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Preview: Beautiful Mustang

Beautiful Mustang

A blog about adopting an American Mustang and integrating her into our domestic herd.

Updated: 2017-12-14T17:16:25.700-08:00


Hope and Possibilities


Yesterday, as I was walking Bee to the barn next door, Cowboy saw us leaving and came running , full out, across the East Pasture to me. He was prancing around and trying to rush through the gate.  He'd just had breakfast, and I didn't have anything he would want.  Not to mention, going to the barn next door always scares him.Why was he running to me? Why this need to be with me?I thought, What is this all about?  Is it some harbinger from above? Some warning to be careful with Bee today?  That wasn't too much of a stretch, since I was alone at the barn, should anything happen, and a friend of a friends is in a coma right now from a brain bleed after a horse accident.After an hour working Bee, where I was very cautious and all went most excellent, I started to walk back home.  While I was still on the neighbor's property, but almost to the gate, Cowboy, who was grazing at the end of the pasture, saw me and again came running, full bore, to the gate!He was prancing, even dancing, by my side, like I'd been gone for 3 days, he was starving, and I was bringing him food.  Cowboy, I said, what is it with you.  You're acting so weird.  As I lead Bee, he walked with me, through the east pasture, through the turn out, all the way to the gate in front of my tack room.Bee had  her ears back, as if she was annoyed, but not dangerously so.  She seemed to be saying, Hey, get out of here, bud, this is my time.I praised her for not kicking out at him.I unsaddled her as fast as I could, as Cowboy watched us with his head hung over the rail of the fence. Then, I walked back into the turnout, switched Bee for Cowboy, took him over to the overturned trough, stood on the precarious, slick trough asking Cowboy to come closer and closer so that I could swing my leg over his bare back without falling.He did.Inch by inch.I jumped on and we went off on our daily ride through the pastures: walking, trotting, loping.It was an amazing day with Cowboy, and I couldn't get it out of my heart or mind.  I was tossing and turning in bed last night, and it came to me--how I always say, I think in heaven the horses we loved will come running to greet us.It’s true.******You can imagine, living in "heaven," with a horse like Cowboy calling my name, how difficult it is for me to go to work nowadays.  It's getting harder and harder and harder.  My spirit is home with my horses.  An hour away from them feels like 10 hours.  It's driving me crazy.My husband has noticed it because we work together--which, of course, is the upside of my work.  He and I have been talking a lot about how to fix it, and we think we have a solution.I won't know for a few weeks, but we may have found a way to work from home together.******The other thing that kept me up last night was wondering if that crazy behavior of Cowboy's was some final goodbye.  Is he going to colic tonight?  Did he have some sense it would be our last together?  (I tend to overthink everything).I ran out to the barn this morning to see Cowboy, the orphan, the outcast, my heart-horse, before work.  He was healthy and happy.Bee came to see me, too.Leah did her best imitation of an ostrich sticking its head in the sand, but for her it was the round bale.Now, I'm off to work.[...]

Walking Away the Herd-Bound-Barn-Sour


The last week I've ridden Beautiful several times at home, but I've also worked on her "going away" tolerance.  It seems to be working because she stands when I approach with halter and lead (check), she is relaxed at the walk (check), she stands ground tied away from the house (check), she tunes into me around other horses and places (check).

On days where I have to go to work, like today, I'm limited on my time both with the horses and exercising--so I combine the two.  I mean, why get on a treadmill when you have a HORSE to walk the herd bound-barn sour off?  If there's time for the treadmill, there's time to walk Beautiful around the 20 acres and, possibly, over to the next door barn. (Exercise and training all in one!!)  A walk is easy. I'm not starting something I can't finish, and I can do it in almost any weather.

We had a lovely walk today and yesterday.

Yesterday, we walked to the barn next door and checked out the new SCARY round pen we set up on Saturday.

I let Bee explore.

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After she got comfortable, I asked her to follow me into the round pen at liberty.  She did it!

Then, we worked on her whoa and facing up--eventually, joining up and walking with me at liberty in the round pen.

When we'd done that both ways, we stopped and just hung out together--visited a couple of other boarders--then walked home.

The day before that day, I rode her.  But you can see my heart horse, Cowboy, begging to be the one out there with me.

I finished the ride on Bee, then I grabbed Cowboy and rode him bareback.  My husband came out later to join me and I slid off to give him Cowboy so that I could go get Leah.  As he was leading Cowboy in, I took their picture, and I noticed Bee had been in the East pasture with us the whole time. See her behind Loki?

Now, the round bale, and all the other horses, were in the North pasture--but Bee followed us over there on her own and stayed by herself.  That is independence and some real joining up starting to form. 

Oh, and there's that darn goat I got.  He's always in the picture, isn't he? He's kind of growing on me after twelve years.

Meditation on Horse Ears


As I was waking up and reading my phone, Facebook to be exact, I realized I was being fed a drip, drip, drip of negativity. It wasn’t the posts by my friends, whom I feel blessed to have been invited into the intimacy of their everyday lives on Facebook, but the news clips that mingled with it.

I had this thought that I should try to guard against negative media this year by choosing to meditate on something beautiful every morning.

The thing that came to mind today?

Horse ears.

We spend so much time seeing the world through these two sites. A world that is made more wonderful and magical by aiming our thoughts through them.

And no two ears are the same. They’re like snowflakes and fingerprints. Some are small and round, like Cowboy.

Some are more pointy and long, like Leah.

Some are more wild, the color of an elk or deer, like Beautiful Girl.

And since they register the thoughts and feelings of our horses, they are even more unique: their fears, excitement, joy, anticipation, peace, worries, love.

It’s all there in their ears.

(The picture from Beautiful's back is the first time EVER I was able to feel comfortable and pull my phone out for a picture. All the photos were taken yesterday.) 

I Reached My Goal, but What a Year


I knew Sunday was the 1-5-0, so I wanted to reach my goal with Beautiful Girl.  I started the year with a plan for her, and a helluva lot of determination, and it's fitting that she be THE. ONE.Our day started out crappy--not at all like the 150th SHOULD have been.  She was tuned into her herd and bucking, kicking, changing directions on the line.  None of that bothered me, but when I'd tell her "whoa" she wouldn't listen, and that did bother me.  I started to jump in front of her path like a wild-ass woman: half cougar--half wildling--half crazy.  My reactions were not out of the normal playbook.  They were primal.  But you know, some days are just raw like that.  We know when we're being challenged--and sometimes, you just gotta fight back and defend yourself.When I went to throw a leg over, I actually told her, "This is your chance to get even and buck me off, Bee."  (The day had that kind of feel to it.)  Surprisingly, she didn't take me up on the offer, and I stayed planted safely in the saddle.Afterward, I dismounted, attached the long lines to her halter, and drove her around the 20-odd acres next door and at our place.  I want her to get used to walking out in the open.  There was a freak out moment--when Cowboy came running.  Beautiful bolted away.  I kept hold of one line and got her turned back around.  She was a little wound up in the lines, but very calm.   I unwound her and we proceeded with our driving ride.  (That is why it is best to drive in HALTER).This year has been full of happiness and tragedy--*I lost Old Red as I was flying to Hawaii. You can read about my "Terrible Landing in Paradise."  I still miss him.  Cowboy misses him even more.  Since his death, Cowboy has been ostracized from the herd and has only me and, sometimes, the pony, to keep him company.*We added two horses to our herd around the 1st of March.  I hadn't intended to do that so fast, but a friend approached me with Little Joe and my son-in-law got the itch to become a horseman--thus adding Foxy. Both additions were a god-send: Foxy bonded hard with Cowgirl (who was grieving her horse husband) and Little Joe became the heart-horse for my granddaughter, Catherine.*I introduced Leah to lots of new trails.  She did pretty well.  I don't think, however, she's going to be THE horse for me.  She's a sweetheart, and I love her, but she doesn't have that umph that I'm looking for.  I'll continue working with her, and riding her on trails, but when Cowboy is fully retired, I'll be wanting a true heart-horse.  (I think part of her issues are just bad conformation. You can't do much about that.  But she is a sweetheart, and she'll always have a home, and lots of love, with me.  And, I'll always ride her because she needs to keep moving!)*I rode Beautiful for the first time ever this year and, although, I am scared of getting bucked off, I truly believe that if I build a relationship on heeding/partnership/unity/at liberty/being chosen--I won't ever be.  I am carefully building each step of our journey.  Even after our little spat the other day, on day 151 she came right up to me when she saw me approaching with the halter.  She has a heart for me, and I for her.It remains to be seen if she'll be "the one" that I bond with for the trails, but she has been "the one" in my heart for ten years.  She's my baby.  I'm her mama.  We will never part.My goal for next year is to have more days in saddle or training, than not.  That means, I will need at least to reach.....183 Days!!It's too late to get there this year with December only having 25 days left.  But, if I want to get to where I plan to be with BEE, I need all the days I can get: trailering her off the property, ponying her on the trails, training her away from home, taking lessons away from home, and generally buil[...]

