Seek… and ye shall find.  

Thursday, July 6, 2017

After a really fascinating day at the barn I’m left reflecting over that gut thing, that voice from somewhere else that has led me to the place I’m in right now. Then I feel grateful because that search that started as a gut feeling those years back that sent me off to find a young feral mare to start – when I didn’t know a thing about starting a horse – and to find a different way to approach it, to approach horses in general…. has been an amazing journey and I know it’s still only the beginning. 


Just to clarify: I still don’t know a thing about starting horses and have barely scratched the surface of the secret equine world but I want it. I want to learn. I want to be better. I’m better than I was and I’m getting deeper glimpses of that world all the time!

The latest leg of the journey involved a visit from a really good cranialsacral practitioner yesterday. We arranged her visit because of Wild Heart’s issues that were not connected to an injury that a vet could pinpoint (nothing broken, swollen, pulled, diseased etc) but after serious amount of firm insistence from myself and my friend Susan only resulted in this fine mare digging in her heels (literally) we needed to dig deeper ourselves. 


Dee Janelle from Simple Equine Teaching came to do a private clinic back in April and we started with her. 

Definitely pain. By that time (April) she had developed an obvious stiffness in her stifle and something going on in the poll. The pain she was dealing with had caused louder and louder communication from her and though I was listening I wasn’t completely certain just what the mare was saying. But she had begun to show disrespect towards me likely because if I couldn’t understand her and continued to insist on things she couldn’t do- I was not going to make a good leader for her to trust. 
I did not go down that path very far without getting help. 

Dee helped start some basic healing process that was amazing to watch (as a science minded skeptic… this laying of hands type stuff seemed unlikely to make a difference. But when you see the changes with your own eyes and if you care about results… you’ll believe too).  

After the clinic I went back to groundwork she could do without pain and allowed her some time to continue to repair and reset – because the body will do that, sometimes it needs a little help when it’s stuck. I took Dee’s advice and called in Sandy (cranialsacral practitioner) to give her a deeper look and give us either a prescription to go forward or the green light to get into saddle work again. 


Sandy is highly regarded in her field. This meant a two month wait to see her- even with the connection from Dee- it was worth it. 

In the end I decided to have her look over all my horses and my aging pup Linus who has been getting stiffer and stiffer with age after even a short easy trail ride. 


One thing I’ve learned that has begun to save me time, money and aggravation: if Dee says it is a good idea, jump on it. I have yet to see her be wrong. I can’t explain exactly, but in a couple years time I’ve seen the evidence: she is not guessing. And she is not going to be wrong. 

I’m not a mindless-follower type. I believe in results. The longer I stay connected to her and her methods- the more my horse life blooms and my animals thrive and things come together. 

When I saw her in April she said to me (paraphrased): She’s a great mare- I really like her.  I’m not happy with her [Khaleesi’s] feet. You have a nutrition problem. Get her shoes off, get her nutrition issue fixed, start by getting off the junk food [commercial processed fillers and grains], you’ll need hoof protection that isn’t nailed on constricting the blood flow into her legs. Her legs will look better too when you get the shoes off. Your saddle is ok, she’s happy with it- but there’s minor atrophy starting behind the withers- talk to Carol about a Balance Saddle so her back can grow stronger. You like riding trails in a halter – I see you in a neck string, that will be better. Let’s just get everything off her face entirely – is that legal in your sport?Next year. 2018. That is your year. You are going to have a fantastic 2018. 


I heard her. I still hear her voice in my head. 

2018. That is your year.

Well I wasn’t quite ready to bail out on 2017 in April. So I made mental notes and thought:

There’s no way I can afford another saddle- especially an expensive one. I spent all that time and finally found what ‘works’ for us…. LA LA LA LALA I DON’T WANR TO HEAR SHE MIGHT DO BETTER WITH ANOTHER SADDLE… 

I can’t pull her shoes off today I have a 55 mile race next weekend and I don’t have a good boot program in place. Plus my vet and farrier keep telling me pads and shoes are giving her the protection she needs to reverse some of the impact damage. Pull the shoes- ugh! Just when I’ve found something that seems to be working ok. I know I’d like to see her able to get out of shoes but I’ve tried that before…. how can it work?

I don’t feed a lot of grains anyway- I can pull off my feeds pretty easily. I’ll start there….

And I did start there. I at least took one thing to start with immediately. 

I pulled all the mares off ration balancers and feeds and went to coolstance and grass only. I add a vitamin/mineral supplement.

Then got to the OD 100 in June and lost a shoe in mile 2. 

2018. That is going to be your year. 

I can’t lie. That’s the first voice I heard when I started having shoe issues. She’s always been right before. 

Pull the shoes as soon as you can and get her nutrition fixed. 

I suppose that gut feeling is partly why I didn’t put that shoe back on and try to finish. Something is not right with those feet. Hasn’t been for a long time. She’s always been right before. 

Interestingly, Jeanne Waldron the legendary endurance vet took a look at K as a favor to Lynne two years ago and said a similar thing: her coat and feet and sensitivity in the lower back tell me she has nutrition issues. Probably worms. Give her a power pack.

I did. Not sure if it helped a little. But I’m still here trying to sort out her feet. 

Enter Sandy Siegrist of Perfect Animal Health. I was intensely curious what she would find with Khaleesi. First I’ve been working on my riding and balance a lot and for a couple years now. Sandy can tell a lot from the horse about how the horse is being ridden and about the rider. 


I’m not at all afraid of what Khaleesi would say! The good bad and the ugly I want to know it all! Especially the ugly- that’s where you learn how to improve.

I was beyond glad to hear that she was in great balance and great shape. Her back looks good but her top line could come up to improve it.

I just picked up a balance saddle.

…. this is what I’m learning about following this path. My reaction to finding a balance saddle was: no way. I can’t afford it. 

Seriously I can’t. 

But I started to do some research- to search. To follow that voice- and within two weeks of being open to the possibility the saddle was here. The exact right size and style available used for a price I could sell my other saddle for and a year interest free to find the right buyer. The saddle I could never imagine would be attainable fell into my lap. 

I’m slowly learning to stop putting up roadblocks and start watching the doors open. 

Wonderful- that’s perfect! That will help. 

So the only problem you have with her (and I like this mare very much!) is her guts aren’t working. Like at all. So no matter what you do for her nutritionally it won’t help because her guts aren’t processing it. 

Ok so now what?

Probiotics. 

Her feet should come around in 45-60 days. Keep them trimmed shorter so her angles are better for good growth. Do you have good boots for her? (Yes i do!!) Then she showed me how to tell if the probiotic is working and when to stop feeding it. By feeling a spot on her side with a lump that will eventually go away.

So I embark on a probiotic program to see if it helps and will keep in touch with Sandy as it goes. 

What creates this issue with the gut health? As we all know a lot of things including stress, pain, heavy workload, herd changes, antibiotics, chemical wormers, vaccinations… and more. I am fairly certain this has been an issue since she came to me. Since the first times I ponied her with Faygo (about 6 months after she came to live with me) she was sensitive in rocky ground. 

