Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Okay, Pal, YOU Drive Awhile...

The true test of a leader is whether his followers will adhere to his cause from their own volition, enduring the most arduous hardships without being forced to do so, and remaining steadfast in the moments of greatest peril...

For what the horse does under compulsion…is done without understanding; and there is no beauty in it either, any more than if one should whip and spur a dancer.

-- Xenophon, circa. 350 b.c.

Medicine Wheel

We all love to play in the sun
But Winter comes.
Why should we cry that the snow has begun?
Winter comes when Winter comes.



I'll ply the fire with kindling now
I'll pull the blankets up to my chin
I'll lock the vagrant winter out and
I'll fold my wandering in

I'd like to call back summertime
Have her stay for just another month or so
But she's got the urge for going
So I guess she'll have to go.

She gets the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown
All her empire's falling down
And winter's closing in.

- Joni Mitchell, Urge for Going

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Of course, of course....

" Yes, he's here. Who may I say is calling......?"

Alternative captions, anyone?


Two Ponies

The Heart is the Teacher.
The Mind is the Student.


Monday, December 29, 2008


He preaches well that lives well, quoth Sancho; that's all the divinity I understand.

- Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

Sunday, December 28, 2008


...and I whispered to the horse, "Trust no man in whose eye you do not see yourself reflected as an equal "

- Don Vincenzo Giobbe, circa 1700

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Some Wounds Never Heal

On December 29, 1890, 500 troops of the U.S. 7th Cavalry, supported by four Hotchkiss guns killed more than 250 unarmed Lakota Indians, including women, children and infants, at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota. More died of exposure, following the slaughter.

Either a state of war existed between the Lakotas and the United States at that time, or it didn’t. If a state of war did exist, then US soldiers murdered unarmed prisoners of war. If it did not exist, then US soldiers murdered innocent civilians.
Either way, it’s a crime.

For this “heroic” action, members of the 7th received 20 Medals of Honor, more medals than given for any other military action in US history…

The Wounded Knee massacre wasn’t a unique, isolated tragedy, any more than the massacre of innocents at My Lai was a unique, isolated tragedy.
Both were a matter of policy.
There were a thousand Wounded Knee’s; there were a thousand My Lai’s.
The adage about being doomed to repeat history if you fail to study it applies here.
From South Dakota to Vietnam to Iraq, the names and faces change but the story is the same, as we export “manifest destiny,” by other names, around the globe.

When I was a child, too ignorant to be anything but innocent, I mistook the American Mythology that I was taught in school and saw in the movies, for real American history. When I finally learned the truth, it was like getting hit in the stomach with a baseball bat. Not a pleasant thing to discover that everything you believe and believe in is a lie.
No words can express the anguish and outrage and shame I felt.
I suppose I feel it still.

This year American Indian horsemen and horsewomen, will make a ride 300 miles, from the site of Sitting Bull’s grave to the site of the Wounded Knee massacre, taking over two weeks to make the trek. It’s the 23rd year the ride has been made.
In part, it’s a ride to honor those who died on that winter day long ago. In part it’s a journey of renewal – of culture and connections, principles and dreams. The young people call it the ride “for the Future.”

If I could ride with them, I would.


Friday, December 26, 2008

True Grey

Go out to yonder hilltop – around about dawn
There’s a sight you might just like to see
That’s when the mustangs all come down to drink.
Mustang means wild and free.
The sorrel who leads them may cast you a glance
Cock one ear slightly your way
Then take them over the next hill to graze
As they have done for many a day.

Should the day come that you don’t find me here
Don’t you fret, darlin’ -- please don’t despair
Go out to yonder hilltop around about dawn
I believe you might just glimpse me there
I’ll raise up from drinking and cast you a glance
Cock one ear slightly your way
And you can rest easy that I’m finally free
And forever will be your True Grey



Got rope?

Wind and Fire

He is pure air and fire;
and the dull elements of earth and water
never appear in him,
but only in patient stillness
while his rider mounts him;
he is indeed a horse,
and all other jades you may call beasts.

