Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Recipe For A Better Outlook

Lessee, that would be sunshine, add mud (think of all those burning calories), a wonderful light Spring breeze, oh yeah and HORSES!! After an afternoon of cyber job hunting, (still have mine, just think if I have to do the 40 hour thing, I might as well see if I can find something that pays a little better) I pulled on my jeans and headed out back to see what things look like. I have really been resistant to going out there . . . too many missing faces. It seems a bit much that I keep going on about this . . . was my idea to downsize, was my idea to give the horses away rather than sell them . . . my idea to fold the business I have sweated, sacrificed, poured mine and my family's tears into for the past 16 years. For all that everything has gone according to plan and the horses are placed in homes I would have chosen for them, had I been able to . . . I still haven't really dealt with their absence. Today was the day.

I am riding Hawkeye, my son's Paint gelding at the Expo (that is if I ever get a stall reserved for him in time!) and it occurs to me time is getting shorter and he isn't getting broker! In order not to make an entire fool of both of us, I figure I better get some saddle time in! Needing very much to overcome the depressive fog that weighs down my feet and heart, I know the only real fix is action. Good forward motion is a cure for many, many ills.

Now, back to Hawkeye. This has been a bit of a puzzling horse for me. I bought him based essentially on his flashy looks, seconded by what seemed to be a sweet and compliant manner. Sent him out for some saddle miles, and figured he'd be a quick turnaround. Hawk didn't really come home riding the way I like my sales prospects to ride, and I never took the time to bring him around (see Outside In for details). So, there he sits out back with the rest of the greenies and the might-someday-be's.

Today, I started him like I would any green horse that had come to my barn for training. From the ground up, taking nothing for granted. Some spook therapy to get his mind brought around, using the milk jugs from the ground and then from his saddle. Watching him move, I am reminded of his really nice speed horse breeding, and found myself wondering if I'd like to develop one more speed horse . . . This guy can really move. He wasn't out of control, dashing around like a madman or anything like that. Just very economically tucking that butt and picking up a fast canter, keeping his feet in the muddy slop that is my round pen seemingly with no effort at all. I didn't want to do all my conditioning in one day, so I mostly kept him down to a jog and a trot, very much enjoying when he started looking into the circle to find me and ask questions. I let him volunteer his stop (this a horse that is really learning to move his feet so I want him to know his quiet and security still lay with me), and when he started volunteering coming into me when I pulled my body language back to let him know it would be okay, a grin split my face from ear to ear. That soft trust, and happy ease of movement is worth a fortune to me. The horse became as relaxed under saddle as I have ever seen him.

I introduced some falling leaf, a pretty name for the hip over, shoulder through exercise, and awkward at first. he warmed into it and gave nicely, fore and aft. Time to ride. I had about 20 pounds of sucking mud on my boots, and even though I knocked a bunch of it off, decided to use the mounting block, instead of just climbing aboard. I wanted to try the exercises I have been using to gain Moonshine's cooperation and see how well it translated to Hawkeye. It's simple stuff, ask the horse softly to come into position, one step at a time, rewarding and releasing along the way. If the horse can't stay, no big deal, but you have to work a little, out there, hip over, shoulder through, whatever, and then we try again. Took a couple of tries with Hawkeye, and when he finally came up and settled, it was that same head level, dead solid stance I had with Moonshine when she was completely ready to ride. It was the first time I'd mounted him with his full permission, and maybe the first time anyone had. Did just a little bending, rubbing his forehead on each side, moving his hip over a little, then released him and let him walk off.

This is a really green horse. That is why I haven't sold him yet. I haven't even let anyone come look at him yet from the ads I have occasionally posted for him. I could feel the greenness in the stiffness in his back and the uncertain way he was traveling. Singing offkey to "Whatja gonna do with a drunken sailor" we did some passenger riding in the round pen, and then some point to point but I wanted longer straight lines and to find out if he was truly with me or just confined in 50 feet of pen.

Sash and Jack were in audience mode outside. When I had picked up the milk jugs on the way in, I'd rattled them just for fun, to see if Hawkeye really cared and what would be the reaction from the herd at the hay bale. Sasha picks up her head, flags her tail, snorts, and trots straight to me to see what the heck there is to play with. Much to my surprise. Jack comes with her. . . cautious and wary, but curious. Man, that's so cool.

