Feeling Accomplished

This morning got off to a rough start. I tried to shake it, but the harder I tried, the tighter the gray cloud seemed hold. Dealing with the public, I pushed most of it aside and kept the customers smiling and laughing, but underneath it all I wanted to do was scream. It was no one’s fault, nothing that anyone did, I just could not shake it.

Even when I got off work and started stuff on the farm, I was still under this cloud. Even this evening when I went to work my latest project horse, I could not shake it. Flicka did really well today! My mood started to improve, just being in the saddle lifted my spirit.

When I got home, Miss M was here riding her horse. She ended on a much better note than she started on and many better days ahead. Seeing her ride encouraged me enough to get Bart out. All week I have been working on his canter. To the right he does not always want to hold his lead, and to the left he has been short strided and choppy. I have been using a training martingale on him the past few days and it has really helped to balance him out. Today he rode better than he has all week! His right leaded canter was flowy and nice and he only broke lead once. It was a somewhat quick fix, but he did not break again. His left leaded canter had choppy moments, but for the majority of the tim,e, he used himself properly and started rounding his back which lengthened his strides and soothed them out.

He was doing so well, Miss M had the poles set up, so we went through a couple times. He actually did flying lead changes! I am beside myself! He is weaving nicely and while his end turns still need some fine tuning, they are coming along nicely! Tonight I felt as though all the extra work I have done with him paid off. I feel like he finally understands what he is supposed to do and how he is supposed to move to maintain his balance!

My rough day quickly turned into a wonderful evening tonight! God blessed me through my colt tonight and I would not trade a single second of it! I look forward to the next couple of weeks with him, not to mention the upcoming summer!

Thursday Motivater

It is almost Friday!! Being close to Friday would motivate most people, but this afternoon, I have been tired and totally, comlpletely unmotivated. It is not like I do not have quite a list of things to do, but unfortunately, no motivation to get any of them done.

The weather for the next few days, maybe even a week, looks promising, so I did not feel too guilty about letting stalls go and putting off cleaning out the chicken coop for yet one more day. The sun is shining, the birds singing and the saddle calling! So what is a horse girl to do?? Saddle up of course!

Miss M came out to ride her horse today, which was wonderful motivation. I wandered down to the barn, and found her with Pete, putting his new halter on him that she made! I have the best friends! So after halter Pete and tying him to start the first of his many forthcoming lessons, we both went out to catch horses!

As ususal, Jim took a slight bribe to come in, but I decided to ride without even a saddle on him today. He felt so good, moving out and picking up his leads. I loved every second! He made nice circles, and bent nicely as we two tracked and even got a couple nice spins from him today. He was an absolute joy to ride!

The colt, even though he is almost 5 he will always be my colt, watched and nickered and that was all the encouragement I needed to bring him in! He has a really good mind and I walked up to him in the field bridle in hand and walked right back to the arena with him, but he was a little too fresh to ride bareback. I gave it a go, but before I fell off, I decided a saddle would be very beneficial. Once saddled, we went back to the arena.

He gives very nicely to pressure, and other than being slightly strung out at the lope, which we are working on, he is a dream to ride. He is so comfortable undersaddle. He is a good size and in good flesh so that when you are astride him, it just feels right. He made nice circles, two tracked, and spun, but on the rail it took him a little time to settle in. He wanted to rush and bounch verses using himself and driving with his hind end. He is stonger to the left even though he is more balanced loping to the right. When we quit, he was loping more relaxed on a much looser rein, and he was not counter bending as he was doing when we first began. He did miss his right lead twice, but was willing to pick it up when asked a second time.

I love how eager my Bart is to please his rider and work! It makes riding enjoyable and I can not wait to see what he does this season! We have been working indoors a couple times a month, and I am so excited to see what the next couple months holds for him! Reaching down and finding motivation today was so rewarding!

Memory Lane

This morning I got to spend a little extra time with my beloved paint. He is special on a totally different level than any other horse I have been around, ridden or messed with. We grew up together and it has been very difficult for me to watch him age more every year.

My boy has been retired for several years, since a career ending hock injury. He gave me all he had for years, took me to heights a horse of his caliber should never have been. He has been my best friend and therapist since I was a kid. Growing up with him was the greatest blessing I could ever ask for.

