Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Discovering the world through Hayley's eyes

Hayley and Mama

My photography class ended last week and my writing class begins next week. This weekend we're having guests, so I decided to really focus on Hayley every minute now. I spend most of my waking hours with her always, but there's also a ton of things that has to be taken cared of right away… Hayley loves to explore the world with me, coming along on whatever project that needs to be worked on. The only time she's not with me is when I'm riding, the time I'm sitting on the horse. She comes along when I mock, take horses between pastures, take them for walks ~ everything except the time in the saddle. 

This week I made an effort to be more on her level. Play with her on the floor, look at things with her, taste things with her etc. I really enjoy it. The timing was pretty good too, because she have a cold and wants to be close to me all the time. I feel so blessed that breastfeeding still works like magic when it comes to soothing her. Right now that really helps. She was up all night last night. That is very unusual, she usually sleeps around 10 hours straight (I know I'm lucky!) It's only when she's teething or have a cold (very rarely) that the sleep isn't working. I just let her lay close to me and nurse when she feels like, I know it's temporary. As soon as her nose isn't stuffed anymore I'm sure she'll be back to her normal 10 hours.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Two cuties

I only had my iPhone to capture this moment. A moment pass so quickly and I didn't wanted to go after my camera. This is every day magic for me!

Guest post: Consider Becoming a Mentor for Your Horse. By Franklin Levinson

Franklin Levinson (all photos in this post are submitted by Franklin.)

Consider Becoming a Mentor for Your Horse  
By: Franklin Levinson
Corfu, Greece

I have never really liked being called a natural horsemanship horse trainer. I felt that these terms were misguided, misused and inappropriate. So I began to look for other ways to describe exactly what it is I do with horses. I have several people with whom I do a mentoring program on a regular basis. Generally this is done over the phone (thank God for Skype). I investigated several online and traditional printed dictionaries and all defined the word mentor the same way: “A wise and trusted counselor or teacher.” With the worldwide bandwagon and popularity of so-called Natural Horsemanship training methods and the accompanying confusion and misunderstanding of what that really means (basically it has become a marketing tool for techniques and products that are in no way natural), I have been looking for other ways to better define and name what I think is the best approach to working with horses. I have begun to make available mentorships in my brand of gentle, effective horse training at the new Silva Equestrian & Life Enrichment Center to open on Corfu (Kerkyra), Greece, this summer. In thinking about these mentorship programs, it became apparent to me that humans becoming mentors for their horses is a wonderful way to describe a higher level of horse/human relationship and the accompanying, appropriate and supportive interaction.

No successful relationship with an equine can exist without mutually developed trust. This is the proverbial (ancient) bottom line. Trust is earned with a horse through a variety of wonderful and iconic human qualities, such as those of a great parent, being offered to the horse. In a list of some of these great parental attributes we could include: compassion, patience, kindness, mutual trust and respect, excellent and precise communication, consistency, integrity (honesty, as well as congruency of mind, body and spirit), quiet strength, good resolve, a degree of confidence with excellent leadership put forth and more. 

Additionally, trust and respect go hand-in-hand whether with horses or humans. If we trust someone we generally respect them and vice-versa. If you earn the higher level of trust with your horse, you will receive a higher level of respect at the same time. I have always defined trust as the basis for all successful equine/human activities. There are trainers who use the development of fear to get what they want from a horse. They punish and inflict pain on their horses that do not obey their wishes and commands. We have all seen this sort of training. These trainers feel a need to dominate the animal as they see this as their only option. Many such trainers call themselves experts and have trophies to prove it. I consider these rewards ill-gotten gains for which an innocent horse has suffered. The abusive trainer is easy to spot if you care about your horse and are wise and sensitive about its feelings.

Franklins wife llona with a Skyrian foal. 

