Don’t Poke the Bear

The first child born on Drummond Island to the Bailey family, Alda Anne grew up in the 1880’s with a pack of brothers in the lumber camps. Drummond then was covered in trees; massive columns so tall they obscured the sun. As the old giant cedars fell to the saw blades, the deer arrived, drawn to the new tender growth now creeping up from the warm earth.

But long before the deer showed up, the bears were already deeply instilled there, rooting through the generations of fallen limbs and trunks for bugs and grubs, tearing apart the bones of the old forest and sending it back into the mossy ground.

By the time she was 17 years old, Alda was hunting with her father, bringing home game to feed the family. That year, she shot her first black bear. From that point on, Alda Bailey became one of the most avid bear hunters in the history of Drummond Island. She eventually married Louis Cloudman, but scorned the typical duties of a housewife. Leaving Louis to bake pies and sweep the kitchen, Alda would stuff a frying pan, a blanket and other supplies into a backpack and disappear into the woods.  In those days she was likely the only female hunting and fishing guide in the state of Michigan.

Alda lived to be 97 years old and over her long career, she killed more than 80 bears. Enshrined forever in island lore, Alda is commemorated as something of a folk hero similar to Paul Bunyan or Pecos Bill, with her Annie Oakley appearance and deadeye marksmanship. One of these stories involves a local character, Herman Adams, who lived not far from Alda’s homestead with Louis.

Adams lived in a shack with chickens and other animals, growing tomatoes by his fence and spitting tobacco down his shirt front. One autumn, he trapped a bear, and decided he wanted to bring it home alive. He enlisted Alda’s help in the endeavor.

In what amounts to a pretty horrible story of animal cruelty, the two pioneers walked this bear out of the woods by getting a rope around his neck, which Adams used as one would put a leash on a dog. Alda handled the trap line, still attached to the bear’s hind foot. Together, they walked this bear between them. Alda thought it would be pretty funny to put some slack in the chain and let the bear catch up to Adams. It wasn’t long before Adams realized the bear was nipping at his heels, and was taking longer strides and eventually practically running to stay ahead.

“By the Judas, Aldie get a hold of that rope; he almost got a nip of me, that time!”

My dad, Alda’s nephew, loved telling that story and he swore that it was true.

In all my years spent in the woods on Drummond, in all times of day and night, I have seen black bears only a handful of times. But their signs are everywhere, from the shredded bark of a dying tree to the round, clawed imprint in fresh mud. I know the bears are watching as I walk the trails with my dogs or ride my horses. We give each other a wide berth, and this is why it is safe to walk in the woods on Drummond Island.

My ancestors lived their whole lives in bear country. Bears were a source of meat, fur, and grease for tallow. They were not targets to shoot for sport, and certainly not pets. Black bears are shy and mild-mannered, except when cornered, or hungry, or protecting cubs. An angry black bear delivers a sledgehammer wallop and can kill you as quick as a walk in front of a Mack truck.

The pioneers knew this. The idea of people feeding bears, petting them, or posing for selfies would have had folks like Alda Bailey rolling their eyes or even bent over in gales of laughter.

After all, the bears were here first. By the Judas, show some respect.


Alda Bailey, photo courtesy of Lynn Cloudman Van Alstine

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Life With The Gropers

Harvey Weinstein is a pig. And he is not alone. As long as I am getting loud about the things that matter, and pissing people off, I might as well jump on the bandwagon.

All women get groped, assaulted, insulted, abused and put down by men. This is a fact of life when you are a woman in America. So many of us just take it in stride. But these emerging facts about Weinstein are making me take a harder look at my own past, because I’ve had similar incidents.

People (read: Men) often mistake your enthusiasm over a project for enthusiasm for THEM. Or, maybe they don’t. Let’s just say there was a certain movie horse trainer that I was writing a book with. This project evolved into some exciting times wherein I hobnobbed with some famous people and got to meet some beautiful horses.

The subject of my adoration turned into an octopus during a private meeting when we were supposed to be going over notes. Uhm, can you say “animal behavior”?

When I wouldn’t put out, that project crashed and burned.

Same thing with another story I worked on. I endured continuous sexual harassment, advances, flirtations, etc, whatever you want to call it. It got so bad that when I traveled to the PNW to meet the big bird and see the whole thing first hand, I brought my sister in law along as chaperone. I refused to meet the guy alone even for dinner (“no sister in law” he had said, “just you and me”).

