Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years Resolutions

I truly do have a post ready answering a bitting question I got several months ago, but things keep popping up, like holidays and good music.

I am looking forward to 2010. I'm not sure where it will go or where I'll end up but I do have some plans. I guess they can be called resolutions.

I plan to keep my head down and continue to write.

This blog has opened countless doors for me and kept my mind sharp and thinking ahead. I am grateful to all of you and will keep posting as long as there is interest.

My daughter told me she looks at my life as a continual series of term papers. It gives her the shivers, and not in a good way.

I do write every day until my eyes burn and my fingers cramp. But I find my world growing in leaps and bounds, I look forward to the beginning of each day and have a terrible time controlling the non-stop stream of ideas that whips through my wacky brain. I have the privilege of learning something new every day. Not bad.

My new life is just about as wonderful and fulfilling as my life as a trainer was. Except now I'm inside when the storms hit.

I plan on fighting hard to continue finding a balance with my horses and my business life. Things are slowly falling into place. I hope to be attending our local cuttings with my yellow mare and Leland by spring. The blond beast should be competing and my little 3-year-old can practice hauling, ponying and standing tied.
I also intend to have his butt in the herd by fall.

I plan to continue my quest to figure out my place in the world. I have begun volunteering at one of the horse rescues I sponsor. It seems to be a good fit. I like being immersed in lots of horses needing lots done. Now the horses I work with are being given a chance to avoid a one-way trip to Mexico. It feels pretty good and should give me plenty of new stories to share and discuss.

I guess this is as close as I'm going to get to New Years Resolutions. Tonight I'm going to cook a steak and some crab legs and put a puzzle together with my old man.

Talk to you soon.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Me and Dave

When I was a sixth grader at Whitney Elementary School I lived in Boise Idaho. I was able to walk home from my school and had a habit of hanging out in the groomed fields behind the playground after the bell rang.

I would play "horse" with a few friends and sometimes just play by myself, climbing the trees or galloping across the grass. Our football fields made perfect pastures to race my imaginary horses on.

One day I was sitting high in a tree when I saw a young boy riding a horse across the grass. I couldn't believe it, the beautiful paint was the real thing, not a horse out of my imagination and the kid was my age.

I scrambled down from the tree and stood in the field watching. I was entranced. The boy rode bareback. He sat his horse easily and loped (in my mind galloped) in big looping circles across the grass.

I kept edging farther into the middle of the field. I was so overwhelmed by the show I couldn't even be jealous.

Pretty soon he was circling his horse around my admiring, slack jawed self. The boy sat straight with his chest puffed out and would order the horse to go faster or slower in a loud voice. Every now and then he would peek at me out of the corner of his eye. The boy finally stopped and walked his horse over.

"Do you want to pet him?" He asked me.

I shyly stepped up to the horse's shoulder and stroked his silky coat. The bay and white hair was short and slick and warm under my hand. A fine line of black hair separated each white spot from the bay.

"Climb up here, I'll give you a ride," the boy said.

My knees almost gave out.

We walked back to my favorite climbing tree and I scrambled up high enough to get on the horse.

The boy stepped his horse out and took me for a ride around the fields. He trotted a little, but it soon became clear I couldn't keep my balance and would soon pull us both to the ground so we dropped back to a walk.

I don't remember the boy's name but his horse was named Pepper.

I ran home after my magical ride and flew past our dog, Linus, skipping our ritual wrestling match, and went straight into the house to find my mother.

"Guess what I did! It was incredible!" I started and told her my whole amazing story.

She waited patiently while I went through every detail.

When I finally wound down she leaned against the kitchen counter and asked me, "Do you remember what day it is?"

I racked my brain, but the day of the week kept slipping past me.

"No." I said.

My mother had the look on her face she always had when she was about to drop a bomb on me.
She looked like she had just hit her funny bone, but was in church, so she couldn't yell or jump around.

"It's Tuesday," she told me.

I stood there staring at her. I still didn't get it.

"Your flute lesson," she prodded.

My stomach sank.

I looked at the clock. It was 5:30. My lesson was at 4:00.

My family did not have a lot of extra money. I was the first child out of a bunch of kids allowed to play a musical instrument and the lessons were a huge bonus.

If I missed a lesson the money for it was lost. I loved playing my flute. I was heartbroken at the thought of blowing it.

"Go to your lesson. Apologise for forgetting and tell him you'll be back next week," my mom said and turned back to the sink.

I grabbed my flute and flew out the door. I threw my flute in the basket on my bike and my leg over the seat. I pedaled as fast as I could and headed to the little music store. My green Huffy turned into Pepper as we tore down the streets. I slammed into every pothole I could find and rode on the gravel berm with my feet off of the pedals, I was going to be able to ride by myself the next time I saw that kid.

My flute teacher was a gruff old man with a short white beard and little wire-rimmed glasses.

He stood in silence and listened to my wandering excuse. I was embarrassed and nervous but couldn't help but tell every detail of my ride.

"So you like horses huh?" He asked me. "Enough to forget your flute lesson?"

"Yes," I answered. I could feel my face turn red.

"Come inside," he told me.

I followed him into the music room. The curtains were pulled and the piano cover was down. The air smelled musty.

He searched through a filing cabinet for a minute and pulled out a piece of sheet music.

"This is a harder piece of music than you're used to. I want you to figure this out at home. When you come back next week I'll show you how to play it right."

I rode back home trying to decipher the sheet music and steer at the same time. The notes were jumpy and the rhythm was funny. It was called Take Five.

I got home and started to try to play the music. It was hard, but I kept at it, I liked some of the sound I was getting.

The next week I was at my lesson a little early. I sat in a chair waiting and blew the rhythms from my new song in the head-joint of my flute.

"You have the mechanics of this piece but this music isn't about mechanics. This music tells a story. You have to play it like you're describing a picture to someone," he told me.

I was captivated. I already had grown up with music that told me stories. My mother played records for us that caught our imagination. My brother and I would act out games to Holst's The Planets and I could gallop around the house on a rainy day listening to Aaron Copeland until my mother was berserk.

"Let me show you," he said and started playing a beautiful pounding beat on the piano for me to play my flute to. When I started in with my part I could see colors.

My world changed that day. I was introduced to jazz by an elderly music teacher in Boise Idaho. I never became a connoisseur of jazz, but I became a fan and a better musician. I learned a man named Dave Brubeck had written the piece I was learning to play and became a fan of his as well.

I watched the Kennedy Center Honors last night. Dave Brubeck was one of the inductees. I sat and watched as his life and music were described. Then came the pounding rhythms which start the flow of perhaps his most well known hit, Take Five.

