Friday, January 30, 2009

Steps 1 and 2 (of the Ten Step "I am scared of horse" Recovery Program)

(Rocky and I)

So..... what if I told you that I havent exactly... just quite yet....defined all ten steps in my ten step "I am Scared of Horses Recovery Program".... ?

Would that be a problem?

I hope not! Because you see.... I just don't have all the answers just yet!

Dr. Wayne Dryer and Deepak Chopra do!

But little ol' me... I'm still a work in progress.

Besides that... My ten steps might be different than yours...

It is a personal journey that must be determined by the individual. Last night I was reflecting on my program and I now feel the need to discuss each step at length. (are you surprised?)

So today, Step 1 and 2... the rest to follow in the coming week.

Here we go....

Step 1- Admit that I am scared of horses.

For cowgirls (at heart) this step is probably the hardest one of all. We have spent our life lusting after horses, dreaming of them, drawing them, wallpapering our bedrooms in their imagine, and riding imaginary ones through the fresh clipped lawn of our suburban backyards..... Horses encompass our spirit, they define us and captivate our minds. An so.... To fear horses seems a desecration of our love for them!.... Acknowledging that fear, accepting that it is well founded, and admitting that horses are dangerous- sacrilege.

(Me on Bolt at age 12)

One of my favorite poems speaks to that romantic notion we hold true of horses....

The Horse

His is a power enhanced by pride,

a courage heightened by challenge.

His is a swiftness intensified by strength,

a majesty magnified by grace.

His is a timeless beauty touched with gentleness,

a spirit that calls our hearts to dream.

- Anonymous

(Me at sixteen (on right) riding "the great and all knowing Jub Jub" (Jetta).)

It was my goal to accept and acknowledge step one (that fear), but to never, ever let it mar the long held love, respect and passion I have towards horses...or to let it inhibit my ability to suck every last ounce of joy and delight I can from their company!

That fear is our greatest ally in protecting our love of them! Because fear inspires caution-caution preserves us from injury- and injury is what most often destroys our confidence and inhibits our relationships.

Fear is our ally....but only in the right dosage!

We can only use this fear to our advantage if we can keep it to a healthy level. Like so many things in life, sometimes we have to learn the hard way. Most of us horsemen started out with too little fear and were injured as a result... now that injury provoked the natural fear we should have had to start with...only too much of it!...
And so Step One is about establishing some middle ground; enough fear to keep us cautious, but not so much that it disables our ability to lead.

This is where the problem came in for me. I finally got rid of Loachan/Cheekeye, the "evil-doer", but I had kept him too long and was left with so much fear that handing any horse had become a problem. Even when I tried to fake bravado and leadership, the horse I was handling would sense my unease and inevitably reacted to it by pushing on me a little or becoming nervous themselves. ... their reaction would evoke an even stronger fear response in myself (I'd hunch my shoulders, cower, tremble, etc.) ....which of course would lead to a stronger reaction from the horse.... and so it would go in turn, until I would loose control completely and rush to hand off the horse to someone else or put them away... which would only served to re enforce my fears and anxiety... and the behavior of the horse.....and so the vicious circle would go.

(Rocky and I in the bush)

Hence the "I am scared of horses recovery program" !

As so many people pointed out, the next step is most often to find a horse that will not react to your nervous energy and one who has abandoned the Rule Book of Horses (could care less about being a leader). This allows the fearful to preserve ourselves from injury while gaining (or re-gaining) our confidence and learning (or re-learning) to establish ourselves as leaders.

For me that meant adopting Step Two....

Step Two- I will not handle horses that are insane.

Did you know that in some Equine Assisted Therapy Programs (a post for another day) they introduce you to a bunch of different horses, ranging in age, size and temperament and have you choose the one that you feel most drawn too as a diagnostic tool!! They (the "shrinks") feel that woman are drawn towards the horse in the same way that we are drawn towards our personal issues or how we deal with life challenges (or something like that.) So, for example, a beaten and abused woman may be drawn to the wild and dangerous looking stallion (as a reflection of what she chose in life) or alternatively, if she is ready to move on and looking to heal, she may pick the calm, comforting and docile senior. I am sure I am doing a horrible job of explaining this, I hope you can grasp the gist of it as this important part of step two... which is to learn.....

(Doe eyed Miss Kitty)

What type of horse are you most drawn towards?

The wild and temperamental?

The soft and doe eyed?

The Steady Eddie?

The drama queen or king?

The flighty and fearful?

The indifferent, unaffectionate and reserved?

The ham?

Why do you think you are drawn to that type?

My point is that in the past I had (have) "broken wing syndrome". I am a very sensitive person and am highly emotional (Mom and Fel stop laughing!) and tend to have a fair amount of "feel" towards the emotional issues of others. As such, I am constantly drawn towards the emotionally needy horses. The broken hearted and abused. Unfortunately, with horses, the broken ones tend to be the ones with the most behavioral issues.

So step two is recognizing what type of horses you feel drawn towards and discerning whether or not it is the best match for you.

Now for you this might mean that you have to take a good hard look at your beloved Fluffy and decide if he is going to be able to carry you through this hump or not. Be brave. This is important. At this point the wrong horse could ruin your chances for recovery...!

If it is, great! You are ready to move on to step three.

If it isn't, you need to 1) take a whole whack of reality pills, 2) down a few swigs of "you gotta do whatchya gotta do", and 3) get ready to swallow a big ol' peace of humble pie......

