On Having Dogs-

Wally, in the front, with Abby in the back.

When I was little, my mom did not like dogs, certainly not dogs in the house-dogs.  When I was in third grade, my mom went off to Oklahoma for a week.  My dad took vacation time to watch my sister and I.  As soon as my mom was on the plane, we were off to a breeder and purchased a four-month old, Miniature Schnauzer puppy.  At the time, I thought this was by far the biggest event ever.  We were finally getting a dog.  We were surprising my mom.  Biggest secret ever!  I realize now that my father would have never, ever purchased a dog without my mother’s approval but that knowledge was year’s away from occurring to me.

So, I had my first dog.  His name was Scamp.  He endured a lot with me.  Croquet sets, lawn chairs with brooms, tires stacked sideways and anything else I could find would be set as a jump course.  Of course he was not a horse, but there was no lack of trying to make him into my version of one.  He weighed 15 pounds but he tried hard.  He was the first of many. 

I went from small to large.  I developed an affinity for Dobermans.  I owned them and for a while, bred them, striving for great temperament and conformation.  I have owned many types of dogs over the years-from a huge Irish wolfhound (still so dear to my soul) to tiny Yorkies and Shih Tzus.  I would be hard pressed to tell you my favorite.  The wolfhound was my most challenging dog.   We started off the worst in our obedience class and ended up first after six weeks of hard work.  I am proud that Ryan and Amber took my advice to get a “gentle giant” as they are called. 

Ally holding Nicki (Shih Tzu), young Lauren, Mac, the Irish Wolfhound and Tippy (Bearded Collie). Clockwise from top

 I love the miniature Dachshund I own now-she is currently one of my favorites. 

Over the years, I have not discriminated.  Here is a partial list of what’s been in my home:

  • Dobermans-my most common dog to own. I had two when Amber was born (over 30 years ago), many more throughout the years and I have two (one is a mix) now
  • Dachshunds (both miniature and Standards)
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Border Collie
  • Bearded Collie (great breed of dog)
  • Irish Wolfhound
  • Keeshonds
  • German shepherds (love them-hate the tail and the hair)
  • Shih Tzus
  • Yorkshire Terriers-in Florida and again now
  • Jack Russell Terriers (never again-little too much crazy for me!)
  • Welsh Corgi
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Poodles (toy and standards)

Obviously, I am all over the place with what I love.  I like the Dobs because they are smart, have short hair, no tails and don’t slobber.  My truest companions have been Dobermans.  I am a supporter of the Doberman rescue (here in Houston it is HADR.org).  Wally, who I lost this last year, was my best boy for so many years and came from that rescue. Abby, also from the Doberman Rescue, was one of the finest dogs I have ever owned.  She was six when she came to our home. Considered by many to be too old to adopt, we enjoyed eight more great years with her including earning her AKC-Good Citizen designation.

I try to get rescue or adoptive animals whenever possible.  We have supported so many over the years.  I have six (I know that is a crazy number) dogs right now.  Two just showed up and joined our family.  When you live in an area of low people population and a high animal population, there are not the resources for lost, starved or stray animals like there are in the city.  As an animal lover, I cannot stand to see one hurt, starved, or on its own.  I am a sucker.  I understand that.  Fortunately for the animals there are several of us that exist.  I have threatened multiple times to take an animal in the dark of night and drop it off near my friends, Gaylyn and Becky’s houses.  They are animal lover like I am and would certainly take care of anything that showed up at their door.  So okay, I have never done that-but know an animal could count on them if needed.

I love dogs.  I love all kinds of dogs.  There are some better fitted to my life-style but someone who can simultaneously own a Shih Tzu and wolfhound obviously just enjoys the company of dogs.

Sunday Morning

I love Sunday morning when no horse shows are scheduled. Normally, I feed before 5 am and must immediately move on to the process of getting ready for my day. I have the routine down to an art, dogs out, drop their feed, feed Puppy Girl (separate so she is not eaten), outside then to feed multiple cats (can cats be in a pack?-because I am pretty sure this is a pack)  waiting on the front porch  their dry food, then hike across to the barn, ask Leo if he is hungry, watch him nod his head, dump four big buckets of horse feed, go back to the house share one can of wet food for the kittens, then take Puppy Girl outside to pee.  Then, I start my day.  Sunday is an opportunity to stop and pet a cat before I just dump kitten chow, altering the daily routine.

