Friday, December 29, 2017

A New Tripod for my Phone Camera

(Christmas 2017--Bee and me in the snow)

For Christmas I asked my daughter for a tripod that would hold my phone camera.  My hope was to be able to get pictures of my horses, and my rides, to post on this blog, without having to ask anyone for help.  I've worn my husband and kids out on that account.

me: husband, can you come outside and take a video or picture of me with the horses?

husband: sure.

me: Can you take another?  That one didn't turn out good?

husband: i guess.

me: Can you take maybe 20, and then we might get one good one?

husband: (muffled--cannot translate.)


me: Daughter, can you take a video of Cowboy "at liberty"?  It's so cute the way he follows me around.

daughter: i guess.

me: weird.  he's not doing it.  he keeps going to you.

daughter:  i'm done!


So, as  you can see, I've gone solo.  My iphone slides into a bracket on the tripod, and it has a remote to snap photos or start the video.

Be warned: There are going to be lots of videos and photos in 2018.  Let's hope it all goes well!  No scary buck-off video allowed!

Oh, and those boots I'm wearing are Sorrels.  I cannot recommend them highly enough if you're riding bareback and don't need to put your foot in stirrups.  They keep my feet so warm--even with thin socks on--it is just a miracle.

And, if you were wondering if I came off my Christmas high, the answer is yes.  But I do have one more celebration with the kids and grand-kids tomorrow night, so that will be quickly remedied!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Merry Christmas and a Blessed 2018

Merry Christmas!  I hope you all had a wonderful time with friends and family this holiday.  I absolutely did. So much so, that last night, as I was hugging my kids goodbye, I was overwhelmed with a wish that it would never end.  I had a hard time falling asleep because I was so full of love for them all--it was tugging at my heart and making me want to cry.

Before we opened our gifts, we told the kids that they in no way represented our love for them.  If that were the case, they would fall miserably short.  The gifts were just a way of saying, I hope this makes you happy today, but the bigger gift is having love for each other every day. 

There are moments in life where you're overwhelmed with the magnitude of  your blessings.  You feel so undeserving, so completely undeserving, but there they are anyway.

Merry Christmas to you all, and I hope you have many, many blessings in 2018!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

If You Need Horse Inspiration, Watch Wild Horse, Wild Ride

Last night, I came home and watched, Wild Horse, Wild Ride. It's a  documentary about the 100 day Extreme Mustang Makeover competition. The contestants are given a horse, they do not get to choose which one they will take. When they go home, they have 100 days to train the horse (usually mare or gelding 4-7 years old) for the competition in Texas (there's also one in Kentucky). Some of the competitors in this competition were professional trainers, but most were amateurs and even people who had never trained horses before, like Melissa Kanzelberger, the PhD level Biomedical Engineer.

After the competition, they have to give their horse up for the auction. They can bid on their own horse, but sometimes the bidding gets quite high and they can’t compete. There was one horse, Compadre, that fetched $9,000, and its owner, Jesus Jauregui, my favorite trainer in the movie (click on his link to find out more about him and his Vaquero style of training), only had 1 to 2K to spend. (T Boone and Madeleine Pickens purchased Compadre and donated him to a university as a mascot.) I'm sure all of the horses end up going on and having great lives, but it is very sad to see the trainers separate from them.

I wondered where all the contestants are now, and I thought you may wonder the same thing. I have updates on them all at the end of this post.

My thoughts:

--What they accomplished in 100 days was just miraculous. I’ve had a Mustang and it seems like it has taken me 100 years to get her trained.  (No fault of hers).

--The key to training is hard work, courage and trust. There was one Navajo contestant, Charles Chee, who bonded with his horse. He kept saying his horse was "one person horse," and I always find myself saying the same thing about Beautiful Girl, so I thought it was funny. His son, also a trainer in the competition, remarked that “his (Charles the dad) horse trusts him, now he’s got to trust his horse.”  The elder Chee was afraid to take the training to the final step of actually riding his horse. In fact, he didn't get on his horse until a week before the competition.  The competition itself was his sixth ride! That reminded me of mine and Bee’s journey. I got her saddle trained lickity-split, but I couldn’t muster the courage to do those First rides until now.

--The winning trainers were the ones who constantly pushed themselves out of their comfort zone. My personal opinion, if you’re not competing, I don’t think it matters what time table you’re on.  But the best in the documentary were really having fun with, and trusting, their horses. They were swimming with them, running through trees and fields, blindfolding them and going down steep embankments, placing them under tarps while still being on their backs, then riding out the ensuing tarp escape, standing on their backs, riding them backwards, swinging ropes from their backs, chasing name it, they were doing it.  No matter how seasoned you are, all of that still takes courage and trust and the Mustangs seemed to respect that and thrive on it.

