Thursday, October 7, 2010

A poke in the eye with a sharp stick....

I have had as much fun as I can stand here in Lexington! With four days to go on this show Ive gotten a little punchy. Two days ago I managed to bop myself in the cornea with a key fob. Sending me looking for an optometrist when I couldn't keep it open for more than seconds at a time with out severe discomfort. After driving around the city using only one eye and a GPS that could not locate the optometrist. I actually landed at walmart where to my amazement there was an eye doctors office. He fixed me right up with a steroid laced eye ointment and whole eye contact. Which , while giving me immediate relief was like looking through a glass covered with Vaseline. So still one eyed, I managed to arrive back at the Lexington center. Having missed my busiest time I decided to close up early and drown my sorrows in some wonderful Thai food just outside of town. The next morning my eye had absorbed the ointment and I could see almost normally, so I left early to finally see the goings on at the horse park. For one dollar I caught the bus in front of the expo and was deposited right outside the main gate at the horse park. Twenty five dollars bought me a grounds pass and I was inside soaking up the ambiance. Shopping was fun,I must admit and the different exhibits where very well done. Especially the taste of Kentucky tent where beer samplings and bourbon sipping where readily available. The amount of walking required to visit all the clinicians and parade of breeds was enough to work up a powerful thirst( over 1/2 mile one way). With the only available options being NINE dollar lemonades and FIVE dollar waters. A three dollar beer sampler that supports the local economy was alright by me. Because of the distance and wonky maps I missed the two presentations I had hoped to catch. But I did get to say "Hi" to John Lyons and have a nice chat with him. On the subject of "its a small world", I ran into an old client from San Diego who had a booth supporting the pure spanish horse! It offered some really tasty olive oil and a continuous loop of the musical freestyle dressage. Something I had heard alot about but missed on TV do to the hours I keep here. It was a thrill to watch the spanish horse Fuego! I hope competitive dressage has turned a corner at these games and will offer people options in types of horses out side of the warmblood, a fabulous group of horse breeds no doubt, but not ones easily/beautifully ridden by everyone. Despite the grind of a 14 day , three full weekend show, I was glad to be a small part of this event. I would however like everyone to smack me if I ever try to do something this big by myself ever again........I will be home early next week and most likely curled around two spaniels and one husband until the following Sunday, with forays out to the horses and chickens!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The first few days of WEG have past in a blur. Amerika seems to be a hit with the crowds which while sparse by most expo standards are relatively steady by my booth. My head is fairly spinning with the different styles that dressage is taught and practiced. If there is one universal thing that Amerika offers her riders it’s a clear view of what the live horses of these fine folks are experiencing. Of course this information is accepted differently by each individual but at least they have it to ponder if they wish. Not all my riders here are dressage riders of course. I have had my fair share of reiners, trail riders, saddle seat, jumpers and even one gaited horse gent who quipped that Amerikas gaits would never do for extended trail riding as he would spill his beer all over the front of his shirt! Never thought of that.... ;0)
There have been many memorable moments I would like to share but I will limit my self to just a few for now. A young boy who has several ponies at home got to experience a canter on Amerika. A gait that had him really frightened at home. He said to his dad after grinning his way through both canter speeds “ I’m ready to go ride Upsey Daisy now.” A lovely woman was moved to tears by her effortless downward transitions. Accomplished with eyes closed and an expression of pure bliss on her face. A girls school from Chattanooga TN that utilizes adopted mustangs to help reach their at risk youth had their whole group of gals ride. A first time experience for all of them on what I would think is a field trip of a life time.

I hope I actually get to see more of WEG than my little corner of it. By the snippets I overhear it sounds as if its been well worth it for those attending. Across the board the smiles on everyone’s faces tell the story.

Friday, September 10, 2010

"Agendaless" reminder

This morning I planned on running Lacey through her paces in the big field. We have been working on standing still for mounting and tooling around the small paddock working on follow your nose( instead of turn the feet and the nose is the opposite direction) and how fast can you walk/how slow can you walk on a loose rein. All three things where so fab yesterday I was ready to move onward and upward with her. Our pre ride check hit a tiny glitch on the mounting but after three trys she stood admirably. So we sidled up to the gate to the big field and ....that's where we stayed. Working on standing still by the gate and relax. Laceys over achiever tendency is to just get the job done, no matter what the job is or what her understanding of it is , JUST GET IT DONE and at a smart clip! That's her motto! I'm sure its tattooed on her bicep under all that golden fur! Probably in some black script with a pretty butterfly accenting the last letter. So the gate was a serious challenge for her as she had to place her head in a tight spot between a round pen panel and the fence. Clearly she couldn't go forward so the answer in her mind was to back up or turn sharply left away from the gate. We covered the standing still and relaxed away from the gate and then closer to the gate and even along the fence in a corner away from the gate to get the idea that a tight spot is nothing to be anxious about and that movement on my part did not mean "go" unless it was a direct cue. Lacey figures "go" is a good bet when solving problems. It was a quick 10 minute procedure and we where out and seeing the sights in the big field. She was really walking out, which is great, but as we all know speed ads to distraction and her "follow her nose" abruptly went in the toilet, so we spent the next 30 minutes following our nose right to left and back at various speeds of walk. Just like in the small paddock. She caught on very fast but her consistency was about 50 percent. And provided us with our last bit of challenge for the ride where I thought I would be cantering and such. Maintaining the same speed and "bend" (ie following the nose) no matter where we where in relation to the gate that provided all the fodder for the first half of our ride. It was really alot of fun and I had to smile at myself for planning a ride in my imagination before seeing where the horse was today. I have no doubt we will ride my imaginary ride soon. But not before I check out where we are and where we need to be to both enjoy ourselves.

