Tuesday, January 28, 2014



A clatter of hooves as the unhappy horse spins, whirls, races from one end of the dark trailer to the other. Metal booms as he does not stop in time and crashes hard into the wall.

Opening the gate, the gelding flies out like Pegasus about to take leave for the sun. His coat gleams fiery red and his sweat soaked blonde mane flies matted and wild.

Not the horse you thought it was going to be, is it.

That was Cisco, the kid. My first horse trade when I was 15 years old, snot nosed, green as a gourd but put together with a certain basic wile that was going to take me a lot of places in the years to come, not all of them bad.

"Get him out” I told the trader, “Lets get a look at him. We have stocks if you can’t get him back in, we’ll load him up for you.”

The guy reluctantly agreed, still looking around for something resembling a responsible adult. He really liked the look of my own red gelding standing saddled nearby and a thought may have been passing through his mind that he would end up owning him.

Once out, the little sorrel was shaking but calmed by the moment.  We tied him to a nearby tree, didn’t occur to us to wonder if he’d stand tied or not, what horse wouldn’t?

We discuss that this horse is about 8 years old, broke to the bone, no papers to prove one way or another. I crack his lip to have a look. That should have told the guy something, that I knew how to read a tooth, maybe but he was still not paying attention. He was busy looking for the adult to make the deal.

“Give you three hundred” says me. That was actually $20 more than I had but I figured my guardian would spot me the other $20, he pretty much gave me what I wanted when the other one would let him.

The guy stares at me quizzically. “Horse is worth three times that” he replies shortly.

You have to know this is 1975, rural Northern California and three hundred is a fair price for a horse in those days, some horses, and $900 a fortune.

I shrug, okay thanks, have a good one. I go to mount my barrel racer that we raised and I would not have sold for any amount, nor traded not even for a cool looking flaxy maned, all over chromed number like what he had.

“Hey, hey! Wait a minute!” I stop, look back. He’s scowling. “Aren’t you going to get your dad for me to talk to?”

“Won’t make any difference, I do the horse dealing around here.” He stares at my skinny little self in disbelief.

“Well fine then. Help me load this thing and I will be on my way.”

I glance at the horse, now standing with one leg cocked up, half asleep. “He looks pretty happy right where he’s at. I got that $300 for you, seems about right to me for a horse you can’t load in a trailer.”

“Nah, I ain’t interested!” The guy is getting a little mad now. “Where’s your stocks, let me load him up and I will be on my way.”

I shake my head. “I think I said, if we don’t want him, we will help you load him. I DO want him, so I am not going to. Load him yourself or leave him here.”

About then, my guardian came strolling down the lane, fetched by one of the neighborhood kids we sent as if I was going to buy a horse, he probably should know about it, plus, he had the money. Was mine, from selling my May Day mare but I didn’t exactly get to carry it around.

Visible relief floods the trader’s face. Finally someone he could make sense to. He outlines why he’s here, had heard we had a nice horse we might want to sell, and he’s interested. Might even throw his in on a trade if we had cash to boot.

I am grinning, kid enough to really be enjoying what I knew would happen next.

“Ter?” My guardian, Everett asks me, “is that what you had in mind?”

“Heck no. The horse we had for sale, I sold last week. That’s why I offered you the $300, mister, it’s what I have to give.” I cast a quick pleading glance at Everett. I’d sold the mare for $280 . . .

He sputters. “She said she’d help load him if I got him out for you . . . her to see. I did and now she won’t!”

Everett’s turn to shrug. “I think she wants the horse.  $300 is what she has to spend, sir, so either accept my daughter’s deal or load up and get on your way.”

The guy stares at him, then me, back at my guardian who smiles. “It’s up to her, she does the horse dealing around here.”

Muttering things that are not polite to repeat in a family friendly blog, the trader accepts the deal. He doesn’t ask for his halter and lead rope, nobody did in those days, they went with the horse.

