February 24Horses test the fence the way we might test boundaries. Sometimes we lean, pushing, pushing until a wire snaps. Then what? Do we stand back, act surprised? Maybe, like the leaning blood bay gelding of the Blue Bird Ranch next door, we cross the fence and rejoice in freedom.

The gelding is the leader of the mob, a big brute with black mane and tail. Once he crossed the fence, the two white mares and the gray appaloosa followed. The first thing he did was drop to his front knees and sink into a horse bath. That requires dirt, not water. He kicked up great clods of fresh soil and rolled, writhing on his back in pleasure. He didn’t waste time. The gelding rose, shook clouds of dust off his hide and started to prance.

Before long he was in a full gallop. The others trailed behind, some tossing tails in the air, others leaping. I knew another fence was there. Question is, did he? I watched, tensing and knowing he could easily snap those wires with his bulk and speed. He ran right up to the corner posts and drew back like a cutting horse. Smart horse. Or fooled?

What is it about our galloping and fences?

Lately I feel as if I’ve been galloping from one pasture to the next. Don’t get me wrong. I rejoice in the run as much as the gelding. Every project I have is my intention. A few offerings were unexpected and I’ve grown in wisdom to say no. I could easily snap the wires of my boundaries, but sometimes we need fences.

The horses of the Blue Bird Ranch need fences to keep them off the road. Fence building is hard work and one has to maintain what one has built. A lot like a blog, or a book. Whew, you think, wiping your brow. Got that blog up and its a mighty fine thing. Strong, shiny. Then horses push against it, moose walk through, elk jump (or rather people visit your blog). That gives you spot work to do.

And the books! Like fences, they don’t just happen. A young rancher looked at the miles of land he was hired to fence. He asks the old-timer, “How do I do it?” The old-timer pushes back his hat, scans the line, considers the acreage and responds, “Dig one post hole at a time.” To us that means, write one page at a time. And it will take however long the work takes. The fence, and the blog or book, give form to what you are doing. The fence becomes the perimeter of the ranch and the work happens within.

We all get  horsey, though. Yes, even you nay-sayers and horse-loathers, you get horsey, too. We get all this galloping energy in us, we just want to push through, we want it to happen faster than one page at a time, we try to speed up the work or bust through the fences. Alas, we are still fenced in by what we want to do.

Ask yourself, do I still want to write, galloping around and pushing at fences? If yes, stay the course. If no, bust through and do something else. You know what that gelding did? He ran around that pasture, spent his burst of energy and then went straight back through the hole he created and has since stayed where he prefers. Know where it is best for you to be.

Before I finished galloping around my fences at Carrot Ranch, I headed into town for my Wrangling Words program at the Sandpoint Library. I had wanted to post before I left, but I also wanted to post over at Elmira Pond Spotter after having had an incredible eagle encounter a few days ago. I have missed my nature writing over there. With winter, I don’t get as many experiences to write about.

Like the gelding approaching the fence, I had to draw back and slide to a stop. No amount of running around was going to get everything accomplished that I wanted. I did get the eagle post up and I met four lovely local writers, including a well-published poet. And now I’m finishing my meandering thoughts of galloping efforts and fences.

My take-away from horse-gazing?

  1. Get the gallops out of your system if you are feeling restless, but don’t get stuck in gallop mode.
  2. Be mindful of the fences. Set your boundaries around your work and keep your fences in good repair.
  3. Go back to the pasture that suits you best. Greener on the other side is always a myth.

I know not everyone appreciates a good horse (or even a bad one). I grew up with horses and had one who was special. Many people find horses therapeutic, even spiritual. Given my husband’s struggles with military PTSD, I was fascinated with these two veterans who are using wilderness and horses as a way to heal. Here’s their inspiring story beyond galloping and fences:

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Cobb’s sister, my fourth great-grandmother, came to Idaho in the 1870s where family members eventually helped preserve the Appaloosa breed of the Nez Perce. No doubt, horses were important to Cobb, but I also believe that Sarah Shull and Nancy Jane found freedom riding horses on the fence-less prairies. The opening scene to Rock Creek is one in which Sarah is near death at the age of 98 and imagines hearing the galloping of horses. I’m not entirely happy with the scene. I can feel the deep connection within me but not necessarily upon the page. Often, I find what matters to me personally is difficult to express in fiction. I wonder if other writers experience that?

February 24, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about galloping. It doesn’t have to be about horses. Is galloping a burst of energy, a run for freedom? Or is it a sense of urgency that borders on anxiety to get tasks accomplished? Explore the motion in different ways — a galloping stride, a galloping relationship or a galloping mind.

Respond by March 1, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

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Tennessee Saddlers by Charli Mills

Sarah closed the record book. Cobb’s latest negotiation with Mr. Majors looked good – on paper. Sarah mistrusted the smooth-talker, but Cobb swanked about, having negotiated the sale of Alexander Tennessee saddlebreds to this ostensible “pony express” endeavor. He’d receive a handsome fee from his Uncle Hamilton Alexander, and Rock Creek station would become a relay for the mail carrying scheme. Sarah had doubts it’d succeed. Walking out onto the store porch she looked across the bridge to the Tennessee ponies. Of their ability to gallop like spring wind she had no doubt. It was time to test ride one.

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