On Sunday, I can stop to ask Kid how his night was and take a minute to clean out his eyes. I can pick which dog gets to come with me to hang out in my room while I lay down a little longer and enjoy the still dark morning.

Even when I finally get out of bed (okay, so it 7 a.m. not that late-but a luxury for me) I can ease into the chores. It is the one day where there is a chance to catch up on some projects, rake the front of the barn, scrub water buckets and re-arrange all the tack that has gotten out-of-place during the week. Sounds like chores, but these are the chores I love.

All the horse get to go out in the grassy paddock on Sunday mornings. It is small so if it were an everyday thing, it would quickly have no grass at all. But Sunday mornings, the gates are opened and the horses gorge themselves on the fresh spring grass.

Sunday mornings I watch the sun come up lighting my barn with its shimmering rays, then stretching across to the arena where the first ride of the day will take place. It is still cool and there is usually a nice breeze.

On great Sundays, I convince the arena-loving Lauren to go out and ride the hay roads with me. I love being out in “the wide-open spaces” at least for this corner of Texas.

Later I will shower, spend some time in the air conditioning, catching up on a movie or reading.

Sundays, simple days, simple times, a lot of joy.

Thanks for riding along with me! Let me when something strikes a chord with you or just leave me a comment. Thanks!

Life and Death-

Before we have the grand time of meeting the other animal members of Six Meadow Farm, I would like to reflect on life and death.  Big subject.  I will not have lengthy comments.

At this farm, at any farm, the promise of life is death.  We, and animals, are born and we will die.  Sounds harsh, but it is the way of things.  My granddaughter has already faced the death of many of the cats she has carried about and loved.  The concept of death is not a strange one to her.  It is the nature of living in the country where there are other animal predators (dogs, coyotes, snakes) and where a state highway runs in front of your acreage.  She has known the sorrow I have felt when my two favorite Dobermans were put down.  Certainly, she watched me cry hot tears when I learned my cousin had suddenly and inexplicably died.  She will be the first to reassure me that they are dwelling in the halls of heaven.  She is wise beyond her years.

In some ways, I think it is good that she knows life can be fleeting and life can be short.  How many of us first learned of death with when a grandparent passed away?  I think I did.  I have seen a lot of death (and mourned a lot) since then.  But the death was unusual and I was not comfortable with death.  No one wants death but we all must learn to accept it.

The farm has no vacation from death.  It is always around.  I do not mean to equate the life of a person to a life of an animal.  But I have mourned both.

Today I learned that a dog that has served valiantly as a hospice therapy dog, bringing comfort to so many in their last days, will have his young life ended due to a vigorous and aggressive cancer. 

Here is what Jon Katz said about his dog.  “This loss is our life with dogs and animals and I know it and I accept it. I will feel this grief and acknowledge it, but it is only part of the story, which is mostly great joy, happiness and fulfillment”.

I am saddened and forever confused by the choices God makes in who he takes to his kingdom and when he choses to take them.  I have learned that the good do indeed die young.  But as I have tried to have Jordyn learn and accept, death is part of us.  One day we will all move on.  Today I chose joy and life, as I cannot dwell in the shadow of death.

Meet the Horses-Flagmount’s Irish Freedom

Name: Flagmount’s Irish Freedom

Aliases:  Feather, Fifi, Mare of Crazy Town

Breed: Irish Sport Horse/Thoroughbred Cross Age: 4

How Obtained:  The McMaster’s from Florida

Best Traits:  Beautiful.  Feather, as her name suggests, seems to float when she moves.  By far the most conformationally correct of any of our horses.

Worst Traits:  Feather is like beautiful girl who is not being noticed at the party.  She runs around.  She swishes her tail.  She bats her eyes. As the only girl (mare) at the farm, she really thinks one of the boys (and hopefully Mickey) will fall in love with her.  They all tolerate her like a tiresome kid sister but no one is particularly taken with her.  It makes her a little anxious.  She wants to know what Mickey is doing at all times.  She has her eye on him and wants to share hay or grass. Or just stand with him, dozing in the sunshine.

Mickey on a rare occasion of sharing with Feather.

Occasionally, Mickey goes along with her insistent need for togetherness, but mostly he is unimpressed.  If there is truly no one paying attention to her, she will go push ol’ Kid around the pasture some.  He puts up with her when no one else will.

Background: Feather is still young and may grow some.  She stands just under 16 hands.  She was bred to jump, for conformation and for a balanced temperament.  Although born in Texas, she was in Florida when we heard of her and were lucky enough to obtain her.

