Sunday, May 11, 2014

Today’s Change


I just came home from the most blissful, idyllic ride on my horse.  I rode a pleasure horse today. Oh, I doubt we’d have won any ribbons for the event called that, had there been a judge squirreled away in the woods with a notepad.

What I had was a horse that was a pleasure to ride at all gaits. We even galloped a little for the first time since “all the mess started.”

A couple small spooks and startles at the beginning coupled with some anxious hurry feet told me I needed to get things right. I led Royal in a half circle forward with my inside rein, utilizing outside rein and leg to keep him from sweeping out of the arc.  Lightly backed a couple of steps. Paused, settled, backed a half circle so we were facing the way we were headed.

Royal was straight and true between my hands and legs. I had little fear those front legs would suddenly prop into the ground then wheel into a lawn dart creating spin. My faith in him and in myself was completely justified.

Come to where I want to be done, I sit up and he is slowing before I ever have to touch the reins. We drop back to the loose reined, level headed walk we’ve been enjoying and continue along our way. More about that later.

Happy trails

Third day, second class, Peter Campbell clinic. The big doors at the end of the arena are open, allowing welcome sunlight to spill across the floor. Normally this alone would be worth high suspicion to the Arabian. Add to the equation, the mule penned just beyond, a horse and a variety of humans walking suddenly into and out of sight.

We do this class mounted and to warm up I pointed my horse straight at the scary spot. If he would have had difficulty, we would have found a place to work until he could have gone there. 

Bravely he goes where I point him, gets a little high as I am asking him to circle, watching his ears. I do the half circle, back up, and his feet square up under me. He stands until I ask him to resume the circle. We get a little ways into it, something bothers him, and it’s the half circle, back up again. He softens and that part of the barn, like the once terrifying corners are now no issue. And now we get the ears. I feel how his body changes as his feet get right, mind solidly with me.

Until the bomb goes off. I kid you not. We have had motorcycles and shooting in the background all weekend, and suddenly a huge WHOOMP. My horse skitters a few steps into the arena, pulls up easily and we go back to whatever we were doing.

“Hey Peter!” I call out. “This one’s not bomb-proof!”

It was worth a pretty good laugh at the time and Royal’s response, so low key, compared to what it would have been say on Tuesday, back in Nebraska was no joke at all.

Thursday, this week back home, I haul Royal to an event. A pre event really.  He gets loaded into my friend’s three horse slant, first time we have tried this since . . .

I step up on the ramp to feed the line through the open window and keep it out of our way. Clop, clop, Royal is right there with me, eyeing me brightly. “We go in now?”

No, buddy, just you, and let me get out of the way. He calmly steps in, I ask him to move over so I can put up the butt bar. No trauma, no drama. Unloads the same way, a little hurry coming down the ramp, allows me to stop him, wait, one slow foot after another, done.

We are camping at a friend’s house, along with several others before our annual Friday Before Mother’s Day Ride.  The plan is a short road ride Thursday evening then all the fun of horse camping with girl friends, including a couple from Texas that we do not get to see nearly often enough.

At Vasa's

So thrilled I actually am able to take him places, finally!

It’s a smaller group, maybe 8 or 9? I figure excellent size to test my horse’s readiness for what will be a much larger pack in the morning.

Royal flunked his trial run with flying colors. For whatever reason, going out the drive, someone dumped kerosene, someone else threw a match and our level headed horses all got high and goofy at one time. Most of the seasoned ones came down pretty quick, but not my boy.

We jigged, nose flinging to the sky, tight Arabian ears nearly touching at the tips. I took him out front rather than fight with him in the mix.

Did everything I knew to help him find a comfortable place to be. He got worse and worse, I feel the horse gather to get some air under us.

Time to stop,  get control of the feet and work things out. I didn’t want to inconvenience the others by asking them to wait while we found our brain.

When the dread loping in place showed up, I called it quits, excused us from the group and peeled off. We would head back, ride our own ride, and I would find my horse.

There were some pyrotechnics over that decision. He was overexcited with the group but he damn sure did not want to leave them either.

