In which the ears are the keys to good communication with horses

I grew up speaking "feline," which is a largely gestural/postural language.

If you pay attention, you will see cats doing most of their communication with their bodies, especially with the position of their ears and tails.  Not so much with the vocals.

The equine language can be considered a dialect of feline.  Again, the emphasis is on ears and tails, but other body parts are also quite expressive.  Like cats, horses mostly vocalize for emphasis.

I was always taught to look past the horse's ears while riding.  Looking at the ears would cause riders to drop their heads and stop paying attention to the outside world, and then chaos and mayhem would break loose.  Right?

But in my first lesson with guest instructor Ralph Drietzler yesterday, the emphasis was on my horse's ears, and the information her ears gave me.

"Relax back," he told me.  When he said that, my posture improved...and the Dragon's ears went forward.

Every time I tip or tense a muscle that…

In which the baby horse goes zoom and does a bunch of other cute stuff

On a beautiful blue-sky day in winter, it's hard to stay still!

In which we start the year with something old, something new, and something blue

 Here's the blue:

This is becoming a tradition:

The sky wasn't blue, but it wasn't throwing anything nasty down either.  We'll call that a win.

Here's the new thing:

To be clear:  this activity is new to me.  

Fiddle (and Dory) know what they're doing, but I am at the very bottom of the learning curve, looking up.  We're practicing ground driving in harness for now, so I can get the hang of things.

And also,

We've enjoyed* several vigorous windstorms recently, which left trees and branches across many of our routes.

I was working on clearing one such today, when I was spontaneously joined by another rider and two hikers, who took turns with me yanking and sawing to get the tree out of our path.

With the route clear

we all made it to the turnaround point:

Pretty view, pleasant company.

In which we close out the holiday with a story about virtue

This is the final story-gift for this season.  May your year be bright and prosperous!
The Thief (Korea) Long ago, there was a thief--not just any thief, but the greatest thief that ever lived.
The police knew he was a thief, but could not catch him. The judges knew he was a thief, but could not try him. Even the king himself knew of this thief.
But, thieves are like any other person—they grow old. One day, when the thief was an old man, he was shopping for tea in a local shop. When he reached for his pocket, he realized he had no money.
He smiled to himself and thought, “Why do I need money? I’m a thief.”
He slipped the jar of tea into his sleeve and walked out the door.
As he walked down the street, a hand caught him by the shoulder and spun him around. It was a young police officer. “I watched you through the shop window and saw you steal that jar of tea,” said the young officer. “You are the thief my father always talked about, the greatest thief of all times. My father always…

In which I present a cautionary story for your New Year's Eve

I know you would never do this.  
Ten Jugs of Wine (Japan) Ten old men decided to celebrate the New Year with a big crock of hot sake wine.
Since none of them could provide for all, they each agreed to bring one jug of wine for the large heating bowl.
On the way to his wine cellar, one of the men thought, "My wine is too valuable to share! No one will know. It'll never show. It'll still be fine. I'll bring a jug of water instead of the wine."
But the second man thought the same thing, and the third.In fact, each of the men decided to leave their good wine at home, and bring only water to share.
And so it was that, when they gathered with the jugs they brought, all ten old men poured the contents of their jugs ceremoniously into the big bowl and then looked sheepishly at one another as they heated and poured out hot water for all.

In which this story might make your thinking go a little bit funny

I love that boggling sound my brain makes when I read zen stories.  Enjoy!

Zen Dialogue (China) Two Zen temples each had a child protégé.One child, going to buy tea and vegetables each morning, would greet the other.
“Where are you going?” asked the one.
“I am going where my feet go,” the other responded.
This reply puzzled the first child, who went to his teacher for help.“Tomorrow morning,” said the teacher, “when you meet that fellow, ask him the same question.He will give you the same answer, and then you ask him, ‘Suppose you have no feet, then where are you going?’ Then, tell me his answer.”
The children met again the next morning.“Where are you going?” asked the one.
“I am going wherever the wind blows,” answered the other.
This surprised the second child, who returned to his teacher.
“Ask him where he is going if there is no wind,” suggested the teacher.
The next day, the children met a third time.“Where are you going?” asked the first child.
“I am going to market to buy tea an…

In which this story used to have a Dragon in it. It doesn't now.

I learned this story from teller Dan Keding, but I have really mucked around with it in retelling.  His version featured a dimwitted dragon.  I've never known a dimwitted dragon, so I changed things to make more sense.
The Old Woman and the Ogre (Romany) A long time ago, there was an old woman who had many children. She lived with them deep in the middle of the forest, sheltered in a small hovel, nothing more than a hole in the ground with a roof of branches.
One day the poor old woman made herself a honey cake and then set off to make her fortune.
She walked all morning until she came to a well. Beside the well, there was a large stone that served as a table for travelers. The old woman sat next to the stone and placed her honey cake on it, thinking she would eat the cake after she had rested a bit. Soon, she was fast asleep. While she slept the birds came down and gobbled up her honey cake, and when she woke the flies were finishing the crumbs. “Leave me nothing,” she cried wh…