Day 149: The Goat I Got


Once upon a time, I was thirty-five and hoping to have one more child.  It didn't happen for me, but I was able to pour a lot of that need for care-giving into two little wethers I adopted. I bottle fed them from two weeks old on up, and we bonded hard together.

In those days, my husband and I lived at the edge of farm fields. We could exit our back gate and ride forever.  Or, we could take off hiking through the canyons and creeks.  It was quite beautiful up on that plateau.  Most of the time, you could see three states--Washington, Idaho, and Oregon.  Pretty breathtaking.

The baby goats would see me coming, and they'd start bouncing into the air, kicking their back legs behind them.  My husband and I took them on our hikes with the plan that we would teach them to one day pack our picnic goods.  They loved and trusted us so much, they'd stay right at our feet.  When we'd come to the creek, we'd pick them up, cradle them in our arms, and cross it, placing them gently on the ground on the other side.

But when they were about a year old, they died.

Urinary Calculi.


The vet tried to operate on them--it didn't work.  So, we returned home empty, their little house, next to ours, quiet.

Enter a three week period of mourning. Guilt. Regret. Mixing up many losses into that one loss.

It turned out, I'd fed them too rich a diet.  I thought I was doing something good, but in fact, I was killing them.

My farrier told me, "The next time you get a goat, go out and kick it every day."  He was joking, trying to make me feel better, but his point was--goats aren't meant to be spoiled like that.

Not long after, we got the goat you see in the photo.  Scotty.

Ornery thing.  100% piss and vinegar.  Instead of me kicking the goat every day, like my farrier suggested, it's Scotty that kicks me every day, instead.  He bucks me, too, with those big old horns. And, he walks in my path to trip me.

But he's 12 years old and healthy as a....goat.

He thinks he's the head of our horse herd, and he guards over them like he'll kick whatever coyote or cougar butt comes their way.

Now that we're riding at home, he accompanies us on rides.  Getting in the way of our path and creating whatever bedlam he can.

I don't even know how to end this post--or where I was going with it.  The story of our different goats is one of my life's little ironies.

There's a meaning in it--but I haven't learned it yet.

I'm Already In Heaven


I may have a post with this title already, because it's true.  I'm in heaven. When I woke up from the anesthesia, I heard the nurse talking about my happy place, and it was like--yep, that makes total sense.  Why?  Because I am one of the lucky people who has heaven on earth right here.*I have horses, and when I work with my horses, endorphins are flooding my brain. Heaven.*I'm married to my prince charming, and when I'm in his presence, endorphins are flooding my brain. Heaven.*I have the sweetest children AND grandchildren, and when I think of them, my eyes will start to tear up and endorphins wash over my brain. Heaven.*I'm grateful for all the above and much more, and when I think of those blessings.....refer to the above.I want to add something to my gratitude list.Yesterday, my daughter came over to ride with me.  We took our horses to the next door barn: Shiloh took Cowgirl, and I took Beautiful Girl.Well, drum roll.....Bee did so good at the ground driving--past the scary stuff--the scary sounds....I decided to try riding her....And, we rode solo AWAY FROM HOME for the first time.....And, it went great!Unfortunately, there were not photos of yesterday's ride, but I included some from our last ride at home. The best thing about our ride at the barn was that she was so responsive to being bent around.  I credit that to the ground driving.  It has become so habitual for her now, she doesn't even think to fight it.  And, if I can keep her turned around and soft in the bit, there is MUCH LESS chance of bucking. I had that epiphany about ground driving a couple of months ago, and I cannot stress enough how helpful it is in training a green horse!!  Rebecca's advice to start in halter, rather than bit, was genius.  In fact, it works so well, I'm going to take Leah through the ground driving routine, too.  I think it can only help to take a couple steps back and work on our communication through reins and bit.Bee and I are definitely on the right path.  Last week, I took her to the next door barn before my surgery, and I drove her from the ground, but when I went to ride her, she started backing up nervously.  I did some basic bends and ended on a positive note without asking her to move out.  After that day, I was really discouraged and thinking we'd never get there.  But we did.  Let that be a lesson to self.  Darkest before the dawn.Here is my daughter riding Cowgirl.Later yesterday, I rode Leah, and we continued to work on the dance of opening gates.  I have them all stand ground tied in front of the Cowgirl Cave as I saddle and unsaddle.  Leah acts like she would love to jump in and live in the cave.  I don't blame her--it's warm and cozy in there.[...]

Would You Like To Dance?


"So much wasted time."David Cassidy's last words as he was dying.When the nurse told me to “go to my happy place,” she said I told her it would be the horses. (My husband and children gave me a bit of grief about that!)  I woke up feeling euphoric, just as the nurse was telling my husband the story. It felt right. It felt like I had truly been with my horses.I’ve written before about how it feels for me to climb into the saddle—it’s like a swoosh of endorphins flooding my brain. I also have this image of heaven, my herd galloping to meet me when I pass over. It gives me comfort. I love my family with all my heart, but my relationship with the horses is other-worldly. I hope the readers will understand what I mean, and maybe even be able to clarify it more, in the comments section.Yesterday was the first day I was able to work with my horses—Cowboy, Leah, and Beautiful--since the heart ablation.  I didn’t expect it to be any different, but it was. Something had changed in me, a way of communicating. It's as if, when they fixed my heart, they also helped it to feel more vividly the emotions of my horses.The idea of The Dance became clearer and shifted from a--We're going to dance!To a--Would you like to dance?I had more patience to ask and wait for the give.  More patience to see it as a series of dance steps, rather than a whole dance.  And, this great understanding that learning the steps to the dance is not wasted time, but rushing the dance or not dancing at all IS wasted time.Seeing it that way, I was able to get insight into my relationships the three horses I worked with, and I want to share it and ask you to leave a comment explaining how you see your own dances with your horses.******Cowboy.As I tried to take Cowboy's picture, he wanted to come to me.  He didn't want to graze.  He didn't want to walk back to the herd.  He wanted to dance.  With me.We are those long-time dance partners you see on the dance floor, feet shuffling back and forth, back and forth, hands held tight--knowing the rhythm, the steps, the give and take.  Imagine the most perfect couple out on the dance floor, the one that just has you mesmerized, and then look over to the side at the ones who aren't that good, but you can tell they've been dancing together for a long time, too.  That is us.  Cowboy and me.  There is still a bit of tension here and there, but we've learned to dance together and we're used to each other.Cowboy doesn't like the tango.  We don't do the tango.  We only dance the ones he likes.  For the most part, I lead, but there are some steep or rocky sections, where I let Cowboy choose the path, and he always gets us where we need to go.  Opening and closing gates--the tap-tap on his side--he scoots over a wee bit. A gentle squeeze--he takes one step--a gentle squeeze--another step.  He hears me softly say, "Whoooaaaa," and he stands still enough that I can reach down to the chain and unlatch the gate.Dancing with Cowboy wasn't always this easy or fun, but it is  now.  I wish I'd been a more patient partner in the early days, but he has been forgiving.  Nowadays, we dance as much as we can to keep his body going in his older age. ****Leah.It struck me that I'd been stepping on Leah's toes a lot as we've been learning to dance together.  She's a gentle soul, takes everything deeply, doesn't want to make missteps--and I need to honor that. Yesterday, we danced on the ground first.  I worked with her at a trot, in circles, all around the arena.  We danced over the poles, around the barrels, along the rail.  She was a lovely partner.I wanted a plan in saddle.  What dance would be learning?  Which steps did we need to learn?I decided the dance was opening the gate (without actually opening the gate), and the steps would[...]

