Sunday, April 28, 2024

Permission to Be Wonky

It’s amazing how much overlap there is in everything important we do. For example, I am back to studying the flute, and one of the first things I was told is not to worry about sounding perfect, but instead experiment and allow my notes to be wonky, even ugly. By allowing experimentation you also find your tone, form, rhythm, and unique voice and style. 

Horsemanship is the same way. Like allowing our horses to make mistakes and find the right answer themselves, we also have to give ourselves permission to be wonky if we ever want to get to something beautiful and unique. 

I have really leaned into that concept this year, giving up expectations and even old muscle memory, and trying to become a blank slate where Tumbleweed and I can choreograph our own unique dance, song, rhythm, movement, responses, and life together. 

(Tweed: yep, sometimes I get a little scared. I’m not embarrassed to admit it either.)

One of these things is how he spooks and what spooks him.

I really don’t want to bring old baggage into a new relationship by predicting, or expecting, based upon my other horses. 

Also, I don’t want to stop it or try to hold him back too much. 

I want to find it, then get through it—together. 

I want to see it, not stop it. 

I think last year I wanted to pre-empt and stop it. I was clinging to an illusion of control, rather than a confidence in our partnership. They sense it when we are trying to control too much, and they don’t like it. It makes them nervous and even lack trust and confidence in being together. 

That’s what aaaaallllllll this work is about, I want to be able to ride his reaction, and when he has that reaction, (because he will) I want him to be used to what it feels like with me on his back. 

If he canters off, ride it. 

If he side passes away, ride it. 

And bring him back to work as soon as possible. 

My body and balance change every year, and so does his, so in many ways we are both starting from scratch. 

Patience is the key, and it’s hard. I cannot tell you how many trail rides I’ve been invited on, but take a pass because I don’t want to push too far, too fast. I know my limits and his, and I don’t want to put either of us in a dangerous situation.

The one question I ask myself is this: can I ride out whatever happens on the trail?

Right now the honest answer is NO, but I’m starting to see ‘yes’ at the end of the tunnel. 

There hasn’t been much spooking to report, or any, but the other day a friend stopped by to see me, and she came bearing Starbucks! Yay! I didn’t realize it, but she also took out her phone to record some video, and somehow startled, rather than ‘spooked’ Tweed. I was so thankful she did! She felt really bad and asked if she should move. I was like, no, please stay right there! He didn’t startle/spook again, but it gave us something to work past.

This is such a small little blip, but it does demonstrate how well balanced he is now, even when reacting, and how quickly he goes back to his job. 

There is a clinic in June geared specifically for trail obstacles, and I’m going to sign us up. Cowboy hated these kinds of clinics, but done right, and I will make sure it is or walk out, they can be an opportunity for growth.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Problems and Solutions

Lessons, lessons. 

I requested that my trainer, Regina, fit us in as often as possible through April and May to help us prepare for a summer / fall of trail riding. 

The issues we had last year, which caused me to reach out for help from Regina, were these:

1. Tumbleweed got anxious between gait changes and didn’t want to take up, or continue, the lope / canter. 

2. He got agitated going down steep hills on his first trail ride, and wanted to run home. 

3. Once, after a sweaty workout, and as we were standing watching another horse, he buckled his legs and wanted to drop for a roll. I jumped off and made him get back up. 

4. My daughter and grandson, and really the whole family,  had a life emergency, and it required more of my time and mental / emotional energy that took away from my focus on Tumbleweed. 

5. He was also rooting at the bit a lot. 

I reached out for help from the very best, and she answered my call.  

I wasn’t exactly sure where all our training was going last year, but I trusted the process, and this year it is all coming together.  I can see why she laid the foundation for longitudinal and lateral suppleness and balance. It is giving him confidence. 

This year, Regina said we should start from scratch because he is a new horse with a new body, and we want a clean slate. Tweed, however, remembered where we’d left off, and he is much more confident in his 2024 body. We’ve had 3 lessons, and a few independent work sessions, and he’s taking off. 

The training this year has concentrated on getting him to transition from trot to lope to trot, keep the gait, and not to fuss getting into it. No bucking, kicking, dropping, taking up wrong leads, or looking out of the pen. If he does any of that, I turn him and have him lope off the opposite direction.  That’s it. The energy stays the same, very relaxed, and the expectation remains the same…until he finds the answer. 

The same work is done in saddle. Keep him moving forward at the same pace, but keep my hands and reins steady, allowing him to find his space and figure out how to carry himself. Keeping the reins firm, and allowing to find his space and balance, also keeps him from rooting at the bit and dropping his head too low.  

Last Wednesday, we added turns on the haunches against the rail, the lateral work we had been introducing, then trotting off the opposite direction. Tweed took up the lope, instead, and Regina said that I should keep going and pretend it was my idea. 

He has the cutest little rocking horse lope! I’m not used to riding one like it yet. It’s like Tumbleweed is my new dance partner, but I haven’t figured out his best dance moves. 

