Friday, March 14, 2014

Slaying the Trail Dragons

A couple Sundays ago Ted rode Brass with me. He wanted to show me some pointers to help me communicate better with Brass. This also gave Ted a chance to see how well Brass was responding and how soft he was staying. It is very important for Brass to be soft and have good lateral flexion. In addition to that his one rein stop has to be perfect. Brass needs to give and have a nice reverse and know how to yield the hind quarters. A simple circling exercise continues to keep him soft and supple. This gives me my "handle" so I can travel down the trail safely among the unexpected dangers of bikers, loose dogs, turkeys in the brush, deer jumping up in the trail, rattlesnake, etc.

An unplanned bonus that day was when Brass hooked a piece of loose wire with a hind foot. He jumped but didn't buck or anything. Proving again that good communication with your horse can save you. I have seen horses get in one little piece of wire and go ballistic and it isn't pretty. Brass has been desensitized to accept these kind of things but of course like any green horse, he had to react. After a couple jumps he was stopped and was OK.

But after the wire incident I learned a new trick. Ted got off, picked up the wire and calmly walked towards Brass with it in his hand. "Killer wire" was Brass's thought as he watched it and wanted to back away. But Ted touched Brass with the wire which brought out a jump and a snort, and then he took the wire away. He continued with the wire in a manner of approach and retreat until Brass accepted it. Ted touched Brass all over with the wire including his legs and Brass just stood there. Ted was now bigger, badder and better than the wire. Now the wire was not a threat and Ted was Brass' hero. We all need a hero, someone to offer us protection! Horses know they are prey and everything they don't understand is going to eat them.

I told Ted I would have never thought of doing that! I would've just ridden off and left the incident up in the air, without closure. But for Ted, doing this was second nature. Removing fear of the object helps establish respect and trust. Plus next time he encounters something like this he will have less fear. I was definitely impressed.

I try to ride Brass on the trails four times a week. A few days back the wind was pretty stiff and the tumbleweeds trapped in the fence were jumping up and down. Brass eyeballed them and snorted. I remembered Ted and the wire. So I got off and plucked a small tumbleweed from the fence. I told him, Ted says you have to believe that I can save you from the killer tumbleweed, and I touched him with it. He snorted but stood as I took it away. We played approach and retreat with the bush and he quickly lost interest. I then "set it free" and he watched it roll away and go over the hill. Then he touched me with his nose and I know he said, "Wow, you chased that bush right out of here. You are my hero." I led my tall horse to a high spot for me, climbed back aboard, and off we went without a care in the world the rest of the day.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

What are You Reading?

I seldom get many books read over the winter. But this winter I tackled several and I wanted to share. I feel I should tell you that reading has been one of my greatest accomplishments. After my wreck on Thunder and subsequent concussion several years ago, reading was extremely difficult for me. I got a lot of things mixed up thanks to my scrambled brain. My "Owyhee trail sisters", Josette, Linda and Tammie, gave me a book to read while I was recovering titled "Owyhee Trails". I think it took me three years to read it as I could read the words but I had no comprehension. Three pages later I was flipping back to page 1 to figure out what I was reading. I pretty much just looked at the pictures and read the captions for the first two years. Then a couple winters back I finally waded through a real novel! Hey let me tell you that was monumental!

The first book of winter was by Julie Suhr, "But It Wasn't The Horse's Fault".  A woman I have admired for many years. She is a wonderful person and to say she is an accomplished rider is a complete understatement. Julie is the Queen of endurance and I bow down to her. I was honored to "swap" books with Julie. This charming book is not only full of many entertaining whimsical stories but is also filled with lovely illustrations by another talented endurance rider, Judith Ogus. Julie is quite the story teller and you will love her many horses and tales. I love her story about wanting initials behind her name like a Ph.D or D.V.M.. She coined the initials E.R.J. for Endurance Ride Junkie! I can definitely relate to that one! It's a great book with all funds from sales benefiting the Center For Equine Health School of Veterinary Medicine at U.C. Davis. I also have Julie's other book, "Ten Feet Tall Still", also a wonderful read. 

