Archive for New Mexico

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FollowTheLeaderThank you so much for following this blog about animals and animal communication! I wanted to let you know, however, that I have moved the entire blog to my main website and that is where new posts appear. I hope you will hop on over there to catch up and sign up to follow me at that location. And if you have a blog too, please put that in the comments there so I can check it out. Thanks so much! LetaSignature

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Native Grasses or Premium Horse Hay – Which is Best?

My sweet QH Corazon, taking her turn at liberty to chow down on some native grasses.

In my book, native grasses absolutely rule! If they are truly “native” and growing randomly and wildly, they present a smorgasborg of variety and nutrition for the ambling equine. In the wild, a horse may travel up to 20 miles a day, taking a bite or two here, moving a good distance, then sampling a few more bites there. He hardly ever stands still, and unlike us, is meant to “eat on the run” (or walk). Imagine not only the number of grasses that horse is getting, but also the varying nutrients the soil in each area provides!

Unfortunately, very few horses these days have access to a natural grazing pattern on native grasses. It’s sad, but it is true. We have some wonderful hay growers, thank goodness, but most hays are overfertilized to keep out weeds or add nutrients, so they are often overly rich or way off balance in terms of the minerals they contain.

If your horse has 10 different grasses and “weeds” to munch on, he will always know which ones he needs and will choose those first, until he’s had his fill of them. What better method for fulfilling your horse’s nutritional requirements? So for me? I’d always choose native grasses over hay, whenever possible.

In Texas my horses had access to about 500 acres 24/7 so had the great fortune to be able to pick and choose amongst the local fodder. I fed hay sometimes too, especially during drought or winter months, when grass was scant, but they always seemed to find some tempting, naturally growing morsel to complete their menu.

Here in the high desert of New Mexico things are radically different. My horses have eight acres of varied terrain but not one blade of grass therein. If one errant grass seed does dare to pop its little head up, they find it immediately and it’s toast!

I am fortunate, however, in that I do have some meadowy areas where several strains of grasses and weeds grow abundantly when we have even the slightest bit of moisture. We are in the monsoon season right now, so there’s grass galore. Whenever I can, every day or two, I turn the horses out for controlled grazing periods. Usually one at a time, since my 40 acres is not totally perimeter fenced and I don’t want to have to go chasing the herd over the hills. They love their “time in the sun” and gorge on the grasses as fast as they can, probably knowing their turn will be over in an hour or so. This rotated grazing during our grassy days really helps save on hay and really amps up everybody’s nutrition.

I know we don’t all have access to grass for our horses, or we don’t have that access all the time. But if you do, ever, try to make sure your equine gets some of it. It’s the healthiest thing you can do for him, plus it makes him just feel more like a real horse because he’s doing a real horse thing – grazing!

Corazon enjoying her grazing time with her two herd mates jealously looking on from the corral. Don't worry, they've both already had their turn to graze today. (And yes, she is wearing a halter, leather, and dragging a rope. All the better to retrieve her with if she goes on walkabout.)

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Hot, Dry, Windy and Smoky (HDWS!!) – How to Help Your Horse Under These Conditions

Some might call it coddling, but I am pulling out all the stops to help my horses get through some of the nastiest summer weather conditions they have ever been exposed to.

In spite of normally idyllic conditions, here in New Mexico (as in many Southwest U.S. areas this summer), we haven’t had a drop of rain in I don’t know how long, and wildfires are literally gobbling up the countryside all around us.

The nearest wildfire, just 30 miles away in the Sangre de Christo Mountains. It broke out yesterday.

We have had several days with zero percent humidity, and the winds are raging with gusts up to 50 mph. So smoke fills the air, and has for a few weeks now, causing sneezing, coughing, runny eyes and bad tempers. At least we can get ourselves and our small animals out of it by coming indoors. But our horses are out in it, for better or worse. 

