Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Look of Defeat

If there is one thing you can live your entire life without, it is the look of defeat.

There are many moments in life where we may feel defeated, however when we dig deep we can realize that there is no defeat, only opportunity. True defeat only happens when you give up. Those who achieve their dreams are those who never give up.

This applies in the world of horsemanship as well. The look of defeat is something I see repetitively as a horse trainer and riding instructor. This is the biggest obstacle for many people. I see people sigh and drop their reins or training stick, rope, whatever it may be. They turn away from their horse in frustration and want to quit doing what they are doing. In that moment, defeat happens. Instead of allowing defeat to prevent you from accomplishing your dreams, take a step back and remember why it is that you began the task that is challenging you. Really reflect on what is happening and why. Think about what can change and how to make that change. Direct all of that frustration and desire into productive energy to make your dreams come true and never accept defeat.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

True Love

True love is a strange thing. You don't find it; it finds you. What you may have thought would be completely wrong for you turns out to be exactly what you need. Whether you thought you'd be ready or not, you suddenly are ready. True love is amazing!

I was talking with my assistant and a student today and they were sharing their horsey love stories. It's funny how things work out sometimes. Both my assistant and my student described a list of qualities that they once thought would create their perfect horse. The top negative characteristic for each had been color. My student strongly disliked Paints... True love showed her that personality outshines color any day! Her true love is a Paint! My assistant recalls the day she came to my barn for an interview and couldn't believe I owned two albino horses. Really, one was a cremello and one was a perlino, however most people who have never met a double dilute horse in person (or rather in horse) mistake them for albinos. Before long, my assistant fell in love with the cremello gelding. Rarely does a day go by that I don't hear my assistant gushing about that cremello to one of my students. I think that every horse she meets throughout her life will indeed be compared to her cremello.

In the future, don't be fooled. True love is not what you want, but what you need.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

More Project Horse Stories: Thunder

Writting about Navajo made me start thinking about other project horses that I've had. I miss them all, but Thunder was one of the horses that makes me laugh the most thinking back.

Thunder was an 8 year old Suffolk stallion who was not halter broke when I bought him in 2005. He was a solid 1200+lb mass of muscle! I walked him around a bit with his halter and lead rope and he did just wonderful! I thought that Thunder was such a quick learner, I was very pleased with my new purchase. He was a quick learner, however stallions get hormones going sometimes and stop being the quick learner... Just as I thought Thunder was ready to leave his little corral, some young girls rode by on a mare and Thunder was suddenly dragging me in persuit of the mare! I held onto that rope as tight as I could and I wasn't going to let go for anything!!! I tried to get off to the side to use any kind of leverage I could, but his neck was so thick and he was so powerful (and he hadn't learned to give to any kind of pressure) and it didn't seem as though I was going to stop him. Some cowboy jumped on the rope with me and both of us were pulling, but with no success. Finally both the cowboy and I lost control and Thunder was running loose. Another brave cowboy jumped on the rope, this one SURE that he was going to be the one to stop this gigantic horse- nope! He only lasted for a few seconds and then dusted the dirt of his jeans and looked at his hands to examine the extent of ropeburn. With the help of the cowboys who each had a case of hurt pride, we got some gates shut and then Thunder was willingly caught and waltzed right into the trailer.

The second funny Thunder incident was when I had gone to run some errands in town and while I was gone, Thunder being the thickest horse imaginable, was able to break out of his stall. It is really funny because he wasn't hurt, just gave me a little scare! I came home and saw his stall door smashed. I started looking around the pasture for him. We had a pasture that went up a large hill and in the middle was a huge blackberry patch. I circled the pasture over and over again assuming that I hadn't seen him because he must be circling the pasture and always on the opposite side of the blackberry patch. I started to panick wondering if he had smashed through the fence as well, but I couldn't find any damaged fence.

Just as I was nearing a heart attack, I heard a rustle in the bushes. I looked toward the noise and there was Thunder's face. Not a horse, but his face! He was so deep in blackberries that I had walked past him at least 4 or 5 times and hadn't seen him because just his eyes and nose were visible! I got my clippers and started chopping Thunder's way out! I was very pleased that there wasn't a single scratch on him-not even from the blackberry thorns.

The last update I had on Thunder was that he was still living with the gentleman that bought him from me. He is now part of a driving team that plows an organic farm in California.

It goes to show that you can never be too sure what kind of day is in store for you. Also when you think you've seen it all, your horse gets stuck in blackberries! If you ever cannot catch your horse just wish for a blackberry patch!! All of these wonderful horses have prepared me for the unimaginable. I think I surprise many of my clients when I am able to problem solve with them over the phone, however after all my experiences, figuring out why a horse bucks or bolts, etc is like simple addition to me!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Navajo: the ultimate transformation

Navajo 2005 and 2009, respectively

If I had a penny for every time I thought about or talked about Navajo, one of my previous horse projects, there would be no need to win the lottery.

