No, that post title isn’t also the title of an upcoming book. After all, I’m not sure it’d be flying off the shelves if it were. Instead, it’s a clue to today’s topic, that of farriers.
As you might expect from a long-running western series, many of my heroes in my Blue Falls, Texas series are ranchers and/or rodeo cowboys. Every now and then, I throw in a little something extra, too. That was the case for A Rancher to Love, which was book eight in the series. Tyler Lowe not only has a ranch, but he’s the local farrier — or the man you call when your horse needs a hoof trim or new shoes. When you think about it, farrier seems an odd word for such a profession. But not surprisingly, it’s because the term has its roots in other languages — this time French and Latin. It’s comes from the Middle French word ferrier,
meaning blacksmith, and the Latin word for iron, ferrum.
Although in the past, farriers did blacksmithing work as well, today the two professions are more distinct. Unlike podiatrists, farriers in the United States don’t have to have any formal education or certification. In fact, scary as it might seem, farriery is not regulated at all in the U.S. There are voluntary certification programs through three organizations — the American Farrier’s Association, the Guild of Professional Farriers, and the Brotherhood of Working Farriers.
By contrast, in the UK it is illegal for anyone to call themselves a farrier or to carry out any farriery work. This is so that no harm or suffering are endured by horses through the unskilled efforts of someone who isn’t qualified. They are organized as the Worshipful Company of Farriers and have been around since 1356!
While trimming hooves and shoeing (including for such special purposes such as racing) are the farrier’s main duties, they also take care of damaged or diseased hooves.
It was fun to write a different aspect of life surrounding ranching and the cowboy life, but next month I’m back to rodeo cowboys with the release of book number 12 in the Blue Falls, Texas series — Her Texas Rodeo Cowboy. Hero Jason Till is in hot pursuit of a national championship in steer wrestling.
Lately I’ve wondered how an Iowa city girl ended up writing romances with cowboy heroes. Or, I’ve wondered about the reasons other than the obvious—that cowboys are incredibly sexy. For my first official blog as a filly at Petticoats and Pistols, I’m sharing what fascinates me about cowboys.
For me, a cowboy isn’t as much about the occupation as the state of mind and attitude. Sure when I think of a cowboy, I see a man in form fitting Levi’s or Wranglers. I see dusty, worn cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, but it’s more than that, too. There’s something about the way he moves in a slow, yet deliberate way, that says he’ll take his time with what matters in life. If you’ve seen Scott Eastwood in The Longest Ride, you know what I mean. If not, watch it now. I’ll wait.
Now that we’re done drooling over Scott, back to the topic at hand. Cowboys have a connection to the land that goes deeper than most people’s. That taps into my love of my grandparents’ farm in Decorah, Iowa. I spent hours wandering over that land spinning stories and imaging my life living on a similar place. Writing about my heroes and heroines strolling over their land or walking along Wishing’s streets fill me with the same warm affection. That intense bond with the ZSAER%^land was a big inspiration behind my Wishing, Texas series. For those heroes, their link Ty Barnett’s ranch, The Bar 7 and each other anchor their lives.
As to a cowboy’s attitude and mind-set—people see him as a loner, and he is, but I also see his strong tie to family. Family, however he defines it, is allowed past his guard. When I wrote my first novel for Harlequin, I wanted my hero so desperate for money he’d model in New York. But I wanted something different. What does a cowboy love more than his ranch and horse? His mama. That one detail told me everything I needed to know about my hero.
A cowboy has a sense of honor that factors into every decision. In my first Wishing, Texas book, To Love A Texas Cowboy, Ty Barnett’s world is turned upside down because of a promise to a friend. One he’ll keep even if it means dealing with Cassie Reynolds. This unwavering honor paired with a good dose of Alpha male, makes writing stories with cowboy heroes fun when I turn the tables on them. In To Catch A Texas Cowboy, AJ Quinn’s sick of hearing “let’s just be friends” from women. Poor cowboy. I had a blast torturing AJ giving him what he asked, but not what he bargained for, in New Yorker Grace Henry.
For me, these characteristics make cowboys fascinating, and oh so hero-worthy. Now it’s your turn. Tell me what it about cowboys makes you swoon or say that’s a hero?
I’m giving away a copy of To Catch A Texas Cowboy and a wine glass. Post a comment to enter.
First, I would like to thank Petticoats and Pistols, for being kind enough to host our bestselling contemporary western romance boxed set, A Cowboy to Keep.