Is This What It's Like to Be Born?


Two days before Thanksgiving, I went in for my Cardiac Ablation Procedure.  Not one to frequent doctors, you could say I wasn't thrilled about it.  As you know from previous posts, I had an extra node on my heart that would sometimes kick into a rapid heart beat, 220+ bpm, and wouldn't stop itself.  On one occasion, I was taken to Urgent Care, who called the paramedics, who stopped my heart to reset it, and took me to the ER.  During that episode, they were able to get an ECG that showed an extra electrical point, and it was my doctor's opinion that the extra node be ablated--or burned off.  After talking to him, and others, I suspended my medical aversion and scheduled the procedure.First, let me say, an SVT, the one I had, won't kill you. But before my procedure, the cardiologist (specialty electrophysiology)  was required to tell me that the risks of the surgery were stroke, heart attack and, yes, death.That wasn't the first time I'd heard the risks, but I informed him I preferred none of those three--nor the possibility of a pace maker (another risk factor we'd discussed earlier) and if it came to any question--50/50--during the 2-6 hour procedure, please err on the side of CAUTION.  He said he would.And with that, I was wheeled on a gurny into a large room where I was surrounded by 4-5 people introducing themselves and their part in the team.  My doctor, and someone else, was in an adjoining room overseeing them all and giving them directions.  There was an anesthesiologist working behind me, but definitely getting his job done to a tee because before I knew it I was OUT.Gone.I had never been under anesthesia, so you can imagine the shock when I woke up.  I started to write a poem about it that night.  Here is what I have so far.Is this what it's likeTo be dead? A big FAT blank.Not even being able to think--Is this what it's likeTo be dead?  So, I was gone. More GONE than I ever dreamed possible.Coming back to life seemed instantaneous, though it probably wasn't.   Your memory isn't good after you come out of anesthesia.  I woke up as they were wheeling me from the recovery room to the room where I'd been prepped. The nurse was telling my husband she'd told me to, "Go to my happy place." She said I replied, "I'll be with my horses."And don't remember that, but I woke up so happy and refreshed, I believe I must have really gone there.I was thrilled to be alive.  Thankful beyond belief that I was able to be thrilled.I started asking them if they were successful and making it fire off.  (They have to get the extra node to expose itself).  The answer: YES.  Were they successful in burning it off?  Answer: Yes.  Where was it? Answer: on the back of the heart (left atrium).Apparently, only 5% of these SVTs occur in the "back of the heart".  My doctor had told me that was a remote possibility, so I put it out of my head.  Surely, I would NOT be one of those 5%.  But I was. Because of that, I am VERY THANKFUL I had one of the best cardiological eletrophysiologists in the business.  He was able to penetrate the septum and burn off the offender--everything--in 1.5 hours. I was out of the hospital about 3 hours after they wheeled me back to the room.And, I am feeling FABULOUS today.(To put it in perspective: my mom's friend had the exact same procedure I did--and was part of that unlucky 5%--and her surgery--time on the table--was SIX hours.)Would I do it again.  Probably not.  But was it worth it?  Yes.Our annual Thanksgiving was yesterday, and I continued to remember, and cherish, that feeling as I opened my eyes on the gurney.    I am the luckiest person to be alive.  I am the luckiest person to have that kind of "happy place."  I'm lucky in a thousand m[...]

(Video) My 5th Ride On Beautiful Girl


This is officially my 5th ride on Bee, but I'd really say 2nd, since the first three could barely be called rides--they were more about getting on to see what I had and didn't have so that I could go back to the drawing board.

Today, there were more distractions, and she started out a little grumpy.  You can hear the planes going by (they're training at the base today) and it rained all night and is cold out.

I lunged her in saddle, threw the rope around her, bent her in on both sides, walked her around the arena and over the poles, and then mounted.

At 3:19, you will see her going to the side and backing up a little.  That is because she sees the obstacles in her path.  She does the same thing, but worse, when I'm ground driving her, until she gets used to going over them.  You'll see her think through and resolve the issue, then move forward.  A similar thing happens at the poles.  She wants to move them out of our way.  Horses are very unsure of themselves when they first have riders on their backs, and they feel less confident of their feet.  She doesn't want to take bad steps, so she tries to move the poles.  I think that's quite nice of her..and smart.

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She was bracing against the bit today, so tomorrow I'll go back to ground driving.  I'd rather work on softness in the bridle from the ground than when she is also worried about balancing a rider.  For a while, I may be alternating between driving and riding.

Before and after, we worked on going through puddles.  Like most Mustangs, she likes the water.  I imagine it brings back times with her herd.  Every mustang has been to a watering hole with their mama.