Last week the vet was out to float teeth, and I asked her about him in terms of general health. The past couple years especially he has really gone down hill. I have done some research on my own, but there is no better person to talk to than a vet. I told her things I have noticed, including his pot belly and heavy weight despite cutting his ration. I wondered for a long time if he had a generative disease, Cushings, but they listed symptoms have not specifically fit him.

This morning he had an appointment to have blood drawn for a Cushings test. It will be about a week before I know anything. The trip reminded me of the old days though. I left him in his stall when I turned everyone else out, and he nickered. The old boy knew something was different about today. Just like on race days, when I offered him water before the trip he refused. He walked up to the trailer with me, stealing a mouthfull or two of grass as we walked up the bank to the driveway. As we approached thr trailer, he went in willingly ears up, waiting to see where he was going to journed to today.

When we got to the vet, he nickered and pawed, waiting to be unloaded and see where he was goign to be performing today. It is hard, unloading him and watching him look around only to realize he is not there to race the clock this time. The horses nickering were running in a pasture next to the parking lot, not tied to trailers waiting their turn to go. He was agreeable as the vet took blood and he willingly stepped back into the trailer even disappointed that there was no show, no crowd, no announcer.

It breaks my heart that that chapter in his life is over, he misses it as much as I do. I still race, but it is not the same without my spots. I have never been on another horse that competes or races like he does and today was just a reminder that as the days pass, thos memories stay with me. As he gets older and higher maintenance, I stive to give him the fulles and healthiest life I can. He has earned it. I have a new race partner, but I wish I could tell him that those ays are never forgotten, each horse I sit astirde must try to measure up to him, and I have not found one that comes close.

Tack: Aids in Riding

This weekend, I spent some time at a judging conference where I learned aboout the upcoming rule changes, class additions, tack specifications and rule verbage to clarify current questionable wording. As is the nature of horse people, multiple viewpoints were expressed, for and against each topic. I enjoyed hearing the different viewpoints as things were brought up that I myself had not thought about.

In the horse industry, abuse is always a concern and one fairly big discussion that was held was about the use of crops and or whips. Ironically, one of my lesson students asked a very good question this evening that I have her permission to share with you. She asked if whips or crops hurt the horse?

While whips and crops can be used to hurt a horse, when used properly, they definitely do not hurt the horse. This includes over/under whips, lunge whips etc. They are all used as a tool, like a pencil to write with is a tool, to communicate with the horse. When used improperly, not only can the physically hurt the horse, they can teach the horse to do the wrong task, or to do a correct task improperly.

Working with horses, I have learned it is a lot easier to teach a horse the right way than to reteach one that has learned the wrong way. In that case you have to work around what the horse already knows, which is a challenge itself and can frustrate not only the rider but also the horse.

When I ride, train and instruct, my goal is to teach the horses and riders to communicate effectively. Sometimes aids, as whips, crops or spurs, are needed to clarify that communication between the horse and rider. When used properly these aids will enhance and encourage the horse to learn quicker. Reinforcing a leg que is a perfectly acceptable reason to use a crop or whip.

An important thing to remember when teaching a horse, especially when usuing a crop, that an instructor in college taught me, is that if you are not teaching you are not training. Your method is not working on that horse, because he does not understand. That means you are not doing your job and you need to find another way to communicate with him what you expect.

I am to the point riding, I seldom use a whip or crop, but I do not hesitate when that is what is needed to get the job done. A trainer once told me “Light as you can, hard as you have to.” That has stuck with me since. I give the lightest cue I can in order to get the result from the horse. Lightest is always best, respect between horse and rider is what leads to good communication and great performance.

Daily Prompt: Tree

Awesome that today’s prompt is tree! I was going to post last night, but did not make it that far. Yesterday I got to take a trail ride with a good friend, that was unexpected and spontaneous, and I aboslutely loved it!

Me and my friend have been trying to plan a trail ride for several weeks, and our work schdules have simply not allowed us the luxury of the time to go. Yesterday my sister got off work early and relieved me of my household chores so I could go! I loaded the horses and headed off!