--Lastly, time does matter. They had 100 days and every day was vital and built toward the eventual trust and courage they would need. It was great inspiration for Bee and me in 2018.

The movie has been out for a while, and this was the second time I’d seen it, but it’s available free if you have Amazon Prime.

I have a colt starting clinic on the 30th of this month and it will be my launching pad for 2018. I want to develop courage, trust, and overall expectations in Beautiful Girl.  I’ll have to give up more control and be willing to fall. I’ll have to be willing to take chances and push out of my comfort zone. I'll keep the image of Charles Chee and the words of his son, Carlos Chee, in my mind,

"Your horse trusts you, now it's time for you to trust your horse."

Updates on the Contestants:

George & Evelyn Gregory: George had finally found his heart-wife, Evelyn, on his 7th try. In his 70's, he also found his heart horse at the Mustang Makeover.  Though they didn't get along at all, at first, George ended up falling in love with his Mustang and eventually bidding on, winning, and taking home, his horse.  As the movie ended, they updated us on George and said that after the competition he found out he had cancer, but was in remission.  Unfortunately, George passed away on May 26, 2012, a year after the film was released.  Evelyn wanted to keep her horse, but could not.  I tried to find information on where Evelyn is now, but came up short.  If you happen to stop by this post and have information, please leave it in the comments.

Wylene Wilson was the most colorful and flambuoyant of the trainers, and (SPOILER ALERT) she was also the winner.  She was a single mother of two kids in the documentary, but she is now a married mother of three.  She continues to train and compete.  She's a three time winner of the Supreme Extreme Mustang Makeover and was in Mustang Millionaire, which I haven't seen yet, but I'm going to watch very soon.  You can actually subscribe to Wylene's training tips via Facebook.  Check it all out on her webpage.  She does live up to the name Extreme Wylene.  The lady has courage and you can tell the horses thrive in her training program.

Charles and Carlos Chee: I wrote about them under "my thoughts".  All I could find as an update was an article from 2012 Navajo Times and a link to Chee's Horse Training.  If anyone has an update for us, please leave it in the comments section. I should note, Charles Chee ended up bidding on and winning his own horse.  I would love to know how that is going.

Melissa Kanzelberger PhD Biomedical Engineering: Melissa is now married and has several horses.  I found a website for Melissa that lists all of her horses, including her Mustang, Zero.  I also found her on Facebook.  It looks like she's really into endurance riding nowadays!  I thoroughly enjoyed watching her try to tame and train Zero (who she bid on and won during the auction).  She always kept getting back in the saddle, and she would not give up on him.  They did awesome at the competition.

Kris and Nik Kokal: Nik and Kris were the first competitors to ever train and compete without the use of any bits, shoes or spurs and Nik at 18 years of age, was the youngest competitor to ever participate at the top elite professional legends division.The two home-schooled brothers were the ones I mentioned that swam with their horses, Ranahan and Sioux. Kris blindfolded his Mustang, Sioux, and taught him to trust his every ask.  They went over bridges, down steep embankments, they trotted, loped--all with blind (or blindfolded) trust. For such young men, they did an awesome job and their horses blossomed under their care. Neither of the boys wanted to part with their horses, but it was financially impossible to keep them.  They have a website and a training program where you can follow them--Horse Tenders.

Jesus "Chewy" Jauregui: I saved my favorite for last.  Surprisingly, Jesus came in 9th at the Extreme Mustang Makeover.  My guess is that they're looking for super flashy performances--Jesus' performance was rock solid.  The flashiest portion of it was when he stood on Compadre and encircled them both in a big lasso.  While it's a great trick, it may have showcased his roping skills more than Compadre's abilities.  In any case, I could have watched a whole documentary on him gentling his horse.  He had the rare combination of quiet strength and love for his horse.  You could tell it was in every cell of his body, right into his soul.  And, you could see Compadre looking to him from Day ONE.  I found this article on Jesus "Chewy"Jauregui.  I found him here on Facebook, if this his real facebook.  It seems to be.

By the way, who is on the cover of the movie?  I don't remember this person.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Hope and Possibilities

Yesterday, as I was walking Bee to the barn next door, Cowboy saw us leaving and came running , full out, across the East Pasture to me. He was prancing around and trying to rush through the gate.  He'd just had breakfast, and I didn't have anything he would want.  Not to mention, going to the barn next door always scares him.

Why was he running to me? Why this need to be with me?