P.S. As a side note, I wanted to remind everyone to check and make sure your horses elbows are not being interfered with by your girths. Even in a horse that does not have a big walk this is a very common problem. And could contribute to the lack of ground covering paces. Check this by having someone lead the horse while you place your fingers on the front edge of your girth in front of the elbow... walk straight and in circles both directions, if your fingers are pinched or knocked, or rubbed really consider changing the rigging on your saddle, the girth or even the whole saddle. A Lacey theory of mine is that her tendency to be hollow and high headed is an effort to not knock her elbows on the girth.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The NEW horse

Lots and lots and lots of questions about Lacey from everyone! So here's the story... about 7 or 8 years ago I "acquired" Lacey in Ca at the boarding facility where I kept my three newly, transplanted, east coast horses. Her owner was an older gentleman who bought her as his retirement horse. What he neglected to consider is that he was a beginner and she was barely broke. So, it went badly. He retired and left her on my door stoop....literally. Its expensive to keep horses in SoCal so when I brought my old Zee home to MD to retire I carted Lacey back east too. She went to live with my friend from horse college, AnnieBannanie. (yes, I called her that!) She became a great gaming pony for Anne's son, a trail mount for her hubby,Mikey, and later a 4H mount for her daughter Kaitlyn. Lacey really blossomed in NJ. Kaitlyn is turning into an eventer extraordinaire, so something a little fancier was needed for this budding equestrian and Anne emailed to see if I knew of anyone who would like to give Lacey a home. Do I know anyone? Why yes, as a matter of fact I do...grin...ME! Having just moved to the middle of NC trail country and not having a sound(Boo) or suitable(Cuervo...yet) trail mount, I had this visceral vision of riding off into the sunset on a beautiful buckskin. So, it was off to Va to meet a good old college buddy and retrieve Lacey. We had a great time in Lexington Va at a uber cool B and B and had a wonderful meal in historic downtown. Lacey stayed over night at a fabulous farm just outside of town. Lacey has become a trooper, she caused very little fuss getting off the trailer in a new place. Walked happily to her stall in the indoor arena after a good turn out and settled in to eat her hay. It was good to see her again, she hadn't changed a bit! Well, OK, she was a bit more mature, but basically she was the same gal I left in NJ years ago. Its great to have her "home" again. I'm grateful that of all the horses I've re homed over the years, this one gets to touch my life a second time. Stay tuned! I anticipate many adverntures to follow.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

From the riders point of view......

It was a veritable horse smorgasbord for me this past weekend. I spent Friday attending lessons at a local dressage barn with a new friend who is studying teaching techniques for her budding horsey biz and Saturday at the beautiful Biltmore Estate soaking up as much as I could from Susan Harris, a centered riding instructor. Let me first say, that Susan Harris is a very dynamic teacher. Her delivery is calm, positive and soothing through out. As my new friend so succinctly put it," she has a smile in her voice the whole time."

Centered Riding by Sally Swift, was our bible at horse college as far as equitation went. Her fabulous visualizations seemed to speak to every discipline offered in the program;jumpers, hunters, eventing and dressage. Its a book I pick up often and go over for inspiration. Watching it in action with riders ranging from beginners on school horses, to hunter seat riders who show, to endurance riders on their lively arabs, was a real treat. There is alot I'm still processing but stealing a trick I learned from Susan Harris that day, I will try to stay focused on the most significant thing I learned. ( I know, but if I try to write about all umpteen pages of notes, it will be the longest blog post in history and most likely the worst written....soooooo let me try to spare all of us that fate and f o c u s...) The one thing i was most excited about was something another good friend and I discussed only recently, COLLECTION! Or as she called it " the game of contact" and in Lyons speak, gives.

While the execution and verbage differ in all three conversations, I think its great how they all shed light, at least for me, on the same, very intricate, subject. From my Lyons perspective, Gives is a very horse-centric way of teaching collection. "DUH, Beth of course it is!", you say. "Isn't it supposed to be all about the horse and his body and his mind and his decision to turn over control of those parts of his body to you, his partner...." Yes, it is smarty pants, however sometimes, OK, many times when dealing with a system like conditioned response, which as you all know,means many ,many, repetitions I think we humans get a little lost on how to make the question more specific, fun, interesting to the horse and really to ourselves as well. We are so busy counting, we forget about thinking deeply, about the subject we are trying to teach. So are you ready? Here are the four questions that Susan Harris asked her riders to ask their horses while working on contact/collection. Susan called it "finding" the contact. Can you find my, hands? yes? release! can you find my elbows? yes? release! can you find my shoulders? yes? release! can you find my back?yes? release! They used leg to encourage the horse to find these parts. Now , no one I watched had a horse that found the back of the rider but was what neat was how this very act of asking for these different levels of give from a horse made the rider more aware of how hard their horse was actively trying to find anything and where they both where on the journey to find it. It was neat for me to watch a student answer Susan's question of what part of your body has your horse found? and see where they were. A horse that found a riders hands was very different looking from a horse that found the riders shoulders. Also gratifying was seeing the riders face light up when they progressed. They where learning feel! They where also learning to converse with their horse. A first for more than one rider attending. It was very exciting.

The second most significant thing that I appreciated was the definition of Tempo...Which was succinctly put as : how fast or slow the rhythm is...It was an "a-ha" moment for me as it was so simple. The last time I tried to read about Tempo as it related to horses it was several paragraphs long and required a thesaurus. In any case I believe that one word or sentence that sheds light on any thing important in your life with horses or otherwise is worth the price of admission. In this case I feel like I got myself to the front of the sale line and things where buy one half price and get three free!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Forest for the trees....

Boo has been lame, not a wee bit off, not kinda sore, LAME! So much so I had to have the vet out before I left Wilmington. She had throbbing pulses in her pasterns and filling in her lower legs. It was not pretty. She reacted badly to the new trim. Had I been riding, I would have noticed her reluctance to move. That it was not just her tendency during hot weather. Had I been more in tune and less "just trying to get back inside out of the heat/bugs/yuck." I would have noticed sooner that she was not 100%. It was a big old wake up call for me for a horse that is usually not in need of any extras but some cool spray on the hottest days. She had to be booted, and buted and banamined for not a few days. Then we started on herbs and daily soaking in cold water. That was 7 weeks ago. Since then she is off or short or not quite right on days it rains, or days its really hot. We have moved and she has been introduced to real pasture full of mature fescue. I am amazed she has not completely fallen apart.