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A Day of Buck Reckoning


I must have an extreme sense of self-preservation because I could not sleep last night with my mind firing off, what seemed an infinite amount of data, about my ride on Beautiful Girl yesterday.  I was tossing and turning as my fingers, legs, stomach, skin--my whole body--was processing the feel of that ride with the image of her bucking my trainer off.And there were words and questions just reeling and reeling.  Was she mad? Was she startled? Is she a dirty bucker? Can you stop a buck? What might provoke a buck? Can I handle being bucked off? ....on and on.The bucking did not jive with what I felt in saddle yesterday.  It didn't jive then with what I'd always known of her.  She wasn't a bucker, she was a backer.  Any time Bee was scared, she'd back up--not kick out or buck.  But she definitely bucked that evening.  It was big.And, I did see her buck a few times on the line, in saddle,--AFTER the bucking incident--which is perfectly normal for horse, but not so much for her.  I didn't make a big deal about it, but continued to push her forward on the circle and she quit.  Was that good enough to break a habit--if she'd formed one?Tossing and turning (keeping my husband awake) I played the moments (my ride & my trainer's) over and over--and compared them to one another.  Then I remembered--I have it all on tape!  I took a gazillion photos and a couple videos leading up to the buck.  It seemed so smoothe--so boring even--I stopped taping--right before the buck.At 5:00 am, my eyes popped open.  And, the first thing that came to my mind was--FIND THOSE PHOTOS AND VIDEOS!I did, and now I'm going to reconstruct the evening here.  I'm looking for data from Bee--warning signs--something to learn from.  I AM NOT questioning my trainer, and I ask that you not either.  It was Bee's 5th ride and she she hadn't shown any signs of bucking up to that day.  My trainer took her time at every step and only proceeded to the next when she felt safe to do so.  This is all about me analyzing my horse so that I can have a plan for future rides.Here it goes: We practiced loading and unloading her into two different trailers, taking our time with each.When my trainer felt she was calm, she secured the panel, then she closed the door and sat on the wheel well of the trailer (from the outside) to observe Bee as I drove down the driveway.  Bee was calm, so she gave me the thumbs up and we proceeded to the arena.Unloading and walking to the roundpen.Letting Bee check things out.Bee is alert and looking at another horse we'd brought in a separate trailer.  That horse is nineteen, but very scared in new situations, and he was acting up. Allowing Bee to check out the tack and mounting block.Bee is still alert.She gets her moving again. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">What do I see in Bee?1. She's not giving 100% attention to the rider.2. She's resisting transition to the trot.3. She checks in with me and the other observer--another sign of distraction.4. My trainer has the perfect amount of contact with her in the bit.(not seen on video)5. At the time of the buck, she was moving on the rail in a straight line.6. Before the buck, she was moving at a trot, and she showed no signs of resistance or agitation.7. The buck seemed to have come out of nowhere, as if it was purely involuntary.8. After she was done bucking, she stood calm, my trainer remounted, and she rode on perfectly.9. One added bit of info: this was the first time she'd been taken off our property in 9 years.  That's pretty big.How do I analyze that?Th[...]

Our Best Ride Yet--In the Saddle With Beautiful Girl


Why would I ever want less than a complete and willing partnership?Today, I decided to work with Bee, and see how it went.  If it went well, I hoped to ride her.After her bucking incident with my trainer, I went back to the fundamentals.  Lots of time standing tied, working on the line in saddle, and ground driving, in the halter and bit, over lots of scary obstacles.  I wanted to accomplish a few things--communication through reins and bit, comfort carrying a saddle, and courage to face new obstacles, without me by her side where she can see me (as it will be when I'm mounted).To prepare her today, I lunged her at walk, trot, and lope, in saddle.  I threw the rope around her body, from both sides, until I got her to turn in and accept it.  I bent her in to both sides from the ground.As you can see in the photo, her bend is quite lovely and soft.  So soft, that I decided I would have enough control, should I need to bend her in during our ride.  I mounted and rode, and we had the best ride yet.  She wasn't sticky or reactive to my leg cues.  She wasn't stressed about the bit in her mouth.  She yielded to pressure in the bit.  She was paying attention.  She was calm.As I was unsaddling her, I felt this feeling in the pit of my stomach.  It was the feeling of fear.  I hadn't felt it while I was riding her, but apparently, it was there.  I told Bee that we probably both have a little of that right now, and about the time we both don't have it--we'll be riding all over the place together.  Until then, we don't have to push things.  We can continue to take our baby steps and build our courage.After riding Bee, and praising her to heaven and above, I went to get my boy--my heart horse, Cowboy.  I have been trying to ride him every day to improve  his elderly condition.  Here, you can see Mt. Spokane between Cowboy's ears.For some reason, the herd is keeping him away from the food.  I have to go get him and bring him in to eat every day.  You can see how they've banished him to the furthest corner here.I got a ride on him yesterday, too.  It was sunny and gorgeous out. I got a new helmet last month--the Fallon Taylor turquoise riding helmet.  I LOVE it.  It's so comfortable, I forget I'm wearing it, and I wear it into the house!It has an adjustable band in the back, which you can customize to fit your own head.  It clicks to loosen and clicks back to tighten.  Brilliant!![...]

Baby Steps and A Baby


My equine journey of the last couple of years should be an inspiration to readers, as well as a cautionary tale.  An inspiration because I learned that you just have to keep going--baby steps--if you're going to get anywhere with your horses (100 Day Challenge) and a cautionary tale because it took me so long to learn that.  This was clinic weekend--Trail and Colt Starting.  The Trail went great.  I had two of my granddaughters with me and they were awesome.  My oldest, rode Penny, Little Joe AND Leah through the challenge.  My youngest, rode Penny and Little Joe through.   I could not have been more proud of them.On Sunday, I had the Colt Starting Clinic.  I took Cowgirl, Leah, and Beautiful Girl (Bee).  As you know, I still have that bucking incident in my mind.  After that happened, I went back to the drawing board.  Lots of ground work and driving.  I wanted to have as much as solid as possible before adding the rider. (Even though, I did ride her a few times--but it didn't feel right.)At the clinic, I walked her through, then drove her through in halter, then drove her through using the bit and long lines.  It was a lot of work!  She balked at several of the obstacles and it took some real work to get her to take those first steps into it.  It's amazing how brave they are when we're on the ground with them, versus when they can't see us.  I felt so good about it all afterward, I asked if we could ride her through with Rebecca, the trainer, at our side.  I wanted her to get a feel for carrying a rider into tight, scary situations, but still have a security blanket.  She had to think about a lot--the bit giving her direction--my legs--her feet and where she was placing them--the saddle sliding around--and balancing my weight up and down the bridge (the bridge was set on four tires).My hope is that we go so slow with this training---baby steps--that she comes out the other side a broke horse and doesn't even know it.I also rode Cowgirl, who I've been stealing from my daughter.  She's always a rock star.  I'm hoping to start training her to open and close gates, pull logs, and higher level ranch work.It's a win-win for me.  Someday, she may be carrying around my grand-babies!  She's a lot of horse and she needs to be used!I rode Leah through it bareback on Sunday because she had already gone through and did the whole clinic on Saturday.  She was bored to death, so I asked one of the other ladies if she'd like to ride her.  She did and they did great.After the clinic, I loaded Bee back into the trailer because she needs practice with that, but she surprised me and did AWESOME!!  (The other two mares were just let back into the pasture through an adjoining gate).  I  put her away and traded out for my heart horse--Cowboy.  We rode through the pastures in our neighborhood.  We walked, trotted, and we ran with the wind.  Then, we practiced opening and closing the gate in between the indoor arena and our pasture and visited with my trainer, Rebecca.******Did I tell you about the trail ride last week where my hubby and I were galloping through the woods at James T. Slavin Wildlife Preserve and my hubby lost his stirrup?  He grabbed onto the horn of his saddle, so I had to get alongside them and grab Penny's reins to bring her to a stop.  He thought he broke his tail bone, but it healed up after a couple of days and he's fine.  Poor guy. ******Today was rainy and a cold 38 degrees. I didn't want to go out side in it.But I did.After a clinic, I like to play the catch and release game.  I approach them with the halter--and of course, they don[...]

