Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Dennis Powell, Reporter & Photographer

Dennis, age 11, learning from Andy Koukoulis at Ross Allen's Reptile
Institute in Florida how to milk a rattlesnake. Knowing how to milk a
rattlesnake is a skill important to reporters.

Dennis Powell is a gift to Southeast Ohio. He is a columnist for The Athens News, the better option in my geographic for news. His column, The View from Mudsock Heights, is a favorite. He is a connoisseur of words, an award-winning reporter, and a talented photographer.  It is a great honor to have Dennis here; I think we can all learn from his wisdom and advice…

At what age did you aspire to become a writer?
Fact is, I never planned on being a writer and I spent a good part of my life trying to avoid it. My father was a reporter and I went along much of the time when I was a kid, so I had a kind of involuntary apprenticeship. My real love was making pictures. When my Dad grew ill – I was 10 at the time – he continued an outdoor picture feature he had had for years, from his hospital room and sickbed. And it fell to me to make the pictures much of the time. I also shot other pictures for the paper in my hometown, Columbia, Missouri.

In due course, the paper made me write; ultimately I inherited much of my father’s old beat. Thereafter, at papers in Florida and New York, and in magazines all over the place, I had to write the stories to get the pictures that illustrated them into the paper. It left me the embittered, sorry specimen you see before you. But now I’m making lots of pictures for The Athens News, so I’m recovering my photographic dignity.

So I never planned to be a writer. For many years I never admitted that I didn’t much like writing, but then I learned from my late friend William F. Buckley, Jr., that he hated writing, too. Which led me to realize that a writing career did not have as a prerequisite a love of the act of writing.

As an award-winning reporter from New York and elsewhere, what enticed you to Southeast Ohio?
Pure, random chance. I’d been doing some publicity writing in New York, and among the clients were Fur Peace Ranch (in nearby Darwin, Ohio, in Meigs County). A little more than 10 years ago I’d decided to leave the northeast – the place sucks your soul right out of you – but had no idea where I was going. At about the same time I was at a Christmas party where someone mentioned a desire to return to the guitar playing he had loved when he was younger. I said I knew of a place that could help him out and would send him the link. Next day I went to the Fur Peace Ranch website and saw that one of the employees was selling her cabin. I checked it out, checked out other real estate prices in the region, and realized that this was a place I could afford to buy a home without incurring a lot of debt. A couple weeks later I came for a visit and found a house on a ridge, with enough land to make me happy, and made a bid. After a very brief negotiation, I bought the place and moved in on Feb. 1, 2005. I’ve said it was like going to the store and buying a house. Which it really was.

What amenities do you frequent in the Appalachia area?
I’m not a very sociable guy, and I live far enough out in the country that it’s not wise for me to go to bars and such. I love walking around making pictures, of course. I love the historical society and the special collections at the Ohio University library. Since moving here I converted to Roman Catholicism, which I find enormously rewarding, so I spend time at Church and Church-related activities. I’ve come to know some very good and holy people, and am especially impressed by some of the young people, Ohio University students who manage to put their religion first – which isn’t an easy thing to do in this day and age.

Of course, two seconds after this appears I will think of a dozen more places and activities.

What is the key to being a great journalist?
I don’t know. I know some of them, so I’ll try to remember to ask next time we speak. I don’t think I’m either great or a journalist; the former speaks for itself, which the latter requires a little explanation. Except in explicit opinion pieces (and to some extent even in those), I was raised to be a reporter, not a journalist. The distinction is important. Journalists know how to hold their teacup with two fingers and tend to make themselves the heroes of their stories. Reporters are driven by a desire to go see stuff, then come back and tell everyone else what they saw. That’s why news photographers and reporters aren’t all that different – photographers want to see stuff, then come back and show everyone else what they saw.

