Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Tao Of Equus

A few days ago I finished reading The Tao Of Equus . Tao means “path” or “way”. The Tao Of Equus - The way of the horse, is about the author Linda Kohanov and her journey of healing through the horses in her life. Especially a very special Arabian mare named Rasa. Later on in the book she takes her own experiences with horses as teachers and healers to help others by starting an Equine Therapy program. When I started to read the book I was surprised by how honest the author is with her own experiences and the unusual insight she has about her own learning process. Being a teacher, that was one of the first things that caught my eye. She describes the nightmare of her first marriage, her search to find herself again, moving out to the Arizona dessert and her reconnection with horses; about being congruent, true to your feelings, yourself and completely present in the moment. She is almost forced (by her own mind) to connect with her horse Rasa on new levels after the young mare becomes lame. That´s where her interesting journey begins for real. Her own spiritual awakening with Rasa led her to investigate the scientific and metaphysical bond between horses and humans. The book has some very strong, personal stories of the people she met through her work and how meeting with horses helped them to see and approach their past in a way that enriches their lives; as well as how the meetings with horses changed their lives forever. This book is very intense. I like her writing style, she is good with the language, and her writing is fluid. Sometimes it´s poetry, sometimes facts, and often about her own experiences described in a way that you feel like you´re there with her. It´s not exaggerated to say that it´s about a spiritual awakening that is made possible when we acknowledge horses as our teachers. The human mind and the equine mind have a lot in common.

 Linda takes a huge step beyond what is common belief and “truths” about horses.  Her passion and emotion burns through the 351 pages of the book. There is obviously a lot of research and thousands of hours spent with her own teachers (the horses in her life) behind the book. It´s her first book and something extraordinary. In a way very controversial because she relates to horses as equals to humans and not as animals acting on instinct. I can imagine that her belief that horses have a consciousness similar to our own is challenging for many trainers and horse people.

 In her book she investigates her own dreams, mind, spirit, history, myth, research of the human brain and psyche and the bond between horse and human from a completely new point of view. The Tao Of Equus is breath taking and like nothing else I ever read about what´s possible to experience with your horse. I said like nothing I ever read before, because I can totally relate to many of her experiences but have never seen it on paper. Before she published the book Linda thought that people would probably consider her crazy when reading her book because of her very different approach to the horse-human bond. She explains how the horses mirror us perfectly and if we listen they make us aware of our own fears, authenticity and emphatic sides. That makes them perfect healers of a tragic childhood, abuse, trauma etc. After the book got out she had a lot of responses from people all over the world that also experienced similar things with their horses. It´s a strong book and it made me more humble and eager to listen more to my horses. It certainly gave me a lot to think about. The book is an eye opener. It´s most inspiring; and it also made me more determined to work harder towards my goal of working with children that have special needs in an equine therapy program.

I would say that The Tao Of Equus is an introduction to what´s possible to experience with an open mind and a willingness to learn from nature itself; a ground breaking work. In Linda Kohanov´s second book Riding Between The Worlds, that I just started to read, she goes deeper into “what happens when we open our minds and our hearts to the possibility that other creatures have as much to teach us as we have to teach them – not as subjects for behavioral or medical experimentation, but as intelligent, soulful beings in their own right.” (From Linda Kohanov´s introduction to Riding Between The Worlds.)

After reading her first book I have high expectations about her second! So far I´m not disappointed.

Friday, June 29, 2012

My Dream Horse

Flaxi Frá Extreme Icelandics.
Thank You Lise Yervasi for the pictures!

I found THE Icelandic Horse that I believe is going to be the perfect equine partner! Or maybe he found me?

I have been looking around at nearly a hundred Icelandic horses in California, Nevada and Oregon. I know exactly what I want and that is not just a cute horse. He/She had to have the right conformation and excellent health to be able to enjoy the thing that I want to do, which is endurance riding. To find that horse was a lot more difficult than I thought when I began my search. I almost gave up hope of finding one. Even started to look at some other more common breeds. My heart wasn´t satisfied because I really wanted a good Icelandic horse.

My husband has eight rescue horses for the moment, I have one. They all had troublesome pasts and most of them are retired. This time I looked for something else. Most of the endurance prospects I looked at had a completely different price tag. Still it seemed impossible to find an Icelandic Horse within reasonable distance that would match the criteria, (I think three states are a pretty reasonable limit..)