The announcer began to tell a story. Dave Brubeck is a ranchers son. His father taught him to ride and rope, his mother taught him the piano.

Brubeck says the song came into his head while he was still on the ranch. He was loping a horse across the fields. The steady rhythm of the horse's gait was in his head when he began to hear a counter rhythm. The song Take Five soon fell into place.

Forty years ago Take Five became a very specific milestone in my life. It turned me into a musician. I have pounded out the beat on my table as I draw and danced around my house to this wonderful song.

I found out just last night that I have been riding horses with this song my entire life. Wow man.

Here's a link to groove with Dave.

If that doesn't work go to You Tube and look up Dave Brubeck Take Five

Monday, December 28, 2009

Mouthy Mondays

Hey, I have to get to work.....The holidays are kicking my butt. But, I don't think you've read this one, tomorrow I should have time to address a bitting question from someone who has been waiting, I don't know, a decade maybe? So enjoy, I'll be back....I liked the short, clear images, almost like poetry....

Getting There

by Sophiebelle

- On a Clydesdale at a country fair. My toddler lungs scream until I’m let down.

- We’re at a farm. A lady puts me on a horse on a lunge line. I touch my toes, his ears. We trot.

- My mum gives me a horse magazine. We’ve moved to France, I can’t understand half of the articles but I love it anyway. She says I’m going to start riding lessons. I am deliriously happy and dance around the house.

- My first lesson, a girl shows me how to put on a bridle. I vow I will never put my fingers inside a slobbery horse mouth like that.

- I fall in love with Pablo, then Edelweiss. We canter through the forest, following the instructor in a long twisting line. We put the ponies in the arena and watch them run around.

- New riding school. It’s in the middle of the city : house horse box horse box house. My lesson is Thursday evenings, school finishes at 4:30. In winter we ride in the covered arena because it’s dark outside.

-My favourite horse is Takirou, the ponies are named after chocolate bars. Everyone wants to ride Farouk : he is part Arab, gray and exotic, white-tailed, spirited. I finally get my chance. “Gather your reins, Sophie! How are you going to control him when we go outside?”

- My horse lands heavily after a jump. He swerves and I hit the ground with my elbow. I wait in the office clutching it. It hurts so much I kick the wall. Finally mum rushes in, white faced.

- Two lots of surgery, two nails, one screw, three stitches, fifteen staples. The worst part? No riding for six months.

- A summer treat : four full days of riding, dressage in the mornings, jumping in the afternoons. Helode has the smoothest canter I have ever ridden. Later he finds my afternoon tea apple in my grooming bag and eats it.

- Another summer : camp. We ride in straight lines, all trot together. One girl’s pony jumps sideways, up a huge bank taller than him. His rider is frozen. It’s terrific.

- We’re back in Australia : a bit of a lull. I ride when I can ; I’m paying for my own lessons now, with pocket money.

- My parents send me to riding camp again. It’s way out in the sticks, takes four hours to get there. It’s a 3, 000 acre working cattle station, they also breed Quarter Horses. The riding string of is full of mounts that are worth their weight in gold, the owner is a guru. She sends me back to call the cows to water after a muster. It is the first time I’ve ridden unsupervised. We stand on the hill, just me and my horse, surrounded by mist and cattle.

- After my second camp there the owner calls, wants to talk to my parents. After they hang up they say she wants to know if I’d like to volunteer. I am deliriously happy and dance around the house.

- I peel potatoes for hours in the kitchen, paint fences, clean the truck. Sometimes I leave an hour after the ride has gone out, have to catch up. I saddle my pony and we canter through the paddocks, dodging thistles.

- Now I’m a fully paid staff member. I’m entrusted with lesson groups and trail rides. I chase cows. We staff also get the best horses; the naughty ones, the new ones, the green ones. We come out on weekends to help out on the stud.

- I discover a lady who leases horses not far from my uni. I lease Gregory, achieve a lifelong dream of going to Pony Club. We are jumping there, he twists, I fall and break my shoulder.

- Three months in a sling. I have one ride before Australia is hit by Equine Influenza. No riding for another three months. I don’t know it yet, but I haven’t had the chance to regain my confidence.

- I start leasing Nick, and Harry to go to Pony Club. Dad is perpetually confused because all the horses have people names. “Who are you talking about, a friend or a horse?”

- Nick is getting increasingly nappy in the park. I’d taught him to walk through the creek instead of leaping it, but we can’t even get near it any more. This is in the middle of Sydney, the bus and bike riders don’t help. I’m also getting uncomfortable with the way the horses are kept. Fear gets the better of me. I’m privately relieved when I have to stop leasing because I can’t afford it. I wish I could take my boys with me.

- My confidence returns at camp. The hairy moments are still hairy, but I trust the people, the horses, the wide open space.

- Mum and I are at a horse exposition in Melbourne. I watch a hoof-trimming demonstration, the demo horse, a Morgan stallion, impresses me like no other horse has before. Apparently I return starry-eyed. “You got the see this horse.” We meet the owner. Mum asks: “ Do you have any young stock for sale?”

- The whole family drives nine hours to meet Zephyr. He stands as if hypnotised while we pat him. We spend three days in the paddock with the herd.

- The next time I get to ride the stallion. Helode’s canter becomes the second most comfortable. I hope Zeph inherits his sire’s jump. I also get to ride his dam, a real sweety. This is in February, the state of Victoria experiences the worst bushfire season in recorded history. Three meters away the air is opaque with orange smoke. The breeder explains her fire plan to us. We eat dinner around the portable radio listening to local evacuation warnings. Luckily the wind doesn’t change, the flames never reach us.

- Back at home, my sister films us as we sign the ownership papers.

- The Pony Club president offers mum and me one of her horses to ride. Jo is an ex-racer and spent years doing A Grade showjumping with her son. Mum and I can’t believe our luck, and her generosity.

- Latest visit to Zephyr : he has cut is leg, not deeply, jumping out of a paddock after his buddy Beamer. I sit in the mud next to him in the pen where he’s lying. He’s sleepy, lays his head on my lap. He’s already done this to mum. Beamer ruins the moment by stepping on him.

- This weekend : I’m riding Jo. I’m grumpy. Both of he and I are unfit after a winter of flu, work and little riding time. Jo is pulling, pulling on the reins. I sigh, loosen my shoulders, relax my hands. He quietens. We do an hour’s work, all at the walk. It is perfect.
I’m getting there.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

The presents were done, the scattered wrapping was picked up and my family had disappeared into their corners to go over their loot.

New books were being cracked, games were being explored and clothes were getting tried on.

I was jittery from too much coffee, too much breakfast and too much conversation. I looked out the front window and watched Mort and Okie burling through the fresh snowdrifts piled high in their pen.

