Friday, February 28, 2014

"Feature Friday – Why Barefoot Peruvians-Guest Blogger, Jan Pippins"

Howdy Folks, 

We have a guest blogger today; Jan Pippins. She is a horsewoman, certified equine cruelty investigator and author. Her most recent book is “Henry Darrow: Lightning in the Bottle” the award-winning biography of actor Henry Darrow. She is currently working on a book about her experiences with horses and horse people ... I invited her to write a little about herself and her transition from the Tennessee Walking Horse and Big Lick world to the world of Barefoot Peruvians.


Jan Pippins
Thank you Dutch Henry, and Hello Coffee Clutch friends,

I loved horses as a little child. Being near them was heaven. Riding was beyond heaven. My first horse was a little gaited gelding named Pepper. He was a kindly, nondescript bay, the type of horse a kid could ride bareback with only halter and lead rope. My second horse, Dandy, was a fiery green-broke two-year-old Tennessee Walker. Back then, we rode two year olds because we didn’t know big didn’t equal grown. A green-broke two year old probably wasn’t the best choice for a nine year old kid, but my parents weren’t horse people. I loved Dandy fiercely.

Unfortunately for him, I became an unhappy teenager with the horse-show bug. Riding was about the only thing I did well. Soon, it wasn’t enough to ride Dandy on country roads and through the woods of south Mississippi. I wanted to win blue ribbons. So that good horse became a show horse for me. He was stalled because he had to wear built-up shoes. Because built up shoes (“packages”) were what Tennessee Walkers showed in. No more free time in the pasture with his buddies. This was serious business. His bit had eight-inch shanks, because that’s the kind of bit a Tennessee Walker showed in.

In those days before the Horse Protection Act (HPA), Tennessee Walkers were commonly sored for the show-ring. That is, caustic chemicals like mustard oil were applied to their front pasterns. Next came heavy chains or boots to slam against the chemical burns. The pain made horses jerk their front legs high. Their back legs did a crawling motion as the horse tried its best to avoid inevitable agony. Before the HPA, it wasn’t unusual to see blood and pus streaming from the legs of blue-ribbon winners.

I did not sore my horses. I drew the line there. But, like Dandy, later, better-bred Tennessee Walkers wore built up shoes and chains. They wore bits that make me cringe today. The tendons of their tails were cut so their tails could be braced up high for that show-ring look. They spent their days stalled wearing tail sets, harnesses to keep their tails limber for bracing.

Eventually, the cruelty at Tennessee Walking Horse shows and barns became too much. The Horse Protection Act had passed years before and soring had just gone underground. I didn’t like seeing horses in pain. I didn’t like making my horses live a life that was so unnatural for them. At 25, I sold my last horse, an honest fellow who spent too many years locked in stalls or performing in the ring. I hope had many good retirement years in sunny pastures and nice rides on pleasant trails.

When, after nearly twenty unhappy horseless years, I was able to own a horse again, I looked at Tennessee Walkers first. I couldn’t find a flat-shod one in our part of the country with good gait. Breeding for the “Big Lick” had taken its toll on the natural gait of the TWH. To move well in built-up shoes, a horse had to be naturally pacey. That’s what I found – TWHs so pacey they’d break your teeth.

I tried a couple of new-to-me breeds. Peruvian Paso Horses charmed me. Not only were they breathtakingly beautiful, they were natural. No built-up shoes, tail braces, soring, chains or artificial anything. In fact, shoes were prohibited in the ring. The theory being (rightly), that shoes can be used to alter gait. If the gait is “enhanced”, the most “enhanced” horses could begin to win. People breed to the winners and soon enough, the prized natural gait isn’t there anymore. Rather than start on that slippery slope, the Peruvian Paso Horse associations banned shoes all together. What a refreshing and stark contrast to Big Lick TWH shows! To top it off, Peruvian Pasos had the healthiest hooves I’d ever seen. Since even top show winners had 24/7 turnout, they had ample time to just be horses and were willing, eager and beautiful workers on trail and in the ring.

