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Jessica Pierce

Jessica Pierce 

These are some things I like.

Occupation: Spidercamp

Location: Atlanta GA USA

Followers: 30,866

Following: -

Views: 5,346,898

Cream of the Crop: 12/05/2011

Added to CircleCount.com: 07/21/2011That's the date, where Jessica Pierce has been indexed by CircleCount.com.
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Jessica Pierce has been at 1 events

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Fraser Cain988,331To celebrate the landing of NASA's Curiosity Rover - the Mars Science Laboratory - we'll be running a special live hangout.  In conjunction with @106911959181067745693. We'll have all your favorite space/astronomy journalists on hand to discuss the mission in depth, and celebrate the landing live, when it happens. Join Fraser Cain, @109036978092446954908, @108952536790629690817 and @102887292457967781591 for this special event. Over the course of this 4-hour Google+ Hangout on Air, we'll interview members of the Curiosity team live in the hangout, as well as other special guests from the @111419948721791453320 and the @108759765804984663877. @109479143173251353583 and @107051665537162034944 will be on location at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to interview members of the engineering team, and show you what it's like to be at NASA during this amazing moment. We'll update this event as we lock down more of the guests and participants. See you there! You can follow the hashtag #marshangout   (this will replace our regular Sunday night @100902337165997768522)Google+ Hangout - Curiosity Landing Coverage2012-08-06 05:00:004843  

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Activity

Average numbers for the latest posts (max. 50 posts, posted within the last 4 weeks)

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Top posts in the last 50 posts

Most comments: 10

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2016-04-14 23:34:11 (10 comments; 0 reshares; 18 +1s)Open 

A cascade of minor but preoccupying health issues kept me from having as much horse time as I'd like in the first few months of the year. I'm back to it now, and am trying to get back in the habit of posting here. I have a million photos and the stables have a bunch of new horses, including this guy. This must be his professional name. What am I even supposed to call him?

Most reshares: 2

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2016-04-19 00:43:40 (2 comments; 2 reshares; 24 +1s)Open 

When bad weather prevents riding, we do a barn lesson, which means "find something to do inside." I did this recently with Jay, who is 9, funny, super bright, and 100% dedicated to animals of all sorts. He has probably 20 minutes of impassioned opinion (based on research) about how zoos can operate humanely and ethically. A big heart.

He says he's the "everything whisperer." A lot of kids think they're good with animals, but there's a difference between wanting to pet them, and caring about what they need. I think Jay is right though, because he says it frankly and not as a brag, and because once a ladybug lit on his shoulder and stayed there through the entire hour's ride, and the kid was not surprised in the least. He names every ladybug Leroy, because "then it's like it's the same ladybug landing on me for my whole life."

Most... more »

Most plusones: 61

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2015-12-15 04:23:25 (8 comments; 2 reshares; 61 +1s)Open 

I love Zorro but he's the number-one most impossible guy to photograph, due to his color. Not anymore. Thanks, new phone.

Latest 50 posts

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2016-04-27 04:37:57 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 9 +1s)Open 

Libby.

I held a cochlear implant in my hand today.

Libby.

I held a cochlear implant in my hand today.___

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2016-04-27 04:21:40 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 19 +1s)Open 

Gator has had a bath and feels better. I like this guy.

Gator has had a bath and feels better. I like this guy.___

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2016-04-19 02:04:38 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 21 +1s)Open 

Matisse chillin

Matisse chillin___

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2016-04-19 00:43:40 (2 comments; 2 reshares; 24 +1s)Open 

When bad weather prevents riding, we do a barn lesson, which means "find something to do inside." I did this recently with Jay, who is 9, funny, super bright, and 100% dedicated to animals of all sorts. He has probably 20 minutes of impassioned opinion (based on research) about how zoos can operate humanely and ethically. A big heart.

He says he's the "everything whisperer." A lot of kids think they're good with animals, but there's a difference between wanting to pet them, and caring about what they need. I think Jay is right though, because he says it frankly and not as a brag, and because once a ladybug lit on his shoulder and stayed there through the entire hour's ride, and the kid was not surprised in the least. He names every ladybug Leroy, because "then it's like it's the same ladybug landing on me for my whole life."

Most... more »

When bad weather prevents riding, we do a barn lesson, which means "find something to do inside." I did this recently with Jay, who is 9, funny, super bright, and 100% dedicated to animals of all sorts. He has probably 20 minutes of impassioned opinion (based on research) about how zoos can operate humanely and ethically. A big heart.

He says he's the "everything whisperer." A lot of kids think they're good with animals, but there's a difference between wanting to pet them, and caring about what they need. I think Jay is right though, because he says it frankly and not as a brag, and because once a ladybug lit on his shoulder and stayed there through the entire hour's ride, and the kid was not surprised in the least. He names every ladybug Leroy, because "then it's like it's the same ladybug landing on me for my whole life."