My father,silent in his stocking feet, appeared next to me and stood with his arms folded, looking at our horses.

“They’re wound up,” he said.

“They need to be ridden,” I told him.

“The snow’s pretty deep,” he answered.

“Let’s go ride across Carlson’s pasture. You know he kept the cows in. The snow will be incredible!” I shot a quick look at him, trying to read his mood.

The dairy across the street from us sported the flattest stretch of land around. I had envisioned a race across those fields more than once, but Dairyman Carlson was not open to horses riling up his milk cows.

When I turned around my father was gone.

I sighed and pushed my forehead against the cold glass of the picture window. It had been a nice thought anyway.

“Are we riding or not?”I heard my father bellow up the stairs.

I hustled to the basement and started shoving my feet into my boots.

“Where should we go?” I asked as I shrugged into my coat.

“Didn’t you want to go to Carlson’s?"

“Well yeah, I guess we need to go ask him.”

“I already called him, he thinks we’re a little nuts, but he said go ahead,” Dad told me.

Our boots knifed through the knee deep powder.

I couldn’t keep the grin off my face as we walked down to the horses. This was going to be so cool.

I saddled Okie and checked his feet for snow pack. The bottoms of his hooves were clean and bare. He nudged me with his nose and pulled at the back of my jacket.I pushed his face away as I stood up. His nostrils were lined with frozen crystals, his forelock and the long hair under his jaw hung in Rastafarian icicles.He swung his head around again for a rub and I scratched his forehead. His goofy, half white clown face made him hard to resist.

Mort headed off in a trot as my Dad swung into the saddle. He was already snorting and snapping his tail in anticipation, eager to get the show on the road.

Okie stood quiet and waited for me to get my feet in the stirrups. He walked off a few steps and then broke into his easy, swinging trot. We caught up before Dad got to the main road.

Our good dog Jud came trotting behind us, snorting and grinning as he grabbed up big mouthfuls of snow.

We crossed the road and I sat back and waited while Dad opened the barb wire gate. Mort handled it with ease, a wire fence was something Okie still had to master.

We stood next to each other and looked across the wide expanse of the pasture. Not a single track marred the 40 acre field. The breeze made me wish for a hat. I squinted against the sparkling snow.

Mort growled and shook his head, slinging foam from his bit as he worked himself up.

“Are you ready?” Dad asked me, he had a wicked glint in his eye as he settled a little deeper into the stirrups.

Mort felt a race in the offing, he geared up another notch and crow hopped in place.

Okie stood looking around, his face bright and expectant. He didn’t have a clue about what was coming.

“Eat my dust,” I said and whooped as I dug my heels into Okie’s sides.

Okie bucked in surprise but when I hollered again he smoothed out and took off after Mort.

The horses shot across the field, leaping against the force of the snow. It rose up in waves above our heads as we tore through the drifts.

We reached the edge of the pasture and made a big loop along the back fence. The horses necks were becoming wet with sweat and we slowed them for a few strides. Jud had been following behind in the horses tracks. He was covered in the snow kicked up by their heels. He jumped to the side to get out of our way and sunk to his eyeballs. He jumped and rolled, goofy with excitement.

Okie rooted against his hackamore asking for more rein. I felt the rough horse hair reins running through my stiff, red fingers and let him go.

I leaned forward and felt him surge, his strength and confidence building with every jump.
My dad and Mort pulled up alongside and we zig-zagged back across the field, sending sheets of snow into the bright blue sky.

Merry Christmas, Janet

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mouthy Monday

This is my kind of story.

Badges has big dreams, big plans and an unreasonable love for her horse. Crazy love as a matter of fact.

She is completely honest about her eye opening doses of reality, talks about the things that go wrong, how her dreams change, the modified reality of her choices.....and then gets up and tries again.

This is a horsaii viewpoint. She accepts her horse for who she is, tries to find a job that works for the mare and accepts what she can't change.

BUT Badges keeps trying to learn, tries to step up to be the rider her horse needs and carries the little flicker of hope that maybe, just maybe, if she learns enough and Jazz mellows enough they might still have "the moment."

Badges Blues and Jazz

So, I buy my "dream horse" who was a product of the breeding farm that I had yearned to buy from but couldn’t afford.

Bought her off her second owner for a steal.

With fresh dreams of training her from start to finish all by myself, and how wonderfully broke she was going to be and how bonded we would be. Pick her up and she’s a body score of MAYBE 2, and skittish as hell.

Do ground work, pony her, lunge her, had her side passing, moving hindquarters and forehand on the ground, hauled her out to show her cows, drove her etc etc.

A warning bell had kind of gone off in my head on how whenever she was left for a few days, it would be like starting all over again. I chose to ignore it and proceeded to get on her and walk a few steps shortly before she turned 2.

Did it a second time, 3 min TOPS.

Then, the third time, just got settled in the saddle and BAM, she exploded into a bucking bronc.

Landed on my back, winded.

Was nervous of a repeat performance, so sent her to a friend to put a few rides on her. He had his wife lead him around. 1st ride, great, 2nd ride, great, 3rd ride, BAM, explosion. 1 pulled groin later, she is back at my place.

I continue to do groundwork but am too scared to ride. I would get brave enough to put a foot in the stirrup, and she would EXPLODE backwards, sometimes.

Not all the time. September of her 2 year old year, I decided she was to much for me.

Traded her off for something else and regretted it the moment she was gone. Spent four sleepless months plotting on how to get her back.

Finally, had to use my credit card to buy her back at a ridiculous price.

Hubby had a HUGE blow out, he hated Jazz and couldn’t fathom WHY I would want her back.

They said she had 2 months training. NOT.

Finally got a hold of their 18 year old trainer who said she had put a MONTH on her AND got kicked in the stomach by her which made her unable to ride for 2 weeks.

Hmmmmmm. More warning bells you ask? Nope, I was just happy to have her back.Got her back on December 24th and put a ride at a walk on her on Dec 30th.

Yeah, she was still SUPER green. Sent her to a trainer, who rode her for 2 weeks, then did 2 weeks of groundwork.

Trainer told me I should sell before I get hurt on her. I couldn’t.

I was bound and determined to make the dream come true, and began my blog to keep me motivated. I put approx 2-3 months of just walking and trotting on her and started off with my fear at a 20 on a scale of 1-10 and gradually got down to a 9.

She has bucked me off twice since then, but there are also huge milestones of progress. I don’t regret it for even an instant.

She can be very light and responsive, as well as witchy and stubborn. She has tried EVERY trick in the book which has made me a better rider.

She turned 4 this month, and although she may not be as well trained as a lot of 4 year olds, I am extremely proud on how far we have come together and the fact that I have been her sole rider for the last year.

