Monday, January 18, 2021

Looking Back On Leah

I was trying to find a word for what I'm doing with Tumbleweed--other than, "At Liberty." I wrote about it years ago in my work with Leah. It was a training philosophy about getting horses to follow and be in tune with you.  I want to call it "minding," but I don't think that's it.  Grrr....I remember who told me about it, so I'll ask her right now.  Just a sec. (Switches to Messenger) (Switches back to Blogger, and waits for an answer.) (She just got back to me--it's called "heeding."  I like that much better than "at liberty.")

Anyway, as I was searching for it, I went down memory lane, and I was reminded of how much work I did with Leah to get her trail ready.  Wow!  I had forgotten all the ups and downs--or, at least, the downs. When did she become the horse I can leave in the fields for months, pull her out, saddle up and ride? I realized that after we got to that point of togetherness, the blogging about her really fell off, and morphed into 24/7 Tumbleweed.

But Leah is still here, and she is still super sweet and full of heart. Our journey did NOT end two years ago.  It continues...

First, 2020 was awful for trail riding. Our governor shutdown absolutely everything--including our trails. It felt like my soul was being ripped out, because hiking and riding those trails is what nurtures my soul. Every trailhead was taped off, and if you were caught riding in them, you'd be ticketed. Our city and county reacted much differently and closed the bathrooms, but kept the city and county trails open. This imbalance forced everyone onto the city and county trails and they became much more concentrated with people.

It slowed us down, but it didn't stop us.

I suppose our big breakthrough, many years ago, was realizing Leah was happier on the trails than in the arena. When she realized how fun and easy trail work can be, she became an excellent trail partner. 

Leah also has pain issues, and I started the Masterson Method bodywork with her last spring by signing up for the videos online. With the little I did, I saw improvement, but I also realized there was much more to it than I could get online and with the book. 

I discovered a practitioner who lives near us, and she took Leah on this summer, and trains my granddaughter and I to follow up in between sessions.  

Leah loves this work, and it has helped her immensely. Immensely.

The Masterson Method requires a lot of physical and mental work by the handler. The waiting is really, really hard, but it's also the key ingredient to success. Waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the release. However long it takes, you are to wait. It develops patience and a sensitive eye. I have so much respect for those who do it well. (A key is to split it up and not expect to accomplish everything in one day. My practitioner often goes 1.5 hours, but she knows when Leah has absorbed as much as she can. She makes notes and begins the following session with that in mind.) 

They have clinics all over the country, and I highly recommend them if you're inclined. We had our granddaughter signed up for one in Kalispell, MT but it was canceled due to a freak snowstorm. We hope to sign her up again when it is rescheduled. Clinics are around $500 for the weekend, but you can take that knowledge home to all your horses. You will grow as a horsewoman--and your horse will appreciate the change in you.  It's very fulfilling to see your horse after a session--relaxed, and feeling so much better. If I didn't see the difference, I wouldn't continue. As you know, I'm a minimalist, and I expect to see results--or I walk away from whatever it is I'm doing. The Masterson Method delivers.

I would go so far as to say, I like it better than chiropractor--even though they state clearly that it is NOT a replacement for that. Why do I like it better?  I like it better because of the waiting. You are NEVER working against the horse...or the clock.  If your horse braces, you move back to where they're soft, and you wait for their release into the stretch.  It's a lot like yoga, and yoga, as you know, has been a godsend to me. There's almost nothing yoga can't cure.

I hope this post catches you up on Leah's life. Though she won't be my main trail horse, and she will probably be retired early due to her pain issues, she is still my heart horse. The name of this blog is "Beautiful Mustang," and I still have Beautiful, and though she has tested my patience with her inclination to overreact, she too is a heart horse. 

If you've taken nothing else away from this blog, I hope that it is the horse journey does not always take us to the place we thought it would. It's not a Hallmark Movie, started and finished in 90 minutes. It's a very long, meandering journey with a lot of unknowns. I have learned that it's about the relationships--that's it. The living, breathing equine souls we are honored to have in our lives.

(Leah December 2020)


  1. Heeding- I like that. I have a word for that time when you are waiting for the release- my mentor called it "dwell". You have to dwell and wait for the horse to do whatever it is you are asking of it, whether it working with reins, legs or hands. Dwell can become a zen moment and the connection you have with your horse improves from it.

    1. Dwell means that you are living in that suspended moment :o)

    2. I like that word better, too. It’s essential with horses that we dwell with them as long as they need to become soft and move into acceptance and willingness.

  2. I’ve used Masterson with Tex and it is truly amazing and really taught me to slow down and tune in. I was exposed to it at a clinic and was so impressed that I enrolled in the online course. I never finished it, and I honestly don’t think you can really learn it online, but it definitely made a difference for Tex. And for me.

    1. I agree. The online is great as an overview, but having a practitioner take your hands and demonstrate the can’t be replaced. I have mostly stood back and watched Sarah, the practitioner, train my granddaughter.

      When they started with Leah, they couldn’t get anywhere near her mouth. It’s where she holds tension, but very slowly, she has given it to them. And there’s so much connection in the body—from hip to poll to jaw and tongue. The way dropping their shoulders releases dopamine and relaxes them for the harder bodywork. Amazing!

      Perfect work for a horse like Tex!

