Prepare to position

Thank you to those people who have given me glimpses of this thing that I now chase after too…

Over time this blog has shifted from the physical mindset of conditioning and “training” a young non-Arab horse (well 1/4 Arab…) to complete a 100 mile single day event to a wandering road of the deeper life goal and what transformation that kind of journey takes.

It began with the realization that if I was going to ride more than a few meandering hours on the trail with friends I was going to have to learn to ride better. I could trot along for a short burst here and there but upon trotting for miles and miles it became clear to me I was bouncing all over the place at best, and definitely making it harder on my horse than it would be if I had better skill.

First ride photo Khaleesi at 5 years old- hollow backs- both mine and hers!

Seeking help from a friend with an impressive dressage background led me into the rabbit hole of horsemanship that I had been seeking but hadn’t realized it, and now come to believe is the superpower anyone with insight will develop for higher success in every field and discipline. Above and beyond good equitation what I am speaking of is learning the subtle language of each horse and how to work together in mind, body and spirit not resorting to force to get it done.

Over time my blog has shifted along with this view to interest in the heart of the horse-human relationship over the surface layers of how-far how-fast how-high how-long data. I do have an obsession with getting this little feral mare to a single-day 100, but the real passion has shifted to how we get there and so has my writing.

Finishing an early 50 together

I’ve asked myself more than once: do these things I’m so fascinated with still work in a blog on getting to an ultra-long distance equine marathon? My own personal answer is that it is at the core. Yet being around the periphery of the endurance community there is much more emphasis put on how to get mileage, speed, increased cardio capacity, how to to dial in electrolytes (or not use them at all!), what to feed on race day, what tack is lightest for the horse and easiest for the handler, but though every rider mentions that “training” and riding skill is important- almost like it’s a given… something we all accept and pay minimal attention to unless it hinders getting to the big goal or puts someone in immediate danger.

If you can load your horse somehow, enclose it successfully at camp, keep it from striking out at the vet check, get on it before the ride starts (often with someone holding it still for you), hold on and not fall for each loop, bonus points for not kicking other horses (who by the way may not be under control of its rider and crowd you or run up on your own horse’s personal space) and double bonus if you can use your arms at the first vet check because your awesome horse is so fast and eager they pull you through the first loop completely braced to run through the bit— you can succeed at endurance riding!

Stunningly bad timing, feel and balance caught at our second 30 mile ride… I always have a positive attitude at least! Somehow this horse always gives me the chance to grow!

This isn’t limited to distance riding sports and there is a full range of excellence to crazy hot mess to go around. I have been a less than shining example of fine horsemanship and drowning in ignorance more than my fair share. As a whole it is too common that the “training” part in many competitive equine sports is only seriously addressed if it gets in the way of “winning”… Seems like part of the driven nature of competitive people. I speak from experience, I fight it back constantly now or at least when I recognize it.

One day however, when I asked for help from my friend, I saw this thing, this real connection and communication between a horse and a human and it’s different enough from what most of the people out there are doing that it stood out to me and I knew that’s the thing I wanted more than the rest of it. I didn’t see good training. I didn’t see a horse who knew the rules of behavior. I saw understanding. And it shone like the dawn to me. It was different.

What I am still coming to terms with is that not everyone is able to see this quality in a horse and human. I’ve had people to tell me it’s everywhere and most people with horses have it, but though I wondered for a while if I was being blind; it’s actually more clear to me as the years go by: it’s not common at all. Most people are still talking about and looking at good training. Good training isn’t that difficult. It’s much better than no training and hugely different than poor training. But all horse training is finite. True understanding between beings has no limits to where it can go.

Wyoming has been a challenge to understand for me in the deeper way she needs to succeed. Yet she has been a gift of inspired growth in my horsemanship life. Working with her always makes my time with Khaleesi more refined.

Recently I have been considering the phrase prepare to position. I’ve read it in Tom Dorrance’s True Unity, I heard Buck Brannaman talking about it in a clinic video, and it’s come over some other podcast and interview media as well. There is something fundamental about this concept in the horsemanship I crave. I currently struggle to improve at this***.

*** side note as I edit the previous line one thing I have observed from the people I admire for their approach and skill in this work… every one of them to a person has something they are struggling to improve in their own self. Timing, balance, feel, understanding, softer touch… they are all on the hunt constantly not for the next event, but the thing….***

Regarding prepare to position, myself and others I notice are asking horses to do something they are not prepared to position for, and most of the time it comes from this combination of lack of experience, patience, knowledge, timing and feel.