I wonder about taking her off the land and starting the important modern horsekeeping necessities such as worming and vaccinations and feeding grain added with the stress of leaving her feral style life and herd and having to get to know a human as her new best buddy. 

Often once the balance is upset it needs help to rebalance. 

Luckily Pam has a big tub of a good probiotic she loaned me before the OD ride and Khaleesi loves it- she’ll lick the powder right out of the bowl with no feed. 

Which brings me to the fascinating concept of free choice and how I’m changing even to free choice minerals now because I’ve been told by too many people that they will if allowed to – balance themselves by taking in what they need if they have the access. 

I won’t put the Forco out free choice but I am intrigued that the horse who won’t try new things: it took me a while to get her to try a carrot… she resisted eating grain feeds when I first got her… she licks the Forco out of the bowl as a powder like it’s candy. Does she know she needs it? Does the wisdom of the horse really go there? I don’t know but I’ve stopped assuming it doesn’t. 

As for the others: I’m also glad to say none of them have serious issues and are overall balanced in body, mind and spirit and in good health. 😊

Faygo had a very long ago head trauma that created uneven growth and development in her head and face. Sandy moved things around – this I don’t understand but I watched it happen- in the structure of her head and eye and even in her mouth. She does this with almost no pressure and no force. However when she was finished she asked me to walk her so she could process the changes and readjust. The mare stumbled like she was slightly drunk at first. After a few minutes she came around but the changes for her were significant. 


It is very likely she will breathe more easily now. She may have suffered harder breathing for many years because of the shift in her face and head from an early injury and though her heaves are always worse in humidity so I don’t believe that will cure the condition it will be interesting to see how much it helps her. I talked over her move to live with my mom with Sandy and she agreed a drier climate will be beneficial and she’ll be working with my mom to come up with herbs or remedies that will help with symptoms as she continues to age. 

As for Wild Heart: she had a shoulder way out and bound up. Sandy said it was like she was T-boned at some point not sure how long back… could have been pasture antics here or in captivity or as far back as her wild days. She wasn’t telling. It caused an issue in her psoas (I think it was that, but I could have the body term wrong) which is what works and drives the hind end and allows that back leg to reach underneath her. All this makes a lot of sense from what we watched ponying and riding her in how she moved and how hills were when she’d have the most trouble. 


Her stifle issue and poll were completely fine during this visit and after the shoulder was reset and released she is good to get under saddle again!

Her prescription is go for a pony ride first and get a nice long trot out so she can see that her body is working properly again and she should be pain free. She may struggle at first until she realizes it’s ok- or she may realize it right away – but she is healthy and ready for work.


As for Linus- he had scarring in his shoulder probably from when he was hit by the car as a pup. She spent a lot of time with him and helped release some of the scar tissue. Sandy has worked on wolves and wolf dogs before and said that they are different than domestic dogs. She didn’t say that Linus had wolf in him, but that she sensed a definite wild dog gene in his bloodline. She said it’s a strong presence. I was not at all surprised. He is also healthy aside from the shoulder injury and said raw apple cider vinegar and turmeric will help him as he’s aging. After his session he went from stiff and slightly limpy from Monday’s ride to moving like himself a few years back. It was lovely to see!

I left the barn feeling reflective and grateful that the path I began seeking a handful of years back- to find better answers and a deeper understanding – not just to be successful with my horse but to be a better person is a path that continues to come to me one footstep at a time. I don’t know where it will lead me, but that isn’t my job to know. 


My job is to seek. And to stay open as the steps present themselves – and to have no fear but instead walk in faith that the next step will be clear as it is meant to be. Then take the step. And enjoy!

Heart: Disrespect 

Monday, May 1, 2017

I haven’t updated Heart’s journey in a while. I have been writing more about Khaleesi as she so far is having a good 3rd season as an endurance horse.

The other side is that I haven’t been sure what exactly to write about. I’d been watching her progress nicely then gradually begin to sort of unravel on the trail and first I needed to understand it myself. 

I chose a mustang mare for varied reasons from talking to others I know who own them: good feet, hearty, ability to take care of herself, big heart, and the belief that I would learn a lot from the process. 

Well I was right on with all of it. And I’m getting quite an education. 


(Big yawn as we work though some early groundwork over the winter)

The big picture that I was trying to make sense of included a horse that always chose the humans over the herd in the field – Wild Heart is not hard to catch (in fact she catches us as Buck would put it) and is willing to leave her herdmates to fly solo with either Susan or I in the barn. 


She has become safe to tie, calm to saddle and tack up, good with picking up her feet for you to work with, Susan had gotten her quiet and still at the stool to mount, she was already started under saddle and no trouble to ride in the arena, been ponied along the trails and she had been willing to lead or follow being ridden on the trail. 

Then one ride she laid down while Susan was riding her. This isn’t the end of the world – Khaleesi has done this in a muddy pool because it feels good. I discourage it but it gives my friends a big laugh as it only happens when I’m not ready for it!

Susan would get back on her and we continued to ride just longer enough that she’d soften again and be willing to continue then we’d turn around. She did this in various ways sometimes trying more often than others and sometimes she would lay down when we got back to the barn yard… but we took it in stride and let her sort it out. 

The approach was not to get overly upset with her for it, but to firmly let her know riding was her job and laying down to roll did not get her out of it. 

The saddle fit is good, her back is fine, and we were only walking and the rides were less than 5 miles. She had been ponied on the same trails without rider to build mental and physical fitness first. None of this seemed unreasonable to getting a horse started. 

Then maybe a month ago or so she stopped at the top of a hill and refused to go.  Susan is a good rider and insisted firmly without fear.  I rode on with Khaleesi to encourage her not to be left behind. Nothing worked. She planted her feet and wouldn’t go on and when asked to move forward she would crow hop, kick, back and circle. 

Always on the lookout for when a nice horse might be asking for help- and not interested that anyone get hurt I suggested seeing if Susan could hand walk her down the hill. She has seemed uncomfortable on hills before- but nothing I could put my finger on. Just building the muscle? Was it that she wasn’t comfortable yet and the dogs were too close with her crowding her space? Was something pinching in her tack?

It took some effort even then but Susan was able to walk her ahead of me down the hill. Her hind seemed slightly stiff maybe? Then not... at the bottom susan got back on and the mare again refused to go. We experimented- I took the lead rope and ponied her… this time she went willingly. Eventually Susan took up the reins again and heading back toward home was just fine. 

The next ride she began refusing right in the front yard. I picked up the lead and she came along without fuss. 

Odd. If she’s in pain, why would she be ok with being led?

Susan took back control and was ok for a short time then still less than a mile from home the mare dug her heels. Spun, kicked at her, hopped, mini bucks, backing- anything but forward. 

Does this have to do with susan? I didn’t think so. Susan had been doing great with the mare. Still I felt that it would be a factor to rule out. 

We traded horses and I got on Heart and asked her to move along. 

No

She did the same to me. I had a little more tolerance for pushing her past the behavior and riding out some of her antics without fear. I held on, melted into the saddle and stayed calm willing to unemotionally insist that she do her job. Can I push her through this?