Do I get frustrated? Yes! Of course. When I can go trot the barrel pattern on her one day without an issue, and the next day, a barrel on the side of the arena is a horse eating dragon.

Or one day she will lope wonderfully slow collected circles with sliding stops, and the next day she will bolt and go 90mph and have no whoa.

How bout that she will go into a herd of cows with absolute passion, and LOVES to chase them, then the next week she is poking her shoulder out and trying to avoid going into the herd? Yea, I get frustrated.

It doesn’t mean I will give up. She keeps me on my toes. Just when I get over confidant, she will try a new trick that brings me back to reality that she is a living, breathing, thinking, conniving creature, not a robot.

I love her individuality, and have NEVER come across a horse like her.

She has taught me that it doesnt matter what people think, because riding her in a crowd, I am prepared that she may bolt or buck, and there is no way in hell I am going to look pretty riding her, so its best to give up on any sort of pretense that I may actually look like I ride good: sure enough, if I do think "hey, look how good we look" she will poke her shoulder out and bolt halfway across the arena, there is no way to recover your dignity if your hauling back on your reins and kicking like a crazed woman trying to get that shoulder back, or (God forbid) eating a mouthful of dirt, so, I have learned to accept that.

Thankfully, I have not come off her in public yet, but it is just a matter of time. I am prepared to leave my pride at home when I go to events with Jazz and to just enjoy it.

I have had to revise my goals a bit. The dream of riding bareback and being "one with my horse" like Stacey Westfall is not to likely to happen with Jazz. Maybe once she is 30 years old, but not anytime in the near future.

So, my goals now are to continue with her training and hopefully have her consistent. My immediate goal is to do this season of cattle penning with her, and then start doing time only's in barrels next year.

I have purchased a yearling that I will transfer the Stacey Westfall dream to, and already I can tell he is NOT another Jazz. I don’t want Jazz to every lose all of her 'tude, because its what makes her Jazz, and why I love her.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hope You Like to Write Checks

I recently interviewed a young woman for my paper who won the RMQHA Outreach Program belt buckle this year.

The Outreach Program is sponsored by AQHA and is a way to compete, earn points and qualify for prizes in shows outside the AQHA circuit.

Barrel racing , team penning , judged trail riding, jumping and open shows are eligible if they meet the criteria.

Local clubs who sponsor regular competitions are able to offer this as a way to be involved in AQHA even if you don't have the big bucks needed to show in the bigger circuits.

The young woman I interviewed was high-point in pleasure, trail, western riding and western equitation.

She won a cool belt buckle and a jacket.

I pointed out it was probably time for her to quit taking the ribbons from the folks at her local club and start competing with the big boys.

Yes, yes, I can turn from reporter to horse trainer in a flash.

She sheepishly admitted it was her second year to take the all around buckle.

I asked her if she had any friends left.

Anyway, the conversation we then had is one I'd like to share.

This young woman spends some serious $$ to keep her horse in training. Her trainer wants her to get off her butt and get to the AQHA shows too.

She's not worried about losing, she's worried about the money.

"I'll have day fees (daily money paid to your trainer while at a show), stall fees, hauling fees (trainer hauls for her) and motel bills," she told me, "and then there's the show itself, class fees, judges fees and office fees."

"Just to show at the stock show would cost me $2500."

My initial thought was, why would you jump from an outreach program and go all the way to the stock show?

I mean, you can get beat at a one day, single judge show every bit as easily as at the stock show.

Some shows cost a bunch, some not so much. But I always figured $200 for a day show and I only had to pay myself.

But if she's in a trainers barn then she needs to pay him. Day fees are how he eats. Hauling fees are how he fuels his truck. It's the nature of the beast.

My own experience is different because I never showed as an amateur. When I finally do I won't be hooked to a trainer. I am a master at keeping my expenses down.

I'm hoping to get some input from you guys who show as amateurs. How do you keep your costs down?

What are the best ways to economize?

You all hear about how cheap I am at shows in my stories. I had to show on a shoe-string and so did my clients. We were the Clampetts of the horse show set let me tell you.

I lived in my trailer for one thing. No, I don't have living quarters. I have a 3 horse, rust and chipped gray stock type goose-neck.

I had a bed in the goose-neck part and a step ladder to get there.

My husband installed a battery which ran our lights and fans at night.

Kidlette and I slept in there. I always parked close to the bathrooms.

We would clean out the trailer and set up our saddle racks. This became our tack room and place to hang out when it rained (we covered the slats with tarps). A good padlock on the trailer door kept our stuff safe.

I had a Coleman Grill to cook on and plenty of food and drink in our coolers.

If I had a group with me we would stay in the $20-$30 dollar a night motels. We would split the cost of two rooms and feel like we were stylin'.

We ate out of our coolers and off the dollar menus. At every place we showed at I would save up for one night out at a restaurant.

I also saved money to go play tourist. We went to reptile farms, petting zoos, local carnivals, swimming pools, that kind of thing.

We had a great time too.

So that's how I saved money. Any other ideas?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Why Do We Chase Cows?

Jess said - my horse is afraid of cows. And not just a little afraid, the other night my sister put her in our dry lot to feed her. She almost jumped the fence trying to get away from the cows that were a good 50 yards away on the other side of their own fence. My sister ended up letting her out, because she was worried that she'd jump and break a leg in the muck.

Somebody else asked - Why do we like doing this (cow work) so much? What's the attraction?

Jess's horse may be crazy afraid of cattle. I don't know. I have never had a horse I couldn't get to eventually track a cow, but hers might be the exception. She may have had a wicked bovine trauma, either real or imagined. My first goal would be to go and just watch sorting for a while.

Here's how I'd get there.

Pssst. I have a secret. Horses love to be bullies.

Even the lowest, most picked on 3-year-old in the pasture will turn into an entirely different animal when she figures out she can bully a cow.

The poor little baby has been slapped around by her mother, the other broodmares,fellow foals and so on. Her life is one of wallowing around in the pecking order that defines horsedom.

Then we come and buy her. From the day we get our horse we begin teaching her we're alpha. We work on manners, obedience and patience. Certainly not how she would choose spending her days, but it's how the world works.

All of a sudden we give the horse this amazing gift. Not only do we let her be a bully, we actively encourage it. Not only do we encourage it, but it works! The cows can be bullied! I know I am pretty strong minded about not feeding horses treats. But I give my horses cattle. So whose the best friend now? Hmmm?

Horses are often afraid of cattle. It just means you have to take smaller steps and be ready to go slow. The trick here is to figure out how to help your horse see she can control the cow.