Like learning to dance, there is a lot to think about. My head is spinning with information—legs, hands, seat, shoulders, balance. His attention, speed, confusion, …and my trainer’s instructions. Sometimes, it feels like I’ve never ridden a horse before. 

Very humbling…and rewarding. 

Here are videos of our last session. 

This section is lateral flexion, but only one step at a time, then I am to return to the neutral position. Tweed has to take responsibility for his body, getting more upright and solid in his corners, then be ready to see what I want next. Balance. Lateral suppleness. Attention. Cooperation. 

The next section is lope to trot transitions and keeping up the gait. 

The last video is saddle work. Here we have worked on turns on the haunches and forehand, and we’re putting it to work against the rail at a trot. This is where Tweed takes up the rocking horse lope. 

I love this work and how far Tumbleweed (and I) have come in a week with Regina. 

I want to add a thought about rolling. On our second lesson, Tweed got worked up because I turned the other horses out to pasture, but not him. We didn’t do any saddle work that day, but instead concentrated on trot lope transitions and attention. At the end of that session, he wanted to roll, and I had unhaltered him. Regina told me not to let him roll as long as I was still in the round pen. 

Because he has a history of wanting to roll inappropriately, she wants me to have very clear boundaries. He can only roll when I leave his area and he is sure there is no more that will be asked of him. She said she wouldn’t usually be that picky, but we’re being extra careful. 

There is a video of work I did alone, Tuesday, where my friend who had stopped by to watch and take a video, captured Tweed spooking when he trotted past her. I’ll share that in my next post, but basically, Regina looked at the footage and thought he did really well controlling himself and getting back to work. That was the first, and only, spook of this season. 

Tumbleweed is trying really hard for me, and I love him for it. I won the horse lottery with this boy. 


On another note, I have to sing the praises of these sandals, too. 


On our last day in Sedona we hiked to the Birthing Cave, then 2.5 miles to Chapel of the Holy Cross, then 2 more miles back to our car, and later a short walk around our neighborhood. 

In total, it was 11.5 miles, and I walked it all barefoot in Chacos sandals. They were stable, had good traction, and supported my high arches. They’re kind of a miracle sandal. 

Sunday, April 21, 2024


Not to sound weird, but…you know you’re in love with your horse when you leave off working with him, but you don’t want to wash your hands, shirt, jeans—or anything that still has his smell. 

We’ve come to that point. 

When I look back, it is the smell I remember most about them. My heart horses. The memory of it transports me through time. Way back. To my happiest of happy places.  

And now it is Tumbleweed who I’m learning. 

Awww, love. 


This post is going to be random thoughts. 

Let me start on our most recent trip to Arizona, where we took to the road to scout out potential winter places. 

First, Sedona. 

I love the red rocks. 

There’s a scripture in The Bible where Moses asks God what he should be called, and he answers, “I am that I am.”

When I see the red rocks I feel like I’m seeing the fingerprint of the Creator. Evidence left behind. Proof that there is a divine being, and all it requests of us is that we first recognize  its existence. 

I am. 

You are. 

Everything else falls in place. 

How does it happen? I do not know. But it happens to millions who go there every year. 

I ran into a “local” at a trailhead to the Birthing Cave, a recent transplant, and she told me it is the work of the vortexes. I told her I don’t believe in them. 


Don’t question the vortexes. 

When I got back from the walk, she had put a card on my car door, and wrote:

Vortexes = spiritual energy amplification. 

Okay. Maybe. 

Yet,…does this need amplification?

I don’t think so. 

Here’s another caveat. 

Another local transplant commented that she liked my hat. 

Then she said that I “played the part well.”

Cough. Cough. 

No honey, it is Sedonites playing the part of me. What you see is what you get. 

But I get her point, she thinks everyone visiting Sedona is a caricature of either the western theme or the metaphysical crystals, psychics, vortexes—seeker. 

The town has 10,000 residents, yet hosts 3.5 million people a year. On weekends, the traffic is backed up for miles and miles to get there. 

Is it worth it? Yes! But go in the off-season. Live there? Well, they tell me that there is a thriving community and they learn to exist around the tourism, but it’s too much for me. 

I will remain a…caricatured tourist. 

Our next stop was Prescott, Arizona, which proudly boasts “The World’s Oldest Rodeo.” (And Whisky Row.)

There was a whole street of old saloons, like this one. 

We really liked Prescott, but it’s kind of out there, and the winters, though warmer than Spokane’s, are still too cold. 

Next stop, Wickenburg, AZ, also a rodeo town, and the winter roping Mecca for horse people. 

Wickenburg was the only place we saw people out riding the trails. 

It was a very cute town, and checks all of our boxes, but to live the way we’d want to live there would require making it our primary residence, and that isn’t happening. 

All roads lead home to Spokane. 

A place where wearing a straw hat and cowboy boots still isn’t playing a part. 

A place where you can dust off those boots, put on a clean pair of jeans and shirt, and attend a world class symphony. 

