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)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Hot and Humid Weather

With this hot, humid weather, how do we practice any Centered Riding exercises? I ride early, but if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be riding. Even in my lessons, we go through a lot of slow, walking times and do a lot of stretches. I’ve done more stretches and exercises than I ever have in lessons. If I didn’t, the horses would be lathered in sweat, instead of just wet with sweat.

Why is this summer so hot and humid? Is it the extra rain? Is it the pivots adding moisture to the air? Is it global warming? Yea, right, this past December and January, there was no global warming here!

All I know is that the humidity is draining everyone’s good moods about horses and the desire to ride. How can we enjoy our horses when all we do is sweat? I try to stay calm and breathe…. Slowly.

But on the bright side, maybe there is only 1 more month of summer before the cooler weather of fall is here! Well, maybe a little over a month.

So in a month, get prepared to ride. And a lot! With a lot of homework from me! Every week, we’ll concentrate on a different Centered Riding exercise. I’ll through in an AAHS exercise. We’ll concentrate on making ourselves a balanced rider.

Sally Swift, founder of Centered Riding, said that we need to work on 75% on our riding and 25% on the horse. When we concentrate on ourselves, the riding gets easier.

Ok, plan on riding by Sept. I sure hope August isn’t so hot and humid as July!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

We live and breathe horses

Because horses are our lives!

Sometimes, those of us that are in the horse business, get out of the horse business because it is hard, physical work, and we go find a job that may be easier. But then we find that it is not easy on our souls. We need horses in our lives, and we need horses more than just to own and ride them. Horses need to be what we are all about. That's not saying that horses don't mean as much to people who don't have a horse business, because I know they do. I think we ALL would be depressed if we couldn't be doing something with horses.

I know I have tried to leave the horse business, and every time, I get drawn back to it. I think that I’m tired and that I want to do something easier. But as I sit inside a building, I miss being outside. I can’t wait to be outside, even on those hot, those hot days that are so humid that you have sweat running down your back as soon as you start walking to the barn, days and those cold, bone chilling cold, days, days where you can‘t wait to come inside and bundle up in a sweater and lounge on the couch with a fluffy afghan.

I know that I had to have been born with a love for horses. I know horses are imbedded in my soul. I grew up with ponies and horses all around me, and I’m the only one out of 5 siblings that still has horses. I read horse books. I drew horses. I couldn’t wait to ride the hills during the summer. And I missed my horse once I went to college and sold him the 2nd summer. Then I was too poor, newly married, within a year and a half, with a child. And living in residential areas over the next 5 years, with 2 young children, wasn’t helping me.

I haven’t been dreaming much about horses lately, and I need to start going to sleep thinking about my horses, and maybe I will start that tonight. I have been dreaming, but dreaming those strange dreams that make no sense. And I’m awake a lot (darn menopausal symptoms, waking up warm, throwing covers off, then an hour later, waking up cold, covering back up. And the cycle repeats itself every night, at least 2 more times).

So the question is, how do we survive? I know the heat and humidity this summer has worn a lot of my friends down. Who wants to come home after work and try to ride in 90 degree weather, or even low 80’s, with 70-80% humidity! It is terrible most afternoons and evenings. It’s miserable at 8 in the morning. By noon, I’m dragging, and then I drag all day. I know that I’m counting down to when there are days with NO humidity. But I still want a fall, with nice weather, not freezing, not raining, not overly windy. I know, I’m not asking for much. I’m only asking for about a month of perfect 10 days, maybe 2 months! Now, working with horses outside sounds heavenly, doesn’t it, if we get a few perfect days?

How do we survive when we don’t get much horse time? Not as much riding time either? I ride early in the morning. Some people ride in the evening. Then, after the sun goes down, you fight mosquitoes. But earlier in the day, you fight those big black flies. I have never seen as many as I have seen this summer! I try to take a few trail rides early on Saturday mornings. I just can’t do any horsey time when it is so hot and sticky that the horses are standing around, and sweating just standing still!

We need to do more than survive. We need to be revived! I know I try to revive myself every day when I come in from the barn, and just sit down for a few minutes. I try to have a good lunch. I take my Woman’s One a Day with Iron multivitamin. I read that if you get the afternoon blahs and are tired by 2 or 3 pm, take a multivitamin and that will perk you up. And you know what? It works! I started doing this Monday of last week, and every day, about noon or 1 since, I’ve taken my vitamin, along with a glucosamine supplement ( you know, for old, creaky joints). I haven’t had a tired moment in the last 2 weeks. Before that, when this heat and humidity hit, I was about to nap every day when I came inside. That darn humidity just wipes me out!

How else do we get revived? I always said August was a month when I didn’t do much, because of the heat. County Fair was always the first week, then youth world. Kids were going back to school so lessons were not scheduled. This year, I am going on a horse camping trip to SD with friends. Otherwise, if I was home, I would just do what I wanted to do. Ride horses when I wanted to. Maybe get a house decorating job done. Maybe read some books. Maybe lounge at the pool.

I give myself permission to not do much! How about that? I think that may surprise a few people. But you need down time. My hubby has a stressful job, and because of that, I feel like I need more down time. I hope that doesn’t seem selfish, as I know my hubby really needs that extra down time. But how do I take care of him, the house, the animals, my kids and grandkids, and myself, without some time of just doing nothing?

