Saturday, September 15, 2012

Windflower Farm Welcomes Henley, Cape Cod Girls They Have No Combs, And My Novel TROPHIES

Readers of Windflower Farm Weekly, 

TROPHIES Is Now Available On Kindle!

                                                Fox Kit Press copyright 2012

       Some of you may remember this novel about show jumping that I wrote some twenty years ago.  It was published as a paperback in 1990 by Signet/New American Library.  It did well (two printings), but later was available only through and second-hand book dealers.  Now Kindle has made it possible to publish it electronically.  Because the cover is but a scant square inch on the Kindle bookstore tablet, the Kindle cover design is simple.

       For those of you who haven't read it, here is the Kindle introduction:
       Trophies takes you into the true heart of the horse world, its intrigues, money, cut-throat competition, triumphs, and tragedies.  In its details of struggle, betrayal, loss, and love, it's one of the most realistic novels ever published about equine sport and the personalities who drive it.
      Diana Winston has a dream--to rise to the top of this sport.  But obstacles over five feet high and six feet wide are not her only hurdles.  With no bankroll and no family, she has but two friends:  Olympic gold medal winner Jim Williams helps her navigate the world of the rich and entitled while guarding a secret that will break Diana's heart.
      The second friend is Dr.  Steve Rodriguez.  A renowned Mexican virologist, he lost everything in the 1985 Mexico City earthquake.  Overwhelmed with guilt and depression, he enters the United 
States illegally and, concealing his past, takes up a lowly position as a groom.  Drawn to Diana's energy and talent, he presents her with a slaughter-bound stallion, declaring that this horse can take her to the pinnacle of show jumping.
       As Diana presses ahead at a Grand Prix event in Newport, she meets Dr. Bill Stanford, a brilliant neurosurgeon and horse show enthusiast.  Bill is deeply attracted to her and determines he must radically change his personal and professional  life.

       The early AIDS epidemic is raging and Diana finds herself drawn into the terrifying world of one of its victims.

       A classic novel of the horse world, originally released by Signet/New American Library, Trophies is an action-filled romance that brings together the worlds of show jumping, medicine, as well as the compelling characters who inhabit them.
         Trophies was fortunate enough to receive a five-star rating from, where independent readers' reviews have been posted over the years.  On Kindle it's priced at $4.99.


   Henley Arrives At Windflower

     Henley and Dolly Meet                                                  Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

       This gorgeous man on the left is Henley, a Connemara and Thoroughbred cross now owned by our trainer Juliane Dykiel.  He came to us via Juliane's brother Hadrien, who--when he's not immersed in his studies at UMass, Amherst--is busy helping people with problem horses.  Actually, of course, he usually winds up helping horses that are experiencing people problems.  Henley had been constantly rearing with riders on his back.  Those of you who have experienced rearing "up close and personal" know it's not a pleasant experience.  But horses misbehave--or, rather, behave like we don't want them to--for several reasons:  pain, fear, lack of respect, or a combination of the three.  Henley's previous owner was conscientious and had him examined thoroughly by a vet.  So pain was ruled out.

       Hadrien then set about teaching Henley that he (Hadrien) was in charge.  He did this by acting as herd leader and duplicating herd dynamics.  On a lunge line Hadrien was able to control Henley by making him move forward as well as change direction.  Only when Henley showed some signs of submission--a lowered head, ear cocked toward Hadrien, licking his lips--did Hadrien remove the pressure and allow him to rest.  These sessions culminated with what is often referred to as "join-up" or "hooking on."  After this training and when unhooked from his lunge line, Henley voluntarily followed Hadrien about the indoor at liberty.

       Next came the mounted work, and here I will let Hadrien speak for himself on this YouTube:

                                                                            allhorsestuff copyright 2012

      We let Henley get acclimated here at Windflower in his own paddock for a couple of days before introducing him to the other horses.  This is an important first step.  It allowed him to make over-the-fence acquaintances with nobody getting kicked or bitten.  We could watch the interactions and determine what friendships might take a little longer to develop, then choose which horse would be his first turn-out partner.  Dolly stepped forward for the job.  The following YouTube is an example of Dolly using the herd behavior called "yielding the forequarters" on Henley right after we brought her into Henley's paddock.  As trainers we do a variation of this exercise ourselves.  We stand at the horse's shoulder and tap with a stick, gradually increasing the pressure until he takes one step away, crossing the near foreleg over the far one.  Pressure is immediately taken off, and we praise and stoke him.  Then we go for two steps, and so on.  You also see Dolly turn her hindquarters towards him.  The message is clear:  "Kick coming your way unless you get out of my space!"  And he does. 