Uhm, no.

THAT book crashed and burned too, despite huge amounts of time and money invested on my part.

Beyond these career-wrecking episodes that began with my failure to answer to the Almighty Penis, my experiences with White Male Entitlement extend to all kinds of other people and situations, including but not limited to RELATIVES.

The weirdest part about these relationships is the implicit code of silence. It’s her word against his, so the woman says nothing. It’s like acknowledging our lower place in the Great Caste System.

Watch for the self-righteous reaction that comes from these enlightened accusations as the woman ages and suddenly finds her power, finally growing angry enough to speak out about incidents that happened five, ten, twenty years ago.

Or even just two years ago.

Or, yesterday.

Watch the testosterone take off and the hysteria that rushes through the narcissistic male population, blaming the women, calling them crazy, calling them liars, asking if it’s true, why did they wait so long?

I hope the uprising against Weinstein, Cosby, others, indicates a shift in the social position of women, who despite every effort and proverbial inch of progress, still are treated as a little bit Less.

Yeah, we have the right to be this mad.

If this is what it takes, then let this fall into the same category of abusive parents who are afraid of being called out by their own kids, of that one phone call to the school, or Social Services.

Fear is a powerful motivator.

Kudos to you, sisters, finally standing en masse, for all those moments when you are cornered against the wall, felt up, groped as if your own body doesn’t belong to you, while your heart slams in your ears and you measure the distance to the door, glancing around the room for a heavy object, something to grasp and wield, as your hopes and dreams crash into the abyss.




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Miss Moxie Moonflower, the Birdseed Kitten

The Long Journey from Lawn to Lap
I saw her by the barn, nosing around my horse Clifford’s rubber feed pan. I didn’t realize it at the time, but she was eating the leftover grain that had dropped into the grass. She was a tiny thing with patches of white and grey and tan. I called to her and she shot off into the cornfield. Safe within the pillars of corn stems, she cried a loud, raspy mew, answering my pleas of “kitty, kitty.” But her ragged cries grew fainter, telling me she was moving away from me, deeper into the field. Her call was so plaintive, I sensed she wanted to approach, but was just too scared.
I didn’t think I would ever see her again. But the next day, I looked out the bathroom window and she was padding around on the lawn under the bird feeder, eating seeds and bits of suet. I took a handful of my cat’s dry food and went outside, walking softly, hoping she would not run from me. But she did, dodging under the porch.
I tossed the kibble into the grass under the bird feeder and went back to watch from inside. Moments later she came back out, climbing up on the edge of my flower garden, looking around carefully. She went to the edge of the little goldfish pond and drank deeply, part of her head concealed by the leaf of a water lily. Then she turned and returned to scavenging under the bird feeder. When she found the kibble, my heart broke a little. She attacked it with the savage desperation of a starving animal.
I put more food in a small steel bowl and walked outside, rattling it invitingly and calling to her. She made a half-hearted attempt to run away, but cornered herself between the deck and dog fence. She turned back and allowed me to approach her. As I put the bowl down, she dove in.
She seemed happy to be caught, and she ate everything I fed her. But she was too wasted to bounce back. She weighed under 2 lbs. – about half the normal body weight for an 8-9 week old kitten. She spent 2 days at MSU, fighting for her life.
Luckily, through the efforts of a devoted veterinarian and staff, and a social media community who cared enough to donate the hundreds of dollars to help her, Moxie survived.
It took a month of nursing care to bring her back to normal weight for her age. Her story will go on to promote the adoption of homeless kittens and cats; encouraging the inclusion of two or more cats to live in a home together, and to incite cat owners to keep their feline friends safe indoors. But Moxie will also stand as an example of how a community can band together to save a life, and how when things seem at their worst, to never give up, because there is good in the world, and someone cares.
Moxie is a new ambassador for the Foundation for Animals in Therapy and Education (FATE), a 501c3 nonprofit.
On Wednesday Sept 28, Moxie earned her FATE wings at only 11 weeks of age, when she served as ambassador at a senior center in Highland, Michigan. Along with her buddy, Este the Chihuahua, our board member Judy Long and her puppy Reba, Moxie engaged in meet and greet with some hundred or so people for 3 hours. While we handed out brochures and talked about the transformation of rescue animals to therapy animals, Moxie, played with her feather toys and consumed two jars of chicken baby food. She finally grew tired and fell asleep using Este as her pillow.
Thanks, Moxie, for being the very best poster child. In finding your way to us, you may have sealed your FATE.
As we get rolling with our programs, we are in dire need of sponsors. Moxie’s bill at MSU was well over $1500 and is still not paid off. But there will be other expenses too. Gas, food, and support as we launch new and ambitious programs to match homeless pets with people who need them.
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Ways To Help:
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When You Listen To A Horse