Her life at Six Meadow Farm:  How do you describe a dream?  Not unlike a parent dreaming of what their child will accomplish, horse owners dream of what their horses will do.  Obtaining Feather was a dream come true for Lauren and I.  Feather’s relatives are solid jumpers with much more ability to jump high than anyone in our barn.  Feather’s breeding also supports a solid, business-like temperament, that you guessed it, Mickey will never have.  When the McMaster’s offered Feather for sale it was an instant yes for us.  If Feather does what we hope she will do, she will provide Lauren with that “next step”.  She will be the horse that can jump successfully, over four feet.   She is the horse that might win some ribbons in the Hunter Derbies.

Right now, she has lots of miles to travel.  As my dad used to say, a good horse is one with a lot of wet saddle pads-they’ve done the time.  So, we will work and train and try.  This could be the horse that takes Lauren where Mickey cannot.  This one is about dreams.

Meet the Horses-Leo’s Blue Moon

This was shortly after we got him. He has gained weight and muscle since then.

Name: Leo’s Blue Moon

Aliases:  Leo, Lee-Lee

Breed: Thoroughbred Age: 13  How Obtained:  Private Party almost a year ago.

Best Traits:  Very sweet disposition-loves people.  Moves very well-very correct.

Worst Traits:  Leo likes to torment his stallmates when it is feeding time.  A kind of Clark Kent to bad Superman conversion comes over him and the mild, mannered horse becomes a biting, lunging, kicking fool (but only at the other horses, only at feeding time-never at people).   Oh, and there is a little problem that he just really can’t figure out how to use his body to jump.  He is athletic but like a star swimmer who can’t figure out how to dive, he cannot seem to get his body coordinated over a jump.

Background: Leo is the biggest horse at our farm, standing almost 16.3 hands high.  He weighs almost 1300 pounds now since my weight improvement project (his not mine). Leo ran two races on the track.  Apparently, that was not a great career path for him.  He is what is known as an “OTTB”-an off the track thoroughbred.  These horses were bred to run and when they are not successful, not fast enough, hurt or whatever the issue is, they are often passed from auction to auction because no one wants them.  Most OTTBs are great horses just needing a second chance.  For more on OTTBs check out- http://www.ottbdesigns.com

His life at Six Meadow Farm:  We purchased Leo as a project.  His breeding (his half-brother has won classes at Pin Oak) and our initial assessment pointed toward success in the jumper ring.  Progress has been a little slow.  Hopefully, over time he will do bigger and better things.  Emily has been helping us out riding and showing him. I have another friend that does dressage and we are hoping they may be a fit.   If we found a great forever home for him we would let him move on.

Meanwhile, he may do some equitation classes with Arianna so she can get used to the “big horse” feel.  He is a sweetheart and Jordyn loves it at feeding time when she asks, “Leo, are you ready to eat?” and he responds by vigorously shaking his head with affirmation.

Leo sharing Skittles with Arianna, Abby and Caroline.

Meet the Horses-Snowbaby Go

Snowbaby Go with Lauren on board making a pretty good imitation of a pony hunter. He is a cute one!

Name: Snowbaby Go (Snowboy)

Aliases:  Snowney the White Pony

Breed: Pony of America  Age: 19  How Obtained:  Horse Rescue-eight years ago-but then was traded back to the rescue for another horse.  Snow went to a bad owner and ended up at the ASPCA.  We, with help from our friend Kathy, adopted him from the ASPCA to a forever home with us.

Best Traits:  Snowney attracts fans.  Kids love him.  He is a show veteran and while not perfect he always does pretty well.

Worst Traits:  Snow first came to the rescue because he would decide to simply lay down (with a rider on his back) when he was done working.  He has done this a few times since coming to us, most notably with Caitlyn.  It is scary but he just lays there.  Also, the list of riders that have fallen off of him is huge (let’s see off the top of my head-Lauren, Caitlyn, Stefani, Cara, Rachel, Arianna, Desi,  most recently Allison and my granddaughter Jordyn), but mostly without injury.  He’s just easy to fall off of since he is a little round, is prone to sudden stops and occasional bucks.

Background: Snowney during his time between rescues was starved.  It influences his behavior-he will eat most anything.  One day I came out to find him covered in blood but he had really eaten every plum from the tree and was covered with juice. He can be quite helpful in always cleaning up spilled grain or hay.