How often have riders talked about a canter lead their horse struggles with yet don’t realize that as they ask for the lead with the cue that should work they have the wrong timing of how the feet are carrying the weight of horse and rider? Certainly horses everyday overcome this and get correct canter leads despite the inadequacy of feel in a rider, but if a rider can prepare to position the horse for the correct lead with a feel of the feet on the ground and then ask in good timing, a higher excellence in riding can come out. The horse can move in a balanced way instead of having to overcome bad timing and feel, there can be a new level of lightness and refinement, strength in the movement. Yet the experience, knowledge, patience and work it takes for the rider to get to this is more than most of us have the time to dedicate when we have 24 more miles to go to get the cardio training in for the next event. Just give me a canter here and lets get on with it.

At least that’s how I’ve felt many many days. Let’s not count the ones I didn’t even understand there was a need to develop two different canter leads at all. Ignorance. Simply putting miles in riding a horse does not make one a good rider. I am proof of this!

Another moment of ungrace in our past journey

It reminds me of the advice to try to figure out what is the thing that happened before the thing that happened. Find insight sooner back in the process: do less sooner so you don’t have to do more later. By the time you’ve landed headfirst into a tree, there were steps that brought you there but many of us haven’t worked at training our minds to observe and act appropriately to these moments. Please don’t confuse this with overreacting, that’s actually doing a lot more way too soon that creates a bigger problem than you really have in the moment.

Prepare to position to me speaks of a deeper understanding of where the horse is holding weight or balance or brace that will inhibit the request we would like to make. It uses subtlety to ask for a weight shift before asking for the movement. It puts the horse in a place where it can easily fulfill the request as long as she also understands the request.

I can ask my horse to pivot around her hindquarters but she is going to do this with more quality and lightness if I knew she had shifted more of her weight to her hind so her front can move with ease. Did she stop heavy on her front end? Do I need to first ask for her to shift her weight back before I ask for the front to move?

Really nice moment with Wyoming that inspired a recent ride that was excellent with Khaleesi.

The truth is I have barely begun to scratch the surface of these questions. I have a chance on the ground where I can use my eyes, but in the saddle I have marginal feel and understanding of what’s going on that I can’t see. That’s ok because just changing my mindset to care is part of the greater concept of prepare to position. I will never get better if I don’t begin by asking the questions of myself. Mentally I want to feel this better, that must come first.

It IS ok that not everyone wants to get to this level of finesse and lightness in riding. It is incredibly demanding of the rider. Horses are amazing creatures that can do so much despite our shortcomings in feel and timing. In fact they often do this preparation on their own because they can sense what comes before the thing that comes before what the human just cued. They know us better than we know them.

I can’t understand how anyone who rides a horse would not be craving this kind of connection with their horse. Maybe they haven’t gotten a taste of it yet… maybe their lives are busy with other things…

Gradually over years learning to feel where my horse is, help her balance and I hope improve timing as well leading to a stronger self carriage more often

Simply trying to find incremental improvement here brought some moments with Khaleesi over the weekend where everything came together and she sprang with lightness into a movement that felt like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. When I am in tune to these things and get them right and they encourage her to work in her strength, balance, and lightness with me instead in spite of me it is a taste of something otherworldly. And what I love even more is that over the years I’ve thought I’ve found it in a new depth of movement or feeling and yet always I find there’s more. I think it might just be infinite, these layers available.

In the larger scheme I saw that over these few years of ups and downs with my endurance horse and my sojourn into a horsemanship addiction have been preparing to position me and she for what’s ahead. Through setbacks, mild injuries, incomplete events, personal struggles and everything in between, I can see that all of it has been preparing to position us as a stronger team, with a stronger, lighter, more balanced horse and a smarter, lighter, more balanced rider. I hope that paying attention to building this in both of us will mean a longer window of competitive strength, I hope I can compete her without breaking her down physically even in a demanding sport.

In my case I can look back and see what I didn’t know caused us to have to pay some early fines in physical issues. My unbalanced riding, ignorance in diagonals, leads, and ways to help a horse carry herself properly along with listening to the voices that said to move her into longer distances before we both had a stronger foundation (even though I sensed it wasn’t right somehow) because I was driven toward my goals contributed to some time of having to step back and heal/strengthen physically.

It’s ok. I didn’t understand- it is both a reminder to have grace for others who don’t know more than they do as well as a humility check that I will someday know more than I do today and have things I wish I had done better today. My horse is amazing, well all of them are, and she always leaves the door open for me to grow. She gives me fresh mercies every morning… usually! Occasionally I have to dig myself out of bigger screw ups, but we always come back together…. and sometimes, when it all comes into focus….

we fly…

Happy New Year 2021

Hello friends!

I am excited to share some news about my new venture Hope Horsemanship. It’s been in the making for a few months and the website is officially live with a new blog as well.

I will continue to write here especially as I have hopes for a real ride season with Khaleesi who is currently strong and beginning conditioning!

The Hope Horsemanship website will be loaded full of video content and the blog is at the moment centered around a new horse that I will be sharing the process of connecting with in video and writing with the goal to unearth helpful tools and ideas for those following along to use with their own horses. I would love feedback and ideas from you all as well if there are things you struggle with.

Please check out the new site, click on the blog page to see the blog and short video about Hope the QH mare. Subscribe to that blog as well and I’ll keep you updated with her story and the latest video content.

And thank you! Thank you for reading my wandering musings and for your interest in my horsemanship journey. Thank you for being part of my world, wherever you are.

I wish you a wonderful 2021 full of adventure and surprise and most of all… JOY

Jaime

https://www.hopehorsemanship.com

The Right Result

Joyce Meyer has a saying: if you keep doing the right things, eventually you will get a right result.

The right things are usually not the easy things. The right things come with resistance, struggle and doubt. But if you hang in there I believe what Joyce says is true, the right result will come.

I began this particular path to see if I could take a feral 4 year old unstarted mare and arrive someday at a successful single day 100 mile completion. She is only 1/4 Arab and not a natural choice for the easy win, but she’s also not a worst case scenario in build or mentality. I took the learning way not the easy way. Six years later with stops and starts we are still on the path together and though we haven’t made it through 100, I’ve learned more about connecting with horses than I ever dreamed. I still believe we will get there and when we do my hope is we will do it together, in strength and in a way that doesn’t disintegrate our bond and has the least amount of breakdown for her physically.

This is apparent in habit changing like weight loss, drinking excessively, financial stability, flossing perhaps? People who want to be healthy will have to make choices that put off gratification and then stick to those choices longer than is convenient or comfortable. And in the face of small steps forward and less than exciting results or frustrating plateaus keeping inching forward. For those who keep slogging through the set backs and disappointment in the short term and determine the changes are important at a deeper level, gradually something fundamental shifts inside them. It becomes a way of life.

I see parallels in working with horses.

I recently saw an old quote from a horseman regarding the death of Tom Dorrance who was inspired by the Dorrance’s way of using subtlety over force. In his opinion this way of working with horses will never be popular. I think the concept similar to being fit and healthy is not unpopular, it is the implementation where the disconnect occurs. The implementation isn’t popular because it’s a long view.

We all want results. That is a good thing, but when we use force to get a horse or a human onto our plan we chip away at the relationship instead of building it. All of us want to be the boy who would ride the black stallion on the deserted island with no saddle or halter, but none of us wants to be trapped on a lonely island for months. We have friends to meet, trails to see, ribbons to win or cut off times to beat.

Whenever we take the shortcut route we appear to be ahead at first but that process disintegrates in time. When we choose the way of cooperation, communication and relationship it always takes longer and it seems like the world around you is flying by you standing still, but this process integrates and eventually when other’s plans begin to fall apart, yours are just coming together in strength.

I’ve heard too many stories of the perfect horse being purchased along with all the excitement and dreams of the future. Usually a great first season fuels more dreams and visions of what is possible only to stumble into struggle, then real problems arise in the next or third season. Eventually an injury of the human or horse presses the unhappy situation to a junction and the horse is sold for another better perfect horse with less problems and repeat. There are many signposts along the way as the horse tries to communicate (unless the horse is already shut down) but a competition season doesn’t leave time for the deeper answers and so tools are brought in to shut down the questions and concerns the horse has in order to get to the next event.

It is the horse people who instead have made the fundamental shift that inspire me the most. These horse/human teams don’t always have the flashiest record or ribbons and they tend to blend in if you haven’t trained your eyes to spot them. They don’t always have first place (though they sometimes do) but you’ll see attributes like longer career length than usual in a sport with the same horse or the performance that takes your breath away and makes you smile at the same time. They carry a lightness and a joy. They are also really good at supporting others even at the expense of their own performance.

That is what I keep inching forward toward. That longevity, lightness and joy is what I want define the performance with my horses. Regardless if it’s trying a jumping lesson, learning some dressage, navigating a precarious trail or riding 100 miles, I want my horse to give me her all because we are in it together.

Of course I have riding goals and competitive goals but those are all long term. Goals are important to giving us a direction, benchmarks and a road to travel. When the steps are in place to achieve the goals we know what needs attention next along the path, it is the patience not to skip the steps or take short cuts while moving toward the goal that changes everything.

