Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wordy Wednesday

Here you go. Our first open story day. My next Sonita post is halfway done, so we'll have some fun reading for a few days. I'm going to suggest anybody who writes a piece for "Wordy Wednesday" make sure they add their blog address so we can cruise your blog and expand our horizons......

Our first story (I'm going in the order they come in) is from

There are some of us that are born with a desire to break the bank, spend endless hours in the worst weather conditions, forget sleep and most of all ourselves for a chance to be with horses. There are those that grow out of it and those that never think of anything else but horses.

I recall the first time I saw a real horse that I can remember. I am sure there were times before this but none as vivid as this one.
I seem to have the ability to remember things from when I was young in shocking clarity. I was barely two years old when my one grandmother died. She was schizophrenic and had cancer. I remember her coffin, a delicate pastel purple with dark lilacs painted on the corners.
Another memory from when I was two was picking out my first dog, Baby, our yellow Labrador. Baby was a faithful companion but that is not what I remembered the day by.
We went to a local farm where they sold antiques out of their cute little rustic barn. I don't remember the four puppies there because something else like magic had captured my full attention.
My parents talked business with the lady and I watched from between two fence boards, eyes glued to the vision in front of me.
A man on a chestnut horse running faster than anything my little eyes had ever fell upon. They were galloping down a fence row, the man's hat had blown off but held on by stampede strings around his neck. He leaned into the horses mane; brown hair whipping his face as the hooves that carried them both hovered just above the grassy earth with every stride. I could hear each beat with the loud thump of my heart. They seemed to run forever before turning around and galloping back down the fence. I was captivated.
I probably stood there for a few minutes but they seemed like hours. Etching the image into my mind and soul.

I went home that day and designated an old steam trunk we kept on the porch the stable. This is where I kept all my "horses" There was a chestnut like I had seen, a grey, a white and my favorite, the long limbed, powerful black stallion. I would open the trunk and take off at a gallop and leap as far as my young legs would let me onto the lawn. It was my imagination, it stretched and still does. The back yard was a huge meadow that went for miles and miles. We hid in the evergreens as our forest and stood by the pond that was the ocean.
I played horses at school, found friends that played with me. We would run around nickering and winning until the teacher would call and we would gallop to the line up to see who won the race.

In reality when I go past that same cute little farm where we got my dog, the fence they raced is only 120 feet and the man that flew on that horses back is now old and crippled. The horse is still there but something tells me he doesn't get ridden much anymore. I stopped one night when no one was around and patted that old gelding over the fence, silently thanking him for awakening my dreams and creating memories.

If only.

My mother has always loved horses so I can say it probably is hereditary. Her best friend was a farrier and wild cowgirl in heart and soul. The thing that sticks is the grandmother I mentioned. My mother used to tell me stories, I know they hurt her at one point. Now she makes sense of it all that she was witnessed and experienced the bond and calm that one finds when spending time around horses.
When my grandmother had one of her "episodes" she would get her basket and take a walk across a couple fields to visit the local equids. Along the way she would gather grasses and weeds to feed them. My mother reported that when she returned she seemed to be in her right mind. No doctor or medicine in the world was or is capable of doing that for her condition.

So I invite any of you (I know there isn't many but spread the word please!) who reads this to blog, in your own blog and write about the first memory of a horse. You don't have to be horsaii but everyone goes through a stage in life where we are captured in the hypnotizing hoof beats of equus.

Here's number 2- This came in from

How do you ride - mentally?

I read something interesting by Mary Wanless some days ago, and I would like to share it with more people as I believe it can make an interesting discussion.

Anyway, the basic question is – what goes on in your mind when you are riding?

Are you riding with your left brain (analyzing) or your right brain (feel)?
Are you talking to yourself when you are riding?
What do you remember after your riding session - your good moments, or the bad ones?
Mary Wanless compared the thought processes of the “normal” rider with the “elite” riders, and found things that differed.
She also found differences between riders of different sports.

In her findings, some riders often had a silent conversation with themselves when they rode, others seldom had that.
Some riders focused on what went well, and did not dwell much on the things that did not work out as planned, while other riders often got mentally stuck in the bad parts.

Who do you believe were the elite ones? The normal ones?

