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Posts Tagged ‘Horse’


Even St. Patrick’s Day has its animal element. 

We attended a St. Patrick’s Day gathering where this young Irish setter, Kevin Rory (call name of Kevi), sported a Kelly-green shamrock cravat. And hoped for a morsel from the table where the theme was green, as in pesto, guacamole chips, spinach dip, minty green frosted brownies, green M&Ms and cupcakes frosted lime.

Kevin Rory is the fourth Irish setter for owners Bill and Carolyn, of Irish descent themselves. Kevi was quite the party gent, and that’s no Blarney.

Kevi came to Bill and Carolyn, who live in Oregon, through the Internet Irish Setter Rescue Group in Oklahoma. He was found roaming the streets when he was four months old.

The couple’s late Irish setters are: Toby, given to Bill as a gift by his aunt; Carnelian Dun Conor, a six-month-old pup with a genetic eye condition that the breeder was going to put down; and Donegal, a stray Irish re-homed by the Houston Rescue Group.

For many years Bill, Conor and Donegal marched in the Houston St. Pat’s Parade. (It’s a huge parade like those in Boston and Chicago.) All three sported green.

Of course, horses are a big part of Ireland and its history. So I had to find some Irish horse art, too.

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Couartesy of http://wordplay.hubpages.com/My critters  are at the top of my Christmas list. (Sorry friends and family, but they are both to me.)

And they’re so easy to gift – at little or no cost. Here are a few ideas for homemade cat, hound, horse, herd and  hen offerings.

Please use your own good judgment about the safety of offering these items to your particular pet(s).

  • EASY, COST-FREE, CATCH-IT-IF-YOU-CAN CAT TOY:  Cut a wire clothes hangar, and bend it straight into one longish piece.

Push one end of the wire into the middle of a cork – made of actual cork — from a wine bottle. Be sure the wire pushes tightly into the cork.

Tie some yarn or found feathers on the wire and around the cork. Voila: A lightweight, bouncy cat toy rises from recycled or repurposed items. Oh yes, you, the gifter, are part of the toy. You must make it swing and bob. This nifty little toy should entice even an “I’m too proud to play” feline to paw and pounce.

  • EASY, COST-FREE, TUG- OR CHASE-IT DOG TOY:  Find an old piece of fabric or a worn T-shirt. Be sure to choose fabric that won’t fray: If you don’t, the dislodged fibers may get lodged in your dog’s throat or belly.

Cut three strips about three feet long.

The width of the strips is somewhat dependent on the size and pull-power of your pooch. I make them about 4 inches wide for my Labs’ toys.

Bunch one end of the strips together, and tie a knot. Braid the three strips, making the weave super tight at every twist and turn. This makes the braid tighter and stronger and more apt to withstand dog-dog or dog-owner tugs of war. Tie off the other end with a square knot.

This is my Labs’ inside toy of choice. They tease each other into games of push-me-pull-me and keep-away that sometimes last for 20 minutes or more. We get to enjoy their sly gamesmanship.

  • LOW-COST, SWEET HORSE TREAT: What’s as sweet as a sugar cube and red and white all over? A friend of mine boards her horse at a stable where candy canes with horses’ names appear in tack rooms and on stall doors this time of year.

Break a cane into small, crumbly pieces and spread in the palm of your hand. Offer your flat, sweetened palm to your horse. Wait for the delicious slurping sounds made as the  candy is licked away. You’re apt to be rewarded with soft knickers and  nuzzles  as you’re searched for more.  Our steeds enjoy the sweet, mint flavor of candy canes as much as Santa does cookies and milk along about midnight Christmas Eve. Be sure you limit how much sugar you offer your pony.

  • LIGHT READING FOR PIGS:  If you happen to be a keeper of pigs, consider giving them a pick-me-up: Toss them a newspaper, minus Christmas and other ads on slick paper. A coverless phone book works, t00.

The papers aren’t for eating but for playing. A friend who raises pigs says they enjoy rooting through the news and tossing headlines every which way. It appears to be perfect pig play.

After the pigs have had their way with the pages, the newsprint is prey for hog hooves to return it to the soil. The pigs’ weight and walking-about start the newspapers on a journey to become part of the pasture.

  • FLOCK FULL OF FUN:  Safely hang a head of lettuce or cabbage from a chicken coop, fence post, or low-hanging tree. Place it at a height barely reachable by your feathered friends.

