Thursday, October 31, 2013

My First Ride on WhiteStar

     It was my first day with WhiteStar.  My instructor taught me a series of "games".  These games were ways to prove myself both friendly and a leader, inviting the horse to move around the ring with me.  They were fun, but I needed a lot of help from my instructor.
     WhiteStar, I think, was bored with the new student.  Her personality tends to be fearful and very meek and submissive.  She wants to be with a leader she can trust.  That leader was my instructor.  I was the one giving her the signals, but her eyes were on my instructor.

Here is a little bit of the story from WhiteStar's point of view:
     If I were one given to having my own opinions, I wouldn't be standing here with this student.  She obviously has no idea what she is doing.  <sigh>  Why do they give the beginners to me?  This student doesn't know me.  She is a fair-weather friend, for sure.  I don't feel safe with her.  I don't think I can trust her.
     But, of course, I don't have my own opinions.  I am too sweet for that.  I will keep my opinions to myself.
     Aah!  Is that a lion lurking behind the tool shed?!? {WhiteStar throws her head up, stands still, and stares unblinking at the tool shed.}  Oh, no, it is not.  My instructor assures me it is not.  {WhiteStar lowers her head and blinks again.}
     My instructor is here and I feel very safe with her.  So I will keep one eye on my beloved instructor.  With the other eye, I will try to figure out with this new student is trying to say, and I will go through the motions of obeying.
     And, if I can find a way to do so without angering the humans, I will try to find little ways to do my favorite thing of all -- nothing.

     After I played with WhiteStar on the ground for a while (i.e., both of us on foot), my instructor let me ride.  We started out on a bareback pad so that I could feel my connection with the horse.  I climbed up, but I can't say that I felt much of a "connection".  I was just sitting on a horse's back -- a horse that would have humbly preferred to be somewhere else.
     "Eyes up! Chin up! Chest up!  Look where you want to go!" my instructor called.
     I felt very helpless, up there on that horse.  The horse, in my opinion, could do pretty much anything she wanted, and there was not a thing I could do about it.  I went through the motions as my instructor said, hoping they would work.
     My horse did not move.  She stood there motionless.
     Redfaced, I slumped down on her back.  There are few things more embarrassing that sitting on a horse that won't go.  And, like I said, there was nothing I could do about it.
     My instructor gave me further instructions, which I timidly attempted to carry out.  Finally, I think the instructor pointed the horse in the right direction, and she went.  I was relieved -- at least we were moving, even if it had nothing to do with my riding ability.
     As we walked around the ring, WhiteStar turned, faced the fence, and stopped.  I was completely at a loss for what to do.  We were facing a fence so we obviously could not go forward.
     And people say horses are dumb.  Ha.
     "The two things we want to communicate to our horses are speed and direction," my instructor called.  "Is this a speed problem or a direction problem?"
     "Ummm..." I floundered, staring at the fence in front of me.  "Direction?"  Obviously, as I sit there with a fence in front of me, we are facing the wrong direction.
     "Did you tell her to turn to face the fence?" my instructor asked.
     "No," I answered.
     "Why do you think she turned to face the fence?" my instructor continued.
      How should I know?  I don't know this horse, let alone what she is thinking.  "I don't know," I called back.
     My instructor then patiently explained that this was a speed problem.  It was WhiteStar's sweet way of trying to baffle her rider with a fence so that WhiteStar didn't have to walk around the arena any more. 
     Brilliant.  It worked wonderfully in my case.
     My instructor helped me get my horse going again.  We spent the rest of the lesson with me trying to keep WhiteStar moving around the arena without running into fences or taking shortcuts across the middle of the arena.  I was always far behind WhiteStar, not realizing she was cutting across the arena until we were halfway there or not realizing she was turning into a fence until we were almost square to it.  It is pretty pitiful what a clueless rider I was.  No wonder WhiteStar didn't trust me.
     And so I was not as amazing as the girls in books.  In my mind, I was supposed to be such a natural that I just swung onto a horse and rode off.  The horse and I should have been instant partners for our subsequent adventures.  But the thing that makes you an excellent in any field is not always your success as a beginner, but your commitment to keep working on it.  In other words, when you flunk your dreams on the first try, do you come back again next week?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Blind Man from Bella and Gerard


      Meet John.  Who knows what sort of man he was before he lost his eyesight?  He does not say.  Now he is a quiet, unassuming man of heroic character.  You could be in a room with him and not notice him.  But I guarantee he will have noticed you.  His eyes may be gone, but his other senses have more than made up for their loss.  He is extremely perceptive -- which most people do not know simply because he does not tell them. 
      And if I may, I will devulge a little bit of my own philosophy on this with a question:  If people do not know simply because he does not tell them, then which party is the one who is truly blind?

