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The Guilt of Selling A Horse And Not Selling One

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Selling a horse is always a painful process regardless of the reasons why. Sometimes it’s because as a rider you out grow your horses abilities and it’s time to move onto one that can take you farther. Sometimes it’s due to safety and you and your horse just don’t mesh. Other times its due to finances and sometimes it’s time constraints and realizing you just can’t give a horse enough time.

In each instance it can be heartbreaking. Whether we have had the best of relationships with our horses or some of the worst we always get attached to them. Many times upon realizing that selling a horse may be the best option it tugs at our heartstrings and we sit in denial or waffle on the decision for a long time.  We feel guilty for thinking of selling them and even more guilty keeping them around. (Trust me I’m a classic example!)

Recently I have made the decision to sell my youngest horse Jack. (more like finally putting my heels down and actually  decided it was time)  He is an awesome horse and one that could really take me anywhere I wanted to go IF  I had the time to put into him. With my job my work hours are crazier then I ever thought they would be. Some weeks I’m lucky to have time to pet my horses and others I can trailer out and take all the time I want but as a rider and a trainer I’m never able to be consistent with him. Jack is a 4 year old, almost 5 year old with so much potential and skill but he needs consistency to move forward with his training. He’s athletic and insanely smart…Somedays a little to smart…and 90% of the time he’s sitting in the pen staring at me with those begging eyes as I grab Cash-man and head out for a quick spin around the pasture. The times I do take him out we end up doing the same old things because I haven’t had the time to teach him anything new or to progress any of his training.

I feel my heart-strings tug knowing he wants more attention and when I’m in a pinch I grab the “old guy” because I know I can be lazy and still have a fun time and that leaves Jack to be worked on the weekends.

He’s a horse begging for a job and I have none to give him. So finally I know it’s time to offer him up to a new home. To someone who can be HIS human and give him everything that I can’t right now. In a perfect world I’d be able to manage work, school (oh yes I re-enrolled in college) and working both my horses but I can’t. I rarely have the energy to think about training them when I get home after working sometimes upwards of a 12 to 14 hour shift depending on the day. Dealing with a Young dog all day at work who’s learning, it can be really hard to turn around and deal with a young horse who’s learning and have the patience to deal with any “young horse antics” and not spiral into a frustrated snow ball.

Deciding to part with a horse is never easy but many times it’s the right decision. I always say plan to keep the horse until it’s time for it to leave this life, but it’s never good to have a horse just to say you have one. They get depressed just like we do and sometimes act out because of the neglect. Jack, thankfully, is neither, but as my days seem to continually get shorter I have to realize that what time I do have would be better spent on one horse and right now, at this moment in time, Cash is the horse for me and my current situation.

Cash is happy to stand next to me and eat treats out of my hand or walk down the trail and so long as there is food he could care less what we do. Jack is a horse who wants to be worked and gets bored just standing around (you can ask Cash just how ‘annoying’ he can be when he’s constantly trying to play). He’s a wonderful all round horse and really needs that stimulation. Whether it be riding or liberty work he likes that constant feedback, the constant challenge and so I am going to do my best to find him the perfect home.

If you’re someone who’s contemplating selling a horse, for what ever reason it may be, if you know deep down that it’s the right thing to do for both you and the horse then don’t let the guilt of saying goodbye keep your horse from having the home that is right for them. (Though please don’t dump at an auction!)

If you’re interested in Jack please check out the “Horses For Sale” page to learn more about him. If you have any comments, questions or concerns please feel free to send me a message either here or on my Facebook account.

Until next time

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Having Horses At Home Changed My Training Style

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I’ve had my horses at home for almost a year now. A glorious, empty bank/full heart year. I wanted to share a few of the huge changes I’ve begun to understand about my training process now that I have my horses at home. There are aspects of keeping horses at home that I never fully understood about owning horses until I was living in MY own home.

Now a little back story: I grew up with horses. I saw them every day. I heard their nickers, I fed, cleaned stalls…groaned and complained about my chores….and I rode them, bred them and foaled them. I lived the ranch life but I didn’t really understand what a privilege it was when I was a wee kid. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone…and yet when began my adult journey and I started boarding horses I was just so happy to have my horses with me, in a new state, with no one I really knew so my horse was there to comfort me.  (yup I was the weirdo at work always talking about my horses but never really interacting with people)  Horses were a source of comfort and a retreat from the culture shock that is adult life:  A slice of the familiar in an unfamiliar world.

So what did I do each time I saw them at the barn? Fed them treats, brushed them, talked to them and rode them or worked on a specific something each time. Usually in that order. My whole focus was getting my boys going so I could Event them and if you look at my early blog posts here you can see that.

Then I found my current awesome, amazing home….and I took a MAJOR leap of faith and bought it. For the first time in over 7 years I had my horses HOME. Not my home growing up or someone else barn. MY home. Things began to change with how I began approaching training. As I began to see my horses day in and day out I began to notice nuances that I never noticed before. I began to see the individual personalities of my horses. The uniqueness to both my horses all the time not just under saddle. I became curious of how horses actually responded to each other and their responses in turn. I started seeing how they looked at things. From items they saw every day to something new I set out just a few minuets before.  I began to see how they interacted with each other. From playing to ass whooping and everything in between.

As I began to observe their changes of behavior I began to hang out with them more. I’d spend time scratching both boys. Sitting out reading a book while they grazed and just being around them but not asking for anything in return.  As the days, weeks and months wore on I started to see them accept me as part of their herd. A weird herd mate with very abnormal tendencies in their eyes, but they began to relax around me and see me as a friend instead of just a treat machine (though they never stop begging). They began to hear the sound of my truck and meet me at the fence and appear to be excited to get out of the field to see me.  If I was doing chores they happily gather to graze close to where ever I’m working

I began to realize that every time I went to see them I didn’t have to bust out the saddle and bridle and ‘work’ on something. I began to experiment with body language (a very ongoing learning experience I might add) and see how the boys reacted to it. As I began to use more conscious body language the boys began to react to me differently. Respect was earned on a herd level. Cash, the alfa of the 2 horse herd,  suddenly respected ME as the Leader when I moved him off like he moves Jack. When I stood my ground and made him back off using only my body language.

Jack began to play with me. Running and kicking and having a great time (especially with treats involved) and Cash began to investigate the playing as well and would try, and usually succeeds, in stealing me away as ‘his’ human, much like a horse will keep a buddy away from others in a pasture.

The longer I have had them at home the more I’ve realized that what I required was less ‘training’ and more listening. As I begin to listen to my horses. Watch their moves and learn what is a ‘I don’t understand’ response from the ‘I’m an unruly spoiled brat’ response our understanding on the ground AND in the saddle has exploded.  As I have begun to use patience and persistence in training my horses have come around 100 fold in their trust and effort to please. As I have gained respect so I have given it. I realize now when I’m pushing something to hard, When I’m asking a for a specific response wrong and when I need to re assert myself as leader. Or when my horse had reached his limit and we need to stop, regardless of how long or short the session has been.

Nothing is with force anymore (unless I let my emotions gain hold…I’m still human after all). Now I don’t mind spending a whole session at the walk. I don’t mind completely deveating away from what I thought I was going to do that day. I will continue to change my training for each individual horse as best as I can. What works for Jack doesn’t work for Cash all the time and vice versa.

I think one of the biggest changes for me is I no longer care if I event. I no longer care if my horse can jump 2’6 or is in the perfect frame and ‘accepts the bit’. Heck half the time my horses aren’t even wearing bits. While I still love the feel of jumping, the adrenaline rush of competing isn’t needed anymore. Instead of working towards shows, I’m now working towards building relationships based on trust and understanding for both of us.

Having my horses at home has completely changed how I look at my horses, how I train my horses and how I advocate for my horses. My ideals have almost done a 180 from where I was a year ago and I’m perfectly happy with it. If we aren’t seeking to better ourselves then we are failing ourselves and our horses.