I would take her to the arena where the sorting is going on. I would ride her as close to the cows as she would tolerate (even if it's across the road), let her move away until she is comfortable and then work her hard. Don't be mean, just work her tail off. Then get as close as I could to the cows and let her air up. Then I would do it again and again. I'd keep at it until she was so happy to stand by those cows she started mooing.

This can take a long time. Be satisfied with little steps. When you can get her calmly and happily in the arena while the sorting is going on or next to the holding pen for the cows then it's time to work a cow.

Sorting is great training for a horse. It's a lot of quiet sensible work.

But I prefer to start my horses on a single cow instead of starting in the herd. Forcing your horse in the herd will make her anxious. I want my horse walking in the herd with happy confidence, looking for her prey. She has to learn this.

By starting with a single cow my horse has a chance to learn she can direct the action.

I would be inclined to ask the folks running the sorting if you could buy some cattle time with a single cow. They'll probably not only say yes, but will help you.

I don't mind youngsters who are afraid of cattle. It happens more than you think in a cow horse. They are bred to be highly reactive. If you add this to a timid nature you can have a big spooking thing on your hands. It means the baby is aware and reactive and chances are she'll really watch her cow.

My mare Loki was so afraid of cattle as a 3-year-old she would spook and blow if she saw them in the pasture from the arena. We're talking at least 1/4 mile here.

Her first cow work was done with a single, slow, used up cow in an indoor arena. I let her just stand across from the cow staring bug-eyed with her butt mashed against the wall.

The cow eventually walked a little. Loki started to spook. I let her, but I directed her energy to move with the cow.

The cow stopped. Loki stopped. The cow moved, Loki jumped and I steered her with it. Eventually she realized she could stop the cow by jumping with it. Suddenly she was willing to step a little closer.

As she learned to control the cow her sense of power, or control or whatever it is a horse psyche needs, began to grow and she became more and more interested in the whole deal.

Loki became a very handy cow horse.

When I could work a single cow I would go back to the sorting. I would get another rider on a calm seasoned horse to walk into the herd with me.
I would walk in and out, back and forth in front of the herd and behind it.

As soon as I could take my horse in the herd alone I'd start sorting. I'd be patient and let my horse slowly figure out the game.

It took patience and time to get Loki going. It was worth it. Every horse deserves a little power trip once in a while.

So why do we like cow work so much? I can only answer for myself. The first time I saw a Reined Cow Horse go down the fence I was just blown away.

I knew I wanted to learn this amazing sport.

I thought it was the most beautiful exciting thing I'd ever seen.

I think we get caught up in it because it's so amazing to be riding a horse who is cutting a cow or turning one on the fence. If they are trained right they love it too.

I'll be honest, the phrases, "true partnership," or being "one with my horse" can usually make me shrug and think, "Whatever."

But I do get it. A good cow horse comes from good training. A good cow horse also comes from allowing my horse to think for herself. A good cowhorse comes from us trusting each other to get the job done.

Then there's the adrenalin. As I go down the fence, here's what's going on in my head...

"Get through the corner, now line up, wait, wait, drive, drive DRIVE!!!! NOW STEP BY!!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! BAM!

"Whew, now line up and lets go again......."

That's why I'm hooked on cows.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mouthy Monday

Here's a neat story about the two-way street we travel when we get the right horse.

Jazzmine was an angel in more ways than I could count; she carried me in the saddle for a year and half. She stood by my side willing to try anything I asked her and waited patiently while I fought so hard to do something, waiting for the correct cue.

Jazzmine was a little over 14 hand Bay Arab/Welsh and had the best of both breeds. A little stubborn but as loyal as they come. She was very sure footed and had very solid feet, no shoes on that girl.

When I first met Jazzmine I was scared of her because my first encounter with her a was at the local riding stable while doing a dog obedience class and she was really hyper, all over the place.
I had looked at my foster mom and said that is one horse I will never own. About a week later we called on a saddle her owner had posted for sale and she mentioned she had a little horse for sale. We went down there and saw her and I was hooked from that point forward.

When I took hold of her lead she dropped her head and nudged me and we walked side by side like we had been a unit for a very long time.

When I bought Jazzmine I wasn’t very advance in my riding skills and only wanted a walk/trot horse because I was scared to canter and that was what she was. I have spent just as many times in the saddle then I have on the ground because I have hip problems. I grew up riding old broke broodmares that people would just throw me on. This was my second horse the other one was an old gelding that I learned to ride bareback on at a walk.

In more ways than one I had rescued her from her previous owner, she was only kept in a mud pasture and had to fight for the food amongst the others. She was allowed to rule her owner and her owner was scared of her. Before her previous owner someone had owned Jazzmine with 5 kids that tormented this little angel.

She had been saddled and beat, tied and hosed down, allowed to push every little button she could push. She was known to walk all over you and had no ground manners. Lucky she has some awesome trail manners. She was a former endurance horse before an unknown injury ended her career.

Over the course of the year I had her we worked on overcoming many obstacles and I helped Jazzmine open up a new chapter in her life. I spent the course of the year getting her to accept being saddled while being tied and that once I stepped back from her she had nothing to worry about. It took me the longest time to get her to accept the hose and that baths were an enjoyable time. Another major obstacle was allowing fly spray to be sprayed on her.

Jazzmine and I rode in gymkhana’s together were she taught me to excel and have a fun time doing it. She was a really awesome walk/trot horse that sometimes would canter. She endured 4am wake up calls, saddling by a flashlight and loading in a stock trailer with up to 6 horses counting her was 7. We would travel for 2 hours to the gymkhanas and unload and ride all day (up to 8 hours in the saddle) and get back in the trailer for the journey home.

We spent many hours in the saddle together enjoy many miles of trails, just riding down the road and kicking back on the property. Her spook is to freeze and look.

The funniest moment I have with Jazzmine was when we had put her in the barn for the night and she reached over the rail of her stall and pulled in a futon mattress and a bale of shavings (opened them up and spread time around) and laid in comfort until I got there the next morning to take her out.

While I helped Jazzmine overcome her fears she had gained, she in turned helped me gain confidence in the saddle. She taught many of the riding skills I have today. When I first rode Jazzmine I was a very novice rider and now today I can get on a green broke horse and ride with confidence in myself. She was my little angel that guided through tough times and was always an excellent shoulder to cry in the time in need. She taught me to gain confidence in riding, working with horses that needed a little help, and to just take one day at a time.

She was my first rescue case, she taught me patience, and how to be firm when needed. With the guidance of many other people I was able to use her as a learning tool and now can correct a lot of problems both in the saddle and on the ground with problem horses. I took a little bit of what everyone taught me and turned it into my own training program.

