Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Upping the Game


I got to see my beautiful boy Monday. He's shedding off to a shiny, light buckskin color, and Sarah has his body in top shape! 

As I watched her work him on the ground, I was amazed at how well he carries himself now. He was so forward, and committing his whole body to the motion--eagerly, happily--all his parts were communicating. It was very pretty to watch, and he knew he did well. When she was done showing him off and handing him over to me, he had a look of, “Did you see that, mom? I did good, didn’t I?” 

And then he burrowed his head gently against my chest for his reward. (He’s still very sweet, and his trainer encourages his curiosity and interactions.)


I worked on the trot, yet again, and it was better, but I still feel like I’m learning to ride all over. 

I brought another of my saddles down to experiment with. I like to get Sarah’s opinion on all the tack. It fit him perfect, but she didn’t approve of the flimsy billet. (I’ve already had another made). But it is one my daughter used to ride in, and I’m not used to it. It has a three slot rigging, which is actually better. The fenders are easier to move around, so you can touch more of their body with your leg. 

I’m used to riding with a long leg, but Sarah wants my leg at more of an angle for posting the trot. That’s hard to get used to, and I think I need to add more holes to get a length in between. 

The bridle and bit work for him, but I need new reins. The system she’s using—basically, plow reining, I guess you’d call it—and keeping them short, but also loose—gets really messy with my round reins. She uses a mecate, but I’ve always had trouble with the loose end around the saddle horn. I might try my splits next time. 

New horse. New saddle. New bridle and bit.  I feel like a novice. 

But Tumbleweed is doing awesome. It’s all on me. 

I am coordinating with my trainer up here, and she want to know how Sarah would like us to follow up to support him. She wrote me this:

Super! As part of bring him home , get a good eval from your trainer on what he is solid on and what he still struggles with. That and the knowledge of how to support him to continue to build confidence and strength will make a big difference for you both as he comes home.

Sarah is bonded to T, and it has to be hard to hand him off to someone who is as goofy as I feel, right now, when she has him going so good. She kept emphasizing the importance of never putting too much on him. Always be sensitive and don’t overload them, she says. 

I take this very seriously, and feel the need to up my game. It will take a lot of work, and it can only happen by getting to it. 



Sunday, April 25, 2021

It's A....

We had the big Reveal, and the baby bump photo shoot! Cowgirl is comparing bumps in the above photo.

What do you think it is, Cowgirl? A colt or a filly? Will we have another little Cowgirl around here or another little cowboy? 

Cowgirl says, start buying blue! It's a cowboy! (Although, if it had been a Cowgirl, she would also get blue!) 




His daddy thought it was a boy, and had to take heat from Team Girl, but in the end he was right. 

They had stockings made for their future girl and boy babies before they were even pregnant. I got both stocking and filled them with baby gifts. Camden won this round. 

This will be our 15th grandchild! Woot! Woot! But the first addition from my kids. I have been a blessed grandma for almost nineteen years now, and all I can say is, bring them on! Our hearts are big enough, and have an infinite supply of love. 

****

In other news, I brought my raven home. "Nevermore" now perches above my piano. 






It brings me happiness, there with the other ravens, and horses and flowers, friends and family have made for me. 

***

Tomorrow I'm off to see Tumbleweed again. We will be working on the lope. Apparently, he did a bad yesterday while my trainer was giving lessons. He went down to roll with her on him. She said it was like he forgot she was there, so she reminded him. I can only imagine his surprise!  She said she had been focused on making sure her student didn't get bucked off, so he took advantage. 

And that's why we take them to trainers! 

He did similar things with me on the ground, so I knew he had that card in his deck.  Funny coincidence, one of the stories about my horse, Cowboy, is when he did the exact same thing with a rider! Those two appear to have some similarities! 

Wish me luck!


Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Remodeling On a Budget, An Art Treasure, And Updates

We have not been sitting idly this spring.  In fact, we have been busy revamping our entire home--within a small budget. We asked ourselves what inexpensive, simple, quick things we could do to really breathe new life into it. We've lived here fifteen years, and everything, especially after 2020, started to seem dark and shadowy. 

So we painted.

Nothing breathes new life into a home like a drastic paint change and a few new lights.





When you have 18' ceilings, it's not for the feint of heart.  As you can see, my husband is not a feint hearted man.

He concentrated on the high spots, and I painted everything below. Basically, what I could reach with a roller on an extension.














The contiguous area is very large. It extends from entry, to piano room, staircase, and upstairs hallway.

Going from mustard to white was about the most drastic change I could have chosen, but I was desperately craving a blank slate. A sanctuary of sunshine. New hope for the future.


It was 100% the right choice, and we LOVE it.  It feels like an old Spanish mission to me, like the ones we visited in San Diego with my grandparents. It's so bright! Light reflects everywhere, and it even casts beautiful color onto the walls through the many stained glasses I've collected over my lifetime.

Since we did all the labor ourselves, it freed up resources to invest in decorative items to complete the space, and further bring in the Spanish missionesque vibe I was getting. 

My daughter and I set out one day to go to every antique store in Spokane in search of a hand-carved wood table for the landing, which is now very bare with the white. And, some spanish-style accessories.  My budget was a mere $500 for all.

Well, the table was elusive.  It could be no deeper than 15".  It had to be wider than the 48" window it would sit underneath.  It had to be a complimentary color to the existing wood. And it needed to be hand-carved.  That's a bit much to expect at an antique store, and we didn't find anything even close.

But we did find these treasures!!

A hand-sculpted horse made in Mexico. We found this beauty for only $125. 


And an old wrought iron cross, for $75. 


My husband and I continued to search for a table, and finally found a new, hand-carved, mahogany table at, believe it or not, Furniture Row. 


It is 12" deep.  Perfect.  54" wide. Perfect.  Unfortunately, we had to order it, so it won't be here for a couple of weeks.

But altogether, we stayed under $500 for that part of the makeover.

Not in the budget, but equally important, is a piece of art we found one night after we had taken a break from our all-day painting spree.  


It's by the artist Melissa Cole, an artist here in Spokane.  I had wanted one of her paintings since I found her horse and raven many years ago. But most of her pieces are thousands of dollars. We chanced upon her exhibit the night we were out, and found "Nevermore". It is smaller, so it was in a great price range ($345) for us to finally own one of her works. Oddly enough, I ended up switching to it after buying another piece first.
 
I do write, and read, a lot of poetry, and have read "The Raven" as much as anyone, so you'd think I would have snapped this one up.  But truth be told, The Raven wasn't a poem I held in my heart. The Raven in it was always too pessimistic for me. Nevermore.  Nevermore.  Yeah, that's not what I think of death--  So, here was this painting called, "NEVERMORE," with this looming raven holding a skull.  I was drawn to it, but also repelled.

Still, I couldn't get it out of my mind.  Why did she paint the raven so large? Why did she name it NEVERMORE? I wanted to love it, but I couldn't have that raven looking at me while I played my piano (that's where it will be) being so pessimistic and faithless.  I have loved too many people and animals to think that was it and it's over.  I have examined my own heart, and I feel there is more to all of this--that there will be a reunion of souls.

And then, I looked harder at the painting--PAST the looming raven, and at the branch he perched upon, with those little tufts of evergreen--and I thought EVERMORE. 

EVER MORE

The painting became something completely different.  The obvious thing in life is death. It looms.  It's real.  Everything about it shouts NEVERMORE.  But those of us who have searched the world, and love, and spiritual aspects of existence--have come back with some other small thing to cling to--a branch--a hope--a less obvious, but much stronger and beautiful vision of reunification.