What a reporter may not do, though, is peddle an agenda in the news columns. This most fundamental rule is all but lost; indeed, at our great news institutions is so far back on the dust-covered shelf that objectivity doesn’t even fit into the assumptions. People do not go out with a blank piece of paper – the page is already filled with institutional matters of course. As a result, people would rather get their news from blogs and tweets and such. The media have failed and now it’s costing them. If they were more reliably objective, their product would be so much better than whatever floats by on the Internet that the Internet would be no threat to them.

Who is your favorite writer/author, etc.?
Any American interested in writing, even one who hates doing it, pretty much has to begin and end with Mark Twain. Among contemporary writers, Tom Wolfe is unsurpassed. I also read G.K. Chesterton, because he could say more in a sentence than most writers can say in a chapter, and C.S. Lewis. And Msgr. Ronald Knox, the most brilliant writer of the 20th   century you’ve never heard of. He did the best religious writing in town, yes, but also great mysteries; he started the trend of dissecting Sherlock Holmes – as a joke – and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle actually wrote a response. He also was responsible for the first truly great radio hoax, a decade before Orson Welles.

What are you currently reading?
The Public Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the essential two-volume set by Archbishop Alban Goodier, who died in 1939. It is long out of print, but entirely fascinating. I’ve been chipping away at it for close to two years now. At the current rate, I’ll have completed it by my 200th birthday. And, along with it, the superb translation of the Bible done by – can you guess? -- Msgr. Ronald Knox who, yes, translated the entire Bible, all by himself, from the Vulgate. In the light of such writers – and of course of their subjects – one may take a deep draught of humility.

What are you currently writing?
I’m in the early stages of a piece that, if it goes together as I hope, will gain some national attention. I won’t say more about it than that because once I’ve told the story I lose interest, so I try to tell the story only when I write it. It’s pretty cool.

Of all the articles that you have written, which one stands out?
The one that would be mentioned in my obituary is my piece in The Miami Herald’s TROPIC magazine about the aftermath of the crash of the space shuttle Challenger, which appeared in 1988. It’s hosted on The Athens News website because there wasn’t a clean copy elsewhere on the Internet – The Herald’s online archives don’t go back that far. The story made some noise when it appeared – I was even called back from an assignment at Guantanamo in Cuba to be interviewed on CBS by Charlie Rose.

Another piece I did later, on President Bush’s plan for a more robust space program, led the Drudge Report for a few hours and was the lead story in a lot of papers the next day, and caused me to be on the Today Show.

Is an autobiography, novel, or anthology in your future?
I wrote a bit of a memoir, about growing up in the country in Missouri, about 20 years ago. The few people who read it liked it, with one exception, which was my agent (who was, as it would turn out, Barack Obama’s agent, too; his memoirs did much better, but we differ in part because I felt constrained by the truth – also, I never ate a dog, though I had possum once). As to anything further along those lines, I throw myself to the mercy of a decades-distant, terribly misguided grad student or something.

Do you write poetry?
I do not write poetry; I have been offered substantial stipends by great literary societies to continue my practice of not writing poetry, but I am a charitable fellow and am happy to not write poetry for free.

What drives you; inspires, motivates?
I have no idea. I really don’t. No idea where it comes from, though occasionally some very random thing will spark a passion. Last summer, it was photographing insects and other tiny things.

Mudsock Heights. Is it the flora, fauna, or quiet noise that embraces you?
First, I should note that Mudsock Heights isn’t actually a real place. After I’d bought my house I realized that I knew something about the pig but nothing about the poke, so I undertook a little research and found among other things Richard Dean’s informative page about Mudsock, which, with the romance that comes of such ventures as moving to a place you know little about, I immediately thought of as the Athens County version of Brigadoon. In due course I realized that I live only a few miles from the site of Mudsock, and I am on a ridge, so I decided I would for literary purposes call my place “Mudsock Heights.” It is the tonier section of a town that doesn’t exist.

Do you have advice for novice writers?
Yes. Run. Keep running until you get it out of your system and resolve to do something useful. Do this every day. It might do the trick, but if it doesn’t it will strengthen your legs and increase your speed, which are valuable skills for writers, who often encounter debt collectors.