How Horses Think - Part One

     My instructor explained to me how horses think.  It's not too complicated.  First of all, they are prey animals -- which means that everything eats them.  One wrong move, one careless moment, and they are dead.  They are like big bunny-rabbits with hooves.
     I don't know if you have ever heard the story of the crafty fox and the flock of ducks.  The ducks were in the river and they were alert.  The fox sent a little twig down the river in the midst of them.  They were alarmed by the first twig.  But as the fox continued to send twigs down the river, the ducks grew accustomed to them.  The fox gradually sent bigger and bigger sticks down the river until he was able to ride down on a log into the midst of the now-relaxed ducks.  One poor duck paid for their inattentiveness with her life.
     Maybe you haven't heard the story of the fox and the ducks, but I am pretty sure every horse has been told this story.  Every waving branch and rustling grass and certainly every plastic bag (oh, no!  The terrible horse-eating plastic bags!!!) is potentially a sign of a predator.  Any thing that traps them or interferes with their ability for flight can be an uneasy place to be (like horse trailers, bridles, etc.).  And every human, with eyes set in the front of his head like other predators, has all the markers of a predator.
     A horse, because they are a prey animal, is born with suspicion toward the unknown and toward predators.  It is in their blood.    Then, depending on their life experience, they either learn to identify things/people as friends and protectors or as life-threatening enemies.

     The second thing about how horses think involves what the horse wants.  Horses, like humans, have certain things that they want and they will move to the easiest way to get what they want.  They also have certain things that they don't like and they will avoid those things.
     Horses like to feel safe.  They look for the safest place to be.  This makes sense when you think about the fact that they are prey animals.  Safety is a big concern.
     Sometimes safety is found in the company of a human.  We are the top of the food chain around here, and, if they horse trusts our leadership, then the safest place to be is with us.  If you can imagine going somewhere with the biggest, toughest guy in the world (knowing that he will look out for you), you can imagine how safe a horse feels with a person whose leadership they trust.
     Sometimes safety is found in the herd.  There is safety in numbers, in extra sets of eyes.  A horse who feels safest with his herd, will do his best to get away from his rider and rejoin the other horses.
     Sometimes a horse feels that his best bet is in himself.  There is no herd to save him.  That horse will do his own thinking (or his own panicking) independently of the human trying to direct him.
     So horses like safety.  They also like things that make them feel good.  For example, they like to eat.  Some horses like to move as little as possible (like WhiteStar -- her idea of a good day involves standing in one place and over-eating).  There are just certain things that feel good to a horse.
     Horses also like playful interaction.  They like to do things together -- fun things.  A horse, even a horse like WhiteStar, would not be perfectly happy by themselves in a field with nothing to do but stand there and eat.  They like to have some good interaction with somebody else.

     The third thing that my instructor taught me is that horses have their own way of communicating.  It's a slightly different language than the one that humans typically use.  If you ever sit and watch horses in a field, you will see some of the things that they say to each other.
      You will see two horses standing by each other, flicking their tails across each other to swish away flies.  This is two horse being friendly.  They are both helping each other out and the two of them are more comfortable together than they could be alone.
     Sometimes horses are just standing together.  They are all relaxed, just contented to enjoy each other's company -- like friends who are such good friends that they don't even have to talk.
     You will see horses moving each other.  They use pressure and rhythm to tell each other where to go.  They will glare or pin their ears or stamp a foot or nod a head.  They will push.  Sometimes they nip or kick.  These are ways that horses communicate in a field.

