Tag Archives: HORSES

All Four Feet

Recently, I happened upon a quote in reference to horses and humans that states, “Two Feet Move our Body, Four Feet Move Our Soul.”

(Smartpakequine.com)

How true. I’ve always felt that working with and playing with horses feeds my soul. Learning to understand their individual “horsenalities” and how to communicate with them is helping me to be a better horsewoman and a better person.

Last summer I returned to the Parelli Campus in Pagosa Springs, CO, where I was fortunate enough to attend Linda’s “Secrets of Horse Psychology” course. I took my horse Chaco who had been to the campus two years earlier with me for the “Journey to Level Four” course. That course started the process of changing my relationship with Chaco, an RBE/LBE, (Right-Brain Extrovert/Left-Brained Extrovert cusp) who desperately needed a confident leader. The confidence came, but Chaco still presented me with interesting and sometimes frustrating challenges; and at that time last summer, challenges having to do with his insecurities about his feet.

Chaco and me watching a demo in the coverall.

The first day of the Horse Psychology course we listed our “problems” and our “goals” as a group. Many of the problems centered around our horses’ lack of confidence – around, over, inside or through objects, lack of confidence with other animals, other people, other horses, and lack of confident with their feet( i.e. jumping barrels, going over ground poles, trailer loading, crossing water).

I quickly learned that I was not alone in my challenges! The overarching “goals” for the class were: 1) to be confident for our horses in every situation, and 2) to learn how to make good decisions to achieve that confidence.

I decided that my goal for the course would be ALL FOUR FEET – All four feet over the ground poles, all four feet in the trailer, all four feet in the pond.

As the course progressed we learned about what is important to horses—safety, comfort, play—and how to tell if the horse’s needs in these areas were met. We learned techniques for reading our horses and how their behaviors presented either fear or dominance.  As we learned these behaviors and techniques for addressing our horse’s individual horsenalities, we were shown demos and given tasks to practice them. One of the most captivating demos of the course took place at Linda’s arena where we got to see Linda working with her own horses; Highland, Navi, Hot Jazz, and the amazing Dylano—all with different horsenalities.

Linda coaching me with Chaco at the pond.

I learned a lot from watching Linda work with and adjust to each of the horses’ needs in the moment. Those last three words are important because although sometimes skeptical, horses don’t live their lives dwelling in or thinking about the past, and they also don’t make plans for success or failure in the future. Horses live in the present and behave according to how they view what may or may not happen to them in the moment.

During the two-week course, Chaco and I made great improvements. I saw Chaco’s trust in my leadership grow. By the end of the course he soared through the cavalettis, made several trips through the pond, and stepped inside a scary pink trailer–with all four feet—twice!

Linda playing with Chaco at Liberty.

Tackling problems and learning about my horse through psychology has given my horse even more reason to trust me and it is also helping me to build a better relationship with him—as well as with my other equine friends with their own set of challenges. It is helping me to achieve my own personal development goals in my horsemanship and in other areas of my life.

Building communication and working in partnership through different and unique challenges is something I no longer fear or dread. It has become something that I am ever grateful for – and something that truly moves my soul.

 

 

 

Interesting Facts About “Black Beauty” – A Timeless Classic

My father traveled a lot for business when I was a child. This created a great deal of anxiety for me as I feared the plane would go down and I would never see him again. To ease my angst, he always told me he would bring me something from his trip. It worked because instead of worrying about my father, I had something else to think about. Of course I prayed every night he was gone that he would come home safe and sound, but I would go to sleep with positive thoughts on what he would bring me when he returned. To my delight, it was usually a book. One of my favorites was Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. This may have started my life-long passion and love of horses and writing, something that I am sure my father did not intend, but that he and my mother ended up wholly supporting during my youth and beyond.

First Edition Black Beauty (Wikipedia)
First Edition Black Beauty
(Wikipedia)

I was so young when I read the book that some of the lessons it provided were forgotten. We also moved several times during my growing up years and my copy of it must have gotten lost along the way. It wasn’t until I started researching books about horses that I happened upon Black Beauty again. I’ve just ordered a new copy and look forward to scouring it from cover to cover.

