Laddie, Light My Fire!

Dateline:  Pacific Palisades, California

The year:  1967

I can still picture the scene.

I’m in my early teens, trotting and galloping the dirt fire roads above Will Rogers State Park, riding my first horse, Rebel — the fulfillment of my life-long horsey dreams.

Alongside the horn of my Western saddle bounces the buckskin pouch I sewed myself, containing my small transistor radio — precursor to the Walkman, the iPod, the Smart Phone.


KRLA, my favorite Los Angeles rock station, is playing the long, seven-minute version of The Doors, Light My Fire.

The time to hesitate is through
No time to wallow in the mire

I rise and fall with Rebel’s swift and powerful movement, to the sound, the feel, the rhythm . . .

Come on Baby light my fire!

Listen to The Doors here:

Carousel Horses

It’s a magical time. Along with Disneyland, The Beatles, vinyl discs, Star Trek . . . Jim Morrison’s rifts frozen into the framework of my Baby Boomer’s generation coming of age.

This song nails it — encapsulating the elation, the freedom, the escape of riding Rebel — from my everyday, junior-high life.

You know that it will be untrue
You know that I will be a liar

If I was to say to you,
Girl, we couldn’t get much higher . . .


Light My Fire became Rebel and my theme song.

I can’t listen without transporting back to the rhythm of hoof-beats, the feeling of freedom, the smell of chaparral — and hot sweaty horse.

That, and the GIANT SMILE on my otherwise trying-to-figure-life-out teenage face.


Laddie Shadow

(From my journal, written the night Laddie came together to really RIDE :))


Laddie, Light My Fire!

Fast forward: Fortysomething years later, Frazier Park, California

The Scene: Riding my homebred gelding, Laddie, in the woods!

Same rhythm. Same hoofbeats. Same theme . . .

Girl on horseback, experiencing flight. Freedom. Escape from everyday reality into Pegasus’ realm.


You see, Laddie came together tonight. And transformed from ‘sticky, green’, to full-blown, Rebel-style Light My Fire!



Homebred Horse!

We started riding Laddie May, 2012, as a four year old.

Born August 22, 2008, I like to wait to start them. Give them time to grow and mature . . .

Especially being half-Arabian. Especially being part-draft, part-Shire.

(For some reason, the smaller horses and the bigger horses seem to take longer.)

Although half-Arabian, Laddie pulled his Grand-Shire’s genes, with Arabian accents. He looks very Welsh Cob: big curvy neck, heavy hindquarters, large high-stepping hooves, complete with feathers.

He’s the third of my four generations of offspring. And I find him the most interesting!

Baby Laddie


Training Notes

You see, training horses comes together little by little, in fits and starts.

From the time they are born, you move them in the general direction that you wish to accomplish — personable, and mannered, and safe.

Yet, by their very nature, horses are cantankerous, and dangerous, and animated.

They kick and bite and strike. In a word: Wild!

No healthy young horse I’ve known walks up and allows itself to be haltered — walking perfectly, following.

Some are easier than others, yet, like a Mustang off the range, little foals have to learn all that.


Apply By Layers 

My favorite description of training horses is like applying varnish to wood. It must be done in thin coats, allowed to dry — and sanded between, in order to shine.

You cannot just dump the stuff on in one session, but must lay it down, layer by layer, building, just so — and stopping at just the right time, to let the lessons sink in . . .

Sometimes you make progress. Other times you just back off and give them time to grow.

The biggest question: Is this horse suited to what I want to use him for? Does he have the build, the mind, the temperament to be safe and fun?

Some individuals, some breeds, fail this requirement. It’s taken me years to work out the mixture, but I’ve got it now, and I treasure it!

Laddie Looking


Our Method of Starting Horses

When we first take our young horses out into the woods, we let them run along with the group, free. Then, later, on a rope. And then we let them run free again.

It starts with learning to yield, to submit — to ropes and leadines and people.

Building, ever building, on what has been done before — adding weight and saddles, girth and tack.

They also must learn about trails and footing, trees, rocks and stumps. Barking dogs, speeding cars, loud motorcycles. Gates, mailboxes, dumpsters. Flushing quail, jack rabbits. And a thousand other things that can occur on a ride.

Once, riding Starboy solo, I heard a massive boom. He spooked in place, dipping, but fortunately not slipping off the steep trail. I thought there must have been a gas explosion from one of the houses below.

Turns out it was the Space Shuttle, Enterprise, coming in for a landing at Edwards Air Force Base, a hundred-plus miles from here! The Shuttle broke the sound barrier — right over our heads — and spooked my horse. How do you prepare for something like that???

Ladie and Hoku looking


First Time Up

We first hop on their backs, unsaddled, in the yard, after they are relaxed from a good workout — one of us standing at his head, helping the other on.

No stress, no drama.

Quietly up, praising and scratching.

On and off both sides.

Invariably, they reach around with their neck and sniff and chew at our feet, as if to say, “Hey! What’cha you doing up there Ma???”

Layer by layer.

All this prep takes place over the first several years.


First Ride!

When it’s time for their first real ride, we utilize the herd again. Horses do better in a group than by themselves, so we capitalize on this instinct.

For his first ride we took Laddie out, running along with us for over an hour, working his exuberant youthful energy down — swift-moving through the woods, up the wash, past the galloping place, to the turn-around . . .

My brave daughter, Ella, hopped on bareback and rode without a bridle, just a rope halter, for a good forty-five minutes — Lad, flowing along with the group, not at all concerned about having a rider on his back.