'Cuase its time to recognize that 1) the horses you love is is now too much for you to handle! ....2) It is time to sell your beloved Fluffy! (or have someone else take over his care for a while)..... and 3) You need to take your (once iron nerved- Balls-to-the Walls-"I can ride anything") butt out to buy that kid broke, Steady Eddie, been-there-done-that, dead head.... (and not the type that takes quarters either!)

It is a humbling experience. Let me tell you! I didn't nail step two the first time around. In Devember 06 I bought Ellie. She was well broke, sweet, quiet and had great manners but she was young (four year old), cutting bred (hot and smart), and needed constant riding.


Obviously I hadn't eaten quite enough humble pie! I thought I could handle her (this was post-Loachan remember). Unfortunately a bunch of factors like: My being away a lot with my grandpa's illness/death/and estate clean up; An abscess that kept her off for a few months; The barn owners feeding her straight Alfalfa and rolled oats (and her loosing her brain on the sugar high that followed), My own fear issues; Her bad behavior resulting from my fear issues; Receiving an unsolicited offer "to good to refuse"- all combined to make me feel that the best decision was to accept the offer and move on to a Steady Eddie....

And that was about the time that I put out an ad that read, "Looking for a Steady Eddy or Eddette" (Seriously! I did! And yes I am a total geek!).

What I found was this picture and an ad that read....

"dead broke, 17 year old ex-ranch gelding, therapy horse, anyone can ride, BTDT, good ol' boy, 100% sound, no vices ....etc."

At the end of September 07 I went to see that horse... and found....


Thursday, January 29, 2009

I Am Scared of Horses... again

(Cheekeye and I. (and that is a dirty spot on my shirt! Promise! *grin*)

A few of you have asked now about my knee and these injuries/accidents I keep referring I thought I would clear things up in today's post. Grab a java, it's along one. Actually, one of my first posts told this story and was titled, "I am Scared of Horses"....

And I was (am).

From the age of twelve through eighteen I was a pretty fearless rider. I rode a lot of different horses and had my fair share of bumps, scrapes and bruises along the way but none of my (many) near death experience made much of an impression on my resilient and stubborn little adolescent mind. But then I didn't have a horse for a year or so between when I sold my old Arab (at 18) and when I rescued a little colt and mare (at 20) when I found myself with horses again I was not quite as cock sure as I had once been but still pretty confident. I had raised my little colt from near starving to a fat and shiny beautiful dun yearling but (as he was cryptorchid (one nutter:)) I was forced to wait to geld him (hoping for his other nut to drop and avoid an expensive surgery). And so I had a feisty little long yearling that was starting to feel his oats and I was a little rusty and inexperienced with young ones. One day I was cleaning his paddock while he tore around the field- frolicking and frisky- when he came flying up beside me and reared up in my face. I tried to step back but was caught between the handles of the wheel burrow and was unable to avoid his front hoof as he came down.

I was lucky! Well, at least in that I wasn't more seriously hurt- he had only caught me a glancing blow as his hoof slip off my (rather round) head, avoiding the full concussion.... but it was hard enough to knock me unconscious.....and to knock some sense in to me.....

For the first time I recognized how quickly and easily things can go wrong with horses.... and how little room there is for error.

But... as mentioned in yesterdays post, I have always itched to ride the horse above and beyond my ability...

As such, it was only a month or so after that little incident that Tonto ne Cheekey ne Loachan stepped into my life.....

.... and that is where I can pick up my old post to tell you his story (slightly edited from the original).....

I am Scared of Horses....
July 13, 2008

I am going to step right out there and just say it like it is. I am scared of horses. I love them in a way that is unhealthy, spend most of my day with them or thinking about them and use the majority of my disposable income supporting them....and I am unequivocally, absolutely, undeniably scared of them.

I've finally concluded that admitting you are scared of horses is the proverbial "first step".....

"I, Chelsi Pitt-Jolie *wink*, am scared of horses."

You might ask, "Why? What happened?"

Well, let me tell you.

His name was Tonto. Stop laughing. I changed it the day I brought him home.

I went with Cheekeye. (cheek- eye)

Cheekeye was the word that my father would use to get me to stop doing something naughty or dangerous.... like running with scissors. As luck would have it, I ran into a "friend" one day that I hadn't seen in a few years.... she told me about a three year old bay gelding she needed to sell , ASAP. She said how she was in a "tight spot"....and "would I come and look at him?....He's worth five... but you (my dear sweet long lost friend) can have him for two! He's green but really athletic. Reg Breeding stock paint. You dont have to pay for him right away, just come get him, I'm moving to Alberta and need him gone"

So I bought him.....and yes, as a matter of fact, I am a class one, triple A, fell of the vegetable truck yesterday- sucker!!)

The first sign I was in for trouble was that this 15.1HH blood bay gelding had not been weaned. He was three. (Yes, I said three!) The second was that he tried to kick me the first day. He bunched up that big square quarter horse ass and let both back feet rip. Thanks to a slow-motion matrix style move, I walked away unscathed. I wasn't worried. I was good hand. Fugly doesn't even begin to describe the nags I had ridden. I had been in my fair share of wrecks, paid my dues and still had an grip on my iron nerves.....

I had also watched all the Natural Horsemanship clinics and videos I could find. Gawani Pony Boy and Monty Roberts were my heroes..... Checkeye and I were going to become one in the round pen.

