Welcome to Fern Valley

Here in central Alberta prime farm country,my husband Martin and I work together raising beef cattle and Appaloosa horses. Fern valley appaloosas have long been known for their quality of temperament conformation and color.I have recently rediscovered a love of writing and have published 2 collections of poetry. "Telling Tails" and Tails Trails and Campfire stories" . I look forward to a future spreading my wings as an author and as a horse woman .

Friday, 16 February 2018

Revisiting an honorable mention

Well I haven't been blogging again for a while, but I have been writing,m I do have more to share, and I will actually get back to that "my Next 50 yrs" post  but for now I have a little news to share.
I entered a short story writing contest with the Canadian Horse defense coalition  a while back. And just received notification and a prize saying I had won  fourth place!
Not bad  at all.
So here is the story I shared.

An Unpolished Jewel
I am opening this story, rather this honorable mention, with a poem.
I am doing so for a couple of reasons. First, it is my preferred style of writing, I find that the lyrical quality of poetry shares my feelings and thoughts more easily. And second, the topic of this particular poem speaks to the story in some way. Horses teach us in so many ways if we are open to learning. We often approach training a horse like we are the wiser, stronger, and more capable in the partnership. In my humble opinion it is that attitude that is often the catalyst for abuses of animals. When we can recognize and celebrate the mutual benefits that are availed us by animals, then we can properly learn and begin to teach.

When training a horse
 Here is a secret I have learned
 More often than not
 The tables are turned
While we go along
Thinking we are teaching
The horse goes along with
 what we are preaching
 but look a bit deeper
and you see a surprise
The very best teacher
 Resides in their eyes
 We ask them to give, to lead on a line
 They teach us of patience,
 respect and of time
We get on their backs,
 as really we must
 They show us the ultimate form of trust
 We teach about pressure, contact and release
 They show us their honesty,
 and willingness to please
We push them and try them
 and ask them to give
 they give us all that and
 They teach us to live

This is the story of C7 Sparks Jewel. A lovely and troubled Appaloosa mare I was blessed to know and own.
I bought Jewel as a 5 yr. old. A friend had called me about a registered Appaloosa mare that she (or someone) had "rescued" the details were pretty shady all things considered . The mare had come from what was described as a "bad situation”. Not a lot of detail given, other than her age, her papers, the fact that she had had 3 foals (that means bred as a long yearling!) and was very spooky and thin.
Helluva deal right?
Well I went and got her anyway. It took more than 2 hours to load her in the trailer, an exercise in patience and determination, I was only to begin to learn just how much patience and determination I was going to need when it came to this horse. She and I were sweaty and exhausted, and I believe both questioning the judgement of this particular venture. Poor Jewel! She was an honest horse, just flat out scared! I kept this thin nervous little darlin’ in a box stall for a few weeks trying to get her settled. Daily handling, which involved me standing in the door of the stall while she ran in circles and backed into the corner working herself into a total frenzy dripping with sweat and spraying loose manure in all directions, until she let me put my hand on her, then slowly I got a rope, then halter on her and took her out for a walk and some green grass. I would get her dried off ,brushed her a little then start all over again the next day. I honestly began to think I was never going to get through to her. Especially one day, I had her standing in the alley, tied (not hard and fast, but enough to keep her there) she somehow got the rope over her ears, and immediately began to panic! As much as I wanted to step in and help her, as soon as I got close her panic increased to the point I thought she would do herself real harm! Patience is key with all horses and especially with those who have suffered abuse! I don’t really know how long it took (probably only a few moments, but it felt like years, standing quietly talking to her and inching ever closer till I could finally help her. Got her settled and put her in the stall. I went to the house that day thinking, I was just not the person for the job. And the wisest and kindest thing to do would be to find her someone else to try. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that day was a turning point for me and my Jewel. The next day I went in and I cannot tell you it was perfect, but there was a subtle change in her, the frantic look was less and it took just a little less time to get my hands on her. I continued the regime with her but moved her out into a larger outdoor pen, and eventually into the herd. Jewel was never a pocket pony, and if anyone else was around I could not catch her for many years, but slowly she appeared to be at a minimum, at peace in her world and to feel safe around me and on my farm. And from time to time she seemed to return affection. I worked within her limitations, and always caught her first while I was still alone for vet and farrier visits.
This mare had clearly had a rough go of it somewhere in her life, but I was hesitant to call abuse without other input .My farrier at the time was an incredible horseman, and he agreed that this was not just a crazy horse, and that among other things she had likely
had a nerve line/war bridle used on her (she would barely tolerate a halter, and it took years for me to be able to touch her ears) I never got her whole story, of who owned her before she was rescued, or how she came to be in the care of my friend. Maybe that's lucky, as I believe if I ever found the sonova buck that did the damage to that mare ... well let’s just say things might have gotten a little “western”.
Jewel was never trained to ride or drive, I felt at that time and still do that it might have been too much pressure for her. However, she was not without a career. Jewel was a momma! And what a mamma she was! After getting her settled and healthy, we did raise foals from her. The first one we kept to be sure that the, temperament issues we not a factor of genetics. I kept Jewel till she was 25, and after she suffered a stroke sadly had to let her go. In all that time she settled and was accepting of my handling her, I never really sure I had been able to heal the scars in her mind. That said… A testament to her, and to horse’s ability to overcome and their resilience and loyalty, was an episode where one of her foals had sadly been killed by a cougar. I was walking the property searching for the foal or any evidence of the loss, Jewel was with me the whole day, and constantly pushing me away from a ravine area which later proved to have been the epicenter of the initial attack. Was the cougar still there at that time? I will never know for sure. But as sure as she came to trust me, I trusted her. Many of the horses I have known, I have memorialized in a list of “honorable mentions . Telling their stories and remembering them. Jewel was certainly one I felt compelled to write about as well. And honorable mention, for an honorable mare

