Sunday, October 4, 2015


                                             by Laura Crum

         So once again, apologies for the lack of posts. My life has been interesting and magical, but it is beyond my current abilities to put many words down about it. So today I can give you a few snippets and quotes and that’s about it.

 Lately I have been sitting by my pond in the evening, drinking rye whiskey and soda, and reading “The Dharma Bums” by Jack Kerouac. How did I miss this book in my youth? I read “On the Road,” but not this one. And this one is magical.

I found the book because a friend gave me a book called “Tamalpais Walking”—a collaboration between the woodblock print artist, Tom Killion, and the poet, Gary Snyder. I posted about this book last time (I Know, No Posts). The book had a lot of back story about Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac and explained that Gary Snyder is the “hero” in “The Dharma Bums”—a character named Japhy Ryder. So I decided I needed to read The Dharma Bums. And it arrived a few days later—thank you, Amazon.

For the last few evenings I have been sitting by my pond and reading this book. And laughing out loud. And being amazed. So many things seem to be coming together.

The book reminds me of sitting by Burgson Lake in the Sierras when I was 22 years old, miles from any other person, reading “Roughing It” by Mark Twain, and laughing out loud as I drank cheap jug wine and watched the sun go down.

The passages about the Sierras take me back to the summers I lived in those mountains—one year alone by Burgson Lake, one year working at Kennedy Meadows pack station. And all the many horseback pack trips over the mountain passes that came later. When Japhy and Ray go into the Sierras out of Bridgeport, Bridgeport comes back to me as vividly as if I were there yesterday.

And there are so many lines in the book that are things that Andy used to say to me. I know he read this book—but I didn’t realize that the lines came from the book. As Ray tells Japhy what he thinks of other people: “Equally empty, equally to be loved, equally the coming Buddha.” Andy used to say that to me all the time.  It all feels so connected.

Anyway, hey, if you haven’t read “The Dharma Bums,” read it. It’s a whole lot of fun.

And, just because I like them, here are some quotes that my dear friend, Shannon Schierling, posted on facebook. Thank you, Shannon.

“I have come to accept the feeling of not knowing where I am going. And I have trained myself to love it. Because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air with no landing in sight, that we force our wings to unravel and alas begin our flight. And as we fly, we still may not know where we are going to. But the miracle is in the unfolding of the wings. You may not know where you’re going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you.” – C. Joybell

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” ~ Louise Erdich, The Painted Drum

Sunday, September 27, 2015

I Know, No Posts

                                                by Laura Crum

            Once again, my apologies to those who liked to read my blog posts. My life has just been so busy lately. Many new projects, much change-- very engaging, but no time to write.

            But magic is real. I’ve written about this so many times—I don’t really have any new words for you. Watching the almost full moon rise behind the big eucalyptus tree on a gloriously warm September evening, my heart is full. It amazes me that after all I have been through I can feel this way as I look at the moon. Or perhaps it is because of all I have been through?

In any case I sit by my pond and drink whiskey and soda in the evening, watching dragonflies and the light change in the sky, and feel content. And I'm grateful for that.

            On a warm, moonless night I sat by the pond and watched Orion rise above the eastern ridge and stride across the dark three AM sky. Twice I saw shooting stars. And yes, I wished.

            A friend gave me a lovely book—“Tamalpais Walking”—a collaboration between the woodblock print artist Tom Killion (I have several of his prints here on my walls) and the poet Gary Snyder. I highly recommend this book. And I’m going to close this brief blog post with some quotes from the book that touched me. Most of them are by Gary Snyder.

            “Not even once,” someone said, “can you step in the same river.” Landscape with nuance.

            Every night the drama will have new turns and meanings. One who learns this will never be bored.

            Nature, not in the abstract, but (like anybody) a kind of being actually there to respond to being seen in the moment. Gratitude to the particular is never in vain. Relationship to place is real, not as an idea but as a way.

            “All paths lead nowhere, so choose a path with heart.” Don Juan

            “A way that can be followed is not the ultimate way.”

            We don’t play music to get to the end of it. Or make love to go to sleep (I hope). Or meditate and study to become enlightened. Realization or somesuch might come along, but suppose it doesn’t? So what? Basho said, “The journey is home.”

