Photo Challenge & Poem: Rather

Lying in bed, head deep under 
the covers, folded so it's dark 
and warm and just a thread of 
fresh air creeps in through a 

slim wrinkle. A pillow carefully 
crushed to cradle my head just 
so, sleeping dogs warm the length
of my spine. Outside the wind

pushes fast and loud; the winter
tree's branches twist and sway 
and slap back in an angry wrestle.
Agitated twigs clatter and snap,

but below crevices in the bark,
past rings of age, the heartwood
eases out a restful sigh, her roots
hold steady. Let the cold wind run.


Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
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Currently planning upcoming Concept Clinics. 2018 is filling quickly; please contact me here if you would like to host a clinic or attend one. Check out our entire clinic schedule here. 


What Trainers Do You Like?

I often get asked what I think of other trainers. Sometimes I have no idea who the trainer is, any more than they know who I am. You do know we all work weekends, right? And that we’re not as cool as jazz musicians who jam together at after-hours clubs?

Then, the obvious thing. The horse world is huge. Most riding or breed disciplines don’t intermingle. We tend to date within our species, so it isn’t common for all kinds of saddles to be in the same arena. About this time, the rider refers me to the trainer’s Facebook page or website. More time on the computer? You want me to read even more online, beyond the stacks of articles I pour over each week?

Sometimes it’s a question about a trainer in a photo, maybe true or maybe taken out of context, and it’s easy to jump to conclusions that don’t help horses. Besides, it’s considered bad form to speak about other trainers. Unprofessional to call others out, even the ones who make a spectacle of abuse.

But still, people ask. For the most part, I think they are looking for congruity between methods. My fantasy dinner is with Nuno Oliveira, Tom Dorrance, and Xenophon.

I am pretty careful about who I recommend. Here’s the problem for both of us as we look at websites. There isn’t a trainer in the world who raises their hand over their head and proudly states, “I train with cruelty and abuse!” We all use the same positive words. People are deceptive that way.

Sorry to disappoint you with no trainer gossip, but I am willing to share my opinions on how to tell if a trainer is good. I have two methods and the second is better than the first. Here goes.

I remember years ago meeting a trainer who didn’t like horses. It came as a shock to my then-amateur mind, but it was obvious. Horses were a means to an end for them. It was like inheriting a family business; they had familiarity but not much curiosity or interest. I’ve met an alarming number of professionals with no passion for horses since then. It’s crazy. The work is too hard, the hours too long, and horses are too unpredictable to be thinking about business plans and retirement funds in the same breath as training.

So that’s the first thing to notice. Does the trainer love horses? It should be a requirement. You never get a horse’s best work if you don’t apply some of your own heart to the process. Shouldn’t equine pros be the most besotted of all?

Sometimes I get teased by clients that I have no discretion, that I just love all horses. Why even have me evaluate a horse you’re looking at if I am just going to praise him? Here’s why; I will never praise a horse for his color or the length of his mane. I will always be aware of his conformation for your purpose. I can read past-training practices in how he carries himself now. Just because I affirm his strengths doesn’t mean I don’t see the whole picture.

Beyond the words in the ad and a vet check is the realm of possibility. That’s where the question of potential always comes up. Will this be the right horse for your goals? That answer is a quotient of passion, love, and commitment on all sides. Money and technique are never enough to create the art needed for a horse and rider to dance. Love transforms. Nothing less.

We can debate whether horses love us or not, but I’m clear that the trainer and the rider need to be united in their love for the horse. It’s too much work otherwise.

To be clear, loving horses makes the job harder. If we trainers open our hearts to horses and riders, we will pay a price for that. It makes us vulnerable to loss. Yesterday I was thinking of a mare who was my first huge training challenge. She was outlandish in a hundred ways and it was my job to help her rider build a connection with her. The mare pushed me to trust my intuition as much as technique. She passed away years ago but I miss her. You could say she is a trainer I have a lot of respect for.

Good trainers all have a mental scrapbook of horses they still think about. Maybe the horse has passed, or the rider moved on, but the concern for the horse remains. It makes saying goodbye harder. I once had to part ways with a trainer who I’d worked hard with for five years. I couldn’t follow her to her new barn and she cried that last day. I was touched, I didn’t know I meant that much to her. On the way home, it dawned on me that I was losing her, but she was losing the three of us. And it was probably the other two she was the saddest about. She was a very good trainer.

When looking for a trainer, look for love. It’ll mean they’re vulnerable but the other word for that is humble. A good trainer should possess a balance of love, humility, and confidence. Like that’s easy to master.

The second method of picking trainers is better. Let the horse do it.

I know, it’s a crazy notion but here’s how. If you can watch a video, turn the sound off. Without the sales pitch of contradictory words, just look at the horse. Read his calming signals. Does he look anxious? Are his eyes dead? Does he have curious ears? Curiosity is a sign of courage in a horse. Does he look beautiful in that horse’s natural way?

If you are watching the trainer live, count your breath as a way of not hearing external distractions. Zoom in on the calming signals again. Does his eye follow the trainer willingly? Does he occasionally lick and chew? Is his poll relaxed? Watch the horse move; does he look free?

Recap: Recommendations are often unfounded or ill-informed. Trainers can be deceptive. But everything a horse thinks is written all over him with unrelenting honesty. They’re the ones to trust.

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
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Currently planning upcoming Concept Clinics. 2018 is filling quickly; please contact me here if you would like to host a clinic or attend one. Check out our entire clinic schedule here. 

Travel Blog: Kangaroos Ahead

Here is another weird thing about my job. I never have any idea where I might end up. First, I get into cars with strangers and then they take me somewhere. I usually have the clinic address on an insurance paper, but it could be a quiet humble little farm like my home barn. Sometimes I’m ushered to an equestrian facility that takes my breath away.  I never know what to expect.

The crazy but predictable thing is that the people who invite me are alike, regardless of discipline, breed, or experience. They want to do better for their horses. They want to learn, just like me. Somehow no matter where I land, I feel like I’m at the exact perfect place. It’s either magic or wild luck or some ghost-horse pulling strings for me. I just say yes. Now, about Australia.

I’ll start by saying there is a wild beauty to Australia, at least what I’ve seen so far, that wakes up some ancient part of me. No, I mean even more ancient than my literal age. It’s a primal place that makes you think you might see things in the shadows of visible things. Or maybe I need more sleep, hard to say. But wild and mysterious, even flying over it. The land is that recognizable.

Outside Adelaide, there is a red soil that will be sad to see US Customs officers wash off my boots. I’m saving it until then. There is a spicy perfume to the air that I can’t place but it might scare me, so I don’t think about it. And a paddock full of geldings that are irresistible. Sweet and complicated and willing and insecure sometimes. Which is to say, perfect horses.  I also saw my first Brumby, a proud mare, and my first Kangaroos. They are just the color of sheep and sometimes in a pasture, you’ll see odd sets of ears, not like the others. Kangaroos who are sheep impostors.

Over by Melbourne, the soil is more like mine at home, but the trees are tropical. They’re gum trees; tall with branches set high off the ground. They make great paddock trees, lots of shade, and the horses thrive here. Here are more kangaroos, laying in fields, bounding onto the road and getting hit, and hopping around the winery that I stayed at. Yes. I stayed at a winery. Beautiful vineyards, the Southern Cross in the night sky, and a bottle of their wine. Just kill me. In the morning, there’s a path to the top of a hill with a view, they say. Just stay on the mowed part, they say, if you wander off, you won’t be able to see the snakes. Just kill me.

I got picked up in Sydney in the late afternoon, with not much time to get to Newcastle, over two hours away. Still, we took the bridge, so I could see the opera house. It isn’t unusual that people point out landmarks to me, but halfway across the bridge, there it was. THAT Opera House. It was a total surprise. It’s amazing and doesn’t look like any other building in the world. And clearly, I have lost any shred of an idea of where I am on the planet.

Finally, to Brisbane, and the last facility has more kangaroos than horses. In this photo, they’re loitering outside the covered arena. Because they usually lay around in the cool arena sand but we’re using it for the clinic.

A quick aside to my Kiwi friends, you exaggerated. I haven’t seen any bugs bigger than my hand, and no snakes at all. Or did I just jinx that?

You also warned me, and yes, Aussies do make fun of your accent as much as you make fun of theirs. Both countries’ accents are hard for me to tell apart but at least they share the same good-natured sport –making fun of the way I speak in my native tongue.  They ask me to pronounce names of cities, I fail miserably, they laugh uproariously and ask me to pronounce it again. It never gets old. I totally destroyed them pronouncing “Australia.”

The clinics are all about Calming Signals, but each one is quite different. The horses make sure of that and we humans try to keep up. Standardbreds, Warmbloods, Thoroughbreds, Arabians, Station-bred Stock horses; they’re intelligent and sensitive and have had rich and diverse lives. And yet they speak with no accent at all. They are just like the horses in my home barn, eight thousand miles away.

I do have to admit to some previous knowledge of Australia. I’ve seen lots of movies and overall, the Australian movie characters are not bad representations of actual Australians. A bit of Dingo Took My Baby, a little Man from Snowy River, and some Muriel’s Wedding tossed on top. In other words, I fell in love with everyone I met. I made friends that I miss already.

Eclectic sage elders, red-haired babies, tanned riders with passion, and men who enjoy getting their minds stirred up. We laughed at ourselves, shared meals, and managed to remember those good horses who have gone ahead. We loved horses together. This weekend, we all put horses first.

Every few days, I move along to some new place I’ve never been. My ankles swell and so I wear the damned support hose. My voice is more than a little hoarse; it’s as scratchy as a Clydie in spring. Then there’s this part. I’m starting to be that person who hugs a little too hard and a little too long.

Thank you, Australia. I’m ready when you are.

P.S. A brief postscript: I arrived home after about thirty hours of planes and airports. The Dude Rancher drove stinky-me home.  In my barn, all the horses nickered, beautiful under the prairie moon. Edgar Rice Burro, who has personal needs that only I can fulfill, brayed an opera. Arthur, the goat, gave me a headbutt embrace. We had sadly lost three herd members in the month before I left, and I was cut again by their absence. But the trips are hardest for my rescue dogs. Jack, the JRT/mix foster dog jumped up to eye level a few hundred times, defying common sense and gravity. Then another thousand times or so.

And finally, Preacher Man, the rescue corgi. When a herding dog goes to rescue, they think they failed at herding their human. Preacher has a mission this time, but he’s stuck with me and I wander off all the time. It’s always hardest for Preach, so he is mad and happy. Growling and licking. He must go to the bathroom with me, but he pouts behind the door. When I finally get to bed, he lays flat on my torso and moans and whines. Licks and spits. Wiggles and sploots. His eyes stare into mine. He can’t live without me. He wants to kill me. It’s good to be home.

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
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Currently planning upcoming Concept Clinics. 2018 is filling quickly; please contact me here if you would like to host a clinic or attend one. Check out our entire clinic schedule here. 

Travel Blog Photo Challenge: Story

Australia Verson: It’s all about me.
Me at the Melbourne airport.

Me waiting for my flat white, teenager in line ahead of me.

Me at the Sydney airport.

Me. I can’t find my passport.

Me at the Brisbane airport.

Tell Edgar, Preacher, and the Dude Rancher I’m coming home.

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
Currently planning upcoming Concept Clinics. 2018 is filling quickly; please contact me here if you would like to host a clinic or attend one. Check out our entire clinic schedule here.


Photo Challenge & Poem: Story

Standing at his flank, in that sweet 
curve where his barrel ebbs to the 
swell of his hip, and gazing around 
the arc of his shoulders toward to his
whiskered chin, past the old joints 
and hard use. Beyond the cold winters 
and surrendered instincts, all the way 
back to his spindly legs on morning
grass, his heartbeat pulsing under
thin skin, and a curiosity to his ears, 
shiny and innocent. How long has it 
been since anything was so innocent?

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
Currently planning upcoming Concept Clinics. 2018 is filling quickly; please contact me here if you would like to host a clinic or attend one. Check out our entire clinic schedule here.


The Middle Path: Peaceful Persistence

I had two conversations recently; one a spellbinding conversation with a brilliant and beautiful young mare. The other conversation involved a group of riders and we were really enjoying descriptive word choice. My two favorite kinds of conversation, here goes.

The mare is very young, not started under saddle, and her human is doing a fine job with her. They do obstacles in hand, hike a bit, have age-appropriate ground manners. Her handler had asked for some advice about the process going forward.

We’d been talking about one of my favorite exercises, leading from behind. It’s standing back by the horse’s flank, well behind the drive-line, and about four feet to the side. In other words, well out of the horse’s space. Once the horse is comfortable moving forward in this position, you can do obstacles, but rather than leading her, you send her from behind. Or more literally, the horse does obstacles in autonomy, volunteering, and out in front like ground driving. The handler walks along, makes suggestions, and cheers.

I asked if I might have her horse’s rope. I’m aware that I’m asking for a privilege. I’ve heard all the trainer horror stories, too. But she trusts her mare to me and I say thank you.

The mare is beautiful and she is quite aware of it. Period. Can I take a moment here and say that if you work with a beautiful mare, it might be more productive to acknowledge your own beauty rather than hers? She already knows, and you will need all your confidence to keep up with her. Says this gray mare with chronic lameness.

We did a few obstacles but she let me know with some sour ears that I was uninteresting. That’s fair.

I thought she was answering by rote, meaning the mechanical or habitual repetition of something. You say sit and the dog sits. Yawn. Pretty dull conversation if that’s all you do.

The mare had been doing the obstacles in the most obvious way. Not only that, she thought repetition is for dolts. Or that humans might be very slow learners. A conversation by rote is beyond boring. And if we just repeat the obstacle the same way each time, then we deserve a sour ear. Any mare will tell you that.

Time to get creative. I asked her to walk on from behind. There was a pair of arches, and I sent her under. But now I wanted to send her between them. It was wide enough for her but not wide enough for both of us side by side. I sent her out on an arc, in front of me, and she stopped at that narrow spot between the arches.

She doesn’t think she can do it. I ask her to hold her own self up.

She is standing right there; she knows what I want. She’s smart; she doesn’t need me to “train” her. She needs confidence.

I let her know when she’s getting warmer. I’m positioned totally back from her head, she’s facing the narrow space between the arches, telling me it might be impossible, and I am happy. I can tell she’s thinking, so I exhale. Good.

This is how obstacles work: She could be standing facing anything: a bridge, a pedestal, or a trailer. (Float to my new friends.) It’s all the same; I get to say what we do, and she gets to say when. Partnership.

I coax her to figure it out. I’m not going to do it for her and I’m not going to bully her. I wait. That means I’ve become interesting and mysterious.

I let her know she’s on the right path. Good girl. I ignore the rest and I breathe. We’re having a conversation. She tries to distract me by suggesting there might be a kangaroo in the bushes. I usually fall for that but not this time. I tell her she’s brave with a big inhale.

Standing to her left, my left hand is on a long lead, toward the clip at her chin and my right hand is near the end of the rope. I might cue her with it, but if I do, it must be so quiet that she takes only one step. I only want small efforts. If she gets over-cued anxious, things will take longer, and she’s paying attention. No reason to escalate. She isn’t refusing; just trying to figure out how to do it. We’re both intelligent people. We whisper and breathe.

Her sour ears have been gone for the last five minutes and I care less about the obstacle and more about her keen mind. We are focused, enjoying each other.

Would you have upped your aids by now? Circled her or disengaged her? Would you have distracted her from her task or she you? Hold steady; there’s time.

Her calming signals are small, with less anxiety than before. She blinks slowly with a large soft eye. She gives me a little lick and chew, and she’s almost ready. Dialing my energy to balance hers. I ask her to move a bit, and then, with no fanfare, she walks through. Onlookers sigh and give her a quiet golf-clap and the young mare is positively glowing with pride.

Can we use positive energy to encourage a horse to push her boundaries, in a good way? Can we have the confidence in her to give her time to figure it out? In the saddle, as well as on the ground? And when she volunteers, let’s celebrate her new-found courage. Confidence is the most important gift we can give our horses, regardless of our riding discipline.

Training rules: You may only say yes to the horse and to yourself. No punishment, just yes. This part is harder than it sounds. Every time you see any calming signal, you listen and go slower or stop. You may not escalate. Keep a friendly tone. Breathe. Acknowledge every tiny try.

Peaceful Persistence:
    Not aggressive.
    Not conceding. 
   Not emotional. 


We need to pick up our mental game. It’s crazy the way we prattle on about how sensitive our horses are, geniuses at reading our minds, and totally capable of learning anything but then dumb down the training process to learned helplessness, bullying, and answers by rote. It would make my ears go sour, too.


Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
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Currently planning upcoming Concept Clinics. 2018 is filling quickly; please contact me here if you would like to host a clinic or attend one. Check out our entire clinic schedule here. 


Photo Challenge & Poem: Out of This World

You are right to be wary of us, 
Little Mare. Your hooded eyes
dark and silent, you must be 
concerned, yet your brows are
smooth. Not even a natural breeze
in your tail, still to your bones.

You betray nothing, no fear or 
warmth. It's easy to imagine you,
foal by your side, moving by day
over hard land. Surviving by 
listening to your inner ancestors.
You're right to keep their counsel.

This is complicated terrain, we're 
predators who ask you to surrender
those instincts. To rein in your 
wildness enough to share our life,
enough that we might find a lost
part of our own nature in yours.

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
Blog  FB  Email  Author  FB  Tweet  Amazon
Currently planning upcoming Concept Clinics. 2018 is filling quickly; please contact me here if you would like to host a clinic or attend one. Check out our entire clinic schedule here. 

Out of this World

Riders Against Bullies

Railbirds. Everyone’s a critic.

I’m no fun anymore. I can’t go to rodeos, a tradition I grew up with. As much as I know Thoroughbreds love to run, I can’t watch a race. They’re just babies.

It’s even harder when it gets personal. Maybe someone you know shares a video. A group of riders cheering on a friend, which would be wonderful except that the rider’s horse is coming apart. He’s frightened, which everyone reads as disobedient. So they are all cheering her on as she kicks and pulls. The horse’s eyes are wide, his nostrils are huge. Of course, his ears are back.

The friends encourage the rider to fight harder, show him who’s boss. But the horse can’t think now. He isn’t sure what she asked in the first place. He holds his breath and hopes it will end soon. Eventually, the rider gets tired and slows down the cues enough that the horse can oblige her. The friends applaud.

The rider pulls her horse to a halt, jerks a rein to pull his head around to her knee, backs him hard with her hand, and gives him a few more kicks for good measure, so he’ll know she’s mad and he’s wrong. It’s what she’s been taught to do; what her friends expect. The horse’s eye goes dead but he’s bracing his ribs against her spur attack.

What has the horse learned? Maybe that when he gets frightened, his owner becomes loud and unbalanced. Maybe that he should shut down when he feels anxiety. One thing is for certain. The horse has lost trust if he had any in the first place.

Sometimes it cuts closer; it’s these same friends who give you training advice because they think you are ruining your horse. Because there are contradicting definitions of leadership, followed by judgment on both sides. Passion and hard feelings.

If we are honest, most of us were taught to ride like this when we started, to a milder or more violent degree. Some of us are changing our ways and looking for better communication and partnership with our horses. Riding is an art that takes a lifetime to learn. If you’re lucky.

The problem is now you’re no fun anymore either. Once you can read your horse’s body language, it’s hard to ignore. Maybe you look at the video and turn the sound off. Instead of listening to the sales pitch for the training method, you listen to the calming signals of the horses in the video.

The most frequent question people ask me is what to do when railbirds offer training advice that’s “old style?” What do you do when you see someone being violent with their horse?

Start here: Don’t attack them. Even with words. No one changes their ways because someone ridicules them in public. Law enforcement will tell you that cruelty to animals is a precursor to violence toward people. Be careful, and it certainly doesn’t help the horse, especially if the abuser takes their anger toward you out on their horse. Then you feel even worse. I know.

The truth is that there is no shortage of ugliness in the horse world these days. It’s so common that it takes no special skill to point it out.

That said, if you see it in competition, file a complaint with the organizers. Call the authorities if you see abuse locally. Then follow through and ask for an update on the outcome, or plan to attend the trial. Form a group of like-minded people and get involved in local politics. I seriously believe that if more of us complained less on social media and more to the powers that be, things would change for horses. In other words, it’s common sense; you have a voice. If you feel overwhelmed at the cruelty, take your power back. Put your love into action and advocate.

Mostly, I think people are asking in a more personal way. How can we deal with our own emotional response to what we see? They say it breaks their heart to think of horses being abused. That they love horses, and it hurts too much.  It’s a thing called compassion fatigue.

Take an internal survey. Do you languish in the pain? Do you hurt yourself by ruminating on dark topics? Do you believe negative emotions stronger than positive ones? Because you are literally voting with your heart and mind. By passively lingering in those hurtful thoughts, you unintentionally give them power. How you can tell is it feels like slow-release poison.

The sad truth is our tears don’t help.

Positive thought isn’t just head-in-the-sand foolishness. It’s real science; a natural law. The thing we put our attention on is the thing that grows. There is a real power in affirmation.

When friends suggest to you that you need to show your horse who’s boss, take a breath. Smile and say thank you. If it’s hard, let a sideways glint come to your eye, so they wonder if you’re crazy. Crazy makes people nervous.

“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.” – Herm Albright.

Horse abuse is painful but we don’t need to fuel that fire. It’s just the easiest thing to get cynical. I might have been born that way, but the more I travel, the more I meet great horsepeople who care deeply about horse welfare. People whose passion burns hot for learning and growing and doing better. Sometimes people tell me that I’m preaching to the choir like it’s a bad thing. It looks to me like the choir of people who care about horses is growing by the minute and getting more vocal. If you feel outnumbered and begin to lose hope in the horse world, remember that it belongs to us. Riders against bullies, unite!

And on a bad day, instead of feeling sorry for abused rescue horses, be inspired. Let your scars heal. Let your heart be as strong as theirs.

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
Blog  FB  Email  Author  FB  Tweet  Amazon
Currently planning upcoming Concept Clinics. 2018 is filling quickly; please contact me here if you would like to host a clinic or attend one. Check out our entire clinic schedule here. 

Why I Should Stick to Horse Blogging.

Confession: I have zero credibility as a food blogger. Each and every meal we had was spectacular. Nothing less. Even the eggs were amazing. By the time I thought to take a photo of our beautiful whole fried fish with vegetables, there was only a head and a few gnarly fins left. This photo marks a real improvement. Photographic proof that one of us put our spoon down briefly.

I have been a total loser at travel blogging, too. How you can tell is that I’m at a hotel with a kiwi on the roof. It’s close to the airport, I leave New Zealand at dawn. When I was supposed to be taking descriptive photography with footnotes of our location, I was standing around with my mouth wide open, looking exactly like a dorky American tourist. Perish whatever cool impression any clinic participants might have had of me. It’s erased by seeing me in a Hawaiian shirt and pedal pushers, standing next to the guy who wears socks in his Crocs. In other words, we had the very best time.

Obligatory blurry selfie.

We did tourist things. We saw the most creative and awe-inspiring Gallipoli exhibition at Te Pappa in Wellington.  Zealandia is a gift of love to our planet, worth every stride. (Not as great as my bush walk with Olly Tasker, but really, four-year-old boys know how to do it.) The Dude Rancher and I soaked at Rotorua in the hot springs. We kayaked the waters of Abel Tasman National Park, in our own inimitable way. I sat in the back and steered badly, so we switched places, giving him a chance to do the same. We took the alpine train to the western coast, gasping at the views and sipping gin & tonic from a bottle. We survived a lake tour on a 76-year-old amphibious truck used in WWII.

Auckland to Piha Beach to Rotorua to Wellington to Christchurch to Hokitika to Christchurch again to Auckland finally. (These are just the vacation stops; the clinic stops were even better.)

Here’s my advice about using Uber in NZ. It never goes well when the Uber driver drops you off at a beach before you find out there is no cell coverage or Wi-Fi. We were stranded. The pregnant woman with the puppy wanted to help but was already late for an appointment. Next, we asked a man, visiting the area for a spiritual retreat, if he would drive us 5km to the nearest town. He agreed to do it for $30. Upon further consideration, he upped it to $50. Enlightenment is never cheap.

Here’s my advice about using Airbnb. Consider booking locations with the exact same confidence you’d have going to see a horse you found on Craigslist. Some of the locations were wonderful. Sometimes it’s what isn’t mentioned that matters most. Like the photo was taken back in the 90s. Or when they say there’s Wi-Fi, they mean in the house where they live, not the room above the garage, which is where you stay. But all ads read as “Eleven-year-old bombproof, kid-safe, FEI Dressage  schoolmaster, free to a good home.” 

Sometimes I got touchy about Wi-Fi and was given the look we give surly teens who never put down their cell phones. Can we just have a moment of silence to honor my sainted barn manager, keeping an eye on twenty-plus animals, most with weird issues of one kind or another? She has a lousy job. Without Wi-Fi, we both become daytime drinkers. Some compassion, please.

The varmint highlight of my trip was a very fine hedgehog. I saw fewer dogs than expected, one Airbnb had more cats than the nation at large. But it was the birds in New Zealand that caught my eye. I learned birdwatching on my little prairie pond, but the birds here are just spectacular. They welcomed me with a huge flap. They deserve a blog of their own, not sullied by other details. Soon to come –an all-bird blog. Complete with an endangered species that looks like a parrot-chicken.

The flora here is outlandish, lush, and alive with thousands of shades of green. You can hear the earth breath, the plants have heartbeats, and for someone like me, passionate for the planet, it is a healing place. That said, I’ve chosen this photo as an answer to all the talk about down-under physics. How you can tell that I’m down under is they call this tree a Norfolk Pine. In NZ, gravity is a bigger question than which way the toilet water swirls, obviously.

We took a few boat trips, with the best one, a four-hour whale watching tour, scheduled for today. It’s rainy and windy; thirty-knot winds work out to 20mph prairie wind. That’s enough that riders can’t hear me yell, a dream come true for my clients at home. Too much rolling on the sea means I would show up for my first Australia clinic pea green with food on my clothes.

So, we’re hunkered into the hotel. The Dude Rancher gently snoring, meaning audible in Colorado if you listen, and I’m sipping a nice New Zealand wine and preparing for my ground assault clinic tour of Oz. (I think that’s the approved nick-name, but we’ve been over this. I can barely order coffee in my native tongue.)

And finally, how could I tell that I’d had enough vacation time? We were punting on the Avon in Christchurch. Sounds sophisticated, doesn’t it? But I got all weepy trying to make a meaningful connection with some ducks who were making strafing runs at the boat, looking for treats. If you know me, you know about treats. Sadly, there we were, the ducks and I, each a profound disappointment to the other.

I’m certainly not admitting an addiction, but if I don’t see a horse in the next 24 hours my teeth are going to turn black and fall out.

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
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Currently planning upcoming Concept Clinics. 2018 is filling quickly; please contact me here if you would like to host a clinic or attend one. Check out our entire clinic schedule here. 


Photo Challenge & Poem: A Face in the Crowd

It's the ninja cat skirting the
shadows, hesitating, then moving
on a silent path, leaving no trace.
Or the gangly boy who's always
drawing dragons in the back row
of class, much too skinny but
dragons in flight, breathing fire.

The one puppy in the litter who
sits like the Buddha, full eye
contact in the middle of a howling
chaos of mushy kibble and poop
and torn newspaper, unblinking.
That woman with a bad haircut
who talks to herself, a bottle goat

in the passenger seat and her truck
floorboards covered with halters
and leashes and ropes, just in case.
The spotted donkey standing guard
under thick brows; watching
for intruders but hoping the mare
will walk off the hay soon.

A crooked man climbs the front
steps, pulling off boots on the
porch of a dark house. The kitchen
light, then one egg cracked in
the pan; the yolk soft on dry
toast, as a black cat settles to a
companionable place on the table.
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
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Currently planning upcoming Concept Clinics. 2018 is filling quickly; please contact me here if you would like to host a clinic or attend one. Check out our entire clinic schedule