29 September, 2014

Barn Coat

I remember when I purchased this coat. I had gone to the store to buy something else and I walked by the outerwear section and it caught my attention. I must have picked it up a hundred times, only to change my mind each time and place it back on the rack. 
It's not me. 
I'm too short. 
It's too long. 
It's not heavy enough. 
It's too thin.  
I'll be cold in it but...it had deep pockets.
BIG pockets.
I could fit a lot of cool stuff in there, like a couple wormers plus a few carrots, a hoof pick, curry comb, syringes and a rolled up lead rope. And that was just for starters. Maybe even a rock or two. I love rocks. I pick them up off the ground all the time. It just seemed to me that there was alot of potential in those pockets. So, I bought the coat...yup, for the pockets. I love pockets. 
And wait, 
I have to be honest with you. I also bought the coat because, 
well, 
I thought I looked like the Marlboro man when I tried it on. 
You know, a cowboy. 
I always wanted to be a cowboy. Just like Johnny West. And Thunderbolt. You can't forget Thunderbolt. He was the best part. But this coat needed some serious character before any of that could happen. Over the years, it's gotten a lot of character. With two horses, you can imagine how much character this coat has gotten. My kids are embarrassed to be seen with me in public, if I am wearing this coat. "Please, can you wear something else" or "It's not that cold out, really, you don't need to wear it" or "you really need a new one, you look like a homeless man with that old coat, it's gross" they tell me with painful looks on their faces. It's a sore point in my household. But I love this coat and even if I were to win the big prize on Lotto tomorrow, I would still wear it. I'll never get rid of it. It's comfortable but more importantly, this coat smells like my mare, Maarena. I bury my face in the coat and it takes me back to when I was standing right next to her, with my face buried in her silky mane. How I loved those days. Did I really understand how fleeting that time was? I was so happy then. Nothing could bother me on those days. Every now and then, on the really bad days, when I miss her most, I'll hug it and with every ounce of me, I can almost feel my arms wrapped around her neck. I didn't want to let go. 
I didn't want to say good bye. 
I wasn't ready.  
Please, stay with me. 
Don't leave me. 
Please. 
So that's why I can't get rid of my coat. It's full of...character. My mare's character. I see her in this coat. That's why I can't wash it either. It still smells like her. I see all the smudge marks from when she rubbed her head on my arm, after I wormed her. At the time, I wasn't thrilled with all that white paste that I thought would never come out but it did...sort of. And that time that she choked and all that stuff came out of her nose. That came out too. And when I needed a cloth to wipe her face and I couldn't find one and only a sleeve would do, well, that stuff came out too. It's a really good coat now. It's been repeatedly baptized by stuff, over and over and over. Why, I would say that it fits me perfectly now. Thanks to all that character and...stuff.

26 September, 2014

A Short Course in Miracles

"Fairy tales can come true, they can happen to you, when you're young at heart..."-from the song Young at Heart, written by Johnny Richards and Carolyn Leigh
This is Haliluyah MH, an El Halimaar son out of RDM Maar Hala,  as photographed by the very talented, Christine Emmert. When I think of Haliluyah, I think of his miraculous beginning,
“Desperate to produce another foal or two, Maar Hala was left with an equine reproduction specialist in Santa Ynez. The vet was given carte blanche to ‘do whatever it takes to get her pregnant.’ By this time, Maar Hala was 21 years old but was in excellent health. At the end of the season, she was not pregnant so the decision was made to bring her home, reassess in the spring, and then decide if her reproductive career was over. At home she was pampered and treated like the queen that she was, but she was not teased and her cycles were not tracked. In April of 1995 the vet returned to examine Maar Hala to determine if it would be worth our while to try again. Upon examination, the vet told my dad to sit down because Maar Hala was pregnant. Dad exclaimed, ‘Hallelujah!’ and we had the name of Maar Hala’s next and last foal, Haliluyah MH.” -Jody Cruz, in his article, RDM Maar Hala, appearing in the September 2009 issue of The Australian Arabian Horse News
Who said miracles don't happen anymore? We just need to be more aware of them and to live each day as if it is in fact a miracle, because when you get right down to the middle of it, you are the miracle of your life. You just don't know that yet.

EnJOY,
Ralph

22 September, 2014

The Wisdom in an Overflowing Cup

"In midlife, it is tempting to succumb to the idea that because you have more years behind you than ahead, what you already know will carry you along."~Jon Katz, from Running to the Mountain
Once upon a time, an old Buddhist monk sat with a young monk who was eager and full of questions. The teacher did not acknowledge the young monk immediately and continued to pour tea into a cup without stopping. Soon, the tea was overflowing all over the table. The young monk gasped and was stunned by his teacher's actions. He did not understand what his teacher was doing.  The teacher stopped, looked at the young monk and said, "like this cup, you are full of opinions and speculations. To see the light of wisdom, you must first empty the cup."