Anyway, now that I am riding out here, she's a pain in the butt. Jack decides there's less disturbance at the other hay bale and takes his leave. We move Sasha around a little, without a ton of success, as Hawkeye has NO idea where I want to put his body and we are clumsy to say the least. Eventually she gets sick of us and bolts off. UH, not YOU, big boy, I say. I bend him into the fence a couple times, not shutting down his forward motion (it's taken me this long to find it, I am NOT losing it now!) but putting it to work and using the momentum. He never does feel like he's entirely with me, but he's not running though my hands and leaving me either.

The footing out in the pasture looks good, much better than where we are, so we head out to do some exercises. I pretend I am taking a lesson with Missy, and repeat a whole lot of what we did with Ginger, that first time out. Weighting my outside seatbone still feels odd to me, I have pushed from the inside seatbone my entire life, and while I am feeling the difference in the horse's improved ability to use their hindquarters for me, it is far from coming naturally. Hawkeye started out all over the place, but much softer in the bridle than he used to be, so we've made some progress. I rode boxes, stretching out his walk, trotted diagonals, and every so often, he would hit this incredible reachy, floaty trot that makes me wonder if I am developing the right dressage prospect. No trouble getting a working trot out of this horse!

Thinking that not only can I overdo my conditioning in one day, but my training too, I reluctanctly head for the barn. That makes Hawkeye way too happy, sigh . . . so we take the long way around. Coming up around the other side of the barn, I hear the sound of melting water running off down the hillside . . . Wait a minute . . . that's WAY too much rushing water! Darn it, I have overflowed the water tank. AGAIN! Man, you'd think I'd learn to pay attention to that. We ride over, and I crawl through the fence, asking Hawkeye to stay with me from the other side. While taking care of the hose, I decide I want a closer look at the new round bale up on the hill. We are out of the oat hay and into the alfalfa mix, and I am curious if the quality matches the price.

Hawkeye doesn't even seem disappointed as I crawl back up and we head up the hill to the other round bale. This hay is looking NICE! Still green, aromatic . . . I am happy to see it. Now that I am here, I sidle Hawkeye up to different horses, letting him know what all that shoulder and hip control is really for. Sometimes it works super, and he melts towards them, following the pressure in my hands and hips like a dream. Sometimes we both get confused as to what I am asking (old ways conflicting the new that I am learning . . .). I laugh, pet him, rub his neck, tell him what an awesome guy he is to put up with my learning curve while so freshly into his own. Even Moonshine gets her face rubbed, Sasha is a pest, Ginger is unsure, as Hawkeye is the baddest of the bad, out there by himself, and she's thinking close enough for bites is too close for her. I get her to trust me, and pet her too. Class and Donovan are doing standing tied duty, so they miss out. Jack? We get to about five feet from him, and that's enough. I ask him to look full at me, both ears and both eyes, and release pressure. Pretty good for a horse that was sailing fences a year ago at the sight of a mounted rider.

Finally, eventually, I really do let Hawkeye off the hook and head for the barn. I give him a good rubdown and many, many Cheerios. The other two captives get their share as well as the goat. It was an incredibly good time. The other day, when I was really feeling sorry for myself, I was thinking about the clinics I want to attend, the lessons I want to take, and thought man, I can't even say it's for the business. It's just for me, because I want to . . . and then I realized, Terri, that is how it is for most people and horses. Because they want to, and that's enough. Wow. What a concept.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming . . .

Enough is enough and doom and gloom is defeated by sunshine, at least for a day. I put me to bed early, with a forecast like this, I have got to get outside and ride!

Days like this were total early Midwestern Spring time. . . Sunshine over ice, snow and enough mud to make me wish I'd been better friends with the Pilate ball . . . It was great!

A very few hours later, I could sleep no more and up I bounced. Finally true to his promise, the BFLWM produced a beautiful sunny day. I have a lesson coming up on Friday evening with Missy Fladland and though I have serious long and short term financial issues, I decided to keep the appointment as it helps me remember what I am doing all this for . . . Which brings us to Moonshine, my partner in my search for things dressage . . . I haven't been on her since the LAST lesson, back beginning December, which doesn't really bode well for the next one if I don't do something about that.

The inch thick treacherous ice is mostly replaced with sucking mud, a true harbinger of Spring (and fine with me, at this point!) and I joyfully opened up my previously snow drifted barn door to see how things fared in there. It's pretty much under water, a testament to the amount of melt as my barn is always dry (unless I leave the hose running, but that's a different tale) but there were enough dry spots to tie and groom. Here we go!

