Monday, January 25, 2016


"Contempt prior to examination is an intellectual vice, from which the greatest faculties of mind are not free.” William Paley in Evidences of Christianity*

Let me say one thing, up front... I hate to be wrong.  Yeah, that's right!  It is one of my vices.  You see,  although much improved, I still try to be right...  I am just less obnoxious on the "I told you so's!"  And at the risk of... um... disturbing some peace, let me ramble on.
Young Eager Teen

Let's talk Natural Horsemanship or what I like to call "Middle Aged Women Getting Ready to Ride Eventually Techniques".  I could go on and on listing my... um... not so quiet opinions of the carrot stick, the waving arms in the air, round pens, joining-up, parelli methods, etc.  Really when I see these folk "bonding" with their horses, I just want to scream...  Get on and Ride!  

Not liking it doesn't mean
stop...  Pressure
releases with acceptance

I am here to confess that I have been humbled...  really, truly humbled.  The Country Barn hosted a Ground Work Clinic (note - not designated as a Natural Horsemanship clinic - maybe I can still judge) on Sunday.  I signed up because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and maybe get a tip or two to help get Maisy to focus (on me) without being too harsh.

I came to the first session (we were in the second) after helping a friend load her horse.  From the moment the Instructor, Susan Rainville, touched the rope halter, I was hooked.  She did not talk about magically and mystically bonding with your horse.  She didn't preach the ways horses acted in the wild and she did not ask us to buy fancy supplies to enhance our experience.

"You want me to do what?"

She said, these are the things that will both help your horse on the ground and in the saddle and that the basic movements are the lateral moves that strengthen and supple your horse.  Think of it as yoga.  And, that these practices can be done as a warm up to your regular ride and on the days that you have no time but need to work the horse.  

It was like magic!  Something simple, something that can improve my riding and Maisy's body and something that can be done easily.  Can I hear a HALLELUJAH?!!!!

The Barn's rope halter
The revelations just kept coming with each horse.  And, each horse that participated exhibited a different learning capacity.  We had the Young Eager Teen, the Sensitive Alpha Mare, the Rebellious Biker Boy, the Unruffled Cool Guy, Ms-I-Got-it, Maisy and Mr Distraction.   Every horse, every owner had a way of learning and the work was adapted for both the body and the mind. 

Maisy needed bending and suppleness (yoga) while understanding that the handler is the most important thing in the ring.  I need to learn how to coordinate the rope, whip, my hands and feet without cursing in frustration.  The Instructor demonstrated how I can help lift her front end and achieve lightness while asking for the bending that will strengthen her weak side.

When it worked, the results were amazing.  Her Greyness lifted her front end, eagerly crossed her hind legs while her attention stayed fixed on me.  I, on the other hand, struggled for that beautiful fluid motion of coordinated body parts.  Hmmm...  I think I see something here.... hmmmm!

And, so today I ordered a sweet, soft, fancy rope halter and rope.  You know, this being wrong feels so right!

Friday, January 22, 2016


“Should you find a wise critic to point out your faults, follow him as you would a guide to hidden treasure.” Buddha (really, it is a Buddha quote, no fooling!)

Once again I found myself at another, "Give-Peace-a-Chance-Breathe-Deeply-Envision-a-Perfect-Ride" sports psychology seminar focused on Anxiety in the Rider.  Yes, horse related practices once again... 
Always good to look at things again!
I signed up to support the New Barn Girl 'cause I've been to every training, every seminar, therapists, energy healers and I know how to do TFT/EFT, meditate, take rescue remedy...  I'm all set with the Anxiety issue... no need to go for me....  All set!  
 Then, at my last jumping lesson, I looked at my ever-patient Eventing Trainer and said, "Um, I guess I need the clinic for me... huh?!"  She just shook her head and said, "You really need to ask?"  Sigh...

Anxiety happens...  And, it happens to everyone...  And, it can be good if appropriately evaluated, and embraced.  It can stimulate, protect and yes, paralyze.  You just gotta figure out how to deal with it and how to make it work for you.

So, she gave us an Anxiety Scale for Training (doubt that is what she called it).  If you are always working in the 1-4 range, there is no growth/training - you are basically status quo.  Training takes place in the 5-7 range - there is stress but you (horse and human) are open and able to learn/improve.  