No matter. He was going to. I was careful not to let him get his feet set to launch us. When he rebelled against backing and sat down to rear, I sent him forward. When he decided to bolt, I spun his ass around and set his feet.

I met his resistance with equal pressure and added a percent of my own, as Peter told us to do. I won’t tell you I might not have overkilled it a couple of times, but I got through.

You will move your feet when and where I say. You get naughty, you find trouble. You get nice, I am oh so nice right along with you.

Sooner rather than later, the turbulence changed to sulky acquiescence, then he forgot about being mad and we had a nice ride all by our onesies.

It wasn’t what I wanted but it gave me a road map for what we needed to do to succeed the next day.

It’s a big ride but my friends, Corie and Annette (Texas) agreed to hang back with me til everyone else rode out. They understood it might be fits, starts, training exercises and I was not even at all sure we would make the entire loop.

The ride 061

Zip and Royal, patiently waiting

They gave me an enormous gift, supported me and my horse through a sometimes difficult first seven miles out. We would do okay in front until Royal saw other horses up ahead, then it was a hooves on riot. Corie’s good Zip was feeding off of Royal’s energy and he got high as a kite when we took the lead. There was no win to this.

I started to become angry at one point and then I hear Peter say, “It’s a 51/49 per cent partnership, but sometimes the horse is going to come up with the ideas.”

I went with Royal, knowing I could not stop his jigging feet.  Rather than go to full war with him like I did for 21 miles on the WORST ride of our lives, I made it be my idea. We trotted lightly, we worked on soft feel. It was not the most successful ever but we made progress. And we sometimes walked calmly. We found golden moments upon which to build.

Leaving the lunch area we rode out with a larger group, some dear friends from Sioux City had come down and I very much wanted to see and spend some trail time with them. It was not to take place.

Threats of winged flight, I feel him shift back to surge forward in a mighty rebellious leap. I pull him off to the side, no way I am letting that happen.

Then I will rear up!! NO, the hell you won’t!!

We do go to war then. I set his hip over, bring the front around, he does it in a mad clattering whirl, stepping on himself, and getting more upset all the while. (GET THE FEET RIGHT, TERRI).

I slow myself down, stop allowing the dervish. I decide to ride him alone and we will find ourselves. Corie joins me (I am not sure if she thought I was going to kill Royal or vice versa).

Our hyped up spotted horses jig together, and again, I make it my idea. I feel the feet, set down in my saddle, gather my reins in one hand. My left slides down the rein and I bring up my hand. This sends his hindquarter rolling behind and I straighten him with the outside rein, setting his feet.

Royal stands briefly, pauses really, and off he goes. I allow him to make the mistake and with no malice, reach down, roll him over behind again, straighten. We do this a few times and now he is standing. I ask him to move forward and he walks.  He settles.

We lose it a little on the way home but only a little and it’s not hard to bring him back. Royal and Zip walk right out, and we catch other riders on their way back. Royal thinks about being concerned but realizes he isn’t really and we go on our way. Huge corner turned there.

Almost home, Corie is sick of Zip’s jigging as well and begins to practice the maneuvers I show her. Works on him, too Smile

Today’s change shows up tomorrow.

Peter has told us that many times. That tomorrow would be today.

I was tired, a little sore from that 15 mile jaunt and was not sure I would ride today. Started a new baby Thoroughbred to lead at the ranch. I left Royal tied to the side of the trailer, following the advice of my CTR friends and hung his hay bag to give him something to do. He was a little whiny, he wants that fancy shiny thing back. I told him to get a job or like what he has.

After the baby, a darling friendly forward thing, we ride. It’s the best. I mean the best ever,  maybe in a life that’s seen some good rides.

Best ride ever

Thank you, Peter. We would not be here, without you. See ya in September.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Day three: For You or Against You


“I can’t take him to group trail rides.”

Peter pauses as he rides by. “Why not.”

“He sees another horse disappear around a corner in front of him and he just goes apey.”

Peter considers briefly. “Okay.” And rides on.

I watch him go. I knew he had an answer for me beyond “you have to keep him from leaving you mentally.” I got that part. What I didn’t know was how. It was going to be my responsibility to help my horse, not expect him to help me.