I thought, What is this all about?  Is it some harbinger from above? Some warning to be careful with Bee today?  That wasn't too much of a stretch, since I was alone at the barn, should anything happen, and a friend of a friends is in a coma right now from a brain bleed after a horse accident.

After an hour working Bee, where I was very cautious and all went most excellent, I started to walk back home.  While I was still on the neighbor's property, but almost to the gate, Cowboy, who was grazing at the end of the pasture, saw me and again came running, full bore, to the gate!

He was prancing, even dancing, by my side, like I'd been gone for 3 days, he was starving, and I was bringing him food.  Cowboy, I said, what is it with you.  You're acting so weird.  As I lead Bee, he walked with me, through the east pasture, through the turn out, all the way to the gate in front of my tack room.

Bee had  her ears back, as if she was annoyed, but not dangerously so.  She seemed to be saying, Hey, get out of here, bud, this is my time.

I praised her for not kicking out at him.

I unsaddled her as fast as I could, as Cowboy watched us with his head hung over the rail of the fence. Then, I walked back into the turnout, switched Bee for Cowboy, took him over to the overturned trough, stood on the precarious, slick trough asking Cowboy to come closer and closer so that I could swing my leg over his bare back without falling.

He did.

Inch by inch.

I jumped on and we went off on our daily ride through the pastures: walking, trotting, loping.

It was an amazing day with Cowboy, and I couldn't get it out of my heart or mind.  I was tossing and turning in bed last night, and it came to me--how I always say, I think in heaven the horses we loved will come running to greet us.

It’s true.


You can imagine, living in "heaven," with a horse like Cowboy calling my name, how difficult it is for me to go to work nowadays.  It's getting harder and harder and harder.  My spirit is home with my horses.  An hour away from them feels like 10 hours.  It's driving me crazy.

My husband has noticed it because we work together--which, of course, is the upside of my work.  He and I have been talking a lot about how to fix it, and we think we have a solution.

I won't know for a few weeks, but we may have found a way to work from home together.


The other thing that kept me up last night was wondering if that crazy behavior of Cowboy's was some final goodbye.  Is he going to colic tonight?  Did he have some sense it would be our last together?  (I tend to overthink everything).

I ran out to the barn this morning to see Cowboy, the orphan, the outcast, my heart-horse, before work.  He was healthy and happy.

Bee came to see me, too.

Leah did her best imitation of an ostrich sticking its head in the sand, but for her it was the round bale.

Now, I'm off to work.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Walking Away the Herd-Bound-Barn-Sour

The last week I've ridden Beautiful several times at home, but I've also worked on her "going away" tolerance.  It seems to be working because she stands when I approach with halter and lead (check), she is relaxed at the walk (check), she stands ground tied away from the house (check), she tunes into me around other horses and places (check).

On days where I have to go to work, like today, I'm limited on my time both with the horses and exercising--so I combine the two.  I mean, why get on a treadmill when you have a HORSE to walk the herd bound-barn sour off?  If there's time for the treadmill, there's time to walk Beautiful around the 20 acres and, possibly, over to the next door barn. (Exercise and training all in one!!)  A walk is easy. I'm not starting something I can't finish, and I can do it in almost any weather.

We had a lovely walk today and yesterday.

Yesterday, we walked to the barn next door and checked out the new SCARY round pen we set up on Saturday.

I let Bee explore.

After she got comfortable, I asked her to follow me into the round pen at liberty.  She did it!

Then, we worked on her whoa and facing up--eventually, joining up and walking with me at liberty in the round pen.

When we'd done that both ways, we stopped and just hung out together--visited a couple of other boarders--then walked home.

The day before that day, I rode her.  But you can see my heart horse, Cowboy, begging to be the one out there with me.

I finished the ride on Bee, then I grabbed Cowboy and rode him bareback.  My husband came out later to join me and I slid off to give him Cowboy so that I could go get Leah.  As he was leading Cowboy in, I took their picture, and I noticed Bee had been in the East pasture with us the whole time. See her behind Loki?

Now, the round bale, and all the other horses, were in the North pasture--but Bee followed us over there on her own and stayed by herself.  That is independence and some real joining up starting to form. 

Oh, and there's that darn goat I got.  He's always in the picture, isn't he? He's kind of growing on me after twelve years.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Meditation on Horse Ears

As I was waking up and reading my phone, Facebook to be exact, I realized I was being fed a drip, drip, drip of negativity. It wasn’t the posts by my friends, whom I feel blessed to have been invited into the intimacy of their everyday lives on Facebook, but the news clips that mingled with it.

I had this thought that I should try to guard against negative media this year by choosing to meditate on something beautiful every morning.

The thing that came to mind today?

Horse ears.

