Friday, June 30, 2017

Beautiful Girl's First Ride

Rebecca came over last night to work with Beautiful Girl. I was thinking we'd do some basic carrying the saddle work and then introduce her to bridle and bit. However, to my surprise, Beautiful Girl did so well with the saddle, bit, and test mounts, Rebecca thought she was ready to go for her first "ride". 

Now, I've been working with Beautiful Girl on and off for ten years, (In fact, this is my 10 year anniversary adopting Beautiful Girl!!) and the furthest I ever got with training was to sit on her back with the saddle, which she did really, really well.  I hadn't asked her to move out or wear a bridle and bit.  Why?  Because I didn't feel equipped to handle it if it went south.

Because of that, Beautiful thought standing with a rider was what she was supposed to do, and she was hesitant to move out. Rebecca kept giving her little leg taps until a light went on, and she was like, "Oh, you want me to walk? I guess, I can do that."  Off they went.

There were many moments where she got "stuck" and didn't know if she wanted to continue--she'd try to trot, or turn, or stop.  And, that is why I wanted a professional trainer to do the first ride.  Rebecca makes it look easy, but those moments are the moments when something can go wrong if the rider overreacts or loses their balance.  Rebecca stayed cool, clear and consistent.

We're going to continue these light rides and then progress, next weekend, to trailer training and ponying her at the state park.  If she does well, we may even ride her on the trail that same day.

Beautiful is showing herself to be a horse who, once she understands what you're asking, WANTS to do it.  When the light goes on she remembers exactly what you taught her.  All the more reason to keep what I'm teaching her what I want her to learn.  She has a mind like a vice.

About an hour after I'd put her back in the turnout, I went out to take care of things in the barn.  I was curious if Beautiful would want to have anything to do with me--had her experience been negative or positive?  To my delight, when I walked into her turnout, she came walking over to me at a fair clip--happy, eager, and willing.  I think she likes the work!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Catch and Release Game

Here's a really easy "training" game you can play with your horses if you don't have time to ride, but want to work with your herd--what I call (and maybe others do, too) the "Catch and Release Game".

It's important that our horses want to come to us or, at the very least, stand still when we go to catch them.  After all, it could be an emergency.

Now, a horse in a stall isn't much of a challenge for this game--but I suppose it could be if your horse is really resistant to being caught. Mine are fine in the stall.  I have two convalescents right now, Leah and Lily, who are stalled 24/7.  I have two old guys who get equine senior morning and night, Cowboy and Little Joe, so they load themselves into their stalls quite happily. But I have four who are on 24/7 turnout or pasture--my mare herd--and they're much more resistant to being brought in at this time of year.  You might say they're independent--and they like it.

Last night, I worked with Beautiful, and she wasn't happy about being away from her mare herd.  This morning, I went to catch her, and she would have none of it.  So, it was time for the game.

Pretty simple.  You choose a horse in the turnout or pasture (she was in dry lot turnout with the others) and you catch it.  No matter how long it takes (think of it as your exercise) you catch it. You don't hide the halter and lead--in fact, you present it high and clear--and you put pressure on them when they leave--less pressure when they stop and look at you.  When you get alongside the horse, don't throw your rope over.  Test your horse to see if they're really with you.  Pet them on their withers, their face, the opposite side withers.

When they're truly with you, throw your rope over and gently halter them--all the while, rubbing their face and neck.  When they're haltered, drop the lead rope so that they're ground tied, and start petting them all over on both sides.

When they're good and relaxed, release them and walk away fast--before they can walk away from you.  (They'll be looking at you with sad eyes if you did it right.)

Now, choose another horse and do the same thing.  And another. And another.

Remember the first horse you chose?  Go back to it when you're done with the others.  It should be easier.

Rotate through them again, then go back to your first horse for the 3rd time. Catch the first horse, but don't halter it.  This time, just pet it all over and then leave it wanting more.

By the time I was done with this, all my wild mare herd let me approach them and pet them all over.  Beautiful was practically drooling.  When I get home from work tonight, I need to work on her saddle training, so this practice will come in handy when I go to catch her.

Thirty minutes of catch and release is good, solid training, in my book.  I bet you all have your own versions of this game.  Please share!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Happiness Begins The Moment You Decide

Since I turned 50, I seem to be drawn toward one main theme--authenticity.  A similar thing happened at 30, but it's even stronger now.  I've heard from many women that it only strengthens with each consecutive decade.  We become older, freer, and more our true selves.

I used to feel bad about all the wasted years not really strong in who I was, or fully accepting of myself, but it is all part of the human experience.  Those younger years, you're trying to conform--or conform by not conforming, but at your core, you're looking to belong--to grow into the adult world and find a way to survive in it.  As you get older, society cares less about you, and you care less about society.  You've lived life--found what's most important--gravitated to what's most true and fulfilling--and let the other bull crap fall away.

Year by year, it gets easier and easier and easier.


I came out as a cigar smoker at 30 years old, and have continued the love affair ever since--whiskey and scotch, too.  Apparently, I've passed that love of cigars (and whiskey) on to my children (above).