Rain, Snow, Wind, It Ain't Keepin' Me From My Horses


It is winter. No, it is still fall.  But it is winter. And, today I had cheesecake for breakfast.  Which about sums up my feelings about an early winter.But before you consider an intervention on my behalf, you will be happy to know I am still getting out to ride.  Yesterday, was the first big snow, and I thought, what I do today will set the tone for the rest of this season. I got out and rode.  And rode.Today, more snow, but more sunshine, tooSince I'd set a precedent yesterday...I got a ride in before work today.  I certainly won't be getting one after work, since we're off Daylight Savings Time now.  It will be dark by 4:30 pm tonight.While I was out there today,  I had a few thoughts:Thoughts on lunging ahead of riding. Not a huge fan of this due to the monotony for the horse, but it does have a purpose, and that was brought home to me today.  I put Leah in a stall yesterday, and she had lots of pent up energy this morning.  I decided to ride it out.  But if you ride it out, you spend a lot of  your precious time working on listening and partnering--and, not wanting her to work up a sweat on a cold day--that was all we worked on.Thoughts on a heated tack room. My tack room is warm and cozy, and as I was tacking up Leah, she kept putting her head through the door to get a feel of the warmth.  I had placed her bridle and bit near the heater to get extra warm because WHO LIKES A COLD BIT in your mouth?!?  It's almost as irritating as someone writing in caps.The benefits of riding multiple horses.The more I ride more horses, the more horses I want to ride.I didn't know if my heart was big enough for 1, 2, 3, 4 horses, but I've found it already was.  I caretake all 8 of the horses--and I'd become more bonded to the all of them than I knew.  And, them to me.I've been riding Cowgirl, and though it was a bit scary at first since she's a big, strong, athletic mare, she has turned out to be extremely fun.  My daughter is more than happy for me to ride her and work on her "issues."  One issue is her cinchiness.  Cowgirl has a reputation for "blowing up."  Her first trainer recommended a gel cinch, but I switched her to my favorite--Weaver mohair Smart Cinch.  Before I cinch the saddle, I massage under her armpits and belly--everywhere the cinch may touch--on both sides.  Then I tighten it to a 6 out of 10.  I buckle the back cinch.  Tighten the front to 7 out of 10. Secure the breast collar.  Tighten the front cinch to 8 out of 10.  Walk her into the arena.  Finish tightening the cinch.  And, it works brilliantly.  Riding different horses helps me to understand each one of them better--their strengths and weaknesses.  And, it's just fun.The benefits of riding in the winter. The reason I'm sad to see fall go is because I am a trail rider, and riding on the trails is pretty much over in the winter.  Why?  Because of ice and holes and other obstacles that might be covered by snow.  It's more danger than I'm willing to subject my horses or myself.  I ride the fields, but I know them very well.Thoughts on power postures. I was reading an article this weekend on power postures or poses and their ability (or inability) to make people more successful.  Powerful people tend to spread their bodies out more--get big--throw their legs and arms out, cradle their head in their arms with elbows out. As I was riding today, and Leah was full of energy and making herself big, I thought I'd try riding my own body bigger.  Now, power postures don't work if people don't have the skills and confidence to back t[...]

All Good Things Must End


 I walked out to the barn with the dogs yesterday to see if I still had a barn...or horses.Our region was engulfed in a super-crazy-dense-fog.  There is a fence between the turnout and east pastures, where the horses usually hang out, but you couldn't see it at all.I walked up to the gate and saw what appeared to be Little Joe.  Then, I turned and saw several more in the shadows.It was so cool to see them emerging, one by one, starkly outlined by the white of the fog. I thought it would be fun to tape and share it.   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" gesture="media" height="315" src="" width="560">The fog greeted us each morning and disappeared midday.  We are guessing that was our last good weekend because the forecast is calling for snow in a few days.  We took the opportunity to get in what may be our last 2 trail rides.Last Monday-Friday, during what has been this  lovely, long autumn, I spent one day working with Bee--driving her with her bit.  That went very well.  Another evening, after work, I rode Leah to the barn next door and around a 10 acre pasture--working on her collection at the walk and trot.  Afterward, I switched her out for Cowboy, who is acting stiff and needs exercise.  I spent another day at the barn next door working with Leah on the basics.  I realized she is very stiff and needs way more daily bending.  It's going to be sad to see the weather change.  Very sad.  I will miss this time, but I guess all good things must end...for now.[...]

Bring on the Autumn Wind--and Other Obstacles!


It has been a wonderful fall--full of color, clear days, and horses.There has also been wind, but wind can be such a great training opportunity.Last week, on a windy Tuesday, I tied all my horses up to wait for the farrier.  Cowgirl, our big palomino, untied herself and ran around the property.  I caught her and tied her again to a solid ring in a large post.  After about 45 minutes, she pulled back and broke the ring, and part of the wood block, and ran into the barn where the farrier was trimming Bee. She was also a bit grumpy during her own trim, pulling her foot back from the farrier.  I'd like to blame it on the wind--but it's really a lack of being used.She's my daughter's horse, and my daughter has a busy life, so I asked if I could start working with her.  She gave me her blessing.Last Sunday I took three horses next door to the obstacle course.First, I let them run free and explore the arena.It was another windy day, and you have to click, if only for a moment, on this video, to hear one of the doors pounding away.  The barn owner came in to fix it, but I asked that he leave it be as a training tool. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"> After they explored, I took turns tying them up and taking one through the obstacles in-hand.  Then, I took turns riding them through in-saddle.That was the first time I'd ridden Cowgirl, my daughter's horse.  She was super fun. I'm going to steal her.Beautiful went through the course being driven from the ground in-saddle.  I'm trying to work on making my hands as soft as I can and getting a partnership that is based on the gentlest asks.  Actually, I have been doing a lot of work "heeding" with her, but I'll write about that on another post.This driving is all done in halter, and we've gotten pretty good at it with a little practice.  My next step will be driving her through the bit.  I think we're ready for that now.  The great thing about ground driving is that it allows them to approach scary obstacles by themselves--as they would if  you were in the saddle, rather than standing next to them.  Believe it or not, it does make a big difference.Beautiful is becoming a much different and braver horse. She stands tied longer.  She did the best of all the horses with the farrier, and she is facing her fears.  Like facing them.  Putting her nose on them, rather than getting that cloudy, blocking it out, kind of eye.Here's a very short clip that shows her standing tied quietly, even with the banging of the door behind her.  You can see Cowgirl standing, unhappily, in the back.  She hates standing tied, but when you give her a job, she is rock solid!  Cowgirl isn't scared of anything. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">Leah did great, too, but I did have to use a little spur to get her to face up and go through the car wash obstacle.  I use these spurs.I'll give her a gentle tap, tap, and that's about all she needs.  She responds far better to the spurs than she did the crop.  I wish I'd dug them out of retirement a few months ago.  There was a time I used them every ride, back when I was starting out with Cowboy.  I didn't retire them until maybe four years ago.  Used correctly, they are a wonderful aid.Today, I'm going back to ride Leah through again.  She is on the cusp of another break-through--the ability to work through some tougher ranch-work skills.  I'll try to describe what I mean by that in another post.  Th[...]

Oh, Bee, What Fun We'll Have At Clinics!


Bee had her first clinic--aka four hours of fun!It's a colt starting clinic and we work on whatever needs to be done.  Saturday we lunged, worked in the round pen, practiced being tied, and drove from the ground.I thought it would be good practice to have my granddaughters, who were there with me, work Bee, too.She was very good with the girls.By the end of the clinic, Bee was the most calm I've ever seen her.  She also looked mentally tired and, strangely, at peace.  She hadn't worked up a major sweat, but she had to think a lot. The ground driving, especially, was good for her.  She got all wound up in the rope, but had to think to stop herself and not panic.  She also had the rope around her legs and butt--thoroughly sacking herself out.  But she worked through it all and decided to partner up.Rebecca assessed the saddle and agreed that because of her short back, there will be some uncomfortable moments, however, she thinks it is good for her to get used to all kinds of feelings and things touching her.  The more, the better.  She didn't buck a bit changing gaits at the clinic.  In fact, she made me look like a pro.  I'd say, "walk" and she'd walk.  I'd cluck, and she'd trot.  Kiss, and she'd lope.  She's extremely smart.These clinics are going to be so good for her.  Lots of exposure.  New people.  New horses. New places.  Building confidence.  Growing up.The day after, you will be happy to know, she came right up to me in pasture to say hi--a sure sign she didn't have bad feelings from the day before.  Success.Here are some of my fave photos from our lovey-horsey weekend.This one is classic.  Cat is like 4 feet tall (or less) and she was riding Little Joe all over the place and getting him to do these big obstacles all by herself.  Proud moment for me.The girls and I choreographed some drill team moves and did patterns in the arena.  It was quite fun.And, our 15th Anniversary trip to Sandpoint, Idaho, where we were married and return every year.[...]