We spend so much time seeing the world through these two sites. A world that is made more wonderful and magical by aiming our thoughts through them.

And no two ears are the same. They’re like snowflakes and fingerprints. Some are small and round, like Cowboy.

Some are more pointy and long, like Leah.

Some are more wild, the color of an elk or deer, like Beautiful Girl.

And since they register the thoughts and feelings of our horses, they are even more unique: their fears, excitement, joy, anticipation, peace, worries, love.

It’s all there in their ears.

(The picture from Beautiful's back is the first time EVER I was able to feel comfortable and pull my phone out for a picture. All the photos were taken yesterday.) 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

I Reached My Goal, but What a Year

I knew Sunday was the 1-5-0, so I wanted to reach my goal with Beautiful Girl.  I started the year with a plan for her, and a helluva lot of determination, and it's fitting that she be THE. ONE.

Our day started out crappy--not at all like the 150th SHOULD have been.  She was tuned into her herd and bucking, kicking, changing directions on the line.  None of that bothered me, but when I'd tell her "whoa" she wouldn't listen, and that did bother me.  I started to jump in front of her path like a wild-ass woman: half cougar--half wildling--half crazy.  My reactions were not out of the normal playbook.  They were primal.  But you know, some days are just raw like that.  We know when we're being challenged--and sometimes, you just gotta fight back and defend yourself.

When I went to throw a leg over, I actually told her, "This is your chance to get even and buck me off, Bee."  (The day had that kind of feel to it.)  Surprisingly, she didn't take me up on the offer, and I stayed planted safely in the saddle.

Afterward, I dismounted, attached the long lines to her halter, and drove her around the 20-odd acres next door and at our place.  I want her to get used to walking out in the open.  There was a freak out moment--when Cowboy came running.  Beautiful bolted away.  I kept hold of one line and got her turned back around.  She was a little wound up in the lines, but very calm.   I unwound her and we proceeded with our driving ride.  (That is why it is best to drive in HALTER).

This year has been full of happiness and tragedy--

*I lost Old Red as I was flying to Hawaii. You can read about my "Terrible Landing in Paradise."  I still miss him.  Cowboy misses him even more.  Since his death, Cowboy has been ostracized from the herd and has only me and, sometimes, the pony, to keep him company.

*We added two horses to our herd around the 1st of March.  I hadn't intended to do that so fast, but a friend approached me with Little Joe and my son-in-law got the itch to become a horseman--thus adding Foxy. Both additions were a god-send: Foxy bonded hard with Cowgirl (who was grieving her horse husband) and Little Joe became the heart-horse for my granddaughter, Catherine.

*I introduced Leah to lots of new trails.  She did pretty well.  I don't think, however, she's going to be THE horse for me.  She's a sweetheart, and I love her, but she doesn't have that umph that I'm looking for.  I'll continue working with her, and riding her on trails, but when Cowboy is fully retired, I'll be wanting a true heart-horse.  (I think part of her issues are just bad conformation. You can't do much about that.  But she is a sweetheart, and she'll always have a home, and lots of love, with me.  And, I'll always ride her because she needs to keep moving!)

*I rode Beautiful for the first time ever this year and, although, I am scared of getting bucked off, I truly believe that if I build a relationship on heeding/partnership/unity/at liberty/being chosen--I won't ever be.  I am carefully building each step of our journey.  Even after our little spat the other day, on day 151 she came right up to me when she saw me approaching with the halter.  She has a heart for me, and I for her.

It remains to be seen if she'll be "the one" that I bond with for the trails, but she has been "the one" in my heart for ten years.  She's my baby.  I'm her mama.  We will never part.

My goal for next year is to have more days in saddle or training, than not.  That means, I will need at least to reach.....

183 Days!!

It's too late to get there this year with December only having 25 days left.  But, if I want to get to where I plan to be with BEE, I need all the days I can get: trailering her off the property, ponying her on the trails, training her away from home, taking lessons away from home, and generally building her confidence in herself and me.  And, our partnership together.

A lot of things can get in the way of these plans--health problems (for her or me), work obligations, family and travel, but if I follow through and do what I say I'm going to do....

this time next year.....

I hope I can say.....

I have found  my next trail riding heart horse.

Wish us luck!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Day 149: The Goat I Got

Once upon a time, I was thirty-five and hoping to have one more child.  It didn't happen for me, but I was able to pour a lot of that need for care-giving into two little wethers I adopted. I bottle fed them from two weeks old on up, and we bonded hard together.

In those days, my husband and I lived at the edge of farm fields. We could exit our back gate and ride forever.  Or, we could take off hiking through the canyons and creeks.  It was quite beautiful up on that plateau.  Most of the time, you could see three states--Washington, Idaho, and Oregon.  Pretty breathtaking.

