Tuesday, December 22, 2015
"He's a mean drunk, I'll say that for him." Dr. Carlson eyed us wryly. "Once we get him out of his kennel, he's fine but he fights us tooth, claw and nail while he's in there!"
Deucie was three. He and Zan had wandered off our 14 acres because that's obviously not to enough to hold the interest of a dog when there is a construction site right across the road. Something over there leaked antifreeze and he came home staggering, sick as a . . .
The sweet odor and inebriated wallering told me immediately what I was looking at, an almost dead dog walking.
Not the first time. Deucie'd been born dead so I guess he was kind of used to the condition. Arron had rubbed and breathed life into the tiny cold body. He was the last of five puppies we could get out of their dying momma.
With all this dying going on, you might wonder if I should ever own a dog. The vet who put Deucie down yesterday was the first person in ten years to give me absolution for the mistake of first breeding my adorable but mongrel bitch to her equally adorable and mongrel unwed boyfriend.
And, not getting an ultrasound though her tiny body bulged like she'd swallowed a watermelon. Mares, I know something about. I used to have a very good idea if they were carrying correctly and I was never too far off on the arrival dates of the young ones.
All I knew for sure about dogs is that we are over populated with them therefore they must birthe relatively easy. That's probably true of most. It wasn't for mine.
So, anyway Deucie. We hand raised those little beasts. Lost a blue girl who looked like her momma to something that acted like Parvo, tested negative but they treated her for it anyway. She'd had the first puppy shot she was eligible for, I'm not THAT neglectful and no other dog got it. Cost me over a thousand $$ and a lost pup . . .
Everyone else found homes. Arron wanted to keep the black runt. Heartbroken over the loss of my home girl and then her little daughter, my numb heart did not care one way or the other.
He grew up with a minimum of training, we thought he was too weird and neurotic to learn much. Boy, did we miss the call on that one. Almost but not quite too late.
I raised Quarter Ponies on that spread along with keeping some head of for sale or trade stock and a penful of training horses. The dogs hung out. I was watchful that they minded themselves around the horses as best I could They'd run through the pens at will and one day I look up and there's Deucie running hellbent for leather toward Chica, my boss of bosses mare.
He approaches from the side at a dead run, grabs a jawful of long thick black tail and goes swinging wildly from side to side.
"DEUCIE NOOO!!" Top of my lungs screams affects not horse or dog. She pins her ears in an annoyed but not murderous way, lifts a threatening "that's enough now" hind foot. He drops off, runs away grinning like a mad fool.
What? Have they done this before? Oh yeah, says Arron. He does it all the time. All the horses but mostly Chica. I yell at the little shit but he doesn't pay any attention to me.
It was until he earned the name Three Tooth Deuce from someone losing patience with the game that he finally quit. Had nothing to do with the pain or danger of getting a tooth knocked out of his head. Dog simply could not get as good a grip anymore and the good tail swinging times were over.
If you ride with Axel and I, my blue eyed blue merle border collie, you may notice he's not allowed to cross fencelines of any kind. The way to stop bad habits is to not let them start in the first place.
When we gave up the place and moved to town I was worried most about how Deuce would handle the transition, Claustrophobic to the point of sometimes losing his tiny mind and not super interested in people outside his immediate family (Arron) I didn't know how he'd take to the sights, sounds and proximity of so darned many people. Turns out it was me that had the problem with that.
Moving into our city duplex I am trying to keep eyes on dogs, husky young men moving boxes of fragile and or necessary things never to be found again and I did not have enough eyes for the job. There were a couple kids running around too and I thought sure Deucie'd bite one before it was all over.
I finally find him in the stone walled fireplace room laying over backwards getting his tummy rubbed by said unbitten child. Well, okay then.
Everything we ever asked of him, including me giggling my silly ass off encouraging him to "bite daddy's face, arrrrgh, arrrgh, arrrgh!" he'd come through with flying colors. He learned to walk on a harness when he was eight years old as his little bullet head could slide backwards out of any collar. After a couple gymnastic panics, he decided the leash, harness and walks were good things. Learned a lot quicker than Axel who still thinks leashes are highest of baloney insults.
We took him to camp last year first time ever when we couldn't find a dog sitter. Now we have strange environments, dogs and a LOT of people who are going to want to stop by and rub a doggie head. He ate it up. He pottied on his leash which he'd never had to do before in his life. Nine years old.
Doc Carlsen pulled him through the antifreeze poisoning incident. He said then no way to tell how much damage the organs had suffered or how long we'd get to keep the little guy around, Seven more years. He outlived his buddies, Zan and Cesaer. Was entirely peeved at Axel's arrival, never really got over that. Thought Kisses a cute pain in the behind but you know, a girl so . . . neutered or not, he knew what girls were. Mean drunk like his momma and well, the girls, daddy?
When things started going wrong for him this summer I paid what I consider my karmic debts to JD, Ozzie, Indigo and Zan. I did so many things wrong with and for those dogs. I didn't know grocery store dog food had turned mostly poisonous, fed my dogs cheap whatever's on sale garbage til Ozzie almost died of food allergies. Zan taught me to either build tight fences or not take your eyes off your best dog for even five minutes,
We took Deucie to the best recommended vet we knew about. They did a crazy hail Mary surgery to reroute his urethra and when we had to take him back a couple months later to have the ungodly painful crystals flushed again, I knew we were in big trouble.
He quit eating. The stuff the vet said would save his life he wouldn't even look at. Wholistic dog food costing more than our week's grocery budget interested him for a minute. When force feeding resulted in it being ejected at both ends that was it. He was so tired.