I have been dithering about the trim, one part grumpy, two parts guilt,and three parts fear. Picking up my tools makes my arm pits sweat. Not just little nerves, hand shaking, hyperventilating nerves! Cuervo is at 9 weeks ( that's three weeks past due) and Boo is at 7 weeks ( that's 2 weeks past due) I have read and reread, perused on line forums and talked to other trimmer friends all who have been great. I have reasoned with my self and made dates on the calender to do something. I have even weenied out and tried to have a trimmer in the area come out and do this next trim on my horses. Well, he won't/can't/ isn't going to. So I have to do it. Its on my calender for today...later...when the shade is covering most of the paddock....after lunch.....when the breeze picks up. sigh. Here is the crazy part, because we have had some big rains up here, I decided to treat her feet for fungus twice a day as a preventative. You know, soft feet due to moisture+ organisms in the ground= foot fungus. Anyhow to my surprise, she improved 100% after one day of treatment. She was striding about the turn out, and trotting at Cuervo( with a very ugly expression I might ad) to pry him off one of the hay bags. HMMMMMMMM..... Now I'm wondering, was it all the trim? Or was it the foot fungus my old trimmer had been ragging me about that took hold from the minute we stepped hoof onto Toad Bubble Flats? I treated it daily there to no avail it seemed until the hoof wall was reshaped via the "big" trim (as its now refereed to) Could all this pain and suffering been avoided if i had only kept up with the fungus treatment, that I stopped as I was soaking and booting and babying said horse feet?

Can't tell ya, all I know is that this afternoon I will trim her again and keep up with the fungus treatment indefinitely. Sometimes the obvious is oblivious!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

'nuff said......

July 16, 2004

I cleaned my saddle on a hot afternoon in Wyoming recently.
It's a Western saddle, made for me nearly a decade ago by a
saddle maker in Billings, Mont. At the time, I was spending
part of every summer in the West, trying to learn as much
as I could about horses and horsemanship. The days spent on
horseback were always a strange tangle of joy and nervous
anticipation. The horses were mostly strangers to me, and I
was supposed to be imparting something to them, not merely
taking what they had to offer. I rode, I learned a lot
about horses, and the saddle darkened with use.

In Wyoming I took off the cinches and stirrups. I removed
the breast collar and laid it in the sun. I brushed away
the dust and oiled the latigos, then worked over the fine
tooling on the skirts and fenders with a soft rag. I
removed a plywood splinter wedged between the oak frame of
the stirrup and its leather lining - the result of a
collision in a Colorado round pen. I even spent a couple of
hours polishing the nickel-silver bindings on the stirrups,
trying to restore the mirrored shine they had when they
were new. They began to gleam, but they'd been nicked and
dinged too often to look new again.

I'd spent part of that week in the saddle again, for the
first time in several years. I was riding with old friends,
including a trainer named Buck Brannaman, and once again I
was riding an unfamiliar horse, feeling in the way he moved
how all the riders before me had responded to him. The
horse's name was Eddie. He'd spent part of his life trying
to decide just what his numerous riders were trying to
teach him. But since he rarely had the same rider twice,
Eddie decided to stick with what he already knew. That's
why he felt a little stubborn, a little sluggish, but not
unwilling. I spent three days getting him soft in the mouth
again, easy to bend, light in my hands. In return, he
reminded me how much I had once learned from horses. Eddie
made me want to clean my saddle and come home and ride my
own good horse, a quarter horse named Remedy, who has had
plenty of time off lately.

You'd think that a man with his own horse and saddle would
ride every day. But you'd be wrong. I took a job - this one
- that has made it hard to haul the horses to the West for
the summer. And somehow the East has seemed too full of
excuses and inhibitions. Too much work to do. Not enough
skywide spaces or antelope. Even the pleasure of watching
the horses grazing became an excuse not to interrupt them.
And in the end, I lost track of the time. My saddle sat in
the horse trailer. The stirrups tarnished in the damp
Eastern climate. Mold began to turn up on the cinches. And
Remedy, who was 19 when I bought him, slowly turned 26.

So I discovered when I got home from Wyoming last week. I
put my newly clean saddle in the horse trailer and brought
the horses to the barnyard. Remedy usually leads the way,
head high, a straight-up walk toward the feed and the hay.
But this time he came last - stiff and visibly thinner than
he'd been two weeks earlier. At his age, a horse that loses
mobility begins to lose flesh as well, and he'd begun to
lose both while I was gone. The vet thinks it's a matter of
sore feet - a chronic condition with some aging horses - so
we'll do everything we can to ease his pain and build his
muscles again. That will mean lots of riding on my part.

Horses live a long time, long enough for owners to believe
they'll always be there. I don't know whether horses are
conscious of time. But I know that in his pain, Remedy
seems, as my wife put it, to be deep within himself. That's
not his way. In full health he is pure awareness, boldly
alert. He can make you feel like an adjunct of his
presence, as if he were somehow vouching for you with the
pasture gods. Now it's my turn to vouch for him, to get him
healthy and to learn, before it's too late, all the things
he knows once more.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Did it!

Boo: one done, one not

Boo before

Boo after

We have been hearing about it for what... three years now? "I'm gonna do my own horses feet." "These freaking farriers are all so lame..blah blah blah!" Well, I did do it...FINALLY! I paid for a very nice, very smart ,very funny gal to come here for the day and hold my hand through the process( and take over when I wanted to cry from tiredness and anxiety). I want to clarify here that I did not become a farrier after one class, I became the principle hoof trimmer for my own horses feet to be checked and rechecked by people with way more experience than me. I have also been reading about and watching this process for years. Frankly to quote a well known reality TV personality "Its not rocket surgery." Back breaking hard work when left for 5.5 solid weeks at the peak of summer hoof growth...Yes! Rocket surgery ? No! I learned I have a decent eye for feet, so that's good and that I'm a total dork nose when it comes to handling tools. One rasped wrist, and two sweaty armpits while handling a very sharp hoof knife later, I was relieved to know that if I stick to the plan I wont have to handle the more lethal of hoof tools.

The run down? Well as far as technical difficulty everyone will be glad to know that with just 8 feet between two horses, I get beginner, intermediate and advanced levels to hone my skills on. Add to that the "little" trouble I have handling said sets of feet and well, Its a process that's for sure! Between learning what is white line, what is water line, what is live sole and the fact that flares aren't just on the sides of the horses feet, my head was fairly spinning with data. I was gently reminded that I wouldn't accept Boo's very rough behavior (even for her) in a horse in training and that gave me the impetus to really ask more from her. By the end she was standing with out hay calmly and fairly quietly while I labored over a back hoof. I didn't take pictures of Cuervos feet as they seemed less obviously in need but the biggest surprise being that it will take about a year to fix his issues. Lets just say that the widest part of his foot is not where it needs to be and leave it at that!