The baby goats would see me coming, and they'd start bouncing into the air, kicking their back legs behind them.  My husband and I took them on our hikes with the plan that we would teach them to one day pack our picnic goods.  They loved and trusted us so much, they'd stay right at our feet.  When we'd come to the creek, we'd pick them up, cradle them in our arms, and cross it, placing them gently on the ground on the other side.

But when they were about a year old, they died.

Urinary Calculi.


The vet tried to operate on them--it didn't work.  So, we returned home empty, their little house, next to ours, quiet.

Enter a three week period of mourning. Guilt. Regret. Mixing up many losses into that one loss.

It turned out, I'd fed them too rich a diet.  I thought I was doing something good, but in fact, I was killing them.

My farrier told me, "The next time you get a goat, go out and kick it every day."  He was joking, trying to make me feel better, but his point was--goats aren't meant to be spoiled like that.

Not long after, we got the goat you see in the photo.  Scotty.

Ornery thing.  100% piss and vinegar.  Instead of me kicking the goat every day, like my farrier suggested, it's Scotty that kicks me every day, instead.  He bucks me, too, with those big old horns. And, he walks in my path to trip me.

But he's 12 years old and healthy as a....goat.

He thinks he's the head of our horse herd, and he guards over them like he'll kick whatever coyote or cougar butt comes their way.

Now that we're riding at home, he accompanies us on rides.  Getting in the way of our path and creating whatever bedlam he can.

I don't even know how to end this post--or where I was going with it.  The story of our different goats is one of my life's little ironies.

There's a meaning in it--but I haven't learned it yet.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

I'm Already In Heaven

I may have a post with this title already, because it's true.  I'm in heaven. 

When I woke up from the anesthesia, I heard the nurse talking about my happy place, and it was like--yep, that makes total sense.  Why?  Because I am one of the lucky people who has heaven on earth right here.

*I have horses, and when I work with my horses, endorphins are flooding my brain. Heaven.

*I'm married to my prince charming, and when I'm in his presence, endorphins are flooding my brain. Heaven.

*I have the sweetest children AND grandchildren, and when I think of them, my eyes will start to tear up and endorphins wash over my brain. Heaven.

*I'm grateful for all the above and much more, and when I think of those blessings.....refer to the above.

I want to add something to my gratitude list.

Yesterday, my daughter came over to ride with me.  We took our horses to the next door barn: Shiloh took Cowgirl, and I took Beautiful Girl.

Well, drum roll.....

Bee did so good at the ground driving--past the scary stuff--the scary sounds....I decided to try riding her....

And, we rode solo AWAY FROM HOME for the first time.....

And, it went great!

Unfortunately, there were not photos of yesterday's ride, but I included some from our last ride at home. 

The best thing about our ride at the barn was that she was so responsive to being bent around.  I credit that to the ground driving.  It has become so habitual for her now, she doesn't even think to fight it.  And, if I can keep her turned around and soft in the bit, there is MUCH LESS chance of bucking. 

I had that epiphany about ground driving a couple of months ago, and I cannot stress enough how helpful it is in training a green horse!!  Rebecca's advice to start in halter, rather than bit, was genius.  In fact, it works so well, I'm going to take Leah through the ground driving routine, too.  I think it can only help to take a couple steps back and work on our communication through reins and bit.

Bee and I are definitely on the right path.  Last week, I took her to the next door barn before my surgery, and I drove her from the ground, but when I went to ride her, she started backing up nervously.  I did some basic bends and ended on a positive note without asking her to move out.  After that day, I was really discouraged and thinking we'd never get there.  But we did.  Let that be a lesson to self.  Darkest before the dawn.

Here is my daughter riding Cowgirl.

Later yesterday, I rode Leah, and we continued to work on the dance of opening gates.  I have them all stand ground tied in front of the Cowgirl Cave as I saddle and unsaddle.  Leah acts like she would love to jump in and live in the cave.  I don't blame her--it's warm and cozy in there.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Would You Like To Dance?

"So much wasted time."

David Cassidy's last words as he was dying.

When the nurse told me to “go to my happy place,” she said I told her it would be the horses. (My husband and children gave me a bit of grief about that!)  I woke up feeling euphoric, just as the nurse was telling my husband the story. It felt right. It felt like I had truly been with my horses.

I’ve written before about how it feels for me to climb into the saddle—it’s like a swoosh of endorphins flooding my brain. I also have this image of heaven, my herd galloping to meet me when I pass over. It gives me comfort. I love my family with all my heart, but my relationship with the horses is other-worldly. I hope the readers will understand what I mean, and maybe even be able to clarify it more, in the comments section.

