Friday, November 20, 2009

Maggie Z

I wrote a post on May 18 2008 about the bravest woman I know.

What has always impressed me the most about this woman is her determination. When I first met Peg the fear was so huge she could barely talk herself into trotting around an arena on an old, Steady Eddy school horse. She would talk to her horses in an eternal stream of nervous chatter as she road.

"OK, now trot Slowpoke, trot, there yougo, good boy, good boy, now trot, c'mon, let's go....."

Peg would freeze and go fetal over an unasked increase in speed, even at a walk, she would clench her reins in a panic if her mount turned his head to look at something.

Her problems weren't all in her head. She had an extremely screwed up back. The tension from her fear added to the stressed muscles in her back and she would end up a spasming mess.

She was extremely difficult to instruct. Not from her attitude, but because of her fear. Peg couldn't trust me enough to relax and do the exercises I knew would increase her confidence by increasing her balance.

She was so wrapped up in her fear she couldn't hear what I was saying half the time.

I have been known to run off students and clients. Sometimes I run out of patience. Ahem.

But not Peg. Because she is Horsaii. Through and through.

No matter how great her terror I could see the love shining through her eyes every time she went to tentatively pet her horse.

Nothing stopped Peg from coming to her lessons and trying again. I don't think she could have stopped if she wanted to.

So I buried my impatience as best I could and kept giving her the best I had.

I thought about Peg and her issues a lot and tried to have a plan every time I saw her.

Eventually I had to have two plans.

Because sometimes Maggie Z, the alter-ego, showed up instead of Peg.

If Maggie Z came to ride we could work on transitions. I saw soft hands and a rider who could get through a serpentine without going rigid and falling to the inside.

We could honestly evaluate Maggie Z's progress and where she was with her horses.

But then Peg would come back. After an agonizing amount of ground work she would finally climb up. We would walk her horse, often with me on the ground, around the small arena and talk. We talked about our kids, our jobs, maybe a little about the horses, but mostly not.

I got so I could tell who was getting out of the car. Peg or Maggie Z.

So I aways had two lesson plans.

Peg /Maggie Z and I went from dude horses to her own horses, to horses I helped her buy.
Peg stayed with me through three barn changes and countless adaptations of my training process and what I expected from my students.

Peg learned to explore options without me. She worked on her groundwork and studied the clinicians hard to figure out her place in the horse world. She studied folks I'm not particularly excited about (you thought I didn't know, ha!) and ones I liked. She started to hear me.

I pushed harder, Maggie Z got ticked and Peg cried.

She still came every week, month in, month out. Peg became my friend.

I liked Maggie Z too, which is a good thing, because she started showing up more and more.

Maggie Z started loping circles out in our huge unfenced slide track. She helped shag cattle when we were working cows. Sometimes Peg started her ride and stepped up to do the same, she was starting to feel brave.

Peg figured out that Cougar, the good ranch horse I had sold her several years before, was not only a good cow horse, but eventually, her friend.

She started to show. She started to place. She started to eye the reining pen.

Then I retired.

The client I worried the most about was Peg/Maggie Z.

But by now Peg knew she was Horsaii too. She knew she wanted to keep learning.

She ended up hauling out to whoever she could find with cattle for her to work. If they were good or at least good enough, she kept going. If they were bad she moved on. She started to go to local open arena nights the area clubs offered and got so she could work her horse in a crowd.

She ended up riding with Jeff and Gerrie Barnes at Barnes Ranch.

They are a couple of good teachers and Versatility Ranch competitors who run a straight up riding program.

Maggie Z has just bought a 17 year old well trained cow horse. I think this mare is exactly the right next step for her.

I think Peg is ready to fly.

This means we all can.


lopinon4 said...

So funny. I had a student similar to Peg, and it was a similar path. She doesn't yet have horses, but I hope someday that she will. She is truly Horsaii, as well. She wrote up the cutest testimonial for my website...I miss her, and I think I'll look her up! Thanks, Mugs!

Anonymous said...

I burst into tears at the end. Good for you Peg! What a story!!

lopinon4 said...

Mugs, I took this excerpt from a post from last year, but I'm uncertain if you ever referenced it again, as promised. Can we get the story that relates to this comment? :

Old Reliable doesn't run from her owner. That's another story from another day.

I just love your stories, and I learn so much from them!!

autumnblaze said...

Great story. Good for Peg/Maggie Z. Having fear issues of my own and coming through a lot (though not all) I understand her determination despite the fear. Still not sure what made me get up dust off and hop back on each time - I just had to. I bet she felt the same.

Char said...

Wow, that made me tear up. Good for Peg!

mugwump said...

lopinon4 huh? Promised what???

Anonymous said...

Mugs, lopinon4 is saying she wants to hear the 'story from another day' from your quote in a previous post "Old Reliable doesn't run from her owner. That's another story from another day."

mommyrides said...

Fear, is a real nasty four letter word. It's that thing that lives inside me and causes me to over-react to everything my horse does, whether little or big. I don't know where it came from and I'd love to just shove it off the edge of the world. I'm trying to learn from what you teach Mugs. Take it slow, do what you can now. I've also incorporated some singing too, helps to at least keep me breathing. But how do I keep going when somedays I get so discouraged that I wonder what in the heck I'm doing with a horse anymore? And this from a 43 year old woman who still has to check out every horse trailer to see what type of horse is going somewhere and every field of horses, just to catch a glimpse...

quietann said...

