These Boots for Walking Chapter 2

Valentine was very cooperative as I put the boots and pads on the front feet, he didn’t really seem to be tender footed on the back feet, so I only bought them for the front feet.  They are really easy to put on, 2 big velcro strips across the front to attach them. It’s important to be careful when measuring and buy the correct size.

Stepping forward, Valentine followed me cautiously and one person watching ua exclaimed “Look he likes them, you can see it on his face!”  He probably walked with diminished pain for the first time in ages.  We kept it short only 1o minutes of hand walking the first week and I would let him graze in a grassy area at the end of his walk.  He is really food motivated, so once he figured out our routine, he started walking faster to get to the reward part.  The next week we went to 15 minutes, with no chaff marks on his skin, to the area above his coronary band.  I also left the boots on when I put him in the turnout arena and he promptly took off squealing, bucking and rearing in delight. “That”, I said quietly “is a really good sign that the boots are working.”

So we walked, walked and walked, at first just around the stable and then eventually out on the trail. The walking turned out to be a good thing for both of us, giving us time to bond, work out his various fears of the trail also for me it was a chance to shed some unwanted pounds gained from sitting long hours in front of a computer.

Did I mention that I had to watch him like a hawk every second? He tried to bite me every chance he got. I considered renaming him Mr. Vampire! NAW, some one once told me to be careful what you name your animal friends as they will take on the characteristics of the name. I really didn’t want to encourage him to bite and draw blood. Most of the time he seemed to target the clothes people were wearing, in fact, I noticed that he was very careful NOT to get skin. Hmm, interesting. . .

I was determined to make life different from anything he had encountered in the past, because I was convinced it would fix the undesirable behaviors that he was presenting with. When he would turn to bite, I just put a finger on his cheek, politely pushed his head away and told him to be soft. He’d give a little lick and chew with his lips and then continue walking along, until the next time he hoped to catch me off guard and then it would be score one for Valentine, ripped jacket for me.  I wasn’t used to dodging teeth every couple of minutes, NONE of my previous horses had ever tried to to take a bite, so it took a awhile for me to get into the swing of things. Maybe I should have renamed him “Vampire”.  When I did the background history on him, I was told that the previous victims that he had tried to take a bite out of, would yell, slap or  hit him in the face and in my decision to be different from old style, conventional training, I wanted to use NO aggression back at him, I would use only kindness and communication instead.  My plan was to diffuse any aggression, rather than make it escalate. An old cowboy friend once said “if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, then baffle them with bullshit.” I figured that was the perfect way to go about things. So now when Valentine tries to bite, I turn him in a quick small circle, or laugh at him with my hands on my hips and say “REALLY???”  Don’t laugh, that one works really good with him! One other thing that works is food rewards, I’ve been teaching him “Pretty Ears.” The way it works is I say “Pretty Ears” and when he looks at me with a sweet, soft face, he gets the carrot. So he could be in the middle of “Mean Face” and if I say “Pretty Ears” and get the correct response it diffuses the aggression and we both win. Also, would you rather ride a soft, sweet, willing horse or one that you’ve been beating up on?

Most of the time Valentine was a handful on the trail, dancing, prancing and dragging my out of shape body along.  The trails were not the best quality for riding and it was required that we share with other groups of walkers, runners, bicycles and off road type motorized vehicles. The trail consisted of an asphalt road with a narrow dirt path next to it for horse riding. There is one area that is a tunnel with a road above. Everything echos and it’s a little scary hearing the traffic above and hoodlums hang out occasionally painting graffiti on the walls. It doesn’t make for a very peaceful walk and on some days scared the bejesus out of us.

I have an ankle that troubles me from time to time and one rather hot day in the high 90’s, with more than a mile left , I completely dreaded the thought of walking all the way back to the stable on that sore ankle. I had carried a small backpack of supplies, so I headed to a shady area at a nearby park and gave us both a drink of bottled water, then on a whim I asked him “Would it be ok if I ride back to the stable?  I’m old, my ankle hurts and can’t keep up today.”  He looked up at me intently with ears pointed forward as if to say “Yes, that would be ok” I might add that he’s always been very good at making his wishes know with flattened ears, tail swishing and teeth bared, so I took his showing of “pretty ears” to mean YES.