Or drink some world class wine. 

Our place. 

A place we often see fingerprints of the divine eternal, …

But no vortexes. 

Friday, April 19, 2024

Ready and Willing

My boy is growing up and earned a new nickname. I will still refer to him here as Tweed or Tumbleweed, but I took to calling him boy this year after the other geldings passed away, and then somehow that morphed into ‘Boo.’ I still sometimes call him “T,” too. My husband calls him Tum-Tum. (He’s probably very confused!)

At any rate, he is such a different horse since the geldings died and left him the sole male in a mare herd. Life got real. It softened and matured him. It almost remade him. 

“Boo” has a soft, easy sound, and it seems to fit the new Tumbleweed, the one getting ready to turn a whopping 6 years old in May.  

I met my trainer today for our first lesson since last fall, and she saw it, too. She couldn’t find the exact word she was looking for, but it’s something of softness and willingness. Agreeable. More yes than no, like he’s waiting for direction. She thought the change was most likely due to the mares, and whatever they’re doing. (My guess is Cowgirl more than the others because since the geldings died, there isn’t  a barrier between her and T, not even Foxy.)

Regina wrote to me afterward and said:

Very exciting work today. He is ready for more:-)

The plan is to work on getting smooth canter transitions this spring so that we’re solid in all gaits and he is able to move confidently under me. Regina said that if anything happened on the trail, or we just want to canter, if he isn’t strong at it he will get anxious, and that could be a mess. 

There is a rider after me taking lessons with a 6 year old Friesian mare. (She’s big and beautiful!) Regina wants us to work together on trail riding. Specifically, riding with, then away from another. And, if they get bothered, work on strategies to calm them. 

I need to call my farrier and request shoes because I think this is all going to move fast this year. 

I am extremely excited, because there is a change in me, too, and it is something like healing into forgiveness, love, and gratitude. 

It’s how you feel when you’ve survived something big. 

My work with Tumbleweed enhances whatever is happening in my heart. It feels like we were made for this moment. 

Friday, April 5, 2024

A Room With A View

A woman must have money horses and a room of her own if she is to write fiction. play music.  Virginia Woolf (changes by me)

I love my new barn sanctuary. 

This magical room has allowed me to do what I love near the animals I love. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to actually living with them. 

I practice the flute everyday, scales and songs, squeaks, screeches, yet they don’t run out of their stalls. They remain curious. 

Somedays, I walk the breezeway, playing a melody for each horse. They seem to like it. 

The snow returned this morning, and I blame Aurora and Shirley for sending it to us! Haha!

Last night, I had a Dune Date with my oldest son and daughter. (We saw Dune 2 at the theater.) When I got home at 9:30, it was raining hard and the horses weren’t in the barn. My daughter and I booted up and went out to bring them in, and boy were they excited to get into their cozy stalls. 

This morning, that rain had turned into this—snow—April Winter! Surprise!

I think I need to trek out to the barn again and play a song for sunshine before I begin their room service. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

What a Calm Horse

Last year, my trainer, Regina, said that if you train your horse right, you should be able to put it away for the winter and start back in spring right where you left off. 

I was skeptical, but I trust and, therefore, believed her. When you think about it, it’s not much different than “what you release is what you teach.”

Yesterday, I took Tumbleweed back to the equestrian park. It was a beautiful day, 71 degrees and sunny. Lots of green grass. 

(The neighbor’s place below, on our walk)

The park was full of fresh horses and riders. Mares being silly. Geldings being distracted. In fact, I ran into many of my friends heading out for trail rides, and they all told me that their horses were full of it.  

Sarah, the trainer who started Tumbleweed, gave me that sage piece of advice in his 3 year old year. I asked her how I would know he was ready to ride. She said, when you have his full attention. If you don’t have his attention, don’t get on. 

Simple, right?

I spent the first 30 minutes doing just that. If he looked at the other horses, and he did, or if he whinnied for them, and he did, I would send him out. When he gave me his full attention, he rested. When I had his attention, I got on and rode. 

Guess what? Regina was right. Tweed took right off where we left it last November. My friend rode along with us and she just couldn’t say enough good about him. That’s a good looking horse you have there, Linda! Look how calm he is! 

Yay, Tumbleweed! 

We stood talking for a little bit and Tweed wanted to tune into her gelding, but I redirected him, and he settled right down. I told her that for right now, I want him to know it’s about him and me only.  When he’s in saddle, he doesn’t have to worry about other horses because he’s safe with me. 

He didn’t really have that concept down last year, but he does now. 

It’s going to be a fun year with Tumbleweed, and we’re off to a great start. I have to get him shod when I get back from a trip we’re taking mid-April, and I have lessons scheduled with Regina to further develop his, and my, trail skills as a team. Team is the keyword. 

I hope that by mid-May, early June, we are on the trails full time with a rock solid foundation and partnership. If we have that, we can do anything. 

Wish us luck!