Yesterday was the first day I was able to work with my horses—Cowboy, Leah, and Beautiful--since the heart ablation.  I didn’t expect it to be any different, but it was. Something had changed in me, a way of communicating. It's as if, when they fixed my heart, they also helped it to feel more vividly the emotions of my horses.

The idea of The Dance became clearer and shifted from a--

We're going to dance!

To a--

Would you like to dance?

I had more patience to ask and wait for the give.  More patience to see it as a series of dance steps, rather than a whole dance.  And, this great understanding that learning the steps to the dance is not wasted time, but rushing the dance or not dancing at all IS wasted time.

Seeing it that way, I was able to get insight into my relationships the three horses I worked with, and I want to share it and ask you to leave a comment explaining how you see your own dances with your horses.



As I tried to take Cowboy's picture, he wanted to come to me.  He didn't want to graze.  He didn't want to walk back to the herd.  He wanted to dance.  With me.

We are those long-time dance partners you see on the dance floor, feet shuffling back and forth, back and forth, hands held tight--knowing the rhythm, the steps, the give and take.  Imagine the most perfect couple out on the dance floor, the one that just has you mesmerized, and then look over to the side at the ones who aren't that good, but you can tell they've been dancing together for a long time, too.  That is us.  Cowboy and me.  There is still a bit of tension here and there, but we've learned to dance together and we're used to each other.

Cowboy doesn't like the tango.  We don't do the tango.  We only dance the ones he likes.  For the most part, I lead, but there are some steep or rocky sections, where I let Cowboy choose the path, and he always gets us where we need to go.  Opening and closing gates--the tap-tap on his side--he scoots over a wee bit. A gentle squeeze--he takes one step--a gentle squeeze--another step.  He hears me softly say, "Whoooaaaa," and he stands still enough that I can reach down to the chain and unlatch the gate.

Dancing with Cowboy wasn't always this easy or fun, but it is  now.  I wish I'd been a more patient partner in the early days, but he has been forgiving.  Nowadays, we dance as much as we can to keep his body going in his older age. 



It struck me that I'd been stepping on Leah's toes a lot as we've been learning to dance together.  She's a gentle soul, takes everything deeply, doesn't want to make missteps--and I need to honor that. 

Yesterday, we danced on the ground first.  I worked with her at a trot, in circles, all around the arena.  We danced over the poles, around the barrels, along the rail.  She was a lovely partner.

I wanted a plan in saddle.  What dance would be learning?  Which steps did we need to learn?

I decided the dance was opening the gate (without actually opening the gate), and the steps would be moving off my leg and learning the gentle--one step forward--stop and rest--one more step forward--stop and rest--side pass, side pass--rest--don't be frightened of me bending over--rest--don't be frightened of the sound of the chain clinking against metal--rest. We could call this the waltz, and our practice a dry run.  No music.  No putting the steps all together.  Just work at learning the subtle shifting, counting--gentle pushing away and pulling in.


Beautiful Girl.

If you can't dance well together on the ground, how can you possibly dance well in the saddle? 

Bee had a week off, and she was on edge.  She wants to learn to dance, but but she thinks she knows the dance already--and constantly attempts to take the lead from me.  Her dance is one of self-preservation--I heard a sound, let's get the hell out of here!  She is in the early stages of the steps: getting used to the feel of bridle and bit, the tug of a rein, the pressure of a leg, the weight of a rider. 

Yesterday, we worked on the ground dance.  At first her trot was fast and fearful, but we twirled around the arena in circles until she slowed down and tuned into her dance partner.  At that point, she watched the up and down of my left hand as it urged her to continue forward over poles and tires.  She felt the tug of my right hand guiding her forward, then into a circle, then forward, then over a pole, then forward, then into a circle--and so on. 

We have quite a few steps to learn together, but working with her, and the others, is my happy place.  Why rush the dance?  Those older couples you see on the dance floor probably didn't look so great when they were first learning.  The element of TIME is essential. Forgiveness.  Togetherness. And just plain wanting to dance together in the first place. 

This is not wasted time. 

It's precious time.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Is This What It's Like to Be Born?

Two days before Thanksgiving, I went in for my Cardiac Ablation Procedure.  Not one to frequent doctors, you could say I wasn't thrilled about it.  As you know from previous posts, I had an extra node on my heart that would sometimes kick into a rapid heart beat, 220+ bpm, and wouldn't stop itself.  On one occasion, I was taken to Urgent Care, who called the paramedics, who stopped my heart to reset it, and took me to the ER.  During that episode, they were able to get an ECG that showed an extra electrical point, and it was my doctor's opinion that the extra node be ablated--or burned off.  After talking to him, and others, I suspended my medical aversion and scheduled the procedure.