              Dolly yielding Henley's forehand                       YouTube Juliane Dykiel 2012

        We also do a form of this exercise.  When we ask a horse to back up he must do so right away, especially if he's crowding us.  We go more slowly with Henley than Dolly did.  Of course, we don't look like a horse and we weigh ever so much less!  But a horse soon learns and, with stick in hand, we can act like the dominant horse, and that's when good things happen.                                                                                               

Should You Turn Out Your Horse With Other Horses?

        Whether or not a horse should be turned out with other horses is hotly debated.  Those in favor of such turn-out--and I am one--argue that horses are naturally herd animals and have been for tens of thousands of years.  It's their instinct to be together.  They are prey animals, and their DNA tells them them that there is safety in numbers.  Constantly isolating a horse may increase the level of anxiety and provide conditions for ulcers and colic.  Together, horses can interact as nature intended--develop a herd order, as well simply play and have a good time.  A horse is more willing to lie down and roll--a therapeutic and relaxing behavior--if other members of the herd are standing by.  Again this speaks to the habit and necessity of prey animals having companions of their own kind act as look-outs.  It's my opinion that horses who are turned out with others are easier to train since they tend to me more at ease, more physically fit and supple.

       Here's the other side of the debate:  you have a horse just purchased from Europe at a cost of tens of thousands dollars, and you're certain this is the one to take you to the Olympics, or at least your first Grand Prix.  And you love him.  Or, you just adore your little rescue horse and money for vet calls puts a strain on the budget (doesn't it always?).   Financial concerns and love are valid reasons for not turning your animal out with others.  And pasture injuries can occur, especially with horses who have hind shoes.  It's the equivalent of a boxer with brass knuckles.  And then in winter, in the north, those shoes might have metal borium points to prevent slipping on icy patches.  They increase the level of injury potential.  Henley's previous owner subscribed to this argument and so, for at least three of his past six years, Henley had no direct equine companionship.   

       But the set-up here at Windflower is designed for horses to be together.  We have two turn-out groups, the horses and the ponies.  We might have one, but since ponies need to be continually on  Weight Watchers it's easier to feed them separately.  Each group gets at least six to twelve hours in the large pasture, which has a run-in shed.  Our stalls attach to large paddocks, so they act as run-ins, too.  All the horses are able to move freely twenty-four hours a day.  In
over thirty years my horses have yet to experience a significant pasture injury.

       Because we knew Henley hadn't been turned out with anybody in three years, we moved to integrate him very slowly and carefully into the herd.  As I mentioned he was initially kept apart.  The next day we brought Dolly, the lowest ranked member of the herd into Henley's paddock.  That was easy.  Dolly immediately went into heat and determined that the gelding Henley would make a fine husband.  But, as you saw in the YouTube, she did dominate him.  Henley couldn't have behaved better. 

      Firefly, our Haflinger mare, had an entirely different attitude toward Henley.  Firefly is the dominant mare.  What does this mean?  Like horses in the wild she gets to determine when "her" mares breed.  She couldn't do anything about Henley when he and Dolly were in a separate pasture, but when they came into her pasture, that's when the fireworks began.  Eventually Henley found himself with four mares as company.   They all wanted to get to know him except, of course, Firefly.  She spent several hours alternately chasing Henley away and gathering up her mares.  That lasted about three days.  And now, while there isn't total peace in the valley, there does seem to be an ever-moveable demilitarized zone.  In short, Henley is so very happy and thoroughly enjoying just being a horse--with other horses.

Cape Cod

     The National Seashore                                                         Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

Cape Cod Girls They Have No Combs,
Look away, look away,
They comb their hair with codfish bones,
We are bound for Australia.
                             ---18th-century sea chanty

       In the last blog I mentioned that Jim and I took a brief trip to Cape Cod--and both of us actually did forget our combs.  But rather than wander the beaches in search of a cod skeleton, we headed to a nearby CVS and plunked our money down for a piece of molded Chinese plastic.  (I'm bound to Australia myself, to visit my son, who is part of a team researching the total solar eclipse there in November.  It's the longest trip I've had in decades.)  We stayed in the charming town of Wellfleet, located halfway between the Cape's "tip" at Provincetown and the "elbow" at Orleans.  Since the mid-1600's Wellfleet has been known for its oysters.  They are coveted for their great taste, produced by the colder waters of the estuaries and a power-packed combination of nutrients.  (Here's hoping that these oysters can gird up their loins, or whatever translates as the oyster equivalent, against climate change.)

       Normally we would have opted for a B&B, but my ribs were still a little creaky from my fall, so we stayed at the Wellfleet Motel and Lodge because it offered a  hot tub.  The first night of three we took a walk and had a lovely seafood dinner.