The goofy bouncy guy who could jump high enough to nip my elbow evading my side kick correction with ease was gone. He stopped going upstairs to sleep with us.
There comes a point when you consider your options and you have to decide whose interests you are operating in. Your animal who looks at you out of huge trusting suffering eyes or your own, sparing yourself a hard reality? Time is finite for us all. I've stood beside two women burying their human children and I will not tell you my grief compares to theirs. It does not.
It is real. A physical aching in my heart, a nausea in the pit of my stomach. A chapter ended. I always think I am prepared for that. I never am.
Rest in peace, Deucie dog. See ya at the Bridge.
Friday, December 11, 2015
Oh no, you groan. Another philosophical blog that’s going to take her 500 words to even mention the word “horse.”
Hah! Not so, my friend. This is what a horsewoman does to maintain her sanity when she can’t ride, can’t truck around on slippery slopes and as her Ortho guy says sternly “must avoid wrestling heavy animals.” You look back, take stock of what’s gone by and make a plan for tomorrow. Paradoxically you stay in today by getting yourself busy and staying where your hands are instead of any one of a million places your brain wants to take you. If you can find a way to get out of yourself and help somebody else, more the better.
I find allowing others to help me a much tougher pill to swallow. My friend Nancy finally convinced me to quit avoiding the barn and I went to see my friends and good horse last night. The green one had to stay put for now. My theory is that our new dog weighs a lot more on her leash than does Royal on the end of his line. True fact.
I stayed a short bittersweet time. Did what I could and Royal did whatever I asked, sweetly, politely and no more weight than the lead line itself. We will eventually be okay again. Shaggy Dressage Show in April my goal to be back and fully up and running. Maybe Huckleberry goes in for Western dressage, we will see.
There’s a lot of gratification to be found in vacuuming too, even if you cheat and vacuum around things that would be easy to move. Arron brought the machines upstairs for me as neither my knee nor wrist would have approved. While I transformed the carpet into something I’d walk on barefoot, I thought about some of those moments a little over 30 years ago.
I thought about hitting my knees one time and praying to a god I didn’t understand, couldn’t define and wasn’t entirely sure I trusted. Belief? Yes, I’d grown up in weekly Sunday School, gone to church every week, all that. I never felt much from any of the stories though sometimes the songs affected something deep inside, and when the sun streamed through the stained glass window it gave a beauty far beyond earthly.
I knew those people had found something that rang true to their souls. I found That out on top of sunlit ridges, one with my pony and what I knew was surely a Creation beyond my ken.
I asked that feeling, that Spirit to help me become a right kind of human being. It was really all I had ever wanted. As a small child I was raised by older people not my parents. I had no way of knowing then that people see through a glass only darkly and that it’s heavily stained by their personal experiences and frames of references.
I was often accused of and in trouble for behavior I didn’t even really know what it was until I was a lot older and decided if I were going to wear a name, I’d show them how the game was played.
The Power a lot of you call God kept placing people in my life that taught me better ways to live and to think and so the internal battles began.
The older I got the more decided I became to take the right hand path no matter what. Didn’t always happen like that, habits die hard and fear breeds desperation. You do what you think you have to do to survive. As I got further into my career as a horse trader, I worked very hard to do the right things by my horses and the humans that wrote the checks for them. I would become vehemently angry if someone cast aspersions (real or imagined) on my choice of profession or the horses I had for sale.
My partner, Walt and I, would often saddle a horse ahead of time, ride it some hoping to show you it’s best side rather than it’s freshest. You’d show up to seeing it being ridden by my little kids. I thought that was a good way for me to indicate the level of trust I had in the pony.
Later, you would come to my place and see it caught farm fresh but we did what we knew at the time. We sent a lot of semi decent horses that we thought would be too much for our backyard riders to nearby sales and once in a while when we found a real scamp on our hands, he went somewhere far far away.
I’d ride them through, I know most every trick there is for making something look at least sort of broke that isn’t. I’d sing out loud and clear “Not for kids or beginners, you guys. The rest of you, stand up and bid. What you see is what you get.” My thought at the time if you couldn’t see how I’d wait til he decided to turn and then pick up the rein like it was my idea you had no business buying at a horse sale. Or, that I never asked that one to back up, or this one never turned right. Ever.
I moved away from sale barn horses and started getting them from traders I knew. I’d take them on consignment, look them over carefully at their place and make it plain, he doesn’t work out at my house, you are coming to get your rascal, your time, your fuel. A couple of those, they got more careful about what they had me drive to come see.
I sold some awfully nice horses out of my place in Sioux City and I am proud of how I did business there. For the most part. I had us in so far over our heads with finances and work to be done there was no seeing daylight. Sometimes it overwhelmed me so much I couldn’t get out of my house. Every day in there, I’d look out the window at the training horses gathering dust but no miles, the for sale horses eating away their profit by the minute and my own far too large personal herd staying evergreen or not even that far.
The guilt and shame would pile up into bricks too high to see over. I didn’t charge for what I didn’t do. You can’t make money like that and some of you got back horses that didn’t ride like your friends’ that I’d also put time on. It was a bit of a crap shoot for us all.
Part of being a right kind of human being is knowing when to cut your losses. I won't try to pretend I let go of that place gracefully and I’ve already talked about leaving there, having things fall apart in Omaha shortly after our arrival, having to put Jack down and disperse my beloved herd.
