May 182014

Doranna & DuncanThis is Doranna Durgin’s WordPlay Blog. I’m glad you’re here–whether it’s to learn more about my books, or chat about dogs, horses, and reading.

On Fridays, The Write Horse usually stops by for life with horse training, written by Patty Wilber.

If you’d like to reach my Webstead, you can clicky on that link you just passed. Right there. Behind you! The one that said Webstead.

PS although I use a plug-in that allows commenters to sign in, it’s easy to post as a guest and guest commenters are welcome!

Jul 172015

By Patty Wilber

At this time last year, according to the Drought Monitor, NM looked like this:

This year (7/7/15):

No green on the map, but we’ve got green on the ground, beautiful skies and not too hot!

Looks like a hedge in the back, but it is un mowed Kochia.  The stuff will grow to 2 inches high in a drought and over six feet in a good year.  Looks like it is heading toward six feet this year!

Looks like a hedge in the back, but it is un-mowed Kochia. The stuff will grow 2 inches high in a drought and make a million seeds.  In a good year it will go over six feet and make a gazillion seeds. Looks like it is heading toward six feet this year!

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Jul 032015

By Patty Wilber

My goal for 2015 is to move LT’s training along to where I can call her “finished”… or at least close.


This is a commitment because she is mine and not a client horse paying the bills.   In a time crunch, my horses get the short shrift and the horses in training get the attention they need.  And the biology papers I have to grade get marked, and the work meetings are attended.

This year, I’ve gotten up earlier or stayed out later to get saddle time for LT.  I also carved out hours to drive 110 miles round trip about once a week to work on live cows with a cow coach.  (That’s you Troy.)

(The year isn’t over, so that plan is still in effect.)

Also, although I have always literally felt (when she moves) that LT has a gob of talent, she is a rather intense and sensitive horse with a desire to be kinetic all the time.  (On the flip side, she never runs out of energy! ) With her, I have to rise to the continual challenge of helping her be less reactive, more focused, and stay there.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time apologizing for her weirdo-ness, but I have always just liked her and wanted everyone else to see what I see in her!

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Jun 262015

By Patty Wilber

By the time this posts, I should be in Fort Worth at the Appaloosa Nationals with LT. She is entered in Junior Working Cow Horse (Friday evening) and Junior Reining (Sunday afternoon).

To get there, we’ll have to drive.

Fortunately, I have a new UNCRACKED windshield.



When Jim called to set up an appointment to get this replaced, the guy said there were no openings until the following Monday, “but don’t worry, windshields have high integrity and you will be fine until then.”

Jim didn’t tell him the thing had been cracked for the last…oh, maybe, 10 years.

In fact, every vehicle we own has (ok, HAD) a similar view.  The Jeep and truck are fixed and the little blue golf ball Kia (hail dented in 2010) is last on the list.

After:  No cracks and, side benefit, no tiny pits either, so you can actually see when driving into the sun.

This will be good because I will leave at O Dark Thirty and will be headed east for the drive to Fort Worth.

I never remember having cracked windshields in our cars as a kid in Northern California.  Maybe we just had them repaired if there was a problem.

But if lists of such things are kept, I wager that New Mexico might be among the leaders in dinged-up front car windows. We have a lot of dry rocky roadsides and hard bits fling themselves up  and regularly collide with cars. Or maybe the cars driving by help and some days, the wind contributes.

Just the other day, on my way home in the Kia, I passed a guy that was weed-whacking.  Two rocks flew up and… kerCHUNK.  Two more stars on the glass.

The guy ran inside. I didn’t stop because the Kia is next in line for a new view down the road.  If I’d just had the repair, you bet I’d have slammed on the brakes!

Shields engaged.  No dings from here to Fort Worth.


Ann Cuddy Victory Pose for calm focus at the National Show. (Check out her Ted Talk!)


Jun 192015

By Patty Wilber

Why do some horses refuse to participate if they know the rider is a newbie?

Why can some people get on a horse and the connection is almost instant?

Horse sense, of course!

Almost all horses react differently to different riders, but some horses (the “dead broke” kind) may put up with whatever and just do their job.

Others are pretty picky and will do little for riders they perceive as incompetent.

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Jun 122015

By Patty Wilber

For more than 30 years I have lived states away from some of the people I hold the dearest: My parents and siblings.

And now my most amazing kids live states away (California and Hawaii!) (I miss them, but I am so proud they are pursuing their dreams!)