Unlike the 500 acres they had in Texas — with lots of cover, windbreaks, and a steady creek, my horses are restricted to about eight acres here in NM. Acres made up of juniper and sage … and red dirt and sand that the wind flings mercilessly in their eyes when it’s blowing like it is now. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t go back because I can no longer take the extreme heat and humidity of Texas. And I don’t think the horses would either. But everything’s a trade-off, so helping them through such harsh conditions as we are experiencing now in N.M.  is at the top of my priority list these days.

Our New Mexico "pasture." Pretty, but very arid, and obviously this picture was not taken during the current conditions!

Here’s what I do for HDWS (hot, dry, windy & smoky).  And it’s paying off. My horses are happy and in great condition. So if you’re distressed about summer conditions where you live (even if you don’t have all four of HDWS), you might want to try some of these tips yourself.

1. Feed the horses behind shelter from the wind. Mine have a run-in barn — smaller than the one in Texas but it’s a great wind block. Normally I like to spread my horses’ hay out and about in their eight acres, so that they have to move a lot to find it. But when conditions are as they are now, the more protection I can provide, the better.

2. Keep fly masks on 24/7 whenever it’s windy, so that dirt and sand can’t blow in your horses’ eyes and irritate, or worse, cause infection or scar a cornea.

3. Amp up nutrition. I use electrolytes (to keep them drinking plenty of water), anti-oxidants, bran (if I feel the dry conditions are starting to plug them up), free-choice minerals from Advanced Biological Concepts, and probiotics, to name just a few. My personal choice for super foods for my horses are the algae-based products sold through Simplexity Health Products, but whatever products you like and have had good luck with, be sure you plug them in NOW. And I recommend a good, wet, sloppy mash at least once a day (whatever the ingredients).

4. Make sure you provide a salt block and a mineral block. Always. That’s just basic!

5. If flies and mosquitos are a problem (which they usually are NOT when the wind is blowing gale force), definitely find a good fly spray, masks and/or sheets to help your horses out. The last thing they need is huge itchy, scratchy welts on top of HDWS!

6. RINSE OR SOAK YOUR HORSES’ HAY! I think this is one of the most important things you can do, as wet hay gives your horses a cool, damp breath every time they inhale while chewing. When things are at their worst, as they are right now, I spread about half my horses’ hay rations out in a long, shallow trough (with drainage) and distribute the rest among small-holed hay nets, which I can hang under shelter or behind wind blocks. I hose everything down liberally, until it’s dripping wet. And, not surprisingly, lots of the water I see draining out from the hay is quite dirty — no doubt dust from dirt or smoke particles that have lodged in my hay stores. Whatever it is, I’m glad it’s out. And my horses seem to love the wet hay too.

Small-holed hay net (you can find these online). Picture this dripping wet.

7. Hose down your horses whenever it’s too hot, their fly spray has gunked up on them, or the dust has made them into a dirt ball. Heck, hose yourself down at the same time! Spray the hose up in the air so it falls on them like rain — they love that!! (Well, some do….)

8. Oh, and don’t work your horse too much under these conditions. Some of the smoke particulates are microscopic and can lodge in the lungs, causing damage. And some horses have weaker lungs than others — like one of my mares — so do them a favor and take every precaution. This point I got from an equine veterinarian.

All I can say, as we get through this trying time, is:  God bless the firefighters! And, please God, bring us rain!

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I know I have a few followers in the UK, so as I write this post I am thinking:  “Egads! What must my buddies in England be thinking about the horrible conditions over here!!!???” I know this post isn’t helpful for you UK horse lovers, what with your gorgeous green and lush countryside, but, even though we are experiencing just AWFUL conditions here right now, I KNOW you would love New Mexico. In fact I have family from Bath arriving any day now, and this is their favorite place to be, ever. They would all move here in a heartbeat if they could. So don’t give up on us! And thanks for reading my posts! Happy summer to you!