Be sure to secure it with something your chickens won’t want to  consume. Then sit back and watch them chicken-dance,  jump up and peck at it. You’ll find a resemblance to children (and adults) swinging comically at a birthday pinata.

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E-cards are abundant and easy to deliver. A snail-mail greeting is a pleasant surprise these days. The snuggling-in time of year that is fast-approaching seems ideal for sending warm thoughts via a greeting card — the old-fashioned kind that you can hold in your hands. The cards below, with my original verses, have animal-related themes, of course.

SEND A FRIEND a seasonal message with sentiments and scenes of animals. It’s free.

Right click on the links below: Choose “Save As” to create a document you can download to your computer and print. You can also view and download these and other cards in the “Free Offers” category at right.

White card stock or matte finish photo paper provide the best results. Finished size of the side-fold cards is 4.25″ x 5,” which fits a standard 4.5″ x 5.50″ envelope.

You’ll find dogs, pigs, kittens and colts represented. From PAUSE FOR PAWS PRODUCTIONS.

Black Cat in Halloween Sky

Black cats haunt silent barns.

Giant moons spotlight cows on farms.

Pumpkins scream out, “pick me,”

from U-pick patches up-valley.

Apples drip with caramel.

“Trick or treat,” the children yell.

Their costumes: Lions, tigers, bears,

Cowboys, cowgirls and ghosts with hair.

Witches’ hats take their place,

Sharing front porch space

with corn stalks and straw bales.

Chocolates and gummies fill the pails.

Youngsters fall asleep with grins.

Coyotes howl as the fog creeps in.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

Fall-colored Horse in Autumn

Reds and brown all around.

Gold leaves dress up the ground.

Woodpiles, axed and stacked,

Await frost’s first attack.

Coats appear, gloves go on.

Mornings have later dawns.

Hens molt while geese depart.

Barn twine hangs like orange art.

Hay and straw all tucked in:

Let the rain and cold begin.

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“In the October issue of ‘America’s Horse,’ read along as Janet Herring-Sherman writes about her journey – 50 years in the making – toward owning an American Quarter Horse.”

A picture worth a thousand words; and in this case worth a fifty-year wait. The photo captures the essence of a story I have published in the October issue of "America's Horse" magazine. My article, "Horse of a Lifetime," is a short chronicle of wanting and waiting for a particular breed of horse for most of my life. I have that dream now and love her so. "America's Horse" is a publication for members of the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA): I will post the article on my blog down the road when the contractual time restrictions have passed. Meanwhile, if you know someone who is a member of AQHA, snag their copy of the October issue and read a lot about my horse, Callie, and a little about how she 's changed my life. Photo by Adam Sherman.

THIS WEEK’S ANIMAL LESSON (in 12-step terms):

Don’t quit before the miracle happens. Be patient, God’s not done yet.

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THE BEAR DID IT! AND OTHER ON-VACATION ANIMAL ENCOUNTERS.

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The 100-year-old horse barn at the heart of ArborBrook Vineyards now houses a tasting room. Photo courtesy of ArborBrook Vineyards.

Living in Oregon’s Wine Country provides many opportunities to be part of the grape and wine culture. That’s how I found myself working behind the scenes at a winery event.

At first blush, serving or sipping wine wouldn’t appear to have much to do with critters. Unless you’re at ArborBrook Vineyards in Newberg. The importance of animals is evident at ArborBrook.

For starters, the tasting room is housed in a century-old red barn that was home to horses in the not too distant past. That explains why I felt immediately at home there: When I walked into ArborBrook, I was looking straight into horse stalls. Well, kind of.

One former horse stall serves as a staging area, another is a showcase of wine displays. The spacious hospitality area may well have been a foaling stall, it’s that roomy. Narrow stairs head up to a loft, still used to store bales of horse hay. Barn doors slide open and closed as cases of wine are moved through aisles where horses once stood cross-tied for grooming. And then there’s the tasting room ambassador, Tippy, the black-and-white cat.

Two people with individual passions were behind the creation of ArborBrook Winery, the husband-and-wife team, Dave and Mary Hansen. Dave’s appreciation of fine wine led to his desire to have a vineyard of his own. His wife, Mary, a horse lover from way back, had long hankered to have her horses living alongside her instead of at a boarding stable.