       Bright and early the next day we headed to the National Seashore, a beautiful stretch of beach now under federal care thanks to President John F. Kennedy.  The parking lot at Coast Guard Beach was full so we headed for Nauset Beach, near the old Nauset Lighthouse, parking at the local high school and walking a half mile or so to the beach.  When I saw the packed school lot earlier I thought the town must offer an incredible summer program.  And actually it did, the National Seashore!

       I'm a total wimp about cold water now.  Gone are the childhood Jones Beach days on Long Island when my father made me stay out of the water until my blue lips had returned to pink, or when my brothers and I pretended we couldn't hear him calling us back to shore and the return home.  To be happy swimming in a pool I need the water to be 80+F (27C).  The lifeguard told me the ocean was 59F (15C).   Cold, but the siren call lured me in.  And as I felt that wonderful rush of green water and white foam about my legs, and the tickling feeling of the sand being drawn out from under my feet by receding water, I took the plunge and felt a wonderful churning sound of water in my ears.  For nearly a half hour I was alternately cradled, splashed, and pummeled.  It was terrific.

        The boogie boards, sun bonnets, colorful umbrellas, kites snapping in the wind, and the pure fun enjoyed by everyone there was such a celebration of life.

     Sea of umbrellas                                                                Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012
       These two ladies sat in yoga-like poses in a little tide pool--slowly being overtaken by the incoming tide--but to them it seemed wonderfully routine:

    Two yoginis (?) in a tide pool                                          Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

       Just beyond the breakers we were treated to the sight of seals.  As they headed south, one would occasionally lift its
head.  This fellow is looking back north--

     Seal Pokes His Head Out                                      Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

--but then continues on his journey south along the shore.

    En route!                                                                   Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012        

       A pod of seals showed up, and a number of people stood observing on the shore as they passed.  What I found touching was that several adults and children waved, as if wishing them a safe trip.

       And there was good reason:

      That past week, not just sharks but great white sharks had been spotted trawling up and down the waters.  We had been warned not to swim too close to the seals because the sharks find them a very agreeable part of their diet.  But we saw neither skin nor fin of one, save this remnant of a poor baby sand shark that a little boy had found and promptly held up to his parents.  (Overcoming their initial--and obvious--revulsion, they issued admiring words for their son's found object. )

       Sharks had been sighted well south of us at Chatham, but also there was one attack north of us in Truro; a swimmer a few hundred yards off shore was bitten, though without loss of limb or life.  A few weeks after we arrived back home, more sharks had been spotted along the National Seashore, requiring several beaches to close.  This was a hard decision--it meant closing beaches on Labor Day weekend.

        On the beach I can actually say that I did not see one adult or one child with an electronic gadget.  Okay, I did see one lady with a Kindle but I'm not going to count that especially since she had in a special Zip-lock type of bag so she could read it while the water rushed and bubbled about her low-slung beach chair.

        And while there was great activity near and by the water, there was much earnest digging and construction going on higher up:  

   Cole and Noah's Castle                                                   Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

        This masterpiece was wrought by Cole and Noah, two teenaged
brothers from Connecticut.  The Olympics were on at the time.  What a lovely tribute!  I said I thought it a shame that the tide would soon reclaim their work, but Clay and Cole were actually looking forward to the work of the waves.  I was reminded of those Tibetan monks who spend so much time creating great mandalas out of mere sand to remind them of the impermanence of life, and everything else.

       Yet another reminder of the impermanence of all things:

          Eroding Dune/Nauset Light                                       Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

                  This is just one example of what Cape Cod has been battling for centuries--beach erosion.  Nauset Light itself (you see its beacon
just above) had to be moved back hundreds of feet to save it from tumbling into the Atlantic. 

                 Nauset Light                                                  Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012


       Here is Nauset Light again, viewed from the beach road.  Like so many people I have always been drawn to lighthouses, the beautiful guiding light that has warned so many from danger.  When I was a child--and still once in a while now--I think being a lighthouse keeper is a job I would have liked very much.  (Though almost all lighthouses are automated now.)  In elementary school I wrote a book report on Ida Lewis, the great 19th-century lighthouse keeper of Newport, Rhode Island.   As a child Ida helped maintain Lime Rock, accessible only by boat.  Every weekday Ida rowed her three siblings to shore so they could attend school.  When her parents died Ida became the official lighthouse keeper.  And because of her bravery in rescuing sailors in distress--so many that the number eclipsed those saved by any other keeper--Ida Lewis became the highest paid lighthouse keeper in the United States.  