He pulled out in a rattle of angry tires and we never saw him in our part of the world ever again. Cisco became my trail horse, key hole champ and all around good buddy. He did eventually learn to load and ride in a trailer, home made, topless two horse at that. It never occurred to me to give up trying.

Flash to two days ago. Rattle of hooves, panicky horse whirling and spinning out of a trailer. It’s Royal this time and he is rejecting his brand new to us stock trailer that has replaced the hated two horse.

I watch him shaking my head. It wasn’t the trailer before and it isn’t now. I knew that then too but it was a trade I was willing to make to find a way to help him deal with his troubles without getting either of us killed in the process. Now, it’s time.

We are on our way to Kip Fladland’s first in his winter series of three one-day clinics and by God and all that is holy, I am going to get that horse to stay in the trailer long enough to get him there. 

Charlie comes down, he pressures from the rear, I am in the trailer trying to lead him in, side door open in case he goes ballistic when we close him in as Mark, on the gate is ready to do. We are not messing around. He’s in, gate slams, he spins and I am out so fast I barely see him trying to come out beside me. I slam the side door in his bewildered face. Only then I realize I probably scared him more right there than any other thing on the planet.

Charlie says “dang you are QUICK Terri, you bailed right out of there! Thought you might stay in a minute and pet him a little.”

I have seen what those freaked out hooves can do to strong metal and have no intention of allowing my body to get in the way should that be Royal’s reaction to his capture. I look in warily. He’s not happy but there’s no war going on. I open the gate, toss the lead gently at him to see if he will fire at it out of reaction. When he doesn’t, I am in, and petting him. We both breathe.

He hauls fine to the clinic. Kip has me turn him and back him out of the trailer, telling me to look for some respect from him in the process. Dana operates the gate and the horse wants out, but he lets me do what I want to do.

I expect him to be nervy, jumpy and weirded out by the way we loaded him and his unhappiness in general.

That horse didn’t show up. A calm, quiet eyed fellow was in his hooves.  A horse that was willing to try when asked, who settled his flinches and boogers, what little there were, in the morning groundwork.

A horse that I could see when he dragged a foot awkwardly in the sand was responding to my poor timing, not any problem he had. A horse that when jerkily pulled on when I got unhandy tolerated my mistakes and didn’t get flustered or upset with me.

A horse that melted into my hands when I got it right in the saddle, that leg yielded off the barest of cues, that wanted to be wherever I wanted him to be.

We had maybe the best ride of our lives. Again.

Loading up was imperfect but only took two of us. Unloading in the stormy snowy wintery wind was less perfect than that, but me by myself and a horse that does not give up. And neither will I.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Right Side of Trouble


The lovely blonde girl stares at me, dark blue eyes clouded with angry tears. She tries to speak and finally says to me, “Terri, I so want to learn what it is you have to teach me but the way you are saying it is making me so angry I can’t hear a thing!”

She waits for my response. I pause, searching for the right words, shake my head and shrug. “I think your emotional reaction to what I am saying is your problem, not mine. I am telling the truth about what I see and what I think just like you asked me to.”

The door slams and she is gone. Later we talk on the phone and she tries again. If my message is getting lost in the way I deliver, what good is it?

That was a turning point for me. A huge light bulb and not only in how I dealt with human beings but the horses as well. If I came at them with too much pressure and I got a big response, I always blamed the horse or the person for that matter. It never occurred to me that my message was being lost in translation.

Thank you, Crystal, wherever you are.

Enter the Parelli’s, Anderson and all that genre. Do as little as possible but as much as necessary to make a change. Reward the slightest try.  Be aware.

Peter Campbell: Work from where the horse is.

Peterphoto credit – Karen Johnson

And the person. As best you can. I finally get that I am responsible for my communication. No, I cannot and do not want horses or people to train me to be afraid to speak to them for fear they will take me wrong. Sometimes you have to jump out there, make a try and see what happens. There will be room for adjustments.