It will come as no surprise that Clifford is smart. He can paint pictures, play fetch, signs his own book, and has the good sense to go into schools and libraries and basically anywhere and keep his wits about him.

What goes beyond training is the communication that happens when you have spent so many days and months and years with one horse. This is where it behooves one to stay alert, because horses often have something to tell us.

Which brings me to today. We are in a habit of Clifford going out on his line in the morning and then again in the evening. Clifford has never been a fatty, but as he ages it’s taking extra groceries to keep weight on him. On his tie-out, he gets to eat lawn grass (yay) and have a big meal unencumbered by a greedy, bossy, alpha great-nephew.

cliffy tie out 2.jpg

Every morning he waits for me to come and get him. If I get to dawdling around pulling weeds or feeding pond fish, he will nicker a reminder. I go into the barn and hold out his halter. He sticks his head in it, usually giving me a playful little side-nip in the meantime. I open the gate and he goes out. The other two horses, if they have come in with him, know enough to not charge the gate.

Clifford runs out into the yard and starts grazing but keeps a watchful eye on me. I head into the garage and get a scoop of grain. I walk it out to wherever his rope is located. There’s a rubber pan there where I dump the grain. He usually figures out where the pan is, gallops over and is waiting to eat by the time I get there. I dump the grain and hook him up while he is eating.

When the day gets too hot, he lets me know he is ready to come in. If I’m outside he calls to me. If I’m inside, he stands on his line staring at the house.

Cliffy tie out.jpg

The same thing happens in the evening. Usually, when he goes back in, his nephew, Kerry Seventh Gen, the Junior Horse, is pushing and bossing him around. Even if he is out in the pasture and sees us coming, he will come running. He has learned to step back and wait while I let Clifford in through the gate. I hand out treats to the three of them before saying good night. Junior has had to learn that he is last in line. It has taken months of conditioning to learn that if he pins ears or pushes another horse away, he will get no treat. He has to stand quietly while I go from Clifford to Trudy and back again, handing out treats. If he is good, he will finally earn one.

Today, when I put Clifford back in, he stood waiting at the open gate for his apple wafers. I typically take off his halter, open the gate wide, and he stands there waiting. I give him his wafers and then he goes inside. He usually goes directly to the water tank which is right by the barn door.

Today, the other horses were far out in the field and didn’t come in when Clifford did. As usual, he waited for his treat, munched it, walked through and went for a drink. As I was swinging the gate shut, he swung his head around and hustled back inside, nickering to me urgently.

“I’m out of treats!” I laughed. “You want some more? I’ll get some.”

Then I noticed what was going on. The other horses were WAY out in the field; unaware that we were even in the barnyard. Clifford thought it was a good chance for him to get an extra meal. And, he was right.

I walked quietly into the garage, got a half scoop of senior feed and dumped it into Jr’s bucket, which is the one bucket the other two wouldn’t see from where they were grazing.

Clifford happily plunged into his second dinner.

I have no way to explain this other than to say Clifford was telling me it was a good opportunity for an extra feed. It told me he understood the whole problem with Junior and the reason he has to be fed separately. More importantly, it told me that he understood how to ask, and knew I would probably listen.

Clifford eating 7 bucket 2.jpg


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Take the Knee for Down Syndrome

I wish I could say the whole guardianship issues with my sister Amanda have been resolved thanks to the hearing in May 2017. Actually, we did make some progress. During that hearing, the judge confirmed the original order for guardianship over Amanda, who has Down syndrome. The order specifically stated that Amanda was to be allowed contact with family members through phone and internet. The judge effectively smashed a nearly year-long period of silence wherein the guardian prevented all contact between Amanda and me.

