Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Energetic Equines

Once again, I want to share some photos and moving footage of our energetic equines, so inspired to capriciousness by the briskness of the changing season. Even the ravens have been participating, though I have been unsuccessful in capturing their amazing acrobatic sky-diving displays on camera.
This is our "Zen" Elm tree, rising up majestically in the middle of the open prairie. Last year, about this time I painted a large original watercolor very similar to this scene here, excepting that in my painting there are no horses and we are viewing the tree looking north instead of northwest, and the sky is more dramatic (which it really was on the day I took my reference photo). I'm pasting the digital image of the painting here for you to see.
This painting captured the attention of one of the local ladies in Gore Bay even before I had it matted or framed. She was good about waiting for me to compose a verse to accompany it (which I do with all my watercolors because--with the exception of the rock paintings--my work is the combination of painting, poetry and calligraphy). With the sale of this "Zen Elm" painting I was able to cover three months rent on my studio as well as provide the herd with several bags of breakfast oats and purchase a nice bottle of wine to celebrate with Kevin at dinnertime. To be able to work every day at a "job" I love and have it provide for those whom I love is something I am exceptionally grateful for.

But you are not here to look at art, you are here to look at horses! Let's enjoy some moving footage of the foals playing. First up we have Interessado trying to get a bit of a game going with Animado. Animado is now six months old. Interessado is just a handful of days over two months, but full of big-boy rambunctiousness.

Next, Fada and Interessado give themselves over to frisky foal play. You'll see Interessado slip and lose his footing briefly with incredible recovery and you'll also see how adept Fada is at bucking while galloping. How do they defy gravity the way they do?!

Some photos now, taken during one of the circular, "nip at flanks & hocks" games between big Jerry and Animado. Note how even a huge-bodied, long-backed, weak stifled mule can collect when there is a fun game to be played! We can also appreciate how beautifully Animado conforms his body to the arc of the circles he is describing--no rider, using legs and reins to shape him from poll to tail is necessary for such poise--natural collection, self-carriage and lateral bend are obvious, even in a young horse. Play in a suitable environment is an excellent trainer!

This next video clip shows us one of the intense sparring games that Mistral likes to get Altamiro involved in. Even at twenty-seven, showing a bit of stiffness in his hindquarters (likely do to the ignorance of my competition dressage riding years ago), Mistral likes to show off. And what a vocalizer this Arabian gelding is! I can tell you, when you are walking through the woods and hear this sound--it sets one to worrying that some horse is getting killed. More than once I've run out to where this equine roaring is coming from only to come onto a scene of peacefully grazing horses...much as you'll see when you reach the end of this clip. It's always amazing to me how quickly these horses erupt into wild games and just as quickly, like the flick of a light switch, shut down the energy and drop their heads to graze.

The next two photos are stills I've extracted from the moving video...having just learned that I can do this. I'm looking forward to finding some time to go through some of the videos I've taken and select those exciting moments when the horses are showing their finest form. Here we have Altamiro during some of the footage I took when he was chasing off the pups. I'm a bit close with a faulty angle to my camera, especially in the second photo and this unfortunately makes Altamiro look somewhat "squatty". I sent these images to Hardy, and he managed to give them even more clarity with his software, though he said there isn't much one can do about the distorted perspective. I'll have to make sure that I'm not too close next time.

What I appreciate so much about Altamiro is his natural capacity to lower his hindquarters, with good flexion of all his joints, making for wonderful collection and an excellent posture from which to spring up and outward as his projects himself towards the sport of sending the dogs off running.
I'll wrap up this journal entry today with a more subdued photo, that I love for its subtle colors, and of course, for the focused look on Animado's whole body.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Squall Season

The enchanting Fada, her dark grulla color nicely offset by the long, dry grasses

Manitoulin Island is now into "squall season". While our weather remains a bit buffered from extreme cold by the lingering, relative "warmth" of the surrounding waters of Great Lake Huron, these same conditions make for quickly changeable conditions--calm and sunny for several hours, then blustery with rain or hail for a short period, giving way to partial clearing and gentler air for another few hours, only to be followed again by a brief storm. It's an exciting time, filled with exhilarating clouds, colors and scents. I like to be out in the midst of all this and find it invigorating. The horses feel the same way.