Horses are much more forgiving in my eyes than people are, but it works with human beings as well. A certain spotted Arabian has taken up where Crystal McCoy left off and taught me to be aware of how I present my message if I want anything like the reaction I am looking for to take place. I have other friends like that too, and family and a husband. 


The key is that for me, it is worth it to do whatever it takes to work things out with these people, this horse. It matters enough to set my ego, my defenses, angers and fears aside, try to figure out honestly what is I am trying to say and then have the courage to do so.

Royal has said in no uncertain terms in every way a horse can speak that he is terrified of being closed up. Things behind him trouble him a lot. Enough he’s kicked the back out of a couple two horse trailers, and boogers consistently when the scary thing goes to or from the rear view quarter of his big brown eyes.

I sold the two horse trailer. Staying on the right side of trouble here means coming about this battle from a different approach.  It by no means giving it up entirely.

My friend Donny said to get the back half as broke as the front and we might have something pretty good going on. 

We have worked with ropes on his rump, have worked on drawing up tarps behind him, and always always always, looking for the give in the hind.  Royal’s attitude has changed so much that when I rode him the other night for the first time since early December I had such a calm level horse I didn’t recognize him. I kept looking for my spook and almost created him out of thin air. I had to make the change instead of looking for it from him and ride the horse that was showing up, not the one that lives in my fears.

Calm Royal

Last Sunday, I loaded Royal into our new to us stock trailer. My plan was lead him in (yep, you guys who have studied trailer loading with me, I got in with the horse. For me it was working where he was at to try to get where we need to be), turn him loose and dip out the waiting side door while the ranch hand closed the gate behind us. There will be plenty of time to develop a send which by the way we did after returning home but this was the deal for the moment.

Royal kicks back sharply, hard, once, twice, three times. I am out!  He does not connect with anything and spins around suspiciously to see what has him trapped. Being able to turn calms him. He glances nervously about but soon settles.

We drove to a barn a few miles away to meet friends for what turned out to be a lovely January ride.

2014 Our best ride ever2014 best ride



That sentence has taken us three years to complete. The horse rode like a dream, both in the trailer and then later under saddle. We are not done, the next day he thinks the trailer is carnivorous but it’s light years from the last time I tried to haul him which resulted in a $600+ vet bill and more terrors for us both.

Instead of riding right away, we do our groundwork there. Eventually he stops scooting past it, and gets quiet. We ride and he is not exactly what he was the other day, but we get there. This is only our second time out by ourselves on the trail since my wreck before Labor Day and it takes awhile for my heart to settle, for me to become confident that I could keep my horse between my hands and legs. I supported him when I needed.  We spent a lot of the first mile making attempts at bends, not crookedy snake necks,  trying to get him on that elusive outside rein and we had more to think about with what WAS happening than what MIGHT happen. I took the dog, and it feels like home when Royal leveled out his neck and we three strode happily down the way.

2014 Royal & Axel


Royal’s claustrophobia shows up in a major way when we exit tight spots into open ones. He’s pretty sure horse eating trolls are going to get him before he can escape.

There was a flatbed parked in an unusual spot just past the mouth of the road to and from the barn, and just on the edge of sight coming off that road on our way back down. Also at the foot of the road before it spreads out into open country is a pad of ice that stretches nearly across the entire thing. There are narrow edges on either side that are okay for walking but a misstep on way or the other and we will be down and scrambling.

We backed up the hill behind us, high dirt walls on either side etched from almost 50 years of earth moving and smoothing the rain ruts.  The flat bed appeared, disappeared and reappeared from sight. When he calmed enough I didn’t think he would jump through his skin straight on to the ice, we skirted a path and successfully made our way past the somnolent beast. There was the smoldering manure pile just a few yards further that presented yet another adventure but when the wind send live embers our way, I took the hint and we will also pick that battle another day!

