Thursday, January 31, 2013

Pretty Girl and The Rocking Horse Days


When I was a kid, we had a big black brown Thoroughbred mare we called Pretty Girl. We thought she was black, didn’t know the red on her flanks and muzzle made her anything else, and we admired the neatly made diamond and narrow strip that ran down her long angular face.

Hard to catch, she was prone to running away if she got her head and come shoeing day, just like the day they hung the steers up, I learned to be away on long rides.  I understood everything about our lives. We hunted, fished, raised our own beef and pork. There were some things I didn’t like to see, and shoeing Pretty Girl was one of them.

We had a contraption of burlap bags and rope. A set of bags went around her neck, I think my guardian Corky even sewed some fleece on there to try to prevent rope burns of any kind. We were not inhumane, we just didn’t know any better. One or two feet got tied up, as Pretty Girl had a lightning fast kick with a wicked aim and I think she figured taking off someone’s head was just a fair part of this game. Often as not she ended up on the ground in a pile of thrashing feet, flinging head, wild eyes and dust.

One particular day maybe summerish, my other guardian, Everett, wanted to go ride with me. Of the two horses we saddled, one bucked, one ran off. I guess they put me on the one that ran off thinking I had a better chance with that one. The other was a previous year’s birthday present for me, a buttermilk Buckskin mare aptly named May Day.

I loved Pretty Girl and loved to ride her. So far, she hadn’t run off with me and I was thinking she might not. We rode that day over the leaf strewn forested trail that ran up and down the mountain behind our house. Crossing into our neighbor’s property Everett climbed down off May Day, opening and then closing behind us the four strand barbed wire gate that stretched across the road to Hidden Valley.

This was a lovely little golden gem nestled into an elbow of the tail end of the Northern California Sierra Nevadas where I grew up. There were a couple long narrowish meadows separated by ravines and on the east side some weathered tiny buildings indicating someone had once lived and homesteaded here. Whoever was long gone and their stories gone with them but the empty half falling down shacks remained, silent ghosts of another time.

We moseyed down the dirt road lined with tall elegant orange barked Madrone trees, some different breeds of Oaks, Firs and Pines. Maybe only 11 years old, I had a sense of the incredible beauty of the place and that I might not ever find it’s like anywhere on this earth. I never thought to be anywhere else in my life.

Circling down to the end of the long meadow, we turned and headed back. Now, why we did the thing we did next, I cannot tell you. You would have thought one of us , the grown man on the broncy horse or the girl that grew up in the saddle would have known better but we didn’t. It was traditional to run, race, lope, pick up the pace in some fashion when we turned for home and that is what we did.

“Hold her!” I remember Everett grinning tightly at me as he held May Day’s head up in a forceful grip. She only bucked when she loped and he was strong enough to not let her head get down in position. Pretty Girl lengthened her stride.

Suddenly there was no buckskin mare anywhere in my vision and we were streaking down the valley floor. I thought about the hairpin turn we would make at the end and determined I would stay on board no matter what.

That mare flew. We no longer heard Everett’s shouts or May Day’s hoof beats as she ran backwards into the distance behind us. That turn came and Pretty Girl made it as handy as any barrel or pole horse and we were blazing up the road. I remember like it is now, the turning of my stomach as I recalled the four strands of barbed wire tautly waiting across the road maybe an 8th of a mile in our rapidly approaching future.

As we neared the death trap, Pretty Girl suddenly relaxed the iron grip she’d held on the massive curb bit we rode her in, tucked her jaw and settled into a small lope. From there I easily pulled her to a stop. She shook her head and blew, quite pleased with herself, I am thinking. In awhile, Everett and May Day came pounding up the road, I am sure thinking they were going to encounter certain disaster.

It was some years after that a gal named Sally someone or other came to present to our local saddle club. I don’t know if my guardians would have cared much about it if it were not for Pretty Girl.

This woman said she was a student of a man named Pat Parelli. In 1975 no one had a clue or cared who that might be. She said bring the worst of your worst and I will show you some amazing things. Well, now, we were country folk and we enjoyed watching city people make fools of themselves and this seemed as good an opportunity as any.

Long enough ago, I don’t remember much of who all brought what but I know we represented with a spicy mix.

