Thursday, August 31, 2017

Sometimes, The Best Choice Is To Dismount

I don't think I mentioned my 99th day yet, so I'm going to backtrack and title this post: Sometimes, the Best Choice is To Dismount.  Because, ....well, you'll know soon enough.

My 99th Day was a wildlife preserve called James T Slavin.  It's a rather large wooded area with a giant marsh in the middle. The marsh attracts all kinds of wild birds--geese, ducks, swans--you name it.  The woods attract all kinds of wildlife--deer, coyote, and moose.  The grasses grow quite tall--often above the head of your horse, and things can fly out from underneath those grasses, or scurry across the path from the grasses--at any moment.

On our ride, we encountered two issues which tested Leah and myself.

The first was a very steep, narrow path with a large drop-off.  We tackled it first to get it out of the way. However, when we got to the steepest part, the trail splits off into two--one tough, but preferable path--and one tough, and non-preferable path.  Unfortunately, the preferable path had a log down over it--and there was no way to get past it.  The leader of our group of three continued to the non-preferable one, but her horse had other plans and decided to bale off the trail up a steep embankment at the top of the hill.  Leah was following behind him and instantly tried to push her left shoulder through my aids to follow him. I had a split second to decided what I'd do--and I did not think she could handle the embankment. Or, at the very least, there was a chance she would lose her balance--and that would mean certain injury for her--and possibly myself.  Not to mention, I had another rider behind me who is very cautious and is dealing with anxiety.

I dismounted as well as I could onto the embankment (there wasn't room for both horse and rider side side by side) and got in front of Leah.  Lucky for me, she is extremely calm when she can see me on the ground, and she instantly relaxed and followed to the top of the hill.  My friend following behind thanked me for dismounting.

From that point, we took the lead, as Leah isn't quite there with her following yet, and everything went very well.

The second thing that happened was Leah alerting to a large bull moose in the trees.  She saw it pretty early which gave us time to decide whether or not it would be wise to pass and risk getting charged.  We talked it over and opted to try passing around. It stayed in the trees watching us.

That was the second time Leah has been to Slavin, and I was very proud of her.  1. She stood still just long enough for me to dismount in a tight situation, and 2. She didn't turn and run when she saw the moose.  She alerted, I let her know I heard her by rubbing her neck and saying "okay", and then she did what I asked her to do--going past the moose.  I couldn't have asked for more.

So, last night was the first time since adopting Beautiful Girl that I trailered her away from home.  That's embarrassing, but true. For some reason, I have always been afraid of her getting hurt--and because of that--I've kept her from taking chances.

But that had to end.  She needs to step up to the plate, and she wants to step up--to the plate--and the trailer.  We hauled her ten minutes down the road to the state park, and she did very well standing in her place with the rail engaged. (I have a 3-horse slant load)

She was obviously scared because she was covered in sweat, but she was smart enough not to hurt herself.  She unloaded and we took her to the round pen where Rebecca began to work with her.

Everything was going pretty well, and she is a "green broke" horse, so Rebecca decided to ride her for a bit.

The ride was going so well, I stopped taping.  And, out of no where, Beautiful started bucking hard.  It was so out of the blue, we think it may have been a wasp since we saw wasps afterwards, but it was definitely a true bucking fit and not a kicking out, crow hop, etc.  She was very athletic and got a lot of air.

Rebecca lost a stirrup in the back and forth, but was able to get her head around and away from the rail where she could dismount.  It was a painful dismount, but it was on her terms and she was okay.

Beautiful seemed completely calm when she was done.  Rebecca walked over to her and mounted again.  They rode for about another five or ten minutes in perfect unity and perfection--walking, trotting, backing, and walking.

So, the theme of this week is that things can, and will, go wrong, horses are living and breathing partners--and that's why we love them.  It's sometimes a good idea to get off--on your terms--not as a reward for bad behavior, but as a preemptive measure, before things get worse.  The important thing is to keep calm and get back in the saddle.

After Leah's attempt to almost bolt--she was a great leader for the rest of the ride.  After Beautiful's strange bucking fit, she was an excellent partner to Rebecca.

And, today I went back out to work with Beautiful and see if she held any hard feelings.


