Thursday, June 30, 2016

Zen Mind, Zen Horse: Book Giveaway!

"We need a teacher to show us how to see ourselves--not just with heightened objectivity but also with greater forgiveness."

Zen Mind, Zen Horse by Allan J Hamilton, MD

I've been reading the book Zen Mind, Zen Horse: The Science and Spirituality of Working With Horses, and I'm really loving it.  And, you know how it is when you love a book--you want to share it with all your friends!  That is probably not possible, but I'd at least like to share it with someone.  So, I'm going to draw a name for anyone who is interested in having it.

Like Teresa over at Journey With a Dancing Horse, I'd like to request you do something to enter--just for the fun of it.

1. In the comments, share a personal struggle a horse (or horses) helped you overcome.

For me, there have been many, but the most poignant is a time in my life where I was feeling particularly weak.  Can you imagine how a shadow might feel--dark, empty, half-there, quickly vanished--that pretty much describes how I felt.  Divorce, melanoma, three young kids, one of which was an angry young kid--hey, even 9/11--all happened simultaneously.  I don't want to get too melodramatic about it, but suffice to say, I was stressed and fearful.  I saw myself as damaged goods, and DG's aren't good about sticking up for themselves.

My teachers were Red, Cowboy, & a mustang named FLASH!  Flash really bonded with me at first, but she was a tough, alpha mare, and after a while she got fed up with my lack of assertiveness--or CHI (in the book)--and she started chasing me out of the round-pen--front hooves striking away.  I tried to meet the challenge, but it just wasn't in me at that time, so I sold her.

**After thinking about this post, I want to add this on. It was as if Flash was trying to slap me out of my funk. I have some regret about selling her.  She was still at my barn and whenever I'd walk past her turnout, she'd come to greet me as if she was confused at why I'd pushed her away. That choice was part of my weakness.  I would never make that choice today. 

Enter Cowboy.

Cowboy had a colored past--orphaned at 1 month, passed from owner to owner, & mishandled by his second owner.  He was also fearful, but his survival technique was to bully.  He probably saw an easy target with me. But I fell in love with him and no matter what bad thing he did, I just couldn't give up.  I hired a trainer, I read books, and I kept confronting my fears of him every day.  Even then, I knew my fears were less about him and more about the world itself.  Giving up on Cowboy would have been like giving up on life.  Cowboy always gave me his heart--even when he gave me the finger.  There was something extra that drew me back to him.

There was no magic moment where I thought, Oh, I feel strong now, but at some point, years down the road, I did.  Each obstacle we overcame together, each ride alone, just him and me, out in Hells Canyon--it added up like strength points.  Getting through his P3 fracture and year of rehabilitation--not knowing if he'd live or die--he was a GREAT teacher.  I chose the quote above because it is so true--he also taught me to forgive myself.  There are no perfect horses or perfect humans--there are just horses and humans--there is dedication, trust, respect, forgiveness, hope, and love.  And, there is JOY!  Cowboy has been in my life for 13 amazing years.  I hope there are many more.


I had my lesson with Leah today.  It had been a month and half since our last.  She was very fat.  But man was she sweet!  She trailered up perfectly & at the barn she gave me her attention and her try.  So much try!   The time off was a good thing.  It allowed her to choose to partner with me.  I was very grateful for that.

Happy 4th of July!  And don't forget to leave a comment!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Zen of Summer & Horses

 "Perhaps there's a quirk in the DNA that makes horse people different from everyone else, that instantly divides humanity into those who love horses and the others, who simply don't know.”

Allan J Hamilton, Zen Mind, Zen Horse: The Science & Spirituality of Working with Horses 

Zenning out in the pasture at sundown

With spring fading out and summer fading in, a new calm has come to my herd.  The grass in the pastures has slowly browned up, and their cresty necks are starting to get a little wiggle in them again, as my fear of them foundering is replaced by mild anxiety about sunburn, flies, and hydration.   

But they're calm.  They're sweet.  They're Zen.

Around here, the evenings always cool off, and when they do, the horses gather at the barn to itch each other's withers. If we walk into their turn-out, one or two or more of them will approach us to see if we want to be their itching partner.  There's something magical in that.