I picked up a baling twine, as the sight of a halter and lead still inspires more catching adventures than I wanted to mess around with my lovely black mare, and a handful of grain. Moonshine was first in line for pets and treats, a nibble and I walked away, leaving her before she could leave me. Treats for Sasha, who was volunteering for the halter (and later put herself in the round pen AND the barn, do you think she's ready for a job, LOL?), Donovan and back to Moonshine. I rubbed her neck and slipped the baling twine over. It's trickery and will not work for the long run, but did what I needed it to do today. It might be the last time I ever shortcut that mare . . .

She knew she was tricked and came reluctanctly with me to the barn. I proceded with care, not wanting the big mare to fully rebel and pull away, dunno if I could let go quick enough to avoid the nasty and probably well deserved burn I'd get . . . I released to her with each foreward motion and she lightened up a little on the way. Classic, the four year old Quarter Pony I am riding for my friend, Walt, followed us into the barn and I thought, just as well, need to fool around with you a little, too, while I'm at it.

Got Class cleaned up and neatly tied out of the way. This little gal does not have a lot of confidence in human leadership. Sense a theme here? More stories to come of a horse that was built from the outside in, rather than the inside out. I'm going to fix that. She was insecure and shifted her body around, trying to keep track of her buddies outside. An elbow to the ribs when she was rude surprised her, as did the friendly rub when she stepped back out of my space with sharp concern. Now I have her attention, and just gently moved her around while I was removing the mud off that stocky black body. She's the first foal out of my good Chica, bred by a grulla dun Poco Bueno/Mr Blakburn bred stud, and a very nice example of what I think Quarter Pony should be. I did a lot of rubbing and friendly, just asking her to respect my space and acknowledge my presence. Stood her tied, over in the corner and turned to 'Shine.

Now, something odd happened to me while I was grooming Moonshine, and it may be more pivotal than I know even yet . . . Anyone who has ever taken a lesson with me, or watched me prepare to work a horse will tell you I am the queen of the 30 second groom. Get the mud and dirt off of where the saddle goes, worry about the pretty later. I rarely saddle less than three horses at a time, and being efficient in my motions is key to getting the day's work done. Well, I didn't have a day's work to do this afternoon . . . I had one black mare to saddle and see where we were at, together. I started, as usual this time of year with the shedding blade (did NOT use it on her mane, for Heaven's sake, inside joke . . .) briskly removing debris while thinking about my game plan. She wasn't particularly quiet, was also focused on the hooligans, equine and canine raising heck outdoors . . . I untied her, did some hip over and shoulder through, keeping her really bent as we were in the panel stall, and that big girl moved over and around herself to make a Quarter Horse weep with envy (unless you are Donovan, who couldn't care less . . .), back to the post, and now a brush. As I am stroking the thick, dullish winter hair, a shine starts to come through. My movements slow, I work at small spots, removing bits and pieces I would normally ignore, it's nasty out she's just going to get dirty again anyway but I brush her nonetheless, acquainting myself with the contours of her body. . . Found a dread lock in the long fantasy style mane . . . ShowSheen is thawed, grabbed my hairbrush that is just for horses (unless I get a surprise visitor, then it might be for me if I happen to think about it), smoothed and brushed that mane til I could run my fingers through it. Moonshine is still, now, she's relaxing and I start talking to her. I am reading a book I am a little sceptical of . . . this Riding Through the World thing . . . and it talks about acknowledging your feelings to your horses, rather than the "fake it til you make it" so many of us have been taught to do, and not just in the stable. There is something to this, as uncomfortable as it makes me. . . As I am talking to her, those big dark eyes are fixed on mine, and she reaches out and touches me with her nose. Okay, this is not the big epiphanic "my horse understood my pain" kind of a thing that just gets too sappy for me, sometimes, but she did reach out to me. I rubbed her gently, and then full on hugged her neck. More grooming, she's very relaxed now and about half sleepy . . .