I wasn’t angry, afraid or frustrated. Mostly curious and trying to figure out what she was saying. 

I got nowhere


This is the point I was certain I needed help. Not that I couldn’t continue to work with the mare but I wasn’t sure what she was saying exactly. If I didn’t understand what she needed I risked destroying her connection to us with the wrong human response. 

I needed the right direction not to ruin this horse. Not to mention keep us from getting hurt. 

In my opinion the thing that makes a good horsewoman is taking the actions of the horse which could mean at least 4 different things (likely more) and accurately assessing if the horse is saying. 

  1. I’m hurting and I can’t go on like this.
  2. I don’t understand what you want and  am going to shut down out of confusion. 
  3. I am afraid and am certain I will die if you force me to do this. 
  4. I am not in the mood to haul a human around the trails and if I can find a way to get out of working I’ll do it. I think I can take you. 

We needed to get this right and she was speaking so loudly at this point I knew it was time; to respond wrong would devastate our future success with her. 

I had an idea. 

I hand walked her forward just ahead on the trail to a clearing and gave Susan my phone. I needed somewhere safe to try one more time and if we ended up in rodeo I didn’t want ditches, trees and obstacles on all sides. 

I mounted and asked her to go then insisted firmly. Same crow hopping, mini bucks, spinning in circles and backing. 

Note: I’m a decent rider but if that horse meant me harm she could have tossed me. She was communicating. She didn’t at that point want to hurt me or Susan. I am certain of that. 


We got the rodeo show on video and I sent it to Dee from Simple Equine Teaching for a consult. Thankfully this was a couple weeks before she’d be here in person. We could begin with whatever she suggested and when she came we would see how it was going and what next. 

Video is limited and wasn’t very close up but Dee gave me some feedback and Susan and I went back into the arena with Heart to back up in the process and simplify. We rode her but without any hands/steering and just asked her to be ok with carrying a rider in a walk- any direction for now is ok!

First step to rule out confusion or mixed signals from her rider. 

She started with some argument but got more comfortable with the task and she did improve in there over time. 


We still weren’t certain we’d gotten to the bottom of it….

The week before Dee came I ponied Heart on a very short walk (no saddle) and all went ok until she tossed her head and communicated major discomfort on the last two significant hills descending home to the barn. My mom and I both felt something was physically off with her we took our time (listened to her) as she navigated down the hill. 

I suggested Susan hand walk her across the street the next day to see if she noticed anything off.  Heart picked a major fight with her to even go up the hills where the two used to hand walk with no trouble at all a couple months back.

Bingo. Something was off. 

But what was still unclear. It wasn’t so obvious to see what exactly wasn’t right… no heat or swelling, her canter was choppy in the pasture but she didn’t seem injured exactly. could it be ulcers? Alignment out (chiropractic work?)

When Dee arrived the following day Susan went to get the mare and as we watched through the barn window the mare’s hind was very stiff just walking in. 

It was fascinating watching Susan and Dee work with Heart. She had some pretty serious energy conflicts in her body. Meridians and axis and poll things awry (a whole language I’m not familiar with) She had issues in her stifle and neck- these things she communicated to them as we watched her move her body as Dee and Susan worked with her.

This whole process I can’t explain, but I can say as Dee showed Susan where to touch the horse with very little pressure we all watched the mare change in front of us- relaxing, moving off then inviting her back to ‘do that again‘, sometimes a tiny jerk and the way she would hold her body then shift was mind blowing. 

That very day she already moved better, and after day two I watched her canter through the pasture with fluid motion where in the weeks leading up she was stiffer and choppy. Night and day. 

No vet. No medication. 

Energy work. Then her following up that work by adjusting herself further. 

But that’s only half of the story. Wild Heart had begun gradually to respond disrespectfully to things she was uncomfortable with. 

I want to be clear here. I have heard most horse-people I know talk about respect and disrespect and now in my personal experience I am going on a limb to say disrespect is pretty rare and the term is grossly overused. 

I’ve seen horses worried, unsure, fearful, confused, questioning- all things some people often lump into ‘disrespectful’ but it is not at all the same. 

When you ask something from a horse, and she doesn’t want to do it, then looks at you and decides she is going to fight instead of flee and she will hurt you if she is able… that is disrespect and it looks very different than confusion, fear or worry. 



Also it isn’t generally the case that a horse ‘is’ disrespectful on the whole. You can have a horse go through all kinds of responses to a request and a few moments of disrespect that turn into either respect or curiosity or vice versa doesn’t make a bad horse. 

The mustang mare can flip pretty rapidly between questions, respect and disrespect and I am getting a quick education on how to get my human responses in line fast to act appropriately.


The other part of what the clinic provided was tools to communicate quickly and effectively when Heart chose to be disrespectful- things that would hopefully keep me safe and change the conversation bringing our relationship back where she was willing and saw us as good leaders paired with some physical healing she needed to do in order to feel better, relax and start to work again. 

One of the common mistakes I’ve seen is  (especially women) when needing to respond with big communication from a horse is to get emotional. I don’t mean they cry or become a hormonal mess- mostly they use anger and frustration. Anger seems to help generate big energy, however it is still an emotion and a horse will never accept an emotional leader. 

Horse leaders respond appropriately to the situation and go back to their cool, relaxed selves eating or drinking or whatever it is they were doing just seconds ago before the offense. It’s that quick. And when they get the situation handled (which is with exactly the volume necessary no more no less) it’s over. They don’t continue to punish or chase or ‘impose more control’. They don’t continue to work the disrespectful horse. They get what they asked for (out of my space, don’t touch my food, etc) and then move on. 

It’s in the moment. The past… 2 seconds ago… is over. 


One thing I’ve noticed is that the situation is defused quickly- not amped up into an emotional frenzy which is the usual response that humans have when they are afraid, angry, or frustrated.

My job when Heart decides to take me on and question if I’m leadership material is to not be fearful (control breathing, be aware of heart rate), calmly (like I have no doubt I can successfully take on a 1200 pound wild animal) but firmly stand my ground and use my tools to communicate that I’m smarter and stronger than she is. 

After all if I can’t keep her from eating grass when she suppose to be working for me, how can I be trusted to keep the mountain lions at bay, or to provide the food she needs, or make the right decisions when we’re out in the woods together. 

More domesticated horses just don’t have the high level survival drive a wild one does so she goes from zero to life or death quicker than the other horses I work with. 

Still I have faith in the mare. She is a good horse full of spirit and heart. She is going to make an excellent partner when she realizes she has a cush life now and doesn’t have to fight anymore- she can get along with her new family and be treated very well. 


But she does have a job. 

It’s a slower process but completely worthwhile and both Susan and I are committed to success and giving the process the time it takes. 

After over a week of regular but short sessions I am seeing improvement. At first her language was loud and aggressive at times, now her disrespectful moments are less intense and more half-hearted. She is healing and I am learning and growing. 

One thing is for certain, learning to work with a horse who chooses disrespect at times does make you better if you get through it effectively. It will make me better with all the horses I work with- and it has shown me what disrespect isn’t. Which has been one of the most valuable parts of this experience for me. 

I still believe that slow IS fast and that once we sort some of these things out she will come right along and be a truly fine horse. 

Refined through the fire. 

April 26, 2017

Where to begin?

There’s been a lag in my blogging because I’ve been too busy doing to catch up with writing.
Let me try to sum it up.

Since my last blog post:

  • my mother came to visit.
  • We hosted a two-day private horsemanship type clinic together with friends (horsemanship seems the closest tag… it was about everything from riding to energy work to nutrition to training to equine communication to life lessons… all jam packed into two intense days).
  • My mom spent some time with fabulous Faygo as the plan is to send her to Reno this summer.
  • Then after dropping the clinician and my mom at the airport I came home and packed and left for the No Frills 55 which we rode on Saturday.
  • With a day to unpack and recover I’ve spent two days digging out of that hole from work duties and teaching my violin students.

Now to update my blog as best I can considering how much material I have and how little time and space I have to write this week.

First mom’s visit.


I am so grateful for the time we had together to share horsey-life. We got some beautiful riding in my favorite spots including Hidden Valley and The Big Lonely. 


She and Faygo had fantastic connection right from the start- and there must be horses somewhere in our blood because for starting later in life even than I have- she has great intuition and a great connection to them. I felt they were well matched right away and as the week went on even more strongly so. By the time she left I wished she could put Faygo on the plane with her and take her sooner. When people ask “are you sad for her to go” I can only say:

No! not even a little. Of course I’ll miss her- she’s an amazing horse and my first love… but when you see something so right and the situation so great for her, that is the only thing that really matters. It makes my heart happy to know she’ll be with my mom and Shine.


Second the clinic.

I can’t even begin. Life changing is an understatement so I’ll start by saying that it was a special time with women who are very important in my life and horses that connect us all. 


Dee from Simple Equine Teaching guides the humans to be able to think like a horse does because horses cannot think like a human. Seems easy enough- but my experience is that most people who try to see the world from the horse’s perspective mostly end up thinking “as if the horse thought like a human” and that’s where things go wrong. In order to see from the horse’s perspective first you have to notice how they communicate and enter that space. No matter what it sounds like from the outside- I’ve seen it. I’ve seen things change. Seeing is believing for me.
It’s the kind of clinic that even though looking back the least amount of time was probably spent with me and Khaleesi within the total group, I learned a ton from being part of everyone else’s process.
I don’t just want to know how to connect with my horse- I want to learn how horses think and communicate period- so watching very basic things between my mom and Faygo… and standing at the top of a very large field while Carrington learned to connect to her lead horse in a herd was invaluable for me. I learned much about working with Wild Heart and what that process will continue to look like and how Susan and I compliment each other with her… and had a blast with the time I did spend with Khaleesi.

Spending some time with the girls at the Big Lonely before the clinic.

The funniest must be when I went to collect my horse from the home field on day one- she would be transported to The Big Lonely (site of the clinic) after working with Wild Heart. My fantastic horse that comes to me and puts her head in the rope halter 95% of the time knew Dee was there and put on quite a spectacular show! 

As I stood inside the barn with the thought to collect her while they were wrapping up with Heart I got this welling up in my heart: I’m going to get my horse now… my friend… my sidekick… my second in command…

I kid you not: as I stood up in the barn hardly able to contain my excitement and anticipation to work with my partner I looked out the barn window and watched as she went from standing in the closest corner watching the barn to a full gallop down the fenceline to the farthest point of the field. Doubt if you want to but it was as obvious to me as the fact that the sun will rise tomorrow: she felt my energy and ran with it.

I went out to the field and she came barreling back toward the gate. It had been raining on and off and the field was soggy. She showed off her full acrobatic repertoire. Bucking, rearing, jumping and running with sliding muddy stops. At one point before I stepped inside the field she did just the right amount of twist to send a shower of mud particles cartoon-like in their perfection showering right on top of me.

Brava! Yes… you are fantastic… I’m coming in to get you now…

Yes. She dared me. Come in to get me! WHEEEEEEEEEE!

If she truly wanted to evade she had acres of field to leave me for but instead she played with me and danced showing off her skills and then standing still enough for me to get close, offer a hand then twist and buck and run off again.
K: You need to up your game today! Dee is here… I know it!
Me: Show off. Come in and work with me. I promise it will be fun!
K: I will… but you have to say the secret code first!
Me: Come on… you know I don’t know the secret code.
K: I know… but Dee does! You might figure it out here… I’ll give you clues. 

True enough Dee finally came outside as the game went on and laughed: I love this mare… she is having so much fun with you!

After a couple suggestions revealing her equine code of the day, true to her word K stood still and dipped her head into the halter and we left the field together and into the trailer heading for the Big Lonely as if nothing was different than usual. She wasn’t worked up or hot or distracted- she had her fun and was mine again. 

 As the rain kept coming on and off we rode in the indoor arena there and talked about diagonals and signals of riding that are just a little different than the things I’ve heard around me for years.

I brought up my experimentation with riding in the halter and she thought a moment before suggesting that it’s ok with the right equipment but not ideal… what we need to set our sights on is to ride in a neck rope. After all when doing 50 – 100 miles on the trail, getting everything off her face would be best. 

Not today…. But we’ll get there.

Of course we will. I have no doubt.

The No Frills 55.

Becky Pearman Photography

After dropping my mom and Dee at the airport Friday morning and not being sure my truck was ready at the shop I was completely unsure if I’d be attending my favorite ride this year. I have been learning that all of life is beyond my control and that it is OK. I am learning the strength in flexibility and how to pay more attention to the doors that open around me. If my truck wasn’t running it didn’t matter how ready my horse was- the No Frills wouldn’t happen for us this year.

But my truck did get finished thanks Jay Ford and Casey and team and then I truly did have to make the call: do I go or not go?

I was mentally and emotionally exhausted and hadn’t had much time at home. I had plenty to catch up on. This 55 on the other hand was a true test of green to 100’s current conditioning program and her feet. It was my last chance until June to see if we were on the right track. After a brief discussion with Ed (who was working over the weekend anyway) I decided to go.

I packed in an hour, loaded my horse and hit the road. I didn’t put my usual ton of thought or preparation. I threw some things into a cooler, a bag and a few plastic bins. As long as I had horse and saddle I should be fine. The biggest things I forgot were: sleeping bag, GPS and heart rate monitor. I was able to borrow a blanket from great friends Amy and Ricky and Amy even leant me a HRM but I couldn’t make it work. Didn’t matter. This ride there was no data- and that was for the best.

I woke up at 4:30am in my trailer hammock to pouring rain and figured I’d made the wrong call. I should have stayed home. Too late. I’m here, I drove. I paid. I’m riding.
Thankfully the Muddy Creek Rain Coat Ed got me a couple birthdays ago created a climate bubble. I was never cold and never wet. In fact it ended up being quite a pleasant ride despite the high of 48 and cold rain. 