Sunday was another day with repeated squalls and often times instead of slashing rain, there was biting hail. I ran for the house, and I thought the herd would dash for cover in the woods, but they did not! Instead, they put themselves on the lee side of our house and snugged into a fairly tight group while the hail pinged and bounced off them. Occasionally, they would lower their heads and shake them, but otherwise didn't demonstrate that it was as uncomfortable a situation as it seemed to me.When the storm clouds passed by the herd moved off to graze in the freshened grasslands. They appeared to be in grazers heaven--plenty yet to eat, no biting insects, no extreme heat--what's a little hail when the benefits are so terrific?!
Zorita, looking lovely after a rinse from a passing autumn squall

Fada (left) and Interessado looking so similar in color this autumn

The past few days as I was out among the herd, I was able to capture a lot of fun photos and moving footage because of the high degree of energy in the air from the unsettled weather. This energy found added expression in rambunctious behavior among certain herd members. Those who didn't feel a compelling desire to leap and run with abandon or get involved in "contact sports" were Doll, Dee, Belina, Bella and Ciente--everyone else cut loose from time to time.
Altamiro plays with Zeus, while the rest of the grullas mill about seemingly disinterested in the drama

The pups, seemingly ever present with me when I'm out with the herd were not on their best behavior, wanting to much to "play" with the foals which were so keen to be sparking about with abandon. This got Altamiro feeling he needed to demonstrate a bit of discipline by chasing the dogs off:

After the satisfaction of sending the dogs off a distance (temporarily) the young Sorraia stallion decided it was time for a roll in the close-cropped grass. Fada felt it was important to observe her father's efforts and then entice him into a sprint race:

Fada continues to look as if she is the reincarnation of an Upper Paleolithic cave painting. And while 2 month old Interessado's mane has begun to lay over, Fada's even at five months persists in remaining upright. So curious!
Five month old, half-Sorraia filly, Fada

And one final photo of the lovely Zorita to end today's entry. Later today, or tomorrow, I will put in some more photos and moving footage of frolicking foals and a sparring stallion.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

And There Were Others

Kevin and I eloped when we got married and in doing so we spared ourselves the worry of determining who to invite to the ceremony. As scatter-brained as I can be, I certainly would have forgotten to include individuals that should have been on the list. After posting yesterday's journal entry, it was as if suddenly I remembered I'd forgotten to invite Auntie Diane to the wedding!

There, of course, have been many amazing people who (whether through personal contact or through the study of their written works) have contributed to my journey with horses. Perhaps sometime I will write a piece that shares who these people were and how they came to influence me. For now, I was mostly keeping to the past five to seven years--and even within that narrow time frame I realize I left out several key players.

Interessdo and Shelagh consider nose to nose contact

How could I have not relayed to you my immense admiration for Carolyn Resnick? Astute reader's will recall that I've mentioned her in a post or two, and her blog link has been a consistent feature in the sidebar links of interest.

It is no idle comment to say that it was the inspiration from Carolyn's youthful experiences with making friends with wild horses that stimulated me to approach relations with my own "wildies" from a perspective that allows the horse complete freedom to choose whether she desires to be with me or not. I think it was here, in Carolyn's book, NAKED LIBERTY, that I first discovered there are horse people out in the world who do not coerce or impose their wills upon horses, but rather spend the time to develop a friendship with horses so that they desire to be with us and try new things we might ask of them.

Nevermind that I still have discomfort with certain elements in Carolyn's "Seven Waterhole Rituals", those that I do wholly embrace have been like keys into a magical realm...and really do, as she says, develop a magnetic heart connection between the horses and myself.

It was also through the inspiration Carolyn's book provided that prompted me to have a go at riding completely tack-less, which has created for me some of the best memories I've ever had with Mistral.
The venerable Mistral views his world through contented eyes

If you order Stormy May's dvd, you'll see some insightful footage of Carolyn "dancing" with horses. Within Carolyn's blog, you see that she is very forthright with her desire to share her way of being with horses and tirelessly works towards helping humans better understand horses.