We will be doing a lot of this kind of thing, hopefully in better footing, as I seek to get the back half operating as smoothly as his front. Working with an eye on safety for us both, staying on the right side of trouble, avoiding troubles we don’t need when we can and getting fit mentally and physically to take on whatever lay in our ever brightening horizon.

We are riding in a day clinic with Kip Fladland on Sunday. I am going to cart him over to Chance Ridge on Saturday in the morning and then go play with rescue horses. It’s the beginning of a new year and a whole new set of adventures lay before us.

That vision I set in motion in the last blog? Getting solid around the edges . . .

2014 Royal & Lookout Mt

Friday, January 3, 2014

Empty Air


I am not one much for filling air with words, not a fan of speaking of what I am going to do, in fact I am a fan of reporting the facts, ma’am and only they.

I am however, also in favor of creating visions, of sometimes using words to put a picture where nothing yet exists except empty air.

And then I build to make it real. That is the proper use of magick as I know it.

Before I tell you where I am heading off to, let me give you an idea of what I am seeing in the rearview.

This time last year, I am riddled with terror that I might not be able to make the transition from self employed horse gypsy to corporate team player. I am filled with anxiety that even if I make the decision to try harder than I have ever tried in my life, save for one thing, I won’t be good enough to make the cut. Stress over where the money comes from in that case as one thing I know for sure, the horse business, for me, is over. 100 %.

I am not a fan of 100% either but there it is.

I stand straddling two life styles, both full time endeavors and there is not enough of me to go around but it works out. I get the job. I am successful in gaining the right to keep my chair. Might not mean much to some but it’s enormous to me. I honor my commitments to the ranch and no matter how exhausted I become, I suit up, show up and do my best everywhere I can.

I have a friend who is fond of saying Big Changes in reference to our rides with Mr. Peter Campbell. Those changes showed up for me in the middle of a thing and helped me make this transformation into something other, more solid, reliable, of a different weight.

And now I am taking them back to the horse. This is what I see for next year. The job fears are as allayed as any such can be. I have given notice at the ranch that my Saturdays will not be spent leading the trail rides so this year it’s time for . . .

The grass glows with lush late Spring warmth, it’s warm green aroma wafts up to me as my horse contentedly munches a few bites before we take up again our work, our play.  Sun warms my face and shoulders and I smile at the friends who showed up to ride with me.

I put out a call for riders who want to come help me and my horse with our trail issues and get some help for themselves in the process. I don’t care what gear they come in though I can’t say I won’t shake my head a little at shank bits on bracey horses who might have to rear a little to escape pressure they don’t know what to do with, and I might want some to be a little handier with their tools, til I look down and realize it’s my own handiness I need to focus on and let other’s knitting remain their own.

We play leap frog, allowing horses that are a little more defensive than others plenty of room while they gain trust in their rider’s abilities to guide them and keep them safe from harm. I keep Royal’s worried feet moving and he doesn’t know if we are moving ahead, weaving through or going back down the line in the direction from which we come.

I focus on the lightness of my seat and hands, doing just enough but not too much to guide my pony. His excitement turns to cooperation, we think about our next move before we are there, it happens and we are on to the next, so smooth.  My friends are having fun too, and so are the strangers that showed up out of nowhere and wanted to join in and play. Now they are friends too.

We do this all summer long, meeting at Cunningham Lake, Branched Oak, Waubonsie, road riding with Christine in the wilds of almost and sometimes Missouri and anywhere and everywhere. We don’t always work, in fact as time goes by, the need for it lessens with every ride. Royal can stand the sight of horses disappearing over the horizon without him.

My thoughts begin to turn to our first Competitive Trail Ride . . . in the distance . . . The season is bookended riding with Peter in May and then again in September. My horse and I can be where we are and grow together into the partnership of my dreams.

This is the beginning, where it starts. Icy winter night. Trailer half paid for, pony with his happy face buried in a hay bale miles away. The vision is in place. Who’s coming along?