Our modern society has become increasingly more urban. The horse now competes with many forms of recreation, some of which did not exist as recent as fifteen years ago. Mobile phones, the Internet and social media have revolutionized our method of communication with each other and set new standards and expectations of  responsiveness. Our world of Arabian horses has been hit hard and is deeply troubled, impacted by many of the same factors that other breeds have also been affected. We have an over supply of horses and not enough people who want them. Add an aging population of horse owners, meaning the people who were breeding, buying and selling the majority of horses, and as this population retires, what further impact will it have on the horse world? It's scary. I think we are all the young monk. Breeders and enthusiasts are worried about the future and I think we have far more questions than answers. I wonder if our cup is overflowing with preconceived ideas, philosophies and opinions, that have more to do with the safety of a glorified past and nothing to do with the times we find ourselves in now. So, thinking back to our little story, do you need to empty your cup first, to make room for new wisdom?

10 August, 2014

The Soulful Eye of the Arabian Horse

"The first thing an Oriental looks at when buying a horse, is the head. They look for a head full of elegance, beauty and expression. They then look at the hindquarters, and if these are satisfactory they turn their attention to the legs. These are the three most important considerations." --- Prince Mohamed Aly Tewfik, from his book, Breeding Purebred Arab Horses
"....large liquid dark eyes of oval shape set deep down towards the middle of the skull." - Carl Raswan
Pictured above is the mare, Al Amal AA, a daughter of Halim Shah I and out of The Vision HG, she was bred by Chen Kedar of Ariela Arabians and owned byKathrin Hampe Klingebiel of EOS Arabian
"The eyes are set low on the head, usually at the line which separates the upper and middle thirds. They should be large, prominent and almost oval in shape. The size of the white are of the eyeball should not be large in comparison to the black part. Eyes with too much white take much of the beauty of the typical Arabian eye."-- Dr. Ameen Zaher, from his book, Arabian Horse Breeding and the Arabians of America
  Pictured above is the straight Egyptian stallion, Ansata AlMurtajiz, a son of Ansata Hejazi and out of the mare, Ansata Samsara.
"The eye should be extremely large and dark...It should be a large blunted oval, very wide open and put into the head like that of a gazelle, and set so that when the head is in a normal position the lower edge is almost exactly horizontal." -- Lady Wentworth, from her book, The Authentic Arabian Horse.
Pictured above is the mare, Saniyyah RCA, a daughter of Mishaal HP and out of the mare, My Shooting Star.
"The indwelling gentle spirit of Arabian horses finds expression in their intelligent, sympathetic features, the glory of their beautiful countenance and in their soulful eyes." - Carl Raswan
 The late Badrilbdoor Ezzain, a daughter of NK Qaswarah and out of the Ansata AlMurtajiz daughter, Azhaar Ezzain.

07 August, 2014

Prominence

"The head is more important in Arab horses than in other breeds....the really perfect head being only seen in the horses of purest blood..." - Lady Wentworth, from her book, The Authentic Arabian Horse
The mare pictured is Maar Mara, a straight Egyptian Arabian, of Babson and Hallany Mistanny ancestry. She was bred by the late Jay Gormley and is currently owned by Marilyn Lang of Fantasia Arabians. She is a beauty.
BUT
This blog is not really about Maar Mara. It's more about a quality that Maar Mara possesses that I wanted to point out. The most excellent blog of Edouard al-Dahdah, Daughters of the Wind, is visited sometimes by a guest blogger, a Bedouin named Pure Man, who once wrote about the prominence of the facial crest bone and the esteem that the Bedouin felt for this breed hallmark. See the white arrows that are pointing to each side of her face?
"Among the Arabians the KUHAYLAN (masculine type) has the shortest and widest (broadest) head with the most details (fine tracery of veins, wrinkles, 'bumps', bulges, 'tear-bones', etc.) 'engraved' upon its intelligent features." - Carl Raswan, from his article, The Head of the Arabian, published by Western Horseman magazine
Those are her facial crest bones or as Raswan explains, "tear-bones." If you can magnify the picture, can you see how prominent this bone is? Can you appreciate the width or the degree of the flare (protrusion) of this bone? The prominence of this bone is unique to Arabian horses. If you were to lay your thumb on this area, as a way to measure the width of this bone, the distance would approximate close to half your thumb. In Bedouin breeding, the prominence of the facial crest bone is an important selection criteria. The Bedouin believed that the prominence of the facial crest bone was a clear indicator of authentic origin and horses with a more prominent bone were the horses selected for breeding, among other cherished characteristics.  I am intrigued by what Pure Man explained about the prominence of the facial bone. What do you think?