Connect with Dennis…

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Dorothy K. Morris, Author & Equestrian

Residing in Arizona, USA, Dorothy K. Morris has penned six books that comprise The Mockingbird Hill Series, an intriguing insight into America’s Colonial 18th century.  Morris expounds, “It is, indeed, my heritage. When most people think of the Colonial South, they think of King Cotton. Seldom do they think of rice. Glaberrima Rice/African rice was the product that made South Carolina the richest colony and Charles Town the wealthiest city. Rice from Asia came much later.”

Not only is Morris a talented author, she also is a freelance writer for the Expert Beacon, writing about classical horse training. She is an avid horse-lover and in the process of reschooling an off-the-track Thoroughbred.

Welcome Dorothy!

What is the premise for your Mocking Bird Hill series?
The first four books of the series were set in the time between 1848 and 1868, and they were written to show how people endured and survived just before, during, and after the war. They were not about battles and generals. The stories were about people.  In the fifth of the series, I wished to learn and show how it all came about…slavery…rice…Carolina colony.  The sixth continued with that theme into the development of that colony.

Who is your favorite character in this series?
I cannot say which character is my favorite in the series. I may have a favorite in each book. In each book I introduce new people and new situations. Even though a series, no one book is like the other. The heroine throughout the first four is Margaret O’Donnell. In the last two, one of my special characters is Fulani.

Is your storyline/background based upon your personal experience?
These are historical novels and they are based in part, not on my own  experience, but what must have been the life of several of my ancestors who helped to settle the colony and Charles Town.

What are you currently writing?
I am currently working on novel #seven which will be a follow-up to Tally’s Nook, #six. The working title is SABRICE.

Where do you like to write? 
I like to write at my desk at home.

How do you maintain thoughts and ideas?
I have no problem remembering my thoughts and ideas; however, most of them come right as I am typing. I do not use an outline for any of my books and often I have no idea where the story will go until it comes into my mind as I write. I think that is called channeling a story. It is as though I see a story unfold and I write what I see and hear.

Who is your favorite author?
Again, it is difficult for me to choose favorites. There are so many, but I do favor James Michener and Victor Hugo. I choose James Michener because he writes such beautiful prose and Victor Hugh because he covers so much background that helps us to understand his character.

Do you have advice for novice writers?
My advice for novice writers is that they do not censor themselves. I advise that they complete their rough draft before ever editing or correcting. I think that novice writers often write a chapter and give it to someone to read, hoping for encouragement. They then get involved in the assessment. Writer’s block often follows. Do Not Edit. Do Not Allow anyone to read what you have written until you have written at least two rewrites and you believe it is basically the story you wish to tell. The story comes from the right brain. The rewriting and editing come from the left. Going back and forth continually chapter by chapter, or page by page can really frustrate the right brain and again, writer’s block follows.  Just get the story down the way you want it.

List 10 things about yourself that your fans may not know...
I think my fans know the important things about me from the author’s blurb on the back cover. One thing they might not know is that I enjoy finding horses that are either spoiled or untrained and finish off their training. Then I like to find homes for them with good riders. Right now I have a Thoroughbred gelding, 8 years old, that was trained at the track when a two year old, but never entered an official race. For years he stood somewhere untrained. I have had him since September 7, 2014 and he is in his last two weeks of ground school. He is a beauty and needs a rider who understands and loves the Thoroughbred temperament. I think he would be excellent at dressage. 

Dorothy with Stevie's A Star (aka Cimarron), OTTB

Connect with Dorothy…

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tudor Robins, Author & Equestrian

Tudor has had two main obsessions for as long as she can remember: books and horses. As a child, after reading all the horsey books she could get her hands on, Tudor started writing her own stories.