What I remember, again like it was yesterday, is what happened when Sally took over control of Pretty Girl. We cautioned her about the mare’s wicked left hook and her equally damaging right. Sally declined the contraption and instead asked for a long garden hose. I think Everett asked if she was planning to beat the mare with the hose. We were not going to be okay with that.

She smiled. No. That was not the plan. After maybe 20 minutes of running  cool water on the mare’s legs, not allowing her to make contact with the flying hooves nor letting the mare drag her off her feet and escape, she progressed to touching Pretty’s back legs with a long whip. She rubbed up and down, not minding when the mare kicked, it was only a very small protest now, and following when Pretty would shift her weight away.

I know it was not even half an hour as I heard those words spoke in wonder many times before Sally could reach down, pick up a relaxed hind, stretch it out and clean her foot. I think I might have cried.

For the runaway part, she taught us an exercise that we did in Kip’s clinic last Saturday. We would take a certain amount of steps forward, an equal amount of steps back. Next time, subtract one. We would repeat this process until we were literally rocking our horse in place.

My friend, Lisa Askew, and I LOVED this game. My folks sold Pretty Girl to a guy who wanted to raise nice mules, much to my fury and indignation but there she went. In the time between, she never needed her feet tied up to shoe and she didn’t run off with me again, either.

I had my good Cisco Kid horse and Lisa had Comanche. Our tales would fill a many a more blog but we spent that summer rocking our horses in place up there in Hidden Valley. Giggling like fools, watching each other closely to see whose horse would mess up and step out of their tracks first. We also collected trophies.

Our saddle club held monthly play days. I was not allowed to ride into town  for any reason, so the rodeo arena, barrels and poles were beyond my reach. We could practice in the Valley though, and so we did. We rocked, forward, backward and added sidewise. We ran serpentines though we just thought we were zigzagging down the valley floor. We rode tightest fastest figure eights. Time came to play the games in the arena, our horses were sharp, precise and quick. It was a toss up between us as to who would take home the high point.

Heck of a good summer, and lessons that stuck with this girl for the rest of her life.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lightbulbs and Mathematical Equations


Rode a day clinic with Kip Fladland yesterday.  It was held at Chance Ridge Event Center, one of my favorite places to go with and without a horse.  Kara Mehaffy had agreed to scoop up my pony and I was delighted that I would have Royal there. I would have begged or borrowed (prolly not stole for all the obvious reasons) to get a chance to ride this clinic but it was really neat to do it on my own horse.

Kip's January clinic

Photo thanks to Tracy Speck Bagley

I used to start my clinics with having people tell me briefly who they were and why they were there. That gave me a heads up on what to look out for with them and I hoped it would give them a marker to look back to when by clinic’s end they were hopefully miles away from that starting point. That did work out quite a few times just that way.

Here’s a thing that came home to me on a different level yesterday (hence the light bulb part). We go to these things with ideas in mind of what we want to work on with our horse. At least, I usually have an idea of the benefit I want to gain. Yesterday it was give my horse more exposure to another environment working within a large group of other riders. The side benefit was getting to soak up more of this really great horsemanship from easily the best guy in our area to teach this stuff. Other people came with different goals as well they would.

Turns out, it’s not about working on whatever problem we think the horse has. They probably don’t have that problem anyway. Braciness, pushiness, whatever is almost always stemming from us, our timing, our try or lack of those things that tell the horse what to do. We are late, we give up, we are awkward with the tools. All those things happen and it’s okay, it’s part of the process.  As we get handier, learn how to better organize what we are going to ask for before we ask for it, we get smoother.  Quite amazingly, our horses get smoother too. Opportunities to work on whatever we find arise organically and we handle them in the moment.

Yesterday I picked up that as the ribcage passes in front of me, while doing the half circle exercise I need to cue for the hip to untrack so that by the time the horse is to my side, it is ready to shift it’s weight back on it’s haunches, bring the front end through with a good reach from the outside foot and we start again. I have always waited too long on that. That piece falling into place (I am sure it is not the first time I heard it but it IS the first time it sunk in) helped my horse immeasurably.

 The cue came at the right time to allow him to get his feet right to do what I was asking him to do.

That’s it in a nutshell. Do that, things work out. Sometimes the horse has things to work through because of all the other miscued timing, and unreasonable requests we have made previously. That’s okay.