I wrote Melissa and asked if I could switch paintings, and I told her why. Luckily, she had not sold "Nevermore" yet, and it was easy to make the switch. She told me that the skull in the raven's mouth is a bead that she loved that was handmade in Israel.  That's a very important detail to me, and an affirming aspect of my faith.

I can't believe how close I was to walking away from that painting because of my fear and loathing of the looming presence of doubt and death.  I will never look at it the same again.  And, I get to bring it home on the 22nd.

****

You may remember that the renovation began with the shower project.  That is still ongoing. It is my husband's project, and since he had to rebuild the entire shower and plumbing, it has been much larger than we could have known. But, finally it is coming to completion, too.  The highlight being the tile art of Nan Jacobsohn, The Clay Horse.  






As you can see, there is still a ways to go, but he expects the inside to be finished by next week.

****

There has also been much busy-ness cleaning stalls and turnouts and taking care of all of horses. Leah continues to improve, and is moving better than she was before the injury.  I'm not sure exactly why that is.  Cowboy is struggling with Head Shaking Syndrome, as he always does in spring.  Grazing during the day, and stall rest at night keep it controlled.  The stretching of his neck, during grazing, calms it. Cowgirl continues to grow, but still has a month and a half before the baby is born.

Shiloh, my daughter, is about four months along now, and she had her photos taken with Cowgirl last night.  Both have baby bellies. When those are done, I'll share them.  This weekend, Shiloh is having a gender reveal party, so I'll also know whether the new grandbaby is a boy or girl by the next time I post.

Yay!

*****

I've been reading my old blog posts and found some gems of sayings by Ray Hunt.  I wanted to share them again.


"If you get bucked off or kicked or bitten, you obviously did something wrong, and that's just too bad. The horse, on the other hand, is never, ever wrong". (I've been working with Beautiful Girl again--and I'll post about that later--but this hits the target.)

"When you feel it in here (your heart),
when you feel for him,
when you feel of him;
the confidence can go down through that body,
or you can take it out.”
 
(Wow! I want to have this engraved on my mind every time I go out to interact with my herd.)

"When a horse doesn't do what you tell him, you think you've lost. It's not about winning or losing. A horse doesn't even know what that means. If something goes wrong, you start over. You have to accept defeat to gain success." 

"The definition of confidence is knowing that you are prepared for the unthinkable." (I love this one, too. It's how I plan to build a relationship with Mr T. Prepare, prepare, prepare.)

*****

I got another Mr T update yesterday. Sarah took him out with two others for a trail ride along the river.




Sarah wrote on Facebook:  mr T did good. Kinda excited at first then pooped out

Uh huh, he's a laid back dude.  Sarah says he likes to go slow, and she has to urge him forward.  So, I'm not surprised he got pooped out early.  He has plenty of get up and go for me, so I don't mind one bit that he tends toward the lazier side.  In fact, that's a feather in his cap!  Just the horse I need for my golden years!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

A Horse Who Has Earned His Way


When I took Tumbleweed to my trainer, I tried to explain what I wanted from her, and it went something like this.

"I am in no hurry. I don't want you to feel any pressure from me to accomplish things. I'm in this relationship for the long haul, and this could be the horse that is with me until the day I die, so we have plenty of time. If he lives to be 30, God willing, I'll be 81! I need him to be brave, and calm, and confident. I am in no rush to fail. I need all his experiences to be positive. I want him to be comfortable going anywhere, and I want him to be able to thrive anywhere.  I don't know what the next 30 years will bring, so he will have to be capable of making his way in this world on his own, should something happen."

Sarah assured me that is what she is interested in, too, and she doesn't let clients pressure her to speed it up. I validated that I knew that about her, but I just wanted her to know, if she ever did feel I was pressuring her, I am not. I don't have wild and crazy expectations--only expectations that this experience will be positive and build slowly upon his successes--which is what she does anyway.  But I had to say it, so we knew we were on the same page.