First, let me say, an SVT, the one I had, won't kill you. But before my procedure, the cardiologist (specialty electrophysiology)  was required to tell me that the risks of the surgery were stroke, heart attack and, yes, death.

That wasn't the first time I'd heard the risks, but I informed him I preferred none of those three--nor the possibility of a pace maker (another risk factor we'd discussed earlier) and if it came to any question--50/50--during the 2-6 hour procedure, please err on the side of CAUTION.  He said he would.

And with that, I was wheeled on a gurny into a large room where I was surrounded by 4-5 people introducing themselves and their part in the team.  My doctor, and someone else, was in an adjoining room overseeing them all and giving them directions.  There was an anesthesiologist working behind me, but definitely getting his job done to a tee because before I knew it I was OUT.


I had never been under anesthesia, so you can imagine the shock when I woke up.  I started to write a poem about it that night.  Here is what I have so far.

Is this what it's like
To be dead? 

A big FAT blank.

Not even being able to think--

Is this what it's like
To be dead?  

So, I was gone. More GONE than I ever dreamed possible.

Coming back to life seemed instantaneous, though it probably wasn't.   Your memory isn't good after you come out of anesthesia.  I woke up as they were wheeling me from the recovery room to the room where I'd been prepped. 

The nurse was telling my husband she'd told me to, "Go to my happy place." 

She said I replied, "I'll be with my horses."

And don't remember that, but I woke up so happy and refreshed, I believe I must have really gone there.

I was thrilled to be alive.  Thankful beyond belief that I was able to be thrilled.

I started asking them if they were successful and making it fire off.  (They have to get the extra node to expose itself).  The answer: YES.  Were they successful in burning it off?  Answer: Yes.  Where was it? Answer: on the back of the heart (left atrium).

Apparently, only 5% of these SVTs occur in the "back of the heart".  My doctor had told me that was a remote possibility, so I put it out of my head.  Surely, I would NOT be one of those 5%.  But I was. Because of that, I am VERY THANKFUL I had one of the best cardiological eletrophysiologists in the business.  He was able to penetrate the septum and burn off the offender--everything--in 1.5 hours. I was out of the hospital about 3 hours after they wheeled me back to the room.

And, I am feeling FABULOUS today.

(To put it in perspective: my mom's friend had the exact same procedure I did--and was part of that unlucky 5%--and her surgery--time on the table--was SIX hours.)

Would I do it again.  Probably not.  But was it worth it?  Yes.

Our annual Thanksgiving was yesterday, and I continued to remember, and cherish, that feeling as I opened my eyes on the gurney.    I am the luckiest person to be alive.  I am the luckiest person to have that kind of "happy place."  I'm lucky in a thousand more ways, too many to mention.  And, I'm grateful.

Turns out, gratitude is a powerful elixir.  Here is a list of the 31 Benefits of Gratitude.

Is this what it's like 
to be born?

The whole world
In front of you.

Your happy places,
Spread like golden pastures

Just waiting for you to gallop through,
Thinking, singing, screaming--

Is this what it's like
to be born?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

(Video) My 5th Ride On Beautiful Girl

This is officially my 5th ride on Bee, but I'd really say 2nd, since the first three could barely be called rides--they were more about getting on to see what I had and didn't have so that I could go back to the drawing board.

Today, there were more distractions, and she started out a little grumpy.  You can hear the planes going by (they're training at the base today) and it rained all night and is cold out.

I lunged her in saddle, threw the rope around her, bent her in on both sides, walked her around the arena and over the poles, and then mounted.

At 3:19, you will see her going to the side and backing up a little.  That is because she sees the obstacles in her path.  She does the same thing, but worse, when I'm ground driving her, until she gets used to going over them.  You'll see her think through and resolve the issue, then move forward.  A similar thing happens at the poles.  She wants to move them out of our way.  Horses are very unsure of themselves when they first have riders on their backs, and they feel less confident of their feet.  She doesn't want to take bad steps, so she tries to move the poles.  I think that's quite nice of her..and smart.

She was bracing against the bit today, so tomorrow I'll go back to ground driving.  I'd rather work on softness in the bridle from the ground than when she is also worried about balancing a rider.  For a while, I may be alternating between driving and riding.

Before and after, we worked on going through puddles.  Like most Mustangs, she likes the water.  I imagine it brings back times with her herd.  Every mustang has been to a watering hole with their mama.

