Friday, December 14, 2012

Feature Friday – Bobbie Jo Lieberman –Teaching Better Ways

Howdy Folks,

Bobbie Jo & Flite
Bobbie Jo Lieberman, managing editor of Trail Blazer Magazine, has a devotion, a mission, to teach better ways to care for our horses' physical needs – nutrition, hoof care, exercise – and to make life interesting, varied and "nonhabitual" for our horses. As she explains, horses are thinking, sentient creatures who need mental stimulation, just like we do, for optimal health. Whether it's learning to step up onto a pedestal, walk through a labyrinth, or experience true "connection" with his person, horses are capable of much more than many people realize. The results of working with horses in such creative ways, and sharing insights with others, is one of the things most rewarding to Bobbie Jo.

Through her career in equine journalism, spanning an impressive forty-plus years, Bobbie Jo has had the privilege of working with many people who are shining a light in understanding how horses learn. People like Linda Tellington-Jones, Peggy Cummings and Suzanne De Laurentis.

Her journey began as a child with an imaginary horse named Bright Angel. As a young girl Bobbie Jo and Bright Angel would compete in races, shows and even start a breeding farm. Finally at 13 and after much persistence, she "convinced" her parents to buy her a pony, Little Stormy. Stormy taught her much and together they won their first trophy. After Stormy came Flip, a half-Arabian who excelled at barrels and poles. Only during her college years did Bobbie Jo go horseless. Then, in her senior year, she found Khabur, an Arab colt.

Annakate & Bobbie Jo flying
Khabur never put much stock in any, "in the ring stuff" and one day, Bobbie Jo flung open the gate and across the fields, up and down hills they flew. It was Khabur who started Bobbie Jo on a lifelong love affair with Endurance Riding. Endurance riding is the sport that most closely mimics the lifestyle of horses in the wild—covering long distances in the course of a single day at moderate speeds. "Endurance will teach a rider more about equine physiology than any other horse sport, and developing fit equine athletes is very rewarding," says Bobbie Jo. It was Khabur who first planted the seed in Bobbie Jo to share that knowledge with the world for the sake of the horse. Later, she would write a column called "Equus the Foal," continuing that real-world focus on learning and growing.

Rushcreek Caribou & Bobbie Jo
When she went to work for EQUUS as the founding Editor in 1977, Bobbie Jo met Medical Editor, Matthew Mackay-Smith, DVM, who was already in the endurance riding American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) Hall of Fame. Bobbie Jo had done one competitive trail ride in Minnesota in the early 70s with Khabur (they were having so much fun that they missed a trail marker and ended up in Wisconsin!) so was already intrigued with long-distance riding. Matthew and his wife Winkie became her friends and mentors in the sport. Those were the days of burgeoning knowledge in equine sport science, and Matthew was a pioneer in the “gate into hold” concept that is still in use in AERC. The defining distance was 100 miles in one day, and the supreme test in the East was the Old Dominion 100. Bobbie Jo and her mare Rushcreek Ingrid, finished 5th on their first Old Dominion and third that same year on the Vermont 100. She's logged over 5,000 AERC miles so far and hopes to ride many more.

EQUUS’ early motto was “the voice of the horse,” and that is the banner Bobbie Jo has always carried in her heart. She's emotional when it comes to the care and treatment of any animal. She's an advocate for holistic therapies for horses, barefoot horsekeeping, minimal vaccinations and training methods that honor the intelligence of the horse.

Teammates Perle & Bobbie Jo
One of the most difficult moments in Bobbie Jo's horse history was losing her beloved mare Perle to the bite of a green Mojave rattler in 2006. Perle had been the focus of a series in EQUUS and proved to be a challenging horse to train—meaning she had many lessons to teach. She emerged from her early trials as a willing trail partner and had just completed a series of competitive trail and endurance rides when tragedy struck. It took Bobbie a long time to come to grips with losing her and ultimately discover Perle as her spiritual guide. Years after the event, Perle’s full sister Permynta “found” Bobbie  from across the country and came West to live with her, bringing them all full circle in the journey of love and life.