In the end I think my horses have taught me more then I could ever teach them.  It’s all still a work in progress and I’m sure I’ll make more then a few errors along the way but for once I’m looking to my horse to help me out and not another human.

Until next time.

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The Walk: An often over looked gait

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So I was eating pie after work, yes pie. Delicious concord grape pie with ice cream I might add, Trying to center,  relax and calm myself. Work was a long day. I spent the majority of the day at the vets with my soon to be retired working dog (nothing serious I promise just a dental) and she had decided she’d rather sleep all day in the warm blankets then wake up and go back into the vehicle to go home.

The rest of the day I spent trying really hard not to let my tongue do the talking around my boss…I mean some days I do great and other days it’s all I can do to save myself a lot of grief for no real improvement one way or another. I was frustrated and frazzled when I got home.

That wonderful rich, handsome, loving, wanna be husband can show up ANY TIME so I can stop working to support my addicting horsey habits….ok back to the pie.

While I was eating my delicious and somewhat nutritious homemade pie, my mom messaged me a link about Walking: The queen of gaits from Dressage Today and as I was reading I was struck by a massive unavoidable thought…..I have been neglecting the walk. REALLY neglecting it and a lot of the issues I have, especially with Cash, could EASILY be avoided if I worked more at the walk.

Now why would I avoid the walk you might ask. Well first and foremost I apparently believe it is boring. If I’m walking it’s usually on the trail and having fun enjoying the sights but in the arena… ummmmmm well it never crossed my mind. I always walk for warm up and then immediately go into the trot. Many times I will work on walk-trot transitions or such but I never stay in the walk.

I also thought my horses would see it as boring. They are highly intelligent and I thought that maybe walking would get their pesky little mischievous brains working on not so happy ideals.

Oh how wrong I am! I jumped on Cash eager to test a theory. Was I just assuming I had good basics or were they actually there AND was Cash listening to them or just guessing at what I wanted and hoping it was right?

So I ask for walk (I’m bareback but with his bitless bridle on) and he starts down his normal path and I use my legs and seat for a turn to the left. He thinks about it a second and keeps going the direction HE wants to go. Not surprising he wants to go where he ‘knows’ he will get a treat and so I gave a tiny half halt on the left rein and I gave him the leg aids again. This time he turned his head and shoulders but decided he’d still rather go in the straight line towards his stall.(shoulder-in anyone?)  So I give a bump with my outside leg near his shoulder (I prefer Buck Brannaman’s way of turning instead of classical dressage style), I shift my weight slightly to the inside suddenly he turns and goes where I want. Hummmmm…..OK…. Was it me or was it him or a combination of both. What did I do differently the third time I didn’t do the first two?

To figure this out,  the rest of the lesson was us walking big figure 8’s around my “jumping” area.  Cash  kept trying to go over my experimental jump (post on that later) because he had gotten a treat for it earlier and just knew if he went over it he’d get another one. But over all as I began to ask again and again switching directions it became as if I could think what I wanted and he would start to turn.

What I found kind of eye-opening about working exclusively on the walk and truly focusing on it was how well I could time my aids. I could give the turning aid with my legs and then realized that my weight was being thrown to the outside and I could easily shift it and that would be the little push he needed to go the correct way. In fact most of the time I was asking for turns I was forgetting to give the seat aid and only giving the leg aid! The seat aid was the key to him turning and not just bending or completely ignoring it. It was in the subtitles like that we seemed to refine and I believe we started creating muscle memory. It wasn’t long before he truly understood exactly what was asking of him and if I was asking it correctly that he got the impression the first time instead of the second or third.

By working at the walk I was able to detect where I, as the rider, was going wrong and clarify exactly what I wanted. He’s a boy. His intuition is not the best (sorry to all the men reading this). How could I expect him to understand my aids in the trot or even in the canter when I wasn’t even giving them correctly in the walk?!

I think part of my mistakes with giving aids has been laziness and not really working on the refinement of the aids at all times. I have been more focused on my horse and not myself when it’s myself that has been causing some of the confusion. Could Cash have understood what I wanted without the refinement? Yes. Was he being a bit stubborn about it? Yes. But Cash is and probably always will be my teacher in many ways.  And for our walking session he was teaching me that I need to get my crap together in order for him to do it properly or he’d just blow me off.

I feel several more walking lessons in our future before we graduate back to trot and maybe even canter. If I can get him going 100% at the walk and I can get myself asking correctly the first time then I think our experiences in the faster gates are greatly going to improve! Now I gotta test it on Jack muh hahahahaha.

So if you have issues with the aids, your horses just are not listening or you’re getting an opposite reaction maybe try going back to the walk and seeing if it’s you who is giving the wrong aids or not enough of parts of the aids (like the seat). You can do almost every exercise at the walk! You and your horse will greatly improve in many aspects I do say so. I know we did here 😀

Until next time

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Just Who Is The Beast Of Burden?

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Pic by J L Werner

Owning horses at home. The wonderful, heavenly idea! It’s fantastic, amazing and almost magical….until it isn’t.

Now don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love drinking my coffee and seeing my boys pleading with me to hurry up and come feed them. To watch them graze and be so peaceful……And then I get the bills… and my wallet starts screaming “oh god please not again!”

My bank account keeps giving me the alarm that it’s empty and there is nothing left and I begin to contemplate whether plain rice or a PBJ sandwich would be better for breakfast.

The big bills always seem to roll in together. The barn needs to be re-roofed, The truck suddenly needs new tires/new breaks, hay needs to be paid for and stacked, don’t forget the farrier….oh and that lovely house payment so you can keep said horses at home just to top it all off.

Then you start wondering if you can wrap your horses in bubble wrap and duck tape on the off chance they might get hurt because one more bill might just do you in and you’ll be down graded from PBJ to Raman noodles and start having flashbacks to your first year away from home.

But those horse are so adorable and they just nicker to you….Right before they rip their brand new fly sheets to pieces and put a huge crack in their hooves so you have to call the farrier out AGAIN and you begin to wonder if maybe you can float said check before the bank registers there is actually no money to pay for said service….fariers still take checks right?!!! oh please tell me my farrier takes a check!

Then you have an amazing ride on your horse! That would be right before you get off and realize your saddle is magically two sizes too small in the gullet and now you’ll be shopping for new saddles….Wait….Who needs a saddle anyway? The natives rode bareback! I shall embrace that tiny sliver of native blood flowing through my veins and throw caution to the wind…..and hope and pray my family hears my pleas come christmas time and buys that fancy saddle I’ve been eyeing for two years!

But oh by golly I’m living the dream! Them beasts….sweet little beasts are happy in their stalls, eating the best hay that can be bought. With the, yet again, new fly sheets, newly trimmed and polished hooves, and a coat so shiny it can blind the neighbors if the sun hits them just right and a nice misting of fly spray so they don’t wear themselves out before the next ride. A ride THEY  get to ride in, in the new trailer that costs more then my truck, my old, much loved truck. *sigh*

Wait a minuet…..Which animal is supposed to be the beast of burden? Who exactly is the slave to whom? *Eyes narrow* I think I have been duped by the system….and yet….Those adorable beasties just nicker and their eyes sparkle and….”Oh yes sir, I’m bringing the treats!”

Until Next Time

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Reporting A Case Of Neglect: A Few Helpful Tips

Pic from horsehaventn.org
Pic from horsehaventn.org

This is a touchy subject but one I wanted to cover after seeing some very iffy situations being publicly posted on social media and it’s a situation a lot of people don’t like to talk about.

I have been in the horse industry for a LONG time. Growing up our ranch had a fairly big breeding and training operation. I have seen horses coming from champions to back yard pets and everything in-between. Having sold many horses over the years I have also seen some amazing homes that will forever touch my heart but some of our horses were returned in horrible conditions because owners were to prideful to call for us to come get the horse when they couldn’t afford to feed them until they were nearly dead. (Thankfully it was a rare occasion but it did happen)

In todays day and age the internet is literally at our finger tips. We are able to send information out to various social medias with just a few clicks of a button but there are times when doing so is a VERY bad idea. Recently I ran crossed a lady on a public local horse forum spouting off a neglect case.

