The Funny Thing About Finding Purpose…

….Is once you find it, you don’t have a whole lot of time to mull it over!

Hello again. Where have you been?

Me? Well, I have been up to my neck in work, and faced with a brutal case of writer’s block.

I’ve tried a few times to write. I actually have six almost complete blogs that are floating around my ancient computer’s desktop. It isn’t the time to finish them. Maybe it never will be. I can’t count the number of blog ideas that have stopped me dead in my tracks while currying and saddling horses. The problem is, I’ve been so busy that by the time I have the time and energy to get them out, they have flown away, perhaps to someone else who has the wherewithal to follow them through. Oh, that’s an irritating thought!

Chris, what has kept you so busy and tired that you couldn’t get your thoughts out?

Well, in February of 2016 Louie and I moved to the M Diamond Ranch, outside of Sedona and went to work as full time managers/wranglers.

What’s with your horses?

My black horse stepped up and went to work as a wrangle horse as if he had been waiting for the opportunity all along. I am thrilled that he seems to enjoy his job. It has been great to see how much more social he is getting with all of the people around him. Getting him outside of his quiet little Verde River world was a blessing. Sometimes I still think of selling him. But it is going to take a heck of a horse to replace him.

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It’s time to ride Chisholm! He’s been almost ready for awhile. Now I feel like any day it is going to happen. I’ll have to make time for that blog. Gosh he has turned into a hunk!

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To help me get over my writer’s block I went back and read all of my old posts. I have to admit, I can’t say that I know a whole lot more than what I did in the beginning. Instead of saying I am more knowledgeable, I think I will say that my ignorance and naivety have evolved. I definitely feel a cynicism that I didn’t use to have but I try not to let it show to people who don’t know me. Go ahead, laugh.

The horses still surprise me, most of the time in good ways. I appreciate the amount of “Don’t worry Chris, I’ve got this!” that this herd has.

Mostly, I’ve spent my days smelling like horse sweat and that’s alright by me. Some of my goals have changed, some have gone away, some have been added.

After auditing Buck Brannaman clinics twice, I really, really, really want to ride in one. Timing will be tricky but it may be possible.

I still want to have that good, solid saddle horse that I made from the ground up. Maybe Chisholm is it. Maybe not. The time to know the answer is getting closer.

I guess, I really don’t know how to reintroduce myself to writing. They say to write about what you know. Right now I know a horse who ground ties and hobbles is invaluable. Right now I know that a good, gentle kid’s horse is worth it’s weight in gold. Right now I know a forgiving horse is still at the top of my list of needs. Right now I know I have found a bit of peace and my black horse seems to have as well.

In some ways my horsemanship seems to have gone stagnant, perhaps, even backward. In other ways I feel like I am ready to ride my black horse in front of one of the greats to see if I have gone as far as I think I have. I am ready to step on my colt, so I can see if I have added a few pieces to the puzzle that I didn’t have with my last colt.

I could start back to it by regaling you with my latest dude wrangling stories. Wait until I get around to telling you about the thirteen Chinese dairy farmers!

Maybe I should just start by saying, I’m back, I still love horses, and I am still learning. Hopefully this will break down the dam that’s been holding the chaos of words in my mind.

It may work. Let’s see. Hello again.

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The Year in Horses

Well, this year I’ve jumped feet first into improving my own foundation riding skills, particularly hand position. I’ve mentally sweated through the beginnings of creating new muscle memory that will benefit the layers of detail I add in the years to come. I’ve read countless articles and studied hundreds of pictures and I stay forever vigilant about how it affects the conversations I have with my horses. I’ve also managed to train my husband to bark at me every time my hands get out of the proper position. Not quite as cool as Pavlov, but effective none the less.

I’ve also decided, at least for now, to hang on to The Black Horse and see what I can make of him in terms of an all around saddle horse. My main focus for him this year has been exposure.  He is finally pretty relaxed in his home environment. However, new people have been an obstacle for him. I managed to thrust him in to the hands of a few complete strangers this year and the results gave me hope. At least no one died, although the chiropractor hasn’t called to set up a follow up appointment recently.