So I give you permission to do absolutely nothing! Nada! Zilch! Zero! Nothing. If you need to do nothing to get revived, then do nothing.

Otherwise, figure out HOW to revive yourself, even just a little bit, then do it!
Give yourself permission. And don’t feel guilty! We need to take care of ourselves.

I feel better when I am planning something. You know, always keeping busy with something. Maybe planning the next vacation. Maybe planning a craft or hobby project. Maybe planning a trail ride. Maybe planning an evening out with a friend and go to a wine tasting!

So plan something fun. Give yourself some time off. Get rested. Get revived. And you have survived!

Look forward to your journey.

“Embrace the journey!”

100 Things About Me

(inspired by Linda, Just Another Day on the Prairie)

Linda has inspired me to do 100 things about myself.

1. I love my hubby.
2. I love my family.
3. I love horses, and
4. I love riding.
5. I love owning mares,
6. And I love horse babies,
7. And I love all babies, especially my grandbabies.
8. My hubby is my best friend (most of the time, anyways).
9. I know a lot of people,
10. but I don’t have many close friends.
11. Currently, I own 9 horses,
12. a Springer Spaniel female,
13. and an Aussie, Australian Shepherd, female,
14. And lots of barn cats.
15. I am 52,
16. and have been married 29 years.
17. I have 3 children, ages 23 to 28.
18. I have a girl and 2 boys.
19. I have a daughter-in-law and a son-in-law.
20. I can handle organized chaos.
21. I tear out pages of things I like from magazines (then file them in categories).
22. I enjoy photography,
23. And taking pictures of the horses, my grandbabies, the scenery, and the country.
24. I love reading books,
25. And I want to find the time to read my horse magazines.
26. I read Home Decorating magazines, and watch Home Decorating shows,
27. And I enjoy renovating my home.
28. I give horseback riding lessons,
29. I train horses and I enjoy making horses ride better.
30. And I try to teach what I know about horses to whoever wants to learn.
31. I had a tack store for 5 ½ years, that I closed this year,
32. so now I’m selling my inventory (eBay, here I come).
33. I have taken a Centered Riding clinic last year,
34. And then became a CR Level 1 instructor.
35. I will work towards becoming a CR Level 2 instructor next year.
36. I get so much more out of the CR books now.
37. Centered Riding has affected my life in more ways than in just with horses and riding.
38. I enjoy working with people who really want to learn how to ride.
39. Someday, I want to travel and give clinics.
40. I enjoy trail riding,
41. And I have bought my first gaited horse, a Tennessee Walking Horse.
42. My other horses are Quarter Horses, mares and geldings,
43. And I have 1 stud.
44. I bred to have 2 foals next year.
45. I have done 3 years of CTR (Competitive Trail Riding)
46. I want to trail ride in a new place every year.
47. This year, I am going to Custer, SD.
48. I want to do more CTR’s next year.
49. I want to start to do some trail challenges.
50. At 50, I started menopause.
51. I get “hot” at night, then cold.
52. I wake up 3-6 times a night.
53. I am looking forward to this stage of my life to be over,
54. Because I’m really tired of these dark circles!
55. I am also tired of mosquitoes, flies, deer flies, and those big black flies,
56. And I don’t like ticks! I despise them. But I believe that there is a cure for an incurable disease from ticks.
57. I love flowers,
58. And I want to plant more flowers next year.
59. I want to have a garden next year (It’s been a long time since I have had a vegetable garden).
60. I grew up in PA,
61. And have lived in New Jersey, Michigan, and
62. I have been in Nebraska for 24 years.
63. I was in PA for 24 years.
64. I will always be a Penn State Fan.
65. I played softball during the summers when I was a kid,
66. I played basketball
67. and ran track in High School, both on our school’s first girl’s teams.
68. I graduated from PSU in 1980 in Animal Production.
69. I have an Associate Degree in Veterinary Technician from MI.
70. I have a BS Degree In Ag Business from UNL.
71. I am a Certified Equine Massage Therapist.
72. I have the AAHS certification (American Association for Horsemanship Safety).
73. I work for myself so I can set my own hours.
74. Have I said how much I love to ride horses?
75. I love to shop for antiques, when I have time.
76. I cook only because we have to eat.
77. But I love to cook around the holidays.
78. I always make a large turkey for Thanksgiving,
79. a Cook’s ham for Christmas,
80. And pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day.
81. I have done some needlepoint, and would like to get back to it some day.
82. I love the color blue, especially the blue of a bright blue sky on a sunny day!
83. My Grandma’s name was Ruth, and that is my, my daughter’s, and my granddaughter’s middle name.
84. I love blogging, and telling my “story”.
85. I love mowing grass, from a riding lawnmower.
86. I love the smell of fresh hay.
87. I love my coffee in the morning.
88. I love a good steak.
89. I don’t love looking over the edge of very high buildings, cliffs, bridges, whatever.
90. I don’t like people who talk behind your back.
91. And I don’t like people who say they are your friend now, only because you are helping them with something, then they aren’t your friend in a few years??? Who needs them, anyways?
92. I love the crisp, cool days of fall.
93. I love a good, smooth Merlot,
94. Otherwise I drink boxed Zinfadel mixed with Crystal Light peach tea for a cheap winecooler.
95. I love walking the beach on a sunny day.
96. I really love being a grandmother.
97. I love God.
98. I believe things happen for a reason, and sometimes we just need to wait to see that reason or "hear" the why.
99. I love living in the country.
100. I love my life.