  3. Koda enjoyed the minuscule amount of Masterson I did with him, and look forward to learning more within my physically limitations. I tried on Cierra and she was indifferent. Masterson has presented at Midwest Horse Fair for as long as I can remember. Would be a good place to learn more, once it can be held again (2022). How wonderful that your granddaughter is interested in learning the method hands-on. As far as Leah posts, I think we tend to write about newer active happenings for content. Or at least I do. Once in a while I get thinking...speaking of, your posts always make me think. Like your mention of heart horses. It was my understanding that designation is given to only one (like a soul mate/hubby). But I suppose it is more like children, when you have more than one you love them all equally. Lucky you to have more than one heart horse!! I love all our horses (even Harmony who has been a thorn in my side) yet wish for a heart horse. Got a chuckle from your Hallmark Movie reference, if that isn't the truth - haha! Good word assimilations.

    1. The Masterson work is very different for each horse, some are more stoic, less willing to release in front of you. Tumbleweed was my hard one, because he’s a baby, and it’s hard for him to stand still. I have started doing very small amounts with him, and he will release, but then he’s ready to move on. I don’t have “the touch” like my granddaughter does. I call her hands “healing hands” because she will get them so willing to release (especially Cowboy) during a session that the slightest touch from her, will trigger big, dramatic releases. Leah has had so much done, she seems to think every time I’m getting her it’s for bodywork. She is just so relaxed. I’ll write about that more in a post.

      Heart horses. Hmmm, my thoughts on that...? I think the human heart is capable of loving more than we give it credit for. There’s a lot of room in there. I adopted Beautiful Girl as a yearling from the BLM, and she was scared to death. I poured myself into her for the first couple of years. I love her deeply, but she was only able to give so much back to me. I know, for her, what she has given me is immense. But it’s not enough for me to trust her on the trails.

      Leah, I’ve raised since she was two, so she’s another of my babies. I didn’t think Cowboy was going to be rideable, because of his broken coffin bone, and that is why I brought both Leah and BG into my herd. But surprise, Cowboy was rideable, but I never knew for how long, and I was always trying to get every last moment in with him. That, unfortunately, put Leah on the backburner until about 5 years ago.

      Cowboy, of those horses still alive, was my first “heart horse.” I got him as a 7 year old and he’s 26 now. I was his 5th owner, and it took a while for him to give me his heart and trust, but when he did...😍 wow!!

      All this is to say, the horses I’ve specifically raised and trained have deep roots in my heart, but they, to different degrees, have given me theirs.

      As the caregiver, I love them ALL so much! ❤️ Foxy Mama..oh dear, my heart swells thinking of her doe eyes. The ones I’ve lost: Penny, Old Red, Shadow.

      At this point, it would be difficult for me to designate only one of them my “heart horse” but Cowboy is the most dependent on me, because he’s not accepted in the herd much, and I’m his only real friend. Tumbleweed is probably the most eager to spend time with me.

      That is why my story could never be a Hallmark movie—it’s too confusing! ❤️❤️

      What are you looking for in a heart horse?

    2. That is a hard question for me, giving it thought made instant water well up in my eyes. My answer would be long-winded, and tangled like a very deep root. I don't want to hijack your wonderful post. My general answer, a unique bond with a horse that chooses me. Like so many terms "heart horse" is over-used. The meaning is stretched and differs to everyone. I think heart horses can develop through quality time spent, but it's the innate connection between a horse and human that I've always wished for. You either have it, or you don't. Not all horses are capable of it, same with humans. Much like one of my favorite sayings "you only know what you know" you can only feel what you feel. It's all good, there is lotsa love to go around <3

    3. You’re not high-jacking my post. I enjoy discussion. And I agree that it’s overused to the point it should probably be retired. I use it in a general sense to show my own love towards the horses, but I feel like my whole herd gives me so much back, too. In different ways, they all bring a different piece at a different time. When I die, I want every one of them to greet me in the great green pasture on the other side. I feel very connected to all of them. I guess they’re all like my children. They’re all my heart horses. And I suppose that broadens the term too much. But when a horse comes here, it comes here forever—I never sell a horse—so it’s almost impossible for me not to feel deeply about them—like family members. ❤️

  4. I think all my horses are heart horses too. I love them all. Although, my first horse Erik was my baby. He used to give me a kiss when I said goodnight or goodbye. He was so sweet and kind. He was the first horse that was "mine" exclusively. So he might have just a little bit of a special place in my heart.

    I've never tried the Masterson Method. I've only heard about it from you and your posts to be honest. I will check it out and see what its all about.

    1. I love kissing my horses. Tumbleweed and Cowboy are my kissy-poos. There is something special about the first horse. Cowboy was the first horse I bonded deeply with after the 10 years I had with no horses. I carried a deep sorrow for having sold my first horse, one I had raised and trained. I bought him before he was weaned. There was nothing that horse wouldn’t do for me. But my life switched to motherhood, and there was no time or money for horses. I sold him, and then I mourned him...and I will NEVER stop mourning him. Never. That’s why I keep horses forever now. Part of keeping them forever is having a different expectation of the relationship. I kept Old Red going until he was 37, and was one of the greatest privileges of my life. God, I look back on those times, al the caregiving, and they are some of my most joy-filled memories. He was a stoic horse who rarely showed emotion, but he got the job done, and I know he appreciated my caregiving those last few years. The whole life with horses is my bit of heaven. All of ours, I’m sure.


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.