Friday, May 31, 2024

The T-Team: Frequency & Opportunities

When I read The Compound Effect the part that struck me the hardest was that our life choices are 100% our responsibility.  Not 80/20, 50/50, or 90/10--100%.

It has been a challenging year, yes. Many extra things were put on my plate, yes. But that could not be an excuse to stop doing the things I need and love to do. It was up to me to make it happen.

Frequency is very important--consistency--but not so much the amount of time doing it. Therefore, I lowered my expectations of what a training session looks like. It doesn't have to be loading up and heading out. It can be 30 minutes on the ground at home. Whatever it takes, just so that it's daily. Frequency builds the relationship and the trust.

In Atomic Habits, he pointed out that it's okay to miss one day--life happens--but don't miss two. Otherwise, you are forming a new habit--the habit of not doing the thing you want to do. Eventually, it will derail you from success. I want to be successful with what I'm doing with Tweed, and we need consistency if we're going to build our teamwork.

It's my observation that the more you work with your horse, the more you will run into big obstacles and resistance, because, if you're working with them everyday, you are working in wind, rain, general chaos, and fluctuating moods. All of those things are opportunities, but...they're also challenging and--well--sometimes discouraging. 

The good news is that about the time you are so thoroughly discouraged you're thinking about giving up, you usually have the most unbelievably wonderful day to keep you going. 

All of this consistency, and thinking about horsemanship, led to a drastic shift in my concept of "training." It struck me that we are a TEAM, and it is TEAM TRAINING, not Tweed training. I played a lot of sports growing up, so this concept is very comfortable. I go to the barn, meet with my teammate, suit up, and we train together. It's as much about me as him. 

I need to practice not looking down. I need to practice sitting back on my butt and not tipping forward. I need to practice having more courage..balance...strength...understanding...and communication.

Where is the T-Team at today?

Well, we are working on a few things:

1. Trot to lope transitions. Tweed was getting emotional during the transitions, so we started doing lots and lots of them. Now, he goes back and forth pretty darn good, and we don't have to spend much time warming up.

2. Vertical flexion and working off the leg.

3. Getting back to work. Tweed, like all horses, wants to get worried about things around us. His herd mates eating grass while he works. Grandson throwing dirt. Cows running up with big white bags in their mouths. Training at home has provided us endless (ahem) opportunities.

4. Maintaining speed. Tweed wants to walk at a 2, and when I ask for a 3 or more of a working walk, it is harder on him and makes him want to take up the trot. Going slower also gives him opportunities to think about other things and tune me out.

Here are a few videos of the work from the last couple of days. The first day was with my trainer.

Trot to lope transitions, on the line, just in case the cows sleeping nearby did something crazy.

Turning on the rail. (Right now, we're only doing this at the walk and trot. The object is to keep him going the same speed, turn, then pick the speed back up. It's not there yet, but should come soon.)

This next clip is long and boring, but it wasn't boring in saddle, because I could feel Tweed getting worked up underneath me, even if it doesn't show in the video. 

Before this, one of the cows got up and started shaking a big white bag. Tweed worked through it very well.

But right before this clip, my dog, Lucy, went over and started to bother the rest of the cows, which got them up and moving away. You can see that Tweed starts to arch his neck and slow down. He is wanting to take control back. He really, really wants to look at them and get excited. I had visions of last week swirling through my head. (The Scary Cow Obstacle).

Sorry about the audio. It was windy and lots of airplanes in the sky that day.

Today, we were out there working on the same things, but alone. It was a much nicer day--no wind, and no cows--but my husband did jump on the 4-wheeler and zoom out with our dog, Lucy. A part of me wanted to yell out, Hey, we're training over here. Be quiet! But then I remembered that it's good training...and I need to use it as an opportunity.

As I look back at this video, it seems that without my trainer there reminding me, I'm not keeping him in vertical flexion. His head is bobbing around freely much more, and that is also affecting his turns. They became wider, rather than rocking back on his haunches. I'll have to send this to her, and see if she agrees.