Since that time, thanks to the hearing, I call Amanda just about every week.

Unfortunately, Amanda is now living in Censorship Hell.

Imagine having someone hanging over your every word: Correcting you, stopping you, interrupting you, timing your conversation, even hitting you when you say the wrong things. You’d end up with a pretty serious case of PTSD.

Yesterday was her birthday. She turned 47 years old.


I have so many great birthday memories with Amanda. All those years, all that pizza. I wanted to call her up and talk about what happened when Mom first brought her home from the hospital, and my first glimpse of her, red-faced and dark-eyed, when I was eight years old. I wanted to talk about her first birthday when she put her face in the cake, burying her pink cheeks and gold ringlets in all that white frosting.


I knew she would appreciate other birthday stories like our tradition of yelling out our ages from the hill overlooking the bridge to Canada. Or the time we drove down the back road to Mom and Dad’s house, following a skunk that galloped right up their driveway. I stopped the car and said, “You get out first.”

We had a host of birthday memories to go over. But this day, her tone was serious.

“I’ve got some bad news for you,” she said.

“What is it?”

“One of our friends passed away.”

“Oh no! Who was it?”


Larry was a dear, nature-loving, kindhearted man who had formerly worked with the guardian in Arizona. I had met him in person and we used to hang out a bit. We hooked up on Facebook and he had been very supportive in my fight for Amanda’s rights.

“Oh no! What happened? Was he ill?”

In the middle of her reply, she was cut short by a voice in the background. “Our conversation is being interrupted,” she said. “I’m not supposed to talk about it.”

“What?! Why? Are you okay?”

“Yes,” she sighed. “I’m fine. Just…”

Her voice had changed to one of hesitancy. There was no explanation for why Larry’s death was a taboo subject, but at least it was better than the week prior when she was whacked with a paper towel tube, hard enough that she yelled, “Ouch!” That happened when she was trying to tell me about a visit to the eye doctor. Apparently she is forbidden to give me medical updates.

This is where the guardianship jumps from emotional into the realm of physical abuse.

And this is only the part I know about.

Amanda has a disability. She can’t drive a car or do math. But she is still a bright, quick witted, warm-hearted, spirited individual, an optimist at heart, who is dearly lovable. She deserves every bit of respect that any other person is entitled to. But currently she is deprived of even the most basic of human rights.


In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”

It’s tragic that Amanda has no family members besides myself who are willing to “take the knee,” and even in some small way, make their disapproval known.

But, you can.

I want you to be aware that no one is safe from this type of predation. No one. You could be in an accident today and fall into the same type of trap. Protect yourself, and others, by helping to change guardianship legislation.


Click this link for more information about how to Stop Guardian Abuse. 


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Rip Overcomes Her Hydro-Phobia

I used to think it was pretty funny to say my dog has hydrophobia. It is, actually, the technical name for Rabies.

Rip has a fear of deep water, but she has been vaccinated against rabies.

However, I recently found out that one of the symptoms of rabies is fear of water…. Hence the name.

Go figure.

Lately, Rip has been surprising me. I think it’s due to peer pressure, and keeping up with the other dogs, but yesterday she actually swam out and fetched the ball, for the first time ever!

I even caught the moment on video.


Then after her first attempt, she had to try it again for real. She had been fetching little sticks, just paddling a few strokes, but this was her first attempt to go farther out and get the ball.

Who knew this a dog could learn to swim at age 12!


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A Dog Who Minds; Or, Mind of the Dog

I give my dogs a lot of credit for the evolution of Jasper. A dog who comes when called is a joy to own and is the priority in early training. All my dogs drop what they are doing, no matter what it is, and come on the double when I call them. This is a feature that allows them a lot of freedom, as I can let them roam off leash in safe areas and know they will come back.


I inherited Jasper when he was three years old. He was my boyfriend’s only dog, a big rescued greasy blob of black mostly Labrador with a stubby tail; probably at least ten lbs overweight, gasping for air under his rolls of blubber and grinning, sniffing and licking my feet, jumping up to scratch my skin with his raspy pads.

He suffered from chronic ear infections, itched his skin constantly, had a bad body odor, and other indications that growled of food allergies. I took him off the corn-based kibble and changed him to a lamb and rice diet. The recovery was miraculous. He almost immediately became more comfortable in his skin, and his ear infections cleared up.

