Thursday, December 31, 2009
Boy, am I glad 2009 is DONE. My daughter tumbled off a horse because of my stupidity and became completely terrified of horses, sold a bucking horse, bought a new horse, couldn't load my horses, got them to load, found a melting point for my new horse, was as discouraged as I ever could be about owning horses, had my horse "talk" to me in a way that felt miraculous and my daughter got back on a horse.
Whew. Can you have emotional whiplash?
Time to move on.
It's that time - RESOLUTIONS!
I don't like to think of them as resolutions. So often they are just dreams, or goals, or targets on the horizon.
Resolution sounds like failure before I even begin, frankly.
So here are the 2009 Targets I've got:
Attend 2 significant (multi-day) clinics. One locally, one in NM (Right, Carmon?)
Work with my horse 3 x a week, even if I can't ride.
Remember that horses are a bit of an emotional roller coaster. Accept that and don't take it personally.
Be present. Be where I am. Listen when someone is talking, stop over valuing multi tasking when it comes to family and friends.
Write. A lot.
And on the giving up list: No more casual TV (only movies with the kids), no more candy bars (I made it candy bar free in 2008 but have totally lost it in 2009), Fast food limited to 1 x a week.
Things I want to do, but never manage: Get organized. Print my pictures. clear off my desk at the start and end of the day. Clear off everything on the kitchen counters.
Hmmm. Maybe I better hang on to those candy bars...
Wishing everyone a goal achieving, target hitting, resolution keeping 2010...
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
When the lightbulb goes off
Today was a day we dedicated to the dogs, and I'll have some pictures and perhaps a video on that later.
But before Day of the Dogs, we stopped by the stables.
It's very muddy, our wet winter weather has created quite the soup in the paddocks. We'd brought the dogs to do a few introductions and while the dog wranglers set to work, I headed out with a pocket of cut up carrots.
I was not looking forward to trudging through the paddock in my boots to get my boy. So I went to the "gate" (just where the electric gate is set) and clicked my tongue to my horse. He looked up and headed right for me.
I "clicked" (actually a low clucking sound since I know I'll never be able to keep track of an actual clicker) and gave him a bit of carrot. Then he followed me out, without a halter, into the alleyway.
Yeah. And that would never have happened before. We do NOT leave our friends without a rope. No sir.
But, there it was.
Today my only goal (since we were not going to ride and were just doing dog intros and such) was to try to get the "touch this" connection with the clicker training. Since I'm going to be working with sacking out, and since last go round with Canyon I learned that a whole lot of courage is bought with a slice of carrot, I decided to try to get this connection to happen.
At first, Cibolo was just going for my hand that held the carrot, not the object I tried to get him to touch. I began to have him touch my hand as I pointed, but kept the carrot piece in my other hand. I spread the time a tiny bit from the point of success and click (or cluck, in my case) and the point of getting a carrot.
He got it. A cluck meant success.
Then, slowly he moved to nosing the object slightly. The trailer wall. The latch. The rope on the latch.
Then I picked up a stick no more than 3 inches long and pointed to the scary orange piece of equipment he's avoided a few times.
He paused. I waited. Then he touched the object that the stick touched.
The entire thing took about 10 minutes, and I was cautious to leave him wanting more time.
I'm getting the idea he really looks forward to these sessions. Sure, there are carrots, but there's also figuring out how to get them. It's not just riding, going places he doesn't want to go.
There's something in it for him. And I'm getting obedience and respect out of the deal. His ground manners remain impeccable. I am keeping him from mugging me because there are no "free" treats. Even our treat at greeting requires one respectful step back.
And not every behavior is treated, sometimes the reward is relaxing and rubbing.
I'd like to figure out how to do some of this in the saddle, particularly to reward pushing through hesitance. I need more saddle time, something that will have to wait for longer days and more cooperative weather.
Right now, I'm just glad the light bulb went off.
About the above picture: (Read here about the guy who ate nothing but carrots in an attempt to turn orange. And he's from my neck of the woods. Coincidence? I think not! Okay, probably.)
Sunday, December 27, 2009
In the pasture
It was a beautiful day, if a little chilly. Fortunately I have finally figured out the right combination of clothes to keep me warm - I don't really have cold weather gear since we get about 10 days of really cold (under 40 degrees is where I draw the "really cold" line) weather. Who needs gear when you can walk with your hands under your armpits for 10 days.