My latest release, Border Romance is one of seven stories in the set, and it’s the third book of my On the Border Series. These books take place on the Texas-Mexican border and feature a ranch that trains horses for the Mexican specialty of charro riding, as well as rodeo events such as barrel racing and calf roping, and cutting horses, too. Since charro riding is not widely understood in the United States, I wanted to explain how these specialty horses perform.
Charro riding is an event in a charreada or charrería, which is a competitive event similar to our rodeos and was developed from animal husbandry practices used on the haciendas of old México. The sport has been described as “living history,” or as an art form drawn from the demands of working life. Evolving from the traditions brought from Spain in the 16th century, the first charreadas were ranch work competitions between haciendas. The modern Charreada developed after the Mexican Revolution when charro traditions were disappearing. The charreada consists of nine events for men plus one for women, all of which involve horses, cattle or both.
The participants in the charreada wear traditional charro clothing, including a closely fitted suit, chaps, boots, and a wide brim sombrero. The body-fitting suit of the charro, while decorative, is also practical; it fits closely to insure there is no flapping cloth to be caught by the horns of steers. The botinas, or little boots, prevent feet from slipping through the stirrups. Spurs are worn on the botinas.
The saddle of the charro has a wider horn than that of that of a western saddle, which helps safeguard the charro from being pitched off and from being hung up. There are two grips at the back of the saddle, in case the charro needs to have a handhold during certain trick maneuvers.
In a charreada, the most common competition is called cala de caballo or reining. Literally the demonstration of the horse rein, as the horse is required to show its talents in the canter, gallop, slide stop, spins on its hind legs as well as backing. It is one of the hardest events to master and also the most elaborately scored. The running slide, left and right spinning, rear leg pivoting, and backing abilities are tested. The charro rider and horse are evaluated carefully. Horses are judged for vigor, manageability, docility, gait and obedience. Carriage of head and tail are all critically evaluated and scored accordingly.
Charro horses also perform tricks, very similar to those of the famous Lippazzaner stallions in Austria. Trick riding such as rearing on signal, backing up on the horse’s two back feet, and spinning, have given these horses the moniker of “dancing horses.” In addition, they can be trained to prance in time to music, making them appear to dance with the strains of popular Mexican ballads.
They often are the lead feature in Texas-México border parades and rodeos. Charro horses are also used to showcase a charro rider’s elaborate rope tricks while calmly cantering around an
arena. And of course, if you’re a horse lover, all charro horses are selected for their beautiful conformation and flowing manes and tails.
For you western lovers, I hope you have enjoyed this explanation of a fascinating sport, featuring beautiful and very talented horses. And I hope you will read more about charro horses in my story, “Border Romance.” You can find more about my books at my website or my Facebook page. For beautiful pictures of charro horses, visit my “A Cowboy To Keep” Board on Pinterest.
Catch a cowboy … Keep a cowboy …
Don’t miss this great collection from USA Today, Amazon Bestselling, and Award-Winning authors!! Available here.
THE LEGEND OF BAD MOON RISING by Carra Copelin
Sheriff Ben Hammond is finally over the woman who shattered his heart, but when Dinah Horne suddenly returns, can he ignore the passion still burning bright between them?
CITY BOY, COUNTRY HEART by Andrea Downing
Trading horses for subways for two years seemed like a good idea to cowboy Chay Ridgway, but can city girl K.C. Daniels keep a rein on his country heart?
BLUE SAGE by Kristy McCaffrey
Archaeologist Audrey Driggs rolls off a mountain and lands at the feet of rugged cowboy Braden Delaney. Together, they’ll uncover a long-lost secret.
THE DRIFTER’S KISS by Devon McKay
Determined to take back what belongs to her, Addison Reed will do anything. Even trust a complete stranger.
HER MAN by Hildie McQueen
Deputy Mark Hunter falls for Eliza Brock during a murder investigation. Is it fate or bad luck, especially when she may be involved?
BORDER ROMANCE by Hebby Roman
Widow Leticia Villarreal wants to establish a horse-racing stable and old acquaintance John Clay Laidlaw offers to help. But can she trust him with her business and her heart?
PHOENIX HEAT by Patti Sherry-Crews
After losing her fiancé and her New York City business, Harper Donovan returns to Arizona and meets cowboy Frank Flynn. Will his past and their differences extinguish the heat between them?
Thanks, western readers for stopping by and chatting with me today on Petticoats and Pistols. Charro horses are mostly an unknown quantity for most rodeo goers, unless you’re in the Southwestern part of the United States, close to the Mexican border. These are beautiful and very talented horses that I wanted to highlight for readers.