This coming year my plan is to to add heaps of worldy experience to his repertoire. I even have strange kids lined up to mess with him. There may also be a few small shows and clinics lined up for us. It’s refreshing to see the change from working within his limitations to finding out just how far I can take him. Although, having him around has really got me chewing on the idea of introverts owning horses. More on that some other time.

Finley has been an absolute pleasure to work with this year. Adding the final touches to her foundation work before she goes off to some fancy Dressage barn to be started has really kept me on my toes. It’s absolutely nerve racking to think that a lot of her success from here on out has to do with what we’ve worked on in these past months. I find myself simultaneously enjoying the quiet moments listening to her eat her grain just a little more while purposely detaching myself from her.

If I’ve made one major mistake with her (and I’ve tried very hard not to!) it has been to get too personal with her. To make her what I like instead of what she needs to be. It’s been great having her around because I’ve had to set aside some of my personal opinions (Ouch!) in order to give her the best shot at success. I’m excited to see what her third year of life will bring her. She’s already on the cover of a fancy magazine in my dreams, but really, just knowing she will be content with her place in the world will suffice.

Chisholm has also kept me chewing on things mentally. If he’s given me one gift it has been his part in helping me make some of my own definitions concerning my horsemanship. The major one came today when something we were working on started to fall apart and thankfully I had the presence of mind to step back instead of push forward.

Today, I learned my personal definition of what it means when I have a horse “going good”. To me, when a horse is going good, he isn’t just making progress in training. He needs to be okay with how things end as often as possible. This includes being okay with the environment and the equipment that was used. He gained more understanding and trust than he did fear. And, I think maybe one way to tell if a horse is ending on good note I how he starts out the next day. For instance, if we worked on his hobbling skills the day before does he see me step in to the pen with hobbles, and turn and run?  Or is he just as willing to try to see your point of view as he was yesterday? There’s always going to be set backs. And eventually we are going to ask a colt to do something he REALLY doesn’t want to do. I think that’s another time when I know if he’s going good. Is there absolutely no room for discussion on his side, or is he willing, based on past experiences, to try?

With Chisholm, I’ve tried to encourage and preserve his willingness to learn. It’s really helped me slow down enough to know specifically what I am looking for. Which in turn makes me ask more clearly. Which makes it easier for him to understand and respond. So basically, me slowing down and paying attention to every little detail, has sped things up. Fun stuff. He’s got a whole year before he is to be started. I hope by then it will be no surprise to him when I climb on board and start asking him to do all this stuff from his back. Cross your fingers.

I’ve been searching in every horse I’ve touched this year for the same feel I had in Clyde. (Sometime I’ll write more specifically about Clyde, but not yet.) I’m looking for the same attention and willingness. I feel it most often in Finley. I feel it every once in awhile in The Black Horse. Chisholm, not so much. But there’s plenty of time to work on that.

It’s interesting because while I am searching for what was at the base of how Clyde felt, I’ve learned so much about how much Clyde didn’t know. My friend, Kathleen Lindley Beckham just wrote a great facebook post about her ‘Easy Horse’ and how much he’s teaching her. If you get the chance, look it and her up. The post really brings to mind Clyde. I got away with a lot with that horse because we liked each other and he just wasn’t that big into disagreeing.

I think he came along at a perfect time and was the perfect first colt for me to start on my own. He never had a grumpy day and was always willing to play my silly games. He never scared me which gave me the confidence to spend more time with him. I’ll never forget the first time I had him riding out of the arena. We were about twenty minutes from the house when we scared a huge flock of wild turkey. They flapped and ran and made ruckus right underneath us. The only thought I could form was, “Louie is right, I am going to get myself killed!”. And then I realized all of the commotion hadn’t even made him break stride. For better or worse, I was really hooked on young horses then.