In 2000, The Hansens found 30 acres in the Chehalem Mountain Range where land is coveted for pinot noir vineyards. Dave got what he needed for a premier vineyard: gentle elevations of 400 feet; south-eastern exposure; subtle micro-climates; and rich soils. The site provided Mary the cornerstones to bring her horse hobby home: a barn, pasture and riding arena steps from the farmhouse back door.

Maddie gave birth to her colt in the new barn at ArborBrook Vineyards. Maddie belonged to ArborBrook owners' daughter, Sydney. Photo courtesy of ArborBrook Vineyards.

Today, from the picnic lawn and fire pit the Hansens’ backyard shares with the tasting room grounds, it’s easy to spot Mary’s paint Quarter horse, Esme, and their daughter, Sydney’s, bay horse, Maddie. The mares are a picture of contentment as they graze green pastures bordered by vineyards—with some very nice views, I might add. Maddie will soon go to a new home; hence, Sydney has a new horse coming.

Some very special horse photos have a prominent place on ArborBrook Vineyard’s website: just-born pictures of the foal Maddie gave birth to last spring. The colt was born in the new ArborBrook barn, built to replace the original 1910 barn when it was converted to a tasting room.

Busy with winery business plus entertaining visitors, tourists and Wine Club members, Mary still makes time for the horses. Since they’re close at hand, she can saddle up before and after she pours tastes in the barn or strolls guests through rows of vines thick with summer’s fruit or alive with fall colors.

Maddie and her colt, born May 25, 2010. Photo courtesy of ArborBrook Vineyards.

But back to the evening I was there. ArborBrook has some signature seasonal events. This summer’s affair had a sophisticated cowpoke style. The red barn/tasting room was the backdrop. Lariats played an integral part in the outdoor décor. Most were borrowed from genuine ropers.

Called Picnic in the Vineyard, the event was staged in what was once Mary’s riding arena. Fresh white paint splashed on posts and rails; lush green lawn; and gray metal washtubs filled with ice water made it an ideal hot-summer-night setting for barbecue and wine.

Cattle Connection

Longhorn bull, Fey's Rio Casino, had a horn span of 70 inches at the age of three. Photo courtesy of Fey Longhorns.

Angelina Fey is the Hansen’s go-to person for all things ArborBrook: She is the winery/tasting room manager. She brings an animal connection as well. She and her husband, Daniel Fey, have raised registered Texas Longhorns for a decade. Currently their herd is made up of 35 breeding cows, three bulls and two show steers. They chose the Longhorn breed because of its Old West nostalgia.

The Feys’ customers are similarly drawn to this hardy breed, most using Fey Ranch cattle for pasture pets or show animals. The goal of the Feys’ breeding program is to produce cattle with lots of horn, eye-appealing color, correct conformation and great disposition.

“In today’s market horn size, length and shape matter more than ever. A strong pedigree is important for us. Our cows are sired by some of the greatest sires in Texas Longhorn history: Gunman, Emperor, Roundup, VJ Tommie,” they explain. “Our Senior Herd Sire, Crown’s Smoke Jumper, has proven to be an outstanding horn producer.”

Longhorn bull Rodeo Max had a horn span of more than 80 inches tip to tip a year ago. He was 2010 Horn Showcase winner. Photo courtesy of Fey Longhorns.

“Twisty horns” and “with good direction” are phrases you like to hear in Longhorn circles. The scale of the horns on these cattle is grande! The horns on their bull, Rodeo Max ST, measured an incredible 80.25 inches tip to tip in December 2010. The Feys’ young brindle bull, Fey’s Rio Casino, had a “horn span” 70 inches tip to tip by the time he was three years old. The horns on the offspring of these bulls measure up, too.

Where there are cattle, there are generally herding dogs to help move the livestock. The Feys have two Queensland heelers, Zip 8 and Paco 4.“They think,” explains Angelina, “that they can herd, but they are not really trained.”

The only things missing from ArborBrook’s  wine-country-Western-flair cookout were a few Old West sounds echoing through the vines: a cattle dog’s yip, a horse’s whinny and a Longhorn’s lowing. Maybe even a real Texas Longhorn.

There were, however, a few cat meows. If Mary, Dave or Angelina don’t greet you at ArborBrook events or the tasting room entrance, Tippy will. The relaxed way animals blend in at ArborBrook demonstrates how important they are to the quality of life for owners and staff.