Here are some interesting facts about Anna Sewell and her book:

  • Anna Sewell spent six years writing the book. It was published in 1877 when she was 57 years old, 5 months before her death.
  • It was her first and last book.
  • It was an instant best-seller and has to date sold 50 million copies.
  • A signed first edition sold for $18,133 in 2015. The copy she signed for her mother sold in 2006 for $50,693.
  • Anna’s mother Mary Wright Sewell was a best-selling author.
  • Anna and her family were Quakers and believed in kindness to animals.
  • Black Beauty was the very first novel ever published written in an animal’s point of view.
  • It was based on her childhood horse, Bess. The Sewell’s considered Bess one of the family—not a very common philosophy in those days.
  • Anna’s ankles were injured in an accident at age 14 and she never regained full use of her legs again. She spent much of her time in a horse-drawn carriage where she thought about the plight of the working horse.
  • The book was never intended for children, but for adults to reconsider the treatment of horses.

    (http://www.lexiqueducheval.net/images/attelages/checkrein_AAdam.JPG)
    (http://www.lexiqueducheval.net/images/attelages/checkrein_AAdam.JPG)
  • Sewell’s description of the “check rein” or “bearing rein” caused its demise in Victorian England. The “check” or “bearing” rein is a rein extending from the bridle to the harness of a driving cart that is used to pull the horse’s head up and back. In Victorian times it was fashionable to have this rein pulled tight, causing an unnatural backward bend in the horses’ neck, making it difficult to pull correctly and even to breathe. This caused detrimental effects to the horse and many had to be retired early or actually died from the effects. There are varying opinions on the use of “check reins” still today. Natural horsemanship adheres to the idea of a horse being able to move “naturally” without any bodily limiting devices.
  • The social practices regarding the use of horses in Black Beauty also inspired legislation in many states of the U.S. during the Victorian period that would condemn abusive practices towards animals.
  • The novel has been compared to Uncle Tom’s Cabin in its influence on social outrage and protest action in society.
  • It has inspired many other books concerning animal cruelty.
Anna Sewell (Wikipedia)
Anna Sewell
(Wikipedia)

We live in a time when in order to be a successful author, one must be incredibly prolific. Anna Sewell never had the opportunity to be prolific, but Black Beauty, her one and only novel, did the job. More than just a story about a horse in Victorian England, the novel is about treating all of God’s creatures with kindness, empathy and respect. A theme we can all relate to and want to read about.

I rarely worry about my dad going down in a plane anymore. Time and age have added other, different concerns for both of us, but my dad still gives me books. And rarely a birthday or Christmas goes by without me giving him one in return. It is something we have always shared. If you haven’t come up with a new year’s resolution yet, maybe you should consider giving loved ones a good book on gift giving occasions or just because. Maybe one of the classics like Black Beauty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Para-Equestrian Dressage Begins at Paralympic Games

www.usefnetwork.org
www.usefnetwork.org

The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games are well under way having started with their opening ceremonies on Wednesday, September 7.  Starting tomorrow, Sunday, September 11, one of my favorite sports in the Paralympic Games will begin, the Para-Equestrian Dressage. Seventy-six Para Equestrian Dressage athletes from 29 countries will compete this year, 78% whom are women. The oldest competitor is 67 years old from Great Britain, and the youngest is just 18 years old from the U.S.

As I mentioned in my last article about Canadian Paralympic athlete, Lauren Barwick, “The True Measure of A Champion Is What Is In Her Heart”,(https://karibovee.com/2016/09/07/the-true-measure-of-a-champion-is-what-is-in-her-heart/) the Para-Equestrian champion is truly someone to be admired. While these competitors must contend with their physical limitations on a daily basis, they must also be safe and responsible for a 1,200 pound, living, breathing, moving mass of emotional horseflesh.

When I started researching these articles, I, like many people I’m sure, didn’t quite understand the definition of “Paralympic Athlete”. As Lauren and US Para-Equestrian Angela Peavy explain in the two videos I cite in this article below,  the term “para” does not mean “paralyzed athletes”, but rather it means “parallel” to the Olympics. The Paralympics are the Olympic games for people with physical disabilities to achieve the same elite status as able-bodied competitors. Para-Equestrian Dressage is the only Equestrian discipline in the Paralympics.

Para-Equestrian Dressage was first included in the Paralympic Games in 1996. The athletes are classified according the level of their impairment. From the inside.fei.org website: The competitor’s mobility, strength and coordination are assessed in order to establish their Classification Profile. People with similar functional ability profiles are grouped into competition grades. The Grades range from Grade IA for the most severely impaired, to Grade IV for the least impaired. The competition within each Grade can therefore be judged on the skill of the individual competitor on their horse, regardless of the competitor’s impairment.” (Source: https://inside.fei.org/fei/disc/dressage/about-para-equestrian .

