Story from Anna Blake's book Going Steady - More Relationship Advice from Your Horse
Inconceivable: I'm going to share my pie recipe. I'll pause and give my friends time to pick themselves up. They know this sort of thing could go either way.

There was that time years ago, that I had a date over for dinner. We hadn't known each other long and I always want to get off on the right foot. We were sipping wine in the living room when I went to check on dinner in the kitchen. I had rice on the stove. Lifting the lid, there was no water visible. I could see the beginning of a light golden color around the edges. So naturally, I turned up the heat and returned to the living room.

For some people, cooking is a creative passion. I mean no disrespect; I hope they invite me for dinner. Somehow cooking wound up being political for me.

I was raised in traditional home, meaning it was plain to see that men and boys had all the power and unhappy women cleaned up after them. My mother, who also hated cooking, tried to teach me right. She knew that ordinary girls, ones who couldn't get by just on their good looks, would need serious domestic skills if they were ever to find a husband. Especially an ordinary girl with a mouth like mine.

So yes, I sew beautifully but I used the concept of piecing fabric into clothing as a way of understanding how to hand-build gemstone settings, using tools like my oxy-acetylene torch, when I was a goldsmith. And it's only recently that I've admitted knowing how to type. It’s been decades since a man has asked me to type their term paper. And now, three books later, I seem to have found good use for those "secretarial skills" they talked about in high school. Finally, truth be told, I'm a great cook... but it gives me no joy.

To each his own; it wasn't the life I wanted. Once I left home, I shunned any traditional "women’s work." Maybe I was afraid if I faltered once, I'd be typecast forever. Instead, I bit my tongue and pretended ignorance.

It was horses who made kitchens safe again. My pie recipe will make more sense now.
First, it must be understood that the pie is always made from fresh apples. In the beginning, I used to make my grandmother's crust recipe. It has a secret ingredient and is outlandishly good. Now, I buy the pre-rolled Pillsbury crusts. They're passable and my grandmother was always disappointed with me anyway.

Next, the apples. Buy a huge bag of them and do the worst job of peeling them possible. Sure, I was born with the gene that allows a paper-thin one piece curl of apple skin, but that's just showing off and doesn't serve the big picture. I like to hack thick slabs of the peel off so that when I’m done, the apple has a wonky octagon shape and is only two-thirds the size it was before I started. Then core the apple and slice what's left into the pie shell. Continue until the pie shell is heaping full.

Then I drag out my Betty Crocker cookbook with the red gingham cover. Mom gave it to me while I was still in high school and I certainly haven't bought another since. I turn to the Perfect Apple Pie recipe to remember how much flour, sugar, and cinnamon to sprinkle in. Then dab butter on top, but use more than they say. See? I've gone off recipe already. Put the lid on the pie, crinkle the edges together, and put it in the oven.

Now hurry. You only have an hour. Quarter the rest of the apples, scoop them together with chunky apple peels into a bag, and scurry out to the barn. Put a handful of peels in every feeder, while relaxing into the first equine thought that comes into your head. For me, it's always my Grandfather Horse. I miss him. This will be the first year in thirty that he and I haven't avoided this holiday together.

So I made the pie early this year; I needed the apple-peel ritual that's part political, part spiritual, and part therapeutic. It's been a mean year and I'm behind on my breathing.

As the horses chew, my jaw softens. Sinking down on a bale; the barn feels like home and all the memories of good horses come galloping back. It's good to be reminded. If you're like me, you’ve been stronger than you ever thought possible. Some days you failed your horse, but you didn't quit. Other days, you’ve been lifted high and carried like treasure.

(If you don't have a barn, it doesn't matter. Quietly remember the first horse you loved. Call him to you; let him star in his own movie. You know the plot by heart.)

Through the manure and the mud, the horses saw something in us that had nothing to do with sex or career. It was beyond hair color or dress size or age. Horses treated us in a way that our own species struggles with. They treated us as equals.

An hour later, back in the house, the air is sweet with warm cinnamon and now you have a second apple treat to share with friends or family. They welcome you in with a hug that lasts longer than usual and they hold eye contact. The pie is an after thought.

There is something about women who know horses. It's part apples and part muck boots, along with some stray white hairs on her sweatshirt. She's comfortable in her body because she knows acceptance; the glow that lingers from the barn.

At any age, we should know better than to confuse a silly pie with a woman's real worth. Never underestimate her. A heart filled with horses can accomplish anything.
More about Going Steady:
Folks who are friends with me on Facebook (if you're not, send me a request here) know that I quote Anna Blake - A LOT. So I am thrilled to announce that I have her latest book Going Steady - More Relationship Advice from Your Horse here on the shelves at HoofPrints. This softcover book is just 318 pages, but it might as well be a million, for all the wisdom contained therein. Each chapter is short; just a few pages, but every single one contains profound words that summarize a powerful, complex concept into a memorable, eloquent sentence or two with losing any of the meaning. 
Anna now has a special online group; The Relaxed and Forward Barn, where she answers individual questions, shares videos, comments on other folks' shared videos, and more. So many of the members (myself included) are engaged in perpetual struggle; trying to unlearn and leave behind all the conventional training we were taught that now looks a whole lot more like bullying than partnership.

