A Peace in their Presence

Posted by Sharon Labels: ,

Although late morning, the air holds a chill - after all it is still March - and the rails I lean on are slippery with frost. Not a breathe of breeze stirs the towering tops of the Douglas firs but I can hear the soft twitterings of a few birds in the branches. I look down at the river, frozen yet, so still now, so swift in the summer. I turn my face to the sun to soak up the welcome warmth.

Is the deep sense of tranquillity I am feeling born of these surroundings? I ponder that for a moment ... until I look into the eyes of my favourite mare, Silk, standing in the sun on the other side of those slippery, frosty rails. I know then that the peace settling into my body emanates from her and the other two other mares beside her. One by one, all three come to the fence; one by one, they each gently touch me with their nose. I look around me - all my horses, in pens around the yard, emit off that same quiet energy.

I've often said that I love where I live because it is so peaceful, but in fact, it probably doesn't matter where I call home. Since I have always had and always will have horses living with me, I will always know that serenity if I am aware because it is they who provide that. Of course I have always known that but this morning I felt the shroud of peace - as real and tangible as the horses themselves.

"It's simple enough," I think. "There is peace in their presence." 

Getting to Know Me

Posted by Sharon

I’ve been looking through photo albums lately- the ones with hard copy photos in them, not “albums” on my computer! It all started when I was looking for a one particular photo and it escalated from there to a journey back in time. As I flipped though the pages, I decided I should do a more thorough job. I would scan, not all of them, but ones of particular interest to me or my family so they could be stored forever in digital files. In this process, I came across many of me and, with them, memories. Many involved horses (no surprise there!) but there were also a few documenting a little-known or forgotten side of me– even to me. So many of you know me mostly as a horse breeder or a reiner. Probably there are many that cannot imagine me in non-horsey situations so the focus of this blog post is "Sharon without horses". Here are a few pictures of the parts of me that together with the horse part, make me who I am:

I am a mother and a grandmother.
I am the mother of three children - Shayne, Cindy and Lana. Although my children have told me I am not a typical grandmother (whatever that is!), I love spending time with my grandchildren. I have four - Kendra, Adara, Larissa and Jaden. Little known fact: I worked as a nanny for a few months one winter in Saskatchewan.

Me with my daughter, Cindy

Me with my granddaughter,Kendra.

I love music.
I play violin and once played second violin with an orchestra. I also sang in a large choir. I also play guitar just well enough to accompany myself singing and I play the piano mostly by ear, although I can read music and sometimes try to play that way. I still pick up the violin once in a while but it is one of those instruments that one needs to play often to play well!

Junior Orchestra 1957 Oliver BC (I am third from outside second row left)

Junior Orchestra 1958 Oliver BC (I am outside second row on right)

I played basketball.

Kyle Composte Basketball Team
I absolutely loved basketball and I played center for the high school team. We had an excellent coach - Mr Johnson. I remember one game that was going badly because the opposing girls were getting rough. He took a couple of us off the floor and I asked why. "Because even if they are not acting like ladies you are going to," he replied.

I made the   University of Saskatchewan team but quit before I ever played a game because I thought I could not keep my grades up, a decision I regretted...

I took up archery for a few years.

My husband was the one who got me started in archery and I enjoyed practicing and going to archery shoots (where we competed walking a course and shooting at "animals" in different positions and different distances. Although I never won anything (that wasn't the point anyway), I did shoot a "robin hood" at the range - one arrow in the center of the target and another splitting that arrow. My husband was impressed, but I didn't even know it was a good thing. I complained that I wrecked two arrows!

I love to swim.

1994 - Swimming Hawaii
I only put on a bathing suit to hot tub these days, but I used to swim as much as I could. I loved the water and tried diving, water skiing and even surfing! The dive I remember is one off of a very high cliff into Gallager Lake - I know now I should never have been diving into rocks but what convinced me not to do it again was the huge belly flop I did! I only water skiied once (ony because I did not have access to skis or boat) and I couldn't get up - kept pushing myself backwards. (The guy driving the boat wanted me to give up but I kept trying) The surfing happened on my 50th birthday in Hawaii. I wish I had a photo but the only one I could find is this one taken on the same holiday. (I hated this pic at the time - funny how it's all relative - wouldn't allow a photo now!)