I decided to take a break in my search until after our daughter is born. Of course that´s when I see him.  A rescue horse!  His name is Flaxi frá Extreme Icelandics. A little bit of a challenge and a project, just the way I like it. He´s six years old, excellent conformation, wonderful natural tolt and he spent most of his life in a herd on a big pasture which I clearly prefer compared to being raised in  a stable as most horses here. He´s not started under saddle yet. I get to do everything exactly as I want! This is THE Horse.

Unfortunately I wasn´t  the only one thinking this is THE horse but I´m convinced that if something is meant  to be it will be. There are no coincidences. Therefore I didn´t sweat it too much.

It was meant to be! All that is left to do now is to arrange the transportation and my Dream Horse will be here at our ranch in a near future. I am so grateful and excited!

Love Maria

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Projects on the ranch

I haven´t been writing for a few days. We´re taking some time for projects (garden, pastures, garage, training dogs, baby room....) around the ranch and to spend some quality time together before our baby arrives. It´s been a very busy spring and we really need this. Feels like vacation! It´s always a lot of things to do around the ranch but it´s so nice to spend one on one time with that special someone.
I have been taking a lot of pictures lately and I´m in the process of working with them. I took over 400 today. My new camera is a lot of fun. Still have lots to learn and need all the practice I can get. Luckily there are no limits with how much practice I can get, except those hours I have to sleep ;)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Play Time, Magic and Ground work

Had such a nice time with Trigger this afternoon. It was pretty warm and we ran through the water sprinkler together, that was fun!  After some play time I was about to go into the house again but he kept following me around. When I stopped and turned around he slowly put his muzzle against my belly and just stood there, completely still, breathing slowly. After a minute or two our Baby Girl kicked him, hard! He stayed with his muzzle on my belly and looked at me. I´m sure that he can hear that extra heart beat inside of me and knows what´s going on. It was a magical moment.

Ground tied
I once again approached the house, and he followed. I decided to let him work a little bit and grabbed a halter. We took a walk and stopped every now and then doing some ground work, like sidestepping, bending and flexing, stop and backup, I also ground tied him on different places (very advanced exercise when there is grass around!) He did really well.  I´m looking forward to start riding him soon. I really miss that. He will never be an endurance horse but maybe we´ll do some competitive trail riding in a few months. He is very brave and good at solving all the obstacles that usually appears on the trail.  I think he would enjoy showing his talents.

I left the dogs at home but as usual one of them found her way to us..

People who inspire me

Since I learned how to read as a five year old I have been reading a lot. While still in first grade I´d read all horse related books on the three libraries closest to my home. As an adult I still read a lot, perhaps I am a little bit more selective now J

Whenever I have a chance to attend to a clinic I love watching great horsemanship in action. If it´s not too far away from home I love taking a horse with me. I believe in progress and learning from people that knows more than me.
Some of the great Horseman´s that inspires me are:

Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling

He has a magic touch to everything he does with horses. His communication with them are unique. His books are easy to read and understand with lots of pictures, examples and sometimes youtube links. He is all about being here in the moment, which I think all relationships with horses should be about.

Nevzorov 2

I don´t agree with all his extreme ideas but his definetely an excellent horseman and an artist with a noble purpose. The way he makes all kinds of horses to choose to be with him is amazing.

Frédéric Pignon

A movie about Frédéric Pignon and Magali Delgado. Even if you don´t understand french it´s worth the time !

Frédéric is an outstanding horse artist. This might be more of a show, but his horses seem to be happy and enjoying it as much as he does. I don´t see anything wrong in "the show thing" as long as the horses are happy. I like his work a lot more than his brother´s. Because he got attention from the horses by making himself interesting, not by any kind of force.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The gift of time

I am so grateful for this period in my life, because never before have I experienced that I have so much time. Yet I do live a very busy life and I wouldn´t like it any other way. I feel that I am given a lot of free time = freedom and that the fact that I am not stressed about anything makes me very creative when it comes to all the things I can do. It´s like a positive vibration that comes from this peaceful life here at the ranch. I wake up every morning feeling strong and looking forward to the day. I can´t remember any time in my life when I didn´t enjoy the work I had for the moment, but this is different. When I have to take full responsibility for my day’s it´s a whole new world of opportunities that opens up. I feel that I do more than ever before and it makes me very satisfied. Right now I fight with myself to not do work that is physically hard for my body, my body tells me to rather choose to do other projects for a few more weeks. This time that I have every day gives me a sensational feeling of freedom, richness and productivity. I am so thankful that I got to experience what it´s like to be in the right place at the right time. What our fantastic mind is capable of when where not under a lot of stress. What it feels like.