Allowing others to fill in for me has become a habit. Learning to ask for help at all is an acquired taste and then to keep it in the middle has become a challenge. Refuse to let anyone in or lean on them too much, I have run into that before in life. Partnership is a much easier word to say than a lifestyle to practice.

In the warm up for the Foundation class, we check out the stuff we have learned. “Be smooth,” Peter says. “See how little it takes.”

Then he introduces another exercise. Take the horse under the halter by the fiador knot and lead him around you in a half circle. Roll the hindquarters over, back a couple steps and release.

Everything should operate lightly, the forward motion, the stepping over of the hind. The horse should bridle up, softening at the poll and step back freely and the release should be a natural part of the evolution.

I have been working with Royal to come forward nicer. One hand on each side of his face, taking hold of the knots on the halter. Once the forward happens, you bend the head, neck and the body should arc around, still coming with you. Saying no to forward is as apt to be an answer from my pony as rushing off. Two sides of the same coin.

Peter is helping one of the gals with her silver and white gaited mare. “When these things won’t work with you, you can’t have it. Get them to work with you, you can’t beat it.”

The mare doesn’t want to come forward, she doesn’t want to line her hindquarters flat to the rail. She doesn’t really think she has to do much of anything she does not want to do. Before the day is over, she will have different thoughts and where a horse stands, all awkward sharp pointy angles and brace, an animal appears of sheer magical beauty, round, soft and gracious. I will see things today that will forever iron down my faith in Peter, who he is and what he does.

“How many of you have heard tough times build character?” He asks us for a show of hands, and most of us raise ours.

“I don’t believe that, not for a moment.” Pause. Looks at us to see if we are listening.

“What tough times do is reveal the true nature of the character that is already there.”

Peter and Cat

I see that lean man astride his horse like he was born a part of it and I know he has been tried and not found wanting.

We have spoke this weekend how when things go well, people tend  puff up, rub themselves on the back as to what a fine hand they are. When they go wrong, it’s Peter’s fault.

Drawing lines in the sand and setting things in concrete is something I have become very wary of. I used to be proud when someone called me a hard head because it meant I wasn’t falling over for any little breeze coming down the pike, not taken in by your friendly neighborhood snake oil salesman.

I have since found out this much like any other, working against me, I can’t have it, working for me, can’t beat it but finding the balance to turn defect to attribute is as always, the trick.

Here’s my line in the sand. If you think you have something poor to think or say about Peter Campbell, find a different place to do it than anywhere around me. This is not a challenge to start that conversation. It’s solid advice to not. That’s in concrete.

“If I were to write another book on horsemanship,” Peter says, “It would go like this:

Observe, remember, compare.

Encourage, discourage. Rearrange the life in the feet.

Feel, timing and balance.

The End.”

Rearrange the life in the feet. I observe my horse, I see a couple bracey spots when I ask for this thing, or that. I practice moving this foot, being particular but not critical. No, not that foot, Royal, this one. I try to see what happens when I place pressure a certain way, how he interprets that against what I meant to have happen.

Encourage, discourage, direct what happens. If it has already taken place, you are punishing whatever the horse is doing at the moment not what he just did. What’s done is done. Don’t blame him for your poor timing.

The half circle forward begins to glide. I watch for when his outside front foot steps over, readying the inside hind to come off the ground. When I don’t think about it, feel it in the moment, I ask my  horse to roll over behind. He does and steps back in one fluid motion. I release and smile. That feels wonderful.

This is what you do before things go south. This is HOW to rearrange the life in the feet to keep the horse from leaving you mentally.

Later this afternoon, I get a chance to practice that very thing.


** You will have to forgive (or not) my lapse if I post photos from the wrong days or quote Peter on Saturday for something he said on Friday. It’s all one blissful blur at this point but you will get the gist Smile

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Day Two: Too Late to change


It occurred to me not all that long ago when I was kicking myself around for repeating some old behavior or another that I could not get caught up in the thought that it was too late to change. There can be no such thing. The only time we have is what we are living in, right here and now.

Peter talks about that. The change that must come from within us before any other. I never once heard him say if we had only made these happen ten years ago, twenty or even yesterday how much better we would all be for it. There is only today, and only now.