Most importantly, he's good with Zorro, who is afraid of men. We don't know why. We have an idea. He's mostly ok, but when we need to bring him out of his stall, the smallest lady can do it more easily than any man. He's scared of male handlers, has a nervous tolerance for the male barn staff who bring his dinner, but loves Jay, who is more patient and quiet than I would have expected a nine-year-old to be. It could be that Jay just isn't tall or loud enough to come across as male, but who knows and who cares; there's trust there on both sides, and I can't imagine that will change as he gets older.

For Zorro, Jay invented the horse hug. I'm not sure why he insists this is a special invention, except that he is willing to stand with his arms around a horse's neck for damn near forever. I try not to ever be the one who has to tell him it's time to go.

On a barn lesson the other day, Jay and I walked around with a worksheet, categorizing all the horses by facial markings. I thought he might get bored but turns out he's as happy as I am to visit everybody. I got to look at that kid's radiant face as he gazed at forty horses.

We got to Zorro's stall and Jay was disappointed that the worksheet had no category he would fit into; he's one of our only horses with no facial markings at all. Jay solved the problem himself: he said "I know where to put him," and wrote a new list in the margin, consisting only of the name Zorro. The title of this list was "My Heart."___

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2016-04-18 21:24:56 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 12 +1s)Open 

Rebel finding every little bit of clover.

Rebel finding every little bit of clover.___

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2016-04-18 21:03:52 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 11 +1s)Open 

Because they're scary

Because they're scary___

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2016-04-18 17:29:22 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 14 +1s)Open 

The hair I brushed off one side of Happy a while back.

The hair I brushed off one side of Happy a while back.___

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2016-04-18 02:52:06 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 9 +1s)Open 

Finally sorting through old videos. This is from last winter, hence the blankie.

Finally sorting through old videos. This is from last winter, hence the blankie.___

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2016-04-17 23:14:14 (4 comments; 0 reshares; 36 +1s)Open 

This is Gator, who I made friends with today. I don't know his history or what his deal is, but he's not quite like the others, in a way that tells me something happened to him. He's not skinny, but is awfully opportunistic about food. When I led him down the barn aisle he tugged toward every open stall, trying to steal everybody else's dinner. He doesn't flinch when touched, but it's like he doesn't know what to do about it. Like he's puzzled by affection or grooming. So maybe it wasn't abuse, but certainly neglect. Or solitude.

Today while he grazed I scratched up masses of dead hair from his neck and sides. Dude needs a bath SO BAD, and that will happen soon. He seems healthy, just filthy, with gray flakes of dandruff as big as a fingernail in the base of his mane.

He let me do absolutely anything I wanted, including cleaning his eyes. That's... more »

This is Gator, who I made friends with today. I don't know his history or what his deal is, but he's not quite like the others, in a way that tells me something happened to him. He's not skinny, but is awfully opportunistic about food. When I led him down the barn aisle he tugged toward every open stall, trying to steal everybody else's dinner. He doesn't flinch when touched, but it's like he doesn't know what to do about it. Like he's puzzled by affection or grooming. So maybe it wasn't abuse, but certainly neglect. Or solitude.

Today while he grazed I scratched up masses of dead hair from his neck and sides. Dude needs a bath SO BAD, and that will happen soon. He seems healthy, just filthy, with gray flakes of dandruff as big as a fingernail in the base of his mane.

He let me do absolutely anything I wanted, including cleaning his eyes. That's something, considering I'd never touched him until today. He was just a little quiet and sad, and looked at me with these eyes when I went to leave his stall.

The biggest heartbreaker is that he doesn't recognize the sound of a treat thunking into his food bucket. It means nothing to him. I will fix that.
___

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2016-04-17 22:48:59 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 24 +1s)Open 

I got to take five horses for a graze today (separately). Previous record: 2!

This is Libby, whose story I've told here lots of times. She came to us nearly hairless and in agony from an allergy to fly bites. She'd lost her mane. I don't know if it was wavy before, but it's wavy now, and it's beautiful.

I got to take five horses for a graze today (separately). Previous record: 2!

This is Libby, whose story I've told here lots of times. She came to us nearly hairless and in agony from an allergy to fly bites. She'd lost her mane. I don't know if it was wavy before, but it's wavy now, and it's beautiful.___

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2016-04-15 23:37:48 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 16 +1s)Open 

I've been working a lot lately with Dakota, who I don't know very well. The other day I groomed and tacked her up, but the rider was late so we had time to kill. I gave her her space during this downtime, thinking surely she'd had enough contact and attention during the grooming. They get overstimulated and it's kind to give them some peace.

