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)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Building Blocks: Balance Your Head!

As I'm thinking about teaching Centered Riding to adults new to Centered Riding, I work on the Building Blocks. I balance each part of the rider's body, top to bottom. Head to foot.

I have discovered that starting with the head and neck is important. By starting with
the head, which weighs 10-14#, I have each rider nod back and forth, and move
their head side to side, to find that middle spot where the head is in neutral

Before I do this, I have each rider look at the wall and remember where they
are looking. After we balance the head, I have the rider look at the spot again. We
always look a little higher after balancing our neck.

We raise our head a little, and by doing so, we raise our shoulders up and back,
and raise our whole body up. This is the desired effect.

We also bring our neck up and back. Think about your head being pulled up by a string. This image causes us to lift up and straighten our neck. This image doesn't quite do it for me. I understand it, but my body doesn't move. Another image is the turtle sticking his head out of his shell. My neck looked like that. Squished down and out. I asked the Instructor of my Level 1 clinic to demonstrate what I do. When I saw her tuck her neck down and out, then pulled her chin back and straightened her neck up, I got it. I practiced all last fall, and I am starting to carry my neck straight. I will say that my neck and shoulders ached a little all the time for at least 3 months. As I practiced every day, I'm sure that I kept a little strain in the muscles that supported the neck. Over the winter I didn't practice the exercises since I wasn't riding. I think it gave my neck time to relax and to become used to the new building block position.

Take your time when you stretch your muscles or reposition your body. There will be some strain and you will want to go slow with changing your body.

Try it now, sitting in your chair. Try it when you get on your horse.

I'll talk about other body parts next time.

I sure hope this humidity stops soon so we can get out and practice and ride!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Turkey Creek Trail Ride

August 27-29, 2010

Turkey Creek is just a wonderful place to ride. Lots of hills. Long, sloping up and down hills with great scenery and lots of trees! Well marked trails. Some go higher and further and is was great to have Brenda, the owner, as a guide.

There is always great food and friends to ride with. Gretchen, from Georgia, came back to Nebraska for her yearly visit. She left to work at a horse camp that specializes in handicap riders, as well as youth camps in the summer and riding lessons for adults and youth year round. Gretchen loves to cook in a Dutch oven over a campfire. We had 3 fantastic meals, and leftovers for 2 other meals. Creamed potatoes and ham casserole with homemade bread. Chicken and vegetable stir fry and cherry German chocolate cake. Egg and sausage casserole. Apple crisp. Just delicious.

Gretchen stayed with me the evening before. She had already shopped and we repacked her groceries into 2 coolers and my small trailer fridge. I had the trailer ready to go with hay, grain, extra drinking water for the trail rides, and my clothes. I could outfit a family for the weekend with all the clothes that I take, but hey, I have the room so I take extra.

Friday morning, after feeding the dogs and cats, we loaded the horses. Savannah went right in with little resistance. Maybe she was on good behavior because she had Dixie ready to load right behind her. Dixie loaded and the 2 horses were ready to go.

We had a 3 hour trip. We headed north towards Sioux City, taking a short rest room break as well as to fill up with gas. We drove northwest, driving through Newcastle, and arrived at the campground.

We were there before noon and we were the first to arrive. We unloaded horses and put them into pens. We decided to eat our sandwiches and relax a moment before picking a spot to park. We thought we would wait on Tammy to show up to decide where she wanted people. In the meantime, John and Brenda came and she showed us what area she wanted our group to be in. I backed the trailer into the spot closest to the new pavilion.

Isn’t it just wonderful?

Gretchen and I decided to take a short ride while we were waiting on Tammy. We were just leaving camp when she pulled in, but told us to go for a ride while she unloaded her horse and got her trailer parked. Gretchen only had about 2 hours to ride as she needed to be back to start the campfire and to begin preparation for the first meal. Gretchen and I rode the beginning of a lot of the trails. Not knowing how far each trail went, we turned off to stay close to camp. One of the trails was called Whitetail and we kicked out a deer. Another trail was perfectly named as Prairie Ridge, and we came out onto a field of shoulder high native prairie grass. I could imagine what the settlers felt when they saw a field like that. We had perfect weather Friday afternoon. Mid 80’s and a breeze to keep the flies off our horses.