My recommendation after using my "Mattel/baby" tools and Lisa's "big girl" tools is: BUY THE BEST TOOLS AVAILABLE! You are not saving time, money or your back otherwise. I plan to continue posting pictures of our progress for my own records as well as to get in put from anyone wishing to comment. My new schedule for horse feet is simple and easy. one set of hind feet from the bottom only day one, day two bottoms of one set of front feet, day three, tops of one set of hind feet and day four tops of one set of front feet. The following week repeat on horse #two. No more four or five weeks for my horses feet to get out of shape. If you think about it, how much progress in the right direction can one possibly make if you are leaving the hoof to get itself pulled all out of whack? Seems to me you would be only able to get the hoof back to where you got it 5 weeks ago, that is if it didn't break off so badly that you couldn't trim as you needed. Boo is trying desperately to get a good foot, she has folded over parts of hoof, grown a callus and is battling a very badly stretched white line which has allowed a fungus to take hold. Cuervo on the other hand is making due but shows his lack of progress in his contracted heels and small frogs. I am now confident we will get there, and that I can do it! Its great to not be reliant on someone else for my horses hoof care. Saving the 90 bucks a month isn't bad either.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Marathon Musings

As I'm wrapping up my month long marathon end of this week, I wanted to share a bit about what I learned from my horse buds in all the time I spent with them. They are such cool creatures! First and foremost, I can't tell you the number of times I looked at them and it took my breath away. So different but both so beautiful. I had to pinch myself a few times to make sure I wasn't dreaming. I felt like , what I imagine, a new mom must feel like...... enamoured! I approached this experiment differently than I did oh so many years ago when I attended my certification. Back them there where time frames and expectations and ego. But this time, I wanted to get to know my critters on a deeper level and the skills we practiced where just secondary to the "knowing" that took place. Sure we improved on our buddy sour work(pics to follow), sure our foot handling got better(vid to follow), yes, I rode....but more importantly,I feel connected to my ponies. I learned what motivates Boo is rest, but also short stints of challenge. Way more challenge than my recollection of how her training went when she was younger. Cuervo is motivated by challenge but also and maybe more importantly by companionship...mine! Really an eye opener! It was a very ambitious endeavor that fell short logistically on more than one occasion, but it was a success in my book if only to rediscover the two amazing critters that I call my own.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Marathon update 2

We are all tired. Nine hours a day is a bitch frankly and with temps in the 90s the past two days? 9 hours didn't happen. I remember these days a Johns, we usually ate peanut M&M's for dinner and collapsed into bed. NO JOKE! Cereal was to much trouble...grin. So I'm taking it easy and believe it or not had one of the best rides on Boo ~bareback and in halter no less~ that I have had all week. We have been practicing basics, and sometimes stringing it together to get a slow roll back change of direction, and side passing a few steps and backing switching to a turn on the forehand...playing in other words. Well between beating back swarms of mosquito's we had some great moments of advanced, strung together, movements. We where both smiling..Itchy , but smiling! It was a good day. Abridged but good.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Marathon update

After a late start the marathon is in full swing. The hardest part is the 9 hours! I have to keep reminding myself that at Johns, there was a good deal of lecture and watching fellow students. So I'm not kicking my own butt to much. In the times, like yesterday, when it got too buggy and hot, I grabbed one of my horse books(the twisted truths of modern dressage) and sat down for a read, outside of course with the ponies!
Changes noted on the horsey front: My babies are very attentive to my comings and goings, way more so than when I just emerge to feed them. That warms the cockles of my heart let me tell you! We are bonding on that horse and human level beyond the average "hay lady" status.

My second observation has to do with Amerika, several of you have asked if she has improved my riding skills and I'm going to say emphatically "YES!" To quote Mr. Parelli, I have had a "whoa" growing in my heart since I stopped riding Zee and began riding many untrained horses. Its not life threatening, but I really noticed it after my tumble off of Boo a while back,( the one where I had the hematoma from hell..) I reasoned it out. I self talked. I rode more, but it stubbornly had its little whoa tentacles firmly embedded. With my ability to focus on myself during my rides on Amerika, (like I would ordinarily focus on my horse during our rides) I am able to train me. The "whoa" is melting like the witch from Wizard of Oz. Its all good!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sad to say...

What is it they say about the best laid plans? I promised to start my 9 hour-a-day, horse-heaven-marathon on Monday. Instead I spent most of Monday laying beside my toilet bowl. Three days of "really" sick followed by one day of "weak as a kitten" and today finds me at 90 percent. Go figure! I am happy to announce that I spent 8 hours with my ponies. Granted, 6 of them where with Amerika but lets not quibble shall we? She had her professional photo shoot and it went really well, pics to follow soon! I would rather talk about something that has been making me feel like Tevia in "Fiddler On The Roof". You remember, "on one hand..... but on the other hand...but on one" Let me 'splain. Farrier came last week, it went poorly for him. He was yanked by one and kicked by the other. I experienced, mortification, indignance, whining, then honest examination of the whole event. Nothing is worse than being a trainer with ill behaved horses. In fact another farrier once said I have the "worst trained , best trained horse" in the world. BIG SIGH! So as I'm willing to admit to the entire planet this foot thing is an on going challenge for my horses. I have ridiculed my farriers behaviours which by the way, they are guilty of and I have looked honestly at my horses behaviours which they are just as guilty of. I squarely lay the blame on.......... myself. I have little trouble with my horses feet. That does not mean NO trouble that means that sometimes, I have a little trouble. Nothing that makes me want to reteach the lesson, which is the problem in a nut shell. I can hate the way a farrier relates to my babies, lament that if he had just taken his time here, released there, not creeped up to this one like that...blah! blah! blah! The truth, is my horses should at 10 and 14 years of age, stand for the flippin' farrier regardless of his/her moronic habits! In fact to quote John Lyons "If someone put a cigarette out on Zips butt the only problem he should have is with assured it would be a mighty big problem." Meaning in, that strange and wonderful way that most natural horsemanship teachers relate, ones horse should be trained for the lowest common denominator that he/she will come up against in their domestic horse lives. If you think about it, that is a huge challenge! For me it means that a great deal of my horse marathon will be devoted to skills that are much less glamorous than the side passing, lead changing, trail riding, fantasy I had imagined. I will have two horses that stand politely for the farrier though. I have often been heard saying, "practice the basics 'cause its all basics really" I think its time I took my own advice......