Traverse Creek a short walk from the house

Since I was 15 years old and started commuting to high school in another town I have been getting up at 5am with a very few expectations. Some of the jobs I had in bakeries forced me to get up even earlier. I seldom had any problem with that. Nowadays no one is telling me to get up that early. I simply wake up that early anyway, stay in bed a few more minutes just because I can. After that I am full of energy and ready to go outside and meet the magical morning that awaits here in the mountains. It´s my favorite time of the day. The only sound that I can hear is the sounds of the horses hooves when they greet me good morning, the birds, the rabbits and the deer and some days a light breeze in the trees. After checking on the animals I usually go to our pond for a short session of meditation. After that I take the dogs and some days a horse or two on a long walk. When I come back my mind is at peace with everything and in the same time full of ideas of different projects I want to do. I am grateful that I can do most of my work at home. I feel so blessed that I got to experience this feeling of deep satisfaction that this kind of life gives me. Since I was a little irl I always dreamed about having my own ranch. It is exactly as good, or better than the little girls dream! I am especially grateful for that at this point just before we´re going to have our Baby Girl. I feel prepared!

View from our front porch, one of the best places to enjoy the cool evening air.

Monday, June 18, 2012

My baking addiction!

Maybe not the first thing you think about when the thermometer past 100 degreese BUT do you know how easy and fast it is to bake your own bread on a warm day like today?

At 7.15pm I decided to bake muesli bread.

This is a very simple recipe and you can use any flour, oil and muesli that you happen to have at home.

1.  mix:

3 cups flour

2 cups muesli

1tsp salt

1 package of yeast (3small ones together)

2.  Add:

¾ cup olive or canola oil

+ enough water to make a smooth dough.

How much water you have to add depends on how rich in protein your flour is.

Smooth dough

Cover the dough

When you have a smooth dough cover it and let it rest for five minutes.

Ready tobe  cut into 12 pieces

I used two baking sheets, six bread on each.
3. Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces and form them into any shape you prefer. I made “ciabatta” shaped bread today. Let them rest for 5minutes.

When the bread is ready to go in the oven they look like this.
4. Preheat the oven to 400 degreese farenheit.

5. Bake them for 12 min in the lower part of your oven.

My bread was ready to eat at 8pm, 45 minutes after I decided to bake. Quick, healthy and yummy!


Fun activity to do with your kids. Haven´t met any toddler (or older kid) so far that haven´t been thrilled about baking J It´s creative and you see the result very fast. I never forget how proud my son Joel was after baking his first bread all by himself when he was 1½ years old.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

California- Pregnancy and Icelandic Horses!

I had some contractions today, only false ones that stopped when I took a break from whatever I was doing. Good thing, since I´m only 35 weeks pregnant and still have some time left. They made me slow things down a little bit. I spent most of the day reading “The Tao of Equus” (Linda Kohanov), almost finished it. Very interesting book! Lots of new insights and she´s also a master of putting words on those special moments with your horse that most of us horse people knows exist but we can´t explain them. If you know what I mean!

I´m also working on writing a “Birth plan”, I´m supposed to take it with me to my doctor’s appointment on Tuesday. I know what I want but so far I haven´t been able to get any straight answers on my questions. Maybe it´s because it´s hard to understand when I try to explain things in English? I don´t know. My hope is that when I have it all written down I will get some straight answers. My fear is that this hospital have “rules” like constant fetal monitoring and preferring to have the moms attached to their beds and that´s why I haven´t got any real answers. I want to be as active as possible during labor, walk around and have as little interference as could be. Still it´s nice to have the option of pain relief if things takes a lot of time, like last time.. I hope that my appointment on Tuesday will straighten things out.

I found a good way to cope with the summer heat. I do all outdoor activities before noon or after 8.30pm. I stay in the shade if I can. I drink a lot of water and homemade ice tea.

I simply brew this tea and put it in the fridge, very refreshing and it doesn´t need to be sweetened.