Normally I don’t get embroiled in stuff like this but what this young whipper-snapper was saying was (and this is paraphrased) “This horse is standing in a huge heap of poop, in a TINY back yard with no food or water or shelter and it’s an obvious neglect case. I’ve owned horses I know neglect. This horse lives by such and such and here are the pictures. Who do I call to report this?”

I have a few issues with what this lady, who in all honesty believed she was doing the right thing, did to not only herself but the people with the mule. (It was a mule not a horse).  This “expert” posted pictures and a rough address of this mule. A pretty good, albeit old, looking mule that had a shelter and a rather large one at that in the background that she apparently didn’t see. He was not skinny, in fact his ribs were not even showing and he was bordering on fat for mule. His top line wasn’t there (possibly due to age) but his feet were trimmed and his mane combed and he was not sucked up from lack of water. Other then the poop in the pen there was no obvious signs of neglect.

All this woman saw was the “huge” amount of poop and no visible water/food source and posted publicly that these people were neglecting their animal. Without knowing the situation, without even trying to contact anyone who knew this animal she threw wild allegations around that these people are animal abusers and this mule (oh “horse”) was being starved and in a very small community form.

What she did right there, my good friends, is called Slander. And it will get you sued faster then you can blink. When pointed out the fact that the MULE was not being neglected and given reasons why from the the pictures she posted, the woman threw an even bigger fit saying she should not be contradicted and she just knew this horse was getting neglected. So to prevent anyone from getting into a situation where you can possibly get sued, but you think there might be a neglect case here are a few steps you can take:

**Note** Please refrain from trespassing or breaking any laws while following the helpful tips below. If you’re unsure if it would break a law please don’t do it!

1.) Look at the situation as a whole:  Is it truly neglect?  Is it just less then perfect living arrangements. Trust me I have seen less then stellar living arrangements, some that even made me cringe but the animal itself was in good condition and seems to be alert and happy. Do they have water? Do they have food.?Do they LOOK neglected (Ie. Matted hair, untrimmed feet).
**Late add in** As a friend reminded me, just because you see a super skinny or neglected looking horse does not mean it’s current situation is one of neglect. As I mentioned above we got horses back nearly starved to death, and if you just happened to see them in a pen by themselves you could think that they were in a bad situation when in fact they had already been removed from the bad situation!! Which leads right to my next bullet….

2.) Try to contact the owners and find out their situation. This is a very hard thing to do as most people do not like being told that someone thinks they are neglecting their animals BUT sometimes said people are beginners/new to animals and in mild cases may not realize what they are doing wrong and a HELPFUL person can help straighten out the situation. They could be someone who is also hurting for money temporarily and doing the best they can. I’m not saying it justifies neglecting an animal but we could help someone out, rather then start blaming them for neglect. Sometimes all someone needs is a helping hand for a minuet to get back on their feet. Also like mentioned in bullet #1, the horse may have been removed from a bad situation and is in recovery mode but still looks skinny/in bad shape.  Don’t just rush up to their front door and start yelling at them. No one appreciates that and in fact will probably not listen to a word you say and just call the cops for trespassing. Be polite please. Use honey not vinegar!

3.) Contact a local vetrinarian. If you are that concerned spend a few bucks and have a vet come look at the horse, if possible without trespassing, and check the body score and living conditions. (They are way better at body scoring then the average person normally)  If seeing them well from a road isn’t possible try to take them really good pictures and ask if they can give you an assesment. Many times vets will have contacts with local animal groups such as animal control and ASPCA so further action can be taken should the vet deem they are being starved/neglected. His/her words will have much more weight then yours in this type of situation. You can also check a horses condition score (and even your own using charts like the one posted below)

**Note** Not all vets will do this if they are not your animal, and they don’t have a request from an animal group mentioned below. Don’t get upset with your vet if they choose not to give an opinion because they are trying to protect themselves and their business.

4.) Contact your local Animal control/ASPCA/Humane society. I know in many areas animal control isn’t much help with equine related issues but if you begin contacting these groups eventually they will have to come and assess the situation, especially if there are more then one complaint about it. It may not be overnight but if you get the ball rolling, many times it will work out in your favor IF proven to be neglect/starvation case.

Now just because we see a situation that is not ideal or one we think is neglect does not mean that there is a good case for the above mentioned animal groups. You can do all you can and sometimes nothing happens.  Sometimes they meet just enough of the wickets, or the horses are in just good enough condition they cannot do anything but warn them and do welfare checks. Sadly this happens and at this point you can try going to the internet but like mentioned above do so at your own risk.

Seeing neglect and starvation in horses is horrible and something I sincerely hope no animal ever has to go through but it is a sad fact that it does happen and sometimes quite often.  If you are unsure if it even merits a call talk with your trainer, or your local horse friends and get other peoples honest opinions about it. Sometimes the best we can do is learn what not to do.

If you’re still unsure if it’s a neglect case Here is a great article about reporting it. It’s for vets but it has some great information in it http://www.aaep.org/custdocs/aaepfaqsequineabuse.pdf

Until next time

body condition scoreing horse

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Going Treeless Part 2!!

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I am here to report my progress with going treeless. I must say it has taken some adjustment but not nearly as much as I expected. I believe that both horses are much more comfortable in my treeless then even my Stubben saddle and I am very comfortable it in as well. (If you didn’t see Part 1, check it out HERE)

I’ve had several nice rides in it now and I’ve tweaked it a bit to fit my boys and all I can say is WOW! The feeling in a treeless is so much….more, which is also a bad thing sometimes. Riding Jack, he’s young and inexperienced being out by himself and in my treeless I can feel the second he starts to tense his back muscles and think about doing something.

It’s wonderful in the fact that I can REALLY get ahead of him before he does something silly. It sucks in the fact that I feel him tense ALOT. Not all of it is “Bah I’m a baby” moments some of it’s just insecurity in a new situation or figuring out what I’m asking so I’m having to learn when the tensing I’m feeling is a spook or buck and when it’s just normal tensing at the unknown.

I’ve found the boys are much more forward in the saddle and I am able to keep my balance much, much better with them throughout all the moments and transitions. I feel like some of this is how the saddle sits me in the seat. Since I am able to adjust where my stirrup actually sits in relation to me I can get an actual shoulder, hip, heel alignment without having to force my leg back. It feels as if my leg is naturally sitting where it is supposed to without any huge thigh rolls. I feel I’m sitting much more correctly on my seat and pelvic bones so I’m able to quickly adjust myself to anything going on without falling out of balance or stabilizing myself with the reins. And biggest of all, I’m more relaxed over all.

Somehow I always ride more relaxed in my body while riding bareback. Since I get such similar feelings in my EZ Fit saddle I think the switch in my brain keeps me more loose. Being properly positioned and not having to fight for my alignment REALLY helps as well.

Now onto the comfort for the horses. Like I stated above both my horses seem to be much more relaxed in the treeless saddle! Cash’s strides are much more loose and forward and I can really feel him using his back and not running around on his forehand or working at the speed of molasses. I am actually tempted to try riding in a bit and see if a lot of his chewing was due to discomfort in the saddle. I get wonderful sweat patterns with him that shows even distribution and spinal clearance. He hasn’t had any back soreness that I have been able to detect. He’s much more excited to transition through his paces and over all just a better ride.

Jack no longer has bucking fits on the lunge line and he rarely throws in a little crow hop in the canter anymore. Jack has also stopped most of his dancing around while being saddled up. I think something must have been really uncomfortable for him even though the fit of my treed saddles seemed correct from all aspects. He actually sighs and stands when he realizes I’m putting the treeless on. I think Jack appreciates the feeling and the clear signals I send as well. Like  I mentioned I tend to get much more tense in a treed saddle when doing arena work and since he’s a young’n he really feeds off of me and the snowballs start rolling.