For as long as Bobbie Jo can remember, she wanted to write about horses. Opportunities to do so were slim in the early 1970s. For the first decade or so of her working life, she was a newspaper and sports editor and wrote feature stories about horses whenever she could. Bobbie Jo's first two freelance articles appeared in Hoof Beats magazine and Western Horseman during her university years. Then, in 1977, she was invited to become a founding editor of EQUUS—the first magazine devoted to the health and care of the horse. EQUUS was a breakthrough in equine journalism…. In fact, it defined the genre for many years.

Later she would spend a decade as Editor & Publisher of Modern Horse Breeding, a journal written for breeders, veterinarians and farm managers. As managing editor of Trail Blazer magazine for the last four years, Bobbie Jo plays a major role in shaping the editorial direction. Trail Blazer's publisher, Susana Gibson, was a highly successful endurance rider back in the day as well as the manager of the legendary Race of Champions. They were both “students” of Matthew Mackay-Smith, and his wit and wisdom continues to inform and inspire their efforts.

Bobbie Jo has coauthored two horse books: “The Ultimate Horse Training and Behavior Book: Enlightened solutions for the 21st century,” with Linda Tellington-Jones, and “Connect with Your Horse From the Ground Up: Transform the way you see, ‘feel,’ and ride with a whole new kind of groundwork,” with Peggy Cummings. Both books were the result of years of writing, refining and experiencing the work with each author. She writes these books to give people a way to work with horses that is safe, effective, stress-free and honors the individuality and intelligence of the horse.

She also coauthored a human-health book called “Heart Sense for Women,” with Steve Sinatra, MD and Jan Sinatra. Bobbie Jo and her husband, Kenny Weber, are also working on a book right now featuring a fun, sassy, easy approach to healthy nutrition. 

Bobbie Jo Lieberman has devoted her life to giving horses a voice. Her efforts as a writer and editor extraordinaire have helped spread the word of a better way to live with, take care of and have fun with our horses.  Join her on Facebook and get to know one wonderful woman.

For more information:

Dutch Henry

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"A Tale Of A Skunk's Tail"

Howdy Folks, 
On the farm I grew up on as a foster kid, I usually had some time to myself on Sunday afternoons between lunch and milking. I often used this time to explore the meadows, woods and streams. It was a beautiful farm nestled in a small valley surrounded by forested hills so nature abounded there. Being the only youngster there my romps were solitary, unless I took the farm dog, Skippy along. He was a great pal, my best friend for a lot of years. Never knew his breed but Skippy was at least half collie.

One beautiful early spring Sunday when I was about 12, Skippy and I set out for what we called the far meadow. It was one of my favorite places way at the North end of the farm, at least a half hour's walk from the house. Some folks might call it a glade. The cows kept the grass short, and there was never many weeds there so it looked like a well manicured lawn with a sleepy narrow stream meandering through it and shaded by about 20 ancient hickory trees. This truly was a magical, peaceful place, and thinking back I suppose the magic touched me there as I can remember several childhood adventures taking place under those hickories by the stream.

As this particular adventure starts I'm laying on my back taking in the sun, Skippy snuggled beside me. From where we lay we had a view across the stream, out over the meadow with the woods far off as a backdrop. I think I was telling Skippy a story when he started to bark. Following his stare I saw something, an animal of some sort, waddling down the hill toward the stream. It looked funny because it was bouncing and rolling all over the place.

The cows had wandered way up to the woods so it was just Skippy and me watching this silly animal. I coaxed Skippy to come along to investigate. He was a good guard dog, from a distance. Always ready to bark, but always keeping plenty of room between him and whatever danger threatened. He stayed behind me as we advanced. The closer we got, the sillier the animal looked flipping, rolling and waddling.

Soon I realized it wasn't one animal, but two! Two skunks were scampering along climbing all over each other in some kind of spring frolic. They were having the time of their life, and so involved were they, they never noticed Skippy and me. They would waddle a few strides then one would climb atop the other and they'd commence rolling down the hill a few feet. Then the other would climb on top. I think they were young skunks perhaps on their first spring adventure.

I was able to get right up on them, they paid no attention to me as they frolicked. I remember Skippy, who was a wise dog, stayed well behind me and had stopped barking. I stood right over them intrigued by their silliness, and anyone who has ever seen a skunk up close knows they have adorable faces. And the tiniest feet.