Day two, there’s more sleep. It came in patches, before and after changing out the propane bottle which had significantly less emotional drama attached than the first attempt. I am clear eyed, and an energy I have not felt in awhile surges through my veins. Still not feeling the best but I am getting a handle on the fact that I let those kinds of things get in my way far more than is necessary.

I take Axel into the grassy area beyond where we are camping. He wants to stalk the blue roanie colts in the pasture next door. He pauses, looks to where I am pointing, heads to the tall grass and does his business where it can’t be a bother to anyone.

We spend time bonding. I am developing our communication. He responds beautifully. On the way back to camp, I am particular about asking him to walk at my heel. He’s not great on a leash, but it occurred to me if he stays nicely at my side with or without one, would take care of that.

Axel and I at Peter Campbell 2014My good dog

Day one, I connected with the people, now I am seeking out my dog. Next, I head down to the barn to see how Royal is doing. He still does not meet me at the door but he looks up in a friendly interested manner. Progress.

Peter is riding borrowed horses. The Campbell’s suffered an awful loss a few weeks ago when their beloved Superman horse passed away of colic. They have had more than their share of loss this past year or so, losing their son to a welding accident and I thought as I have before, why? Why do such horrible things happen to such wonderful people and horses? I guess we just get what we get and we absolutely have to treasure every single moment there is to show the ones we love just how much we care.

He makes transformations with these horses in minutes that would take most of us weeks, months or maybe never, ever at all.

Peter making changes

I had joked with him the first morning when he was looking for the horse Mark and Kerrie Weir brought, a fine stout sorrel Quarter Horse gelding named Timme.

“I think it’s this one, Peter.” I say, pointing at Royal. “This spotted one, right here.”

“I think not.” And off he goes. Darn! I grin at my own funniness. I hope maybe he smiled a little too.

We played and had some fun this weekend, even with the shadow of sorrow behind why he was not on his own good little gelding. We got to see Peter hands on with a variety of horses and the end result was always the same, the horse happy, grateful and to their credits, so were the owners.

Feel is everything. He tells us this. Get the feel and the timing will take care of itself. I watched that happen over and over. It’s a true thing.

We start by doing the things we did yesterday. Peter says to start with what the horse already knows and is comfortable with and then to go on to something else.

He had shown us how to check out if it was safe to touch a hind leg, then to bring it forward, and ask the ankle to rock with the toe staying on the ground. I foresee people running out to try to do this, as I would have, had I read this somewhere.

What you will be missing is how to change your body to make it work. How to know if you have the right feel, if the horse is comfortable in your hand or if you are jerking that thing back and forth causing tension rather than creating relaxation, getting in the way.

We lower the head, facing the same way the horse is, thumb down on the fiador knot. It isn’t as much what we are doing as how. I breathe deep, understanding the privilege it is to be where I am, enjoying that I am in the company of people who are committed like I am to their horses, to getting things working in this very good way.

There are a few who are there for the first time, and Peter talks about how unlikely it is the first timers return. He mentions as to how his personality might not fit every person but it fits every single horse he has ever met, and that is quite a number.

He talks about how he will only ask one thing of us. We must try. The horse must try. Without try, we are dead in the water. There was nothing but try in this group and I am proud to have been a part of it all.  There was not always understanding but we all begin there, and no one quit, everyone came through.

I feel my horse’s soft breath, near to me. Suddenly there is a small wiggle on my sleeve. He rubs me lightly with his upper lip. An invitation to play. I look at him, he looks back sweetly, brightly. Both ears, both eyes. You guys have no idea how long it has been since my horse would look at me like that.

I am so sorry Royal. You believed in me and I sold you out in so many ways. I didn’t mean to but that is what happened. No wonder you took back your faith.

Peter talks about how the horse will give you 99 percent of it’s self preservation and if you are fortunate, he might even come all the way and give you 100%. If you mess that up, he will take back that 1% and one more. You won’t get those back.

I know exactly what he is talking about.

But, here is my horse, offering to me his friendship one more time. Even though in my fear, and my doubt I have hung him out to dry more times than I can tell you.