Dressage riders had a narrow internal focus of attention - in opposition to someone that rides polo or racing, which requires focus on rapidly changing external circumstances!
Mary W also says that our preferences here probably will determine what sphere of riding we will be drawn to, and points out that this is one of the challenges facing event riders (who commonly excels in jumping but often have difficulties with the dressage).
She mentioned one example of a successful event rider that had problems to readjust and focus in the dressage test. This rider was too aware of the surroundings and got disturbed by them, and as a result the horse also had concentration problems.

Interesting thoughts.

It made me think about how I function when I ride.

How do you function?

I kind of get into a mental yoga-state when I ride, very much a "feel"-rider I believe. The result is that I sometimes can be a bit passive.
And maybe this is the reason that I am not a good show jumper.
I kind of go with the flow, and then all these obstacles get in the way, and afterwards I am a bit dazed and kind of have the feeling “what happened??”.
Not very “pro-active”, lol!
Maybe if I jumped more I would improve, but as I am so happy with my dressage I don’t believe I will reach that stage…

The dressage riding is a mental time-out from everything for me.
I can be stressed or feeling down before I start the riding, but seldom afterwards. I get totally absorbed by the task at hands, and forget about everything else.

It’s my lucky pill!
And I don’t get depressed if things don’t work out as planned. I believe that is a consequence of riding for so many years; I don’t feel that urge to prove things anymore. I ride for fun. I know it goes up and down. You might seem stuck for a while, but there are always plateaus and it is just to put your mind and body to work and one day the problem will be solved. In a way that is intriguing in itself.
And when riding a young horse where things can happen fast, you have to watch out so you don’t limit yourself.
I am very grateful for my instructor who pushes me. I am afraid I otherwise would go into a Happy Hippie-state (join a club, Laura?) and have these pleasurable yoga-sessions and the progress would take twice as much time as necessary, lol!

I cherish those precious moments when things work really well.
The very best ones are when my horse is really through and soft in the body, and it feels like I just have to think what we are to do, and we do it. Together.
It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it is magic!
And when it happens, I go over it over and over again in my mind for several days, and keep the happy feeling inside.
I know that for people watching, dressage may seem as interesting as watching paint dry.
But it is so absolutely enthralling when you are up in the saddle yourself.
For me, I believe it is the feeling of being one with my horse that really gives me the kick.
The search for the magic moments, and the happiness when I find them.

What are your happy moments on horseback?

Are you a right or a left brain person?

And my third and final story for this week comes from.....Oops don't have a blog address!

While I do not comment much on the blog I have been reading it pretty much since Mugwump started it. I did feel compelled to send this story along to Mugwump when I read about her ‘Wordy Wednesday’ idea. This blog has made me think a lot about my self as a horse person and has also given me a lot of good ideas for training my horses (although I’m currently down to one). I just want to say thank you to Mugwump for being an inspiration for me. Very rarely do I read things that get me thinking to the degree that Mugwump gets me thinking.

I think all horse people are crazy to some degree. We all have the family and friends that cannot possibly understand why would pump our life’s blood into these hulking animals whose main functions in life are eat, sleep, and mate. I also think that horse people somehow come out of the womb going on about horses. Those wails we first made were our first musings about horses. Now I’m an implant in my family. A sixth generation Texan adopted to a Minnesotan family. Now this Minnesota family that was graced with my presence doesn’t have a shred of interest in horses. I, on the other hand, clawed my way from a suburb to a barn aisle. My parents found out early on that their horse crazy daughter was not going through a ‘phase’. Well, at least my dad did. Mom dug her heels in about that one until I was about 16 insisting my interests would soon transfer to boys- they didn’t, well at least not entirely.

I can remember almost every ride I’ve ever taken on a horse but it isn‘t so much the ride I remember as the fall. When I was about six my parents formed a reciprocal type of relationship with a farm family that had horses. The parents of the farm children wanted their kids to have friends and my parents thought it would be a treat for the ‘burb kids to get a chance to hop on some horses that they agreed to bring over every weekend. Well, I hopped big time. I remember their big (probably wouldn’t look so big now) flea-bitten grey gelding named Bumper. I got hoisted high up into the saddle along with my best buddy Dan for our first ride. As the owner led us around I yelled “Faster, faster!” all while Dan wailed. My words penetrated through Dan’s cries and we started to trot and of course Bumper had a trick up his hoof. Good old Bumper had let out a good old breath and the collectively uncoordinated bodies of both Dan and I soon jounced the saddle off to the side. The handler didn’t look back as the sounds coming from behind her never changed until Dan ate turf. I was still laughing and having a grand old time and Dan was still crying. The saddle continued to bounce around on the side of Bumper and I remember seeing Dan tumbling to the ground behind me (where our parents were during this time I have no idea). I grabbed on tighter to the horn and held on laughing. The handler finally looked back when Dan thumped to earth and much to her dismay there was one crying child on the ground and another about to join him there. She finally stopped Bumper and I tumbled to the ground still laughing, got to my feet and immediately demanded another ride. Dan did not. Dan still hates horses to this day.