Let’s now look at the word wise. I like the following definition, common to the same resources I used to define mentor: Wise is defined as: “Having the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting.” Of course, different points of view could be put forth on what is true, right and lasting, and all would be valid. These words are subject to vast amounts of individual interpretation. But let’s look at how they might obviously and quickly relate to horses. Knowing what is “true” for a horse would mean understanding the mind and psychology of the animal to understand how it thinks and what is important to it. Knowing what occupies its attention and what emotions it experiences should be involved as well. Knowing what is “right” for a horse might mean what sets up the best environment and interrelationship situations to assist the horse in having a good and productive life. These things are “right” for the horse to thrive. Certainly a decent, clean, comfortable space to live in would be part of that. Company of its own kind is very important to a social animal like a horse too. Appropriate, concise and kind communication from those humans handling it would be a real blessing for the horse as well. 

For now, I think the most interesting word in the above definition of wise is “lasting.” Things that really last or, in other words, exist in someone’s consciousness over a period of time are few, I think. It seems to me that emotions last. We can feel love for a very, very long time and feel it intensely too. Likewise, hate can linger and linger and eat away at and totally destroy a person’s entire existence. I can honestly, humbly and truthfully say I think it is only the feeling or emotion of peace that can last. Love equals peace and peace equals feelings of safety for a horse. It may experience fear when a predator is present or when it is in pain (just as humans do). But, the horse goes back to peace as quickly as it possible can. This is its natural and most desirable way to be. Physically, this is when the horse is ambling around grazing and/or moving with the herd in a leisurely way. I have found that using a break from pressure (offering a few moments of peace, as a reward, is the single most effective way to reward your horse and to help it understand it has tried to do as you ask. Good, sincere effort is about all we can reasonably desire and ask for from our horses. When we mentor a horse, how we ask for that effort and provide that reward is huge and the most important thing. 

Moving on to the words “counselor or teacher,” we find definitions that imply a direct connection between these two words. A counselor is defined as: “Someone who gives advice about problems.” A teacher is defined as: “A person who teaches or instructs, especially as a profession; instructor.”  So here we have an instructor and a person who gives advice. Certainly they share similar goals if both are well intentioned and skilled. The common goal might be helping the well being of the person with whom they are attempting to work. How about applying this to mentoring horses? If we first learn to really have wisdom and understand how the mind of a horse works along with its feelings, we could probably help it to overcome some problems and instruct it, if we have its trust, to do things that both the horse and we would like to do together. This would uplift both of us and inspire this relationship between horse and human to greater and higher levels of development and accomplishment. 

Mentoring a horse successfully is similar to doing the same thing with a human. Many of the same techniques used and attitudes held by the facilitator would be the same in both circumstances. Again we would go back to compassion, kindness, skillful and precise communication and leadership, developed trust, etc. Is mentoring a good way to develop a successful training program and high-level relationship with your horse? I think the answer is a resounding YES! Whether we wish to compete on our horses, partner with them in equine assisted therapy programs like RDA, riding for the physically disabled, or Equine Facilitated Learning for individuals with learning and emotional difficulties, trail ride them, or simply to have a partnership with our horses based on a solid and consistent mentoring program, having such a relationship with your horse would certainly support excellent success in any endeavor you and your horse wish to undertake.

Email Franklin at:

Monday, January 28, 2013

Out Of The Wild, by Mark Rashid

The house we live in right now have propane for heating up the house, water and stove. The oven, dishwasher and washing machine runs on electricity luckily enough! We've had so much trouble with the heating this winter. I'm not going to complain to you guys, but I can say that if you would to start a company in Napa that fixes propane heater, fill up gas etc on weekends, you could probably be a millionaire in a very short amount of time!

My hot, black, strong coffee is extra delicious this morning! Did I mention it is hot?? 

I finished reading an extraordinary book last night, "Out of the wild" by Mark Rashid. I've always admired Marks horsemanship skills, but I've never read any of his work. Strangely enough since I read a lot..I've only seen videos of his work. 