Carolyn's website is here:

Carolyn's blog can be accessed here:

Prior to Carolyn's work, I was certainly for some time quite captivated by Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling and his DANCES WITH HORSES book and videos. Kris McCormack worked diligently, just as she has done with Imke Spilker's book, to bring Klaus' work to English readers, and she followed up DANCES WITH HORSES with another of Klaus' books titled, WHAT HORSES REVEAL. (And did I mention that it was Kris who sent me a copy of NAKED LIBERTY along with a video of Carolyn's work? Kris has been hugely influential in my journey for many years...she deserves an entire entry herself!)

We meet Klaus again in Stormy May's documentary and HORSES FOR LIFE just recently ran a highly meaningful two part exclusive interview with him--both of which helped soften the rather cynical attitude I'd developed when I found certain elements of his work (as presented in the earlier books) off-putting in light of where I found myself moving forward with my interactions with horses.

Klaus' website is here:

I still look through my books and dvds of this man's work...certain philosophical elements and some pretty lovely images continue to inspire me even now.

Zorita, puts on a grumpy face to suggest to Doll that she move out of her way

A quick bit here about some other authors who have caused me to think differently about what type of environment is best for horses and have served to consolidate for me my continual preference for the Natural world versus that which is scientific and man-made. There have been many authors whose work has contributed, but recently these three in particular have left their mark (and only one is a "horse" person).

--Jamie Jackson
--Masanobu Fukuoka
--Stephen H. Buhner

I'm not mentally prepared to expand upon these gentlemen but I will leave you with a lengthy quote to contemplate from Masanobu Fukuoka from his book THE NATURAL WAY OF FARMING:

A scientist who wishes to know Mt. Fuji will climb the mountain and examine the rocks and wildlife. After having conducted geological, biological, and meteorological research, he will conclude that he now has a full picture of Fuji. but if we were to ask whether it is the scientist who has spent his life studying the details of the mountain who knows it best, the answer would have to be no. When one seeks total understanding and comprehensive judgment, analytic research is instead a hindrance. If a lifetime of study leads to the conclusion that Fuji consists mostly of rocks and trees, then it would have been better not to have climbed it in the first place.

One can know Fuji by looking at it from afar. One must see it and yet not examine it, and in not examining it, know it.

Yet the scientist will think: "Well, gazing at Mt. Fuji from a distance is useful for knowing it abstractly and conceptually, but is no help in learning something about the actual features of the mountain. Even if we concede that analytic research is of no use in knowing and understanding the truth about Fuji, learning something about the trees and rocks on the mountain is not totally meaningless. And moreover, isn't the only way to learn something to go and examine it directly?"

To be sure, I can say that analyzing nature and appending to these observations one's conclusions is a meaningless exercise, but unless those who listen understand why this is worthless and unrelated to the truth, they will not be convinced.

What more can I say if, when I mention that the artist Hokusai who captured faraway images of Fuji in his paintings understood it better than those who climbed it and found it an ugly mountain, I am told that this is just a subjective difference, a mere difference in viewpoint or opinion.

The most common view is that one can best know the true nature of Fuji by both listening to the ecologist speak of his research on its fauna and flora and looking at the abstracted form of Fuji in Hokusai's paintings. But this is just like the hunter who chases two rabbits and catches none. Such a person neither climbs the mountain nor paints. Those who say Fuji is the same whether we look at it lying down or standing up, those who make use of discriminating knowledge, cannot grasp the truth of this mountain.

Without the whole, the parts are lost, and without the parts, there is no whole. Both lie within the same plane. The moment he distinguishes between the trees and rocks that form a part of the mountain and the mountain as a whole, man falls into a confusion from which he cannot easily escape. A problem exists from the moment man draws a distinction between partial, focused research and total, all-encompassing conclusions.

To know the real Fuji, one must look at the self in relation to Fuji rather than at the mountain itself. One must look at oneself and Fuji prior to the self-other dichotomy. When one's eyes are opened by forgetting the self and becoming one with Fuji, then one will know the true form of the mountain.
Though I am helped along by so many others through a variety of meaningful elements,
it is in this manner Masanobu has shared with us that I now attempt to know the true horse.

