Entries Tagged 'Peruvian Paso horse shows' ↓

My Favorite Illustrated Book –– Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

RedRoom, the site for readers and authors, had a contest this week. We were to blog about our favorite illustrated book. My choice is a highly personal one. Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could is a book I wrote about a remarkable horse. Tecolote was born prematurely on a freezing night. There was no reason for him to survive–but he did. The book tells and shows what happened as Teco (as we called him) grew into a strong, mature horse.

Tecolote and his Mother, Rosie–
This was taken when he got on his feet.

Although the book is illustrated with photographs that show Teco from his birth all the way to an adult riding horse, the story focuses on his tricky first year. We didn’t know if he would live five days. People from our neighborhood gathered outside the corral where he and his mother lived, praying for him and crying. He looked beyond terrible. Even so, he brought people together from the very start.

Later, when Teco was out of the woods, his mother died. She was an older mare with health problems. Teco faced life as a preemie, then a young horse without a mother. The book centers around how we as his caretakers used the other horses of the ranch and its facilities to give the youngster a secure and normal start. It’s about how he found his place in the herd and made dear friends in the horse and human worlds.

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could is a beautiful tale for children, especially those with disabilities or facing loss. Teco’s story shows people––kids and adults–that those with problems can make it and have good lives. It’s is a kids’ book, 44 pages long.

Why did I stop writing at the end of Teco’s first year? We ran out of photos. Once Teco got his feet under him, he took off. The rest of his life was so normal that there wasn’t anything to photograph. He went under saddle so easily it was laughable, and then just headed down the road.

I cover Teco’s early days in the book, but I’ve never written about what follows here, the final part of Teco’s life.

Sandy & Tecolote–My author picture shows
just my face and a bit of Teco’s cheek.
This is the REAL photo. Teco’s giving me a hug.

Tecolote ended up being my horse. I’m an older rider with so many things wrong with me that I don’t know if I should be riding. Actually, I didn’t ride for several years. Due to an improperly set broken leg from a skiing accident, I developed severe arthritis in my knee and ankle. I had to have my knee replaced and my ankle fused. I also have a bad back. Plus I’m a cancer survivor and pretty chopped up because of that. After all that pain and surgery, I lost my nerve. After a lifetime with horses, I became afraid to ride even the calmest horse.

But my husband wanted me to ride with him again. He cajoled me into trying Teco, who had turned out to be the mellowest horse in the world. My husband’s coaxing worked.

Teco took care of me. I needed a special horse like him––gentle and kind and unspookable––to keep me safe. We became a pair as he took me on many safe, smooth rides up the trail.

One of the things that people who don’t ride don’t know about is the bond between horse and rider. Teco and I became as bonded as an equine/human pair can be.

I loved him. And he loved me back. He did a special thing that no other horse has done with me. I’d approach him, scratching his shoulder and neck the way another horse would if grooming him. He’d wrap his head and neck around me, encircling my body. It was the only way a horse could give a hug. (They don’t have arms, afterall.) He gave me a hug every time I approached him.

The book Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could came out and I entered it in a few contests. Life went on. When my grand kids came to visit, Teco amazed me. He’d never seen kids before, yet he packed them around like a trooper. They fell in love.

Sandy & Tecolote –– He’s my boy,
the horse that got me back into riding

After the kids went home, I got back to writing. I was working on manuscripts for two books. I didn’t go down to the barn for about a week. Finally my husband called and said, “I’ve got Teco saddled. Come and ride.”

I was high as a kite, euphoric. The book contests I’d entered were announcing their winners. I’d found out the night before that Teco’s book had won 2011 Silver Nautilus Award for Children’s Nonfiction (Gr. 1-6).  The Nautilus Award recognizes books that promote spiritual growth, conscious living and positive social change. Previous winners include Thich Nhat Hanh and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I was overjoyed–Teco’s book belonged in that company.

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could
Won the Silver Nautilus Award

My joy lasted less than 24 hours. I went down to the barn. My husband had Teco saddled and ready. There he was, resplendent in his golden coat with its black trim. I found it impossible to look at Teco without feeling happy. He was a buckskin; his body was golden palomino color. His mane, tail, and legs were black. I could run my eyes over him and appreciate his straight legs and how his shoulder angled back the way that a gaited horse’s should. He had a short back and long hip, an adorable face. All of Tecolote was beautiful.

But not that day. He stood in the barn, head down, mucous pouring from his nostrils. He coughed. I didn’t like the look of him at all.

On the other hand, he was saddled. Show me a horse person who can resist getting on a saddled horse and I’ll show you someone who isn’t really a horse person.

I decided to ride him to the arena and see how he did. He walked slowly, head almost touching the ground. He coughed and had no energy. In fact, he acted as though he might fall down.

“This horse is sick,” I said to myself, heading slowly back to the barn. When I got off of Teco, he lowered his head. Liquid poured from his nostrils, splattering on the barn floor.

He had pneumonia. It didn’t respond to the massive doses of antibiotics the vet gave him. I was mystified; I’ve had horses for 55 years and have never seen one with pneumonia. Our part of California is too mild.

Teco kept getting sicker. We took him to the hospital. We have one of the best equine hospitals in the country in our valley. Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center is a wonderful resource. They’ve saved the lives of many of our horses.