~William Shakespeare, Henry V

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Gift

When God created the horse he said to the magnificent creature: I have made thee as no other. All the treasures of the earth lie between thine eyes. Thou shalt carry my friends upon thy back. Thy saddle shall be the seat of prayers to me. And thou flyest without wings, and conquerest without any sword.....

~The Koran


When I bestride him, I soar,
I am a hawk: he trots the air;
the earth sings when he touches it;
the basest horn of his hoof is more musical
than the pipe of Hermes.

~William Shakespeare, Henry V

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


With flowing tail, and flying mane,

Wide nostrils never stretched by pain,

Mouths bloodless to the bit or rein,

And feet that iron never shod,

And flanks unscarred by spur or rod,

A thousand horse, the wild, the free,

Like waves that follow o'er the sea,

Came thickly thundering on...

~Lord Byron, XVII, Mazeppa, 1818

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Oh, Cisco........

My new friend, Cisco.
For some reason, he seems to have adopted me. Calls to me when I arrive. Approaches expectantly. Follows closely.
As if we've known each other a long time.
Maybe we were comrades in another life.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Many Ponies CD: Update

I want to thank everyone who's given their support by passing the word around. We're starting to sell a few of these CD's. Enough so we can chip in a small donation for the 20 or so ponies at the horse rescue where I've been spending some time.
It isn't a huge amount, and there's always more to be done, but sometimes it only takes a little bit to make a lot of difference.
On behalf of all of them, to each and every one of you: thank you.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

If Anyone is above the Law, then there IS no Law.

The common sense of mankind demands that law shall not stop with the punishment of petty crimes by little people. It must also reach men who possess themselves of great power and make deliberate and concerted use of it to set in motion evils which leave no home in the world untouched.

Robert H. Jackson

Chief of Counsel for the United States

Nuremberg, Germany

November 21, 1945

California Dreamin'

....on such a winter day.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winter Sun

It’s one of those winter mornings when the sun sleeps late.

Gets up groggy and bleary-eyed, mouth tasting like an old sweat sock, shuffles out to the kitchen in ratty bathrobe and rattier slippers, gulps down hot coffee.
No cream, no sugar.

Feels like he must be fighting something. He lolls around on the couch, doesn’t bother to shower or shave. Gags down a piece of cold, left-over pizza – why the hell did he order anchovies? – and more java.

Huddles under an old afghan and tubes out.
Flicks the remote like watching a series of badly-edited random flashbacks from the late 6o’s. Tries re-runs of some cop show. Doesn’t hold his interest for long. Pops in some tried and true porn.
Vidi, vici, veni.
No dice.

Tries a book.
The words refuse to keep still, scurry around on the page. Reads the same sentence a dozen times...

By 3:30 in the afternoon, he’s dozing off.

People are looking up, with gritted teeth, clutching their clothes around them, saying, “Hey, Pal, how about a little heat, huh?”

But he ignores them, the way a career bureaucrat, ignores a guy bleeding to death right in from of him: not my job.

By 6pm it feels like midnight, and he hits the rack early without having done a damn thing all day to justify his existence.

Tomorrow, he tells himself. I’ll make a fresh start tomorrow.
Clean up my act.
Or maybe the next day.


A Little Lower and to the Right, Please...

When you have an itch you can't reach to scratch yourself, you find out who your friends really are. I enjoy finding a pony's "sweet spots," places they like to be touched. Chest, ears, under the chin. I like it because they like it. It's something I can do for them and I don't ask for anything in return. I think that's a good start for a friendship.


Friday, December 19, 2008

I gave you my word.....

....and I never break my word.


In the World of the Horse...

...there's only the present moment.

They have taught me something about seeing things in their proper perspective.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Do Blondes Have More Fun?

Nothing like a big sackful of sweet, juicy apples for picking up chicks!