After earning degrees in English and Journalism, and working in almost every publishing-related job imaginable – including checking facts and writing magazine stories, coordinating print jobs for a printing company, and selling textbooks at universities and colleges – Tudor finally sat down and finished her first novel, and hasn’t looked back since. Objects in Mirror was followed in less than a year by Appaloosa Summer, whose sequel, Wednesday Riders, will be out in early spring 2015.

The horse obsession also never waned. From Tudor’s first lunge line lesson at age eight, she moved onto showing hunter-jumper, then eventing. She’s worked as a summer camp riding instructor, and as a groom, preparing yearling thoroughbreds for the Keeneland sales and, of course, like her main characters, Grace and Meg, has mucked out her fair share of stalls. Tudor still enjoys riding at an eventing barn just outside Ottawa, in Carp, Ontario, and loves volunteering with a therapeutic riding program in Dunrobin, Ontario.

Welcome Tudor!

When was your first encounter with a horse?
I’m going to give an answer which is boring, but probably fairly standard for a lot of horse lovers, and say I really can’t remember. I’ve always loved horses, and when you love them, you can find them anywhere. At Christmas, my parents gave us a disc of old family slides they had scanned into digital images, and there are pictures of me sitting on a horse when I’m probably about four years old. I was also lucky to grow up in Ottawa, which has a working farm right in the middle of the city. Frequent trips to the Central Experimental Farm meant I was exposed to many animals including cows, sheep, goats, and, of course, their big, beautiful draft horses.

Has your horse history impacted your writing career?
Definitely! People often ask me if I had to do a lot of research for my books, and I used to say no. But then I realized, all my years of horse and riding experience have gone into my books – in that way I’ve done several decades of research!

People frequently advise you to write what you know, and that does make lots of sense. So far my books have been a mix of things I’ve known – always horses – but in addition there’s usually another aspect, too, for example:

1) My first novel, Objects in Mirror, is about a young rider struggling with anorexia. This is something I also dealt with at a young age.

2) My second novel, Appaloosa Summer, imagines what it would be like for a city girl to spend an entire summer on an island in the St. Lawrence River. Our cottage is on Wolfe Island, in the St. Lawrence between Kingston, Ontario and Cape Vincent, New York, and every time I go there I’m inspired to write.

3) My soon-to-be-released third novel, Wednesday Riders (the sequel to Appaloosa Summer) adds sailing to the mix. I’m not an expert sailor, by any means, but I do love it as a recreational activity.

What drives your inspiration and creativity?
That’s a great question and I think there are two levels of answers to that. One is the “deep down” answer which is just that it’s in me; I’m driven to write. I can’t not write, and so I can’t take any credit for the impulse to do so. On a more surface level, though, in terms of what drives me to write what I write, it’s really everyday life. Observing the things that happen to people, and their relationships, and wondering “What if?

For example, Hide & Seek, the short story I released at the end of this summer, was inspired by a news story I heard on the radio about two girls who were out playing hide and seek, and got lost and ended up staying in the woods alone overnight. Then my family went camping, and we had a tent, and all the conveniences we needed, but we were still in the woods, at night, and it made me imagine what it would have been like for them … the story just unrolled from there.

I should say, Hide & Seek is free in many places, including on my website, so readers should feel free to download it and check out my writing. There is a horse in the story!

Of all your characters, who is your favorite?
I recently told my beta reader that a certain character in the book I’m working on was my favorite and then, in the next round of edits, I deleted him … so maybe it’s dangerous to be my favorite? I guess the characters I’m currently working with are always my favorites, because they’re talking to me, and I’m learning about them, and sharing their worlds. If I lose interest in them a bit, I’ll switch to writing another project, so those characters will become my favorites.

I always love seeing which characters are my readers’ favorites. Of course I get lots of comments on the big, main, characters, but it’s fascinating when someone picks out a smaller, secondary character, and really relates to them. Also, my editor (who is a non-horsey person) told me she missed Salem (the horse in Appaloosa Summer) and couldn’t wait to see her again in Wednesday Riders. Little things like that make me smile.

