Looking for the New Horse…Who Could Never Replace the Old One

We are a small, in-house staff at TSB, and being horse people makes the job of publishing equestrian books a highly personal pursuit. The cool thing is, many of the freelancers we work with are “horsey,” too.

Andrea Jones has been indexing for us for many years. If you buy TSB books, chances are, you’ve looked up a name or subject in one of her indexes before. Andrea has a super appreciation for the kinds of ways an index should be formatted to best feature the information our readership will want at the tips of their fingers. And one of the reasons she does this so well is that she is a horse owner.

Upon losing her horse of 17 years, Moondo, in 2020, Andrea found herself in that heartsick place of mourning the passing of a wonderful friend and knowing that her second horse, Jake, needed a herd mate. Andrea’s story of what it is like to search for and find a new horse when you really weren’t planning on it reminds us of the sweet surprises that can await on the other side of sadness.

If you like what you read, you can follow Andrea’s blog Between Urban and Wild by clicking here.

Although we knew for months that sweet Moondo would not be with us much longer, I couldn’t face the prospect of looking for a new horse while he was alive.

I had no regrets about spending focused time with Moody in his final weeks, but if we were to continue to have horses in our lives, Jake would need a companion, so late July and early August were an unsettling mix. The raw emotions of loss were shadowed by brain-numbing online searches broken up with phone calls and emails punctuated by an occasional venture into the pandemic summer to look at prospects. I didn’t feel good about any of it. There could be no “replacing” Moondo, of course, but I’ve also never been a fan of getting on horses I don’t know. Then there’s the fact that looking for a horse is like the worst kind of blind dating, in which the one who turns out to be an asshole can dump you in the dirt.

I didn’t mean to, but I ended up buying the first horse I looked at. Not right away, not without seeing and riding other horses, and not without trying to talk myself out of it. But after a few weeks of looking, that first horse was the one I kept thinking about. The fact that Moondo, years ago, was also the first horse I looked at—that I had equivocated but eventually settled on him after seeing who else was out there—was a good omen, perhaps?

Harper is a ten-year-old dark bay Quarter Horse/Thoroughbred cross with a sweet splotch on her forehead and a pair of ankle-high socks. She made a charming impression when I first approached her at the barn where she was living. I was slightly nervous and wondered what horses must think about people suddenly starting to wear masks over most of their faces. I offered my hand for her to sniff, which she did—and then proceeded to lick it very very…very…thoroughly. Very.

Under saddle out on the arena, she was attentive, businesslike, and a little huffy if my cues were awkward or over-strong: she would offer clear coaching if I hoped to revive my dressage skills. We took a short trail ride, during which she was calm, sensible, and interested in her surroundings. Rather than getting worked up about the crew thinning trees around the riding facility, she veered toward the tractor and snarling chainsaws, wanting to see what was going on.

Still, I waffled. I fretted about how Jake would act around a mare. I had reservations about bringing a barn-kept horse up to our rugged high-altitude setting. I worried about her little feet and those skinny super-model-long legs. Back problems had ended her career as a hunter/jumper. But she was sound for light riding, which is all I ever hope to do. The trainer overseeing her sale thought we were a good match, too, and insisted that Harper preferred turnout to the stall. I looked at other horses, waffled some more. After going back and riding her a second time, personality won: I decided I’d be stupid to pass up such a sane and likeable horse.

When I brought Harper home a week later, she backed out of the trailer and stood assessing her surroundings for a few minutes, a slightly quizzical expression on her face. “What a strange-looking show grounds this is,” I imagined her thinking, “Where on earth are all the other horses??” We settled her in the barn pasture to start, letting her get a feel for the place before meeting Jake.

He’d been on his own for five weeks by then, and although he’d taken his isolation with admirable stoicism, he was transfixed to see her on the other side of the driveway and was no doubt excited to properly meet. We waited a few days and hoped the encounter would be uneventful, but a proper first meeting in the equine universe tends toward rude physicality. Curious nose-sniffing whirled to squealing and kicking in a millisecond. Jake landed a kick to Harper’s hindquarters with a heart-stopping thwack, but the impact was a slap against muscle and not a crack on bone. Harper did not accept the message that she would rank in second position with meek deference, gamely charging back at him butt-first.

With herd positions sorted—Jake on top but Harper drawing the line at how much shit she would take from him—the tone changed. Jake, in short, is besotted. Fortunately for household peace and for our vet bills, Harper appears to be pretty sweet on him, too. They’re both food-defensive, and bicker at feeding time, but have shown a surprising willingness to share resources, at least when the weather is mild. Out in the pasture, they hang out so close to one another it looks like they’re hitched together.

I’ve ridden some, but winter weather arrived early and then settled into repetitive freeze-thaw cycles with just enough snow thrown in to ensure a consistent abundance of ice. I’m at peace with not riding in the crummy conditions, though, and it’s not like Harper hasn’t been busy.

She’s been learning to cope with mountain weather, for starters, which started with a blizzard and nine inches of snow shortly after she arrived. She’s been working on growing her own winter coat, and now only wears her fashionista jacket when the weather is truly abysmal.

Jake has been showing her where to stand when the wind blows from what direction, and has persuaded her to try laying down in the snow. I’m not sure she’s convinced it’s worth it to get wet, but probably agrees that snowdrifts can actually be quite cushy.

Harper isn’t perfect—no horse is. To call her food-defensive is a nice way of saying she turns nasty when there’s food around, pinning her ears, swinging her head, snapping. She’s thin-skinned and touchy, and I’m still discovering her quirks, preferences, and less desirable behaviors. But the sensible and calm demeanor that attracted me hasn’t changed; every time I’ve gotten on Harper, I’ve ridden the same steady and businesslike horse.

And I continue to admire her boldness and curiosity. When I first turned her out in the big pasture, I took her on a walk to show her the loafing shed and the fences. When I turned her loose, she set off walking instead of joining Jake in grazing. She took a quick detour to investigate the braced corner of the cross-fence, but kept going, up the slope and out of the bowl that makes up most of the field. Jake followed without enthusiasm: he was ready to eat. From where I stood near the gate, I could see Harper pause atop the ridge, looking over the far fence. Then she headed out again, following the fenceline to the south.

The next morning, Doug reported that Jake was a little lethargic. We decided he wasn’t sick, just tired. Harper, I think, had worked through the night to map her new acreage. Unwilling to let his beloved out of his sight, Jake had dutifully followed.

When I opened the gate into the winter pasture a month or so later, Harper did the same thing. She set off at a purposeful march, not pausing until she could see the fence on the far side of the field. Satisfied she’d located the boundary, she dropped her head and started eating.

Like my old friend Moondo, Harper likes to know where she is, and now she’s home.

Andrea M. Jones lives with her husband and their two horses on a high ridge in central Colorado. In her essay collection, Between Urban and Wild: Reflections from Colorado, Andrea explores the realities, joys, and contradictions that come with living in the wildland-urban interface. She continues to examine these themes in her blog at www.betweenurbanandwild.com and is currently at work on a new book about scientific literacy. When she isn’t writing, hiking, riding, or gardening, Andrea works as a freelance indexer; for more information visit www.jonesliteraryservices.com.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

Behind the Scenes: Our Own TSB Indexer Writes a Book About Colorado and Conserving Rural Life (with Horses!)

Moondo and Max enjoy the Colorado weather.

Even the TSB indexer is a horse nut! Andrea Jones’ Moondo and Max enjoy the Colorado weather.

 

Because of the practical nature of most of our books here at TSB, freelance indexers make up an important part of our small team. Most of the thoroughly useful lists of names, terms, and illustrations found in the back of TSB titles (put there to help you pinpoint the page to which you should turn when on a semi-desperate search for information stat) are compiled by Andrea Jones of the Colorado Springs, Colorado area.

We asked Andrea to tell us a little about her role as “Indexer to Horse Books,” as well as her own book, Between Urban & Wild: Reflections from Colorado, which was released by the University of Iowa Press on November 1, 2013. Here she comes clean as a horse nut, delves into the challenges we face as we strive to find, access, and/or preserve a rural life in the modern age, and even lifts the “veil of indexing secrecy,” explaining a little about the process we all might take for granted but are surely thankful for on a regular basis.

 

TSB:  Can you tell us about how began indexing books and how horse books became a particular focus? Did you have horses in your life before you began indexing books about them?

Andrea: I first learned about indexing back around 1996 when I was reading one of those how-to-make-money-as-a-writer-type books, although I didn’t pursue the notion for a number of years. When we moved to our current place in central Colorado and I wanted to find a way to both work for myself and work from home, I took a closer look at indexing and decided it was a good fit with my situation and my personality.

When it came time to start marketing myself as an indexer, targeting equine publishers was an obvious choice. Having knowledge about a subject is helpful in indexing, and I’ve been a horse nut for as long as I can remember. I was an avid rider as a teenager; during college and for a number of years after that, having horses didn’t really work in my life, but when my husband and I started thinking about where we wanted to settle down for the long haul, finding a place where we could pasture horses was a major factor. I write about the experience of re-establishing a life with horses in it the chapter of my book titled “Horse Lessons” (see the short excerpt at the end of this interview).

TSB: What do like about indexing? What do like about writing? How does one balance the other (or not)?

Andrea: In addition to being able to work from home and work for myself, what I like most about indexing is that I get to earn a living reading books. Every project is different, and the fun part for me is thinking about what topics readers are most likely going to want to look up and then deciding how to phrase entries so that that they can easily navigate to the right places in the text. Creating an index is a matter of answering a long string of small questions one after another, which I find weirdly interesting.

Writing is important to me because it’s how I figure out what I think. I’m easily distracted, and writing—both the formal efforts that I intend to share and the non-public jotting in my journal—slows my brain down. I’m intrigued by the communal aspect of writing—that a text requires a reader in order to achieve its full potential.

One of the ways that indexing has informed my writing is that it has shown me that I am capable of being brief. I tend to be long-winded, and indexing is inherently concise. I’ve also gained a useful tool for those times when my writing gets stuck and I can’t figure out how best to express an idea. When I come upon a convoluted or difficult passage in a book I’m indexing, I’ve learned to pause and ask myself, “What is this about, really?” Applying the same question of “aboutness” to a passage of writing often kicks the process loose and gets it going again.

TSB: Your own book Between Urban and Wild: Reflections from Colorado was just released by the University of Iowa Press. It details your explorations of what it means to live responsibly in a “wild” space—your home in the Colorado Rockies. Can you tell us a little about the birth of this book and the life in Colorado that inspired it?

Andrea: Between Urban and Wild began as a collection of essays about living outside of town. I started out writing little observations about my former home ground outside of Boulder, Colorado, and continued when we moved to our current place in the center of the state. When I had accumulated enough pieces to begin thinking about the whole as a book, the glue that held them all together was this idea of what it means to choose to live outside the urban boundary in this day and age.

In the past, when people lived in the country, they farmed or they ranched or they cut timber or they mined. Sure, we wanted to have horses, and we ended up here in part because it offered grassland at a price we could afford, but we also bought this land because it’s pretty. This was an aesthetic decision rather than an economic one, and that difference is interesting to me. Between Urban and Wild is my attempt to explore some of the implications that idea has for how we perceive and use land in the modern era.

TSB: Describe one moment you remember that told you Colorado was “home.”

Andrea: I spent my junior year of college abroad, attending Lancaster University in northwest England. I started dating an English guy while I was there, and as the year wound down it occurred to me that continuing the relationship would require me to stay in England. I knew I couldn’t do it—I wanted to be home, in Colorado, more than I wanted to be with him. Geez, that sounds cold, now that I write it down. But it’s true.

 

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TSB:  Would you describe yourself as a “naturalist”? What does the word “naturalist” mean to you?

Andrea: This is a great pair of questions, and I’ll take on the second one first. I view a naturalist as someone who studies and writes about the natural world from an amateur’s point of view—they include their impressions and interpretations, as well as their observations. This approach differs from formal scientific work, in which the personal point of view is suppressed, the data adheres to rigorous standards of evidence, and any conclusions drawn will be vetted by others in the profession.

Although most of my writing to date has been about my personal experiences and point of view on the world around me, I think of myself more as a writer with an interest in natural history than as a naturalist. This has to do with depth: I know a little about a lot of different things, but my brain is a fence-jumper. It’s too flighty to stay put for long. I’ll get interested in a topic and do research and try to learn more, but it’s not my nature to seize on something and not let it go until I’ve found out everything I can. I cultivate an attitude of attention toward my local environment, but I’m content for the aim of this to be a deepening feeling of being at home, rather than the pursuit of encyclopedic knowledge.

TSB: The horse industry is faced with the very real problem of sprawl inhibiting its ability to manage and graze livestock, but also preventing riders from traveling over extensive and varied territory as we once could. Land conservancy efforts are underway, but what kind of grassroots, local changes can each of us make when we live outside an urban boundary?

Andrea: Sprawl is a tough issue because it is rooted in so many areas of life: our ideals about home and private property, economic measures and community tax bases, historic patterns of land use, regulatory structure, conservation and ecosystem health.

When thinking about what individuals might do, the things that spring to mind are supporting and participating in those small local organizations that are working on preservation, open space, or access issues. It could mean joining forces with, or at least getting to know, other groups such as hunters or ATV enthusiasts, who share the same access goals but who have other ideas about the highest value of the landscape. I think all trail and open space users, whether they’re on foot or riding a bike, motorcycle, or horse, have an obligation to honor rules governing trail closures, hours of use, leashing of dogs, etc—in short, nobody who values the resource should give the powers that be an easy excuse to close access. In Colorado and other parts of the west, conservation easements have emerged as an important tool for preserving undeveloped landscapes under private ownership, and that may be an option for some riders who own property.

I live in an area where subdivided ranches are the primary form of sprawl. As a resident of one such development, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to learn about small acreage management so that our property remains a viable part of the local ecosystem. Pasture management, weed control, and planting native landscaping are small moves, but I have to believe that incremental actions, replicated many times over, can make a difference.

TSB: If you were trapped on a desert island with an animal and a book, what kind of animal would it be and which book would you choose?

Andrea: Somebody cover my horse’s ears because this would hurt his feelings, but I think the animal would be a dog. It’s hard to lay down next to a horse to stay warm and I’m not sure how well coconut fits the equine diet.

I’ve never been able to settle on a good single answer to that question about the book. If the gist is what’s my favorite book, I have to dodge because I don’t really have one single favorite (flighty mind, remember).

If the question is what book I’d be willing to read over and over, I’d have to answer Mary Catherine Batesons’s Peripheral Visions: Learning Along the Way, because I have, in fact read it several times and it always offers satisfying insights.

And if the question is about what would I would want to have on hand to keep myself occupied for a long time, it would have to be something very fat that I’ve never read–the complete works of William Shakespeare, maybe. The challenge of the archaic language and the insights into human failings and foibles would give my distractable brain something to do—and those failings and foibles might be more interesting, if not a source of nostalgia, if I wasn’t actually dealing with people on a daily basis.

TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?

Andrea: To ride a horse trained in upper level dressage movements—a horse patient enough to tolerate me, with enough time for me to learn how to communicate and ride those movements effectively.

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect meal?

Andrea: I like variety in general, so I love the tapas (small plate) concept. Sitting down with my hubby by my side, with a small gathering of good friends, sharing simple but tasty dishes along with a few bottles of nice wine, while wearing comfy stretchy pants, and having no obligations whatsoever the next day so I could sleep off the effects…that might be as close to perfect as it gets.

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect vacation?

Andrea: The one that I get to take next…if I could just figure out when and where.

 

Andrea is giving a series of readings in her home state to celebrate the release of Between Urban & Wild. Be sure to visit one of the following signing locations if you are in the Colorado area:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013: Maria’s Bookshop, Durango, CO, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, November 16, 2013: The Tattered Cover, LoDo branch, Denver CO, 2:00 p.m.

Thursday, November 21, 2013: Boulder Bookstore, Boulder, CO, 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014: The Book Haven, Salida, CO, 6:30 p.m.

 

Here’s a short excerpt from the chapter “Horse Lessons” in the book Between Urban & Wild:

Our move to Cap Rock, with its grass-clothed expanses, was inspired by the desire to have horses in our lives. The presence of Moondo and Blue and Max expanded the way I interact with the landscape around me. Through them I have been urged toward a regard for and appreciation of the land that requires attention to more than just the prettiness of the view. The land sustains my psyche, but it sustains the horses’ lives in a more fundamental way. The responsibility to keep them well and happy has to be balanced against an obligation to keep the grasslands from getting overgrazed or overrun by weeds. The need to contain the horses calls for fencing that also allows deer and elk to pass through as easily and safely as possible. I observe the horses much as I watch the land: to better acquaint myself with an aspect of the world that is not connected to an electric switch, to learn things I didn’t know, to discover questions I hadn’t thought to ask before.

Between Urban & Wild is available from the University of Iowa Press. Click here for more information.

 

Be sure to check out TSB’s online bookstore, full of bestselling titles by top riders, trainers, and equine experts (many including indexes by Andrea Jones!), and where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO SHOP NOW

International Horse Agility Club Founder Vanessa Bee Flies All the Way from England to See Buck Brannaman in Colorado–And Tells Us About It!

Vanessa Bee, founder of the International Horse Agility Club, spent the weekend at the Buck Brannaman clinic in Colorado.

Vanessa Bee, founder of the International Horse Agility Club, spent the weekend at the Buck Brannaman clinic in Colorado.

Vanessa Bee, founder of the International Horse Agility Club and author of THE HORSE AGILITY HANDBOOK and HORSE AGILITY: THE DVD, is in the United States beginning her North American clinic tour (see our previous post for dates and locations). Part of her reason for making the cross-Atlantic trek was to see Buck Brannaman teach, in person!

“I absolutely love the 7 CLINICS WITH BUCK BRANNAMAN DVDs and have watched them over and over,” said Vanessa when she announced her tour in February. “They are completely addictive. I am so impressed, but I do have questions…and there’s only one way to find the answers—ask the man himself! So I’m flying over from the UK to watch him work in Colorado…that’s how good I think this man is!”

Vanessa was kind enough to share some of her observations from the time she spent this past weekend at the Buck Brannaman clinic in Hayden, Colorado—it is always so interesting to hear one trainer’s observations of another! Check it out:

“We flew from England to Denver and drove over the mountains in blizzard conditions to get here, but I knew it was worth it. I had already watched the excellent 7 Clinics DVDs many times and of course had a few questions. I was hoping that by watching everything in real time I would be able to see the techniques and changes in the horse more clearly.

“Fortunately, I brought my binoculars. I know some people thought this was a bit strange, but I’m an eccentric English woman so can get away with most things! Those binoculars made all the difference—I could really see the man work, when he quit as the horse got the answer—MAGIC!

“The first day was split into two parts: The morning was Colt Starting and the afternoon was Horsemanship 1. The colts were all shapes and sizes with handlers of varying ability, so Buck had his work cut out keeping everyone moving forward. First he made sure everyone could move their horse’s feet and retain a safety bubble that the horse would respect. He gave a nice demonstration of teaching a horse where the boundary was and commented that you have to learn how much to do that says STOP!

“You have to mean it but not by being mean to the horse.

“I had my first question answered on when to use the flag and how the horse knows when it means something to him and when he has to ignore it. It’s all in the hand position, which transmits the intention of the handler. I invested in my own BB Flag, and somehow I have to get it into my suitcase for the journey home!

“At the end of the session Buck gave everyone homework: They had to practice flexion, backing up, picking the rider up from the fence, lowering the head, and putting the bridle on. And they had to practice because, as he said, he would know in the morning if they hadn’t!

“It was going to be interesting to see if all the colt starters had done their homework, and they did look pretty good as they lead their horses into the arena. Buck was warming up his horse first thing. He talked about how he was looking for ’weightlessness’ as he was working. It was quiet and precise, the way he worked. Disengaging the hind end, moving the front over, backing up just seeking the moment when there was no weight and he instantly quit.

“I used my binoculars zoomed in on every move. I don’t know how anyone could see the finer details and understand when the quit was valid without being close up. That’s why the 7 Clinics DVDs are so good. I shall certainly be studying these in even more depth on my return home.

We're lucky to have Vanessa Bee reporting back from this fabulous Buck clinic experience!

We’re lucky to have Vanessa Bee reporting back from this fabulous Buck clinic experience!

“Buck is direct, I like that. He made a few choice comments, including: ‘If I could get my students to spend less time on ’Wastebook’ and more time with horses they’d have a stable full of bridle horses.’

“I’ve watched a lot of horse clinics and horsemen and I can tell you that Buck is the only person I’ve seen whose feet are the horse’s feet. He just moves those feet like they were their own. It’s smooth and you never feel a wince or a jar as you watch him work. His timing is fantastic.

“He was very honest and direct and I really enjoyed his style of teaching. Buck said, ‘Everything I do with a horse is incremental that’s why I’m successful with them.’ In other words, he tries never to overwhelm the horse and give him too much to think about.

“Buck told us that Ray Hunt was always saying to him: ‘Do less sooner, then you won’t need to do more later.’

“I and my binoculars are beginning to see that now.”

Thanks, Vanessa, for making it feel like we were at the clinic with you!

Click image to order!

Click image to order!

You can order the 7 CLINICS WITH BUCK BRANNAMAN DVD SERIES, plus Vanessa Bee’s HORSE AGILITY HANDBOOK and HORSE AGILITY DVD at the TSB online bookstore.

CLICK HERE FOR THE BUCK BRANNAMAN DVDS

CLICK HERE FOR THE HORSE AGILITY BOOK/DVD