Now, I challenge you to do 100 things about yourself. Let me know when you do!

“Embrace the Journey!”

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Journey is Long

Life is a journey and lasts a lifetime. Life is ever changing. We are always on a journey, finding our way.

The journey can change direction. Paths twist and curve. There are stops on the way, which makes us stop to think what is next. There are crossroads, where we need to decide which way to go. Sometimes, the path ends and we need to backtrack to find where the path was. Sometimes, we are one a path, thinking that we are heading one direction, and the path changes direction without us realizing it. Or sometimes, we just have to make our own paths!

Life is about growing and maturing into wisdom and patience. Time helps us to grow from an infant to an adult. Time and good nutrition and overall good health. That includes our mental health. We need to take care of our body, as well as our mind. They both need rest, and need to be refreshed. Within our busy lives, we need to take time for rest and relaxation. As we grow, our body matures. Our minds mature, and we change.

Only time will tell how much we change, and that is also determined by how our life circumstances change. Life brings us a wisdom and patience that only time can bring to us. Life’s troubles give us wonderful hindsight for later circumstances. We change how we handle things that come our way, even changing how we would do something the next time we encounter the same situation. We mature and we may take the time to think longer or think things through more thoroughly. We gain patience, and if you do what I do, I pray for patience all the time. I pray for the knowledge of how to do something.

Life is about nurturing and comforting when someone, or something, is hurt. Through time, and becoming older, my age has brought a slowness, that isn’t from moving slow but from taking the time. Taking the time to look, think, and ponder about things. Nurture yourself and others when you need to. Find something that brings a comfort to you. Read. Find a hobby. Give yourself time to enjoy life.

We cause our life to take different paths, and the longer we think about the path that we want to take, the better the choice of our path will be. We may not choose what someone else will choose, and that is ok. It is about you and your life. Find what is right for you. When life seems to have a different path in front of you than what you thought you would take, then take that path. Remember, you can always back track later, if the path doesn’t seem quite right for you.

Paths take us on our life’s journey. Many paths and many directions. Take the time to use the knowledge and the wisdom that you gain along the way to decide what direction you want your journey to continue. It’s ok to stop and stay where you are, or take a little longer before moving on. But life won’t wait on you. Life continues on. We have the choice do stay and do nothing or to move along.

Enjoy your journey. Allow your life to grow and change. Look forward to the changes, as it can bring a wonderful, new feeling.

As I grow and change, I find a peace within me. It is a comfort for me to allow my life to go where it takes me. I don’t think and ponder the paths in front of me. I know things happen for a reason, and I allow God to guide me. My journey has become a journey of finding more peace. My journey has centered me, and that is one reason that studying Centered Riding has appealed to me and for my love of horses.

Life is good if you let it be. Let the opportunities, that happen along the way, happen for a reason. A good reason. A reason that is right for you. Enjoy your life today.

Come along on my journey with me, and as always, "Embrace the Journey!"

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Some Horse, Dog and Cat Pics

The Sunday Still’s challenge this week is about going back to the basics. We are to use the rule of thirds which is to put your subject into the upper or lower part of the shot or in the left or right half of the photo. Composition is the name of the game here and you can use any subject you find….

Hmmm…I better take a photography class. I’m not sure if I’ll get this one right. Here are some extra photos that I took that I like. My SS shots are on my blog, pictures by brenda.

See other Sunday Stills shots here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Why are Horses Abused in the Name of Training

I wonder why, but not for very long, why horses are abused in the name of training. I know why some horses get abused while they are in training. Let’s take in consideration:

the trainer's age - young or old vs patience and no-patience, explained in a little bit

the trainer's experience - an older person can have very little experience

the trainer's education - self taught, which is fine, but is he/she educated on knowing WHY horses do what they do

the horse's age - young horses don't know much about riding

the pressure to get x amount done in x amount of time - self explained. To push harder to get more done, and this usually back fires.

And what is going on in the trainer's life? Are they distracted? Have they learned patience?

I find that I need to have this question answered - do they enjoy working with horses to make the horse the best that the horse can be, wherever that horse is at in his training?

I know I can yes to that about myself. I needed to learn more patience. I feel that, in the last 4 years of a training business reprieve, I have learned to relax, learn more patience, take some time, and enjoy training again. I always tried to give the horse what he/she needed, but still pushed for that result to come faster, for the benefit of showing the owner that the horse is learning/trained/doing more than when they first came. Now, like many of us who have been in training for some time, I don't move as fast. I know that it's just fine to slow down, without feeling rushed to get the results NOW.

Patience come with age, but not always. I'm sure there is that naturally patient person. I wasn't, as I had kids showing, horses in for 30 days who needed to go home to ride better, etc. I had to pray for patience, and I will continue to do so until I die. I will give the horse what they need, when they need it. Period.