Instead of continuing back toward home, we turned up a side trail, now cantering, riding farther away from home so he wouldn’t be in a hurry — again working with his instincts.

Then she hopped off and back onto her horse, letting Lad run home free, with the herd.

Thus he learns the A B C’s of carrying a person, and doing our bidding as a trail horse — organically, by degrees.


Saddled Rides

The early saddled rides out from the barn can be interesting. The horse can get ‘sticky’ at any point — get confused, and not want to go. Or turn and bolt . . . with a big leap to the side.

You plan, as best you can, to have everything work in your favor.

Calm day. No wind. No barking dogs or speeding cars or new dumpsters or the like, but even on a country roadway, so much is outside of our control.

My first saddled ride on Lad involved twilight and a nearly full moon, a dark shoulder-less dirt roadway. All going well — then, surprise! The roar of an engine grinding towards us . . . headlights shifting through the willow trees. Face-to-face with the local septic pumping truck — the Big Rig, no less!

But because of all we’d put into him, Laddie handled it beautifully. (His mother, Fae was the one who spooked and pranced in place that night!)

And Laddie’s come along really well. Strong leader. Retaining what I put into him.

Still a bit spooky and sticky and hesitant and green. But smart and smooth — growing in confidence. And willing . . .


Stylized -- Laddie, McGill


Laddie, Light My Fire!

So when Laddie finally gave me his speed, his strength, his willingness to carry me without hesitation tonight (and on a solo ride, no less!) it signaled a milestone. So many years in the making!

And I praised him.

And I stroked his big neck.

And I whooped and hollered for joy!

And we flew through the woods, into the realm of Pegasus.

And I heard the Doors, and I felt the rhythm:

The time to hesitate is through
No time to wallow in the mire

And I rose and fell with Laddie’s swift and powerful movement . . .

And my eyes watered with the speed.

And a GIANT SMILE spread over my now-wiser, horse-satisfied face . . .

Come on Baby light my fire!
Try to set the night on fire . . .

AAAAhhhh! You’re AWESOME, Lad!

How FANTASTIC is that!!!!


Listen to more of the Doors here:

Rick Riding :))

Postscript:  Laddie continues to mature, AWESOME — turning eight this year. He happily carries (and cares for) those fortunate enough to ride him :))

Join Dawn for a Soul Horse Ride!  Experience the thrill of becoming one with your horse . . . Join Dawn and her homegrown herd for a  Soul Horse Ride in the Frazier Park Outback!

Call to book your Life-Changing Adventure today:  (661) 703-6283

Dawn & Laddie -- McGill II

Like what you’ve read here? Visit Dawn’s sister blog: Journal of Dawn

Kailua Ferrari


Copyright 2013, 2016


April 22, 2016 · 9:40 pm

Ride Life! The Reins . . .

Molokai Mural

What can we learn from horses, and horseback riding, that will help us to Live our day-to-day Lives?

Turns out, plenty.

I refer to this as: Ride Life!


Ride Life!


Unpredictable, thousand-plus-pound animals that we humans, throughout the centuries, somehow learned to tame, control, direct and partner with — from marching to battle and plowing fields, to racing and hunting . . .

To meandering trails and wild-paced gallops — just for sheer joy and pleasure!

I’m often amazed at the similarities between successful riding and controlling our horses, and Navigating the Potentially Out-of-Control Ride we all call Life.


I work with horses — you could call me a horse expert.

I’ve bred and birthed them, raised and trained them, saddled and shod them, carriage driven and ridden them.

And I’ve observed in that grand arc of horse experience that many of the skills and strategies we learn from our horses can help us Live our own human Lives.

Naje with Leaf Shadows


Horse Goal:  To partner with my horse; to ride in harmony with her; to unite with her, trust her. Meld with her, be ONE with her . . . and with the ride my horse and I take. To learn from the ride, record the ride, ENJOY the ride!

Life Goal:  To partner with my Life — my bigger goals, my higher self; to live in harmony with my Life; to unite with, trust, meld with, be ONE with . . . the Ride my Life takes. To learn from the Ride, record the Ride, ENJOY the Ride!


Constantly Adjust

One of the strategies required to successfully ride horses, is constantly adjusting my riding seat, my body posture, my hands . . .

For example, when all goes well:

* My body, my hips, all move with the swaying rhythm of my horse’s back

* My shoulders, my arms and hands, follow that swinging movement

* I hold the reins loosely, my arms outstretched, relaxed, everything flowing in unison . . .

* (And I SMILE :))


Yet as my horse carries me, her head, neck, and back forever move — and this movement secretly, silently, pulls the reins — millimeters, centimeters, inches — from my hands.

Therefore, I must constantly adjust my hand position on the reins, or face the fact that my hands become ineffective, and I’ve lost control.


The Zone of Contact

There is an area, out in front of me, where my reins and my hands are effective in stopping, turning, and controlling my horse.

We’ll call it my “zone of contact”.


It’s a sweet place, this zone, where soft, yielding wrists and fingers are forever a slight touch or “feel” away from contacting my horse’s mouth — my horse’s mind, that which controls the drive-train, if you will . . .

With my soft hands in this zone, my horse feels free to move forward, unhindered by me — which is what I want.

I want to bring out the very best in her, for the best partnership and cooperation, the most unity and enjoyment.