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Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May

Lily gathering rosebuds

I thought of that old prophetic adage this morning when I spied my precious cat, Lily, posed to take the best advantage of what little sun there was on the bottom corner of my bed.

No matter how cold, on most winter mornings my bed is flooded with New Mexico’s unmatched and  glorious sunshine, and Lily habitually naps there for hours, soaking up its life-giving warmth. This morning was a little different, a little overcast, the sun wasn’t quite its usual self and sure enough, by mid-morning there was no sun at all.  Lily must have sensed what was coming because when it did peek out for a short while, lighting up that tiny corner, she seized the moment and arrayed herself to make the best of it.

Lily is a special cat. She knows how to gather rosebuds. How to enjoy the moment, smell the coffee, make the best of any situation. She is an only cat amongst a boisterous family of five dogs, big and little, so she has to adapt on a minute-to-minute basis. And she does. Lily is grace under pressure and one could take lessons from watching her.

The Santa Fe Human Society recently held a cat photo contest as part of its ongoing and inspiring efforts to involve the community in what is one of the most successful animal shelters in the nation. I noticed the deadline was just a few days away and that there were very few entries, so I rifled through my digital cat photo files and sent in one of Lily — one I felt did not really show her off that well, but still, I was hoping that more entries would generate more entries. Lily wrote her own submission statement which you can see below the photo here.

“My name is Lily . . . short for Liliputian. I am an only cat whose purpose in life is to take care of my five dogs. This picture shows me ‘in action’ with Charlie but represents only one of the many services I offer. I am devoted to my work.”

Lo and behold. Having forgotten all about it, about ten days later Lily received a lovely letter informing her that she had won First Place in the Tabby category and Second Place in Best of Show (out of almost 40 entries)! I was floored. Lily gracefully took it in stride, neither overly proud nor feigning undeservedness. Here is a picture of Lily’s trophies, ribbons, and certificates, which I picked up on her behalf just yesterday.

We all need to take lessons from Lily. Enjoy whatever sunshine there may be. Cuddle up to your closest friend without reservation and absorb their warmth and love. Take good care of your family. And gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

Thank you, Lily, for being such a beautiful reminder of living life to the fullest in each and every moment.

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Animal Communication in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Ben and His Shy Rescue, "Bear," 2 of Saturday's Participants

Ben Swan and His Shy Rescue, "Star," Two of Saturday's Participants

WHOOOOOSH !!

That’s what this past Saturday felt like to me — like I was caught up in a maelstrom of rushing energy that was taking me for a joy ride.

Saturday was the day I participated in a multi-pronged fund-raising effort benefiting a Santa Fe organization called Kitchen Angels, a non-profit group that has distributed more than half a million meals to the disadvantaged and ailing in the 17 years it has existed. Quite an amazing feat!!

My contribution to the effort was back-to-back, 30-minute animal communication sessions all day Saturday, with all proceeds going to the Angels.

I was so amazed and impressed by the enthusiasm and interest in the event and in animal communication, and each and every session was noteworthy and gratifying. People brought their animals to find out about everything from how they liked their food to why they have seizures. And the best part was that these folks were open and willing to consider new ideas and out-of-the-ordinary suggestions.

Having moved to the Santa Fe area only a year and a half ago, I continue to be awed by not only its  climate, staggering beauty, and history (S.F. is the oldest city in the U.S.), but by the great spirit of those who live here. There are over 400 non-profit organizations in this city of only 70,000, and many of  those are dedicated to animal welfare. The Santa Fe Animal Shelter itself is cutting edge and has become a model for many other shelters throughout the country.

Frankly, I had no expectations about the future of my animal communication practice when I moved to the Santa Fe area from Texas, where I had lived all my life. It was a major transition so I wasn’t even sure I would keep the practice alive. I viewed the relocation as a time-out phase I would use to pause and take stock of my goals, my passions, and my future while getting settled in my new home.

But as you can imagine, landing in a community that is so open minded and altruistic has caught me up in its own cycle of activities and made it obvious to me that my animal communication work is still at the top of the list in terms of my life work and my personal priorities.