“We can’t play here, dude” I whisper inaudibly. He can hear me. “We are in school and we will get in trouble!” I smile at him though. I am beaming from my heart on out, and for the first time in forever, I feel it coming back from my  horse.

a moment

He is respectful, steps back when I ask. Doesn’t come in to push and demand I pay attention to him. Every so often, the small boy in him says, how about now? Wanna? C’mon, how about now?

I say no, we gotta do our work now and play later. Okayyyy.

Earlier that morning I had to find Peter. I wanted him to know I realized I was stuck and that I was holding back myself and my horse. That I was ready to grab hold and move on. He was friendly and polite but on his way to doing a different thing. I didn’t get the “ATTA GIRL” I was looking for and I thought about that too. Hmm.

Another light bulb. I can say any thing I want. How about letting my horse show him. How about that.

I figure everywhere that man goes, people want to share their lightbulbs. It’s cool, what we learn, changes our very selves and the lives we lead away from the horse. I don’t think I could handle, in fact I am SURE I could not hear all those words from all those people. Peter manages with a lot more grace than I ever would.

Peter talks about how the change has to come within us first. He speaks of how when we become upset or frustrated, angry with the horse that whatever we feel, the horse felt that first. The horse felt the effect of our emotions long before we did.

This peace is filling my soul, there are knots coming out I didn’t know where in there. I breathe it in. Royal’s head melts to the ground. He rocks his ankles. He still gets a little tight setting down the left front and I make notes of that but not an issue.

We are saddled, doing these exercises, and if you You Tube or try to figure it out on your own, here’s a big piece. If you are saddled, start with the hind. ALWAYS. Better yet, come let Peter show you how to get it done right, without upsetting your horse. He’s big on that. Your horse might get upset while you ask something of him, but you don’t try to upset him. You try not to scare him. He might get scared but you try not to be the cause of it.


Here is Scott with his nice little mustang horse. He also brought a classy mule that emphasized Peter’s statements at eerily correct moments. This is as nice an example of softness as you will ever see. Check the ears.

It’s occurring to me that the change that needs to happen has to begin and end with me.  I won’t always have Peter there to “Easy!” or “Like that” or “Stay with it, don’t let go yet”.  Things can go south in the outside world even when I am peaceful in my soul, but if I am level, I have a shot at bringing Royal back to level with me. If I am out of sorts to begin with, what chance does he have?

Somehow, someway, things have to change. Peter tells us this all weekend. Things are not working for you the way you are going or if they are some, but you want them better, YOU have to get different. YOU have to find a different way and not just keep doing the same old thing the same old way.

It was arranged earlier that Steve would work with the black mustang in a couple classes and see how things went along. He’s done the groundwork with us and now prepares to mount the mustang for the riding portion. The horse is very worried. I never knew how traumatic it is for the horse when someone comes off. It can go deep inside them and cause a world of trouble.

Steve and the mustang

South shows up pretty quick when the horse gets tight, panics and bolts. Steve stays with him til he blows a stirrup and there’s not much of a way back when that happens and the horse is still determined to leave. This horse was dead set on it.

He flies down the rail, head on to all of us gathered at that far end. He wants the security of the horses there and he is going to have it. I know there are some greener riders behind me and this is not the first loose horse I have seen dump someone and fly around.

Royal starts to whirl out of the path of the oncoming train. I steady him and ask him to stay put in the face of danger. He squares up solidly under me and holds his ground. He will take the hit if he has to.

My heart swells as for a moment, I have a saddle horse under me.

Peter is “TERRI, get OUT of the way!” I realize he’s got this, of course he does, and I do get out.  The mustang, still looking for help, hooks on to Royal and follows us around Peter. I scoot the heck to the other side of the arena and they get things managed.

I understand I probably should have got out of the way in the first place, and I know now Peter would have done whatever he needed to try to keep the people behind me from getting hurt. Was my instinct but not my job and my being in the way could have caused the very problem I sought to avoid. Another hmm  . . . being in the way . . .

Still, I have that golden memory I will never, ever forget. I asked my horse to hang in, and he did, in spades. He came through for me in the moment of truth.