But, after pulling chilly weather luck on yet another horse feeding morning, I decided to figure out how to stay warm. Tights, jeans, socks, four shirt layers, a vest and the biggest coat my husband has, along with a hat, rabbit lined gloves and scarf. Toasty.
When I pulled up to the barn I was surprised to see an empty paddock where four geldings (including mine) should be. Then I realized that the "gate" was down and they were out in the pasture.
The pasture at our barn is not a large flat field. It's more of the sloped rocky hill side so common here in the Texas Hill Country. But I was undeterred. I was confident that I'd find my horse and bring him up without a problem.
Have I mentioned I'm an optimist?
I headed down the hill and saw Cibolo, head down in the sparse grass, grazing away with his BFF, Arab-Amigo. Two other geldings, the sorrel, Amigo, and the roan, Chico (known for his reluctance to canter) were grazing off to the side.
I clicked my tongue and Cibolo looked up and then headed straight for me at a quick walk.
This is a rather dramatic turn of events. Starting (as near as I can tell) with the time we began doing the sacking out, Cibolo has stopped trying to evade me at the urging of his BFF. This was the third time in a row he walked up to greet me, and Arab Amigo came too. I delivered a carrot to each (I thought I'd need an incentive if we had to play chase the horses on the hillside) and, with halter on, began leading Cibolo up.
Then everyone thought this was the dinner bell and began to head up the hill too. Cibolo didn't follow them, though, staying at the proper distance on his lead and calmly following me up.
To me, gathering a horse out of the herd can be the most dangerous time. I'll never forget reading about a champion barrel racer who was killed by her horses who got worked up when she was setting them out to pasture. So I keep a careful eye on what messages the herd is sending.
Sorrel Amigo and Arab Amigo ran up the hill. Arab Amigo was clearly surprised that Cibolo was hanging with me. Behind us Chico was making his way up as well.
Then I saw it coming. Arab Amigo ran down to herd everyone up the hill. I dissuaded him once, but he made another pass, convincing Chico to run and I prepared to let go of the rope and get out of the way as Cibolo pulled to go forward. I knew the pressure this time was too intense.
But before I let go I pulled quick on the rope, then let go, calmly stepping aside.
Cibolo, who had started to run, turned, tense, and faced me. His lead rope was slack at his feet.
His muscles were tight, ready to go but he looked at me. He wasn't sure, but he stood there, still looking like he wanted to bolt. But he didn't bolt.
He looked and waited for me to tell him what to do. Like I was in charge.
"It's okay, Cibolo. Good."
I picked up the lead rope and gave him a rub. And we walked up, him following respectfully and calmly, and together we headed out to do some work.
And proceeded to have a nice time.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Watching for Santa, thanks to NORAD
And one of our favorite Christmas jokes...
Santa Claus, like all pilots, gets regular visits from
the Federal Aviation Administration, and it was
shortly before Christmas when the FAA examiner
In preparation, Santa had the elves wash the sled
and bathe all the reindeer. Santa got out his
logbook and made sure all his paperwork was in
The examiner walked slowly around the sled. He
checked the reindeer harnesses, the landing gear,
and Rudolph's nose. He painstakingly reviewed
Santa's weight and balance calculations for the
sled's enormous payload.
Finally, they were ready for the checkride. Santa
got in and fastened his seatbelt and shoulder
harness, and checked the compass. Then the
examiner hopped in carrying, to Santa's surprise,
"What's that for?" asked Santa incredulously.
The examiner winked and said, "I'm not supposed
to tell you this, but you're gonna lose an engine
(I have to say, this year the capitol really skimped on
the decorations. what a shame)
Today it's back to the thirties. I hope Santa has his thermals on!
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Twas two days before Christmas
‘Twas two days before Christmas and all through the house,
Panic was ensuing, even down to the mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
With so much do, it hardly seemed fair!
The children were staying up late to be ready
Wishing for Christmas eve to get here already.
And I in my warm robe and Daddy in his
Lay stressed in our bed thinking of that and of this.
When out on the deck there arose such a clatter,
We both thought “Darn Cats,” but still checked on the matter.
And what to our sleep deprived eyes should appear?
