Saturday, September 23, 2023

Happy Autumn!


Happy Autumn, everyone! What a beautiful time of year. Things are hopping around here. A new grandson was born last week, and is just so perfect and tiny. They're coming over today for lunch and hugs.

I had my weekly lesson with Tumbleweed yesterday, and it went very well. We are still working on what it means to get him balanced in his body. Being a young horse, these are new muscles for him, and it is important for me to help develop them. First, however, I have to see what I'm supposed to be developing, and Regina helps me with that from the ground. When he's using his whole body, his attention and focus are so much more engaged, too. 

Yesterday, we focused on two new goals. The first was pointing my belly button the direction I want his foot to go. Regina wanted me to envision my belly button pointing towards the exact spot on the ground where I wanted to see his foot land. This slight, straight twist of the torso (not down) is very effective. I had him in vertical flexion at the walk, loose rein, twist, then leg, and follow up with a rein slap if he didn't respond. 

The second issue she addressed was my rein/neck cue for the turn. I had been laying the rein on his neck and using my leg, but she wanted me to bring the reins up to my opposite shoulder and hold until he figured to move off of it--towards the shoulder. At the beginning, Tweed didn't know what the cue was, and he backed up trying to figure out if that was the answer. Regina told me to hold it, hold it, hold it--and allow him to struggle, but as soon as he moved off of it for the turn, quick release. We did that over and over until all it took was the slightest movement over towards my shoulder, and he knew it meant turn. The turns were so much more balanced. 

Our hour went by quickly, and she wanted to end on that positive note, but I always like to have him open and close the gate for me to get back to my trailer. Tweed decided he wanted to get over to Regina for some friendly trainer/horse bonding time, and when I asked him to turn (with the rein cue we'd just worked on,) he resisted to go the opposite direction toward Regina. We had a little bit of waiting and backing again, but finally he decided to make the turn, and walk over to the gate to open and close it with me. (Ha! The lesson is over when it's over, and it's not always over when we think it is!)

I'm going to have new sand brought in for my outside arena and put together a small round pen in the center so that we can have lessons at home soon. The equestrian area closes down for the winter around mid-November. 

Regina has a philosophy that whatever note you end on each season, that will be where you take up in spring. She never puts away a horse until the training has ended on a positive note. She has seen over and over again the horse's amazing ability to retain that information, if it's solid, and start up where they left off.

Winters are always a surprise around here, so we will keep going until we can't, and keep ending on those positive notes, both for Tumbleweed and me.

Saturday, September 16, 2023


I finished reading, The Book of Charlie: Wisdom from the Remarkable Life of a 109-Year-Old Man, by David Von Drehle. The book is written as part biography of Dr. Charlie White, the 109-year-old man, and part life advice for David Von Drehle's own children when they grow up. The theme is resilience and, to a lesser extent, resourcefulness, which was definitely displayed by Dr. White as he adapted to 109 years of world wide, earth-shattering changes. A very fascinating life, and I highly recommend this book.

It got me thinking about my own circumstances, with this unexpected, shocking divorce my daughter is going through. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, but sometimes it does, indeed, kill you. 

Resilience.  The concept struck me as the exact thing demanded in this season of life.

I ordered two books on the subject, one of which is, Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom For Living A Better Life, by Eric Greitens. I'm only four chapters into it, but it's very interesting. He wrote it as a series of letters to his friend and former SEAL team member.

Resilience is the virtue that enables people to move through hardship, and become better. No one escapes pain, fear, and suffering. Yet from pain can come wisdom, from fear can come courage, from suffering can come strength – if we have the virtue of resilience.

A couple days ago I got a health warning from my Apple Watch. The health app was tracking my steps and weight, and it had detected a new trend. Warning!

Yes, I had become a bit paralyzed, doing the bare minimum, and putting everything I have into my daughter and grandson. Yes, I had put on a few pounds, not really caring about eating healthy. But life got complicated. 

The flowers I had purchased in June, the month this started, remain unplanted.

Hey, at least they're still alive!

The Rio I over-wintered last year is thriving. I have several pots of it around the house.  Kudos to last year me!

That's a good example of taking advantage of the better seasons in life. They may come back to bless you in the harder ones.

For the last couple of weeks I have been moving again, playing the guitar, and eating healthier.  One of the meals my daughter found on Pinterest, and we cooked together, is Honey Siracha Salmon Bowls. We're making it a hobby to find and cook healthy meals now.  That's a good start towards rebuilding.

Pain can break us or make us wiser. Suffering can destroy us or make us stronger. Fear can cripple us, or it can make us more courageous. It is resilience that makes the difference.

Yesterday, I had a lesson with Tweed down at the park with my trainer Regina. She and I have continued to meet every Friday, through all of this, but Tweed broke a splint about a month ago, and so we spent two of those weeks evaluating and coming up with a healing / resting plan. Since he has been sound again, we have started work.

The last time we met, I was really out of it: stressed, tired, and doing only the minimum. Regina sensed it and didn't push us too hard. I didn't even mount up that day, because my head and heart weren't in it. 

Yesterday I was fully present and, SURPRISE, so was Tumbleweed. It's amazing how sensitive they are to our moods. We had a wonderful lesson where he progressed quickly through the round pen work and right to saddle work. 

We're still working on vertical flexion, softness, and when to release.  We worked in the round pen, and then she had me do the same work out on the trails and around obstacles both at walk and trot. The ground was uneven enough that he had to pay attention and carry himself, but not so uneven that he tripped. Regina was really happy with Tumbleweed. She thought his attitude and willingness was just wonderful.

I left the lesson very happy.  

The great thing about being horsewomen is that even when life is thrown off the rails, and all you want to do is sit around, or hide away in your fear, the barn is calling you, the horses are calling you, the relationship is demanding that you show up and take care--and that ends up being a huge blessing over and over and over again.

When people hear the word resilience, they often think of bouncing back. If you look up resilience in the Merriam Webster dictionary one of the first definitions, you’ll find "this capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation, especially if the strain is caused by compressive stresses, also called elastic resilience." Resilience as elasticity. 

Life‘s reality is that we cannot bounce back. We cannot bounce back because we cannot go back in time to the people we used to be. The parent who loses a child, never bounces back. What’s done, cannot be undone, and some of what life does to us is harsh. Resilient people do not bounce back from hard experiences, they find healthy ways to integrate them into their lives. In time, people find that great calamity met with great spirit can create great strength.

Healing is a long process. I wish it wasn't.

Even though I know that seasons like this often result in a better place on the other side, you still have to do the work of getting to the other side. Dr. Charlie White lived to be 109, and probably would have lived longer, except that he was ready to go on his birthday. He said he wanted to live to see 109, and he did. 

One of the most naturally resilient people I have ever known is my husband. He could write his own book on it. He has spent the last 20 years devoted to accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative. Like most resilient people, he is a man of action and intellectual strength. Every day when he has free time, he is out in the barn happily working on the tack room. (When he has down time, he is reading a book.)

I believe there is a part of our brain (and spirit) that experiences happiness, and we can practice tapping into and activating it. We can become experts at activating it and living in that space longer. 

There is another part, however, that is pulling us the other way--toward sadness, fear, bitterness, loneliness, anger, and anxiety. I suppose that is a survival extinct gone awry. 

I'm starting to see life as a battle between those two existences. One path leads to death, the other to life. Living forever is not a big priority for me, but living better is. If, after this season, I have come closer to that goal, this will have been yet another crisis point turned into an overall benefit, even a blessing.

I'll write more about resilience in the coming months, and as I get further along in my study and experience.