With the weight of the saddle being only 15 pounds I think it has also helped with my horses workability. My boys are in pretty decent shape but every pound you can shave off will always help them work longer and more comfortably.  Between the weight and not having and tree points potentially digging into their shoulders both boys seem to be giving me the rides of approval.

Now I mentioned adjusting the treeless so I figured I’d show you what the “inside” of the saddle looks like so you can see what pieces you can adjust and why I think it’s superior to other treeless saddles I’ve seen.
Treeless underside
The seat is movable. I actually had to move the seat back a bit so I wasn’t sitting on the cantle. These treeless saddles come with three adjustments. Mine is a medium so I can adjust it between 16 and 18.5′ english sizing. My seat is sitting about 17-17.5 right now and it’s just perfect for me. I could have probably used a small size just fine but beggars can’t be choosers.

The Stirrups are adjustable forward and back. As you can see one of the straps forms a D like shape crossed the back of the saddle and one goes over where the typical stirrup line is. This is a pice that really really helps distribute weight of your stirrup pressure, especially if you are a heavier rider. If you’re a petite person you could run them along the same line without much problem. The saddle includes a measuring tape on both sides so you can get the adjustments exactly the same on both sides!

Treeless underside 3That sliver ring in front of the stirrup straps is your front girth ring. You can move those forward and backwards depending on how it’s sitting in your horses girth grove. I find this saddles natural girth position is several inches back from a typical girth location but I find the horses are a lot more comfortable with it. If your horse is prone to galls on the back of their front lets this will help relieve that pressure and prevent more of them from forming.

Everything is secured using heavy duty velcro and then the seat is velcroed down onto the top. I haven’t had any issues with things slipping or coming undone. The seat folds back down and is secured with the buckles ounderside treen the back. The buckles are more of a failsafe on the chance that the velcro releases so I think you would be just fine without them but they don’t bother me at all so I leave them on.

The pads on the bottom of the saddle that create the spinal channel, and also make it possible to ride without the use of a specialized bareback pad are also held on by the heavy duty velcro. I haven’t had any issues with it slipping here either and I love that I can tweak it a bit as the boys grow or fill out/loose weight through out the season AND I didn’t have to spend another $300 on a good treeless pad. I have been using just a regular western pad with no issues so far!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this and if you have any questions on my journey treeless feel free to ask away 😀

Until next time

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Hey Lady, GET OUT OF MY FACE!!!

Hey lady cash 2
He was giving me a stern lecture on how I’m supposed to use my hands.

Well Cash and I had not only a revolutionary moment in our riding, but I must admit I think we have had one of the best sessions I have EVER had with him yesterday.

We weren’t doing anything extravagant. In fact it was just big trot-walk-trot, circles around the big pasture in my new treeless saddle. I wanted a longer more true ride on him to check how everything is fitting and what else needed to be tweaked in the saddle.

The first few minuets Cash felt really fresh and I began to wonder if maybe I should have lunged him first….but I was already on him sooooooo why not give it a whirl? (and hope AND pray he didn’t decide to be a bronc today) Well we started out with just a quick warm up walk before I asked him to move into the trot. Since he was feeling a tad fresh I was making sure I had good contact on the reins “just in case” and a  deep seat. So Cash did what he does best in most situations.

He stuck his nose up in the air and tried his best camel impression! It was quite a glorious one. I could literally see his nose above his ears. I tried pushing him forward at tad and when I asked for that he just flung his head into the air, back down and the back into the air again. I was rather confused since Cash NEVER tosses his head.

He will pull, he will chomp his teeth but he never tosses his head when I’m on him. It was around that moment I realized that somehow I had gone from steady contact to a death grip on the reins and I do Mean DEATH GRIP! Those suckers weren’t moving in my hands. Cash was literally yelling at me in his horsey way “Hey lady,  Let go of my freaking face!!! I’m not gonna kill you I swear but your rubbing my face raw!!!”. Even though he’s in a bitless bidle that rawhide piece can get uncomfortable and probably down right painful if hauled on and he was letting me know I was right near painful!

So I aimed Cash for the far pasture fence and with a big sigh (and a small prayer to the horse gods)  I relaxed my hands and let the reins slide through my fingers until I was at the buckle. At this moment Cash immediately relaxed his head and dropped his neck. He pushed off from behind and for the first time that I can remember I felt him reach forward and lift his back! I could literally feel him engage his muscles and swing his back! His stride grew long and ground covering and I had the most giddy feeling in the world. Cash was in the first step of self carriage! His head was low but he was engaged, and listening. He was soft to my leg, listening to my seat and responsive on the reins. It was like he said “Finally woman! I can breathe!!! You just gotta have a little trust in me”

I didn’t want to breath in case the feeling disappeared. I stared down in stunned silence at his shoulders wondering if I was hallucinating or somehow in a day dream. Could Cash really be truly working on the flat???

To make sure I wasn’t in some weird alternate reality I brought him down to walk and asked for trot again. He did it again, and again. I wasn’t dreaming I really wasn’t!

The second I tightened up on the reins his stride became choppy and he threw his head back up. Then when I realized what I was doing and relaxed he went right back to being engaged and relaxed.  He gave me everything in a way I’ve never noticed before. I don’t know if it’s because I don’t have a tree in-between me and him or if for what ever reason I was just more in tune with him but I’ve never felt that engagement before with him. I’ve never felt the currents of power rolling through his back before. There was always a block somewhere either stress, pain, miscommunication, or  fear on mine or his part. But today that had disappeared into the most amazing ride!

I’m still on cloud 9! I can’t even begin to describe the giddy feeling coursing through me right now. This is the first time I’ve ever felt like we truly connected doing flat work. He was so in tune with me and I was relaxed and listening to him. Other than a few times he tried to dodge out of the pasture to his favorite apple tree (He can’t be completely perfect now.) We had the best ride we have ever had.  It was truly a gift today and an eye-opening moment. I swear he continues to have more and more to teach me and the moment I feel frustrated with him he turns around and gives me the world when I just relax and trust him!

Cash is both a friend and a tutor. He has taught me is how to over come my fears and to trust again. To learn to listen with more than just my ears. He has taught me how to speak with no words and to work in harmony and not against a horses nature. With out the lessons he has taught me I wouldn’t be having near the success I am with Jack or even in my professional world working with dogs and even people for that matter. I just have to remind myself to stop and look at whats going on and RELAX! (breathing helps to….ya know the whole staying conscious on your horse thing tends to vastly improve a ride)

Thank you Cash-man for the best ride! I do think my new saddle EZ fit saddle is worth every penny if my rides keep going the way they are going!

Until next time

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Going Treeless Part 1

Jack sunflowerCash Treeless 2
Many of you may have pondered the phenomenon of Treeless saddles. Now this is a huge controversial topic and I’m not trying to start any wars here, but I have been giving it some serious thought. Treeless options are not for every situation or every horse but due to Jack out growing almost all of my saddles and the few I “borrowed” from my parents, I began to wonder if treeless especially for young horses that are constantly growing and changing might not be such a bad idea.

As I began to ponder this idea I started riding Cash bareback ALOT! I have noticed when I ride him bareback not only am I more relaxed but so is he. It got me thinking just how much the saddles I have might be slightly uncomfortable enough for my horses to no relax and that maybe for some reason i’m unknowingly more tense in the saddle.  I think what has helped me relax completely with him bareback is the amount of communication I seem to have with him.  While a lot of things still need work I feel like we are speaking on a whole new level together. He is more intone with what I am asking and I rarely have to go to the reins unless it’s for whoa. He is even starting to lift and relax his back and is starting the baby steps to self carriage (in a bitless bridle I might add)  and that is truly an amazing feeling!!!