If you leave a comment, you will be included in the drawing for my Giveaway today: a $25 Amazon Gift Card. So, please, fire away with those comments or questions!
Eadweard Muybridge, born Edward Muggeridge in Kingston-upon-Thames, London, (April 30, 1820) became an American icon. How? By inventing the motion picture! When I first read about him years ago, I knew someday, somehow, he would be a character in one of my books—and he finally did, in my latest release, When Hearts Fly.(I’m giving an e-copy away today to one commenter, so please leave some words behind before you ride off.)
What made him stand out to me? Well, first of all, was the name change. I grew up with such an odd name myself, I would never have made it worse. But when he came to America in 1850, Edward Muggeridge spelled it Eadweard Muybridge because he believed the archaic spellings were truer to his Old English roots.
However, he took “Helois” as his professional name as a photographic artist in San Francisco where he earned a stellar reputation. In a traveling darkroom, he produced breathtaking landscapes of the West, most famously Yosemite and Alaska.
At thirty, Muybridge suffered a head injury in a stagecoach accident. Changes in his behavior and vision alarmed his friends. It is believed now the accident damaged his frontal cortex, an explanation for his increasingly eccentric behavior…
…which culminated in the cold-blooded, shot-through-the-heart murder of his wife Flora’s lover in 1874. He had become convinced her baby had been fathered by Major Harry Larkins. Although his lawyers used the stagecoach injury in an insanity defense, the jurors didn’t buy it. Nonetheless, they did acquit Muybridge on the grounds of justifiable homicide.
(His penchant for killing an adulterous male is a plot point in my novella, when my hero’s past behavior with Muybridge’s fictional niece is misconstrued.)
The early 1870’s saw the rise of Muybridge’s place in history. Railroad tycoon, former California governor, and soon-to-be-founder of a great University, Leland Stanford hired Eadweard to settle a bet.
A fiery controversy blazed at this time: was there ever a moment in a horse’s gait when all four hooves left the ground? Prevailing attitudes claimed NO—if horses were meant to fly God would have given them wings.
But Stanford believed differently and wanted Muybridge to capture the moment. However, the moment happened too fast for the human eye to see.
During some five years of experiments at Stanford’s farm in Palo Alto, California, Muybridge’s primitive results did show a horse “in flight” but the results did not survive. Finally, he and Stanford were ready to face the crowds. In June, 1878, at a racetrack at the farm, Muybridge set up 12 cameras with strings tripping the shutters to capture the images against a screen. In front of enthusiastic spectators, a horse named Sallie Gardener proved four feet off the ground.
The achievement was featured in the October 1878 issue of Scientific American.
In 1883, Muybridge went to the University of Pennsylvania to continue his photographic studies of animals—and humans, some nude!—in motion. He had access to the veterinary college and the local zoo. And unclothed athletes as well.
His invention, the zoopraxiscope, showed images on a rotating glass plate projected against a screen. However, the images on the scope, about the size of a dinner plate, had to be drawn on. At that time, they were not his actual photographs. He toured the country and Europe giving demonstrations of “motion pictures.”
Muybridge’s techniques inspired Thomas Edison back then, and still inspire artists and film makers today. He died of cancer in 1904.
Are you a fan of motion pictures? What’s your favorite movie Western?
Innkeeper Cordy Meeker wants a cowboy all her own and to head to the mountains to find him. But she faces financial ruin thanks to her late gambler brother and a hopeless winter of no paying guests. With the bank threatening foreclosure, she needs help fast.
On his way to his family’s holdings in Colorado, British nobleman Hawk Shockley lands in Paradise, Nebraska on a whim, robbed and penniless. Concocting a money-making scheme with the beautiful Cordy is easy, and giving his heart easier, but a woman has gotten him into a pickle before. So…when Eadweard Muybridge threatens to come to town, will a last-minute wedding make things better? Or worse?
Cordy tightened the shawl so she didn’t scream. But cry, never that. No man would ever make her cry again. Not even the foolish banker. Never. Not after Lambert Truefitt. In some way, she would outwit Mr. Pelikan and his ilk at the bank. True, she hadn’t had a guest for weeks. True, her Sunday chicken dinners were wildly popular. But also true, locals hurried home after church before it snowed again.
So bills had mounted. She and her horses had to eat. The mercantile allowed her to pay down her debt of nine dollars and twenty cents two bits at a time.
