Category Archives: Human-Horse Behavior

The interaction between humans and horses. That magical fine line of timing, breathing, whispering, releasing, dominating, yielding, playing, cavorting, and otherwise hanging out with our beloved horses.

In Defense of Horseshoes

Ever since the beginning of the Barefoot Movement, horseshoes have taken a bad wrap.

Nails — awful.

Steel — restrictive.

Damn farriers!

Ruining all our horses with outdated, medieval malevolence!

Yet — please!

Let’s don’t throw out the hoof with the bath water . . .


I’m primarily a Barefoot girl, no problem.

And barefoot is great, under the best circumstances.

I’ve ridden sound, barefoot horses on endless trails, for years.

But I shod my horses last week — and took them on one of the trails we’ve ridden, barefoot, for the past twenty years — and it enhanced the entire endeavor!!!


Aria Shadow, Pinos Ride

Bright, springy steps replaced delicate plodding.

Heightened enjoyment, not just for my husband and I, but for the horses — as they didn’t have to bother avoiding sharp, crystalline rocks.


Steel, and pads, and hoof packing — actually saved the day!

Fae Hooves Pinos -- Shoes


So what caused me to add the shoes?

We’ve had a very long, cold and drawn out winter here in the mountainous region of Southern California this year, 2017. In fact it filled our reservoirs, and broke our multi-year drought.

The ground was saturated for more than two months with snow, ice, mud.

Just when it began warming up, drying out — more rain, snow, mud.

It SNOWED 4″ in early MAY!!!!

And just when my horses hooves were developing their hard, dry soles (a kind of callus which acts like shoe protection for the internal structures and comfort of their hooves) the late snow, saturating the ground, caused those soles to slough — the equivalence losing your shoes on a hot day at the beach . . .

And caused those hooves to feel every pebble. Every rock.

rainbow hoof, Hawaii


Shoes and Pads to the Rescue

Enter steel Natural Balance horseshoes, leather and Shock Tamer pads, and Sole Pack medicated packing material.

As a farrier, it’s something I’ve done for other people’s horses for years: Shoe. Pad. Protect.

But something I’ve rarely needed to do for my own homegrown, four-generation, hardy-hooved herd.

Why? Because my own healthy-hooved horses really didn’t need it. Barefoot worked fantastic for my horses (other than occasional shoes to help with gait issues or overreaching).


Shock Tamer Pads -- Fae

So when we rode the top of our local high-elevation (8,000′-9,000′) Mt. Pinos trails the other evening and FELT the difference — same trails, same horses, we’ve ridden for twenty years — I knew I just had to write.

Because theory is one thing.

Reality is another.

Aria Shoes Pinos


Enter Uncle Ink

I agree. Not all horseshoeing is made equal — that’s why I learned to shoe, from my farrier Uncle, Ink Knudson.

I learned to trim my own homebred herd of Arab-cross horses from Uncle Ink in Malibu in 1990.

Great. Wonderful. Sound. No problems.

But by 1996, I’d moved up here to the mountains, and got an Arab-Tennessee Walker, named Max, with less than ideal hooves.

An old barb wire injury to his coronet resulted in a large scar tissue bulb that he would overreach and tear with his hind hoof, causing him head-bobbing lameness.

The hoof that did grow, came in abnormal.


Hoof soreness.

Poor Max!

The local farriers up here in our region weren’t able to keep him sound. Even with pads and packing and egg bar shoes.

That’s when I took him down to Uncle Ink .

And Uncle Ink’s shoes made Max sound.

That’s when I realized, the other farriers couldn’t, wouldn’t do what Uncle Ink did.

I had to learn how to nail on shoes — to help Max. To keep him sound.

DawnHoof - Therapeutic Shoes, Hawaii


Bad Shoeing is Bad — Good Shoeing is Good!

But what was it about Ink’s shoes that worked?

Why couldn’t the local guys have fixed Max and made him comfortable?

What did Ink know that the local guys up here didn’t?

That’s the real secret — the real story.

Steel shoes, alone, aren’t the culprit.

It’s how the hoof is trimmed, and how those shoes are applied.

As my Uncle Ink taught me, “It’s art!”