He still stood guard over his food bowl like a fiend, attacking with noisy, slobbering vigor any dog who passed within three feet of it. My pack, accustomed to a relatively peaceful coexistence, were taken aback by this. He didn’t understand that nobody wanted to steal his food, or fight with him.

He lived on a cable tied to a tree, and was ushered into the house where he would climb on the furniture and blow silent, massively pungent wads of sulpheric gas into the room, the stench so foul that you would either have to leave, or usher him right back outside.

He was enormously uncivilized, but his biggest problem was that he would hit the road. No amount of screaming would bring him back. If he got loose, he was gone.

Being mostly Labrador ensured that he would be generous with his home and space, and no danger to my little chihuahua types. Since I had a pack, my boyfriend made a big enclosed fenced yard. So now Jasper ran and played with my two herding dogs, carrying a big collapsing rubber ball around in his mouth most days.

The excess weight came off and he grew strong. I was determined to teach him how to come when called. I would walk him out in the back field with my bag of treats, calling him to me and giving him random snacks. It would work for about ten minutes. Then, his nose would go in the air and he would gallop off. He would return home an hour later, covered in mud or smelling of garbage.

All my training tricks flunked. I refused to use a shock collar or punish him in connection with the behavior. As much as he loved chicken jerky, he loved his freedom more. I could understand that. He had to be walked on a leash. Some days, I admit to not wanting to deal with him and I would leave him behind the fence watching sadly while the pack moved and played around the yard or I taught the horses tricks. This in itself, I am sure, was instilling a notion in his lemon brain.


Not long after meeting him, I discovered that he loves to swim, so I would take him north to Drummond Island every summer. He would still run off, dodging through the woods to be gone for an hour, running deer or black bears. But he was safer in the woods than on a highway in the Lower P.  The joy in his experience was evident. He was part of the family here; not a misfit. On Drummond, he is just another loose dog at camp.

Each dog has their special needs. Ms. Rip, my 12 year old Aussie, is sensitive and is afraid of deep water. Terrible Til the border collie has to keep moving, every day.  The chihuahuas have to be kept safe due to their size.

This is my fourth year of living with Jasper as part of the pack. He is seven years old now and there has been a shift in his behavior. Because of all the time I have spent playing with him, feeding him, talking to him, and treating him just like one of the group, he now behaves more like one of the group. He sits in line with the others, waiting his turn while the treats are doled out. He runs with the other two and jumps into the back of the van. He is a perfect example of how a dog who is happier will make the decision to behave better, in a congenial effort to get along. I haven’t done anything special to fix his running away problem; he just fixed it himself as a result of a more interesting life and good treatment.

There have been other indications too, that Jasper is getting smarter as he interacts more. I take him swimming several times a week in summer. I use two chuck-it toys and two balls, one for him and one for Til. As far as I’m concerned, the balls are interchangeable. But Jasper has decided that his ball is HIS BALL. While I lob them both, if I take Til’s from him and throw it, Jasper will wait until I pick up his ball, and then dive in when I pitch it.

It has been funny watching the two of them work things out between them. Jasper will often try to retrieve both balls, swimming in circles until he gives up and leaves one. Til just hovers to scoop up whatever one he leaves.

Yesterday, even though Til already had a ball, he waited, far out in the water, to make sure Jasper found the second one before they both swam back. Til helps take care of the others.

Jasper is a terrific example of how a dog’s brain kicks in to be a better pet, a result of good treatment and nice language, and the standard established by his well-mannered pack mates. Rules are rules. People who live with dogs understand they respond well to respectful treatment, and will return it in kind. There is no way to teach this detail to someone who wants to train their dog, other than to explain that kindness speaks volumes, and dogs are much more sophisticated than we think.

Now, if he would just decide to stop farting…

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Drummond Island Life at Lumber Camp

Drummond Island in those days was a giant canopy; its soft, muffled ground hidden beneath a cloak of orange needles. The cedar trees were so tall that their tops became crowned with eagle nests. The birds emerged from a mass of sticks, gulping down salmon, filling up with protein and growing at a rate of speed that caused them to spread formidable wings and lift into the air, floating over northern Lake Huron after only weeks out of the egg.