We rode back to camp and Brenda and Tammy were getting ready to ride out for a short ride. Since Gretchen said it would take her a little while to get the fire going, and to start to prepare the first dish, she wanted us to ride again. We waited while Gretchen unsaddled Dixie. I told her to let the saddle sit by the trailer, and I would care for her tack and Dixie when I get back. We rode another 2 hours, I think, and had perfect views of the area around us.

Our group arrived after we got back, and throughout dinner time. The first evening, every one was tired of traveling and getting horses settled, and we were all in bed early. We wanted to eat at 8 the next morning and start our ride at 9, but that would mean that Gretchen would have to get up at 5:30 to start the fire. We pushed everything ahead another hour. Who wants to get up that early on the weekend? 6:30 was early, but when I went out at 7 to feed horses, almost everyone else was up. We ate, we rode, we ate, we rode. You can see how our weekend went!

We rode Saturday morning from 10 - 1. There were 2 other groups of riders, and Brenda led the trail ride, taking us places that we normally could not ride. We saw so many wonderful views of the hills and lower areas. Just breathtaking and very green this year! We have had a very wet summer and it showed in all the green around us. We rode out again at 4 and rode until 6, riding the hill tops.

Most of us were done riding so that we could help Gretchen prepare and chop up meat and veggies. We had that delicious German Chocolate Cherry cake for supper and no one was ready to move. We enjoyed our beverage of choice and I also brought out a bottle of Merlot to share. What a relaxing way to end the day, sitting back on soft chairs, chatting with friends, and sipping wine.

Sunday morning, I fried the leftover potatoes and some sausage links. Sandy cooked scramble eggs. We rode out again at 10 and rode to around 1 again. This time, we rode to the river. Beautiful. To the north was the South Dakota border.

I needed to head home, so I started breaking camp, unplugging the electric cord, putting the trailer living space in order, packing up horse buckets, and cleaning out pens again. I usually have my trailer picked up early the day that I leave, but with cooking breakfast, it took my free time to clean fry pans. I did have all the dishes put away before the ride started so that saved me some time, as well as having the 2 food coolers packed into the trailer. The little stuff takes so long, doesn’t it?

Savannah loaded just perfect, and Dixie hopped into the trailer before I even had Savannah tied off. Dixie is a good girl. I said my goodbyes, and thanked Brenda for the wonderful trail ride.

3 hours later, at 5pm, I pulled into home. Once again, temps had reached 91 at home and humidity was high. Hubby helped me to carry in coolers, dirty clothes, food out of the fridge, and misc items, like my laptop that I didn’t use. Oh well. I just didn’t get my early mornings to type like I usually do on trips. But I used the camera a lot!

And my friend Tammy from has me hooked on using a GPS. My new GPS is the wrist type, and now we can see our paths that we rode when we plug into the computer. How much fun is that?

As always, I was tired this morning, but had to get ready for a training horse to come in. I am really enjoying my trail riding time with Savannah. She only had a few goosey moments and jumps, but they are getting less frequent, and with less intensity. My first CTR is in a little more than 2 weeks, so I hope she is on her way to becoming conditioned for that.

Come ride a trail with me sometime! I can’t wait until the next ride!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Some Day

I am going on a trail ride to Turkey Creek this weekend. It has me thinking, and it has me a little sad. This is the first place I went to after Finny died. I’m having bitter sweet feelings tonight. I am taking Savannah, who happened to be raised by the people who own Turkey Creek. Coincidence? Maybe. I feel like I am going full circle. I don’t want to think about it, I just want to relax, and forget that terrible day,10 ½ months ago. Forgive me for still feeling this way, but hopefully by the end of this post, I feel the peace that I need to have inside me to get over this hurt that I still carry somewhere inside me.

Some day… I keep telling myself, some day….

Some day, you are going to forgive yourself. For all of those things that happen and that you didn‘t have any control over. For all the things that couldn’t happen to save him. For all the things you had to do after it happened. And for all the things you hated doing.

Some day, you are going to understand. Why did it happened? Why couldn’t you prevent it? Why couldn’t he get better? Yes, you did the things that you did. Why didn’t you do what you should have done? Why didn’t you do what you had planned to do?

You have hated that day. The Sickness. The Death. The Finality of it all.

That day your heart did break. Into two. Into many pieces. You felt as if it will never heal. You think about the sadness, and your heart breaks in two again. And the hurt and pain and sadness starts all over again.

For many days, you are in pain. The pain that sinks down into your core. Pain that doesn’t go away, no matter how long you cry. Or don’t cry. Pain, and depression, and an overwhelming sadness lasts, and lingers, forever it seems.