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BREAKING NEWS: This article just won first place in the Nonfiction, Essay by an Adult, Category at the Yamhill County Fair 2011.

I’ve always been an animal lover, so I take it quite personally when an animal gives me the cold shoulder. That happened three times this past winter and spring. Now, it’s like Christmas in July, because the two aloof dogs and horse have warmed up to me enough to permit a touch or two.  I can’t say that I did anything special to earn their trust. I just waited them out. It was an exercise in patience.

NEKOTA

Nekota, a bearded collie from champion lines, is sometimes aloof with newcomers, especially when her owner is not present to offer encouragement.

Nekota, a young  bearded collie from champion lines, was the first to allow me a touch. She came around about two weeks after I started seeing and feeding her twice a day. My friend and Nekota’s owner, Tish, was out of town on dog and family business.  I was pet sitting three of her bearded collies: Nekota, her mother Kiwi, and another female, Bubbles.

The jovial trio always greeted me with enthusiasm and barks of delight. I’d ruffle the long, silky hair of Bubbles and Kiwi; then they’d set off to romp and tumble on the winter-wet green lawns. I wanted to pet and hug Nekota, too. But she kept her distance even when I offered her treats.

After a few days, I was feeling slighted, so I quit pursuing her affections. I stopped trying to make eye contact with Nekota, too.  This wasn’t too hard since bearded collies have long, bushy eyebrow hair that covers their eyes to protect them from stickers and debris when doing the livestock herding for which they were initially bred.

One evening, as I was preparing their dinner in Tish’s kitchen, the three dogs came in from outside and gathered around me. Truth be told, they were more interested in having me throw the raggedy toy they’d dropped at my feet than they were in their meal. Nonchalantly, yet deliberately, I let my hand slowly drop to Nekota’s head — for an instant. She didn’t recoil. I was wowed, making it nearly impossible not to look at her, but I refrained: Doing so might have made her feel challenged, hence retreat.

I repeated similar gestures over the next few days. In time, I could pet Nekota at will and even glance at her while at it. By the time Tish returned home, Nekota was curling at my feet and allowing me to stroke her head and scratch her chin for as long as I liked. I lavished praise on her in a very subdued manner: She didn’t seem to mind that either. She liked me after all.

The new accord between us meant more to me than many other successes in my life. Good Girl, Nekota!! Thanks for considering me a member of  your pack for awhile.

STELLA

Stella, a shy, uncertain mastiff when rescued, has gained confidence while settling in at her new forever home. She's become trusting enough to include some humans among her friends.

I’d known Stella, a shy and aloof rescued mastiff, much longer than I had known Nekota when her stand-offishness  began to ebb. Quite possibly, Stella knew abuse and /or neglect in her past. Once settled in a safe, quiet environment, it still took the big taupe-colored dog months to stop evading me when I visited the farm where she lives with her new owners, Stacy and Russell. She couldn’t be bribed with treats, toys or praise. Cats terrified her, too. She was wary of all that moved – even the wind, it sometimes seemed.

When my husband, son and I have acquired rescue dogs in the past, we’ve been cautioned that it can take as long as a year for a dog to really feel secure with a new place and unfamiliar faces. So I waited on Stella, and waited some more.

It’s all too easy to envision Stella having been cloistered away and used for the single purpose of making  babies in a puppy mill setting. If that was the case, it explains why she’s still afraid to be in dark, tight places. It may also be the reason beneath her demureness: It’s possible she’d never known affection at the hand of man, or woman, prior to her rescue by English mastiff guardian angels Sue and Gary May of McMinnville, Oregon. (The couple founded Mastiff Rescue Oregon and has placed more than 80 of these cougar-size gentle giants in loving, permanent homes.)

For the longest time, when  Stacy and Russell had guests, four-year-old Stella would retreat to a spot where she could rest her chin on her giant paws and observe the movements of all those folks she didn’t know. Her eyebrows seemed  to do a sort of line dance, moving side to side with each quick, constant, wary eye movement. A few other dog-loving friends and I started letting a hand dangle whenever we sat and chatted with our hosts. We hoped our hands would serve as bait for the lonely Stella, who appeared a little braver each  week.