       But there were some who perverted the role of lighthouses.  In the 18th and 19th century some colonists lit fires along the shore near dangerous hidden reefs and shoals.  It was an old trick practiced earlier in Europe.  Thinking they were lighthouses guiding them to safety, numerous crews on ships headed in and broke apart.  Only the plunder that washed ashore was rescued by these evil-doers.

       One of the verses I learned while living in Japan is about a lighthouse: 

                       "At the base of the lighthouse there is darkness."

       How many of us have run into experts fields who are unable to turn their analytical lights upon themselves?  The poetry is even more compelling in the original Japanese, but I hope my translation conveys some of its power and poignancy. 

       The Wellfleet Inn hires nearly all its summer help from an overseas program.  The young people we met were from Romania,
Macedonia, Russia, and Slovenia.  They were friendly, efficient, and very earnest in their desire to learn English.

       I had brought two copies of one of my favorite books, The Little Prince, one in Spanish, the other in English to help me out.  One night when Jim and I returned to the room there was a note written on the little memo pad next to our phone. "Little Prince is so meaningful book!"  One of these kids who cleaned our room had seen my copy and written this touching note.  When we checked out, I asked the gentleman at the front desk to give her my English copy with a note inside as well. 

Lovey Dovey R.I.P.

       I'm sorry to report that the little mourning dove that I was rehabilitating these past weeks died on the day I released her.
I thought it was time--she had a full set of flight feathers--and she looked like a real, maturing mourning dove, whereas before she looked like a pathetic sparrow with a miniscule head.

       When I let her go the first thing she flew into--smashed into, really--was the side of our house.  She circled in a downward spiral and, after a few seconds of flapping, lay still.  Poor thing!  I will miss her but I wish I could be missing her knowing she was off in the woods flocking up with other mourning doves.

Enter Finnegan     

       Clem is now over a year old and treating us to increasing feats of his hunting prowess.  Lovey Dovey was his first victim, slightly wounded, but little more than a week later I saw Clem tossing something up in the air in the far corner of the pasture.  "Leave-it!"  Running full-tilt at Clem, I arrived to witness him immediately roll onto his back in a display of half-hearted contrition.  He had a half-dead baby squirrel, still breathing but in all other ways seemingly lifeless, eyes closed, body cold.  Turning away from my the mother of my riding student, I asked her to hold her daughter's horse by the reins.  I ran, squirrel baby in hand, to the house and set up a cage with a heat lamp.  I thought he'd be lucky if he lasted as long as the remainder of my lesson.  I sent Juliane out for Gatorade just in case.

       Lesson done, I found him still alive.  Somehow he managed to drag his sorry little self to the side of the cage receiving the most heat.  I warmed the Gatorade and, prying open his tiny teeth, with the edge of the syringe I managed to squeeze in a few drops.  He swallowed.  I gave him some more.  But there was none of that rapacious gusto I'd encountered with other baby squirrels I'd had.
That night he was much the same.  I forced a few drops down his throat but, other than swallowing, he remained inert.

                         Finnegan and his hammock         Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

       However, the next morning his little liquid black eyes looked at me with inquisitive animation.  He drank lustily from the syringe.  He was way too young for solid food, so I went to the pet store for kitten formula.  This he loved!  Wrapping his young but already expert little claws around the syringe, he slurped mightily.  When it was empty he emitted a demanding chirr.  He had three more syringes full.  And though he wanted more, that was it.  You can literally feed a squirrel to death.  So I stopped.

       Ten days later Finnegan, as he's now called, is still with us.  He's starting to put his teeth to some solid food but doesn't really yet make a dent.  However, in a few more days he'll be enjoying apples
with peanut butter, walnuts, acorns, and sunflower seed.  He'll even have a bit of a Snickers bar.  My squirrel Reese--from Resu, Japanese for squirrel--I described in an earlier blog, and Reese just adored Snickers.

       Here's Finnegan, just today, nursing.  Apologies for the poor quality, syringe in one hand and camera in the other:

                                 Finnegan Nursing            Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

       In a week or so I'll try to track down a squirrel rehabilitator who lives a couple towns over.  She will, I imagine, winter Finnegan over in the large cage--he'll have squirrel buddies--in her backyard, then release him in spring.  I certainly hope for Finnegan's sake--and mine--that she's still in the squirrel-saving business.

       I'd like to end this blog with this YouTube that I created for the Yonkers Animals Shelter.  The music is Abba's "Take A Chance On Me" and features some glorious looking dogs with great personalities.

       Please consider adopting one.  If you can't, please pass the YouTube along to as many people as you can.  If we throw enough arrows in the air, several should result in hits.


       Thank you for reading The Windflower Weekly.   
       See you soon--