But 20 hill country elves, loaded with gear!
Tinsel and tape, ribbons and bows,
Hot cocoa, and cider, and tacos to go.
“We’re here to lighten your load just a bit
before the big guy gets here, you know, St. Nick?”
Stunned, we let them in and they set right to work,
Adding décor to the gifts, bringing merriment and mirth.
They fixed the broken string of lights on the tree,
They multiplied our chocolate chip cookie count by three.
One found a dust pan, another a broom,
And they set about straightening every room.
Soon we were helping and laughing and found,
The spirit of the season had us dancing around.
We joked about the silly things that happened this year,
And the sad things, well, about those we shed a small tear.
We toasted the last of the marshmallows and then,
The hill country elves packed up their tools once again.
They left behind a sparkle with every footstep,
Away in the darkness of night did they schlep.
And then, out of nowhere the alarm rang loud!
We woke with a start, wondering aloud...
Was it just a dream? Was there still so much to do?
We came down the stairs, and yes, the place was a zoo.
And yet the room seemed brighter as we gazed about,
And we laughed, realizing without a doubt,
The Spirit of the season had filled our home with good cheer.
Thanks little elves.
We’ll take it from here.
Merry Christmas from ours to yours!
Monday, December 21, 2009
Or maybe he just needs to be reminded.
While he's nowhere near as bad as some horses I've known (Canyon), he needs to get some help getting over a few things.
De-spooking is probably the one thing I feel pretty confident about. After all I spent a TON of time on that before. Because it's ground work I enjoy it even more.
I was having some trouble getting the right rythmn with Cibolo. Sometimes I can't read him very well, although I'm getting better. So I asked the trainer to watch what I was doing and give me some pointers.
We were doing "the attack of the plastic bag."
I guess my version of deadly bag was fairly unconvincing (despite all those years in improv in Chicago. go figure), because Cibolo was fairly comfortable. Then the trainer went in there and upped the pressure - she found spots he thought were definitely off limits and at one point pushed too hard and off he went, escaping the horse eating bag.
So we started up again ('cept can I tell you that when he came back in, he came to me? ). Back to the swishy, swishy, an arc from the ground to his neck, then ground to higher on the neck, and he improved and improved.
It's going to be a journey, and it gives us something to work on everyday. Next I'm tying bags to his stall and feeding him carrots out of bags.
After the sacking out was done, we went for a ride. I didn't go far because the girls were at the barn climbing all over the hay. There were other adults there feeding, but I didn't want to presume they could babysit.
We did a few tests with Cibolo. He had no issue having other horses disappear. He had no issue with trotting after, then being asked to walk while others continued.
He did have some barn sour issues, but actually we were at the point I wanted to turn around. Whether he sensed that and was ready to "aid me" in that decision or what, I don't know. I spent a few minutes bending and flexing, turning and making him wait until it was completely my decision.
Our friend Steph was riding Lily who did her multiple turn thing in an effort to get back to the barn with Cibolo. She was a pill, to quote Stephanie, but eventually it all worked out.
On the way back we had a relaxing ride. One little spook in place, but something was different.
I had no anxiety going back. At all. I didn't canter this trip (pretty muddy right now), but focused on my seat and my aids. Checked to see how soft I could go.
Pretty soft. Nice.
I hope to ride most of the week. We'll see...
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Some horses are just meant to wear hats
Now hand over the cookies and no
elves will be injured.
Friday, December 18, 2009
The danger of stocking hats
You've been reading those other blogs again, haven't you...
I'll show you how to wear a hat!
There are cookies, right?
Absolutely. There are always cookies.
(The parade starts at 7msn...)
Thursday, December 17, 2009
On Courage and Calm
But horse thought is flowing.
When I was in DC, I asked our trainer/BO/friend to do a full evaluation on Cibolo. I asked her to try and answer two questions:
- Was he too young/green?
- Was I too old/green?
Basically I wanted someone who knows me, to put Cibolo through a full trail evaluation. I trust Donna to be able to put a horse through it's paces and find every hole in its training. She rides in endurance races, raises Aztecas, has ridden dressage, and knows the issues I had with my previous horse.
On Tuesday night I called her for the report.
