Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider

Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider
Click on Logo (Original artwork by Lanie Frick for Messick Quarter Horses. Not permitted to be copied)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thankful for Horses

Brenda, Tom, Sara, Jacob & Micah
Fall, 1995

Thanksgiving is over. We are thankful for many things, and one of those is horses.

Why do I love horses so much? I love horses because they are honest and sincere and truthful with their actions. They are a good friend! Horses let you know exactly how they feel. I love their horsey smell, the musty smell as they are shedding their winter coat or the sweaty smell after a hard workout. I love how a mare nickers to her young foal and I love that similar sound when they nicker for their hay. I love riding a collected lope. I love sitting down deep and feeling the horse stop. I love loping in the fields and watching the horse perk his/her ears, anticipating a run. I love the feel of the muscles as they stretch. I love it when my horse walks up to me and wants me to rub its head, right between the eyes. I am thankful that they want me in their life as much as I want them to be in my life.

I asked a question. Why do you love horses? Why are you thankful? You told me how much horses mean to you. You told me how horses have offered you a peaceful solution when life gets hard. You told me that you can’t imagine horses not a part of your life. Some of the answers that I received have given me more time to reflect on why I am thankful for horses.

My friend, Gretchen, has just moved away. She is an equestrian coordinator for a youth camp, and she just loves it. It is so obvious that she loves her job, loves her work, loves working with kids, and loves her horses! Did I say that she loves her horses? This love just oozes out of her. Gretchen is a neat person and I am so lucky to have her as a friend and confidant. We talk to each other, talk things out, and find solutions. We both try to figure out the horse. All of this because of a friendship that developed from Gretchen having the desire to ride better. She knows and understands horses, and she rides with a renewed confidence. She is truly a good friend to her horses! I think the horses she own and the horses she care for are thankful that she is in their life!

Gretchen loves horses so much that what she wrote, what could have been, and should be, a poem. I put it into a poem for her. Here is my version of Gretchen’s poem. Enjoy it as much as I have!

“I Love Horses Because…”
Horses teach me so much!
I never stop learning from them.
Horses make me laugh, and they make me cry.
On my worst days, my horses know it.
They come over and drop their heads in my lap to offer comfort.
On my best days, my horses take me for the ride of my life.
There is nothing better in life than a gallop across the bean field or a lope around the arena.
There is nothing better in life than the sound of a herd of happy horses eating.
There is nothing better in life than the smell of horses in the barn.
They are such incredible works of God's creation.
They are a mystery and a surprise.
They trust and forgive.

Gretchen thought that she could go on and on, but she thought that was enough. I could have read more! Thanks, Gretchen! Horses are indeed one of God's wonderful creations! This is good enough to be a poem, and now it is! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me! You are thankful for horses and I am thankful for you. You give many older horses a fantastic retirement. You give many children a wonderful summer vacation. You give your friends a sense of the peace that horses need to feel. You give your horses a wonderful, peaceful life.

A few people have talked about how horses have saved them. I quote: “They are the sanity at the beginning and end of a very long day“. Horses offer a calmness after a long day at work. Whenever there is something upsetting in life, you can always go to the barn or to the pasture to find the horse you love with all of your life. Horses offer a calmness to one’s life, but you need to sit back and enjoy some quiet time with them. No structure, no purpose, just to be there. An existence unhampered by demands.

When tragedy strikes, in the form of a family member leaving home or in a death of a loved one, families became closer due to horses. Sometimes, sacrifices are made so that horses can remain part of the family. Horses understand love, and hurt, and let you be quiet, without questions. Families deal with loss by hugging a pet or smelling a horse’s neck, by walking or talking with their four legged friend, having a companion, and finding a soul mate. Horses remain quiet when you are quiet. They search you out to give you what you need. They remain close as you rub on them. They remain near until your anxieties and pain are less intense, then they move off quietly to graze.

Yes, I believe horses are great therapy! They listen without complaining. I think it is so peaceful to walk among them when you are bothered or upset about something. The horses seem to know when you are there, not to catch them, but to visit and wander. They come to you and let you pet them, and I find where they are almost too much in my face. They must sense when we need to be comforted. They blow their scent over you, covering you with a blanket of their smell, protecting you with their invisible layer of love and warmth.

With the love for a horse comes a connection. A special feeling that you belong with them. One friend wrote: “horses are my teachers, my therapist, and the mirror into my soul. It's hard to describe the hole that would be left if I couldn't spend time with horses - they're a part of me!” With a horse, you become more than what you are. Horses make the impossible possible. Horses make you a better person. Horses make you try to live your life to the fullest. You can achieve what you strive to achieve, and horses can help.

Oh, I love that. "Horses are the mirror into my soul!" Lovely! We see ourselves when we truly understand the horse, when we see him for what he is. If we search the horse’s soul, we would begin to understand them and see them as an individual horse instead of one of many. I wonder if the opposite is true? Does my horse see inside me as I try to see inside her? Does my horse understand what makes me tick and why I am the way that I am? Does my horse help me to make me a better horsewoman and rider? Does my horse help me to understand him or her better? I will slow down and watch for this as I continue my paths with my horses. How are my horses helping me?

Yes, I can’t imagine the emptiness that would follow without horses in my life. There was a time, after marriage, and when the babies came, that I didn’t have horses. But I knew that I would once again have horses, but the timing was not right at that moment. This is different than knowing that you could not have horses. I would be in agony. I need to know they are there when I need them. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t done anything with them in the last 2 weeks except feed them. They are still there and they are mine.