Navajo is a wonderful Appaloosa horse that first came into my life about 7 years ago... or I came into his life- not sure which...

I sat at yet another auction, watching horse after horse go through the sales ring. I was looking for a project horse that needed saving...but nothing quite seemed to fit. Finally this gangly looking white thing came in with a halter that was too small and was dragging a rope. That was my first clue that he was perhaps going to be my selection. I was feeling so bad for him that I failed to really take note of all the ringmen cowering behind the safety shields in the ring. I now think of it and laugh. About 20 seconds after he entered the ring he was mine!

I went out to the back of the sales yard to his pen to get a closer look at him. I entered the pen and slowly approached him. As I gently reached out to grab onto his rope the horse lunged at me-striking out with both front legs. Quick reflexes got me to a safe place and I quickly exited his pen. What did I get myself into????

I can't believe I actually went into the sales office and asked the receptionist if I had to take him!!! Thank goodness the lady said in a rude voice, "Of course! He's yours now!" She was probably thinking what a stupid, young girl I was! With that rudeness I wasn't going to try to argue, so I decided I'd give it a go.

Somehow that evening I was able to approach him, lead him to the trailer, and load him quite easily. When I got him home....that was a different story.

Navajo ended up wearing that small halter for another week as I wasn't able to get close to him to take it off. Every time I'd approach that rope, he would kick at me or strike out with his front hooves and run away. He jumped about every fence I had in order to escape being caught. Finally one day he took a wrong turn and ended up stuck in a blackberry bush. Being very brave, I walked up right behind him as that was the only path through the blackberries. (for those of you not familar with Washington blackberries, they are like a forest of their own sometimes) Without being kicked I was able to grab his rope and lead him to the roundpen. He pretty much lived in the roundpen for the next month! The roundpen helped me change everything.

I remember giving him his vaccinations! I had to hide behind the post to the roundpen (which was an old telephone pole!) because everytime he saw the needle, he was going to try to strike at me.

Soon I was riding him, longing him and was able to get his feet trimmed. He had horribly cracked hooves that were long overdue. The crack healed and was always 100% sound.

Navajo eventually become one of my top lesson horses. He was teaching kids what it meant to love a horse and how to ride. Navajo turned from a strange looking white thing into a loving white horse. He also started taking on Breeze's lessons when Breeze was lame due to navicular issues.

I sold Navajo when I was pregnant with my son as I was not going to be having time to give lessons for a while and I wanted my lesson horses to go to a place where they could be used. He found a wonderful home where he was going to be loved and ridden. I hope that Navajo is a happy guy and I hope he knows what he did for me and what he meant to all those little kids who learned to ride on him. I also hope that we meant as much to him as he did to us.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Favorite Times

I find myself truely enjoying the first ride of the day on Achilles and missing my late nights in the barn.

When I first moved into the indoor barn in Bonney Lake, WA I found that I was no longer limited by the hours of the day! Having an indoor arena meant barn lights! I often found myself riding until 10pm (pre-kids days). With it getting so dark so early now, we are having to turn on the arena lights at about 4:30 and I am reminded of those late evenings. There is something about the soft glow of arena lights... loping gently across the sand...the rhythmic breathing of your horse...

Most days I have been devoting the 9am hour to riding Achilles. The morning is so still with a slight chill. The busy day has yet to begin and I get to relax with my special horse. There is no rushing or running late, just peace.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Destiny: Week 3

Destiny (now known as Sage) is half way through her 3rd week of training and she now officially belongs to a new, wonderful family!!! I am so happy for her and her new family. I think she needed a family as bad as they needed her.

Sage is loping very nicely on a loose rein, doing passive passenger exercises. When I exhale, she tunes into me and gets ready to shut down. As soon as I pick up a rein, she softens and comes to a complete stop. She is soft, supple, and very responsive without being reactive. She longes beautifully and was even going over some small jumps comfortably today. She saddles and bridles easily every time and stands perfectly still while mounting until asked to move out. She is very eager to please and always seems happy to move out. Sometimes she will try to speed up but as soon as she feels my body slow her, she waits and maintains gait.

Sage is a very lucky girl and with her new name I hope she is able to forget her life before North Star Horsemanship and fulfill her life that she was meant to have. She will have a special place in the heart of North Star Horsemanship with Navajo, Thunder, Eclipe, Horizon, Hope, Passion and all of the other top quality horses that we have saved from abuse, neglect, and slaughter.

Achilles: My guiding spirit, my devotion

It is a gift that few possess to know when to challenge a person and when to assist. Achilles has been my guiding spirit during these last few months while I have been striving to accomplish new goals and push myself out of my comfort zone. He challenges me when I'm ready and shows me the way when I'm confused. While he is still very green, he is the one I trust and the one I always go to. I am looking forward to these next 7 months in preparation for the competion we plan on entering. He has always been my "one"... now we finally get to ride!