I look forward to the day that Tweed and I have a working rhythm, communication, and mutual respect.

We're chipping away at it.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Semi-Silent Sunday

I want to take a moment to honor Shirley's mare, Coyote Belle, who has passed on. Tumbleweed is not one of Coyote Belle's, but I have admired her babies for many years. I wanted Rio, with his heart-shaped star, so badly, but it wasn't meant to be. She was a noble-hearted horse who produced the most amazing foals. She will be missed by many. Rest in peace and big hugs to my baby's first human mama, Shirley.


Best saying ever when it comes to horses: what a difference a day makes.

trot to lope to trot

One-step disengagements.

Who made this lunge line? I remember it being someone from the blogosphere. 

It sure has been a good one.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

The Unexpected Cow Obstacle

Yesterday was a little crazy. Went out to work with Tweed and mid-way through, the cows from the day before made their return, running up to the fence to watch. 

The head cow, a big black one, even had a bag in her mouth. Last year she jumped the north fence and got in with the neighbor’s herd of cattle and made quite a show of it. My horses witnessed the whole thing and now find that herd quite unpredictable. When they come running to the fence, Tumbleweed thinks they’re coming through it, too. 

A crazy cow WITH A SCARY BAG in her mouth!

Tweed was loose in the round pen doing trot to lope transitions, so his energy was slightly up. He went into flight mode and banged a panel, cutting his leg. I calmed him down and got him haltered, then did the groundwork we did from the last post. 

Afterward, I texted my trainer the videos to see if I should do something different. This was her reply:

You did a fantastic job of claiming the space tweed wanted to be. That alone gave him a new job. 

I don’t think you could have done more. As he learns to put his focus back on you for a few seconds you can give him those jobs. One of these days you will see him looking for guidance when he gets worried. You’re right on doing the exercises to ask for his brain. It slows his anxious energy and tunes him in to you even if he struggles to relax. The cows are great practice. Like deer coming to see what your about or geese that stand up and won’t move off the trail.

In other words, yay, cows!

But I do think, knowing these cows love to run up on us like that, I will keep him on a long line for this work. He’s comforted by contact. 

After we were done, I released him in the arena with Foxy, hoping the cows would come back. They did. 

Tweed didn’t seem to care, but once Foxy saw the cows, she wanted out. 


I had tended to his cut and scrape with SWAT, but one of them needed more. 

Time to put on the vet hat. 

Good luck wrapping a bandage near a hock! It took me three tries, and not wanting to get it too tight, it still came off by morning. 

Try one. 

Try 2

This one probably would have stayed on, but it cast the hock. 

Third time is a charm. 

I didn’t have any help until my 3rd try, and Tweed let me climb all around him to get it wrapped. He stood stock still and wouldn’t budge one inch, even when I asked him to. He wasn’t frightened, but I’m positive that he did not want to hurt me. 

I saw this graph later that night. Remember the book, The Compound Effect? Well, I have been working with Tweed every day. Most days are uneventful, and don’t get a post, but because we are working and training together so much more, I am seeing more. 

In the short run, it can look like slow progress or even going backwards somedays, but the consistency will pay off big down the road. It’s all about learning to be a team and trusting each other. 

Friday, May 24, 2024

Random Stuff

This post is going to be a bunch of snippets, seamed together by nothing. Streams of consciousness blogging. 


A horsewoman is also a vet. Through the years I have become quite the expert at home horse health, especially keeping the elder equines chugging along. Currently, I’m soaking and wrapping Cowgirl's front left hoof for an abscess. It amazes me how patient they are when they know they're being doctored. She just stands there with her foot in the bucket for 15 minutes, then patiently as I wrap the poultice. I think they're grateful, and it sure is rewarding when we fix what’s hurting them. 


I’m taking Epona to training on June 7th, the day before the Despooking Clinic. It’s 2 hours away, and next to my mom’s town, so I’m going to pick her up and bring her home with me, then take her to the airport the next morning so she can fly out to Tennessee with her cousin and best friend. They’re going back to their hometown. 