Kip did things just a little different yesterday. I thought about how many times people have said to me or I have heard in other clinics “But so and so does it this way. Why is it different now?” The answer is, it really doesn’t matter. If what so and so does looks good and works out for you, great, file it away in the back of your head to revisit later. Give who is teaching the clinic a chance to make their point. If I am at a clinic and someone is teaching very differently from the Tom Dorrance tradition that Buck, Peter, and Kip follow,  I am going to view that with a very skeptical eye til I see it also work for the horse, and then I will go from there.

Won’t it confuse my horse? I have also been asked this question too. Probably not any more than the hundred or so things we do that we don’t even know we are doing does. This at least is on purpose. Has a beginning, middle, and hopefully a release at the end.

Lightbulbs flashed here, there and everywhere for me yesterday. Most of them won’t make sense or matter to you as they have to do with me and my horsemanship journey. It’s stuff I have had the foundation laid working on with Peter, and was the next available level for me. An important one that I will share was what happened during the fast walk, slow walk transitions.

I have honestly thought this was mostly about being able to rate your horse’s pace which is no bad thing. Anyone who knows Royal and I knows we have a problem with straightness. He is lightening fast as most Arabians at escaping out the hind, but is not above utilizing his neck or shoulder for said task.

Kip (as Peter does too) has us find a soft feel in our good fast reachy walk. He had added us asking for elevation while standing first. This was a new piece to me too. As the light bulb flashed, I remembered Peter talking about how important it is not not let your horse’s poll sink lower than the pommel on your saddle. Ex pleasure horse trainer this is hard for me. I have spent the last year asking Royal to put that giraffe head down!

Giraffe head not at all the goal here either! Chin down and in, head and neck slightly elevated. Kip explained this opens up the shoulders, allowing the back to naturally raise. I’ll be darned. Thinking about how our soft feel falls apart at the trot, with me trying to ask my horse to round down and over. Shoulders are closed in that position. Spine can’t go through the roof, as it were. . . no wonder he has a hard time with that. Good to know. Spine raised allows the hind to come up under and no matter what discipline we ride, we all want the horse working off the hind.

Anyway, as I am using my body to tell my horse to slow his feet, but stay straight between hands and legs, don’t lose your soft feel (this didn’t happen in an instant folks), something happened that has not happened for us before doing this. Royal got straight, soft and slow for two footfalls and I pushed him the reins to walk him out as directed and that soft straightness stayed with us! Not forever, but I felt it!  There was an entirely different feel to his movement! We got that several times. Now that I know, I am going back for more of that!

We did several other exercises to refine and define. I have a roadmap ahead of me to ask with more clarity, more consistency and I have a further developed picture of what the end goals are for us, right now.

Bringing the front through

Photo thanks to Diane Beckham. I did look at that supporting right hand during the course of the day. What the heck are you doing way up there and got it down by my thigh where it belonged, LOL! The things we do!

Kip talked about eventually being able to use your reins at a 45 degree angle. That’s where my head started to hurt. Just as it did when Peter started talking about stepping the hind over an 8th, and then bring the front around in a 7/8’s turn. Math has never been my strong suit, but along with other preconceived ideas of what I can and cannot do, which have been getting shattered right and left, it makes sense to me. Shattering those preconceived ideas of my limitations in the saddle has made it possible to shatter them outside the barn.

It is almost never about the problem I think it is. First. Then; do the work, do it as best I can, build the best and most consistent habits possible, don’t quit when things get hard, no excuses, and it’s amazing the changes that can be made. It works out when I go to saddle Royal as well.

Icing on the cake was riding the clinic with so many people I know! A day on horseback with friends, learning wonderful things! It does not get much better than that! I hope people will take time to comment and if you rode the clinic, or want to talk about whatever your latest learning experience has been, I’d love that very much.

Thanks to Kip Fladland for being a fun and engaging teacher true to the horsemanship traditions I think are the finest anywhere. Can’t wait til Feb 9, March 23 and then we will take it back to Peter in Archie MO come May.


Photo by Diane, edited by me Smile

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Working through . . .


“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” -Diehard de Chardin

I believe my purpose in this life and any other I may experience is to grow and become more than I was when I got here.  Yes, this relates to my spiritual beliefs, and no, discussing them is not the point of this blog. It’s about horses, horse training and  . . . life on life’s terms as I know it. It’s that last part that brings us to this writing.

