“Trust Me”

Today has been a great opportunity to try new things, learn from an unexpected source and feel really good and accomplished in the end. So much so, that I can honestly put my feet up and smile knowing its been a good day.

Recently I have undertaken a project horse from a riding student and friend. She’s a pretty little Arabian, black, about 13 years old, about 13.5 hands tall. She’s little – but she’s mighty. She had started having attitude with being ridden, and with another trainer was acting supposedly pretty fresh. I had rode her myself a couple years back and watched my student ride her. She seemed well-enough trained, understanding simple cues and actually stood still when the student inadvertently stepped off, got the left foot hung in the stirrup, and fell under the mare. I saw right then and there, that this mare was not flighty, quite intelligent, and patient. Great qualities to find in a horse. – However, due to life and circumstances, as we can all relate to, the mare was turned out for about a year and a half. She was still fed and groomed and loved on. Which is all a pretty great life for a horse. {grin}

Bring it all up to about 6 months ago – and she begins being worked with by a trainer. She was rode English – and from there labeled “no good”, “uncooperative’, “just a killer horse”, accused of bucking and rearing and acting the fool. The owner also witnessed her horse’s mouth bleeding and raw after being rode. . . Sad, since I knew what the horse was.

Less than a week ago, she came to visit me. I do not claim to be an expert (after all, we all know what an expert it. . . lol), but I knew what the mare was and I refused to believe that she had transformed into a dangerous and useless horse. So, I threw my hat in to give it a try. The first couple of rides were rather uneventful, primarily conditioning and getting her into working mode. Trotting. Lots. of. trotting. If asked for more – she was immediately angry and ready to get rid of you (or at least act like it). I took a day to ponder it. Knowing the impressionable, fragile-but-tough nature of Arabians, I could not just force her. You can push a horse for more, spank if you don’t get what you want or get more animated, but I knew that was not for her. Today, I tried what I had a feeling would work for her. . . but she taught me why.

I have a method of getting riders to do two things: 1) to ride with the core, leaving hands and arms out of the balance equation, leaving the horse’s mouth alone; and 2) to learn to trust the horse. The method is simple: ride without cueing the horse directionally. A square seat, square hands, no movement in your low set hands, – just using your legs to ask the horse on. Maybe a walk, if you want a trot – you ask with your legs. Hands never move. Your body learns the movement of the horse (because at Stay in the Saddle we learn in the very first lessons that you never use your feet to balance in the stirrups), and you follow the horse.

Well, on this little mare – we began our session just this way. At first, you could tell that she was so confused. She’d toss her nose, trying to find the bit. Or trying to get what she was accustomed to? She started making very small circles near the gate. Over and over. Round and round. Then, little by little, she’d try a bigger circle. Then she’d try the opposite direction. She started settling in and being pretty relaxed. She also preferred to trot. And then I started to ask for a bit faster trot. Every time I’d touch her with my calves, she’d pin her ears. The only time that I’d pick up a single rein was when she’d pin her ears and toss her head. She figured out that she wasn’t gonna get yanked on. She figured out that she could move out relaxed and picked up her pace.
I began to realize a very critical piece in this puzzle: she was used to running into the bit every time she was picked up to move out. She gave up on humans because they were confusing, conflicted creatures that always pulled on her.

We continued to work at a speedy pace. She was compliant and willing. She made larger and larger circles. She quit cutting short corners. She was striding out and seemed. . . happy. Vowing to keep my hands in place, not to touch her mouth, I dared to ask for more.

No ears pinned. No head tossing. Nothing but willingness. She loped. On her own accord, on her own terms. She loped – and it was wonderful.

And then I heard something – not in words or in sound. Not anything that I may ever hear again. But I heard the mare tell me “Trust me.” She felt as though she had been so doubted – she felt so defeated because no one thought she was worth trusting. . . Whether it was due to insecurity of past riders or simply riding style – she never felt like she was given any credit in return for any willingness she gave. She was angry. After all, she is an Arabian. So sensitive to everything that we do. Honestly, though, all horses have that within them. Arabians just wear it on their sleeve. :)

Of course, I allowed her to slow down – praised her extensively – and then had to try again. :) Wow. It was wonderful. And I think she thought so, too. We left the arena today so happy. She was a horse. A trusted horse. Well deserved in her reward for her excellent effort. And SHE knew it!