Stay safe  friends!

Friday, 12 January 2018

Goodbye to the Guardian

This is a farewell post. Not so much a sad one but certainly melancholy.

 28 yrs ago was born the first son of my old stallion  Chips, and out of  my good mare Sherry's April Sunshine. "Stryker", or  Lucky Stryke ,the name, a combination of a movie(BL Stryker) I had seen and a pack of american cigarettes lol)

He was an awesome horse! Never really had a lot of saddle time  for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is he was a giant! lol .I started him and he taught me so much in return. He taught me about patience, loyalty, and the ever present reality that if you are not clear in your mind and actions you will not get what you (think ) you asked for.
Stryker, the king of the "if you don't do anything, you don't do it wrong" lol  When he was learning ,if he got confused at all he would simply stop moving altogether. Not bad from a walk or a jog but at higher speeds it got a little dicey lol .
I got hurt not long after I started him and sent him out for more work. When he returned he was great but as I said  for one reason or another he started his retiremnt early.
Not to say he didn't have work...

He was herd guardian, mentor to young ones,

Teacher, and manners police! and the old man had some moves! 

A brief, but stunning career as an equine super model lol . Only ever stood for this one photo shoot but he was all over the project!

And finally he was a friend, to me to the herd and to many  people who came to know him

I was fearful that Stryker would one day go down and not be able to get up. He was not thin or ill , just old and losing muscle mass and having difficulty maintaining his weight, I felt rather than risk him suffering...

I saw a video not long ago  in which a gentleman who was a Psychiatrist , and an indigenous scholar said (an forgive me if I butcher this in paraphrasing) That it is Okay to die on a good day, that when you die there is a party where your ancestors gather to greet you. And you should feel good for your party! . Not to say this should be rushed. just not feared.
Well I chose to believe this, and to that end,  We sent my sweet old boy to his party with a belly full of grain, a fresh brushing and our love.
He was the last of the old guard, I will miss him. But I did my best for him and that gives me comfort . This poem is older but it fits, and it is shown on my calendar on his photos.
Give me a horse
Give me a horse
With good heart and mind
Yes give me a horse
And I’ll find the time
Give me the knowledge
To manage his care
To teach and to train
In a manner that’s fair
Give me the space
And days in the sun
To first learn to walk,
Then learn to run
Give me the push
To do what I need
To earn both our keep
And pay for his feed
Give me the courage,
When he’s done his best
When his time is done
To put him to rest
Leave me the horse
In my mind and heart
The joy and the memories
Right from the start
Yes give me a horse
And I‘ll do the rest
As he does for me
I’ll give him my best

Stay safe my friends. and I will get back to that "in my next 50 yrs post " soon! 

Friday, 5 January 2018

2017 review

So 2017 has come and gone, and it was a year.
A year of joy and tears and growth.
I didn't blog much ,and I have come to grips with the fact that at  2017 was not a year for me to be writing, at least not on the blog. But I am not giving up.I had a pretty big bobble in my spirits with the loss of my beloved johnny Handsome  this year. But life is a constant circle. Because before that heartbreaking loss came a time of great joy, that carried through and continues to bring this family smiles of wonder and pure joy with the birth of my great niece  Birdie Patricia!And let me tell you, through all of this year she has lit up our world!