I bought her in July 2005 and sold her December 2006, I knew I needed to get a bigger horse and so I traded her for another horse. The lady then sold her and wouldn't give the new owner my contact information. I assume she is in the Oregon/Washington area, since I sold her to someone in Myrtle Point OR. I miss her everyday and wish I could have kept her but I knew it was the best thing I could do. Since selling her I have taken in several other rescues and with my moms help rehabilitated them and turned them in to awesome trail horses. Most had either little riding or problems and they all went to beginner homes when we finished with them.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I followed the flick of my horse's ear and saw him standing at the gate. My boss was a tall lanky man with wind toughened dark red skin and long artistic fingers knotted and bent by the beginnings of arthritis. His arms rested criss-cross on the second to top rail of the gate. His whiskers were white and stiff with frost. His stillness ran so deep I wondered how long he had been standing there.

"Have you got time to come up to the house?" The boss asked me.

I was trotting a 2-year-old around the indoor arena. Steam rose off her shoulders and flanks, and my breath blew white, puffing up and down in a steady rhythm with my posting trot.

"Sure, what's up?"

It wasn't going to take much to lure me up to a hot cup of coffee and a place by the fire. I hadn't been able to feel my finger-tips for the last twenty minutes and I was only two rides into my day. My toes had gone half a horse ago.

"We got a video of some brood mare prospects from Burman's. I was hoping you'd take a look," the Boss answered.

I stopped my little filly and looked at him over my shoulder. This was a first. Since I had become the official "trainer" at Pine Ridge Stables I had learned my opinion was rarely welcome. My job was to ride what they asked me to and teach who showed up. That was about it.

When it came to breeding their buckskin stud, River, the Rameiker family had their own vision. They wanted to raise buckskins, duns and grullas. They wanted to win at the IBHA shows and make an impression at the World Show. Their stud spent most of his time with another trainer. He was learning all the events, from halter to reining.

"Sure, let me throw a cooler on this one and I'll be up directly," I told him.

I walked into the kitchen of the log house and carefully closed the door. The chinking was coming loose around the door frame and nobody had gotten around to fixing it. A needle point of light and cold air cut into golden warmth from the stove in the front room.

The boss's wife Caroline greeted me with a smile and a cup of coffee.

"Are we going to have a lesson tonight?" She asked.

"We should have time, my last lesson will be gone around 5:30," I told her.

The boss had the video ready to go. My little dog looked up at him and cocked her head. He smiled at her and handed me his bowl of popcorn.

"Well come on up then," he said and Dinah was curled in his lap with one smooth leap.

We sat back and he turned on his video.

A large group of mares were gathered around a water tank. My first quick glance told me they were a fairly motley assortment.

"Are they all registered?" I asked.

"He told me to pick out what I wanted and he'd check for papers," the boss said.

"You know you don't want a grade mare now, there's no point here unless they have papers," I told him.

"Well if we buy color we can register them IBHA," Caroline came back.

"You're looking at too small a buying pool, you need to be breeding AQHA horses if you're going to breed at all," I insisted.

I tried not to look pained. I didn't know much about breeding but I knew breeding for color was a bad idea. But the boss would get stubborn if I pushed.

"The Burmans breed good horses," the boss said, "we bought DixieAnn from them."

"Boss, come on, DixieAnn paces and she can't lope."

"She throws color though," a thread of irritation had entered his voice.

I sighed.

We turned back to the video.

After about five minutes I said, "I like the little bay mare and the sorrel."

"Why do you like them?" He asked.

"The bay has a great hip and a pretty neck. So does the sorrel. The sorrel looks a little younger..."

"She is," the boss broke in, reading from a list in his hand," The sorrel is two and the bay's four, don't you think they're a little hammer headed?"

"Yes, but they're the best of the bunch. I've always kinda liked hammer heads anyway," I told him, "are they broke?"

The boss paused the video and ran it back.

"Halter broke," he told me, "how about the dun?"

"She's cow-hocked," I told him

"How about this one?" He showed me a dark, short-necked, big headed grulla mare.

"Ewe-necked, bad-legged, ugly."

"Don't hold back Janet," the boss cocked one shaggy eyebrow at me.

And so it went. When the boss realized I was sticking to my non-dun choices he clicked off the video and turned to other things.

A few weeks later a truck and stock trailer drove onto the place. I popped my head out of the indoor and watched as the driver carefully backed to the gate of the broodmare pen. A short, bent man in his sixties hopped out of the truck and pulled the gate alongside of his trailer to create a chute.

"You there," he called around a mouthful of chew, "get me sumfin' to tie up this gate!"

Normally I would have ignored the rude old fart and gone back to my rides but I was curious to see what the boss had decided to buy.

I brought out a handful of bright orange baling twine and walked to the trailer. I peered between the slats at two dark mares. Halterless and loose they snorted at me. I recognized the little fox ears of the bay.

"Hello you," I told her.

The old guy opened the trailer door and the two horses blew past us. Their black, burr laden manes and tails flowed behind them as they ran towards the broodmares.

The ugly grulla stopped before she got to the mares. She extended her nose and made a baby mouth as the matriarchs descended on her.

The bright bay kept running. She ran with her head high, not looking to the left or right until she was almost into the hotwire. She sat and slid a good five feet in the rocky ground before she spun off and headed down the creek.

Her muscular hindquarters dug in and shot her past the broodmares and off to the other side of the pen. She ran straight to the other fence and skidded to a stop just inches from the wire. I could see the calculation in her eyes. I wasn't sure whether she wanted to jump or run through but something was there. The pretty bay took off again. She ran the fence line hard, her feet were sure and quick and she ran across the steep hillside with ease. The broodmares gave up on trying to beat on her and turned their attentions to the grulla.

The boss, Caroline and I stood and watched the broodmares play soccer with the grulla and the bay continue her crazy race around the pen.

"I see you decided against the sorrel," I said.

"You can't get buckskin out of a sorrel," the boss answered.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What We Learn From Each Other

Here is a situation which shows me how mind-opening this blog can be. I threw out an explanation of a strength/collection problem I have with Pete and everybody felt comfortable donating their thoughts. One of the biggest things I've learned since starting this blog is to open myself to the thoughts of other horsaii, even if it's a completely foreign idea to me.

My thinking process is better, my understanding of my horses is deeper and I am pretty sure I'm a better trainer now than when I first came here to the cyber-world.

I picked out the comments that seemed to hit the closest to home or gave me a good thought. How many places are there where you can get input from varying disciplines from all over the world?

Bif said-or just riding longer and longer oblongs, so he doesn't quite get to the point he needs correction.

I love this one. It's a perfect set up, especially if I make sure Pete's shoulders are upright through the turns. Travelling straight and strong will become Pete's reward.

