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What is it about human (and horse) nature that keeps us from doing the things that are good for us?

We procrastinate, avoid, rationalize, and deny.

“I’ll get to the gym tomorrow,” we promise.

“I don’t really need that much sleep,” we say as we stay up much later than our body wants/needs.

“I’ll start eating better right after my vacation, or right after the holidays, or right after our guests leave, or ?? You can fill in the blank on this lovely excuse.

I could go on, but I’m certain you get the idea.

In Miss Pepper’s case, she isn’t making up excuses or telling herself little white fibs.

At least I don’t think she is.

But playing games is her speciality.

And she has nailed it.



Because of her achy, arthritic legs she gets a daily anti-inflammatory pill. It really helps.

That must be why she doesn’t want to take it. 🙂


The pill - circled in red.

The pill – circled in red.

Every day we place the pale pink half-moon-shaped pill into her grain pan. Sometimes right on top. Other times we cover it with a bit of grain.

It doesn’t matter. She always finds it.

And without fail, she proceeds to push it around the pan.

Looking for that darned pill!

Looking for that darned pill!

We spend our time peering into her grain, searching for the pill. “Has she gotten it yet?” We sift through her food examining each little morsel of grain, as intently as if searching for weapons of mass destruction.

Sometimes we look at each other and laugh at our total folly.

We figure Pepper must enjoy our attention, because she pushes that pill here and there, avoiding it until she’s down to the last few bites. Sometimes she even spits it out, which sends us scouring the ground, looking for a pink pill in the dirt or snow, depending on the season.

Pepper keeps one eye on us as we go through our silly pill search.

And she usually has a mischievous glint in that same eye. I think we really entertain our persnickety old mare.


As for that promise to get to the gym. Went this morning.


This is Fred, aka Beau, at the back of this picture. He’s been my nemesis all summer, because of his Lothario-like ways with my sweet old mare Pepper. And his aggression toward Bud and the other two old bachelors, Red and Amigo.

He’s not welcome when we are out feeding.

He’s learned this after several confrontations.

Many times, I’ve backed him away from the group.

But the real message-sender is my husband, aka “the enforcer.”

He and Fred have had some serious “talks,” with the end result being this message: STAY AWAY FROM PEPPER.

When I watch these “talks” I think it’s a very good thing Rick doesn’t have daughters!

To his credit, Fred has agreed to stay away at feeding time, albeit with a big dose of attitude.

I’m thankful that he isn’t always around. Miss P. is spending much more time with the Herd of Oldsters. Many days we don’t ever lay eyes on Mr. I’m-so-hot-and-you-are-mine.

However, on the day this photo was taken, Fred glared at us from a short distance away. For at least half the time Bud and Pepper were eating, Fred stood his ground, shooting daggers our way.

Eventually he moved away to find his other mares.

Can you say “power struggle?”

I think that’s what we have on our hands. A good old-fashioned struggle for power.

Fred wants to be the alpha. For one hour a day, we refuse to allow him that role. Who knows what happens the other twenty-three?

I’m not sure I want to think about it.

Our senior citizen mare, Miss Pepper has been off her feed for a few days. She’s lost weight and we’ve worried because our skinny girl doesn’t have any weight to lose.

She’s eager enough to come out with Bud and nose into her grain pan. And she’ll eat about half of her allotment of feed before wandering away.

Most days we’ve been able to redirect her for a few more mouthfuls. But like I said, we were concerned. We had the big C- word in the back of our minds – colic.

Our vet suggested a dose of Banomine, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug for horses, and to watch her carefully. She also said to start blanketing Miss P. sooner rather than later.

It will mean two trips to the pasture: one to put the blanket on and another the next morning to remove it for these warm fall days. We had a cold snap last week accompanied by freezing rain and Pepper may have gotten chilled.

“You know, old horses are not easy keepers.”

Those words have been ringing in my head ever since our vet offered them.