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Horse Magic

That's my partner getting well-deserved adoration from some little girls, while he's practically dozing off. Sometimes, it's good to be a horse.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Wild Horses

When all the Wild Horses are gone
What will remind us
To Dream
Of the Freedom we've lost?


Impossible Dreams

A friend asked me recently, what I believe in.
Everything and nothing, I told her, in about equal proportions.
A facile answer, but true only to a point. To be completely truthful I would have to say that there is something I believe in completely and without doubt: honor.

But “honor” is one of those words that can mean a lot of different things depending on who’s using it, misusing it, or abusing it.
So I’d better explain.

hon·or (ˈä-nər), noun. Middle English, from Anglo-French onur, honur, from Latin honos, honor 13th century: a keen sense of ethical conduct : integrity b: one's word given as a guarantee of performance

Good definition.
As far as it goes.
But who’s to say what’s “ethical?” Just what is “integrity,” anyway.
Fair questions.

Ethics is, as you probably know, a branch of philosophy that explores the meaning of “right” conduct and living a “good” life.

I’ll spare you my witty summary of Plato and Aristotle. You should read these cats for yourself, anyway, if you haven’t already. And I’ll skip normative ethics, meta-ethics, hedonism, stoicism and a bunch of other –ism’s, and fast-forward right to the things that make sense to me, that have the ring of self-validating truth about them, the way gravity has, because you can see it at work and observe what happens when a person or a Wile E. Coyote tries to play fast and loose with it.

Reputation is what other people know about you.
Honor is what you know about yourself.

- Lois McMaster Bujold

In The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, one of my favorite books, Eric Fromm coined the term biophilia (literally meaning “love of life”) and suggests that healthy human beings are attracted to all that is alive and vital.

Contrary to the Freudian notion that there are two separate-but-equal instincts (eros, the life instinct, and thanatos, the death instinct) at war for control of the human psyche and soul at any given moment, Fromm would say that constructive, creative, pleasure-seeking, life-enhancing behavior is the “natural” state of human beings, and that destructiveness, pain-seeking, life-diminishing behavior is psychopathology.

Unfortunately, not all human beings are healthy.
Some individual lack the ability to feel connectedness, in the same way that some individuals are born without the ability to see colors. Color-blind people can understand what colors are, intellectually. And they can learn to mimic the behavior of color-sighted people – for example, learning to stop when the top traffic light comes on and “go” when the bottom one lights up.
But they can never experience the colors the way color-sighted people do.
Those folks who are emotionally/spiritually “color-blind” are called “psychopaths.”
Some, like Ted Bundy (a classic example of an “essential psychopath) are criminal psychopaths. But many others are not. They may function within the bounds of the law but wreak havoc, hurt and harm on a social or interpersonal level.

Later on, others extended the term “biophilia” to include "the connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life.”
This, I think may be the biological basis of “honor.”

Lawrence Kohlberg devised a six-stage model of moral development. At the highest stage – which few, according to Kohlberg, ever achieve -- there is what I would consider an excellent definition of honor.
Kohlberg says, "Right is defined by the decision of conscience in accord with self-chosen ethical principles appealing to logical comprehensiveness, universality and consistency. These principles are abstract and ethical (the golden rule, the categorical imperative) and are not concrete moral rules like the Ten Commandments. At heart, these are universal principles of justice, of the reciprocity and equality of human rights, and of respect for the dignity of human beings as individual persons."

This brings me to my particular flavor of honor, called “chivalry.”
The root of this word is “cheval” or “horse,” in French. Literally, then, it means “horsemanship.”
My Webster’s 10th edition says chivalry is “the system, spirit or customs of medieval knighthood.” That is to say, chivalry included the moral code, as well as the martial arts, of the Ideal Knight. That Ideal Knight, in my opinion, would be the Knight-Errant, more about whom, shortly.
For me the term is personally appropriate because I have learned as much about “right conduct” and living a “good life” from horses as from people.
More, come to think of it.
Maybe some knights did, too.

I consider there to be four foundational principles of chivalry: prowess, veracity, loyalty and benevolence.