Life at Six Meadow Farm:  Snow is currently at another farm.  Although Jordyn loves him dearly, economics dictates that horses that can work need a job.  Lauren is too old to show him in the pony division any longer.  He is serving well for many new young riders and one day when Jordyn is ready he will return home to stay.  He belongs to Six Meadow Farm, just think of it like he is away at camp.

Dressed for one of her first horse shows, Jordyn worships her Snowney.

Meet the Horses-Irish Midnight

Name: Irish Midnight (Mickey)

Aliases:  Many and colorful based upon his demeanor at the time.

Breed: APHA  Age: 14  How Obtained:  Horse Rescue-nine years ago In August

Best Traits:  Mickey loves to jump. Mickey under saddle is typically easy to ride and handle.  Mickey on the ground-not so much (see worst traits). Mickey-when he is on-is extremely difficult to beat in the jumper ring at a height of 1.0 meter (approximately 3’3″).  Makes us put up with the way he behaves the rest of the time.

Worst Traits:  Mickey, I think is a bully.  If he were a kid, he would be the mean kid.  He kicks.  He bites. He has been known on many occasions to bolt from his handler. He is an ass.  For years, he refused to load into a trailer-just didn’t want to go.  Made him hard to take to shows. For years, Mickey fought being bridled.  Made him difficult to ride.  Mickey didn’t like his ears clipped or his face washed.  Fortunately, with age, he has gotten better.  He has accepted the trailer, the bridle, and the clippers.  He still kicks, bites and hates having his faced washed.

Background: While Mickey started his life well-off and well-behaved in Bartlesville, Oklahoma even showing as a two-year old in Oklahoma State 4-H, before life intervened to land him as a sullen five-year old at the Houston horse rescue.  He refused to walk a step forward for three weeks, then Sarah Petty convinced him to start over.  I spotted him and wanted him for Lauren.  Their first meeting was less than perfect (she threw a spur at him and left in tears).  But we brought him home anyway and he gave my young daughter something that was hers and something to believe in. I truly believe he brought Lauren back from a very dark place.  As much as she saved his life, he saved hers.

His life at Six Meadow Farm:  Lauren and Mickey did their first horse show in 2004 in the walk-trot over poles division.  They earned their first-first place! They were reserve champions for the division.  Since then while not perfect partners-as Mickey feeds off Lauren and Lauren off Mickey-they have earned year-end titles many times over, many Grand and a lot of Reserve championships.  Mickey moved to the jumper division where the winner is the fastest horse (not necessarily the prettiest, most correct, or most perfect).  He is small for this sport at just over 15 hands.  But he can jump, he can turn and he is quick. 

At the farm, Mickey has taken over the herd from Mr. Kid.  He is the king.  And deservedly so. He has Lauren’s heart and no other horse has ever began to mean to her what Mickey does.  She could have ridden better, faster, stronger horses, but she picks Mickey.  He is her man. From the rescue to the United States Equestrian Federation Zone finals, he has carried my daughter to victory more times than not.

Mickey and Lauren making it look easy-flying through Zone 7 finals-2011.

Meet The Horses-Mr. Kid

Name: Kool Kid (Kid)

Aliases:  Mr. Kid, Texas Twister

Breed: AQHA  Age: 30  How Obtained:  Horse Rescue-almost nine years ago

Best Traits:  Best behaved horse with the best disposition that we own.

Worst Traits:  Will always want to be the fastest horse around until the day he dies.

Background: Kid has run on the Quarter Horse track. He was blazing fast. He has done team penning.  He was an amazing barrel horse especially for Sarah Petty.  Successfully winning until he was retired to me at age 20. 

His life at Six Meadow Farm:  Kid was chosen to be a pleasure horse for Ally and I.  Lauren rode him a lot in beginning before Mickey came.  He did a few English shows.  But mostly he has been my companion.  I have ridden countless miles on his back. 

 He will follow me, without a leadrope to the end of the earth (or so I chose to believe).  He has hurt me badly but not intentionally.  I was dumb enough to let other horses canter away from him. His racing background kicked in and I was a participant in the fastest quarter of mile I will ever ride.  Unfortunately when he stopped, I did not.  You know the whole object in motion will stay in  motion-thing? Well, it is true!  I fractured my pelvis in two places, ended up in ICU, wow, what a time.  But I was back in the saddle months later.  We don’t canter anymore.  We don’t run with other horses.  I can be trained.

Four-year-olds Jordyn and Abby ride Mr. Kid.  Two-year old Riley took his first solo ride on Mr. Kid with Lula, the dachshund, along to help. Part of me thinks he enjoys being chosen to be cleaned up and ridden, part of me understands that he is merely tolerating those kids as he was bred for much bigger things. I am never dumb enough to think they could ever do anything but walk him around.  Even at his age with his wisdom, he still has races left to run and he would, regardless of his rider.  Still the kids love him for his calm patience.  When it is time to trot, Jordyn will move on to Mickey.  Kid is only passing time with these little riders.  Behaving as gentleman, but only so far.

He is old for a horse.  I have steeled my heart against the inevitability of his loss.  But he has given me so much life back in the years he has spent with me that I will never regret having him or mourn (too much) losing him.  He has lived a grand life here and I will continue to spoil him until he is gone.

Horse Show Weekends

It doesn’t matter if you are barrel racers, hunter/jumpers, or breed show participants, when it comes to race/show weekends, it all starts the same way.  You just know this will be the best weekend ever.  Throughout the week there is a heightened sense of excitement, preparations are made, horses are cleaned, trailers are packed.  As it gets closer to the time of the show, depending upon where you are going, the weather reports are scanned and analyzed with NASA-like intensity.  Rain, of course, can de-rail the best of plans, especially if like my daughter and I, your ability to drive the trailer, back the trailer, and maneuver safely in high water are minimal.

So, it all goes.  The schooling day begins.  If the horse is perfect, you worry that he won’t maintain the edge.  If he is fresh, you pray he settles in.  If he is in trouble, ducking off barrels, refusing jumps, or whatever the dreaded issue is in your sport, then you seriously pray it gets better before you enter the arena for the real event.  All the while, having that sinking feeling that this is not going be your weekend. 

Then the actual event starts and things start to go one way or another. Everyone is a winner-everyone has great expectations until the first round goes down.  Then  occasionally the losers win and winners lose.  But not often.  It is the usual suspects at the end of the day, picking up the ribbons and the cash.  Still we all show up winners and head home perhaps something less.  I don’t know why we fall for it each time.  Of course, there are those that pretty much always win their class but a crazy judge or unusual weather can be enough to unhinge the best of horses.

It is like the old saying-hope springs eternal.  I guess it does.  We pay our money.  We take our best shot at getting through our appointed course.  And no matter what happens, most of us, come back and do it again.

It is horse show weekend for us, just the local circuit, but the weather is already creating a challenge.  Along with that, in the schooling ring, Mickey was “fresh” and Leo refused all the oxers but then came around. 

The point of jumpers is to clear the designated obstacles utilizing the course description given by the designers. The fastest horse with a "clear round" (one that does not knock down or dis-assemble jumps) wins.

Tomorrow we will set out early (before dawn) and hope for some good luck and blue ribbons.  Hope springs eternal.

Fred Brown-my dad

So what started this crazy love of horses?  For me, although it might well be genetically hard-coded, it was because of my father, the late Fred Brown, that I got the exposure I did and a little girl’s love of horses became a life-long passion.

My father was born in 1912.  I came along late in life for him, the third daughter to be born to superior athlete and I became his last best hope for doing sports-like activities.  My step-sister Lynn, is/was a terrific athlete in many areas but never did much riding.  My deceased sister Betty took lessons and rode adequately but preferred other activities.  I was born with hip issues and spent the first 18 months of my life in a body cast but I was up on a horse long before the casts came off and before I had learned to walk. 

My father had always had Quarter horses and while he had ridden English he preferred the western saddle and trail riding.  In the 1950’s he joined the Roundup Riders of the Rockies, an organization devoted to increasing tourism to Colorado.  He spent a week every summer with them on a 125 mile horseback ride.  He has crossed every mountain pass, accessible to horse, in the state of Colorado over the years and dearly loved the mountains and his horses.

I remember doing chores for him with my best friend, Camille, for the reward of getting to clean his saddle-yeah, I know, stupid kids.  But I loved everything about horses including the smell of the leather cleaner.  My sister Betty and I, at ages 8 and 6, respectively started English riding lesson at George Jayne’s Illinois TriColor Farm.   My father told us if we learned to ride English, we could do anything we wanted in the horse world.

It was with his love and support that I got my first horse at age 11.  Except for a few brief periods in my life, I have owned horses since that time.  My father was a great man, one with many talents who lettered in three sports in high school, played college football, had a top career with United Airlines and still enjoyed his time with his horses.  How lucky could a little girl be to have such support for what they loved to do? Hopefully, I have been that support for my daughters in the interests they have chosen to pursue.