They’d save Tecolote, too. When he unloaded the horse from our trailer, my husband said a  half dozen bright young vets swarmed around him.

“They climbed all over him for hours, discussing what might be wrong and doing tests,” my husband told me. They’d fix our horse.

Tecolote: Always Elegant

A day later, we went in for a conference. The vet who was coordinating Teco’s case said, “If we can stabilize him well enough to go home, he can hang out in pasture with his buddies the rest of his life. But you can never ride him again.”

We sat there, stunned. “What do you mean?”

“He’s too dangerous to ride,” the vet explained.

“What’s wrong with him?”

“He’s in heart failure.” He drew a diagram of Teco’s heart, showing how part was greatly enlarged. Their ultrasounds had given them a clear picture.

“But how did this happen?” I couldn’t believe it. “Is it because he was premature?”

“It has nothing to do with his prematurity. It’s been happening over the last two or three years.”

In shock, I realized that no one had ridden him during those years. My husband likes rip-roaring horses with tons of spirit. I wasn’t riding, being too traumatized by all my surgery. Teco stood in pasture, apparently fine, enjoying life with his friends.

And dying. We brought him home and gave him all the zillions of meds the clinic prescribed. Twice a day, my husband ground maybe thirty human pills with a mortar and pestle. He mixed their dust with molasses and water, and loaded the mess into a syringe with the end cut off, which allowed him to squirt the meds into Teco’s mouth. The horse raised his head as high as he could; he did not make it easy.

When the heart begins to fail, it enlarges, trying to make up for it’s decreased strength. It can’t pump enough blood to the animal’s body, and it can’t recirculate fluids. They begin to build up. On a horse, fluids collect along the animal’s belly––the lowest point on his body. Fluid gathers between his front and back legs as well. Teco looked he had a blanket of gigantic kitchen sponges stuffed under his skin from his the front of his chest through his hind legs. The meds did nothing.

Teco’s book kept winning awards. Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could was a finalist in two categories of the 2011 National Indie Excellence Contest:  Animals/Pets General and Juvenile Non-fiction.

I was in this crazy world where the awards kept coming in and Teco got worse. I’d go down to see him in his pasture. He’d be standing there, head down, in a corner by himself. He was leaving this world. He was leaving me.

Tecolote–– Making a Full Circle

The vet said he had only a day or two to live when we put him down. If we hadn’t, the end would have been horrible. Just before I left the field so the vet could do his job, I scratched Teco’s neck the way I always did. Sick as he was, he turned his head and neck around and embraced me. A final hug, and he was gone.

I ended up in the hospital in the midst of all this. I started getting chest pains as Teco deteriorated. If you call up your doctor––and my internist was pretty far away––and say, “I’m having chest pains,” that doctor will say, “Go to the Emergency Room right away.”

If you walk into an Emergency Room, a haggard-looking lady in your mid-sixties, those medicos will JUMP. They did every test you can imagine. I was scared stiff, not knowing what was happening with my body.

It boiled down to: My heart was breaking. Tecolote was being ripped from my soul.

* * * * *

Tecolote died May 1, 2011, four days before his tenth birthday. He was a miracle when he was born and a joy all his life. He brought horses and riding back when I thought that part of my life was over. I loved him for the obstacles he overcame in his life, and what he helped me overcome.

Here’s Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could’s Amazon page. You can loook inside the book and see Teco. I put up some photos of him and our other horses on the page, too. At the end of 2011, the book garnered two more prizes. It was a winner in Children’s Nonfiction and a finalist in Children’s Picture Book Softcover Non-fiction of the USA BOOK NEWS “USA BEST BOOKS OF 2011” AWARD.

* * * * *

That’s why Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could is my favorite illustrated book. It’s all I’ve got left of him. I’m glad I’ve got the awards and the book.

I’d rather have the horse.

Tecolote –– He’s free now.

 

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Numenon Kindle Is .99 on Amazon!

The Kindle version of Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mystery is available and priced at an unbelievable 99 cents!

Here’s a link to Numenon on the Amazon Kindle Store!

Am I crazy? Like a fox! When I last looked, Numenon was #8 in Religious Fiction (closing on The Shack), and #1 in Mysticism in two categories of Religion & Spirituality. JOIN THE STAMPEDE!

Buy the Kindle version of Numenon, and you can enter the world of Will Duane, the richest man on earth, and Grandfather, a great Native shaman, in less then a 60 seconds. Numenon won two national awards as an Advance Reading Copy. It’s entered in more contests. We’re waiting for results.

Here it is on my web site: Numenon on SandyNathan.com

Here it is as a print book on Amazon. Look at those Five Star Reviews.

Check out this video:

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I’m Healed! Let the fun begin! And a poem, “An Old Lady on Horseback.”

Sandy Nathan’s First Ride after SurgerySandy Nathan rides again!
Shakti and I on our first spin around the arena after my ankle surgery.

I originally posted this blog in March 2009. It’s got a funny poem at the end I’d like to share. SN

Last Tuesday, I visited Dr. Rick Ferkel, the surgeon who fused my arthritic ankle last September. He pronounced me healed. Yep, my ankle is officially better. I am cleared to walk, swim––and ride my horse! Which I did, minutes ago.