Since equestrianism is a fairly dangerous sport for even able-bodied riders, the equipment has been designed to keep the para-equestrian as safe as possible. Much of the equipment uses Velcro and rubber bands for easier and faster breakaway if needed during a fall. Balance is also extremely important. Saddles are often made with extra padding to facilitate the rider’s equilibrium and communication with the horse. Class and disability profiles are used to classify the type of equipment a rider can use for competition.

This year, four very talented riders from the United States will be competing in the Para-Equestrian Dressage events at Rio:

edition.cnn.com
edition.cnn.com

Sydney Collier from Ann Arbor, MI, will be competing with Dusty Rose, a 2003 Oldenburg mare, owned by her trainer, Wesley Dunham. Sydney began riding at 7 years of age with aspirations of becoming an eventer. Diagnosed with Wyburn-Mason syndrome, a rare congenital birth defect, Collier underwent medical treatments, radiation treatments and three unplanned brain surgeries to combat the illness. As a result, Collier completely lost the vision in her right eye and suffered a stroke causing her to lose the use of the left side of her body. She had to relearn to walk and also to regain the muscle control on her left side again. Undeterred from training, Collier, as a Ib Grade competitor, has won many outstanding championships. At age 16 she made her first appearance as a part of a U.S. Para-Equestrian Dressage Team at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG).

www.worlddressagenews.com
www.worlddressagenews.com

Rebecca Hart from Wellington, FL will be competing as a Grade II rider with her own 2002 Danish Warmblood mare, Schroeters Romani. Born with a rare genetic disease called hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP), a progressive impairment that causes muscle wasting and paralysis from the middle of the back down, Hart also would not be steered away from her dreams. In 1998, she purchased her first horse and decided to compete internationally. Hart has represented the U.S. in several international events. In 2014, she purchased Schroeter’s Romani and won the USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championships in both 2014 and 2015. Hart is a seven-time USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Champion.

2014 Para Dressage Festival of Champions, Para WEG Selection Trial. www.uspea.com
uspea.com

Margaret “Gigi” Macintosh from Reading, PA, will be competing with Rio Rio, her own 2006 Rheinland Pfalz-saar mare. Gigi broke her neck in 1999 during the cross-country phase of an eventing competition, resulting in incomplete quadriplegia. Her love of equestrian sport kept her going. After her  hard work to regain her mobility, Gigi now competes in para-equestrian dressage as a 1A competitor. She recently started riding without stirrups to counteract the effects of leg spasms that occur while riding with stirrups. She recently took team gold at the Wellington CPEDI3* and won the Grade Ia Freestyle
She was also the Individual Grade Ia Champion at the Wellington CPEDI3*with Rio Rio.

 

uspea.com
uspea.com

Angela Peavy, also known as Annie, from Avon, CT and Wellington, FL will be competing as a Grade III rider with Lancelot Warrior, a 2002 Hanoverian gelding owned by Heather Blitz and Rebecca Reno. In utero, Annie suffered a stroke, which affected the left side of her body. She began equine therapy as a 4-year-old and got her first horse at age 10. Smitten with dressage, Annie and her mother traveled to Portugal for “dressage vacations.” She couldn’t get enough of the sport and took three lessons a day while abroad. When she returned home, a friend introduced her to para-equestrian dressage and Annie began her journey toward representing her country in dressage all over the world. Annie’s hard work and dedication landed her a spot on the U.S. Team at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Annie is one of the few para-equestrian athletes who also competes in able-bodied dressage.

Like Lauren Barwick of Canada, these athletes have found meaning, purpose and healing through their horse partners and healthy competition. Enjoy this video with Annie Peavy and Rebecca Hart as they explain how dressage and competition has helped them to heal and work toward achieving their dreams.

Sources: (http://www.usefnetwork.com/featured/USParaEquestrianTeam/, https://inside.fei.org/fei/disc/dressage/about-para-equestrian, Wikipedia, Parelli Success Stories, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=feUNKXrWNPE

Olympic Spotlight: Parade of Nations Features Equestrians as Flag-bearers

It is a shame that Olympic Equestrians do not get as much attention as the other athletes at the Summer Games. As I mentioned in my previous article, “Equestrianism in the Olympics”, (https://karibovee.com/2016/08/11/equestrianism-at-the-olympics/) these athletes have much more to contend with than the other athletes because they also have to take into consideration the care and well-being of their equine partner—a partner who really has no choice or say as to whether they are to compete or not.