Cheekeye had a cute little dished QH head with a big eye. He would have been sweet looking if only his ears hadnt been permanently stitched to the back of his neck. He carried his stocky square built body with the bravado of a stud and when I turned him loose he could twist himself inside out. I longed to ride him. We started in the round pen. Things seemed to be going well. Pony Boy would be proud.

I didn't see it coming. As far as my memory serves, Cheekeye had stopped and faced up, ears pricked forward and was starting to walk in. "Join up" was moments away. I smiled. In a split second he changed his mind and covered the 5 feet between us. He hit me square with his chest! I was sent flying- ten feet backwards- stopped by the rail of the round pen as it hit the centre of my back with a load CRACK! I managed to get to my feet in time to see Cheekeye peel away, his back feet a torrent of rage. I can still vividly recall what he looked like, a moment before he hit me...his eyes were rolled back into his head so far, all I could see was the white.

I didnt understand what in the heck I had done wrong! I blamed Pony Boy. We tried a different approach but I was weary and he smelled fear. The hands at the barn were becoming scared of him and wouldnt go in to his paddock without a pitch fork to drive him off. He tried to run me over a few times. I learned to watch over my shoulder at all times. He bit, kicked and had a nasty temper. But I had faith. And so I kept working with him. It seemed like we were getting somewhere... until.....

On a bitterly cold January day I mounted Cheekeye for the first time. He stood quiet, ears forward....which was good enough for me. As lightly as possible, I stepped off. My right foot was on the ground, left foot in the stirrup when he blew up- He lunged forward and cut in front of me.... my body was forced to follow him to the left but my right foot stayed wedged in a tight divot in the hard and frozen ground. I felt the cartilage in my knee tear at the same moment I managed to free my foot from the stirrup. I fell to the ground in a breathless heap, my heart as frozen as the ground beneath me and watched Cheekeye tear around the pen, puffs of white steam billowing from his nostrils like an enraged bull.

In the days and weeks that followed I didn't worry too much. I had broken bones before- the body heals... you go on. I went to a doctor but he was unconcerned, told me that I had likely tore something and sent me home with some pain killers, a crutches, and strict orders to stay off of it completely for a week (and nothing strenuous for four months). I was an idiot! Instead of going to my family doctor I trust some anonymous guy in a walk-in-clinic! I didnt get a second opinion, didn't demand treatment, physical therapy or even to be property diagnosed. My injury was not nearly as serious as others I have heard of...

But four years later I still have a bit of a limp in the morning... all because I didn't let it heal properly. It didn't take me long to figure out that that moment changed my life. I could not ride, I could not hike, I could not run (the only means I had ever found to keep my weight in check.) The pounds piled on, compounding the injury. I didn't sell Cheekeye .... as I felt responsible....I talked to the "friend" I had bought him off of and she claimed it was my fault.

So.... I sent him to a trainer I trusted, not just a good hand but a true Guru. I didn't so much as talk to the trainer or see Cheekey in three months. My mother and I made the trip North to see him on a beautiful summer day but the horse that my Guru pulled out was not Cheekeye. Everything about him, including some of the finer points of his conformation, had changed. His neck was loose and throat latch soft. His hind quarters seemed to have sunk into his hocks. Everything that had been held tight for so long had let loose. He jogged, loped and moved with any easy, carefree gate. The Guru suggested a new name, for a new horse. I called him Loachan (pronounced Low-kin) a Scotts Gaelic word I have since forgot the meaning of....I am sure it was something positive and optimistic. I cried the first time I rode him.

My Guru pointed to a gouge on the horn of his saddle and told me how it had gotten there- his spur had caught it the first time Loachan bucked. This guy used to ride broncs for a living.... and he said "this horse can buck..." The Guru figured that whoever broke Loachan had tied him up and broke him (physically and mentally), taking away a horse's first defence-flight. Loachan had learned to depend on his ability to fight instead- which was the reason for his aggression and the blind fear he displayed while delivering it. Much later, by chance, I learned the name of the cowboy that broke Loachan and how true that theory was. The stories I heard about his breaking methods turned my stomach.

I brought Loachan home and for the next 8 months I rode him and handled him without much event but I never trusted him. I did not look forward to riding him or even going to the barn. I started to get the shakes on the drive over and my stomach would be turning by the time I got to his stall. I told myself I was being ridiculous... to Cowgirl Up !!! My iron nerve was a thing of the past. I was mortified.

One day, the barn manager was pulling Loachan's herd mate out of the field but he kept crowding the gate so- as she had her hands full- she tried shooing him away by kicking dirt at him. He charged her. (I doubt she flew backwards nearly as gracefully as did). It was then that I realized how I had been tip toeing around Loachan, not giving him a reason to react. I had been walking on egg shells and letting the fear and anxiety build within me. I remember driving to the barn one night, crying like a baby at the idea of having to halter my horse, hating myself for being such a "panzy" and mad as hell that I had let it get that far.

Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. I wasnt just scared of Loachan... no horse could be trusted. And horses started looking at me funny too. They didn't like my jumpy nervous energy, which only compounded the problem.

Finally a good friend put her foot down and told me I needed "to get that crazy horse gone!". I was forced to agree. One fine March day she picked him up. I never saw him again.

I was without horses for over a year. Many misadventures followed. I bought Ellie, Ghala, and Shaunti.... then finally my Abby.

Four years later, I am at Step Five in my Ten Step "I am scared of horses" recovery program.

What are the steps?

Step One- Admit that I am scared of horses....