Where do your stories take place?
The books I’ve written so far clearly take place in “my” part of the world. This area has Ottawa – Canada’s capital city – as its centre, and spreads out around Ottawa to include more rural parts of Western Quebec and Eastern Ontario.

These areas are great for horse lovers because even Ottawa, with a population of about a million people, retains strong rural connections. I live in central Ottawa, and my closest stable is less than a ten-minute drive from my house, and is serviced by our bus system and municipal bike trails.

The stables I write about are an amalgamation of many different ones I’ve ridden at. The layout, size, rules, etc. are pieced together from a variety of stables. For this reason, I hope all riders will find at least one or two familiar features that ring true to them in the barns I write about.

Do your stories include your own personal horses?
While I promise never to copy a real person in my human characters, I can’t say the same about the horses in my books. The horses I write about are all inspired by real horses I’ve known. Part of the story line in Objects in Mirror revolves around six neglected horses – I really did know six horses like this, and I really did take one on as my personal project. Her name was Lass, and she was a brave liver chestnut Quarter Horse mare.

The same is true for my other books. Some horse lovers may find it funny that I say this, but I feel lucky not to own my own horse because I meet so many horses all the time. Especially for a writer like me, it’s great to ride a 17hh OTTB for a while, then to move to a fifteen-year-old 15.3hh Quarter Horse mare, then a four-year-old Warmblood. They all have different personalities, and all give me different experiences, and I can use all those in my stories.

Where do you like to write?
I love writing at our cottage on Wolfe Island. I don’t watch TV there, and we don’t have an internet connection, so other than when I’m windsurfing, and swimming, and playing evening games of Crazy Eights with my family, I’m writing. I get lots of writing done at the cottage.

I also have a nice writing nook at our home in the city. Last year I had to give it an overhaul because I was getting aches and pains which my physiotherapist told me were from poor ergonomics. So now my laptop is propped up on a pile of books and I sit on an exercise ball.

What are you currently writing?
I’m currently writing two things. One is the sequel to Appaloosa SummerWednesday Riders.

Wednesday Riders is very close to publication, which means I frequently hand it off to other people. Right now it’s with my editor for line edits.

So, while she has the manuscript, I’m working on a book I’ve let sit for too long. It was the second novel I ever wrote, and I’ve never sat down and polished it properly. That’s what I’m doing now, and I’m hoping, by taking advantage of the times when Wednesday Riders is out being scrutinized by other people, I’ll have this novel ready to start editing not long after.

Who is your favorite author?
I’m going to make this a little easier for myself and stick to horse authors and, of those, hands down, I would have to choose Dick Francis, just for all the hours (and hours, and hours) of enjoyment I got reading (and re-reading) his books. Of course, I love that his books are about horses, but they’re almost always about some other really interesting subject as well, and I also love his writing style.

Another author who has an amazing writing style is Jean Slaughter Doty. Her book The Monday Horses is one I wish was longer, except I know it probably wouldn’t be as perfect if it was.

Those are favorites from childhood, but as for current horsey authors – why not check out the fun Horse Lovers Blog Tour I hosted in the fall – lots of books to learn about there!

Do you have advice for novice writers?
Well, first I’ll say everybody is different, so if what I say sounds completely wrong to you, maybe it is completely wrong for you … fair enough!

However, I would say there is no such thing as writers’ block. Just because you can’t write exactly what you want to, doesn’t mean you can’t write at all. The only way to get stories out is to keep writing, so put words on the page and then go back and look at them later. They might be better than you thought, or they might have a kernel of a good idea in them.

And, to improve your writing, you’ll need to embrace critique. Again, this is different for everybody. Some people like feedback throughout their writing process from anyone who will offer it. Others want to polish as much as they can, and then ask a trusted reader for an in-depth assessment. Whatever works for you, it is important to get an outside view and, often, just asking for that input will open your eyes to the strengths and weaknesses of your own work.