The mental shift that I’ve been pressing toward is to have an idea of what I want to get done and always honestly adjust depending on what I find when I greet my horse.

It helps me to look at Khaleesi who today is such a solid companion there isn’t much we can’t do together. Wyoming and I are much earlier in the journey together and still sorting out basic things. It helps encourage me because if I squint as I look back in time I can see when she didn’t walk with me on lead, the times she tried to turn me around on trail, was unreliable at loading on the trailer, sometimes evaded meeting in the field, laid down in inviting mud puddles while riding with friends, and various other questionable habits. Today she is a rock solid mare I trust with my life. She is my partner to a finite level of detail if needed and still we have many layers deeper to explore over the time we have together.

I know so many out there are trying to take on this journey as well and I want to encourage you to know it is worth it!

No matter what challenge we came to – Khaleesi and me approaching from our different directions – I did my best to work with her and she did her best to figure out what I was doing. We learned to communicate honestly. There were many setbacks and struggles and some days I thought quitting was the only wise choice. The days I questioned if I would ever get to the place I hoped where she would truly partner with me, I kept slogging through. I kept trying to do this the right way, finesse instead of force, conversation instead of control, allowing the time for mistakes and the learning process. Many around me let me know there are faster ways to move forward. This is certainly true even in the approach I envisioned – but I had to learn and I was much slower than the horse.

Today I believe that mindset and determination has paid off. What I appreciate with this kind of foundation is we are not dependent on the best circumstances. We can thrive together in ease and adversity both. Dangerous situations aside I know I can count on us having whatever conversation we need to with whatever comes our way. We can go off script. And Wyoming and I are getting there a step at a time.

I would guess the many of the riders that struggle with fears may have less anxiety if this slower foundational process was given the time to establish a truer bond of trust between horse and human. Of course it comes in time but only in time doing the right things. Just as practice doesn’t make perfect; only perfect practice makes perfect. I have seen my share of people who have spent their lives around horses and still don’t seem to see what they are doing is not developing relationship with the horses that go through their herds. If we spend the time doing counterproductive things together it will only create more fear and anxiety.

I have seen different schools of thought in endurance riding circles as well. Some say get horses up in distances as soon as possible. Don’t stay long in limited distance lengths or skip them all together. If you want to do 100 mile races get the horse a base of conditioning and then get right into it when the age limit is crossed (6 years I believe for AERC). Conversely others say wait, slow down, spend more time in lower distances and don’t consider a 100 with a horse younger than 10 years. I see success with younger and less experienced horses getting through 50-100 mile rides and some of these natural athletes thrive no matter what you do to them, but I also see damage and physical break down that is too easily accepted as ‘part of the sport’. I love the stories like the oldest horse to complete Tevis, a grueling 100 in the Western US, in her 20s, well beyond most endurance horse 100 mile careers.

I have not arrived at some horsemanship destination. This is a field where the more one learns the more one can see there is much more to learn than it seemed at first. Those are the journeys worth leaving home for. Yet I am determined to keep on slogging through the mud and setbacks and slow foundational work and learn what I need to because I believe that eventually, in time, we will soar.

And I also hope that for you!

First 5 videos

It’s been fun creating the first mini-series in video for starting the day connected. I’ve learned a fair amount already about the video-audio process and they will continue to improve in quality as I go forward.

There are a couple ways to find the videos in one place. First is the link to my WordPress page at

Greento100.com/videos/

The second place they are easily grouped together is on the YouTube play list: 5 steps for starting connected.

YouTube 5 steps for starting connected link

This project is intended to be a starting point to find out where riders are most interested in going deeper. If there are links in this process that you would like to delve deeper into please leave a comment on the YouTube video or with my blog and I’ll work on future content that addresses how I handled the steps and the questions.

Also let me know how your horse journey is going! What are you learning as you dig deeper?

Stay tuned!

Leading for connection

Here is the second video in my new series!

Each step of the process with your horse will bring you more connected or less depending on how you do it.

When leading your horse in- or out- it’s important to be clear and expect excellence in leading as this will set the tone for the rest of the day.

Who is the leader? Are you paying attention or chatting with a friend? Do you know where you want your horse to walk? Do you have the ability to ask her for that?

Here are some ideas from my own walk..

How is your walk? Does your horse stay with you? Does your horse drag or rush? Do you know why?

The Relationship

I knew when I brought home Ireland (now Khaleesi) as a barely handled 4 year old that I didn’t want a horse that complied with what I wanted or needed out of fear or force. I wanted a willing horse who would choose to be my partner. I didn’t want a trained horse, I wanted something deeper than training.