Those were hard times and they were dues owed and now paid. I’m careful, these days. I watch the promises that come out of my mouth. Flying by the seat of my pants isn’t near the rush it used to be and has cost too many too much.
Sitting here in our beloved new old house surrounded by dogs I can afford to feed well and take care of their vetinary needs, I know I have made good decisions for quite awhile. I’m surrounded by quality people that I love, respect and admire.
Some things went wrong when I crashed off Royal in September but I’m minding my knitting and taking care of business. I still have my job. I’ve been on leave awhile and it’s scary because I think, what if they decide they can’t wait any longer for me to heal, won’t accommodate my needs as I get back up to speed? I don’t have a solid answer for that. So far my leave is still protected and my HR department is giving me good advice to wait and not set myself up for failure by returning too soon.
Money is tight and that’s an old trigger for me. I promote a vitamin program, Thrive by Le-Vel. Once again I get really angry when I am or think I am being accused of being a snake oil salesman. Trust me. I have the knowledge and the ability. I’ve been around the best. It ceased to be my choice over 20 years ago.
I work for Pacific Life not just because they pay well (wanna see my resume? I’ve had more than one of these) but also because the work I do brings relief to people in hard times (for the most part, not our job to weed out the charlatans and they are everywhere). I promote Thrive because of what it’s done for me and those around me. I am a hard core skeptic. I’ve met the man behind the curtain and I know more about smoke, mirrors and the “show” than most.
Therefore I rather unreasonably expect you to know that I know the difference and when I say a thing is so, you can take it straight to the bank. I will tell you the financial relief provided by my side gig has been very sweet. As is my new car, which Le-vel and my good old red truck pay for but if the deal were not real it would be in my rear view along with a thousand other kinda or completely dirty tricks I know.
Which brings us to this day. Unseasonably warm for December. Can’t ride or do effective groundwork. Can’t shop, online or otherwise. Sick to death of TV. So, what do I do?
I remember God is found in dish soap, or if you are in a cast and can’t do dishes, grab the vacuum. or the dust cloth. or sit down at a keyboard and find out if you can use the awkward thing to type at all. Be real. Be who you are. Your vibe attracts your tribe. I’d rather be disliked for what I really am than adored for the face I could show you.
Sunday, August 30, 2015
I sat at my cluttered desk, a sharp spike of fear knifing through me as I realized the choice between paying rent and feeding horses was again a no brainer. I was going to feed the horses.
I had too many. Of that, there was no doubt. I could tell myself a lot of things about the quality of the ponies I was raising, the uniqueness of the several that had gone from “for sale” to “mine.” Those things were all true. The $700 a month hay bill was true too. That was a hard nut to crack for two self employed people not to mention keeping the lights on and a roof overhead.
That was most of the five years my husband and I lived in Sioux City, IA. We robbed Peter to pay Paul and eventually Peter had enough. I am a very talented juggler. I once had a college advisor call me the cat in the hat. It’s only lately I am realizing that is not so much a compliment.
Looking back it would be easy to judge my decisions and the further back you get the easier the judgment comes.
What is more important than getting into a jam is getting out of one in a dignified graceful way. IRRRRK (that’s screeching tires) hold the phone folks. If getting out graceful is what matters, I failed miserably at that part, too.
We pulled the plug on the place in Sioux City only when the black mold came through the walls from the basement all the way up into the living room in a thick poisonous cloud. The Powers that guide my life were trying to tell me I was in over my head and it wasn’t until it happened in a literal fashion I released my claw hold on my dream.
We drove away from our place in a blizzard. It seems fitting.
That was 2009. The blizzard continued until early 2010 when I woke up one day and knew I wasn’t going to be in business anymore. It happened just like that.
I ran Good Hands Horse Training and Sales since it’s inception in 1993. A birth that happened more between my ears than any actual place. I had a partnership with a fellow who has turned out to be a wonderful and true friend over the years. We had our little business in spots all over Omaha. I rode and trained with what little knowledge I had at the time. Ignorance was blissful.
Walt and I traveled down many a Nebraska, Iowa back road following Omaha World Herald ads. We’d look over the prospect and if I thought I wouldn’t die, I’d ride it and likely we’d bring it home. He invested the money, I the time to ride it and see what we had, make it as right as I could and away Pegasus goes to his new home. We didn’t do too bad, we rarely bought something we couldn’t live with and if we did, that’s what sales were for.
Those were the years I was raising the kids by myself, going to school, and juggling like a mad hatter for all I was worth. That shoestring evolved into my new husband and I traveling out of Omaha searching for a place I could hang a shingle and be in business for real. We tried hard in Sioux City and pretty much all of the people I sold horses to talk to me so some good changes made there at any rate.
Coming back to Omaha nothing quite worked out as we had planned. The weather stayed ugly even though the seasons changed around us as they do. I cried. A lot. Made sacrifices, mistakes, couldn’t seem to find the path to peaceful thinking and right living.
Shutting down the siren song of being Good Hands was only the beginning. I don’t regret following my dreams all those years. I do wish I’d had some better internal tools to build them into reality.
Today, I sit here at my desk in a house again awash in boxes. We are moving out of the home we saved ourselves in. We are still renters and the guy that owns this place likes us enough that when we spoke of moving, he gave us another of his properties, bigger, better, prettier and there’s discussion of an eventual option to buy.
I maybe have one too many ponies but I don’t have to choose whether to feed them or pay the rent. I can do both these days. Keeping the job I’ve had for a little over three years, a personal record for this gypsy girl has required more tears and sacrifices. I’ve used many of the things Peter Campbell taught me in clinics to find corporate success, a thing I couldn’t allow myself to think I wanted.