What does horsemanship mean to you?
Wow! That question snuck up on me … what an interesting, important question. Well, the first word that popped into my head was “respect” and I mean that on many levels. We need to respect the power of horses, and we also need to respect how they like to be treated – which, often, is in opposition to their power. They respond so well to subtlety and kindness.

I think, once you have respect, the rest falls into place. It makes you want to learn more about your horse – his health, the environment that works best for him, his training – and as you learn more about all aspects, your horsemanship is developing.

Sometimes riding is involved, and sometimes not, but I’m going to borrow a corporate term (and one I don’t usually like) and say good horsemanship is a striving for “best practices” with regards to your particular horse and his needs.

Connect with Tudor...

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Fashion at the Races 2015 Calendar

At my stables, tracking days.

Don't have a 2015 Calendar?

I highly recommend this beautiful full-color calendar from 
Fashion at the Races!

Briana M. Mott, CEO of Fashion at the Races presents a gorgeous calendar of famous horses, milliners, and more. Enjoy!

Your purchase supports Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.

Riding & Writing interviews Briana M. Mott 
CEO, Fashion at the Races... 

Riding & Writing interviews James A. Hastie 
Executive Director, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance...

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Lynn Baber, Author and Equestrian Professional

After careers as both a business and equine professional, Christian writer and Equine Clinician Lynn Baber retired as a National and World Champion horse breeder and trainer. From horses to “contending for the faith” every message is based on God’s Word.

Life is simple when you follow a worthy leader. Peace, joy, contentment, and security are found with proper focus and commitment. Lynn shares messages in print and in person to help folks find blessed simplicity as Christians, horse lovers, and citizens, in a world where complexity and confusion presently reign.

Welcome Lynn!

When was your first encounter with a horse?
Brownie, a tall gentle and appropriately named full-size gelding carried me around a family friends’ barnyard bareback in the late 1950’s. I am not the poster child for superior balance or the ability to remember anything that happened more than 20 minutes ago, but Brownie and his barnyard are forever etched in my memory. Poor Brownie stepped on me when I slipped off and crumpled under his feet. No tears! A passion for all things equine was born the instant Brownie’s hoof tiptoed across my belly.

What horses do you currently stable?
Six horses share the barn with my husband and me. Four are quarter horses and two Appaloosas. Two grays, one snow cap blanketed bay roan, one black, a coppery dun, and a dark chestnut. Two are vision-impaired and two others could be considered special-needs horses. God brought each one to me for a reason. Without the two grays there wouldn’t have been a first book. Without the two Appaloosas there wouldn’t have been a second. Our horses continue to teach and bless me on a daily basis.

Three are products of our breeding program, the others I bought as 2-year olds to show or sell. The two Appaloosas were sold as babies and returned to us nine years later. All but one gray are sired by World or National Champions and all would catalog as the champions they could have been. They now range in age from 9-15. I don’t expect I will ever buy another horse and our six will remain with us until death us do part.

As a trainer, what training methods do you prefer?
During my training career I tried to put the horse’s needs first. Today I do the same thing in ministry as well as horse relationships. The process is so simple most folks fail to grasp it. I’m all about no drama and no dust. As my horses learn to perform more complex maneuvers I never sacrifice confidence, boldness, or building faith.

Over the years I trained most disciplines except cattle events. I judged cattle classes, but never competed or trained. We moved and played with our own cattle at home, but it was always purposeful or just plain fun.

My methods produced multiple World or National Champions, so they must have been somewhat successful. And the horses always left me sound, sane, and productive. Today these same methods accomplish goals and achieve success, with both horse and humans better grounded and more confident. My methods aren’t original, just eternally simple and successful.

More than 25 years after Brownie stepped on me I entered into the horse business.  In the quarter-century since, I have learned something from each one of the hundreds (thousand?) of horses I have been honored to work with. From breeding, training, and judging, to consulting, appraising and doctoring – it has been a blessed journey. My hope is to share that journey with others.