...and that this is a rational and healthy survival instinct designed to ensure that I always put my personal safety first.

*note* never, ever, ever, let a horse know about Step 1!! Its our little secret....

Step Two- Promise yourself that you will not buy, ride or handle horses that are insane.

Step Three- Learn and adopt the tools and methods you need in order to be able to handle horses safely.

Tune in tomorrow to find out how I accomplished Step Three.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Be Careful!

(I have had this happen!)


Thank you for all of your thoughts on yesterdays post. I love when this blog allows me to explore some aspect of this crazy world we call horses. Only a horseperson can appreciate how consuming the concepts or problems that horses present us with can be. I often find myself- while walking or waiting to fall asleep at night- turning over ideas in my head, trying to find solutions to fencing problems, tying issues, or some baffling training method… Last night, just before I drifted off to sleep, I was mulling over your comments and the issue of tying…

With horses it seems that we are always trying to find the balance between teaching them do something, and trying to stop them from killing themselves in the process. Actually, it seems a little ironic, given the safety hazards we face in handling horses, that more often than not it is us that try to stop them from getting hurt. I weigh-… well… actually, I am not going to tell you what I weigh but lets just say that it is (I hope) significantly less than your average horse and yet the responsibility for my horses safety lies in my very small (and often futile) hands. When I think about training a young horse or helping an older horse work through some issue, I relish in the problem solving aspect of training- trying to figure out how to work them through it without hurting them or myself in the process. I love visualizing how such and such a method could work and the satisfaction that would come from such an achievement… But then, I also have to think (as a horseman) about all the things that could go wrong and how to prevent such things from occurring. In that moment, when I visualize the wreck, the danger, the pain and the panic that a one thousand pound, 100% flight animal can inspire….I get a little queasy in the stomach. Because being able to anticipate what can go wrong, most often than not, is a result of having watched it go wrong in the past…. And there is nothing more terrifying (to me)….- nothing that makes me feel more mortal, than the vision of what a real wreck looks like first hand.

What is frustrating is how often it is impossible to stop the same accident from happening twice- because horses are inherently dangerous creatures and have a God given knack for getting themselves into trouble. Often, the concerns nearest and dearest to our hearts are drawn from our own traumatic experiences. For example, having a horse rear under saddle doesn’t scare me nearly as much as having a horse rear on the ground. Why? Because I have never been hurt *knock on wood* by a horse rearing under saddle, where as I was nearly killed by a horse that struck me while rearing on the ground. Tying is just such an issue for me- I have watched it go wrong to many times and in so many different ways! No matter what the snap, the object you tie them to, the type of halter, the length of the slack you put in the rope, the kind of rope, or the knot you tie, and so on…things still sometimes go wrong. Some people believe you should always tie a horse hard and fast while others believe in breakaways or never tying a horse at all. Personally, tying a horse in a rope halter or with a lot of slack makes my stomach do flip flops.

Have you ever watched a horse really “pull back”? Not just the kind where they give the rope a good hard pull just to be an ass, or test your knot tying skills …I am talking about the type that quite literally loose their freakin minds and don’t quit until they have either broken loose or come to rest, half unconscious, lying on the ground with their head hanging from the rope. Have you ever watched someone get caught behind or beside that kind of pull back? Have you ever seen someone get caught between the horse and the wall they are tied to? I haven’t, thank god. But I’ve heard the stories. Because when a horse gets tired of pulling, they lunge (with all their might) straight into the object directly in front of them. It doesn’t matter if it is a fence or a cement wall- a panicked horse will try to go through it, like a line backer, and they wont pause to consider that you’re in their way.

I have seen so many wrecks due to tying, that thinking on the subject gives me a stomachache. But then I also know how impossible it can be to have a horse that doesn’t tie at all. So how do we do it safely? The answer is we cant. No matter how old or steady a horse may be, there will always be some circumstance wherein he might just loose his marble in animalistic attempt to survive…and there is a likelihood- a much higher likelihood that we care to admit- that he may hurt, injury or kill us in the process of saving his own life. It is the inherent nature of a horse to be reactive. A horse will, quite literally, kill itself to save its own life. Sometimes, seeing the reality of that concept come to life, or imagining how it could, scares the living bageezes out of me.

Just when I get to feeling a little confident or cocky, when I think about training a colt or working through some issue, I am reminded of the value of a truly broke and sane horse- one that is time, tested and true. I am not so deluded as to think that a “Steady Eddie” cant be just as dangerous as any other horse but do believe that he is at least he is much less likely, (than some young or unseasoned horse) to react dangerously when pressed. It is a little wee concept us horse people aught to consider more seriously…. Something called risk mitigation. Because while I am willing to accept the danger that comes with riding and handling horses (in order to reap the rewards, both spiritual and physical that such an interaction affords me) I would think it prudent to do so in as safe of a manner as possible.

The horses you choose to ride, the challenges you choose to accept, or risks you chance to take are personal decisions. Each to their own! Whatever floats your boat! But I don’t always find that decision so simple! I am tempted by the thrill that comes with riding the challenge and the reward that comes when you have done so successfully! I am tempted by the idea of starting a horse fresh or fixing a problem horse so that he can go on to have a better life…. at the same time, I want to walk the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, I want to hike Blacktusk and cycle Kettle Valley, I want to ride a camel before the pyramids and stand in awe at the foot of Niagara Falls. I have other dreams and aspirations, outside of the realm of horses. So I aught to take what care I can to ensure that the risk and reward ratio horses tempt me with does not one day inhibit my ability to explore other aspects of life.