Some day you are going to be sad all day. Many days of sadness. Months. And months. Maybe not all day long, but part of each day. And slowly the sadness begins to lessen.

Some day you are going to hurt less. The sadness starts to go away. But the little hurt is always there. There is always a dull pain. Always a little “something” in its place. An emptiness that begins to grow. And something more grows. A desire to fill the emptiness.

Slowly the sadness and pain leave. Acceptance and understanding takes their place. There is the beginning of the peace that is necessary to calm my soul.

Some day you are going to like yourself again. Because you have forgiven yourself.

And some day you are going to love again. And find another special horse in your life.

And with that love becomes another special bond with a special horse.

Is some day… today?

Another horse has come into my life. He is extra special because he has helped me through the difficult time of losing a loved soul mate. He has always been here, waiting his turn. He is quiet, and kind. He makes me think that he knows how I feel. But how can he? He lost a pasture mate, too. Are horses sad when one of their buddies leave them too?

And now the realization that everything that I had to go through on that fateful day, and since, has brought me this wonderful horse who is so gentle, and kind, and caring.

I am grateful for you, my new friend. You have made me discover the peace that was buried deep in my soul. You have given me a reason to move on.

And so continues the circle of my life with horses. The love and excitement for one horse, to pain and hurt, to understanding and forgiveness, to a life with love and excitement for another new horse.

It is a journey which is hard to embrace at times. But a journey that you need to embrace with your whole being, because, if not, when the terrible things happen, it will devastate you. You have horses embedded deep in your soul and you will not be whole again until you continue your journey.

No matter what happens, “Embrace the Journey!” The peace will be there when you least expect it. Search for it. You will find it.

I am whole again. I feel it. I will always miss you, Finny, but Shaggy is helping me through my pain. I remember you with fondness now.

Yearly Physical

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I just did the Dr thing...all you women know what I am talking about. Gynecologist. But don’t stop there. Now it’s all about menopause! Hematologist. Technicians. Pelvic exams. Blood work. Machines. Time for supplements! Ok, how much else do I need to do???

I just about shot my hubby the night before my appointments, as he was making fun of me. I told him that how would he like his "parts" put between 2 pieces of equipment and squeezed tight. LOL!

Blood work to see what my blood is doing. Just a little wetness to the palms of my hands. I'm glad I didn't know how much blood they were taking and didn't watch them fill the 3 vials. I would rather see the vet take my horse's blood or doctor a wound, then see my own blood. The blood will be checked for levels of different nutrients. I’m sure cholesterol. That should be fine as I have always had low levels. I’m not eating as much ice cream as I used to, so that should help. Vitamin D needs to be at a certain amount so that the Calcium will be absorbed. Then there was a whole list. Hormone levels - yes, I definitely know they are low. And other things for other reasons. I forgot which ones, another sign of menopause.

Checking the uterus and making sure things are still fine in there. Checking ovaries and making sure they are “normal”. With the effects of menopause, the night sweats, not sleeping, dreaming, I still do not want to supplement with estrogen. I’ll live through these darn sleepless nights somehow. Usually, I sleep restlessly for 5 or 6 nights, then crash and don’t wake up at all on the 7th night. That works for now. If I can just train my husband to sleep well on that 7th night. I think he is also learning to be restless and sleep uneasy, because now he is starting to wake me up at night! Geez!

Because of my "age", we had to do the bone density thing - no sweat to that test and machine. Lie day, rest legs on this foam block, and lay still. They scanned the hip on the less dominant side. I did get a sneak peek of my bone density test. The hip joint was just starting to be in the negatives. The neck of the femur was the lowest number, and was just at the point where it was going towards osteoporosis problems.

One other test and was done. The worse for last. Mammogram! Lift up, pushed, squeezed, hold your breath. Relax. Repeat for 5 more times! How many more times? Ok, now don’t touch me again! Not for another year.

Well, that just shot a morning. Taking my calcium and vitamin D won’t bring back the density that has been lost, but it will build up the bone and help to prevent any further lose. I will be diligent now.

oh... I knew I shouldn't have stopped those multivitamins and calcium pills during the winter. I did start back up a while ago, then stopped on vacation. Who knows why, I just left it slip. I had the pills with me, just didn't take them. Now, it's time to be diligent, and I encourage all of you to do so. Now is the time for Calcium and Vitamin D, not later. I feel so much better when I take a multivitamin and glucosamine supplement. I can't take them first thing in the morning, as it feels too heavy on my stomach. I set out my pills and take some with my lunch. I will take some at afternoon slump time. I will not let myself off the hook. I hope you don’t let yourself off the hook either.