Still, while I will always miss him and be searching for that connection again, he may have gone away at the perfect time to. Since he’s been gone I’ve had my hands on dozens of other horses including foals that were minute old, upwards to retired blind, senile, old soldiers. I’ve messed around with troubled horses, solid old school horses, and completely blank slates. If nothing else, handling them while mentally comparing their feel to Clyde’s has sure made me appreciate easy horses and want to search that out more and more.

I’m still trying to figure out what exactly I’m put here to do or even what I am. This year and the experiences I’ve had have given me a few more pieces of the puzzle. So far, Do The Work has worked out to be an excellent New Year’s resolution. We’ll see how it works out for me in 2016.

 

 

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If All Goes As Hoped

Yesterday was September 1st. It was a pretty big day because it marked “hopefully” the end of 100+ degree days here.

It was also a big day because it was the first day I had with the horses since we’ve been back from our week long vacation in Colorado. They didn’t let me down.

I saddled the black horse up cold and put him right to work ponying Fin out. He’s been lounging around, bossing Chisholm around, and eating alfalfa with no real release of his extra energy. I was very proud of him for keeping level and flat while long trotting along with a fizzy two year old warm blood. We have a long way to go in the way of refinement and detail. But he is turning into an indispensable saddle horse. It made my heart swell to know that he is starting to find peace with his work.

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And then there’s Fin. I’ve not been around many warmbloods but the ones I have made my stomach do flip flops. They all seemed so tuned out to humans and ready to burst at the seams over the slightest thing. Fin, luckily, seems to have a lot more common sense than the others. Still, when I saw her cock her ear back at an odd angle while we were trotting along, I did cringe inwardly. I looked back and saw she had managed to catch a huge tumble weed in her long, thick tail. It was alternately dragging on the ground and banging against her hocks with each stride. “Hmmm. Well, there’s nowhere to go but forward.”, I thought to myself. She kept trotting, giving the tumbleweed the beady eye every once in awhile. Eventually she got tired of it, swung her tail in a huge arc, and karate smashed it off. All, while never breaking stride or making a fuss. Well played sister, well played. After we got back I tied the black horse up, and took Fin back down to her neck of the woods. Over there, there is a long, narrow cement walkway with stairs up to it that weaves around the public bathrooms, takes a corner and then ends in a wheelchair ramp down. It is maybe three feet wide with a wooden rail along the edge. Apparently, as I was walking past it with Fin, she felt she was too close to me so rather than crowd me to get away from the walkway and building she opted to walk up the stairs and along the walkway. The slack never left the lead rope. It wasn’t her version of, “Hey, let’s see what’s over here!” It was, “I am not supposed to push on you, so I guess I am supposed to do this.” I led her along the walkway, her several feet above me, we wove around the corner, she walked down the ramp, and we continued on to her pasture. Never a snort when she passed the open door with fans blowing. Never a falter. We were just walking. I hugged her before I turned her loose. I was over the moon. The kids are growing up!!

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After that came another important part of my day. Sitting in the yard with my husband drinking a beer. As I sipped I let my gaze wonder over our herd. I let it stop on Chisholm. Chisholm is the youngest. He is around 16 months old. I talked Louie into buying him early last spring to replace a colt we sold. I pitched it as an excellent investment. He is papered, has a great mind, and if he grows up to look anything like his full sister, he will be stunning. Still, I always have the hope of starting one that has the feel I am looking for who grows into the size I am looking for. I want to be sitting on a gentle, solid twelve year old horse someday and know that he is as good as he is because somewhere along the line, I figured out what I was doing. It is ego I know, but hey, just as horses are horses, I am human.

Louie saw me looking. “So, what are you going to do with your colt?”

“Well, long term, I still have no idea. But tonight, I think I’ll pull him out and brush him.”

