Friday, October 5, 2012

First Feature Friday. Toni Christopher, Starlight Stables and Rambler.

Welcome to our first feature Friday! ... Each Friday we will feature, "People & Horses Helping Horses & People." It is my hope that these stories will be shared all around the internet, to help them help, and to celebrate the good that is being done by selfless people and horses. Today we celebrate Toni Christopher, Starlight Stables and Rambler.

I first met Toni when I interviewed her for a story a few years back; she is a tireless woman who is devoted to helping others. I wrote about her horse Rambler. A magnificent Quarter Horse whose life so touched me I considered writing a novel based on his life ... In fact I still am. Rambler was bred to be a champion Barrel Racer, and he was. But as is far too often the case, as he aged he became too slow to snare the ribbons, and so began his trips down the roads. Over the next decade he taught many a young rider to fly around the barrels, until in each case, the student needed more speed. Then, Rambler would be sold, again. Toni found him when he was in a neglected state, took him home, and nursed him back to health. He spent his last years swaddled in love, teaching still more youngsters the joys and rewards of loving horses and riding skills. Like all great teachers he touched and inspired many lives. Rambler is buried just outside Toni's office under the big Oak where he loved to nap.

Toni is a lifelong horse lover, and advocate for horses and children. As a young girl she would wish upon a star that at someday she would have a farm where she could share her love of horses with others. When the day finally came she already had the name, “Starlight Stables.”  Over the years Toni has used her own money to rescue numerous horses. Many have gone on to enjoy long careers as trail, show and barrel racing horses. Toni was the 4-H horse club leader in Mobile County AL for seven years, and will be soon re-open her 4H club due to requests from local parents and children.

While Starlight Stables is a full service boarding and training horse facility Toni donates her time freely to help children learn the world of horses, and with horses, lessons and summer camps, helps children build confidence and self esteem. Toni says, “I have advocated for horses for many years and will continue to do so. I want people to be aware of how important it is to take proper care of them and know what it takes to have one in your family. The joy will outweigh the work and responsibility.”

She also organizes fund raising rides to benefit cancer research, and this fall will host the Heavens Gaits Obstacle Challenge, to honor her sister and her Aunt and all those who have lost loved ones to cancer. “Horses have always helped me to get through hard times and I know they can help others also,” Toni said.

Check out Starlight Stables here

Have a perfect day! ~ Gitty Up, Dutch

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Love is a Wonderful Thing

 I've been asked to move some of my facebook posts over to my blog, because some folks think they're worth reading again … I first posted this in April, and I chose to repost here, because, well Love is a wonderful thing.
I sat on the porch last night for something over an hour. Alone. Robbie and the grandbabies had gone to the theater for play rehearsal. I sat on the glider only a few moments when the Whippoorwills started calling. First one, then two, then a third added his mournful call to the otherwise still night air. Calling and calling, they seemed to knowingly take turns with great care not to interrupt each other's song. Their soulful cries echoed through the dark, seeming to surround me. Hold me. It made me think of love. Of Robbie and our sweet life we've shared together for more than 36 years now.

Love. I make no apologies for speaking here about the power of love. How it can change you. Save you. Build you. The whippoorwills continued to call, the air felt like velvet. Each call seemed to touch me more deeply, move me closer to memories of all the tender moments Robbie and I have shared. Reflecting alone on the dark porch, being held captive by the whippoorwills, I found myself lost in the warmth of the power of love.

Love, as they say, can conquer all. But when I think of love, I don't think of conquering. I think of sharing. Sharing joys, sharing thrills, sharing each other's dreams. I think of sharing challenges, ambitions and triumphs. And sharing tender moments together remembering the birth of our little girl, now grown and raising a family of her own; blessing us with these darling grandbabies. I think of sharing moments laughing at the silly times when we charged into adventures, not all of them working out just the way we had planned. And celebrating robustly those times plans came together perfectly.

Love. Yes I can say Robbie's sweet love made me who I am. Those of you who've read my novel may remember the line when Mary thought of Sam, "She loved him because he loved so easily." Robbie is easy to love, and gives love easily. I often tease her, telling her she must have really been something in a past life to get saddled with me in this one. I thank God for making her just for me.

As you take on the excitement, adventures and challenges of today I hope you'll take the embrace of love along with you. Let it swaddle you in its power and guide you in all you do.

Have a beautiful day! ~ Dutch

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I had to wake up the roosters today!

Exciting day for Dutch today! I'm heading out to Heartland Horse Heroes therapeutic riding center for volunteer training! ... I already volunteer there doing my Therapy For Therapy Horses clinics and they have a big event coming up with the county school district bringing children for therapeutic riding lessons. The program will run a day a week until December, and the response was so great that they needed a few more volunteers to help out. I was there the other day when the owner was struggling to get all the volunteer spots filled and I told her I'd be happy to help out if I could.