Steve is ok, and we got to watch some really cool stuff as they help the mustang get ready to ride.

You don’t do things with a horse. You get them ready and the horse takes care of the doing. It’s a whole mental shift. It requires a picture in your head of what it looks like, and a plan to get there. We watch them get the mustang ready and Steve rides him all day long.

Steve and the mustang, getting there

Peter, Steve and the mustang

That afternoon Peter is helping each of us individually as we ride the Horsemanship 1 class. By the way, I don’t care how long you have been riding or what you think you know, don’t be arrogant and start with this one. Build in Foundation, first. Then, when you ride this class it will be beautifully effective for you instead of a struggle. How does she know this, you might ask . . .

I pay very good money for Peter’s help and I am thrilled he is riding with us one on one. However, I get a little nervy my own self and kind of work at keeping some arena between us for awhile as I observe what goes on. I skillfully manuever my horse, here, there, blending into the woodwork like a nail you would hang a bridle on.

And there he is, riding up beside me with purpose. I nod. Here you are, he says. Yep, here I am.

We ride together, and he is explaining how the ears and the eyes tell the story of what is happening with the feet. He guides me around, through me he gets Royal’s inside ear back and outside ear forward on the curve. I feel the horse soften under me every time this happens. I feel the change in his body when l lose one of them.

The inside ear is not too difficult for me, it’s controlled by the inside rein. I get grabby and do too much sometimes, but I can feel where we are going with that.

Peter says it’s okay to make a mistake, no big deal at all. If you want something to happen, it is not important that the thing happens, what matters is that you KNOW what does happen.

The outside ear is tougher. You have to be able to feel the feet to get that one. It’s controlled by leg pressure. At one point his outside hind foot was late. I know this, because Peter told me so. Feel it? Nope. I surely did not.

As he prompts me, I touch Royal with my leg to bring up his. The wrong leg. I use my inside leg, I am sure if I touch him with my outside leg, he will wheel his body into the circle and it will all just go to pot.

Finally I follow my instructions as what I am doing isn’t making any changes and my horse is beginning to tighten. Outside leg. I touch him lightly when Peter says “now!” I miss my timing but Royal doesn’t fall apart. Next couple of times, I get it and the ear comes nicely forward.

The tension falls out of my horse’s neck. He is like butter in my hands. I breathe the tightness out of me as well. A few more knots come loose somewhere in my upper chest. Now we are dancing to music we both can hear.


**Photo credits to Colleen Hamer, Roxanne Hill & Deb Johnson. Thanks you guys for capturing the memories. Treasures to keep.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The First Part, Peter Campbell Archie Mo 2014


Sick and annoyed, I snap at my husband and my son who are trying to help me load my gear. I am about to spend five days in the back of my horse trailer, and I am sharing haul space with not only another human being but two horses as well. There is no way it is all going to fit. I’ve had some wretched respiration/gastrointestinal bug for about two weeks. I am seriously cranky.

I want to give you a snapshot of my mental and physical condition as we headed out on to what was going to be one of the grand adventures of my life.

My boss at the ranch is very concerned about my taking my horse off the property to an event in light of the current EH-V1 scare. He doesn’t want me to go, and may not let me bring the horse back if I do. I am sorry, I have to. I tell him it’s paid in advance, it’s not the largest reason but I know he won’t make me throw money away. I assure him I am going to a clean, horse savvy place.  There will be no risks taken, and all the precautions. 

Somehow all the gear fits. Thanks, David, for thinking up strapping the hay to the top of the load. Saved the day.

We are ready to load. My hyped up Arabian snorts at the loaded back of the truck. He dances nervously to music only he can hear. I scowl at him. I don’t like him very much right now. Why can’t he just stand calmly tied to the trailer? Wait a little bit? Be sane!

I decide to send him in. Colleen hung the hay bag for her horse, and I am sure as his ass brushes it when he turns himself around to ride facing backwards as he loves to do, he will panic, leap forward (yes follow the crazy train for yourself here.) and there will be a horrible wreck.

Colleen asks if I would like her to lead him on. I say yes, thank you that would be great. She does, there is some bunchy shuffle of his feet as he decides he would just as soon come off as stay on. She holds him lightly and tells him to hang in there. He does. She ties off the lead, loads her horse and we are on our way.