Why train if you don't love horses? Why train if you don’t enjoy being around horses? Why train if you are going to hurt horses?

I can honestly say that I can’t wait to get back to training more horses. I have enjoyed my summer of riding just a few training horses. I have enjoyed having the time to ride 3 of my horses, 2 of which are new for me. I got Dixie in early May, and in late June, I got Savannah. The 3rd horse, Shaggy, has been ridden off and one for the last 4 years, and now he is one of my main Centered Riding horse. So I feel like I’ve been in training mode with my own horses. And I am having a great time training/riding them.

Why not? I have the whole day to do what I want to accomplish. I have a few lessons here and there throughout the week. I just want to be done with working horses before the heat of the day. I start my day early. If I don’t get done with what I thought I needed to get done with the horses, I work on that the next day.

One major item that I have realized this summer is that I have the “luxury” of taking my time with my horses. Shaggy doesn’t lope well, so I have kept him at the trot longer to have him more solid at the trot. Now he is moving beautifully, in what I feel is a very short time. I have set him up to move straight, give to the bit, do leg yields, stop and back. We serpentine with collection, we can hold our big body straight, and we trot out with ears perked. I know he is having as good of time as I am. The days I feel that everything is coming together, we work on the lope. I had to get him to lope off, then I had to get him to slow down, now we are working on him not dropping his right shoulder. Today, I only loped him 2 or 3 times on 1 long wall of the arena. By the 3rd time, he stayed up and stayed straight, and he didn't lean. I stopped there. He did it right and I felt wonderful about it. I gave him the rest of the day to think about it. I did a roll back and walked off on a loose rein. One thing that has impressed me about Shaggy is that he never gets upset! He may want to try to be bad, but then he does what he is suppose to do, and he walks off relaxed.

Dixie is a joy to ride. I just told Tom last night that each time I ride her, I like her more and more. She has a very fast canter (forgot the lope right now), so once again, I am keeping a horse at the trot longer. She trots, and I post or sit in a raised seat, semi 2 pt. She does the rope gate, side passes, 2 tracks, and she loves to walk out. I will have her ready for kids to ride next spring. I will work on her lope this fall, when we can get to the fields and aren’t restrained by walls. She reminds me of our pole bending mare, Misty. They both have a great personality and are just pleasant to be around.

And now I have my first gaited horse, Savannah, a 4 year old TWH mare. Learning to glide along in the gait is a relaxing experience. We just start walking out, and soon we are walking faster, then she glides. Sometimes we try to walk too fast, and it gets bouncy, so I know it’s wrong. Savannah is a little goosey and jumpy, but yet she is fantastic on the trail. With the wet weather, it forces us inside. This is a good thing, as Savannah is exposed to arena things that I may not have exposed her to. The end result is that she is becoming more desensitized. She doesn’t care if the pole bending pole falls - maybe this will prepare her for a dropping branch (which did happen to riders in front of me at the Horsetrailrider's FBMDR). She doesn’t care about the rope on the rope gate, swinging at her head. She doesn’t care if I shake the water bottle that has a chunk of ice in it. She still minds hearing horses in the stall area though, and that will just take time.

Why not take your time training when the end result is better? Yes, it may take longer to get to the end result. I plan on taking 6 months and see where I’m at with these horses. The owner may only have 1, 2, or possibly 3, months of available funds. Then it’s my job to send them home with the resources to continue training their horse in a kind and non-threatening way. I teach my way of riding and handling horses. I show the rider what to continue to practice on. I encourage the rider to take the time to get the horse solid before moving on to the next harder step.

I am having a good time. I hope that will help to make me a better trainer. I know that is making a more relaxed riding horse. A horse who enjoys his job as much as I am enjoying my job!

“Embrace the Journey!”

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A NATRC's rider sad news today

A NATRC rider just posted that she had to put her horse down, due to a broken leg he received in his lot. Once again, thoughts are on Finny. Here was my words to her:

"I am so sorry to hear this. I know how you feel, as it just about ripped my heart out when I had to put my horse down last Oct due to colic. I was sad for a very long time. I couldn't ride where I rode him. Every time I thought I was over the hurt, something would happen and I would start hurting again. I feel better now, and not as sad as I used to be. I will always miss him. But I have a lump in my throat now. So I try to think of something that makes me happy about him, or a ride we had. That took a long time to be able to do.

If you ever need to just express how you are feeling on any different day, just email me. It does still help to have someone send me a special saying, or think about me, or just ask. I miss my horse dearly, as I know you do.

It does take time. I felt guilty for a long time. Don't go there. We all do the best we can with the circumstances that we have at the time. Would I do things different now? yes, we all would. But now we take that knowledge and move on.


When I think things are better, news like this make me feel very sad all over again. Friends have told me that years later, they still ache for that special horse that was in their life. Now that Finny is gone, I must say he had to have been very special to me, without my realizing it, until he was gone.

Isn't life like that sometimes? We need to see what is truly important and appreciate it. A friend's post to me said what I always believe, "Things happen for a reason".