She stood to be haltered and loaded right back into the trailer.  As far as I'm concerned, that's a sign that she's thinking, "Let's do this!"

Monday, August 28, 2017

A Perfect Way to Spend the 100th Day

I know horses heal hearts because horses healed mine.

There is a place so painful, words fail. In this life, it's impossible to avoid it.

Enter the voiceless world of horses.  There is magic there. There is justice.  There is predictability. There is strength.  There is tenderness.  There is grace.

There's also hard work, bravery, boundaries, and awesome responsibility.

To that quiet world, bring your broken heart. Bring your helplessness. Bring your fear, your vulnerability, your broken dreams.

What comes out of it depends on you and what you're willing to give up.

Give it all up--you don't need it.  The horse has something far greater.

They heal hearts.

Please vote Willow Center for Grieving Children. We have 3 days left to help our charity receive a $5,000 donation.  Thank you for sticking in there and helping out!  You are all awesome!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

It Begins With a Single Step

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

(Leah at Palisades 8/16/17)

I have always LOVED, and lived by, this quote. As my kids grew up, I told them, never quit! There may be people better than you, even more "talented," but the difference between those who do what they love and those who don't is which ones keep going and which ones quit.

 (Cowboy 8/17/17)

At my 50th wellness check last spring, my doctor asked me what I do for exercise.  I told her that I walk on the treadmill and I work with my horses.  She didn't think it was good enough.  She counseled me that I should get my heart rate up for 30 minutes a day or the rest is pretty useless.  But what did I do?  I quit the treadmill all together.  

 (Training Beautiful Girl, 8/18/17)

And then today, four months later, it hit me that she's full of crap!

Doing a little bit every day is WAY better than nothing.  A little walking is good for the mind and the body.  More may be better, but more may also lead to none.

I walked downstairs today and did the treadmill, like I used to, for fifteen minutes of fast walking.  Afterward, I spent about ten minutes doing basic weight lifting and sit ups. It's all I had time for before work.  I'm going to forget what she told me and return to my philosophy....a single step is better than no step!

 (Leah, Riverside State Park, 8/19/17)

The 100 Day Horse Challenge has been that for me, too.  A little bit here and there goes a long, long way toward your goals.

It also goes a long way toward expressing your deepest self.  

 (Little Joe, Riverside State Park, 8/20/17)

In my mind, I picture me at 90 and unable to move around like I can now.  And, I picture myself reliving all the days I did NOT waste.

I was busy doing what I loved--being with my horses. Horses that will be gone by then.  I like to think they'll be on some beautiful pasture, waiting for me to join them.

So, on this, the 97th day finished of my 100 Day Horse Challenge, I want to encourage all of you out there to take the step--whatever it is.  Do NOT let people discourage you by telling you how your journey should look--it's your journey!  But don't let the opportunity pass either.  It's time to do whatever it is your heart desires.  All it takes is one little step.

Please vote for Willow Center For Grieving Children.

And leave a comment now until August 31st and I'll enter you into a drawing for the Curly Girl Handbook!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sharing Our Love

One of the greatest pleasures in life is sharing our love of something with someone we love.  When you see the thing that gives you so much joy, give them joy, too, it's an incredible high.

Our granddaughter came to visit from Norway with her dad.  She's nine and loves the horses.  Her parents do their best to give her horse training--signing her up for camps whenever they can, but she was really looking forward to some nuts and bolts horse time here. We rented a cabin and had a family reunion with all the kids and grandkids on my husband's side during the weekend, so we didn't get time to really play with the horses until yesterday.

She was soaking it all up.

First, I ponied her around on a short rein, but as she demonstrated an ability to whoa her, back her up, and turn her around, I lengthened the rope and let her take the lead off and on.

When you turn around and see this...

You know your little cowgirl has a HEART for the horses!

Her dad was in a hurry to get on the road, so he drove the packed car out to the barn to get her.  Before she got in, however, she gave me a hug and told me she kissed it goodbye.  I asked her what it was, and she pointed to my Cowgirl Cave.  I said, Whoa, we've got to get your picture in the Cowgirl Cave before you leave!  And, she was so happy and insistent that it be taken on her dad's camera so she could have it right away.  His didn't work, so I took it with my mine after all--

Someone found their happy place.