Two women, two horses, three dogs and all the gear you can imagine and maybe some you would not because we thought of everything. Just about.

On the highway I discover the semi’s going by bother the vertigo that has come with my nasty bug. Rather than drive us off the side of the road or into one of those guys, Colleen takes the wheel. I really don’t feel good but I am suiting up and showing up. I would not miss this for the world and as it turns out, one of my best decisions ever.

Camp sets up pretty smooth for me not ever doing this before, Colleen dives in and between the two of us, it’s pretty reasonable. I struggle a little with the tent cot but I know it can be done, and done it gets.

We have a little village established at the end of the row of trailers all setting up and plugging in. There’s my trailer, her tent, and our shower house, complete with potty. We are set.

CampCamp set up


First night. I nestle into my blankets. It’s chilly. I am wondering how long the small bottle of propane is going to hold out on the heater. I am terrified of propane, but with Colleen’s support, got the thing lit, and now only hoping we won’t die of carbon monoxide poisoning. (yes, I live in this brain, every single day. It does get old.) There is a highway nearby, normally I would find the sounds of it soothing, memories from Hwy 101 and childhood but this night it feels like they are driving through my very soul.

There are frogs. I like frogs but man, do they have to rock out all night? There is some chirping thing, no idea what it was, but it hung with the party crowd til daybeak.

Bottle lasts about four hours. In 30 degree weather, an electric blanket struggles to keep up. Thank God I brought the dog!

Around the edges of my mind, I am excited to have finally got Royal back to Peter. I wonder what he can do for us that will last beyond the clinic setting? Getting Royal right in that environment is not that difficult, it’s the world outside that brings us grief. Dawn finally arrives, might as well get up.

I stare at the camp stove. More damn propane. I glance at Colleen’s tent. No sign of life and I am NOT waking her up. I look up and down the drive, no peoples striding by that might be familiar with just how the heck you light one of these things without blowing yourself, your dog and all surrounding to kingdom come.

There is no one. Okay, cowgirl, just how bad you want that coffee?

There is a red thing to the left that I am pretty sure has something to do with the process. It has arrows, no words. That is not helpful. I look up in exasperation. I want to quit. This is a ridiculous waste of energy and I don’t have much to spare.

My eyes catch writing on the lid of the camp stove. Operating Instructions. Well, what do you know.

Even though I have to struggle, and I don’t think the damn thing will ever light, and it’s noisy to boot, it’s lit. Whoo freaking hoo!

It’s beginning to dawn on me that I still quit things a whole lot easier than I would have told you I do.

I make coffee, first time ever in a percolator. I had some really nice Italian dark roast ground specifically for the job. Turns out if you use twice as much as you need (forgot any kind of measuring device or even a spoon) it’s not going to be very drinkable. I fixed it the next day, and man, I am now a coffee cooking son of a gun.

We haven’t even made it to the barn yet, it’s almost 7 a.m.  I go see my pony. There are things going on in the arena. I stop to watch. The gorgeous big black mustang, friendly fellow who lives next door to Royal, is in there saddled and riding. He’s obviously green, a little tight. The little gal riding does all right with him, and his owner who has sent him off for training here, steps up to check things out.

It doesn’t go as well for her, and that 30 seconds sets the stage for one of the countless cool pieces that made up this incredible weekend. It also put my new friend in a very similar spot that I was in, two years ago with Riata. Hard choices, no matter how you slice them and no one can judge a person’s final decision, whatever it may be.

People are showing up at the barn, there are quite a few now that I have met before, shared friendly times and conversation. Still, for me, there is the awkward shyness of having just arrived and maybe not fitting in, not really being a welcome part of it all.

It takes me awhile to warm up and most of them are still strangers to me in the larger sense. Not all, the Donnie’s who own and operate the place are real friends. Roxanne our hostess with the mostest, Starr Zizza (so aptly named you cannot believe it) Deb Johnson, our next door neighbor Cindy, the Cindy from up north (so proud of you!) and more. I should never name names, I always leave out important people. If I left you out, you know you are one of them.