Horses aught to come branded with a “handle with care” stamp! Don’t you think? It is downright silly to consider it faux pas to acknowledge or talk about how dangerous horses can be. Do not allow the brash and the bold to belittle your concerns, do no be scared to acknowledge your fear or to allow it to motivate you to caution but do be careful to not allow fear to control or rule your thoughts and actions. I believe that horses are worth the risk and that a health amount of respect and fear keeps me safe.

This is a lesson I learned the hard way…. my itch to challenge horses beyond my ability is what led to the torn cartilage in my knee, an injury that has stopped me from doing some things that I love… like wearing high heels.

And I love a great pair of heels, don’t you?

So, for goodness sakes, be careful!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Kick To Go- Pull to Stop

Anyone here know how to ride a horse?

Ooooh! Oooh! I do! I do!......

You kick to get them to go.

And you pull back on the reins to stop.

If you want to go left, pull the left rein.

To go right, pull the right rein.

The object is to keep your ass in the saddle as much as possible and to not fall off.

If you can only walk you are a beginner rider.

If you can trot you are "intermediate".

If you can canter or gallop without freaking out or falling off- you are officially an "experienced rider".

Now, if you can stay on when the horse freaks out, bucks, rears, or bolts, you are either a professional or just really damn lucky.

Am I missing anything?

I am!!!!

Like what?

What more could their be?

Okay, okay. All joking aside....

I didn't grow up in a horse family or on a farm. Other than the riding my mother and Auntie did as teens, I am the only one in my family who is "horsey". As such, I didn't grow up with an inherent knowledge of all things equine and other than a few months of lessons at 13, I had to pretty much learn by hook or by crook and through trial and error as I went along. Which worked out fairly well. I could stick like glue and would ride anything with four feet and a heart beat up (over any kind of terrain....river, mountain or forests) I was bucked off, scraped off, slid off, taken off, kicked, bitten, run over and abused in every manner possible. And I lived to tell the story. All of which I managed to do with only the above listed skill set.

I was reading a blog today that talked about this issue- (how difficult it is to make the transition from recreational rider to an a more disciplined or educated one and how to define when or if you have become that rider). Someone commented and said that logging hours in the saddle is the only way to become a better rider. Which I would have to agree with... to an extent. Because from age 12-18 I rode about as much as any teenage girl could (which, btw, is a lot) but I didn't know how to ride at all! I stuck-like glue. (At least most of the time.)

I developed "feel" in the saddle and learned to read the mind of a horse... I could tell you exactly which boulder (out of 50 similar shaped lumps of rock) my old Arab gelding would determine to be some horse eating monster.... I learned to anticipate problems, to look at the world and pick out "horsey hazards"... (like that bolt sticking out of the wall - just waiting to snag a hip, that loose wire on the fence- waiting to trap a leg, that loose halter, just waiting to hook a hoof or to watch that nasty gelding in the paddock (as you take your horse out of the field) b/c he is sure to calmly graze and pretend to ignore you as you walk by.....right up until you are precariously pressed between your horse and the gate, at which time he'll bolt across the pasture, hell bent on murder and mayhem.... which will send your horse in to hysterics..... just as your hands are busy with the gate latch....which, in panic, you of course drop....and while trying to regain control of your (now) wild horse, the gate swings wide open..... at which time the bossy old lead mare catches sights off the lush grass on opposite side of said gate and makes a run for it.... taking the rest of the herd with her.... and other mundane stuff like that - all of which take a lifetime of handling horses to learn to anticipate!

It seems to me that "horse sense"- the ability to read and anticipate problems, to handle horses with care in a safe and practised manner- and knowing how to ride in a correct way are not mutually exclusive concepts. I am not a great rider. I spent the majority of my hours logged in the saddle without any care of concern for correct leads, dropped shoulders, being "on the bit", driving up a hind quarter, picking up the front end, body position, riding from the seat, moving off a leg, etc. etc. etc. but I sure the heck did develop a healthy amount of horse sense. Whereas I knew plenty of riders growing up that had been taking lessons all their life and could ride better than I'll ever- but who didn't have a freakin' clue how to care for or handle a horse safely.

I do not consider myself an experience horsewoman. I have some experience and some basic working knowledge of handling and riding horses. There are people on this planet that will forget more than I'll ever know about horses. I have often wondered if I will ever feel like a remotely competent rider. To be a horsewoman is to often be humbled by the greatness of horses and blessed by the limitless experiences and learning opportunities they afford us.

To all of you that are just getting started in horses or that aspire to become better riders, I encourage you to get lessons, take clinics, read books, watch videos, and ask for advice. Also spend as much time as possible with as many different horses as possible. Every horse is an individual and has something unique to teach us. But most of all, recognize that there is always going to be someone that knows more than you do (or at least claim to) and that we are all still learning, no matter what our experience level.

Here is my confession as example....

I had a really difficult time learning how to feel what lead a horse is on. I was told a hundred times how simple it was and how to do it but never quite got it and eventually I became insecure about not knowing and so stopped asking for help. Just this last year I was in a lesson and my trainer had to keep getting after me for being on the wrong lead. I finally snapped and said, "I am sorry... but I JUST cant feel it!!!" She looked at me totally puzzled and said, "What? That's easy!" to which I sarcastically replied, "So I'm told!!" What did she do? She put me on a lunge line, tied my reins off, had me close my eyes, and spent the next half hour doing lead departures until I finally... finally ... got it. And guess what.... It is easy. I was just over thinking it because I was insecure about getting "found out" as the girl that didn't know her leads.