One of my friends suggested that I start with "Out of the wild". It's written as a novel, but could be read as an introduction to Marks philosophy about horsemanship (according to my friend). The story is thrilling, he's really a brilliant author. His even more brilliant horsemanship shines through between the lines of the story. The book made me cry several times. It also made me go outside to my horses and try new things. 
I'm not giving the story away, because you should read it! It's about losing everything, finding it, learning about yourself and the harmony that is in nature itself. How this harmony that surrounds us makes us happier if we chooses to be a part of it. It's about a different way to approach our horses. It's about being open to learn from every one and every thing. It's about improving quality of life, honor, experience, knowledge, doing what it takes and wild horses. I'm not saying anything more! Read it!

I have two more books by Mark on my nightstand; "Considering the horse" and "Nature in Horsemanship". Now I just have to choose which one to start with! I'm very eager to read both. 

Here's a link to his homepage If you want to read more about his work and/or buy his books. 

Have you read anything by Mark Rashid? What did you think? Which books did you read? Did it affect the time you spend with your horses? If it did, how did it affect the way you are with your horse/horses?

Thank you for your thoughts. They are important to me!

My rescue horse Trigger and I after an awesome ride

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Some Horse Magic

This morning I had a very special moment with Cheerio, the horse I just started to ride (she's the horse on the pictures of yesterdays post.) I played with her on her pasture. First we played the mirror game. It's exactly what it sounds like, you mirror each others movements. It's like a dance. I usually start copying what they do, to get their attention. There is no rope/halter or any kind of gear. It's more fun and challenging on a big, open space. Like a pasture.  As soon as I had her attention I switched focus and visualized her following my movements. She is a very intelligent and responsive horse. It didn't take her many seconds to understand what I wanted. Before I lost her attention I started to mimic her movements again. That went on, back and forth between us. It's a lot of fun! If you have a horse you should definitely try. (It's a good idea to establish a relationship/limits first. The horse have to respect your space before you can safely do this!)

After playing for a while I rode her freestyle (bareback and without a halter.) She's a little to skinny, but it's fun to play for a few minutes. 

This was early in the morning and when it was time for me to go inside and make breakfast I told her good bye and left. When I'm almost back at the house I hear the sound of a horse galloping very fast. I turn around just in time to see her charge at the fence, break through it and come after me. (This is a lady with a great respect for electric fencing. I checked the fence before leaving her, so I know that the electricity was strong.) She stopped next to me, put her muzzle on my neck and took a deep breath.

It's not good that she destroyed the fencing, but the feeling of her choosing to be with me was magical. 

I walked her over to a round pen, as a temporary solution. I checked her thoroughly and she wasn't injured, luckily. When I walked out she placed herself on the spot where I usually saddle her up before riding her, and called me back! Unfortunately I had to go home and make breakfast for my family. That girl really loves to work!

Today was the last day of my photography class. It's really sad!!
I enjoyed it so much. The last assignment was to take a
picture of our own reflection.
This is Cheerio, me and Whitey, this morning.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Hayley 6 months - a family tradition

In my family, on my mothers side, it's tradition to take pictures of the children on the day when they turn 6months old. I have pictures of my mother, my grandmother, me, my sisters and my son on the day they turned 6months. Today my daughter Hayley turned 6 months and I took a series of pictures. I have yet to decide which one that are going to decorate our picture wall. Which one do you think is the best one?

Dirty little dog!

Whitey (6months today) have a new favorite hobby...swimming in the pond and rolling in dirt afterwards.. Good thing he's so darn cute!

He loves getting himself dirty, but doesn't like to be dirty.
He actually enjoys taking a bath.

He is very easy to give a bath.
I just tell him to sit and he sits until the job is done.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Cheerio, looking towards the house.
(When I expect to get myself really dirty I don't bring my real camera.
All the pictures in todays post are taken with my iPhone.)

Like some of you already know we decided to spend the winter in Napa. It's a couple of hours from the ranch. I miss seeing the horses every day. Our thought was to bring them with us but instead we're going back and forth. 