So, when she said the other day that if this horse ever sold, he would sell for a lot, she meant we have accomplished the goal. People like Tumbleweed. They ooooh and ahhh over him. Other horses like him. All of this means, he has already earned his way in the world. He can go anywhere and thrive.

It could have been different.  He could have been a silly knucklehead who spooks at every little thing on the trail. If he was, she'd have told me. He could have been a horse who was indifferent to people. I've had horses like that.  They're golden, but they don't really enjoy people.  They do their job and their reward is to be left alone with the herd.

In fact, I had this exact discussion with my friends before I found my "last horse," but was in the process of thinking I might be ready for one: 

Which would you choose if you had to? A horse who was in your pocket, but not great on trails, or a horse who was great on trails, but not in your pocket? 

Most my friends wanted the horse who was in their pocket, and though I said I preferred one good on the trails, they didn't believe me.  They told me I wanted one in my pocket, or I wouldn't have loved Cowboy so much. They were right. 

I conceded that I wanted both.

As you know from the last couple of years blogging about him, Tumbleweed is in my pocket. He's in my pocket and up my pocket. He's a kissy, cuddly baby that I always have to remind myself to stop calling, "my baby."  

But I didn't know he was also a great trail horse...until now.

This realization makes me extremely happy and excited for my future with him.  It also makes me feel a higher level of responsibility to him.  He has done his part. Now, I must do mine.

I told Sarah that, oddly, I have not missed him this time. She seemed surprised. It was a weird feeling.  Why don't I miss my baby?  What's wrong with me? But as the time comes closer to getting him, I'm starting to feel the missing.  So, I can only attribute this to knowing, deep in my bones, he was exactly where he needed to be. It's the greatest testament to my trust in Sarah.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Don't Trot and Chew Gum

I went to see Tumbleweed yesterday, and was able to take a lesson on him, focusing on the youngster trot. 

The youngster trot is a wild beast of a thing. Wonky. Uncertain. Gangly. Very physical. Things you thought you knew, fall apart. But it's very doable. You only have to get used to it, learn your cues, absorb the shock in your feet, constantly push the horse forward, find his rhythm, and wear a sports bra.

It helps to have your trainer helping from the ground!

"Drop your heels! Urge him forward. Squeeze your legs! Widen the circle!"

Stop looking down! 

I have a saying that I tell every child I train, "Look down, fall down."

What was I doing, as I tried to navigate a wide circle through thick sand? I was constantly looking down at the footing. LOL.  It's not so easy, is it?!?

By the end of the session, everything was starting to come together, and I could feel his rhythm and he could understand my signals. We worked mostly at posting to his trot, but some sitting of it also, to prepare for the ask on the lope.

His trot isn't as rough as it was last year. Sarah has really worked on collection and building up the top line. He is also much more comfortable carrying a rider. And, he is extremely sensitive to the rider, and if he feels your balance off, he will stop. In fact, his stop is so built into him--a tuck your butt kind of stop--Sarah is training him away from it. She doesn't want to put too much pressure on his hocks, and I'm not interested in sliding stops.  I can't remember what she called the stop she's asking for now, but I took it to mean, a relaxed cessation of movement. (It’s reassuring that he's the type to stop when you’re in a pinch though.)

My trainer thinks he's a "really nice three year old." And from her, that is high praise. She never has a bad report to tell of him anymore.  It's all glowing. 

He has exceled on the trails, even when riding out alone. She says he's better at riding out alone than a lot of the older horses in training. He naturally tucks his hind end coming down hills, too. She said it was really fun to ride because it's exactly what you're looking for them to do, but he does it naturally.

She said he never spooks.  But he did have one hairy incident a few days ago. They were watching some cows, and the cows suddenly went off running and bucking away from them.  Sarah said he spun around--and his spin is lightning fast, but easy to sit, and she just brought his head around in a circle--or a one rein stop.  He calmed and they moved on. She says riding colts, you have to be ready for anything. And, she recommends riding him in a saddle with a deeper seat, so that I can stay in it better if he does spin or bolt.  He is exceptionally bred for quick, catty spins--and he definitely has them in spades. But it's good to know they're smooth and well-balanced, and he doesn’t trip over himself.