            May we all find the Bay Mountain that gives us a crystal moment of being and a breath of the sky, and only asks us to hold the whole world dear.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Everybody's got one.

By Gayle Carline
Author and Horse Mom

Of course, I'm talking about opinions. It's been almost 3 weeks since we've moved to our new stables. I think the move went pretty well. It was a lot of work, and I would have liked to have left with better feelings from the owner of the previous place - we were (and hope still are!) friends, but the last day was filled with tension. 

We got our tack room all organized!

We're still finding our way around the new place. Everyone is very friendly and accommodating, willing to show us where things are, take turns for the turnouts and round pen, etc. I love the arena. The footing is a combination of sand and synthetic that is very soft and springy. Very good on Snoopy's legs.

Speaking of Snoopy, he's not as happy with the new place as I thought he'd be. Where Frostie settled into her stall without complaint (and is already growing to fat-as-a-tick status on the new diet), he has not quite accepted the fact that he's in a new home. He's eating a lot of hay, plus senior feed, but the first week, he paced so much in his stall that he lost significant weight. Any time another horse is taken out of the barn, he screams until they come back, and sometimes, he rushes his stall door so frantically that we close the top, afraid he'll try to jump out.

Frostie loves her in-and-out

This is not normal behavior for him. (Even at shows, he is calm after his first lunge.)

"Where am I?!?!?"

The best we can reason is that he knows he's not at a show, but he can still smell/hear/sense his old home nearby (it's two doors down), so he is confused about just where he is. Some days he acts like he's settling. Then a horse leaves the cross-ties and he screams and rears and generally behaves like a loon. 

This week, we called the vet to try to see what to do. The weight loss isn't good for him, as I'm sure the stress is getting to his stomach. The vet gave him a shot of a hormone designed to relax him within a week, and last for a few months, plus some pills to counteract the excess acid in his stomach. It's only been one day, but he seems to be a little quieter. 

Of course, it could be because his favorite vet, Dr. Brigid Murphy came to visit. She told him that he's going to live here and it's okay because she knows where to find him, and she'll tell Santa where he is. The entire time she's talking to him, she's feeding him apple treats.

I told her I tried to tell him, but he didn't want to listen. Maybe he listened to her. 

Come and visit us at the top of the hill - Hillcrest Equestrian Center!

Have any of you had a horse that just wouldn't settle into their new place? What did you do to ease their anxiety?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Coming Soon: New Equestrian Fiction "Show Barn Blues"

At last, a reason to blog! I posted over at for the first time since spring, and now I'm going to share it over here with all you fine Equestrian Ink readers, because good news! A new book!
It's been a long, hot summer, readers -- or has it? I've been working so much this summer, it went flying by like one of those particularly deranged dragonflies that goes right past your nose and scares you to death and you shriek and wave your hands in your face and everyone turns around and stares at you and you say "did you SEE that thing?" but nobody did...
Oh wait, that was me the other night at work.
I'm telling you, that thing was HUGE.
Anyway, it's been busy. Working at Walt Disney World by day (well, really, by night) and working at my computer by night (usually by day). It's a wonderful balance, when it works -- working at Disney lets me get out from behind a screen and chatter with people from all around the world, and working at my computer lets my voice (and my brain) recover from eight hours of all that chattering.
It's great, but summertime can be challenging at one of the world's most popular vacation destinations... long hours, late nights, and a newly rediscovered penchant for sleeping until 11 AM can all take their toll on one's writing goals.
However, I set myself a goal of finishing Show Barn Blues by the end of August, and I'm happy to announce that I've achieved that goal! Fully edited and ready to go, all we need now is the final cover design and internal formatting, and we will have ourselves a new novel!
One of my favorite characters is Ivor, a sassy gray stallion.
Photo: Serge Melki/flickr
I'm excited to bring you this story, which has some characters and horses I just love, including Grace Carter (her name might be different in previous blog posts, this has been a long process), who is a been-there-done-that barn owner; her sassy gray stallion, Ivor; a former dinner show/hunter princess named Kennedy; and a cast of grooms, working students, and boarders who keep life interesting.
One challenge that I'm having with Show Barn Blues -- how to categorize it on Amazon. You might notice that on Amazon, the books in a series will show up on the same page. Look at Turning For Home's page and you'll see the other novels in the Alex and Alexander series right on the page, listed numerically. Nice, right?
Well, Show Barn Blues is technically part of the Eventing Series, which begins with Ambition. The Eventing Series was plotted out as a trilogy, and the next novel, Pride, will follow Ambition. So that's logically Book 2.
However, we're going to meet the characters from Show Barn Blues in Pride. They're important to the story. They just don't fit into the trilogy. They're like a bonus novel. Does that make Show Barn Blues "a novel of the Eventing Series," perhaps?
It's a shame that Amazon doesn't allow "1.5" as a volume number, because I would just use that -- but I've already tried that particular scheme before and it doesn't work.
Other than that conundrum, the writing life is good. I have all the tools I need for my final draft of Pride. Barring work insanity, I should have the next Jules novel to you by the end of the year. I'm rereading Ambition to make sure I have her snotty voice in my head, although Jules is softening... a little. She's still prickly, but life with Pete is starting to sand down those rough edges... a little. 
Maybe it shouldn't take me two years to bring out the sequel to a book as popular as Ambition, but it really does take me that long to write a book. I found notes the other day for Turning For Home, and they were dated 2013. I released TFH in 2015, so there you have it -- that's just the way I write!
So get ready for Show Barn Blues. I'll have it out for you soon!