Altamiro posing left, and right and looking pretty majestic and quietly confident...can he really only be three years old? He has such a sense of wisdom that projects from him!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Meaningful Elements to Further the Journey

An autumn view from Ravenseyrie at the "Top of the World" meditation spot

Today's entry contains an assortment of photos taken in the last week, which I will be interspersing between written text discussing meaningful elements which have furthered my friendship with horses.

My journey of relations with horses began as a young girl and a neighbor's pony named Prince (though this entry is not the place to go into lengthy details of my history with horses), I should relay there are rich layers of ignorance, love, fear and wee seeds of understanding that fold in on themselves from those first breath exchanges with an equine until now. I once worked as an exercise girl for Arabian racehorses, trained and showed in dressage, left competition to devote myself to artistic equitation and the study of Francois Baucher's life and "legacy of lightness" and became enraptured by the primitive Sorraia horse and the lure of learning from horses not in a man-made environment, but within a semi-wild setting--which is my present reality.
Our lovely herd of Sorraia/Sorraia Mustangs at Ravenseyrie

I want to share with the readers of Journal of Ravenseyrie some information on current influences in my life and offer links for those of you who might want to explore these "places" yourselves.

A California woman by name of Stormy May has had a journey with horses that shares many similarities with mine. Stormy is also a gifted filmmaker and was motivated to make a documentary that shares her journey with the world. It's an incredibly moving film and contains insightful interviews with well known names in the horse world, Mark Rashid, Carolyn Resnick, Linda Kohanov, Alexander Nevzorov, Kim McElroy and Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling.

On her website we find this synopsis of her dvd THE PATH OF THE HORSE:
>>>A horse trainer gives up her career to travel the world, searching for people who might unlock the secret of how to move to the next level of understanding with horses. What she finds is simple but is she willing to pay the price to take the path less traveled? This inspirational documentary explores the future of horse-human relationships and ultimately all human relationships. As our culture evolves from domination over nature into a partnership, we see this change being reflected in the work that people are doing with horses. This is a story of visionaries, of men and women who have made it their life's work to develop and reveal their innermost thoughts and feelings through achievement of a synergistic balance with the horse's own elegant naturalness. Horses have a gift to share; teaching us how to develop community, leadership, trust, and love within our own families through a connection that goes beyond words. The Path of the Horse takes an honest look at what we're doing with horses today and asks, "Is this the world we want to create?"<<<

Stormy's film is being distributed worldwide and having a dramatic effect on all those who are pursuing deeper relations with horses. You can view a trailer from the film and order a copy of the dvd at Stormy's website by following this link:

Zorita grazes in a favorite section of the prairie grass, while Altamiro dozes nearby

Next I'd like to bring up the work of a German woman named Imke Spilker. I was introduced to her amazing work by my friend Kris McCormack. Kris has just recently translated Imke's book SELBSTBEWUSSTE PFERDE into English and it will be published in the spring of 2009 by Trafalgar Square under the title, EMPOWERED HORSES. This book is a must have for all who are desiring to learn from horses and develop mutual friendships with them. We are incredibly fortunate that Kris put such great effort into bringing Imke's words to English readers and that Trafalgar Square has the good sense to publish this ground-breaking book.

From the English section of Imke's website, Kris offers us a quick review of EMPOWERED HORSES, along with a charming photo of her horse, Khemo, demonstrating his affection for the book.

>>>Horses who have the say? Friendship instead of dominance? How does that work? In this book, communicative horses consciously and confidently assume the lead roles...and show you how being together with such horses can look.

The old edition (in German) of "Selbstbewußte Pferde" published by Kosmos Verlag, is out of print. You will find some remainder copies here.
The new edition, with a different design and layout is published by animal-learn and can be purchased wherever books are sold.

The horse in the photo is Khemo -- a horse who set much in motion: human beings, books, ideas. Khemo died in May, 2008. He lived in the USA and is responsible for the fact that an English language edition of the book will be available in March, 2009. We have his initiative to thank for the fact that very soon the Communicative Horses will have their say all over the world. “Empowered Horses” -- “The book that every horse would give his rider!”. (photo of Khemo taken by Kristina McCormack)<<<

The primitive, yet noble and aristocratic profile of our Sorraia stallion, Altamiro

>>>"When you begin to see through the eyes of horses you enter another world.
In this world, laws more ancient than ours are in effect. Existence is clear and uncomplicated.
Every step into this world let us sense more deeply, breathe more freely..."