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Inspired by Julie and Julia

This is one of the cutest movies I've seen in a while. Meryl Streep is the bomb as usual and the story itself was so sweet. For those of you not in the know, its the tale of a closeted writer who decides to cook her way through Julia Childs cook book and blog about it. It takes her a year, and changes her life in wonderful ways. While its a chick flick in every sense of the word, it has been enjoyed by several husbands and Dads I've talked to...wink wink. Darned if it didn't inspire me. NO, I'm not going to cook my way through recipes for horses, or anything like that, I'm going to so something better. My friend Teresa and I where lamenting an honest to goodness, intense, horse program, type experience like we have both had in the past. She with Harry Whitney and myself with John Lyons. We pined a 6 month stint at the spanish riding school in Jerez. A year riding andalusians and learning Garrocha. NOT barn slaves we, oh no! Riding students to be molded and nurtured and taught. Sigh , it gives me chills... BUT, reality strikes. We are poor little church mice with jobs, a husband,responsibilities and ponies at home to teach and learn with. That's where the inspiration comes in....Folks, on the 26th of April, I will endeavour to create my own version of pony boot camp, here, in my own back yard, with my own precious equines. My plan is to spend 9 hours a day with the ponies, around life, around work, around my own protestations! I will hang with, observe, ride, teach, play, and dote for 9 hours a day...and blog about it, for one month! It will be a fabulous ride, I'm sure. Stick with me and lets see what we learn!
*Donations of red wine, home made food and words of encouragement gladly accepted!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

An honest to goodness, panties in a twist, RANT!

Hoof balance speaks for itself....

Hoof capsule sliding to the right.....

Heels badly sheered, no frog, small shoe placed at the end of the long toe....

I've gotten used to being humored. Deviant views like letting your horse tell you where it is you get to train that day, using treeless saddles and feeding bee pollen, among other "potions", raises more than a few eyebrows. So its never a surprise to me when asked about horse shoeing that I get the old eye roll since I am a huge proponent of the natural trim and Jaime Jackson. Ive had my horses living with the natural trim for several years now and it works for us. However, the first great, certified, corrective, shoer I asked about this told me my mare would never....NEVER.... be able to go with out front shoes. He said because of her breed, her foot quality, her foot conformation, I would ruin her. I respected this man and blindly went along for a few more years watching my mares feet slowly deteriorate. She pulled shoes, she lost hunks...huge hunks.... of hoof wall, she landed on the outside edge of one hoof and rolled to the inside edge as she traveled, her stride shortened and she began scuffling along so badly that she kicked cups of sand into my boots as I led her to and from the turn out . And yet, I did nothing. She wasn't lame per sea. I didn't want to chase away the only person who was willing to do draft feet, who showed up on time and who as a person, was a real sweet heart.
Eventually, though, as always happens it seems in the horse world, we parted ways and I was at square one with her feet again. After interviewing a few prospects who would dare face big, scary, draft horses(snort). I realized that I was going to have to take control of her hoof care myself. As with anything new, there where a few missteps along the way before I got it all worked out to our satisfaction. We haven't looked back. My horses are thriving shoeless. The point of this little tome is not to rub my success with this in any ones face, nor to bully anyone into following a path they do not wish. The point is that people make mistakes. People we pay good money too, whose opinion we trusted make mistakes. People with lots of fancy degrees on their walls, lots of schooling, lots of knowledge...make mistakes. The ones worth continuing to patronize and support with our hard earned dollars, can admit to these mistakes, apologize if necessary and help us right the wrong. The ones not worth it make us feel foolish. Don't hesitate to kick them to the curb. One of my clients recently experienced a similar tale and graciously shared pictures of her horses feet. The vet was called as this poor guy went very lame and had a bounding pulse on his cannon bone. I'll post updated pics as he recovers. WE are our horses voices! Let them be heard especially in the face of strong opposition.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Quote of the year!

By Rudolf G. Binding:

Your horse will punish you for lying.
If you do not trust him, he will not trust you;
if you waver, he will go his own way.
If you panic, he will panic;
but he will be filled with courage and good spirit
if you are courageous and in good spirit.
If you are unsteady, he will be unsteady.
If your will is not set on perpetual forward motion,
he will slow down and eventually stand still.
If you are without vigor, he will be without impulsion;
if you wish to fly, he will fly,
his feet will hardly seem to touch the ground."

and as simply put by John Lyons: "your horse is a mirror image of you...."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pilates musings

OK, I had to do something, I have literally sat through my first winter in a decade and aside from my walks and the occasional day of riding between raindrops , things where changing in the derier region that were not pretty. The lack of motivation to do my beloved yoga tape( you know, no heated room, or yoga friends and well, gee is house hunters international on again?) drove me to take action. I had driven by a sign just down the road from me that offered private Pilate's lessons for a full 8 months, casually reading it while I waited for the light to change. Last week I actually called the number I had practically memorized. My first lessons went by in a blur of pulleys, funny shaped chairs, padded barrel like contraptions and mat work. It was great! So why am I writing about this on my horse blog? Simple, this type of exercise gives you tons of information about your body that directly relates to your riding. "How so?" you ask. Well, using myself as an example I have had all kinds of "aha" moments concerning my lower body strength/balance. Way back when I used to swim on a team my coaches killed me with kick board drills. They where trying to develop a good strong kick. To no avail as it turns out, as I always compensated with my arm and belly strength. You've seen those Olympic swimmers kicking up a fan of water behind them...yeah, that wasn't me, EVER. So then I was riding, and my coaches had me in two point, two point with no stirrups, sitting trot no stirrups, jumping no stirrups. What do you think happened here? Well, my balance was pretty good up top, but my hips tended to collapse to the left which meant? yep, I ate sh*t alot. So I did what any smart young gal would do, I stopped taking ridiculous riding lessons of course! And the compensation continued. Enter John Lyons. Well, his advise to my position questions was "shut up and ride" or "don't get out of position" This I could do, no one drilling me on where to be or not to be. Believe it or not, I think all the "not thinking" about my body may have helped in a weird way. I wasn't pounding myself mentally over my lack of position and I wasn't building wrong muscles trying desperately to be right. Which bring us back around to the present and pilates. Vanity may have driven me to begin this but mentally I'm finally ready for it. Instead of being mortified by my complete lack of skill in class, I'm fascinated by my teachers ability to zero in on exactly the muscle that I should be using. I know I've used said muscle too. WOW! I'm surprised( and thrilled) at how many muscles tell me they have been working! This new introduction to parts often ignored is really giving me the ability to "see" many of the corrections offered in riding articles. I studied them, trotted right out and got on my horse and then proceeded to get disgusted with myself, my saddle, the weather and finally the author of said article. Into the trash it went too. After a few pilates lessons though, its as if a film has been removed from the words in "how to" riding articles. They make sense now. Its like Lyons training. I have always "lyonized" other training techniques. Passing them through a filter of sorts to see if they can fit in my favored philosophy. Now I can "pilate-ize" riding articles! Its a whole new world! So , for those of you who like myself who have long standing, deep seeded riding challenges, I recommend getting introduced to your body through pilates. You will be glad you met!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

a good giggle.....written by????

Arena: Place where humans can take the fun out of forward motion.

Bit: Means by which a rider's every motion is transmitted to the
sensitive tissues of the mouth.

Bucking: counter-irritant.

Crossties: Gymnastic apparatus.

Dressage: Process by which some riders can eventually be taught to
respect the bit.

Fence: Barrier that protects good grazing.

Grain: Sole virtue of domestication.

Hitching rail: Means by which to test one's strength.

Horse trailer: Mobile cave bear den.

Hotwalker: The lesser of two evils.

Jump: An opportunity for self-expression.

Latch: Type of puzzle.

Lungeing: Procedure for keeping a prospective rider at bay.

Owner: Human assigned responsibility for one's feeding.

Rider: Owner overstepping its bounds.

Farrier: Disposable surrogate owner; useful for acting out aggression
without compromising food supply.

Trainer: Owner with mob connections.

Veterinarian: Flightless albino vulture

Only Horse People:

- believe in an 11th commandment: inside leg to outside rein...

- know that all topical medications come in either indelible blue or
neon yellow.

- think nothing of eating a sandwich while mucking out a stall.

- know why a thermometer has a yard of yarn attached to the end of it.

- are banned from Laundromats.

- fail to associate whips, chains and leather with sexual deviancy.

- can magically lower their voices five octaves to bellow at a pawing

- will end relationships over their hobby.

- cluck to their cars to help them up hills.

- insure their horses for more than their cars.

- know (and care) more about their horse's nutrition than their own.

- have no problem speaking of semen, abscesses and colic surgery at
the dinner table.

- have a smaller wardrobe than their horse..

- engage in a hobby that is more work than their day job.

- know that a good ride is better than Zoloft any day.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Buddy Sour! Not as tasty as a whisky sour...

Well, its happened, I have had to actually work on separation anxiety in my own horses. This never was a problem until now when I have only two on a small farm, isolated from other equines in the world. Its not like I haven't taught this lesson before, its just that I haven't needed to on my own horses. "Dern it" and "oh goody" all at the same time. Obviously, this opportunity is adding to my own horses training. Its giving me more practice in learning to teach a very in demand lesson. It sets a good goal for me when my lesson plans seem to have wandered down a path to no where. But "dern it", like trailer loading, its one of those less glamorous skills to teach. So where do I start? Well, since Boo doesn't seem to be the "sufferer" in this instance and she is the one going to be leaving the property for a clinic in May, we began with Cuervo. I shut him up in my round pen which is in the middle of the turnout where they both live. Like with teaching trailer loading, I do not put any hay in there for him. After all, I need to gauge his responses and hay would definitely prove to be a distraction that would cloud true results. I then get Boo ready to ride right by the round pen. With in nuzzling range. One can also simply do this whole exercise on the ground as well,which is what is recommended if both horses seem agitated by separation. I however have chosen to ride, as I mentioned Big Boo is not at all fussed about where her roomie is or is not. My goal is to raise Cuervos emotions just a little by moving Boo away from his pen and bringing her back as soon as he begins to look a little bit worried. In the beginning he was beside himself bucking and pawing while we simply brushed and got tacked. So even this had to be broken down into smaller bits for him to digest. In other words, I would brush her a tiny bit and return to the rail to hang out with Cuervo, playing lip games and brushing his face. Then I would return to brushing her. Returning to him before his behaviour escalated into pacing laps or bucking jags in place. This only took one 30 minute session and I was able to brush, saddle and mount Boo the next session with nary a peep from him . I actually added walking and stopping around the pen just over the rail for the first few minutes before walking a few steps off the rail and back. I increased the length of the walking increments as he was able to tolerate her moving around the outside of the pen. If he started to trot ahead of us, exhibit driving behaviour, or paw the ground we simply stopped and stood until he relaxed again. You see some horses will actually look worried and whinny to their mates. Cuervo, however, tends toward stallion like behaviour or full on flight with bucking and farting. In some circles this would not be accepted as anxiety but "bad" behaviour and he would most likely be shut up in a barn to "work it out" so the other horse could be ridden with out influence from the "bad" horse. This technique is well accepted and is called "flooding" in behaviour modification circles. If it fails as it has a 50/ 50 shot of doing, the repercussions are miserable for the horse who didn't work it out not to mention for the trainer called later to fix it. I don't approve of this type of behaviour modification for horses nor to do I approve of chemical intervention unless its an emergency situation. Like all other skills, this lesson can be taught and is a life skill that the domestic horse is going to be required to master. Not many of us can ride both of our horses at the same time after all! We are still a work in progress. However our last session (before the gallons of rain) Boo and I where all over the turn out with cuervo poking about the round pen in a very disinterested manner. Next will be to have him in a the smaller turn out while Boo and I continue in the larger one and then reverse it by having our ride in the smaller and he in the larger. Then we will ad stints outside the turn out and stints inside the trailer, out of sight. Until he is ho hum about all of this I will not give him hay as a distraction. By clinic time I expect he won't care that we are gone for the day. Stay tuned......

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Riding Simulator!