I had gotten directions from a former 4-H advisor that were simple, at the top of the trail head, stay to the left, at every opportunity stay to the left. Easy!! All left turns!

We saddle up and started out, up the bank and into the woods, which by the way are fulled with TREES! the leaves are just starting to turn a smidge here in south eastern Ohio and in another week, I have no doubt that the same ride we took will be all that much prettier.

As directed, we stayed to the left at the first ‘Y’ easy, I reminded myself, stay to the left. At the second ‘Y’ we stayed to the left, and came out on the road just down from where we started. After a laugh we headed back into the woods and an hour and 45 minutes later, we were back to the original ‘Y’ glad to have found out way back to where we started.

Needless to say, it was an adventure. The horses encountered water, that neither one of them wanted to cross, or even put a foot in. It made for an interesting few minutes as my friend dismounted and led her horse around the water, and Jim was willing to follow him around. We enjoyed going up and down hills and through the trees. My friend was hoping to see deer, but other than a few birds we did not see any wildlife.

It was a much needed ride! I enjoyed the slower pace, and not focusing on training and working on conditioning etc. The horses enjoyed it, Jim was grateful for the change of pace and scenery. I can not wait for the next time!!

 

via Daily Prompt: Tree

Connected, Horse and Rider

Horses are a genuine passion of mine. I absolutely love to compete in races, unwind with a bareback ride through the pasture and by challenging myself and my horse with training for a better performance. I have learned a lot over the years through several instructors and several horses who were patient enough to help me grow.

When I was in high school, I was competing at the highest level I have experienced to date. My horse was a special gift and I worked and worke to make him what he was. I have never been connected with another mount before or since the days that him and I raced and compteted together. He is my best friend and one of the best teachers I have ever had. Over the years I spent so much time with him that I learned to read him. He had likes and dislikes of course, but there were days, I could feel how our race was going to go just by his approach to the arena gate. I have never had a horse fit me like him. I was so tuned to him, I felt his muscles tense and I knew what he was thinking. He would respond to my lightest movement.

I took the relationship I had with him to another level, when as many barrel horses do, he got ‘hot’ and gate sour. We started doing ground work everday and through the extra time I learned to read him on a different level. Our connection grew. I remember being at the fair with him in the round pen one morning. I was free lunging him, but he was in total control. Just by my body I was communicating with him and he was responding despite all the distractions. That was an awesome feeling.

While no horse will ever replace him in my heart, I am able to use what I learned from working with him and building that respect, relationship, trust and connection wotrking with other horses. Without all of the above mentioned things, the team will never be their best, because all of those things work together and build on each other.

Making connections in life is a valuable tool, especially in the service industry. People, like horses, want to make connections and build relationships. I challenge myself everyday at work to connect with people and make their day better. I feel so much better when they leave with a smile instead of a frown.

 

Connected

Grain

As a horse girl, grain is a very important part of my daily routine. When I was in college I thoroughly enjoyed nutrition class as I learned to balance rations and nutrients. Grain gives the horses the proper nourishment to develop, grow and maintain a healthy life.

I feed my horses twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. They are always happy to see me when I come down to the barn, because they know what is coming! They enjoy their grain, and feeding twice a day is much healthier for them than feeding once a day. I strive to keep my horses as healthy as possible.

My dad helped me determine the recipe for the grain mix we feed. We used to feed a bagged feed that was processed. The horses did ok on it, but it was not very cost effective when we started adding to the herd. We also had one or two older horses that were not gaining and maintaining weight like they needed, so we were top dressing their feed with an additional protein.

I now order feed from the local elevator, and the grains are fresh. I feed mostly an oat mixture with a little bit of corn, soybean meal, salt and mineral and use molasses as a binder. The older horses were able to process this feed better and use more of the nutrients it provided, allowing them to gain and maintain weight even through the winter.

Grain is not what horses naturally eat in the wild, so my horses are also on turnout for better than half of the day. The grain is an additive on my farm to ensure they are meeting their nutritional needs. My barrel horses are in great condition. I ride 3+ times a week which has toned their muscles. Their coats are shiny, they have energy and stamina and they are eager.