But she threw her head around and fussed until I figured out what was up: she wanted infinitely more, and wasn't happy until I gave her big long scratches and rubs all the way down her sides and under her belly. She closed her eyes, leaned against me, and did all the happy noises. We are friends now.

I've been working a lot lately with Dakota, who I don't know very well. The other day I groomed and tacked her up, but the rider was late so we had time to kill. I gave her her space during this downtime, thinking surely she'd had enough contact and attention during the grooming. They get overstimulated and it's kind to give them some peace.

But she threw her head around and fussed until I figured out what was up: she wanted infinitely more, and wasn't happy until I gave her big long scratches and rubs all the way down her sides and under her belly. She closed her eyes, leaned against me, and did all the happy noises. We are friends now.___

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2016-04-14 23:40:13 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 17 +1s)Open 

Meet Gator. Somebody once looked at a little baby horse and said "let's name him GATOR." I love it.

Meet Gator. Somebody once looked at a little baby horse and said "let's name him GATOR." I love it.___

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2016-04-14 23:34:11 (10 comments; 0 reshares; 18 +1s)Open 

A cascade of minor but preoccupying health issues kept me from having as much horse time as I'd like in the first few months of the year. I'm back to it now, and am trying to get back in the habit of posting here. I have a million photos and the stables have a bunch of new horses, including this guy. This must be his professional name. What am I even supposed to call him?

A cascade of minor but preoccupying health issues kept me from having as much horse time as I'd like in the first few months of the year. I'm back to it now, and am trying to get back in the habit of posting here. I have a million photos and the stables have a bunch of new horses, including this guy. This must be his professional name. What am I even supposed to call him?___

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2016-01-05 04:26:04 (4 comments; 0 reshares; 23 +1s)Open 

Horse haircuts are a big job that often take several days, especially on acreage like Luke's. That's why he wore these sassy legwarmers for a while.

Horse haircuts are a big job that often take several days, especially on acreage like Luke's. That's why he wore these sassy legwarmers for a while.___

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2016-01-05 02:24:14 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 21 +1s)Open 

My newest rider is an adult (a rarity), a super sweet lady who was perfectly paired with super sweet Tonka.

I helped with her first ever ride, and she was nervous about many things, including whether the horse liked or hated being ridden. While riding, of course she couldn't see his face, but I could, so I narrated his expressions to her. It mostly went like, "he's happy, he still looks happy, he seems totally pleased to be here." He always does.

My newest rider is an adult (a rarity), a super sweet lady who was perfectly paired with super sweet Tonka.

I helped with her first ever ride, and she was nervous about many things, including whether the horse liked or hated being ridden. While riding, of course she couldn't see his face, but I could, so I narrated his expressions to her. It mostly went like, "he's happy, he still looks happy, he seems totally pleased to be here." He always does.___

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2016-01-04 19:47:20 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 14 +1s)Open 

Pinky has retired. At 29, she was our oldest horse, and the one who'd been with the program the longest. I don't know where she's going; I hope it's somewhere nice. Here's a brief video. I will miss this little diva.

Pinky has retired. At 29, she was our oldest horse, and the one who'd been with the program the longest. I don't know where she's going; I hope it's somewhere nice. Here's a brief video. I will miss this little diva.___

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2016-01-03 00:33:31 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 8 +1s)Open 

I've put a few brief horse videos on youtube. I'll be posting the best ones here too, but youtube will have extras, in case you need more horse (also cats and nephew).

This is Jack enthusiastically schlorping an applesauce cup, a few days before he retired. Sorry it's shaky; they were fierce licks. Spoiler, it's gross! 24sec.

I've put a few brief horse videos on youtube. I'll be posting the best ones here too, but youtube will have extras, in case you need more horse (also cats and nephew).

This is Jack enthusiastically schlorping an applesauce cup, a few days before he retired. Sorry it's shaky; they were fierce licks. Spoiler, it's gross! 24sec.___

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2016-01-02 03:45:38 (3 comments; 1 reshares; 19 +1s)Open 

Happy's new thing is tipping his head to the side if you talk to him enough, like he's listening, or like girl, you crazy, or who knows what goes through his weird mind.

Happy's new thing is tipping his head to the side if you talk to him enough, like he's listening, or like girl, you crazy, or who knows what goes through his weird mind.___

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2016-01-02 03:27:27 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 22 +1s)Open 

Horse stuff is nearly always cooperative, but once in a while I find myself doing a task on my own. The other day I was the only person available to get Luke ready for a lesson.

This was the first time I'd been in that situation with that horse, which didn't occur to me until I'd gotten him out of his stall and headed towards the grooming bays. That short walk took forever because I hadn't counted on Luke's popularity. Four or five times, we were stopped by people, mostly kids, who wanted to pet, marvel, and say the thing we all say: Wow, he's big.