A Day of Buck Reckoning

I must have an extreme sense of self-preservation because I could not sleep last night with my mind firing off, what seemed an infinite amount of data, about my ride on Beautiful Girl yesterday.  I was tossing and turning as my fingers, legs, stomach, skin--my whole body--was processing the feel of that ride with the image of her bucking my trainer off.

And there were words and questions just reeling and reeling.  Was she mad? Was she startled? Is she a dirty bucker? Can you stop a buck? What might provoke a buck? Can I handle being bucked off? ....on and on.

The bucking did not jive with what I felt in saddle yesterday.  It didn't jive then with what I'd always known of her.  She wasn't a bucker, she was a backer.  Any time Bee was scared, she'd back up--not kick out or buck.  But she definitely bucked that evening.  It was big.

And, I did see her buck a few times on the line, in saddle,--AFTER the bucking incident--which is perfectly normal for horse, but not so much for her.  I didn't make a big deal about it, but continued to push her forward on the circle and she quit.  Was that good enough to break a habit--if she'd formed one?

Tossing and turning (keeping my husband awake) I played the moments (my ride & my trainer's) over and over--and compared them to one another.  Then I remembered--

I have it all on tape!  I took a gazillion photos and a couple videos leading up to the buck.  It seemed so smoothe--so boring even--I stopped taping--

right before the buck.

At 5:00 am, my eyes popped open.  And, the first thing that came to my mind was--FIND THOSE PHOTOS AND VIDEOS!

I did, and now I'm going to reconstruct the evening here.  I'm looking for data from Bee--warning signs--something to learn from.  I AM NOT questioning my trainer, and I ask that you not either.  It was Bee's 5th ride and she she hadn't shown any signs of bucking up to that day.  My trainer took her time at every step and only proceeded to the next when she felt safe to do so.  This is all about me analyzing my horse so that I can have a plan for future rides.

Here it goes:

 We practiced loading and unloading her into two different trailers, taking our time with each.

When my trainer felt she was calm, she secured the panel, then she closed the door and sat on the wheel well of the trailer (from the outside) to observe Bee as I drove down the driveway.  Bee was calm, so she gave me the thumbs up and we proceeded to the arena.

Unloading and walking to the roundpen.

Letting Bee check things out.

Bee is alert and looking at another horse we'd brought in a separate trailer.  That horse is nineteen, but very scared in new situations, and he was acting up.

 Allowing Bee to check out the tack and mounting block.

Bee is still alert.

She gets her moving again.

What do I see in Bee?

1. She's not giving 100% attention to the rider.
2. She's resisting transition to the trot.
3. She checks in with me and the other observer--another sign of distraction.
4. My trainer has the perfect amount of contact with her in the bit.

(not seen on video)

5. At the time of the buck, she was moving on the rail in a straight line.
6. Before the buck, she was moving at a trot, and she showed no signs of resistance or agitation.
7. The buck seemed to have come out of nowhere, as if it was purely involuntary.
8. After she was done bucking, she stood calm, my trainer remounted, and she rode on perfectly.
9. One added bit of info: this was the first time she'd been taken off our property in 9 years.  That's pretty big.

How do I analyze that?

There are many times our horses aren't tuned into us 100%, but Bee is a green horse, and it's more important than ever that I have her undivided attention each step of the way.

I think, too, I will probably keep her in a circle for a while before letting her move out on straight lines--and then only short segments.  She needs to practice bending and moving--and it is more difficult to buck in a circle.

I will also keep contact in the bit for now.  I need to have that slight feel of her mouth at all times--if it becomes bracey, I know something is brewing, and I'm in a better position to pull her head up and around.  It all gives her another level of support from me and reminds here that I'm up there.  On that note, I'll continue to do some ground driving so that our communication through the bit becomes more and more rock solid on its own.

She needs lots of encouragement, so I'll stop her more often and give her praise and rest. She likes to please.  Leah hates to be told "good girl", but Bee melts when she hears it.

She has to be introduced to going new places slowly.  When I do trailer her away, the first few times I'll only pony her--no in saddle work.  Bee is a horse that has to have each step solid before proceeding to the next--no holes.

Oh, and I'm going to do all of our work at the walk until she's solid carrying a rider and yielding to leg and bit.  There's no reason for me to push her to the next gait before she's mastered the first.

I don't know if I'll face a buck from her someday-but I can sure narrow my chances with preparation.  I'm pretty positive she did not do it to be mean or to fight.  I believe wholeheartedly it was done instantaneously as a reaction to something that she perceived might hurt her.

I'm heading out this morning to ride her.  I'm asking my husband to take some video which I'll share later.

My next post will recap everything I've done to train Beautiful Girl since the bucking incident. We've done quite a bit.