After Christmas a horse that I've seen on my walks with the dogs, here in Napa, starts to come over to our house. I let her eat some grass and walked her over to her place several times. I recently met the owner and now she has a pasture in "our back yard" (the backyard is 10acres). I've started to ride her a little every day. She needs to gain some weight before I can start any real riding. She's a sweet heart. A very smart, intelligent and fun horse. I mentioned her briefly yesterday. She's a 13 year old Arab/Paso Fino Cross. I spend time with her every day. I usually groom her, ride her a few minutes and take her for a walk or just hang out with her on the pasture. When she gained weight I'm going to start condition her for Endurance, she have been started in Endurance Rides before. 

This morning I was out playing with the dogs, next to her pasture. Stella, the German Shepard chase horses and I didn't go in to the pasture because of that. However I told Cheerio, the horse, that I was going to come back later for her. I go into the house with the dogs. I open my computer and start working. My thought of later was later like in a few hours. I sit in my bedroom and I can feel that someone is watching me. Cheerio is standing on the exact same spot I left her looking towards the house. I change my plans and decide to go out to her first.

Cheerios mane before I started to detangled it
One of the dreads that I had to cut.

It's been raining for a couple of days. The ground is very slippery, both the grass and the dirt that quickly turned into mud. It doesn't rain today but because of the slipperiness I wasn't planning on riding today. I walked her over to a round pen, did some "getting to know each other" exercises and groomed her. She had some terrible dread locks in her mane that I've been working on for a couple of days now. Today I actually used a knife and cut the worst parts. She have a beautiful, thick, long mane and I tried to not take any more than a bare minimum. She was very patient. It took me almost an hour to get all the dreads out. 

Cheerios mane after one hour++ work.

After that I gave her some massage and took her for a walk. I want to really get to know her. And you can only get to know a horse by spending time with the horse. The best thing, in my experience is to do a lot of different thing to build a mutual trust and bond with each other. I choose to walk on a heavy trafficked road to see how she would do. She did great. That's good to know, means that I most likely can ride her on the side of the road to some nicer riding trails. 

Walking on a road with heavy traffic; fast cars, trucks,
bicycles,  tractors and farm vehicles.

Every now and then she's a bit anxious, the owner called it spooky. I can't see any pattern yet. At the same time I have horses that are a lot worse when it comes to that. She is very responsive when I ride her and has a lot of go. Doesn't she look a little bit like my Bezze? There's a picture of her on the right sidebar. I think it's more than the color that are similar. Bezze is a purebred Arab, not started under saddle yet. I do believe that they will be a lot alike to ride though.

 Before letting Cheerio back into her pasture I walked her through some narrow spaces, in between barrels and parked cars. Just to see how she would react. Many horses feel crowded and doesn't like narrow places at all. Cheerio did just fine. I know that she is experienced but that doesn't necessarily mean anything…I like seeing it for myself. She definitely lives up to my expectation. She is a good horse!

We did stop for some delicious, green grass too.

Organizing Pictures

I am so grateful for everything I learned so far at the photography class I'm taking. It's sad that it its the very last week of it now. Yesterday I edited all the pictures on this blog using my new knowledge about editing and software. I like the result! Eventually I want to exchange all the pictures for new ones but for now I'm happy with the way it looks now. I see my blog like a living thing, always changing. I want to always improve, write better content, have more interaction with my readers and have better pictures. Feed back is always welcome! 

I'm so glad that I signed up for a writing class after this. It's good to have something exciting to look forward too. It's the same inspiring teacher at the next class. I really like her!

Today our assignment was to figure out how to organize all the pictures we take. I thought I share how I do.