It was especially moving when Dutch dressage rider Adelinde Cornelissen, a previous Olympic medalist, gave up her Rio Olympic dream of winning the gold because she felt her partner Parzival, a chestnut gelding, was not up to the task. It was determined that Parzival had suffered an insect bite, which caused a fever and swelling in his jaw. Once he had been cleared by the vet, Adelinde was ready to perform, but ended up retiring mid-test, because she knew her horse was suffering. That is the act of a true champion.

While the Equestrian events are not given prime-time television and press coverage, their efforts and talents are appreciated by many viewers and fans.

I was pleased to see that four equestrians, all show Jumpers, were given the spotlight during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics Parade of Nations when they were honored and chosen by their countrymen and women to serve as flag-bearers. The country’s Olympic committee, the country, or the Olympic athletes themselves choose each flag-bearer–a truly special honor because only one person per country can receive this unique opportunity.

The four equestrian flag-bearers at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics are as follows:

QATAR

Al Thani Photo: Arnd Bronkhorst/www.arnd.nl
Al Thani Photo: Arnd Bronkhorst/www.arnd.nl

Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani represents his country, Qatar, and its Show Jumping Equestrian Team, which makes its first appearance at the Olympic games this year. The 34-year-old athlete competed at Rio as the team’s anchor. To make their goal of competing in the Olympics, the Qatar Equestrian team began training with Jan Tops of The Netherlands in 2012. With one of the world’s best-known show Jumping trainers to push them, they made their goal and the country of Qatar named Sheik Al Thani their flag-bearer. Sheikh Al Thani leads his team with experience as a two-time rider in the World Equestrian Games, and a three-time rider at the World Cup Final.

MOROCCO

Longines Global Championships www.globalchampionstour.com
Ouaddar: Longines Global Championships
www.globalchampionstour.com

Abdelkebir Ouaddar from Morocco is among one of the oldest athletes to compete in the Olympics at age 54. Raised as one of their own by the Moroccan Royal Family, Ouaddar rides several of the King’s horses for training and in competition. King Mohammed VI makes sure that Ouaddar and his horses travel with the finest of everything at their disposal. Ouaddar started competing at age 14. He was the first Moroccan to qualify for the World Championships in 2013, and the first to compete at the World Championships in Normandy in 2014. This is Ouaddar’s first Olympic Games.

THE NETHERLANDS

Dubbeldam: http://www.dagjewegblog.nl
Dubbeldam: http://www.dagjewegblog.nl

Jeroen Dubbeldam carries the flag of the Netherlands in this year’s Parade of Nations. At age 41, Dubbledam is one of the most experienced and well-respected members of the Netherlands team. He claimed an Olympic gold in 2000 at Sydney, and also the world champion gold at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, as well as the team gold in 2006 and 2014. The Netherlands has a large presence at the 2016 games, with 239 athletes in 27 sports. To be chosen to carry the flag among all those amazing athletes gives credence to Dubbledam’s reputation as a superior sportsman.

 

 

TAIWAN

Wong: www.Zimbio.Com
Wong: www.Zimbio.Com

Isheau Wong of Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) does her country a great honor by being the first athlete in the country’s history to compete in the Equestrian portion of the Olympic games. At 27 years old, Wong won the spot to compete at the Olympics against her friend and long-time trainer, Samantha McIntosh of New Zealand. Wong tells Horsetalk.co.nz that it was tough to be McIntosh’s rival in that competition, but she put her reservations aside and just rode as fast as she could. She beat McIntosh’s time by three seconds.

I have hope that equestrian sports will be better recognized in the Olympics in the future. After all, four flag-bearers from the sport were chosen to represent their countries in the opening Parade of Nations and during the closing ceremonies for the Parade of Athletes. Despite rumors that equestrian sports would be eliminated from the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, the Executive Board (EB) of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to keep equestrian sports alive in the Olympics.

I encourage you to do what you can to further support Olympic equestrian sports, so that we may continue to be inspired by these horse and human champions who compete in perfect partnership. Enjoy the closing ceremonies—and look for our proud equestrian friends from Qatar, Morocco, The Netherlands, and Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) during the Parade of Athletes.