Chisholm has currently been rooming with the black horse. When he came to us his feet seemed awful stuck, and I wasn’t crazy about how he moved off, more stiff and fleeing, than soft and subtle. I worked a bit with his hind end and got some results, but I felt like maybe there was an easier way to get my point across. I did, and physically, it was real easy for me. Albeit, it was a little nerve racking for the first few days. I decided that the black horse had loosened up many creatures’ (both two legged, and four legged) feet. He’s over pushing humans around. But, I’ve yet to find another four legged that he tells to move, who doesn’t.

When I was first learning round pen work, I was told that if I needed a horse to move and he was being sluggish, to pick my line and walk to him with an energy that says, “If you’re still there when I get there, I am going to walk right through you.” It works pretty good for me. But it REALLY works for the black horse.

After a few days of the black horse walking right through Chisholm, I noticed a change. Now that Chisholm’s been in with the black horse for a few months, I have a pretty observant, soft colt on my hands. Thanks again black horse.

So, I got little Chisholm out and brushed him down. Then I took a couple of glamour shots of him, inadvertently working on his ground tying. I’ve got a year and a half to put everything in him that I want to before we start riding him. If all goes as I hope (I gave up planning) he will be my “one”. There’s plenty of other options for him though. Louie may fall in love with him. He may end up being a perfectly nice horse that we are proud of, but just doesn’t have the exact feel either of us is looking for. If so, we already have people standing in line, waiting for the work to be done and for him to come up for sale. If all goes as hoped, he will have a successful life with someone who loves and appreciates him.

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If. All. Goes. As Hoped.

The idea for this blog came while I was brushing Chisholm. I started thinking about a friend who has put years into her colts, and who has recently suffered losses that make me shake my head. She goes out of her way to do her homework, and only invest in hardy, healthy colts who have the breeding and temperament to grow into marketable, usable horses. Her facilities are to die for. She has beautiful, well kept pastures and impeccable fences. Her horses want for nothing, be it friends, forage or freedom. They have the best vet and farrier care money can buy. They have an extremely knowledgeable and empathetic owner/trainer. If I die and come back as I horse, I want to come back as one of her horses. If I win the lottery I am going to plan my horse facilities based on hers.

Still, with all of the odds on her side, her heart has been devastated again and again. Most recently, she had a long two year old she had bought as a yearling struck by lightening out in pasture. She had put blood sweat and hope into this horse to prepare it for success. For a year and a half she had planned and worked and focused on what needed to be done. A year and a half, and she hadn’t even swung a leg over him yet! And then, he was gone. Poof.

We’ve all had to put down horses. We’ve all seen young ones go away too soon. But it’s a bit ominous think about how much work we are going to put into these colts’ early years. We put a lot of ourselves in these guys. If everything goes as planned the horse lives a long, happy life. It can be pretty daunting though, to ponder on the years to come. I’ve been lucky. Things haven’t always worked out in my favor, but I’ve definitely come out of my fair share of close calls. I don’t know that I’d have the heart that my friend has. To keep plugging along day in and day out, starting from scratch, and not really having a way to “fix” the things that are going against her.

As usual, my only answer is to go forward and do the work. She taught me that.

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It Doesn’t Seem Like Much, But…

So, today, I had a pretty big “aha” moment. One that I’ve been doggedly pursuing for a long time. I’m pretty happy about it, so I’m going to ride out the bliss and describe it.

Today, yes, today my friends, I successfully drove my horse with my legs, into my hands and ended with a nice, soft response, for one or two strides, three or four times.

I know, can you hear the crowd cheering? I can.

“What’s the big deal?” you say. “Isn’t that what we are supposed to be striving to accomplish?”

EXACTLY. And after oh, I don’t know, fifteen years, I’ve finally pulled myself together enough to get it done…prettily.

Grab your popcorn, here comes the play by play.

So, I’m trotting along, nice and steady and loose. I decide to see just how still I can get my leg, while keeping my upper body in the best position possible. I like how that turns out. I feel good. I feel strong. I feel balanced.