After Finny was gone, I couldn't ride. I think I only rode 3 times in 6 months. Then I started to hurt less, and I started looking at Shaggy. I have always liked how he looked. Now he is the horse I have as I continue my Centered Riding journey. This feels right.

I had looked at some gaited horses over the last 8 1/2 months, but there wasn't one that seemed quite right. I looked at Savannah, and even though she was only 4, I liked the way she stood quiet. I liked the way that the rider rode her. And I liked how I knew the breeder and knew how well the breeder took care of her horses. I didn't hesitate and Savannah came home with me that day to start a trail riding/CTR career with me. This feels right also.

I have one more big decision to make and it is about my stud. I know what I want to do. I think I am just waiting on timing. We bred 2 mares, and I'll see if they are in foal. Or maybe I need to wait until they are on the ground and rebreed. Then I would like Duke to be my horse that I will take dressage/English lessons on. I have always heard, and believed, that dressage principles can be applied to any style of riding. Centered Riding wants us to work on our own education, and I can't think of any better horse I want to ride than Duke. For those who have heard me talk of him, I have been thinking of gelding him for many years. He is the horse to continue my education on and to work on dressage. I think the time has come and this feels right.

I didn't think I would type so much. But when something happens in your life that makes you think, then you better stop and think. The death of another good horse that has someone hurting as much as I hurt is sad. But it makes me realize what I do have in my life. Shaggy was here and I probably wouldn't be at where I am with him if Finny hadn't died. I may not have bought Savannah, but bought a different horse last fall. I may continue to put Duke on the back burner.

We all can say that when we hear of death, we appreciate what we have even better. Every day I work with horses, I need to remember this. I can share the love I had of riding Finny, and for Finny, with many other horses. Every day I work with horses, I want to tell myself that God has given me a gift and I need to use it to the best of my ability. He has given many of us this gift. Our love of horses.

Horses are our Lives. I'll blog more about this on my blog,

Become a friend.

"Embrace the Journey!"

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Teaching the Lope Lesson Part 2

I had a fantastic lesson last week, teaching 2 adults to lope the lesson horses. They did fantastic. Both were apprehensive, a little scared, and tense, but after showing what the horses can do on a lunge line, they both were loping short distances off the line!

I got on Starlet first, to show how she lopes. I think that helped them a lot to see her lope, as it showed the riders what the horse will do and how the lope on her looks.

After the adult lesson, I had a youth lesson with a youth who has been with me awhile. She has loped a little for the last 2 years, but now at age 11, she was able to put it all together and lope Starlet around the arena a couple of times before stopping. I had a fantastic time with my youth rider too.

Yes, I can't wait to share how I did the lessons and what Centered Riding exercises I used. But what I will really share is the connection between the horse and rider. And the connection between Starlet and I.

The previous post, Teaching the Lope Lesson, Part 1, went through the exercises to get the rider prepared. The exercises did more to relax the rider as much as to “awaken” their joints and muscles. As the riders went through the exercises, they became more comfortable on the lesson horse. They were paying attention to how to do the maneuvers, and they could move the horse where they wanted the horse to go.

The riders started with leg exercises, to open up the hips. I had the riders find their Neutral Pelvis by rocking their pelvis back and forth. We worked on putting our head in alignment through the Building Blocks exercise. This helped the riders to lift their chin a little higher, and able to see further ahead. Using Soft Eyes, the riders could see more of the arena and where they were going to lope their horse. I had them Ground themselves, by feeling their weight into their feet, as if they are standing on the ground. I wanted them to feel the weight through their legs, into their feet, and moving down to the ground and feel like they could sink into the ground, as if they are standing in sand.

We worked on moving the horse with Breathing and using the rider’s Center. The horse needs to be moved with our center, as well as our hands and legs. Think about your center as a small ball moving backwards. If you want to have your horse move out, mentally spin the ball faster. If you need the horse to go slower, spin your center slower. If you need the horse to have a longer stride, spin your center larger. Have your center grow from a golf ball size to a beach ball size, or any size in between. Picturing a certain size ball spinning in your center will help you with your horse’s movement.

We also use our center by spinning in the direction that you want to go. As we prepare for the lope to the left, we want to spin our center forward and to the left.

We lope off with Clear Intent, We need to know, and express to our horse with exact cues, where we want to ride our horse to, at what speed, and knowing what to do if the horse breaks to a trot.

For my lesson horses, they will lope off better for people with these cues: I have the riders hold with light contact on the reins. I have the riders take a deep breath. I have them look in the direction they want to go, and as they breathe out, I have the rider squeeze with their outside heel. Depending on the horse, the leg cue can be soft with Chick or it needs to be firm with Starlet.

If the horse only trots, we stop the horse, take a step back to make sure we have enough control to stop the horse if we need to. Then we ask the horse to lope off with a more exact cue. As the rider looks ahead as he lopes, we continue to add enough leg cue to keep the horse loping.

When we use our Center and give the horse exact cues with Clear Intent, then we can do anything that we want to do. Practice and you can accomplish whatever you want to do.

“Embrace the Journey!”