Why? so we have lots of horse years left in our body!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Centered Riding Introductory Lesson

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I had a great group of riders here for a Centered Riding Introduction lesson Sunday morning. Three of the riders where new to me for lessons and 1 of the riders is already taking lessons from me. We started at 9 in the morning with exercises on the ground. Here is a brief report of how much we did in 2 1/2 hours!

We first had some stretching exercises. We worked on opening the chest muscles, both out and up.

We worked on having Soft Eyes and how much more you can see when you use soft eyes as compared to hard eyes. We broke out into pairs, with one person standing still and staring with hard eyes at something on the wall. The other person walked around them, and put a mark on the sand when they walked out of the view of the person who was staring. Then I had that person take a deep breath, and then used soft eyes without staring. Their partner walked around them again, and remarked an area in the sand when they walked out of view. Each time, the person could see at least a foot further with soft eyes.

We worked on deep Breathing and how to do that. I think breathing deep and using your diaphragm is one of those things that you hear about but don't do unless you are a singer and have been taught how to breathe deeply. Everyone only moved their chest when they breathed. I had them put a hand on their belly, and breathed as deep as they could, making an effort to fill their lungs with as much air as they could. This will cause the diaphragm, the largest muscle in the body, to push down, which causes your belly to move.

We talked about out Building Blocks and how to balance our bodies, starting with our head and working down. Our head weighs 8-14 #, and tipping it slight forward puts that much more weight on the horse’s withers and front end. Tipping our head back puts the weight on the back part of the horse’s back or loin. We rocked our head back and forth, and side to side, to find that point where our head is balanced. I find it interesting that every time I do this, I look a few inches higher than I did before.

Then we talked about out Center, where our center is, how our center moves, and how to relate that while on the horse. We have an imaginary ball within our center, spinning at the speed the horse is moving. We can regulate the speed of the horse but slowing or speeding up our center’s motion.

Clear Intent is riding with a purpose and we didn't talk about that except to mention it. During lessons, I talk about having a plan or purpose about where you want the horse to go.

We Grounded our feet, and talked about where to place our foot in the stirrup, which is usually a little further back than where we traditionally put the stirrup. Each person grounded their own feet, finding where that spot is on the bottom of their foot where they feel a “zing” up into their leg. Unless they are like me, and I only feel a dullness.

We did the same exercises on the horse. I Grounded everyone's feet, so they felt that place again on the bottom of their foot. They felt the sole of their foot in the stirrup.

We worked on Balance, starting with balancing our heads and where we are looking. We balanced our upper bodies, rocking back and forth until we found that spot where we weren’t rocking any more. We “woke up” our leg joints, by doing some leg stretches. We rotated our ankles, we moved our legs up and down, we stretched our knees by marching, and the hardest stretch, moving a straight leg from the hip joint. You need to swing your leg slowly, as when I do this, I can feel a “catch” in my hip. We repeated the arm and chest stretching exercises on the horse.

We found our Center and our Neutral Pelvis. We placed one hand in front of us, thumb on our belly and fingers pointing down. The other hand was on our lower back, directly in line with the first hand. Then we felt our hip joint as we swung our leg. By imagining a line between the hip joint and the center of our hands, we found our Center.

To sit balanced, we should be sitting on our seat bones. To find this area, we placed first one leg, than the other, onto the pommel. Slowly dropping each leg and picking up stirrups, we are now sitting correctly. I also did a hip release on 1 rider, showing the correct alignment for the leg. I showed the riders how they can do a hip release by themselves.

We worked on the Following Seat, allowing the horse to move freely and to feel the movement. Imagine a ball in our center, spinning backwards, and imagine the size of the ball. To increase the speed of the walk, imagine the ball growing, spinning larger and faster. To slow the horse's motion down, spin the ball in your center slower and decrease the size. To maintain a slowness but with an extended stride, imagine a large ball spinning slowly. Every now and then, I reminded the riders to use Soft Eyes and Breathe.

We worked at the trot, posting while using our leg joints. While in a revised seat, standing balanced in our stirrups, we worked on allowing the ankle, knee and hip joints to take up the movement of the trot. By doing so, there will be less stress on our joints, allowing our bodies to move with the horse. We worked on Dancing Knees, allowing our knees to move while the horse trotted.