So, I start really working on subtly driving my horse forward with my leg, not really adding speed, but adding what I’ve come to call “oompff”. I’ve been working hard enough on it, that I can start adding a variety of pressure and smaller movements and acknowledging my horse’s response in an appropriate manner. That, in and of it self is pretty huge in my world.

Now, I’m trotting along feeling like the leg position champion of the world, pretty poofy, just dying for someone to pop out of the mesquite and exclaim, “Oh my God, do you see her leg? It’s PERFECT!”. My horse is being a pretty good sport. And then I think, “Well, yeah, but what about your hands you dingbat?”

And this my friends is where everything tends to fall apart. Sometimes in a small way, sometimes hugely and gloriously. Sometimes it turns into his nose going all the way down, him falling on the forehand, and me not being able to fix it at all.  Sometimes it turns into a weeble wobble unbalanced wreck that can’t even maintain a certain gait, let alone a certain speed with in that gait.  But hey, I gotta keep trying right?

So, I pick up soft feel. My horse starts to root his nose. But, I persist, and in three or four strides he gives. I must have timed my release at least semi decently, because the next time the root only lasted two strides before the give. The third time, he gave almost instantly. The entire time I was experimenting, I managed to keep my leg still and steady enough that he stayed balanced in his speed, oompf, and line of travel. I actually felt him really reaching underneath him self and pushing with his hind end, and staying there when I asked him to give. WOW. By that third time all I could think was “OH, THAT’S what they’ve been talking about!”

I’ve been struggling with this concept directly for around four or five years. I’ve always felt like I had all of the ideas of what I needed, but not necessarily the strength or knowledge of what order to give the information to the horse. In other words, I was so confused and uneducated that I couldn’t really tell him what I wanted, because I didn’t know. Well, playing around today, I found the right order, the right words to explain to my horse what I was looking for. And he picked it up pretty darn quick.

I was talking with a friend recently about how sometimes, even though my personal schooling sessions don’t end in a negative fashion, I’m not always entirely sure I’ve made progress in the area I had intended to work on.

Today, it worked. It worked because I’ve finally built up the strength and muscle memory to tell my legs, “Hey, you do your job, okay? I’m going to focus most of my attention on my hands.” I’ve also been studying hand position like mad trying to create that same muscle memory there.

In short, I have worked my ass off on this little thing. And, FINALLY, I made some progress.

Luckily it is very hot and humid today. So, I couldn’t ride out my high and ruin my horse by drilling him into the ground on this new, super awesome thing that I figured out. I’ve made that mistake more than I would like to admit.

Denny Emerson wrote something recently about showing horses. I can’t remember the direct quote, but he said to be sure to enjoy your victories, because it probably won’t work out that way the next go. Well, this particular blog is me doing just that. This is me, reveling in the fact that today, I added a tiny, yet incredibly important bit of information to my skill set. It may not be that easy again for a long time. But I did it once, I can and will do it again, and again, and again….

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How Do You, You Know, Know?

Anyone who has ever worked with me, knows I really dislike being wrong. I could list pages of reasons, and experiences that have shaped this aspect of my personality, but really, none of them matter. The end result, who I am, is all that matters.

It’s not that I don’t think I can be wrong. It’s actually quite the opposite. I tend to over analyze any and every decision and move I make or could make, or should make. So, if that move ends up being the “wrong one” I have to know where I went wrong, what I did wrong, and how I could have made a better choice. It’s not so much mental self flagellation as it is an obsession with making sure I don’t make the same mistake twice. Once I have that information stored away in my memory banks, I can move on with my life.

Needless to say, I’m ten fold obsessed with making sure I get it right with my horsemanship. The trick is finding a way to test the work I’ve put in without ruining it. Having the right situation present itself or even setting up the situation artificially can take some doing. And, there are some situations I prepare for that are unlikely to happen, but still I do the work…just in case. So, if those unlikely situations never happen, how do I know I really did the work correctly? Because you know, I’ve never tested my work, and education is all about tests isn’t it?!