Clancy. She clenched her fists. A trudge to the cemetery would be muddy, but the urge to kick her brother’s headstone wouldn’t be stifled. Finally, anger outranked grief, relief, and guilt. On her way to the tiny vestibule where she kept her rubber boots, the little counter bell clanged. But she didn’t hurry. With her present luck, it would be Sheriff Pelton arresting her on behalf of her felonious brother, and she couldn’t afford bail. Finally she called out on the fourth ring.
“I’ll be right with you.” Then she tripped on a boot, stumbled, flailed.
And landed in the arms of a man just in time to break her fall. His warmth scented from the outdoors snuggled around her. Cordy managed to toss her arms around his neck. He held her panting form against his mighty chest.
Then her breath stopped. The sight of him heated her blood. Here he was, as if stepping out from a dream. Her Wild West cowboy, with his Stetson and scruffy cheeks and lake-blue eyes she wanted to drown in.
“Are you all right?” His voice rumbled from his chest to her ear. A drawl mixed with someplace else.
“Yes.” She saddened when he broke contact and set her down. He kept hold of her hand, and she practically fell in love on the spot. “I’m fine. Thank you.”
“I am Keaton Shockley.” He touched his brim and removed his Stetson. Weather and leather ruffled his rugged coffee-brown hair. “And I’d like to let a room. I must find C. Meeker, proprietor.”
Her heart flipped inside itself. Not only a paying customer, but a handsome one. Oh, and how magnificently that duster tightened around his shoulder muscles when he moved.
“You have found her. I’m Miss Cordelia Meeker. Welcome to my inn.” She held out her hand. Adding the Miss risked her appearing a stuffy spinster, but it was a surefire way to inform him she was unmarried. “But do call me Cordy.” There.
“Do call me Hawk.”
“Hawk?” Oh, so…cowboy!
She sparked to her toes when they touched. He raised the hand he held, slowly, then placed it against his warm lips. “Keaton supposedly means where hawks fly.”
Writers who pen westerns must have a deep-seated respect for animals. All those horses and cattle. The loyal dogs. The villainous rattlesnakes. Shoot, even the chickens have a role to play. Out on the lonely prairie, a fella was more apt to talk to his horse than another person for days on end.
I love animals. But I have a confession to make . . . I don’t own any. Part of the reason is that my husband has allergies, especially where cats and other long-haired critters are concerned. Another contributing factor is the three children living with us who already demand a lot of attention and cleaning up after. Also, with all the traveling I do for my writing career, the hassle of finding and paying for dog sitters is not terribly attractive at this point. Maybe once our nest is empty and all the kids have left, we’ll consider some four-legged children, but for now we only support the two-legged variety.
I had dogs and cats as a child – all outdoor animals. We had seven acres with lots of room to roam. But even then, the animals always loved my brother more than me. It seemed dreadfully unfair until I realized that he was the one who lived outside with them. Playing. Going on adventures. More often than not I was in my room reading about animals. All those great Black Stallion books. Old Yeller. Sounder. Where the Red Fern Grows. (Why are the dog books always so sad???) I would imagine myself racing across the plains on my trusty steed, but in truth I’ve only ever ridden about a dozen times in my life and mostly those were at a walking pace. Sigh.
But the imagination is a wonderful thing. I can create heroines who ride, shoot, and spit better than any man if I so desire. Or give a boy a dog that becomes his most trusted confidant. So that’s what I do. I add animals to my books, name them, and give them special connections with their owners. Then I live vicariously through my characters to enjoy all the benefits of animal love without any of the unromantic poop scooping or hair vacuuming.
In my latest release, my animal-loving heart had free reign. My hero, Benjamin Porter, is a freighter who is a gifted horse trainer. He has a pair of beautifully matched black Shires who pull his heavy freight wagon. They both have white socks and blazes, but only one has a white belly. It’s the only way others can tell the two draft horses apart. Thanks to a childhood fascination with Greek mythology, he named them Helios and Hermes. Hermes for the Greek god of trade and the guardian of travelers; and Helios for the Greek god of the sun who relied on mighty steeds to pull his golden chariot through the sky.
In my story, Ben is attempting to court his business partner, shopkeeper Victoria Adams. Tori has a young son named Lewis, and on one of their business trips, she barters goods in exchange for a puppy for Lewis. I, of course decided to keep with the black and white color scheme and adorableness, so I chose an Australian shepherd pup.