However the more I ride bareback the more I was want a saddle that mimics the feeling I get riding bareback. Now everything isn’t going to be exactly the same since I obviously still have a good layer between me and the horse but maybe having something that will flex around my horse and gives me the stability of the saddle.  Enter treeless saddle here. (I love ya Jack but I’m not quite THAT bold with you to ride without a saddle yet)

Now before I go any farther I want it noted that I’m not a complete convert. I still love jumping and I refuse to give up my old stubben saddle!!

I’m a person of research too. I love throughly reading about something before I commit financially to anything. I’ve been known to jump into the deep end before but I try to avoid being completely blind when I do it. Now if you’re someone looking into treeless saddles there are about 100,000 different kinds of treeless saddles out there ranging in price from $150 – $6000.

There is SOOOOOO much information out there. Why you should go treeless, why you shouldn’t go treeless. Use this brand not that brand, this pad not that pad. People vying  for one over the others in EVERYTHING. It was a very frustrating stream of information to dig through. I appreciated a lot of the studies on treed vs treeless saddles, but I noticed that the most recent date was from 2008. How am I to judge the newer technologies and brands with no studies that show how the new type of treeless saddles handle pressure points? And you want to tell me all treed saddles are comfortable? Most of the treed saddles they used were fitted to the horses. Not all horses/people have that luxury…but i get it for the sake of a study. Then you have the people saying the pressure points are way to much….and yet there are endurance individuals doing 100 mile endurance rides in them with a clean bill of health for the horses back.

The next frustrating thing I found is rider weight. I’ll admit I weight over 175 pounds not much more but enough to become very frustrated. (It’s all muscle I swear *shifty eyes*).  What a lot of people don’t mention/know  is that most treeless saddles are meant for people weighting 175 pounds or less. It’s usually written on an off page in fairly fine print. Most websites do have it somewhere you just have to dig for it.   So if you do weight more then that you either need to invest in some really good saddle pads or look for the ones that are made specifically for heavier people…..or just go with it and pray it works!

The next thing that knocked down the list even more was price. Most really good treeless saddles cost boat loads of money. Like I could buy a brand new custom Stubben for the same price or maybe even a brand new Schleese dressage saddle. I was amazed at how proud they are of these saddles, not that I could blame them but still it really hurt to look at those prices that everyone was saying was “worth it” and wonder how I could afford it while I was already practically living on PBJ and Rice. But the more I read the more they said “you get what you pay for” with these saddles. That $150 indian brand on eBay  was so tempting but I figured I couldn’t be quite that stingy.  So as I began to look through the multitudes of brands and sifting through treeless forums these were the most common I heard/read mentioned:  Sensation, Barefoot, Bob marshal, and Ansur. However,…. almost all of these are over $1500. Except barefoot which is much more in the “I might be able to afford” price range. I believe their most expensive was $900.

So as my pocket book was screaming and I was becoming very disheartened and thinking that maybe I’ll have to stick with just bareback I ran crossed a little known gem.

They are called EZ Fit Saddles. They are saddles individually handmade by an amish gentleman in PA. He will even custom make the colors for our saddle!  Now they aren’t specifically marketed for Heavier people. They actually don’t say anything about it anywhere on their website (that I could find) but on doing some research I noticed a lot of not so petite people riding in them and pretty much every review I managed to dredge up from the unknowns of google were great reviews. Though they are still $1,000 brand new, it was better then the 3k most companies wanted, and I could custom make the colors with a slight fee.

Now I was really, really debating between EZ fit and Barefoot. Barefoot has a saddle specifically designed for a heavier rider, but upon reading reviews many of them stated it had no twist to the seat, which makes sense really.The EZ fit saddle, every review I could find said it incredibly comfortable, with a decent twist to the saddle and over all comfort for horse and rider.

The barefoot saddle I was looking at was about $700 new. So price wise they were pretty close together though the few hundred dollars difference could buy me a really really nice saddle pad! Surprisingly treeless saddles seem to hold their value really, really well used and since the saddle I was eyeing from Barefoot was a brand new model there weren’t any new ones out yet and the one used one I found for the EZ fit was still $700 so really it didn’t help weed out one over the other.   Then I stumbled on the EZ fit group on Facebook and a lady listed a used EZ fit for sale. For a glorious $500.00 I took a chance and snatched it as fast as I could!

Well this beautiful gem finally arrived in the mail this past friday and boy oh boy was I excited!!!

So after getting it out of the box and drooling over it I had to go try it out on the boys!! So I grabbed Cash-man first because I knew he probably wouldn’t buck me off if he didn’t like it and threw it on with the good old western blanket I had. (it surprisingly matches my saddle). Now A feature I found out and LOVE about this saddle. The rigging for the girth, the stirrups AND the seat are all adjustable!  Yup you heard that right, I can maneuver it around as much as I need to to get it comfortable for myself AND my horse!  Also the panels underneath to create a spinal channel to keep it up off the spine are completely maneuverable as well!!!  Oh and the whole saddle weighs 15 (Yes 15!!) pounds!

Not wanting to take an extraordinary amount of time to adjust it just right I jumped on! (I was a tad to excited) The first thing I had to say was WOW!!!! The saddle fit my butt like a glove.  I felt completely secure and yet not stuffed into the saddle. The stirrups ended up being in the perfect position for my legs, though I don’t like the stirrups it had come with. They are a tad unstable for my liking and wanted to bend when I posted. The front of the saddle has a nice aussie “oh shit” handle that will probably someday come in handy. The front is made out of foam so it will flex and bend with the horse as well and there are no truely rigid parts other then the cantle of the seat.

Cash seemed to love it. I only rode for a few minuets as I felt a bit unstable with those stirrups and Cash was SUPER sensitive to my moments. I don’t think he was expecting to feel me as much as he did, or me him, through the saddle and we both kept catching ourselves off guard. Now the rigging for the girth needs to be moved just a tad so it hits the girth groove right for Cash and i’ll need a bigger dressage girth for him but overall it was a great fit. It was a wee bit tight on him due to the small girth but he wasn’t overly worried about it either.

I must say the way Eli riggs the saddle makes them incredibly stable on the horse. I didn’t try it but I think I could easily mount from the ground if I needed to. I intentionally shifted my weight left and right and there was barely a budge either direction! That is something I’ve noticed most treeless saddles have major issues with. A lot of people say they slip badly left and right and if you have a horse with low withers it’s a real concern.  and some tend to slip backwards more then others. I didn’t have any breast collar or crupper on and just a plane old western saddle pad and I don’t think it would budge much at all unless you were literally hanging off the side of the horse for a long time.  I’ll have to ride some hills to see if it will shift forward and back but i have a feeling it’ll be pretty stable.

Next up was Jack. Now considering I knew I had some things to adjust on Cash I figured many would be similar on Jack and since I didn’t have stirrups to switch out with on hand (I was to lazy to go drag out my western saddle and steal the stirrups) I choose just to see how he would do lunging with it. Now here is where I noticed the biggest difference with him. He usually throws a bucking fit within the first few minuets of lunging after a few days off. He didn’t do that. He squealed and did some baby head shakes but he didn’t buck and carry on like he usually tries. He seemed so much more forward and relaxed in all gates. Now I didn’t ride him but I was extremely happy with what I saw!

So this is post 1 of hopefully several about my new treeless endeavor!!! I want a few more rides and a few longer rides to see how it truly feels after a while in the saddle and working with it to see the horses reactions to it after more then just a few minuets!  So check back to see how it’s going!  (If you’d like to read Part 2 check it out HERE!)

Until next time

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Sometimes It’s Not What We Are Asking But How We Are Asking It

 

By Norman Thelwel
By Norman Thelwel

Have you ever been that person in school or at work, that no matter how your teacher was telling you, you just didn’t understand what was being asked. You tried and tried but kept getting the wrong answer and the more you tried and the more you were told “no” the more frustrated you got until you did nothing but give up or explode into a rage?  Then you get that one person who leans over and goes “Have you tried it this way?” and suddenly it just clicks. That light bulb moment just goes off and you wonder how you didn’t see it in the first place?