If I hold my hands too much in front of this zone, my reins too short — I choke my horse’s ability to move.

Too much behind, my reins too long — a big gap exists, making me unable to seamlessly control my horse’s tempo, direction and speed.

If I hold my hands outside of the zone, my movements will be jerky, rough. She will resist me. Resent me. Our smooth partnership aborts.


Therefore, the need to constantly adjust . . . which an experienced rider does without thought.

The horse’s movements pull the reins — the rider adjusts — the reins pull — the rider adjusts . . .

And so it goes, like a tennis player adjusting her racket, a surfer shifting the angle of his body on his board, a skier setting the edges, cutting into the icy slope.


Ride Life!

Now what does this have to do with the Ride we call Life?

Life Goal:  To partner with my Life — my bigger goals, my higher self; to live in harmony, in peace, with my Life; to unite with, trust, meld with, be ONE with . . . the Ride my Life takes. To learn from the Ride, record the Ride, ENJOY the Ride!


Happy Horsing

Like our horse, Life is constantly moving, changing.

And like my horse, Life’s-forever-movement secretly, silently, pulls the reins — the safety zone, the control — from my hands. Millimeters, centimeters, inches, at a time.

But how do I adjust my hand position on Life’s reins? Or face the fact that my hands have become ineffective, and I’ve lost control!

Where is my “Zone of Contact”, and how do I Ride Life ? ? ?


The Zone of Contact

Let’s look at where Life’s Zone of Contact isn’t.

* It isn’t found in freaking out.

* It isn’t found in clutching tight.

* It isn’t found in closing my eyes, holding my breath and “hoping for the best” any more than riding my horse would succeed with that approach . . .


Life’s Zone of Contact is a sweet place where soft, yielding thoughts and aspirations are forever a slight touch or “feel” away from my Life’s purpose, motivation — that which controls the drive-train, if you will. That which keeps me connected and on the very Ride . . .

With my soft, yielding thoughts in this zone, my Life freely moves forward, unhindered by me — which is what I want.

I want to bring out the very best in my Life, the best Partnership and Cooperation, the most Unity and Enjoyment.


If I hold my thoughts — my actions ­­– fearfully, too much in front of this Zone, I choke my Life’s ability to move.

Lackadaisically, my thoughts and actions too much behind, a big gap exists, making me unable to steer my Life’s tempo, direction and speed.

When I live Life outside of the Zone, my movements are jerky, rough. My higher self resents me. Resists me. Our smooth partnership aborts.


Constantly Adjust

Therefore, the need to constantly adjust . . . which an experienced Life-Rider does without pause . . .

Life’s movements pull the reins — the Rider’s thoughts and actions adjust — Life pulls — the Rider, again, adjusts . . .

And so it goes, when fear and resistance attempt to pull against us — we adjust, yielding — loosening thoughts, embracing goodness — taking action . . .

~ Toward love. And trust. ~

~ Toward harmony. And peace. ~

~ Toward my bigger goals, my higher self. Again. ~


And so I’m reminded to Ride Life, like I ride my horse — on meandering trails and wild-paced gallops — just for sheer joy and pleasure!

And it’s true!

I’m often amazed at the similarities between successfully riding and controlling my thousand-plus-pound-horses . . .

And Navigating the Potentially Out-of-Control Ride we all call Life.




Copyright 2015

Like what you’ve read here? Please visit Dawn’s sister blog: Journal of Dawn




December 15, 2015 · 4:40 pm

My Horse: My Airplane

It’s Starboy’s 25th birthday this month! Born in Malibu, I remember so well . . . and still he’s healthy, sound — ready to fly like a Piper Warrior, into the woods at endurance speed — and enjoy!

In tribute to Starboy, here’s a jovial piece from my journal, written December, 2012.

Señor Starboy :))

Señor Starboy :))


My Horse: My Airplane

My horse is an airplane, my airplane, and my soul longs to take up his yoke and soar.

As I roll open the gate and lead him from his barn-hanger, I feel the thrill of knowing that we’ll be in the air, soon.

Like my fellow aviators, I administer my preflight routine: Brush off his hair coat—check. Pick out his hooves—check. Pad, saddle, girth, bridle—check, check, check.

Starboy, Aria, ready to go . . .

Pilot and Aircraft — ready to go . . .


Before I mount, I run my hand across his silky neck, and I remember my dad’s first airplane, when I was very young. After all, it was a horse – an airplane called a Piper Colt — a tiny economical two-seater with not metal, but a painted cloth exterior.

I remember Dad being extra careful in his preflight check to be sure there were no scrapes or tears in the thing. (Fortunately, there never were.)

Dad told my brother and me, “Don’t touch the skin – it’s thin as paper! You could poke your finger through it by mistake!”

Gee, Dad, I thought. How safe is that?

Dad with an earlier plane.

Dad with an earlier plane.


Fortunately my plane is made of proper flesh – no paint-coated cloth cut-outs for me.

I stand back and admire how he looks: Sturdy sleek lines, aerodynamic contours, built to take on the task at hand.

My open air, VariEze-Berkut-Lear-Jet experimental model (Starboy) is ready to take me into the skies!

I climb up onto his fuselage, clamor into his cockpit. Secure.

We idle out of the ranch, down the taxiway, ready to accelerate, to elevate, to leave earth’s gravity and experience the weightless thrill of unfettered flight.

VariEze experimental aircraft designed by Burt Rutan. 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia: By Stephen Kearney (Personal collection.)