My husband and I have a couple paid off vehicles in the back. We haven’t had to worry about any getting hungry and wandering off on the end of a tow truck in quite some time. I am thinking of trading my beloved F150 for a bigger badder version.
I am finding success in building my vitamin sales part time business to the extent that company is kicking a car payment at me as I long as I keep doing what I’ve been. There’s a trailer with a weekender package in my fairly recent horizon.
Royal and Huckleberry are at a barn that isn’t just a boarding facility to me. I love Greg and Sally, who own the place and my fellow boarders have become a brand new set of dear old friends. From keeping the world at arm’s length while I whirled, spun, hid and juggled to try to keep things afloat, it’s quite the change to where I sit today.
Good thing I gave up waiting for my fairy godmother, she’s always been one to want me to hitch my own wagon anyway. I started taking chances on believing in other people besides myself. No man is an island but a woman can be, carried me for a lot of years. I’ve taken risks following the advice of others more successful at the things I want to do than I am. Turns out you don’t have to reinvent the wheel at every little turn, the round one works pretty good.
If you are reading this right now in the middle of your own personal jam, your own fear and despair rising up in your throat about to choke the life out of you just know at least one other person has been there. There’s no wall so high you can’t find a way over, around, or build a door, open it up and walk through that bitch. I speak from the deepest of experience.
End of September I ride with Peter in Lincoln at the Lancaster Event Center. I’m bringing friends and meeting my clinic family. Can’t wait to see Peter and Trina. Can’t wait to watch Huckleberry blossom as Peter helps me help him to be the horse he wants to be. Beloved Royal gets to work cows. I am pretty sure he will suit up and rise to the occasion like the great partner and best friend that he is. We’ve come a LONG way.
Turning dreams into plans hasn’t stopped one little bit, just had a facelift.
Sunday, August 9, 2015
I’ve always been one to gain courage and inspiration by watching what someone else can do with a horse. You do it and live, I bet I can too. That has followed me through my horse training career and post. If someone is struggling with a horse, the first thing I want to do it take it from them, get the calm going on and show the person how easy it is to bring the horse to a better place.
My wish to set an example sometimes does not have the desired effect. The person can’t see or feel when the horse changes so they really have only their interpretation of what they think they see me do that helps their horse get from one place to another. It’s rarely any more accurate for them than it is for me when I watch. Sometimes they just get mad that I can do it at all and sometimes it’s yeah, that works for you but not for me. Shakes head.
Peter has taught me, until you feel the change for yourself you have no idea and cannot possibly understand it. Makes it almost impossible to replicate at home by yourself without that understanding.
A couple of years ago my dear friend Corie was ready to get her last young horse started under saddle. I was working my day job during the week and had a heavy part time schedule at the ranch. There was no place there to bring in an outside horse and less time for me to do a proper job starting one.
I recommended my friend Kip Fladland who is the best trainer in this area. He’d tell you he’s no trainer but for our intents and purposes, you know what I mean when I call him that.
Kip did the job I knew he would and Charlie came home nicely started and ready to go. I’m not telling Corie’s story here, only mine of how I almost did her in yesterday but life got in the way and the horse didn’t see much riding. Time goes on and it gets harder and harder to take the young green one when there are steady eddys at hand. Most of us know how that goes.
Yesterday dawns nasty hot and muggy. Corie and I aren’t feeling spending the day in the indoor arena sweating and messing with horses. We arrive at good excuses, console one another and consult our calendars for a better day.
There was not one. No days left in a summer suddenly swiftly receding into the rearview mirror of 2015. So, suck it up, cowgirl up and here we come.
I don’t go into situations like this often with an agenda but I had one yesterday. As long as the horse didn’t tell me something completely different and I didn’t think he would, Corie would be on him, relaxed and happy end of the day.
That was going to take some doing on both ends.
Here’s us knocking off the mud based concrete on our nags!
I’ll be your Huckleberry
I saddled my two. I would use my green horse, Huckleberry as the student demo. He’s not going to get broke standing next to Royal in a pen. I knew ponying was in our list of things to get done and I smiled to myself as I tacked Royal with the dressage saddle and no worries. We’ve come a very long way. . .
First thing, I want to see the green horses moving loose and free under saddle. We pull the halters and I move all four around the arena. Zip thinks the flag is going to eat him, Royal wants to be a race horse. Huckleberry bucks his way around the arena at first and then only in the corners . . . there’s something up with that but not today’s issue (Peter – September). Charlie, the student the day is actually for long trots and floaty lopes easily when asked. No tension, no bounce no spring. Deep bred for pleasure and every ounce of him shows it.
I see what I need to see from Charlie. Scowl at Huckleberry who locks up and humps in the corners. Royal is asking to be done with the nonsense, facing up and Huckleberry swiftly follows suit. He learned fast from last week.
Once the other two figure out if they give me their attention they don’t have to run, we move on. There is a lot to do and not a ton of time to get it done.
My goal is to hand Corie tools. I barely touch her horse. I do something with Huck, watch and coach her with Charlie. She is horse woman enough to feel the changes as they make them together and the coolness sets in. Internally. It’s hotter n hell in that arena!
We sweat and pant. I don’t give Corie time to get worried. I keep her moving . Tool after tool, watching her horse carefully and mine as well. The deal isn’t good if it’s not right for them.