I am a fisherwoman!

My first catch!
Well, not really but I did fish a few times. Mostly I liked sitting in the boat in tanning weather, but it was more interesting if I caught a fish. First time was with my boyfriend in Lake of the Woods, Ontario where this photo was taken. That's the first fish I caught - a pickeral. One time there, I thought I snagged a log - turned out to be a huge jackfish. I reeled him in like a pro.

I love to cook.
I've always said I am sorry for a woman who does not like to cook because she has to do so much of it. Fortunately for me, that was not the case. I learned to cook at an early age from my mother, who was an excellent cook. I have always made my own bread, prepare most dishes from scratch and once in a while I experiment with a complicated new recipe.

I am an avid gardener.
I don't believe I have ever not had a garden since the first year I was married in 1964. Sometimes, when I moved it meant digging up a small plot and fighting weeks and quack grass for the first year, but I always had my own garden vegetables. I still do. I also grow stawberries and raspberries - don't know what I would do without my own fruit. Flowers, too, I like, especially roses. I miss the wonderful rose garden I had in Armstrong, but still manage to brighten my home in the Chilcotin with petunias, pansies and various perennials.

I love to dance.
Dancing is a little like swimming - I don't do it anymore - but there was a time when I wouldn't miss a chance to dance. I like all dances (even square danced the first winter I was married) - waltz, polka, two step, schottische and jive. I remember at a horse show dance in Swan River, Manitoba a girlfriend and I just about cleared the floor jiving! We had waited a while for someone to ask us to dance and when no one did (that we wanted to dance with), we chose each other. What fun!
In Saskatchewan, a friend and I drove 100 miles once a week to learn to line dance. Later, in BC, I taught line dancing for a couple of winters.

So there you have it - a little information about me outside my passion for horses. I suppose I am the sum of all these parts.

Happy Birthday, Kirby!

Posted by Sharon Labels: ,

There can really only be one topic for this day's post on my blog. Today is Kirby's birthday and it is her day. Some of you already know that I am preparing to lose her; some may think I already have. But my old Samoyed, my faithful friend and companion is still with me and we are celebrating her 13th birthday today.

Kirby came to me in 1998 - a busy ball of white fluff...

... that grew into a beautiful adult dog.

Through the ensuing years, she was with me almost 24/7. At home she did chores with me morning and night, laid at the edge of the arena as I rode, slept with me in the barn when I foaled out the mares and "helped" herd the younguns out the door. Although she was never in the stall she knew when a new foal had arrived and waited for her first peek from the door. Oddly enough, my mares did not mind having her around. At night, she slept by my bed and once alerted me to an intruder. Although not really a watch dog, she guarded both my truck and camper with fierce loyalty. She travelled with me to all reining shows and would not leave the outfit if she saw me preparing to load. She even entertained me and others with tricks - sit, stay, down, crawl, play dead, rollover (all with hand signals), dance and jump through a hula hoop.

We've become even closer, Kirby and I, in these last months. I am reluctant to let her go. Six weeks ago, I called the vet with every intention of taking her in. I couldn't get through the call without tears and, even though I made every preparation for the event, I called the next morning to cancel. Since that day, I have been grateful for every day we have had. In an odd way, I enjoy caring for her. Maybe it is because she needs me, but more likely it is because I need her. I so hoped she would pass away in her sleep at home where she would not be afraid but it has not come to pass.

Kirby is blind but she hears. She takes great comfort in my voice and all the familiar sounds of the house - the television, my steps across the floor, my voice on the telephone... She eats anything she wants now but her appetite is not good so I try different things and hold the dish for her to eat. I have to carry her outside to go to the bathroom.