I also love hanging with family. I love the great outdoors--especially the Northwest USA. I love Lake Roosevelt--which is actually the big old Columbia River that lies between two dams.  You all know I love my horses--that goes without saying. I've come to love my curly hair, and I took the opportunity, this last vacation, to allow it full rein--crazy bangs and all.  And, I love wine.

Our annual family vacation to Lake Roosevelt accomplished almost all of those things, and it's one anyone can do.  You can camp out on the beaches along the 150 mile stretch--or you can rent a house boat with 5 bedrooms, a hot tub, kitchen, bbq, shower and all the amenities.  We rented a house overlooking the beach (You can't own land along the beach) and stored our boat and waverunners in slips at the Seven Bays Marina.  We spent all day on the water and, at the end of every day, returned to the rental home to make dinner and play board games.

The landscape along Lake Roosevelt will take your breath away, over and over and over.

(That speck you see is my husband on his waverunner.)

Like the large "white rock" (above)--the namesake for Whitestone Winery--now called Lake Roosevelt Wine Company.  It's the only vineyard on the south side of Lake Roosevelt, and all of their, red only, wines are estate grown. They're open on Saturday and Sunday for tastings, food, and music.

You drive your boat up to the beach

And, a driver in a 4-wheeler is waiting to pick you up and take you up the very steep mountain side. If he somehow missed your arrival, there is a walkie talkie waiting for you to call up the mountain and let them know you. have. arrived!

The winery is a quaint little yurt overlooking the Columbia Valley and Columbia River.

There is live music

and food

Lawn games

and, of course, wonderful red wines. We bought one for lunch and two--the Cab and the Merlot-- for the remaining two evenings of our vacation. They were delicious.  You can read about this rare vineyard here in this excellent article "Clusters Along the Columbia."  It's the only one like it in the Columbia Valley.

Every moment of this vacation was so perfect, my heart ached when it ended.  There was so much happiness--and everyone pitched in for all the cooking and cleaning--it just seemed so easy and...relaxing.

I saw that quote I began this post with on Facebook this morning, and it hit me that, yes, beauty begins when you to decide to be yourself, but more importantly, happiness does, too.

This picture was taken the last night.  We went in to have dinner, but then decided to go back out, smoke a cigar, drink our Wolfhound Irish Whiskey and float under the setting sun and sliver moon, waiting for the stars, which my husband promised us would be brighter than we've ever seen.

For some reason, it sums up how I feel right now.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Such a Scare With Leah

When one door closes, another one opens--or so they say.

I had such a scare yesterday.  Such a scare.

Leah has to be pulled out of the herd, every day, before we let the others out to graze.  When she came into her stall for breakfast, she was perfectly sound, but two hours later, when I went out to ride her--she was lame on her back left leg. Really lame. 

I felt her leg for heat.  Couldn't find any.  Checked for swelling. Found a little around the fetlock, but it was hard to tell. 

I started to list the facts, trying to reconstruct what may have happened to her: 1) She was in a stall eating hay. 2) Whatever happened occurred within a 2 hour window 3) No signs of blood or trauma 4) The other mares had gotten themselves into the stall next to her and were hanging their heads over the rails towards Leah when I walked out 5) She still had a ravenous appetite 6) She didn't want to bear weight on the limb, but could bear weight if asked 7) Mild swelling was at the fetlock. 8)Possibility of hoof abscess not ruled out.

Fetlock injuries can be bad, and that was not lost on me.  I started to yell out loud at my bad luck.  I started to cry.  It wasn't a pretty scene.

This is what I wrote yesterday: It makes me realize how desperately attached and invested I've become to Leah.  I have felt sick to my stomach all day.  So much time.  So much heartache.  So much partnership--FINALLY.

I watched her all morning and then had to go to work.  Last night, my husband and I went out to see her, and she seemed a little better.  We decided to stall rest her and see what we had today.  Today, she's walking like normal with very mild swelling still in the fetlock.  If I had to guess, I think she kicked out at the other horses and bruised her leg in the rails.  There is no sign of any trauma--scraping--but that is the only possible answer. I can't say we're completely out of the woods now, but I'm much more optimistic, and I don't think it's time to call our vet out...yet. 

While Leah was on observation, I opened another door, turning my attention to Beautiful Girl, who will officially start training next Thursday. I'm trying to get her caught up with everything she has already been trained to do before we start in earnest.  Our plan, so far, is that Rebecca will come here every Thursday night to help me.  Beautiful was trained at a young age to carry a saddle and respond to pressure from the ground.  She still remembers those early lessons well, but we need to get her to the next step of carrying and responding to a rider.

During yesterday's session, I asked her to trot over the rolly polls--she did awesome!!  One thing I can say for her, she knows where all FOUR feet are at all times and has great foot control through obstacles.  Way more than Leah, I might add.  Way more than most horses.

After that, we went to the tires.  Beautiful, at first, smelled them, then she put her a foot into one and walked over it.  Wow!  Here she is doing it again after a little break.  I had my camera in front of my face, and at first, she wouldn't come over at me--probably thinking I just wanted to take her picture.  I put the camera down, looked at her and called her to me--she started to come across.
Movement. One leg forward.
 No problem.