And as with all art, it takes a good eye, a good feel, and a good understanding of why you’re doing what it is that you do . . .

Aria Leather Pad, Shoes


Uncle Ink was a metallurgist in the Navy in WWII. After the war, he went to Cal Poly,  San Luis Obispo to learn the art of horse shoeing, on the GI Bill.

Then he honed his craft apprenticing with the old Calvary shoers in the LA area.

He worked with famous veterinarians doing specialized therapeutics. He could make any shoe or support apparatus in his coal forge.

He shod every kind of horse for every kind of discipline. He shod for every kind of person, including a cadre of famous actors.

He shod Ronald Reagan’s horses, Roy Roger’s Trigger, Gene Autry’s Champion . . .

And he shod my scruffy first horse, Rebel.


Marco with Grinder

The majority of today’s farriers either studied with an elder, or attended one of the farrier schools.

Emphasis seems more on appearance than function.

How nice the low-nailed clinches appear.

How straight and level the hoof.

(The old question of balance!)

Problem is, high, angled nails hold better.

Heel nails, now out of fashion, hold the best.

Many hooves are, in themselves, not straight or level. The bones have de-mineralized in accordance to the horse’s conformation.

Shoeing those hooves “straight and level” is the same as shoeing a straight and level hoof out of balance.

But how do you teach this?

How do these guys learn what it took my Uncle sixty years under the anvil, the forge, the horse, to gain?

Fae Shoes - all 4


So imagine my bliss in discovering, that the skills I originally learned to help Max with his old injury, actually improved my sound, “barefoot” horses on a real-life trail ride into my own local mountainous back country.

Solid hoofbeats. Solid horses.


We’ve got a great riding schedule planned for this season!!!

Rick on Fae, with Orbs, Pinos


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


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

Copyright 2017

Anna's Tree, Pinos




May 31, 2017 · 1:51 am

Why Ride?

This sounds so stupid.

Do I really need to define it?

Yes . . . I need to know . . . Why do I want to RIDE?

Because resistance requires it.

Resistance makes me lazy. Unseats my resolve. And unless I know just why I must get out and go riding, I might not go at all . . .

– – –

What motivates me to leave my cushy cabin, cruise out the door wearing boots, bearing treats . . . to actually ride/drive/longe or otherwise DO something with my horse(s)?

When I was younger, all I wanted to do was to ride! In fact, you couldn’t stop me if you’d tried. (see post: Ride for Little Dawn)

But Life, age, work, motherhood, responsibilities — even habit — gnaws away at the motivation.

I have the horses, the saddles, the carriages, the harness, the necessary gear. I even have the time these days . . .

And riding season at our mountain elevation has just now become possible.

Aria --  Looking

So I set out this afternoon, this First-Day-of-Spring after our LONG wet and snowy,  Finally-Breaking-the-California-Drought Winter, and made a list for myself of all the reasons to RIDE!

Because if my motivation isn’t strong enough, clear enough, I could miss out . . .

I could sit here at home rather than interact with my amazing life-long herd of homebred horses.

And frankly, time is running out. Or rather onward. Forward.

Starboy is 26 already. How long will he be willing to carry me? Fae, Aria, Laddie, perfect in their training. Perfect in soundness, readiness, willingness.

Don’t waste this, Dawn! Go out there and hit the trails, and live my horse life to the fullest!

Starboy in Sunlight

– – –

Why is Horsing important to me?