Grain is important in human diets also, but it is a staple in the horse world. There is a grain to help with most any problem or issue a horse may have. This in cludes over weight, underweight, dull coat, energy and the list goes on. I have foun a grain minx that works for me, my horses and their needs. Hopefully other horse owners have been as fortunate as I have to find something that works on such a broad spectrum.

 

Grain

Busy weekend,but wonderful way to spend it

This past weekend has been full and full of memories. Even though it is only technically spring, this weekend felt so much more like summer. Several noteworthy things happened on the farm and it made the weekend that much more exciting!

Saturday I had to work, so my weekend really got underway Sunday, but I enjoyed as much of it as I could just the same! I loaded up the boys and went to the race early.

I was pleasantly surprised how the boys did. Jim felt better than he has in years, even though we put a can on the ground in both races. He ran with more heart than he has had in several years. He ran, because he wanted to and because he felt good. His tuens were solid, and balanced. Knocking the barrel was my fault both times, and I plan to work on that this week in preparation for the next race.

The youngster, Bart, did not go to win a race, but to experience the sights and sounds and learn about patiently waiting tied to the trailer etc. He did very well, and even focused and listened during his exhibition runs. I was proud of him!

The chicks are still growing, as I anticipate them continuing to do. The Guineas are a week old tomorrow, and I plan on turning them loose in the coop. The bigger birds go in and out of their box as they please, and so far everyone is getting along well. It will be easier to care for them properly when they are all together also. The Americanas are almot fully feathered! Their colors are beautiful in my opinion and I was enjoying just watching them in the coop this evening, enjoying them walk around with each other and watch me a little curiously.

We are entering into the final count down for the mare, closing in on about 5 weeks until delivery. I am honestly hoping for a filly, but as long as I have a healthy foal with a safe delivery and a healthy mom I will be pleased. The little one coming will be a full sibling to Bart and I am excited about its arrival.

Springtime on the farm is unlike any other time of year, grass comes on turning the field green, baby animals, chicks, foals and kittens in my case, arrive, and everything is in bloom. The fields are beautiful to look at, and the animals are fun to watch as they explore and learn about their surroundings. It helps the excitement grow for summer!

A Glimpse into my Passion

Up to now I have focused primarily on the chickens because they are new and babues are always exciting! However, there is a lot more to my small farm than a few chicks. Spring has sprung which brings all kinds of projects!

The horses have always been the primary focus for me. When you are able to follow your dream, that’s more of a blessing than I can even explain. This weekend kicks off the barrel racing season for me, starting with a fairly small show to get my feet wet and see how the boys are going to do. The past few years, I have only been competing with one horse, a tall sorrel Quarter Horse named Jim. I have learned so much about racing and training, and even starting colts y working with Jim the past 5-6 years. Last season was rough going, but now the soundness issues have been cleared up and I am excited to see how this season begins for him.

I am excited to start racing Bart this year also. He is also tall, like Jim, but built thicker and stockier. Bart is a black bay Quarter Horse, out of my buckskin mare. I started Bart myself, from the ground up. We have come along slow and learned things the right way. He is still learning everyday as he improves with each workout.

This weekend will be exciting. In a way it marks the season opening for me. I have been riding, conditioning and training for about a month in preparation, but you never know what is going to happen that first show when they see the sights and hear the sounds that you can not recreate at home.

Working with these boys has been my happy place, my stress relief, my therapy and brought me so much happiness the past few weeks. There is always that one horse that is special and you can never replace. For me this is an old ‘scrub’ paint, with no papers, no bloodlines etc, but he has all the heart in the world. When I had to retire him in 2010 due to an injury that recurred after healing and reconditioning I was at a loss. It was hard to look for another horse while my best friend and partner, of 10 years, had to stay at home.

I have been looking for a horse that I had the same type of connection with, the same relationship and trust for. I bought several, 2 mares, one including the afore mentioned buckskin, and also a gelding. I think I finally found that same connection with Bart and I am so excited and eager to see how this season goes for us. He has so much heart, and I believe he has a genuine love for me, much as my beloved paint does. This season is sure to be sure of hope and new beginnings, for me, Bart and Jim.