The Queen’s Private Passion

Photo from Daily Mail i.dailymail.co.uk
Photo from Daily Mail i.dailymail.co.uk

In light of the recent events surrounding Brexit, we’ve seen a lot of coverage of the royal family, particularly Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. In April, she celebrated her 90th birthday and the photographers went wild. In July she was photographed during the annual Order of the Thistle service at St Giles’ Cathedral (The Order of the Thistle is the second-most senior order of chivalry pertaining to Scotland. The oldest order is its English equivalent, The Most Nobel Order of the Garter.)

In short, we see a lot of photographs of England’s beloved Queen, but the ones I love most are of QEII with horses. She is either sizing up their conformation with a very concentrated, stern, or discerning look on her face, or she is simply beaming. In many photos, she is reaching out to touch the nose or neck – all the while with a girlish grin on her face. I recently watched The Queen: A Passion For Horses, a documentary made by Clare Balding. In it, England’s stoic Queen actually giggled with glee while inspecting one of her newborn thoroughbred foals.

One cannot hide one’s passion, not even the Queen of England.

Horses have the ability to bring out the best in people. That is one of the aspects of horse and human relationships I like to bring out in my books. In Dead Eye Dame, the novel that my agent is currently selling, Annie Oakley has a tremendous relationship with her horse, Buck. Through Buck, Annie is better able to handle the volatile emotions that come with the stresses of performance and competition, not to mention the horrible things I do to her throughout the course of the story! Buck is her rock, her constant companion. He, like all horses that are treated well, loves her unconditionally. They have established a bond. To Buck, Annie is just a horse with two legs instead of four.

Queen Elizabeth, a woman whom many people have criticized for her lack of emotion, understands this relationship and bond extremely well. According to her cousin, Margaret Rhodes, when Elizabeth became Queen at the tender age of 25, she “had to sacrifice within herself many emotions. With horses, she is in another world.” It is a world in which she can be herself—just another human being. As natural horsemanship trainer Pat Parelli likes to say, “With horses, once you take off the halter, all you have is the truth.” I love that statement. For me, it means that horses have the ability to make you look inside yourself and see what is truly there. If they run away from you, it might be wise to do some soul searching and figure out what kind of vibe you are transmitting to them, and probably the world. On the other hand, if your horse is “in your pocket” as they say, there is a bond of trust there. And trust, for prey animals like horses, does not come easy.

Queen Riding at Ascot 1964It is said by many people closely associated with the Queen that she is unconditionally loved by her horses. She takes extreme care and caution to hire only trainers who treat her horses well, from Monty Roberts, the inspiration for the movie and book, The Horse Whisperer to Rochelle Murray, one of her stud grooms at Sandringham whose job it is to make sure that her young thoroughbreds learn to be comfortable around people from birth. Not many racehorse owners go to this effort to ensure that their horses are sound in MIND and body. Their horses are a means to an end, and that end usually involves money. While the Queen is competitive with her horses and wants them to win, what is more important is that they know they are valued. That kind of care and devotion only comes from someone who is emotionally connected to her horses.

It is true that royalty and horses go hand in hand. Just flip through the pages of history and you’ll find many paintings and photographs of royals on horseback either enjoying a leisurely ride or storming into battle on their fiery steeds. Elizabeth’s passion goes back to her childhood when her father, King George VI, gifted Elizabeth, age 4, and her younger sister, Margaret, with a Shetland pony named “Peggy.” Since then, Elizabeth’s relationship with horses has remained constant, and like many royals, she has owned countless equines throughout her life.

During Princess Diana’s funeral, the Queen got her fair share of negative press for not showing enough emotion. As her cousin Margaret Rhodes revealed, once Elizabeth became Queen, she has had to keep her emotions to herself, by putting on a mask of stoicism for the public. Even in the presence of her great grandchildren, there is often but a hint of a smile on her face. But, I believe that underneath the quirky hats and the regal mask of a Queen, there is a deeply benevolent person lurking beneath—one whose secret passion cannot be hidden. Just look at a photo of her, looking at a horse.

Photo from The Daily Telegraph www.telegraph.co.uk
Photo from The Telegraph www.telegraph.co.uk

Building a Better Relationship – Annie Oakley Style

 

oakley-indians
Annie Oakley doing what she did best!

