Friday, November 2, 2012

Feature Friday-Mary Ann Kennedy, "Singing to Help"

Howdy Folks,

There are people who travel life's path with a song in their heart and on their lips, all the while trying to help others who may not have a voice of their own. Mary Ann Kennedy is one of those people. Mary Ann's life has been filled with music, her whole life. She remembers a childhood filled with song. "I come from a very musical family. That's where I got my gift." Horses and all animals have always been part of her spirit, too. "I'm so grateful to have been born with the love of music and animals."

In 1978 Mary Ann struck out on her own moving to Nashville. She spent the next twenty years writing and performing the music she loves, earning two Grammy nominations, and producing a number of hit singles. "I had the honor of getting to know and work with wonderful people like, Martina McBride, Faith Hill, LeAnn Rimes, Emmylou Harris and many more of the finest people in Music City."

Tragedy touched her life in 2000 when within a few days of each other she lost her beloved horse Tonka, whom she'd bred and raised, and Choy, her little pug. In an effort to manage her grief she picked up her guitar and started singing about it. It was at that time she wrote, "The Trail Less Traveled." Driven by the way these events had so deeply touched her spirit and urging from her friends, Mary Ann embarked on a new journey. She started writing songs about the animal loves and angels in our lives. Since that moment Mary Ann has been creating songs that touch, comfort and inspire horse and animal lovers young and old. She celebrates in song and lyric our animal friends hoofed and pawed. "My hope is that hearing this music will inspire healing, joy and celebration of life."

Her first CD, "The Trail Less Traveled" and its title song, introduced many to the growing popularity of natural horsemanship. It was while attending a Ray Hunt Clinic in 1999 that Mary Ann realized that while she had been handling and riding horses her entire life, she did not understand horses very much at all. "It was the way Ray told us when he pointed to a massive oak, 'If that tree was a horse, he knew two leaves,' that made me realize just how much we could all learn from these true horsemen and women." Mary Ann told herself one day she would write a song for that moment and Ray Hunt.

She devoted herself to learning all she could about honoring the horse by learning their language and quickly became a major advocate for conscious natural horsemanship, natural horse keeping and barefoot trimming. "What we are trying to achieve is compensation for domestication." Mary Ann said.

Her second CD, "Hoofbeats, Heartbeats and Wings," celebrates everything from Palominos to Jack Russells, the fun to be found in cleaning stalls and making hay and "Spirit Horses." It also celebrates in song two people who have helped shape her own, and thousands of other lives. For Linda Parelli she wrote, "When You Carry Me." And for Pat Parelli, "Green On Green."

"Rhythm Of The Ride" was her third CD and in song teaches us, "The Language Of Love" and how our horses can leave "Hoofprints on our Hearts." She also declares she is a, "Horse Addict," and in "Tennessee" she celebrates the natural movement of the Tennessee Walking Horse. Another of Mary Ann's causes it to promote soundness in Tennessee Walkers and she asks that if you believe in this, join the marvelous organization, Friends Of Sound Horses (FOSH) and help the cause.

As a lifelong advocate for those among us who have no voice of their own she had assembled a large family of horses, dogs and cats who needed loving care and homes. She realized there was a limit to how many she could take in and she had reached it. But there would be no limit on her efforts to help those who are in the trenches every day running the rescues, the shelters and the therapeutic riding centers. She actively supports a horse rescue in Tennessee, Horse Haven of Tennessee and other local animal shelters. Her fourth CD, "Who Saved Who," is a theme album for loving a rescued animal.

Each year Mary Ann donates her time to perform at numerous fund raising events and concerts to help raise much needed money for them to operate. She also donates generous portions of her proceeds to horse and animal charities, and has given hundreds of her CDs to charity auctions, and sent hundreds more to therapeutic riding centers around the world.