I’ve always wondered where my driving compulsion has came from. Dan and I were raised next door to each other but we had radically different reactions to the horse. Normally Dan was a much more precocious child than I was; I was a very shy and quiet child inclined to bouts of sobbing over imagined slights. Dan was loud, crazy and hyper that hardly heard a word that was said to him. Up on Bumpers back (or side as it was) it seemed as though we switched roles. I can remember feeling a freedom that I had never felt before. I remember feeling the feeling until my butt landed in the grass. While Dan was busy trying to black out his terrifying memory; I held onto it. I held onto it until the next weekend where I would get to ride Bumper again. Until I could get a new memory to grab onto.

I don’t really remember the people surrounding Bumper and I don’t really remember what happened to them. I think they faded into the background the second I saw Bumper. Somehow I remember his flea-bitten grey coat, his awkwardly large and ugly head and his kind dark eyes and that was it. As if it wasn’t enough that not a day went by where I didn’t think about horses somehow my tumble was proof positive in my mind that it was meant to be. Little did my parents know that the tumble I took off Bumper would be fuel to my fire. I’m not sure I even honestly know how that tumble proved to be my validation for my horse related fantasies. Maybe it was the fact that Bumper so radically changed my role with Dan. Maybe it was the feeling of freedom that I felt. I don’t honestly know.

I often wonder how it is that we get this itch under out skin. In my case I have thoughts that it was somehow bred into me and that my biological family was ripe with horse people. I, at least, know that I’m not biologically related to my non-horsaii (thanks Mugwump) family and I can imagine those of you that are also from non-horsaii families have entertained similar thoughts. I don’t remember a time where I didn’t think about horses and I imagine it’s the same with many people. The reason I’m in college right now as a pre-vet major is so I can get a nice job to support my horses and to learn more about the way their bodies work. Heck, I know more about my horse’s body than my own! I spend a majority of my time thinking about training complications (yes, even in and especially in class) and have been known to spend hours thinking about if I should switch around my mare’s bit. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t think about horses and I hope there never comes a time in my life when I stop thinking about horses.

I can’t give the words of wisdom that Mugwump can offer but when she mentioned that she wanted to feature people on Wednesdays all I could think about was some of my first experiences with horses. How I have lived and breathed horses since before I could remember. How the smell of a barn can instantly soothe my nerves and get rid of my anxieties. All I could think about was how did I get to where I am. To the point where I live and breathe for my horse with a single mindedness that some people around me find maddening. I shared my story knowing that most of you could relate to the feeling that I am attempting to describe and how that first fall dropped me onto a path that I feel very fortunate and lucky to be on.

Thank you,

If I didn't post you today I'll get to it next week, I've had a great response and don't want to overload....I have several stories on file, keep 'em coming!


mocharocks said...

This is great! I suck at writing but I love reading other people's stories! Thanks to Bitless, HoC and Onetoomany for sharing and thanks to Mugs for organizing this!

onetoomany said...

I would have left an address for my blog but it doesn't exist. I've thought about starting one but figure I'll just end up putting it down after I write about two posts. Much like the countless journals I've attempted to start.

Unknown said...

Yay! Thanks mugs for posting my horsaii post. I loved the others too. This is such a good idea.

Smurfette said...

I have no blog, I think about what you guys write, and sometimes respond. I can not remember NOT riding. "I RIDE" that is what I DO. Its what I love, its what I spend most of my time thinking of. I've tried riding professionally once or twice. The horses and I got along just fine. I don't have the patience with the people. If I had a handler maybe?

Do I think or feel when I ride? Maybe somebody can tell me. I have come back from good runs (speed eventing or reining) and had to ask what went on, because I won't remember a THING after the run started. Practicing, I think a lot about what I plan to accomplish that day, and what steps I plan to use to accomplish that, but when I am riding, I would say this "feels" right, or wrong. HUMMM, I just don't know.