I became a convert to barefoot and 24/7 turnout. I don’t believe every horse does better barefoot, but many do. Even our Thoroughbred – people who warned us that his hooves would practically rot off if not shod changed their tune to, “Wow, I’ve never seen such beautiful feet on a Thoroughbred!” 

Today, our horses are trail horses. They are all somebody’s cast-offs, including a mentally damaged former “Big Lick” Tennessee Walker. Every horse and many of the horse people I’ve known have taught me a great deal. Unfortunately, one thing they’ve taught me is that change comes slowly when there’s money and prestige involved – over forty years have passed since the Horse Protection Act became law and yet gaited horses, especially Tennessee Walkers, are still sored. New legislation is pending to criminalize ALL soring tactics used in the Big Lick show world. The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) It’s supported by the AVMA, other prestigious groups and right-thinking horse people. It does NOT ban shoes ... It DOES ban a number of insidious methods used to enhance soring and make horses suffer (LEARN ABOUT THE PAST ACT HERE) and how you can help support it.
Jan's beloved Impresso
 I support the PAST Act in the memory of Dixie Dandy, Magic’s Black Pepper, Pride of Gunsmoke, Shadow’s Salute and “Big Lick” horses everywhere who have endured countless tortures to put money in their owners and trainers pockets and ribbons on the wall.

~ Jan Pippins

Thank you Jan for sharing painful lessons learned – and all you do to help horses and their people.

 – Friends you can join Jan on Facebook HERE and have a look at her book HERE

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

"Writing Michael Martin Murphey's Story"

Howdy Folks,
On Friday I had the privilege and honor of interviewing Michael Martin Murpey for a story in my Heartbeats column in Trail Blazer. I figured it needed to be in the April issue, because my story about David Lichman's "Horses Helping Humans North American Benefit Tour" was my March Heartbeats story.

After Michael's interview was scheduled, for Friday at noon, I sent Bobbie Jo, the fantastic editor at Trail Blazer, an email about my upcoming story for April. It must be in April, I said, because one of his major fundraisers, a nationwide trail ride event to raise money for the, "Fiona Rose Murphey Foundation," was happening in June and I'd like my story to help that, too. Bobbie Jo loved the idea and said she was just about to ask me about moving David Lichman's story to a "Feature Article." So if I could get Michael's story to her by Monday, his could be the March Heartbeats! Of course I said, "You Bet!"
Michael Martin Murphey
I never had two stories in one magazine issue before! The fact that I only had two days did not sink in yet ... Happily, I'm all set to do the interview at noon on Friday.

A good interview takes me about two hours. I figure we'll do the interview, I'll take a short ride, then start writing about five Friday evening, and finish it Saturday. Then send it to Michael and his publicist to proof. It usually takes me ten to twelve hours to write, edit, polish and complete a story for a magazine. I figure I'll get the proof back Monday, make the suggested corrections, and get it to Bobbie Jo by midday Monday right on schedule. Good to go. Almost.

Friday morning I'm talking with the publicist, about getting photos, and I verify the time, "12:00 Eastern, right?" 

"Oh no, you're Eastern, that's right." He says. "That would be 3:00, your time."

Oh darn. Well that's okay, I'll just ride first. No big deal. And I did. Then at three, I called Michael. No answer. I leave a message. I call back at 3:30, no answer, and the mail box is full, but the number is there for his assistant. I call her, leave a message. Then I call the publicist, and leave a message. It's about 4:00 now. I hang out, table set, paper, pens and recorder ready to go for the interview, just waiting for a call.

About 6:30, Gary Holt, from Equine Legacy Radio, who had suggested and arranged for the story, calls me to see how the interview went. I said, "It didn't." I told him what happened, and knowing it had to be to Bobbie Jo by Monday, Gary said he'd try to contact everyone.

Gary called back to tell me he too found Michael's mail box full, but left a message with his publicist. I knew I couldn't work on the story at all on Sunday, I'd be gone all day, and that couldn't change. I also had an obligation Saturday morning. So now I worried about my completion time. Bobbie Jo had probably even begun to change the layout of the magazine by now.

As soon as Gary and I say goodbye, Michael called. It was getting close to 7:00. He literally called me as he was unlocking his motel room door. Apologizing, a lot, he explained he planned to call as he drove, but he had no, or not very good service in the desert, and couldn't call until he got to Reno. "What would you like to know?" He asked. "We have about forty-five minutes before my appointment with a major sponsor."