  • My horses depend upon me for their food, board, water, EXERCISE, training and care.
  • They have done all that I’ve asked of them. They await now, fully trained, fully able, for me to allow their physical freedom and expression.
  • Without me taking them OUT, their potential lies dormant, unfulfilled, WASTED. Yes, they live in a large, spacious pasture setting. Yet they will not cut loose, cannot cut loose, to freely gallop and breathe the wind, without me taking them into the woods and allowing them this freedom!
  • Like my daughter’s harp, like her piano, here in my living room — without her to play, the instruments sit fallow. No magic. No music. But with the horse — Starboy, Laddie, Aria, Fae — it’s not just an instrument made of steel and wood, but a living, breathing being, filled with Majesty! With God. With Life itself! Made to run like the wind! Domesticated, and bred, and raised by me — for partnership with me!
  • By not fulfilling my end of the partnership, I dishonor my horse’s very life! Their reason and purpose of being.
  • I bred these horses, sacrificed greatly for them; I traveled and flew to Hawaii and worked on countless other hooves and horses in order to pay for them. This riding, driving, LOVE of these horses is the very reason for all the work I’ve done — not to sit at home, but for to RIDE! DRIVE! And to share these magnificent horses with others!
  • These horses are the reason I’ve cleansed and fasted and figured out my diet and taken supplements and lost weight and regained my health.
  • These horses are my reason to LIVE! And if I don’t utilize my time with them, I’m being duped by a false illusion that my couch is my life — not true!
  • I get to schedule my horse days and fulfill them in order to honor both my horses, and Little Dawn!
  • Little Dawn lived for horses. I promised her I’d give her time to ride later, after college, after the kids were grown, after Hawaii, after hoof work and blog work and journaling . . .
  • Now I have the time. Now I must honor both girl, and horse, and make the commitment to my horse-girl connection and not let BS stop me, or laziness, or time robbers . . .

Dillingham Sunset

– – –

So here I go . . .

  • I want to RIDE to feel good.
  • I want to RIDE to honor Starboy, Laddie, Aria, Fae. (As well as Mentor, Fanta, Rebel, Stargirl, and all my horses before and since . . . )
  • I want to RIDE to honor Dawn, Little and Middle, and some day Old . . . to stay Young, Fresh, Alive, and Vital!
  • I want to RIDE for Life!
  • I want to RIDE for Goodness!
  • I want to RIDE for those who cannot; who wish they could; who never will.
  • I want to RIDE for those who USED to ride; who’ve since retired; gone lame; passed on . . .
  • I want to RIDE for Today; for Tomorrow.
  • For This Year; for Next Year . . . For Eternity.
  • I want to RIDE for Meditation.
  • I want to RIDE for Beauty.
  • I want to RIDE for Spirit. Soul. Majesty.
  • I want to RIDE for Joy. Exuberance. Fun!
  • I want to do my duty and RIDE!!!

rainbow hoof

– – –

I want to RIDE:

With a SMILE on my face.

With ZIP in my step.





– – –

Remember the Long Horizon, Dawn.

Ride, LIVE, for the Long Horizon . . . and you’ll get HERE!!

Right where you are, today.

Home with my horses, all fed, warm.

Winter’s frozen snows melted. Spring’s bright sky.

Shedding fur coats, budding catkins.

Rising sap into yet unformed leaves, the canopy of Summer to come.

The promise of fullness in trail rides, gallops, adventures . . .

The satisfaction of a horse life, fulfilled.

Ride on!!!

– – –

Long Shadows and Lad

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

– – –

Copyright 2017


March 20, 2017 · 11:49 pm

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

Photos: DawnHoof (Dawn Jenkins)


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

Higher and Higher


December 15, 2015 · 4:40 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

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 (Aladdin’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. (See: Laddie, Light my Fire)


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.” (See: Cha-Cha-Changes!)

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.

(See: Entrepreneur — Lessons Learned over 40 years)


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 . . .

(See: The Vast, Great Sea of Horses)

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 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


Noir itch


Update on Noir 

Sadly, Noir didn’t reach his second birthday.

Sometimes, horses live and thrive and excel. Others fail to come to fruition, or run into difficulties beyond which we can deal.

It’s part of Life. Part of owning, breeding and raising horses. And I’ve learned to be OK with it. (See my post, One-Third ~ Two-Thirds (the Good and the Bad.)

One thing I know — happy, free — Noir joins the ranks of herd and family-mates on the Other Side of the Rainbow.

Where the grass is always green.

Where there are no fences or limitations.

Where the exuberance of Life continually flows.

Galloping. Free. Unhindered.


May God bless Red Star Noir :))


(June 2019)


Copyright 2014, 2019


Little Dawn with Breyer Horses

Little Dawn with plastic horses at Grandfather’s house

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

Long Shadows



Please also visit my Life Blog, Journal of Dawn,

for Strategies and Insights into the

Journey of Life



September 22, 2014 · 9:09 pm

One-Third ~ Two-Thirds (the Good and the Bad)

Much of the time with our horses (as with much of life) everything goes wonderfully — just as it should. Our horses are sound, healthy, happy.