Building a better relationship. It’s something we all should strive for. In our marriages, with our kids, friends, family, co-workers, employees, the list goes on. But, often in our busy lives, we are so focused on getting
things done, or achieving things, that we don’t focus on our relationships. Through time and neglect, those relationships begin to sour or drift away.

A couple of years ago, I saw this happening in my relationships with my horses and I knew I had to fix it.

I grew up in New Mexico with horses in my backyard. I spent much of my youth with my favorite horse, Flying Mok (I don’t know where the name came from). We covered miles of trail along the Rio Grande and spent hours in the arena. When not riding, I would sit on a large branch of the cottonwood tree that shaded his corral and just watch him eat. I participated in some horse shows and took home my share of ribbons, but the main objective was to have fun, and we did, and our relationship proved it.

As an adult, after college and more financial stability, I got back into horses via my teenage daughter who needed a hobby and a sport. I took her to one of the local barns and her love affair with horses began and mine was resurrected. She wanted to focus on showing, so we did. It was something we enjoyed together – a mother/daughter bonding experience that softened the angst of her teenage years. When she went to college, I was left with some very lovely, very expensive horses, so I decided to go into showing full boat. My love for horses and my competitive nature fit together like a custom made glove and I was all in. My horses and I did very well for several years, but after a while, it seemed like my whole life became all about the next show. Sometimes I’d go to shows twice a month, often traveling far from home in search of the rainbow of ribbons. After a while, I noticed that my horses didn’t seem to be making much improvement, their neurosis and fears increased, and I became more and more frustrated. It wasn’t fun anymore.

I’d been introduced to Natural Horsemanship via a Parelli Horse and Soul Tour some years earlier. I enjoyed the demonstrations and respected the training methods and philosophy the Parelli’s espoused, but I didn’t have time to embrace the philosophy. I had to prepare for the next show!

After more years of showing, anxiety, and frustration with minimal improvement, I finally realized that my love affair with horses was dying. I decided to look at this Natural Horsemanship closer. I had to nurture my relationship with my horses, because those relationships and spending time with my horses had always been my “soul food” and I was starving.

I ventured to the “mecca” of Parelli Natural Horsemanship, the Colorado Ranch Campus, for the first time in 2014, for a four-week course. I took my horse Chaco, who had been my greatest challenge to date. Chaco was energetic, athletic, spooky, unpredictable, uncomfortable with contact, and quite frankly, a bit scary to me. Other people may have not felt the same about him, but that didn’t matter. He was scary to me, and our relationship had miles to go.

What I learned in that four-week course assured me with absolute certainty that Natural Horsemanship was the path I needed to pursue, to better myself as a horsewoman and as a person. I learned that like people, horses needed to be treated as individuals. They have fears, quirks, moods, aches, pains, and NEEDS that I had been ignoring. I’d been so focused on achieving better scores, more ribbons, more awards with my horses that all I’d done was damage the relationship.

IMG_0995-e1467384373515-768x1024
Chaco and me watching a demo at the Parelli campus. June 2016

Three courses and two years later, I am a different horsewoman. I have a long way to go, but I am becoming more confident, more patient, and more understanding of my horses’ NEEDS and they in turn are starting to enjoy being with me. I can tell when I get out of the car and they come to greet me. I can tell when they are so willing to be a partner that they ask questions and trust me with the answers. I can tell when they are calm, connected, and responsive when I am working with them on the ground or under saddle. The love affair is reborn.

In the first book of my historical mystery series, Dead Eye Dame, one of the sub-plots centers on the relationship between a woman and her horse. The protagonist, the not-yet-famous Annie Oakley, has a special bond with Buck, a golden horse with a midnight-black mane and tail. While Buck doesn’t exactly help her solve the murder, his relationship with Annie carries her through some tumultuous times and proves to be one that she cannot live without.

In my book series, I’ve created the ultimate horse/human relationship with Annie and Buck. It’s something I will strive for and work toward as long as I have my equine friends with me. I’m taking a break from showing for the time being, but when I return, it won’t be about achievements and ribbons. It will be about building a better relationship and that is a guaranteed win.

Famous Horse Partners in History – El Cid and Babieca

March 10 2016 - 1Welcome back to the Famous Horse Partners in History Series.

This post is about the famous Spanish Warrior and El Cid and his horse Babieca in the 11th Century.