I found Buck Brannaman and The Faraway Horses to be very inspirational. Here is a man who overcame an abusive childhood, and found horses to be his healers. Often people blame their past for the way they are and/or what they become. Despite his early childhood it leads up to his wonderful step family and how he learned more about horses and how to relate to them through Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance. He now travels around helping others with their horses. Recall the novel and movie "The Horse Whisperer", Buck was part of that movie with Robert Redford. I've read this book twice and watched the movie "Buck" several times and each time I find a new message to improve myself. 

Shannon asked me if I'd like to trade books and I jumped on that opportunity! It is a very fun thing to do! Strike a Long Trot by Shannon Yewell Weil tells the amazing story of Linda Tellington Jones. It is packed full of great photographs of all the people in her magical life. I met Linda many years ago at an AERC Convention in Sparks, NV where she had horses on stage for a TTEAM demonstration that was wonderful. In this book you will find Linda's training regimen for her fantastic mare, Bint Gulida. You'll find how she developed the riding school and TTEAM. A truly fascinating book chock full of many lessons to learn. 

Carole Mercer's book, the Far Side of My Dreams, is packed full of life lessons and adventures. There are so many stories and tales in between the covers that it is more of an anthology of life. She is a strong and determined woman who rebuilds her life over and over. Carole is truly a survivor as she battles to overcome the tragic loss of her daughter. She meets many wonderful and famous people along the path of life and eventually performs at the WEG in 2010 with her Dancing Morgans. The only way the book could have been better would have been with photographs of her many accomplishments. Carole and I also had some fun trading books. Yes Mercer has emerged as one of my life heroes. I'm sure you will find her qualities inspiring. Enjoy! 

This book, A Cowboy's Whispered Psalms by Kip Sawdy, I am still reading. Written by a man who was ready to commit suicide then turned his life all around. Sawdy doesn't hide a thing as he leads you through his struggles, defeats and later victories. He mixes poetry with God's Word and he will inspire you to greater heights and a better way of life. As Sawdy commented to me, "Hope you enjoy it and the Lord speaks to your heart".

If you like to read and look for inspiration, check these out. :) All books can be purchased at Amazon except Julie Suhr's book is obtainable directly from her. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Come With Me

This week I learnt that Betty Staley, from the "Buck" movie, tells her young horses, "Come with me. I will go with you. We will go together." Now that is true leadership and I loved it. I pondered it as it rang softly in my head. I thought, "Wow, that sounds biblical." There is a hymn titled "You Are Mine" that says "Come and follow me I will lead you home" and there are many variations on this. Matthew 11:28 begins with "Come to me..." . The bible is full of leadership quotes after all, God just wants to lead us in life and to Him in Heaven.

All this week as I rode The Big Brass, when ever he became anxious or hesitant I said to him, "Come with me, we'll go together." Now you are saying horses don't understand those words. If they don't, it doesn't matter. It is our voice of confidence they recognize, they connect with our voice. Our reactions and touch can calm them. Horses crave leadership and our confidence provides that reassuring touch that gives them leadership. The bonus is that the words worked on me too. So I stayed relaxed and Brass could feel that.

Horses have been my teachers throughout my lifetime. Although I haven't always reflected on those lessons or written them down. I'm thinking I need to do more of that. I was given a great gift years ago when I recovered from two bad wrecks, one horse and one not. I never thought I'd be able to really ride again after either one, but here I am doing just that. The injuries needed to heal  and the accidents were only part of the things I needed to fix. Those major wrecks in my life were followed by a reaffirmation of my faith as I was baptized for the second time in life. This time in the cold waters of the Owyhee Reservoir, June 2008, after the Lord spoke to my heart. Perhaps he said "Come with me" I don't remember exactly. I just knew it was time for a new beginning. I always say "but for the Grace of God go I." And now it is a with a new horse giving me new lessons. We'll do it together.