Drummond was a place of trees; trees with trunks like silos. They climbed upward for a hundred years with their twisted limbs joining together, creating a primeval forest of cool, muted green. The woods flourished with ferns and mushrooms and lichens. Woodpeckers and owls roosted in clustering branches. Daylight never glimmered on that forest floor. It would only stream down in columns of light, before fading halfway to earth.

It was the trees that brought them. In the late 1800s, lumber was the gold of the northeast. An enterprising man could build a life for himself very quickly, if he was willing to work hard and hire the help. So the lumbermen came; slowly at first, but as word of Drummond spread, more and more showed up in the land of harsh winters and cool, bright summers.

The second white man to settle on Drummond, George Warren Bailey had lived there for 14 years when his son Frank was born in 1894. The boy was ruddy-faced and hearty, and he grew fast like a young eagle. When he was a teenager, his forearms were bulging like the trunks of the old cedars. He towered over six feet, even at that age. He had a gentleness about him and a quiet nature. But he wrestled nonstop with his younger brother, Clifford, and teased his baby sisters, Nina and Nona, who were not twins, but may as well have been, with their blonde tresses and ribbons and identical cherub looks.

George Warren Bailey was ambitious and did not suffer fools. After his arrival on the island, traveling from Wisconsin with his wife Cornelia and their older children, he set up a lumber camp and started cutting trees. This camp was followed by another, then another, then another until there were seven camps altogether.  In the days before the chain saw, the giant cedars were felled with a cross cut saw, worked in cooperation by two men pushing and pulling, sweating and inching the toothy blade through the robust wood.

Once the giant was felled, then the limbs had to be lopped off and the tree cut up into sections that were short enough to fit on the wagon.

frank bailey photo.jpg

Frank Bailey driving team.

Frank did all this. He cut trees and lifted the heavy logs, helping roll and stack them in a pile on the wagon. He would tie them down and drive the wagon into camp, where he would unload the trees and prepare them for sawing into planks. Then, he would drive back up the lumber road, into the deep woods to cut more. Frank was big and strong and even then could out-lift and out-work men twice his age.

But he was a growing boy. The days were long at camp in summer, cutting wood until sundown which happened about 9 pm.

One night, at supper, sitting straight up at the table, Frank dozed off. He had only meant to close his eyes for a moment when his mother was setting out a bowl of potatoes. But he was awakened by a hard rapping sound. It was his father, knocking his fist on the table.

“What the hell’s the matter with you, boy? Stay awake and eat your supper! The idea!”

Sitting there, aching from the day’s labor, his father’s harsh criticism struck a chord. There had been so many hours of lifting and pulling. So many hours of wood splinters and sweat. There would be six hours of sleep and then to begin again. It was too much. Frank began to silently cry. Embarrassed, his siblings all watched in horror as the tears slid down his face. The room became very still for a moment.

“Now what the hell – “ George Warren began.

“No you don’t! I won’t have it!” Cornelia rose up and faced her husband. “Can’t you see what is wrong with him? He’s exhausted! He is not spending one more day in that lumber camp this summer! Not one more day! He will stay here on the farm and work with me!”

George Warren, the gruff owner and boss of seven lumber camps, was no match for an angry mother.

Frank looked up at that tough pioneering matriarch who stood firmly over them with her hands on her hips and her blue eyes crackling. He took a deep breath, and nodded to her. A look passed between them and she calmed and sat down. He lifted his fork and started to eat.

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Frank with his brothers. From left: (Future brother-in-law) Louis Fountain, Clifford Bailey, Frank Bailey, and (seated) older brother Blaine Bailey.

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Holistic Healing for Horses

Holistic medicine is considered voodoo by some, but others swear by it. This particular energy healing is backed by Linda Tellington-Jones, who helped design their new horse energy-blanket. This may not surprise anyone as she of course initiated the now-famous Tellington Touch within the equine world.

Despite this stellar endorsement, the company representative Vicki Duggan explained to me that she “hasn’t had a lot of luck with horse people.”

energy healing

“Well,” I said. “Horse folks can be kind of traditional. They can be interested in centurys-old, tried-and-true techniques. But everyone still figures out their own way of doing things. So they may be open to the whole idea once they see how it works.”