Before the horse business I was a consultant and motivational speaker. I believe I was successful competitively and financially in the horse business just so I could do what I do now – Christian ministry with an equine emphasis. Before you can teach it you have to DO it. The messages I shared then are the same I share today, except now I know where they are found in the Bible and how they relate to horses.

What is your favorite clinic that you offer?
Leadership and Obstacles is a popular clinic and fun to teach. We have a series of obstacles here designed to prepare riders for Tire Mountain. No matter the specifics of any goal, each one is attained the same way - one step at a time.  I teach people how to relate, lead, and build faith in relationships, whether with God, horses, or one another.

Every clinic begins with a challenge. If folks think they already know the answers or can do what is asked, why would they pay attention to me? The trick is to offer challenges people believe they can master but cannot.

The details of clinics, programs, and seminars differ, but the message and lessons are the same. All are founded on unchanging, timeless, and simple gospel principles.

What books have you written?
Recent books include, but aren’t limited to, the Amazing Grays Trilogy:

The Promise: AmazingGrays, Amazing Grace – Pursuing relationship with God, horses, and one another

Proving the Promise istrue: He Came Looking for Me – A true story of hope and redemption

The next title isn’t a horse title, but a challenge to readers to know why they believe as they do.

What are you currently writing?
Multiple manuscripts are in various stages of completion at any given time. Last year I had a book on practical leadership and problem solving complete and ready to go to the editor. It seems that was not the book I was supposed to publish and began another that debuted 9 months later. That unpublished book is still on my hard drive as is one on discipleship, another on 1859, the strange pivotal year in human history, and one that explains in simple terms why Radical Islam is more popular than any other system of belief (including Christianity.)

For a number of years I’ve been working on a book that answers the question, “Do animals have souls and will they be in heaven with us?” I’m still working on it.

Do you have a favorite horse anecdote to share from one of your clinics or your own personal journey with horses?
That’s like asking a parent to pick his or her fondest memory after raising a family of 100 beloved children. Every lesson learned has a story to go with it. Some of the most valuable lessons I learned came from difficult or exasperating horses. Each book is packed with stories and anecdotes from my training days and clinic experiences. I’ll leave readers or clinic participants to choose their own favorites.

What characteristics do you look for when buying a horse?
Buying a horse either solves a problem or fulfills a need. People must know what kind of horse they need before buying one. Selecting the right horse is a process of finding one both able to do what you need and willing to work with you. I am far more interested in the heart and desire of a horse than natural attributes. More talented horses often lose to horses with more heart and a greater desire to do as they are asked.

Today I work with problem horses, troubled horses, people who love their horses enough to seek help when they hit a snag in relationship with their equine partner or trainers/ministries hoping to offer more resources to those they serve. Everything I do is part of a non-profit ministry and offered without a fee.

Do you have advice for novice riders?
There are three basics all prospective horse owners or riders need to consider:

1. Know precisely why you are getting involved with horses. Get a horse that meets your needs, not just one that looks the part or is free to a good home.

2. Recognize that horses are not hobbies; they are flesh and blood bodies with spirits, souls, feelings, and needs. You can have a life with horses or you can have a life apart from them. No one can do both well.

3. Find people who think about horses the same way you do, as pets or as tools. Stick with the like-minded folks and give everyone else religious freedom. Do not bounce from trainer to trainer, clinician to clinician, and method to method. You will confuse your horse and prove that you are a poor leader and undeserving of its trust.

What does horsemanship mean to you?
Horsemanship is nothing more than relationship. Some folks are rotten friends or co-workers and a bunch of people who have horses are no better. I consider “Horsemanship” the term for excellence in relationship with horses. It is considerate, intentional, founded in knowledge, and is the perfect balance of authority, humility, and accountability.

Horsemanship offers, it does not demand.

Connect with Lynn…

Thursday, January 15, 2015

How to Survive A Cavalry Charge

by Jonathan Hopkins, Author
April 8, 2012

There you are, an infantryman, marching happily along with your musket and pack. When suddenly in the distance, a group of enemy horsemen appear. What are you going to do?