I've written a good number of stories now about all sorts of therapeutic riding centers and hippotherapy and visited dozens of them. Even participated in a few sessions, but this is the first time I'll be this involved in it on this level, so, like I said I'm really very excited. There is a bit more to this though, I can tell already, than I expected.

Yesterday I received an email from Heartland with the standard volunteer forms to fill out and bring along. I never needed to do that before because I work with the horses and was actually never there during any lesson time. So I filled everything out, you know all the standard stuff, names, contacts, emergency numbers, etc.

Then there was another part too. From the school district. Holy cow this gets pretty involved! I had to go for a TB test yesterday. Went to the county health department, figured oh well at least I'll find out if I have TB. All they did was ask a bunch of questions and tell me I didn't need the test because I'd not done or been exposed to anything that put me at risk. So I suppose I don't.

Then, there was a whole lot of forms to fill out for a background check. Never had one of those. Maybe I'll find out something I didn't know about myself? … Of course I had Ravishin' Robbie help me with all that paperwork. Even had to get it notarized. This morning on my way to Heartland I must stop at the Sheriff's office and get fingerprinted, too. I've never been fingerprinted either. What if I find out I'm not who I think I am? Do you suppose they'll tell me?

It'll be great to see the horses I've been working with all these months in action too. There are really sweet horses there and they all pull double duty. Therapeutic riding horses duty and regular lesson horse duty. Most are rescue horses, too. Heartland Horse Heroes at Sprouse's Corner Farm is a loving place and LaRue Dowd, the owner has a sweet way with horses and children.

This is a really big deal for the children and parents so whatever it takes on my part, tests, fingerprints and all the rest, heck it's nothing to what these kids deal with every day. And I'm honored to be able to be a small part of it.

You all have a perfect day, and God Bless! ~ Dutch

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Puddles & Bears

What's in a puddle? … Bears? … Yup! … Here in VA where Kessy and I trail ride we have a lot of red clay, which means our puddles last a long time. A really long time. As we go along down the logging roads we normally traverse, depending on the rain amounts, or lack of, there are many, or few puddles. But much to Kessy's dismay, there are almost always, puddles. Big ones, small ones, wide ones and skinny ones.

Kessy's not much on puddles and since we ride the same trails most every day, she knows where each one is, or should be. She'll stop and snort at any new puddle, and any that had been dry and are now refreshed with an overnight rain. Over the past two years she's forged trails through the brush around the scariest ones, established tip-toe paths between the tire track skinny ones and cliff hanging ledge walkways around puddles in ravines. You bet, she's got the puddle avoidance thing pretty well mastered.

There a few puddles that don't seem to bother her too much, and by golly I cannot see anything different in these and the puddles she is most certain are life threatening. But she sure does! Now I don't want to say we've made no progress in sorting out this puddle phobia, we are. And at the rate she's getting the hang of it, sometime in the next 8 or 12 years I reckon she'll march through any puddle I aim her at.

She has gotten to the point where at some of them, you know the innocent looking ones, she'll stop and have a look. Often there are tadpoles swimming around, water striders skimming the surface, or butterflies in the soft clay along the edges sucking up nutrients. On those occasions it is never helpful to have a big ol' frog jump in. Nope, that doesn't work real well. Usually Kessy will demonstrate her outstanding 30 mile an hour back up gear, spin and depart gymnastic move. Why friends, sometimes it leaves me breathless!

Yesterday we were going along in her sweet slow running walk taking in the sights and sounds, and giving the puddles their earned respect. There are however a few I really enjoy studying. You see, for some reason the wildlife out there prefer some puddles more than others and it is always fun to check out the tracks to see who was there. I chuckle some when I think of all the different critters stopping buy the watering hole.

Just as Frasier had Café Nervosa and the Waltons had Ike Godsey's, the critters have their favorite puddles. Over the past few days Kessy and I had been taking inventory at a particular puddle that, like all the others, was shrinking. But even in its shrunken state it remained a popular night spot. This was evident by the wide variety of tracks in the soft clay, everything from turkeys to raccoons and coyotes had left their handprint in the logging road hall of fame puddle. Crows and I think a possum, too. Yesterday morning though there was a new set of tracks right down the middle. Mr. Black Bear had swung by and signed in. And he has beautiful penmanship. Nice prints 4 or 5 inches across. Kessy wasn't the least bit worried, though, for the puddle was almost completely dried up.

Have a perfect day and watch out for those scary puddles!