Friday, July 16, 2010

Teaching the Lope

July 15, 2010
Part 1

I was exhausted the day after the lope lesson. I think the 4 days of having a vendor booth at State 4-H in the rain and humidity did me in. Then my lesson day started at 6 am, with lessons at 7. I’m still tired, but not as tired as last night. But the way I feel tonight, I still may not get this done. But I will start and post Part 2 tomorrow.

We worked on preparing for the lope. We worked on walking using the following seat. We learn to stay relaxed enough and trotting the arena. Working on control through stopping and backing.

Both adults are comfortable walking and trotting the lesson horses. They understand the Centered Riding exercises. We have been applying the exercises during the lessons. We also do leg exercises to loosen up the ankle, knee and hip joints, especially the hip joints. To get the leg back underneath our bodies, the leg has to move from the hip. Our pelvis needs to be open to do this, and we find our Neutral Pelvis to do this. As we engage our joints and open our hips, our body stay relaxed. We work on the Building Blocks and putting our bodies in alignment. Then we won’t bounce at the trot and the lope. We start with our head, moving to our hips and legs, rocking our body into balance.

We Ground our feet and feel the weight into our stirrup. We want to feel that we are standing in sand, yet feel like we our standing solid on the ground. Breathe and use Soft Eyes. We Center and we move the horse with our center. We allow the ball in our center to grow and go faster to get the horse to move out. We let the ball grow smaller and move slower to slow down the horse. We worked on half halting to the stop by breathing out and sitting deep in our seat.

We ride and moved our horses around the arena with Clear Intent, meaning we ride with a purpose. We need to look where we are going and put the horse there. Last week, we worked on maneuvers, and 2 tracked (half passed) into the corners. When we learn to use our legs as well as our hands to guide the horse, we gain more control. The riders are learning to feel how the horse’s move and to gain control when they lose the movement.

Next we transitioned into the lope. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Learning to Lope

For tomorrow's lesson, I have an adult who wants to learn to lope. My lesson mare, Starlet, is great for this. She is a little western pleasure loper, very true and very smooth, if she goes slow. Starlet listens to my cues, so I have the rider on the lunge line, and we both cue Starlet for the lope. The rider gives the body cues, and I give my subtle cues with my voice and body. This gives the rider confidence in knowing how to execute the lope.

How will I use Centered Riding, and CR exercises? I will ground and center myself first. Then I will have the rider do some exercises while on the lunge line. Before asking for the lope departure, I'll have the rider breathe, center and have clear intent on asking for the lope. I'll let you know tomorrow how the morning goes.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Training Tip: Loading and CR: Breathing

This past weekend, I went trail riding on Savannah. She didn't load easily. We worked on loading when I got home, and I blogged about it in the previous post.

When the horse doesn't do something that I know that it can do, then we go back to work mode and do some additional training. She didn't want to load, so we did some work until she was willing to load. I made it her choice. She refused to load, we went to work. I put her into a lunge circle. After a few circles, I asked her to load. She refused, so we went back to work on the lunge line. I changed directions so as to break up the routine of a circle, so as to not to strain legs as I wasn't sure how long we would be lunging. After a few more circles, I asked her to load. At the 3rd attempt, she loaded. She was rewarded by some hay in the manger, by me standing still and petting her, then by being asked to back out of the trailer. But she had to load again willingly. She didn't, so she went back to work until she loaded easily. She was to jump in by me just sending her in. After she loaded the 2nd time, we rested, had a pat or 2, and unloaded. Immediately she was asked to load again, and she jumped right in.

This may be a different way than working with a young horse who has never loaded, or even an older horse who is scared. I knew this horse has been loaded, so she went right to work. With a younger or scared horse, I will give them a buddy. I'll load a quiet horse, and teach the young, scared or timid horse that it is ok to be inside a trailer. I won't take them on a ride that first day, but I try to take them on a short 5 minute ride a few days later. Then I'll take them on a 15 minute ride.

I make the trailer a nice place. A place to eat if you don't mind your horses eating in the trailer, which I don't. I've hauled many miles with horses eating hay and have never had a problem. And on long hauls, anything from 2-12 hours, this keeps their guts moving.

I make the trailer safe, and a resting place from work.

I make the trailer a place to relax, and they are petted and left alone to think.

Most horses don't refuse the trailer after they know that they have to load and they will get in. Sometimes this may take an hour of work, but it is worth it to have a horse jump in willingly.

I didn't do my homework before the ride, but I did when I got home. I'll see if my horse needs more homework later this week.

oh, and about Centered Riding, try breathing during trailer loading! If I would have been breathing more, I think I would have stayed more relaxed. But it's easier to stay relaxed when you aren't on a time frame.

Later this week, I won't be on a time frame, and I'll breathe deeply before each time I ask her to load.

Savannahs first trail ride

Saturday, July 10, 2010

After having Savannah, my 4 year old TWH, for 2 weeks, and getting along pretty well, I needed to get my new girl on the trails to see what she would do. She has been ridden mainly in the NW Iowa hills, so I knew she has seen a lot of terrain. Being a little
goosey about rustling noises, I took time to desensitize her and for us to get to know each other.

In the outdoor arena, I rustled the trees as I rode by them. We rode over the logs, both at the walk and the trot. We worked on the gate.