My Huckleberry horse is a kind fellow. The more I work with him the more I understand how little he really knows. It’s a testament to his good nature that we got away with using him last year. He’s not just green, he’s chartreuse. He sinks his head into me when I go to him, nickers to me when I leave him. I might be the only person that has asked him questions and given him time to figure out answers in his life. I love that I have this opportunity to spend the day with my friend and my horses. More a gift to me than any
I am looking for both of us to be able to keep our horses soft, relaxed and out of trouble. I create little troubles to help Corie see what it looks like and how to bend her horse easy to slow him down without having to shut him down and kill his forward.
We build opportunities for success. We give our horses plenty of chances to find the end of the rope and run into their own pressure. They learn fast when that happens and they release to themselves. No drama. No upset.
They run sweat, we run sweat. I know at one point I heard my heartbeat pounding in my eyeballs and seriously wondered at the wisdom of self. Corie was a trooper. I am pretty sure she would have cheerfully shot me a couple of times.
I have learned a little about how to stay on the right side of trouble with people too. Like Ray Hunt said, you don’t go looking for trouble but you don’t avoid it either and once you find it, take care to stay on the right side.
I keep the progression of how things need to go in mind and click off tally after tally. Before we ride I want to pony. We grab our steadies off the wall and ride them around.
Royal is my heart coming home horse. I am never going to get over the gift he gives when he swoops in to pick me up off the block. I drop reins, fuss with my irons, and when we are ready, off we go. I do a little dressage-y stuff to warm up, the spiraling in and out, leg yielding and then forward. Outside rein, inside leg. He’s fat and out of shape not so bendy but unbelievably solid under me.
We go up to Huck, tied loosely on the rail. I leg yield Royal into position, easing Huckleberry out of the way so I can lean over, get the tail of the rope and shake the knot loose. I back Royal away giving us plenty of room to position my horse to my pony horse and we move off. Huck is coming forward off pressure in a completely different way than a few hours earlier. I sidle over close, rub his head and neck, tell both my horses how much I appreciate them.
I turn them nose to tail and use Royal to help me get Huckleberry’s hip. From braced and hard this morning, he follows the feel lightly. I back us off facing each other. Ungracefully I flip the lead rope from one side to the other. Royal wishes he had someone like Peter who might could do this without catching his ears but he tolerates me.
Corie has a little trouble getting Zip to get in position to pick up Charlie off the wall. I send her out to work on getting Zips’ hip and attention. Royal and I go get Charlie. Hand him over, get my Paint and we are ready.
I wish we had pictures of a lot of this. It was such good work. The horses told us by their toplines, soft eyes and willing attitudes that even though it was not always clear what we wanted them to do that they were in it with us to figure it out.
Neither Huckleberry or Charlie have much idea what to do with their feet. That gets them off balance and unconfident which is where trouble can live. As they each grew willing to trust and let us give them direction, the entire look of them changed. They are beautiful horses but no horse is beautiful when it is awkward and all of them are as they become balanced.
We even took a short trip outside the barn and down the way. It was a LOT cooler outside and we all wondered why I hadn’t thought of that any sooner. Wasn’t time.
We’ve been getting them and ourselves ready to ride the entire day. I show Corie how to work the tail, ask for forward motion with it, and how to give it a “wild one” to see if there’s brace locked up somewhere inside.
We ride them from the ground, holding the lead in our outside hand like a rein, inside hand on the stirrup to use like our leg.
I have exhausted the groundwork we needed to accomplish. The horses are tired, we are tired. The moment to ride is going to come and go without us if I don’t keep after it.
Corie keeps herself safe as I have had her do all day. She makes sure her face is not lined up with the saddle horn as she moves the stirrups near and offside. She brings up a leg, rubs his butt with her foot. I think most of us have accidentally booted our horses when we are mounting and not paying attention. We should not do that but I darned sure want mine okay with it if I do!
She decides to do more work of f the block. Stands in the stirrups, up. Leans over, down. Up, leans over (this is after three grueling hours of groundwork kids). Up, stay. I move Charlie’s hip. He’s working to find his balance but his mind is cool.
On, off. On, stay for a moment, off. On.
And, stay on. They are ready. They ride. Corie logged over 6 miles with her gps. Most of that was footwork but what she logged on Charlie I hope is the beginning of the first thousand miles she put on Zip to get him where he is today.
It was grand.
Sunday, August 2, 2015
I’ve been on a lot of horses in my lifetime. A few years ago Colleen and I tried to total up the horses we’ve been on. Came to well over a thousand for us each. Drop in the bucket for the Peter Campbell’s of the world but quite a few for the rest of us.
I have also studied horse behavior, their psychology and what changes in how they move depending on how educated they are or what their temperament is. The result is I can tell a really good horse in about three minutes. I can tell you one I want no part of in the same amount of time. Or less.
It’s the in-betweens that cause my brow to wrinkle. Red flag here . . . but something really willing . . . here. Been jacked with by human beings but not so sour or explosive that I don’t want to take the risk of trying to help them past it .
Pulling into the ranch about this time last year the tall flashy Paint on the rail catches my eye immediately. He's big, rangy and put together decent. I am no Paint fan or so I keep telling myself but I like this one.
He’s wearing the obligatory Tom Thumb bit bridle and a tie down. I scowl. Everybody out there knows how much I hate that set up. I’ve shown over and over again success in a snaffle bit and it looks like I’m going to have to, at least one more time.
Not today. They are adamant. this is what we use him in, see if he’s going to work. The Paint is a prospect for my car parking crew and we have to make sure he’s steady enough that if they can’t ride him, I can.