At the end of the 2 ½ hour lesson, 3 of the riders practiced the lope. I had one of the riders practice loping off with their center, by thinking of sending her center forward in time with the horse’s hind leg. I had her maintain a feeling of sitting up as she loped. I wanted her to lope with a feeling of “up” through each stride when the hind leg pushed off and into another lope stride. By just thinking up, the rider had a more correct and gracefulness to her body. It was exciting to see the change in the horse‘s movement also, as he maintained a more collective stride.

Each rider worked at their own level within each of the basics. That is exactly
why Centered Riding works for all disciplines and all riders. Everyone is a
different point in their riding skills but you can work on the exercises and
maneuvers at every level of ability.

I'm excited that 2 of the riders were new to me and they are continuing lessons.
One of the riders wants to continue lessons and learn how to work with desensitizing her horse and to ride balanced if her horse should be jumpy while riding. I can't wait to have my next group lesson!

Click here to check our more about Centered Riding.

The journey has begun for a few more riders!

“Embrace the Journey!”

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Day 10 The Sandhills at Halsey Nebraska

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday morning. Another week. Last week in Nebraska was high 90’s, with a higher heat index. The beginning of this week, we are in the low 80’s. Perfect trail riding weather once again! But it won’t last long. By the weekend, we are to be back in the 90’s and humidity.

We had breakfast, and you will never guess what we saw. At least a 5’ bull snake. My friend, Tammy from would have been on top of her truck at the moment we yelled snake! LOL It slithered away faster than I could grab my camera, but it went away into this grass.

I’ve never ridden in the sand hills near Halsey. They are beautiful. A different kind of beauty than what I am used to though. This is wide open spaces as compared to the rocky hills of South Dakota. Here we can see forever. There we could see forever too, but only at the top of the ridges. Lots of sandy hills here, as compared to the tree lined hills in the northwest.

Both places have certain things in common. Both have terrain that can wear out your horse. The sandy hills and valleys stretch forever and give a workout to the horse’s legs. The steep, Black hills give a cardiovascular workout to the horse too!

Then there is the bright blue sky. Lots of sky. Quiet nights. And a calmness that only being out there with your horse can give you.

Even though I want trees around me, the openness of the sand hills has an appeal that is hard to explain. I wouldn’t want to live there, but there is an openness that for someone who loves the country, you are drawn to the space.

I would miss the trees. The sandy hills and valleys give an indication of hillsides. With the rain that we have had this year, the vegetation is green.

And it is plentiful this year. I’m sure in another couple of months, this land will look very brown. But for now, there is green grass, trees, and water!

We rode for 2 ½ hours, following the route of the windmills and cattle paths. We rode almost 5 miles, from the flat grassland up and down the sandy hills. We came upon a group of cattle among some trees, and all of the horses did well with the cows milling around us. Later on, a group of cattle moved into the trees and out of sight of the horses. The horses weren’t sure what to make of the windmills that they could see in the distance though. The horses sure did watch them, as the windmills were working due to the breeze.

Just as we were getting back to camp, a light rain was starting to fall. The other 2 riders wanted to rest and maybe have an early evening ride. I decided to pack and come home. And I’m glad I did, as it rained during the night and all the next day.

Once home, I was jet lagged and exhausted. I think it was just because I was home and could unwind. Hubby met me as I pulled into the driveway. He helped me carry in dirty clothes, and empty coolers, and the little bit of food from the frig. It was nice to have help doing that, and it only took about ½ hour. That saved me from doing it alone the next day, and it would have taken me all day to accomplish! As it was, the cooler with some water bottles, that I had filled and froze for drinking water, stayed at the back door for a few days. I wanted to dump out the water and refill with fresh water and freeze again, ready for the next trip.

How come you can go and go and go when you are away, and the minute that you are home, you are exhausted for days? I work at home now, so I didn’t have to go somewhere to work, thank goodness. I will always take the next day off, though, after coming home from a trip. All I could do Tuesday was wash clothes, and I did get them folded by evening. Oh, and changed sheets as I’m sure hubby hadn’t done that over the last 11 days, and I think it was a part of a week before I left when I last changed sheets. Oh, and I blogged a little. I have really missed being able to blog. I’m not sure what we had for supper though.