Some of you know that I took a whirlwind trip to Ca this past weekend. By whirlwind I mean It was 39 hours long. I flew,I drove, I rode, I drove and I flew again. It was not for the faint of heart let me tell you. I went to visit Carmel Valley, a very pretty area in Northern Ca chock full of lovely scenery and wonderful horse people. It also just happens to be my favorite time of year out there. When everything is green and blooming. I took this crazy trip to try The Riding Simulator. As seen at Equine Affaire and other horse fairs across the west coast. I met "Luke" and his owner/importer Barbro Ask-Upmark. Luke is quite a stud! 1200 pounds, 15.1 or so , solid black, long main and tail, and a schoolmaster in every sense of the word. He stood for hours accepting every ones attention, with nary a peep or irritated swish of the tail. When he was called on to perform he was 110% on. His feed back was honest and fair. I got to ride this wonderful fellow at Steinbecks Horsemans Day. It was educational and fun. When I wasn't riding Luke I enjoyed the speakers.

Riding simulators are not a well known tool in many circles and even in the circles they are known, they receive some snarky comments. To those people I say, don't knock it until you try it. I had my doubts, I mean really, why would I ride a mechanical horse when I have two perfectly good, living, breathing ones right outside my door? Simple answer? BECAUSE I'D LIKE TO SAVE THEM FROM MY LACK OF RIDING SKILLS! Now, beyond that, I was just plain curious. Does this simulator really feel like a live horse? YES.. What can it teach me? ALOT! Will I think its just a novelty? HELLS NO! Should this be taken seriously? IF YOU ARE SMART, YES! Why? Lets take other serious sports that operate at dangerous speeds on highly sensitive equipment: Car racing,motorcycle racing, piloting aircraft, bike get the picture right? All of these things have training simulators in common, and none of them pilot a living being with its own ideas. So in my book, our sport should be based on simulator style learning before actually being allowed to touch a real horse. In Europe school masters are common at good riding schools, allowing riders to learn position basics on a lunge. Here in the USA? Good luck with that. I couldn't even get a paid instructor to give me regular lunge lessons on my own horse. This is where that void is filled. Luke is fitted out with multiple sensors, a computer brain and screen and several programs to test ones abilities. On the teaching program he will visually tell you via a glaring red dot on the screen, if you are out of balance, off center, or just plain behind the motion. His side sensors tell you what leg is engaged and where. His bit sensors tell you when they have no contact, to much contact or simply imbalance between right and left. He responds without ire, honestly, and immediately to the input he receives. He is a computer after all, and your "typos" will be visible in his performance and even in his database. He records your ride and can play it back so you can see how well you fared! Let me ask you something, how often have you bounced around a lesson feeling for that second of "ahhhh" with your horse? One hour of blood, sweat and tears for a snapshot of what it can be like. Who pays the price for that, I ask you? Sure your butt is sore, but what where you slapping against to make it so sore? That's right, your beloved horse! What if you could find that "ah" moment and better yet ride it for as long as you wish. Then take that muscle memory and transfer it to your breathing equine? Now that moment of "ahhh" can be shared. Your horse will be so glad you got it worked out!

My ride on Luke told me something I already know, my left leg is weaker than my right. But, I had no idea my weaker left hand was more consistent, than my stronger right hand! And with a little physical manipulation applied as we where in working trot by Barbro, I found the sweet spot in the saddle that I would never have found on my own, no matter how loud the instructor yelled! By the way, that proper seat felt crooked as all get out to me until I got used it and could find it myself! It was fantastic! Aside from the "serious" work one can get done on the simulator, its also a gas! I couldn't stop smiling, much like the first time I rode a gaited horse. The audience had fun too. They got to watch it video game style on the large screen. My dressage test was pretty entertaining. Forget scoring in the 60's and 70's, I could hardly ride a straight line down the rail. I think I even stepped outside the arena and back in. In any case, all you gamers out there would appreciate working out your tennis stroke on Wii. Your first couple of shots go wild until you get the feel down. I could have ridden forever trying to perfect my feel, except for the fact that I was popping a sweat and my inner thighs where beginning to sing. Yes, like riding a real horse, it is a work out! So much so that there is a calorie counter as well. See? yet another application for a simulator. Hard winter? No worries stay in shape, indoors! Coming back from an injury? Ride in safety, no bucks or spooks here! Horse laid up? not this one, never lame, never throws a shoe, never an off day! Confidence problems, grow it with core strengthening practice. So, whats a girl to do? It is a perfect piece of equipment for a trainer such as myself. Well, as it turns out you can buy one of these wonders for your very own. And that's just what I did. Amerika , my own black beauty will be on her way to NC by the 15th of March. Sign up now as I have a feeling she will be very popular!

my ride:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Living in the "momo" (moment)

Talking to my dear friends farther north has made me grateful , kinda, for my soppy, coastal swamp. Even if you have never owned animals that require outdoor care in inclement weather, I'm sure you can imagine what dealing with feet of snow, gale force winds and plunging temps can be like while attached to a one thousand plus pound animal who finds the whole deal as vexing as you do. Horses are experts at mixing "yikes" and "woohoo" in large and equal amounts. This usually results in a awe inspiring athletic display that makes us wish we had our cameras, OR picking ourselves out of the nearest mud puddle, thicket, snow bank, and/or tree branch and wondering why all our money and time is spent toward this very frightening, very ungrateful animal!

I hear stories all the time about how old cream puff became"weather challenged" and uncharacteristically mashed their human, while their human was trying to "rescue" them from said weather. What to do ? What to do? This is simple miscommunication folks. Here's our take on the situation: "oh no its_____________(insert weather challenge, snow wind, rain , thunder) out! Poor Cream Puff I better go out QUICK and get her to shelter!" So then we attire ourselves properly against the elements and feeling very confident our animals are thinking just what we are, we scurry out to right this wrong. What are we feeling? Well, angst, tension, hurry, fear,impatience, misery from what ever element is washing over us....and we approach our yikes/woohoos with this. They on the other hand are thinking "weeeeeee, yikes, weeeeeeeeeeeee, yikes yikes, waaaaahooooo!" Then they spy a oddly bundled energy bomb moving quickly toward them. they recognize that this could mean, "food, change of venue or just as easily...... hey, shes come to yikes -woohoo with us. YAY!" Here's where the trouble starts. We have all heard the saying"leave your emotions in the tack room" This is very good advise. But don't forget "train where you can and not where you can't" and "it takes as long as it takes". The "where" in the last statement includes emotional spaces not just the obvious physical spaces like a challenging spot on the trail or by the"scary" end of the arena. Emotional space is your mind set and energy under the same distractions your horse is experiencing. Are you thinking about how quickly you can catch him up and get you and he out of this weather? Are you wishing the snow wasn't dripping down your cheeks into the neck of your jacket? Are you wondering if all the horses are out to kill you by being way the heck down the field away from the gate? Are you wondering why this is taking so long and why you tried to do this in the first place? hmmmmmmmmm? Probably! Human nature after all. But what should be considered is the fact that you will have to be focused, flexible and serene for as long as it takes to achieve your goal...which may or may not be your horses goal.

