronger, and a larger part of you.

Then you can focus on HAPPY ... Celebrate the POSITIVE! The more energy, thought and time you focus on happy the stronger that part of you becomes. Just like building muscles. The more consumed you become with seeing good, being happy, the harder it is for negative to touch you. It’ll become afraid of the powerful happy you!

The wonderful thing about focusing on happy, celebrating the positive, is how easy it is to get started. Go ahead and give it a try, quickly you’ll see how happy takes charge, and adversity becomes just a little seasoning in life. The main course is goodness, if you feed it.

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry

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