My daughter is working with Epona on Trailer loading and hauling so that it won’t be as stressful for her. My trainer, Regina, is helping her. 

Regina had an excellent suggestion. She said to send her down with the fly spray she is used to in order to prevent hives. Apparently, when a horse is stressed, any new spray can become an assault to their skin. 😳 Brilliant suggestion. 

And, of course, make sure she continues on the same exact supplements. Basically, provide as much continuity as possible. 

Another interesting factoid, Regina doesn’t let her horses looky loo when they dismount from the trailer. If they do, she takes them back in and works with them until they stand still inside (rest) and outside. She can unload and drop the rope with her horses. 😳 I need to up my unloading game. 



Our local saddle shop refleeced my favorite saddle and while it was taken apart, reinforced and oiled it. He did a beautiful job, but the new wool is going to be slick and slippery until it compacts. 

I love this saddle. After riding in it for 20+ years, I am used to its feel. 

Regina had an idea to keep it from slipping: cut gripper shelving liner 5-6” short of the saddle length and place it between the pad and saddle. (I just bought a new Five Star wool pad in a slightly larger size than my old one. Tumbleweed seems to have grown into a 32”x32” pad.)

Here is the new pad, with the gripper. Going lengthwise, as shown, did not work. We still had slippage. An adjustment needed to be made. 

0Old 5 star pad. 30”x30”, but a little too short for my saddle. 

I stopped mid-lesson and we took the saddle off, and repositioned the gripper to go side-to-side, draped over the middle, rather than long way along the spine. 

It worked much better. 


Hell no. 

Half way through our hell-at-home lesson yesterday, a herd of cows came running to our fence line. The neighbors just put them in last weekend, but our horses haven’t been in pasture to share the fence line and check them out. (Which is probably a good thing.) Tweed saw them and his head shot up and his tail flagged up. He was like, GAME ON!

I was like, Well, there will be NO riding today. 

My trainer was like, Oh, there will be. Hee, hee, hee. 

She told me to trust the process and get his head back in the work by disengaging one step and going to neutral. 

Tweed wasn’t tuning in, so she said keep walking towards his hindquarters until he bends and softens into you. Don’t stop until you get soft from him. Over and over. Lots of walking toward his hip. Stopping when he got soft. When he put his attention back on the cows, more walking to his hip, more disengagement. Eventually, he remained soft and attentive, and we went back the one step, then neutral, and get him to wait for directions. 

(If you’re curious about the bent panel, Beautiful Girl did that back in 2007. She escaped her stall and run over that bar, didn’t break any bones, and I found her out running with the herd.)

The title of this section is HELL NO, because that is what I thought about riding Tweed when he locked onto the neighboring cows. But it didn’t take too long to get to HELL YEAH! It’s time to ride! 

Regina: I told you so. 

I have a horse friend who accompanied us to a wine tasting yesterday afternoon. 

She is the party planner. Or, more accurately, the horse adventure planner. 

As we were drinking wine and talking, she came up with a horse camping trip for next fall to a place 4 1/2 hours away that I’ve never been. The boys can golf there, and we can ride the 7.5 mile loop trail. 

Whatever the case, I agreed to it. We have a tent, so we can tent camp and haul Tumbleweed. 

The wine was very good, and I highly recommend it. 

Sunday, May 19, 2024

I Am A Proud & Grateful ‘Horsewoman’

I consider myself a horsewoman. It has been a vital part of my identity from the moment I purchased my first horse at 18 years old & worked to put myself through college while supporting him, then another. 

While other young people were going away for college, I stayed near home so that I could live my horsey life. Everyday before classes, I drove out to feed them. I attended classes in jeans and cowboy boots. When my classes were finished, I studied or worked as a tutor in the English Lab, then drove back out to ride, clean stalls (if they weren’t on pasture), and give them their evening feed. After that, I’d drive home, dress up for my job serving tables at a local restaurant, then back home to study again, sleep, and repeat. 