The more I work with horse the more I realize that like us each horse is as much an individual as we are. Some learn faster and some learn slower. And the more I see each individual personality the more I wonder why we have such rigid training systems. Every rider wants to know “how do I do this? Or get my horse to do that?” and  much like doing math they expect A+B=C and it should be that easy and that perfect all the time, with every horse.

But we are dealing with sentient beings (If you don’t think that’s true you really shouldn’t be dealing with horses)  so what makes us think that by giving half halts and holding contact, and giving that perfect leg aid is going to translate into the same response each time to every horse?  That every horse is going to understand it exactly the same way and we will reprimand them until they get the right answer?

I’m obviously not saying everyone is this way. There are MANY “out of the box” thinkers out there. But if you prescribe to dressage, or equitation or hunter/jumpers the majority of trainers seem to fall into the same lines when teaching (unless you have that 1 in a million trainer. Then hang on to them with both hands and maybe handcuff yourself to them to be sure they can’t run away)

The more I trust my horses and the more I allow them to find the right answer on their own in their own time and praise, praise, praise them when they get it right and just ask them again when they are wrong, the more I see their personalities coming out. The more I see them being excited and willing to do what I’m asking. The better partnerships I end up having with my horses.

I don’t want to be a dictator to my horses. I don’t want them scared to misstep and fearful for a whack with the whip due to a misunderstanding. (There are surely times it’s needed but they are fewer then people realize) But just like those olympians who got disqualified for excessive use of whip and spur. When does the wish to Win prove too much for partnership and we let it slide into dictatorship?

The more I watched the olympics the more that lack of partnership showed. Those words we tout to everyone. Partnership.  And yet how few people let the light of their steed shine through to showcase their best strengths in the best way possible? Instead they work them in false frames and through the use of gadgets to get that perfect look regardless to the pain and silent suffering of their so called partners. Again I’m not saying everyone is like this but there are enough in the lime light to show a startling trend.

How many of those horses would prove to be better then Valegro, if they had just been given a different phrase to the same question? How many of those would be pushing 90’s in dressage or jumping Grand prix even faster?  If a bit of patience and willingness to let the horses figure out a question on their own first before forcing the horses into a moment or over a jump, maybe we would have an entirely new standard of riding and enjoyment.

So out of this long tirade, If you are having problems with your horses. If you’re frustrated and unsure of how to continue and you just want to throw in the towel. Stop and remember what it was like when you couldn’t do something right until someone else gave you a different way to view the problem. Think how you’ve been asking what you want from your horse and maybe by just a bit of tweaking the question you can get that lightbulb to go off for your horse. Don’t forget that if you want that true shining and amazing ride you have to do right by your partner and they will do right by you!

Until next time

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Back In The Saddle Again!

Jack morning light

So for the last few weeks I have been very quiet and I do apologize for that. Other then a few pictures posted across social media I’ve been quite boring.

I had some very big doubts about my horses and my skills for a while. I took a good fall off of Jack who decided that my working student was terrifying and tried his best bronc action. Which I will admit now that it wasn’t that bad and on a normal day I would have easily ridden it out. But the little stinker managed to catch me as I was adjusting a stirrup and as he bucked towards a tree I decided I’d take my chances with the ground instead of a tree. I ended up landing on a rock and for once I ended up taking my own advice and went to the emergency room to get X-rays. I seriously thought I had broken my hip. Thankfully it was just some serious contusions to the muscles and about 2 weeks later I was good as new.

Now I will admit it has been ages since I was in that much pain after a fall. The only other time it was like that was after I injured my back falling of Cash and for once it wasn’t the fear of riding my horses that was stopping me. It was the fear that if I got injured everything at my house comes to a screeching halt.  I’ve got my working student but I can’t thrust upon her the responsibilities of running my house, feeding animals and working the fruit trees and garden. She’s got a life too. So suddenly I was worried that if I continued riding my youngster, eventually I would end up getting hurt bad enough to where I couldn’t do anything.

It took me a long time to think this through. To realize that in my line of work (so I can feed said horses) I could get seriously injured tomorrow. I don’t have a desk job, or a extremely safe one for that matter. It could all go to hell in a hand basket tomorrow and theres nothing I can do to stop it. So why am I putting the breaks on working my horses for the same reason?

So yesterday I finally pulled on my big girl patines and saddled up Jack. He must have heard me mumbling about selling him because he stood like a champ when he usually tries to dance around a bit. Not a hoof was misplaced. He let me spray him with fly spray, and still didn’t even twitch. I got on and off we went and had quite a wonderful, albeit slow, ride. And I was reminded that a lot of the issues I had were just that. MINE. They aren’t reflected back at me with my horse they are purely what my brain has made up to make me anxious and a bit worried.  The second I took a deep breath and started to forget my worries and just enjoy the ride everything went swimmingly. Other then a few quirks of Jack trying to get treats it was a great experience and one I intend to repeat until it gets to be winter.

So I’m back in the saddle again both literally and figuratively. Be expecting a lot more blog posts now that the boys are both going great under saddle! *knock on wood* I have missed you all, and I do hope you have missed me.

Until next time

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When Horses Are More Then Just Horses

Every horse person has seen those meme’s about horses that show our addiction to them.  That in a simple way explain the core of why we love horses. The adrenaline rush, the companionship and the partnership that go into working with horses is something rarely found anywhere else, even among the human population.

For many, horses are a way to be social. A way to go out in the world and meet new people, see new things and are a mode of transportation and a way to win a ribbon. For others it’s a get away from reality and a place where they feel comfortable and a moment of relaxation.  These are what make horses great.(And several of the reasons I like them as well)  They are so versatile in how the influence us as humans. But to me a horse is more then just a horse.

What an odd statement right? How can they be more then what they are? Well this is what a horse is to me.

My horses to me are my therapist. They are the shoulder to lean on when all I want to do is curl up and cry. They happily sit and listen and will comfort and nuzzle for treats.

A horse to me is a best friend who will happily put me back in my place when I get just a tad to cocky but will share in the joys of great accomplishments and small moments of pure happiness.

But mostly horse to me is a mirror of myself.   I have worked with my horses in a large variations of emotions from joy to anger and sadness to everything in-between and each time I’ve worked with them they have given me an insight into the state of things with in myself. And they have done their best to balance out the worst parts.

In those moments where I’m angry they give me distance but give me presence. They allow me the space I need but they are near enough that I can take solace in their presence and remind myself that what is bothering me today has no bearing on me tomorrow and to just let go. When I am happy they are just as willing to come over and play as well. They love sharing in happiness (and take advantage of it to squeeze out one more treat from m pockets)

The more I take time to just watch my horses. The more I take a moment just to relax with them the more they are helping me find balance within myself. And so as I continue to work with them I continue to use watch them to see how the reflection of myself slowly makes changes for the better. As I learn to let go of the past and embrace the moment. To take the time to look around and enjoy nature and those little miracles around me. It’s the small moments that really matter and each day my horses gift me with a plethora of them.

But at the core the are a reflection of myself. They feed off the energies I give and restore the balance that I seek. They let me know when I am beginning to spin and wobble. They adjust themselves to how I’m acting and in watching those moments I can see the state of my mind because they are watching me.

What would we do without horses? I know i’d be adrift without an anchor in these challenging times.

Until next time.

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Horses and Gardens, What They Have Taught Me

Cash n jack garden
Someone found out his neck is long enough to check out whats in the garden!

Horses and gardens.Kind of an odd combination to have in one sentence, unless you’re feeding them from it (I would never do such a thing…*shifty eyes*). These two things have made me rethink a lot of ways I’ve been doing things and have really taught me some valuable lessons and been my anchor in some rocky moments these last few months.

I’ve been a bit quiet on the internet lately. It’s been a very emotionally trying month for me at work and at home so I haven’t truly sat down and wrote anything for ya’ll in a while.  I got to thinking a while back and that train of thought has been bumping around in my brain for a while so I finally found the time and the well, mental energy to write it out for you all.  So without further ado, lets get right into it.