One night, a collection of us were having a group lesson in making pot-stickers. I was preparing to slice and dice celery at the island in Stacy’s kitchen when I felt a cold nose bump the hand I had resting on my hip. (That’s about eye level for big-and-tall Stella.)  Purposefully, I kept talking about chestnuts and pinching pasta and barely acknowledged the now-curious dog. A few visits later, Stella approached me from behind and stood at my side. The next time, she let me stroke her head as I stood talking with Stacy, a coffee mug in my hand.

The encouragement Stella has received in her new forever home has given her the confidence to trust, perhaps for the first time in her adult dog life. She even gives the new kittens clattering about a curious sniff instead of immediately trotting away.

Nowadays, when I arrive at the farm, Stella lopes out to meet my car instead of racing off to hide behind the free-range chickens or miniature pinscher tap-dancing about. Stella’s long tail, no longer tucked between her powerful back legs, is carried more naturally and, most of the time, swings lazily from side to side. If I linger over the new kittens too long, Stella actually nudges her way into our little crowd to claim some petting for herself.

Oh yes, the “min pin,” small enough to be a lap dog, isn’t a snuggler or a cuddler. But loving, lanky Stella is.

BOBBY

It was nearly a year before Bobby, a cutting horse, felt safe enough with me to take treats I offered to him. Photo by Adam Sherman.

Bobby was the last hold-out: He took nearly a year. Bobby is a chestnut-colored, top-performing cutting horse that belongs to the owner of the barn where I stable my horse, Callie. This athletic gelding, too, may have been mishandled in his youth, long before he came to the loving home where he is now the star.

At first it was tempting to think Bobby was stuck-up, even vain; then I remembered those were traits exclusive to humans. He’d move to another part of his stall whenever I entered to clean it or feed him. I didn’t dare try to remove his fly mask at night. He reminded me of a cat. Everything had to be on his terms and in his time. I’d offer Bobby a carrot or apple slice, and he’d turn his head away. I’d never experienced a horse refusing things that were like candy to them. I was flabbergasted and, yes, my feelings were hurt.

“Bobby’s just like that,” his owner assured me. “It’s not you. He’s even more skittish around men.” That would make sense if he’d been corrected too harshly or ridden too hard by a man somewhere along the line; however, I was determined to befriend him. Every time I’d pass Bobby’s stall or paddock on the way to catch Callie, I’d stop to offer him a treat. He’d look me right in the eye, then pivot away. That left me feeling like the wallflower kid who never gets asked to the floor at a junior high school dance.

One afternoon, I offered Bobby a treat on the way back from the pasture with my horse at the end of a lead rope. Instead of shunning  me and turning tail, Bobby remained still. When my horse tried to angle in and snatch the treat for herself, Bobby grabbed it from the palm of my hand! I repeated that approach day in and day out — with varying degrees of success.

Then the farrier arrived ahead of schedule one day.  Bobby’s owner, unable to leave work early, sent me a text message and asked if I would please halter Bobby and bring him to the main barn for his session with the horseshoer.

“Me?” I thought as I responded, “Yes, sure, no problem.” Once inside Bobby’s run, his halter slung over my arm, I talked softly and approached him slowly, but with confidence. Next thing I knew, I was buckling the blue halter alongside his ear, and he stood perfectly calm as I did so!  Since then, he’s taken to following me around his stall, hoping for more of the treats stashed in my pocket. I wouldn’t say were BFFs (best friends forever), but Bobby and I are working on it.

THIS WEEK’S ANIMAL LESSON: Nekota, Stella, Bobby — When they finally befriended me, I was reminded of a slogan 12-step programs use. It goes something like this:   When we try to force solutions, we become irritable and unreasonable without knowing it. As in, I let one dog hurt my feelings; another make me feel unworthy; and I thought of a horse as being a snob. Change takes time, so be patient” The animals are.

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Fresh and fragrant bundles of lavender harvested at Apifera Farm. Photo by Katherine Dunn.

It doesn’t get much better than riding horseback through fields of lavender.  That’s the delightful way I spent some time on a recent morning when I trailered my horse, Callie, to Apifera Farm a few valleys east of our own.

Donkeys may be telepathic. It doesn't seem to matter whether a thought is spoken or kept silent, donkeys seem to know what's on your mind. You can tell by the manner in which they twitch their ears--delicate ears that mimic the pointed tops of pickets in a fenceline. Photo by Katherine Dunn.