CurtsBooks said...

Thinking/feeling when riding--I tend to overthing things, so have been working on more feeling when riding. But I do have an internal dialogue with myself while riding. When I find myself doing something less then the best, I change things & observe what happens. Sometimes I just go somewhat Zen like and feel the movement and the moment.
I am definitely Horsaii--can't recall my first horse experience but by age 5, no one could get my off my rocking horse and the dolls were ignored. My parents and grandparents were not animal lovers but all 3 of us siblings ended up animal nuts--me for horses & cats, my sister for cats, my brother is a vet. Who knows where it comes from.
Thanks to you who wrote for the blog today!!

Laura Crum said...

Great stories and insights. Thanks. I really enjoyed them.

Its my day to post on the equestrianink blogspot, so my Weds story is there. It was inspired by this blog and contains a big thank you to all of you who comment here. Your thoughts have often inspired me. And, of course, the biggest thanks of all to Janet/Mugwump--I have so much enjoyed your blog. The Weds stories will be great fun.

Esquared said...

Do I think? Usually I just ride, blank mind, ambivalent about the world. Lately I took up dressage though so between me trying to get some massive 17+hh horse to do what my little 5' person legs tell it to and listening to my instructer yell at me while I spend an hour on a 20 meter circle I find I think alot more that is typical for me.

HorseOfCourse said...

Thanks for posting my post Mugs, and thanks to onetoomany and Sydney for two wonderful stories!

Esquared - I posted this on my blog a while ago.
In the following discussion we touched into what kind of instructor we had compared to what kind of rider we were.
Maybe it is an advantage to have an instructor that is the opposite to yourself?
Like if you are an analyzing rider, you need an instructor with feel, and the other way round. What do you think?

mns said...

Thanks for all the great stories, everyone. GReat idea, Mugwump. You're stirring up horsaii memories of being in a pony ring and being so small that my feet didn't reach the stirrups.... on a SHETland. heehee! I also remember how elated I was when I COUld finally reach those stirrups. Aaaah, first horse memories. Happy grin!

p.s. Thanks, Mugwump, for what you wrote a few days ago about slowing down a speedy horse. Turning into the fence is working grrrreat on my Energizer Bunny ASB. We're BOth learning how to relax!! :)

mugwump said...

I should have been thinking when I made it Wed. Laura!

Laura Crum said...

Oh, I didn't mean it was a problem...honest, Janet. I'm just working away on the rewrite on book #11 that my editor requested (uhmm, demanded, actually) and between that and writing a blog post for equestrianink, I'm about "written out". But I'll send you a "Weds story" one of these weeks. Once book #11 is really off my hands.

slippin said...

Horse of course:
I liked your thoughts on riding...I am one that focuses on the negative things that happend while working my horse on cattle(I ride cutting)and when I mess up, it usually affects my whole ride because I get frustrated at myself for screwing up, then I mess up again...and it becomes a vicious cycle! I have found a really good book though on positive thinking while riding. And it has helped me some...its called "The Gift" by Barbara Schulte. Excellent read and it doesn't focus ONLY on cutters. It applies to every disapline. Its a good read!

onetoomany said...

Well, unfortunately when I last posted I had just woken up and didn't say a whole lot.

First thank you very much Mugs for putting my story up, I feel very honored to be included.

Secondly, I was thinking about how I think when I ride. I'm for sure a thinker and it leads to a lot of over riding on my part but only in the arena and oddly enough only on my A horse. I think it's because I know her so well and I know what she's about to do before she even does it. I'll feel something starting to go wrong and instead of letting my mare go to the next step and do the wrong thing I find that I correct her before she does it. I've been very conciously trying to let go and just ride lately and my horse has relaxed a lot as a result and has actually started to go a lot nicer. I still have moments where I start tweaking her before she does something wrong but I've been catching myself. When I go on trail, it's an entirely another way. I toss out my reins (probably dangerously long), kick my feet out of the stirrups and just let her do her own thing. I'm trying to ride more in the arena like I do on the trail, it's one of my summer projects.

Thanks again everybody, I really enjoyed the other stories.

moosefied said...

Great idea; looking forward to more stories.

Joy said...

I really enjoyed all three of those.

Bitless, yours really touched my heart. Your grandmother sounds a bit like my grandmother. But mine never found her place of peace, sadly.