In this new setting I am able to focus more on giving back to the animals and the community and less on a daily, one-on-one consultation practice — an unexpected but refreshing change and one that I hope will have a much greater impact over all. Participating in fund-raisers like Saturday’s, giving talks for other non-profits like Kindred Spirits (that’s next weekend), and even writing this blog, which I began after the move and is intended to impart useful information to animal lovers, have all been inspiring and uplifting new elements in my life.

Of course nothing can substitute for working directly with the animals, so Saturday was a joy. The spirit of the animals, and how they are there for us at every turn, will always be the greatest high and at the same time the firmest anchor for all of us animal lovers. As one little fellow adamantly proclaimed to me, about the couple who brought him:

“I want you to know that these are my people!”

Doesn’t that say it all?

Thank you, Santa Feans, for rising to the occasion and nurturing peace and abundance among all species. I feel very blessed to live in such a magical and welcoming community.

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Once I decided to move to the Santa Fe area, the magic began:

Miracles Really DO Happen — at least they do to me . . .

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Miracles Really DO Happen — at least they do to me . . .

This was Susan. Always on the back of a horse or with her children when she wasn't painting.

This book cover captures Susan's style and spirit. She was always on the back of a horse or with her children and other animals when she wasn't painting.

Once upon a time, in the middle of the 20th century, a beautiful nature spirit was born, in the form of a human woman. This woman was named Susan Hertel and she spoke to all of nature and painted it as well, and became quite famous for her art. Robert Redford, who was a collector of her work, in his tribute to her upon her death put her in the “irreplaceable” category and said she was a source of joy that was unforgettable. I never met Susan, and don’t have a picture of her, but this self-portrait captures her essence and her art beautifully. Susan has been my ideal for many years, and I think it’s more than the fact that her paintings go deep into my heart. I think it’s also karmic. Here’s the story.

In 1987 I saw a very small print of one of Susan’s paintings at a friend’s house. A very simple image: two horses in a snowstorm with their rumps turned to the viewer. I was spell-bound and inquired as to the artist. As things turned out, Susan lived and painted near Santa Fe, New Mexico, where my brother had just moved, and was represented by a very famous gallery there. I made my first trip to visit him just weeks after seeing her painting, so of course visited the gallery and stood in awe in front of her actual paintings, which were huge, life-size canvases, mainly of horses and animals. I read her bio and learned that she lived and painted in the hills of Cerrillos, N.M., 25 miles south of Santa Fe. I had always wanted to paint, my entire life, but for some reason suppressed the desire. Seeing her paintings inspired me to perhaps, some day, begin painting in the way I envisioned, which just so happened to be similar to what I saw on her canvases. Needless to say, every time I visited my brother during the next few years, I went to the gallery and viewed Susan’s latest works. How I wished I could have one on my wall! And how I felt I would never be able to. They were VERY expensive!!! But then, in the early ‘90’s, her work seemed to disappear.

Fast forward to the Fall of 2008. I had decided to move from Texas to Santa Fe and had looked at properties there for over a year. I owned horses and lots of animals and lived on a 200-acre ranch in Texas, so I needed property outside of town appropriate for my lifestyle. Although I had made an offer on one place, it was really too small, and nothing else was turning up, or was out of my price range.

Long story short: One day in October my brother, Robin, called me to say he had run into Kevin, a realtor and friend, someone I also knew and who had visited my ranch and knew I was moving, and Kevin said he had the perfect place for me and that it was not on the market yet. Robin went to see it two days later and called me from his cell phone on the way home, very excited. He gave me a description of the property (a pueblo-style adobe home plus an artist’s studio and barn, on 40 acres, and the price was right), and then added as an afterthought: “Oh, and it was built by an artist who painted horses, maybe you’ve heard of her, Susan Hertel.” I was driving when he called and almost went off the road.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