I wasn’t the best horsewoman back then, but I was trying my hardest to figure it out, and I have learned with time that we’re never good enough. We’re not God. We can’t prevent every bad thing from happening. As it was, my two horses survived just fine, and I raised them up to be great horses for other people. 

Mistakes and all, it is one of the times of my life for which I am most proud. 

So, what are the qualities of a horsewoman? 

Have a heart for horses. 

Be thankful everyday for the privilege of feeding them morning and night, grooming their beautiful bodies, breathing in their glorious smell. Kiss their sweet muzzles while you still can.  Sing praises as you clean stalls and feather their beds with pine shavings. Learn to listen, hear and understand what they are trying to say to you. Lessen their worries, their pain, their fears and burdens. When they pass, think of them everyday and let the love you have for them fill your heart again. 

A horsewoman has to keep going for her horses. She has to keep growing, too. When she falls down, she has to pick herself back up quickly, dust herself off, learn a lesson, and move on. She has to forgive and let go her hold of grudges, emptying whatever unhealthy thoughts and feelings are there in order to approach her horses with a clean slate and an open mind and heart. 

A horsewoman has to be strong, even when she’d rather be weak, because her horses expect that of her. 

Here’s to all you horsewomen out there and your horses, past and present. What a glorious life we will have to look back upon when it’s all over. 

Thanks to our horses. 

Friday, May 17, 2024

What is a Horsewoman?

Oh, T, you make my heart sing. You make everything…groovy.  (Yesterday was Tweed’s 6th birthday.)

All that work at home with T Boo, with all those distractions and craziness, paid off big yesterday at the equestrian park. 

We didn’t have to spend hardly any time in the round pen, and he was able to maintain vertical flexion and move off my rein and leg. Then we opened and closed the gate, something he has always done well, but now does better. Then, off to the obstacles and trail work, where he was tuned in, balanced, and forward in a working frame of mind, but not nervous. 

I felt more confident on him, like we were a team. This is a reminder that it’s not about “training our horse.” It is about training ourselves and our horse, together, to work as a partnership. Those short, consistent lessons we’ve had were as much about me as Tweed. 


The last post was about Atomic Habits and that we are more likely to continue the habits we want if they are not goal oriented, but systems oriented, and express our identity. 

We all have many parts of our identity, but this is my horse blog, so I’m concentrating on one: being a horsewoman. 

The author, James Clear, tells us to ask ourselves what are the qualities of the person we think could accomplish what we want to accomplish. For me, what are the qualities of a horsewoman

I brainstormed a few qualities off the top of my head, attributes that I will need, but not in order of importance:

Observant caretaker
Brave not stupid
Independent thinking
Good balance and agility
Good boundaries
Sensitive listener

I’ll probably write more about those things and what I mean by them in another post. 

I did an internet search for the qualities of a horseman, and found some very elaborate, difficult to attain descriptions. Most of the descriptions sounded more like the very best professional trainers, which explains why so few people are willing to embrace the term for themselves, always feeling that they haven’t attained that “goal” yet. 

Then, I did a search for horsewoman, and the definitions became much more general and attainable:

Trainer Katrina Silva

“Core values of good horsemanship cluster around calmness, consistency, and fairness.”

At my lesson yesterday I asked my trainer what 3 qualities she thought were most important in a horsewoman. In the setting we were in, of course, she was probably assuming that it was in reference to a riding relationship. She answered:

Patience (I hadn’t told her about The Compound Effect, but patience is at the core.)

Lots of quality time (she explained that by this she meant that when we spend time with our horses we should tune everything else out and be solely focused on our horse.)

Observation (she observed that I need to take T Boo off the green grass.)

Developing my list of the qualities of the horsewoman I want to become is still a work in progress, but the next question is what would the habits be of the person who has those qualities. 

Those are the habits I want to incorporate and become. 

I would also like to invite you to share your own thoughts. 

What are the qualities of a horsewoman?

What are the habits of that horsewoman?