*~*~*~*~*~*

I proceeded on with working Eragon. He was a little. . . naughty. We were working with in-hand training and skill building using some new techniques that I’ve been studying. He wasn’t interested. He was irritated. Not his normal self – but a colt nonetheless. Decided that we’d work on tying. If patience is an issue – nothing like teaching a little patience like tying.
Although he hated it – you could see it in his face – he stood really well. He paced around a bit, but never fought it and never pulled. I worked around the barn. Praised him. Worked some more. Groomed him. And finished water tanks. And then took him home to his barn and barn-mates. Happy.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Lastly, Deitz used a young willow tree to scratch/relieve an itch on his ‘underside’. . . I didn’t know if the tree would make it. And the colts thought that looked pretty interesting and gave audience to the display. A good laugh to end the day. lol – for real!

Gentle in what you do,
Firm in how you do it.
Buck Brannaman

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Make 2012 YOUR Year

What a crazy, busy and exciting year! So much so, that I didn’t have a lot of time to do a lot of blog work. But my hope, goal and intent – is to write much more in the new year and be of help and service to all of your horsemen and horsewomen out there!  :)

This year has been an eye-opener of sorts. . . and I want to use my personal lessons to help and encourage you in where you are at in your riding, or in your life. You know the saying “Misery loves company”? . . . Well, I think a lot of negative things love company.  Moreso than the positive counterparts.  Let me explain.

When people are insecure – how do they act? What can you almost always expect out of them? The obvious answer is insecure behavior. And the second answer – or the result of that insecure behavior – is impressing such feeling and “lacking” on those around them. What would this look like (in case you don’t already know)?  First, you wouldn’t be good enough for them.  And you certainly wouldn’t do or act or say the right things to or around them. Maybe a little ridicule. A mocking of what you do or who you are. Basically, just downright bad behavior that make YOU feel awful. And with that – their mission is accomplished.

How does this look in dealing with horses? Horses are not the world’s most confident animals. Not even close! They are prey animals, they are nervous, and they are a little bit scared. So, add a good and confident “leader” (you), and you have a horse that is comfortable, listens and communicates well, exercises control under your confident hands, and thus – acts confidently in uncertain situations.  Perfect!!!  Now, think of some of the not-so-happy instances with horses that you’ve seen or heard of: horse never does anything right, horse is always in training, horse spooks at everything or throws a fit at the drop of the hat. . . Not so fun and certainly not safe or condusive for working (or playing).

Both situations, in my estimation, are in the humans’ hands. Granted, some horses have more flight than others, some are more stubborn, etc. – but like us humans, how we are raised and educated leaves a major impact on the direction of our lives. So, what are you telling your horse? Where is your confidence and, thus, your horse’s confidence at? You cannot change what a negative person says about you or what some quack trainer has done to your horse in the past —- what you CAN change is how you go forward from this day on with your life and your horse.

Also, I really wanted to add this in: someone who does not feel much self-worth will make others (you?) question your own worth.  Some people are more easily convinced of this, whereas others fight like hell to prove that the negative person is wrong.  Horses are the same.  Funny how we are so similar and horses are just really big mirrors of ourselves. But for consideration in the new year, I want you to take an inventory. . . Who do you see yourself as? Worthy and confident? Or not good enough and not worthy of investing in yourself (your horsemanship)?

If you do struggle with this – I want you to know RIGHT NOW: you are worth every moment, every penny, and every effort to make your life your own and be as good as you want to be at whatever you want to be.  Whether it is/was a parent, sibling, spouse, friend. . . anyone – who planted the negative seeds within you, choose now to stop that cycle.  Do more, be more, believe for more — and be that positive person for someone to learn from and look up to.

Negativity is contagious and spreads rampantly. . . Let us be the spark in beginning a new trend in the horse world! Encouragement, positivity, and being for others what we may not have received in our past or present.  Make it a GREAT year!  Make it YOUR year!

 

Happy 2012!

Janel

 

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Like it’s been HOT around here…

Yes, we’ve had a record-breaking year… The snow 6 months ago, and now the heat this summer. It’s been trying for man and beast!

Because of the heat lessons have taken the hit. No one likes to ride in the 100 degree temps, except for the die-hard riders! But we’re back and have the schedule set for fall. Lots of good stuff, and all details will be posted soon!

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Spring is here! Really?

We’ve had quite the ups and downs this year so far, and I’m optimistic that spring is here or just around the corner.  The horses are all very energetic and the warmer days make for more comfortable riding.

Stay in the Saddle trailride

Rod prepares for a trailriding lesson

Speaking of more riding, I’m sure many of you who have taken a break from riding for the winter are eyeballing your horses and wondering how he/she will behave once saddled up again.  Well, let’s take a quick look at some tips to make your first ride as safe as possible.