This new book speaks to that struggle, is profound and encouraging - in actionable ways. Like this: "Continue to cue cleanly, clearly, and consistently. The other word for that is honesty. It's a profound relief to just say what you mean. No longer biting your tongue, soon confidence seeps in because honesty just feels good. Nice correction, give yourself a pat. Most women have known enough confident asshats that confidence has gotten a bad name.

Redefine confidence is a sense of positive well-being based in honesty. Set about demonstrating that for your horse. Know that training a horse to have confidence, to feel peace and acceptance, is the resolution for every problem he will ever encounter. Leadership is giving a feeling of safety. Correct your stiff contradictions and anxiety about not being good enough. Recognize you're passing it on to your horse, causing the behaviors you want to correct in him. Discipline yourself to accept your shortcomings and promise to do better. Love yourself as much as you love horses.

Your horse doesn't care if you're always right; he just wants to trust himself through your partnership. Your confidence is his confidence. Train that."
Save $10.85 on the Anna Blake Book Set
Includes: Barn Dance - Nickers, brays, bleats, howls, and quacks: Tales from the herd, Relaxed & Forward - Relationship Advice from Your Horse, Stable Relation - A memoir of one woman's spirited journey home, by way of the barn, and Going Steady - More Relationship Advice from Your Horse

Do you still watch those old horse movies that you've seen a dozen times, just for the scenes of the horse galloping in slow motion? Do you hold your breath just a bit?

It's because horses embody so much more than muscle and bone. They evoke a full range of emotions like hope and courage and valor. They can gallop straight to you with neck arched and tail flagged, and then instantly melt to a stop--just to share your breath.

We've been besotted with horses since they had three toes. From the popular Relaxed and Forward blog comes training advice combining the everyday fundamentals of dressage with mutual listening skills. Blake writes with a profound respect for horses and an articulate voice for humans, blending equal parts inspiration and un-common sense. It's serious training communicated with humor and lightness, because horses like cheerful riders.

Most riders want to build a better relationship with their horse. These short essays are geared as much toward encouraging a positive training attitude as useful technique. Blake's writing uses clear descriptions, storytelling, and humor to inspire meaningful, positive communication. Less correction and more direction. Horses are honest; they answer us in kind. If we want a better response, a more fluid conversation and relationship with a horse, riders have to be the ones to change first. The other word for that is leadership.
Did you get what you wanted for Christmas?
Consider ordering HoofPrints' own Favorite Horse Quotes Calendar for 2021.
Each month has all the traditional holidays noted, as well as dozens of fun and interesting horse related anniversaries. ALSO MAKES A GREAT GIFT! - Shipping is FREE and I can send it directly to your recipient along with a hand written gift card.
Shown here is June; featuring the quote "Bloom where you're planted" - a woman and her horse superimposed over a field of beautiful lavendar flowers. Lavender's been scientifically proven to promote relaxation in both humans and horses; new to HoofPrints this season is Indiana company Annie Oakley Perfumery's Journey's collection of products designed specifically for horse owners. More about that below.

The calendar is a super deal, too, each month also features a Coupon Code to be used for big savings on selected items that month, with the biggest being a refund of the entire purchase price of the calendar ($14.95) to be used on your $40+ order placed in 2019.
Can smelling lavender help your horse to relax and behave better? Science says that it can.
NEW! Journeys™ Calming Lavender Essentials for Horse & Rider is a three product collection designed to work together - formulated by Indiana, USA perfumery Annie Oakley using 100% Lavandula Augustifolia (the rarest and highest quality lavender).
The first of its kind, these fragranced products are designed to be used by both horse and rider, as an all natural tool to promote effective training and to ease tension. And it's not just anecdotal woo-woo "feel good" stuff. There is significant scientific evidence to confirm that it really works to promote calm and relaxation in both horses and humans!
Journeys™ creates positive experiences between horse and rider
Horses live by their senses, and Journeys™ primary ingredient, Lavender Essential Oil, has been clinically proven to be effective for calming horses, facilitating learning or drama-free farrier/veterinary encounters. Journeys™ offers handlers a way to surround their horse with the soothing scent of lavender... in the stall, on saddles and blankets, on riders' clothing and hands, and on the horse's muzzle. Horses will feel more relaxed and associate good experiences with being handled.
Use every day and your horses will become familiar with the calming scent. When a stressful situation comes along, like transport, showing, or a vet/farrier visit, the familiar scent of lavender will ease tension and allow your horse to be at his best.
You can buy the kit, or get the products individually - Body Oil is designed to be used directly on skin (yours and your horse's), Pure Essential Oil is super concentrated - for diffusing or adding by the drop to bath water or fly repellent, Spray is for stalls, trailers, clothing, blankets, etc.
Gina Keesling started HoofPrints in 1986 to provide helpful promotional materials for farrier husband Rob. Along the way she added a fun selection of horse and dog products geared toward women of a certain age. This newsletter is emailed to subscribers a few times a month. Watch for sales, stories (including dog-bathing instructions) and more.
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