Wednesday was a little better, I think. It‘s vaguely in my memory. I think I cleaned a toilet and a shower. I think I paid some bills online. I know I went through mail and threw most of it away, as it was mostly junk mail. I know I haven‘t been in my horse trailer for 2 days now. I had a large salad with baked chicken fillets cut up on it. I figure I better dose myself my vitamins and minerals and greens!

It’s Thursday, and I‘m starting to feel normal. I had an early, 7 am lesson. I made it through it with minimal yawns. I rode with my lesson, put the mares up, and came in for more coffee. I did start my multivitamin again. I read where you should take your vitamin in the afternoon when you start to feel tired. It works! I’m almost feeling normal again.

I’m finishing my blogs for the week in SD. I’m back to the Nebraska humidity. I hope it gets cooler soon. Today is 94! I’m missing the 80’s with no humidity!

Just as a remember the lovely scenery and trees of the South Dakota Hills, these Black Eye Susans (I think) make a pretty picture among the sand hills.

And how could you forget the view of the sand hills and windmills.

Friday, August 20, 2010

South Dakota Days 8 and 9: The trip is winding down

Saturday-Sunday, August 8-9, 2010

Today is the last full day here in South Dakota and tomorrow we head towards home. Two of the riders needed to go home today. Monday was a work day for one of them, and they wanted to travel on Saturday so as to have time to relax on Sunday. They left at 9:30 after breaking camp, packing everything back into their trailer, and cleaning horse lots. Right after they left, it started to rain. We were very lucky all week, with beautiful 80’s and sun. The shower lasted about an hour, and kept the morning cooler than what the rest of the week had been.

It was nice to see a rainbow after the shower.

My other 2 friends took the time to rest, and I spent the morning reading more the Centered Riding 2 book again. We were thinking we should take a short, 1 or 2 hour, ride, just to stretch the horse’s legs out after the harder ride to Harney Peak yesterday. But they both were feeling a little stiff and sore in their backs, and needed some extra rest time in the morning. At noon, we ate lunch, and just relaxed. My 2 friends continued to rest their weary muscles, and I read the Centered Riding 2 book, underlining areas that I wanted to make sure to teach about.

We planned on a 3 pm ride. But we needed to go back to town for last minute souvenirs. We did stop along the way, and pick up these massive pine roots. I just know my husband is going to say, “what is that for?” He isn’t in to “natural decorations”. LOL

When we got back, the day had gone from morning to 5 pm, and the desire to ride one last time was fading fast. We enjoyed some wine and wine coolers around the last campfire.

And we rekindled friendship as well. Maybe it was a good think that I stayed!

Sunday morning, a small doe was in the empty corral. I'm sure she enjoyed whatever grain was left.

we broke camp and packed up. We wanted to leave at 9 and got on the road at 9:30. Not bad, considering my monster of a horse had a loading issue, after I spent 3 weeks, off and on, loading her. I guess she forgot what we worked on at home! She loading within 5 or 10 minutes, but only after evading the entrance a few times and stepping on my one foot one time. She thinks the can walk sideways into me. She had some major training time coming at home. The other trailer needed hitched, and coolers were packed.

After loading, we headed down the road. A small group of buffalo were on the side of the road, immediately before we left the Black Elk Wilderness area,

as if to tell us good bye.

I have mangers and I fed my horse 2 large flakes of hay and some grain in the trailer. An hour down the road we stopped for gas. When I checked on her, she had eaten everything, AND she tore ½ of the stall divider bumper pad off the stall divider. It was the back half. How did she do that? And she had a long scratch down the INSIDE of her front leg closest to the divider that she messed up. Did she get her leg caught down inside the bumper pad? Was she acting up and stepped down onto herself with her other front leg? I really don’t know. I just kept feeding her every time we stopped and tried not to leave her run out of hay. Mares! I usually get along with them, but this one is acting like a bully 4 year old gelding! Once again, I’m thinking she needs some of this impatience and anxiety worked out of her when I get her home!

Our trip home was a little shorter, as we planned on stopping at Halsey National Park in Nebraska to ride for 2 days.

That may be a little hard for me to do as I only have hay for 1 ½ days. I better graze her some to stretch my hay.

Originally, we planned on being at Ft Rob, Nebraska from Sunday to Wed morning, but funds were getting low. We thought it was better to head closer to home.

We arrived at Halsey campground after about a 6 ½ hour trip. We put the horses in the pens, hay and watered them and parked a few feet away in the campsite. Since this is Sunday night, there is no one else here. Camp is so quiet. After a quick supper, we got the horses out on lunge lines and left them graze. And we watered them from the large tank that is powered by a windmill. They should sleep good tonight.

