Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A Tale of Two Winters: Back in the Saddle with Bee & Leah Neck Reins

February 2017, we had snow and ice and super cold temperatures.  The ground had been frozen since early that December and didn't thaw until March.  The snow had accumulated, so it melted all at the same time, but had no where to go with the ground being hard and previously saturated (from a wet October/November)  It caused flooding.  We lost Red on a cold February night, and a few weeks later our basement flooded--and stayed flooded for 3 weeks.

It was a bad year.

But this year--2018--has been wonderful!

This photo is significant--

It was the first day I could retire my thick winter riding boots and don my cowboy boots.  And that meant--

I could ride Bee!

There was no way I was going to ride Bee in thick boots.  I didn't want to get hung up if anything went south.

So, yesterday, we did a little of this....

And today we did that, plus free lunging, driving over the tarp and other obstacles--and LAST--riding!  Something glorious happened--

she spooked--

she looked over at the other horses and saw Little Joe on Foxy--and she just did a little jump of surprise.

And I was happy, not that Little Joe was on Foxy, but I was happy that she spooked like a normal horse.  It wasn't anything I haven't handled a thousand times.  It was a nothing.  A blip.  But it broke the ice of my fear of  her spooking and doing something I couldn't handle.  I thought--Hey, I've got this!  She's just a normal ol' horse.  We had a normal ol' ride.  (Which is awesome since she hasn't been ridden for a couple of months!)


Then it was Leah's turn and --oh my--she's starting to move like a real horse!  It's like the feel is there between us and she's NECK REINING.

I'll back track a second...

to the approach.  Remember the last post, I decided her half turns in the stall weren't going to work anymore.  I mean, they were better than the days she'd walk out of her stall to her run to avoid me--which is why I tolerated them--but they were starting to feel like disrespect.

A half turn.

What I mean is this: I'd walk into her stall while she was at her feeder.  She'd walk away like she was going out to her run, but then she'd stop and half turn to me, but not fully turn to me.

So, this was yesterday....

I walked into the barn and she did this.  

I walked into her stall and she did this.  (It would be funny to caption it--any ideas?)

To test her, I held the lead up to her head to see if that would make her leave.  It didn't.

Today I went in and she was out in her run.  I called her to me.  She came.  That, my friends, is progress!

Below is us today--tacking up for a ride.  I was putting on my helmet in the the mirror--and there we were together--her head in the Cowgirl Cave.  I thought, I've got to a picture of this!

And this.  One month ago, Leah's hay belly was so big, she was a tight fit on the very last notch of this back cinch.  Woohoo!  She's getting her girlish figure back!

I free-lunged her again and her lope is just looking better and better and better.  Tomorrow I'll free lunge her with a tie down and start working on strengthening her back and getting her more collected.

Yesterday, we did the tarp over the back and head--then we walked over it.  (By the way, Bee had never had that training before, and she did perfect with EVERY. SINGLE. STEP.  It was weird.  She had no fear of the tarp--not on the ground, not on her back, not over her head.)  Leah, however, has done this before, and she still doesn't love the tarp, but she tolerated it.

When we rode today, we walked over the tarp, and other obstacles, and continued to work on neck reining.

She did AWESOME!

She likes the loose rein--it means less mouth/bit work.  The more I get off the bit, the more she feels like a real horse to me--whatever that means.  I think it means a horse that I'm used to riding.  She's calmer.  I feel more at home.  

Being on a loose rein--with neck reining for turns--does provide her the opportunity to take off now and again--especially when we are turning toward the gate.  But it's easy enough to pick back up the rein and steer her around.  Little by little, she's giving up trying to escape.  She wants the freedom of a loose rein--a loose turn--and sit back in the back saddle with a verbal whoa.  


  1. I can feel your joy. I should know this, but who's Foxy? I know Little Joe, but don't know who he was on.

    1. We got Foxy at the same time last year when we got Little Joe. They were barn mates. When I released them, she took over the herd. So, they’re like a couple now. But I locked Little Joe in the barn. I don’t think it’s good for him to be mounting her all day. 😱

  2. Nice work with both girls. Love the pictures! She does look funny like she's saying "You again with that damn camera!" and the one with her looking in the window saying "Come on, what's taking so long."

    1. 😂 those are good! I bet she doesn’t like the camera pointing at her. I do show them my photos after I take them, and they always act like they’re happy to look at them. 😂 They seem to enjoy videos even more.

  3. This is all wonderful. Yay for 'normal horse spooks' and neck raining and thin boots! Also, yay for awesome mares who bring their hearts to the table.

    1. Yes, I love it when they do that! Yay for heart! 👏🍻

      Thanks for the encouragement! I’ve come to realize that fear is all about the unknown and whether we have what it takes to survive the unknown. Every time either horse proves to me they’re just a regular horse, a little of that fear is chipped away. So yay to normal horse spooks! 🍻👏

  4. Both those mares are coming along SO well, which is a testament to your work.
    I wear my cowboy boots all year round - they just fit a little snugger with wooly socks in the winter.

    1. Wow! You’re tougher than I am! I wore both yesterday. I wore the high Hunter equestrian boots for the warm up walks because I walked them through high water and squishy mud. I wore my cowboy boots to ride. And last, my Hunter boots again to muck stalls. All that changing boots is easier than it sounds. I left my cowboy boots out in my cowgirl cave. 👍

  5. You're coming along so well with your horses. So much progress and so much time spent in good company! I'm totally jealous...cuz my big ole butt hasn't been in the saddle since last summer. Last summer! :(
    No wonder I've felt so crappy.

    But I'm determined to get back at it as soon as our ground dries up some. And I am getting that "new to me" saddle I mentioned earlier. We'll take a weekend trip this spring to pick it up. :)

    I'm just amazed at your tenacity, despite the weather and cold conditions. You must be the most peaceful and mentally satisfied person I know based on all that good horsey time. That's wonderful, and your ponies are all benefiting greatly from the time spent. As are you.

    Glad you got to ditch the snow boots. Although they were SO cute!

    1. I’m excited to see your new saddle! I understand the need for things to dry up. It’s muddy and slick everywhere except the sand arena. We only got that two years ago. Best decision ever. Yeah, you’d think I’d be more zen, but in some ways it makes me less and less tolerant of life away from the barn.

  6. I love how you work with your horses, the joy it brings you (and them) and the revelations you share! Leah's got some funny facial expressions, it's too cute she wanted in the cowgirl cave with you. Funny that you show your horses pics & video. Mine just want to eat/slobber my camera. Manageable spooks are the only kind to have, anything else is just plain dangerous. Bee has really come a long way in a short period of time. How rewarding for you!!

    1. She wasn’t as good today. But it was windy. Very windy. So I’ll explain more in the next post. 😢

  7. How did I miss this post, it wasn't showing up in my blog feed. Anyway- great progress!


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