And, speaking of my little cowgirl granddaughters.  I have two that haven't been here in a while, but were up at the cabin with us.  You remember Sophie--the one who usually rides Penny and does the clinics with me--and her sister Cat--who rides Little Joe.

They got to ride a different kind of horse with me--Seahorse One--my water ride.

PS. Vote Willow. Voting ends August 33st--winning charity receives $5,000! You can vote every day. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Few Photos From August

Hi everyone.  I'm in the middle of a family vacation and will be gone until Sunday, but I wanted to share a couple of photos from this week with the horses and wish you all well!  As you can see in the pictures, we are surrounded by smoke here in Spokane.

And, if you can, please click on the link and vote for team Willow to help children who are grieving--like my sweet niece.  VOTE WILLOW CENTER

Thursday, August 3, 2017

I Want Them to Think They Own the World

My trainer, Rebecca, shares inspiring tidbits on her Facebook page, but this one really hit me. When I'm with my horse, we're a team and, at its very best, I should project a rock-star attitude about my horse.

Basically, When we're together Leah, Beautiful Girl, Cowboy, Joey, we're going to kick ass and take names!  We're going to chew these hills up and spit them out. We're going to rock these streams and rivers like a hurricane!

These are the basics:

1) believe in them and have high expectations for them.
2) build confidence in small increments of success ALWAYS setting up situations where they will win!
3) focus on them every time we ride and not on the other horses, people or myself.  This helps reinforce that we're together, partners, and a team. Everyone else, every other horse, is incidental to our partnership.
4) project confidence in myself, too. If my horse is going to be a rock-star, his/her rider should be one.
5) praise my horse to high heaven for their little, and big, successes.

Beautiful had her 4th ride last night.

She was ridden in a halter and lead rope only. Wow!

She learned to pony behind a new horse in preparation for her first trail ride--where she will first be ponied carrying a saddle, but not rider.

I rode Little Joe who is just recovering from a hoof abscess and is ready for some trail miles.

He was a bit resistant to yielding. But with consistency and firmness, it came back to him. We worked on neck reining, stopping, side passing and backing up.

Here's the full post Rebecca had shared from Denny Emerson. I believe their pages are both public.

When the horses were done, I opened the North pasture gate to let them out for the night, but Beautiful stayed back from the herd and came to see me.  I could see that she was happy and proud of herself and wanting to be reassured.  I thought of Rebecca's post and I dug into every ounce of proud I had in me and tried to demonstrate that to her.  I think she got it.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Transition: Changing the Energy


Sometimes, I remind myself that when I take a horse from the herd, I'm changing its whole energy.

 I'm asking her to shift gears from a grazing, resting being, to a moving, working one.

Sometimes, in those moments of awareness, I stop what I'm doing and let her rest while she transitions her mind.

I was having an issue with mounting for rides.  Leah was starting to take off as soon as I got in the saddle. She had been doing it for the last few weeks, as if she anticipated the drastic change and was all hyped up for it.

Yesterday, I let her rest and gave her time to change her energy.  She liked it.  She rested.  When I asked her to move out, she moved out gently.

When I mounted at the trail head today, Leah stood as still as she did when I had let her rest.  We stood for a little bit, until she was ready to make the shift.  And, we had a great ride.  She spooked to the side once--at a log.  She took up the rear through the creek--not sure why--but she wanted to follow, rather than lead, but she went through like a champ when it was her time. She also did great down some extremely steep, loose basalt terrain that many horses struggle with.  It was so steep in parts that I was leaned back almost to her butt--Man From Snowy River style.

There is something to be said for respecting the transition.  What is that saying about how the way a process starts out determines how the whole thing will go?

Something else I did yesterday--visualization exercises.  I envisioned what we would look like 4 panels ahead, and I tried to think positive.  It helped tremendously!  My hope is to train myself to do that ALL the time.  I tried here and there on the trail today, but I sometimes slipped into negative visualization. I kept thinking Leah was going to trip down that really steep part.

New habits take time to develop.

Thanks for helping us get those votes for the Willow Center!  If you haven't had a chance, just click on this link and select Willow Center for Grieving Children and help them get that 5K donation!  Wake up and vote Willow Center.