Here’s the scene where the puppy comes into play:
“Sarah said I could name him.” Lewis grinned, all trepidation vanishing as excitement took over. “He’s the biggest pup of the litter, so I thought I’d call him Hercules. What do you think? Just like the strong man in the stories you tell me.”
Satisfied that the horses were calm, Ben put a hand to Lewis’s shoulder and steered him a couple paces away. He hunkered down and offered his fingers for the pup to smell, enduring the friendly licks and shameless begging for attention before giving in and ruffling the dog’s ears.
When he and his brother had been kids, they’d run across a book on Greek mythology in their teacher’s collection and had enjoyed the adventure stories so well, they’d started naming all their animals after the ancient characters. They still did as adults, though Bartholomew had more of an opportunity, running a livery in Seymour. Ben had saved the names he’d chosen until he’d found the draft horses that lived up to them. Hermes for the Greek god of trade and the guardian of travelers; and Helios for the Greek god of the sun who relied on mighty steeds to pull his golden chariot through the sky.
“Hercules is a big name for such a little pup.” Ben raised a brow in feigned concern. “You sure he deserves such a tag?”
Lewis looked down at the fuzzy fur ball, scrunched his forehead in thought, then lifted his chin in the same stubborn way his ma did. “Well, even Hercules started as a baby.” He lifted the puppy into Ben’s face until they practically touched noses. “He’ll grow, just like the other Hercules did. He’ll get strong and brave and be the best dog ever!”
“I reckon you’re right.” Ben eased the pup away from his face then pushed to his feet, rubbing Lewis’s hair as he stood. “It was Hercules’s actions that made him a legend, not his name. A man should always remember that. It isn’t his name or his clothes or how much money he has that matters. It’s the way he conducts himself—with honor, kindness, and courage—that makes a lasting difference in the world.”
“So you like the name?” The boy blinked up at him, giving Ben no idea if his attempt at conveying a life lesson had penetrated.
Oh, well. He winked at the boy. “I think it’s an outstanding name.” He tilted his head and scrutinized the pup a second time. “This one’s definitely hero material. You picked well, Lewis.”
The boy beamed and ran back to the little girl waiting for him by the trough. Ben’s heart gave a tug as he watched the two put their heads together and giggle over the puppies’ antics. Lewis had wormed his way into Ben’s heart months ago. It hadn’t taken long. The kid was so eager to please and so hungry for male attention, a rare commodity in a town full of womenfolk. Now, Ben couldn’t imagine his life without the little guy.
Although . . . a secret smile slid across Ben’s face as he watched the two young’uns crawl around in the dirt like pups themselves . . . he could imagine giving Lewis a little brother or sister to play with. That would be a pleasure indeed.
So what are your favorite animals to share real or imagined adventures with?
In my new release THE TEXAN’S ONE-NIGHT STANDOFF, my heroine Ruby Lopez is an expert horse wrangler and trainer. As a result I had to do some extensive research on the subject of training horses. I found some inspiration in the Australian television series Downunder Horseman, a tutorial on how to train horses. Believe it or not, horses aren’t exactly docile and they have many fears that they need to overcome, such as approaching a body of water, or going into the water. It is not necessarily an inherent trait. Ruby is a gentle soul when it comes to animals, but she’s a spitfire and an independent woman, who isn’t opposed to flipping a man over her shoulders when he deserves it. She was so much fun to write, seeing how the man she nicknamed Galahad, because he rushed to her defense one night, softens her rough edges.
How many of these fun horse facts did you know? I was amazed at some of them!
Horses can sleep both lying down and standing up.
Horses can run shortly after birth.
Domestic horses have a lifespan of around 25 years.
A 19th century horse named ‘Old Billy’ is said to have lived 62 years.
Horses have around 205 bones in their skeleton
Horses have been domesticated for over 5000 years
A horse’s teeth take up more space in the head than a horse’s brain.
Horses drink at least 25 gallons of water a day, more in hotter climates.
Horses are herbivores (plant eaters).
Because horse’s eyes are on the side of their head they are capable of seeing nearly 360 degrees at one time.
Horses gallop at around 27 mph.
The fastest recorded sprinting speed of a horse was 55 mph.
Estimates suggest that there are around 60 million horses in the world.
Scientists believe that horses have evolved over the past 50 million years from much smaller creatures.
When horses look like they’re laughing, they’re actually engaging in a special nose-enhancing technique known as “flehmen” to determine if the smell is bad or good.
Horses have bigger eyes than any other mammal that lives on land. (That’s amazing!)