Anon said-I'm just thinking is it possible to work out the distance/no of strides he can handle and then turn into the 1/2 circle maybe 2 strides before and then work on lengthening the straight if he's not ready to go outdoors.

Anon makes a good point. I have to focus my mind back to those hind feet and feel when the problem is starting, not after we're already in trouble. I have been correcting him after he's already fallen apart. If I can catch him as it begins it will turn into me helping Pete through a rough spot, not a disciplinary action.

HOC said-You know the feeling you get when you are out running, and you get to a downward slope? Suddenly your feet start moving by themselves, and if it is a steep slope they just take off? I believe that is what's happening with a younger horse on a straight line.
It starts out with a small imbalance with too much weight on the forehand, and if they cannot rebalance themselves it only gets worse/faster.

Exactly! You described so well what's happening here. It's definitely a strength issue, but he is capable of staying in the bridle if I can help him stay balanced. When we were in the mountains I worked on the "tuck and gather" as we went down the trails. I know he can do it.
HOC has a great discussion going on her blog about what kind of trainer do we want and what kind of student we are (wish I'd thought of it). Definitely worth stopping by and checking it out.

Londoner said- I think that (usually) lessens with experience, and stops as soon as it begins. I'm talking about those moments when you're cantering along, maybe you're with a friend, and suddenly you get that icy feeling in your stomach. The horse isn't necessarily going faster, but something has changed that renders you feeling very powerless.

I've mulled this over, thought about the times when I've been utterly relaxed at a gallop, or utterly terrified at a trot. It seems to me a combination both of a trajectory of power from the hindquarters to the front, and a psychical change of mind.

There is nothing scarier than the feeling that your horse has mentally 'checked out'.

This is close to what I'm talking about. The difference is Pete is such a kindly horse I don't get scared when he starts to run. It's a rare situation where I can sit back and think about how I can help him while he's burling around the arena.

Karen V said-Our horses can get discombobulated when we ask for speed. Getting them out on a straightaway, or on a real race track, with a solid buddy horse to run with, helps so much! They figure out that they CAN run.

It takes a few weeks of breezing, but then they "get it". Makes all the difference in the world! Especially if all we've been working on is bend, flex, and collection.

Love those barrel racers! I have to be honest. In the past I have allowed myself to be a tad superior when I was around barrel racers. But here we are talking about the exact approach I think will help Pete. It also will help me keep my brave on.

BrownEyed Cowgirls said Mugs-I know exactly the feeling you are talking about. My current barrel horse had/has a tendency to discombobulate like Pete. The only difference is Moon gets to pulling with his front-end rather than scrambling. Irregardless he will dump on his front end badly if allowed.
To me, it sounds like Pete is falling out behind, but being as experienced as you are, I'm sure you would realize if that was the case and could easily fix it.
Personally, I think it would help Pete if you hit those back roads at a long-trot. It's no problem to break it up with some loping and some walking. But make it all about business. In your mind, you have to be thinking about going somewhere...which I know you know how to do.

BrownEyed Cowgirl- For me, falling out behind happens when the horse is over the bit, or refusing to get on the bit but still framed up in the neck and shoulders without coming up from behind (false collection). Then he starts to let his hind quarters leak out the back.
In Pete's situation he is driving from the back to begin with, then he comes through my hand and over the bit. So his nose is behind the vertical, his poll tips over his nose, and I've got nothing through my reins.
It almost feels like we're going to somersault. Then his back hollows and the hind end just floats away.
Pete was long trotting the whole year we spent in the mountains. He's strong and sure in his trot, OK in the lope and falling out when we speed things up. But you're right, it's where I started strengthening him, at the trot.

Candy's Girl said- Lots of transitions. You know that point JUST before you feel it all go to shit? Ask for a walk or trot. Re-organize then go back up to the canter. I found I was doing a lot more trotting and re-organizing at first, but now he can hold a canter for several laps in the arena without getting that bolty-doesn't-know-where-his-legs-are canter.

I like this too. I think it would really help him to transition up and down and then go to loping through the whole exercise. I'm combining this with the oblong idea.

So there you have it. I swear guys, we could be an attraction at Disney Land.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mouthy Mondays and Holidays

Hey guys,

I disappeared, I'm back, I have lots to tell you about so this should be a good week!

The kidlette has been nailed by the swine flu. She's 18, asthmatic and had mono within the last year. So needless to say she's high risk.

It's amazing how fast these "I'm grown so let me fly" kids come zipping back to the nest when the guano hits the fan.

The worst is over, which is a good thing.

We've had astounding amounts of snow and more to come here in Colorado. I took a few photos from the hood yesterday. No horses, but incredible silence, beauty and fun with my dogs and good friend Kathy. So I thought I would share anyway.

Meet my dogs. Dinah, the Corgi/Jack Russel and Charlie, the Rat Terrier. Don't mock them because they wear clothes. These two are a crackerjack vermin removing team. They have spent their lives single mindedly wiping out large populations of mice, rats, voles, rabbits, prairie dogs and pigeons at every ranch I've worked at and our backyard. So don't piss them off.

This is the Historical Rockledge Ranch seen from a ridge in Garden of the Gods Park. Yes, I wish I lived there too.

I can feel the pressure of the building storm in this one. I love my back yard.

Here's our Mouthy Monday Post.....The horseless nut wrote about getting back into the groove of riding again after a long break from school.

The last two weeks have been...interesting.

I'm in my hometown for two weeks, working for my father's company to earn some extra cash, before beginning my work term this fall.

My main focus has been on relaxing. Meaning no fights with my uber stubborn gelding, Oliver, in fact, I've avoided him all together.

I went to my old instructor's barn (We'll call her S), where my mother boards her two horses, a twenty year old AQHA pleasure mare, Classic, and her four year old filly, Scarlett.

My plan had been to saddle up Classic and take a nice little meander around the arena, I haven't ridden in a good six months, and I knew that if I tried anymore than that, I'd be a little - scratch that - extremely, sore the next day.

So we did just that, my mother and I tacked up the shaggy brown mare and led her out into the indoor arena where S and her daughter were working two horses. I wasn't concerned about them, I knew they would simply avoid me, whooshing by at a quick lope while Classic and I jogged along the rail, totally immersed in their training.That was all well and good, Classic wasn't spooky, although I'd heard she had become so in her old age, I actually had the feeling she was babysitting me.

I was working on keeping good posture, but I could feel my thighs and calves starting to protest already. I pulled up and watched S and her daughter work, trying to see the subtle cues I knew they were giving, it reminded me of what I've been reading about on the Mugwump Chronicles lately.