Take catching for instance. Hard to catch horses drive me absolutely bezako. Because I feel like, if a horse is handled right when it is young, there is little to no reason for it to be hard to catch. If the work is done early on, then you don’t have to waste quality time on chasing a horse down later in life instead of working on other important skills….like riding for instance. Still, following my husband around on his shoeing adventures has exposed me to all sorts of hard to catch horses. Not just colts, who are just learning about the human world, but horses of the age that coaxing, cajoling, or bait shouldn’t be necessary. Horses that people have supposedly been catching for years, and yet, when they see someone coming with a halter they leave the country. There’s a sigh of frustration combined with admiration for the grace with which the horse floats away. Curse words, combined with a cry of, “It doesn’t have to be this way!” follow.

The first thing I want to know when we get a new horse is can I catch him? Most of our horses end up being very easy to catch, as in, they see you coming, they meet you half way, head down, waiting for a halter. Of course, they don’t always start there.

When we first got my current horse, he would not be caught. Not even in a twelve by sixteen foot stall. And he had no qualms about taking someone out if they tried. So I did what I’d been taught. I did the work. And he got better. Soon he would meet me at the gate of his stall. Then he progressed to being able to be turned loose in the round pen and understanding to draw to me when asked. Finally, I could turn him out in a corral and be confident that I could catch him at feeding time (note at feeding time as in, when there was something in it for him). Little by little we built on it and I really thought I was getting somewhere with this catching thing. I certainly wasn’t going to have a hard to catch horse. To be perfectly honest, I had mouthed off about it too much, to have one. I know how karma works after all!

So, as the months went by I was pretty happy, and thought I had the catching thing licked. One night around midnight I pulled into our barn after work. Louie was in Colorado shoeing horses, and I had been holding down the fort while putting in full time at the hotel. Oh, did I mention it was flu season? And a nice warm lobby full of high school teams is the perfect Petrie dish. When my lights flashed on a dark streak in the night I really hoped it was a hallucination from the cold medicine. The accompanying hoof beats jerked me out of my stupor, and my next thought was, “Well, at least all seven are easy to catch.” I pulled my truck to where I would get the best coverage from my headlights and checked my herd. Of course, it was Limbo running loose and quite wild. The others whinnied and watched in amazement as he did laps. I grabbed a halter and for the next half hour tried to get near him. Every time I got within a few feet of him, he would flick his head saucily at me, and whirl away. That draw I really thought I had put in, was no where to be found.

So, I did the only thing I could think of in my exhausted condition. I stood there with my headlights shining on my back, halter in hand, and bawled, and sneezed and coughed.

At that point, my horse sensed that I was upset, and needed his support, so in a beautiful, collected trot, he came directly up to me, and lowered his head and did everything short of tying the halter on. Heck, he even offered to make me a cup of tea to soothe my cough!

Yeah, right.

Actually, he continued to do laps around me with tail flicked over his back. Finally, he got tired of such an easy target and decided to head over to poke at the other horses. That was his fatal mistake. In all of his excitement he had forgotten that I recently put up a small division fence….which he ran right smack into. He got his front feet caught in the wire and froze. This all happened outside the realm of my light so all I heard was the sudden silence. I wiped my nose on my sleeve and headed in the direction of ominous nothingness to see what wreck I was to now face.

He was standing perfectly still.  At least the work I did roping his feet stuck.  I walked up to him and he put his head down. Apparently fun time was over. Sure, now that he needed me he had sprouted a halo. I untangled the wire (AFTER I had gotten his halter on him) and led him back to a stall, and that was that.

For over a year since that night I have been mentally gnawing on all of the work I had done up to that point, and tried to fix whatever it was that I had missed.

