Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Of Horses, Hell Hats, Hounds, and Boards


At the heart of rein-free work is the horse's choice to be with you, (and by you, I mean me. ha!) It is their choice to be with you / me when there is no strong, direct connection. What is that, if not liberty work? So, why not go back to that work on the ground, as I did with Leah and the others?

At Liberty work. Or, a word I prefer, Heeding. You can read a little about my work with heeding and getting Leah to be a really fun trail horse. Some more on that here.  Heeding is getting your horse to be tuned into you and wanting to be together.  I had a trainer, Rebecca, who introduced us to the concept of heeding during her monthly workshops, which I attended with Leah.  That work helped us break through some barriers and become partners. I would love to have the same opportunity with Tumbleweed, but she doesn't do workshops anymore. Double damn.

You start by leading them around the arena both ways (in the photo above he is as at liberty with no halter or rope), and then you throw the rope over their neck and let them walk free (kind of like dropping the reins, in that you lose the direct physical connection, but you have something to grab if things go wrong.) 

Something funny happened right after this. We got to the bridge that is supported by 4 tires--the squishy bridge--and Tumbleweed, at liberty, knocked the bridge off the tires, then jumped away, and stopped and looked to me for direction. 

Tumbleweed is by my side, but loose.

He does something naughty, like the 4 year old he is, then jumps away from the mess he created.

Immediately he starts to think about it and chew.

Stops, waits for me to come get him. 

And we go back over to fix the bridge.

This work is a great foundation for teaching them that we can have a connection without the direct physical touch through rope, or reins & bit.  But Tumbleweed is young, and he will still need support in most settings.  It took a couple of years before I could ride Leah on a loose rein. She really needed that constant, "I am here with you" that I gave her through the contact of the bit and reins. She was also very sensitive to my leg, which Tumbleweed is not. (He's getting better.)  They just have such different personalities. Leah is a sweet, sensitive soul. Tweed is a bull in a china shop.


Hell Hats.

I'm going to make a hell hat. The helmet itself does not keep the sun off my face and neck like my hats do, therefore, I need to incorporate a brim. I'm going to go out today and look for a straw hat that I can cut out and attach to one of my helmets. I'll also need to find a band (colorful duct tape, preferably brown, thin belt, ribbon, collar, whatever works) and attach it over the seam. There are quite a few really cool examples if you search them. Each is very unique to the owner. Many of my friends have them, and I've wanted to make one for a LONG time. Sadly, I have donated many great hats through the years that would have been PERFECT to make into hell hats. By all rights, I shouldn't have to go out and buy anything new. No matter which hat I choose, it will be a little painful cutting it up. Doesn't seem right. haha.

Here are a few examples from a place called Rodeo Etc. I have an extra black helmet, and a brown trail helmet, like one seen in these examples.

I have the helmet below.

I also have a helmet like this one.


Paddle boarding.

We've had two family vacations this summer where we rented homes on the lake. One of the homes had paddle boards, and my husband and I went out in the mornings and paddled around together. We loved it. We saw a heron, who let us get really close, and on another day, a family of ducklings, who swam right next to us. We have boats and runners, but they're loud and fast. The boards brought us closer to nature. Bonus! It's good exercise, and it helps your BALANCE. Damn right! I can use that with the horses. A little yoga, a little boarding...forever young. ha! We came home and bought our own. They're inflatable, but just as hard and stable as the solid boards. You can also deflate them and hike into areas where you can't get a car.

We've been out on them twice. This is yesterday's excursion to Hog Lake, a place I often ride horses.

The man who can.

Life is good on the paddle boards. They also work great as flotation devices when you're just sitting around chatting.


Here are some rando photos from yesterday.

My husband and Lucy, (remember little Lucy?) dragging my arena together. Lucy can always be found on the tractor or 4-wheeler with her daddy. Those two are inseparable. 

Did I ever tell you the horses love my husband? They do. Here is little Epona. She's a tall yearling, but I think I have finally got the right mineral balance with Rejuvenaid supplements. She had a rough start, being weaned from her mom. Then, rapid growth when she matured enough to eat well on her own. That rapid growth gave me a bit of a scare, but it has all evened out now.

