Friday, February 8, 2013

"Feature Friday-Gaits to Heaven-The Ministry of the Horse-Linda Grajewski"

Howdy Folks,

Two times a year Linda Grajewski loads her horses and travels from her home in Tennessee to the Pine Ridge Reservation in SD to minister to the Lakota children and women there through the use of horses. Gaits to Heaven is a faith based healing and helping non-profit program Linda started 4 years ago, though she's been ministering most of her life. Being the daughter of an alcoholic parent, she learned early on the power, pain and suffering of that disease. She credits attending a Billy Graham program for youth at the age of 13 with charting the direction of her life. She credits horses, and their spirit with how to follow that direction and find a way to help others.

Linda and a 6 year old a Lakota Girl - Everyone needs a hand up sometimes!
 Linda has over 20 years experience in ministry, education and mental health and recovery programs. She has a lifelong love and relationship with horses and is an active participant in many equine activities. Combining her love of the ministry with the power of the spirit of the horse, Linda travels much of the year to work with women and children and provide education and support resources for individuals and families about Alcohol and Substance Abuse and/or Mental Illness, and to lead Bible Study and Worship services at horse events.
Linda surrounded by kids at the Crazy Horse Memorial Ride for Veterans Ft Robinson, NE to Pine Ridge, SD
 "Since the Lakota people have been known for generations as, 'the people of the horse' I also receive donations of tack that I give to them. They have many fine horses but limited funds to buy good tack and supplies. Several of the Lakota people host rides and horse games for the children and these supplies are much needed and appreciated." Linda explained.

Volunteers helping the boys to Ride Horse at summer camp.
 This year Linda has been invited to another reservation in SD on the Cheyenne River and now will  leading a Recovery Program for the women in the jail at Pine Ridge and in the community at Cheyenne River and helping there with children as well.

When Linda started this ministry 4 years, ago 2 horse friends of hers had committed suicide within a few months of each other. She'd planned to only minister in her local area and at horse events. But, when she was invited to go on a Christian Veterinary Mission trip to Pine Ridge, she was broken hearted to find they had the highest suicide rate in the nation among teens and children. She knew it was God's will, that he had led her and her horses there to use his power and the spirit of the horse to change, and save lives.

Thank you Linda and your horses for all you do. To learn more please visit their website

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

"Kessy and Dutch's new Mounting Platform"

Howdy Folks, 

Since this pesky leg thing of mine isn't really going to get much better I needed a better way for Kessy and me to start our adventures to the trails and woods. I mentioned it to our friends Chris and Phil and they jumped into action! Great friends just jump right in, and they did! First the foundation needed to be prepared. Then they pushed the heavy platform in place, removed the one railing and made sure the platform was secure.
 Then it was time to introduce Kessy to the new deal. She's really good about taking care of me and figuring things out. As you stroll through these pictures I'll bet you'll find it hard to believe it took months of working together for Kessy to be comfortable standing still to mount. First we just got used to walking to it and then standing comfortably while I was that high beside her. 
 Next came the real deal. Saddle up and ride … Kessy say's "I got this for you Partner."

  After the ride came a new way of dismounting, too. This had really become a problem for me, but I think we've got it now.

Thank you Chris and Phil for keeping Kessy and me on the trail!

Gitty Up ~ Dutch 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"Neat Little Lesson Horse (or any horse) Exercise"

Howdy Folks,

One day while working with the therapy horses, I was asked about one of the lesson horses, not in the therapeutic riding program. He's a little Appaloosa named Freckles. Freckles had begun to buck a hop or two whenever a student asked for a cantor.

Lesson horses, just as therapy horses, work very hard and are of a special gentle understanding nature. Day after day lesson horses are asked to go around the ring, walk, trot or gait, and cantor on cue. Very often the student doing the asking is just learning how to ask, or cue. They may not have mastered a gentle touch. Or may be too timid. All lesson horses at some point teach students how to ask for the whoa, back-up and walk on, while perhaps at the same time the student is finding their seat, or posture, or soft hands. Along with love and admiration, I mean who hasn't fallen in love with their lesson horse, are confusing signals, hard hands on bits and repetitious routines. They are just part of a lesson horse's life.

Sometimes they just get a little stuck and need a break, a fun trail ride or some other kind of interesting activity to engage them, just as we do. And most instructors are keenly aware of this and make sure to get some variety in the their lesson horses' routines. The center I was at is very good at this, but Freckles was trying to tell us more. All the normal things had been gone over, tack fit, time off etc, and still whenever he was asked to cantor he would give those little hops.

First I did a few of my, "Therapy For Therapy Horses" exercises because by doing them I can almost always begin to tune in to the horse's needs. It felt as if Freckles was tight in the left side and hip. I worked a bit to loosen him, especially his hind end and legs.

Now here is the neat little exercise I ended with and he responded nicely ... On a long lead, ask your horse to walk easy in a circle. At first walk close alongside, about arm's length away. As you circle together, use your wand to ask him to keep the "inside shoulder up." If you watch closely you'll see often a horse will lean in and drop the inside shoulder. As you walk, "tap, tap" the inside shoulder until he learns to hold it up. In a few moments you can begin to just point with your wand and he'll hold his shoulder up.