Horse people are a pretentious bunch. We are arrogant little shits sometimes! Sorry... but it is true. But DO NOT let that stop you from learning. We all have some kind of financial, physical or time limitation that limits our ability or our opportunity to progress. Be all you can be. (In the Arrrrrrrmy!)

Me! I have finally found the perfect horse.....

I actually feel like I can control this one....

THIS is my next pony!!!......

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Girl Crush?

Have you ever had a girl crush?

I think I have....!!

Before I go a head and claim I actually have one....I think I need to look it up in Urban Dictionary and find out exactly what a "girl crush" is, don't you? ....

Lets see..... they say.....

1. feelings of admiration and adoration which a girl has for another girl, without wanting to shag said girl. a nonsexual attraction, usually based on veneration at some level.

Yah, that pretty much sums it up.

2. an overwhelming sense of awe felt by a girl for another girl elicited by varying causes ranging from deep respect to unadulterated lust. may result in the any or all of the following: general euphoria, prolonged sense of inspiration, desire for intellectual-intercourse with crush, simple sexual arousal, etc

Yikes!!!! Oh no!!! No, no no! That is certainly not what I meant.

3. The admiration one girl has for another. It could be to do with hair, body, make-up, car, clothes, career, talents etc. Completely non-sexual. Girl crushes are generally very short-lived, as girls move on very quickly from trends.

I don't know about you, but I am offended! To make such a general characterisation of a woman and to suggest that we act on fleeting whims of fancy, that we move from one trend to the next without thought or reason, to imply that we lend our adoration so casually....

Okay.... so maybe... just maybe, there might be a smidgen of truth in that....


Definition number four is equally offensive (and unfortunately also somewhat true....)

4. A female who absolutely adores another female in the mostly nonlesbian way and tries to be EXACTLY like that chick and forgets her identity.

Now that we have that cleared up.... I can freely admit that I've had a few "girl crushes" over the years....

Actually, I can distinctly remember dying my hair red at sixteen because I wanted to look just like Kate Winslet in Titanic....

Some days I managed looking like her a little better than others....

I was going to post a picture of myself with a wickedly bad perm (dyed a godawful red) but I just cant seem to put my hands on it..... too bad! *innocent smile* ....

This summer I totally had a girl crush on Jewel. DB took me to see her in concert for my birthday and she rocked my world! This girl can sing!! My personal favorite is a ballad of hers called the Cowboy Waltz....

I mean, come on! The girl has a killer voice, a wicked fashion sense and is married to Ty Freakin' Murray, people! (btw, his middle name isnt really "freakin") How could you not love her?

Todays date, I most definitely have a "girl crush" on Beyonce.

She is drop dead gorgeous, can sing like a mother, act, dance, and at least seems pretty darn genuine to boot! Did everyone see her sing "At Last" for Barack and Michelle Obama? OMG!

But another thing I love about this gal, is that she is bootylicious baby! And pear shaped just like me!

Hollywood and Showbiz are seriously lacking in the healthy body image department and this girl makes no bones (pardon the pun) about lovin' her curves and workin' them out!

This summer... I am totally going to go for this look....

Which means that it was an especially good thing that I got to the gym today.... 'cause white pants and I would not get along too well at the moment!

And this summer I plan on looking fabulous in a bikini! Which is espcially hard for pear shaped woman like us (with chunky thighs, wide hips, curvy waists).....but Beyonce proves that it is possible.... which gives me hope!

Did I mention that she can sing? This song from Dream Girls has really been speaking to me lately and Beyonce does a wicked job of it...

Anyone else want to fess up to having a "girl crush"?

Saturday, January 24, 2009



What is wrong with the word 'shrinkage' !?!

I dont know what you are talking about!! ......

I am talking about weight loss, of course!!

What could be dirty about that!

Geeze Louise! You thought I was talking about what??!!!

*tisk tisk* What a dirty mind, you have! *grin*

For the past few months I haven't been out of the house much..... I have been fighting the winter willies (oh come on people!) and have been cooped up in front of this darn computer for way too long now!!!

I suspect my ass has doubled in size.....

Its either that or all this cold weather has given my computer chair a bad case of shrinkage.

You may remember that my chair was similarly effected back in November -

My Computer Chair Is Shrinking November 10/08


The past few months have not been good ones for me.... or they have been great ones.... depending on how you want to look at it.

I have been working through some personal challenges and have been making some very weighty life decisions.... one of which is that I am not buying a horse or riding at the moment... which has weighed heavily on me.... and on my ass. Actually, on my ass, thighs, calves, arms, etc. etc. etc. ......I have been in a pretty serious funk for the past 4 months and my health has suffered for it. I know that I need to get out and exercise, to eat better, to sleep better, to take my vitamins, eat my blueberries and get to a riding lesson at least once a week.... !!! I KNOW I need to do those things.... but every morning I wake up and say to myself.... "I have to do it today!! I will do it!!!...."

And every afternoon I look out the window and think... "Ugh! I'd rather have a cup of tea, read some blogs and make some marshmallows..... I dont really have to go out, do I? Oh ...screw it... I'll start tomorrow!

And tomorrow... and tomorrow.... has come and gone and yet still.... here I sit.