You could, of course, simply pretend you haven’t seen them. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to mean they’ll leave you alone. They might, but if they begin trotting in your direction you know that unless you can find a way to protect yourself you’re likely to be in trouble.

So what’s the best way to avoid serious injury, even death? You’ve really only got four options.

(i)             Run away

You could try this, but it’s not really recommended. A horse gallops three times faster than a man can run, especially one laden with greatcoat and pack. Strangely enough, the latter two will provide some protection from a sword cut, though British cavalrymen were taught to cut back-handed towards a running infantryman’s face. The only defense against that is to raise your musket vertically in front of you in an attempt to deflect the blow, not easy when you’re running at full pelt. And you risk having your fingers chopped off. Pretty hopeless, really.
Chance of survival = 1/10

(ii) Play dead.

Sounds like a good idea…unless the cavalry have infantry support following close behind. Then you’re just going to end up a prisoner.

Problem is there’s no guarantee the dragoon galloping straight towards you won’t be wise to your ploy and so reach down from his horse to stab you with his sword, just to check you’re really dead and not just pretending. French and Spanish lancers were particularly fond of this tactic, the British less so. Until they were caught out a few times by enemy soldiers who, having collapsed in apparent death throes, rose again once the cavalrymen had passed, firing muskets at their exposed backs. That’s just not cricket, old boy.
Chance of survival = 4/10

(iii) Use your bayonet in the prescribed manner.

A technique was available to the redcoat, who might find himself on his own facing a charging horseman, which relied on nimble footwork and accurate use of the bayonet.
Basically you faced up to the enemy, bayonet fixed, musket held across your body. The attacker would try to keep you on his right, within easy reach of his sword arm. Judging just the right moment you stepped smartly to your right, out of reach of the sword, so the horseman passed to your left, at the same time plunging your bayonet into the horse behind its shoulder (i.e. through heart and lungs), just in front of the cavalryman’s left leg. The horse would usually collapse immediately, at which point you could finish off the enemy dragoon at your leisure.

Of course, this defense relied on split-second timing. You might not actually have to kill the horse, though, because horses don’t like running into things, especially sharp spikes. So it might shy away from you, and even if the dragoon then turned back, you’d have a much better chance of fighting off a mounted man who was not travelling at high speed. Technically difficult.
Chance of survival = 5/10

 (iv) Form square

Ah – the best protection against marauding cavalry. Your regiment maneuvers into a square formation, sides three or four men deep, shoulder to shoulder and facing outwards. The outermost man kneels, planting the stock of his musket firmly on the ground, bayonet facing up and out. The second man holds his musket over the first man’s shoulder whilst the third (and fourth) man shoulders his musket, ready to fire.

This means every approaching cavalryman faces at least six bayonets (two files of men) head on and cannot reach far enough forward with his sword to inflict any damage.  And if he turns side-on, which would allow him enough reach, he faces at least twelve bayonets.

No sensible horse will risk impaling itself on such a deadly hedge, so even if a downpour soaked all the powder, preventing any musket being fired, the men in square should still be safe.

If you were relatively few in number you could form what was called a ‘rally square’, simply a crush of bodies all with bayonets pointed outward. Not as good as a battalion or regimental square, but still pretty effective.
Chance of survival = 9 ½ /10

Sorry – almost forgot. There is one other option: 

(v) Charge the cavalry

Are you mad? Charge cavalry…on foot?

Chance of survival = 0/10    Except…on one occasion a British infantry company charged French cavalry who had captured some guns – and drove them off! (I seem to remember it was at Barossa, but frustratingly I can’t find the reference).

So now you know. If you ever have to face up to charging cavalry your slogan should always be:
 ‘Be there – but be in square.’

(You can all groan now).

Connect with Jonathan…

Thanks, Jonathan for sharing! 

Reprinted with permission.

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