 I got a new mare this year,from a fellow breeder, Jenny's Spirit Hawk. She is bred to Phoenix for a 2018 foal! 

Speaking of foals, on May 02 (my birthday at 12:05 am  "Imagine That" daughter to FV Sparks image was born. Not my horse but in my care for her arrival, kind of a grand foal, since her Dam is Maggie ,a mare I raised here.

Oh yeah, my birthday...
I turned 50! and had not one but 2 birthday parties! 

Then another visit with Birdie for Mothers day , or Aunties day depending on your perspective! 

HAd a guest here on the farm for a while , Eurus the Quiet Giant came to stay for a few months 

I was blessed to attend a special wedding, Katie and Mark, Katie is the daughter of a dear friend ,and as honorary Auntie I wouldn't have missed it ! 

We have come a long way together Katie and I , from ponying her and sister Amy on their little Rio, and I on the "solar powered" Boomer! 

The boys continue to be ,just who they are and the rest of the critters seems to be doing well

Happy New Year Everyone! As always  stay safe! 
Hopefully a new post soon. I can tell you my plans for my next 50 yrs! 

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Christmas plans

It’s a few days yet till Christmas Eve, but here is my plan;
As you close your eyes on Christmas Eve 
What do you wish 
What do you 
Do you pray for the
little ones
That they be safe wrapped in love
Or for help to the lost ones
from angels above
Dream of peace in this world of darkness and war
Or that very first Christmas that promised us more
The creatures, the shepherds, the magi came from afar.
To honour the miracle under that
holy star
On this Christmas Eve as the darkness descends
I’ll pray for each of my family and friends
I’ll pray for the wanderers, the lost, and alone.
I’ll pray that those souls find comfort and home.
I’ll pray for the little ones for their world is brand new.
And I’ll wish all Merry Christmas
Yes that’s what I’ll do

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Picture this

Because I seem to be the absentee blogger these days. There are a LOT of photos that I have taken and not shared  over the summer. Having just completed the 2018 Fern Valley Calendar, I decided to share some of the pictures here. I have done something a little different with the calendars this year, adding some thoughts/ quotes  to each page. What my nephew Robert calls "Auntie Sherryisms"

Over the next few posts I will share some of the pictures and thoughts from the summer.

Just  a few t get started, lots more to come! 
as always, stay safe! 

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

International Girls day

Not a horse or farm post. In light of today being international day of the girl I thought I would share this

"For the girls " 
Who is this woman?
Who is this girl? 
She's somebody's daughter,
she's somebody's world.
She is meek she is fierce. 
She shy she is bold. 
A she wolf or angel 
She is young
She is old 
She's not just her looks
or the hue of her skin 
she is,
for magic, 
comes from within.
Who is that woman 
Who is that girl 
She's somebody's daughter 
She's somebody's world.

So for all of the girls! Mothers daughters , sisters friends! 
Its your day! 
Stay safe 

Friday, 6 October 2017

Giving Thanks

It’s been a pretty tough week for many,
And catastrophic for others.
As we in Canada go into our thanksgiving weekend, it might be a little hard to see the rainbows in this world. We are daily deluged with images of the evil that mankind is capable of.
We are also offered images, if we look past the horrors, of kindness, grace, joy, love and faith.
Of babies, and heroes, of nature and beauty.
If we take the time to look…
I was asked the other day if I watched the game on TV?
 Nope, I was outside watching the moon rise and the stars dance.
I committed early this week to a daily thankfulness “what went right” ritual. I have not posted actual statements, but I have tried to share some of the beauty that surrounds me.
Going forward into the weekend, I am thankful, thankful for the beautiful area I lie, the eyes to see it, and heart to feel it.
The family I will see, and those I will think of on this weekend.
The heritage recipes that my mom, and grandmothers, and friends have taught me as I prepare the dinner for many of my loved ones.
That my grandma Horricks taught my sister heather to make the world’s most wonderful pastry, so that she can bring her amazing pumpkin pie, and that while I am blessed to have my very own “Kitchen MacGyver” as a sister, I will likely never have to subject folks to my pastry making skills!

Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian family and friends. 
And to all of my family and friends, stay safe! You are my blessings