So, is today "tomorrow"? I think it needs to be. Because I turned on the TV last night and watched the story of the "Half Ton Mom" and realized that "tomorrow" hasn't come for her yet either.

I know I am not alone.... Over half of America is obese.

But I hate sitting in front of the computer. I hate the crappy feeling eating crap food gives you. I hate feeling heavy. I hate looking fat. I hate being tired all the time. I hate stressing about all the things I should be doing. I hate...


I love to hike. I love to walk my dog. I love to ride. I love being outside. I love exploring new places. I love to go for road trips. I love the feeling of knowing that I have nurtured my body with healthy foods. I love yoga. I love feeling energetic, balanced, and clear headed. I love...


It seems a little crazy that I choose to do all the things I hate and none of the things I love, doesn't it?

So... maybe I should stand up!! *I stand up*

Only it is hard to type standing up like that so I will sit back down for a minute, k?

*sits back down*

In a minute I am going to stand up! I am going to hit "publish post" and I am going to go for a freakin' walk!!!

Actually, I am going to go and get dressed first. 'Cause People might.... just maybe.... think it odd if I walk around in my bath robe.... though in this neighborhood that is a serious maybe!

I just had an idea (really, I am not stalling... I will go just as soon as I am done this post!)

I am going to add a little "health update" to the bottom of my post every day for the rest of the month...... I will tell you all what I did to make myself a little healthier that day.....

So ..... are you in?

Just got in from my walk. Feels goods to have it done! It was freakin' cold!!! Good thing I have extra insulation! :)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

"I woke last night to the sound of thunder....!"

I was sittin' at the 'puter and feeling a little low...

Contemplating the gray night, the cold wet air, and my (ever) shrinking computer chair....

When all of the sudden a song came on the radio.....

And I heard....

"I woke last night to the sound of thunder!....

How far off I sat and wondered....."

Hello, Bob Segar!

Without thinking my shoulders start bobbin' to the beat......

My heart beats a little faster and the song goes on....

"Started humming a song from 1962

Aint it funny how the night moves...."

Now my bum is starting to wiggle.... while Bob sings....

"When you just dont seem to have much to loose...

Strange how the night moves...."

Whoa..... Night moves!!.....

And by the end of the song I am smiling and singing.... the gloom of the foggy night forgotten...

Now, I think that as I actually made it a whole week (almost) without posting any youtube, I should be allowed to put up the music video of the song that made my night!?! Don't you?

To share it all with you and hope that, somewhere,out there in the great wide world, all my blogger friends might get to smile and dance a little too!

So... here it is! Bob Segar's 'Night Moves'.... accompanied by a handful of those cliche little inspirational expressions I received in an e-mail today....

My favorite.....

** Some days you're the pigeon,
and some days you're the statue. **


A lecturer when explaining
stress management to an audience,
raised a glass of water and asked
"How heavy is this glass of water?"

Answers called out ranged

from 20g to 500g.

The lecturer replied,

"The absolute weight doesn't matter.
It depends on how long you try to hold it.

If I hold it for a minute,
that's not a problem.

If I hold it for an hour,
I'll have an ache in my right arm.

If I hold it for a day,
you'll have to call an ambulance.

In each case, it's the same weight,
but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."

He continued,

"And that's the way it is
with stress management.
If we carry our burdens
all the time, sooner or later,
as the burden becomes increasingly heavy,
we won't be able to carry on. "

"As with the glass of water,
you have to put it down for a while

and rest before holding it again.
When we're refreshed,
we can carry on with the burden."

"So, before you return home tonight,
put the burden of work down.
Don't carry it home.
You can pick it up tomorrow.

Whatever burdens you're carrying now,
let them down for a moment if you can."

* Always keep your words soft and sweet,
just in case you have to eat them.

* Drive carefully. It's not only cars that can be
recalled by their maker.

* If you can't be kind,
at least have the decency to be vague.

* Since it's the early worm
that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late.

* It's the second mouse that gets the cheese.

* When every thing's coming your way,
you're in the wrong lane.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dream Horse circa 1998

I'd like to meet Kitty....

This mare may look a little old and shaggy right now....

But let me tell you.... back in 1998.... this mare was my dream horse.
Whenever I visit my home town I drive by the field where her and her brother are kept and every year I watch her get a little older and a little older....
(which kinda makes me feel older.... )
Today I was able to get a few pictures of her.
Back in 1998 (when I was 16), I coveted this mare.
Did you have a "Kitty" (dream horse) when you were a teen?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pics from Jan and Presidental quotes

Don't you just love those inspirational e-mails you get? The ones with cliche expressions like "Today is the first day of the rest of your life"...accompanied by a sweet pic of a yellow chick hatching from an egg. You know the ones.... Anyways....

Here are a few pictures I have taken this month and a few great quotes from American Presidents on this very exciting day in American history!

Congratulations, my American friends!


"Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." -George Washington

"I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessing on this house (the White House) and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof!" - John Adams

"One man with courage is a majority." - Thomas Jefferson

"May our country be always successful, but whether successful or otherwise, always right." - John Quincy Adams

"Speak softly and carry a big stick." - Theodore Roosevelt

"You can not stop the spread of an idea by passing a law against it." - Harry S. Truman

"The American, by nature, is optimistic. He is experimental, an inventor and a builder who builds best when called upon to build greatly." -JFK

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ellie and Boo Boo!

The three pictures below are ones that I found this evening on the internet of the mare I sold to Slovakia (as in the country in Eastern Europe) back in 07.... Miss Ellie.....