Another little warning she gave me is that when her dog runs, he thinks that means play time, and time to run, too. That was definitely trained into him here at home. Piper, our wolfhound, was a puppy when Tumbleweed was a yearling, and they have played a lot together.  

She has ridden him during some of her private lessons, and he loves his role. He likes the people, and the other horses. And she says, the people and other horses, love him, too. No surprise. 

She told me if I ever wanted to sell him, he'd "go for a lot."  People are looking for geldings with solid minds. But you know, that will not happen.  I have a lot invested into him--emotionally, and he’s my baby. 

The next lesson will be loping, and that will be in about 8 days. The last lesson will be a trail ride.

Sarah said she'd like to have him for 3 months next year, but I don't think I can part with him longer than 2. She said his 4 year old year is when it's all going to come together, and she wants to take him to the ranch and into the mountains to round up cows.  She's booked so solid, I will have to decide soon.

But for now, I think it's safe to say she's having fun with him, and building a foundation I can continue here at home.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Walk & Chew Gum: A Fantastic Day with Tumbleweed

Some days seem as if they're from a storybook: once upon a time, a girl fell in love with a baby horse, ...and he grew up, learned to take care of the girl, and they rode off into the sunset, on a beautiful 65 degree day, where a red fox showed up and joined them, and her mother prepared a delightful tea... And the girl and the horse lived happily ever after. The end.


That pretty much sums up my trip to see Tumbleweed yesterday.  There were many changes in him: 1. He had grown in height, 2. He could walk and chew gum in saddle, 3. He bonded with his trainer, 4. He has settled into the work.

Last year, Mr T's front hadn't caught up with his back, therefore, in saddle, I was sloping down, which felt awkward. This year, his front end has caught up, and he seems as if he has been in a growth spurt down there. The trainer has had to feed him extra to keep his weight on. She even has to return him to his stall for grass feedings between his am and pm alfalfa. I had him on a supplement, but she has increased it by quite a bit.

In retrospect, I should have taken him down heavier. Growth + exercise + nervousness = MASSIVE calorie burn. I told her to feed him whatever she thinks he needs to sustain him in training, and add it onto my bill. I'm also going to follow a new feeding plan, and supplements, she has recommended for when he is home. 

As for the second change, the ability to walk and chew gum, what I really mean is walk, support the weight of a rider, listen to leg, rein, verbal, and body cues, and navigate obstacles, without being overburdened with stimuli. That was a huge change from last year. He's still processing it, and it's still somewhat new, but you feel like you have a horse underneath you that gets it. He was very responsive to the lightest leg cue.

He is bonded to Sarah, the trainer, and I could see a tenderness and softness in his eyes toward her. But when we arrived, he had his head out of his window to see us, and when I walked into his stall, and out to his run, he left his food, and came to me there and placed his head in my hands. He was very sweet. He also wanted loving from my daughter, Shiloh.

He has settled into his work now, and the foundation is rock solid, so the next month is going to be amazing for him. She has trail rides planned, and lots of riding out. He will be doing some ranch-style work.  At the same time, she wants to see him build up muscle along the topline, and learn to carry himself collected. There's a lot of muscle memory involved in that, which she is developing well.  

Yesterday, was the first day I could not only see, but FEEL, the future with Tumbleweed.  I felt like our skill levels were coming closer to a perfect match. A month from now, it will be even more so.

I had a talk with Sarah, beforehand, about how I need to get comfortable with his trot before I can move to his lope. She agreed. So, I'll be making 3 more trips down for lessons before bringing him home.  Hopefully, I can become confident with him at all three gaits, and maybe even ride him out once with her.  We will see how it unfolds.