1.) Patience: The number one thing my animals and my garden have taught me is patience. Do you know how hard it is to sit and wait for a plant to sprout and then get big enough that I can go steal food from it? It’s brutal I tell ya! And horses themselves are much the same way. When we begin teaching our horses it starts out kinda like a seed. It’s an idea, a notion to the horse that we want something different. We have to have the patience to not only effectively teach a horse but to also allow the horse to figure it out for themselves. If we force them and yell and beat them with a whip….well they may eventually get it but it’s lost being fun to them. now it’s just frustrating and possibly painful.

2.) Don’t give up even when you think you’ve really screwed up.  With my garden, I thought I compactly killed the first tomato and pepper plants I planted. So much so that I bought new ones and planted a whole new bed but I kept watering the old ones out of hope and amazingly enough they are coming back even better then the ones I bought on the second go round. I think sometimes we get so caught up in “instant gratification” that when we screw up we wash our hands of it and start with something different but we forget that we, as well as our horses, are thinking creatures. We often make mistakes but if we hold out long enough sometimes those mistakes can be fixed and the whole partnership blossoms into something even more amazing then before. The biggest thing is learning from those mistakes and finding a better way to do it! Sometimes it’s patience, sometimes it’s holding off on “planting” those seeds until it’s a little warmer, or waiting to teach your horse something new or unknown until it’s a better time.

3.) Sometimes the best are not the prettiest. Sometimes the best producers, or the best companions are not the most beautiful. Sometimes the ones that end up being the perfect match are the ones that we may first look over or shake our heads at because they aren’t the “ideal” of what we are looking for. Sometimes it’s color, sometimes its lack of ‘perfect’ conformation and sometimes it’s a horse of a totally different discipline or breed then we typically like.  Perfection doesn’t mean that they will succeed or that you will ‘mesh’ together. Just like watermelons sometimes the sweetest are the ‘scared up’ or the odd balls that really show us the joy in life. (but my horses are perfect I swear *ahem* yeah I promise hehe)

4. Water often! well this is an obvious one. Without water our gardens and horses would both perish in a matter of days but what I mean by this is take the time to water what you’ve sown. Don’t be afraid to go back to basics and work with something very simple. Go out and just groom your horses, Play with them and just give them that little bit of life that we can sometimes forget is just as important as working with them.

5.) Don’t forget to take the weeds out. Weeds can destroy a garden by slowly leaching nutrients and chocking out those plants that we want the most. With horses we have to weed out those negative emotions, and those people who  are constantly putting us down because we may not be following the conventional route (Even if it’s your trainer).

Don’t be a weed to yourself either. (I struggle with this). Don’t be the one who says “He’d do so much better with someone else to open up his potential…. I suck at dressage…. I can’t do this….. I’m a horrible rider….My horse hates me….I should never have even tried this….I should be showing novice by now but i’m still in beginner novice why can’t I be like sally…..I am ruining my horse…why arnt we further along?.

If you find yourself in this kind of negative loop begin pulling weeds. Spin those thoughts around and say  “well that didn’t go as planned. I better find a better way….We are progressing slowly but man we’ve come a long ways since we started….I’m learning just like he is. Sometimes we make mistakes…. You begin to ‘pull’ those weeds when you stop letting those negative thoughts and therefore actions take root in your mind. You begin watering those positive thoughts and eventually the weeds will die and your horses will be much appreciative of it!

6.) Smile, laugh and just enjoy the moment. There’s something zen like about working with horses and working in a garden. You have to pay attention to what you’re doing in that moment, you have to release anger to be effective with your horse and all other things just melt away. If you’re having a bad day go give a hug to a horse, go pick some raspberries out of the patch and just smile and take a moment to enjoy the beauty around you. Horses don’t stay angry. Horses don’t hold a grudge. They may remember pain but they have an amazing talent for forgiveness. If we can learn to embrace that the whole world would be better off.  It’s amazing how fast those negative emotions can melt away if you just look for the good things.

Find those happy things in your life and embrace them with a whole heart. Happiness is a choice, and who can’t be happy when you’re nibbling on a freshly pulled carrot straight from the garden and sneaking the tops and pieces to those beasties begging so eagerly for more? 😀

Until next time

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Some Days Aren’t Good Days Working With Horses

thelwell

Do you ever have that feeling in your gut somedays that says “No I shouldn’t do that” and then you do it anyway for what ever reason and suddenly regret doing it? Yup yesterday was one of those days for me. (beware. Grab that cuppa coffee and maybe some chocolate, this ones a bit long)

Jacks toes had gotten long and needed to be trimmed. I do ALOT of my own farrier work to save on my pocket book and I have the farrier come out about once every 3-6 months to look at them and ensure there’s no issues going on that I haven’t noticed. Well it’s been pouring the last few days and as I got home from work there was a break and even sunshine out! So I decided “oh what the hell I’m gonna do Jacks feet”

Now hindsight is 20/20 as they say. And I should have worked Jack a good bit before I asked him to stand still a long while, while I trimmed his hooves. And because I’m not a professional farrier of course I’m not lightning quick yet. I mean who really is lightning fast unless you do it every day?

So Jack decided to test me with his feet. He’s pull his feet away, try to kick out…try to lay down. And I was good and calm for most of it. He is a youngster after all and I’ve been practicing yoga (oh yes yoga….and pilates….I am a zen master….apprentice….ok I have a lot yet to learn) .

For a farrier he stands perfectly. Probably because I’m holding his head and someone else is working on his feet…..But about the time I got half way done Jack began his melt down saying “Cash is Eating grass and I wanna and I’m DONE standing here.” (I’m beginning to think 4 year olds are akin to 2 year old humans) again I was fine. I just talked to him a bit, gave him a few “Stop its”…maybe a grumble or two and it was going good. Until he decided to loose his marbles and knock me completely over and jump over the top of me, cutting his leg in the process because he hit it on the nippers (only a minor cut, barely enough to break the skin) and knock his legs against the hoof stand.  Where he proceeded to stand there like I had just beaten the holy hell out of him, when in fact he had done it all to himself. But in his mind I had caused it all.

This is when I lost my temper a bit (I quite possibly had steam coming out my ears). He knows better then to do that. He can stand perfectly still for a good bit while a farrier trims his toes but when he needlessly “freaks out” over absolutely nothing, after a long day at work….I got mad. Now obviously I never beat a horse EVER I find it appalling and no matter how angry I get I’ll never needlessly smack a horse.  But Jack also lives with Cash who routinely gets him jumping out of his way so “angry face” makes him skittish.

Well Jack knew I was mad. I’m sure it was written all over my face and my body posture. I marched over and went to pick his feet up. His skin was twitching a bit and he was most assuredly nervous. He stood for a minuet and I began to relax and breath and tell him “good boy” in as positive voice as I could. He sighed and licked his lips and I thought we were good.

I gave him a treat for standing so still for me to finish clipping his foot. This was also a mistake because I’m coming to learn Jack turns everything into a “game” to see if he can earn another little delicious morsel. He began to lift the opposite back hoof in an odd game of teeter totter with himself, trying to get me to put his foot down and give him a treat…..I should have put his foot down….When his antics didn’t work he decided that yanking his hoof away and slamming it on my foot was the way to go. I smacked him with the small side of the rasp to get him off my screaming foot. Now I barely hit him hard enough to hear a thud. No skin was broken and in all honesty I didn’t hit him hard at all. Which is an amazing fact since my foot was screaming at me in agony asking me why in the hell I had decided this was a great thing to do after a 10 hour day of work. I was questioning this myself…but I had 1.25 feet left to go (oh yes a decimal. I can do math I swear!)