     The fourth thing is that horses are individuals, just as people are.  Above and beyond the basics, each horse has his own worldview based on his personality and experience.  As you work with a horse, you get to know that horse and you can meet the horse on his own level.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Meet WhiteStar

     Hello, all!  I would like you to meet WhiteStar.  She has been an amazing teacher of horsemanship.  I owe much of what I know about horses to her.
     Our relationship did not start out perfectly -- my fault, of course, and not hers.  I came for horse lessons with my mind full of the amazing things I could do someday.  I eyed the horses in the field and saw one attractive red Hanoverian mare.  Ah, yes, she would be a beautiful horse to work with.
     My human teacher brought the red beauty as well as an Appaloosa cross.  The Appaloosa cross, as you may guess, was WhiteStar.  She was a good horse for beginners: sweet, shy, submissive.  Her favorite 2 things to do are to stand still and to eat.  So she was not likely to go galloping across the field on a whim with a frightened beginner rider clinging to her neck.  This, I was told, would be a great horse for me to start on.
      I had to swallow my pride and admit that I was definitely a beginner.  The beginner's horse was probably the one for me.
     But, I told myself, I will learn on her as fast as I can so I can move on to a real horse.
     Ha!  I didn't know what a real horse was...
     As I have learned, one of the amazing things about horses is how well they can read humans.  And WhiteStar knew from our very first moment together that I was looking right past her, using her as a step stool.
     That's not the best way to start a relationship with anybody -- human or animal.  And, so, my horsemanship lessons began...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Inspiring Authors -- Battle Song

There are many authors that have gone before me.  Some simply inspire me to write differently than they write.  Others, however, have done such an amazing job at capturing a moment, a thought, an emotion, an idea, or a truth that I am stirred to write with the same intensity and skill.  I hope, in the course of this blog, to share many excerpts from writers who I admire.  Below is one of them:

   Battle Song of Awe
(Written, as you will see, not by the Leader but by one of His inspired me)
Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered: let them also that hate Him flee before Him.
As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.
 But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yeah, let them exceedingly rejoice.
 Sing unto God, sing praises to His name: extol Him that rides upon the heavens by His name Jah, and rejoice before Him.
 A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in His holy habitation.
 God sets the solitary in families: He brings out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.
 O God, when You went forth before Your people, when You marched through the wilderness; Selah:
 The earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel.
 You, O God, sent a plentiful rain, whereby You did confirm Your inheritance, when it was weary.
 Your congregation has dwelt therein: You, O God, have prepared of Your goodness for the poor.
 The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.
 Kings of armies did flee apace: and she that tarried at home divided the spoil.
 Though you lie among the pots, yet shall you be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.
 When the Almighty scattered kings in it, it was white as snow in Salmon.
 The hill of God is as the hill of Bashan; an high hill as the hill of Bashan.
 Why do you leap, you high hills? this is the hill which God desires to dwell in; yeah, the Lord will dwell in it for ever.
 The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.
 You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive: You have received gifts for men; yeah, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them.
 Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.
 He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto God the Lord belong the issues from death.
  But God shall wound the head of His enemies, and the hairy scalp of such an one as goes on still in his trespasses.
 The Lord said, I will bring again from Bashan, I will bring My people again from the depths of the sea:
 That you foot may be dipped in the blood of your enemies, and the tongue of your dogs in the same.
 They have seen Your goings, O God; even the goings of my God, my King, in the sanctuary.
 The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; among them were the damsels playing with timbrels.
 Bless God in the congregations, even the Lord, from the fountain of Israel.
 There is little Benjamin with their ruler, the princes of Judah and their council, the princes of Zebulun, and the princes of Naphtali.
 Your God has commanded your strength: strengthen, O God, that which You have wrought for us.
 Because of Your temple at Jerusalem shall kings bring presents unto You.
 Rebuke the company of spearmen, the multitude of the bulls, with the calves of the people, till every one submit himself with pieces of silver: scatter the people that delight in war.
 Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.
 Sing unto God, you kingdoms of the earth; O sing praises unto the Lord; Selah:
 To Him that rides upon the heavens of heavens, which were of old; lo, He sends out His voice, and that a mighty voice.
 Ascribe strength unto God: His excellency is over Israel, and His strength is in the clouds.
 O God, You are terrible out of Your holy places: the God of Israel is He that gives strength and power unto His people. Blessed be God.
(Psalm 68)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Quotes from Bella and Gerard

Since I have not finished even the first draft of Bella and Gerard, it is perhaps a little bit premature to tell you much about it.  At this point, even I do not know all the twists and turns this tale may take.  However, with that disclaimer, I give you the premise of the story: 
    Bella's aunts could not understand why their sister had left her only child to the care of the black sheep of the family.  When he disappeared within a week of receiving guardianship, they said good-riddance to him and dutifully took over the raising of Bella.  They never expected him to show up 7 years later to take her away.  Against the advice of the aunts, Bella and Gerard embark on a journey that proves to be quite a learning curve for both of them!
And here are some quotes from the first few chapters:
~  She grasped handfuls of cut grass clippings and tossed them over her head, feeling the blades pitter-patter across her face as they returned to earth.  It was good to be alive. ~

