May 182014

Doranna & DuncanThis is Doranna Durgin’s WordPlay Blog. I’m glad you’re here–whether it’s to learn more about my books, or chat about dogs, horses, and reading.

On Fridays, The Write Horse usually stops by for life with horse training, written by Patty Wilber.

If you’d like to reach my Webstead, you can clicky on that link you just passed. Right there. Behind you! The one that said Webstead.

PS although I use a plug-in that allows commenters to sign in, it’s easy to post as a guest and guest commenters are welcome!

Mar 202019

by Doranna

All Samhain Heartsong Posts, Collected


Arlie asked Jaice’s mistress, “Can I see him?”

As if she was magnanimous, the woman responded with a languid series of taps. The dome enlarged, giving the woman room to glide away. The three remaining attendants repositioned themselves to block Arlie.

So she does have fears. Not that Arlie would ever get the Taser past those attendants. Continue reading »

Mar 182019

by Doranna

All Samhain Heartsong Posts, Collected


One foot in the arroyo, one foot on the crushed grasses of an unfamiliar landscape.

Arlie withdrew, making sure of the doorway.

She stepped again—going further, leaving only a lingering toe. Trying to maintain the strength of the song, lest it reflect the wild flutter of her heart.

No, that wasn’t the way to do it.

She withdrew. Closed her eyes, found her memories and her connection, both to this place of hers and to Jaice. She could not do this on nerves and fear. Continue reading »

Mar 172019

In Which Takota Horse is Here
by Doranna
who is actually at AKC Agility Nationals today

So, some of you are wondering why I’m not writing about the stupendous gray unto white Lipizzan who still graces my bio page (and always will).  Some of you already know.  Either way, that’s a story for another day.  Some things are still too hard.

In the meantime, the paddock now holds a little red Kentucky Mountain Horse named Takota.  His name was originally Lakota, which didn’t sit perfectly with me, but since Takota means “friend to all” in the Lakota language (as much as my ignorant white person self can research), things worked out pretty well.

Takota is a lovely boy a soft eye and a sweet soul–a bright red chestnut with sooty overtones and a some rabicano roaning and chrome.  His conformation is quintessentially gaited mountain horse, right down to the slight front turnout.  He’s got a hunter’s bump, heralding long term lumbosacral stress–likely poor saddle fit on a super-sensitive back.  That’ll never go away, but we can and already have built muscle for better support.  And he somehow made it to 15 years old as a remarkably uneducated horse, in spite of a history of trail riding.

Well, what he knew was “I go at the start of the ride, I rush along thoughtlessly, I stop at the end of the ride, and if you ask me to think then I’m gonna blow PS don’t touch the reins or I will jerk you.”

He also came dramatically undernourished and weedy and lacking foot care (although already the better for having been a couple months at a great interim barn), which manifested in hoof flares/hoof quality, unshed winter coat in June (not Cushings, no), crappy mane quality, no muscle (not just lack of exercise, no), and, weirdly, he didn’t smell right!  It didn’t take long to address most of that. His summer coat gleamed when it finally came, I trimmed the ugly patches out of his mane without creating too much of a disaster, and his feet are almost grown out and no longer flaring even at the end of the trimming cycle.

People have suggested tragic background stories for him.  I don’t find any interest in that, and I don’t for a moment think anyone abused him to create his anxieties; they simply didn’t teach him that he could think beyond any initial concerns, and so those concerns built.  In the end it doesn’t even matter what his first fifteen years were like; I don’t need to know.  It matters only how I address the horse in front of me.

I have to admit, getting from there to here (so far) has been something of a wild ride.  From the saddle hunt for a horse with shoulders back to there, strong but wide withers, a flat back and a short weight-bearing zone (still sorting that out) to the bit hunt, which sent me to bitting places I never thought I’d and is currently settled there, at least for now.  Horse’s choice, after all.

Initially we worked from the ground, which was a good option, especially as he absorbed his new nutrition and strengthened…and became more dramatic when asked to think.  “My brain is hot!” he said.  “I don’t know what to do with that, so I’ll PANIC!”

That was interesting.  Yeah.  That’s the word I’ll stick with.  Interesting.

Our progress hasn’t been as fast as I’d like, but there’s definitely been progress.  There were the six weeks between the time he outgrew my saddle and I found another–imperfect for me, but decent for him.  Then we spent a couple of months on the bitting, and literally the day after our first ride in his current bit, got hit with a severe winter (and no indoor facility), then a severe illness.  But there’s always something, and we’re poking away at things.  For a horse who started with no ground manners and no in-hand work and no awareness of what it meant to, you know…just walk, we’re doing okay.

But that might put my delight at today’s ride into perspective–a little noodle in the small paddock after the long weather-sick layoff, trying out a new saddle.  During which he stretched into the bit, rolled out some relaxa-snorts, demonstrated our baby step lateral work (shoulder-in and haunches-in positioning and other gymnastics), and only heaved a great sigh when I asked him to be more thoughtful.  Then he stood at the hitching tree while smugness rolled off him in great waves, a ridiculous and laughable exaggerated sense of self and accomplishment.

Oh so smug.

Takota Horse: What’s that?  RIDICULOUS AND SMUG?  The hell I was!

(Did I mention, he’s going through a phase?  He didn’t swear when he got here; he just flailed and looked big-eyed and flabbergasted a lot.  Now he swears like a teenager who’s discovered WORDS.)

Well, it’s okay, buddy.  It looks good on you.


Mar 152019

By Patty Wilber

I looked at Equine Appeasing Pheromone (some data-driven evidence supports its efficacy) and tryptophan (no data-driven evidence supports it) as calming agents in horses over the last two weeks.