EnJoy,
Ralph

04 August, 2014

GODZILLA

It has been 7 months since Mimi died. In some ways, it feels like yesterday and in other ways, it feels like it happened years and years ago. Does that make sense? On most days, I am okay. Really.

            "time heals all wounds"

I have heard someone say this before. I have always disliked this saying. As a matter of fact, I despise any cliches and would gladly ban them from human language. No matter how heartfelt, this expression sounds HARSH and UNCARING. And yet, as more time continues to pass, it proves the truth of these words. It's been difficult to think of Mimi without my throat constricting and experiencing the crushing heaviness that pushes any happiness out of my life. Not having horses anymore has not only left a hole in my heart, it's left a hole in my life. Half the time, I don't know what to do with myself. Like the Dutch boy in the famous story, I am struggling to fill in the holes. 

I used to be spread so thin but there was comfort, safety and security in all of my busyness. I was so focused on the task at hand, that I really didn't have time to think about anything else. Not even addressing relationships, professional and personal goals and all of those things that I felt were in disarray and screaming for attention. You know, all the heavy stuff that I am procrastinating on. The horses kept me grounded. They centered me. Now, with them gone, I feel like I am unraveling. I know that sounds over the top and well, maybe, it is but really,
SO WHAT?
I've been dealing with it..in my own way. It's funny how a Google calendar reminder can prove that I wasn't dealing with any of it.

Reminder: Horses Wormed with Ivermectin/Praziquantel @ Every 2 months from 5pm to 6pm on day 3 

I needed to worm my horses. It was time. I even checked the cupboard to make sure that I still had enough Ivermectin on hand. Can you believe it? And then the startling realization, "listen stupid, you don't have horses anymore, remember?" And then, the tidal wave started to roar towards "the shores of my emotions" and my heart started to do "the Godzilla run" to safer shores. But no one can outrun Godzilla. No one. And there I was all over again, in dreadfully cold January with the vet pulling on her tail and guiding her body towards the ground, as the euthanasia drug started to take effect. My beautiful little mare lay on the cold, hard, frozen ground,  as life slowly ebbed out of her. No matter how much I try to forget, this is one of the more stubborn images. It just kills me and sends me to a bad place every time. I wish that I could just forget. But that's my problem. I don't think I am able to forget, because once upon a time, Mimi lived. To forget her death, would mean that I would forget her life. Death is part of living. One is always followed by another, right? Death teaches us how short and fragile life is. And when the absence of another causes great pain, THEN, if we think we have failed in life to accomplish anything meaningful or significant, we can be comforted in knowing that yes, we have been successful in exercising a love that knows no limits. As a matter of fact, on the same day that Google sent the reminder to worm the horses; Google also delivered my daily reflection and buried within this reflection, I read the following,
"...to realize more fully the reign of God on earth by means of sincere witness, increased mutual understanding, mutual respect for human dignity, and the exercise of a love that knows no limits."--On Our Way: Christian Practices for Living a Whole Life, edited by Dorothy C. Bass and Susan R. Briehl 
There are no coincidences in life. We are commanded to love and to love generously...everyone and everything. And if there is one truth that is able to ground me in this sorrowful time, it is love. And at the very core, the bedrock of my relationship with Mimi, was love. That's my nugget of truth. Because why else would this hurt so much if there was no such thing as love involved? I am so grateful that I was able to experience it. Every one should love like that. My Mimi, I loved that little mare.

EnJoy,

Ralph

PS I deleted the series of worming appointments on my calendar, to avoid more reminders.