I have a system on my computer with folders. I have one folder for each one of my children- humans and animals, I have one folder for nature/landscape pictures, one folder for each one of my favorite places (ex.American River, The Tevis Trail, Eldorado National Forest etc.), one folder for buildings and one folder for experimental pictures and one folder for each blog I write. I also have separate folders for every job I do for other people. Every time I download pictures I put the new pictures on the "desktop" until I edited them and decide which folder they belong under. Before I organize them into the folders I upload them to social medias and photo sites. I never save pictures I don't give at least 4stars in my head. I take 200-400 pictures every day but I'm good at deleting too. I try to not delete pictures on my camera, I wait until I uploaded them to my computer. Every once in a while I go through my folders and delete more pictures. I've had this system for several years and it works for me. Even when my computer broke down just before this class started it didn't really matter because I saved all the good ones on my blog (I pay extra every months for more space) and on photo sites.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Today's pictures

Our Horses

We have our horses on so many different locations and pastures. It's not very practical. We're working on getting them closer together. We can't have them all on the same pasture. That wouldn't work, we have have a stallion, (geldings and mares.) The stallion is fine with the geldings so far, he's still young (three in the spring.) 

I'm trying to organize them a little bit. Yesterday I was going to move two of the horses to a bigger pasture. Trigger was by himself on 20 acres, next to other horses, but by himself. My plan was to move Norman and Bezatal (the stallion) to him. They all shared pasture before and get along well. I haltered Norman and walked him over to the big pasture. He's so easy, I just put a rope around his neck and walked him the 0.5 mile to the bigger pasture. I let him loose and walk back to get Bezatal. 

When I came back to the front gate Norman was waiting for me by the gate! He'd taken a shortcut through the woods and sneaked under the fence back to his girlfriend. He couldn't get to her though, she was inside their old pasture, but he was waiting for me to let him in again. I didn't realize that Bezze and Norman became such a close pair. I'd let him in to her again and they were very happy about that. 

I stayed with them for a while trying to figure out how what to do. If I moved them both to the big pasture I couldn't take the stallion there as I planned. I simply let Bezze and Norman stay together on the smaller pasture. They kind of choose it themselves. I've could of moved Bezatal to Trigger but that would of meant that Faxi was by himself. Faxi and Norman can't be together on a small pasture with a mare, that's not a good combination. Basically, I didn't do anything with the horses, when it came to moving them  yesterday. However I had fun with them and learned a thing or two. They all have such sweet personalities. These are the horses I spent time with yesterday:

Norman~ loves work, he loves his girlfriend and he loves to cuddle. 

Bezatal~ is very sweet in all ways. He comes straight up to you. Is very curious, brave and easy to handle.

Faxi~ is very curious and are coming along well. When he's free (without a halter) he agrees to everything I ask of him with my body language. When I do have a halter on him he agrees to everything. It's getting the halter on him, catching him, that still is an issue. From what I've heard that's very common for the horses from Extreme Farms. He's right front hoof has a light clubfoot and he might not be the endurance horse I hoped for. However I love him and he's a very sweet boy. He has a great personality. I'm learning a lot from him.

Trigger~ my best friend is always like a Teddy Bear. I would like to have him with me in the house, and I know that he would love it! A months ago he stepped on something out on the pasture and he's been favoring his left back leg a tiny little bit. Yesterday was the first day he didn't favor it at all. I'm going to let him rest for a couple of weeks before I start riding him again. He's on a big pasture where he has to walk to get between food and water, which is great. He's moving around, not getting stiff but are resting from the weight of a rider (me.) 

Bezze~ is a bit anxious around people and doesn't like other farm animals. She is a cautious but sweet girl. I'm slowly gaining her trust and my plan is to start riding her in the spring/summer. If she's ready. Most important is that she's trusting me and that we have fun together. Eventually I believe that her life will be richer if she's being ridden out on the trails. Right now she doesn't let anyone but me touch her. 

The horses above are ours but I am also riding another horse, Cheerio. She's a 13 year old Arab/Paso Fino Cross. I recently started to ride her and when she's conditioned the plan is to do endurance riding with her. She's been doing endurance before, but she haven't been ridden much lately. She is very intelligent and I enjoy getting to know her.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Early morning walk

This day has been all about horses, but I haven't edited those pictures yet...
These ones are from our walk this morning. It was cold and very beautiful. 
Hayley doesn't mind the cold at all. I guess it's her Swedish roots!