It was about that time I remembered being told that skunks can't spray you if you grab them by the tail and hoist them up. They must have heard me thinking that because right at that second, they stopped fooling around and looked up at me. Both of them.

Without hesitation I decided to test that tail snatching theory and I grabbed the littlest skunk. An adorable almost black little fellow. He twisted around to look me in the eye.

Then it happened! I don't really remember the next few seconds, but as the spray hit me full in the chest I understood pretty quickly that not all advice is accurate … And that skunk tail tale is not true! Not only can they spray while you hold their tail, they can spray, twice. You see I was so surprised I held onto that squirming little black ball of fur longer than a boy should. It was Skippy barking and howling that finally jerked me back to my senses and I dropped the little fellow, who calmly walked away, right back to his friend.

My eyes started to burn and the trek back to the house was a blurry one. I stumbled along, Skippy dancing and barking all the way. Maggie, the woman who raised me, could smell me before I even got to the porch and she hollered out the front door for me to shed my clothes and sit in the water trough for a while before coming in. We didn't have plumbing or electric in the house, so the best I could do was wash up in the trough and at the wash basin. Skippy kept barking all the while, rubbing it in.

There was lots of teasing at supper and milking time that night. Ol' Bill, Maggie's husband, said he'd have never told me that if he'd thought I'd test it. But they way he laughed every time he told the story for the next ten years, I think it went just the way he planned. I did get to skip school for a week, they said I smelled too skunky.

Gitty Up
Dutch Henry

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"A two act play staring juncos, chickens, squirrels and Miss Kitty"

Howdy Folks,

He was darker than most, that proud junco. He sat on a twisted branch just a few feet above the hustle and bustle that is the morning gathering of chickens fussing about their scratch. I know that little junco was only waiting his turn but, from my perch in my very worn and tired chair beside Kessy as she munched hay, it sure looked like he was directing the circus beneath him. He moved only inches left to right as he searched for an opening among the chickens. The cracked corn and barley must be deliciously tempting, enticing him to risk all and dive right in amongst fowl ten times his size. But he decided to strategize a bit longer. Soon he seemed to bob and weave in time with the roosters beneath him!

With Tigger on my lap, Miss Kitty and Saturday at my feet, Kessy munching away, we took in the show. It's a normal routine each morning, and it always guarantees at least a chuckle, or three, as each morning someone will be the main character who stands out and steals the show. That little junco had the first act.

The second act we must give to Miss Kitty. As the scene opens most of the chickens have wandered away to begin their daily "search and devour" missions, leaving the spoils of cracked corn to Mr. Junco and his friends. Soon what had been a cast of domestic fowl was replaced with the sparkling choreography of juncos, cardinals, doves and chickadees.

Part of the second act was the squirrels, too. A few always show up and end too soon, the musical I've come to call "Twitter On The Litter." The squirrels really add nothing to the show, in fact they usually bring it to an end. And they did today.

Now apparently the actions of the interloping squirrels did not sit well with Miss Kitty. A few seconds after the squirrels took center stage, Miss Kitty stalked her way into the scene, stopping just on the far side of the waterer from a happy, corn chomping squirrel.

After a brief pause she charged, sending the terrified squirrel scampering up a tree … But Miss Kitty wasn't ready to give up the spotlight.

As Mr Squirrel leaped from branch to branch, tree to tree, Miss Kitty dashed trunk to trunk reaching as high as she could to claw on each trunk, ever driving the poor squirrel farther and farther away. 

Eventually satisfied, Miss Kitty turned, took a bow and gracefully accepted my applause for a great show. Now Dancing With The Stars it wasn't, but our little 2 act play was just perfect for a birthday present today!

Tigger missed the whole show deep in sleep on my lap. Saturday did wander over to see what all the dancing was about. Kessy? She enjoyed her hay. … We all send you wishes for a great day!

Gitty Up
Dutch & the Coffee Clutch Gang

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"What is writing to me?"

Howdy Folks,

Kessy, Saturday and me in the office.
I was recently asked "what is writing to me and why do I write?" … Writing, to me it's a journey. An adventure. A feeling. An emotion. Oh the words sometimes pour out! Other times they must be sought out, each word, syllable and cadence carefully chosen to paint the picture as we see it in our mind, so we may indeed take our readers on our adventure with us. For if our stories are important enough to tell, they should be well told.