Once in the forest, I ease in the throttle – and we’re air-born – just like that! How effortlessly he melds with the winds aloft, soaring up the trail.

Sensitive, responsive, like the best-made craft, my horse climbs, hooves churning, pouring on the power, heaving forth into the great expanse.

His silken mane flaps with the currents, his hooves kick up dust-particle-vortices – beware traffic following too close behind!

Starboy's flying mane

Gliding, soaring, we yaw, pitch, and roll our way through the cool-air, wooded-wonderland, my face smiling in delight – whooping out loud, praising Starboy, awakening the little girl in me who always loves to fly.

I remember seeing houses, all the rows of houses and driveways and cars and swimming pools, and how small they looked from above.

I remember falling asleep in the back of Dad’s next, bigger airplane, his Beechcraft Bonanza, on the way home from Disneyland – at 2am – where Dad worked as Bandleader at the Park.

(Listen to Dad’s Disneyland music here: Elliott Brothers Orchestra at Disneyland  — Read more about Dad here: You Can Do Anything and Family of Flying.)

I remember half-awaking to the lullaby sound of the engine, feeling the bumps and swoops of flight, the plane gently caressing me — Dad in the cockpit, a serene look on his face — the small red light, and the glow of the instrument panel illuminating his profile.

I hear the sounds of the radio, static, clicking in and out, and the voice of Dad’s nightly Air Traffic Controller friend at the LAX tower, “How’s it going up there, Mickey Mouse?”

Old Control Tower at LAX

The Old Control Tower at LAX — in operation when Dad flew his nightly Disneyland commute.


I dodge a tree branch before it snaps me in the face, Starboy soaring, sailing his way upward.

The forest footing feels damp today, boggy in places, snow patches here and there. Not to fear. Acrobatic maneuvers are Starboy’s specialty!

He dances and darts to firmer ground, wiggles his wings, loops the loop and skillfully applies the laws of aerodynamics in his own horsey way.

We barnstorm the woods like a Curtis Jenny with it’s Hispano-Suiza engine my Grandfather told of from his 1918 days in the Army Air Service, WWI.

Grandfather vintage shot -- Curtis Jenny with Hispano Suisa engine.

Grandfather in mechanic suit, holding the prop.  — Curtis Jenny with Hispano Suisa engine.

I remember pouring through Grandfather’s vintage monotone photographs, held into the book by little black paste-on corners. His six-foot-tall frame looked small next to the massive cowling, props, and engine of the planes he flew and worked on as mechanic.

One day, after I started flying, Grandfather explained his favorite acrobatic maneuver, the Chandelle – think Flex-Straw.

He thrust his now-aged hand above him into a steep climb – steel-blue eyes following – rotating into an upward U-turn, doubling back and continuing on – smiling now, just a bit – re-living the thrills of his earlier adventures, before career and kids and life set in . . .

I took Grandfather flying just once, about two years after I’d gotten my pilot license – out of Santa Monica. He hadn’t been in a small plane since Dad had passed, a decade before.

I grabbed his wiry eightysomething arm and helped him into the cockpit next to me, where he sat stoic, looking out at the mountains, and homes, and landscapes below. (I remember the feeling of intense responsibility in piloting him, and great relief in returning him, unharmed, to Terra firma.)

Before he died, he gave me his log book, documenting fifty hours of flight training, as well as his original leather military flight helmet, faded and tattered by time. (Which, when I tried it on my head, fit, perfectly!)

Grandfather, U.S. Army Air Service, Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Grandfather, U.S. Army Air Service, Fort Sill, Oklahoma.


Starboy’s reins feel warm in my gloved hands, transmitting soft contact through rudder and aileron, saddle and leg. No extra right rudder needed to offset this engine torque! Coordinated turns, perfect bank, my airplane’s motion satisfies my soul with fine-tuned grandeur.

And I realize how fortunate I am – how very few who set out to be pilots, very few who endeavor to be horsemen, really master the art, melding as one with their craft.

And I recall my own years of flight over these very mountains, alone at the controls of my rented Cherokee Warrior aircraft.

I remember well one crisp winter day, smiling, singing, weaving above ridgelines and canyons dusted in sugar-coated snow – songs of Judy Collins playing on my at-the-time high-tech Sony Walkman.

Rows and flows of angel hair

          And ice cream castles in the air

                   And feathered canyons everywhere,

                             I’ve looked at clouds that way…

Rows and Flows of Angel Hair

We turn onto a spur trail now, a shortcut toward home. Starboy’s neck stretches, his engine begs more RPM’s. I hold him back – I’m the pilot, he’s the craft. No runaway-out-of-control tailspins for us!

As we rise and fall with the updrafts, the forest smells beautiful today. Early winter silver boughs sparkle in the late-day sun. It’s a perfect flight on Starboy, doing what we love best…

And I remember my life back then, twentysomething entrepreneur, grabbing onto the yoke of life, the Fashion Industry’s fickle trends dictating my every move.

Sales, manufacturing, Boutique shows, employees. And yet all I really wanted was to find a way to make a living with horses. To ride – and fly – and soar into dimensions of the soul…

Here I am, third generation pilot, with a Piper Tomahawk. (My Mom shot this pic.)

Here I am, third generation pilot, with a Piper Tomahawk. (My Mom shot this pic.)

I never tire of the energy, the spectacle, the lightness of flight. How it lifts me out of my earthly doldrums and whisks me into whimsy. And now, here on Starboy, flying home. Satisfied.

Mid-life Dawn winks an eye at her former self, knowing that I’m flying again, like I always have. Cherishing my well-tuned craft and his subtle response to my slightest cues. Just the way it should be.

I’ve looked at life from both sides now,

          From here and there and still somehow

                   With life’s illusions I recall

                             I really don’t know life, at all…

Turning base, descending for our landing now, I see the houses of our valley – like the houses from the airplanes of my youth. And I smile. Big!

Because I’ve looked at life from both sides now, lived life from both sides up in the air, and down on the forested earth. And I’m here, flying Starboy right now just where I most like to be.

Starboy on the Trail

We touch down at the forest gate soft, smooth. Then taxi the final stretch to our glider’s home port.

Starboy whinnies, deeply, to the other members of his herd, who answer in shrill reply.

But instead of refueling with Avgas, my Bonanza-Warrior-Hispano-Suiza-Starboy dines tonight – on alfalfa hay!

Starboy in Sunlight


Copyright 2012, 2015


Like what you’ve read here? Please visit Dawn’s sister blog: Journal of Dawn


September 18, 2015 · 1:11 pm

Aria! Coming Together . . .

Here’s a little piece I found in my journal from earlier this year. Reading it, I smile . . .

Aria turned eight last month — and indeed, she’s coming together — just lovely!


Aria, Ella, and filly Hokuleia, top of the world . . .

Aria, Ella, and filly Hokuleia, top of the world . . .


Yesterday Aria came completely together for me!

In that one ride she transformed from green, still-being-worked-on horse-in-training, to polished riding gem!

It makes me remember the time when that happened with her mother, Fae — in Shadow Hills, exploring the mountains behind Hai Mitchell’s carriage driving facility.

Fae had been there in training for a couple of months, working in harness several times weekly, and in stunning physical condition.

And while out riding the hills that day, she graced me with one of the rides of my life.

Fae, Aria's mother, Mt. Pinos.

Fae, Aria’s mother, Mt. Pinos.

I remember it distinctly . . . time stood still.

Suddenly I was re-living the rides of my childhood, my early adulthood, when the kids were young. Fae became a composite of all the horses — real and fantasy — in my life before her.

It took her nine years, yet that day, Fae’s brain and body came together — no longer gangly half-draft (Shire), struggling to sort it all out — but now polished, responsive.

Able to balance her own body, and along with it, balance and carry mine.

Finally ready to really ride and enjoy.


Yesterday, Aria did the same!

Filly Aria, 2007

Filly Aria, 2007

It takes such a long time for a horse to mature.

You breed them, birth them. Halter them, wean them. Nurture them, train them.

You feed, and spend — and wait for them to grow. Thinking, hoping, that you know what kind of horse they might be — but not really.

Because, like a little kid, they have so much to to go through.

And there’s so much that can go awry . . . it’s not a given that all turns out as you wish . . .

It takes years of training, painted on in thin layers, each ride and experience building upon those before.

There’s a thrill in that, but the ultimate goal is a seasoned riding horse, whose mind and hooves meld with her rider.

And you can’t push it. Like a blossom, it opens fully in its own time.

Molokai Blossom


So yesterday, Aria gave me glassy perfection!

I re-live it now, with wonder.

I had worked her down the day before, ponying her off of Starboy in a swift loop from the Snow Gate to the “Y”.

Now, ponying Laddie along until we enter the woods, I let him off the rope, running free.

From the beginning, Aria responds immediately, softly, to my lightest signals — my body never coming off her back unless posting.

Her legs, now my legs. Her body, my body.

Melded, married, swiftly moving forward.

Aria Running

Aria Running

Fluid, flying, outside of the day-to-day realm.

Endurance! Speed! Exuberance in motion!

We transit the forest to the sand wash, up Mill Canyon, running the galloping stretch neck-to-neck with Laddie, still loose off the lead.

(Several times, he enjoys positioning himself directly in front of us, deliberately blocking our progress, slowing the pace — Aria’s head shaking in protest with snarly looks and pressed back ears . . . )


Turning back, returning toward home on the “Sneaky Trail,” Aria amps into overdrive, turning up her speed — seeking out the twisting, single-track rut — taking the turns, loops, and swirls like a Disneyland adventure ride!

Disneyland Rides!

In a flash I’m back in my childhood: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, The Tea Cups,  The Matterhorn, Peter Pan . . .

In her never-ending movement I re-live the Roller Coaster at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, lilting smile upon my face.

Spinning ’round a scrub oak, dodging a thick pinon branch, we sprint up the rise and dip down the back side, in endless loose-reined flight, Laddie following a few lengths behind us.

Now, I feel the spinning, swirling Airplane Ride at Pacific Ocean Park on the end of the Santa Monica Pier.

Disneyland After Dark

Laughing, marveling, as Aria’s hooves soar above the ground — I find myself flying my early-twenty’s airplane, my acrobatic glider, my childhood fantasy Pegasus . . .

Oh, to meld with a horse like this!

On her, I body-surf waves, slalom moguls, and pilot my fighter jet, surpassing supersonic speeds!


Carousel Horses

And I realize that this ride marks the fulfillment of my dreams and fantasies, not just for her, but for all the horses in my life. Deep-seated childhood dreams . . .

I want to have horses.

I want to raise horses.

From babies, from foals.

I want to ride horses on endless trails —

that’s what I want in my life.