Her fifth CD, "This Love Of Horses". … If you love horses, this is your music! Hurry and order it! Recorded acoustically Mary Ann's passion shines through. The songs are intimate and stirring. "I wanted these songs to be all about the message." Mary Ann said. There are fun songs like, "Cowboy Girl" and "Get Up and Go." "Big Love" tells of the deep and powerful love in a horse or dog's heart, no matter their size. For Pat Parelli, "Slow and Right, (beats fast and wrong)."…

For the gentle man who started Mary Ann on the journey to understand horses, and to help others understand horses through her music, Ray Hunt, she recorded "Two Leaves," a powerful, inspirational and touching song ... "All these years later, when I wrote and sang this song, I could see Ray pointing to that big oak and saying, 'If that tree was a horse, I know two leaves.' ... This song is for you, Ray. Thank you. We miss you."

Mary Ann lives her life caring and giving help to those who need help. She is actively involved in many organizations that do so much to help others. She is devoted to helping those who have discovered or want to discover the natural way, the listening way. She lives the life and leads by example. On her web site she has a page listing the links of others who can help folks learn to honor the horse and all animals. To learn more about Mary Ann Kennedy and to order her music go to .

Mary Ann's motto is, "Making the world a better place for the horses and animals we love." Her songs help to guide us ... Her CDs will make great Christmas gifts!

Gitty Up
Dutch Henry

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Finding the Release

While giving a horse a little therapy the other day I was surprised at the amount of heat released when I started doing the TELLINGTON TEAM TTOUCH circles across her back. This is a sweet mare who always does what she's asked, even if she is a bit timid, so even though I could see before touching her that there was plenty going on in her back, I was a still surprised at the deep muscle soreness I found.

As friends who have been following our little Coffee Clutch chats, since pre-blog days on Facebook know, my "therapy for therapy horses," is a combination of Peggy Cummings, Linda Tellington-Jones and Diane Sept's teachings, and a few tweaks of my own. But I almost always start with TTOUCH circles along the neck, back, rump, and down along the big muscles in the hind legs.

I rested my hands on the withers and examined her back. I saw a few problem areas and began to plan my approach. Sensing she was more sore than she was letting on I started with tiny circles just behind her ears, so she might get used to this brand new feeling and touch. Even horses well cared for and handled gently and correctly, as this one is, take a few seconds to understand the new sensation of release the circles give, so it is important to start at a place not sore, giving plenty of time for the horse to understand and appreciate this new sensation.

As my fingertips floated in little circles from her ears down her neck toward her withers, she began to fidget and worry about me touching her back ... Now this does two things, it distracts the horse's concentration and it keeps her from enjoying the release from even the area not sore. So I knew I had to stop. Sensing her controlled, but deep seated worry about me touching her biggest ouchy, I paused at her withers, laid my hands flat, and took a breath. I told her what I was about to do, and with my hands still resting on her, I waited for her to accept them where they were. I rocked her ever so gently as I waited.

When she signaled with a softer eye, and big breath, that we might continue, I did. But, because she was so over stimulated with worry about her back muscles, instead of using my fingertips, I used the flat of my hand, the first time over. That pleased her, and she began to go along with it. After a pass all along her back muscles to her rump, I gave her a few minutes to process, then repeated the whole thing again, using my fingertips.

It was then that I felt the big release of heat. It felt like the heat you'd feel holding your hand over a hot cup of coffee. The more I worked, the more heat came out. I've felt this before, even expect it sometimes, but still was surprised at it this time because the mare is so pleasant, and never showed signs of disagreement. I even asked the owner to feel the heat. The little mare softened and softened and we continued along through all the therapy exercises and all went well.

I just wanted to share this story because it is not uncommon for some horses to internalize their discomfort and just do their job. It is another reason I highly recommend these exercises to get to know the things you might miss about your horse's comfort.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hungry Birds

This morning's serenity and beauty actually started with last night's sky. As I made my way to the barn with Kessy's night-night apple my path was lighted in silver by a moon nearly full, and more dazzling than an exploding rocket. The stars too shimmered and shined with such gusto and brilliance it was as if the long arms of Sandy had indeed reached into the heavens to scrub and polish the space dust from each of them allowing their lights to flaunt and amaze. For a moment I stood, my arm draped over Kessy's back and admired the night sky.