One of my favorite pictures of LT. Magnesium supplementation did not seem to change her outlook on life, but Vitamin B and tryptophan pastes did.

This week is magnesium, and still to come are fat and Vitamin B.  Oh boy!

When looking into magnesium as a calmer in horses, I figured it would be super easy.  There are tons of supplements with Mg in them, and the sellers make a lot of “backed by science” claims, so my plan was to go read those studies, summarize them and ta da! Done!

But Nooooo.

Continue reading »

Mar 142019

by Doranna

All Samhain Heartsong Posts, Collected


Arlie touched him, all right. She touched him with her lips, with her hands, with the flutter of her lashes. She ran her tongue along his jaw, the seam of his mouth, the curve of his ear. She rolled with him over the blanket, soaking in the scent of his skin and the sound of his groans. She chose the moment to fit herself to him—and then waited for him to overcome the new flood of sensation before she began to move. His face was beautiful in its straining pleasure, his jaw tight and his brow drawn, his mouth as fierce as his need. Continue reading »

Mar 112019

by Doranna

All Samhain Heartsong Posts, Collected


“My use of the doorways.” Jaice repositioned their hands so hers nested within his, giving her opportunity to trace the lines of his palm. He tipped his head back, eyes closed, and made a visible effort to continue. “My skills are unhoned…I was noticed.”

She recognized, by now, the moments when he worked around those things he was forbidden to discuss.

More than forbidden. Controlled.

The reminder that any single individual had the strength and ability to control a man as strong as this one, as vital—

It turned her serious, her hand stilling against his. “But you’re here.” Continue reading »

Mar 102019

Alice & Tristan!
by Doranna

AliceCH Luvbug Copper Rose More Than Feeling RN CGC

Alice joined us almost three years ago–already a champion with two litters under her belt, and ready to have her own pack.  She’s a shy, giggly, soft girl by nature, which means training her is a gentle dance.  I gave her lots of time to understand that the training game is a game and she ultimately earned her novice rally title with high scores and placements.

That single rally title (after her CGC, ie Canine Good Citizen) was all we intended for her to earn, although now she hip checks the boys out of training space to take over, so you never know.  Still, her primary job here is to be just what she is by nature–a sweet loving girl who fills the Pack Princess hole in our household.  And did it pretty much from the moment she arrived.



Tristan has had some life interruptus, between an ultimately unnecessary obstruction surgery* and some illness/injury on my part, each of which encompassed one of our active seasons.**   Oh, the agility trials we’ve had to cancel!  Wahhh!

*(Long story)
** (Some areas, handlers can trial every weekend without driving too far.  Ours is not one of them. Our opportunities are highly seasonal.)

Nonetheless, at four years old he’s going gangbusters on the Fun Front. He’s crazy to DO things, and to learn, and to be with his people.  He had his VCD2 while he was still 2yo, and is at this point well toward his second MACH as he trains for utility (this is slow going, due to aforementioned human illness) and works toward his VST/tracking championship.  He has plenty of time left for both of those endeavors, human health willing, so I’m not pushing it.

His motto is “Do all the things, all the time, and do them with quivering excitement!”

Tristan also qualified for AKC Nationals even before Dart did. Since Nationals is one (heroic) day of driving away this year and the chance of having two dogs qualified again on a year when it’s that close and I can manage health and work concerns is in the realm of infinitesimal, we’ve decided to take the hermit (me) out of her hidey hole and go for it.  A trip of a lifetime sort of thing for us for which our goal is to enjoy the camaraderie, the dogs, and the bigness of it all.

This, as it happens, occurs soon!  But the story installments are already scheduled and will go on, and surely that’s the most important thing…

Mar 082019

By Patty Wilber

(Update on Cloud at the end)

(Thanks to Stacy Boswell, DVM, for consultation on this!)

Last week I talked about Equine Appeasing Hormone as a calming agent and this week is tryptophan.


Perhaps these seem like rather obscure items to use to calm horses (and there are a few more for the next couple of blogs), but I am focussing on substances that are not illegal to have on board a show horse.

When looking up equine calmers, the product will often say “will not test” indicating that if one’s horse were tested for illegal drugs, this supplement would not result in disqualification.

On to tryptophan.

Continue reading »

Mar 062019

by Doranna

All Samhain Heartsong Posts, Collected


But Jaice’s hand remained, an inexorable request, and his gaze held steady on hers. He presented his hand again, a little gesture of insistence.

Arlie accepted the invitation, letting his fingers envelope hers.

He must have steeled himself. He stiffened with a pained sound, but held his ground. His eyes widened; his jaw went hard. Arlie found that she was the one trembling.

Then again, maybe she was just a little bit shocky, too. A lizard beast from another world, a warrior who felt pain only when she touched him, her own adrenaline still surging in waves through her body.

He released a breath, having accepted the pain. His expression held something different now—something she hadn’t seen before, not once in his time here. A spark of something she might have called hope…or yearning. A daring to want on a level so deep it hardly had a name. Continue reading »

Mar 042019

by Doranna

All Samhain Heartsong Posts, Collected


Arlie made an inexpert jab at the creature’s scaly hide, jamming the Taser against the thing’s spine, her hope plummeting when it barely stiffened. Its tail straightened with a snap that battered her leg on the way by, taking her down.

But Jaice gained space, locking one arm against the other to strengthen his resistance. And when Arlie fell, her hand skidded through tough grass clumps to find rock. A flat rock with sharp edges, broken from the limestone of the arroyo.

She threw herself on the back of the beast, slamming the rock at the base of its skull and then nearly losing her grip when it did little more than bounce off.

Doesn’t matter. If it gives Jaice an edge— Continue reading »