Oh my gosh. Forty-five minutes! I need a lot more time than that. I'm a different kind of interviewer. Never had any training, barely graduated high school, so I just have a visit, and listen. As if we're having coffee. I don't really know how to ask a lot of questions. I just spend time with them, like I do with horses, and let them lead the way. And the story comes to me. That's it. That's how I work ... But 45 minutes, holy cow!

I used every bit of the time we had. Michael was terrific! We had a most delightful chat, and an hour later, I felt like we were long time friends. I think he was getting ready for his meeting while we talked, but like the pro he is, he made sure we had a perfect interview. Including the true story behind his beautiful song, Wildfire." And what those lyrics mean to him.

I wrote the first paragraph Friday night. – "Growing up in the city, but spending the summers of his youth on his grandparents' ranch, Michael learned the horse, human bond early. It was there the spark of enjoying the world from horseback was first ignited deep within him. Life on the ranch was busy for a young Michael, but that busy time forged ideas and plans that shaped a lifetime. The ideas did not take long to sprout into real life adventures and by the age of fifteen, he vowed he would see as much of America from horseback as possible. And he would help others see it too."

I always try to get my story started soon after the interview. I usually go out to Kessy, or go lay down a bit, let things bounce around in my hollow head, then write the beginning. I'm good then, the rest can grow as it needs to. It was nearly 10:00pm by the time I had that first paragraph, but now I had my footing.

Saturday morning at 11:00 I started right off. Let me here explain, every story must not only tell the tale, but it has a beginning, a middle and an end. It also has a rhythm, and transitions. My opening paragraph carried me into the story. I read my notes, listened to our recording and did really great. It all came together and flowed gently. Until about 3:00. I was in a big transition, knew where the story wanted to take me but it just wouldn't work. When it doesn't flow, well, it just doesn't. Everything was in my head, but nothing worked smoothly.

Only one answer, saddle Kessy, and let her help. So I did. We had a delightful ride, lots of gaiting and racking. We had a blast. We were half an hour from home when my transition sentence came to me. I couldn't wait to get back. The rest of the story, even the last sentence, was shouting to be written before I could see the barn! The last sentence by the way, made Bobbie Jo cry … Me too.

I finished the story at exactly 10:30 Saturday night. Sent it to Michael and his publicist for review. Sunday they sent it back, approved. They had one small edit. Michael said he liked it, "a lot." His publicist said I caught things few people do, and he really liked my, "conversational style of writing."

They sent me terrific pictures, and I got everything to Bobbie Jo by noon on Monday. It was a wild ride writing this one, but my story about how much more than a great singer/songwriter Michael is will be in the March issue of Trail Blazer. Thanks everybody for helping!

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry 

By the way, if you'd like to know more about the June, "Fiona Rose Murphey Foundation," Nationwide fundraising ride  CLICK HERE 


Monday, February 24, 2014

"Another Reason I'm Anti-Horse-Blanket"

Howdy Folks,
I really wasn't going to blog about the incident which took place yesterday. But this morning, while having coffee with Kessy, it was 35  degrees, and knowing as I sipped my Folgers and listened to her contented hay chomping it was going to reach 60 again today, I got really angry all over again. Yea, ol' Dutch gets downright ornery sometimes … and being a horse advocate first, I always take the horse's side, in any argument, discussion or situation. Just my way.
Kessy & me
You need some background first; I drive a hundred miles one way for Kessy's hay. She being Insulin Resistant, we of course need low sugar hay. Buying and testing after it is home has proven not to work, neither has testing before buying as by the time the test comes in, the hay can be all sold. So last year I learned of a great outfit up in Culpepper, VA who tests everything they bale, and give the results, and you know what you're getting from the get-go. It's a second generation outfit, and they REALLY take care of their customers. They farm over a thousand acres.

So every 3 or 4 months I fire up our geriatric Tahoe, hook up my relic of a 2 horse trailer, and take a delightful drive through some of the most beautiful horse country in our state. Usually Ravishin' Robbie goes along and we work in a fun lunch at a quaint eatery or do a little touristing along the way – But she was away and I had to go alone. Had she been with me, I doubt the incident would have happened.