That all changed when we went outside. I decided to take her for a trail walk and get her exposed to the great outdoors and head shoots up (no worries about getting THAT neck to lift), tail hefted with an Arab loft over that Perchy butt, and it was prancy dancy all down the road. We worked some circles by the scary earthloading equipment (love Moonshine's expressions of alarm . . . feet move around, she gets a look at the scary thing, and that's about all there is to it). Largest issue was keeping her moving where I was pointing, not allowing her to avoid by changing directions of her own accord and asking for softness on the halter rope. I didn't mind her exuberance, her trot is big and floaty and I think she's going to be so much fun I can hardly stand it. I kept forgetting to reward her tries and made myself bring her in and rub her when she do those hip over, shoulder through's so round and pretty, she almost made think I have that down (doing it differently, hopefully the way Missy showed me, and it's not as easy as it looked! :-))) Worked her on a bank alongside the road, until she paid attention to where her feet landed, paid attention to what I was asking, and in general, paid attention. The walk to the trailer where her saddle has lived all winter (since the last lesson, right?) was much quieter and I had good thoughts I might actually end up on that tall back before all was said and done.

She saddled nicely and why not. Back at the barn, it was push come to shove . .. how would the bridling go? Missy spent a long and proper time getting the mare to put her head down softly, below shoulder level and bridle willingly with full cooperation and acceptance. Could I master the patience I might need to follow in those footsteps? Eyes widen as I approach with the bridle and Moonshine's head drifts roofward. . . I step her backwards asking gently for her to lower, and release her as soon as I feel her body give. . . sure enough the head sinks . . to my eye level . . . my shoulder . . . to my knee. Man, I don't want to mess this up! I carefully frame her face with the headstall, she almost raises her head and I ask if she wants to move her feet. Shine says no and extends her face toward the bit in my hand. I can almost not believe it as I gently slip the O ring into her mouth. A little tension as the headstall goes over the far ear, and it's done. Wow. The memory this horse has is phenomenal. Better than mine, I am pretty sure.

Had a small wreck coming out of the door, danged dog jumped up and nipped her butt as she yielded her hip to me on the way out. Moonshine spun and the mecate rein pulled the wrong side of her face, we were spinning around and I was pretty sure I was going to be on my butt in the mud, ice, snow mixture that greets the feet just outside the barn. I let go. She's OUT of there. Well, this is going to be interesting. Maybe I don't ride, maybe I spend my afternoon playing the catch me game with my fully saddled and bridled mare. Or . . . maybe I just walk up to her, and pick up the mecate with Moonshine looking at me like "what the heck was all that about?" Things are changing, yet again, with us.

Had to kick Sasha out of the round pen, not your turn today, my darling. There are people interested in her and I will gladly let her go to either of those homes. On the other hand, if she didn't leave . . . well how bad would that be. . . anyway, some more, I digress. Stepping up to the mounting block we do a couple light gives on either side, no problem, she completely remembers what to do here. She also remembers she doesn't care for the mounting block and begins to sidle. Normally, I get her "close enough" and go for it. By the time I am ready to get on her, I am 99.9999 sure she's safe and my semi flying mount had Missy's eyes wide, last time around. Today, I catch myself . . . impatience is just not what this horse needs and we are in for the long haul. I, the commitment phobe from Hell have committed to her and a couple select others out there, and I might as well do it right. I move her around, letting her settle when she's willing to come in closer and sending her back out to work when she can't stay. Finally, it's one step at a time and she's in proper position to the block and stays there. If I ever get her to this point, it's NOW finally time to get on and go, right!? Instead, I rub her neck, make noise on the saddle, hug and play with her. She stands, neck level, ears lopped. I pick up my stirrup, she's fine. Now, it is time to mount and I swing aboard. No walking off, no high tense neck, she's an old saddle horse, relaxed head to toe and ready.

We didn't do a whole lot. Walked, trotted some. I did a passenger lesson with the reins figure eighted on the saddle horn. I need to work on my seat and my balance (there's a blog a few months ago that this was my goal but I didn't get there that day) and I rode arms straight out from my shoulders, keeping my chest open, arms straight up, finding my balance points, and doing my winter clumsy chubby best to follow her movements through the knee deep snow at the top of the round pen and the mud and four inches of water at the bottom of it. I could have rode all day but I wanted Moonshine to be as happy about what we were doing as I was and riding the piss out of an out of shape mare isn't the way to do that (though Ginger bears no grudge, you sweetheart, you). I worked a little on using my outside seatbone to ask for the hip to move and then bring the shoulders over, and when I felt some improvement in us both, that was enough. I picked up my reins, asked if there was any back up in there and dropped them like a hot potato as the chin came in and the body floated backwards under me.

I don't normally trust a horse enough to passenger without the reins at least in hand. I'll let them dangle but I want them at the ready should something go wrong. This green mare, who's not been even haltered that I can remember since early December was solid as a rock under me and I have glimmers of what we might become together. I had goosebumps then and I have them now.