Apifera Farm is a magical place where “art and animals collide,” according to the description on the farm’s website. It’s the kind of place that takes caring for critters and crops seriously while fostering a sense of humor and lightheartedness about life in general. On the lane up to the cozy homestead, there’s an indicator of what’s ahead. A rough-edged, hand-painted wooden sign reads, “Watch for cats falling from trees.”

Mind you, I’ve seen no cascading cats on my visits to Apifera, but I’ve seen many other things that engage my heart, including the art of farm owner Katherine Dunn, which she describes as a combination of melancholy and hope.

Photos and poster by Apifera artist, Katherine Dunn, provide a hint of what's in store at the farm's annual fund-raising event.

My first visit to Apifera was during a small fundraiser for neglected donkeys. Billed as Pino Pie Day, Katherine and her husband, Martyn Dunn, have made this an annual summer affair with a country picnic feel. Basically, you share in a feast of delectable pies baked on-site the day prior by Katherine and a group of devoted pals.

In exchange for a few slices of pie, it’s hoped visitors will leave behind a donation to help fund the Dunns’ efforts to care for senior and/or physically challenged animals that come to Apifera for sanctuary. While the farm raises Katahdin sheep, it adopts old and crippled goats. Just this month, the Dunns brought home a senior goose and donkey plus a pot-bellied pig. Rosie, the pig, came from an 80-year-old woman a six-hour drive from Apifera.

Donkey-inspired aprons are treasured by cooks young and old at Apifera Farms' Pino Pie Day. Photos by Katherine Dunn.

Pie Day guests sit and savor pie slices between clotheslines hung with an apron array. The aprons, some handmade by Katherine and others from far-away spots on the map, are sold to benefit animal charities. Blowing slightly in the June breeze, the eclectic apron collection creates an artful back drop as well as an effective “for sale” display.

Fragrant outposts with armfuls of farm-grown lavender to purchase abound, too. Still, the donkeys are the main attraction, especially the event’s namesake, Pino. I found especially endearing the donkeys’ party dress — daisy-chain necklaces and artful messages carefully painted on their small hooves: “Hug Me,” and  “Love Me.”

Endearing messages painted on donkey hooves created a fashion statement at Apifera Farm's 2011 Pino Pie Day fund-raising event. Photo by Janet Herring-Sherman

Katherine claims there’s something healing about the combination of fresh pie, forest-scented air and hugs from donkeys with no hidden agendas. I agree: It’s impossible to look at a pair of donkey ears and not smile all the way to your heart. When you touch those soft, fuzzy ears, troubles disband and disappear for awhile.

Boone and Callie (right) tacked up and ready to tour the lavender fields at Apifera Farm in Yamhill, Oregon. Photo by Janet Herring-Sherman

Pino and his slender-eared partners, as well as chickens and livestock, wander through Katherine’s colorful contemporary folk art. Her horse, Boone, is another that shows up in Apifera art and blog posts. He’s a paprika-colored fellow that matched nicely alongside my red dun Callie.

As we rode the field’s perimeter and wove through the rows of lavender plants, Katherine explained that soon, hungry honey bees will gather on the purple-flowered stalks. That means harvest time for the lavender has arrived. Probably best we don’t wade into the lavender on horseback when bees are about: Katherine says the bees don’t mind, but I’m thinking the horses might!

You can see Katherine’s art at http://www.katherinedunn.com; and meet Apifera residents at http://apiferafarm.blogspot.com.

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We’ve launched a series of seasonal greeting cards for animal lovers.

The inaugural set of four represents “summer,” because it is such an extra-special time in the country. It’s a blessing to see so many quickly growing newborn farm and wild animals — as well as crops — at every turn in the road. We thought you might enjoy sharing some of our memorable warm-weather moments with the animals.

Click on the “Free Offers for Animal Lovers”  link to the right, https://animalsoureverything.wordpress.com/greeting-cards/. Download and print a card(s), then send it to a friend.

We tend to think that in the swirl of email news and greetings we’ve grown accustomed to, finding a greeting card in the actual mailbox might just be a welcome surprise.

Thanks! And remember, all four cards are yours at no cost and without obligation.

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Still regal at nearly 20 years old, Shadow enjoys his windowsill vantage point. Photo by Adam Sherman.