Prowess, to the medieval knight, meant skill at armes, the sine qua non of success in that profession. The Ideal Knight engaged in a continuous, life-long quest to cultivate consummate skill in horsemanship, swordsmanship, tactics, strategy and courtesy, proper behavior off the battlefield as well as on it. Today we could say that prowess means the pursuit of excellence in all things, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. While the medieval knight needed skill at armes to vanquish foes, the modern knight practices chivalric skills to vanquish in himself/herself everything that is petty, selfish, fearful or in any way dishonorable.

Veracity, or truthfulness is as important today as it ever was -- and as rare. The medieval knight must never “be a party to any untruth.” 21st century chivalry requires not only that the modern knight does not lie, but that he/she does not tolerate lies in their presence. This includes lies of omission as well as commission and all manner of lying by obfuscation, and evasion. The knight has an obligation to tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” but is also keenly aware of any possible bias, prejudice or limitations of perception. Ask the common person what color that house is and he or she will say “It’s white.” Ask a knight and the reply will be, “It’s white on the side that I can see.” (Thanks to Robert Heinlein’s “fair witness”)

Loyalty in the middle ages meant loyalty to the knight’s lord or monarch, to whom he gave his pledge. Today, our loyalty is to the code of chivalry itself and only secondly to any “lord” or superior. -- and then only as long as that superior’s conduct does not violate the essential principles of that code, or requires us to o so. Here we may make the distinction in “warriorship” between the common man-at-arms or soldier, and the Ideal Knight: a soldier follows orders; a warrior follows his conscience. You might say that one’s loyalty belongs to whatever one pledges loyalty to – so above all, to one’s own word, one’s own honor.

The difference between a moral man and a man of honor is that the latter regrets a discreditable act, even when it has worked and he has not been caught.
- H.L. Mencken

Benevolence is the fourth of the foundational principles of chivalry. It comes from Latin and means “a disposition to do good.”
As previously noted, there are a few people (psychopaths) who will always choose to do wrong, to inflict pain, to harm, to destroy no matter what the circumstances, provided that it serves some whim of their own and they can do it with no risk or cost to themselves. They have no empathy and view others as “things” that exist only as toys for the immediate gratification of their every desire

Most people will do good when there is some material or social reward involved for doing it, or when it is, at least, not inconvenient or dangerous to do. Likewise the common person refrains from doing wrong because they fear the consequences, materially or socially, if they are caught.

There are a few people who will always choose the right thing, the fair, just, merciful, honest, true thing, the life- enhancing thing, with compassion, integrity and dignity, no matter what the circumstances, regardless of any risk or cost to themselves. These are the people I would call “good,” or benevolent. The biophiliacs, if you like. Or the “anti-psychopaths,” if I may be so bold.

The Ideal Knight comes from this number small number of benevolent persons. The knight does good because it is good. It has become his nature. She no longer has a “choice;” anymore than a person has a “choice” not to breath. She is compelled to do what is right and just, what preserves and enhances life under all circumstances, without exception, and does so fully understanding that one can never do right without risk or cost to oneself Likewise the knight refrains from doing wrong because it is wrong, because it is hurtful or harmful to innocent persons whom he must always protect, rather than from any fear of punishment or other unpleasant consequences to himself.

The Ideal Knight-errant goes further. Unlike the Ideal Knight for whom doing good is a constant, but a happenstance, the Ideal Knight-errant sallies forth into the world aggressively seeking out opportunities to do good.

Maybe you’re thinking, that’s a tall order, Pal.
I agree.
It’s an “Impossible Dream.”
That’s exactly what makes it a Dream worth striving for.


The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be.

- Socrates

Monday, December 1, 2008


My never-ending restlessness
The searching for
The longing for
Something just out of sight
Indistinct in the shadows
Out of sight
Over the rainbow...
Some deep need
In my blood
Continual craving
Never satisfied
The storm in my soul
Becalmed only in the magic presence of horses.