Misty cold rain held all day- yep. Rocks here too

The weather was ever in Khaleesi’s favor. It kept her cool through a very tough ride, and it softened up some of the hard pack easing some of the concussion of 55 miles.

I went out of camp last knowing the only way we would make it through sound was to let her pick her way through the rocky trail at her pace. I had no way of knowing our average speed thank God because it seemed too slow to finish, but I didn’t care. My horse came first and I would not make the same mistake I made at 2016 Iron Mountain. I would listen to her and allow her to navigate as she was able. If we went overtime so be it. This time I would listen. I would make it up to her. I would be better.

We met up with Roger in the first loop and the two of us never left the last positions for the entire 11 hours we were out on trail. Khaleesi crept through the rocks and trotted whenever she could. We didn’t hurry and we didn’t tarry. By the last vet check we were alone after about 10 minutes into our hold while the volunteers began cleaning up- no one was even close to our last places in line. Didn’t matter- my horse looked amazing.

Final vet check before the finish at mile 43

The final 10 miles to camp we rode alone and the footing was normally hard pack but the relentless 10 hours of rain had softened it up just enough and she trotted and cantered that stretch like we’d just left the barn. 

The road follows a stream; she dragged me in a few times to drink her fill and she would pick at the lush early grasses from time to time but overall she ran home with energy to spare.

We all but cantered excitedly down into the final vetting in camp and once I pulled her tack she pulsed at 60 then had a cardiac recovery of 48 bpm. Fantastic! I’ve never seen her look so good after a ride and her feet held without a sign of lameness.


What a good lesson for me. The No Frills is hands down one of the toughest rides for both the 30 and the 55- thankfully in April we never had the heat & humidity the June OD ride does, and the June ride has more elevation gain to worry about, but this ride has the worst rocks of all three and intense relentless trails.

Looking good back at camp

As Roger reminded me: You close your eyes at night and see rocks after this ride. Grass & rocks, mud & rocks, big rocks and small rocks; embedded trail rocks and loose gullies of rocks. Rocks everywhere you turn.

Rock trail

Something else Roger said that gave me a smile. He said Khaleesi moves so beautifully- like she floats down the trail but you can see her put that hind end motor underneath herself with great power. That’s what I want. Power and ease.

I have a long way to go as a rider to help make her job as easy as possible, but I have come such a long way from my first LD on her with my legs flying around and being tossed into the air feeling like I’d gone through a washing machine for 30 miles. 

Overall this past year has been a challenging one on many levels. Often uncomfortable, but it’s the challenges that up your game and make you better if you let them. It’s the fire that refines. 

With many lessons sloshing around the think tank I will enjoy a moment of positive growth. Here after this 55 I think we both looked and felt the best after a big ride yet! I am refreshed from some time with my amazing mom, and my horse and I  are on the right track and have many more years and miles to tweak and improve. 

Becky Pearman Photography

Time. Truth. Heart.

Margin, Barn Therapy & The Work

Who would you be without your story?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas!

During this Holiday season I’ve found myself building up internally with small stresses and irritations- running short on time and daylight to do all I want to get done. 

A friend of mine recently shared a similar experience with things we both acknowledged were of small consequence but still made their way into slow boiling frustration- she finished her mild vent to me with the thought: These are first world problems. I know I need to be grateful I have a home and people who love me and everything I need. I am blessed beyond most of the world’s population. 

It’s true. However life still can catch up with us all. For me, I’ve had some car issues- covered under warranty – but my dealership is 2 hours away so having to get my car in and out 3 times in a month is a huge unplanned time suck. Also having a car go unreliable on you really can wreck the plans you DO have and not being sure if you’ll get home after work in the dark over airport mountain (with no cell service) is pretty stressful. 

Oh- and I hit a deer with their rental car while mine was days in the shop. That sucked. As the driver it’s my insurance which means a large deductible so let’s pile on top mild financial stresses as well…..

December is full of holiday recitals to organize and juries (music final exams) at the college, scheduling make up lessons, keeping some kind of exercise routine in place (tis the season to gain 10 pounds if I’m not careful!) and of course trying to get a few gifts in the mail (uh… after choosing, purchasing, or often in my case making said gifts)….oh yes, there the usual stuff like laundry, feeding the cats, making occasional dinner, and super minimalist chores like at least removing cobwebs once in a while – I feel lately like I’m never really home very long. 

Add to that my trailer hitch needs replacing and I’m now in hoof boot season and lost a boot my first ride out of shoes (more on that process soon… we’re working on solutions right now and it’s been an interesting learning opportunity for me)….

I remember years ago hearing Dr. Richard Swensen talk about margin: that space in between things… time, finances and emotions… and the toll it takes when you lose your margin. 

For me it means the wrong turn because my GPS wasn’t clear to me causing a 10 minute detour in a town I’m unfamiliar with or the Target photo printer device taking forever to help me get a few simple photos from my phone to print… or the fact that one gift I’d decided to pick up for my husband is so popular it sold out when I went back to the store 2 days later… losing an expensive hoof boot on the trail the first day out of metal shoes…

These things become super frustrating instead of mildly annoying. 

I knew something was happening below the surface when I made it to a yoga class and random unorganized thoughts kept attacking me no matter what I did mentally. I had zero focus. I started to feel separation in my relationships. I noticed I wasn’t really listening to people, I started to feel pinched and a constant low level of stress. Distracted. Disconnected. 

In my head I told those stressful thoughts  basically – you all are first world problems, and I’m going to be merry anyway, look on the bright side there is nothing here I can’t handle or sort out.

I am fine!!!


But I’m not fine. 

I realized this recently when I went mentally off the deep end internally (hopefully not so obvious to the outside world) and my negative stressful thoughts took over. I won’t share exactly what that means for me- but as Byron Katie says: there are no new stressful thoughts in the world. They’ve been around since time began and each of us have experienced most of them at some point in our lives.

When I stopped long enough to realize the build up and loss of margin had taken me to this place I took a ‘time out’ and did what I need to do to straighten myself back out and regain my sanity. 

Which brings me to why I decided to write out this in my horse-life blog. It hit me and this thought was more clear than ever before in a moment. 

And I bet it’s not what you think. 

Big yawn from Wild Heart… looks a little crazy in still form but it was a good moment she was processing

That thing I need to straighten out my mental and emotional state is NOT barn time. It’s NOT time with my horse. It’s NOT barn therapy. My horse is NOT my therapist and it’s not her job to be. 

What I needed to get back on track was an hour or two writing in my journal questioning my thoughts on paper.

Everyone has a different thing they need- yoga, prayer, meditation, a soak in the tub… so I’m not preaching journaling here necessarily but I will tell you what I’ve learned about it and how it’s changed me – and you can play with it or not, it’s up to you!

What I’ve found works best in my life now is The Work. It’s a process Byron Katie uses to help people question their thoughts in order to find joy, peace and connection. In her words: I learned that when I believed my thoughts I suffered, and when I didn’t believe them I did not suffer.  

It may sound crazy, but the work is simple. 

Judge your neighbor:

You take a stressful moment (specific is better- if you get too generic the mind and ego will play tricks on you to weasel out of the truth), and you get as petty as possible about someone or something that upset you. 

Then you ask four questions and turn it around. Then find examples where the opposite of what you thought is true – or sometimes even truer.

You can delve into The Work easily and for free. I recommend going to YouTube and searching for Byron Katie- there’s enough there to keep you busy for weeks. You can also go right to her website. Everything is free except her books which are also great. 

What the work does is give you something to ‘meditate’ on (not emptying you mind which I cannot do… but sitting with your thoughts and questioning them with real inquiry), and then it frees you from being emotionally controlled by them. 

It’s helped me find what’s really true around me and what is the story I’ve created about it. Good story or bad story, they are almost never the whole truth, and we create an alternative reality with these stories so often without even realizing it. This is why life is stressful and why we have disconnection in relationships and loss of peace. 

For someone always on the move and working toward goals.. forward thinking sometimes to a fault- it helps me get present in where I am right now. 

For me it’s meant that I found joy, connection and clarity- no matter what the circumstance (and the tools to help me back when I’m not there). I’ve learned it doesn’t take two to fight- it only takes one. It just takes me to start or end a war. 

I look at it like staying in my own business- because it’s the only business I have any control over. And when my feelings depend on other people to behave a certain way I am hopeless. I have no control over who likes me, who is kind to me, who agrees with me, and what the weather is. 

So the work has helped me reconnect with the person I most need to understand… the person ultimately responsible for my feelings and mental health: me. 

The seemingly minor detail that is actually the most important thing is writing it down. I’ve spent most of December ‘too busy’ to take time out and sit and write… doing the work in my head laying half awake at 5am or while driving… even while at the barn. When we are stressed and disconnected we are at war internally and (another Katie-ism): all war belongs on paper. 

It is amazing when you have to write it down and have to stay with a specific experience. It takes away the power of the thoughts and fears.

As an interesting experiment- I was in an emotional argument with someone I care about who was angry with me. I wanted to be open, to understand and listen; so after telling me why they were angry verbally I asked them to write it down for me. I wanted to go all the way so to speak- to really deal with these thoughts and feelings. They had just spoken the words, but in the end could not write them on paper. 

Finally when they agreed to humor me and just write it down – the words written were not at all what were spoken clearly 10 seconds earlier, and much more generic and less personal. I was taken aback. 

That moment I understood more clearly the power of the pen. I am a believer now more than ever – not just in vague journaling but in the work on paper. 

So, my gift to my friends out there is if you haven’t tried the work to check it out. It has been a gift for me this year and turned some pretty stressful times into opportunities for growth I am now truly grateful for. 

And what about the barn?


I still go there as a happy place, I still love my horses and my connection to them is vital. 

However it was obvious this December that I was still stressed out regardless of a decent amount of barn time, great riding and connection with Khaleesi and some wonderful progress with Wild Heart. My barn time was always positive and gave me a little jolt of happy feelings- but I noticed some of my most stressful days came after a lovely morning with my horses. That happiness isn’t the same as finding peace in my soul regardless of hitting a deer or seeing ‘caution: drivetrain malfunction‘ show up in my car computer screen. 

Truth is my horse expects me to be a leader 100% of the time- not just when I’m having a good day. ** this doesn’t mean I haven’t leaned on my horse in the barn broken into tears over hard emotional struggles… I have. I also know horses know. You can’t lie to them with a strong fake front… but being honest with sadness is not the same as being distracted, on autopilot and not present ** 

And in working with the new mustang I definitely need to be 100% present. Though I love seeing the woods from my horse, I’m never a relaxed passenger with my mind wandering freely. I’m listening to my horse and communicating with her as we work on or off trail. The barn and riding are like a job too- an amazing, fun, rewarding job that I love… but still, more of a job than therapy. 


I used to smile and agree with the FB memes popping up that read: my horse is my therapist… or barn therapy is the best kind… but now I have to say for me they just don’t ring true. It’s a nice thought but it doesn’t feel honest. 

I’ll go out on a limb here and say something many horse colleagues may disagree with: my horse has a job. I try to be clear with her what it is – and it’s not therapist. That just isn’t fair to her. 

But with some help from the work- I find truth and peace in reality.  I do my best to come to the barn in good mental and emotional health to be the leader, and when I do I find the best co-pilot I could ask for ready to do her job. This is more rewarding in the end. 

And together we fly. 

Balance Point

Sunday, October 2, 2016

I hope you have enjoyed riding high with me through my blogs lately… as sure as the world turns nothing lasts forever.

Balance has been a key theme in my life for a long long time. A long time. 

I’ve heard that slightly ‘unbalanced’ people are often very effective and change the world… I’ve also heard those people can be hard to live with. 

In my horse world the balance I most often struggle with is the concepts of leadership vs force. I don’t want to use force but at the same time I don’t want to my horse to take over thinking I’m not a suitable leader. I want her to know I listen to her and value her opinions, however I do not want her to decide she is the one really making the decisions. 

My desire is to create a partnership where my horse and I work together with us both agreeing that I am in charge in the end. This is a balancing act that might take me the rest of my life to fine tune. And my hope is I learn how to understand individual horses better in the process. 

The other option is to create a safe, respectful horse that is a good soldier and when you ask for something he wants to do it every time in a basically robotic fashion and you never need to worry he will question you. He will ride you over the cliff if you asked him to. Without a debate or question. 

My way is a little trickier. I get some debates and questions from my mare. Sometimes they are helpful and sometimes not so much. 

Be careful what you ask for!

Yesterday I went to the field and Khaleesi came right over, put her head in the halter and walked in with me, tacked up easy and we were in the yard for the first time in a while. I’ve been trailering to ride off property because I enjoy skipping the drama of having to leave the farm horses and return home. She resists the gate. It’s slight resistance and once we’re out we’re fine, but she doesn’t like to leave. 

Oh- and sometimes she can be in a hurry to get home. Not every ride but the trailer to separate location just skips all that completely. 

I decided to try a ‘Birdie Book’ suggestion of just pointing her where I wanted to go (out the gate) and not forcing her to walk there but waiting for her to want to. 

I thought if nothing else it would be interesting to see what happened. We got close to the gate and then just stopped. I kept her head pointing that way and waited with my energy moving OUT the gate. I imagined her right, rear, white sock foot picking up and starting a nice forward walk. I actually looked down at that foot and willed it to move. 

 

facing the iron gates… come on girl lets go!
 
And it worked. 

We got a few more steps. 

In total leaving the property took me about 12 minutes but in the end she went more willingly than usual. 

I decided that I was not in any hurry, no mileage goal, and that we would just enjoy some time together alone. 

The balance began to tip right away. 

And I let it. 

First she was pokey with her walk. I didn’t want to ‘argue’ and wasn’t in a hurry so I let her pick a slow pace as long as she kept moving.

She’d grab a bite of grass once in a while (something I usually allow especially if we keep moving). I’d have to ask her to keep moving…

I stopped to clip some more briars (more grazing for her) and when I asked her to stand next to a down tree for me to mount her she kept stepping over the tree- she even walked into me! I got on and she walked off…. so I got off again…

Pretty uncooperative with the mounting (unusually so) when she offered me the other side to get on… well, I thought that’s fine. As long as she’ll stand still. 

We continued on leisurely and at some point time was running out on my day and though I’d hoped to wear her out a little more (we didn’t make it to the big hill) I needed to turn around. 

She was thrilled. She immediately offered a nice trot and we were in a good area for it so I said ok. 

Not really my idea… she is still basically in control here. 

Then one of my favorite canter spots and she began to run…. against my better judgement I gave in to her super fast canter up the hill and felt the wind in my face loving how strong she felt and how fast she could run when she wanted to….

Then at the top we return to my rougher trail. We are not running all the way home. I made her slow down and she was not happy with that. I had to do some figure 8s to get her back with me and once I felt her comply (though somewhat resentfully- not with softness) we moved toward the trail which begins with a dirt hump that is a quick but steep up-down. 
I knew she (like all my horses) would want to run up that little hump and I knew today she would take that little opportunity to rocket us onto the obstacle like trail that was still a bit wet and occasionally slippery in places. 

As we reached the top of the mound I was ready and so was she. I pulled back on the reins as she began to try to run down and she tossed her head and bucked. 

Now she could have felt off balance up there but make no mistake, she was mad. This was a tantrum. And considering I had not acted like much of a leader all morning she was going to use this moment to see if she could shift that balance completely and go all out for the hostile take over. 

Being at the top of that little hill gave her buck some extra destabilization and I tipped forward onto her neck with one foot coming out of the stirrup. I was still on but we were now heading down the mound hill dancing with us both trying to gain control. 

This was the first time she has intentionally tried to dump me. I decided to bail as I could still control a slight fall instead of ride it out and maybe end up tossed at a higher speed. 

I pulled my leg over and dropped to the ground clear of her legs, not holding the reins (no way did I want to pull her onto me) and I watched her feet move away from me sideways then once she knew she was clear she hauled ass and thundered away as fast as I’ve seen her run. 

Oh well. Here we are. You can’t ride horses and never end up on the ground. It sometimes amazes me it doesn’t happen more often. 

I wasn’t mad. I wasn’t really hurt (a little bruised where I hit on my lower side). I was about 4 miles from home and assumed I’d find my horse grazing in the yard and hoped no one would panic when they didn’t find me anywhere. 

I had my cell phone I could probably find a spot to text an ‘I’m ok‘ message at least to Ed. 

Thankfully there was a massive downed tree that we had taken a large detour down into the hollow on our way out. It was about 1/4 mile from where I was left, and I found her waiting for me not too far from the obstacle. 

  
She’s pretty smart. I don’t think she couldn’t have figured out how to get home, but she had run out her frustration and was just standing there maybe deciding to wait for me after all. 

I wasn’t sure if she’d evade me… she did not… also I was not emotional or angry.
I was in the moment. The bucking was in the past. It was over. She was calm and so was I. And I did not allow myself to think about the future maybe she’ll do it again! 

She was in the moment too. Not fussy or agitated. She wasn’t grazing, eating or looking for a way through. She was just standing there watching for me. As if we hadn’t just had a fight. 

One small (or big) difference was that now I was more sure of being the one in charge… the leader. Apparently I’d lost my balance on that earlier and being tossed in the mud had been enough of a wake up call that seemed to give me an immediate shot of ‘leader’ energy. 

I picked up her lead rope and walked her in hand down the ravine and insisted she stay slightly behind me and she was good as gold. We navigated the muddy hillside with downs and obstacles with no trouble. 

When we got back onto the main trail I required her to stand still-then expected we would walk calmly. She could move as fast as she wanted as long as we were in a walk gait. 

A tiny part of me asked: do you think she’ll throw you again now that she learned she can??

Doesn’t matter, I answered myself. Right now she is walking calmly and I am fine

After long stretches of loose calm forward walking I asked for a trot and got one in control and at the slow speed I wanted. 

Then walk again. 

She was fine the entire ride home. 

But I learned about balance… and the loss of it in the wrong direction…the hard way. 

I have heard more than one horse-person I respect say that 100% is what is demanded. You can’t be a leader unless you are a leader 100% of the time. 

Of course being a leader isn’t a simple as it sounds. It doesn’t mean being bossy, or doesn’t mean being critical… it doesn’t mean being demanding. It is never about being mad, mean or nagging. Those things are easy. 

Being a leader is a fine balance of staying unemotional, knowing what you want and sticking to it firmly and fairly. It’s being able to listen to your team (in this case a horse- which has its own language barriers if you are a human like me) and take their thoughts and feeling under advisement using the information to move forward. 

Imagine working for someone who is sometimes a great leader and sometimes just not ‘there’. I imagine that could be frustrating. I know that for this to really work I have to strive for 100% consistency. 

It would be easier to create a soldier horse and be bossy…..

Today I woke up with no bruising and a little stiffness but no real damage. I plan to get out again on Khaleesi tomorrow. I expect to be a better leader from my experience.

Still learning. Every day. 

  

Let go.

Wednesday, September 29, 2016

Khaleesi and I are on a good streak lately: strong connection and great solo rides.

I try to use “I” and “Me” because my horse is always perfect. She is a horse after all. She doesn’t lie and she always acts like a horse. She is a mirror at best and worst of me she is the evidence if what I’m doing is working or not working. 

This means when things are going well that I’m getting something right, and if things are going wrong that I’m missing something… Or not giving my best… Or not focused 100% on her when I’m there. 

A slight exception, I think, for the concept Dr. Bennett talks about ‘filling in’. So often our horses have to fill in for our shortcomings and they will- for a while so we can learn, and in some horses forever even if we never get better. This is a generosity in spirit they have that always amazes me. My goal and of most true horseman is to not have my horse to fill in for me, but for me to be good enough- or even better than good enough that I can sometimes fill in for her.

  
I am aware that my horse still has to fill in for my shortcomings at times. My riding isn’t always balanced. Sometimes my legs say too much… I don’t have the most elegant approach angles and timing to dance with her when I go say hello in the field. Still she keeps me on board while we ride and she comes in with me walking head at my shoulder like a team ready to take on the world. 

But she knows I’m trying. Every day I strive to hear and understand more. Slowly her language is making more sense. My riding is improving each time. My ability to be sensitive and quiet, to hear and speak in subtleties is always growing. 

This week we took another solo ride.
img_0769
I’ve been focused on feeling my stirrups under my feet. I’ve been imagining her footfalls while I ride. Letting go of any tension in my hips and joints to move with her and stay out of her way. And on our last ride this thing happened. I felt it underneath me and it was loud as it was strong. It was unmistakably different than anything I’d ever felt before. 

She picked up a trot along the river after we descended a mountain single track. I believe my riding (with a lot of attention to it over a year at least) is improving- my body and moving with her… I finally find times where one posting diagonal is not less comfortable than the other… I was trying to remember a few things I’d heard are important in riding… 

What were those words… Soft? Calm… Carried? I can’t remember… There are 5 concepts… There’s a mental list… I’ve been working on such basic things I can’t remember the next steps that encourage her to carry herself more powerfully… What were they?

But my mind was on the concept- a horse moving naturally with the right muscles, not strung and hollowed out from bad rider balance and position… A horse that doesn’t pull from the front end but powers from the rear. A horse that lifts herself to create space for the hind to reach underneath… carrying herself naturally without ‘aids’ or ‘force’…. 

I saw that horse in my mind clearly for a moment and I imagined my own body position that would help and not block that horse’s body…

Then it happened…

She lifted up underneath me and I felt her back almost invert like a bow pulled back… She raised up and her legs reached underneath us… I was barely coming out of the saddle in each post… Almost floating though I was still posting a trot… And she felt strong and powerful. It took my breath away. 

Wow. This is new. Ooooooohhhhhhhhhhh….. Yes. This. Wow.

Then after trotting that way for a minute or so she broke into a slow canter and I felt – really felt in my own body- her hind end push off in a way I’ve never felt before. It was the first time I’d ever felt the canter start from the hind end so definitely. There was a lot of power there.

I couldn’t help but feel that. 

It was amazing. 

I rubbed her and told her how fantastic she was and thank you for offering that to me… We came to the river crossing and lingered there as she ate grass on the bank and the dogs cooled off. 

Good girl. 

img_0776    

Many things we do as horse people are worth the effort we put in… The quiet moments alone in nature… Connected to the earth and the universe in a way many people who do not get out into the wild will never feel… Partnering with an animal loosely domesticated and learning to work together… Rubbing the velvet fur… Just the smell of horse- of the earth and the stars somehow. 

But this. This was a new reward for me, and worth the many years of trying to ride. Really ride. This wasn’t forced ‘collection’, this wasn’t me putting or even asking my horse to find a frame – it was something she gave me on a loose rein, willing and able to do it on her own because I got out of the way. I let go and allowed her to do it. 

It began in my mind… Which changed me… Which changed her. 

Let go. Let her. 

In some way, this felt like the first moment I truly rode. It was worth the years of dedication to do this thing different and trying to figure out what that meant. The time spent on the ground figuring out how to communicate… Me asking for something and her thinking through the response. Fine tuning the process (because it’s not really about getting my horse to unlock her hind end, it’s about how we communicate). The struggle of how that process would look as I ventured on a path that was my own with this horse. One without force.

It reminds me of this life concept I’m working through where things need to be allowed to happen and not forced into place. I have a lot of strength and too often I use that strength to force things, but a better use of strength is to have the capacity to let go and allow things to fall where they belong. It takes a lot of strength to let go actually. And it takes strength for some of us to be present completely as well (I do believe some are more wired this way than others. I am not). 

Let go:

Of my legs 

Of my hips

Of my shoulders

Of my neck

Of my tongue

Of her head

Of my goals

Of my timeline

Of my expectations

Of fear 

Of the past

Of the future

This doesn’t mean those things don’t exist or aren’t important. And it doesn’t mean being a ‘blob of dead weight’ on her back or not having any goals. But letting go of them mean they don’t drive the process. They aren’t held tightly. 

This process with Khaleesi has been one where I’ve tried to learn how not to force her to do anything, but to create the conditions that she falls into the right thing easily. It is a slow process right now because I am learning how. It is a fast process for the horse if I can get it right. Easy for her and harder on me. 

If I were to go the other route which I see as more common- I would make it easy on me (this is how I tell you to do x, y or z… And you need to learn what that means and learn to do it even though it may not fit what is intuitive to you) but harder on her. 

Humans generally have to use some sort of force to make that happen at least at first because the language isn’t right for them, they don’t really understand and we have to make it uncomfortable enough that they will fill in for us and learn it your way and replicate it going forward. They are smarter than we in many ways and have good memories. 

How can that horse ever truly connect with and trust a human? How can the magic happen when force is applied… Ever?

We all make excuses for that moment when we force our horse. At least I have… More times than I’d like to admit. That doesn’t even take into account the times we use force and don’t realize it is force to the horse. 

I’m trying though. And each time the magic does happen… I get a taste of that thing. 

It always leaves me hungry for more. New layers are so fun to explore- and we do it together. 

So worth it. What can you let go of today? In life and with your horse… I dare you. 

Let go. 

  

Dream it. 

Friday, July 29, 2016
I thought the last post would be the final for July but this evenings little 4.25 mile ride deserves mention.

First Nette and friends created a custom felt shim pad for me from a template of Pam’s to pull the front of my saddle up just a touch. 


We’ve established that Khaleesi LOVES my Phoneix Rising Saddle – in wide (I’m either selling or returning the standard tree now that she’s muscled out so well) but I think in part because she may almost be between sizes the front of the saddle sits just a tiny bit low. Not enough to pressure her withers- but enough to push my balance forward. This pad is the perfect solution. 

Nette is a craft genius and I knew if I gave her the raw materials she would come up with the perfect solution and she did- and even a week early! So we met at the barn to try it out. 

Then as it was evening, cooling off, and I’m leaving for a week on Sunday and girl’s going on vacation I decided to get one last ride on. Alone, short, fast, and sweet. 

always gives me a laugh- she tips her food over at the end to get the grain and minerals separated. For a while tonight she just stood one foot in her empty feed pan.

We did a quick 4.25 miles with the goal of trot & canter as much as possible. It was nice to ride alone for the first time in maybe a month now… She and I are really starting to click on a new level and I enjoyed the improved communication. 

Moving out to my turn around point I asked to keep up with a good pace and mostly trot with some slow cantering up hills. 

Her canter has always been a gentle, not too fast canter and if Faygo or Ned has pushed a race on for fun they always pull ahead in the end. I’ve never held her back before and encourage her to canter from time to time but it’s not my focus right now. 

Then I turned around. 

And it happened. 

I said: ok let’s go!

She said: yeah baby!!!!!!!!!

I have never gone so fast on a horse in my life. I am certain of it.  

Faygo is fast… But this canter took off and I felt the wind like I was in a convertible on the road. It took my breath away and it was exhilarating and a little frightening at the same time. I let her run it out just a little because I wanted to feel what was happening but I pulled her back as it was more than I was truly ready for at the moment. It was breathtaking but it wasn’t truly scary- she was never out of control and didn’t feel for one second like she was running away with me- but it felt faster than safe to continue on trail- even for me!

It was a glimpse. It was a view into her potential and what she can offer me when I am ready and when we truly are pilot/co-pilot. Not just a speed demon canter, that’s the tip of the iceberg- and since I’m not barrel racing we probably won’t use that gear a whole lot anyway. 

As a horse there is so much they can offer that we never learn to ask for or never dream to ask. Most of us (myself included) barely scratch the surface of what horses can do. 

This moment in the evening as a farewell ride until I return she gave me a shadow of what this little mare can do as I learn to ask, and train myself to be ready. 

Be careful what you wish for… 

But I say we must always…

Dream.