I knew we will. My friends went into their trailer about 9 and I’m heading to bed by 10, which is early for me. I’m ready for an 8 hour night of sleep. Being in the mountains, a few long rides, higher altitudes, and dealing with horses are wearing me out!

Pleasant dreams…

Good bye, South Dakota.

South Dakota Day 7 Trail Riding to Harney Peak

Friday, August 7, 2010

Trail riding to Harney Peak is the ultimate trail ride of the area. The trail is steep, rocky, and sometimes, a little tough in places. Maybe a little treacherous. There was one spot where you stepped up onto stone, had to make a sharp turn to the right through a very tight, maybe 6” path for the horses’ legs, and up onto rock again. For 3 or 4 steps, I held my breath. Then we had to come back down it! The last 30 minutes were the toughest, but well worth it.

Along the way is some fungus growing on trees. The horse thought it was interesting too.

To view Harney Peak is breathtaking. You are on top of the mountain, literally. You see above the tree line and far into the distance. Let’s just say that my viewing lasted less than 5 minutes, as I made the climb with my horse, and I climbed the last area by foot, but as I stood in the middle of the area at the top of the peak, I knew I couldn’t stay there. After a few minutes, I high tailed it down to safe ground. Back to where the horses were tied.

No one understands what I feel, at least not too many people. I can look out, over heights but I can’t look down. And I’m bothered by seeing other people look down over steep edges. And it‘s getting worse with age. I asked my friends not to get near the edge when I was up there, but one ventured too near for my comfort. And I quickly exited the area. I don’t know why. I don’t know when this feeling started. But all I know is that my body doesn’t care for the feeling that someone may go over the edge. So after a few very short moments of viewing the wonderful scenery, I went to the safety of where the horses were. And I called my husband. I was a little upset.

Is it ok to say that I was feeling a little homesick? I had been on the road for 7 days with 4 other women. This day was hard for me. And I was on a horse with very little experience. And I felt that no one truly understood what I felt. My horse was anxious and skittish at times. I don’t enjoy heights. But I knew that my hubby would understand, because he has experienced my uneasiness and what I felt, first hand. And, that time, a few years ago, when he pushed the matter with me, I was so upset that I cried. And then he knew that the experience had upset me. This time, as he talked to me on the phone, I almost started to cry. But I heard my friends coming back down the trail to the horses, so I didn’t talk so I wouldn’t be upset. Mostly with myself. I didn‘t want to be anxious about heights, about my new horse, about her anxieties and goosiness if she was last. I wanted to enjoy the day. I needed to enjoy the moment. So, to my hubby on the phone, I said I miss you and I love you, and then we hung up. I didn’t talk to my friends, as I felt they were upset with me for leaving them. But they knew I may not even make that walk up the staircase, to the top, or stay there very long. I just wanted to be back with the horses. I only needed someone to understand and who cared.

I think everyone was feeling the pressure of the day. The steep, rocky climb. The tight turns, on rock. The anticipation of what was going to happen. Then the relief when the climb to the top was done. Only to realize that the climb had to continue, but this time down. And when the trail leveled off, everyone was thinking of their own ride. I doubt, at that moment, when we were down with the steepest decline, no one took into consideration the thoughts and fears of the other riders, and their horses.

No one realized that my horse was turning into a monster. At one point, when we stopped to take pictures of each other, she was wanting to rear and rush forward. I don’t like it when people think I’m just rushing them to get moving. I know everyone wants time to get their picture taken. My horse needed to go, and go now, to keep her mind on the trail, and not on losing it. She needs patience training, but this wasn‘t the moment to work on that. Why didn’t anyone understand that but me? I tired to explain that, but no one was listening to my doubts. Was it because we were already on the trail for 6 hours and everyone else was beginning to get tired? I felt like my horse was like that kid that was over tired. Being bad because she had just about had enough! I didn’t say anything, just bit my lip, and felt more upset with myself. Geez, I was turning hormonal! And that was the only bad thing that happened on the trip. I brought it on myself. Imagine that!

All of the trail rides and this trip up to Harney Peak was well worth any trouble along the way. I know that now. I would do it again this trip, if we had just a few days to prepare for it again!

And after we had all had a snack when we got back, I think everyone was feeling better and the mood lightened. I know I was tired, so I’m sure everyone was. After feeding horses at chore time, we sat around a campfire, enjoying the cooler night and watching the deer come down to the meadow to graze.