Always attend to the horse you have today, in the moment. Not the horse you usually have. Now , you may think as you read this that I advocate training during a dangerous weather event, that's not the case. But I am saying that you should be prepared to if you have chosen this time to interact with your horse. Relax, Focus and Breathe. Start training where ever your horse tells you to start and watch your successful experiences pile up.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Turtle and The Hare

The following is a true account about two riding buddies. One rode a horse that had no "go". Let's call him Turtle. Turtle and his mom called me for help because all she wanted to do is take a nice trail ride with her friends, but Turtle was so hard to keep moving that riding with anyone became an unbearable slog that left her exhausted and close to tears. Her best riding buddy had a horse we'll call Hare. The Hare pranced and danced and rode in a very big bit. Hare, often charged way ahead down the trail only to balk at something and turn around. At which point they would meet back up with Turtle and the two women would head home. Both of the women had the same problem. But neither woman believed me when I told them so. Well, of course they agreed Turtle had a "go" problem but not the "Hare", he flew if you let off that bit even one inch. Turtles mom even said she wished she had a horse more like the "Hare". Both gals rode together often as all the other riders at the stable had doled all the advise they had for both ladies and then became "unavailable" for any further rides.

For each horse we returned to the ground work to lay a foundation that would allow for both sides ( equine and human) to draw from as we progressed back to riding. Each horse and rider team worked on the exact same exercises. One focused on the clarity and quality of "go" and the other on the clarity and quality of "whoa". Hares mom quickly noticed that she completed roughly double the repetitions per session than did her friend with Turtle. But to her consternation Turtle seemed to be making progress faster than Hare. He was more consistent in his answers. Turtles mom however envied the amount of energy that Hare put into his work and was not as willing to accept Turtles progress. Soon riding was added to their weekly lessons and Hares mom spent double the time in the saddle than did Turtles mom. Who had to keep dismounting and going back to groundwork. Meanwhile Hares mom moved on to new exercises under saddle. Turtles mom envied Hares"progress". Both Woman gave 110%. The moment of truth came on their first trail ride together since embarking on lessons. Hare as usual, was in the lead, but he had slowed enough and turtle had moved out enough that the women could still converse for most of the ride. But then something happened. The Hare came to a creek crossing. The creek was swollen from recent rains. He balked and was trying to turn around when Turtle arrived at the creek. Following her template from her lessons, she focused on the quality of the go and not the quantity or distance traveled and soon found herself across the creek. Hares mom cheered her from the other bank and went to work on Hare. Using the under saddle lessons to calm and focus him. After twice the time that it took Turtle to cross the creek, she to was able to cross as well. The woman where thrilled with their progress but questioned this at our next session. "Why," they asked "was a horse with so much "go" like Hare not able to navigate the creek as quickly as Turtle?" Quite simply, Turtle had way more practice at "go". When a horse like Hare is ridden, his rider is often more focused on keeping any cueing of forward to a minimum. After all the animal is champing at the bit to go right? Not in reality , no. The horse is so excited its energy is taken for having a "forward" so the rider never gets to practice "go". Riding him becomes more like popping a clutch in a car. On a horse like Turtle, since he is not moving "go" becomes what is practiced. The under saddle work that Hare got to work on was to focus and calm him so that eventually he would slow to a natural pace at which point true practice on "go" could happen. The amazing thing about this study of opposites is that they will reach the same level of training at roughly the same time. They just get to practice different areas of the lesson at different times. By the time Turtles mom had enough "go" to practice the under saddle exercises that Hares mom practiced near the beginning. Hares mom had enough "whoa" to practice exercises that developed Turtles "go". The result was two riding buddies on horses that rode together at what ever pace was dictated by their riders in all situations. The lesson learned was horses with energy may not have a go and horses with out go can achieve it with practice.

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Gives" a given?

Billy and I using gives for directional control...

What is a give? A give is the opposite of a brace. That seems fairly obvious right? But if you want the Lyons definition here it is: " a Give is no pull, not just neutral, and energy and movement in the direction you want to go" The kicker is, that a give can be asked for and given from any part of the horses body. Most of the time you will hear the word give in reference to the horses jaw. And you certainly want to teach a horse to not brace against your rein aids. But a give is also about controlling one piece of your horse. Can he give his hip? Can he give his right front foot? If you control just one piece of your horses body you control the horse. The hardest part for a rider to master is the simplicity of this concept and the ability to focus on just one piece of the horse at a time. It takes practice. We are always taught to ride the whole horse. We have two arms, two legs, a seat, a very busy brain, various artificial aids like bats, spurs and fancy bits. We also have supporting artificial aids like martingales, chambons, gouges, figure eight nose bands, and side reins. Whew, with all this going on its no wonder we cant understand why we aren't more successful with our horses. All that stuff should do its job right? Well, no actually. Imagine being as sensitive as we know horses are and being confronted with all that "noise" from all that stimulus. Its like being thrust into the middle of a Christmas sale a Macy's. I don't know about you, but the thought of a loud, crowded,holiday decorated mall makes me break out into a cold sweat.

So how do we learn this concept? Well, just like with our horses we should start were we are successful with it. Like say on the ground. In a good learning environment, with few distractions. There is plenty of time to test your new skill in more distracting locations but don't start there after all, you are learning( and teaching) a new skill.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Baby, its cold outside....


31 degrees and windy and she finally fluffs the coat! Whats funny is that when it warmed up to 40 degrees she was in the shade by the barn dozing!

Coastal "snow" aka heavy frost!

One inch of ice on the trough!