It's incredibly sad to see her lose her independence. I wish she could talk to tell me what she is thinking. One thing I am sure of: she is very glad I did not get a new puppy. She knows she is still the only dog in my life. Happy, happy birthday, old dog!

It's Complicated

Posted by Sharon Labels:

This past week I was contacted by a prospective buyer for one of my horses. I talked with her on the phone, answered her questions, then spent a few hours looking through my videos and posting one for her to view on YouTube. Do I think this could be a good fit for her? Yes. Will she buy? I don’t know. Is she looking at other horses? She would be foolish not to. As a matter of fact, I am looking for her. I emailed a friend about a horse she has for sale because, you see, I want this lady to be really satisfied if she buys my horse.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole process of selling horses. It's not as open as I would like it to be. I know many trainers do not refer prospective buyers to other trainers or other horses, but I think it’s good for the business in general. Certainly it speaks well of us all if we can, with good intentions and affable spirit, send a prospective buyer to someone else. The way I look at it is this: if that buyer comes back to me, it's because he really wants my horse!

The longer I’m in this business, the more disenchanted I am with some of the “politics” involved selling horses. As a friend of mine said many years ago, “I don’t see why it’s so hard.” (He was actually talking about relationships and marriages, but that’s a whole other topic...) Maybe why it’s hard is because there’s money involved, but it might be more about power and prestige. It’s a little like “Who has the most toys?” only it’s “Who can sell the most horses?” I have personally experienced a real reluctance to refer buyers to me and jealousy (to the point of “scooping” the sale) when a prospective buyer approaches me. Three things happen to Wildwood Reining Horses because of this: I lose a few prospective buyers when they are snatched by another trainer, I do not get many referrals and someone's missing an opportunity to own a well-bred, raised-and-trained-with-love-and-care horse!

And then there is the question of commission. If someone refers a buyer, is commission payable? I think it is – both ways! I learned this the hard way. Several years ago, I referred a buyer to a friend who I knew had a mare that might be suitable. I did not intend to charge commission since no previous arrangement had been made and she was a friend. Two weeks later my farrier told me she had sold the mare to that the person I referred to her! I had not only not been offered commission (which I would not have accepted), I didn’t even get a phone call and a “thank you” (which was all I expected)! After that experience, I have made it my policy to make it clear to everyone (no exeptions) that I expect a commission if I sell their horse. It’s fair. I have a well-established business that took a life time to build and, most of all, this is my business. Selling horses, whether mine or not, is part of my livelihood.

Another, rather sticky, issue that rears its head is how to deal with a sale that goes wrong - the horse goes unsound, the buyer does not do well with the horse or, for some reason is not satisfied. My first impulse is to buy the horse back. I don't want one of my horses with an owner that does not want him. That's the sentimental side of me talking; the business side knows I need to weigh each case individually. If the buyer has had the horse for some time, has trained, ridden and showed, then it is not my responsiblity or in my best interest, to buy back. I would not be getting the same horse back that I sold. If the horse is lame, how long after the sale did it show up? (This has never happened to me, but I have heard of plenty of cases!) I always recommend a vet check for trained reining horses - it protects both the buyer and me. Not everyone does. A vet check is an option for prospects as well, but I've never known a buyer to request one. The bottom line is this: If the buyer has had every opportunity to look at other horses, ride mine, and get an approval from a veterinarian, then I should not feel a responsibility to buy the horse back - even if I want to.

Maybe I don’t fight hard enough for business - after all, that’s the way the business world works - but, at this stage in my life, it’s highly unlikely I will change. I take great pride in the horses I raise and train and I'm as honest as I know how to be when I advertise them for sale. I feel a tremendous responsibility, especially when I sell a trained reiner and, of course, I love all my horses. It's hard to see them leave in another trailer. I want my customers to be absolutely sure before they buy.

“It’s my dream to own a Wildwood," a lady wrote to me in an email. Comments like that make selling horses a pleasure - my pleasure.