Saturday, August 22, 2015


By Gayle Carline
Author, Horse Owner, Enthusiastic Embracer of All Things New

Okay, that last title is not only not a real thing, it's only partially true. I like new things. New Ariats, a cute new outfit, new gadgets. I had to order a new watch yesterday (my watches tend to fall completely apart and I do mean completely after about a year of sun, heat, horse hair, dirt, sunscreen, sweat, etc) and I'm super excited to see that Amazon box on my front porch.

The sides broke and it stopped working. 

Changes, however, to my lifestyle? Not much of a fan, even when I'm the one who makes the change. Still, at my age, I know that nothing stays the same, you learn to roll with the punches, make lemonade out of lemons, and ask for serenity to accept what's out of your control. 

Of course, wine and chocolate help.

Sorry, I ate the chocolate.

The big change I'm dancing around here is that my trainer is moving to a new facility. It was a long-thought-out, carefully considered decision. She discussed it with all of her clients to get their opinions and their buy-ins. Our current facility has been slowly becoming less horse-centric and more dog-centric, and the new place is only two doors down from us.

Our new tack room - so cute!

I don't blame the owner--dogs are a more lucrative business in southern California. It will be a win-win situation for everyone. The owner can develop the remaining horse stalls and arenas into dog training and kennels, and my trainer can be at a full-on equestrian facility with more opportunities to grow her business.


We've been at the ranch for 12-13 years. Snoopy was born there. Before the owner got involved with dog training, she was my horse trainer. It's still a quiet and relaxing place to hang out while my horse is out playing, or standing in the sun, drying after a bath. In a way, it's like leaving home.

Snoopy's new barn. Frostie will be in a pipe stall behind it.

And while the new place is lovely and has a lot of perks, I know the grass isn't greener. We now have to share resources with other trainers on the property. Compromising will be done. Adjustments (as well as mistakes) will be made. 

I've made the decision to take each phase as it happens. We are currently moving our stuff, bit by bit (no pun intended) to the new facility. This is the "OMG, this place is wonderful and we're going love it here!" phase. We need this phase to keep the stars in our eyes while our muscles ache from all the schlepping.

Once we move in, the "Hmm, this place has too much/too little of x,y,z" phase takes over. It's like piercing your favorite balloon and watching the air seep out. I will accept this and move through it with a glad heart. And wine and chocolate.

How do you handle changes in your life? 