I don’t want my horse to get trained because training is absolutely finite.

Buck Brannaman

In this journey I came to realize that to have the connection I wanted I didn’t need to become a horse whisperer, I needed to learn how to listen. The only way to deeper relationship is good communication, and this is impossible without listening. Probably the biggest challenge of this process that many people give up too soon is learning the language of the horse so you can become a horse listener.

There are good trainers out there training horses to know how to do what you need them to do. Trainers who can deliver a push button horse and show you how it works. The horse is an incredibly intelligent creature and can learn how to do this. As long as you stick to the manual you will do fine. The horse is also generous as a creature and will try to fill in for a human and get things done in the least stressful way possible. If you get stuck, adding enough pressure will usually result in getting somewhere even if it’s not elegant.

I’ve come to accept that in the horse world there are situations where this is acceptable and even preferable. But it’s hard for me to understand why anyone who realized there is more available would choose to stop there.

Imagine a marriage where there are acceptable topics and if you will agree to stick to those pleasantries over coffee in the morning then it will be fine… just don’t go off script.

Well. Actually I can imagine that.

I refuse to stay on the surface of a well trained horse. I want to be able to have that deeper relationship where she is safe to communicate to me even the things I don’t want to hear, and I will listen and try my best to respond in… love.

I don’t mean love as in I’m having a good day and feel good. I mean the kind of love that balances with truth and protects yet exposes and never quits. The love that puts my horse first above my timeline and above my goals for the day or the year. The love that will continue to examine myself and what’s revealed in me as I grow deeper with my horse.

Recently Khaleesi was fussing over being groomed sometimes I descend into ‘get it done’ mode so we can move to the real plan for the day… riding. She was getting nippy and pinning her ears. Instead of correcting her and telling her NO, QUIT THAT or worse putting her in cross ties, I slowed down and asked her.

What is it? What are you saying?

I gently rubbed her neck and stopped brushing. I looked at her and she calmed. Her eyes got softer. I began to brush more slowly and talked to her while I brushed. I watched her reaction. I gently worked some dirt patches out with intention and not just a quick groom to get onto the next thing. She lowered her head and completely changed.

This is one example of how my horse teaches me to pay attention and gives me an opportunity to honor her thoughts and feelings. She has both. In this case she felt like she was being hurriedly brushed at. She was being treated like an object to get cleaned. When I changed my approach she changed.

Not all horses are this way. My mustang mare loves the brushing and the rougher the better, it feels good and scratches all her itchy parts. The point of my story isn’t to change how you groom, but to consider in every step how your horse sees you and your approach.

Your relationship with each horse is unique. Just like your relationship to each child is unique or with your parents— unique to each of them.

If you want a deeper connection with your horse you must be willing to really listen. The biggest roadblock here is our assumptions that we know what they think or feel. What you do to your horse, it is likely you do with people too.

In this journey I observed something else: time, even a lifetime, spent around horses does not equal correct understanding of horse language. And I’ve met people around horses fewer years who have a better grasp on horse communication than some who have spent a lifetime.

What helps understanding is letting go of assumptions and taking the time to imagine every interaction is a conversation. When you begin to do this it can feel like talking to a 5-year old. You have to slow down and try to understand what they are asking. Sometimes the words aren’t quite what you’d expect and need some mental translation, sometimes it’s an odd question to bother with at the moment, sometimes you do have to say can we talk about that another time? This process in fullness is way more time consuming than most goal driven horse people have the interest for.

But if you consistently ignore the child and their concerns or ideas and never take the time to honestly listen, you will shut them down and they will learn you don’t want to know what they think or feel. Similarly if you don’t really listen and assume you know what they are asking you will never really get to know the real ‘them’.

The push button horse, how I am using the illustration, has been trained not to ask questions. They are trained to respond to a cue and do the thing in a timely fashion without questions about the thing. This horse has learned that humans do not want conversation they want results. One way you can recognize this horse the response is basically the same no matter who the horse is with. There is not much uniqueness in relationship to different humans. It is a learned response. Training.

I’ve sadly seen these horses called ‘good’ horses while horses that have more questions are considered ‘bad’ horses. Horses are really simply horses. I enjoy curious horses, horses that have a lot to say or ask, playful horses, horses that demand more from me and insist I grow and learn… even horses that respond in fear or disrespect are still just horses and especially in true dangerous disrespect- they have been led there by a human.

Push button horse is much more efficient at getting to your goals.

I also have goals, but that’s not why I have horses. If my horse seems to be unfit for my riding goals either by choice or limitation, I am finding a new goal, not a new horse. And I have been and continue to be faced with this question from time to time.