(from: Selbstbewusste Pferde, Imke Spilker)<<<

Altamiro follows Zorita on a purposeful striding across the grasslands

>>>"The entire world of horses today is influenced, controlled, or ruled by the two-legged ones, or so it seems. But there is a small community of empowered horses and their friends that is putting up resistance to human domination ...
It is a project that belongs to the horses where there is no domination or “dressage,” where no one “whispers” or screams, no one whips or intimidates. Here human beings learn how to listen to their horses and come into a conversation with them."

(from Imke's Communicative Horses website)<<<

The link to Imke Spilker's Communicative Horses (English version) website can be followed here:

Two thoughtful ladies came to Ravenseyrie this past Sunday for a visit with the herd. My friend, Nancy, lives on Manitoulin Island, too, and is learning more about horse/human relationships with her three handsome Canadian Horse geldings. Nancy's friend, Ann, was visiting our fair island and treating herself to exploring new places over the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday.

Nancy plays with Animado and his favorite toy, a useful fly whisk

Ann takes the lovely Ciente's photo, while I take a photo of both of them

Ann, not accustomed to either horses or mules, establishes a good feeling with Doll

Nancy, Interessado and Animado discuss important matters, perhaps world peace?

Now I wish to introduce readers to a fantastic, beautifully crafted online magazine called, HORSES FOR LIFE. I have my friend, Annemiek Stuart, from the Netherlands to thank for bringing this fine publication to my attention. I wish I had know about this magazine years ago--it does such a comprehensive job of exploring philosophical, scientific and day to day "mechanics" of living with and training horses. I have not found such a meaningful equestrian magazine available in English since the old days of Ivan Bezugloff's DRESSAGE & CT monthly magazine.

There is so much material here! Incredible photos and moving video coupled with excellent articles make it an incredible deal for subscribers. I am still exploring the "back issues", having just scratched the surface of all the interesting articles available. The editor, Nadja King is a deep thinker, with immense feel for horses. Her efforts with this magazine will propel humans to a higher level of relations with horses and a greater awareness of things we do with our horses and how it affects them.

A few selections the September editorial "What Comes First?" in Horses For Life:

>>>Ahead of success we choose the horse. And we know that we are not alone. There is a huge movement afoot. One where people no longer think competition deserves every effort no matter the cost to the horse. Winning is not important. Fame is not important. Success at all costs is not important.

>>>The look in the horses' eyes at the end of the day is the only measure of success that any of us needs. We accept our responsibility to take the time to read and learn to ensure that we continue to grow and learn, so that we continue to do better by the only judge who in the end truly matters. The horse.

>>>Our mission: to be the voice of the horse. To stand up for the horse. Out of respect, love and duty, because of the gifts the horses have given to us. Our mission is to use information and education, to create awareness and change in the equestrian world. We are not breed specific nor discipline specific, believing that every horse is unique and special and quite capable of wondrous things.<<<

It should also like to make it known that in the upcoming October issue of HORSES FOR LIFE will appear an article by yours truly, discussing the Sorraia and Sorraia Mustang horses.

You can follow the link to HORSES FOR LIFE here:

Already an impressive figure, here we have Altamiro and Ciente's colt, Interessado

Before I close, I should also mention that for a those who are not as interested in going into the horses' natural world to learn from them, but prefer a more "civilized", human controlled setting, I can find none better for combining stunning visuals with haute école (trained and exhibited completely free of bits, bridles and reins) than the beautifully appointed manége of Alexander Nevzorov. Alexander and his wife, Lydia, are definitely rancorously opinionated, controversial figures and espouse a very elitist doctrine, yet their devotion to the horse is admirable and worth exploring.