He jumped sideways and tried to panic and pull back on the halter. After a few deep, DEEP breaths I managed to calm myself down and talk Jack back into standing. I was almost done with this hoof. He decided that quietly standing there while I finished was a good idea and I made sure to give some nice belly scratches and “good boys” until I put his hoof back down.

I was excited. I only had 1 more hoof to go. I was ALMOST DONE!!!! Now did I mention that 4 year old horses are like 2 year old children?

I began nipping away….my legs were shaking a bit (ok they were exhausted but man I was on the last one I could make it!). How the hell do farrier do that to multiple horses a day? I had sweat dripping off me but by golly I was almost done and with the other three feet I quickly managed to nip all that was needed off his hoof in record time. I grabbed the Rasp and began rasping his hoof smooth. I was almost done. Like I could SEE the light at the end of the tunnel. I had about 2 more swipes left. Literally two swipes to get the last of hoof nice and smooth and level.
Jack Lost. His. Mind. He reared up and lunged forward and I barely managed to get out of the way before he took me with him.

I pulled the rope undone before he could damage my trailer and he ran backwards. I stepped back sent him in a circle and began to lunge him. I was furious. I was so, so close to the end and he decided that he was gonna melt down, arms and legs flailing and screaming in the middle of the grocery isle.

So he lunged in a circle until he decided standing was a good idea and until I could control the burning fury inside my chest. Deep breaths. More deep breaths. Ok. Lets try this again. I grabbed his front foot and bent over gently placing it between my knees. The second my knees were around it he went up again. Ok bucko two can play this game. I grabbed a spare lead rope and looped it around his hoof and tried again. This time I knew it was coming. So as soon as he reared I stepped to the side and pulled his leg up to his belly. Now this little Jack ass (oh yes his name for the rest of the night…rings nicely with Jack don’t ya think?)  is very, very athletic. He managed to run in a circle rearing and bucking with one leg held up.  And he rope burned my hands but I wasn’t giving up and letting go.   After a while he managed to get his foot down but I yanked it right back up until he stopped moving his feet. Then I gently set his hoof back down….as gently as I could anyways. He had a rope burn on his fetlock, I had one on my hands and we both stood there panting like we had just run a marathon. But ya know what. He happily stood there while I finished. He even kindly asked for some grass. (no joke. kindly touched my side then pleadingly looked at the grass) He didn’t get any until he was back in his pen, though again in hindsight I should have let him have a nibble.

Now when I put him back he went off and pouted. And I walked back to my truck, sat on the tail gate and bawled. Yup big heaving sobs with tears running down my face. I felt like I had just ruined my horse. I felt angry and sad and exhausted and just horrid…and above all guilty. Guilty for loosing my temper and pushing a young horse to stand when I probably should have taken a step back, hanged up what we were doing for a second and then asked him to stand still so I could finish.

Jack didn’t want anything to do with me, and I just wanted to hug him and say I was sorry, even though most of it wasn’t my fault. But I was sorry for loosing my temper. I’ve been working on calm. Calm and I are now great friends…patience and I are getting to be better friends. But sometimes I just can’t help getting angry and Jack can’t help being a somewhat spoiled 4 year old.

Some days are just days that don’t quite pan out with horses, but thats part of horses and part of life. Nothing perfect all the time. It’s how we deal with the situation at the moment, and how we come back from it. For now I have a new game plan in place so that situation doesn’t happen again. Each horse is vastly different then he next and I never thought Jack would do some of the things he did. I sometimes forget that a young horse can be very unpredictable. He’s trying to test as much as I’m trying to teach.

If you have one of those days where it just feels like it went horribly wrong don’t worry. Your horses will forgive you, you’ll forgive yourself and it’ll all work out because we each learn something new and eventually we learn to laugh at ourselves….after the fact….and maybe after a glass of wine or two, and a pint of ice cream.

Until Next Time

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How To Make Your Own Cavaletti’s Without Breaking The Bank!!!

Like any working equestrian I have a very limited pocket book. Since I’m operating out of my own place I don’t have any fancy equipment and upon looking online I quickly realized how expensive something as simple as jump standards and Cavaletti ends are, not to mention the poles to go with them.

Obviously I cannot afford to buy enough of those to make it worth it…ok I probably couldn’t even afford one set of standards SO I decided to attempt making my own Cavaletti’s. Now let me just say that there are fancier probably longer life spanned Cavaletti’s out there but for about $8 a piece I managed to make my own that work just perfectly for now!

*Some notes here*.

The 2X4 pieces I’m using I got for free at my local feed store. At least here in Washington a lot of the feed stores set out a “junk” pile that usually includes pallets, blocking and all sorts of goodies. So I swing by and pick up any usable wood I can find. However if your stores do not A long board at home depot runs about 7 dollars and you can get enough two foot sections to make one Cavaletti and if I remember right they were about $8 dollars for pressure treated wood.

The poles I’m using are 3-4 inch 8 foot fence posts since I prefer round to square poles.  I tried to find the standard 10 foot but I couldn’t without paying about $20 or more a pole and having them shipped to me. As of right now those poles run about $6 a piece and were the most expensive piece in the whole thing.

I’m using 4 inch screws and 3 1/2 inch nails.

Once I got it down a system down I can build one in about  5 minuets or less and they are working great so far! 😀  I will eventually try to get a better video for you guys but it was just me so I only had my phone! If you have any questions at all please let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them!

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Teaching lessons…and getting a few in return

These last few weeks have been quite a blur of activity both at work and with the horses and in-between all the craziness Cash has blown my socks off. I always wondered what I would find that he truly loves.  Well I can say I finally found it in the most unexpected of places and in finding it he  has suddenly given me back something that I have greatly missed.

One of my favorite things to do is teach. I love sharing with other people what I know about everything equine related and I especially love teaching beginners and children. There is something that is just so fun about seeing a kid who’s a little shy and insecure start working with horses and  become confident and sure of themselves and truly blossom. Cash has decided his lot in life is teaching children and I never would have thought he would excel here.

As Cash was growing up I had visions of jumping cross country and galloping through fields and all things adrenaline filled. But as Cash and I began working together we came a crossed hurdles that I didn’t expect. For a long time we clashed personality wise.  There was many a time I contemplated selling him. We are both alpha personalities and it took a very, VERY  long time for us to get on ground we both understood and accepted. I still have visions of competing him but as the days have gone by I’ve started to notice him not enjoying jumping as much,  and well he’s always abhorred dressage.

While I was over in Greece Cash was at home with my family and was mostly a couch potato but he did do some lunge lessons for my mom. I didn’t think twice about it until I got a working student to help me with the chores around the barn…because who doesn’t need an extra hand or five for all the chores?
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On a whim I decided to teach her lunging since she’s never learned how to do it on a lunge line. Cash was an angel. He didn’t put a hoof wrong and in fact took the time to teach her how to do it right.  He was calm and quiet. A gentleman in every sense of the word. If I had been lunging him he would have bucked and galloped and tugged on the rope and yet with my working student he just calmly trotted and cantered in a circle. As she was testing out what I was telling her I could almost hear him going “Now child that’s not right” every time she cued wrong and he’d continue doing what he was doing until  she got it right. Then he’d get this look like  “ah yes there we go,” and do what she asked. It was a heart melting sight and one that kind of humbled me. For once Cash truly said “Trust me” and I really listened and I’ve been payed back ten fold by it.

As he has continued his role of teacher to several people now  he has reminded me that though we have plans in life, they don’t always work out how we envisioned. In fact, many of my plans rarely work out how I planned. But when those plans go awry sometimes what becomes of them is even better then the original outcome.  He’s taught me to laugh and to relax and most of all to trust him. He knows what he’s doing with kids and under my watchful eye and directions he’s slowly teaching a new generation the love of horses. Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 7.00.01 AM

Sometimes a horses perfect place is someplace unexpected and a wondrous surprise.  THANK YOU to my amazing horse Cash for not only giving me back one of my passions but also reminding me that trust and happiness is not far away, we just have to be willing to try something new in order to find it.

Until Next time.