A few riders were leaving the next morning, and I was debating on whether to leave. I ended up staying the last day, as I had already paid for the campsite. I figured we would go on one last short ride and zone out. I needed to end the ride time in SD on a good note with my friends. I needed an easy ride on my horse.

When horses get bad, as they always will, don’t take it out on friends. Just make the most of what you are riding at the moment, and keep everyone safe. There’s time to work on behavior issues and training moments at home. The rides through the forest and up the hill sides were wonderful. That is the most important thing to remember about this vacation.

That, and these beautiful sunsets that we saw!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

South Dakota Day 6 Sight Seeing at Crazy Horse

Thursday, August 6, 2010

After our long trail ride to Mt. Rushmore yesterday, today was a day for sightseeing. We decided to go to Hill City to souvenir shop, and on the way, we drove the Needles Highway and saw the Crazy Horse monument.

Oh my goodness, NEVER go on the Needles Hwy with a horse trailer, which we didn‘t. It is tight even with a truck.

We had to go through narrow tunnels of rock. And did I say NARROW? “Pull in the mirrors” narrow! Once we were through the tunnels, there was beautiful scenery. And at one place, as we looked up at the high rocky areas, there were climbers on top of a peak!

Oh my goodness. I could barely take a picture, then had to look away! How did they ever get up there. The only way I could have a picture taken of me was to back up towards the railing, and not look around! I am fine at looking out at heights, but I can not look down.

Arghhh, the symptoms of age, I think. I just can’t look down. And it upsets my system to see other people looking down! What is that all about. I just want everyone to be safe! What if they lean too far over, and fell? My palms start to get clammy thinking about it.

I’ve also seen Cray Horse before, but many years ago. Crazy Horse monument is in the process of being built, and I wonder how long it will take? Fee was $10/person or $27/car. There were 5 of us, so at $5/person, the fee was reasonable. While we were there, there was going to be a blasting, which I have never seen. At one in the afternoon, they gave a warning. There was a loud blast as the dynamite went off,

followed by smoke.

We didn’t see rock sliding. But I felt like I was part of American History.

The museum was wonderful, with details on many of the ancestors of the American Indian. I bought a piece of horse hair pottery. I discovered horse hair pottery when I was researching that idea last fall, after Finny died. I have yet to send some of his hair to be made into a piece of pottery. But now seeing how beautiful and unique each piece is, I am ready. His tail has been laying in an area in my basement, and now I think I’m ready to do something with it. It’s hard to part with it, but I know when I get back the pieces that I’m planning on having made, I’ll be glad. Bitter sweet idea, sad and glad at the same time. But as I know when I ride the horse that I am riding, Finny will always be with me, if I have a braided item hanging on the bridle or breast collar.

There were other pieces that I could have bought. A rug that would have been perfect for my horse trailer. A Tim Cox painting of running horses. But this piece of pottery has a special meaning. A double meaning. To me. And to the memory of Finny.

I told Dianna that night, as we were sitting alone at the campfire, that I felt a peace as we entered each Indian museum or art gallery. I must have some Indian blood in me. My dad’s grandfather had that dark brown black skin, especially by late summer, as well as my dad’s uncles. To see my dad in the middle of summer, with that dark skin, he looked Indian. He has high cheeks and a wide nose. I have always felt drawn to the Indian way of life. I have always wanted to be on the Indian side as I watched a movie.

As I entered these museums and art rooms that had Indian artifacts, I felt a peace that quieted my whole soul. If I ever find that I have no Indian blood in me, then Mother Nature is calling out to me. I understand the Indian way, and maybe that is what is most important. I should have bought a tape of the music. Soothing to the soul.

We also toured Willow Creek campground. I felt that this equestrian campground had areas that would have been hard to park large horse trailers, as well as trying to find the room to get the horse trailers off the side of the road. With steep roads into some of the camping areas, I could not have gotten my 3 horse trailer up and into the area.

We are not seeing as much wildlife as I thought we would see. Today, we did see a group of 3 bucks, with antlers heavy with velvet. We also saw 2 flocks of turkeys, with many young following them.

I’m still hoping for a sighting of some elk. But maybe the highlight will be those buffalo herds, which will stay in my memory forever.

How peaceful is geese on a lake?

When we got back to camp, dark clouds were overhead, and we had a few rain drops.

We had perfect weather all week. Just perfect!


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