The past three mornings our Coffee Clutch was a bit windy, cold and soggy so today's stillness was welcomed by all parties. From somewhere though, clouds had rolled in to drape the morning sky with a dull gray that held the sounds close to the ground. As I poured my first cup the distant train whistle blew and its rumbling of giant wheels drifted into our snug barn. Hadn't heard the train for a few days, so I welcomed its tune.

The Juncos, whose numbers have really increased, hopped and pecked right alongside the chickens. If you want a chuckle, picture a tiny gray-black Junco busily pecking the cracked corn, shoulder to shoulder with a giant Guinea chicken.

The birds must have built up a good appetite these past few rainy days, as soon there were Cardinals, Chickadees, Nuthatches and about a dozen Doves all darting and dashing in and out to snare a kernel or three. Even when a roster would decide it had had enough of the wild birds and chase them, cackling and squawking, they flew but a few feet to light on brushy branches. Then one by one they'd sneak back to the feast. When the chickens had their fill they lined up on the fallen log, which serves as a sort of backdrop, to preen and strut leaving the corn wide open for the wild birds, who took advantage and immediately their numbers tripled!  

Kessy, Saturday and I enjoyed the show a while longer. Well actually, Saturday snored at my feet, Tigger curled tight on my lap, and Kessy tugged at her hay … But I took in all the feathered hijinks with a few chuckles.

Have a fun day and God Bless!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Simmering Soup

The worst of Sandy will likely skirt around us here in Appomattox VA, but still we have a cold a blustery day or two ahead of us. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who'll have a rougher ride than us ahead them …

Coffee With Kessy and the critters was a full house this morning. In times of nasty weather I like to pen Kessy in her stall, of course there's no door, just a strand of white tape stretched across the doorway, but the inside, behind the tape, it gets nice and cozy. I had hung the, "tape door" last night when I tucked her in with her night-night apple. It wasn't really raining yet, but a heavy mist had her wet, and the wind had started to pick up, and it just felt like she'd have a more comfortable night inside. So when I moseyed out this morning with my thermos of hot Folgers, she greeted me with a happy, hurry-up, nicker.

The chickens had all beaten me to the barn, too. Well, I was a half hour late ... Tigger and Miss Kitty, Saturday, too were all snuggled in with Kessy. The chilly damp air seemed blocked by the tape, falling from my back like a discarded wet rag, as I stepped into Kessy's bedroom.

Saturday began to bounce, wiggle and howl, doing his fine rendition of, "I'll dance for my breakfast," Kessy followed my every step as I fed Saturday, scattered the chicken scratch at the, "inside the barn feeding stations" (I have a few tucked away spots so they can peck away out of the weather on bad days)  and filled her haybag. Then settled into my chair, which today I moved back in the corner out of the wind, and steaming coffee in hand, just took in the peacefulness of all of us snuggled together, out of the weather.

The wind seemed determined to reach inside, but the way I'd built the barn only allows, even the most tenacious fingers of cold and wet, to get more than a few feet inside, leaving plenty of space for everybody to snuggle. The bird feeders were busy this morning too, Cardinals, Nuthatches, Titmice and a Chickadee, too swooped in, feathers ruffled, to fuel up for the day.

After a nice morning Coffee Clutch I headed back to the house where, as I opened the door, I was greeted by the delightful smell of a pot of simmering vegetable soup. It's Ravishin' Robbie's custom to fire up a big ol' pot of soup on bad weather days. Ah, what a wonderful way to turn a damp windy day, or snowy blowy day, into a delightful, "snug as a bug in a rug" day ... Simmering Soup!

Be safe and God Bless!