Things That Make Me Happy

  • Watching leaves and bits of grass dance on the wind, whirling around and glistening in the sun like some dancing spirit.
  • The shape of a big, stocky horse butt.  Who am I kidding?  ANY part of a horse.
  • Watching birds in the trees without them realizing I’m watching them.
  • Seeing a baby doe run across the field, stop, and look at me just as bold as brass knowing I’m standing right there; she reaches down to eat grass like I’m part of her safe world.  I am.
  • Looking out into the pasture to see my pregnant mare, Kat, roll – or try to roll.  Preposterous.  She loved it; so did I.
  • Seeing cats curled up together.  It makes me wish I were tiny so I could curl right up with them.
  • Dogs running.  Anywhere.  Anytime.  Even better if there’s some degree of tongue lolling happening.
  • Over single one of Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman’s) shows.  Pure joy.  If I saw her, I’d probably hug her and she’d think I was a weird stalker.
  • Family; who knew that with so little of them left I’d be taken under the wings of other families. 
  • Friends; no matter how nutty or random I am, no matter if I’m having a bad day or great one, true friends make life a complete joy.  I could do another 47 years with you all.

What makes you happy?


Playing Well with Others; Socialization and Training the Horse – Part I

Part I:  Cash’s Introduction to Herd Dynamics

Most of today’s clinicians and horse training experts rely on techniques which, in turn, rely on the horse’s natural social skills.  But when your horse is – to put it kindly – socially inept, then what?  Teaching your horse proper manners on the ground is vital to riding, even if the lesson is his first.

A little about Cash

Recently we brought a new horse into the herd:  Flash, aka CashMoney.  Cash is a lovely 5-year-old gelding who comes to us green broke from the family who raised him.  While not papered, Cash’s bloodlines promised the potential for nice movement, intelligence, possibly a little cattle work and reining.  His dam was on site – a really good looking buckskin with a great disposition.  I could tell from first meeting that Cash was going to be fast, catty, and a thinker – meaning he would want to know why we had to do everything and not just blindly accept that we *were* going to do everything I say.  That was fine with me because I like a horse with a mind.  To me, he seems bold – he certainly moved that way.  So I bought him.

Cash comes home; Rodeo Days

Cash had never been in hauled in a trailer, a project that I’m sure will be carried out here for you all to see – fun!  We managed to get him loaded and home.  The first day of transition we had him stalled up so everyone could take a good look at him without getting at him.  This also gave him a chance to become acquainted with my very old mare, Queenie.  Everything seemed great.

When we took him out eventually to become acquainted with the other horses, we had the usual of what I call “Rodeo Days” – meaning everyone had to run, buck, chase, posture, show what big ol’ tough horses they are, and so on.  Fair enough – horses have social orders and the new kid in town shook things up.  Usually Rodeo Days last about 3 days and then everyone gets over themselves.  Egos deflate, bruises heal, and I can stop worrying.

After three days, however, we realized that Cash was still running terrified from everyone except  Queenie – and the mini cow.  (Nothing runs from the mini cow; the most she can do is lick you to death with that long scratchy tongue of hers.)  The more Cash ran, the more other horses were determined to bully him.

Horses seem to be a lot like kids in elementary school; if you dare to cringe, you are guaranteeing that you will be the target of abuse until you are past graduation.  That being said, this was just too much.  Then it dawned on me:  Cash doesn’t know how to be a horse!

Our realization about Cash

Cash was raised with his momma only – no herd.  He apparently spent a lot of time in a pen next to her, not with her where she could push him around, pin her ears at him but not do anything really, and just basically teach him to keep out of her personal space.

When I lead him, I get the feeling that he’s a 2-week-old colt and *I* am his momma.  Colts have a funny way of sticking to their moms like glue sometimes, invading that personal space in a way that the mare would never ever tolerate from any other horse.  When Cash would see something new, all 1100 pounds of him would be quite firmly stuck to my side – a bit intimidating since he is fast as his first name – Flash – states.

Cash has been schooled by humans, but not by horses

Cash has experienced some Clinton Anderson techniques.  For example, he will back up if you shake the lead a bit in front of him facing him.  However, it seems to me that he doesn’t really know things like personal space, manners, and that standing 1 foot in front of your much-shorter owner with your head above her head isn’t the thing to do.  Cash is neither doing these things because he is bad nor because anyone has neglected anything in his upbringing; he is just being a horse that has never really experienced a herd environment.