If I´m at home I even bade with my clothes on in the creek to stay cooler. It works! Today it has been 106 degreese Fahrenheit most of the day, (41 degreese Celsius.) Summer! California is very different compared to Sweden. I found a way that works for me. Then I think of all the horses I see in work, or just driving by different facilities – many horses live in extremely warm/hot weather without any kind of shade. For about seven months I have been looking for an Icelandic Horse suitable for endurance riding. I have looked at a lot of horses.

Icelandic horses come from a very different climate than here. They have lived on an isolated island since the Vikings brought them there in 874. It´s illegal to import horses to Iceland and have been for a thousand years. Icelandic Horses are one of the world’s purest breed of horse. The long period of isolation have made them the special kind of horse that they are. They are extremely smooth to ride and goes in any kind of terrain for as long as you want them to. With the proper care they have a very long life, it´s not unusual that they are good riding horses well up in their thirties.

However there is another side of the coin. Taking these rare horses from their natural environment to another country with a completely different environment is a huge responsibility and requires more than just basic knowledge of horses in general. There are a lot of excellent horse people out there that will do everything in their power for their horses. Unfortunately while looking at a lot of horses all over California I´ve only seen a few Icelandic Horses that could be considered healthy, in good condition and well cared for. When I mean healthy I´m talking about the whole picture:

·       Well cared for when it comes to grooming, especially in the spring and autumn when they change from winter to summer coat and from summer to winter coat they need extra care.

·       They often need to be clipped. Sweating all the time is not good.

·       They need minerals suitable for Icelandic horses. Those minerals often contain alges from Iceland.

·       They are easy feeders and cannot be let to indulge in rich grain or too much sugary treats..

·       Alfa Alfa hay is not good for them. It affects their normally strong hooves and give them digestive problems. They should eat a low protein but high quality hay.

·       Like all horses they need shelter from the heat and clean water.

·       Icelandic horses mature later and are usually not started until the age of four or five, depending on the horse. (In California some people start them under saddle as two year olds!!) It´s common to let the young horses live in a herd on big areas before they start their training. They learn from the older members of the herd and they play with the younger members. They become easier to train and well-muscled.

We need to provide them with the right minerals, a stress free environment and the best possible care to avoid summer eczema. If they develop summer eczema (or sweet itch, another name for the same thing) they need proper care! It happens even on the best of facilities (even when the owners done everything in their power) and cannot be neglected. It affects the whole immune system of the horse. Neglecting the proper care is extremely cruel to the horse. Owning a horse with summer eczema is a huge responsibility and requires a lot of time and effort from the owner. Some people say that only imported horses gets summer eczema, that is not true according to research and my own experiences.

There are 50 types of Culicoides biting midges (tiny insects) that is known to be a cause of summer eczema. Research points in different directions, but many horse owners agree that this fly is an enemy to the Icelandic Horse. The fly doesn´t exist on Iceland. Many people choose to use a special blanket on the imported horses for the first three years in their new country, to make the transition easier. The “Boett” blanket is one of the best on the market right now.

A protein rich diet and lots of sun shine (!) is also known factors of triggering summer eczema. Some reports points out lack of physical movement and digestive problems as possible causes for eczema.

I firmly believe that the whole picture with proper nutrition, minerals, shelter from sun, exercise, stress free environment and care is the best preventive care you can give your horse. If your horse develop eczema there are a lot of things you can do to make things easier for the horse, like medicated baths, fly spray, blankets, medicinal creams for the eczema (regular olive oil on the wounds often works very well. If the horse isn´t in direct sunlight..) . All these things require a lot of time, work and dedication from the owner and willingness to educate oneself about the condition. It´s a responsibility and not for every stressed out horse owner. The condition is a life sentence. Between 5-25% of the Icelandic Horses outside Iceland gets it. In very hot, sunny places like Australia between 32-60% gets it. I couldn´t find any new exact numbers for California but my guess is that it´s somewhere between 25-45 % for imported horses and less than 20 % for horses born in the US. If someone knows of any new research of Icelandic Horses and Summer Eczema in the US I would love to see it.

I´ve been doing a lot of thinking about if I really want to market Icelandic Horses as Endurance Horses in California, which was my original plan. They are incredible endurance horses. However I don´t think I want to do that anymore. I still want to have one or two myself and I want to ride the Tevis Cup on one (if I found the right one) but I think I´ll let it stay with that. They are amazing horses but if you´re taking them out of their natural habitat you have to know what you´re getting yourself into. In this climate is it a lot to considerate. Higher altitudes are often better for them and many horses that do have eczema doesn´t have any symptoms at all over 2400 ft. elevation. So on some places in California they are very suitable!