Yesterday, I got a 3 hour ride with Cowboy, but it was hot.  When we rode down to the river the horses saw something and went on alert.  We didn't see what surprised them until we got around the corner.  It was a half naked man swimming.  He'd left his bike on the shore and just jumped on in.  So, we let the horses drink and wade--kind of ruining the poor guy's fun.  Then, we decided that next time we ride, we're going to wear our bathing suits underneath our clothes so that we can wade into the water with the horses.  It's hard to picture how that will work, but I'll let you know.

 The Spokane River. Our horse trail back up from the river was half way down that hill on the left.

The farrier came today, and all the horses were their summer-best-selves.  Even the old ones were able to bend and hold their feet up for much longer than usual.  When they treat my farrier good, they make me proud!  My farrier is also a blacksmith and makes his own knives--layer upon layer of hand forged steel--wooden handles--gorgeous.  I want one.

Thursday, I start lessons back up with Leah. We've had this little break while I reconnected with Cowboy, and it has made her miss me, I think.  She's always one of the first to come to see me now.  And, I can detect a bit of sadness in her when I take Cowboy out rather than her, or pet Cowboy, rather than her.  I love Leah, but I haven't missed riding her while I spend time with Cowboy.  I hope that doesn't sound callous, but with her, it's still work, whereas, with Cowboy, it's like an extension of myself.

Speaking of extensions of self, now that I've been playing my guitar, I've realized I want a better one.  Every time I go to the guitar store to pick up an accessory or get new strings, I play them all, and my favorite one is the Taylor 414ce.  One reviewer said it feels like an "extension of her body."  Last week I was there playing it and my husband remarked that I'd gotten much better--my chords sounded clearer--I told him, It's not me--it's the guitar! 

A girl can dream.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Hell for Horses: Take Two

A couple weeks ago we got the privilege of having our grand-daughters over for most of the week.  Yay, for horse-crazy grand-daughters who give us an excuse to ride our horses!

On Saturday of that week, we were wondering what to do. I looked up the local calendar and to my surprise, the Despooking Clinic was happening again.  (I wrote about it last year--Hell for Horses).

You may recall, I decided not to subject Cowboy to anymore of those clinics since, at his age, we've kind of got things down and I think it only makes him more insecure to tinker with the relationship.

But I did want to take my 11 year old grand-daughter again.

I decided to compromise by taking Cowboy, but only walking and riding along the outside of the arena with my grand-daughter, as she navigated the obstacles with the help of the volunteers.

I was the official photographer...with Cowboy in hand.

In between the ground work and riding sections, we took a trail ride.

It worked out pretty sweet for Cowboy.  He was a happy camper having only been moderately exposed to the scary things.  It did make it harder for Sophie and Penny though, since Cowboy and Penny kept calling back and forth to each other.  On the other hand, they would have done that even if I had been participating.

After the clinic was over, we took another trail ride to get them relaxed.  It was an absolutely fantastic day on horseback, and I've concluded that taking a horse to a clinic as a spectator is highly underrated!

(Last photo--you can see me observing on Cowboy.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Love, Cowboy Style

A Love Letter Post for Cowboy:

I got a ride in on Sunday (above) and this morning before work (below).  Can you say lucky girl?  I will.  DAMN LUCKY GIRL!

My farrier came by a couple weeks ago and noticed that Cowboy was acting off.  He asked if I'd been riding him and I told him not as much because I've been training Leah.  He said, "I could tell."


So, I made it a point, after we got Loki settled into the house, to ride my boy.

At first, on Sunday, my Cowboy was mad at me.   

How can you say you love me when you neglect me for a month? 
I love you, Cowboy.
No, you don't.
I do.
You don't.

Or something like that.

But today, he was back to his old self, and all was forgiven.  He walked right up to get haltered for the ride.  

During saddling, he did give me the evil eye and brace his neck when I went to tighten his cinch.  I tried something new to see if I could soften him up--basically, I just bent him in over and over until he gave me a good feel.  It took a bit of going in circles because he was bracing his neck so hard, but when he did give me that softness, it was all done and the rest of the saddling went GREAT.  He was a happy boy and we had...

a GLORIOUS ride.

Cowboy is my heart horse. 

I love Cowboy.