What a horse learns in a herd and why it is important

The thing is – herd manners are vastly important to modern training techniques such as that by Anderson and others based on the teachings of Ray Hunt and company.  The body language and thinking used to teach a horse on the ground and then in the saddle are based on a horse herd dynamics.

In a herd, a horse learns that if one horse pins his ears and comes at him, he needs to move and move quick; however, you do not have to keep moving like you are on fire when that other horse releases that pressure.  In a training environment, body language is used to move a horse forward in a controlled way.

In a herd, Cash would have been nipped and probably kicked for getting up in other horses’ spaces – no matter the reason.  In a training environment, the trainer uses personal space pressure and physical pressure to teach a horse to think about personal space.  In a herd, walking up to the alpha mare (in this case: me) with ears pinned back would have resulted in a lesson in manners.

A proper herd would have taught Cash that horses, by nature, are too lazy to chase you for a mile if you will just kindly heed their warning and move; continued terror is not necessary.  In training, when a horse does what you want the pressure you used to get that result is immediately released.

The horses get the teaching job – for now

I was going to begin Cash’s training 3 days after he arrived.  However, when you see a 40 inch pony chasing a 1100 pound/15 hand high gelding around who is terrified – you realize that he might need some adjustment time.

Now Cash is fine.  We locked up the Tiny Terror (PonySue) so that Cash could taunt him over the stall without fear, Kat and Dante got over their jealousy, Jo never cared much either way about chasing Cash, and Queenie has loved him from the start.  Cash is getting to learn how to move in a crowd with  manners and without fear, how to think instead of reacting – a vital skill for the training process.

Now that Cash seems to understand a little more about how to be – well – a horse, we can go forward in his training on how to be an awesome horse.  I am excited to share this with you in the upcoming segments.  I hope you join us, Cash and myself, for our adventure.

City pizza in my country kitchen


I was raised in or near the city where a good pizza was available just about any time of the day or night.  When I moved to Bandera, I realized that my days of 24/7 pizzas had to come to an end.  I do admit that sometimes the late-night pizza commercials make me want to cry.   Real tears.  Really.

I tried the frozen pizza options and while sure – they worked for a while, there were still times (usually at 2 a.m.) where I really wished I had a hot, fresh pizza.

One day I was getting ready to pay $30 for a pizza that, while freshly made at our local pizzaria, just didn’t quite scratch that itch.  I decided it was “good and time” that I started to make my own pizza.  This process may seem to be a lot of work, but this recipe makes enough toppings for 2 pizzas at a good 12” each.   And let me tell y’all – 2 slices of this pizza will fill the hungriest person.  One pizza makes two very filling meals.

This is how you, too, can have fresh piping hot pizzas that will rival the best pies in town.

Ingredient lists:

Dough ingredients:

  • 3.5 to 4 cups of flour
  • 1.5 cups of water
  • 1 package of yeast (active, dry)
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil set aside; extra for working dough and greasing the  bowl.
  • One pinch of sugar.

Pizza sauce ingredients:

  • Italian seasoning
  • Cheap parmesan cheese in a shaker
  • Garlic powder (not salt)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • 1 pinch of brown sugar

Pizza toppings ideas:

  • One onion, sliced into thin slices.
  • 1/2 pound hamburger meat.
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage (we used mild)
  • Canadian bacon – rinds cut off, sliced or torn into bite-sized pieces
  • Pepperoni slices
  • Italian seasoning
  • Garlic powder
  • Cheap parmesan cheese powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • Any veggies you like – such as red and green peppers, olives, fresh tomatoes chopped and patted dry with a paper towel, etc.
  • Cheeses:  mozzarella,  cheddar, feta.  For this pizza I used mozzarella and cheddar and Parmesan.

Here is a quick list of the dance steps, the order we’ll take to make the pizzas:

  • Proof yeast
  • Mix dough
  • Proof dough
  • Cook ingredients while dough is proofing, set aside
  • Form crust
  • Cover crust with sauce and toppings
  • Bake
  • Eat until you can eat no longer.
  • Stare at the pizza wistfully wishing you had more room.
  • Fall asleep on the couch.

Note:  the last three steps are VERY important; do not skip them.

Preparing the dough:

Proofing your yeast; always make sure your workers are ready to work!

Any time you are going to be making a yeast-type dough, you always want to proof your yeast.  What this means is that you are going to prove that your yeast is alive and working before you start the dough.  You do this by putting the yeast granules into warm water with a little food (in this case sugar) to activate them.

Measure out very warm but not hot water.  The temperature should be about 100 degrees.   You can test the heat by hand; the water should be much warmer than your skin, but not hot.

Word to the wise:  do not be like me and think you are so smart that you can use any amount of water unless you’re already experienced at dough-making.  When I was Miss Smarty Pants, my yeast did not work and then I thought “Um, how much water was that again?”

Use the pre-set amount of water just in case your yeast fail to work; that way when you dump your yeast concoction out, you know how much water you need to replace.

Feed your workers; yeast like warmth and a good meal.

Place a pinch of sugar into the 1/4 cup of water; the yeast organisms have been sleeping and they are hungry.

Empty the package of active dry yeast into the cup and wait about 5 minutes.  During this time the yeast pellets should dissolve; the yeast organisms awaken, eat, and create foam.  The foam may be just slight, but it should be there.  If no foam appears, your yeast might be expired in date or in life.  If so, just try another package in a new quarter cup of water.

Preparing your dough – the messy but fun part

In a large bowl, mix 2 cups of flour and the salt.  Add the olive oil and the rest of the water and stir well.  The dough should be gloppy (the official word for it, I am sure) and soft.  Once your yeast has proofed, add the yeast-water into the dough.  Add more flour very gradually until the dough is slightly stiff.

At this point your dough might still be sticky and wet; that is fine.  You are going to work more of the flour into it by kneading.

Work it, baby!

Flour a board lightly.  Dump your dough onto the board and get ready to get messy!  I love this part best of all.  I do know that you can use a dough hook and a machine for this part, but I really believe that you get the best feel of how dough is progressing by doing this hands-on!

Knead the pizza dough, gradually bringing in the flour that is left over from the ingredients.  The amount of flour that your dough accepts depends on the environment.  In the winter or low humidity, you will not be able to incorporate as much flour as you can in a humid and/or warm environment.

You can tell with your hands and fingers how much dough to use.  If the dough is sticky, add some sprinkles of flour to the board and on top of the dough and work it in.  You may think that your dough is fine, but press into it with your fingers and you will be able to tell if it is still a bit wet.

There is no need to fear the kneading process

Kneading used to terrify me.  “How am I going to do that – I’ve never seen anyone do it, I wasn’t raised doing this?”  However, I think you’ll be surprised how simple and comforting kneading can be.  Start with your ball of dough on your board.  With your palms down, place the balls of your palms into the bread.  Then just lean your weight into the bread and sort of smear it forwards.  If the bread feels sticky to your palms, sprinkle with a little flour as if you were powdering with sugar.

Turn your dough one-quarter turn to your right, fold the dough over itself, and repeat the palm-smear once or twice.  Feel the dough’s wetness and adjust with flour as needed.  Turn the dough one-quarter turn and smear.

How long do you need to knead?

Keep kneading and adding slight amounts of flour until you feel you have incorporated as much of the flour as you can and your dough is smooth and silky.  I try to knead the dough for the better part of 10 minutes.  If the dough is sticky, I continue to knead.  If the dough is silky before the 10 minutes is done, I can stop a couple of minutes early.  Roll the edges under your dough to make a pretty ball.

Tuck the dough in for a good rest

Oil the inside of a bowl, preferably one that you can see through.  I like using olive oil for pizza dough.  Go ahead and jump in and use your hands to spread the oil around the bowl leaving a tiny bit spare at the bottom.   Go ahead and keep your hands covered with that lovely oil and pick up your dough ball.  Gently rub the oil over the ball and place it smooth-side-down and spin it in the bowl a little to coat with oil.  Slide it back upright, smooth-side-up, to let the bottom get oiled.  Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft-free area.

Helpful hint:  placing a piece of tape on the side of the bowl to show how high the dough is at the beginning helps you keep track of how far it has risen.

Another helpful hint: do not try to add tape with oily hands.  I can tell you from experience that this does not work out well.

Turning on the oven light is often enough warmth for your dough.  Put your covered dough in the oven and leave it there for about 20 minutes or until it has doubled, about 40 minutes.  The dough will let you know when it is ready if you use the finger test.  To finger test your dough, put to finger tips into the dough then remove them.

If the dough springs back, it needs more time.  If the dents remain, you are ready to go.

While your dough is resting, prepare your toppings.

Preparing the toppings

Toppings; the meats:

I like to pre-cook all of my toppings.  Simply brown the Italian sausage, making sure to season it well with garlic powder, Italian seasonings, onion powder, whatever you like.  Do the same with hamburger.  Yesterday I used the oil from the Italian sausage crumbles and cooked my hamburger in it; it was divine!

Toppings; the veggies:

For my onions, I use thin slices and then add them to a pan that is hot and has a dash of olive oil in it.  I keep that pan at a medium-low heat and just let the onions sweat and soften in the olive oil.  Season with your herbs at that point before the onions are done.  You can either cook them to where they’re just slightly soft or go ahead and caramelize the onions.  I am convinced that caramelized onions make absolutely everything taste better.

For your veggies like peppers and tomatoes, I do like to toss them in a warm pan – perhaps with the onions – if they take a while to cook.  I also like to cook mushrooms first as they will release a lot of moisture which can make your pizza soggy.  Letting your veggies release their moisture in a pan helps to ensure that your pizza will not be too moist and messy.

I do not cook the pepperoni and other prepared meats such as salami, pre-cooked bacon, etc.  The very slight amount of oils and liquid that comes out of these meats only adds flavor, not sloppiness, to the pie.

Let your toppings cook while you are preparing the sauce.  When they are ready, place them in a paper-towel lined bowl to soak up extra oil.

Preparing the sauce

Empty your small can of tomato paste and of tomato sauce into a bowel.  Add 2 tablespoons of cheap powdered parmesan.  Add about 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning and a hefty pinch (or two) of garlic powder.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add one pinch of brown sugar to counteract the acidity of the tomatoes.  Stir and give it a taste test.  Set aside for when you top the crust.

Preparing the crust

Take the dough out and put it back on your board.  Give the dough a couple of good reassuring pats to “punch down” the air.  I like to push the dough down to where it is about 3 inches tall.

Take a plate and use the plate as a cutter to divide the dough into two halves.  Form both halves into balls.  At this point, if you wish, you can lightly oil the outside of one dough, wrap in saran wrap, and put it in the freezer to use later; just thaw, shape, and bake with your toppings.

Oil a pizza pan if you are making a pan pizza.  Place the dough you are going to use and place it in the oiled pan.  Start in the middle and press the dough into a pizza crust shape from the inside outwards.  Use your fingers to lightly press the dough towards the outside, gently stretching the dough into a shape.  Rotate your dough as you go around.  Keeping your hands oiled with olive oil helps this step tremendously and gives the dough such a great flavor!

If the dough wants to spring back really hard – it is okay: let it rest a few minutes and try again.  Sometimes this allows the gluten to relax and the dough to shape more easily.

If you want a nice roll of dough around the outside, then leave a little ridge of dough on the outsides.  Alternately you can flatten the edges out.  You can control how thick or thin the dough will be.

Make one pizza; have one ready any time you have a craving

Remove half of the ingredients and place in little ziplock baggies.  Place all of those baggies into one bigger baggy when they are frozen; that way you will have a “pizza kit” ready with barely any work.  Just thaw your ingredients, shape the crust, top it, and bake!

Toppings, toppings, toppings!

Once you get the dough in the shape you want, rub oil over the entire crust gently – including the crust edges.  Season the entire dough – including the edges – with your Italian seasonings and a sprinkle of cheap parmesan.

Take your pizza sauce and place a blob of it into the center of your pizza.  Use your hands or a wooden spoon to paint the sauce outwards onto your pizza.  Again, sprinkle with the parmesan.

Sprinkle a very thin layer of mozzarella cheese over the sauce.  Add a little of your hamburger and sauce crumbles at this point; their flavor will infuse the sauce.  Sprinkle a little more mozzarella, a little more seasoning, and sprinkle with garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  Add your pepperoni and Canadian bacon slices all over the pizza along with any veggies you choose.

Then sprinkle yet more parmesan, mozzarella, and then some cheddar cheese.  This pizza is not for sissies!

Make sure this last layer of cheese goes over the crust .  The cheese will melt onto the crust and just looks and tastes absolutely fabulous!

Baking your pie

Place the pizza in a 350 degree pre-heated oven.  The amount of time the pizza takes varies.  My pizza took about 30 minutes for the crust on the outside to puff, set, and turn a little golden and lovely.  The outside crust edges will tell you a lot about what it going on under the pizza.  Make sure all of your cheese is melted and lovely.  Remove the pizza and let set for 2-3 minutes.

Slice the pie into halves twice, then get your knife and fork ready; this pizza is really filling and hefty.  I always make the 2-slice bet; I’ve never seen anyone who could eat more than 2 slices, no matter how badly they wanted to eat more.  I win more bets that way!

Here are a few reasons I think you’ll really enjoy this pizza:

Moving forwards towards happiness

Barbra Schulte wrote this and I read it today in her newsletter: “Did you know that the month of January is named after the Roman god, Janus who symbolizes letting go of things that don’t work and moving forward in productive ways?”

I know that last year meant letting go of a lot of things, things I didn’t ever think that I would or could ever release. But I released them and, in doing so, freed myself.

Think carefully. Are there things in your life that cause you pain, feel like a weight that sometimes is unbearable, or keep you tethered in the past? If so – they’re not going to let you free voluntarily. You yourself have to cut the bonds yourself; sometimes physically, sometimes emotionally, sometimes both.

Don’t be fooled that you can cut them once and they’ll just flit away into the air, either. Once cut, things that stubbornly kept you down will try to continue to do so. Keep pushing them away. If you need help, ask God, ask me to ask God with you, or if your beliefs run differently just talk to me about it – it helps to talk things out. I will stand with you for a better, healthier, happier life.

Isn’t it time to let go, let God, and get free? I highly recommend it. It’s soooo worth it. LET yourself be happy this year.

Love, your friend.

For more information about Barbra Schulte, please visit her site:  While she writes towards horse people, her methods work for everyone to build a new life, achieving your dreams.

Poooor PonySue

Well I have to apologize for not posting for a bit.  PonySue got a good taste of “Why You Don’t Mess with Hormonal Mares 101” and got the ever loving stuffing stomped out of him – and his pride.

Frankly, fear not – the latter was hurt worst.  Here’s the short tale of what happened:

Center stage: cute fat little mini-horse grazing with now-pretty-darn-fat pregnant paint horse mare.  Fat dumping decides he’s going to play with a soccer ball, located on the other side of the fence.  Owner walks out and sees the chubby one reaching through the fence to get the soccer ball.

I mean, how cute is that?  Of course I had to call Chris out to see.

By the time Chris got there, Kat (aforementioned preggers mare) had walked up to see what was happening.  Unfortunately, PonySue had no intentions of sharing the soccer ball and did his trademarked 100-kicks-a-minute move while walking backwards at her.

Having been the recipient of that move – I know exactly what she got mad and decided that she had enough.  She took after him and kicked him a good resounding hit on his side.  He was fine, walking off (quickly – note) so I turned around to tell Chris what he had missed with the soccer ball.

When I turn around, I saw Kat on TOP of PonySue (who was on his back fighting for his life) just giving him everything she had with every hoof and with her mouth.  Wow!

After screaming like a teenaged girl in a 50s horror film, I ran towards them but the fight had broken up and PonySue was trotting off. Kat was going to go for more, but Mighty Jo walked in between them and gave Kat the proverbial “stink eye” which said “do it, and you have to go through me”. 

Needless to say he was sore.  Stranger yet, his attitude just hasn’t really bounced back.  I wanted to make sure that he gets good and healed up before I start asking anything of him, which should be this coming week or two.  He was NOT a happy boy, but it seems like his ego is intact and back in action so there should be more PonySue tales coming up.

In the mean time, Kat is out for her pregnancy except for some groundwork which I will be glad to share when it occurs.

However, it looks like we’ll have a new pretty face around here soon – a certain Flash (who in my mind has already earned at least a half dozen dorky nicknames which to protect what little dignity I have left I’ll just keep to myself thank you) will be joining us here shortly.

Flash is a 5-year-old sorrel gelding, Investor and Impressive bloodlines on top – Two Eyed Jack from a gorgeous buckskin mare on the bottom.  He’s unregistered but for what I think he’ll do papers won’t be necessary.  This is a stout 15 hh horse that I think can go in just about any direction he or I want: roping, reining are a definite “yes”, perhaps a little cutting (which The Investor actually was a point and NCHA money earner; not just a pretty face).  He could well be a poles horse, maybe barrels.  Definitely we’ll be taking a look at making him an all-around SHOT type stock horse. This could be exciting.  He’s too smart for his own good which will definitely make it fun for me.  Barely green broke, he’s had a rider but not a lot of work – just a lot of love and groceries from  his previous family.  So now we’ll be welcoming him here into our family – and onto the blog.

More later – including pictures of the new boy in town.

Tack sellers are going to hate me…

Sellers of tack, which can sometimes break the bank, are going to hate me for telling you what I realized yesterday… but I don’t care.  Horse people have to stick together after all!

I needed a set of slobber straps for my Avila bridle and new mecate reins.  However, our local feedstore’s slobber straps were not only too large, too stiff, and the wrong color – but also too expensive for so many negatives.  While I was shopping around I realized I could have a nice set of slobber straps with a very tiny amount of effort for under ten dollars.  So can you!

First, buy a pair of inexpensive spur straps.  The spur straps should have the following characteristics:

  • Leather that you can cut with a hole punch of knife.  (Don’t buy a set that has rawhide around the button holes.)
  • A buckle on each strap.
  • Equally-sized ends.  In other words, if you put both ends together – they match up.
  • Thick enough end pieces to give them good weight.  In other words, don’t buy ones that are completely straight; opt for ones that flare larger at the button ends.
  • Relatively straight – no curves.

For mine, I chose a spur strap quite like this: 

Let’s face it – if you want fancier, then just spend the money on the fancy slobber straps.  I just wanted something to use for training that still looked nice.

When you get home, enlarge the holes in the ends of the strap (where the buttons of the spur enter) with a knife or hole punch to accomodate the width of your mecate rein rope.  Most of them have slits, such as the ones have above, to help accomodate the smaller knot on the popper end of the mecate – so just think width of the rope.

Then you simply fold the spur straps in half, place the end furthest from the buckle through your bit, and thread your mecate rein – popper end first – through the spur straps as you would any set of slobber straps.

The beauty of these is that they are not only supple and a great weight, you can move them from one bridle to another as you need to by simply unbuckling them.  How awesome is that?  With these, you don’t even have to worry about the wide ends of the slobber strap not fitting through your bit!  The thinner middle straps which go through the buckle go through most training bits.

Here is how my $8 spur straps looked when finished:


Practical, portable, affordable, easily available.

I hope this tip helps you more readily enjoy this wonderful set up for reins without flinching at the price (plus shipping) for slobber straps!



Desensitization with a Buddy.

After a brief bonding session with Pony Sue rather than a lesson, and a really good lesson with Kat today (which will show up this week as a post), I decided to push my luck and also work on Dante’s ground manners.  He’s a sensitive horse, a bit flighty and headshy, but generally wants to have peace and understanding.  (Don’t we all?)

I grabbed up Dante, my training stick, the halter and long lead and went out into the pasture for some relaxing assessment of his status.  First I decided to do some desensitization with the training stick aka carrot stick because I wanted to make sure that when I unfurled it, that he wasn’t going to climb up me like a cat climbs up a tree.

I went ahead and started to desensitize him, but Kat – the mare – had such a good lesson that I suppose she wanted yet another.  So she came over and stood beside him while I was working.  Fair enough.

As I was tossing the stick’s string over him, it kept hitting her.  That is when I realized what a great opportunity this was.  Kat was modeling how NON-monsterous the training stick was for Dante!  I was so tickled that I went ahead and made this video.  Forgive its quality – I made it on my phone which I keep now for safety when out working horses alone.  I think you can see that the horses were easily desensitized.  🙂