And horseofcourse's made me think. I first thought "I don't think at all when I ride". But that's not exactly right. Anytime I'm with horses is the one time I know I will be fully "in the moment". I think about what I'm doing. I notice every little thing. Things like bugs and wind and weather. And my horse's ears and movements. But I don't worry about all the other stuff (non-horse life things). Its why I am addicted to horses!!

I loved onetoomany's story. And the crazy comment? Yeah. I always say everyone has their own brand of crazy. (Sometimes it's just a bit more obvious in some rather than others!)

I like this idea mugwump! I look forward to reading next Wed.

Now where's the Sonita story?

mugwump said...

Sydney- When I read your story I can see the chestnut horse running by. I see him clearly, I'm looking right at the shoulder, girth area. All I see is the mans legs as they go by. As they run down the fence I can see horse and rider in entirety. Which tells me I'm about 8 years old in my picture. Good writing, good imagery.

HOC- I loved this post. I have an ongoing problem with keeping my focus when I'm working the corners or turn-back, or heck even cutting. I also run into trouble going down the fence. Why? Because I begin to think about how my horse is responding, how I should be setting her up, that sort of thing and I lose track of the cow. Maybe I should be riding dressage...

Onetoomany, Minnesota has a rocking Reined cowhorse association.....From the way you rode that flea bitten gray I'd think it might be you're kind of sport. That would freak out the non-horsaii parts of your family..hee hee

mugwump said...

Sonita's coming...probably tomorrow. I'm writing about a 90 year old woman who was a "Rosie the Riveter" at our own Peterson Airforce base during WWII today.

Shadow Rider said...

What a great idea! I love the stories so far. I'd love to contribute, but not seeing an e-mail to send it to? and do you want photos as well?

mugwump said...

shadowrider -

Redsmom said...

I love the stories today. One thing I've always loved about riding is that it is very therpeutic for me. It takes me away from all other thoughts and focuses me only on the moment. Even on trails, when there are moments to relax and look at the scenery, I'll bet you I have never thought about what was waiting for me back at the house or the office or even what I would have for dinner. I might think about which route we will take or where we will canter, but that's as far ahead as it usually gets. And when I come back, I feel better. Ocasionally, I'll have a frustrating ride like Sunday when Matty was balky, but even then, I don't seem to generalize it to the rest of what is going on in life. And when I have a really bad day, like Monday, I can cry on Dude's ample withers until he is wet to the skin and then I feel better. I learned long ago that horses do something for me that no person, food or drug can do. I can't really put any particular words to it, but horses do something, like change my brain waves or something.

RuckusButt said...

All great stories. I made myself read one every couple hours to stretch it out and ponder each :)

HorseofCourse, I'm glad you reposted this here, I missed it when you first posted it on your blog. I definitely over-analyze a lot when I ride, both the horse and myself. It's strange because I think I am naturally more of a "feeler" but being a researcher I am conditioned to think analytically. Also, when I started riding consistently again a year ago, I was SO motivated to improve for the sake of the horses I was riding that I thought about everything.

I have actually not allowed myself to read horse/riding books for the last month or so to try to encourage myself to feel my position etc. Gradually, I have felt the very happy balance between the two.

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

I rarely think very much about riding while I am doing it. I definitely do it by feel while my mind is going over work, or something in my personal life.

I only think about it when a horse is giving me trouble and I think that thinking about it makes me ride worse. It's like backing up a horse trailer - you have to go by feel to get it right.

onetoomany said...

Mugwump- You are very close. I do sorting and penning and am going to be taking reining lessons very soon. Unfortunately my horse just doesn't have the cow instincts to be competitive (half-Arab). I am, however, good friends with one of the best cow/reining horse breeders in the state and have been oggling one of their babies, just have to come up with the time and money (I find myself short on both of those). Funny thing is I actually board my horse down the road from the president NCRCHA. Been thinking about wandering down and picking his brain.

mns said...

mugwump wrote:
"Onetoomany, Minnesota has a rocking Reined cowhorse association....."

This is great to hear, Mugwump. Thanks! I, too, live in Minnesota and am planning to go watch my first NCRCHA show in May. I'm really looking forward to it after reading your blog and trying to visualize some of the things you've written about. This is gonna be Fun!

Merideth said...

YEA!!!!!! a fellow Mary Wanna-be!!!
have you ever taken a lesson with her?? or read one of her books?? if you haven't you should!!
her lessons are much fun!! you learn so much!!!

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