Thursday, April 1, 2010

Tales of a gypsy horse trainer

No, not a trainer of the Gypsy Horse, though I'd not mind (Gretchen?) but a trainer who is essentially a mobile limited operation, living out of her vehicle, dog, and horses in tow . . . a gypsy who is a trainer of horses . . . At least that's what I got to be this past week, and man, did we have a good time!

A lot of you have followed our adventures prior to and post the move to Omaha. We've been in three barns, with potential for others, have had praise, love, shame and doubt heaped upon our heads in relatively equal measure. It's been a exercise in maintaining equilibrium, that's for sure. The ones that matter to me, continue to believe in me, and that's what keeps me moving forward.

Back to the "we" pronoun. We taught a clinic in February . . . and took away a very valuable learning tool. It's too damned cold to teach OR learn a darned thing in February in Nebraska. Probably won't do that again!

Got invited to demonstrate Anywhere From Here Foundation Horsemanship at the Nebraska Horse Expo. All three days in the round pen, demo'ing attaching the feet to the reins. I don't think it was fascinating . . . A friend once said horse training done right is like watching paint dry, and I'd have to agree, the best of it is no dust, muss or fuss. It's done in small, subtle, simple pieces and the casual eye will miss it, even an experienced one like mine, unless the changes are pointed out, as they occur and the brain just cannot get to the mouth fast enough to get that done. I did the best I could, and the horse was in a better frame of mind on Sunday than he began on Friday, which, as much as wowing the crowd would have been nice, being right for the horse is always the goal. I met and spent quite a bit of time talking with Richard Winters, who is a really fine horseman and I'll be adding him to that list of names I study. Watched his excellent colt starting techniques and his demo on Four Part Harmony . . . it's entirely worth checking out.

I got to take a private lesson with ranking dressage rider Matt McLaughlin while he was staying at Chance Ridge in Elkhorn. That was incredible. I was very pleased I could keep up with his instructions, to some extent anyway. I'd get so focused on him (you think horses are herd sour, try people, HAH!) that I would miss my mark, or he'd give me praise when I got something done, and I'd beam, it would all fall apart and "Terri, that looks AWFUL, go back, do it again and don't let it fall apart this time!" I was using Hawkeye, my Paint gelding who tends to turn into spaghetti under pressure and I was really impressed with his try and willingness. "You'd have a better balanced horse if you were a better balanced rider!" Says Matt. Sigh. Hand me a tissue, I'm okay . . . But really, as another friend reassured, is that not true of all of us? When I am better, my horse follows suit. Yep. I can live with that. Nothing for it, but to continue to improve!

We (I am going to skip around like that, English majors, deal with it!) came to Omaha, six horses in our herd. I am now down to two, and only one of those came down from Sioux City. Ginger has earned her spot, even though Spring fresh Ginger would make a really nice roast, the one I have the rest of the year is priceless. She is rising to her job of clinic demo horse, lesson horse for beginning AND intermediate riders, and colt pony girl with calm and aplomb. Plus, she's not hard on the eyes and smooth as silk to ride . . . and she'll pack my husband (to whom she actually belongs) on those occasions he should desire to ride. (I have promised to give advice to him only when asked, unless I see his near and impending death . . . we'll see how that goes )

The other horse . . . a three year old AQHA gelding I picked up at the Woodbine Saddle Club sale in Avoca a couple of weeks ago. Halter broke two days before the sale, this young fellow has worn a saddle pretty much every day since, traveled the gypsy caravan and even had his first ride, a day or so back. This is my "no excuses" horse. He will have no baggage, save what I give him. He will be everything I can help him to be, and I hope we make the team I have been looking for, my entire life. I said so long to Hawkeye and Chica at that sale. I still have a hitch in my stomach, thinking about Chic. She landed well, I liked the guy who rode her off bareback, grinning at me while he rolled her back off the fence, getting along just fine. She's been my girl a long time though, and at least I gave her enough start to get through the rest of her life with success. Dunno about Hawkeye. I had him pretty jacked up, and he did not show well. Wishing you the best, Hawk, you're a good boy, underneath it all, wish I could have done a little better for you, but it is what is, and it was time to move on.

In my travels, the horses hung out at Chance Ridge (thank you Cindy and Burton) and I got to spend some time up in Blair at one of my best friend's in life's place. Colleen and I go back aways . . . late 80''s even. We have had our share of good times and bad and plan to have plenty more. We survive the wrecks and support the triumphs. She is truly what good friendships are all about, warts and all. We rode some, played with the colt and brought him further along, culminating in Colleen putting a very successful first ride on him before I made my next migration to our latest new home, the Log Barn Stable, down by Plattsmouth. Great place, check it out. .

About the dog . . . We also brought dogs along, from our acreage in Sioux City. Dogs that had a perfectly fine life, running the large mostly fenced yard (Zan) and now have to adjust to city living . . . They are doing pretty good, but the one who struggles the most is unsurprisingly, the Border Collie/Aussie cross, Axel. Young dog, lots of energy, he sees the four foot chainlink fences around our yard and that of our neighbor's as excellent agility obstacles and loves to go visit. This is not going to work out. Fast cars and city people make bad combinations for even a friendly dog. I have to be able to take him with me, or he's going to have a tough time here, completely not of his making and not remotely fair. We had a week of bonding (my heart closes quickly and opens slowly, it seems and Zan left large pawprints to fill) and we are the best we have been yet. There is nothing much better than the love of a good dog, and cuddling with him on the couch in Colleen's guest room was a highlight of my week, funny as that may seem . . .

Taught a clinic last weekend in Elkhorn at Chance Ridge. Polar opposite from the one in February and not just the weather. I went back to my commitment to make the change in the horse, show the owner the change and what it means and then introduce them to the concepts that made the change. There is no way, in the course of one day or even two that I am going to be able to give someone the pieces to a puzzle I have been putting together for over 35 years. What I hope to do is show some differences and light the fire of desire for a better deal for the horse than the one he showed up with. I saw the changes in the horses, and the owners did, too. I know they all would have liked to have gone home, able to do it all, but that is not the way it works. I have caused myself and others a certain amount of frustration, trying to short cut the learning process and now I smile and say, if you got a piece, you have more than you came with . . . come back for more. That's what I did and what I continue to do.

Gypsy is home now, at least for awhile. We are well set up at the Log Barn, April's training horses arrive this week. I'll begin teaching lessons next week, my horse or yours. Can't wait to get back to the business of doing business, as I know and understand it best. Me and that horse, putting those pieces together until it makes sense for both of us. There is another clinic in Lincoln, a two day affair, which is a really good deal. Takes the pressure off all of us to get the message in a matter of hours. This let's you see the change, go home, soak about it, come back and work on it again. If you are interested in a spot, lessons, or training for your horse, please let me know. Love to have you.

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