1)  Make sure you are limbered up (a couple weeks of walking or stretching before riding again is always a good idea).  And, make sure your tack is in good shape.  Dry rot, pests, and other horsemen (if you share space) can sometimes make your tack unuseable after sitting dormant for a couple months.  Do a good once over, and repair or replace anything questionable.

2)  Vet check!  Make sure your horse’s teeth haven’t developed any sharp points during the months of munching on hay by having a vet check, and posssibly float, your horse’s teeth.  Young horses need their teeth floated either every six months or at least every year; as well as older horses to watch for waves and points.  Middle-aged horses can usually get by with once per year.  Also, get your shots, coggins, and any other vet concerns taken care of before saddling and riding.

3)  Dry lot.  Keeping your horse off of feed and hay for a few hours, or even overnight, is NOT cruel.  In fact, if you have been somewhat sedentary for a while and were going to start an exercise program, would you want to start on a full gut?  No way!  So, dry lot your horse overnight if you’re going to ride in the morning, or for several hours before your workout if later in the day. 

4)  It also helps to tie your horse for an hour or two prior to riding, saddled or unsaddled.  It gets them thinking about who is the boss and that they are meant to obey.  This is not cruel, just setting the right mind-set.

5)  Lunging or jipping your horse.  Whether you have a young horse that needs to burn off a little excess energy or an older horse that needs its joints warmed up a bit – work your horse out before riding (or even before saddling).  If they have a buck or two in them – let them get it out before you mount up.  And in my experience, if a horse does hump up under saddle while jipping, I quickly bring him to a stop and send him the other way.  A horse will not start something that you do not allow (with or without rider).  A good rule of thumb for any number of undesireable behaviors.

6)  Start small.  I always advise starting out in a roundpen or small lot.  Less space usually means less antics.  Once your horse seems warmed up and relaxed, move into the bigger arena or pen.  After a couple days of this, more or less as only you know your horse, then you can strike out for more country.

Safety should ALWAYS be your first priority.  I have a silly saying – but it is really the truth if you know horses: 

If you are safe and your horse is happy – you have the perfect combination.  You need both, because if one is compromised – you risk a lot.

I hope its a great 2011 so far, and I look forward to seeing you here, in lessons, or on the trail.  God bless!

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Oklahoma – where the snow comes sweeping cross the plains!

This is the first official entry in the Stay in the Saddle blog! Very exciting, but not much to report. . . as snow has covered and paralyzed northeastern Oklahoma this week. We received at our ranch somewhere in the neighborhood of 16-20 inches on Tuesday, and now it is falling again. Roads have been treacherous at best, and the horses are all on vacation. Breaking ice in tanks and putting out alfalfa are the highlights of my week as a horsewomen.

Normally, this is where you will read about my teaching experiences, students’ progress, and horse antics for the week. It should be informative, funny, confiming, life-changing, and many other adjectives that will describe your life as a horse-person. . . But in the meantime, while we thaw out, I’ll have to impress you with other stories or reach back into my memory catalog with other experiences and events.

Today as I watch the snow fall, I’m going to start with my kids: a bit of cabin fever, but behaving very well. Today, they have been riding their stickhorses around both with cowboy hats, belts, and boots – taking turns battling enemies, getting shot, and arguing sematics. They did, however, take a break in the middle of it all to “get married”, which involves dancing the waltz or something similar. :) Since Wyatt has been out of school since Monday, we’ve been taking some time each day to do “homework”. Wyatt has a 1st grade workbook and Viv has a “pre-K” workbook in which they do 2-3 pages each day. Keeping Wyatt fresh and getting Viv in good practice, and of course I have to have a “goodie” bag as a bribe for good work (that’s what all the teachers do, I’m told).

On the outdoor front, as stated before, the horses are on vacation. I kept them all in for the blizzard, but when I let them out the next day they were thrilled! As I opened their stall gates, they waited til they got to the big overhead door and bolted for the bright outdoors. . . They were quickly slowed to a trot and then a walk as they experienced that deep, drifted snow. Deitz, my senior horse in the barn, decided it was too much trouble and returned to his stall. I let him in, but upon no one else came back in so then he wanted to try again. The pictures are of the horses. The flattest part of the snow was up to their knees, and there were drifts close to 4 feet high (or more?) in the southeast corner of the pasture.

Although it was very cold, we did have a couple of days of sun before this new round of snow. The sun was nice to see. Now, just waiting for it to reappear. The sooner, the better. And it would be even nicer for the sun to bring 60-70 degree temps with it!

Here’s dreaming of warm weather, and racing across open pastures free of snow on my favorite horse~ God Bless You!

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