I’ve been running this fun prize package on Facebook, yesterday, today and tomorrow. Prize includes DVD, Bracelet Bling, two Charlene Sands’ books and Santa Kisses! Please stop by and enter to win my Twelve Days of Desire Giveaway!
We all know to be on our guard when buying a used car. But a clever Old West horse dealer could make even the slickest car dealer look like Honest Abe.
Those early cowboys in the market for a horse didn’t have to worry about odometer fraud or hidden accident damage, but there were plenty of other ways they could be duped.
Many an old mare was made to appear young again by a method called bishoping. The horse traders of yesteryear often filed the teeth of elderly horses and stained them with silver nitrate. This little trick could shave years off a horse’s age. A story in a 1910 newspaper reported that one man paid dearly for a seventeen-year-old horse thinking it was but seven.
Horses with sore muscles were temporarily cured by the gasoline trick. Gasoline was rubbed into a horse’s back and withers. Supposedly, this allowed horses to move pain-free long enough to allow an unscrupulous horse trainer to pocket his money and leave town.
Another trick involved removing a shoe to disguise a lame horse. The horse trader would convince a prospective buyer that once the shoe was replaced, the horse would be fine.
It wasn’t just old age and limps that could be concealed. Sponges shoved up a horse’s nostrils would hide the sound of labored breathing or a runny nose. Irritants hidden in other parts of the body made a sickly horse hold its tail high and appear active. This was called gingering.
Droopy ears could be easily fixed by running a thread under the forelock.
A Pennsylvania newspaper dated 1897 reported that when a prospective buyer voiced concern over a horse’s slow speed, the horse trader took him for a ride. Unbeknownst to the buyer, the horse trader had arranged to be arrested for “speeding” and willingly paid the five dollar fine. The duped buyer was so impressed, he immediately bought the horse.
White horses were often made to look more attractive by the addition of black spots. This was accomplished by a combination of powdered lime and litharge. A handsome star was often added to a black horse’s forehead by spreading warm pitch to a spot shaved in the shape of a star. The pitch was left on for three days and then washed away with elixir of vitriol. The hair grew back white.
One horse trader received a complaint that the horse he sold the day before must be blind as it kept walking into things. “Well, he ain’t blind,” the trader explained. “He just don’t care.”
Anyone ever come across an unscrupulous dealer or pushy salesman?
Every Tuesday afternoon I drive the highway to heaven–the country road that takes me to the horse rescue 20 miles into the hills. And I come home three hours later tired, dusty, but in love more than ever with the beautiful horses there.
You see, I’m a feeder! (Well, also a mucker–what goes in must come out LOL.)
This beautiful little corner of the world is all donation, all volunteer. Even the acres of our little ranchette were a gift. All of our horses have a story; some have experienced abuse, neglect and abandonment. Others have no place else to go when owners can’t care for them anymore. Two came as newborn foals, rescued with their mothers from a slaughterhouse. (One of the mamas has been lovingly adopted. The other mare didn’t make it, having given her all to nurse her baby.)
But here, now, they experience hope, love, compassion and care until they find a forever home or cross the Rainbow Bridge. All have a covered stall, and there’s also plenty of grass pasture for romping and exercise! There’s also two fine training arenas.
Back to feeding. Before I knew anything, I assumed one just dumped a load of “hay” in a feed trough. Not so. Each horse has a specified diet. Some have allergies; some need to gain weight, others lose it. Some need specific vitamins or medications. Each horse has his/her “menu” posted on a white board that you check first thing.
Three kinds of hay–oat, grass and alfalfa. And many different tubs of pellets, varying from alfalfa pellets (like big rabbit food) to mixtures for senior horses, healthy living, or rice bran for weight gain. My first few weeks as a feeder, I attached little post-it notes with a horse’s name onto the various buckets so I didn’t get mixed up. Now, I’ve gotten so comfy I don’t need to. Our Cheyenne gets a pellet mix that actually smells like you’re doing your Christmas baking.
And here is Chey, above, our gorgeous paint Saddlebred. When he first got here, he was so terrified of humans (especially men) that he’d run to the farthest corner of his stall when anybody approached. A few trainers deemed him “incorrigible.” But he’s gotten a lot of specialized TLC here. A few weeks ago, when a bunch of high schoolers came for a service project, he rested his head on a boy’s shoulder. I still get teary-eyed! He’s come so far.