Even if I could never own horses again, horses would remain a part of my life. I would have to volunteer at a barn. I would have to drive by someone’s pasture every day. I would need to see them. That wouldn’t be good enough. I would need to touch them. I would need to smell them. I would have to wrap my life around them.

I love horses because horses have made me some wonderful horsey friends! Horses are my life because I love my horses! Thanks for coming along on this ride with me! Brenda

Monday, November 24, 2008

We Love Our Horses because...

Starlet and Duster, May 2008

There are many reasons that I love horses. I have a lot of memories. Life was slower and simplier when we were kids, so I think we had more time to play then kids today. I think my first memories were of my brother, sister, and friends riding our ponies. I remember racing my brother to a tree out in the field, around the tree, and then back to the barn. We did fine racing to the tree, around the tree, and back to the barn, UNTIL the ponies didn't stop. They made a sharp L turn on the gravel driveway, and headed to the barn. I fell off onto the gravel. Ouch! I rode my pony to ball practice. I rode my horse to deliver newspapers! My pony had a foal and I raised my first baby. I loved sitting in the manger and watching my pony eat. I loved riding my pony, and later, my first horse, to the trails. I remember riding by myself all the time, through the hills and trees. Today, I prefer riding in a hilly, forest area. I taught my 3 children and husband to ride. My children grew up with the responsibility of caring for their horses and riding and practicing for events. Now they are responsible adults because of horses in their lives.

Why do I love horses? I love horses because they are honest and they let you know exactly how they feel. I love their smell. I love how a mare nickers to her young foal. I love riding a collected lope. I love loping in the fields and watching the horse perk his/her ears, anticipating a run. I love it when the horse walks up to you and wants you to rub its head. And most important, I love horses since, because of horses, I have wonderful friends!

Riding with friends at Ft. Rob, NE June 2008

Why do you love horses?

Come along on this memory ride with me! Brenda

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Saddle Pad Experiment

I had an interesting day yesterday. I helped one of my teenage riders with her science fair project. Her experiment involved comparing which saddle pad type would keep the horse’s back cool. She compared wool saddle pads to fleece saddle pads.

We started at 12:30. Katie and her mom unloaded saddle pads and a scale to weigh saddles and pads. We brought 7 horses into the stalls and feed their grain and hay to keep them content for the afternoon. Katie’s job was to brush all the horses while her mom helps me put 2 round bales into the big lot. (I tried to put out round bales by myself earlier in the week. I grain the horses, open the gate, drove the tractor with round bale through the gate, close the gate, and then I couldn’t lift those darn heavy round bale feeders up onto their side! I could lift them up just a few years ago, and now I couldn’t. I’m thinking because the rounded bottom part of the legs had worn off over the years, and I didn’t have that extra 8” of leverage. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! I can NOT be that I’m older! Oh well…) After we finished putting out round bales, we helped Katie finish brushing the horses.

(Temperature probe in wool pad)

Katie’s project involved working each horse on a lunge line for 15 minutes, using each type of saddle pad on each horse, and recording the horse’s back temperature, rectal temp, and saddle pad temp before and after each lunge time. She weighed each saddle that would be used. She also weighed the saddle pads before and after the exercise to determine if they were heavier due to sweat.

We worked 7 horses for her project. We started with a group of 3 horses. Katie had temperature strips to record the horse’s back temp before saddling, a rectal thermometer to record the horse’s internal temp, and a probe thermometer to take the saddle pad temp. She recorded temps on each horse, then we saddled, using the wool pads. We walked to the outside arena, and Katie, her mom, and I walked the 3 horses for 5 minutes, trotted the horses for 5 minutes, then walked them again for 5 minutes on a lunge line. We walked back to the barn, and unsaddled and recorded all 3 temps again. We saddled the same horses again, using the fleece pads. We lunged the horses for the same times, and she recorded the same temps. We repeated the process with the other horses.

We did notice that we started the day at 50 degrees at 1, and by 3, the temp started dropping. By 5, when Katie and her mom finished lunging the last group for the 2nd time, the outside temp was only in the 30’s. Even though the horses didn’t sweat, their backs still had an increase in body temp and so did the saddle pads. The internal temp did increase slightly. One type of saddle pad did increase in temp over the other type of pad. I’m anxious to see her results and I will record them here as soon as she has her report written.

After seeing the results today, I could see where she could have done this experiment in warmer weather. If the horses had sweated some, we would have seen a higher difference in all the temps, plus had some weight gain in the saddle pads. It would have been interesting to see what pads would have kept the back cooler in hotter weather, and whether or not the increase weight in saddle pads due to sweat would have had an effect on a cooler back or not. Katie said she would try the same experiment next summer on a hot day.

I would like to try this experiment on Finny next summer, in the middle of summer, and see what saddle pad DOES keep a back cooler in 90 degree weather! I will use the cell foam pad to this experiment, as this is the type of pad that I ride at CTRs. I will also test a synthetic wool fiber as I practice in this type of pad, that has a neoprene center.

I can’t wait to see what pad keeps a horse’s back the coolest. I will definitely take the results of this experiment into consideration when I ride next summer.