Happy, happy Autumn With Horses and Family


Autumn is my favorite time of year, and I look forward to it each and every day after it passes.  I tell my husband not to plan ANY trips during the fall season because that is when our area is the absolute most beautiful.Because of autumn, and its absolute grip on my heart, it has been a while since I've written on the blog, and I haven't been visiting my favorites as often as I'd like either. But it has been a busy and delightful time.I've been able to get a couple rides out with Cowboy, a couple with Leah, and lots of work with Bee.  I even had my horse-crazy niece up for a weekend.  This coming weekend, I get to have my granddaughters, as our clinic season starts up again!Unsaddling after the ride.Last I left off, I was getting ready to ride Bee in saddle. I started by working her on the ground. Lots of rope work--until I'd see her relax.  Then, practice carrying the saddle at all gaits. She bucked  hard from trot to canter--just like she did the night she bucked my trainer off.  We had the snorting, all fours off the ground kind of bucking. Not for the faint of heart. When she quit, I was completely calm (after all, I wasn't on her back!).  She looked at me like, "What the heck just happened??"  I pointed for her to move on.  She did so quite willingly and didn't buck again. But she did avoid going from trot to canter for a long time and several sessions.  Yesterday, she was full of energy, and I got her to do the transition several times with only a little bucking and/or kick out at the transition or when she'd slip.  The bigger issue yesterday was speed.  Cantering in saddle makes her nervous, and nervous makes her faster. After seeing the first buck at transition, two weeks ago, I realized the bucking was not being mean or feisty or resistant.  It was just not understanding the feeling of that saddle on her back and it scaring  her.  It is hard work for a horse to hold themselves up at the canter/lope in a circle--and when you throw in a saddle, it makes it even harder.  But it gave me the information I needed to realize she needs lots of work carrying that saddle before carrying a rider.However, that didn't stop me from riding her two weeks ago after her bucking session on the line. My plan was to keep it all at the walk and avoid transitions.  We also practiced lots of mounting and dismounting from the ground.  I had interesting things set up around the arena for her to walk to and inspect.  But I found her feet to be quite sticky and myself unwilling to do what was needed to unstick them.I called Rebecca and asked for a ground driving lesson.  If I'm going to make her go, and work on steering, until she has it down pat, I'd prefer to do it from the ground and avoid fights.  If there's a fight, she will win.  The only way we'll both win is if it's a partnership.We used a halter to keep it safe until she understands all of this very well--then we'll move to a bit and bridle.  After Rebecca was done demonstrating, I took the reins.  I practiced alone here yesterday and it was fun.  Tough to get the feel for it with those long reins, but overall it went very, very well.  If something does go wrong, and she gets wound up or steps on a rein, the halter is very forgiving.To sum up with Bee--my goal is to have her going so well on the ground, in saddle, that it takes those worries away from her when it's time to ride.  I want balancing the rider, interpreting rider cues, being away from her herd--to be the only stresses. And, those will be enough.  By [...]

How to Avoid or Stop a Bucking Horse


I was so driven forward by who knows what on Sunday, that I didn't even ask anyone to take my picture for my first ride on Beautiful.  I remedied that immediately on ride 2 with a selfie! Then I asked my sweet daughter, Shiloh, to come out and snap a few shots.  In all honesty, I shouldn't even be riding her without someone there to help, in case of an emergency. It's just hard for me to be dependent on others.  I'd never get any training done.I'm going to share the photos as I write about my primary concern with Bee--bucking.  Although, I should say, right off the bat, she did not buck me off, and NONE of these photos have anything to do with bucking.She looks so short her, my feet almost touch the ground.  Why should I fear bucking?  ....Kidding!Bucking.  First, it's a sign of an athletic horse.  But that's about the only good thing I can say about it.If you want to know my philosophy about training without any bucking---this article, by trainer Dan Keen, sums it up very well, "The Buck Stops Here." (Horse and Rider)I didn't know Bee was a bucker until I saw her buck my trainer off on her 4th ride.  Since she did, I learned it is in her repertoire.  Before that, she had never bucked in fear or evasion.  Her go-to move had always been backing up. But since she did unseat my trainer--even though my trainer got back on--which was ESSENTIAL--it did open a door for her to try it again in the future.I had to ask myself why my horse bucked.  Was it....1. Lack of work ethic and training--what some term "lazy." (I don't term it lazy.  They're just not used to being asked so much, and it's frustrating until they build a work ethic.)2. Past experience. They unseated someone before and it got them out of the stressful situation.  (Let's face it, riding is work for them.)3. Ill-fitting tack.4.  Body pain.5.  Fear or surprise.In Bee's case, I think it was either fear/surprise or lack of work ethic and training OR both.To keep a horse from bucking you have to keep them moving, keep their head up, and if possible, keep them turned in doing circles.  If they do buck, and succeed in bucking you off, you cannot get mad at them when they stop or they'll think you're mad they stopped.  You have to keep your cool and get back on.  AKA: Cowgirl. Up.I do lots of circles, and when I feel that we've hit a wall--stiff body, backing up, tossing her head--I dismount, work her on the ground, then remount and continue the ride.Yesterday, I said I wanted to give her purpose, softness, willingness, and trust.  I have a few ideas.Purpose: I can ask someone to ride one of her herd mates in front of us.  She is very in tune with her herd, and it could help us to get some safe riding time in where I focus more on turning, stopping and backing cues--different gaits, etc.--without the stress of being separated from her herd. Another activity to give purpose is placing boxes and bags around the arena that have one treat in each.  Ride her to one, dismount, give her the treat, remount, and ride off to the next.Softness:Softness comes from understanding.  Bee is super soft on the ground, but she's nervous being ridden.  I want to help her thoroughly understand what I'm asking--each little whisper of an ask.  To do that, I need to ask in my body before asking with an aid. When she understands this unspoken language, I must praise her to high heaven and build pride in herself. I also need to deepen that partnership by being out there with her--EVERY. DAY.  Not jus[...]