Little Dawn with plastic horses at Grandfather's house

Little Dawn with plastic horses at Grandfather’s house


And I take a moment and remember all that Aria, my third-generation home-bred mare, and I have been through to get this far:

* The morning, as a newborn, she scrapped to stand on straggly legs.

* Hauling her to the Vet hospital — numerous times — to nurse her wounds and afflictions.

(I remember the evening, as a four-month-old, both veterinarians wanted to put her down, right then — her knee shattered and broken. But she pulled through, she recovered! Not just that, but her hind leg kicked, and resulting surgery, massive vet bills, aftercare. And last year, to the hospital, again.)

* When Ella and I rode her on those the first few rides, reveling in her smooth gaits, her calm, confident demeanor. Deciding that she is exactly the horse one wants to replicate — thus breeding her for filly, Hokuleia, and then, Fae again, for little brother, Noir, to preserve her bloodlines . . .

* Training, nurturing, feeding, board, care . . . all that goes in to breeding and raising and bringing up a horse like this.

And I realize that it’s taken seven full years, and then some — for her to come together! Finally now mature. Reliable. Ready for our endless future adventures.

Aria, Ella and baby, Hokuleia.

Aria, Ella and filly, Hokuleia.


Last year, one of the teenage kids at the riding program Aria went to for training commented, “Someday, I want to have a horse like this!”

My reply: “You cannot buy a horse like Aria — no one will sell them. You have to make one!”

I’m beaming right now with the accomplishment! :))


Aria Shadow Rock -- Malibu

Aria Shadow Rock — Malibu


Copyright 2015


Read more about Aria here: Aria, My Pegasus


September 9, 2015 · 12:04 pm

Horseman’s Prayer of Praise – Reblog

It’s that time of year when I reflect on the Miracle of keeping horses – and all the commitment caring for them involves . . .

And now, as winter hits, their coats grow thick. Our riding time grows scarce.

Here’s a Reblog that seems to fit this sun-goes-down-early, trying time of year.

Christmas Horse

As I reflect on my lifelong love – and commitment – to horses, I remember wondering at times: Will I be able to care for them? Feed them? Keep them?

Thus far I’ve raised four generations, and at times it’s been absolutely challenging. The economy. The weather. Moves. Marriage. Children. Work. Health.

I wrote this poem with heart-felt angst after the economy dropped – going into winter’s snow and cold – December 2008. At that time I truly didn’t know how things would work out.

Thus its special meaning to me, because, indeed, God came through. : ~ )

Times got tough. We tightened our belts. Our family had to work long and hard. Yet our horses continued to be well-fed and cared for. And I consider that one of the Major Miracles of my life!

I believe God hears our cries – and also our praises. I believe we’re tasked with the job of praise!

So Horsemen, keep the faith going into winter this year . . .

Lord God, hear our Horseman’s Prayer:

Starboy in Sunlight


Horseman’s Prayer of Praise


Bless my horse, Lord God above,

Bless his gentle soul.

Keep him fat, keep him sleek

Keep him warm from cold.


Help me, God, my horse to keep

In good times and in bad.

Fodder in his feeder deep

And what ‘ere he needs to have.


I praise You for creating him

For entrusting him to my care.

For when life presses hard on me

My horse is always there.


His ears prick forth when I arrive,

Nostrils nicker hello

Happy hooves trod my way

And follow where ere I go.


Willingly he bears my weight,

Without complaint he soars

Where ‘ere I wish, he doth me take

As one who doth adore.


For You have made him strong and fast,

Faithful, swift and true.

Bless his soul where ‘ere he goes

For he’s my constant blessing from You.


And when he’s gone into the earth

Receive his gentle soul

For he’s lived his life with love and grace –

And fulfilled his earthly goal.




Starboy at Sunset



Copyright 2008, 2013, 2014


December 31, 2014 · 7:54 pm

Ride for Little Dawn

I’ve been tracking this theme for several years now, wondering what it is about grown-up life that loses spontaneity?

I want to get out and ride my horse, but something seems to get in my way . . .

So I hopped on tonight for an impromptu Ride for Little Dawn – and it was fabulous! Here’s the concept, written a few years back, in August, during the peak of summer riding season.


Changing seasons bring changing moods. Riding is different for me now.

Years ago, I lived to ride. I fantasized myself forever riding my childhood horse, Rebel, especially while stuck sitting alone during lunchtime at Emerson Junior High.

Little Dawn loved horses more than life itself.

Little Dawn with Breyer Horses

But Mid-life Dawn, during precious time off from work, gets tired, wants to hang out at home. And there are so many errands and things to do . . .

I’ve always been a trail rider, an endurance rider. And these kinds of rides take energy  especially now that the kids have moved out and I’m riding alone again.

But I promised Little Dawn that she would ride later . . .

After the children were grown.

After the bills were paid. 

After the horses were raised and trained.

I gave her many excuses.

And now I find myself with internal battle.

I put off riding on Saturday because I was just too pooped. Now it’s Sunday.

Do I honor Little Dawn and take her riding, even if I’d rather be doing something else? What resistance stops me from getting out and enjoying the horses I’ve worked so hard for?


After writing this journal entry and defining my quandary, I made my move.

The last two nights I got off my butt and rode. For her . . .

Starboy on the Trail


Sunday I saddled Starboy and ponied Mentor, leaving late, at 6:30 p.m. We pulled the grade to McGill trail, climbing the switchbacks into the wilderness up the side of grand Mt. Pinos, our mountain neighbor and protector, standing 8,800’ above sea level.

Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?

I made my sad self rally.

I got out, I rode . . .

Then why was I still so tired? 

Why did riding feel like drudgery and work? Commitment, not exuberance? Prodding Starboy to keep a steady trot up the trail.


Then, somewhere up the switchback section, Little Dawn showed up — and the work gave way to adventure!

There on the hillside next to me, The Shadow appeared. The same Shadow of old. The one Little Dawn loved to watch. The only witness to her childhood rides.

Fae Shadow Trail

And there was Little Dawn in The Shadow, bathed in milky late-day light.

Riding her beautiful horse again.


She looked young, athletic, fit.

Her arms were muscled and strong.

She even wore her hat, like days of old.

She got very excited at seeing her image again, and I, too, got inspired to be up on Mt. Pinos, riding my wonderful horses, in the finale of a perfect summer day.


Little Dawn thanked me for honoring her, for taking her riding even when I didn’t feel like it.

And I stopped and wrote a poem about her, and The Shadow, and the horses. (I had paper and pen in my saddlebag, a first!)

And then we talked, sitting on the horse, right up there on the side of the mountain.

She spilled out her heart — how she’s waited and been patient and grown-up as possible . . . but really, she never got her turn. And she’s been waiting for me to SLOW DOWN and to listen to her!

To honor her — and not just my day-to-day concerns.

And I agreed. And we discovered a new commonality, based around the horses, and Nature, and spontaneity — and we made a new commitment to one another, right then and there . . .


Setting Sun -- McGill Trail

Little Dawn loved the ride so much, and was so enthused, she talked me out of turning around when the sun’s light set, and we  persevered on, into the now deepening twilight — two more miles to the lookout above the meadow.

As per our custom, we dismounted at the lookout and a ‘bar tender’ (that would be me) thoughtfully served up carrots (from our saddle bag) for the patrons (Starboy and Mentor), who showed greedy appreciation with soft busy noses . . .

Now, with the horses rested and happy, we turned to ride back down the single-track, side-of-the-mountain trail, engulfed in complete pitch-black-under-the-trees-darkness — no moon tonight.

(We didn’t get back to the ranch until 10:30.)

But even though it was dark, and at times a bit unnerving, Little Dawn didn’t fret. Even when Starboy went off-trail in the blackness!

She just corrected his path and began singing camp songs, and Beatles songs, and nursery songs, and gospel songs, and Big Band songs . . . until we were out of the four-miles of tree-shrouded darkness and back in the open valley again, under the bright canopy of stars.

The ride was so exhilarating, I couldn’t wait to go again! My body didn’t even hurt the next day.


Veiw from McGill

So last night Little Dawn and I rode Angel and ponied Sage. We started out at our favorite end-of-day time. I wanted to go back up McGill, but kept seeing a mental picture of riding South toward Plunderosa, so that was where we went.

We zipped through the forest, flew through the wash — Angel moving out happily, steadily, in a big-strided ground-covering trot — Sage following along perfectly, like a choreographed dance partner, not at all pulling on my arm.

Two hours of mounted bliss.


Little Dawn loved it, and so did I.

She’s still talking about it today — and planning another ride for later.

It sure is great to have her back in my life!


(We ended up hauling to Malibu and riding two more days — making four back-to-back rides in a row! How’s that for transformation?)


So whenever I haven’t ridden enough, whenever the cares of life seem to get in the way, I think of Little Dawn, find the time to saddle up my horse, take off into the woods — and ride!

The Shadow -- up McGill Trail


 Copyright 2006, 2014






October 30, 2014 · 2:34 pm

Red Star Noir ~ My 11th Newborn Foal!

Ah, the joys of new life!

Fae’s latest accomplishment, Red Star Noir, came into this world on August 19, 2014 — and as I now count, he’s my eleventh new baby foal!!!

Fae and Noir - first week

My newborn foals:

1 – AA Mentor – 1985

2 – Mentor’s Jewel – 1989

3 – Starboy – 1990

4 – Angel -1991

5 – Fanta’s Sir Prize – 1995

6 – Fanta’s Fae Dancer (aka Fanta’s Dancing Fae ) – 2001

7 – Maverick – 2007

8 – Aria – 2007

9 – Laddie (Aladin’s Bay Star) 2008

10 – Hokuleia – 2012

11 – Red Star Noir – 2014

Wobbly newborn Red Star Noir!

Wobbly newborn Red Star Noir!


I remember as a kid, some time during junior high, the horse calendar that hung in my room. One month there was a picture of an adorable bay-colored Arabian colt, perhaps just two weeks old.

I remember looking and wishing and marveling at the beauty of his fresh life. I wondered what it would be like to hold him, pet him. Raise him, love him. And I decided: SOMEDAY, I’ll have a baby horse of my own!

I remember wondering: Would I really? How? How could that be possible?

But I tucked that wish away, along with my life-long desire to have, ride and love a horse of my very own.

And I went back to living my junior high life. Not knowing if either of those dreams would EVER come true.


Then, completely out of the blue one day, Mom made the announcement, driving alone with her in the car. (I remember it oh so well.  I was thirteen.)

Her voice cracked a little, and she said: “Dad and I have decided to get you a horse.”

What? Really? After all these years of begging??? Wahoooo!!! This is my dream come true!