Someone else can train a horse, but if I am committed to listening it means I will have to learn and grow. Thankfully it’s a beautiful journey of getting to know my horse as she allows me in one layer at a time.

This is a vital point. Many horses I see are already well past shut down and not engaged in this process. Many horses learn not to share their thoughts or feeling or questions with a human because they are punished or corrected for it. This is often part of the training process. This is a way for humans to feel safe.

** it doesn’t necessarily mean the human IS safe, we like feeling safe or in control— often of much we are not**

Having a true push button horse usually means they don’t go off script either. They are trained not to.

I have seen that these horses can be drawn out. It takes time and it takes a human who is willing to do the drawing and engage in the questions even though it will slow down the pace of the day. It takes a willingness for the human to hear even if the new layers aren’t pretty at first. It takes a willingness to feel vulnerable and balance that with being a leader which is also vital in the process.

Listening to my horse- like listening to a 5-year old- doesn’t mean I take every idea and run with it. It means I honor the conversation even if I steer it in a new direction. I still must be the leader of the partnership.

Going off script and learning the process to communicate and connect can be scary. We do like predictability and stability, illusion of control. Deeper doesn’t feel safe, for us or the horse, at first. The truth can be sometimes that no, I don’t really want to know what you think about this. If we go there what I assume is all fine could unravel… in human and horse relationships. At least for me at times in both.

Listening to my horse, or other humans I am invested in, takes courage. We don’t always want to hear what they have to say.

It also reminds me of how God insists on working with us. Humans want a list of rules. We actually prefer the training method for ourselves too. Religion- especially religious systems- gives us traditions and regulations: give me the buttons God and I promise to do my best to push the right ones… if I do, you will then do your part and life will work out for me. I will be safe.

We also want a push button God.

But in the words of C.S. Lewis:

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

God doesn’t want us to learn to push the buttons or be trained. He wants more from us: real relationship. He wants the heart. He wants to listen to us even though he knows everything already, and he wants us to learn to hear his voice too. (We become the child now with all the time consuming questions) Sure, God gives us some basic rules and guidelines but around 90% of our day doesn’t fall into those. If you are trying to decide what to do in the course of a day and it including killing someone, that’s a no go. Try again. Most of our decisions are more nuanced.

People complain about the ‘inconsistency’ of the Bible when often it is the struggle in how God is looking for us to walk with him in partnership not pushing the buttons. He wants to go off script into the wild layers of deep connection. It doesn’t feel safe. That’s why it takes trust and building faith. Small steps at first.

Same with the horses. Maybe don’t start today cantering bitless and bridleless in the big field and expect elegant dancing. Maybe begin with a conversation in the field before you halter? Maybe ask: hey, how are you feeling today? Before you put on the halter.

And then listen to what she says…

First things first!

Hello Green to 100 readers!

I am excited to share some new video content through green to 100. In the recent survey most responded they wanted to improve the relationship with their horse yet didn’t believe they had the time needed to do this effectively.

No matter how good our relationships are with horses there are more layers to enjoy. I believe anyone who has the desire to deepen the connection with their horse can do this with some simple mindsets in their current horse program with no additional time necessary.

These videos may seem simple but attention to detail in every step of working with our horses shows them we are present and willing to focus and connect. This is so important in relationship building.

I hope you enjoy this first video and please share this blog with anyone else who would be interested in a short series on deeper connection through every day routines.

Click here for video: Haltering for Connection

Ch-ch-ch-changes

I know it’s true only thing we can count on is change itself. And the winds of change are stirring in many places from my viewshed. It adds to the quieting that Fall already brings, beautiful in its descend toward winter and the cycle of death and rebirth that is the most jarring for me — both in and out of Winter’s sleep. It seems fitting that the changes would come now somehow.

Two years ago in November MollyMare the Morgan came to live in my herd along with her human who is a like minded horsewoman and close friend of mine. At the time I wondered about the loss that change would bring: giving up my solo, quiet and autonomous barn life by introducing another horse and human into the mix. Today as they have both officially left the herd to move 5 hours south the loss of their presence is palpable and I can’t imagine how the place will be without them.

I recently listened to a ‘Wild at Heart’ podcast where John and Blaine Eldridge talked about how we humans always perceive change initially as loss. It is true, I see a loss of a herdmate, loss of a barn buddy, loss of a riding companion, and loss of a helper who was a wonderful support system or extra hands or someone to keep the herd alive when I was out of town… loss of laughter, loss of conversation and someone to bounce off training questions or equine health snafus… it is not an illusion: there is loss.

However change always brings with it opportunity as well. I know in this case our friendship is a deep heart bond and will last through the move. It is not the loss of a friend. We will still laugh and pick each other’s brains but now through phone calls and texts. The fact that she moved south already has my interest pricked at doing some winter training in her area and some road trips might do us good. I have heard the word expansion echoing in my soul since the news came and there is a knowing that this change isn’t all bad and loss forever. It’s hard to know yet what the new opportunities will be.

I have challenged myself to hold the two competing feelings in the same heart and not to wallow in sadness because I know good things and joy will come- yet the knowledge that there will be positive facets to this change doesn’t release me from facing the sense of loss and allow the honest mourning nonetheless.

It reminded me of how Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus even though he knew there would be triumph and even an immediate miraculous raising of the man from the dead. I think he wept for the loss he felt when death takes temporarily away from our immediate world, and he also wept for his friends and the loss they suffered. Even if we know joy comes in the morning, we still can honestly weep in the darkness. And I find it comforting to know that Jesus weeps with us too.

I am grateful that Iva – a young woman who used to occasionally come along and crew for me with Khaleesi when she was a violin student is back in the local area in part due to Covid and she has been coming once a week to ride with me. She is also likeminded to the approach I have with my horses and they like and trust her too.

Also I ran into- actually it was the other way around– a mountain biker in the spring while exploring some trails he helps to maintain. In our time together we enjoy a shared love of the trails but also of horses. He doesn’t have much experience but loves the horses and also comes out at least once a week to the barn to learn about horsemanship and riding and it’s become one of the days we spend together each week.

I spent a fair amount of time helping Molly mare and her human gain confidence and tools as she hadn’t had her own horse in many years. The lovely Morgan was quite a project both mentally and physically and I enjoyed helping the two along with whatever knowledge I could impart.

Molly in her new digs

I am really excited to learn this move has gone smoothly for them, and the deep foundational work they did on their relationship means this transition has not been overly stressful on either of them. Molly is secure in her owners care and seems to really know this.

Now besides my two wonderful riding companions I wonder if this place left open in their absence may find some filling helping others as well. I do hope so as sharing what I’ve picked up deepening my own horse-human relationships is a passion that burns brighter than most others for me. I will be keeping my eyes open for what that may look like as well.

Meanwhile as I consider developing long term some content that could be of use to a wider audience, I have a survey to ask what your frustrations, challenges, fears, hopes and dreams with horses are. Please click the link and take the very short survey but even more helpful is to share it with any horse people you know. I’d like to know how GreenTo100 can help readers with real video examples of relationship building over topics we all work with in our horseworld.

Hopes, dreams and challenges survey

The survey is short, takes a minute or so and has 5 questions that ask what your goals are and what your challenges are or where you’d most like to improve. There’s no catch or collection of personal information it’s only to see what people would find most helpful as a starting point. It would mean a lot for me to see feedback from my readers!

We’re waiting to hear from you

Thanks in advance!

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/6LDGSQ9

Set back

Maybe it’s only my experience, but an active life with horses seems impossible without a wandering success curve. Possibly if you have a couple pasture pets that don’t have much work to do except to eat and poop it’s not so striking, but try to use a horse in a discipline of any serious sort and my guess is you are going to have some trouble moving ‘forward’ so to speak from time to time.

Many “Green” readers know I have been struggling finding sustained soundness with Khaleesi for a coupe of years now. Finally I may have found some answers and she has come right at the trot for some trial rides and I’ve been cautiously optimistic that maybe she is finally strong and sound.

On a parallel page, Wyoming the mustang has also been on a slow road over the past few years to carrying a rider confidently. She came green broke needing some miles and experience, but after some rodeo antics, planting her feet and a habit of laying down on the trail when she decided she was finished trying to do the job she was hired for, I went back to the drawing board and her education was on pause until I had the toolbox for her.

That toolbox has been slow in coming together but this year it appears my skills have fallen into place and Wyoming has gotten under saddle and out on the trails. I’ve been able to ride her with confidence and she has been doing great in the woods.

Finally!! Forward!!

How wonderful and encouraging: two horses I have struggled to keep moving forward for different reasons both gaining forward momentum.

Then this week:

Setback

First a perfectly sound and healthy Khaleesi goes to a trim and shoe change and ends up unsound and mysteriously lame.

Trot out to check for lameness

The next day I took Wyoming for a solo trail ride (our fourth) and contended with the worst refusal/feet planting I’ve had since bringing her back to work. We got so stuck I dismounted and decided moving forward on foot was a better decision than world war 4 with her; because in war nobody wins.

I wasn’t afraid, and I tried everything I knew to drive her forward. She would back, she would turn, she would bite at my stirrup, she would kick up her hind leg toward me in the saddle, she would buck, but she would NOT walk forward one more step. I wasn’t willing to turn around but I also wasn’t willing to take us down in a ball of flames.

It felt like a week of failure

The setbacks came on the heels of such great promise made it all the more disappointing. Nothing is as dangerous it seems as daring to hope.

These are the times- if any- I feel like giving up. It’s not so easy to get rid of a horse on the same afternoon you are ready to quit which is probably a good thing. It’s literally harder to quit than to just keep feeding them.

Forget getting to a 100 mile ride. I feel stalled out at the barn. Why am I locked in a stall? God am I on the totally wrong track? Should I sell them and move to Haiti and teach violin to children in poverty? What am I doing so wrong?

Thankfully I suppose though it didn’t feel so at the time, some of the things I’ve gone through in recent years have shown me that even when everything appears desperate and hopeless, it isn’t. The darkness is most cold and bleak before the dawn. No great story is a straight line to victory. I’ve seen God take the things that in that moment I was sure meant my life could never be good again, and turn them around into something unimaginably beautiful.

You just have to keep walking the trail in front of you.

So I looked at the chaos and the setbacks around me and knew if it isn’t good, it’s not the end. So this cannot be where I should stop. And probably it will require some patience before any turn around is apparent. But this one thing I know:

God is good even when everything else isn’t.

It’s been about 2 weeks now as it’s been difficult to find the time to write, but with some help from good horse friends I came to the conclusion that it was a pasture switch from about 6 weeks ago that could be the culprit of the hoof problems.

My usual field had been eaten down and was descending into a weedy mess this summer so I moved the mares to work on the field. Unfortunately this meant they went from a field they had to do a lot of foraging for the good grass (but were not malnourished!) to a lush pasture. Because it isn’t my normal field for them and was somewhat temporary it wasn’t set up well which meant for them to get water and to have enough dry field to get out of the low area of swamp (bad for hooves) they also had way too much pasture to access. This made for unlimited lush grass and over time it seems this began to bring on early inflammation of laminitis signs in the hoof- probably for both of them.

Though the nutrition balancing I had done and the composite shoes had gone far to bringing Khaleesi back into soundness, the grasses worked against us and I think it was the farrier visit that revealed it because he trimmed just enough hoof to expose the sensitive inner and inflamed laminae closer to the surface. Also the nails going into the inflamed region though not through the laminae (she wasn’t sensitive to any single nail) but the pressure of all the nails compounded the sensitivity.

I brought her into a stall, then a paddock, and then once the other horses ate down a small runway field she moved out with them on mostly hay. Within a couple days she came sound again and was her happy self.

I took her on a couple trial walks and then a short but mostly trotting ride where she was comfortable and sound the entire time. For the moment she appears to be strong and a few pounds lighter which I knew she needed as well.

Hand walking during the stall days.

This also emphasizes the fact that this horse needs more careful pasture management. She had put on some weight but wasn’t getting fat pockets yet or a hard neck etc. the vet and my trainer friend said don’t worry too much she will drop them when she’s back in more work and winter is coming. She was not dangerously obese. But the grasses and the time of year and the lighter work load as I spent more time with the mustang came together to create a perfect storm of inflammation that I want to avoid in the future. It could be a bigger key to my lameness struggles over the last couple years as well.

As for Wyoming, the solo ride was tough for us but we did finish well. It is possible she also was struggling barefoot with inflammation and sensitivity carrying a rider similar to Khaleesi.

She is also on limited grass and more hay for now and next ride I brought a friend on Khaleesi to help. There was a discussion about the ride as we crossed the road that looked like backing up and small bucks in the highway. I wondered if a logging truck might be coming soon and it wasn’t the easiest way to begin but I decided it was unlikely I had served my entire purpose out on this earth and I don’t think this was the way I would be taken out so stay in the moment. So I kept breathing and got it done without panic. Thank God no traffic came during that few minutes in the road.

Once I convinced her that up the trail was her only option and the rest of the ride was uneventful and she was calm and willing.

I haven’t taken her out solo again yet but I will. It is ok for the moment that I’ve had companions to help build more willingness and confidence. The potential inflammation in her feet may explain why she has begun to question going out. Hopefully as this reversed she will be more comfortable and willing.

Either way two weeks later my set backs don’t seem so bad, and there is a dawn over the horizon. I’m glad I didn’t sell them and give up. The best stories come with some struggle and challenge, the path to the end is rarely so straight and clear.

No matter how dangerous, I still have hope.