We all had a good chat for a bit, S's daughter is graduating this year at my old high school, so we swapped teacher tails. Then I dismounted (not as gracefully as I'd hoped), and we returned to the barn.After unsaddling Classic and putting her away, I went to the viewing room to watch S work Scarlett.

My mother (though she'll never admit it) is a bit nervous around horses, so while she gets on great with steady old Classic, she hasn't ridden Scarlett much, leaving the bulk of her training to S.

She started out free lunging the little blaze-faced chestnut under saddle, Scarlett screeching around the arena at top speed, finally dropping to a jog and then turning to face S, who approached her, mounted, and started to work.

This was great for me because I'd been Scarlett's care giver/trainer until she turned two, but I'd never seen her ridden before. After about ten minutes, S pointed at me and gestured for me to enter the arena.

I turned to my mother."She's going to make me ride isn't she?"Sure enough, I heaved open the big sliding door."Get over here and ride this filly"My first reaction was "Noooo". Sure I used to ride babies all of the time, I broke Oliver from the ground up, and rode his younger sister Georgie after S had put thirty days on her, but that was over two years ago, I was out of shape, hadn't ridden in six months, and now S wanted me to get on a filly who ten minutes ago had been tearing around the arena like a bat out of hell.

"Get on this horse or I'm going to come over there and kick you, you raised her, don't you want to see how she goes?" I was sure nothing would happen, but if something did happen, I was also sure that I wouldn't be able to ride it out. So, feeling apprehensive, I strode over and climbed carefully up.

S fitted me with some spurs, and away we went. My first observation was how narrow she was, compared to her mother, who at this stage in her life had the width of a round bale. We started out slowly, just walking around while I got used to her and got an idea of what 'buttons' she had on her. She was very sensitive, and just a tad lazy, but soon we were jogging around, doing transitions, and lateral work. She broke at the poll with just the slightest urging, and moved off my leg easily.

My only qualm was the she was very 'wobbly' and unwilling to move off in a straight line without being 'told' where to go constantly by her rider. The result was I felt I needed to "hold" her together with my hands and legs. I didn't bother trying to lope, my legs were already jello and didn't feel like I could support her the way she needed.

I pulled up to where S, her son, and my mother had all been watching and chatting, and swung down. We continued to talk a bit, Scarlett standing quietly by my side, sighing occasionally, eventually we made our way back to the barn for the second time that night.After putting Scarlett up, in a the stall that shared a wall with her mother's, I wandered down the aisle of the old, but clean barn, peeking in at the various horses S had in for training, the broodmares, and the never ending line of two and three year olds from previous breeding seasons (she has since gelded her stallions and ceasing breeding - there's just no market for it in my area).

I stopped to scratch the ears of some of the horses I recognized, and avoided those I didn't. It was good to be back in a place where horses are the center of attention, and these horses where miles ahead quality-wise of what I was used to. As we headed into the crisp night air and back to the car, I made a mental note to remember this lovely, tired, content feeling.

I want to come back, next time I'm home, I thought.

I knew that it probably wouldn't happen for another long while, with only weekends to come home, and about ten different families to visit, a trip to the barn is almost impossible to schedule. I barely get to see my own horse, let alone ride him, if I skipped a visit to him to come to S's barn...well that would be nothing short of cheating.

But still, that was great, just great. It's safe to say, I've got The Bug again.I did end up riding Oliver this week too, but that's another adventure for another post.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pete and Comments

Me and The Big K and Talking about the Talking.

Hey guys, I have saved some of the comments I wanted to talk about. But Nagonmom's thoughts got me in story mode so I did that instead.

I used video for years and still will to watch a horse move. At this point in my life I have a pretty good idea where I am in the saddle and how it's affecting my horse.

It did get me thinking I need to tune up on my awareness of where each of my horse's feet is. I should be feeling the stride length change in the back before the scrambling begins in the front.

I still want to talk about this some more though. Manana.

nagonmom says-I found myself wondering what a video from the side view would show. My horse was "falling apart" at the canter a few months ago (plus I was thinking "Oh expletive!" You probably skip that part) so my description is not as detailed.

My daughter was watching, then she rode him, no issue BUT she maintained a more consistent rein contact. She said he looked like he was lost and needed more input to balance himself. Still light with her hands, just requesting slightly more collection. Has anyone with experience watched, just to get another view? Might help.

I pulled into The Big K's and parked my car by the arena. I sat for a minute and stared at the barn.

Here it was. Video day.

I had competed the week before and now it was time to pay the piper, face the firing squad, go down with the ship. Video day.

I ignored my tight and nervous stomach and did my favorite breathing exercises. Slow inhale, hold, slow exhale, hold.

My heart beat slowed and I put my show face on.

Video day.

"Are you coming?" K leaned out his front door and grinned at me as I crawled up the stairs.

Normally one of his rare smiles could make a bad day better, but today I could swear he was baring his teeth.

We settled in the living room and he popped in the video.

My run started just as K plopped into his chair.

"Too much hand, sit back, sit back......" K muttered as my reining pattern unfolded on the TV screen.

"Whoa! Here we go!" He shouted.

I cringed.

K stopped the video.

Sonita and I were frozen in our lead-change-gone-bad, a giant leap into space complete with pinned ears and a violent kick out, there for all the world to see.

The savage look on my face was matched by the fury in Sonita's.

K contemplated for a moment and then reversed the tape. Then he forwarded it again. Reverse. Forward. Reverse. Forward.

I wanted to take the remote and jam it down his throat.

He stopped the video again.

"What were you thinking?"

"Something like, Oh shit....." I replied.

K frowned, he wasn't a fan of swearing.

"Look where your weight is," he told me.

I made myself look.

There I was, practically standing in my inside stirrup, completely blocking Sonita's shoulder with one leg while I spurred her with the other.

"Huh," I said.

"Huh," he said.

Frame by excruciating frame we travelled through my runs for the entire show. He delighted in running the really, really bad parts over and over.

"Where's your hand?

"Where in the world were you looking?

"What lead were you actually wanting there?

"Now that's Sonita's fault, why did you let her have that one?"

Finally it was over. Exhausted and demoralized I wondered if K would mind if I used one of his hoses to pipe carbon monoxide straight into my car. There was no point in going home. I might as well die in front of the tack room.

I took the video and drug myself to the door.

"You were solid on your cow," K told me.

"You straightened out before your second lead change.

"You're rundowns were straight and you looked up all the way through.

"Your confidence was high enough for you to kick your horse back into the bridle in front of God, the judge and anybody else who was watching. Good for you.

"You looked like you belonged out there."

As I clumped down the stairs I lifted my head and straightened my shoulders. The sky was blue and the wind was mild.

I was eager to get home. Sonita and I had work to do.