We ride into the sunset with flowing manes and golden rays.

But what about the times when things go awry — the hoof, the leg, the eye we count on to function normally, suddenly limps, swells, inflames?

I’ve come up with a philosophy that has helped me though the tough times of life, and horse stewardship, and I’d like to share it with you.


Golden Rays

Most of the Time, Things go Right :))

Most of the time, thankfully, things go wonderfully right. We ride our healthy, sound horses and live the dream we envisioned when we first set our sights on owning one.

“My horse is coming along beautifully!”

“I had the BEST ride over the weekend!”

“My mare is in foal — I cannot wait to see what this foal will look like!”

Yet in all this wonder, we tend to forget — we are experiencing the Perfect Two-Thirds of Horsemanship, when everything goes according to plan. :))


But ~ Sometimes, Things go Wrong :((

However, as we dance with horses through the long-haul of life, we will, from time to time, experience the Flawed One-Third, when things go wrong. (Yes, hopefully this will be an even smaller proportion . . . )

Some mysterious injury occurs.

You come out to ride, but your mare’s leg is blown up.

You go on an amazing, fast-moving ride, but your gelding takes a bad step, and is now off . . .

A bout of colic.

Or worse . . .

You have to call out the Vet or haul to the Hospital.


Time lost.

Money spent.

More worry.

No riding . . .

Darkness on the Horizon


Your mind works overtime in an endless loop.

“Why did I let this happen?”

“How STUPID was I to not ______________!!!”

“How can I be sure this will NEVER happen to my horse again?!!”

You start feeling sorry for yourself.

All your horse friends are out enjoying the good weather, their sound mounts . . . and you are unable to ride yours.

You start wondering if this is the way it’s going to be from here on — are ALL hopes dashed of EVER riding and enjoying your horse again?


Aria, Ella and Hokuleia

As a horse owner, breeder, trainer, farrier over the past fortysomething years (I’ve raised four generations thus far :)) I can tell you, I’ve been through all this.

The two aspects, good and bad, seem to go somewhat hand-in-hand.

And I can tell you, sometimes it doesn’t seem at all to work out. Sometimes a horse must be euthanized. Sometimes a horse must be determined to be unsafe or unusable.

But MOST of the time — Two-Thirds of the time, everything works out beautifully. :))

So you know what I’ve learned to do?

(I’m repeating it here, as much for me to remember, as for you to hear!)

I’ve learned to get over the worry, get through the bummer as best as possible — as if it were a test — bless the One Third, and move on.

Because without the One-Third, I would never have the Two-Thirds — the beauty, wonder and perfection my horses bring my family and me.

(Like the photos, above and below, from last fall of my daughter, Ella, enjoying our horses. :))

Aria, Ella and Hokuleia


But this summer presents a different picture.

Lately, it seems the One-Third has been busy at work.

A mare with a blown leg, a large hospital bill. Another horse with an inflamed eye.

Oh, I can feel sorry for myself.

But I’d rather feel grateful that the leg has quieted — the mare will heal!

The eye has toned down.

I’ve found it better to focus on the Perfect Two-Thirds, and do what I need to do to get through the Flawed One-Third, than to worry and drive myself nuts!


Leg -- On the Mend :))

So when horsing (or life) seems to go South on you, when bad things happen to good people, good horses — take a deep breath.

Ask: What do I need to do now?

And DEAL with it, the best you know how.

Take your lump and get over it.

And focus on the goodness.

And be grateful for all the perfect rides.

And consider the time you spend nursing a sick horse as bonding time with your beloved.

And know that, in time, as long as you stick with your positive horsing program — the Two-Thirds shall prevail.

And yes, you will be riding again.

And laughing!

And loving your horse, in all her soundness!

Henna Horse


And if you discover that you do have the wrong mount, if all that’s associated with a certain individual seems to ALWAYS go South . . . determine when to cut your losses — search for the horse that will better serve your needs.

And move on into the glory of horsemanship you envisioned from the start.