My First Ride on Beautiful Girl, Trail Training on Steep, Scary Trails, & a Trip to the Hospital


Be careful what you wish for.  Last Tuesday, I wrote, "Live like you're going to die.Because we are."  The very next day, I was in the Urgent Care, having my heart stopped, loaded into an ambulance, and off to the ER.I had my 6th episode of tachycardia, but they couldn't get it under control by normal means. My heart was pounding out a pretty steady 215 bpm for about an hour and half, so they decided to stop it and let it reset itself. Before they did that, they were able to catch it on the ECG (EKG), and saw that I a have an extra node.  It's called Atrioventricular nodal reentrant tachycardia or AVNRT.  Here is a description:AVNRT is caused by an abnormal or extra electrical pathway in the heart, a kind of "short circuit." Electrical pathways in the heart consist of microscopic muscle fibers that conduct electrical impulses. Normally, a single electrical pathway allows impulses to travel from the upper to the lower chambers. An extra electrical pathway in the AV node allows those impulses to travel backward at the same time, starting another heartbeat. During AVNRT the electrical impulses continuously go around the two pathways. This is known as "reentry" and can lead to a very fast heart rate.I saw the cardiologist on Friday, and he recommended ablation surgery, where they go in and, basically, burn off the offending pathway(s). I went ahead and scheduled it, I mean, who wants to have to go to Urgent Care and have an ambulance show up with paramedics (bless their hearts, they were sweet!) who stop your heart then send you to the Walking Dead Film Set  Emergency Room.Now, I'm leaning away from it. I'd like to try least invasive first--removing ALL stimulants, lowering my stress through meditation, and taking a beta blocker.  What I have, supposedly, won't kill you, but the "cure" has its own set of risks: stroke, heart attack, permanent need for a pacemaker.  Also, many commenters said their offending pathway grew back after about a decade. If you've had any experience with this, please share in the comments.  I'd love to hear it.*******Would a Horse Fall Off a Cliff?It [the deer] waited and leaped notover the skinner's slack length of leadbut into the pack lines over Otto's backto tangle and thrash and send the wholeentwined line of them down the slope of diminishing scree.                                    Elegy for Otto the Mule by Robert Wrigley (excerpt)I'm not sure if it was that poem, or a few bad steps by Cowboy on a steep cliff trail, that got me wondering if a horse would actually step off a cliff.  Years ago, I asked my friend and trainer, who regularly rides the steep cliffs in search of cows that wander away from their herds, and her answer was absolutely, yes.  Every once in a while she had a green horse, who didn't pay attention to the trail, step off, lose its balance and careen down a draw.  None of them were ever seriously hurt, and she always jumped off before going down with them.Yesterday, I didn't plan to confront all my fears, but there is something a night like Wednesday does to you in making your fears seem much smaller--or, at least, the way around them much more necessary AND clear.I ride Leah at Riverside State Park a lot, but the one area of the park I have avoided is the steep descent to the river and the narrow switchback trail along the hillside. (pictured above).  I've ridden it a hundred times on Cowboy who, through much practice, has become a pro at trav[...]

Something is Starting to Take Flight


"The moment trust and confidence overcome fear and instinct, is the moment your relationship takes flight."I thought I was having company last night, but they ended up running late, which allowed me to grab Bee and walk her to the evening ground clinic next door.  There were seven horses in the clinic, all new to Bee and, trapped inside the indoor arena, she had never, in the ten years I've had her, been in a situation so seemingly vulnerable.Her entire body shook at my side: the muscles in her hind end, her shoulder, her legs--she was quivering from tail to nose, and my heart broke for her.  I wanted to assure her that it was okay and to take away her fear.  But I couldn't.  Instead, I was as tender as I could be, as strong as I could be, as reassuring as I could be. Though she was so truly terrified, she still stood her ground by my side.  She did not push into me. She did not try to pull away. She did not whinny for help.As we began to lead them around the arena, I tried to hide my own fear that she would do something dangerous--overreact to an obstacle, another horse, a sound, a shadow.  But she didn't.When the ground work started--which she did entirely flawlessly--moving out both directions, turning, whoaing, taking up different leads--she was as sensitive as a whisper, and she had started to calm.One horse drew back in his circle--trying to flee our direction--and she stopped on her circle and looked at me.  I reassured her and asked to move back out--she did.It is moments like that which make me feel like my heart is growing for her--just swelling out of my chest with love for her. You know--that aching, happy, longing feeling you get.Something is definitely starting to take flight.[...]

The More You're Willing to Take Chances On a Horse


Live like you're going to die.Because we are.Day 107There's a natural progression occurring inside me, and it's this: I work with my horse, I grow closer to my horse, I am willing to take chances with my horse.On Day 107, I worked on loading Bee into the trailer and having her stand tied as I rode Leah in the arena.  She refused to self-load, but she loaded and unloaded with me very well.Day 108On day 108, I ponied B behind Cowboy around our property.  Cowboy wasn't the best participant.  He kept sending her signals to stay way behind, so I had to bring her up and pet them both until he was okay with her being next to us.  He never got as okay as I'd want him.When we finished, I put Cowboy away and walked Bee to the barn next door to watch jumping practice.  It was good for Bee to see the continuity between the barn and our house.  Afterall, she's going to be there a lot this winter. Day 109On day 109, I walked to the barn next door to help my friend with her horse and ride Leah.  Most of the time ended up being spent teaching her horse to stand at the mounting block.  I did ride Leah bareback for a while, too.That night, I walked her and Cowboy over to the barn again for a chiropractor appointment.I need to work with her on bending every day.  Her neck is tight.Day 110On Day 110, I worked with Beautiful, oiled my saddle and bridles, and waited for 5 tons of hay to be delivered.The cats love their hay castle!Day 111Day 111 was the last trail ride for the summer clinic series.  It was challenging.  Lots of steep hills, narrow paths, pavement with speeding bicycles and lots of pedestrians, a large bridge, and a water crossing.At the half way point, by this water crossing, we had a picnic lunch.  I was with my granddaughter and my son-in-law. Foxy, my son-in-law's horse, had to take the lead, and she was quite jiggy at first.  There was a very loud ORV park at the trail head and it was busy that day...and loud!  However, when we got to the steep stuff--the really hard terrain--she mellowed out and did great.  She's a horse that needs a job.Leah was a little antsy at first, too, but got better as the ride progressed.  It was five hours in total.Leah really surprised me in one section.  It was super steep and sandy--with some rocks thrown in here and there--and the horses had to really sit back to make it down.  I had never seen Leah do that successfully, but she did that day.  She really sat back and put on the brakes when she had to.  There was a moment when we started to slide, but she had us covered with her big back brake on.  I think she was surprised, too. (And, I think the chiropractor work had helped to get better communication between her front and back end.)Another tough obstacle for us was the water.  At first, she wouldn't get in at all, let alone cross. She stopped at the water's edge, and when I tried to urge her in with my legs, I could see a fight brewing.  So, I got off and worked with  her.It only took a few minutes, and when I remounted, she went right in with Penny and Foxy.It was a great day of learning and bonding.  I developed  more trust in Leah's abilities, and she developed more trust in herself.  Rebecca, my trainer, says that next year will probably be her year for getting those trail feet under her and becoming that bomb-proof mount.  We'll be doing clinics all through winter to help that happen.Day 112My granddaughte[...]