Great post. I am currently frustrating the heck out of the barn trainer, because my brain and my body seem to have disconnected WRT certain things. Right lead canter transitions (which I used to be able to do well enough to get through a training level dressage test with 60% to 65% scores) are.... gone. And the tension over that is making everything worse.

mommyrides -- go to your horse every day you can. Give yourself a tiny goal and then another. I've been having way too many "why do I bother" drives to the barn recently, but once I am there I just have a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other attitude.

Heila said...

Mugs did Peg/Maggie Z have Multiple Personality Disorder or some other diagnosed psychiatric condition? (I'm a psychology student, can you tell?)

Mommyrides I'm also a compulsive checker of horseboxes and fields. My non-horsey husband eventually decided if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, and will now point out horses next to the road to me if we're driving somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Heila, my understanding was not that she actually had Multiple Personality Disorder, but that some days she just had it in her to cross that line.
Maybe I'm wrong, but that's me. Somedays I'm ready for a challenge and will gallop in the open, but other days I'm too scared to get on or at the slightest shy, will get off.
So either way I can relate to that desire to banish your scared side and ride like you mean it..every ride.

Heila said...

Anonymous I have also had some serious fear issues at times, and good days and bad day. In retrospect these might have been somewhat related to a mood disorder I was diagnosed with. But either way, you do have days when you feel more confident and days when you don't, and I found that an instructor you really trust and who can read you and your horse well is a very good investment.

lopinon4 said...

Mugs, maybe I found it...but, I can't be certain. Thanks, Anonymous! :)

Heila said...

Off topic: My saddle does not quite fit my horse anymore and I might be looking for a new one. Does anybody have experience of Sommer saddles? They're quite new here in South Africa. I need a general purpose saddle for a wide, short backed horse.

mugwump said...

Heila - Good grief No! Maggie Z will come kick my ass if she thinks I'm presenting her as having mental health issues. Peg is Peg. Maggie Z was a name she came up with jokingly after I said, "Who's riding today and what did you do with Peg?"
And that was simply another joke from me because I was seeing a strong surge of confidence.
We used the name Maggie Z as a confidence builder.
Now it's a fond nick name.
Yikes I have to be careful.
I'll buy breakfast next time Z.

Heila said...


Heidi the Hick said...


This is why I want to teach people to ride horses. I mean, it's because I have to have horses in my life, and it would be nice if they could earn their keep, and it's good for them to work, and I'm crap at office jobs, etc etc... but to see somebody make this progress...


I love horses so much, I want to share it. It must make all the work that goes into a challenged student totally worth it when she shines on her own. I truly hope to experience that some day!

Heidi the Hick said...

pfft I just read all the comments and realized I signed in under the wrong address, and on top of that, realized using the word "challenged" has some negative connotations, yikes!

We're all kind of challenged... Me, I've got a twisted spine and an anxiety disorder. I probably shouldn't be anywhere near horses, but my back feels better if I ride regularly and I've never had the panic attacks on a horse.

So I get back on. I've had fear issues over the years, and got back on. It was just how it's done. But for some people it's terrifying and I am proud of anybody who can take that step and do what they do despite whatever's in the way.

Shanster said...

Lovely. Thank-you Mugs!

Joy said...

Just beautiful. You go Peg/Maggie Z!!!! You're my hero.

Anonymous said...

Hi, This is Peg. It took years for me to realize I had a problem. Fortunately for me, I found Mugs,and she stood by me through it all, including the regression therapy, lithium, and even shock treatments. I couldn't have done it without her support and encouragement. Now I'm able to go out on unsupervised visits to a local riding stable. Yes, I have my 50 cents for the ride. Easy there big fella. Are we brave today, my Precious Peg? Yes, yes, we must ride and be brave. There's no Chicken Peg here to bother us. OK, now trot, my precious, trot, there yougo, good boy, good boy, keep going, c'mon, let's go....." Now lope, my Precious, or the nasty Mugwump will punish us and make us clean her filthy stalls while our wicked step-sisters go to the horse show in their pink leopard leotards. Now do the queen wave, precious Peg. And Maggie Z rides off, grinning from ear to ear and queen waving to the crowds as Mugwump yells "You're on the wrong lead!"

Peg/Maggie Z
Or is it?

HorsesAndTurbos said...

OMG, Mugs has an alter-ego LOL!

Love it, Peg/Maggie Z

Helen said...

*Puts hand up* Yes, I was a Peg/Maggie Z as a child, but I could. not. give up horses and riding. I ended up owning three!

I wish to apologise to my frustrated instructors and all my friends who had slower trail rides than they would have preferred because I wasn't game to do everything they did.

Jayke said...

Mugs - excellent post, my mother is the same way, she's gone from barely being able to trot her old school master at the 'scary' end of the arena, to riding a wobbly four year old! I'm so proud of her, and it's thanks in large part to her brillant instructor's patience and guidance - without people like you, there would be a lot more frustrated, frightened riders out there.

Peg - Your comment was hilarious! It sounds exactly like the sort of thing I would say to my Oliver to threaten him when he's being a slug on the trail or some other place where I'm not confident.

HorsesAndTurbos said...

Too funny..after reading this and riding yesterday, I realize how far I've come. I went from not having ridden in 18-plus years 3 or so years ago, to yesterday riding my mare, alone in my arena, without holding onto her reins (my fear is that I am on her face, which I am not, but I do this to be sure) walking/trotting over groundpoles...trusting myself to stay on and her to listen to me.

Not to mention trailriding her alone!

Thanks for the reminded me feel better about myself!

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