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Forget the Goals

I finished The Compound Effect, recommended by my oldest son, and then hearing that we were interested in that subject, my youngest son recommended another, Atomic Habits. 

So far, there is definitely some overlap, but Atomic Habits is going off in even more mind-blowing, wonderful directions. 

Forget the goals, which motivate you temporarily, and for the wrong reasons, and go straight to the heart, the systems

Instead of saying, when I accomplish this I will be that (goal thinking), you embrace being that thing you want to be right now and changing the entire system to sync with your identity.

For example, I am studying, practicing, and playing the flute now. Therefore, I am a flutist. I am a musician. Not someday. Now.

If you’re training for a marathon, you are a runner  

The idea is that you are more likely to continue something if you embrace it as your identity. 

For example, after reading The Compound Effect, I have incorporated more exercise (with grandson), drinking lemon water, and reading spiritually and mentally uplifting things more than the daily depressing news.  

I am a healthy living person. 

Not someday. 


Once again, I got to thinking about my horse life with T Boo (Tweed), and all the others—I have goals—but what is my basic operating system?

I am a horsewoman. 

My greatest need from my horses is to connect with them. 

Way down on the totem pole is my riding relationship, yet most of my “goals” are wrapped around riding.  

What if I concentrate more on the overall system—connecting with them as much as possible?

It is freeing to think of it from a systems standpoint, rather than a “goal,” which seems temporary, utilitarian, and impersonal. The system should, if organized right, take us past the “goals,” and onto something far superior to them. 


The vet came out today and gave Epona everything she needs for training next month. She was happy to see Epona again, and as one of the team of caregivers, she had a vital part in getting her here.

In fact, a lot of people participated in getting Epona to this point in her life. It kind of feels like she’s everyone’s horse. 

We’re going to take her down on June 8th, but we will really miss her. 

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Horse Challenges at Home: Other Horses


Of all the distractions training at home, other horses might be the most challenging, especially when they’re all out grazing where your horse in training can see and talk to them. Our arena and roundpen are surrounded by pasture, so the horses at liberty can come right up and watch, call out to Tweed, and taunt him with their grass eating. 

The book I’m reading, The Compound Effect, is truly inspiring…and convicting. 

I believe I already mentioned that it talks about how your positive investments compound in your life, slowly at first, then exponentially faster later. 

But it also talks about how your negative habits do the same thing in reverse, eventually derailing you from your goals and your “why power.” 

He also points out that you are 100% responsible for the choices in your life. It’s not 50/50, 75/25, or 99/1. You are responsible for your life. No excuses. No blaming someone else. 

This has been a challenging year, and I was getting in the mindset that I didn’t have time to train/ride, exercise, or eat healthy, because I was so busy with my new responsibilities. 

That was incorrect thinking, and I am trying to fix it.  

One thing I’m doing is making sure I work with Tumbleweed everyday, even if it’s a short session. No excuses. My time constraints dictate that I stay put and not haul away every time I want to ride Tweed, which equals a little more work, but probably more gain, too.

Today, we were doing our thing, half circles and lope, trot, lope transitions, and the pony, Lily, came over to watch and talk to Tumbleweed. She’s low on his hierarchy, but it was distracting. 

Tumbleweed’s world goes like this:

#1 Foxy (by far)

#2 Epona

#3 Beautiful Girl

#4 All the rest 

So, Lily wasn’t the Big Bang, but she was a reminder that they were all eating grass while he was having to tune in and work. 

I am very proud to say that with very little correction Tumbleweed gave his attention back to me and completed his training. I made a big deal over him, then released him with the herd on a positive note. 

This ability to tune into me when he is with me will pay dividends out on the trail when he could easily become distracted and unsettled by the other horses I’m riding with or the unexpected people, dogs, wild animals, birds, and bikes we will most certainly meet on the trail. 

It is an investment that will compound little by little, but eventually pay off BIG. 

Happy Mother’s Day, cowgirls! I hope you’re enjoying your fur babies, and human ones, today.