Bee Works to Overcome Her Fears, as I Work to Overcome My Own


The terrible air quality, with all the fires in our area, slowed us down, but it didn't totally stop us.  I've continued to work with Bee--as we call her now--on trailer loading, hauling, standing tied, and driving from the ground.We had a wonderful all day clinic Saturday with my trainer, Rebecca.  She taught us her system of teaching horses to self-load and unload--which is a much safer way to do it, and much needed.  Bee had gotten to the point that she was trying to turn around in her divider before the divider was open.  She was also rushing out of the trailer backwards.  We needed some tools to teach her to slow down and to also be prepared for the "just in case" moments.While we went over the lecture portion of the clinic, I let Bee out in the arena with tried-and-true Money Penny, aka, Penny. And, we practiced standing tied, which is a prerequisite for being able to stand tied in the trailer.Rebecca introduced her to the "Be Nice" halter.It worked wonders for Bee.  She immediately gave to the pressure.  I'm going to buy one.Rebecca showed us the technique for teaching to self-load.  Two long lines hooked together and ran through the front window.  The horse is on the line and you're allowing them to choose to go in.  If they run backwards, you have enough line to hold them (wear thick gloves!!), and then you just ask again.  Unloading goes the same way.  You have the lead rope on the horse, but you also have the long line and you ask them to step backward while giving more and more rope.Here she is working Bee into her small 2-horse slant.  That went well, loading and unloading.We moved on to my trailer.  Bee loaded, but wanted to turn and bolt out when she got in there alone. Rebecca had control of her with this long line.  She's asking her to stand in the trailer at this point.She also closed the divider and opened it, which is when Bee has wanted to bolt, but she kept her head around.When she asked Bee to back out, Rebecca exited the trailer to the side. Bee ran backwards as fast as she could and kept going.  She would have lost her with a regular lead rope, but the long line held.  She loaded and unloaded Bee again and again until this last phase, where she did much, much better. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"> allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">Today, I went out and worked on tying, loading, self-loading, unloading, driving from the ground, and getting on her myself.The self-loading didn't go well because I didn't have long lines.  I asked her to self-load from her side, but she would only put in her front feet.  We did that over and over.  Then, I got in and asked her to follow.  She did.  We stood around for a while and I asked her to unload politely.  She did.  We repeated that over and over.  I closed her divider, then opened it, untied her, and asked her to back out nicely.  All good.From there we moved to driving her from the ground.  I did that with the reins in hand, rather than long lines.  It was awkward, but she allowed me to turn her, back her, whoa and move out.At that point, I took her to the mounting block and she was excellent at letting me on.  I may have a broken toe from slamming my foot into a barbell, so I chose to go bareback, as to [...]

For a Mustang, Boredom Training is Torture


"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." - Ray HuntBoredom Training: Day OneAfter the little bucking fit last week, Rebecca's post-analysis really stood out to me.  She said, "It was as if B got bored with going in circles and she just had enough." She said she could feel it coming on the previous ride and was expecting it that night.  So, it didn't really come out of nowhere.  Did a wasp land on her? Did Rebecca touching her butt right before it happened bother her? Maybe.  But my mind went back to the times B is standing tied, hits a wall of boredom, and starts to pull back. It hit me, whatever the catalyst, the problem with her being able to stand still and rest is a root issue that has to be addressed.To plug that hole, I started boredom training the very next day, tying her to the trailer, by herself, in the a.m., as I cleaned the horse trailer.  And, then again that evening, with a buddy.  Her evening tying session lasted an hour and a half, as my husband and I sat in my Cowgirl Cave directly in back of them.B did great--for an hour--then, she got bored and started pawing, threatening Little Joe, and not eating her hay.I wrote Rebecca to tell her what I was doing, and she wrote back:Good plan breaking her from being a herd horse. Being a broke horse will be hard for a bit for her.Boredom Training: Day 2If  Beautiful is any indication, it's tough for a Mustang to be bored.  They're always wanting to do.  Rebecca said she's rarely seen a Mustang that isn't the enforcer in the herd.  Beautiful is definitely our enforcer.  On day 2 of Boredom Training, or How to be a broke horse, or How to be a less herd bound horse...whatever  you want to call it, all the same, I loaded her in our trailer and hauled her two houses down to the barn. That is our barn in the background of the above photo.  Beautiful as not at all happy she could see her herd, but not get to them.  She did good in the trailer, loading and unloading.  She was on high alert, with all the new horses, and knowing hers were so close, but separated by fences.   Despite that, she did walk well on the lead and had no problem navigating the barn and aisle-ways to the indoor arena.Inside, Rebecca told me to let her go.At first, she was a sweet heart, checking out the scary periphery, then coming back to us, venturing further out, coming back, and on and on.However, after she finally made it to the scariest things in the arena, and touched them, there was nothing more to stimulate her mind, and it was as if whatever happened during the bucking fit was happening again.  She had come to tell me, "Hey, mom, I saw the scary things. Conquered the scary things.  Been there, done that. Now, take me home."I basically said, "No, honey, you go entertain yourself for a while as we sit here and chat."And, the wild rumpus began.  There was trotting, cantering, head tossing, pawing, an all out brat attack.  She was like a teenager playing heavy metal in their bedroom so that the parents have to hear their anger.  She knew she couldn't make me leave, but she was trying to send signals that she was very unhappy with my choices.Rebecca threw her a bone.  She walked out and started [...]

Sometimes, The Best Choice Is To Dismount


I don't think I mentioned my 99th day yet, so I'm going to backtrack and title this post: Sometimes, the Best Choice is To Dismount.  Because, ....well, you'll know soon enough.My 99th Day was a wildlife preserve called James T Slavin.  It's a rather large wooded area with a giant marsh in the middle. The marsh attracts all kinds of wild birds--geese, ducks, swans--you name it.  The woods attract all kinds of wildlife--deer, coyote, and moose.  The grasses grow quite tall--often above the head of your horse, and things can fly out from underneath those grasses, or scurry across the path from the grasses--at any moment. On our ride, we encountered two issues which tested Leah and myself.The first was a very steep, narrow path with a large drop-off.  We tackled it first to get it out of the way. However, when we got to the steepest part, the trail splits off into two--one tough, but preferable path--and one tough, and non-preferable path.  Unfortunately, the preferable path had a log down over it--and there was no way to get past it.  The leader of our group of three continued to the non-preferable one, but her horse had other plans and decided to bale off the trail up a steep embankment at the top of the hill.  Leah was following behind him and instantly tried to push her left shoulder through my aids to follow him. I had a split second to decided what I'd do--and I did not think she could handle the embankment. Or, at the very least, there was a chance she would lose her balance--and that would mean certain injury for her--and possibly myself.  Not to mention, I had another rider behind me who is very cautious and is dealing with anxiety.I dismounted as well as I could onto the embankment (there wasn't room for both horse and rider side side by side) and got in front of Leah.  Lucky for me, she is extremely calm when she can see me on the ground, and she instantly relaxed and followed to the top of the hill.  My friend following behind thanked me for dismounting. From that point, we took the lead, as Leah isn't quite there with her following yet, and everything went very well. The second thing that happened was Leah alerting to a large bull moose in the trees.  She saw it pretty early which gave us time to decide whether or not it would be wise to pass and risk getting charged.  We talked it over and opted to try passing around. It stayed in the trees watching us.That was the second time Leah has been to Slavin, and I was very proud of her.  1. She stood still just long enough for me to dismount in a tight situation, and 2. She didn't turn and run when she saw the moose.  She alerted, I let her know I heard her by rubbing her neck and saying "okay", and then she did what I asked her to do--going past the moose.  I couldn't have asked for more.So, last night was the first time since adopting Beautiful Girl that I trailered her away from home.  That's embarrassing, but true. For some reason, I have always been afraid of her getting hurt--and because of that--I've kept her from taking chances.But that had to end.  She needs to step up to the plate, and she wants to step up--to the plate--and the trailer.  We hauled her ten minutes down the road to the state park, and she did very well standing in her place with the rail engaged. (I have a 3-horse slant load)She was obviously scared because she was covered in sweat[...]

A Perfect Way to Spend the 100th Day


I know horses heal hearts because horses healed mine.There is a place so painful, words fail. In this life, it's impossible to avoid it.Enter the voiceless world of horses.  There is magic there. There is justice.  There is predictability. There is strength.  There is tenderness.  There is grace. There's also hard work, bravery, boundaries, and awesome responsibility.To that quiet world, bring your broken heart. Bring your helplessness. Bring your fear, your vulnerability, your broken dreams.What comes out of it depends on you and what you're willing to give up.Give it all up--you don't need it.  The horse has something far greater. They heal hearts.Please vote Willow Center for Grieving Children. We have 3 days left to help our charity receive a $5,000 donation.  Thank you for sticking in there and helping out!  You are all awesome![...]