Bright blue skies and a gorgeous sun saw me off, even if was only in the 30's. I sang along to George Strait, Willie Nelson, and ABBA. From the start, roadside bird watching was great, and I was in high spirits. I truly enjoy this drive.

Of course every pasture with horses, or cows, for that matter dragged my eyes off the road as I admired them. Most of the time I stay on the road. Ravishin' Robbie declares I'm a terrible driver. I'm not really, I just get distracted by beauty.

I couldn't help but notice how many horses had blankets on this fine sunny morning. Halfway to Culpepper it was already in the mid-forties … Sad, I thought. By now I was in the really neat horse country and just about every mile boasted a pretty pasture with horses enjoying the day. Many of them wrapped in blankets. Just as a side note, does anyone ever wonder why cows can be in the same field and not need blankets?

As I drove and saw horse after horse out in the sun dealing with the foolishness of being overdressed, my mood began to deteriorate. I felt so bad for the poor horses. Even ABBA failed to lift my spirits …

I got to my destination and we had a delightful visit as we always do, and loaded 55 bales in the trailer and 8 in the ol' Tahoe … I like to pack my rig full! The old girl squats down a bit, but she still has what it takes. And, for home we set out.

It was after noon when I started home, and 60 degrees. Of course I thought of the blanketed horses and told myself surely I'd see none still being so wrongly treated. Of course I knew better. Forgive me for this, but abuse comes in many different forms.

 Not more than fifteen minutes from the hay outfit I saw blanketed horses. My heart sank, my mood soured, again. I couldn't help it.

As I traveled by the pretty farms I found myself searching for blanketed horses, and sadly there were plenty. Not as many as the trip up, but within half an hour of leaving the hay outfit, I'd counted over 20 horses standing in summer-like warmth, blanketed.

I drove by a bank whose sign said, 64 degrees, and within 5 minutes came upon a beautiful big boarding outfit with pretty board fenced pastures, a long lane back to the buildings and lots of horses turned out. As I drove slowly by, I counted 12 with blankets. I think my head almost exploded.

Unable to stop myself, I looked for a place to turn around, and went back. I knew I was out of line, but could not convince myself to mind my own business. Turning around all loaded down was, well interesting. Driving up the lane I counted 21 horses, 13 with blankets on. I noticed several folks riding, all with helmets on and thought, "Yup, you'll take care of yourself, but what of those poor horses out there in the sun cooking under the blankets."

I turned around before I stopped, wanted to be facing the exit in case they shot at me, and I got a lot of strange looks as I stepped out of my squatted down, paint worn Tahoe and rusty trailer. I remember thinking about that line in "We'll Have The Summer," when Sam is thinking how easy it was to spot his old rig among all the fancy deals at the fair. Well that about summed me up there yesterday.

Two young ladies riding by stopped at my signal. I asked, "Why do all the horses have blankets on?" They shrugged and rode away, I'm certain they thought me a cook. Probably they're correct.

I made another inquiry and was directed to women standing not far from my rig. She was the owner or manager or something. She approached me wearing a pleasant smile; I think my smile had stayed in the Tahoe.

We shook hands, and I pointed to the blanketed horses. "Why are all those horses blanketed?" I admit, I jumped right in, but by golly it had been building all day. I did ask gently though. 

She looked at me with a combination of, who are you, I'm busy and it is none of your business.
Finally she told me they were boarders' horses and they want them blanketed.

"It's 65 degrees!" I blurted. "They're probably well over a hundred under those blankets, it's messing up their thermal regulation and it's going down to the thirties again tonight. Don't you think you should yank the blankets off?"

With a look meant to put me in my place she said, "That's up to the owners." And politely invited me to leave.

I wanted discuss this more, but I was just too angry to be certain I wouldn't get out of line, so I left. 

As I drove out the long lane my heart ached for the horses, and I carried with me the sadness of knowing I'd let them down.

A recurring theme in the long life of the horse is, "It's up to the owner." – Why can't it be up to the horse more often?

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry