Tuesday, May 3, 2016

At the Horse Show

The past two weekends I was at the Senator Bob Martin Ag Center in Williamston, NC for horse shows as a vendor -  selling and signing books. These events were especially fun as I am originally from Plymouth, just a hop and skip from Williamston. I saw some old friends, some former riding students who have grown up and now have children of their own riding and loving horses. It was like a home-coming.
NENC District 4-H Horse Show

I haven’t been to a horse show in several years, but at the Ag Center shows it felt just like old times – parents and trainers on the rail watching the young riders and their horses, the announcer calling out instructions, the clunk, clunking of boots on the concrete floor of the walk-way, horses whinnying, and the smell of leather from the tack vendor’s booth. I found I still know if a rider is posting on the correct diagonal in a equitation class and if horses are cantering on the correct leads. I stifled the urge to comment when a rider was sitting too far forward or didn’t have their legs under them. I didn’t say a word about some of the western horses going at a four-beat instead of three-beat in the lope and those that were carrying their heads with the polls lower than their withers. It was reassuring to know I haven’t gotten so old, or been away from the business so long, that I still notice these things. It was like I'd never gotten away from being an instructor/trainer.

I don't really miss it: being at the horse show with students and their horses. I like being a book vendor, free of the hard work and nerve-racking pressure much better. But. . .
Makayla showing me her favorite horse.

Jessica, my grand daughter and my last of my kids to show her horse, joined me with her husband and two little ones at the show two weekends ago. Her little girl, Makayla, who is four, was on the edge of her seat watching the horses go around. Maybe I'll be on the rail again one day watching her ride in the horse show. No, I'll leave the rail-standing to her mama. I'll watch from the bleachers.

Donkey Day

I had a blast writing The Book of Donkeys. It is because of the folks I met in the process who helped me with their knowledge, their contacts, interviews, and photo shoots. They gave of their time generously to help me gather the stories, the facts, and the pictures which have finally become The Book of Donkeys.

The fun didn’t stop when I finished writing. Thanks to Shannon Hoffman, who hosted Donkey Day and my official book launch, the fun got even better. Someone recommended Shannon to me as when I first began work on The Book of Mules as the go-to expert on mules in our region. I am so glad I followed up on that tip. Shannon Hoffman has been much more than a resource person, she has become a friend. Not only has she allowed me to take up her time visiting at her St. Clair Red Mule Farm, answering my questions and letting me photograph her critters, she has introduced me to many more mule and donkey owners. This led to more friends, both two and four legged.

Shannon has also be a valuable help in promoting those two books. She and her cover mule, Sadie Mae, attended many of my book events. Sadie even signed along with me as Shannon had a rubber stamp of a hoof print and Sadie’s name made just so folks could have Sadie’s mark in The Book of Mules.

A class on donkey management
 Audie Murphy, who is the cover donkey of The Book of Donkeys and owned by Shannon’s friend Aimee Mitchell, was at Donkey Day basking in his glory as top model, along with other donkeys whose pictures you’ll find in the book. There was riding demos, a farrier demo, free food, and a coloring contest for the kids and the grownups. We estimate about one hundred people came to Donkey Day and learned all about donkeys. Meanwhile, I had the most fun ever signing books!
Carrot for Jolene

The Book of Donkeys and all of my other books are on Amazon.com. Just
follow this link: amazon.com/author/donnacampbellsmith to find them.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Joy of Mucking Stalls: A Memoir of Sorts

I no longer own horses. I came across this essay I wrote twelve years ago when I did own and care for horses. It brought back sweet memories of the old days when most of my waking hours revolved around the barn and its equine residents. My old bones and joints rebel at the thought of the physical work that owning horses required, but I do miss how it connected me spiritually and naturally.. I have re-written it as a memoir of sorts.

I think there is something deeply satisfying about cleaning stalls. I don’t only mean the satisfaction of seeing a job well done after the hard work, although that is good. But, it is more than that. It is a soul enriching task.
My favorite time to do the stalls was early morning, right after feeding the horses. As I worked I listened to the munch and crunch concerto of the horses eating their breakfast. In the background the birds sang their good mornings to the world. The summer air was cool, bringing in the honeysuckle laden breezes. In winter the body heat from the horses kept me warm, that and my long-johns.

Often on the trip to the manure pile behind the barn I’d catch glimpses of the wildlife residing in the woods that edged my little acreage. Most commonly were the squirrels showing off their acrobatic skills in the treetops. Sometimes a deer will bounce across the way, startled by my unexpected appearance. And, once in a while I was the startled one when a black snake slithered from the bushes next to the wheelbarrow path.

There was plenty of time in this solitude to meditate on the meaning of life, plan the rest of my day, or just let my imagination run wild. I dreamed big dreams, relived good memories, and sometimes cried over disappointments.
With the job finished I watched the sun filter through the windows, casting golden sunbeams on the occupants of the stalls. The warmth of the rays enhanced the sweet smell of fresh bedding. The morning had started well with my soul refreshed and ready to deal with the rest of the day. Yes, a part of me does miss those mornings.