Just like the Tellington Touch, this method has wider applications. It is called the Bemer but I’m not supposed to say that. Why not? You have to call it something. Anyway, here is a link to the website:

The original treatment was for people, but they have come out with a horse blanket — which is so new it was just released in December. Clifford became acquainted with associate Vicki Duggan at the Novi Equestrian Expo in November, where he had a couple of (pre-horse blanket) treatments — during which he fell asleep — and there was a noticeable change in him afterwards. He felt better. Heck, it’s hard on the joints when you stand around and walk around on cement all weekend. Especially when you are a 26-year-old horse with arthritis.


So today she came out to the farm and put the battery-operated blanket on him for twenty minutes. She also wrapped his knee.

The treatment is reputed to boost performance, help with concentration, and ease pain.

Perhaps the most important thing this treatment does is to increase the blood flow into extremities and other areas that may not be the priority for blood flow.

When you think about increased blood flow, you start to realize the implications. Increased oxygen. Increased immunity. Increased shedding of toxins. And a whole host of other benefits.

Vicki had some astonishing anecdotes about people, athletes who had used this and outperformed themselves.

I told Vicki that one reason the race horse Secretariat was so successful was (besides his magnificent spirit) an enlarged heart. I immediately related that to the benefits of increased blood flow.

I have suffered with pain in my tendons since blowing my Achilles several years ago. My feet have never been the same. When your feet are wrecked, it really inhibits your lifestyle. So I gave the treatment a try and will report back on how it works.

Meanwhile, as I sat in the chair having my back energized, Clifford left his grassy spot to come frisking over like a two year old pony.


energy healing2.jpg

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How Going Under Saddle Is Not the Same As Socializing A Puppy

How do you you teach a young horse to stop bucking, kicking and walking backwards every time you get on him?

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I admit there are a lot of things about training horses that I picked up from dog training. Working with a clicker is a big one. Horses respond well to the clicker and it can be used in all kinds of applications. There are a couple of differences in training a horse versus a dog. The first being, watch out for creative stuff. You don’t want to put your body at risk with an animal 500 times stronger than you are.

Which brings me to my point. Kerry 7th Gen, now 6 years old, has run the gauntlet of experiences, all involving the clicker. He has learned a couple of tricks, including how to play fetch. He has been to a couple of horse expos with me and even done a training demo for an audience. He has traveled five hours north to the Upper Peninsula, where he spent 4 months running free on Drummond Island, learning all about the woods and water and what trail riding will eventually be like.

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One would think he would be handling everything with aplomb by now, especially after traveling from Oregon to Michigan at the tender age of 3 years old!

He is a super friendly horse, always the first to greet you in the pasture, and always the first to volunteer to stick his head in the halter, come out and do stuff. He gives kisses freely. He loves people.

The Morgan Horse Pride and Product

He is also a bit of a herd bully. He chases others away from me, from the hay pile, he pins his ears and bites and kicks. He kicks, in fact, when anything upsets him. My older horses, both in their twenties, just submit to him.

Therefore, I was pretty surprised earlier this year when my friend Stayner tried to ride him on the Waterloo Rec Area trails. I thought this horse had confidence. I was so wrong. Beyond that, I have discovered that the little darling is herd sour. He will now not even walk around the back yard with me astride, unless he has the other two horses — especially Trudy — within view.


A couple of days ago, July 1, I decided that I should stop procrastinating and get on the little bugger. My hesitation wasn’t based on fear so much as, I am really too old for this now and I don’t bounce like I used to. I have already fallen off Jr. once. In fact, that was a year ago today. In my experience (Clifford) riding a green horse means falling off — A lot. Twenty five years ago, it didn’t matter. I learned that it was most important to fall free of the horse and “fall good.” I could climb on Clifford, he’d step to the side and I would roll ride off and thud onto the dirt. I fell off that horse almost daily for awhile. I was a terrible rider.

But these days, there is nobody else to cajole into doing it, and it must be done. Let’s face it, a horse you can’t ride is the most destined for the meat factory if anything happens to you. If I get hit by a bus, or gunned down by a drunken sibling, I don’t want Jr. to wind up on anyone’s dinner table. Least of all, my ex husband, who had the gall to tell me he had eaten horse. This was after he moved out, of course.