Side Saddle Rider


Copyright 2014







August 12, 2014 · 5:21 pm

Wonderful, Willing Starboy

From my JournalAugust 14, 2009

Starboy mills ‘round his paddock, head low, rubbing his face to his knee, swishing flies.

All day long he lingers, contentedly, with sister Angel by his side, strolling toward the neighboring paddock, toward the water trough, toward the feeder – awaiting his next flake of hay.

I give him my kisses, and go out of town, on business, leaving him.

While I’m away, I return to his paddock in my mind, at will, and there he is in my mental peek, content again.

And when I return, he whinnies at the sound of my car’s engine, at my whistle, and trots up to greet me – no guilt trip.


I walk inside the paddock, rubbing faces, removing fly masks, reuniting with the herd.

I halter and lead him out, tying him to my horse trailer.

Brushing off the dust and shedding hair coat – sleeking him out – I plop my blanket, my saddle, onto his back, and slowly cinch up.

I offer him the bit, and he grabs it, like always, from when he was small, when I raised him.

In my younger years, I leapt into the saddle.  Now using a small step-stool, I clamor on.

Starboy braces, politely, for my middle-age weight to descend upon him. I find my off-side stirrup, gather up my reins, and move my body slightly, as signal to walk on.

Out to the road, off the property, he effortlessly, willingly, goes. Wherever I point him, Starboy cooperates – and travels at whatever speed I ask.

What kind of relationship can be compared to this?

He serves, without complaint, at my beck and call. And I serve him, in return, for nineteen years now, like his mother and sire before him, making sure of his pasture and hay.

Few people can boast three generations of home-bred horses, but those who do, understand.

As long as you’re dealing with good genetics, there’s nothing that compares.


Out on the trail now, Starboy surges forth, my stiff lower back complaining. I rein him in a bit slower.

The trail gains ground into the forest now, into the wonder. Trees tower above us, in the twilight.

The feeling of magic overtakes me, and Starboy trots lightly on.

No coercion, no domination, merely a suggestion that we speed up, or slow down – my body shifting ever-so-slightly in the saddle.

A quiet cluck and inclining forward of my reigns enough to squeak him into a smooth canter . . .

I smell the vanilla of pine bark now, nighttime descending.

And I marvel, again, at Starboy.

And how well he behaves since I’ve been gone.


Starboy in Sunlight


November 26, 2013

Here I am, marveling at Starboy, once again. I wrote this sweet little piece four years ago, in 2009. Since then a few things have changed:

Angel is gone now, on the other side of the Rainbow, even though she was Starboy’s junior by a year.

She had Cushing’s syndrome and passed away at nineteen – the very age of Starboy when I wrote this piece.

And Hokuleia was born August, 2012 – our fourth generation! And she has Angel’s energy. And she has Angel’s love.


And I am changed – I’m very happy to report – for the better.

After a bad injury and much pain (at my doctor’s recommendation), I went gluten-free in December, 2011. Turns out this incident was a major “Blessing-in-Disguise”.

By changing my lifestyle and diet, I lost stubborn pounds of middle-age weight. But that’s not all:  I ALSO LOST MY JOINT PAIN!

In fact, as I read over this piece I feel badly for the “old Dawn” – who was exhausted and who ached – and who weighed down her wonderful horse.

I’m happy to say, “No More!”  : ~ ))


A spring has returned to my step – I no longer “clamor on”. Now I lift myself up into the stirrup, the saddle, with joy’! Pain-free!!!

My back no longer complains. My knees, my hips, my neck ride along with Starboy like they did in my youth.

So there is hope when it comes to pain, to injury, to age!

Now the healthful micro-nutrients and herbs I take – turmeric, hawthorn berry, ginger, boswellia, cinnamon, fenugreek – can work to rejuvenate my cells without the burden of fighting the inflammation brought on by the gluten (found in wheat and most grains).

Now the vitamins and supplements – B-100, Vitamin Code Multi’s, thyroid, and adrenal support, Perfect Food (green powder) – can work their nutritional wonder.


Now Starboy, twenty-three years young, carries my lighter profile.

We rode three hours recently, FLYING, like in our days of youth – striding out, floating, galloping – breathing-in the fresh forest air.

Discovering a brand new trail in the process – trotting, twisting, surging, dipping, along the contours of the rapid single-track.

Now Starboy lingers in his paddock with sister, Fae, and filly, Hokuleia. Happy, content. Yet a bit wider at his middle-aged girth than before.

Wonderful, willing Starboy. Ever ready, ever up for the latest adventure.


I’m fresh back in town now, from a business trip. And finally, we’ll be riding tonight . . .

Soon I’ll smell the vanilla of pine bark, nighttime descending. And I’ll experience his smooth canter – on our latest adventure, into the forest.

And I’ll marvel, again, at Starboy.

And how well he behaves since I’ve been gone.


Starboy at Sunset


Oh my – reading this over just now, I have tears! For how long will he be with me?

Wonderful, willing Starboy – I treasure you all the more as you grow old. For our time together here won’t last forever.

But our years have been full. And our love, complete.

And I’m filled to the brim by our love.  : ~ ))

And when the time comes for us to part, when you go over the Rainbow to join the others – I’ll be here waving, loving, cheering you on – tending to the herd, here on this side of the veil.

I’ll take care of Fae, of Aria, Laddie and Hokuleia.

And I’ll cherish my love for you, like the others.

And I’ll wait my turn . . .

Until my time over the Rainbow arrives.


 Sunset Flame

Copyright 2009, 2013


November 26, 2013 · 10:36 pm


Oh, my horses are PERFECTION! And I know how rare that is.

It’s my own sweet secret: My horses are PERFECT!

And I don’t say that lightly.

You see, I’ve had the opposite –

And so I know to value this.


You can hate me for it – really you can.

Or you can ask yourself, how did she ever get it???

What did she do to get the formula right?

I know that most horse people never seem to achieve it . . .

It’s taken me fortysomething years of horsing – but I’ve finally gotten it right!!!


A Perfect horse is one that gives Perfect performance. Perfect relationship. Perfect rides.

Oh, there will be those among you who think I’m harsh. Downright cruel. Because I really enjoy having obtained Perfection.

I enjoy loading my horses into my trailer – without hesitation, without fault.

Hauling a short drive up the road to breathtaking, high-altitude, single-track, wilderness-Nirvana.

Moonrise. Sunsets. Starbursts. I’ve ridden them all. Over, and over, again.


Riding Perfect trails – endless, forested Nature – five minutes from my Perfect horsey house . . .

Horses willing, always willing, and ready, and sound, and fantastic!

Cantering, trotting, flying down, up, ’round the dips and bends like the rocket ships at Disneyland’s Space Mountain.

And I’ve bred and raised them! All five – soon to be six – Fae fresh back from the breeders. And they are smart and wise and athletic.

And I smile and thank God for the wonder of it all!!!


Because my childhood was spent dreaming about this . . .

My adulthood spent creating it. All the decisions, all the crossroads in life, leading here.

Not by chance, but by trial and error – overcoming all the awful circumstances

And let-downs life brings, and rising, somehow, above those obstacles

Into the fullness of my current reality . . .


So I hope to hold a beacon for those souls now struggling: I struggled, too.

But continue on. Find your way. Through the forest of decisions.

And keep headed toward your horsey goals. Don’t ever stop!!!

And know that PERFECTION is possible!!! And it’s fantastic!

But you have to aim for Perfection to get there. And let go of whatever can’t work.


Aria Shadow Rock

Copyright 2013


October 19, 2013 · 2:12 am

Where Have All the Horsemen Gone?

They were usually the quiet type. Soft spoken, athletic, lean.

They approached their charges with sensitivity and practical skills, passed on from parents and uncles of the generation before them. Learned firsthand from toiling on the family ranch or farm.

Horsemanship was a lifelong tradition. It was something in the family. Something in the blood.

They worked with the whole picture in mind, not just the moment at hand. And all that they did, like an artist taking a paintbrush to canvass, made the finished composition into a fine work of art.

When they spoke, the horse grew quiet. His eye softened. He lowered his head and took a breath and a lick.

They could accomplish in quick order what others couldn’t, no matter how much time.

Where have all the horsemen gone?


Oh yes, there still are a precious few.