The link to Alexander Nezorov's website can be followed here:

The author enjoys the October afternoon warmth and the companionship of young Interessado

I don't know what it is about my attempts to put this day's journal entry together that is causing the blogger program to malfunction...but it seems to be struggling with changes of font style and placement--so please accept my apologies if the body of the entry doesn't flow as well as it typically does. (After first publishing this today, I see too, that the links with the text of this entry aren't "catching" as they should. You will have to copy and paste them into a separate page of your browser to travel to these places--or click on them in the sidebar.)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Grulla Variations, A Race Horse in the Wilderness and Zorita Too

Interessado and Fada are looking rather similar in color as their sleek summer coats begin to thicken up for the upcoming winter months. These two foals of Altamiro's are so far rather black grulla , even darker than Altamiro's coloring. Both Bella and Belina are dark variant grullas as well, but the combination of Altamiro and Bella produced a much lighter variation of grullo in Animado--who is almost as pearly as Zorita. Ciente falls in between--she is lighter than Bella, Belina and Altamiro, but darker than Zorita. The grulla color is hard to pin down...the alterations in the light of day turn their colors to smoke, or lilac, or sepia, or charcoal, or straw or pearly depending on where they are in the landscape. How fascinating, these many hues of grulla on these primitive horses!

Altamiro and Zorita move across the Scant Field on their way to the forest.

Zorita, looking especially light colored against the edge of the forest.

One more view of Zorita, looking as lovely as ever and very much at home at Ravenseyrie.

Now, before presenting this energetic video clip showing the high spirited herd enjoying a brisk October day, I'd like to point out a few things which ought to enhance your appreciation for what you will be viewing.

The long grasses hide from our eyes the depressions, holes, rocks and hard-matted tussocks which trouble these horses not one jot, such is the natural balance and sense of footing these wilderness horses possess. And lest you think it is just the primitive horses that excel so amazingly at galloping over rough, unpredictable terrain...witness the ease of the big copper Thoroughbred, Zeus (our own "thunder god") who seems so totally delighted in the sheer joy of his mighty beingness that we are equally swept up on his enthusiasm. This is the type of racing every Thoroughbred horse ought to experience!

Now Zeus is rather devoted to Mistral, and carries on as if he is Mistral's second in command...what do you suppose he was saying to Mistral by circling back and kicking up his heels in Mistral's direction the way he did?

And Bonnie--did you see your Zorita at the front of the group of grullas near the end of the clip? What fun she is having here--and how much we appreciate her presence among the herd. She is doing great, gaining thickness to her hair coat and maintains a charming relationship with Altamiro despite being quite beyond her ardent heat cycle. She definitely fits in as if she was meant to be here.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The King Plays With the Peasant Children

Just a quick entry to start October with.

It is as if Zorita has always been here, she has integrated so well into the herd. Mistral has mostly given up hazing her, and only occasional will pull an "ugly face" while advancing in her direction. Even with her heat cycle completed, her paramour, Altamiro, continues to intercede on her behalf should Mistral look as if he is up to no good. We'll get some more photos of Zorita taken over the weekend, along with all the other good looking herd members.

Last evening was comical...and I wouldn't have believed if I hadn't seen it for myself. The old curmudgeon, Mistral, was in such good spirits that he was seeking connections with the foals and taking time to play with them!

Here...look at these scenes of Mistral and Animado:

After Animado decided he'd rather graze, Mistral, still feeling frisky, went over to see if Interessado might want to play. This caught the youngest colt by complete surprise and in our next video clip you will see Interessado attempt to make himself very small along with showing Mistral all the appropriate gesticulations an underling does when accosted by the presence of an elder.

At one point, Mistral, squeals and strikes out with a foreleg, but the expression on his face is not the least bit threatening. It appears almost as if Mistral struck out as he did for the sheer amusement of watching Interessado dash off. He later goes over to have further conversations with the youngster...who, understandably remains uncertain of what the old gelding is up to. In the end, Interessado decides he'd much rather come over and see what pleasures of scratches and massages the lady behind the camera might have for him.

In the 24 years Mistral and I have been together, he always surprises me with the 1001 nuances to his complex character. As his long time friend, it brings me immense pleasure to see him enjoying life with the herd on a chilly October evening. And I'm so thankful Mistral has forgiven me for adding another primitive horse to his fiefdom here at Ravenseyrie.