I wanted to go somewhere close, with only another rider or 2. I met up with Sandy at Br Oak this morning. My friend Dianna was going to meet us with her gaited horse but couldn't get there as early as we wanted to ride. We rode for 3 hours, and over 10 miles, I think. My GPS shut off at one point and I missed 20 min. After only a few jumps, we did great! Even at a walk we were covering ground, and after a while the walk seemed slow. It was fun to go gaited, as we went from one end of the lake to the other in 2 hours, and rode back out for another hour. 3 hours went by very fast. Sandy said it was because we were moving faster. :-)))

Sandy, (on a different horse than what she rode on Saturday).

I am really pleased about how well she rode and how well she led. We will need to work on the lope, which is now a run. Branched Oak lake has great wide mowed paths, besides many small trails among the trees. We decided to lope the wide paths. I had Sandy lope first and get a little in front of me, since Savannah doesn’t easily want to go into the lope. She started off very fast, and I slowed her down to a walk, after she threw in a kick after about a minute of loping the first time. We started loping again, and she threw in another kick after loping over some small sticks laying in the path. This wasn’t because the horse was too far in front of her. We were actually within 20 or 30” of the other horse. We walked some more, and loped 1 more time. This time I kept more contact on the reins and asked for a slower loped, even if it caused her to break to a gaited trot. I think she just needs to lope a little slower and more collective than strung out. We’ll get there.

(Hubby Tom just got home and I need to power wash and clean out my trailer and pack with tack and clothing to take to Grand Island. I'll have a vendor booth set up out there Mon-Wed noon for the State 4-H Horse Show. Even if you don't have kids showing, come over and see me. You might have to park at the far end of the arena barn and walk up to where the vendors are).

(I’m back. I sitting outside by my trailer at Grand Island. That is amazing that I can sit outside, as each year, it is standard and expected for temps to be in the high 90’s here. I’m not even sure it’s 85. It’s beautiful in the shade, and the breeze is actually cool. It’s making me want to nap. I’ve just sat out a few tack items in case people want to shop. I’m being lazy today, since I’m here for 3 days. It will take me an hour or longer to set out each morning, and that long to tear down each evening. I don’t have a sales trailer, just my horse trailer converted to hauling tack. Usually with the heat, I’m exhausted after 2 days. )

Anyways, back to Savannah and our ride. Actually, to some training that we needed to do at the end of the ride. I needed to have a trailer loading session with Savannah. She loaded reluctantly at home, with Tom's help, then needed "help" after our trail ride. A little bit of lunging then I asked her to go in. Finally she did. Well...once I got home, that big girl went to work. I unloaded, and because of her loading issues today and because she started backing out sooner than I wanted her to, we went back to loading up again. After about 5 minutes of lunging and asking, and lunging and asking, etc, she went in. Left her stand, petted her, backed her out, then asked right away to go back in. She refused, so back to lunging and asking, etc. This took only 2 or 3 times. Petted her some, then backed out, and once again, I asked to go right back in. She did without hesitating, and went so far in, her chest was rubbing the manger. lol

They say to work things in 3's, and it worked with her.

I guess we better be working on this before the next trail ride.

Come ride with me, gaited or stock horse, I can go either way now!

Embrace the Journey!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Changing Routine

Earlier this week, on my Horses Are Our Lives chat group, I started the discussion of changing routines. As you ride, continue to change the routine so that you and your horse do not get bored with your ride or your workout.

If you have to ride in an indoor arena, try to keep changing direction to keep the horse thinking and paying attention to you. If you ride in an outdoor arena, ride towards a spooky corner or site for all directions. Let the horse see something from all angles. If you ride the roads, try to weave down the road if you can see what is coming from all directions. Add some leg yields to keep the horse moving forward, but listening to your cues.

Sometimes, I'll do certain maneuvers on different days, that way I'm not always
working on everything all the time. I may do the gate one day, work more on side passing logs another day, trot more logs the 3rd day, and so on. I'll still work these maneuvers every day, but not as much. I'll concentrate on 1 obstacle each day.

I still work on some of the same maneuvers every day, but not as much. I may do a lot of 2 tracking (half passes) one day. Other days, I’ll work on the side pass. Another day, I’ll work on pivots.

Outside of the arena, how do we change routine? Go on a trail ride. Work in the outdoor arena. Take a trip down the road.

Personally, I do not like to road ride, every since the day a neighbor lady almost ran us off the road. I was riding with my 3 children, not even ¼ mile from home. My youngest son was riding in the saddle in front of me on my horse, and my other 2 children were on their horses. I think they were probably 8 and 10. The neighbor lady didn’t think we should be riding our horses on the side of the road. She passed us, turned around, and came back toward us. She didn’t move over, and was only about 1 foot from the back legs of my son’s horse. His horse started backing up and I thought she was going to hit them. I was furious. My husband wouldn’t let me go over and face her. The chicken. Did I say how furious I was? What an old biddie (sp). She never waved at us or ever talked to us, for 15 years!!!

The other main way that I break up my routine is to ride in the fields as often as possible after harvest. I love field riding. Now I can ride the waterways. I can also ride the CPR land. I need to do that more now, as I’m preparing for a horse camping trip to SD, and also for some fall CTR’s.