Babieca, born of the noble Iberian breed of horse now called the Andalusian, started life as a weakling cast off, but soon became one of Spain’s most honored horses of history. Born in a Carthusian monastery, an order of monks who were reputed to breed and raise the finest horses in Europe, Babieca came into the world spindly and weak. Seen as worthless by the monks, the young colt seemed nothing but a liability.

One of the monks, Pedro El Grande, named for his largess, had a beloved nephew named Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, born of a noble Castillian family. When Rodrigo became of age, Pedro El Grande told him that he could choose any horse from his fine stables to raise as his own. Much to the monk’s surprise, Rodrigo picked the little weakling colt his uncle had named Babieca – fool or stupid.

As Rodrigo grew to become a fierce and well-respected soldier, Babieca grew to be a well trained and devoted war-horse, and a testament to the Carthusian reputation. Does this story sound familiar? Much like the story of Alexander the Great and his steed Bucephalus, the story of Rodrigo and Babieca has been told throughout history and perhaps both stories became infused with one another. Both horses, one mighty and black, and the other fierce and white, became great warhorses and outlived their human partners.

Rodrigo, who became known as El Cid Campeador, (Lord, Champion of Warriors) so named by his enemies, fought both the Christian kings and Muslim invaders throughout his lifetime. His greatest feat was retaking Valencia from the Moors, returning it to Spain, and then later saving it from siege in his most famous, and last, battle.

El Cid carried a legendary sword, almost as famous as his horse, said to be made of Damascus steel, called Tizona. During the siege of Valencia, El Cid fell in battle. The invaders, hearing of his death, gathered their soldiers and planned to take the city. Without their leader, El Cid’s men feared they would lose, so they strapped El Cid’s corpse to the saddle of Babieca, fixed Tizona into his hand and propped his arm toward the heavens. Babieca, well-trained in the art of war, led El Cid’s men into the battlefield. Dumbfounded by seeing their enemy risen from the dead, the Moors scattered in terror. Eventually, Spain was reclaimed.

After the death of El Cid, Babieca was never ridden again and died two years later at the age of 40, a remarkably long life for a horse who’d seen so many battles.

Strongly built, and compact yet elegant, Andalusians are know for their athleticism, intelligence, sensitivity and loyalty. Their coats are most commonly grey, but can be found in many other colors and they are quite regal with their long, thick manes and tails.

Please enjoy this video featuring the beautiful Andalusian Horse.

NICLA Property Consultancy

Information gathered from “The Supreme War Horse of Spain” by John Reismiller and “The Legend of El Cid and Babieca – Andalusians in History and Mythology” published in Andalusian World.

Little Sure Shot – Annie Oakley

Phoebe Ann Mosey, (or Moses) most commonly known as Annie Oakley, learned self-reliance at a young age. The family lived in a cabin near Greenville, Ohio where the winters could be treacherous. When she was six years old, her father left the home in a snow storm. When he returned he was grievously ill and died a few months later of pneumonia, leaving the family in a dire financial situation. Her mother married again but the finances did not improve. Unable to feed all seven of her children, Susan Mosey sent Annie and her older sister, Sarah Ellen, to the “poor farm” also known as the Darke County Infirmary. They were put in the care of the Superintendent and his wife, and Annie and Sarah learned housekeeping skills in addition to embroidery and sewing.

In the spring of 1870, Annie was “boarded out” to a family to help care for their son and help with household chores. The job would pay fifty cents a week and she was assured an education. The promises were not kept. Not much is known of this family and Annie never mentioned their names, but only referred to them as “the wolves.”  They were exceptionally cruel to their young charge and would often beat her or lock her in a closet. Once, when she fell asleep doing some darning, they punished her by throwing her out into the snow with no shoes for the night. After two years of abuse from “the wolves,” Annie escaped and found her way back to her mother, who was again widowed and remarried. The family was still living in poverty.

The only item that remained in the house belonging to Annie’s father was his shotgun. Longing for her father, Annie taught herself to shoot and started hunting game to help feed her family. She assuredly did not want to go back to the poor house! Word got out about Annie’s deadly aim and she soon started selling the game she killed to the locals in Greenville, as well as restaurants and hotels in Southern Ohio. Her birds were well sought after because Annie’s aim was so sure, she always hit the bird in the back of the head, thus leaving no shot pellets in the meat. By the time she was fifteen years old, Annie had made enough money to pay off the mortgage on the family farm.