Monday, January 21, 2013

My everyday magic

My daughter, working with horses and taking pictures gives me so much joy. Today I had it all. Some riding in the morning. A lot of Hayley time, with and without horses.  I used my iPhone for pictures today, starting on my morning run with the dogs. 

The ground and vegetation was frozen early this morning.

Hayley hugging a horse. Not the best picture,  but her love for animals,
horses in particular, makes me very happy.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Today's photo assignment was about macro. I am not very experienced in that. I don't have a macro lens or tripod. I did the best I could. Here's my pictures.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Road Trip

I love driving through California. It's so beautiful everywhere. 

We had some work to do in Northern California today and left home really early this morning. We brought the dogs and took all the nice back roads we could find. Combining business with pleasure is nice. Everybody was excited to go. Of course we had to stay on several places to stretch some legs and change some diapers.

Hayley is usually in a good mood when she wakes up.

We left home before 7am.

After one of our stops I see a beautiful, big, Chestnut horse in the corner of my eye. It takes me a few seconds to see that everything is not OK. We turn around and the horse, a big draft horse, is caught in barbwire. He's not calm and no one is around. I jump out of the car, try to get a feel of the horse and calm him down. He is caught in two barbwires around his front, right leg. One of the wires are pretty deep in his flesh and the other one is really deep. He's the only horse on the pasture. If I leave him to get a hold of the owner, he might panic and things could get really bad. At first he won't let me touch him but after few seconds he understands that I'm there to help him. He relaxes and I can lift his leg up in the air. His hoof ais big like a plate.  I get the first wire of. He twitches a little bit but doesn't panic. 

Barbwire Fence

The second wire is much deeper and I have to use a lot of force to get it out of his leg. It took me about 30 seconds but it felt like forever. The cut is clean. He probably got caught minutes before we drove by. He looks at me and then takes of cantering, favoring that leg badly. We drovThe reste to the nearest house. It wasn't their horse but they knew the owner and takes over from there. 

In Sweden barbwire are not allowed as horse fencing. It's also prohibited to have one single horse alone. I wish it was like that here too.  Hopefully this horse won't have any lifelong injuries that affect his quality of life.

Stella and Whitey enjoys road trips!

Stella on one of our stops

The rest of the day's been beautiful. We ate at a great Mexican restaurant and now we're just resting at a hotel. I'm looking forward to more photo opportunities tomorrow. 

Traveling with a baby is fun but a little exhausting.
Now we're just chillin at the hotel.

Friday, January 18, 2013

On top of Spring Mountain

Windows on the monastery situated on op of Spring Mountain (California),
next to Hess Winery.

 Today we worked on landscape pictures and depth of field. I discovered that my Nikon D5100 don't have any settings for DOF, which many DSLR cameras have. That meant that I had to work a little bit with the editing of the pictures, but that's OK since it's so much fun. I drove the narrow roads up Spring Mountain to get some good landscape pictures. I drove around 11am and the ground on the mountain was still frozen, icy and dangerous. A big truck in front of me had a little to much fun in the curves and all of a sudden they lost their grip of the road and went down a ravine. Luckily there was a big tree halfway down that stopped the fall. The vehicle was smashed but neither of the two men in the truck got any injuries at all. They were in shock though. 

When I finally came to the top of the mountain is was well worth the drive. I took some landscape pictures but also some pictures of the beautiful old monastery next to Hess Winery. After an hour or so I started to drive down, slowly.. They were still working on getting the truck up from the ravine and we had to wait another half an hour before we could drive down. Whitey was with me and he took the opportunity to make friends with everyone. 

Bell Tower


View from the monastery on top of Spring Mountain, California.

Trees in a row on the driveway to the monastery.