I like to think of myself as an easy keeper – not one of those high-maintenance women that people talk about. Yep, low maintenance for me all the way.

I remember reading an article years ago in a popular woman’s magazine that divided people into two categories: ferns (needing special care, perfect growing conditions and lots of tending, or cacti (needing very little care in order to grow and thrive.) No fussing for a cactus.

At the time I placed myself in the cactus category, with equal doses of pride and smugness. I liked being low-maintenance, but it came with a down side.

It’s taken me years to learn to put a stop to my day, to spend money on myself, to say “no” when I needed to, to learn that receiving is as honorable as giving. A cactus is beautiful but prickly, and has a pretty shallow root system.

The older I get, I find I want deeper roots that will sustain me even in times of drought. I’ve learned that it is important to ask for what I want, to set boundaries, to say “no.”

And as for being not such an easy-keeper, like Pepper, I need extra attention. My body doesn’t work like it did when I was twenty, or even forty. I have aches and pains I never imagined when I was younger. I have to watch what I eat, move my body more, get enough sleep and build rest times into my work schedule. That’s just how it is these days. If that shifts me over to the “fern category,” then so be it.

Come to think of it, I had a gorgeous Boston fern on my deck all summer long. It was hands down the easiest-to-care-for-plant in my garden.

As for Miss P. the Banomine seemed to work. She trotted over to us last night when we went out to feed, and ate every morsel of grain in her pan.


I’ll gladly make the extra trips to keep her warm at night. She’s given me so much, I’m happy to return the favor.


So where do you fall on the easy-keeper continuum? How has it changed as you’ve aged?

People seem to be in love with lists. Grocery lists, to-do lists, wish lists, Christmas lists, bucket lists, vacation lists, gratitude lists. The list of lists is endless.

And so on this rather cool August morning, I give you my list of ten things I love about my girl Miss Pepper

  1. Pepper is authentic. She is the 100% genuine real deal. She never pretends with anyone. If she likes you, or doesn’t, it’s obvious right away.
  2. Pepper knows what she likes and goes for it. All out commitment. There is no “Maybe I like this. I’m just not sure” with her. Alfalfa cubes, horse candy, being around other horses, going for a walk. She’ll let you know. She’s my role model about asking for what I want, and not settling for anything less.
  3. Pepper is a detail girl. She pays attention to the world around her. She notices things.  I am in love with her face when it is on full alert. Ears perked up, face open and eyes intense.  I trust her to know what’s going on. The others in her herd do too.
  4. There is a spot behind her ears that feels like velvet. The hair is short and so soft. I love to run my fingers along her ear and melt into the softness. It’s focused stress management for me.
  5. Pepper has a great sense of humor. She’s not a joke teller or one who plays practical jokes. Hers is more of a dry humor. It goes with her ability to notice things. I know she’s smiling inside most of the time. Especially when I’m doing something rather clumsily. She tolerates me, even finds me amusing.
  6. Pepper is a loyal friend. She worries about her herd mates when they are gone. She is especially loyal to Bud. They’ve been together since 1991 and that counts for something in horse and human terms.
  7. Pepper tolerates newbies. Horses and humans.
  8. Pepper is forgiving. She doesn’t always like the things we ask of her. And yet, she continues to come to us when we ask. Who knows what she’s thinking? But she almost always cuts us some slack. There were a lot of years when I was a total klutz around her. She never made fun of me to my face. Maybe she said things to Bud or one of the others. But never to me. I appreciate that.
  9. Pepper is a leader. She makes bold decisions and then lives with them. I attribute my business sense largely to her. Show up, stay in touch, take risks, follow through, and ask for what you want. All come from Miss P.
  10. There is a soul inside this mare that is huge. Every day she reminds me to be kind, forgiving, and open to the world around me. She is my teacher, my friend, and my soul mate.

I wish you could know her. Maybe through my words you do. At least a little.



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