Monthly Archives: July 2007

Clifford of Drummond Island by Nancy J. Bailey

Clifford of Drummond Island is a horse book for horse women – or for those who want to be. Though it is short, the wise reader will consume this book in snippets rather than rush through to the end. It’s a good book to keep in the car and read passages of right before time spent with a horse to help you get into the spirit. I found much insight hereine about horses, humans, families, wildlife, and the pleasures of points north in the great state of Michigan. If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.  Circumspice, citizen.

I feel such a nitwit – I’d never even heard of Drummond Island until I read this book. Clifford of Drummond Island makes me envious, envious I tell you, of the opportunities for horse-bonding and general outdoorsiness that are part and parcel of the life of writer and artist Nancy J. Bailey.  Riding your horse all day on an island settled by your own-by-God-forbearers among others? Hello?  Is there anything better?  I think not .

Nancy is very good at writing narrative descriptions of her training techniques and successes.  One chapter about Zack, a Morgan with an issue or two, was especially moving and honest. I could see Zack responding to the clicks and treats after a few bad months of training and I feel I could understand a bit more of how the clicker training works, even more than watching a video. Plus, Zack the horse had a kind of Helen Keller W-A-T-E-R moment with the clicker — and from that point on, he was willing to learn.


She also writes movingly of the pain of losing animals in her life, from her domesticated ones to the wild hawk that chose to accompany her on her drives until he was killed by a foolish day tripper. She also writes about family, how hard it was when her father needed surgery, about the courage and major, major ‘tude displayed by her sister Amanda as she copes with her Down’s Syndrome.

Nancy keeps her family close and her horse family closer, trailering them from her home in the southeastern part of the state whenever she can to participate in the life of the island. And anyone who spends time with animals will recognize the personalities and preferences shown by Nancy’s menagerie, plus there’s Nancy’s artwork to better render animals and humans.

Romping through it all is Clifford, a sturdy Morgan with a sense of humor who aims to please but also aims to have a good time. Clifford comes into Nancy’s life when she least expects it, in fact replacing a horse who died too soon.



Filed under Books

The Lessons Continue

I have indeed continued — I must admit, however, that I’ve been thinking a bit more about the potential seriousness of injury than I have in the past, although the worst part right now is an itchy elbow.  The scuffs are covered with new pink skin and a rash, probably due to the bandaid as much as anything else. Every now and again I feel a funny little twinge down in the point of my elbow, but I wouldn’t even use the word “pain.”

I’ve even ridden not being in a lesson.  Last week, during some more hot, hot weather, I asked Mo to bend at the walk for about 20 minutes.  I tried to ask him to trot but I couldn’t do it.  And some of that might have been fear.   I paid very close attention to us, and rode inside so that if he dumped me again, it would be on the nice soft thick indoor sand instead of the beaten-down-by-the-rain sand of the outdoor arena. And as soon as I got him to do what I wanted him to do — and as soon as got my own body in a position so that he could do so, I reminded him that he was indeed a good boy and we stopped for the day.

But I’m thinking more about injury than I used to and thinking more about what on earth we’d do if I got hurt and the answer is . . .we would start eating beans and we would see if we could get jobs for the cats. And I wouldn’t be able to lease Mo, as much as I want to keep doing that for a variety of reasons.

So I think what it boils down is, much as I hate to admit it, I’m still a little scared. And it’s no good being scared because when you get scared while you ride, you “protect” yourself (Leah pointed this out) but it doesn’t actually do anything useful because curling up in a ball to cover your vital organs does nothing toward making your ride safer.  Isn’t it ironic?


Filed under Mopey, Riding Skills


That was the sound my body made as I hit the ground in the outdoor sand arena, yea for it was even on little Mo, only Mo, No Problem it’s Just Mo, Oh I Used To Ride Mo When I Was a Beginner, Mo Who Is Not Gabby . . .yes, it was that Mo and he spooked sideways and off I went.  It was worse than December (although obviously not too bad or I wouldn’t be here using both my left and my right hands) because I was wearing short sleeves (my elbow is skinned and I’m working on a charming bruise) and because the ground was harder.  And I also think Mo spooked faster and moved with more alacrity than Gabby did because he’s a smaller horse.  So what they say is true:  you can find yourself in mid-air when you’re riding a little guy. It took me a bit longer to let go the reins this time — I actually saw my own hand (left) holding then.  I knew it wasn’t worth doing but my hand held on anyway.  I also hit harder this time (see above) and had to lie still and think about things for a moment before I got up.  I knew I was breathing and not paralyzed or dead, so I raised my hand and waved at the air, the sun, anyone who might be watching, and God bless her, a nice young woman dismounted and held Mo for me while I staggered upright. 

I was amazed at my first physical sensation — thirst.  I was so thirsty I thought I couldn’t stand it and wanted to gulp water.  Then I wanted to cry, so I walked Mo back and forth and let a few tears out and that seemed to do the trick.  I didn’t want to cry anymore so I got back on and walked him.  I tried to ask Mo to trot and we did kind of shuffle-trot in a circle, but I realized I couldn’t make myself.  When I grazed him, he was kinda pushy and I wasn’t pushing back, so that was interesting too.

I think I came off because, 1) Mo spooked and 2) I wasn’t paying proper attention.  I noticed that he got faster all of a sudden, but that happens sometimes and usually doesn’t signify anything — he likes to go  fast. I was mulling over in my mind, “Gee! I wonder what this uptick in speed is all ab–” and then I was flying through the air.  Flying down, but flying. 

There is so much to master with these creatures!  Mastery of them, mastery of ourselves! It’s endless! 


Filed under Riding Skills

Fun stuff!

Yesterday we rode to music! Leah started working with another student on a show piece, so she had the boom box out in the arena and was playing some new-age, sorta Lord of the Rings type music. As soon as Mo heard it, he started trotting away — or as soon as I heard it, I felt happy and started telling him to trot without realizing what I was doing. “This is great!” I said. “OK!” said Leah, “Then we’ll ride to music!” Using her best Socratic method, she then asked me what I thought the benefits of riding to music might be. The main one I could think of is that it would relax me-the-rider, which it does indeed. Not only that but with the right kinds of music, you feel like you’re in a movie! And when a “canter” tune comes on, it’s very dramatic and all of a sudden you’re out there saving Ireland or Scotland or Middle Earth or something, surging ahead on your noble steed at the head of an invincible army or you’re delivering the message that will save the good people of Rivendell (or Union Center, Ohio) from a fate worse than death — heroic, know what I mean? Plus I got so into it that I think I was doing a bit better of a job of asking Mo to do stuff. By the end of the lesson, I don’t know what we were doing exactly other than some fantastic collected little trot that neither he nor I normally do. Leah says he never got that far in his training. Does that mean I was *training* him to do something in spite of myself? But oh riding him to music was that kid-thing,  where you get all wrapped up in what you are pretending and you’re having fun pretending stuff!

Meanwhile, Gabby’s got a new official name: Avalon’s Fallen Angel. Isn’t that great? I burst out laughing when I saw the name on the white-board at the barn (something about vet certificates for an upcoming show) because it was just so darned appropriate. Gabby was born of excellent stock and valued at thousands of dollars, but she was moved about the country like a large and expensive piece of black walnut furniture that no one knew what to do with, like a wardrobe or an ice chest or a wooden commode chair that has to be made into something else since we now have built-in closets, refrigerators and indoor plumbing. She refused to jump despite extensive and special training, wound up at a teaching facility and then got sold to me, me who had some idea I could handle owning a 16 hand TB. She got sick, she pulled out of it, and now everyone loves her. I was so happy for her great new name that I made sure to give her some treats and rub her pretty, pretty head. The Angel Gabriel — a messenger from God who might have passed on to her earthly reward were it not for the efforts of many people and the plunging into debt of me with that horrendous vet bill. Ooof.


Filed under Gabby, Just happy, Learning, Riding Skills

Fly Spray is Good.

I can’t remember what kind it is, but I bought some last week and as soon as I spritzed the Mo, the evil flies fell away like so much dew burning up in the intense sun of an insanely hot morning.  He also quit stomping his poor feet and was even jolly enough to do some prime spooking when he saw a small green weed that was growing inside the ring.  Oh, and I tried a fly mask on him but perhaps he has never seen a fly mask before so my efforts to get it on his head were not successful.

I’ve made a commitment at my barn to raise the funds for Fly Predators, so I’ve been reading up on them. Got a brochure in front of me right now, from Spalding labs in fact, and I’d really like to see us all pitch in and give it a try starting this April.  I’m working on a marketing campaign and as soon as I get my “Design for Non-Designers” book, I’m going to put together some little posters (very little — gotta fit in the printer) and make one of those fund-raiser thermometer things with “$0” on the bottom and “$485” at the top or whatever the total will be.  I think it’s worth a try.  Heck, I hope it’s worth a try.  Flies suck.


Filed under Flies, Horse Goods