Nope, she didn't leave when I untacked and turned her loose. Better yet, half hour later, while filling the tank, I walked up to her out at the hay bale, took some pictures (on my phone, no idea how to get them off to share with you) and rubbed her neck and head some more. If I can stay true to the path, the journey of horsemanship, as I see and understand it, I might get past the Catch Me game with Moonshine yet in my lifetime :-) It's a good goal.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Winds of Change . . .

Ice. Snow. Darkness. Headlines screaming of economic disaster and job loss. Seasonal Affective Disorder . . . Too many tense conversations about how there is just not enough money coming in to cover the expenses going out, fingers pointing, blaming, rocking the stability of a relationship I can't imagine my life continuing without . . . loss of a beloved dog adding to the sorrow. Winter has not been easy on many of us this year and this is what it has been for me.. I hate that awful feeling of being stuck in a neverending loop, that the inevitable end is the big crash . . . I have always been one to believe we create much of our realities by the perceptions we point at them and being in control of my destiny is much preferred to being a victim of it.

Starting back in 1984, sitting at the polished cherry wood desk of a posh reception area, helping veteran employees of 20+ years trying to polish up resumes from an unexpected lay off, I have never had much faith in the illusion of corporate America job stability. I have fought, scraped, sacrificed and managed to be self employed since my divorce in 1991. I have worked day jobs, given up on my dreams, only to be steered back to them, again and again. It's what I thought I would do til the body just wouldn't do it any mo'.

Which brings us current . . . an economy that is not kind to my chosen body of clientele, the middle class worker looking to put a great horse under their kids and themselves, through either my continually developed training programs or my carefully assessed and chosen sales prospects. That same clientele isn't getting tattooed quite like they used to and that only matters as my husband is also self employed and he's a tattoo guy. Combine that newer wrinkle with inclement weather, no indoor arena to cover me wee head on the wet n windy days, a certain increasing, possibly age inspired, lack of willingness on my part to deal with the elements and ride anyway, and I no longer have a viable training operation. My books last year more than underscore the point.

Good broke horses are still holding a value, but with a market flooded with free mostly unrideables, and a new generation of folk who don't know the difference, it's getting increasingly difficult to get an honest price out of a good saddle horse, and I don't think I ever want to hear "my six year old has been taking lessons, do you think your unstarted three year old will make a good kid horse??" ever again in my lifetime. Will he make a good kid horse? Oh hell yeah, I am sure he will . . . in a few years with the proper education and set of experiences behind him . . . There's just some questions people ask that let you know beyond a shadow of any reasonable doubt that NO horse they end up with will do well for them, because they just have not a clue about what makes a horse tick and how to get a job done. Just try getting into your vehicle, turn it on, put it in gear, don't steer it or properly use the brakes, and you will get an idea of what I am talking about. . .never mind adding the factor of a living, breathing creature with thoughts and ideas of it's own, into the mix . . .

Okay, I digress. Looking out my window, up into our still snow covered pasture, I still see too many butts gathered around the round bales, as I have seen all winter. I didn't mean to become a horse collector but rather than sell off some of the really cool horses I found last year, they got turned into the "keeping horse" side, until that side's swelled to bursting. Over the course of my lifetime, I have developed an eye for the great horse, and year after year, I send those great horses on to their next good homes. I get a lot of joy and satisfaction from most of those sales, I get emails from happy owners that love and appreciate the good mount I have put under them . . . I get to share trails and make memories with a lot of those people who started out customers and have become friends. Those things mean a lot to me but something happened to me last year and I just decided to keep some for myself for a change . . . Thinking, Tyler, dude, where are you now and I hope you are okay . . .

Which brings me to my current situation . . . too many horses, not enough time. If I saddle two horses a day, with 12 head to maintain, I could ride 6 a week . . . is this likely? No, not really . . . even so, it means a rotation in which I just get started on some, then they sit, while I ride others, none of them ever really getting to the point of rideability I know I can produce in a horse, which perpetuates the frustration on both mine and my horse's part, every time we ride. Doesn't make for that great relationship between horse and rider that I try to create for each one of my customers, but don't seem to make the time, for myself . . .

Too many horses means making hard decisions about foot care, feed, supplements, all that. I am a believer in a grass hay diet for most lightly working horses, but I LOVE the shine and muscle I see on my friend's horses that are getting a little better than that. I HATE seeing long and chipped toes on the hooves I skipped last time around as no way can I get 12 head trimmed, all at once. They do okay, out there, but fewer would do better.