Come along for the ride! Brenda

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What I have learned from CTR this year

The rides have been fun and a great experience! I thought I was a good rider. The rides are making me a better rider. I coach and train others. I teach them how to ride. I get into the minds of horses. What I didn’t realize would happen when I started CTR is how much CTR would get into my mind and make me a thinking rider! I have ridden enough to ride naturally, without thinking about it. Now, I am more conscience of each and every move that I make in the saddle. I am aware of each move that my horse makes with his legs and body. I am more aware of what it takes to get his mind in the mornings so he remains relaxed for those first few miles. Because, more than likely, there is a judge 2 miles out on Saturday morning, just waiting for you to stop your horse and make him wait for 5-10 seconds. That time is an eternity!

I have learned that you have to read a map, while moving! And be able to read the little symbols. I have learned to pack my glasses in my pommel bag. Next year, I will be wearing prescription sunglasses, with antiglare, and hopefully, with non-breakable frames. Also, take into consideration the times! If you are going 4.3 mph, how long should it take to get from point 5 to point 6? Now remember to calculate in obstacles, time waiting for obstacles, remembering to tell the judge your wait time, and, if there is a P&R in that time frame, add in that 15 minutes. Now remember, that is without potty breaks, so if you get off your horse, count that time as your time! Now, get on and move out, because you’re already 10 minutes behind! I’ve learned to be on my horse at least 15 minutes to ½ hour before I ride out, and trot him around in his little pleasure trot. This puts him into a riding frame that I like to ride in. While he gives to the bit, it is a reminder to not pull on that bit during the ride. This warm-up takes the edge off of him, relaxes him, but most importantly, warms him up enough that we can begin trotting after we leave camp, to get 10 minutes ahead of our time! Then, maybe if we meet the judges a few minutes out of camp, my horse will settle and stand without jigging.

During my first ride, I could barely hang on to the map, let alone attach it, somewhere. Oh, my horse isn’t going to like this flapping around. He learned to care less! And I learned some of the tricks of the trade! You attach EVERYTHING to your breast collar or saddle! Next year, I’m going to take pictures of everything I see attached and flopping all around the horse! Maps, sponges, fans, water bottle holders. I loved the step someone made so they could get back onto their horse! I learned to tie everything on tightly, so there is no movement which could potentially cause back soreness.

Oh, and did someone tell me to take notes the night before each ride? That one is an important piece of advice. Was I suppose to turn at this red ribbon, or this red ribbon over here? Why are there 2 red ribbons on different trails? Oh, there is a yellow ribbon in the middle of those 2 red ribbons. What does that mean? What was I suppose to do when I saw the big tree? Where is the cabin where I turn? And where am I on the map? Where is the next P&R? Where could the judges be? Hmmm…

I have learned to look at the map and keep trotting. My horse doesn’t care what that crinkling noise is anymore. I have learned to see how fast I’m moving at the trot with my GPS. But if you look down too much, you better learn to duck fast when you look up and there is a tree branch! Oh, and did I say how much I can eat while riding? You better be able to take your coat off and tie it onto the cantle while riding.

I am learning what the judges are looking for: heavy in the cantle, upper body sway, centered riding, resistance in the horse. Yes, I said body sway. That movement that come naturally after riding for many years. The movement you get when you relax and move with the horse, especially when you ride a “trotter“ and not a “gaited” horse. Well, you don’t move with the horse that way on CTR’s. Oh, you can move your hips independently. Yeah, right! You “try” to keep that upper body from moving side to side going down hill, yet staying light in the cantle, with legs beneath you! Riders on Foxtrotters have it made! They don’t sway side to side because their natural movement is forward and backward. I don’t think that is fair! I have practiced and practiced the last 2 months on that upper body sway. I understand it better, but my upper body doesn’t! I’m practicing and something must be working, because something is starting to feel different going down the field terraces (where do you practice hills in eastern Nebraska unless you trailer an hour away?) Oh, I got it - no upper body movement! Then, in front of the judges, the body doesn’t cooperate with the brain and the horse’s movement. Trying to maneuver the obstacle within a short period of time, legs beneath you guiding your horse, maintaining contact on the reins, now control that upper body sway! We’ll work on that some more! That one is not coming natural. I am planning on participating in a Centered Riding Clinic in the spring. I will conquer that sway!

I am learning what to expect at P&R’s, how to cool off my horse, how to keep him quiet, how to keep him quiet when the horse beside him isn‘t quiet, or to keep him quiet when he sees riders off in the distance, and becomes instantly alert. When that happens, I can just see his heart rate go back up! I just stand in front of him, blocking his view or by distracting him by moving 1 front leg back and forth 1 step. I have watched while riders strip off their saddles, spray down their horse’s necks, pour water into their horse’s mouths from the “horse” water bottle. I have looked at how other riders have connected their sponges, fans, water bottles, and packs to their saddles and breast collars. I am learning what to do that will be an effective style for me and my horse. P&R’s are good for another reason …. knees! Oh, that last ride was cold, I was cold by 10 in the morning, and at that first P&R, I didn’t think my knees would unbend. I have never had that problem when I rode previous winters at my barn. But I probably was on and off my horse more often. I look forward to P&R’s now.

We are having better P&R's. I'm really happy about his conditioning. I'm sure that if the weather was hotter, his P&R‘s may not have been so good. (My rides were September through November). The previous ride was a little warmer, and he did have higher P&R's after rest time, even though they were still below the maximum numbers without losing points. I know we will have to step up his conditioning routine. I am used to conditioning speed event horses and reining horses. I will probably take a different approach than a lot of CTR riders, until I learn what has worked best for those who have done open for many years. I have had horses with strong legs that withstand the torque on the joints on turns. I will have to learn to condition a horse that will maintain soundness on steep hills or on various terrain over 40 miles. I read that it takes 3 months of slow work before adding speed, distance, and hills. Add one at a time. I better have a plan if I want to ride a March or April CTR.

Some of the trails have been sanded, some have been rocky. Most of the trails have been carefully negotiable. There were a few places where you were going up and down a trail that was solid stone with few areas to step in between stone. This ride taught both me and my horse to work on individual foot placing! We had some boggy areas - I like those the least as it could put a lot of strain on the horse's legs. Into muddy/boggy area, then back up (that was not fun - Finny backed up, 1 step and that leg sinks in, next step the other leg sinks in, and when he tried to lift his leg, he almost sat down. These wet areas make you look ahead and plan your path of minimal deep mud. We had a lot of log obstacles, standing over big logs (glad Finny has long legs). This has taught Finny to pick up those legs and quit dragging your toes! I loved trotting through the trees, easily trotting over whatever branch or log is on the path. I have learned to do this on a looser rein, with contact just a ½” away, and let Finny rate his speed for foot placing. Finny has always walked down steep inclines carefully and slowly, but he has had to learn to not rush the hills just because another horse is ahead of him.

Finny has started staying quieter on the ride, without jigging. He is staying quieter riding behind a rider when he can’t see the other horse. He still chomps the bit at obstacles. I'm working on slowing his mind down so he doesn't have to anticipate anything. I don’t feel like I tighten up as I approach the obstacles, yet I try to keep my legs on my horse without holding too tight. Finny is sensitive and he can feel those muscles tighten. He knows something is going to happen. I intentionally make him go slower behind the rider in front of us and keep him at the walk longer. When the horse in front of him starts trotting, I make him wait for me to begin his trot. I have lead more, which was a little challenge because my horse is a chicken! I learned to lead at the trot, and Finny learned to enjoy this as he perked his ears and trotted out. It is amazing to feel that long trot beneath you, and when you check your GPS, your up to an 8 or 9 mph.

I am a competitor and I have been pleased with what I have been able to accomplish with Finny this first year. My goal for next year is to condition a little harder and continue working to have better P&R's. We'll work a little harder on maneuvers over the winter, and I will literally throw things at him to develop a more broke horse. He does not need to move because the slicker hit him on the rump. Some of the simple things, like trailer loading that we do all the time, should be a simple send and go in, now, no hesitation. My ultimate goal with my horse is to make him want to do these maneuvers, and to stand quiet while he waits, without nervous anticipation.
I think a lot of the scoring is how well you and your horse perform the obstacles together. Riders need to ride centered and be up and off the horse‘s back. The horse needs to perform trail obstacles quietly and slowly. A horse can be conditioned and lose points on nervous behavior at obstacles or not performing the obstacle correctly. Your horse can be conditioned, perform obstacles, and if you don’t ride centered, you lose points. I love the partnership that comes between the horse and rider. I love that we are always thinking about the horse and thinking about how to do things better. I love that the care and welfare of our horses come first. And I love that we get to ride at fabulous parks with friends!

I have my plan and I’m ready to go to work. I'm just as excited to continue as I was to start! Thanks for sharing the trail with me and showing me this sport. Come along for the ride! Brenda

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Last CTR of the Year

Terrain at Kanopolis CTR, Kansas

Kanopolis CTR was 2 weeks ago. The Last CTR for the 2008 year was the Hill & Dale CTR at Hillsdale, Kansas was the last CTR for the year. We rode this past weekend and we were cold, at least most of Saturday morning! We even had a little ice in the buckets on Sunday morning. The sun didn't show at all on Saturday, and it was brisk. We rode near the lake, and the breeze off the lake was cold! We did have sun on Sunday morning! By the time we got back to the trailers at 1, we could take off coats. But when we left to come home about 3, truck temp only showed 42, but it felt like a heat wave when you weren't in the wind!

Everyone did well. Shari got 2nd in CP and 6th in horse. Taylor, Shari's daughter, did well in the youth division. Robin got 2, 3 or 4 (I can't remember exact placings for her and her horse, but I think they both placed), and I'm not sure if David placed. I got 1st and Finny got 3rd in Novice Lightweight. Virginia, who I ride with, got 2nd and her horse got 3rd in Novice Heavyweight. Shari is bringing our cards home for us since we had to leave early and couldn't stay for awards.

Shari at Kanopolis, KS CTR

The ride was fun! We did have some rocky trails, and most were negotiable, but there were a few places where you were going up and down a trail that was solid stone and few areas to step. This ride taught both me and my horse to work on individual foot placing! We had some boggy areas - I like those the least as it could put a lot of strain on the horse's legs. The obstacles were fun, except Robin did NOT have one fun obstacle and she can share that. We had a lot of log obstacles, standing over big logs (glad Finny has long legs), walking down a steep incline into a muddy/boggy area, then back up (that was not fun - Finny backed up, 1 step and that leg sinks in, next step the other leg sinks in, and when he tried to lift his leg, he almost sat down. Luckily, the judges said that was good enough, and to walk forward, which was easier than backing up!) Finny stayed quiet, but he still chomps the bit at obstacles. I'm working on slowing his mind down so he doesn't have to anticipate anything. He stayed really quiet for the ride, and had great P&R's, so I'm really happy about his conditioning. I'm sure that if it was a hot weekend, that would be different. The previous ride 2 weeks ago was good, but he did have higher P&R's after rest time, even though they were still below the maximum numbers without losing points. My goal for next year is to condition a little harder and continue working to have good P&R's. We'll work a little harder on maneuvers over the winter, as I think a lot of the scoring is how well you, and your horse, perform the obstacles. Riders need to ride centered and up off the horse, and the horse needs to perform trail obstacles quietly and slow. Lots to work on and I'm just as excited to continue as I was to start!

Finny has learned to stay very quiet at the hitching posts. I definitely prefer hitching posts to tying at the trailers. The hitching posts are permanent and well built. The horses are tied long so they can lay down and rest. The posts are high enough that the horse won’t try to jump over it. There is a higher line above the hitching post to tie hang bags from. I have learned to strap, and tape, the water bucket to the upright post. No banging at night. On the trailer, the horse, hay and water buckets are tied to the trailer! Finny lets me know when he runs out of hay during the night. He has a full bag late at night, but he is resting. It appears that he gets his second wind after we go to bed and eats his hay. Then he must get his third wind at 2:30, AM! Very early morning! He has learned to bang his water bucket. I can’t sleep. The neighbors told me that they heard him too! So, I’m up feeding my horse at 3 AM! I have learned to hang 2 hay bags if he is on the trailer at night!
Now, it's time for more coffee. My face was red last night, like I was sun burned, but I know it's wind burned! I am starting to feel really tired! I am going to do a little paperwork today and maybe work on my store website! I need to get my specials on it!!! Have a great day, and drink some coffee - it's Monday! :-)))

I’m taking a week off before the next ride! Come along on the ride with me!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Where do you start? Help those who want your help!

I have had some friends start writing their blog. I have started reading Pioneer Woman and mugwump recently. Maybe that is what started me on this soul searching. Their writings gave me the desire to start writing, and to put my thoughts and feelings down on paper. Pioneer Woman makes me want to be a nicer person. I love her love of life and for her husband and family. Her picture stories are fabulous! I love her humor, and her recipes, even though it has been ages since I have had the time to cook. But putting some meat in a crock pot to cook is cooking, right? Oh, the writings of mugwump have me laughing. I have had so many of the same thoughts as mugwump. She understands her horse so well! I love reading how she deals with her mare, lol! Yes, the best way is to start by what you know, to do a clinic, and who comes, comes! Maybe it isn't the number of people that you help, but just helping those that want the help. Maybe that will be my next blog! And it has!

I’m at a different place in my life, being an empty nester, getting older, with a husband who is terribly busy at work, and I’m not wanting to, or willing to, work in 0 degree and 100 degree weather full time. I’ll soon be a grandmother to 2 babies! (Not twins, but 2 of our children are each expecting their first baby this December). Where do I want to be in life? Should I continue with the tack store, should I continue with giving riding lessons, or should I build my training business back up? All at once, it seems like there are many middle age woman who are having, or making, the time for horses, who want to start riding lessons, and/or are wanting training put on their horse. I could help them. Would they want my help?

Burn out came a few years ago! I know now that was what it was. I was getting discouraged. I wasn’t excited about what I was doing. I didn’t even want to do what I was doing. And the worst was that I didn’t even want to ride. Riding was work and I was tired of working all the time. Working from 7 in the morning to 9 at night. Morning chores, hay, grain and water 8-10 horses and cleaning stalls. Feeding outside horses. Grooming 8-10 horses then cleaning those 8-10 stalls again. Filling waters again, saddling and training on 8-10 horses, and cleaning those 8-10 stalls again. Evening chores. Feeding outside horses again, feeding training horses again, cleaning those 8-10 stalls again. Then maybe 3-4 lessons. And finally, cleaning those 8-10 stalls again before going in to the house for what is left of the evening. Can you tell that I never like to have a dirty stall? Weekends had horse shows, helping my own kids show and coaching other kids. Every now and then, we were home to go to church Sunday mornings. It seems like those 3 or 4 months in the spring when I was the busiest felt like it would never get to be summer. Summer time brought less training horses, but then I started and rode my young horses when it was 90 degrees out! How tiring is that? And still coached youth at evening lessons and at shows, when it was 100 degree days! I wanted to quit. One morning, I woke up, dreading going to the show to coach that day. I didn’t want to go to the show. I didn‘t want to help people anymore.
Then recently I had a group of little kids. They brought me flowers, and cookies, and smiles, and hugs. Lessons went by fast. Kids loved their riding time! And I loved helping them. When I was selling my son’s youth horses, these little kids looked up at me, and, with big open eyes, they asked who they would ride when Misty and Chick were sold? They didn’t realize that there would be less lessons if I sold these horses. They just assumed that there would be another horse. I realized that I couldn’t stop helping them. How could I not help someone who had a love for horses so great that they wanted to come for lessons, no matter what the weather was like or what horse they rode? As long as there were horses, even to brush, they would come! They wanted my help and I wanted to help them. They were good for my soul. They made me realize why I started doing what I did, lessons, training, helping others learn how to ride and about horses!

Now, a few years later, I’m at another turning point. I want some free time. I don’t want to be on everyone else’s schedule any more. I started trail riding more. I started doing some Competitive Trail rides. After 15 years, I just told my 4-H group that I am done coaching 4-H! I had made that decision a few years ago, but it didn’t feel right then. I couldn’t leave a few great kids hanging. Today, it feels right, and I am content with that decision. My families that mean so much to me are so supportive and they have helped to make that decision easier. I will still do spring and summer lessons.

I wasn’t doing enough with my own horses. They weren’t being ridden. In today’s market, they were worth pennies on the dollar! So I did less with them, they stood in the horse lot, eating hay. I started downsizing a few years ago. Selling a few at an auction, selling a few privately for, what I thought then was ½ their value. Now, 3 or 4 years later, I wished I had sold more at that previous auction. Now these horses, broke but who need an experienced rider, are only bring about 30% of what they did a few years ago. I took what money I got because I’m feeding less horses, therefore my winter hay bill is down. I know that next spring I wouldn’t get any more money for my horses if they had another season of rides on them. The market is down! Who knows if it will ever go up since they took away the kill plants. But that is another issue. I need to ride the horses that I have, make them better horses for all levels of riders, and then they will sell at a fair price. I need to have the time for me, my goals, and for my own horses.
Getting back to why this blog originated…it’s not the number of people that you help, but help those who want your help. Someone once told me that you can only help the people who want your help. I started out wanting to help everyone. Some people just don’t appreciate what is handed to them, imagine that! When the kids do, their parents don’t. When the parents do, the kids don’t. Not everyone, just a few, but what do they say about a bad apple in a bushel of apples? I learned over the years to keep my mouth shut, and, for those who know me, imagine that! Ha!

Now, I see the wisdom in only helping the people who come to me. I will keep the people away who pull me down. If I concentrate on a few, the few will excel and will learn as much as I am capable of teaching them. Don’t we all want that? To teach someone something so well that they go on and achieve more than they thought they could? Others will see their achievements and ask about what was different. My actions will speak for themselves, and through the actions of others. But…you can’t make them want “it” as much as you want “it”. You can’t make them strive to learn more, to get “it”, if they don‘t want to. It has to come from within them. I had to learn to only give them as much as they wanted or could comprehend. I had to learn not to give them all that I could if that is not what they wanted. A hard lesson for me to swallow, and to learn how to do. I now have fun watching people have fun while they learn. I have more energy, I enjoy these lesson times, and I have a rewarding feeling.

But it is also about limiting the number of people that you help so you have time for what matters most to you. It's amazing when you see clinicians doing something that you do, and making money, you wonder why you don't do the same things? But, by doing more, you develop a bigger business, then you start doing even more work, ride more horses, do more lessons, and be even busier. Well, maybe I’ll stay at this point in my life because I can’t imagine being busier! Something would have to give, and it would probably be my wits! Why on earth would someone want to be any busier? I have no time to breathe right now. I want to find something that gives me some time to do the things that I want to do, find some time to relax at the end of each day and drink a cup of coffee or glass of ice tea, plant some flowers and a vegetable garden, and maybe cook a meal or 2 a week. I want to wake up some morning and wonder what I will do to keep me busy that day. That is not even an option today! I don’t even have time to clean my toilets! I could make the time, but I can’t be doing something every minute of the day. I need some down time in the evenings. I manage to keep the house picked up. Clutter is in organized piles, and the office door stays shut. Meals are cooked in the crock pot. Sometimes, the dishes are washed in the dishwasher, then remain there until they are used, or I get tired of the dirty dishes in the sink so I empty the half-emptied dishwasher. Clothes are washed, then hung to dry so there is no ironing. I try to keep the mail caught up. And my toilets get cleaned when I have company.

Now I have more time for more rides on my young horses. More trail rides. More CTR rides. I’m exciting to see what next year brings. I’ll have 2 grandbabies to cuddle. I have 2 young horses to make better. I have 3 coming yearlings to teach ground manners and learn how to round pen. I have Finny to continue working on maneuvers and logs together. And I have a husband to share my love of horses with. I need to plan a trail ride with him!

Time to reflect, restructure life, regroup, relax, and enjoy these horses! Come along on my next ride with me. Brenda

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Starlet let's everyone know that she is still boss!

Last weekend was weaning day, and I put the broodmares in the outside arena. The 3 babies stayed in the smaller lot. Duke, the stud, is in the round pen next to them, yet separated by another fence, and Red, the older, babysitter gelding, is on their other side. This morning, the mares were out of hay, and it was a cold, 40 degree rainy morning. The mares were even shaking, and their leg muscles were quivering. Poor girls, they needed to be eating lots of hay to keep warm. I did not want to put out a round bale in the rain, and by myself. I could have, but what a mess in the rain! And it’s time to get all the horses together anyways, before we had more freezing weather. I had already went around 2 mornings, breaking ice, and this was at least one less tank to break the ice in if it freezes before I get the heaters located, installed, and plugged in! I had to get water heaters into tanks. If they got into the tanks, then eventually they would get plugged in!

Instead of fighting the mud and rain and the tractor with a round bale, I lead all 3 mares, all at one time, to the bottom lot! Goldie on my right, Starlet on my left, and Chick followed behind. I knew Chick would respect the lead rope and not try to pull it out of my hand or try to get antsy and start bucking, or trying something stupid. With me caught in the middle of 3 lead ropes, I needed the mares to cooperate! They walked beside me and didn’t get stupid. Good girls!

I didn’t want the horses whinnying, so I gave the babies, Red, and the other horses their grain first. The mares lead down easily, just alert! I had wondered when I turned them loose in the lot why Starlet and Chick put back their ears at all the horses. And then I remembered...they hadn't been with these horses for about 6 months! But they had shared a fence, so everyone should be friends! Right? Wrong! No wonder Starlet was going around telling everyone she was still boss! LOL The babies whinnied some, and so the broodmares answered. The mares couldn’t figure out if they needed to be smelling the other horse’s noses, kicking out at the other horses, or going to the gate, whinnying and trying to see the babies. It has been 10 days since weaning, but the babies still whinnied. I’m thinking it is only because they are seeing more horses, since they aren’t going ballistic. Yet!