What other ideas do you have to break up your riding routine?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Soft Eyes and Breathing

First, I’d like to say Happy Birthday to my friend Gretchen. I hope you had a fantastic horsey day with Rainbow and Tootsie.

Let's work on Soft Eyes and Breathing. Even though this seems really easy to do, once we start concentrating, we move into hard eyes and quit breathing. We start to stare at 1 spot. We start to hold our breath. We tense. And our horse tenses as well. We forget about the world around us, but our horse hasn’t. Feeling the tension, our horse starts to tighten his muscles, he lifts his head, and may start to be skittish.

As we tense, we tighten up. Our shoulders get stiff. Our hands tighten on the reins. Our arms quit moving with the motion of the horse. We lose our center and our seat. We tip forward or backward. Our thighs tighten, and we start to grip without knees and calves. We lose our weight in the stirrups and the grounded feeling.

Now take a deep breath, then take another deep breath, and let in sink into your center. Take another deep breath, and let it settle and sink down into your seat. The 3rd deep breath should sink down into your feet.

Now take a moment and see everything that is around you. Open your eyes, while looking straight ahead, still see what is around you. Breathe deeply. Now see the same view, use your peripheral vision. How much more can you see? As you breathe deeply, how much more relaxed do you feel?

Begin to walk your horse. Breathing deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth, feel how much more relaxed you and your horse is. Breathing deeply, realize how much more you can see. Pay attention to nothing. Ride anywhere, allowing your horse to relax and drop his neck.

As your horse relaxes, you as the rider, relaxes. The horse begins to move freely, and you as the rider, begin to move more freely. As you move, the tension leaves the moving parts. Therefore, you can’t be tense and move. As you look around, you breathe easier. You aren’t concentrating on 1 thing, but you are taking in everything.

Before, we were spiraling downward, as hard eyes and holding our breath was causing tense muscles and a tense horse. The tenser we got, the tenser the horse got. We caused the tension with the hard eyes and lack of deep breathing.

Now, we are spiraling upward. As we soften our eyes and breathe deeply, our horse relaxes. We feel the horse moving freely and we relax. The more relaxed we became, the more relaxed the horse became. It is easier to see everything. It is easier to breathe deep. Our limbs move, our joints are relaxed, and we’re riding the horse without tension. The horse moves out freely. His movement becomes deeper. The tension leaves our body and we move freely also.

I'll chat more about this topic on my chat Horses Are Our Lives, at

Come join in on the discussion, and the journey!

Embrace the Journal!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy July 4th 2010!

July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July! I am thankful that I live in a country of freedoms.

The day started out laying in bed, listening to the rain. It is raining outside. We are wet, very wet. Over 3” of rain is causing my bottom horse lot to be ½ covered with water.

But it’s not a bad way to start a holiday. Hubby cooked breakfast. After chores, and a breakfast of egg and cheese omelet, sausage patties and toast, we could relax. It was too wet to do anything outside.

I was obviously on the computer. Hubby read the Sunday paper and watched tv. I have gotten back to taking a lot of pictures. Sunday Stills is a photography blog that has inspired me. We have a challenge a week, and we post photos based on the specific challenge for that week. I try to see what everyone else posts for photos. 2 reasons: to see what they post and to comment on their posts, and to learn.

I want to learn to take better photos. Maybe I’ll take a photography class this winter. I know I want a better camera. I would love to zoom in and take better macro shots.

It is nice to be able to sleep in and relax for a day. I feel revived a little. I know Hubby has caught up on his sleep a little. Tomorrow is still a vacation day. I plan on having Hubby catch up on more sleep. But tv is staying off until we get a few things done inside.

Holidays are for Remembrance. And to be thankful. But they are also for family and for relaxing.

I hope you enjoy the fireworks, picnics, family, and relaxing this weekend.

Golden Oldies Ride

July 3, 2010

First, isn’t it amazing that our weather, even though it is hot and humid at times, isn’t so hot that we can’t ride. This year may be one of the coolest starts to July. We are only in the low 80’s today. It was suppose to be near 90’s, but the clouds rolled in. It’s suppose to storm tonight. Maybe that is why we have cloud cover early.

A few friends and I met at Branched Oak Lake and took 7 horses, who were 14 years and older, for a "slow" trail ride. It wasn't all that slow, as some of those horses still moved out! We had 1 14 yr old, 3 16's, 2 early 20's, 1 late 20's and he was a good old guy!

It's good to know that we can keep riding our horses as they age. We give them the special care they need, and they can ride the trails forever.

And this relates to what this group is all about - riding well to take care of our horses. Keeping us and our horse's bodies in shape through Centered Riding, and other, exercises. Asking questions and sharing knowledge about training, riding, nutrition, overall health of the horse, and more.

Today we rode for fun. Without a purpose or set schedule or any set direction. I think the horses relished the freedom of a plan, and traveled easily together. I think sometime we need to remember to ride like this, no set agenda and no training in mind. Let the horse relax and enjoy their job! Because when we do something we enjoy, it's no longer a job, but a joy!

Come and join our chat group at:

On the chat group, start your own photo folder. Post your pics in your own folder, and put one of you and your horse in the Horses Are Our Life folder.


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