When we call in the horses, Lucy chases them in for us. 

Have I told you Tumbleweed can be bossy?  He can. He has an aggressive streak that would probably make him an excellent cow horse. Yesterday Cowboy kicked him in the chest and tore a little skin off. Tweed deserved it. I think he knew he deserved it, too, because he didn't retaliate. He just stood there until I came back and put SWAT on the wound. 

This was taken at the end of the day, and Tumbleweed was telling him he couldn't come to me. 

Yep, I'm a bad ass.

I keep the girls together--mama and Epona--because I don't know if they will be going to a new home yet. If they do, I want them to be their own herd. Epona is good at leaving mama to do things with us. She is 100% sweet.

Here's her kissable muzzle.

Walking off to see her human grand-daddy.

The grandpa whisperer.

Update on my Give 'em Hell Hat:

I found an old hat that I wasn't using anymore in my closet, a pendant on a necklace I never wear, and some other materials. I tried the old belt, but it was a bit too thick of a band, so I went to the store and purchased some gingham ribbon with lace and some stick-on rhinestones. I had leather and beads for stampede straps, which I added at the end because there was a little seam between the helmet and the lace. I like stamped straps. This will be good for summer, and I can change it up with a black brim in winter. 

Final product:


  1. Tweed and the squishy bridge made me chuckle. But I am going tp pass on that bridge idea to Shayla who is looking to make some obstacles for her students.

    My artistic eye gets bothered by the contrast between the helmet and brim. Is there a way to cover the helmet with something that coordinates? Maybe some kind of wrap like they use on cars?

    Love the photo of Tweed looking all smug. And Epona sure is growing up to be a beauty. That marking along her jaw is so unique.

    Paddle boarding on a hot day sounds perfect!

    1. Shirley, there is a person on Etsy who makes a full fabric wrap to conform to your helmet. You measure and send her the specs. The good thing about that is it works with any color helmet. I don’t know anyway to do that with what I have. I just have it my first go, and now I’m off to the store to get new supplies for a second go. My helmet is black and brim is straw. I would only use it in summer, so straw is adequate. I have a brown helmet, but it’s over five years old. Time to toss it.

  2. You are always a woman on a mission, and so thorough. Your helm-hat turned out wonderful! I've wanted to try paddle boarding ever since I heard about practicing yoga on the board (consider trying it, even if just meditation). That was many moons ago. Experiencing paddle boarding of any kind (& kayaking) remain on my wish list. Water can have such calming affects. Unfortunately my guy isn't a water seeker. They rent both in many locations, so maybe some day. Although this point, I don't know if I could physically get in/on either very well.

    As for the animals loving your hubby, most all mine love Brad best. Funny how that works.

    1. Thank you. I've wanted to make one for a long time, and figured I better follow through now, or I'd never do it. I'd prefer an even wider brim, but I wanted to use what I already have.

      People do yoga on their boards, but we're not there yet. We're still getting the feel for our balance moving back and forth and going from sitting to standing. They are a lot of fun, and I hope you get one. They are very easy to get on from the land. I haven't tried getting on it from the water. When we push off, we sit on our knees and paddle out a bit, then stand up with the support of our oars.

      My husband really started blossoming with the animals when he started working from home. He's around them a lot more now, and he takes on a lot of the daily chores. It has been nice for me!

  3. Paddle boarding looks like fun. I got my grandsons some boards and they love going out on the lakes with them.

    I think your hat came out great! I've never seen or heard of that before but it makes sense. I might even think of doing something like that next summer.

    Your husband must be a calm kind soul if all the horses love him. I always listen to my animals about people they come in contact with. If they have a bad reaction then I'm a little wary of that person until I get to know them better. Animals just seem to have the sense of good and not so good in people. I know I'm weird that way.

    It's always interesting to watch the interactions of herds. I think we can learn a lot about their personalities.

    1. What a great gift to give your grandsons and encourage them to be out enjoying nature. More kids need to be doing that.

      Yes, my husband is a very calm soul. He’s even-tempered and a caregiver. I am like you, wary of those my animals avoid or warn me about. There have been a couple of people. Animals are sensitive to people’s intentions toward us. Dogs more than horses. At least, more obviously.


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