So I saddled up and climbed aboard and I wasn’t expecting any big incidents. I had ridden him on the trails, with Stayner on Clifford, and he acted just fine. I thought that last time, it was mainly because he didn’t know Stayner. Well, that may have been part of his problem.  Besides, last year I rode him a few times around the property.

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This year, he had regressed into brainlessness. Had I waited too long to get back on? I thought all those 2016 lessons in courage would stick. But I was faced with a lot of the same problems that Stayner was — the horse seemed to know one gear, and that was reverse. Oh, no. Two gears. Reverse, and crow hop.

I had the clicker ready, and a treat bag full of cut up carrots. I wasn’t scared so much as annoyed. I hated the whole experience. I am sure he could tell. But I clicked him for every time he took a step forward. I had to keep turning him in circles, around and around and around. So, that’s what we did, for about a half hour.


Luckily, I had my whip in my hand and I was able to tap him with the verbal cue to “stay”. We had worked on this ad nauseum from the ground. This was mostly to discourage the moving of his feet. I want him to concentrate on keeping his feet still — in trying to end a bad behavior (kicking) you have to replace it with an incompatible behavior (keeping all four feet on the ground). I have used this technique to stop dogs from jumping up, with the same theory. It takes a long time to fix jumping in dogs, which is highly compulsive, and I imagine with a horse, kicking works the same way.

Thanks to having worked so hard on this last year, he is now safe to groom, walk around, and even mount and dismount. He is very good at “stay.”

So because he had this behavior pretty well locked in, I tried it from under saddle, tapping him with the whip instead of my hand. and it worked. He settled into a nice, balanced stand. and I was able to click and treat him for that. I circled him a few more times, and then we just kept stopping. Finally when he calmed down reasonably I was able to get off, ending the lesson on a somewhat satisfactory win-win. BIG sigh of relief!

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That night I went online and looked up herd sour horses. I consulted notes by John Lyons and Josh Lyons, both whom I consider friends, and the best in the way of humane methods. I learned a couple of things that made perfect sense and didn’t conflict with my reward-based training.

First, a herd-sour horse should be made to work harder when the herd’s around.

Second, a horse remembers a lesson, and the next time is easier.

So I took a day off and the following day, yesterday, I decided to go with some ground work first and I put a saddle on him and longed him like a real horse person would. He didn’t mind the longe line. He was completely calm. Besides, Clifford and Trudy were enjoying a meal together right on the other side of the fence. So he walked and trotted, trotted and walked, and then I moved him a little farther away from the fence.

That was when Clifford and Trudy decided to mosey on over into the barn and get out of the sun.

As soon as they were out of sight, he lost his mind. He leaped into the air, and started to run. He ran around, and around, and around me in circles while I held onto that longe line for dear life. He ignored my commands to slow down and just kept on going. So I decided, okay. I snapped the whip and told him go for it.

He ran, and ran, and ran. I just continued spinning, careful not to trip on that longe. HE was working up a sweat, snorting in the 80+ degree heat, and galloping as if his life depended on it.

Finally, after what seemed like about six or eight minutes of this nonsense, he got tired and slowed to a trot. I praised him and stepped forward and then he stopped and looked at me.

So due to this tantrum, he had to do more longing. We did a calm couple of passes at the walk, both directions, with lots of stops, a lot of clicking and treating.

He was fried.

It was time to get on him, and for the first time in my life I sighed and hesitated before climbing aboard. Ugh. I hate this. I am old.

Then I realized, my own thinking is a part of the problem. I had to reassess my thinking. “This is just another clicker session. It’s fine.”

He was standing there waiting as I had taught him, like a little gentleman.

He stepped forward when asked, and we walked into the back yard, and just made some big circles around the yard. He was wobbly, unbalanced. I had a mix of licorice and peppermints in the treat bag and just kept clicking every time he felt relaxed or did what I asked.

At the end, I was able to dismount, and I could feel his relief when I did.

We probably both were thinking the same. One more ride down. 10,000 to go.

All the ground work, all the trail rides (for him, riderless) and all the experiences we in dog training know as “socializing” are not the same for a horse. We call it a learning curve, but it’s more like a jagged line. Hopefully, at this point, we are on the upswing.


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Posted in behavior, clicker training, Clifford, drummond island, empathy, horse, horses, training | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment