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)

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye to 2009

December 31, 2009
11:00 pm

2009 is just about over. Time to say goodbye, as I had to say goodbye to Finny earlier today. After almost 3 months, I could write about what I had been feeling after the initial shock of his death wore off. At first I was sad, then for some reason today, as I continued to write about some of the good memories of him, a great weight was lifted. I didn’t realize that it was happening. I just knew that the end of writing my farewell to Finny, and posted many happy pictures, I wasn’t as sad. Maybe Finny found a way to lighten my heart. Maybe I can start concentrating on who I want to have as my next riding partner. I knew I couldn’t stay sad forever. I just needed time to heal.


But before saying goodbye to 09, I need to think about all the good memories I’ve had this year. New grandbabies, visiting family, Nebraska Horse Expo, tack store, Centered Riding Clinic and Instructors Course, NATRC CTR’s, training and giving lessons, my summer week-long lessons for kids, Anniversaries and Birthdays, a warm vacation with sun and sand, and having my elderly parents visit twice.

We had 2 grandbabies born December, 2008. Our granddaughter, Makenzie, came Dec 10th.

and our grandson, Caden, was born on December 26.

We enjoyed visiting with both of them as much as possible. With Makenzie in Colorado, we were able to see her about once a month, but a few times, we missed a couple of weeks. Our 2 newest members of our family have brightened our lives to an extent that filled our hearts with an unbelievable love.

We were able to take a warm vacation in January and visit Tom’s mother in PA in February. On a sad note, his father had passed away a year ago, and it was his first visit home since the funeral. He spent a few days with his mom while I visited my parents 3 hours away.

We attended the Nebraska Horse Expo in March as a family. Sara, Jake and Makenzie came to help in the store vendor booth. Jacob, Amber and Caden and Micah and Amy came. But I think everyone did more visiting with friends who haven't seen Makenzie and Caden.

We visited Sara’s twice in March. Once for Makenzie's baptism,

again for Easter.

Training horses soon started arriving, and I began riding in the evenings and on the weekend. We celebrated Jacob and Amber’s 3rd Anniversary in April and Sara and Jake’s 5th Anniversary in June. Micah is in his 4th year of college, but will have another year before graduating. Tom and I celebrated our 28th year together. I won’t say what birthdays we had, but it wasn’t as hard as last year when we went into the next decade!

Sara and Makenzie came home for a quick weekend in May for hay. We stayed home for Memorial day and visited with Jacob, Amber and Caden. We tried hard to see Caden at least once a week. That was a special treat to have him so close so be able to play with him often. During the summer, he came to swim often.

We took a vacation with Jacob, Amber and Caden in May to Branson, MO.

I started my Centered Riding journey in May when I attended my first clinic in Kansas. I knew at that time that I wanted to continue to study this style of riding and to pass along what I learned to my students.

My tack store flourished. I had vendor booths at the NE Horse Expo in Lincoln and the State 4-H show in Grand Island. The store’s business increased dramatically, even with the ½ days that I had decided to keep after summer. Summer time is busy for me with training and lessons. In May, I spend a ½ day training and a ½ day at the store. June through August, I spend a ½ day with lessons or riding my horses, and a ½ day at the store. As fall approached, and I was getting busier with the NATRC CTR’s and Centered Riding Course, I knew I couldn’t keep up with my riding and work the store full days. Most mornings were quiet at the store anyways, so I decided to keep my ½ day schedule, which has worked out well for me and my customers.

My fall was filled with NATRC CTR’s and beginning teaching the Centered Riding exercises in my lessons. I enjoyed my lesson times this fall. The lesson kids get busy with school events and I was gone at events, so I missed a lot of their lesson times. I was able to have a few adult group sessions. As I taught the Centered Riding principles, my adult riders did extremely well, building a renewed confidence.

My parents came to visit the first time in August.

This will be the first time they see their 2 newest great=grandchildren.

We went to Sara’s in Sept to help them build a lean-to. Tom and Jake’s dad built the lean-to while Sara and the 2 grandmas painted the kitchen and played with Makenzie. In October, I finished my last 2 CTR’s for the year. With bittersweet memories, Finny died after the first day of my last ride, with a bad case of colic. Our ride was incredible and I will always remember that ride.

We had an earlier birthday celebration for the grandbabies, when their Great-Grandparents from Pennsylvania came for a visit in November.

We had an early Thanksgiving meal that weekend also.
My parents were so happy to see their 2 newest grandbabies!

Sara and Jake were able to come home then, and again in early December, for a hunting trip.

4 generations, together. Grandma, Great-Grandma with Makenzie, and Sara.

Micah, Jacob with Caden, and Pop.

We had Caden's Dedication at his church in late November. He looks like a little college student!

The grandbabies turned 1. We had Makenzie’s birthday party in Colorado the weekend after her birthday, which was on Dec 10th. For Makenzie's first birthday, she went horseback riding! Yes, I know, I need to find her a small helmet!

Caden’s 1st birthday party was to be the Sunday after Christmas, but the snow storm changed everyone’s plans. Then the cold and flu bugs hit and we had to cancel Tuesday night’s party plans. His party will be this Sunday, but since I‘m in the middle of bronchitis and a mild pneumonia, Pops will take lots of pictures for me.

Christmas came a week early for our family.

I am so glad that it did as Christmas on the 25th came in a snow storm. We were all together, Grandma, Pop, our 3 children, 2 spouses, a girlfriend, and 2 baby cousins. What a joy!

Then the important decision came of changing directions in my life’s work. Centered Riding has become part of me. Centered Riding is a journey, both of riding and of life. Centered Riding changes how you think about your life. You begin to enjoy the same principles that you are taught in Centered Riding while going through your daily life. You relax as you go about your daily routine, breathing deeper and slowing down.

The decision I made was to sell the store or clearance the tack and all the other inventory. My goal is to close the store by the end of March, after this next year’s Nebraska Horse Expo. I’ll start training full time, do more horsemanship clinics, continue adding more Centered Riding lessons to my schedule. I need to have the time to start and condition a new NATRC CTR horse for next year’s NATRC rides. Another decision I need to make is whether to geld my stud and start riding him. He would make an awesome riding horse, I love his big trot and his smooth, deep lope. I’ve been riding Shaggy and he is coming along fine. I’m not sure what I would do abut a CTR horse though. I’m still thinking about a gaited horse, for me to ride at CTR’s and for Tom to ride on trail rides with me. I want to make more time for weekend trail rides, too.

2009 was busy. We’ve had many happy moments and many firsts. I’ve started finding time to sit and enjoy life. I think that is what the grandbabies are teaching me. I have made a decision that is giving me great satisfaction. I don’t know where this Centered Riding journey is taking me, but I’m welcoming the change. Wherever it leads, I’m ready to teach as many people as I can about horses. I want to teach my students how to feel their horse’s movement, how to love their horse’s soul, and how to be one with their horse.

2010 is arriving soon. Happy New Year to all of you.

Final Goodbye Tribute to Finny


I’ll end the year with a final goodbye tribute to my wonderful riding partner of 5 years, Finny. I always want to remember the good times that I had with him. I didn’t know it until he died, but he was as much a part of me as my heart is. We were bonding really well together. I knew what he felt and I tried to give him what he needed when we rode. When he died, part of my heart died. Now the memories are healing my sorrowed heart. More importantly, Finny’s memories are helping me to love horses again, for what they can be in our lives.

He lived a short 8 years, first as an orphan at 1 month, to a scrawny yearling, then on to those terrible 2’s. We made sure not to treat him as a pet and kept him in with the other mares and babies. Finny was friendly, but a little pistol when he wanted his own way. On the lunge line as a yearling and 2 year old, if he would act up and I pulled too hard on the line, he would almost fall over. As a 3 year old in the spring, he acted the same way with a saddle on while lunging. I put him away until fall, spent 30 more days lunging him, watching him act up, wondering if he was ever going to be good. Then 1 day, he acted great and I decided to step up on him. I rode him ever since that day.

Finny, this spring, fat and needing to get into condition!

As an orphan, I made sure to feed him well, supplementing with alfalfa and a youth grain. He grew from a 13 hand yearling, to a 14 hand 2 year old, to a 15 hand 3 year old, to mature out at 15.3. I rode him in the fields as a 4 year old, going through tree lines, over ditches, through water. He didn’t like to step down into small ditches or go through water. We worked on all the ditches in the field, and especially on 1 small ditch that he wanted to jump. It took a year, but we could finally walk through anything. He would always veer away from mucky ground if he could, knowing where he should step and where he shouldn‘t.

The water was another training time that went slowly for a year. Finny went from being scared of even putting feet into water to ears perked while he splashed around. The drains on the field’s terraces were a great training ground. One day, the fields dried up but there was a lot of water around the drains. We rode around one of the big water holes, circling the muddy edges, closing the distance between dry ground and muddy ground. After about 45 minutes, as he neared the very edge of the muddy water, he was relaxing and I turned him directly into the water. When he realized he was in the water, he splashed from end to end. I moved him onto dry ground, circling the muddy edges once again, but only after 2 circles, as I turned him toward the water, he went right in. We stayed longer in the water, moving back and forth. The following day, he went directly into the water. What an accomplishment for Finny!

I will always have the special memories of the last 2 years. Conditioning rides in the fields, long trotting in 2 point position to feel his every movement.

Tom and I spent part of a week at Ft Rob, NE with Finny and another horse.

Riding CTR’s for 2 years, being in competition with the mileage and obstacles.

And this year was the best, realizing, while riding Finny in the Centered Riding Clinics and in the Instructors Course, that I found what I wanted to do with him.

Our riding and understanding of each other clicked when there was no other pressure except riding centered.

Finny helped me to realize what I wanted to teach in my training program and what type of instructor I wanted to be.

Finny taught me how I should be training horses.

I will always be so grateful for having Finny in my life and what he showed me.

God Jumps
printed with written permission by Lauren Davis Baker

God gives us horses and compels some of us to love them. Yet why does the horse, an animal with such a big heart, live such a short life? Perhaps it's because if our horses lived any longer, we wouldn't be able to bear losing them. Or, perhaps it's because God wants to jump.

Perhaps God looks down on the fine horses we raise and decides when it's His turn to ride. He gives us a few good years to care for and learn from them, but when the time is right, it's up to us to see them off gracefully.

O.K., perhaps not gracefully. Blowing into a Kleenex is rarely graceful. But we can be grateful.

To have a horse in your life is a gift. In the matter of a few short years, a horse can teach a girl courage, if she chooses to grab mane and hang on for dear life. Even the smallest of ponies is mightier than the tallest of girls. To conquer the fear of falling off, having one's toes crushed, or being publicly humiliated at a horse show is an admirable feat for any child. For that, we can be grateful.

Horses teach us responsibility. Unlike a bicycle-or a computer-a horse needs regular care and most of it requires that you get dirty and smelly and up off the couch. Choosing to leave your cozy kitchen to break the crust of ice off the water buckets is to choose
responsibility. When our horses dip their noses and drink heartily, we know we've made the right choice.

Learning to care for a horse is both an art and a science. Some are easy keepers, requiring little more than regular turn-out, a flake of hay, and a trough of clean water. Others will test you-you'll struggle to keep them from being too fat or too thin. You'll have their feet shod regularly only to find shoes gone missing. Some are so accident-prone you'll swear they're intentionally finding new ways to injure themselves.

If you weren't raised with horses, you can't know that they have unique personalities. You'd expect this from dogs, but horses? Indeed, there are clever horses, grumpy horses, and even horses with a sense of humor. Those prone to humor will test you by finding new ways to escape from the barn when you least expect it. I found one of ours on the front porch one morning, eating the cornstalks I'd carefully arranged as Halloween decorations.

Horses can be timid or brave, lazy or athletic, obstinate or willing. You will hit it off with some horses and others will elude you altogether. There are as many "types" of horses as there are people-which makes the whole partnership thing all the more interesting.

If you've never ridden a horse, you probably assume it's a simple thing you can learn in a weekend. You can, in fact, learn the basics on a Sunday-but to truly ride well takes a lifetime. Working with a living being is far more complex than turning a key in the ignition and putting the car in "drive."

In addition to listening to your instructor, your horse will have a few things to say to you as well. On a good day, he'll be happy to go along with the program and tolerate your mistakes; on a bad day, you'll swear he's trying to kill you. Perhaps he's naughty or perhaps he's fed up with how slowly you're learning his language. Regardless, the horse will have an opinion. He may choose to challenge you (which can ultimately make you a better rider) or he may carefully carry you over fences-if it suits him. It all depends on the partnership-and partnership is what it's all about.

If you face your fears, swallow your pride, and are willing to work at it, you'll learn lessons in courage, commitment, and compassion in addition to basic survival skills. You'll discover just how hard you're willing to work toward a goal, how little you know, and how much you have to learn. And, while some people think the horse "does all the work", you'll be challenged physically as well as mentally. Your horse may humble you completely. Or, you may find that sitting on his back is the closest you'll get to heaven.

You can choose to intimidate your horse, but do you really want to? The results may come more quickly but will your work ever be as graceful as that gained through trust? The best partners choose to listen, as well as to tell. When it works, we experience a sweet sense of accomplishment brought about by smarts, hard work, and mutual understanding between horse and rider. These are the days when you know with absolute certainty that your horse is enjoying his work.

If we make it to adulthood with horses still in our lives, most of us have to squeeze riding into our oversaturated schedules; balancing our need for things equine with those of our households and employers. There is never enough time to ride, or to ride as well as we'd like. Hours in the barn are stolen pleasures.

If it is in your blood to love horses, you share your life with them. Our horses know our secrets; we braid our tears into their manes and whisper our hopes into their ears. A barn is a sanctuary in an unsettled world, a sheltered place where life's true priorities are clear: a warm place to sleep, someone who loves us, and the luxury of regular meals.
Some of us need these reminders.

When you step back, it's not just about horses-it's about love, life, and learning. On any given day, a friend is celebrating the birth of a foal, a blue ribbon, or recovery from an illness. That same day, there is also loss: a broken limb, a case of colic, a decision to sustain a life or end it gently. As horse people, we share the accelerated life cycle of horses: the hurried rush of life, love, loss, and death that caring for these animals brings us. When our partners pass, it is more than a moment of sorrow.

We mark our loss with words of gratitude for the ways our lives have been blessed. Our memories are of joy, awe, and wonder. Absolute union. We honor our horses for their brave hearts, courage, and willingness to give.

To those outside our circle, it must seem strange. To see us in our muddy boots, who would guess such poetry lives in our hearts? We celebrate our companions with praise worthy of heroes.
Indeed, horses have the hearts of warriors and often carry us into and out of fields of battle.

Listen to stories of that once-in-a-lifetime horse; of journeys made and challenges met. The best of horses rise to the challenges we set before them, asking little in return.

Those who know them understand how fully a horse can hold a human heart. Together, we share the pain of sudden loss and the lingering taste of long-term illness. We shoulder the burden of deciding when or whether to end the life of a true companion.

In the end, we're not certain if God entrusts us to our horses or our horses to us. Does it matter?
We're grateful God loaned us the horse in the first place. And so we pray:

Dear God,
After You've enjoyed a bit of jumping,
please give our fine horses the best of care.
And, if it's not too much,
might we have at least one more good gallop when we meet again?


Only You Could Love Me This Way
Keith Urbom

Well I know there’s a reason,
And I know there’s a rhyme,
We were meant to be together,
That’s why

We can roll with the punches
We can stroll hand in hand
And while I say it’s forever
You understand…

That you’re always in my heart
You’re always on my mind
When it all becomes too much
You’re never far behind

And there’s no one
That comes close to you
Could ever take your place
Because only you could love me this way.

I could have turned a different corner,
I could have gone another place,
Then I’d never have this feeling
That I feel today.

That you’re always in my heart
You’re always on my mind
When it all becomes too much
You’re never far behind

And there’s no one
That comes close to you
Could ever take your place
Because only you could love me this way.

That you’re always in my heart,
Always on my mind,
When it becomes too much,
You’re never far behind

And there’s no one
That comes close to you
Could ever take your place

Only you could love me this way.

Only you could love me this way.

I love you, Finny. I love your heart, your enthusiasm, your patience, your understanding.

I will always love you!

So long, not Goodbye, my friend, as I'll ride you again in Heaven.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On the road to recovery

After a night of no sleep, sitting in the recliner in the living room, with constant coughing, I knew it was time to see the doctor. I can’t go without 7-8 hours of sleep on the average night, and I definitely haven’t had that luxury the past 2 nights. I’m lucky if I got that much sleep in the last 3 nights.

My sore throat and high fever was gone, but in it’s place was something worse. A dry, persistent cough. I have never coughed this hard. I have never taken as much over the counter meds as I have the last 5 days.

Tom drove me to the medical clinic this morning, as I was coughing so bad, and was very tired, that I wasn’t sure I could get there without a coughing fit. I went to a new medical place for the simple reason of location. This place was the closest place to where I lived. It was a new facility, which I thought was a clinic, where you just showed up. Wrong! There were 3-4 doctors on site, with obvious appointments!

I had Tom ask if they were taking new patients - who isn’t when the economy is bad? I’m sure everyone should get whatever business they can, but that’s another topic. He asked if they could fit me in. The receptionist said she would talk to the booking secretary. This Medical facility is a great place. Within a few moments, the scheduler came to get me and since I was sick, took us to her office, where I sat to fill out paperwork. She said she had talked to the doctor, and knowing that I was sick, he said he would fit me in. I was taken to a room. Within moments, the nurse came in to take all the necessary things they do - blood pressure, temperature which I still had a 99.3 temp and I didn’t know it, checked weight and height. I lost a ½ “ somewhere over the last 10 years. I better start standing straighter and taken my calcium supplement! They also checked the oxygen level of my blood, I think.

The doctor was very punctual. We only had a short wait before the doctor came in. He listened to my breathing, wanting me to take deep breaths. But with each deep breath came a bout of coughing. He knew I had bronchitis, but he didn’t know if my lungs were getting infected. He wanted to take some x-rays. The room was a little cool, and just that coolness made me cough. The nurse was so helpful, took the x-rays, put a blanket around me to keep me warm and had me wait were it was a little warmer while she checked the x-rays. X-rays were good and I went back to the examination room.

It wasn’t long before the doctor came back into the room. I needed an antibiotic to get over this bronchitis. I also needed a prescription cough syrup as the “over the counter” meds are not doing anything to relieve or stop the cough, even for a short time. I also needed a cortisone med to help relieve the inflammation in the lungs.

The drugs must be working as they are kicking my butt. I don’t require naps, even if I am tired or sick. I have taken 3 short naps today. My cough isn’t as often, even though it is still dry and raspy. The doctor said I would feel better in about 5 days, with a little more energy but I can already tell the difference within 8 hours. I am very tired, but I think it is the effects of the drugs. I even did a load of wash, without feeling drained. But I need to shower before I fall off into another nap. Wow, I can’t believe how tired I am.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Getting Over the Flu

I'm getting over this cold or flu bug, one way or the other!

I have been coughing all day today. I did put Vicks on my chest last night and today, hoping to break up the cough. The congestion has cleared up. I have sucked on vitamin C drops,

and cough drops all day.

I have taken liquid cough sryup and liquid flu medicine. I have sat up and I have laid down and nap.

I have goggled how to stop sore throats and coughing. Honey seems to be the cure. A tablespoon of vinegar and honey kills the bacteria in a sore throat. Honey in tea helps a cough. I need to get some honey. Without honey, I figured I would try the vinegar.
I've been eating dill pickles yesterday and today, and no sore throat today!

I had some Baileys on Christmas Eve and I felt better on Christmas Day. I should have taken more last night. But for now, I've given up and I'm bringing out the big guns. A shot of whiskey.

One shot is almost down. My throat is warm and so is my belly! I'll let you know how I feel after the bottle is gone!

And I hope Caden feels better. He didn't have his birthday party today as he was feeling sick with a fever, too. I hope he gets better soon!


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