I hopped out to New Mexico to see the place just a few days later. Susan’s daughter, Clare Hertel, owned the property, 120 acres, and was subdividing the improvements on 40 acres to sell and keeping the rest. She and her husband had a 4-year-old child who was starting pre-school, and they simply had to move closer to town. Clare was in torment about having to sell the property and had shown it to no one else, and she and I spent a few hours together, alone, on site, me in tears a good deal of the time simply because that’s the way anything having to do with Susan has always affected me. From Clare I learned why Susan’s paintings had disappeared from the gallery in the early 90’s: she died around that time of breast cancer complications in what is now my bedroom. In fact, in her mother’s last few days Clare brought her favorite horse, Santo, into the bedroom so Susan could tell him goodbye.

Although Susan was 14-15 years older than I, she has always felt like a sister in spirit to me, and still does. And Clare and I have become the best and dearest of friends, and our families visit frequently. And . . . the icing on the cake? Clare and her husband had no room to hang one of Susan’s large paintings in their new home so chose to loan it to me, where it now graces my dining room!

My dining room Susan Hertel painting -- part of a diptych, the other half of which is coming soon!

My dining room Susan Hertel painting -- part of a diptych, the other half of which is coming soon!

My dream has come true. Not only do I have one of Susan’s paintings in my home, but I live in the enchanted space she built and share in the love of her family. And yes, I paint now and have for several years, so painting in Susan’s studio is the unbelievable culmination of something I would never have dreamed could happen.

Now do you believe in miracles?

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To read about what happened next . . . :

The Other Shoe Drops

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Penelope Smith Comes to Dinner!

Penlope (l) and Leta (r) in front of one of Susan Hertel's paintings

Penelope (l) and Leta (r) in front of one of Susan Hertel's paintings

Yesterday was a great day. In many respects. Not the least of which was the fact that Penelope Smith, the preeminent forerunner of animal communication in our country, came to dinner! At my house! In Cerrillos, New Mexico!

There is a story here. But first you should know that Penelope is one of my teachers; I studied with her many years ago to learn how to become an instructor of animal communication. I learned then that she is unique in all the world and an incredible leader and figurehead in this profession. Ever since that time I have maintained a listing in her directory of animal communicators around the world and am a regular subscriber to her quarterly journal.

Second . . . and this is the most amazing part: Penelope stayed here, at what is now my home, and walked this land, 18 years ago. Here’s the first part of the story, in brief.

In the early 90’s Penelope taught a class in animal communication in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which was attended by a renowned artist named Susan Hertel.  Susan invited Penelope to stay with her at her newly-built pueblo home in Cerrillos, just south of Santa Fe. They became great friends and spiritually bonded.

Counterpoint: In 1987, just before my first trip to Santa Fe, NM, I saw a small print of horses in a snowstorm on the bedroom wall of a friend. I was spellbound and asked who the artist was . . . . Susan Hertel of course. So when I got to Santa Fe I sought out the gallery that represented Susan and went and gazed in awe at her work. I did that every time I visited Santa Fe in the following decade. Susan painted horses, on a life-size scale, as her most primary subject, and, being nothing if not a horse devotee and lover, these paintings left me speechless. Besides which, I had always wanted to paint and wished I could be like, and could paint like, Susan. And I always felt like I knew her.

How I ended up buying Susan’s property is the next part of the story, but the lovely thing right now is how Penelope ended up here last night, for dinner, and for a re-walk of Susan’s sacred land. It was fabulous. We all loved it. And I feel the land and myself are all the more blessed because of it.

Glory be to those powers that be that somehow bring together all the magical synchronicities of life! (Also called “coincidences” — NOT!   Read: “CO-incidences” —- don’t you think that word really means things that are supposed to happen together, not that happen by accident? I sure do!

Ciao Bella . . . to a beautiful day!

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For the NEXT part of the story — the amazing way I ended up here:

Miracles Really DO Happen — at least they do to me . . .

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