A budget whose shortfalls are growing, rather than receding, threatening my very ability to keep a roof over any of our heads. The dissatisfaction with taking a great little gelding to compete in an event last year with total lack of preparation, and the disappointment of not doing well in something we should shine, had I the time to do what I do with a horse I own. A rescue horse whose great brain shows me, with time and dedication, I can ensure he'll not stare down the slaughter truck ever again. . . My son's money tied up in a really nice horse I haven't had TIME to develop and realize his investment for him . . . not to mention being able to do right by the horse.

Okay, it's more than clear I need to reduce, and I need to do it right now. I know, probably as well as anyone out there, what it takes to sell a horse. The stock I have sitting out back are carefully put together over the years as the ones I wanted to look at for the rest of their lives. The drop dead gorgeous Skipper W bred AQHA mare that I salivated over when Colleen brought her home, and snapped her up, with THAT baby in her belly, when the opportunity offered. The lovely black Quarter Pony mare that I have been through thick and thin with, who has never given me a less than spectacular foal and whose fault it is not that her job has been downsized and done away with . . . The black breeding stock gelding I purchased as a companion for one of those foals that grew up to outshine his brother in every way, looks, disposition and personality . . .The sport horse filly I have such high hopes for . . . and others.

Selling those horses opens me up to every conversation I have ever had . . . kid's horse? . . . will you come down on your price? Why are you selling? What are you trying to hide? I am so done with all of that. It's time to make a change.

In year's past, I'd have prettied them up, loaded them onto a trailer and headed for the nearest sale. A lot of people know me, around here, and they know they can believe me when I tell them if I take a horse to a sale, it's either a knothead or I need the money. In this case, would'a been the latter and the horses would have been okay. In today's climate, the likely end for a non ride, and a lot of almost rides at a horse sale is a long ride in a truck to be herded down an alley toward a guy with a sledge hammer. I'd really like to take every single ignorant ill informed PETA son of a bitch who closed the USDA run facilities that at least had humane methods of disposal and regulations to follow and take them on a tour in Mexico. This is what you've done, folks, hope you feel okay about that because I sure don't. I didn't raise or rescue a single head on my property to send them to that fate, I'd rather shoot them myself than see that happen to them.

Which brings me here. If I am contemplating having to shoot my friends, guess I better find homes for them. I made the very difficult and painful decision to give away a large portion of our herd because it gives me control of where they go. The right people can take an opportunity to own a super nice horse, or they can stay here and I will figure something else out.

Along those lines, I decided to close the business I have put so much blood, sweat, and tears into, over the years. Yesterday, I was beginning to feel a certain amount of freedom in my soul. One horse has already left, to a home I couldn't have picked better, had I been allowed to choose. I have been gratified at the quality of the folk who have responded. Not people looking to scoop up a cheap or free horse, but thinking horsepeople who can take these horses and develop them every bit as well as I can, and who will have time and resources to do so . . . I have recommended other trainers without that pang of "omigod, how will I pay my bills if I don't have my calendar booked?" I have told people no, that the horse I have is not what they are looking for. . . I have done that before, in sales, but there is always that battle of the bottom line . . . "Terri, you sell horses for a living . . . you MUST sell this horse!" and sometimes you do what you have to do, against the better judgement of what you should do . . . and hope for the best. I don't quite know who I am or how to think of myself as a person who does NOT buy, sell and train horses for a living, it's been the biggest part of me for a very long time, but I am going to figure it out.

I will probably always develop and occasionally sell nice horses. It's part of my addiction and it's in my blood but not having to make a living at it, frees up something in my soul. The idea of taking my good little Donovan to an event we have trained and prepared for, bringing all the heat at our disposal . . . that thrills me. We might still get our butts kicked but if it's by someone who is just flat plain better than we are, my hat is off to them, and we go back and try again, as opposed to defeating ourselves before we ever get started.

I am keeping some really nice horses. They will require less time to get them where I want them to be than the raw material I am sending on to other homes. I am looking forward to the sun on my face and the joy of having a great horse under me, doing what we love best, being out there, together, thinking as one, moving as one, with the comfortable old shoe feeling that comes of hours in the saddle with your very best friend. Am I going to cry about this? You bet I am, but I'll survive and there's better days ahead. Let the winds of change blow . . .