I love Bridge’s elf ears and how about those bangs! This handsome Arabian spent his first nine years isolated in the confines of a breeding stall! Now this beautiful boy (gelded) has assimilated to his herdmates and gets to play outside!
Jay-Jay is a real sweetheart. This glorious chestnut Thoroughbred is a former (neglected) racehorse. Well, he’s not neglected anymore!
Heart, an Egyptian Arabian, sparkles in the sun. He came to the rescue with his owner just couldn’t keep him. He’s a real social guy with a sense of humor and a terrific intelligence. He’s our Houdini and Einstein mix.
In addition to my new feeder status LOL, I also teach the once-a-month orientation class for new volunteers. And for the recent annual fundraiser picnic, I made a herd of these little guys. They went for a $10 donation each!
Well, I hope you enjoyed visiting this piece of Paradise with me today. I can’t wait for Tuesday!
How about you? Anybody have horse stories? Volunteer experiences?
Welcome to Becca Whitham! Today Becca is giving away a print copy of The Cowboy’s Bride Collection, but she won’t be able to mail the book until April. Anticipation is a good thing, right? Join me in welcoming Becca!
I’m excited to be a guest on Petticoats and Pistols today. A big thank you to Karen Witemeyer for hosting me.
My latest release is a novella called “Cowboy Competition” which is part of The Cowboy’s Bride Collection. While researching, I discovered a distressing story about horses starving to death on the Great Plains during the mid-1800’s. The story was connected to the US Cavalry which imported people and horses from all over the country. Born and bred on richer grasses, the horses couldn’t survive on the less nutritious prairie grass so oats and corn were shipped in. If a train carrying the supplemental food was delayed, the horses died. Several solutions were devised. One was to grow corn and oats in Texas, and the hazards these farmers faced are worth a story of their own. The second was to take horses born and bred on the plains and train them to be cavalry horses.
The reaction to this second idea was mixed, and that’s what I used in my story. My hero, Toby, is certain the army will pay fistfuls for trained horses that can survive without supplemental oats and corn. The fastest and cheapest way to start was to round up wild mustangs who roamed the plains. My heroine, Nia, thinks Toby’s loco because mustangs are called wild for a reason! If you’ve ever seen a bronco busting rodeo event, you understand why Nia was concerned.
History records that, starting in 1849, the army began to purchase prairie bred horses—as many as they could get their hands on. Bronco busting became big business. (Try saying that five times fast!) So Toby was right. But Nia was right, too. Not everyone can tame a wild mustang. It takes a very special person to do it. If you don’t believe me, here’s a link to a movie called Wild Horse, Wild Ride.
The enduring appeal of a cowboy is centered on a man tough enough to tame a wild mustang but gentle enough to earn its trust. These men are the stuff of legend…and romance.
Becca Whitham (WIT-um) is a multi-published author who has always loved reading and writing stories. After raising two children, she and her husband faced the empty nest years by following their dreams: he joined the army as a chaplain, and she began her journey toward publication. Becca loves to tell stories marrying real historical events with modern-day applications to inspire readers to live Christ-reflecting lives. She’s traveled to almost every state in the U.S. for speaking and singing engagements and has lived in Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Alaska. Website.
Horses are a staple of western fiction. When writing or reading about them, it’s helpful to understand what they look like in motion and how each gait sounds. Whether or not an experienced horseman can see the animal, he or she can determine how fast a horse is moving by the distinctive rhythm of hooves striking the earth..
A walk is a four-beat gait, meaning each hoof moves independently. The walk is a very comfortable gait for riders because it’s smooth, producing only a slight swaying motion. At a walk, even inexperienced riders have no trouble keeping their butts in the saddle.
Horses can walk all day, even carrying a load, but they don’t move very far very fast. The average horse will cover three to four miles an hour at a walk; some move as slowly as two miles per hour.
Trot and jog
Technically, a jog is slower than a trot, but in the Old West the terms were used interchangeably. Nowadays, at least among the general public, it’s more common to hear both referred to as trotting. Jogging and trotting are two-beat gaits in which diagonal pairs of legs move together: left rear with right front; right rear with left front.
The technical difference between “trot” and “jog” may be observed as equestrians put their mounts through a variety of competitive maneuvers at horse shows. Probably more familiar is the trotting seen in harness racing. Racing trotters often cover as much ground as quickly as other horses do at a gallop. Some harness races require horses to pace, a two-beat gait in which the legs on one side move forward together. Faster than a trot, pacing is not a particularly comfortable gait for riders. In fact, some report “seasickness” as a result of the horse’s pronounced swaying motion.