I do a couple little things on the ground. He’s braced like no tomorrow. No surprise there, right? Locks up, no idea how to move his feet. Looks like one that will get light in front.
He’s solid enough and doesn’t strike me as broncy so I step aboard. I blogged about this horse last year. How dicey those first 25 minutes felt and how I kept riding him trying to discern where he lay in the balance. More good? Dangerous? Definitely a mix of both.
Good enough. I rode him, he got softer, happier every time and I gave him to a crew member to ride.
End of the season we all tried to buy him but the money was not right for me. I am still horse trader enough I know where the value lies in a horse and I’m not making retail deals except the one I made on Royal and never looked back.
Flash forward to a few weeks ago, I call Charlie looking for a project. The downside of having one horse is if that one is laid up you are essentially horseless even in a world of friends with lovely animals who invite you to ride. He says, yeah, there’s that Paint.
The money is right this time. My trader buddy knows what to do when it’s really time to sell and so do I. Trailer is hitched fast before he can change his mind and Huey now Huckleberry comes home.
I had asked Epona, the Goddess that cares for horses to let me help this guy if at all possible. I thought that chance came and went last year and I only hoped I’d given him enough to secure a future not on someone’s plate.
It doesn’t matter to me what I call God and it matters even less to me what you do. I believe we have Something that looks out for all It’s creations and gives thick headed humans many ways to find It. That’s what I have to say about that.
Smart, defensive, essentially kind and incredibly willing. That is my new young horse. He’s seven so not a baby but young in his education. Huck seems the type of horse no one really taught anything to, just got on and rode. Even with never having had a chance to develop confidence, balance or much faith in human beings he’s still a pleaser who offers his heart up.
I put eleven miles on him, slow easy ride down the road with my friend Corie and her steady Zip. I am thinking of this horse as a project I will develop, put some nice ride on and find him a home with someone that can prove they like him more than I do.
As in the old days when I sold horses for a living I need to know what I have. Education matters not, that’s what I am for. Soundness? Temperament when he’s tired? What’s his go to move when he’s bothered enough? I don’t want to bother him but things are going to eventually and what happens then?
I was ready to pay for him from the get go and Charlie said, Terri, you haven’t seen this horse in months. Take him, try him, make sure you like him. If you do, come get him paid for. If you don’t, then bring him home and I will give you back your deposit. Simple as that.
I liked him. He doesn’t know how to move out, doesn’t know what to do with his feet and has a worry down deep inside. Because of Peter, I have some good ideas what to do to help him until we ride in Peter’s Foundation Class in September and get the real stuff.
Sound all the way. Barefoot on gravel roads. I didn’t MAKE him ride on the rocks but I didn’t spare him either. No problem. Not spooky in the least, even tempered and a Zen horse in the making.
Huckleberry tells me over and over, sinking his head into my chest, nickering at me when he sees me, following me with pretty blue eyes (finally a horse that matches my dog!) how pleased he is with his new life. I’m thinking we have a ton of fun in our future.
Oh yeah, I flagged him and Royal yesterday in the indoor to get Huckles relaxed and loping under saddle. Ummm, that sucker is FAST. Hmm
Saturday, July 4, 2015
I have swung on a lot of pendulums. Pretty sure I am born an all or nothing kind of girl. That’s got me a lot of places I wanted to go, quite a few I didn’t and stopped me cold in my tracks from realizing my biggest dreams.
Well, some of them. A person gets older, wiser, dreams change.
I am something I never thought I would be. Content. I have a wonderful marriage, a job I don’t hate going to that pays me enough to overlook the days I’d just as soon not. I have a dream horse in my pen. Wonderful friends of the real and true variety. Warts and all. Grown kids that I love and am deeply proud of even though their life choices are sometimes different than I would have them be. What parent doesn’t say that at times?
So yeah, a great life. Finding the balance to make it all work is ever tricky. I am one to overestimate resources of time, money, energy. Then when I run out there’s that old urge to bury my head in the sand until the trouble passes. Unfortunately, when it passes like that almost assuredly a bigger deeper trouble follows in it’s wake.
Horses, you might ask? Don’t worry, I always talk about horses in the context of working out the life stuff. It’s not separate, it cannot be. Who I am in life, I am with my horse.
As Royal slowly healed from the sarcoid treatment I grew ever impatient to have a project. I was searching for a second horse to develop, bring along and not the least still looking for redemption for the ones I have let down along the way.
A friend of mine contacted me about riding a lovely little Halflinger mare she’d picked up. It was broke to drive, had a little riding. Turns out, not much riding and none that I would call of any good kind. A testament to the Halflinger breed which are bright intelligent draft ponies Shasta’s good nature allowed her to let me help her overcome her worries.
Trying to get anything like consistent riding on her was almost impossible for me. One of those true type friends had to remind of the rough stretch of health issues I dealt with last winter and more this Spring. “You thought you wouldn’t be tired?”
I hadn’t really thought about that or the two and a half months I mostly sat around and waited for Royal to heal. I was physically, mentally and emotionally out of condition.
I showed up , suited up and did my best. Thank you so much Peter Campbell for showing me different and better ways to help a horse relax it’s mind. It took some doing but when Shasta let down and decided to trust me, the rest was gravy.
She went from barely tolerating being saddled, all flinch, gasp and skitter to calmly wearing her gear, packing me crunching my plastic water bottle at will and just generally happy to get along. Her first trail ride looked like she’d done it 100 times.