Mark Twain
I'm always mindful of Mark Twain's now famous advice, "The difference between a good word and a perfect word is like the difference between lightning and lightning bug." 

Why do I write, I was asked. I'm not sure, I answered. Here on this blog and on facebook I write to visit with friends. I write to share pleasant thoughts, pictures and smiles. I write to share the peace, innocence and sweetness of our morning Coffee Clutch gathered in the barn with Kessy and the critters. I write to spread the word of good folks and noble horses doing all they can to help others. No matter the story, it is always my goal to tell it in a way that's uplifting. Sometimes it's tough to find the lightning bug words when the story is about lightning strong forces, but I search for them.
Sharing the love

When I write for magazines,  I write to celebrate what I call, "People and Horses Helping Horses and People." I write to tell the stories of efforts great and small by generous people and selfless horses who are changing lives. I write to help them help.

My novel, I wrote to celebrate an enduring love so powerful it forever changed the lives it touched. Because I know love is a most powerful force. I believe love is a magical potion when carefully mixed into any endeavor, plan or life, miracles can happen. I also wanted to celebrate the spirit of the horse and share with the world the magic that lives there too.

I suppose I write because through words I believe I might be able to gather enough lightning bugs to shine powerful lightning bolts on the greatness of love, happiness and the Spirit of the Horse. And good deeds done by so many whose only desire is to help. That's what writing is to me.

Gitty Up,

Dutch Henry

Honey and me taking notes

Monday, December 10, 2012

"Weekend Fun & Christmas Adventures!!"

Howdy Folks, 

HAPPY MONDAY! … Boy howdy did Raviashin' Robbie and I have a jam packed weekend! We hope you all had a chance to squeeze in a thing or three you did just for fun, too. Of course all of us are busy getting ready for Christmas, or thinking about getting ready for Christmas, and our weekends, to some degree, revolve around that.

My weekend started Friday at Heartland Horse Heroes, which sadly was the final visit for the children in this session, but was exciting for me because I was a leader and got to be part of the sessions and it was kind of a cool way to say goodbye to the children.

Saturday, now that friends, was a jam packed day! … Started of course with our normal Coffee Clutch then off for the first of 4 adventures of the day. A visit to the Museum Of The Confederacy where Robbie and I learned how to make period Christmas tree ornaments.

Then on to what has become one of our annual Christmas events since moving to Appomattox, going to see the "Virginia Christmas Spectacular" at Thomas Road Baptist Church; the church founded by Jerry Falwell, who also founded Liberty University. Folks the show they put on is Broadway caliber and has become a must-see for Robbie and me. (And apparently for tens of thousands of others!) This year's spectacular was, "Yes Virginia, A Christmas Letter"

We hurried back to Appomattox, for the Christmas show at Appomattox Court House Theater."The Best Christmas Pageant Ever!" Ravishin' Robbie worked the box office and sold refreshments. I was scheduled to do what I do best, sit and watch the show ... Some say I'm good at starting the laughter and applause, too. By golly this show had a lot of that! What a fine job they did putting on the show! Over 20 children and folks I think they are all ready for the big time!

From the theater, Robbie and I scurried to Baines Books and Coffee for an evening of Christmas carols, and other fun music. It's always a great time there, but Saturday night was especially lively. Of course I was wearing down a little by then, but the group sings sure recharged my batteries! From the looks I got from Robbie a time or two, I think she would rather they didn't recharge quite so fully ….

Sunday we set out for Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest, his retreat near Lynchburg in the later years of his life. Robbie and I decided this year we'd visit as many historical locations as we can to check out the Christmas decorations. We really enjoyed the tour and were quite impressed at the progress they've made in restoration. Our last visit there was 5 years ago. We plan on going to Monticello before Christmas, too.

Robbie had to get back for the Matinee at the Appomattox Courthouse Theater … Kessy and I hit the trail for an afternoon ride. We had a great ride, even though Kessy was quite full of herself and demanded a few runs through the trees. I wondered if she somehow had picked up on the pace Ravishin' Robbie had set for me this weekend!

I think I'll take a few days and recover before we set out again on Saturday. We hope all your Christmas adventures are coming together and you'll have as much fun as Robbie and me!

Gitty Up
Dutch Henry