(PLEASE TAKE THE POLL AT THE END OF THIS POST. THANKS.)

I wonder: Does a white-tailed, floppy-eared doe consider a mid-size black house cat to be prey, predator, or a curiosity?

On a morning trip to the chicken coop, I noticed a deer near our woodpile. She was looking intently at the ground. When I left the coop a little later, the hens were complaining as always at being robbed of their nest’s goods. Sometimes, they get so dramatic, they make sounds that are much like a growl.

I thought that‘s what I was hearing as I noticed the doe remaining in exactly the same position as before. I shuffled my feet in the gravel, but even that didn’t startle her.

Now I was curious. Slowly, I approached to see if the deer was perhaps focused on a fawn at her feet. No fawn; instead a shadowy silhouette, shaped like a cat’s head. My near-20-year-old black cat, Shadow, sat frozen just inches from the doe, staring up at her. It was him doing the growling, nearly as deep and loud as a dog’s. The young doe and the sweet, but a tad demented, old-man cat, were staring each other down. Shadow would never be able to avoid a direct hit if she decided to give him a hoof.

I yelled at both of them and made big cartwheel moves with my arms. That diverted the doe. She turned and calmly walked toward the forest. Shadow scurried as best he could into the shop and hid under a big, red toolbox the rest of the day. He wasn’t injured but was suffering a little post-drama trauma.

I’ll always wonder who saw who first that day.

Next day, Lilly the barn cat ran zig-zagging into the arena where my horse, Callie, was loose and cavorting. After a few minutes of zipping around in the sandy footing, Lilly froze and stayed that way. Eventually, Callie caught sight of the gray-and-white cat and sauntered toward her. Callie stretched her neck down to sniff Lilly, then shook her head as if inviting Lilly to play.  I hoped Callie’s next move would not be “playfully” striking out with her front feet.

Lilly stayed stock still. She had a baby vole or gopher under her paw that she was not going to part with come Hell or hooves. Callie gave Lilly another sniff then turned to egg on Sam, the blue heeler sitting outside the arena waiting for a sign the chase-each-other-down-the-fence game was on.

Cats seem to be feeling quite empowered this week.

Folk-art style stick pony, or hobby horse, typical of those recently used as real horse proxies during a rodeo-queen-style contest in Utah.

STICK HORSE STAND-INS

More than 50 horse, burro and mule events in the United States and Canada were canceled in May and June when a highly contagious, often-fatal illness, equine herpes virus (EHV-1), struck in 10 western states. Ninety cases of EHV-1 were confirmed. Of these, 13 became fatalities, according to the USDA.

EHV-1 spreads easily from horse to horse through nose contact, contaminated tack, equipment and clothing. To help prevent the spread of EHV-1, state veterinarians invoked quarantines and instructed owners and trainers not to move their horses away from home stables for any reason.

Still, one show went on minus the horseflesh:  a Utah mounted posse junior queen competition. The contestants rode, well, stick horses, to demonstrate their horsemanship and knowledge of the required routines.

This gambit received national media attention: Some viewers and readers commented that the stick pony substitution set these young women up for ridicule. Others believed it a lesson in creative problem-solving.  I like to think it made people smile — and not at the expense of the queen hopefuls.

The contest judges certainly were able to get  a clear picture of how each contestant adapts to uncomfortable situations. How could you not feel

Pink polka dots add a fancy touch to this stick pony. These toys also became known as hobby horses in 1500s England when keeping horses for recreation, as opposed to draft work, took hold with the royal and wealthy.

self-conscious without your trusty live mount to carry you to victory? Let’s hope the young competitors felt gracious, not graceless, as they moved around the arena demonstrating gait changes, figure-eights and other maneuvers.

Prime time stick ponies got me to thinking about my childhood stick horses, also known as hobby horses since the 1500s. My favorite was the color of a palomino with a creamy mane and tail. Do you remember yours?

Or perhaps this old English nursery rhyme rings a bell:

I had a little hobby horse,
and it was dapple grey;
its head was made of pea-straw,
its tail was made of hay.

THE ANIMAL LESSON THIS WEEK: What the stick ponies bring to mind is the 12-step phrase, “Take the world as it is, not as it ought to be,” (or “as you would have it”). This valuable insight points to the importance of being able to adapt and take things in stride. There’s a group of young horse women in Utah who know how.

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