Jogging and trotting are a horse’s natural working gaits. If left to his own devices (and not escaping a threat), a horse will jog or trot when he wants to cover distance quickly. At a trot, horses cover an average of about eight miles in an hour.
Even under saddle, horses can jog or trot for a long time without tiring, but many riders can’t take the pace. Jogging and trotting can be extremely jarring and put enormous strain on the muscles in a rider’s legs, back, and abdomen. Working cowboys who spend a good deal of time in the saddle may move their horses at a jog or trot, but pleasure riders generally try to avoid the gaits if they value their backsides, which slap the saddle with each step until the rider learns to “move with the horse.”
So-called “gaited horses” like the Tennessee Walking Horse and the American Saddlebred don’t jog or trot. Instead, they “amble” in a natural four-beat middle gait called a “running walk” (Tennessee Walker) or “rack” (American Saddlebred). A horse moving at either gait can cover as many as fifteen miles in an hour. Because all four hooves move independently, the “ambling gaits” are comfortable for riders. Though both Tennessee Walkers and American Saddlebreds were known in the Old West, most were pleasure horses for the gentry.
Lope or canter
Lope and canter are essentially the same gait, a three-beat movement in which three hooves are off the ground while one rear hoof supports the horse’s weight. Here’s the difference between the two terms: Horses under western (or “stock”) saddles lope; horses under English saddles (or “pancakes”) canter. No self-respecting cowboy would sit a horse that insisted on cantering.
At a lope, horses can cover about ten to fifteen miles in an hour; some can reach speeds of up to twenty-seven miles per hour.
The gallop, a four-beat gait, is the horsey equivalent of run and averages about thirty miles per hour. Horses bred for speed, like Thoroughbreds and racing Quarter Horses, can gallop as fast as fifty miles per hour.
In the wild, horses gallop in order to escape a threat. Most horses can gallop for only a mile or two without risking serious injury or death. (Yes, some horses will run themselves to death at the urging of a rider, but the phenomenon is extremely rare.)
As an aside, Eadweard Muybridge created Sallie Gardner at a Gallop (right) in June 1878 by stringing together images captured in sequence by a line of twelve automatically triggered cameras placed beside a racetrack. The moving image and the zoopraxiscope Muybridge invented to play it are considered the “bridge” between still photography and cinematography. The experiment was designed to settle an ages-old debate about whether all four of a galloping horse’s hooves are off the ground simultaneously at any point. The moving image confirmed they are, at the moment the horse collects its legs under its belly.
How far can a horse travel?
How far a horse can travel in a day depends on the horse’s condition, the availability of food and water, and the terrain the animal is asked to cover. At a combination of lope and walk, a young horse in optimal condition can travel fifty to sixty miles a day in good weather over level terrain, as long as he is allowed to drink and graze every couple of hours. The faster a horse moves, the more often he will need to rest, eat, and drink.
Though it may seem counter-intuitive, the longer a horse moves fast, the shorter the distance it can cover in a day. Pony Express riders galloped about 10 miles (or about half an hour) before changing horses and usually covered 60-70 miles a day, but that was an exceptionally grueling pace for the rider. An average mounted pace is about 40 miles per day, which is the progress the U.S. Cavalry aimed for during the nineteenth century. Over uneven terrain or in bad weather, a horse and rider would do well to cover twenty miles per day. In the mountains, ten miles per day would be a good pace.
Many cowboys carried grain—usually corn or oats—in order to get more out of their horses. Grain provides increased carbohydrate-based energy. Sweet feed, which contains molasses, was not common unless a horse was stabled. Horses love sweet feed, but it’s not good for them except as a treat.
Remember, too, that most working cowboys preferred—and still prefer—to ride geldings over mares or stallions. Although there are exceptions to every rule, geldings usually are much more tractable than intact horses. Stallions can be a handful at best and a nightmare if a mare anywhere in the vicinity is in season. Mares establish a pecking order within a herd and can be cranky. In the wild, a mare runs the herd; stallions are tolerated only for breeding and protection.
What do you find most fascinating about horses? Tell us in the comments, and you could win a KINDLE copy of the four-novel boxed setA Cowboy’s Touch, which includesThe Half-Breed’s Woman by Cheryl Pierson, Spirit Catcher by Livia J. Washburn, Wild Texas Winds by Kit Prate, and Prodigal Gun by Kathleen Rice Adams.(All Petticoats and Pistols sweepstakes rules apply to this giveaway.)