He loved the attention and was a friendly gentleman for his admirers, but he hadn't wanted to leave his stall, as it was right before hay was about to be delivered. They're all acutely aware of hay o'clock. So he was pretty crabby during grooming, and it took the first third of the lesson for him to... more »

Horse stuff is nearly always cooperative, but once in a while I find myself doing a task on my own. The other day I was the only person available to get Luke ready for a lesson.

This was the first time I'd been in that situation with that horse, which didn't occur to me until I'd gotten him out of his stall and headed towards the grooming bays. That short walk took forever because I hadn't counted on Luke's popularity. Four or five times, we were stopped by people, mostly kids, who wanted to pet, marvel, and say the thing we all say: Wow, he's big.

He loved the attention and was a friendly gentleman for his admirers, but he hadn't wanted to leave his stall, as it was right before hay was about to be delivered. They're all acutely aware of hay o'clock. So he was pretty crabby during grooming, and it took the first third of the lesson for him to settle down and behave for his rider.

Taking him back home afterwards was much easier than getting him out. Too easy; he wanted to go way faster than I was comfortable with, which is naughty, plus could get someone hurt. I used all the words and tugs to get him to slow down, with zero effect. He wasn't quite dragging me, but it was uncool.

When we were close enough to his stall that the fresh hay was within sight, we hit an unexpected traffic jam. There's room in the barn's aisle for two horses to pass, but it has to be done in a controlled way for safety, and a horse was suddenly in our path, turned broadside, totally blocking the way and refusing to move. Our trajectory was set to crash us into the ass end of Mikey, who I don't think had seen us coming, so it would come as a surprise, which could mean rearing and kicking on both sides, and there were kids around, and the whole situation was suddenly more dire.

I had to stop my horse and nothing was working. I did the only thing left to do. I gambled on the fact that Luke likes me and would never hurt someone on purpose: I stepped into his path. Luke is the horse who trod on my foot a year ago, causing nerve damage that took six months to heal. But that was my own fault, and now I know where to stand and have a sterner voice. It worked. He stopped. I got between Luke and his dinner, and lived to tell the tale.___

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2015-12-31 06:53:15 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 24 +1s)Open 

I don't know how his previous owners named him so perfectly, but I have never once seen Happy in a bad mood (which I can only say about him and Jack).

Last week a sudden thunderstorm sent a wave of anxiety through the barn - they whinnied and kicked the walls. It was awful. Lessons were abruptly canceled, because although we have a covered arena, there was no way it was safe to use horses in that state, and the city was under flood watch.

I went on treat patrol and tried to calm down the horses, who ranged from nervous to terrified. I correctly expected to find a perfectly calm Happy chomping on hay like nothing special was happening, like there were no weather sirens or bolts of lightning or rain pounding on the metal roof. He was still pleased about the treats though.

I don't know how his previous owners named him so perfectly, but I have never once seen Happy in a bad mood (which I can only say about him and Jack).

Last week a sudden thunderstorm sent a wave of anxiety through the barn - they whinnied and kicked the walls. It was awful. Lessons were abruptly canceled, because although we have a covered arena, there was no way it was safe to use horses in that state, and the city was under flood watch.

I went on treat patrol and tried to calm down the horses, who ranged from nervous to terrified. I correctly expected to find a perfectly calm Happy chomping on hay like nothing special was happening, like there were no weather sirens or bolts of lightning or rain pounding on the metal roof. He was still pleased about the treats though.___

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2015-12-18 22:58:40 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 25 +1s)Open 

Matisse.

Matisse.___

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2015-12-18 21:49:52 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 19 +1s)Open 

Her name is Princess Lily, but that's ridiculous, so we mostly call her by her gangsta name, P.Lily.

Her name is Princess Lily, but that's ridiculous, so we mostly call her by her gangsta name, P.Lily.___

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2015-12-18 00:00:16 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 27 +1s)Open 

Snap.

Snap.___

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2015-12-17 22:26:04 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 11 +1s)Open 

Luke's bottom lashes are longer than my hand. They get trapped under bridle straps and we have to gently loosen them.

Luke's bottom lashes are longer than my hand. They get trapped under bridle straps and we have to gently loosen them.___

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2015-12-17 19:11:41 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 16 +1s)Open 

Sneaky, funny Gallagher, the best at stealing stuff out of back pockets. You won't even feel it go. Turn around and he's laughing with an envelope hanging out of his mouth.

Sneaky, funny Gallagher, the best at stealing stuff out of back pockets. You won't even feel it go. Turn around and he's laughing with an envelope hanging out of his mouth.___

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2015-12-17 16:24:29 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 15 +1s)Open 

Pinky's rider was running late, so she had a graze and a snooze while we waited. Three minutes before this photo, she was feisty as hell, but she naps like a pro. The old girl's about to turn 29.

Pinky's rider was running late, so she had a graze and a snooze while we waited. Three minutes before this photo, she was feisty as hell, but she naps like a pro. The old girl's about to turn 29.___

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2015-12-17 00:33:04 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 15 +1s)Open 

Happy and Gallagher.

Happy and Gallagher.___

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2015-12-17 00:17:01 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 18 +1s)Open 

Apache.

Apache.___

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2015-12-16 00:11:31 (10 comments; 0 reshares; 22 +1s)Open 

Luke's weird.

Luke's weird.___

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2015-12-15 22:08:28 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 14 +1s)Open 

Funny old Gallagher.

Funny old Gallagher.___

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2015-12-15 19:37:19 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 16 +1s)Open 

The three most powerful things I say to my tiny rider Elle are "you've got this" if she needs encouragement, "we've got this" to emphasize that we're a team, and "I've got you" when she's scared of doing a new maneuver or worried the horse will go too fast, and I want to remind her that the whole reason I'm there is to keep the horse under control and to have her back. She's a perceptive, smart kid who trusts me and wears her emotions out in the open. I love to say these things and watch her face relax: she believes me.

--

The instructor had Elle doing some warmup stretches on horseback, and I, leading the horse, just barely heard her mutter under her breath, "this is embarrassing." I said "Yeah, but it's making you stronger, and those other kids all have to do the same thing in a second, so they can't... more »

The three most powerful things I say to my tiny rider Elle are "you've got this" if she needs encouragement, "we've got this" to emphasize that we're a team, and "I've got you" when she's scared of doing a new maneuver or worried the horse will go too fast, and I want to remind her that the whole reason I'm there is to keep the horse under control and to have her back. She's a perceptive, smart kid who trusts me and wears her emotions out in the open. I love to say these things and watch her face relax: she believes me.

--

The instructor had Elle doing some warmup stretches on horseback, and I, leading the horse, just barely heard her mutter under her breath, "this is embarrassing." I said "Yeah, but it's making you stronger, and those other kids all have to do the same thing in a second, so they can't laugh at you."

She said, "I whispered that, how did you even hear me?"

I said, "Because I'm magic and I care about how you feel." She'd been having a tough day and I swear I saw her bad mood dissolve in that moment.

--

Later in that lesson, the instructor told us to get ready for a trot. This is Elle's biggest fear right now, so we're working on many things at once: how to maintain proper riding posture and rein position, how to steer the horse when he's bouncy, and how to not panic. It does not always go well (once we went too fast for just a few seconds and she cried and my heart broke), so I try to remind her that she's strong and brave and getting better at this challenge every week.

I said, "You've ridden Happy a million times and he really listens to you. So if you need him to stop, just say so and use your reins. I'll be right with you, I'll have him on this rope, and I promise to only let him go medium fast."

She waved off the pep talk (which is when I know I've done my job) and said, "It'll be fine. You've got this."___

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2015-12-15 18:55:52 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 11 +1s)Open 

Due to construction, a minor barn flood, and a few retirements, a lot of the horses have been shuffled around to new stalls. Every time I learn the layout, it changes. Since most of these changes are temporary, nobody has updated the nameplates. So I don't know who this is. It's either Cash, who I don't know well enough to recognize, or a new horse. Either way, he's beautiful and friendly, and looks a bit like a deer here.

Due to construction, a minor barn flood, and a few retirements, a lot of the horses have been shuffled around to new stalls. Every time I learn the layout, it changes. Since most of these changes are temporary, nobody has updated the nameplates. So I don't know who this is. It's either Cash, who I don't know well enough to recognize, or a new horse. Either way, he's beautiful and friendly, and looks a bit like a deer here.___

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2015-12-15 04:23:25 (8 comments; 2 reshares; 61 +1s)Open 

I love Zorro but he's the number-one most impossible guy to photograph, due to his color. Not anymore. Thanks, new phone.

I love Zorro but he's the number-one most impossible guy to photograph, due to his color. Not anymore. Thanks, new phone.___

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2015-12-15 03:54:06 (3 comments; 0 reshares; 23 +1s)Open 

Luke.

Luke.___

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2015-12-14 01:57:49 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 16 +1s)Open 

Tonka, Apache, and Bandit.

Tonka, Apache, and Bandit.___

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2015-12-12 23:32:05 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 12 +1s)Open 

The paddocks were torn down and redone from scratch, which means everybody gets more exercise and freedom. The old setup had a bunch of small individual enclosures separated by walkways; now there are bigger pens which abut. So instead of hanging out alone or in pairs, 4 or 5 horses can spend time together. This is one of the few areas where I felt like we could improve; our horses didn't get a lot of social time, just based on the layout of our fences, which is now much better.

One big paddock is built onto the side of a barn, with no gap in between. This means the horses in that pen can socialize with the horses in the stalls on that side. I'm sure this involves calculating who's a troublemaker and who doesn't get along. So far it's working great. Lots of heads peering in and out, lots of cute nuzzling.

This is Gallagher, who normally would have come over to be... more »

The paddocks were torn down and redone from scratch, which means everybody gets more exercise and freedom. The old setup had a bunch of small individual enclosures separated by walkways; now there are bigger pens which abut. So instead of hanging out alone or in pairs, 4 or 5 horses can spend time together. This is one of the few areas where I felt like we could improve; our horses didn't get a lot of social time, just based on the layout of our fences, which is now much better.

One big paddock is built onto the side of a barn, with no gap in between. This means the horses in that pen can socialize with the horses in the stalls on that side. I'm sure this involves calculating who's a troublemaker and who doesn't get along. So far it's working great. Lots of heads peering in and out, lots of cute nuzzling.

This is Gallagher, who normally would have come over to be petted. He was too happy visiting Matisse, then Dakota, then Whymsical over and over to give me the time of day.___

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2015-12-02 23:03:13 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 23 +1s)Open 

Luke, who needs a bath real bad.

The time was right to tell one of my favorite riders that that's what she is. I told her that although I can't always be the assistant in her lesson, I at least try, and that although I like all my riders, she's one of only three that I always check the schedule for.

Last week I wasn't able to help with her lesson, but I was around at that time, and I was at the far end of the property and just happened to look up the hill and see her on Luke. It was dark and they were beautifully backlit, with a halo of misty. He was gliding like a ship and she had the posture of a queen.

I told her these things and I got a high-five that turned into a hug. From a teenager.

Luke, who needs a bath real bad.

The time was right to tell one of my favorite riders that that's what she is. I told her that although I can't always be the assistant in her lesson, I at least try, and that although I like all my riders, she's one of only three that I always check the schedule for.

Last week I wasn't able to help with her lesson, but I was around at that time, and I was at the far end of the property and just happened to look up the hill and see her on Luke. It was dark and they were beautifully backlit, with a halo of misty. He was gliding like a ship and she had the posture of a queen.

I told her these things and I got a high-five that turned into a hug. From a teenager.___

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2015-11-26 17:55:58 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 17 +1s)Open 

Gallagher.

Gallagher.___

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2015-11-25 22:21:38 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 17 +1s)Open 

Snap.

The other night I was heading to my car when one of my favorite co-workers called to me across the parking lot. It's poorly lit and I realized later she must have known me by silhouette. She wanted to tell me my hair looked cute. We ended up talking for an hour, leaning on a fence and watching riding lessons in the arena down the hill. At that distance I didn't recognize any of the kids, but I knew all four of the horses. I like my life.

Snap.

The other night I was heading to my car when one of my favorite co-workers called to me across the parking lot. It's poorly lit and I realized later she must have known me by silhouette. She wanted to tell me my hair looked cute. We ended up talking for an hour, leaning on a fence and watching riding lessons in the arena down the hill. At that distance I didn't recognize any of the kids, but I knew all four of the horses. I like my life.___

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2015-11-22 05:27:57 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 22 +1s)Open 

That day.

That day.___

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2015-11-21 02:36:11 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 22 +1s)Open 

Apache is famously naughty, but also charming, so nobody gets too bothered by it. But he can be a righteous pain in the ass. I can lead him if I have to, but I pretty much always weasel out of it: I either claim that I'm too inexperienced with him, or tell some poor new person that it will be a "fun learning experience." I'm awful. I love the guy but I've gone home too many times with one arm aching from all the tugging. He's not unhappy at this job, he just doesn't always like being told what to do.

He's also the embodiment of something I think about a lot, which is that I swear the horses can tell the difference between people wanting them to behave, and needing them to.

I thought of this one day when Apache had been a total brat throughout the whole lesson, to the point that we had to stop several times so his leader (not me!) could have a stern... more »

Apache is famously naughty, but also charming, so nobody gets too bothered by it. But he can be a righteous pain in the ass. I can lead him if I have to, but I pretty much always weasel out of it: I either claim that I'm too inexperienced with him, or tell some poor new person that it will be a "fun learning experience." I'm awful. I love the guy but I've gone home too many times with one arm aching from all the tugging. He's not unhappy at this job, he just doesn't always like being told what to do.

He's also the embodiment of something I think about a lot, which is that I swear the horses can tell the difference between people wanting them to behave, and needing them to.

I thought of this one day when Apache had been a total brat throughout the whole lesson, to the point that we had to stop several times so his leader (not me!) could have a stern talk with him. That would work for about twenty seconds and then he'd be back to veering off the route, going where he wanted, disregarding the leader's commands, and nipping at her arm. He was just fronting but that's still bad behavior.

We happened to be standing still for another Naughty Horse lecture when the sprinklers accidentally went off. As in, very unexpected jets of water shot out above the spot where we were walking with the thousand-pound, fight-or-flight, easily spooked animals and the fragile, special-needs kids who belong to other people. O M G. We were all shocked and the instructor yelled, "Shit!" which by some miracle our young riders did not hear, which was a blessing because one of them has echolalia and we never would have heard the end of that.

Apache, who had been so agitated through the whole lesson, chose that moment to settle, to stand absolutely still. Something completely nutty and unpleasant had happened, but his eyes did not get wild, his ears went completely calm, and he stood motionless like a good, good horse.

--

I thought of this again when I had the huge pleasure of being a horse handler at a petting-zoo-style outreach program we did for families of kids with Downs syndrome. Oh guys. The faces on these kids. I intentionally positioned myself and my horse so I could see the families walking up to the arena gate, to see the moment when everybody saw the horses for the first time. And then they came through that gate and realized just how up-close they could get if they wanted to. And then their faces as they shyly came over and asked what my horsie's name was. YOU try and keep it together as that happens forty beautiful times.

It was a thoughtfully-planned event, but there were still a lot of potentially horse-upsetting things going on, which was what I was there to help monitor. Beanbag games and Twister had been set up in the far part of the arena, perfectly safe for everybody, but definitely not something the horses are used to seeing in there. They notice every little thing. Some visitors forgot the rule against umbrellas (equine kryptonite). Plus crowds, noise, and the unpredictability of kids.

We had backup horses ready to swap in, should we need to, which we did. Pinky was suddenly just over it; she let us know by rearing up on her hind legs. Yeah, nope. That feisty bronco got to go home.

I was nervous about being in charge of Apache in this setting. I trust him with other people, especially kids; he only messes with his handler. He was a perfect gentleman though. He stood where I asked him to stand, he let me scratch his head, and not once did I feel like he might nip me.

A very tiny girl came slowly up to us. I couldn't tell if she was nonverbal or just shy. Neither: her mom whispered to me in a voice that broke, "She's just so happy." She was quiet for minutes, and finally let out one word in a long, loud stage whisper, like she had been waiting all her life to exhale: HORSES!!

That kid crept up to Apache with huge eyes and all her fingers crammed in her mouth from joy. I had to tell her a dozen times that it was ok to pet him before she tried it, and then there was no stopping her. She petted his mane and his neck and his face and his eyes. She petted his mouth and he did not bite her. I knew he wouldn't. She accidentally pulled his mane and poked him in the eye. He said a gentle whuff, whuff and leaned his head down towards her for more. I have never been prouder of a horse.___

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2015-11-20 06:33:31 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 21 +1s)Open 

Luke's fur grows in in such a weird way.  I love it. He's getting a jump on looking like a hot mess for the winter.

Luke's fur grows in in such a weird way.  I love it. He's getting a jump on looking like a hot mess for the winter.___

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2015-11-15 19:00:09 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 22 +1s)Open 

Princess Lily.

Princess Lily.___

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2015-11-14 22:38:00 (3 comments; 0 reshares; 26 +1s)Open 

Sweet Jack, the best horse buddy I've ever had, has retired. For good this time. I won't see him again.

He is living on a farm with what sound like really nice people who value their animals. He's the companion of a retired show pony named Fonzie. Jack now has a chiropractor, masseuse, and acupuncturist, which sound silly but may well extend his life.

It's a good place. He deserves it. None of these things keep my heart from being broken.

Sweet Jack, the best horse buddy I've ever had, has retired. For good this time. I won't see him again.

He is living on a farm with what sound like really nice people who value their animals. He's the companion of a retired show pony named Fonzie. Jack now has a chiropractor, masseuse, and acupuncturist, which sound silly but may well extend his life.

It's a good place. He deserves it. None of these things keep my heart from being broken.___

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2015-11-09 02:57:01 (5 comments; 0 reshares; 15 +1s)Open 

Apache napping.

Apache napping.___

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2015-11-08 03:46:27 (3 comments; 1 reshares; 18 +1s)Open 

Luke is a Percheron, a rare breed. In the 1980s there were only a thousand in the US. The breed is recovering, they're not endangered or anything, but he's the only one that a lot of horse-experienced people have ever seen, and any draft horse is unusual and impressive enough to get gasps from visitors. At a recent orientation program I enjoyed the moment when the whole group utterly lost focus, just because Luke was lumbering past. Fifteen people murmuring "whoa, what." It's a good thing he's so docile; at 1700 pounds he's a lot of horse.

And every week I have the pleasure of watching him be ridden by a rarer animal: a teenager who is not bored, cynical, or self-conscious. In her last lesson, she sang softly to him, the whole time she rode. She didn't mind if we heard her, but it was for Luke.