So, when anyone comes to visit, we have to go have some adventures.


Adventure in the Sandias!

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Jun 082015

by Doranna

0711.connery.teeter.LJTell you what. I am so sick of other people being all up in my business. Trying to control my personal decisions about my dogs when it comes to spay/neuter, collars, car crating…

For one thing, no matter how much outside micromanagement occurs, the irresponsible people who inspire the micromanagement are still irresponsible, while the rest of us pay the price.

For another, to manage our dogs to their best benefit it takes thoughtful understanding of the individual circumstances–and the ability to make choices accordingly.

Something we’re allowed in increasingly short supply these days.

My Beagles are pro-choice boys when it comes to neutering. That doesn’t mean being fervently on one side or the other…it means understanding the pros and cons of the choices and factoring in our household, our resources, and the individual dogs. And then doing what’s best for them.

Most of my online friends know that I never had any intention of neutering 5yo Dart. I mean, why would I even consider it, when there are so many studies pointing to the health consequences?*

*(That’s the usual discussion for another time. Or go Google for studies rather than opinions. It’s not hard to find the information. Here’s a brief but far from complete start.)

Anyway, this choice thing goes both ways, so I respect that circumstances sometimes make neutering seem the most responsible decision in spite of the health consequences. But for us it very much isn’t.


Things do change.

In Dart’s life, too much changed, too persistently. He lost his older sister Belle Cardigan. He gained a new older sister in Rena Beagle who turned out to have escalating, chronic health issues. Then after a series of struggles, he lost that sister, too. He gained a younger brother in Mickey Cat, who was as much a part of his life as any of us. Then Mickey Cat was badly injured; the stress and recovery affected them all. Then–and all this as Dart was heading for his prime while older brother Connery aged into graceful Unclehood–he gained his younger brother Tristan Beagle. And then, finally, almost a year after losing Rena…

He lost his beloved Mickey Cat. Sad and sudden.

Dart was born a hyper-vigilant and over-stimulated dog. He was struggling even before we lost Mickey–too many changes, too much assumed responsibility on the shoulders of the pack’s only intact adult male.

Mickey’s loss pushed things over the edge. By early spring, Dart was constantly hackled, walking around on his toes with a growl in his throat. Suddenly we were actively managing to prevent an always-imminent explosion. And the worst part?

Dart knew it. Knew he was acting out, knew he was causing trouble, and was miserable with it.   Herbal calming options didn’t work. GABA-based options didn’t work. Valerian put him to sleep, which I suppose worked in its way, but not in a quality-of-life way.

So we had a family discussion and then I talked to his breeder, who is wonderful for all the right reasons and knows exactly the oddity that is Dart, and within moments the decision was made.

dart.vulture.220Within a week, the deed was done.

Because while neutering most certainly won’t change ill-manners or learned behaviors, it can help an over-reactive dog. And while I did consider medication–in fact, the $$amitriptyline$$ still sits unused on my counter–I wasn’t quite ready to try it without exploring all other options.

It’ll take six months from surgery for Dart to settle into his new steady state, but the changes are already obvious. The pack runs together again, needing no special management at meal times, bed times, or transition times. Dart and Tristan play together with abandon, and Dart doesn’t flail into reactivity when they do.

For this dog, this time of his life, it was the right thing to do.

dart.heel.313It’s up to all of us to make the best possible decisions as we go along, factoring in not the shame culture that now imbues the spay/neuter discussion and not the fact that Family Smith down the road isn’t able or interested in responsibly handling an intact dog, but based on what we know and actively continue learning about dog health/behavior, and on our own individual dogs.

Along the way, people who aren’t us need to stop thinking that they are, and need to stop trying to force and shame us into decisions that aren’t in the best interests of our specific circumstances. They should make the best decisions for them.

As for me, I’ll go on supporting everyone’s ability to make their own choice. That includes spreading the word about the health consequences of neutering, talking up sterilization instead of neuter, and yes, supporting low-cost S/N. And then I’ll stay out of other people’s business while they make their choices, and thank them to stay out of mine.

Jun 052015

By Patty Wilber

This picture sums up LT’s gathering attitude when I was riding her (even though this is AFTER we’d got  a bunch in):

Where are we going and how fast can we go?

LT: where are we going and how fast? Me: don’t you ever get tired?

She walked so fast on the second gather of the day (it was a long ride), I got an actual blister on my bum.  That was a first!

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