I told her owners the truth about me owing them more riding whenever they need it on her. I watched one ride her and she got along as nice with him as she does with me. Not exactly the job I meant to do but what I did was good and I definitely learned more about respecting limitations!
It’s nice to know I can still help a horse. Along those lines, another deal came up.
If you follow my blog you will remember a nice pair of Paint geldings we used at the ranch last year parking cars for the yearly hay rack rides. I started out on a tall young horse named Huey full of doubt, insecurities and instabilities. He’d come along nice enough I lost my ride to one of my crew and took on a different horse.
I felt for that troubled horse. He had a soft heart and wanted to buy every deal I had to offer him. I told him then I would help him if I could. There were no deals to be made at the end of the season. I turned him loose one last time, petted his neck and wished him well.
Today, he’s standing in my pen beside Royal. The deal I was looking for last year turned up this year. I had turned him over to God as I understand or don’t, to watch over and care for and that Power saw fit to deliver that nice horse back to me.
He doesn’t know much at all but is kind and wants to be gentle. Took him on our first trail ride yesterday with my dear friend Corie and her trusty Zip horse. We put over eleven miles on our ponies. That was once barely enough to saddle for but in these days, it was plenty! They were slow miles. We were considerate of my young unconditioned horse and he did super, He’s a Zen horse in the making.
My plan is to bring him along and find him a home. I will enjoy riding him but only one horse or maybe two own my heart enough to get a forever spot.
Speaking of the forever horse, how is Royal anyway? He’s aces. We got the go ahead to ride my saddle club’s annual show the day before. I had ridden him lightly the previous weekend but I was concerned about aggravating the newly healed sarcoid spot. Until I heard from the vet, no more riding.
With that permission, I had one evening to prepare for the show. Of course, I had zero expectations. I put his western bridle on him with the flashy silver curb solid mouthpiece bit and we rode about an hour refreshing him on what that meant.
Day of the show, I haul the training horse too and by the time I get there, it’s show time. No warm up. We barely make it in the ring for Showmanship. I forget to square him up for the judge, and no surprise, we don’t place. He was light and soft on the halter rope and I could not have been more pleased with him.
English Pleasure? He’s high as a kite. Jumps gleefully sideways at a barrel laying beside the arena, snorts and side eye’s a kid running to his mom. Ask for the canter and he bucks joyfully. Only gets two little hops in (so glad he’s not a natural bronc) and I have him yanked up and put right. I stare steadfastly dead ahead willing the judge to not see us. He did.
English Equitation we are in game mode. He gives me everything I ask for. We were in second place the judge told me until during the rail work. I thought we had picked up the wrong lead, broke him down and in a stride, had him in the correct lead. Third in a very competitive class. Way to go, Royal!
Trail class was again a disaster. I just don’ take the time to settle him like I should and I get what I get. He was silly in places, brave and bold in others.
We garnered a fifth place in Western Horsemanship in the wonky big bit. Royal gave me halt to canter transitions, correct leads on the straightaway, not once but twice. Again, I could not be more proud of my horse.
Coming off a two and a half month lay off, he catches his stride far more easily than I did. Our dressage instructor was very pleased with him in our lesson. “The mark of a horse coming into his own, “ she said, “when they can lay off like that and come back and ride like he just did.” Coming into his own. Happy making.
Striking the balance is ever going to be my challenge. I want to bring Huey along, continue to develop Royal, take on more duties at the barn as I expand my role there. To not over spend my resources? I’m still working on those skills. It sure is fun right now.
There’s one more thing. I took a chance and tried some samples of a product several friends have tried with good results. It’s called Thrive, a vitamin and supplement program. I have tried a lot of this type of thing and have never felt they either worked at all or didn’t enough to justify the cost. This has for me, in a major way. It puts a whole another level into the resource pot. If you are curious about it, have issues with fatigue, digestion, weight issues, I am happy to share my experience with you. Hit me up on Facebook if you know me there or email me at email@example.com. It’s been a total game changer for me and a bunch of people I know.
Sunday, June 14, 2015
Quite a few of you know after the show in April Royal has been on hiatus while I treat that pesky sarcoid. This time with Xterra, a highly recommended topical that several friends have used to good effect.
Let me tell you it’s been a long two months. I’ve had some health issues to accompany his and I don’t think I need to tell anyone it’s rained a little.
We’d had a pretty full calendar of Spring events to attend which I willingly put on hold to get my horse up to his full health. Many of those events I have seen canceled due to inclement weather and wet riding conditions. By the time it dries out, we might be ready after all!
In the meantime I have spent the longest time not being on a horse that didn’t concern itself with any broken bones or serious healing since I started riding again in the early 90’s. It’s been odd.
I have thought hard about picking up a second horse, a project to keep me interested and engaged while Royal heals. There’s been a few that blipped my radar but I moved an inth too slowly on each and there’s probably reasons they all went to different futures than one with me.
I thought about taking on a training horse like I had planned to over the winter. I have to take into account my very demanding day job, my desire to spend a balanced amount of time with my husband, grandchild and other family. Where does the time come from? There are my own health issues that sometimes greatly interfere with what I think I can do. If there’s going to be a project and a commitment to an owner it has to be one I feel confident I can fulfill. Adding more stress to the mix is not what the doctor has ordered.