If you hit an 8 - 9, your body reacts and your brain begins to work on survival mode - Training/learning does not happen.  If you hit a 10, you are in survival mode and reactions are most likely instinctive.

 The goal should be to ride more often in the 5-7 range and if you hit an 8, back off - rinse and repeat.  Oh, she did say that riding in the comfort zone is fine, just be aware of it and what it is.
Looking bold but not so much!
So Ms Maisy, let me introduce you to Winter Work.  You see, my love, left to our own devices, we've been in the comfort zone rarely kicking it up to a 5.  Our Trainers have been good enough to push into the 5-7 range but, really... how often is that?  I believe that we've, kind of, settled into the riding version of a big comfy couch clutching a glass of warm milk and watching re-runs on Netflix.  

So Ms Maisy, our comfort level is set at a 7.  I promise you that we will back it down if you're stress level kicks into an 8 due to the high winds and pelting debris against the indoor wall or if all your friends leave the indoor at once.  Yes, we will push ourselves out of lethargy while being clear that our plan can be changed where appropriate.  But, Ms Maisy... think 7!

 And, maybe, the next time we jump, we've conditioned our bodies/minds to want to be at a 7 and, crossing into an 8 will be a mildly uncomfortable memory...  Wouldn't that be nice?!

Friday, January 1, 2016


Holiday Bonnets are a must!
It was supposed to be a post about two horse girls romping around the state park celebrating the start of the New Year!  We had it planned out to a grand conclusion to the Holiday Season with each horse happily wearing their holiday attire... 

Alas, we got ice.  I mean we got ice, not soft cushiony snow in all its gorgeous whiteness... we got ice.  And, that gorgeous blue sky and winter sun?  Neither the Newbie Eventer or I actually ordered that day from the weather gods.  Instead, it was grey, cold with a raw moist wind.  It was not meant to be. 

I stayed in and nursed my cold while nesting just a little bit.  I'm sure Newbie Eventer braved the rawness of the day and perfected the 20 meter circle and the counter canter.  Sigh...

Here's a confession for you...  I don't do New Year's Resolutions.  Mostly, these are "things" that are announced that are the "things" one should be doing on a daily basis.  And, often, these "things" are unachievable because the "thing" is something set way too high.  I just don't believe in them. 

A Wise Woman once suggested that I should set an intention.  Something that I intended to do and intended to accomplish.  Hmmm  rather than resolve to do something, I could intend to do it.  Sounds so... well, achievable.  Like improving on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.  Set an intention... 

Well, I intend to keep improving my riding and relationship with Maisy.  And, I intend to have fun while jumping (not just afterwards).  And, of course, I intend to event this summer.  Seems easy and powerfully positive... but, not quite enough. 

The freedom gained by letting go!
You see what I really intend to do is to let go of worrying so much!  Think about a life where you aren't worried that if you don't clean your horse's feet every day, they'll abscess.  Think about how nice it will be to trust that making mistakes are a natural part of learning and that it won't ruin what has already been accomplished. 

And imagine a jumping lesson where you just be and not worried that everything will go wrong...  Imagine, if you lived a life where you could be alert and alive without the added anxiety of prevention... 

That same Wise Woman also said that in order to make a change, you had to first be aware of what needed to be changed and then accept how it manifests in your life.  Only when you've become aware and have some level of acceptance, can you take the actions needed to affect change.

I see the subtleties of my worry which is often cloaked in sound horsemanship or in good solid practices.  (Awareness)  I also know how those worries have both helped and hindered me (Acceptance).  This intention is directed at really taking action to change the way of thinking and acting...  There is a balance there and it will be my intention to find it and live in its core...

For now, as I ponder my intention.  Let me share my New Year's Eve Facebook status.  It said it all:

2015 was a year of huge changes, big decisions and heart moments... Life is to be lived and each of those things are just cobblestones on the path forward. Tonight, with a sniffling cold, I bathe myself in gratitude for the folks, critters and gifts in my life that make it so rich! Thanks to you all! And Happy New Year!!!

Wishing you all a Joyful and Worry-Free New Year!

{{{Note - not sure what I'll write about if I truly go worry-free... Oh My!}}}