I´m starting to understand why Arabs are so popular as endurance horses here. Seeing Philip and Wrangle´s progress makes me think that it would be a whole lot easier to get an Arab for The Tevis. But I really LOVE Icelandic Horses (and challenges!)…I still hope that I will find the right one J

Did I mention that I miss riding tremendously? I´m hoping that it´s less than two months before I´m back in the saddle.

Empowered Horsemanship: Friendly

Empowered Horsemanship: Friendly.

Click on the link above. Such a great post from one of my friends, I had to share it!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Luck is when preparation meets opportunity!

Traverse Creek, the best spot on the ranch on hot summer days!

Since Trigger and I started our journey together my goal have been for him to be comfortable with all things that can occur on a trail ride and in the long run I want to take him with me camping in the mountains. He is cool with all kind of obstacles on the trail. He is fine going with other horses and going alone as well. He does all kind of terrain. We haven´t gone camping together yet but lately I started to highline him on a regular basis. In the beginning it was only a few minutes and I was next to him, now he can do a whole night without seeing me. He is a brave and confident horse from the beginning so it haven´t been that difficult for him. I want him to feel good about everything before he have to face it in an unfamiliar setting. (He spends most of his days and nights on a big pasture, being restricted to a small area are not the way he normally lives.)

Today I went hiking with our two dogs and Trigger. I wanted to try hobbles on Trigger while he ate grass on a nice opening in the forest. I have a pair of horsefriendly hobbles in soft thick leather. He is used to me leaving him on grassy spots (on our property) and come back for him later. It´s never been any problem. He knows the cue “stay” and he comes when I call his name. Today I hobbled him and told him to “stay”, on a familiar place we´re walking to every day with a lot of green grass. I took the dogs for a walk and when we came back Trigger hadn´t moved an inch. He looked at me as if he were saying “You told me to stay so here I am”. He was completely calm and satisfied with the situation. Starting to eat grass as soon as I took the hobbles of. I don´t like hobbles very much, I prefer to high line while camping with horses or even better set up a temporary pen. I think it can be useful for a trail horse to be familiar with hobbles though, in case there is a situation when they are required. Better safe than sorry.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

The gift of motherhood

My “little” boy is seven years old today and not so little anymore. Becoming Joel´s mother seven years ago made me reevaluate a lot of things in life, why I made the choices I made so far and what I based them upon. I discovered that I had some areas in life where I tend to do what other people expected from me and not what I felt was the right thing to do. I decided to change those things and be more active making decisions in my own life, not just let things happened to me. Being a mother made everything I did more important and I wanted to give my son the best of everything. Most important of all I wanted him to think, ask questions, feel and take responsibility for his own life.
Joel is an intelligent, sensitive, brave, thoughtful, smart and loving boy. I am very proud of him  <3

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A life less ordinary


Crazy, Amazing and Perfect, that is how I would describe the relationship I have with my soul mate Philip. We have so much fun together. He is the most intelligent person I ever met, which make conversations with him very interesting. He definitely knows how to make me laugh! He´s seen the world, literally most every bit of it and has an open mind towards life – which I love (and want for my children)! We share the same dreams. He knows how to make me feel like a Queen. He loves horses as much as I do and supports every horse activity I suggest we try such as; spending holidays trail riding, talking about horses many hours a day and thinking that driving twelve hours to look at a horse is a fun activity and a chance to spend quality time together! How many men would do that? I feel blessed. I love him so much!

Driving in to Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

I know for sure that this is the man I want to spend forever with. We both feel like a married couple by now working together at our ranch, but on paper we haven´t been that. Neither one of us want to have a big wedding. We´ve both been married before and decided that our marriage would only be for the two of us. We´ve been talking about going to Reno for a while. Last Saturday when we had breakfast at one of our favorite cafés we decided to just go there. So we did! We took the scenic route and stopped in Lake Tahoe on the way. It was the most perfect day ever! Just my man and me. In the evening we drove over to Reno and got married. Life is good – Crazy, Amazing and Perfect!

Love Maria

Driving to Reno