Finding these pictures sent a little pang through my heart...... Because of the seven horses (!!!!) I have owned in the past seven years (!!!!) this is the only one I regret selling. .....

I miss this mare.

What horse do you wish that you could bring back (from the dead or a sale)?

Now, the three pictures below are of Boo Boo.... my kitty (LuLu).

I dont regret anything about this dear little feline.....

Besides the fact that she is terribly fat.....

And not always the sharpest tool in the shed......

"Ah....Boo Boo??? Honey? Booo!!! HEY LOU!!!"

"Snap out of it!!......close your mouth, dear! It's rude to stare! "

There! Now you look purdy again!!!" Dearest, sweetest, darling LuLu.....

We must get you on a diet!

***** I also must thank Melanie over at The Knutson Family and Palyreiner over at Spinnin & Slidin, Lopin & Dreamin Mustang Style for sharing a touch of summer in giving me this lemonde stand....

I recommend everyone take a look at some of the fabulous blogs on my list.... (and yes!.... that is me copping-out on nominating ten people! *grin*)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bad Banana!!

My mother and I may share a rather peculiar habit....

Or at least I think it is peculiar!

It is the point of this post to find out if it is or not!

I ask you this....

Do you have an item in your refrigerator in unnecessary multiples?

For some inexplicable reason I buy an onion almost every time I go to the grocery store. At any given time I have a half dozen more onions than I could ever expect to need. I like onion and use them often but not so often as to need to buy one every single time I go to the store!

I really cant explain it.

Thank goodness onions don't go bad nearly as readily as my other bad habit...

Bananas. I do eat a banana almost every day but I do not like them when they are fully ripe (the skin must still be thick and the color all yellow with just a tiny hint of green at the top.) So I always have a large assortment of bananas in various states of ripeness... when a banana turns to brown for me or DB to eat, I toss it in the freezer to use in Banana Bread at some later date ... I hate feeling wasteful!

.....But I don't make Banana Bread often so there are usually a few dozen brown bananas clogging up my little freezer.....

My mother shares my banana habit but her big one is....... Feta cheese! I would bet my last dollar that she has two or more containers of Feta in her fridge at this moment!

So.... are we peculiar?

Or do you do something like this too?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Phar Lap for Real!

Phar Lap for real!...
For anyone who hasn't watched the movie Phar Lap, I highly recommend that you do! While you might not be disposed to trust my judgment after last night's posted video (of Katty Perry) *ahem* I can promise that this movie is worth watching.

Phar Lap is the true story of the legendary Australian race horse, Phar Lap (who is often referred to as "the Aussie Seasbuiscut" because he went showing little promise in ever winning a race to being nearly unable to loose one!) The movie highlights the love between his groom (Tommy Woodcock) and this great red horse much as Seabuiscut highlighted the love of Red Pollard for his little bay.

The movie's ending is no secret but I will still issue a ***spoiler alert! ***

Phar Lap was shipped to US to race in the high states world of American horse racing but never saw a race there (he did race once in Mexico). It has been long suspected that he was poisoned to death by the American Mob (who wanted to protect their bookkeepers from the threat Phar Lap posed.)

(photos: Phar Lap's stuffed hide!)

Phar Lap, for his great race record and dramatic death, became a national icon (quite literally as he is actually featured in the Australian Citizenship test and his mounted hide is on display at the Melbourne Museum, his heart at the National Museum of Australia and his skeleton in a New Zealand!!) The curiousity over his cause of death remained a topic of interest even some 75 years afterward. Many tests were done on his hair and tissue but researchers were unable to separate the chemicals used in preserving his hide and heart vs. those that actually killed him. Also, it was common for race horses to be given small doses of Arsenic (as a blood thinner) a practice Phar Laps trainer was known to employ and so the actual dose of Arsenic (not just the presence of it) would be needed to determine it as a cause of death.

It was not until June 2008 that researchers were finally able to put this mystery to rest! Using some new high-flutin' technology they were able to test six hairs from Phar Laps mane and determine that 30 to 40 hours before his death Phar Lap ingested a massive dose of Arsenic! How cool is that! (that they figured it out...not that he was poisoned...*sheepish grin*....

(How can you tell that I am a fan of Cold Case Files.)

(photo: Phar Lap's heart)

I actually caught a program on TV that told of another interesting fact about Phar Lap and the great American race horse, Secretariat. Scientists have shown that they both carried the same genetic condition (that increases the size of their heart to almost double that of a normal horse) called "X-Factor"! This gene was passed down through a female line that traces back to a racehorse named Eclipse (foaled in England in 1764). While Phar Lap and Secretariat are the extreme cases (there is much debate about the actual weight of Secretariats heart because it was never weighed at his autopsy but the vet, on seeing a sixteen pound heart, guessed Secretariats to be around 22.) Other enlarged "X-Factor" hearts have been found in many other great race horses since.... actually some famous AQHA legendary racing sires like Easy Jet, Azure Te, Dash for Cash, Go Man Go, Three Bars, Top Deck, Leo and many more!

(Photo: Secretariat winning Belmont Stakes by over 30 lengths!)

One last little tidbit... did you know that both Secretariat's jockey (Ron Turcotte) and Red Pollard (Seabuscuits jockey) were good ol' Canadian boys!!

THERE!!! NOOOOOO youtube videos! Whew! *wipes brow* That was difficult. I was going to post some actual footage of Seabuiscut, Phar Lap and Secretariat... but I shall resist!