25 June, 2014

Still Looking for Carl Raswan

"The Bedouin explained to me that Ishmael had attained that sense of Oneness of life, which does not any longer separate man's feelings of love from animals. He had learned the mystery how to project himself into the soul of the creature and how to become One with the mare and her life energy. He grew in consciousness of the love that binds all living things to each other and to their Creator."-Carl Raswan from his article in Western Horseman, The Head of the Arabian
All my life, I feel like I have been on a quest,
hunting...
looking...
searching...
to find a particular horse, a special horse, a horse so elusive and yet,
I know him...
I have come really close. It's like having a word on the tip of your tongue but you can't say it. The word flashes for a fraction of a second in your mind and still... 
you can't say it. 
I can see this horse. Like the forgotten word, he's in my mind. I can see him. I can hear him. I can even feel the silkiness of his fine coat, as my hand glides over his smooth body and yet, I find it difficult to use just the right word to identify him, to define him, to say just the right words that will give flesh and bone to an imagined dream, so that everyone can see how magnificent this horse is too. I agonized over my frustration until, I read Raswan's books. Carl Raswan knew a horse like this too. His horse was ancient and Greek. His words, his description, strike a chord of similarity for my struggle with a similar horse. The elusive horse he saw in his mind, overflowing with a special quality, "that extra something" which led him out of his comfort zone into  the desert to look for him.
"Some day I must know these people of the desert. I must find the beautiful ancestral horse of the frieze on the Parthenon. But my quest may be for a mythical horse which no longer exists."-Carl Raswan from his book, Drinkers of the Wind
Carl Raswan...It seems like in these modern times, almost everyone has an opinion of a man who is often misunderstood and one of the leading characters in the history of the Arabian Horse.  The perspective of "hindsight" can be cruel, harsh and indifferent. We fail to fully understand the sacrifices that people have made. We don't savor the hardship nor the frustrations that authors like Raswan experienced in searching, discovering, writing and sharing the information we decide to use or not use today. Much of what is said about Raswan concerns the many words that he used to describe the Arabian horse.  Raswan is criticized because in his later writings, he contradicts his earlier work. Some people feel that his words glorified only the horses owned by his financial supporters. In the perspective of "hindsight", we lose tolerance, compassion and respect. It is deep within the criticism that I found Raswan and the passion he had for the Arabian horse. I understand what he was trying to say. I have difficulty finding the perfect words to describe the classic horse that I also yearn for deeply, like he did. What is an authentic Arabian horse? Do you know the answer? Raswan spent his whole life trying to answer that question.  Not only do I find it challenging to use the right words to describe my perfect horse; my perfect horse is constantly evolving and changing. I will contradict what I told you today, with what I will say tomorrow. I may have described my ideal horse very differently yesterday, thinking that my ideal horse existed only in the pastures of Ansata Arabian Stud but I evolved, and I  learned painfully, that the world of the classic Arabian horse was much bigger than Ansata.  I developed a passion for other paddocks and other pastures,where equally beautiful and classic horses ran freely. And here I am
TODAY
having lived a lifetime of incredible horse experiences and not any closer to identifying THAT HORSE. Such is the way with a mind that is open and free, with words and feelings, passion and spirit...they never remain the same because as a person, I am not the same. I am different today, as I will be one month, six months, one year from now. Why do we have difficulty accepting the same for Carl Raswan? Was he any different from you or me?  

So, once again, I set out on a journey to find Carl Raswan. As elusive as the ideal Arabian horse is to find; it is just as challenging to embrace Carl Raswan, his heart, his spirit, his passion and understand the journey that he spent a lifetime living.
"But there was something about this emaciated little chestnut stallion that fascinated me, though he was not much to look at and certainly had not been groomed for ages past. He had four white feet, and a white star on his forehead--a head bold and angular as jagged rock. And his enormous eyes were like those of a gazelle." -Carl Raswan, from his book, Drinkers of the Wind
Raswan was unique, a special man, thorns and all, whom you learn to treasure. Jim Carrey the actor and comedian, in the commencement speech he delivered to Maharishi University of Management said, 
"you can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about the pathway to the future but all there will ever be, is what's happening here and the decisions we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear." 
I have to be honest that initially, I didn't like the man, for maybe, many of the reasons that people have criticized him. And there are still moments when I am not really sure how I feel about him. But Raswan lived his moments, with the information that was available to him....
IN THAT MOMENT.
We criticize Raswan's philosophy, how many moments separated from when he lived, forgetting that we have been blessed with more information about the Arabian horse than the information available in Raswan's day. So what's important about Raswan, you ask? I'll tell you. It's the gradual awakening to the theme of Raswan's message that really got me. He deeply loved the Arabian horse. And that's what forced me over the great divide of accepting Raswan...LOVE. Carl Raswan lived the moments of his whole life, choosing love, that is, love for the Arabian horse. His driving force, his mission,  was to open the minds of people, so that they can love the Arabian horse, as he did. Somehow, in the love that he had for the horse, he discovered that he was not separate from the horse; he was
one with the horse.
I believe that's where you will  find Raswan, the very human and fragile Raswan, who made mistakes, frustrated and angered people, changed his mind over and over and yet, always chose love over fear in any decision he made. He knew the authentic Arabian horse personally and...he really loved the Arabian horse.

EnJOY the happy summer,
Ralph