I’ve put countless more hours into catching. And, again, I felt like I had it pretty solid. But how could I test it? I’ve caught him in larger and larger enclosures, and pastures, and it’s always been positive. But the question in the back of my mind has always remained. What happens when I am not the best answer? I suppose I could have turned him out loose on the property and then tried to catch him, but again, I know how karma works, and people around here think I’m goofy enough. So, I just kept doing the work, and waiting for the next test to present itself, all while secretly hoping it never would.

Well, the other day, I was feeding and up popped not just a quiz, but a final exam. Again, tired from work, and with Louie gone, I wasn’t at my full mental capacity. I opened his gate and got distracted, turned my back, and began talking with a friend. That’s when I heard the gate creak and felt the hairs on the back of my neck raise. I turned around and there he was. He’s gotten quite beautiful. He’s filled out, muscular, and the glossy black we dream of. He was standing a way off, nose buried in green, fresh grass that was way tastier than the bermuda hay I had to offer.  He really made quite a stunning picture.

“Okay, Chris, play it cool….first, get rid of your audience.” I told myself.

I smiled, at my friend, shrugged, and told her he’d be no problem and I’d talk to her later. Thankfully she took the hint and drove off….or at least she had the courtesy to hide where I couldn’t see her while she watched what was about to take place.

I stood, watching the black horse, and waited until I thought I had got my breathing under control. This was as good of a test as I was going to get. We are on a place that is hundreds of acres. There’s almost a hundred other horses. Most of them are on lush green pasture, in fact, there is green grass everywhere….except in the pen where my horse is kept. So, Limbo’s choices seemed pretty black and white. Horses, grass, and freedom, or me, bermuda, and his dirt lot. Dang it.

I set those thoughts aside, and walked as close as I thought I could get to him and placed my self in the draw position. And would you believe he raised his head and drew right to me? I petted him, scratched him and told him he was absolutely, the most brilliant horse I had ever known. And then I remembered I didn’t have a halter…He might be brilliant, but I can be kind of a dumb ass. At this point, feeling confident that if I did lose him again I could at least go get a halter and possibly draw him back, I gave him a cue I had been using in our round pen work to get him to lead by me. And he did it! We did this all the way back to his pen, where he trotted in, turned, puffed up, looked at me and said, “Good job human, you get an ‘A’!”.

I slipped him some alfalfa with his bermuda. He had earned it.

If someone had seen that (and I secretly hope she did) they would have seen the culmination of two years of work. They would have seen the ten minutes a day, every day I spend working on draw and foot work while his water trough fills. They would have seen the time I spent getting him to lead by and come pick me up from the fence, both on line and at liberty. They would have seen the mutual understanding and the language we are just beginning to converse in. It wasn’t magic, and it wasn’t treats. It was work. A lot of it. And I am so glad I did it.

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Northwood Horsemanship Challenge: Weeks Five, Six, and Seven

Where the heck have I been?!?!?!?

Well, while I’ve been busy, busy, there wasn’t much to report about my specific challenge horse so I figured I’d condense the past few weeks into a single post.

Week five was very little horsemanship, and only one ride. BUT, I did finally find an equine chiropractor I LOVE. I had her out Monday of that week and she did some major readjustment on my horse. Last summer he had managed to get his head caught in a stock feeder and do quite a number on his whole body. It took six weeks of turn out and minimal handling to heal up the nerve damage, but I knew there had to be some major issues with his poll and hips that needed to be dealt with before I could really ask him to perform at his best.

Well, I had Dr. Diane Hall out and the work she did made a huge difference. Of course it was a 48 hour period before I could work him again so those two days he only got groomed. On Thursday of that week I did a bit of lunging and riding to feel out what I had brace-wise compared to before his adjustment. He didn’t drop his right shoulder into the circle near as much and I had much more reach with his hind end so I was VERY happy.

However, I had to put the challenge on pause for the next week because I headed to Molena, Georgia to study with Kathleen Lindley Beckham. There will be a whole other blog specifically about that week, but suffice to say, it was mind blowing, as always! I came home with even more to study and work on during the challenge.