Here we are two months into the deal. The treatment is five days on, five days off and repeat. Then heal. What I had no idea was how very long the healing would take. I thought my horse would be out maybe six weeks? Didn’t seem worth getting too spun about finding something else to ride in the meantime. It’s now to a stage I feel comfortable saddling for very light riding but I am checking with my vet to ensure even this is appropriate. I don’t know much about sarcoids and if riding him now before it is fully and completely healed irritates the thing into coming back I’d be awfully upset with my lack of patience.
Enter Shasta. Lovely Halflinger mare that has been broke to drive and has a bit riding in her background. A friend of mine acquired her and asked if I’d be interested in doing some riding to get the mare prepped for trail riding. I gave it serious thought and decided it was exactly what I want to do.
I got her out the other night to see what we have. Nicely built, easy on the eye with a kind, sweet if somewhat worried face.
Watching her move around as I got her ready to saddle I thought about how many horses get branded with the label of “having a big motor.” Quite often and in this mare’s case for sure, the big motor comes from anxiety and expresses itself in hurried feet.
Getting the feet to slow, the body to relax and the mind to let down, that’s the first goal of training for me. Nothing good can happen until that is accomplished. Can I just climb on a horse, especially one as essentially gentle and willing as this one and just get it done from the saddle? I imagine I can but I don’t know why I would.
Taking the time to get it right. That’s been drilled into my head and the equine failures in my past are mute testimony to what can happen when you don’t. I take very deeply my position as advocate for the horse.
What about the owner, you might ask? That’s your client that’s writing the check, what about them? By being the best advocate I can for their horse I can honestly assess where the horse is, what they need and what it’s going to take for us to arrive at goals they want the horse to reach by the end of the designated training time.
If I don’t think the goals are reasonable or the tack they want to use is appropriate I am going to say so. They can do what they like with the information, it’s their horse. Hopefully I will be able to show over the course of time in a clear way what is going to work best for the horse, and therefore, also for the owner as well.
I got the mare ready to saddle and then I saddled her. If the getting ready is done right, the next step should be easy. If it’s not I need to check out what hole I left, what brace I missed that will undoubtedly show up again later.
I took notice of a couple of tight spots, helped Shasta work through them until her feet slowed, her breathing steadied. The worry wrinkles disappeared from around her eyes and her topline got long and level.
Yesterday we started again. I began with groundwork, her unsaddled. I wanted to get her ready to saddle again so it becomes the non issue for her that it needs to be. Working circles off the halter rope, she pulls on me and is heavy in my hands.
She doesn’t know what she is supposed to do. She gets worried and wants to trot around me in a fast tight circle. I said how about you bend and slow down?
She says, I don’t know what that means. I said, how about this:
I set it up, moving toward her hindquarters that it became easier for her to bend than it was to keep going in the fast circle. As she bent, her feet slowed, she wasn’t pulling for the briefest moment on the lead rope. I released her to find her way to travel again. No need to force a whole stop, I want her to learn how to go. Stopping is easy once the forward is right.
We spent some time with that. Me setting up ways for her to find release, softness so she learns to seek that, to work with me. I used my flag, let her figure out it wasn’t going to hurt her in any way and still asked for response with respect. A horse can sort out when you are petting them with a flag, hand, whatever and then when you change your energy it means time to go. Not spook away in fear although that might happen at first while they are learning but just to move in a good working way that can get something done.
I let her see that flag on both sides, and then I moved it from one side to other letting her see it out of each eye from ahead, in front and behind her. I shake my head these days when people talk about de-spooking. What they usually mean is trying to set up a bunch of scenarios and getting their horse “over it.” They don’t understand the nature of a horse will never “get over” being a prey animal. These people will be forever surprised when their horse spooks at a shadow in familiar place or suddenly doesn’t like an object they’ve been past a million times before. It’s just not about that.
I am helping this mare gain confidence in dealing with life as she finds it. That’s going to mean things showing up unexpectedly. People will not always be graceful on or around her so it does her no benefit to tiptoe around her. She needs to be exposed to things without blowing her mind.
Saddling was exactly the non issue I wanted it to be. A couple flinches when I placed the saddle pad warranted it being set a couple of times until it didn’t trouble her at all. I never tie a green horse while saddling and she didn’t take a step or pull the slack out of the rope hung lightly over my arm.
I snug up the back cinch so she knows it’s there, pull her halter and set her to moving around the arena. I want walk, trot and canter so there are no surprises for her in how the tack feels should those things happen by accident.
I’ve had more than one client tell me “I don’t ever plan to lope my horse so you don’t need to teach them that.” These days I kindly explain that their horse will lope under saddle on purpose so there are not wrecks come the day they find themselves loping by accident. There is not much more dangerous in my opinion than a tight bodied horse that is not comfortable moving out. Like I said, the stopping is easy once you get the go part right.
She bucked halfheartedly at the unfamiliar feel of the back cinch and then loped and trotted up and down the arena. She checked out the pretty mare in the mirrors and decided they could be friends.
It took me a bit to convince her we were friends too when I wanted to catch her but letting her figure it out for herself is always a good lesson.
My friends, Jess and Kenzie, stopped by to watch. I showed them some of the tight spots that I wanted to work out before I stepped on the mare. This involved me pitching the looped end of my lead up over her saddle. If they can’t tolerate the noise, feel and sight of that I don’t like to get on just yet. I want riding to be a non issue too, so it’s important to take the time it takes to get her ready to ride. Once that’s done, riding is easy.
End of that time, she and I are both puffing and running sweat. I pet her a lot, rattle the saddle around, love how her eye is quiet and accepting. We are good to go for today’s work.
Ride tomorrow? I hope so. At least stand in the stirrups, and we’ll see where it goes from there.