~  ...although there was something adventurous and exciting about being kidnapped in the middle of the night by your uncle. ~

~  She didn’t know how Gerard did it, but he was a boy.  Boys, doubtless, had special powers. ~

~  Bella hesitated and then asked, “Do you have any clean sheets?”
    Gerard got up and rummaged in the closet and the bedroom, but he came up empty.  “I guess not,” he said, apologetically.  He fingered the sheet that was on the bed.  “But," he commented in a matter-of-fact tone, "this one is not that dirty." ~

Monday, October 14, 2013

Meet Scooter

     Hi, folks!  Meet Scooter.  He is a gorgeous little Arabian with a great personality.  He belongs to Katy Pistole.  When I first met him, he was standing loose in her front yard.  That caught my attention because horses don't usually hang out in the yard like pets.
     The second thing that I noticed is that he greeted me politely.  He didn't crowd into my personal space and turn my pockets inside out, but he also didn't turn away from me as if to say "oh, bother, another human.  I wonder what SHE wants."  And there was no fear in his eyes.  He just welcomed me.
     The third thing I noticed is that he can accomplish amazing feats with Katy.  His eyes are for her, and he obeys the slightest signal, apparently enjoying the games as much as she is.

I could watch them all day long!

Yes, this is what I want to do.  Look!  No bridle!  No reins! Scooter: the gorgeous little Arabian with the great personality!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Newspaper Girl from Bella and Gerard

    One of my many writing projects is under a working title of Bella and Gerard.  I don't know yet if this project is publishing material, but I am having fun with it.
    One of the things that I am really enjoying about this project is the characters.  I have felt very relaxed as I write this project, and so, instead of rushing to my finale, I am slowing down and enjoying the journey.  And part of that includes getting to know the people in the story.
     The other day, I looked online for some photos for my characters.  It was the first time I have done that for a writing project, but it is really helpful.  Here is the picture I found for the newspaper girl.
     She's practically an orphan, living on the streets of New York City in the early 1900s.  She's small for her age but a little spitfire if you get her ire up.  Some bigger boys in the neighborhood pick on her (it makes me wish I could step into my story and defend her -- those boys make me so mad!).
     She's been "adopted" by a little orphan boy.  He's a year or two younger than she is, but he is convinced that he takes care of her.  In all honesty, they are a sweet pair, looking out for each other the best they can.
     The newspaper stand in the picture belongs to a unhealthy, distracted man who appears at the stand on rare occasion.  He has a fondness for a drink that only makes him more unhealthy and distracted.  He at first gave the girl odd jobs relating to the stand, but, as he showed up less and less, she started running the stand herself.
      Between her newspaper stand and the pennies from odd jobs, she and her little "brother" are surviving on the streets of New York...but just barely.
      Her life is a far cry from Bella's.  They have only a little interaction in this story, but it is enough to make an impact on Bella.  A child should not have to be as self-reliant as the little newspaper girl was forced to be, but her grit and fearlessness in the face of it helps awaken similar qualities in Bella.  All in all, I like my little newspaper girl.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Welcome All!

     Welcome to the blog!  This blog was created as a way to share the good things that I have been given.  I hope it makes a difference for you
     I have an interest in writing that started at a young age and has grown as I did.  Much of this blog will be centered around my love of writing.  I will be sharing pieces of current story projects or things that I have learned as I write.
     As you look around my blog, you will find three titles that I would like to explain. 
          - The title of my blog comes from Psalm 45 in the Bible.  It is pretty self-explanatory. 
          - The user name applied to myself is Bound and Freed.  This is a neat thing about my life because...well, I'll explain it another day.  [Hehe, my mom would protest about the 'suspence' if she were reading this.]
          - And the web address for the blog comes from my allegiance to God, from my awesome upbringing, and from the fact that it just sounds cool.
     For this first month, I am going to try to post at least twice a week.  You should know that I have a job where I am on call 24/7.  So if I am late to a post, I apologize in advance, and I will catch up when I get home.  Fair enough?