The mares were hungry and they were distracted by the other horses. The mares saw the round bale! Hay sounded better than talking to their, now forgotten, youngsters. But then they has to chase the younger horses and the new horse, Regal. They ignored their buddy, Bubba. Poor Bubba. He used to be in the midst of who was on top of the dominance ranking in the lot. Now, he was just being ignored! Finny was left alone, and that was good. I didn’t want to see kick or bite marks on him. Buster, the quiet one, wanted to be everyone’s buddy. He wasn’t smart enough to pay attention to the laid back ears, and Starlet’s kick almost connected with him! He better move faster next time. Shaggy wanted to follow them, and was being annoying, and Chick left him know it with flatten ears and bared teeth. Chick is mostly all bark and no bite, but the other horse better move or she will nail them! The new horse on the place, Regal, had all of Starlet’s attention, and Starlet chased her away from the round bale! The 2 boarding horses were left alone, which I thought was strange. One is an older show gelding and the other is an old mare. Maybe both of them threw off the “I’m not a threat” vibes. But they were ignored and that was good for them. I don’t need them chased or have bite marks before winter sets. Then Starlet decided she wanted the other round bale under her control too, and chased everyone from that bale! She is an dominant boss with the horses, but she is an awesome lesson horses for beginners and kids! I’ll keep her, just so I can watch her antics and laugh at her ways!

The weanlings are staying quiet. I didn't expect that. I figured that they would be whinnying and would be acting up. I expecting some running around and frantic whinnies. They stood quietly eating their hay, every now and then watching the other horses. But they couldn’t see much. I did feed Red his hay on the ground, directly outside their pen and in their line of vision to the other horses. Good plan!

I hope all is fine when I get home tonight! Electric is on so the bottom horses should respect the fence! I hope the mares are really hungry and stick their heads into the round bale all morning, sleep the afternoon away, and wake up hungry and stick their heads back inside the round bale.

Today was my late day at the store. Why didn’t I wean on a Saturday afternoon and then have 2 days to watch horses? Why did I leave for the whole day and not stick around to watch my babies, with Starlet being the biggest baby and herd troublemaker? But luck was on my side. I got home, and in the dark, put on my headlamp and walked to the baby lot. Is no whinnying a good sign or a bad sign? I figured if horses were out, there would be some running around. But all the horses were at the round bales, and Red and the babies were standing quietly, waiting for their grain.

Weaning crisis is over. No one cares where their mom is. Chex is still angry though, and lays his ears back at the other babies, just like his mom does at the other horses. Oh, that boy is going to find himself in with other horses sooner than later. He is not going to rule the roost! He has an attitude adjustment coming, and probably within the next 2 weeks! Honey and Duster, (yes, I finally settled on a name for Starlet’s baby! Dukes Starduster!) don’t care when Chex puts back his ears, they just push against him and push in for their grain. Oh, I see some certain personalities showing, and not all pleasant ones! The babies will live with Red and Bob, the older show gelding, for the winter. Red and Bob won’t kick them but they will teach them horse manners! I can’t wait to watch that!

I finished night chores with no incidences of whinnies, kick sounds, or horses being chased away. Weaning is over for another year. Mares have settled down.

Now it’s time to start riding Starlet and Chick. They are out of shape! I wonder how Goldie would like a saddle now? She was started as a 2 year old, rode lightly during her 3rd and the start of her 4th year. She wasn’t going to make the cut for a great pleasure horse, and she still had some buck in her, so what do we do? We either ride her and sell her or we quit riding her and breed her! She has great bloodlines and has thrown some awesome babies. Maybe now is it’s time to be more than a broodmare and get back to riding! Hmmm, maybe I’ll get my one son to get on her for her first ride!

Come along for the ride!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Weaning Time

This weekend was weaning time. Saturday, the outside arena was turned into a temporary lot for the broodmares. A round bale was put into the lot and the water tank was filled. By 8:30 the next morning, mares were in the outside arena and the three 5 month old foals were in their lot. Everyone was whinnying. Mares were pacing their lot, going back and forth from the round bale to the gate. Every time the babies whinnied, the mares would answer and pace. The babies wanted their mama’s and, their mama’s nourishment. They were distracted for a while with their morning grain and grass hay. The older gelding, Red, was in the lot beside them to keep the babies company. Red was content, and was enjoying the round bale that he had to himself! The stud was in the other lot that was adjacent to the foals. The steer was in the lot next to the stud. The steer would bellow when he heard the horses whinnying. Did he think he should be fed too? The horses in the bottom lot were also whinnying, calling for the mares. They used to share a fence, and now they wondered why the mares got moved.

At noon time, I checked the foals and fed them some more alfalfa hay and that distracted them. Everyone started to quiet down as the day got warmer. 70’s for early November is uncharacteristic weather. I thought it would be nap time for the horses, with the sun shining bright and warm on their backs. But the mares were still pacing between the round bale and the gate. Starlet led, followed closely by Goldie. Chick followed sometimes and other times, she was eating at the round bale. I fed them a portion of their daily grain to help calm everyone down. Hopefully, they will stand in the sun and start snoozing!

I rode in the afternoon in the adjoining field. I wanted to stay close to the house and barn so I could hear the babies. I wasn’t feeling well, but knew I had to keep Finny in condition for our next CTR, so I had to cowgirl up and ride, regardless of that cramp feeling and discomfort! But the hunters were close by too, or someone was target shooting in the neighboring field. I only rode to the middle of the field then back to the road. I went to the next field, follow some ditches that Finny would never have willingly walked over, without jumping, a year ago. I practiced staying light in the saddle, by 2-pointing when I trotted. While walking, I practiced a different feel, deepening my heels without forcing myself out of the saddle. Last week, I shortened one stirrup, and today I had to shorten the other side to feel even. When you mount and dismount on one side, the leather stretches out, so you can’t determine correct length from counting holes in the stirrup leathers. One side always feels a little short. As I raise my toes to reach the stirrup, I’m already thinking that I need to shorten the near side stirrup again. My legs are back yet relaxed, but I can raise my foot higher than the stirrup heighth. If I don't raise the stirrup, I will be reaching for it, and once again, appearing heavy in the seat!

I crossed the country road and rode the fields a ½ mile from the barn. The waterway between the corn fields lead to a bean field that I loped. Finny had been trotting for part of an hour, and wanted to stretch his legs. We loped with a collective gait for a ½ mile, before turning west for a short distance. Once I reached a tree line near the road, I turned towards the barn. It was time to check mares and babies. Walking the short distance where I crossed the street. I looked around. Once again, a perfect day. High 70’s, sun, and a light breeze. Warm enough for Finny’s neck to sweat. I walked the hills in the next field, working on building endurance for this next weekend’s CTR. Walking the grass area next to the road, I left Finny graze on the green grass, knowing that there may not be fresh grass much longer. Walking the edge of the field next to the corn stalks, Finny never startled from the sound of the breeze moving the stalks. I rode the terraces, working on staying light in the saddle as I walked downhill. Once again, we rode the water areas, enjoying the sounds of the horse’s legs splashing through the water. The horses saw us and called for us, alerting the babies. I heard the whinnies and knew that it was time to feed for the evening. I walked past the dog kennel, with the frayed edges of the tarp cover blowing in the breeze, and Finny didn’t startle. None of the dogs made a noise as they are getting used to seeing us walk past.

The mares noticed us, and once again started their whinnying and pacing. I’m sure by now they would be bagging up and leaking. After putting Finny in his lot, I checked babies and mares. Everyone seems fine, just a little angry for being separated. Starlet’s foals is anxious, and running and kicking. I want to pacify with their evening grain. As I went into the lot, the babies crowded the gate, especially Honey. She wants whoever will rub her. She has definitely calmed down and isn‘t looking for her mom. I pushed my way through to the feed tank, as the only concern that the three of them had was to get their noses into the bucket. They were a little tense, but not sweaty, so I knew they didn’t run around too much. Red is a great babysitter, and he was calmly eating his grain. He had stayed calm all afternoon, and that kept the foals a little quieter. Duke, on the other hand, was on high alert, watching those youngsters, but not running around his pen either.

The mares were fed a little grain. Not too much grain because I wanted them to dry up. But the one older mare, Chick, is a little thin from lactating all summer, and her baby, Chex, was the oldest. She nursed a little longer than the other mares, and he sucked her down. Chick is our older reining mare, and she always is a hard keeper. Metabolism is high and adrenaline always flows in her veins! So the mares will get a high fat grain until they have put a little weight on. I was surprised to see udders weren’t too swollen, so maybe they won’t be tight and uncomfortable for the mares tonight.

The next morning was another story. Everyone is still whinnying, but not running around. I only heard the mares once during the night, as the outside arena is not far from my bedroom window! I think they were only whinnying for their grain! The mare’s udders were a little larger, with some dried milk on their back legs. By evening it didn’t seem worse, so maybe those udders leaked throughout the day to give the mares some comfort. The foals had eaten all of their alfalfa hay, so I gave them extra for the day. Time to go to the tack store for the day.

When I got home, everyone was ok in their respective lots, so I rode before chores. The sunset was gorgeous! I rode to the top of each hill and snapped pictures. The leaves were almost gone! I could see for miles. The sun threw hues of red and orange across the horizon, stretching further and further as the sun sank lower in the sky. I trotted the field for ½ hour and headed to the barn. Dusk came fast tonight.

Mares and babies were getting used to being apart at chore time. Chores were uneventful with only a few whinnies, mainly from Starlet and her foal! He is such a momma’s boy yet, but he will learn. The mare’s udders were still swollen. But the mares exercise themselves, walking that fence line. I think they have a path from the round bale to the gate, and another path up and down the south fence! Everyone is eating well and drinking well. No one seems sucked up from lack of water, or milk in case of the foals. Everyone is eating and drinking,. Mares and babies are both on a high fat, pelleted grain, which is high in nutrition. The mare’s round bale of brome hay is giving them the fiber that they need, and pacifying them throughout the day. The babies will grow with the appropriate protein and nutrients, building strong legs and bone growth from the alfalfa hay and the high quality grain. In another week or so, the mares will go to the big lot, to winter along side the geldings. I like the horses to be together, living in a small herd, staying warm as they huddle together. But those cold temps are far from our thoughts on this perfect, 70 degree day!

I enjoyed the sunset tonight, and the warm breeze. I enjoyed watching the mares and babies eat. I enjoyed seeing Red with some energy. I will continue to watch the mares and babies. I will have fun seeing what different personalities come out in the weanlings as they will develop their pecking order, now that their mothers aren’t around to influence the others!
Come along for the ride!


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