When you've mastered that, begin to back away, making the circle larger and larger, while being careful to keep the inside shoulder up. When you've backed away about 12 feet, and completed a few successful circles, begin to slowly reel him in, making the circle smaller and smaller. Remember to use your wand to keep the inside shoulder up. Then send him out again. After a few times of expanding and contracting the circle, switch to the other side and repeat the entire process. I only ever do this at a walk.

It's just a neat little exercise that helps any horse be more aware of their body carriage and helps make transitions smooth. I hope you'll try it!

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"What's In A Title?"

Howdy Folks,

Titles have always been my nemesis. Photo captions, too. It seems I need to be allowed a whole pile of words to say what I'm thinking. As all Coffee Clutchers already know. That was supposed to be funny. But coming up with a few words labeled a title, that peek interest, and define the story is very hard for me. It remains a challenge for me her on this blog.

What does a title do? Hopefully it will not only catch a reader's eye, but give a clue to the story, too. It might be able to drop a hint about the tone, or mood of the story, too. In the magazines I write for not only do I have the help of extraordinary editors like Bobbie Jo Lieberman and Lisa Ross-Williams, and the being in equine magazines will prepare you for the fact it will have something to do with horses. Here in my blog, I have neither of those helpful assistants.

The other a day a friend emailed the latest title he was kicking around for his book. I knew what the book is about and the title worked, almost. Quickly I shared how I struggled with titles and explained some folks are really good at it. Just not me.
Kessy, Saturday and me writing
 But I did show how I usually handle it. Often when I’m writing stories I’ll start with a "Working Title," until something in the story shouts out the perfect title.

Happened with my novel. My working title had been Mar-Sa, the name of their ranch. Then I was writing, somewhere about page 200, Mary is just back from the doctors after her exam and telling Sam she’s not doing treatments again. He asks what’s ahead and through his tears she tells him, “We’ll have the summer.” … WOW, I thought, there is my title.

I was writing a story for Trail Blazer about the Premerian Mares and foals, and about a woman who rescues the mares who suffer horribly standing strapped up in “pee Lines” for months so their urine can be collected, and little foals that most often just get sent to auction and slaughter. The “Unnoticed” byproduct of a horrible industry. When I wrote that sentence I thought, “Noticing The Unnoticed!” what a title. The story named itself.

Another story I wrote for Trail Blazer "Carrots For The Horses" about Teresa Paradis' rescue, Live & Let Live in NH. There is sentence in the story relating a time in Teresa's youth when she would leave "carrots for the horses" in a mailbox of a farm she walked by on her way to school. There's my title, I thought.

"Tearing Down Walls" is another Trail Blazer story about the wonderful work Nancy and Rick do on their ranch in NM helping Veteran's tear down the walls of PTSD. That sentence named their story.
Other times I just struggle, but my advice to my friend was don't rush it. Let the story name itself.

By the way if you'd like to read all the stories I wrote for Trail Blazer in my Heartbeats column, just look at the banner at the top of my blog page, click on "Dutch's Articles In Trail Blazer Magazine" to find a little book they put together of just my Heartbeat stories. I hope you'll read them, all good stories of "People & horses Helping Horses & People."

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Monday, February 4, 2013

"Sounds Of A Snowy Morning"

Howdy Folks,
An almost invisible snow floated down. It didn't cover the ground or the pines, rather it laid a delicate lace blanket over them. Snuggled in the barn with Kessy, Saturday and a few chickens, I took in the back-lit gray sky, and the beauty of the morning. The air so calm the large snowflakes drifted like so many feathers dropped from a window, slowly gliding left and right to finally settle on bough, branch or ground.

Juncos, a few of them sporting a lacy snowflake or two on their slate gray backs, scratched at cracked corn scattered for the chickens under low sheltering branches. As the snow grew heavier they were joined by Cardinals, Doves and Chickadees. Soon a few White Throated Sparrows stopped by. The snow never got so heavy as to change lace to blanket, but it did encourage a few more chickens to dash under roof and join the Coffee Clutch. One by one they wandered in and stopped just inside to shake the snow flurries from their backs. Too many chose to do it next to Kessy's hay as they entered, and when she'd had enough, one poor rooster was greeted with pinned ears, a glare and a shove and sent him squawking and scurrying away. She caught the poor fellow completely by surprise and he ran almost to the far end of the barn before he risked stopping again. Saturday, asleep beside my chair woke up, sort of, to see what the sudden noise was all about, then tucked his head and sighed.

Did you ever notice how peacefully quiet a snowy morning is? On mornings as quiet as this we're always treated to the far away train whistle. It serves as a back drop to Kessy's munching hay, the chickens' clucking, rooster's crows and the Cardinals', Juncos', and other birds' chatter just outside the barn. Ah the sounds of a snowy morning. Nothing quite like it. Well until the spring brings us the serenades of song birds.
The Coffee Clutch Gang, Kessy, Saturday, Tigger, Miss Kitty, & me.
 The Coffee Clutch gang hopes you have a perfect day, and have the chance to take in a few happy sounds today.

Gitty Up,
Dutch Henry