I ended up with a scruffy unregistered strawberry roan, Heinz 57-Appaloosa/Arab mix named Rebel. Said to be seven years old, he’d been a family’s “trail horse”. He had a long nose, beautiful eyes and a swinging black tail.

Rebel was the perfect first horse for me. Rugged, rank — he challenged my limited skills and fulfilled my endless horse-addiction.

He became the focal point of my existence.

Rebel got me through the tough times, the lonely times, of junior high and high school. I LIVED for riding Rebel.

Through him I experienced freedom. Riding, flying, through the wilderness on wings of horsey joy.


Then, when I was sixteen, Dad passed away from a heart attack — changing EVERYTHING in my life — one fateful night.

“Honey, things are always changing. The sooner you get used to that, the better off you’ll be.”

Did Dad know something when he told me those words, just weeks before he suddenly passed?

Again, Rebel was my constant. My confidant. My outlet. My sanity. He was my freedom on four fabulously swift legs.

And I turned to him even more after losing Dad.

We would ride the Southern California mountain trails all day, every Saturday, The Doors singing “Come on baby light my fire . . .” from the transistor radio strapped to my saddle. Grit in my teeth, smile on my face, on and on and on, as far as we could go.

Yet after finishing high school, I began wondering about the reason for life.

What am I to do with my life? Why are we here? Where do we go after we leave this green Earth? Where is Dad now?

I dropped out of University and did what I’d often dreamed I’d do. I rode Rebel into the California wilderness on a ten-day, soul-searching, solo trek. Just me and Rebel.



My time alone in the wilderness toughened my determination. I overcame many obstacles, completing my “hero’s quest”, and I came back into civilization with new resolve.

I will live my life to the fullest. I will live as close to Nature as possible. I will pursue all my dreams!

Following my love for horses and animals, I worked teaching horseback riding, then milking cows on commercial dairy farms.

I chopped down trees, sewed canvass, built a Sioux Indian Tipi — and lived in it — as close to Nature as I could be!

Rebel lived outside the Tipi in the pasture with me, only a sheet of canvass between us.

Those were awesome times, living on the Earth, literally! With horses and cattle surrounding me. Until, eventually, Rebel aged and passed away.

Afterwards I had a brief stint with another horse, an Arabian mare I called Stargirl. But she met with tragedy, and I was horseless for a number of my mid-twenties years.

Eventually I went back to college, learned to fly airplanes, and started my own fashion business.


Now, I was in position to own a horse again!

So in 1980, I bought an Appaloosa yearling mare, named Fanta (Smokey Joe’s Fanta).

Little did I know when I was outbid on the original mare I’d come to buy at auction that day, that the understated roan filly I ended up purchasing would continue her legacy in my life — some three decades later!

(I definitely ended up with the better horse!)

Fanta’s combination of Appaloosa, Running Quarter Horse, Racing Thoroughbred, and (1/4th) Arabian gave her speed, endurance and silky-smooth gaits.

Her BIG trot, bounding canter, and animated walk made her a pleasure to ride.

After deciding to train her myself, and spending the next several years researching and accomplishing the task, I also ended up purchasing a purebred (in-foal) Arabian mare who soon gave birth to a beautiful, intelligent bay colt: AA Mentor.

I got my baby horse after all!

Under the lamplight, in the sweet smell of straw, breathing his fresh newborn scent, my baby horse dreams came true. Singing, cooing, rubbing his soft fur, I’d whisper of how we’d ride together, fly together — him carrying me, into the mountains, by the sea, over endless rolling hills . . . the wind rushing through our hair.

Holding him in my lap, Mentor filled my heart with not just love, but fresh purpose and perspective. Here was new life for a new future. A new portal to magical adventures ahead!

Although Fanta was six when Mentor was born, it was love at first whinny — and despite their difference in age, they became life-long mates.


Soon after Mentor’s birth, my life went through big changes. I, too, gave birth to my own baby girl, and then another . . .

And Fanta gave birth to Mentor’s babies, and she and I ended up raising our offspring together — horses and humans bonded like siblings.

I got another Tipi, living again on the Earth, with my babies, with my horses — even Nubian milk goats. Once again, close to Nature.

Completely magical!

Little kids and little baby horses romping, bucking, playing dress-up — inventing their own language, games, rules. My kids and Fanta’s — exploring life. Growing up side-by-side.

Eventually my kids grew taller, the horses matured, and we’d all ride together — wild rides through the wilderness. Horses and humans of the same herd — bonded, it would turn out, for generations yet unborn . . .

Noir - under Mom's tail


So now, long after my kids have moved out, long after Fanta and Mentor have passed — a new life enters my herd: Red Star Noir!

And get this — the timing, the beyond-coincidence planning of the Cosmos — born just three days after my first grandchild was born. :))

Oh Fanta, you and I, raising babies together again!

This one, yet another grand-colt. Born within days of my grand-daughter.

And we welcome you, Star Noir, to our family. To our herd.

And how sweet, how smart your half-Arabian nature. (Noir’s sire, an endurance Arabian.)

And now, once again,  I snuggle you. I breathe in your fresh baby scent . . . rub your fur, scratch your favorite itch spots. And I whisper sweet images of us riding together, flying together — you carrying me, like Fanta and Mentor before.

Nursing Noir


Long live Fanta’s legacy!

Long live Red Star Noir!

My lucky number 11!

One of the sweetest foals of my life thus far!

Noir itch


Copyright 2014


September 22, 2014 · 9:09 pm