Men and women who know the breath, the timing, the heartbeat of the matter. Who can come in and whisper and in short order have the tiger tamed and eating out of their hands. Who know when to become big and explosive, but also when to immediately soften, breathe and reward.

But there are too many imposters in our modern-day-horsie world. Too many who learned to parrot empty behaviors and have somehow lost the ability to think for themselves and gather practical tools from real-life mentors—tools that work.

I remember the day when the seasoned older horseman or woman was the honored elite of every horse community. These were the mentors that us younger horse-addicts would look to for guidance.

How to keep a horse from biting? “Offer the prick of a hatpin or nail.” (Or what about the one using the “hot potato”?)

What to do about barn-sour tendencies or out-and-out refusals? “Make him more concerned about YOU than the object or direction of his fear.”


As a farrier, I’ve seen horses that were misunderstood or mistreated by farriers before me. (Actually this has improved over recent years from when I first began the craft in 1990. A good sign, I’d say, as things for horses seem to be improving.)

Inevitably the horse has a balance problem, usually on the hind end. And because the animal couldn’t lift his leg high enough and couldn’t balance properly, he was punished.

OK. Punish for striking, kicking, biting—but leave balance alone!

There are ways to accommodate. Work down lower, find a place that’s comfortable for your client, the horse. Cock up an ankle and turn your boot into the lowest makeshift hoof stand. Weld up a mini stand (mine is 9” tall). Get down on your knees.

My old uncle, Ink Knudson, a farrier for more than fifty years, had a trick with a leather shoelace that works wonders with an unruly horse.

Tie one end to the top ring (or knot) of the halter. Bring the lace around and into the mouth, leaving it loose enough so that the horse can tongue it, play with it, then bring it up and tie to the ring on the other side.

“He can’t think about two things at once,” Uncle Ink explains.

“He’ll try to spit out the string and forget about what you are doing.” (This method has helped me throughout the years.)


I’ve found that breathing really works. When the horse does anything close to what I’ve asked of him, I back off the pressure and take a big breath, softening my body and voice, making a long, impressive loose-lipped exhale.

The horse takes my lead, breathes, licks, lowers his head, and I know I’m in.

(Well, there was that mare on Molokai with the tendon-hitch to her hind end. She breathed and licked all soft and gentle—then hauled off and kicked me in the arm! I guess they’re exceptions to every rule.)

I weave back and forth, working my way closer into his range of acceptance, waiting for the heavy feeling of relaxation—the weight of the limb—that tells me he’s allowing me in.

Remember, I work with the feet, the same feet that either yield or strike, and the heavy weight tells me he’s not ready to strike. It’s an art, reading the horse and not getting killed.

(I was kicked in the head by a mule once, after I was done working—when by all means, it appeared I was “safe”. I had ignored my instincts that day. The mule had told me. But I made the mistake of listening to the trainer—and not the mule, and not my own gut. . .)


An older woman, a former client of mine, Sheila, had her own way of getting into a horse’s heart zone. She was the first one I’d seen with this approach, and it worked like magic.

Her grey Mustang mare, White Cloud, was apprehensive of me. I was in my shoeing chaps, this was my first time working with her, and the mare had plenty of previous issues with farriers.

Sheila went in to catch her up. White Cloud’s head rose, she backed away and turned slightly, ready to flee.

Sheila quietly, calmly—in slow motion—bowed her head, and then her body.

Low. Lower. Released. Relaxed.

Then she waited in that vulnerable bent position.

And then White Cloud looked at Sheila intently, stretched out her neck, took a breath and stepped slowly, softly forward, until she breathed her nostrils into Sheila’s hair.

Then ever-so-slowly Sheila lifted her body upright.

And they were one. Melded. Connected from the heart.

And the once-wild Mustang accepted Sheila as her own

(And then we went on to trimming her hooves. . .)


What a good reminder to the rest of us—to have the sense, the humility, to look up and seek out the Uncle Inks and the Sheilas and the breathing and the calmness that allows us humans to enter into the heart zone of the animals that we adore.

After all, our goal is a working relationship between ourselves and our horses. To participate in the joy of discovering, freshly, how to overcome obstacles—together.

Then the horsemen will continue their legacy. And the horses will whisper back in return.


Copyright 2013


April 4, 2013 · 1:03 pm