Of course, I had to include the song. It's stuck in my head. Now it's stuck in yours. You're welcome.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Apologies, Magic and Life

                                                by Laura Crum

            I’m sorry for the recent lack of posts. My life has been very busy lately and I haven’t had the time for writing. This is actually a good thing, and I’m grateful to be engaged with some new projects. But such a busy period doesn’t lend itself to creating blog posts.
            I don’t have a decent post in me at the moment, so I thought I’d share a few photos to illustrate the magic that I still find in my life.
            Sitting by the pond is always magical. Summer is the season of water lilies and dragonflies.

            My boy is growing up (shown running away from the camera—does not like having his picture taken).

            Seeing spotted fawns in our garden and watching them grow up is magical, too.

            And the begonias are in bloom again out at the Jefferson Ranch. I have been coming here in the summer/fall for many years. Not to mention I have been gazing at the amazing spectacle of the begonia fields since I was a little girl. Once upon a time they grew at our family ranch, and for well over twenty years now they have been grown here. I was grateful to be out here last weekend and see it all again. No matter how many times I’ve seen it before, it’s always magical. 

My husband Andy grew the eucalyptus trees that form the windbreaks from seed he collected out at the old family ranch. When these trees were trimmed, we burned the wood to heat our home. It always seemed like a very satisfying life cycle.

And finally, my son and I went to see the stage version of Mary Poppins a couple of weeks ago. Our family always loved that movie and watched it so many times we knew most of the lines by heart. The live version opened with my favorite quote from the whole deal. Bert the chimney sweep stands alone on the stage in a mysterious shadowy light. He says:

            “Wind’s in the east, mist coming in,
              Like something is brewing, about to begin.
              Can’t put my finger on what lies in store,
              But I feel that what’s happening has all happened before.”

Saturday, July 25, 2015

More precious than gold

By Gayle Carline
Horse Lover and Author

This is Rags. She's one of our lesson horses. We don't know a lot about her, except that she's a breeding stock Paint Horse and her registered name is supposedly Batteries Not Included. I joke that she's a repo horse - her owner walked away from her board at a friend's ranch. My trainer, Niki, needed a new lesson horse and she was a likely candidate.

She proved to be a perfect lesson horse. Nearly bombproof, she toted kids or adults around the arena, doing her best to figure out what their wiggling seats and flapping arms were trying to tell her. Her jog was slow and steady, and she's the only horse I knew who could actually sleep-walk through a beginner lesson. Her only problem was when you asked for the lope. She only knew two speeds, a slow gallop or a fast gallop. Loping, even cantering, was a pipe dream.

This picture was taken this week. Isn't she pretty? So fat and shiny. Too bad, she's foundering.

It started with what we thought was an abscess. She was walking, or should I say, limping, on her right front toe. Niki did the usual soaking, farrier, Bute treatment and Rags improved. And then she got worse again. The vet came out, and prescribed anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, etc. Rags improved again, right before she deteriorated.

The vet returned to take x-rays, the last resort. They told the complete story. Rags' coffin bone in both front feet had turned to point down. Fuzzy areas on the x-rays showed the bone pulling away from the interior of the hoof. In addition, her right suspensory ligament was shot. The suspensory might heal with enough layup, but nothing would make those coffin bones stop their descent. Her shoes were evening her out and supporting her in all the right places, but they couldn't reach inside and level out her bones.

No wonder she was limping.

Niki doesn't have a lot of options for Rags. Perhaps we could find a pasture somewhere, but Rags tends to be aggressive with other horses and kicks at them, especially around mealtime. Since she can't have her shoes removed, she might injure someone. And retirement would not help her hooves. She'd still need daily medication and someone watching over her. I'm not even sure that would extend her life.

We're making Rags comfy with Bute right now and letting everyone say their goodbyes. Niki will probably make The Appointment in a week or two.  Send tissues. We'll all need them.

Here's the thing about an old lesson horse: they are worthless and priceless. You can't insure them, they're typically scruffy, and not very well put-together. You'd never mistake them for a highly trained show horse with perfect confirmation. And yet, finding that horse with a good attitude, a quiet mind, and and understanding heart, one that will teach a new rider confidence, is like searching for that pearl among the oysters.

Once you find them, you never let them go. 

How I wish our old horses would never die! Or at least, they'd introduce us to their replacement. 

Rest well, dear Rags. We love you.