The journey to becoming the best horseman that I have in me to become is the vehicle for my latest sets of spiritual teachings, stretching's and growing's. Riding with Peter Campbell is part of that. Is he some Sufi mystic or ethereal bringer of the divine and supernatural? Uh no. Not remotely.  He does happen to be a master horseman and I want what he has to teach me.

I have had a certain amount of discussion with folks over the last time I rode with Peter. Things got pretty heated when he was disgusted with my inability to figure out a maneuver that he was trying to teach. I was frozen in my head and my capacity for spatial relationships is dicey at best and it was not working out for me or the young horse I was riding. The guy is a human being and he was pretty frustrated with why I couldn’t get it. He said some pretty hard things and I got upset. I worked through it because that is my understanding of what I do when I am confronted with difficult things. I work through them and there is always benefit on the other side.

I won’t know what the benefit is until I get there, and if I storm off, quit in the middle or refuse, well then, I will never know.

Flashing forward off what is to me ancient history (I can’t wait to ride with Peter in May and make some new discoveries, new history and if it gets tough in the middle, so be it. What good thing does not?)

Today, after a slow start, I head for the ranch. I am tired behind the things that many of us get tired behind. Job, money, juggling wants, need, nothing unique about it but tired, I am.  If it were not for the Distance Derby spurring me on to want to maintain some miles, and my commitment to Charlie to come out and help, I probably would have stayed home today and then I would have been unhappy that another week would have rolled by with no saddle time. Cowgirl up.

Royal is not super excited to see me, nor I to see him. He’s muddy. Melting ice and snow cover the mud and I scowl at the terrace (yes the same at which longing gazes were cast not so long ago).  I saddle my horse, snapping at him when he won’t keep his feet still. I tell him, you stop being stupid and I will stop being crabby. Hmm, I think. He’s not stupid, but I AM crabby and that never bodes well for us. Time for an attitude adjustment for Terri.

I say that like it’s the easiest thing in the world. Might be for you, dunno. For me, there are some years of work invested in even recognizing I am the one at fault in the first place and a few more, gaining understanding that I do have the power to choose my attitudes, my emotional reactions, the way I approach my horse  and my life.

Bridling is an exercise of “lower your head, please.” “Lower your head and keep it there, please.” “Dammit, lower your head!” Okay, whoops, deep breath. I put myself in my fingertips, releasing when he tries but also catching him on his way back up.  Could I have stood on my tiptoes, bridled him way up in the air? You bet. Have I done that before? You bet, that’s why we are still here. I am cutting out the shortcuts and half measures everywhere I find them, and not just at the barn. I am told they avail me nothing, anyway.

He shakes his neck and settles to be bridled.  I don’t put my foot in the stirrup til his feet are set. I have a hand on the rein to bend him, thinking he will surely move off, as wound up as he has been. I am wearing insulated riding pants and tights under those. I groan, getting my knee to bend. It takes too long, I am sure he is going to want to leave.

He stands. I settle into the saddle, he flips his head impatiently and then the feet are in motion. I gather. Wait. 

Five steps up the road behind the barn, he springs to the  side.  Urrgh!  Hardest spook we have had in awhile. I have no idea at what. Sets the tone for the day. The burn pile of soiled straw and manure, clouds of stinky smoke roiling like a fat grumpy grounded dragon, that was worthy of some dance, indeed. I wasn’t as afraid of the footing, after that.

I discovered even though my horse can have a skitzy loop nut day now and again, spooking at a leaf, he is still pretty brave and will do just about anything I ask of him. We walked through puddles, the sun blazing back at us in reflection. I couldn’t see what we were walking in and I know he couldn’t,but he did it anyway. We went all the usual places. I caught myself holding my breath as we started some shaded downs and I made myself breathe, find my center, loosen my back and go with my horse.

Royal is in love with the little Paint gelding he lives with and it’s reciprocated. At one point we are up on a ridge directly above the ranch and the Paint sees or hears us. He yells and screams his loneliness and Royal answers back.  We then had about 45 minutes of opportunity to work through buddy sour issues.

I would put him to work, he would get higher and more excited (think last April when he ended up almost killing himself.) I would stop him, ask him to settle, wait for the feet to set, become still. He would surge forward, I would catch him (You will NOT run through your bit, you WILL have respect for what I am asking of you). I decided if we had to spend the entire day, right there, getting that change, then so be it.  Catching just the right moment to allow him to move on resulted in a nice walk. Too soon or too late gets a different result. We experienced all three. Would get the good walk and then lose it to the jig.

I got mad and said dammit go then, you idiot and when we fall down in the mud you have only yourself to blame (and me, or rather . .  ME). He trotted off, and we hit a good clip for a little while, not a slip or a slide. Coming to the top of that trail, we rejoined the road that is the major artery through the ranch. I didn’t want to run on that one, it is too open and I knew there were a lot of slick spots in the shadows. I ask him to come back to a walk and while it was a tighter, shorter, omg I wanna go walk, it was still a walk.

I was searching for my horse with the long neck, the loose easy way of going. Took awhile but I found him. I didn’t quit even when it got tough in the middle. This horse and I, we have been through MUCH harder things than this day! 

I got a little smarter and started playing the trail games I would play if I had other riders with me. We pretended to leap frog, well I pretended, Royal didn’t know we were playing a game. He just knew I was changing things up and there was no telling what direction we might go next. It was confusing to him which way home actually was going to be and he pretty much gave it up as too much work to worry about.

That is what I have been bringing to life with me for quite awhile now. I don’t quit in the middle just because things get a little tough. I might have to change up what I am doing if it isn’t working even if I am doing what I think is the only thing I know to do.

There are new horizons beyond this philosophy, small changes becoming big ones before I am even barely aware they are made. I don’t pick my teachers, they arrive when I am ready to hear what they have to offer, and I understand it might not always be wrapped in cotton wool. That is not the kind of thing that tends to work best for me, anyway. It is my choice how to handle the teaching. If someone tells me I am wonderful, that ‘s great, but it doesn’t make me wonderful. They can tell me I am awful, and I might have to look at why they think that, but it doesn’t mean it’s the truth of who and what I am, either.

The Horse In The Mirror is a take off on a poem called “The Man In The Mirror.” If you don’t know it, it’s worth a Google.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Blessed Be . . .

The times in a life that are worth recording. . . be it picture, song, word, whatever.  The riding I have been doing lately feels blog worthy, if only when I am down and blue over whatever trouble may lay ahead I can look back and remember how wonderful times can be. A person might wonder how riding a horse in temps that are falling close to single digits can be wonderful, but trust me, with the right gear, it is.

Ready to ride

I am wintering my horse at Shady Lanes Ranch where I work part time. There are almost 400 acres on the place, a bunch of it accessible by hayrack roads and dude ranch trails. I have access to an indoor and outdoor arena as well. Sound like Heaven? It’s damn close.

Shady Lanes in winter

The folks at the ranch are as most of that ilk, early to bed and early to rise. To my joy, I was given permission to come ride after hours as that’s the only time during the week I can make it out that way. So, now the challenge is get through a most often harrowing day at work and still have gumption enough to pull on layers and head for the barn.

We’ve ridden in the arenas a few times . . . the rails help with straightness and we practice the maneuvers we have learned in the Peter Campbell clinics. Royal’s footwork can be very, very precise. I am constantly amazed when I ask for ONE foot to do ONE thing and I get that. It’s not always that way, but it happens. That’s huge.

Arena work in winter

The other night, I arrive, saddle, look longingly up the hill toward the trails. A foot or better lies a white blanket over the landscape. The stark tree skeletons slash the sky.  Charlie and I agree it might be slick up there, I allow as I will (probably) stay in the outdoor arena and he heads in for the night. They only ask that I call as I leave so they know I am not becoming a Terri-cicle in the frozen tundra somewhere. 

I rock the saddle horn, asking Royal to place his feet, to get ready for me to step up there. The mounting has been a serious issue from day one, and why I haven’t taken care of it, who knows. I take stabs here and there (consistency . . .) but have left it go in the want for chasing other things. Peter was all over me to get him ready, to stay with him. My allowing the horse to waller all over while I get on is only a symptom of how I allowed him to get away with poor behavior. Does neither of us any favors. We have been different , both of us since we rode with Peter, and I am determined to have that difference show when he sees us again.

To my surprise (nearly always is) it works, and he stands calmly once his feet are set. I mount up, and we both gaze up the hill. Dang it! We are going to try. If it’s slick, we will know soon enough and can always turn back to the safety of the arena. . .

We really want to go there

Outdoor as my gps does not work inside. Why would you care, a person might wonder. Well, there is this Distance Derby thing, certainly worth an entire blog of it’s own, wait! It has one  . . . We log our miles, takes a year . . . virtual online horse race. Last year, I logged 836 miles. for those who want to check that out, some fun stories on there, some damn inspiring ones too.

So, anyway the gps matters. So does my claustrophobia, my utter tiredness to the bone of seeing walls, fences, rules to follow. I want to get out and adventure. And, so we do.

Riding trails I have ridden hundreds of times takes on an entirely different aspect in the winter. Dusk turns into twilight turns into dark, and we are out there, cushioned between snow and stars.  It is magick incarnate. The air is crisp and still, a creature rustles here and there, but it’s completely peaceful up there, just me and my good horse. I am filled with wonder and joy at the good fortune I have on so many levels. It is very clear to me out here how very good life is . . .

Nature’s palettes are subtler than what we do with our paintbrushes, photo shopping and other devices, and to my eye, far more beautiful. Now I am looking at smoky blues, blacks, shades of white and grays charcoal to ghostly. There are dashes of sienna, and the flash of bright red as a cardinal finds a different branch. We pause at Look Out Mountain, a spot that has seen proposals, anniversaries and celebrated many a special occasion with the folk who have been coming to ride the ranch for almost 50 years. This photo does NOT do the view justice, but it’s the best I can do with what I have. We blissfully crunch our way through the snow, up down, it doesn’t matter, we are ARABIAN and we can go anywhere. . .

Lookout Mountain in wnter

And then there were the turkeys. Coming off the back 80, we find ourselves in a deepish drift. Royal gamely clambers through and I am grateful for his longer legs that make short work of such stuff. 

A sudden rustle, louder and more distinct catches both our attention. What is that?? He wants to know, and I tell him I am not sure. . . I don’t believe the big cat stories, I have ridden all over that country and seen nary a sign . . . now I hope I am not wrong. I frown, steel myself, there is more rustling, some flapping of some heavy thing . . . where? Where is it coming from?

Royal’s ears are everywhere. We are both quite interested and concerned at the disturbing of the peace going on around us. Suddenly, the air is full of noise, movement. Large black shapes hurl themselves through the sky with thunderous clamor!

What the hell!! Royal spins (rather gently really, considering) and suggests we remove ourselves from Dodge. I have realized it is not an attack of Winged Monkeys (first thought, absolutely) but a huge gaggle of wild turkeys grumpily leaving their roosts in the treetops.  Turkeys are not graceful taking off, nor are they really adept in flight. It’s a heck of a racket. I am glad we survived.

Royal reluctantly agrees to move forward. What I know and he does not is that we have to get through this stretch to get back home or go ALL the way back around. A serious dark is setting in by now. I am none too sure of the drifts or what we will find in the dark dark so I am thinking, forward we must go. He complies.  A few stragglers go as we pass underneath, and it’s worth a small dance step from my horse but not much more, and that’s amazing, really.

Looking over the back 80

This is the woods the turkeys call home.

The next night one of those damn things take off from just a few feet above our head in a different roosting place causing me to jump, scream like a movie girl and snatch hastily at my draped reins. The insulting bump in the mouth bothered my horse far more than the rude creature winging over head. He gives me a disgusted look. It’s a turkey, you idiot. Didn’t you see them last night?

Later on though, a suspect stump shows distinct possibilities of wanting a spotted Arabian for a midnight snack. Hah, I say, whose the idiot now? He says something unprintable in reply, and so it goes.

We rode in the day light today. Visited some of my favorite haunts at the ranch. This is descending into the interior trails we no longer take the guests on and it’s a treat for me to get down in here.

Snowy trails

There are a pair of Burr Oaks (in a forest of them but these two sisters speak to me. One is shattered from a long ago lightening strike but she stands tall and proud beside her lovely sister) You have seen that tree in several other shots, you will see her again, scantily clad for Spring and fully dressed out for summer.

Favorite tree in winter


We all have goals, I think, for where we would like our horses to be as they become whatever “broke” might mean. Last year I began DD 2012 on a young horse that spooked at different colored piles of dirt. A stick on the ground was worth a sideways leap, three to six feet depending on how scary the stick, and don’t even get me started on flying cornstalks and road signs!

The horse I ride today is far from perfect. He is not where I want him to be but he is far far from the horse I rode January 2012. I imagine I am not the same person either.  The journey continues.