On Thanksgiving Day in 1875, the Baughman and Butler shooting act came to Cincinnati. Shooting was a popular past time and shooting contests were the perfect way for people to showcase their talents. Frank Butler, the traveling show’s marksman placed a bet for $100 (equivalent now to about $2,000) that he could beat any local shooter. Annie’s friends and family urged her to travel to the big city and try her luck. In the end, luck had nothing to do with it, but pure skill did. Imagine Butler’s surprise when fifteen year old, five-foot petite Annie turned up as one of the challengers. One by one, the targets were released (either live birds or glass balls). Annie shot and then Frank shot, neither one missing until the 25th target.  Frank missed. The young, child-faced girl from Greenville won.

While most men may have had their pride wounded or even been angry at the fact that a teenage girl had bested them at this coveted skill, Frank Butler’s reaction was quite different. He was smitten by Annie and after the contest he gave her tickets to his show. Soon, the two fell in love and were married. Annie joined the Baughman and Butler shooting act, not as a shooter, but as Frank’s assistant. One week, Baughman was sick and could not perform. Annie stepped in. Per her usual performance, Annie never missed a target and the crowd fell in love with the pretty petite sharp-shooter. She permanently replaced Baughman and the couple took their show on the road.

In 1885, Annie auditioned for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. Impressed with her accuracy and lady-like demeanor, Bill Cody hired her, and Frank became her manager. Annie was soon the star attraction of the show and remained so for seventeen years. Whether she used a pistol, rifle or shotgun, “Little Sure Shot” as she was named by Chief Sitting Bull (also a star of the show) rarely missed. Her feats included shooting a dime in midair at 90 feet, shooting the thin edge of a playing card at 90 feet and then puncturing it with six or seven more shots before it hit the ground. Shooting the ashes off a cigarette placed in Frank’s mouth was a crowd favorite. While touring in Europe, the Crown Prince of Germany demanded that Annie shoot a cigarette from his mouth, but she would only do it if he held the cigarette in his hand. It wouldn’t do if the American “sure shot” blew the face off the Prince of Germany!

In 1901 Annie was badly injured in a train accident. After five spinal surgeries and temporary paralysis she recovered. The injury did not affect her shooting skill and she continued to set records.

In 1902 Annie left the Wild West Show to pursue a quieter life. She began an acting career and performed in a stage play written especially for her called The Western Girl. Annie also used her talents for philanthropy. She traveled the East coast, at her own expense, demonstrating the safe and effective use of firearms for World War I soldiers. Annie was very involved in women’s causes and would help young girls, orphans and widows to further their education. She believed it was crucial for women to “know how to handle firearms as naturally as they know how to handle babies” and it is believed that she taught over 15,000 women to use a gun.

In 1904, William Randolph Hearst published a false story that Annie Oakley had been arrested for theft to support a cocaine habit. The story caught fire and newspapers all around the country were printing the report. The woman who had actually been arrested was a burlesque performer who used the name “Annie Oakley.” Still, the newspapers, ever eager for a story of a fallen hero, persisted.

Annie spent the next six years in court trying to regain her reputation. She won 54 out of 55 libel lawsuits against the newspapers. Hearst, in an attempt to avoid paying court judgments of $20,000, sent a private investigator to Darke County to get dirt on the famous sharpshooter. They found nothing.

Well into her sixties, Annie continued her philanthropic work and also participated in shooting activities. In 1922 Annie entered a shooting contest at sixty-two years of age. She hit 100 clay targets in a row from 48 feet. Later that year, she and Frank were in a car accident where Annie sustained more injuries. Again, the injuries didn’t stop her and she continued to set records till 1924.

In 1925 Annie’s health finally gave out. She died of pernicious anemia at the age of sixty-six. Annie Oakley, an American hero, is considered a role model for men and women alike because of her accomplishments and her moral character. Annie Oakley has been the subject of numerous articles and biographies, film and stage dramatizations and her story is present in many historical museums. She was also inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas.

Annie Oakley’s motto for life: “Aim at a high mark and you will hit it. No, not the first time, nor the second and maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect. Finally, you’ll hit the Bull’s-Eye of Success.”

References: www.annieoakleyfoundation.org/bio.html, Women in History, Living vignettes of notable women from U.S. History, www.lkwdpl.org/wihoio;oakl-ann.htm, Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annie-Oakley

Photographs: http://39clues.wikia.com/wiki/Annie_Oakley, http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/48/Annie_Oakley_NYWTS.jpg