Monday of last week we did some ground work in the round pen working on transitions. Tuesday I wondered down to the creek for a trail ride, concentrating on my homework….hand position. Wednesday we headed up the mountain for a good, long trail ride, again, focusing on hand position (this is going to be a reoccurring theme!). We saw some cows and made plenty of stops for water.  In another month or so, it will probably be too hot to even head that way, so I’m trying to get the miles in while I can.

Wednesday afternoon we had another visit from Dr. Diane. The good news is Limbo held all of his previous adjustments which means that most everything that was out of whack was most likely from his feeder wreck as opposed to lameness issue or rider error. The bad news is my horse is rapidly getting a severe phobia of rubber mallets!!!!

After the chiropractor came out it was another mandatory two days off, followed by several days of cold wind and rain. So, he lucked out, until today.

Today we worked on the half circle exercise in the round pen and then in the arena. It was the first time we had ever given that one a go so even though it wasn’t perfect, I was really happy with where we ended and will go back to it again. I also managed a quick ride in the arena working on hand position while asking for the hind end. Nothing fancy, but enough to keep me and my horse busy.

During all of this I am waiting very impatiently for my new saddle to arrive. I ordered it the day before I went to Georgia and knew it would be at least a month’s wait, but still… I know this saddle will fit my horse way better than anything else I have at my disposal. It’s also pretty and the first brand new saddle I’ve ever had. So it needs to get here NOW!!!!!!

Most of the rest of this week is pretty busy and there is another storm coming this weekend so I don’t know how much we’ll get accomplished, but next week should settle down and I should be able to go back to riding a bunch bareback, and getting some quality work done.

Congratulations to everyone who has already finished!!!!! The rest of us will keep plugging along as life permits. The time has flown, and I can feel the deadline creeping up.

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Northwood Horsemanship Challenge: Week Four

It was a busy week! We didn’t get a whole heck of a lot done but we managed to put a little time in.

Monday was a pretty uneventful groundwork session. We worked specifically on getting good reach with his hind end and getting his changes of direction softer, and less reactive. We also played around in the arena a tad bit, but nothing that I would really consider a ride.

Tuesday a good day for working Limbo’s mind. I have the pleasure of working with a coming two year old warm blood filly. Things have come along nicely enough with the filly that it is time to start ponying her off of another horse. There was a lot of pressure, release, and placement involved in a very short time. I’m happy to say, both Limbo and the filly did wonderfully. This is definitely going to be part of our weekly work for awhile.

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Wednesday we went for a trail ride alone. We saw and heard our first beaver on the river! It took me a second to register that the giant crash in the water was the beaver smacking his tail to threaten me, my horse, and my dog off. It sounded like someone threw a hand grenade in the water! I am very pleased to say that while I was busy being bug eyed, with my heart in my throat, wondering what the heck was attacking us, Limbo merely flinched and continued on in his long free walking stride. I am glad one of us had our stuff together!

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Thursday we worked on loping circles in the arena for a bit, and cooled off bareback. Nothing huge but a lesson in balance for the both of us. We also did a bit of ground work, and really focused on getting good hind end cross overs with focus.

Friday I took a rain day. Other than pulling Limbo out to brush him and feed him a mash he had the day off.

Saturday was a long day. My husband and I managed to get in a couple hour trail ride across the road and did a lot of cross country riding. We went through tons of brush, and through several boulder piles. The run through the sand wash was awesome as well!

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Superbowl Sunday was an easy day. We played with sacking out on some boogery objects, and I tried a different saddle on Limbo and REALLY liked what I felt underneath me when we trotted and loped circles around the yard. He had a lot freer movement in his shoulders and better overall bend in his whole body. The really good news is the saddle I tried is my husband’s, and we are in the situation where we can afford to get another one.

I have the chiropractor scheduled to come out today. I am interested to see what changes manifest with that work combined with a better fitting saddle. More to come!!!

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