Tying the lead rope to the other side of the halter, I led him to a picnic table and climbed aboard.  He stood very still consenting to everything, affirming the decision that he had indeed said yes. I was such a proud Mom, he was really compliant and that was actually a side of him I had never seen. The only other time I had ridden him was brief because he was tender footed and stumbling badly, almost falling. That was before I got his Tennies.

On the way back, we had one tense moment.  Hanging off of a chain link fence there was a large, loose, flapping sheet of plastic. Good old Mother nature gave us a big wind blast, whipping the plastic wildly around, right at us. Valentine snorted, sunk down a bit, went sideways a few steps, froze and stared at it, trembling slightly.  Ok “Good Boy” I said and patted his neck, SOOOOO thankful he hadn’t bolted full speed for the barn with me ending up ass over teakettle on the ground.  I wasn’t back in riding shape and since we were both newly acquainted with each other, it may not have been one of my brightest ideas to ride that day, but it felt right so I went with it.

The rest of the ride home was uneventful and as we came around the bend, onto the road leading to the stable, Valentine walked very peaceably with the lead rope lightly draped over his neck. I was dangling my legs, and fanning myself with my big straw sun hat, completely enjoying myself. One of the riding instructors was coming back from lunch with her students and cautiously drove up beside us, with a look of surprise on her face.  “I’ve never seen him look so peaceful, he looks really, really happy” she exclaimed! “Gosh I didn’t even recognize him” she added.

Thank you Mr. Valentine, for taking care of me and making us both look especially good!


Starting our Journey Chapter 1

I had gathered all the clues I could about Valentine’s past life and now it was up to him to tell me the rest, in his own way.

He had a nice shine to his coat and seemed to be in good condition, if you were just taking a quick glance, but when you looked real close, his eyes told the whole sad story.  Besides being in a lot of pain he was very bored and unhappy.  They had removed his horseshoes, but left nail holes and overgrown hooves. I decided to start with the feet first, knowing first hand how grouchy I can be when forced to wear shoes that squeeze or pinch my feet. It made perfect sense to me, that he might have behavior problems from sore feet.

A farrier was recommended to me as “the best there is”! Now, in hind sight I’m wondering WHAT in Sam’s hill, was he “the best there is”, AT. I had noticed that he was particularly good at talking, drinking coffee, letting his dog roam around and a little random swearing. I hadn’t witnessed any superhero farrier abilities, so it must have been his ability to overcharge clients. I was charged $85 for a $40 trim and his ability wasn’t even close to being in my top ten, hall of farriers fame. I immediately made a mental note to move my name into the top ten, hall of “Shame on Me” list, for ever paying him that much.

The trim job he did was decent for a horse that would be wearing shoes, because shoes would have protected the over trimmed sole. Only one little problem with that philosophy, I had told him the horse was going barefoot, in an attempt to fix all the man created problems that had been acquired from wearing ill-fitting shoes in the first place. Sometime during the attempt to even up his feet or chatting, he cut off all the sole on the bottom of his feet nearly to the point of bleeding. To you and I, this would be the equivalent of peeling the calluses off the bottoms of your feet and then be required to walk on sharp rocks or hot pavement, OWWWEEEE!  Needless to say, he was falling to his knees lame after the trim and I could barely get him back to his stall. Terrific, I had become the proud owner of a horse with a very wounded soul and now he was also nearly sole less on his feet as well.

I continued to be nagged with the feeling that most of his lameness problems seemed to be a result of him standing neglected in a stall for long periods of time in the wet urine, maybe being overworked intermittently when he was out of shape and  the result of very bad shoeing.  Also he’s a very intelligent, playful, social sort and was frustrated at not being able to express himself. So express himself he did, in the only way that he could. . . by pawing, banging and kicking the stall.  That was NOT a good thing for his feet, he banged so hard that on the white feet, you could actually see the blood/bruise pooling on the hoof wall. After lengthy research I decided to try Cavallo rubber hoof boots on him. I was hoping I could hand walk him around without pain and increase the circulation in his feet.  I measured his feet, got lucky that he had a fairly average size and was able to pick them up at a local feed/tack store.  I also bought the gel inserts to provide extra padding for his sole and frog. The “frog” is a triangular shaped shock absorber and an important part of the circulatory system on the bottom of a horses foot. Each time the frog makes contact with the ground, it helps pump the blood up the leg as well as provide extra cushion for the legs.

I took a lot of negative flack from various people at the stable. ” You are just wasting your money” one girl said ” I heard those boots can cause sole bruises and rub them raw around the top of the hoof”.  I replied, “well I guess it’s my money to waste and everyone here has made their attempt to fix this horse without success, so it’s my turn to help him”  I really didn’t care what anyone said or thought and promptly tucked the earbuds of my ipod, MP3 player into my ears, turned to Mr. Valenine and said, “Mr. V, it’s just you, me and your new tennie shoes”.

(to be continued)

Gathering clues from the past

Determined to start Mr. Valentine’s rehab with the best possible chance of success, I made the decision to piece together fragments from his past, then I might be able to deduce how he had become the injured, pushy, dominant gelding. Lucky for us both, I come with a few personal traits that make me perfect for the job:  endless patience, incredible stubbornness, a tender heart for the misunderstood, a very open mind and a little psychic ability or maybe I’m psycho? I always get those two confused [big grin].

So I started asking questions and  found out that his first owner had started him at the tender age of 2 years and had Charro trained him (I will go into the various methods I saw used to accomplish this type of training, at a later time), people said they remembered seeing him being cantered around, around and around for long periods of time. The owner had occassionaly put his baby daughter on him and she was able to ride around on him, so he must have been pretty gentle at that time.

Valentine is an Azteca (half-Quarter Horse, half Andalusion) I was told that the owner had been offered $7,500 at one time which he had turned down. The general consensus was that he had started going lame between 3-4 yrs, intermittently.  Sadly, the original owner, got ill, lost his job and moved back to Mexico.  His family either wasn’t able, or didn’t want to pay the board that was owed on him.

During the time of the legal issues surrounding his abandonment, poor Valentine was locked in a box stall for around  6 months and I was told he didn’t get to come out of that stall the whole time, even for a brief turnout.  He was fed Alfalfa hay and since everyone felt sorry for him I bet he received lots of treats, peppermint candies, carrots, apples, etc.  The owner of the barn had two locations, in different towns.  It was my experience, while boarding at both facilities, that the stalls were not attended to properly, shaving were added weekly, but very little manure or wet matter was ever taken out.

As I write this, I’m feeling the anger my horse felt at being imprisoned in a stall filled with a strong ammonia smell, eating a high protein feed and receiving high sugar treats and horseshoes that were to tight on feet that needed to be trimmed.  In fact, I feel Valentine wants me to be his voice, so people will know his story, he is indeed a VERY smart horse after all.

Eventually he became the stable’s property and they used him as a lesson horse, I’m sure it was a much better time for him. He was taught to jump low fences, they laughingly described him as looking like a cute little piggy horse, since he was on the chubby side and only 14.2 hands tall. They said he would gallop up to the fences, gather himself up as if it was a giant fence, then he’d squeal and kind of hop over the fence, I’m really sorry that I never got to see that, I bet it WAS cute!

It was interesting to see the various expressions on people’s faces as they talked about Valentine, some loved him, a few would say, “oh, you’re talking about Valentine” (with disgust) and others had no feeling in their expression.  The little girls that rode him in lessons all adored him and had nothing but good things to say. They added that they were really glad he got a great home and seemed so much happier.  One girl said he used to get spooked and try to run away with them, but eventually incredibly they thought, had changed on his own, to a better behavior. With the new behavior he would freeze to an instant halt if something scared him. Speaking from experience, I much prefer the latter.  This is an example of Valentine adjusting his own reaction to fear to protect his little girl riders.

There was an unusual thing I took note of. . . most of the adults that had handled him spoke of his biting problem and they had ALL used VIOLENCE to solve the problem. Here’s a sample of what I’m talking about. A young girl that worked at the race track, smirked and said he tried to bite me once, he won’t do it again, I slugged him in the eye.  A trainer said, “he’s spoiled and probably needs the snot knocked out of him.”  “Holy Crap” I thought, what planet am I on or did I just wake up from a 20 year coma?  Where did all this hurry up and hit the horse come from? I watched a girl laugh with delight when she found out that her trainer was using spikes under the noseband of her horse’s bridle or something barbaric like that. I wonder, do these people go to their daily jobs and if they don’t perform according to their boss, get flogged for not being fast enough. Do they get beaten if they ask a question or don’t understand what is being asked of them?  Do they get tied up to a chair for hours at a time, so they’ll learn patience?  (I saw sweaty Charro trained horses tied up with saddle and bridle on, for hours, eyes white and rolling with fear, no telling what happened to him before he was tied up)

Here’s just a brief history of my association with horses. I started riding when I was 10 years old. I leased my first horse soon after that, and went to the stable or rode just about every day for 25-30 years.  Then I got out of horse showing and into dog showing for the next 15  years, until I finished the championships on my dogs, retired from showing. Then Mr Valentine and I found each other.

(to be continued)

Mr. Valentine the beginning

I’ll never forget the day I first saw him, he was standing behind bars peering at me with big warm brown eyes.  I turned to my friend and asked “WHOSE horse is that?”  “His name is Valentine” she replied “and I hear, he’s for sale”. Valentine was amazingly  beautiful, there was no denying that his dappled gray color with black mane and tail was striking. He had large sweet eyes and a wise expression that lulled most people into casting all caution into the wind and wrapping their arms around his neck or giving him a big kiss on the nose.  That would prove to be a mistake though, because he would wait until you weren’t paying attention and then strike quick like a rattler, with mouth wide open and glaring big teeth coming right at you. During that time I was riding my friend’s horse and would stop and talk to Valentine every time I was at the stable, maybe give him a carrot or two.  As much as I liked him, there wasn’t any extra money  to buy a horse and this particular horse was very lame in the front feet. Nothing had showed up in the x-rays but conventional wisdom had taught me that you don’t  spend thousands of dollars on a lame horse, no matter how strong the love at first sight is.  He had been looked at by several vets and trainers but his lameness issues were a big mystery and no one seemed to want to spend time with him to figure out what the problem was.  Along with the lameness, hidden behind the sweet, innocent demure face, was a very bad attitude that I didn’t find out about until later.  I guess the stable owner figured only a fool would buy a lame, mean horse and decided to get rid of him, after all times were hard, the economy was officially in the toilet. Fate’s twisted sense of  humor would have me walking in the barn at the same time she was putting up a sign that said “FREE to good home” and  before the sign could  be hung, I said “I’ll take him!”  We completed paperwork that said I bought him for $1 (one dollar) and  became the proud owner of a diamond in the rough. In the beginning, he turned out to be the worst horse I ever owned. More than a few people said I was crazy to waste my time on him and that I would probably spend thousands in vet bills figuring out what was wrong with him. The warm glow of ownership wore off rapidly when I realized that my new acquisition didn’t really seem to like me.  Every time I went in the stall, he spent the whole time trying to bite me.  If I tied him up to groom him, a ritual that horses usually enjoy, he would bite or kick every time he thought I wasn’t paying attention. One day when I was working him in the round training corral on a lunge line, he flattened his ears, showed his teeth and charged full speed at me, then kicked at me as he went on past.  One of the trainers happened by and said, “we never were able to get that habit out of him”. It was so nice of them to tell me that now, I thought, in tears.  I was actually afraid of a horse for the first time in my life.  Now, I think fear is a good thing as long as it doesn’t completely take over your life.  It’s that little inner voice that warns you to look again, something isn’t right. So you face your fear and let it flow over and away from you, only you will remain, ready for action. How in the world had I ended up in this depressing situation, here I was paying expensive room & board on a horse that was so lame he couldn’t be ridden and so mean, that I couldn’t enjoy spending time with him. It was a low point, LOW point, for both of us and I almost gave him back, thank goodness I reconsidered. Oh well I thought, my specialty has always been working with crazy, psycho horses that needed a little fixing here and there, or a person that would take the time to actually listen to what they had to say. I figured  he would most certainly be a good challenge for me and I would learn a lot.

Tea to go with your Tupelo

Now that I’ve figured out that I LOVE, love, love Tupelo Honey, (hopefully you do too) you’ll be needing a good tea to go with it!

By FAR, my favorite tea comes from a company called Tea Forté. They have these adorable,  pyramid shaped, silk infusers that wrap their little arms around delightful tea varieties.

This company is such a Class Act!  The packaging, is elegant and expensive looking, but the price is very reasonable.

They have an “Inspiration” line of tea, packaged in heart shaped boxes and cups with the matching design of the box, on the cup. Inside each tea infuser is a note of inspiration, printed on a leaf shaped paper. This is the perfect gift for Mr. and Mrs. Picky Pants OR why not indulge yourself!

They have a huge selection of teas, I highly recommend getting an assortment to see which you like the best.  My personal favorite is Vienna Cinnamon desert tea. OMG, I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven when I drink that tea. Many of my friends say it’s their favorite too, so get a tea collection with Vienna Cinnamon in it, unless you don’t like cinnamon. It does contain Black tea and caffeine, so drink it in the morning. One nice side effect, it leaves your breath feeling fresh.

When you have some time, check out their website: they have a full line of tea, accessories, gifts, cocktail infusers.  I’ve ordered a large amount of tea and other items for gifts, everything has been wonderful and the recipients loved their gifts as well.

Don’t forget to sign up for their “Tea Rewards”  you receive rewards that can be used on a future order.  Also you get $5 for referrals and the person you referred gets $5 off on their first order, very COOL!

FREE shipping on orders over $75 too! YAY

Enjoy your Tea Party,


AWE The Taste Test

We received our last Honey shipment and finally the day arrived for the Blind Taste Test!

In eager anticipation of the day, one of the test subjects arrived early, armed with our Fav. . Thomas English muffins. On the bottom of each bottle of honey, we wrote a number from 1 to 4, in no particular order. Linda agreed to be the test captain and her duties were to toast the muffins, put them on 4 paper plates with corresponding numbers on the bottom to match the 4 honey samples. She applied honey #1, to muffins on plate #1, honey #2, to muffins on plate #2 and so forth. She shuffled the plates and then brought them into our testing room. There were 4 taste testers and each had their own method of tasting. One tester would take a swig of hot tea to clear her palete between samples, I prefered to just dig in and enjoy!

First of all, let’s just say there wasn’t a loser in the bunch, I would be perfectly happy buying and eating honey from any of the four companies, we all agreed on that!

An interesting thing happened, I THOUGHT I knew which was my favorite before we did the blind taste test (I had been using it in my tea for weeks), however it turns out that I picked two others that I liked better in the blind test and all of us agreed on the two as the best of the four. Since we still had muffins left, we thought we should try the whole thing again to make SURE of our picks.  This time we liked one that WASN’T our favorite from before and one that WAS a favorite from before, “Oh Great” now what do we do?    Ok, as I said there were NO losers in any of these. The honey that got picked the most often was. . . Lanier Tupelo Honey.

Personally I’m enjoying all of them and will order again from all four companies.

Kudos to all the Bees and their keepers for providing this lovely nectar!


Tupelo Honey Update and Price Comparison

Well. . . DARN, Friday has arrived and sadly only three of the four honey shipments have arrived. I was hoping to be able to compare the quality and price together, but alas, it’s not to be.

After conducting a random internet search these are  four companies that I ordered from. They are in no particular order and I have no connection with any of them, except as a first time customer:

L.L. Lanier & Sons:

Savannah Bee:

Sleeping Bear Farms:

Smiley Apiaries:

There is some great information on all their websites about Tupelo Honey if you’re interested in the process of harvesting Tupelo. Somehow along the way, I got swept into the Bee World and ended up reading a book and watching two Bee Movies.

The book is called Robbing The Bees, by Holley Bishop. The book, a combination of history and biography, was a most enjoyable read. The author apprenticed with expert, professional beekeeper Donald Smiley of Smiley Apiaries.  It was very cool to buy honey from a famous beekeeper that showed up in print.

The Movies were Ulee’s Gold and The Secret of Bees.  Peter Fonda was GREAT playing the part of the beekeeper, in Ulee’s Gold. The Lanier’s (one of the companies that I ordered from) assisted with the movie. Ben Lanier showed Peter how to handle bees and worked with the film crew in an effort to make the beekeeping scenes true-to-life. The swamp lands and bee yards in the film belong to the Laniers as well.

LOVED The Secret of Bees, I’ve seen it two times already, however I have to confess I’m a big fan of both Dakota Fanning and Queen Latifah, just love all their movies. There isn’t a connection to any of these apiaries with this movie as far as I know.

Ok, now with the comparisons.

All Four orders were placed on the same day.

Savannah Bee, has their correspondence perfected.  I received an email confirmation Jan 29 and then a Fedex shipping notice Feb 1, the order was received on Feb 5th.

Smiley Apiaries, had similar confirmations, Jan 29 and then a UPS shipping notice Feb 2, the order was received on Feb 9th.

Sleeping Bear Farms, did not send any confirmation or shipping notice, the order DID arrive the same day as Savannah Bee, Feb 5th. I’m thinking they’d rather spend their time tending to their million’s of  busy pets, packaging their wonderful honey, maybe try to get a little sleep once in awhile, instead of dealing with bothersome correspondence.  That’s ok by me!

L.L. Lanier & Sons, I received an email order confirmation, no shipping notice and haven’t received the order yet.  Hopefully next week!

The prices are similar for 3 of the 4 companies. The comparison was between  5lb jugs of honey, or the closest I could come. (One of them I couldn’t find a 5 pounder on their website, so I compared the 2 lb version for that one).  The price per pound, ends up between $4.70 and $14, at the 5lb quantity. As you can see one of them is quite a bit higher, the difference didn’t really bother me that much, because the quality, packaging and service of this company is outstanding.

Actually, so far I would order from any of these again, there are no losers here! Once I receive the last one, I’ll try and pick my favorite, that’s going to be tough, the bees are such good workers, wouldn’t want to hurt any of their feelings.

Hope you have a Honey of a Valentine’s Day!

Thanks a Jillion!

Hello world!

This is my first Blog!

WOW, I had no idea it would be so hard to find a name that no one else on the internet is using. Do you think it’s because we are all a bunch of sheep and don’t have a single original thought of our own? NAAAAAAA, I think our muses are just sending us the same great ideas, so we have to fight to be the first to throw it out there.

I’m sure to commit a few blogging faux pas along the way, so I’ll just say “I’m Sorry” in advance and we’ll move on to better things.  I’m sure if anyone actually reads this they’ll help me out with the proper etiquette!  Won’t you?

I’ll be writing about this and that, whatever strikes my fancy (one of the names I wanted to use) and any way the wind blows (that of course, was a film). DRAT

My newest adventure is:  Where can I get the best Tupelo Honey for the best price.

AWE. . . Tupelo Honey, it’s a magical substance, a golden river of sunshine and pure bliss. It never crystalizes like other honey and the taste is like creme brulee, butter, melon and loving magic of the Bee Gods thrown in.  It’s so awe-mazing that Van Morrison wrote a song comparing a girl to the golden nectar.  Several books/films have been written about it as well.

I’ve placed some nice size orders from 4 or 5 different suppliers of the delicious honey and shipments will be arriving as early as this week for comparison.  In anticipation of my arriving shipments and a slight sense of panic setting in I’ve concocted a recipe for a NO BAKE cookie.  The slight panic arises from one question, will I live long enough to consume all this honey that I ordered? Inherited from my family tree is the “I’ll never be able to find that again, so I should buy enough for a small army gene”  I suspect it came from my father’s side of the family.

The ever willing test subjects at work, happily devoured my new creations, looking slightly sad, when I cut them off after 2 cookies. They immediately brightened with the promise of more to come, once my honey reinforcements arrived.  There was much talk about a name for the cookies and I’m open to suggestions.  We are currently using: Jill’s Nuttin’ Honey Balls or Jill’s Honey Nut Balls.

I haven’t dialed in exact measurements as, truthfully. . . it just doesn’t matter that much, if I make a dramatic change, I’ll repost the info, so here it is in it’s RAW form just like the honey.

3/4 – 1 cup Tupelo Honey

2 cups chunky peanut butter

1 cup Nutella (Hazelnut spread)

1 package of Honey Bunches of Oats

Mix honey and butters together and then just dump in the honey bunches of oats in until you can make a ball without the mess sticking to your hands. In another bowl crush up some of the honey bunches of oats to fine powder and roll the balls around to soak up any excess moisture. You could also use sugar, finely chopped nuts or whatever, you get the picture.  I put them in the fridge, but you don’t really need to.  One warning, try not to eat them all in one sitting, or you’ll be buying new clothes.  As “the Julia’s” would say “Bon appetit”

Please feel free to make comments or suggestions of a name for the balls and thanks for reading!