Luke is a Percheron, a rare breed. In the 1980s there were only a thousand in the US. The breed is recovering, they're not endangered or anything, but he's the only one that a lot of horse-experienced people have ever seen, and any draft horse is unusual and impressive enough to get gasps from visitors. At a recent orientation program I enjoyed the moment when the whole group utterly lost focus, just because Luke was lumbering past. Fifteen people murmuring "whoa, what." It's a good thing he's so docile; at 1700 pounds he's a lot of horse.

And every week I have the pleasure of watching him be ridden by a rarer animal: a teenager who is not bored, cynical, or self-conscious. In her last lesson, she sang softly to him, the whole time she rode. She didn't mind if we heard her, but it was for Luke.___

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2015-11-06 21:53:09 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 22 +1s)Open 

Houdini here has learned how to open her stall door. She never goes far, usually just to the nearest open door that might have hay in there, even if she already has her own fresh supply. Weirdo.

Houdini here has learned how to open her stall door. She never goes far, usually just to the nearest open door that might have hay in there, even if she already has her own fresh supply. Weirdo.___

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2015-11-06 21:37:33 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 12 +1s)Open 

Gammon, who in the right light goes sort of orange and purple.

Gammon, who in the right light goes sort of orange and purple.___

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2015-11-06 05:44:58 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 23 +1s)Open 

The other day I helped do thrush treatments. This was nice because we weren't on a schedule, and I got to visit a lot of horses I rarely spend time with, including some whose stalls I had never been in before. That always makes me a little nervous, being in such close quarters with a horse before I know what her deal is. But it all worked out, the mood in the barn was peaceful, and though some of the horses had concerns about what we were up to with their hooves, only one was so weirded out that we had to skip him.

I was willing to do whatever, but it turned out that my partner wanted to do all the actual hoof stuff, the annoying part. I got to do the fun part, which was to throw a halter on each horse, just to have a handle to maneuver them, and keep an eye on the body language my partner couldn't see when she was working on a hoof.

stand there saying calm things and snuggling... more »

The other day I helped do thrush treatments. This was nice because we weren't on a schedule, and I got to visit a lot of horses I rarely spend time with, including some whose stalls I had never been in before. That always makes me a little nervous, being in such close quarters with a horse before I know what her deal is. But it all worked out, the mood in the barn was peaceful, and though some of the horses had concerns about what we were up to with their hooves, only one was so weirded out that we had to skip him.

I was willing to do whatever, but it turned out that my partner wanted to do all the actual hoof stuff, the annoying part. I got to do the fun part, which was to throw a halter on each horse, just to have a handle to maneuver them, and keep an eye on the body language my partner couldn't see when she was working on a hoof.

stand there saying calm things and snuggling their faces, if they let me.

A year in, I still feel so new at all of this, but there are things I'm good at. Most skills are built from actual horse experience, but some have roots in things I did years ago which I would have thought were unrelated. A childcare job long ago helped me develop a good stern "no more nonsense" tone. Taming feral cats taught me how to notice when something in the surroundings is inexplicably frightening an animal, and how to say "hey buddy, it's ok" 500 million times.

I don't know how good I'd be at calming a truly panicked horse - probably not very, since I've never even had to see one. These lucky, loved horses have few things to fear. But low-level nervousness, I'm really good at talking down. And I love that moment when they decide to believe me: I guess it is ok.

I stood with horse after horse, rubbing their foreheads and saying, "It's fine, it'll be fine," over and over, trying not to cry when I suddenly, acutely realized I was also saying it to myself.

When we did Jack's feet I skipped the halter, I just touched his nose and asked him to stand with me. Of course he did, and of course he licked me when I was crying, and of course he went whuff, whuff gently in my ear.___

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2015-10-08 23:48:58 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 17 +1s)Open 

The other day I was shifted to a lesson I didn't expect to help with, and didn't feel up to - some hours are physically way harder than others. But the rider didn't show, so we went for a graze instead.

I haven't worked much with Zorro, but I know he's easily startled in his stall and is afraid of men. So it was nice to stand with him on a loose rope, with not one scary thing in sight, and almost as much grass as a hungry horse wanted to eat. He munched his way over to my co-workers sprawled nearby chatting in the sun, licked a sneaker, moved along. I have no idea what Zorro's life was like before he came to us, but this day looked pretty ok.

The other day I was shifted to a lesson I didn't expect to help with, and didn't feel up to - some hours are physically way harder than others. But the rider didn't show, so we went for a graze instead.

I haven't worked much with Zorro, but I know he's easily startled in his stall and is afraid of men. So it was nice to stand with him on a loose rope, with not one scary thing in sight, and almost as much grass as a hungry horse wanted to eat. He munched his way over to my co-workers sprawled nearby chatting in the sun, licked a sneaker, moved along. I have no idea what Zorro's life was like before he came to us, but this day looked pretty ok.___

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