Royal is jumpy going through the gate into the arena. I don’t want him rushing and I make him pause in the gate. Peter says, hey just let him come through, he gets scared, gets hung up in that gate, then you have something else to overcome. Hmm, good thought.

How are we going to help him though? I do trust Peter and I figure that before the weekend is over, I will know the answers to my questions. There is still the small niggle of doubt, not of Peter at all, but of me and my ability to ask for help when I need it, to appropriately frame my troubles and what I want to take home from this considerable investment of money, time and heart.

What I didn’t yet understand is there was no way he was going to let me drown. Not me, not any of us. I didn’t understand that he would read our needs as easily as ten foot writing on the wall. Thirty years of clinics, 40 a year, he has some experience at this. We were probably not going to surprise or baffle him.

What I also did not get was Peter’s level of commitment to what he does.  He was going to help us make the changes, like he would help our horses. He wasn’t going to sell us out. If we would only try, he would hang in til the cows come home.

Peter talks to us before each class. I would pay the price of admission all over again to be able to tape those talks, bring them home and listen to them over and over. He would say something amazing, my mind would grab it and then I would realize I am missing the next “amazing.”

Focus, focus!  I have the attention span of a gnat, and I wonder why my horse does too . . .

We do some extremely cool things, all about relaxing the horse and getting the mind right. That’s the point of the entire deal. Get the mind. Get the feet. Get one, you have the other. Don’t have one, you can’t get the other to save your life. If you want to know how to do those things, Peter’s next clinic around here is in Lincoln, NE end of September, or check his website for dates in your area. If you do one thing for yourself, your horse, but mostly yourself, do this.

Day one, already good

This photo is during the riding portion of the Foundation class. We do groundwork first and it is different every clinic. We get new pieces to the puzzle. Already, my antsy horse stands to be mounted, waits patiently while we listen to instructions. Changes. And, so do I.

By the time my Horsemanship class rolls around, I am feeling really crappy; sick, dizzy and exhausted. My friend, Stephen is there in the chair by the big wood stove next to me. I glance at him. I know how frustrating it is to want more than anything to be in there riding and be outside watching.

“You have your gear with you?”

“You bet,” he says, “Peter told me to throw it in, any time I come to one of these, so now I do. You never know what might turn up.”

Two years ago, it was a deeply troubled grulla filly that is now named Bella (princess name for a princess little girl Smile )and solidly in the heart of his oldest daughter. Sometimes I make the right choices.

I offer to let him ride Royal in my second class. Colleen laughs, “she’s not giving this one away though.” and we all laugh about that. No.

Royal is not a “problem” either. Steve knows, he watched us this morning , saw the flitty mind that can leave peaceful in a blink, saw how it translated into crooked, bracey responses and also how the horse can soften and get right. Turns out, that was not the only horse Steve gets to ride, but more about that later.

Peter Campbell clinic, Archie MO 2014 3588

That evening we do potluck. I find myself waxing into the situation and I am talking to a super nice lady. Dressage gal, she owns a horse that is being ridden in the clinic, big time jumper prospect. We share stories. I go into the litany of my turmoil's and tribulations with Royal T.

The wrecks, the stitches, the broken trailers, yada freaking ad nauseum yada. Why does this feel so bad? I don’t know, I just know that it does. Peter is standing a ways off, but I feel his distance like he is a million miles away.

Freezing in my covers, it’s dark and it’s damned cold. I had the foresight to bring in another bottle of propane as I know how this is going to go now. I get up, change bottles, and let the welcome heat fill my little Hilton on wheels. The dog is grateful. He can’t figure out why I let us get so cold in the first place.

The party by the pond is in full swing, the truckers are trucking, cars filling in the symphony. I feel my mind searching. Why did it feel so wrong to be telling those stories?

It finally broke loose and I understood. I was like a broken record. My needle was stuck, playing one part of the album over and over again, etching a deep groove in the vinyl. There was so much more music to hear but I couldn’t move on. Here I am thinking it’s my horse who is the one who is stuck.

Turns out, not at all.

Here is part one. There is a lot more. For those of you who care, stay tuned.