 Hi, mom.

She also did the labyrinth, which is a bit tricky since it has two turns.  Beautiful was sensitive and responsive to each ask of a foot.  She did go out of the labyrinth on the first try, but she didn't overreact.  We tried it again and a light bulb went on--she got it!  You'd think backing up through a labyrinth of poles would be easy, but to horses, who can't see where they're putting their feet--it makes them claustrophobic. They have to concentrate hard on your asks--and that keep them from thinking about other things--like their herd.  It demonstrates trust in their handler, too.  I was happy to see that she and I still have a connection.

When she was done, I gave her a treat and put her back.  She followed me along the fence line, which I thought was very sweet.

I have mixed emotions today--excitement for Beautiful Girl and her potential--and sadness, that Leah is / was lame.  I'm just hoping for the best and seeing some light at the end of this unexpected tunnel.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Cesky Krumlov, Prague, and My Vacation Surprise

All this jumping around I've done, you may be confused about the timeline of our Norway / Czechia vacation.  Here it is in a nutshell:

Fly Icelandair from Seattle to Iceland--take a plane to Oslo, Norway--get picked up by kids and grands at the airport--stay 3 days with them--take a train from Asker to Oslo--board new plane to Prague--rent a car at the airport--drive to Pilsen (Plzen)--spend the day, then drive to Cesky Krumlov--stay two nights in really old building (main guest suite $160 total--includes taxes, fees, breakfast & parking)--drive through the country stopping at small towns on the way to Prague--stay in Prague for 2 nights--catch a ride to airport (Uber cost about $18 for a 25 minute ride)--fly back to Norway--take train back to Asker--stay another night with the kids and grands--fly home.

Cesky Krumlov was written up in the Wall Street Journal September 2015, and it sounded amazing.  It was a largely forgotten town that sat untouched until after the Velvet Revolution--at which point locals began to preserve and prepare it for tourism.  It's the 2nd most visited town in the Czech Republic and sits nestled at the foot of a grand castle.  You can stay in the castle, but the rooms were booked out by the time we made our reservations.  We were happy to be nestled in the heart of the downtown.

View out the hotel window--downtown Cesky Krumlov.

The Hotel Krcinuv Dum where we stayed for two romantic nights.

Our medieval suite overlooking the downtown. Keep in mind, this suite was only $160 a night--TOTAL.  There was an amazing Czech breakfast included in that price--all the pastries (kolaches, croissants, etc), eggs, various cheeses and meats--along with standard fare like yogurt, bagels, fruits and juices.  It was quite a feast.

Here are some sights from Cesky Krumlov:

This was the winter riding stable.

Our next stop was Prague--after a journey through the countryside to get there.  There not much I can add that hasn't already been written about Prague, so I'll share the photos.  Amazing city.
I love these images of the people of Prague walking in the rain.  They've turned out to be my favorite.

The Charles Bridge


Walk across the Charles Bridge with me and listen to some fabulous music from the buskers!

View of the castle from the Charles Bridge.

St Vitus Cathedral at the Prague Castle.

Video of St Vitus Cathedral


Miscellaneous pics from Prague--there was something beautiful everywhere you looked.

The original Darth Vader.

The Jewish Quarter in Prague. A horrible truth: Hitler envisioned it being a museum for an extinct people. 



The stairs up to Prague Castle.  Hey, there's a Starbucks, with a beautiful view of all of Prague, waiting for you up there.  Hurry!
Looking down the stairs.

Czech dinner down below the Prague Castle.


Getting ready to eat lunch at the oldest pub in Prague--at the bottom of the Prague Castle stairs.

In the pub.

The pub basement.

My trout lunch.  Trout is very popular in Czechia.  I ate this before we saw the skulls.

Some last photos of the Prague Castle and St Vitus Cathedral:

(I'm not sure what the girl on the horse signifies in this fountain.)
We've arrived near the end of our vacation--a plane trip from Prague to Oslo.  As my husband was retrieving his work laptop he'd accidentally left in Oslo as we went through security--I was checking in for our flight home the next day.

But when I followed the link in my email--two names popped up for check-in on Icelandair--mine was not one of them!  My husband's name--AND--the son we'd come to visit in Norway.


Yes, my hubbie had booked on Expedia and, since he'd booked flights for Matt in the past, his name was in the drop down box--and he accidentally purchased a ticket for Matt (who lives in Norway)--and NOT me.

Long story short, we had to purchase a 1st class ticket, the only ticket left, on Icelandair at the added cost of $1500.  The ticket was $2,200, but they refunded the $700 for the other ticket. 

Now, did I actually sit in 1st class (comfort class)--or with my husband?

With my husband, of course!!  I was tempted because, oh, was it nice up there--but it was easy to switch tickets with the Coach passenger next to my husband.  She was thrilled to change seats!  I did a sad walk back to row 34--cramped--few amenities--lackluster flight attendants, but I got to sleep on the shoulder of the man I love.

And, that is the end of the vacation story.  We are safe and sound home.  Our wallets are a little lighter, and it will be a while before we return to Europe, but despite all the various mistakes we made, we loved every minute of it.