Here’s pictorial evidence. Any problems? Not while I was riding. I’m sore all over now, and I expect my mare is as well. Horses are just like people; they get flabby and out of shape. I suspect that Shakti and I both need an exercise class.

In honor of the historic and successful healing of my  ankle, I’m sharing a REALLY BAD POEM that I wrote in 1995, when I was much younger, but had not been rebuilt. That is, my knee had not been replaced nor my ankle fused. This little ditty is also an ode to the Peruvian Paso Horse, the smoothest riding horse in the world. Our Peruvians have kept me in the saddle for many years.

AN OLD LADY ON HORSEBACK
Sandy Nathan  6/95

Got bad hips, shoulders, knees, and more.
A back that’s degenerated, herniated
And sore.

The –itis family––
arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis––
has moved in on me.

I’m an old lady on horseback!

When I was young, I rode ’em all:
Quarter horses, Arabs, Appies and Paints.
Loped with a drill team and through many a show.
I trained and rode with the best,
Competed hard and won my share.

I had a glorious time–
Until the –itis  got me.

I’m an old lady on horseback!

Now, I get on a horse that trots,
My back talks back and I see spots.
I saw the light and changed my tune,
Traded my Quarter Horse
For a sports model, made in Peru.

You may laugh when you see him move,
Sliding along in a four beat groove.
But his funny-looking paddle
Keeps me in the saddle.

When we cruise by, don’t you cry.
I’m having the time of my life.
My little fellow is smooth as Jell-O,
And my –itis   likes him, too!

Though I might have to ride in spurts,
When I do, nothing hurts!
And while I can’t always show him,
At least I get to know him.

I’m grateful to my little gaited horse.
‘Cuz of his easy going ways, I get to stay–

An old lady on horseback!

And that’s what’s important, in my book.
For as long as I can ride,
I know I’m alive!
(And I’ve gotten to like that Peruvian look.)

I’m an old lady on horseback!

Eeee—haah!!!

sandyshaktiankle4.jpg Happy trails, everyone

Sandy Nathan
Winner of seventeen national awards

Sandy’s  books are: (Click link for more information. All links below go to Kindle editions.)
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy
Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice

Two sequels to The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy are in production with an early 2012 release date planned. If you liked  The Angel you’ll love Lady Grace and Sam & Emily.

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IT’S HERE––SANDY NATHAN’S NEW BLOG: YOUR SHELF LIFE

YOUR SHELF LIFE  … How long will you last?Sandy Nathan, award winning author of Stepping Off the Edge and Numenon

Hi, everyone! Getting ready for the holidays? I wanted to let you know that the first post on my new blog YOURSHELFLIFE.COM is up.The blog is open for business, so to speak.

The need for this blog came to me the other day when a friend told me about the horrendous trials she’d been going through.

She described her  misadventures and then said, “I kept thinking about that horse show you wrote about where you worked really hard preparing, and you kept losing and losing …”

That could be almost any of them, I thought.

“And then finally, at the end––you won the prize for the best barn in the show!”

Oh, yeah. That one.  I wrote about the horse show on an earlier post on this blog, but its lessons continued to reverberate in my mind.

I realized what motivates my writing: I want to create material that will encourage, enlighten, and uplift people for a long time. I recognize that books by newly published writers are likely to stay on the bookstore shelves for six months, if that.

I also realized that if I need encouragement and to be reminded of my goals, so do my fellow writers.

That’s what this blog is about. Increasing your shelf life in a rough industry. That covers your work and you. I’m going to have how-to exercises and guest bloggers. Maybe podcasts. You’ll be surprised. So will I.

So hop on over and take a peek, YOURSHELFLIFE!

Happy holidays!

Sandy

We’re talking about shelf life. I was 46 years old when the photo above was taken. That’s really me: No nips and tucks, injections, or fancy lenses. That was then. Time is cruel

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AMAZON BESTSELLER BEST SELLER DAY EXTENDED THROUGH DEC. 10TH

SANDY NATHAN’S AMAZON BESTSELLER DAY!

***My BESTSELLER BEST SELLER DAY came and went.
Jump over to my writers’ blog YourShelfLife.com and find out what I really won––and how it can benefit you.***

The article below was my invitation––and you can still check out the prizes and see the slide show.   Enjoy, Sandy Nathan

Want a taste of what’s we’ve got for you?
Here’s a gift from the HOLSTON CONFERENCE GATHERING,
the Native American spiritual retreat that inspired Sandy Nathan’s book,
STEPPING OFF THE EDGE:
Click and see the slide show!

This is the first of the gifts available to you at Sandy Nathan’s Amazon party.

Things just got rolling at my Amazon e-party when it was time to quit. We’re extending it another day to give more people a chance to participate. You have another chance to buy a great book and get amazing free gifts.

This Amazon party is my holiday gift to you. My book, Stepping Off the Edge, is a mind-bending, spiritual adventure–and the gifts you can get today are a treasure trove. I invite you to come with me and step off the edge.

What is an Amazon E-Party?
If you buy my book through the link below, you will be able to receive terrific gifts from a number of very talented people. I’ll list some here, you can see the whole list through this link: SANDY’S E-PARTY GIFTS!

  • 30% discount on the custom interior and cover of a book from Creative Publishing & Design!
  • An hour’s phone consultation on your book’s title and subtitle from Grammy nominated screenwriter Laren Bright.
  • Tecolote Finds a Friend: A Baby Horse Finds His Place in the World An e book by Sandy Nathan. A lifelong horsewoman, Sandy wrote this true photo story from her ranch for this event. It is available nowhere else.
  • A spectacular slide show from the Holston Conference Gathering, the Native American retreat in Stepping Off the Edge and a personal invitation to attend.
  • Special gifts from (in alphabetical order): Lewis Agrell who does pretty near anything with graphic design, Ilene Dillon the Emotional Pro, country real estate experts Linda Boston Franke & Clark Franke, Mary Patrick Kavanaugh very funny would-be author, self-publishing guru Dan Poynter, super editor Melanie Rigney, Brent Sampson CEO of Outskirts Press, Author Marketing Expert Penny Sansevieri, Jeniffer Thompson the Website Wow woman, ReaderView’s Irene Watson. Who else? Why cowboy and horse trainer Jack Vance, who you really want to know if you have a problem animal. And–sizzling romance and more from Santa Ynez Valley’s Sarah Robbie.

You need to see this bonanza for yourself.  For all the details, visit:
SANDY’S E-PARTY GIFTS!

What is Stepping Off the Edge?

Are you looking for a book that’s a good holiday gift as well as an engaging read? Join me as I tackle some of the major problems of our day: How do you handle an eBay addiction? Wondering about your roots? As in, do you have any? What is spirituality and where do you get it?

In Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice, Sandy Nathan loads her readers in a figurative RV and takes off on a spiritual adventure across the United States. She travels to Missouri’s Ozarks to find her roots and takes you to a Native American retreat in Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest.

This is part memoir, part how-to–lots of easy exercises to try throughout this book–and part amazing. Stepping Off the Edge has won six national awards and garnered rave reviews.

“A fantastic spiritual narrative that is alive with hope and possibility. Sandy Nathan’s journey will inspire you create your own spiritual practice. A highly recommended book for all spiritual seekers.”
USA BOOK NEWS


If you buy my book from Amazon by midnight Wednesday, December 10th 2008, you can get a great book and LOTS more: CHECK OUT THESE GIFTS!

Why Are You Doing All This?

“Your book sounds like a must-read, why are you going to all this trouble to get people to buy it?” an acquaintance asked me, somewhat huffily.

That’s a good question. People don’t buy things automatically, you know. Many of my friends are people who would do almost anything to get a book published. All I can say is, that’s the easy part. People can’t read what they don’t know about. Most people have never heard of Stepping Off the Edge and any number of really excellent books. I want to introduce you to my book and myself.

Stepping Off the Edge
is a book I had no intention of writing. I was busy working on my novels; I had plenty to do. But force I could not resist reached out and grabbed me, hauling me all the way across the United States from California to green Tennessee. I went to a Native American spiritual retreat called the Gathering. Bill Miller, the multi-Grammy winning Native musician, artist & speaker is its spiritual leader. That retreat was such a profound experience that inspired me to write Stepping Off the Edge –which is about lots of things.

I finished the first draft of Stepping Off the Edge on December 22nd. The birth of the holy in this flawed world was very present in my soul. What happened to me that day as I sat at my computer BLEW MY MIND! It’s all there, at the end of Stepping Off the Edge

I invite you to join me in pursuit of the sacred, and the delightful. This book and this party is my gift to you.

Sandy Nathan

“Sandy’s book has got to be one of the most fun to read books about spirituality ever written. She takes the reader along on her adventures with a down to earth approach and style that keeps the reader in touch–with both reality and spirituality. Informative, entertaining, and enlightening.”
Natural Horse Magazine Volume 8 Issue 5

Remember, you need to buy the book from Amazon on by midnight December 10th to get the goodies.
CHECK OUT THE GIFTS! AND THE BOOK!



If you buy my book, Stepping Off the Edge, by midnight December 10th, you can receive some truly wonderful gifts–in addition to a great book.

 

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WHAT DOES WINNING MEAN? Life lessons from horse shows for writers, readers, authors, horse people and other human beings

Sandy Nathan
Sandy Nathan, National Award Winning Author

A friend and I were catching up. She had been through some dramatic personal trials. I was surprised when she said, “I kept thinking about that horse show you wrote about where you worked really hard preparing, and you kept losing and losing and losing …”

That could be almost any of them, I thought.

“And then finally, at the end––you won the prize for the best barn in the show!”

Oh, yeah. That one.

I wrote about the show on my Rancho Vilasa web site and forgot about it.

A revisit to the article revealed that I wrote it ten years ago. My ten year old write-up gave her strength in facing the hurdles before her. Hmm.

This realization prompted musing about shelf life. What is the shelf life of our work? Our lives? Does shelf life matter? Those questions led to contemplation, and sparked an insight leading to a great surprise, which is coming …

I’m going to talk about winning in this article; in a coming article, I’ll talk about shelf life and the surprise. What’s below is not your standard 900word blog-blast of wisdom. It’s more like a chapter of a book. The book my agent wanted me to write. (Our first wisdom nugget: If you’ve got an agent do what she/he wants. Nuff said.)

Gabriela de Amanecer aka “Twiggy”        Rey de Corazones BSN “King of Hearts” known as Eddie around the barn.
Gabriela de Amanecer (Twiggy) & Rey de Corazones (Eddie)
Magnificent Peruvian Paso Horses. Can you tell that Twiggy is Eddie’s mom? We bred Eddie at Rancho Vilasa. Twiggy was a rescue horse. She came to us half starved. Part of her story appears in my book, Stepping Off the Edge.

We humans come here, into existence––”Hi, I’m here!”––to win. Which means to master the trials before us and turn into human beings that resemble our essential selves. We either do this, crack up, or end up bitter people we wouldn’t go on a second date with.

The larger kind of winning, becoming people we’d like to know can only come from having mastered trials and followed the good road. There’s a smaller kind of winning defined by prizes. This is a story about both.

You writers and associated book folk may read and say, “That’s very interesting, but what does it have to do with me? I’d never ride a horse in a show.” (Good for you, you’re growing already.) What you read here shows up in writers as beyond verging-on-the-insane, addicted behavior  clustered around a single word: publication.

“When I get published …” The eyes of perfectly intelligent scribblers go glassy as they say those words. “By a real publisher …” (What are  Dan Poynter and his self-publishing empire if not real?) I want those of you in the book trade to use some of your vaunted smarts and figure out: How does this apply to me?

In the service of human development, I present the following epic of angst and horseflesh. Many of my blog readers don’t know anything about the horsey part of me. They don’t know anything other than the carefully homogenized bio that got past my publicist.

WE LIVE ON A RANCH! YES, A REAL HORSE RANCH WITH HORSES AND LIFE AND DEATH AND SNAKES AND SKUNKS AND OTHER FEROCIOUS CREATURES!

GROUND SQUIRREL IN ATTACK MODE
We Live Among Them!
Ground squirrel in attack mode.

LOSE UNTIL YOU WIN: WHAT YOU REALLY WIN AT HORSE SHOWS

This is the story my friend remembered:

We loved the annual show put on by the La Bahia Peruvian Horse Club at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds at Watsonville. In 1998, it was a show crammed with surprises and learning experiences.

Sandy Nathan & Vistoso at Rancho Vilasa
Vistoso & I in Front of our Barn, Getting Ready to Go to the Show
This photo shows how we used to treat our ribbons: Hang ’em in front of the tack room to rot. They did.

As the show date approached, my husband and our horse trainer were eager to get to the show and compete. They had schooled and conditioned their horses to perfection and spent hours discussing which horse to put in which class.

I was my usual ambivalent self. I’d been writing rather than riding, so my favored horse and I were … I won’t say flabby. That’s so judgmental. We were not completely fit. Nevertheless, I figured that we’d hold together for a class or two.

My show demon returned: Maybe I’d break the Championship barrier this time. I’ve been eligible for the Championship round of classes by getting first or second in my qualifying class many times. I always fluffed in the more intense Championship competition.

I’ve won a Reserve Championship or two, but never a Championship title. I’ve never gotten to ride around the arena carrying a hefty trophy, much less continue on to the Champion of Champions class, where I could ride out with a small monument.

Maybe this would be the show. My horse was certainly good enough.

 BARRY & SANDY NATHAN RIDE IN A MATCHED PAIRS CLASS
Barry & I in a Matched Pairs Class, Watsonville, 1997
He’s riding Vistoso, the horse I ride in the story below. I’m riding Azteca, Vistoso’s full brother (same mom and pop). Vistoso is in an earlier stage of his training here: Note that he doesn’t have a bit in his mouth. He’s in bosal. White jeans and shirts are the traditional garb worn by riders of bosal horses.
We won this class.

We drove up Highway 101 in our crew cab dually. Someone once asked me, “What’s a dually?” I couldn’t imagine such cultural deprivation. A dually is a truck that has double wheels on the back axle, for a total of six wheels, two in front, four in back. The extra wheels add stability. A crew cab dually has a passenger compartment, making it a sedan in front of a truck bed.

We knew we were close to the show grounds when we saw the trees. Dark cypresses with craggy branches thrust themselves into the soft air of the coastal community. Rows of huge eucalyptus trees stood along the roadsides, an attempt at taming sea breezes planted a half a century before.

Watsonville has one of the most beautiful fairgrounds I’ve seen, not so much for the facilities, which are a little down in the heels, let’s be honest. Rather, the grounds themselves draw attention. They are exquisitely carpeted with brilliant green lawns and shaded by massive cypresses.

Slightly rundown or not, everything’s nice at Watsonville. The stalls, the wash racks, the warm up arenas. The main show arena. Even the concrete bleachers rimmed by grass are nice. The people are nice. Those who lose in the show’s classes don’t howl too loudly and I’ve never seen a fistfight or screaming match. In fact, I’ve only seen one person drunk out of his/her mind.

Excitement filled the truck as we neared the show. We bounced along the access road, turned into the fairgrounds and jolted to the show office. (Having dual rear wheels does not make a truck any less a truck.)

Peruvian Paso Angel   Peruvian Paso Biker   Peruvian Paso Scarecrow   Peruvian Paso Elephant
Scenes from a Peruvian Paso Horse Show
This is not official garb: These photos are from a costume class in Santa Rosa years ago. The horse on the right in the elephant costume is a National Champion ridden by the very well known trainer, Shawna Valenzuela. Do enlarge these photos––they’re hysterical.

When I think of Peruvian horse shows, I think, “Medieval pageantry.” The bigger barns have wildly colorful stall decorations: banners, swags, pennants. Tables of their trophies mark the ends of the stall rows. These also sport video set ups continuously playing reruns of other shows and wins. They’re stacked with shiny brochures and advertising stuff.

Horses are all over the place. Being ridden, led, washed, caught. In every show, at least one horse will get loose and run wildly through the showgrounds. People run and jump out of the way most of the time.  Someone always gets bucked off. Trainers and helpers are longeing (See The Training Series) horses to warm them up.

The whole thing moves, the riders, horses, banners, videos, show staff, trucks with and without trailers. The big barns have semis and small utility vehicles, all painted to match the barns’ logos and colors. People of every shade wander around, including real Peruvians! Yes, they are very much a presence. (You must go to a Peruvian show. Here’s the NAPHA, the breed’s organization, web site. Find a show near you and go. Buy a horse!)

The tack (saddle and so on) is similar to what the conquistadores used in 16th century Peru. The correct riding attire is not the classic and tasteful hunt seat kit, which looks (to this rider’s eyes) like what you would wear to a job interview.

Azteca de Oro BSN Ridden by Patti Sexton at Reno
Azteca de Oro BSN Ridden by Patti Sexton in Reno NV
This is the same Azteca mentioned earlier. Horses have fancy registered names and not so fancy barn names. (Rey de Corazones BSN to “Eddie.”) Patti is a figure in our story, as you will see below. The photo shows the magnificence of Peruvian show gear.

Back to Watsonville: The friendly show management told us where our stalls were, and we proceeded to the next phase of horse show participation. Getting ready. That means bedding the stalls with the straw provided, setting up the tack room and storing our stuff. Also putting up nylon strap barriers over the top halves of stalls inhabited by horses likely to jump out. That’s right, jump out.

They do that––yes, indeed. Not all of those that try to escape clear the lower half of the stall door. They “hang up with their rear ends,” which is one of the reasons that shows have a veterinarian on the grounds.

After setting up, the savvy exhibitor rides his or her horse in the arena and around the fairgrounds. This is to make sure that the horse has its nervous breakdown before the show, instead of in front of the judge the next day.

Participating in a show is like running a marathon without the aerobic benefits.

When your horse is calmed down, washed off, put away and fed, you can take care of yourself. This means finding the official hotel, typically the local Motel 6, having a sumptuous meal of fast food and retiring to listen to your neighbors fight. (The glamor of the horse show world is greatly overstated.)

This phase of the horse show is equivalent to setting up a military campaign while inside a pressure cooker. The horses are not the only ones to suffer from horse show nerves. I have the worst horse show nerves of anyone I know, despite having showed horses since I was fifteen years old. One of the great things about horse shows is the fact that all my friends are there. I’ve found that talking nonstop reduces my tension. I often talk to everyone for three days straight.

SANDY NATHAN RIDING AZTECA AT THE MONTEREY SHOW
I’m Riding Azteca at the Monterey Show
Don’t have a photo of me on Vistoso. This is close enough: They’re full brothers.

Let’s jump to the show results. In my first class, I finished last. Okay? Do you have a problem with that? I might be the slightest bit testy about it, so don’t say anything.

I don’t come in last.

Okay, I did once before, but that was a fluke. I really thought I had that class nailed. I thought I was going to win it. It was at Reno, in that enormous concrete indoor arena with the air conditioning. After finishing last, I rode out of the arena into the 105-degree heat so shocked that I couldn’t scream or pass out.

I don’t come in last. I always win something––third or fifth. Anything. I learned how to win when I was a teenager. I win. I don’t come in last.

Except that time in Reno. Fortunately for me in that instance, a bunch of my friends poured out of the grandstand and said, “Sandy! We can’t believe what happened! We thought you were going to win the class! You were perfect!”

With their support, I realized the truth of the yogic maxim prohibiting attachment to results. It can be paraphrased as, “Easy come, easy go.” I got over it.

But it happened again in Watsonville! I rode  my stunningly beautiful gelding, Vistoso (which means gorgeous in Spanish), in a pleasure horse class. We maneuvered around the arena under the milky blue sky with cypresses poking up all around and tasteful Spanish music being broadcast over the arena and stands. The announcer’s voice was modulated and classy. The fifteen or so of us in the class were groomed and tacked up exactly as the rules would have us. The horses moved out with their four beat Spanish gait.

“Circle your horses, please. Two circles to the left.” The announcer and her helpers sat above the arena in a raised booth. The judge and ring steward were in the arena, better able to see the action. “Stop your horses, please. And stand.”

A pleasure horse class is for animals that are a pleasure to ride. A pleasure horse is one that you would take out for a lovely afternoon ride, assuming you would ever venture from a show arena in your full Peruvian regalia.

In a pleasure horse class, the rider and horse are required to do whatever the judge thinks up to kick out a horse’s true pleasurable nature.

The announcer said, “Two circles to the right, please, at your best gait.” The problem was that Vistoso was under-ridden and not well-schooled. He bucked every time I asked him to do anything.

Generally, bucking is frowned upon in a pleasure horse, especially in a horse show.

The judge finished and told us to hang out at the far end of the arena until the announcer told us who won. I had to keep Vistoso moving lest he buck me off right there.

Still, I thought we had a chance. Maybe the judge didn’t notice.

That is the beauty of denial.

In Peruvian Paso shows under most judges, the first person excused from the class is the last place horse and rider. That was me; the announcer called my number before anyone else’s. I rode out of the arena burning.

Where did my yogic, “Be content no matter what happens” stuff go? I was not content. I’ve had a bug about winning my whole life and coming in last was not part of it.

This outcome prompted hours of intense introspection moving toward anguish. My angst ratcheted up immediately after the class when I asked my friend, farrier, and sometime horse trainer, Patti Sexton to get on Vistoso and see why he was being such a jerk.

Patti rode him in the warm-up arena, a smaller arena close to the main show arena. She skillfully piloted the horse, giving a show-stopping performance. He was flawless. Watching her ride, my jaw dropped. I’d never seen Vistoso look so good. He could have won anything.

I knew exactly what the matter was: me. The horse was scared and acting out. Patti’s riding ability and fearlessness absorbed his distress. Plus, she could ride him no matter what he did. He knew it with that magic equine intuition, so he didn’t bother to try anything.

As she flashed past, Patti shook her head and said, “Oh, yeah. He really is being a jerk.” Oh? I couldn’t see it. Nothing showed with her expert riding.

The lesson sank in: The problem was me, not the horse. Boy, did I feel rotten. I was about to feel worse.

Charlotte Dicke, an old hand in the Peruvian world (now Charlotte Dicke Becerra, wife of Ramon Becerra and owner of Conquistador Magazine and the Peruvian Horse Quarterly––check out the links. They’ll knock your eyeballs out.), wanted to try out a sidesaddle Patti had for sale.

Charlotte plopped the saddle on Vistoso, who had never been ridden sidesaddle. Accepting a sidesaddle is something that requires training. The rider’s balance is different than astride; the saddle sits differently on the horse’s back. Then there’s that missing leg on the right side, and the unexpected foot sticking out at the horse’s eye level on the left. Some horses object to this.

Charlotte piled on Vistoso and rode him sidesaddle all over the fairgrounds, neck-reining and dodging traffic and baby carriages and people opening umbrellas and other things that make horses crazy. He never flinched.

This was hard to take. Fortunately, I’d had a personal breakthrough earlier when I saw Patti slide Vistoso to a stop and back him across the arena by wiggling a finger.

In that breakthrough moment, I realized that I am old––and he is not. He is bursting with life and muscle and youth. He does not worry about knee replacements and arthritis. Or herniated discs. Nor does he use a cane. I do.

I realized that I need a more sedate horse. Or a sedated horse. Maybe a dead horse.

Everything was made worse by the fact that my husband could not lose. He was having the sort of show that horse people dream about that never happens. But it was happening.

BARRY NATHAN & REY DE CORAZONES BSN
Barry & Eddie “Do the Cones” in Santa Barbara.
They won there, too. Look at how close those cones are.

We took our newly finished gelding, Rey de Corazones BSN, (“Eddie”––after my cousin, Ed Shomber) to the show as a schooling exercise. We didn’t expect him to win anything; he’d just completed his training and had been ridden in a bit for maybe a month. He won his two classes, Novice Horse and Performance Gelding, 4–6! That was just for starters, and we still had the Championship classes the next day.

I will not talk about the interpersonal dynamics of highly competitive people who happen to be married. I didn’t talk about it then, and I won’t now.

I thrashed half the night in an orgy of self-recrimination. Finally falling asleep, I had nightmares in which I came in last again and again.

Exhausted and almost insane when I returned to the show the next morning, I sat in the stands and watched the two remaining classes that I could have entered to redeem myself. Ladies to Ride and Amateur Owner to Ride came and went.

I felt only one thing––relief. The last place I wanted to be was in that ring on that bucking maniac, Vistoso. I had finally accepted my placement of the day before. At last, I was content. My suffering evaporated.

Then it happened: The show committee asked Barry and I to stand by the gate after lunch. We did, with no clue as to what was going on.

A few minutes later, they called us into the arena and gave us the Benni Barto Memorial Trophy. The trophy was awarded to the ranch which best epitomized the spirit of the show. This included the quality of their horses, their presentation and the effort put into showing. It was also based on improvement, sportsmanship, and conduct.

SANDY & BARRY NATHAN WIN THE BENNI BARTO MEMORIAL TROPHY
Barry & Sandy Nathan win the Benni Barto Trophy
I are in the center, flanked by the La Bahia Club Show Committee.
The award is given in memory of a dear friend, Benni Barto. I remember Benni so vividly. Doing horse business with her. All the barbecues at her place. The horse camp she ran for children.

I burst into tears as we accepted the trophy. The minute I truly accepted losing, our ranch won the award that meant most to us.

Gabriela de Amanecer Wins Mares Gait with Benni Barto Riding, Monterey CA, 1992
Benni Barto Winning Mares Gait on our Twiggy
An amazing show when the foundling mare beat the best the big barns could produce. Monterey 1992

This is the learning that can come from horse shows. It has everything to do with moving through the impasses in front of you. It’s not really about winning and losing, except when it is.

CAPOEIRA BSN “GOING THROUGH THE CONES”, WATSONVILLE ‘97
Barry’s Riding Cappy “Through the Cones,” Making a Serpintine through Closely Spaced Cones.
They won Champion of Champions Performance Stallion at
Watsonville in 1997 & 1998.

After that, Barry went on to ride our stallion, Capoeira BSN, to his second Champion of Champions Performance Stallion title. Watching Cappy serpentine through the close-set poles to win was a stirring sight. He looked like a snake with a mane and tail.

I didn’t mind being out of the limelight. I didn’t mind that I lost. I felt absolutely content.

Though I did talk to the judge after the show, asking her if she remembered me and why I’d come in last in my class.

She looked at me, perplexed. “You didn’t come in last. I only give the ring steward my placings of first through fifth.”

The announcer called people out of the ring randomly; the fact that she called me before anyone else simply meant that I hadn’t placed.

My mind spun. I didn’t come in last … My previous two days of semi-hysterical internal ranting, angst, suffering, and general insanity were over nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

At many shows, the announcers call the last-place person first, but it’s not a rule. I’d jumped from a convention to an absolute reality.

The truth dawned: The sleepless night, the emotional pain––I did it to myself.

But don’t we always do it to ourselves?

That’s it: Lose until you win.

SADDLE & RIBBONS
At the end of the day, what does winning mean?

What was the real value of my experience to the Peruvian Paso show world? Nothing.  The show folded, I don’t think the club exists any more. We got no photos in national magazines, very little recognition beyond the people there that year. The award wasn’t a national championship, not even a regional or Watsonville-wide event. We got a cool big trophy for a year, a loaner which we had to turn in the next year for a mini-size.

Where’s the winning? It lives in my soul, in the personal, intangible movement I made over that weekend. Everyone there, if they were awake at the wheel of life, had their own experience. Whether it joined the other examples of “I’ve been screwed,” or “I’m the best because I won Champion of Champions,” depends on the brain of the person having it.

We stopped showing horses years ago. Does anyone in the horse world remember how much we won? It’s piled all over the house. Useless baubles with memories.

I stopped showing because my body fell apart. I can’t do it any more––though if I could, I’d be riding reined stock horses at the Cow Palace the way I did as a kid.

But about the long term impact?  After I stopped showing a few years, I’d go to a show and very few people recognized me. Some old friends, yes. But the currency in the horse show world is winning.

Do we need to win in the small way? The ribbons way? The “I’m a published author” way? Yes, to get to where we’re meant to be. Awake at the wheel, asking, “What am I winning? What is the shelf life of those wins? How deep are the relationships? Do I even like the people my glorious career brings to me?”

I encourage you to set your sights higher, to win gloriously in fields that have a shelf life greater than horse show ribbons or pulp fiction.

My very best wishes,

Sandy Nathan

 THE GODDESS BATHES US
See the light.

THE RANCHO VILASA HORSE SHOW CREDO: (This is from out ranch website, developed over years of showing horses. We’ve done all the objectionable things ourselves, so we speak with authority. How does this relate to your life?)

A long time ago, Barry and I realized that showing horses is really fun– if you win. If you don’t, it’s expensive, hot, dirty and painful. Our goal at Rancho Vilasa is to be content whatever we do, win or lose. It’s a goal we’re still working on.

Consider our point of view: First, after showing Peruvian Paso horses for over ten years, we’ve realized that character is what you really win. Class placements and Championship titles have little to do with the value of mastering personal and horsey phobias, and everything else that goes on in the show world. Mastery in horse shows involves personal learning and enlightenment. Those are as important as ribbons.

Second, we like games where everyone playing has a good time. This lets out activities like duck hunting, where the duck does not have a good time. Regarding horse shows, has your horse ever banged on your bedroom door at five in the morning begging to be hauled eight hours so he can work his buns off in a strange and scary place? What’s in it for him?

Most important of all– what does showing horses prove? If you won every class in every horse show in the universe, would it cure cancer? Would it feed starving children? Would your winning do anything that anyone would remember in one hundred years? Ten years? One?

And which is the better horse? A National Champion that is so hot that only his trainer can ride him? Who’s so valuable you can’t take him on the trails? Or a good old boy with a veterinary problem who can only pack handicapped kids around– and give them a reason to live?

Until we figure the show thing out, we’ve set up a few rules.

  • “Don’t haul your horse any longer than you’d haul yourself.”
  • “Don’t show horses that don’t want to be there.”
  • “Don’t go if you’re broke and exhausted or have more important things to do.

You will NEVER, NEVER hear us advertising ourselves as the best show barn or the biggest winners, but we do show our horses. We love horse shows. We love the beauty of the animals, the energy of competition. The music. The people. And we love to win––as long as it’s fair and square. No cheating. Cheating puts you back on square one.

copyright 1998 Sandy Nathan All rights reserved.

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