She did everything on him. Rode with another horse. Let that horse get out of sight. Rode alone. Rode ahead. Rode across streets. Rode and cantered.
Her evaluation: He's a wonderful horse. There are some holes, and Cibolo does need some sacking out, but its nothing I can't handle.
Initially I was unsure what I felt about this. Frankly I had been struggling through the idea that everyone can ride my flipping horse and I'm just some big baby that couldn't ride a hobby horse with training wheels.
Frankly I feel a little narcissistic even saying it, but what's a blog for if not to be a place for us to admit our faults? I mean, this isn't my aunt's Christmas letter where the biopolar daughter is somehow the next Sister Theresa.
So I spent part of my time in DC feeling a little like a whiny loser. But only part of my time.
When I got back and finally got some time around Cibolo, I felt different.
When we were in the round pen, I was calm. When I rode him and worked on the first five minutes, I was quiet and centered.
I was grooming Cibolo and something caused him to lift his head in alarm. I brought my energy level down and took on a new role. No irritation. No worry. Like the good mom, confident in the face of the spider that freaks out my daughter, refusing to stomp on it, instead showing her how you can pick it up and put it outside and it's no big deal. Not coddling, not protecting. Being a good, calm leader.
As the rain has kept me inside, I've been considering what this is about.
When I look back at when I first got Cibolo, I was fairly confident, he seemed very much like Lily. I was slack, because this horse didn't seem to need anything.
That, of course, was a mistake. Not because he needed so much, but because every horse needs some.
When he had the meltdown in Conception and I felt lost all over again. We had lost so much ground. I was back to being suspicious of my horse, worried about how he'd react. That worry came up when we crossed streets - which made me anxious that he'd slip. I worried he'd be upset riding alone. I worried he wouldn't hear me at all.
Now I'm in a different place. Something inside has shifted again, this time into a good place.
I feel a little like I do with my child, if you'll forgive the comparison. I establish the rules of behavior, and when something pushes up against that rule, I hold the line in place calmly, firmly, without malice but also without exception.
(Unless it has to do with leaving shoes in the middle of the living room after you've been told 40 times to put them up. Then the heck with calmness, it's MAJOR kid round penning. But I digress...)
When I rode Cibolo Sunday, I realized that I now know the worst he'll do. I'm not afraid of that now. I do know that I have some ability myself, I DO know what I'm doing, at least enough to work with him through this time of getting our collective act together. And, as weather permits, our trainer will be giving me some trail confidence building lessons.
Cibolo IS the horse I want to take to the Mark Rashid workshop and that goal seems attainable. And, if I can continue in this place of calmness and courage, then we'll go together.
With any luck, tomorrow we'll ride.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
A picture is worth a thousand words
"You know, in a few weeks
I'll be back to riding the way
I was before I fell off."
One month ago she wouldn't even PET a horse.
I'm so proud of her.
Sierra and me (Lovely squint, aye? and where is my helmet?)
Lots to update, but there are presents to wrap and send off north. So hopefully, tomorrow!
Saturday, December 12, 2009
A Parade and a Miracle
Of course given the conditions in other areas I feel silly whining about 50 degrees.
Here at the lake there are three little towns surrounding the lake. Sattler, Startzville and Canyon Lake. Fourth of July parade is in Startzville, Christmas is in Sattler.
In the last two years a 'lake only' high school opened up and now we have a marching band and drill team for our parade. Almost as cool as when we got a second traffic light in Startzville.
But I've always loved seeing the horses in the parade the most. And this time I was part of the crew. No riding, though. I was riding in the back of our truck as poop patrol.
I wasn't riding Lily because we had two elves in the back of the truck and someone had to make sure they didn't fall. Sierra, in the meantime, was on the Girl Scout float (which was quite a production in itself).
So, shovel in hand, we prepared for the parade.
If you've ever been in a parade you know there's a lot of waiting around. And in the foggy morning behind the school, with horses covered in tinsel and bows, I was given a tiny little miracle.
Here's the whole crew:
You could set a firework off under
Chico and that horse would
Donna on her lesson mare, Treasure.
Diego is a great horse
even if he hates getting
in a trailer.
another old reliable gelding.
And my miracle horse.
Shiloh is a 26 year old
gelding. We worry about him,
he is so hard to keep weight on.
and see the horses. Mireya hasn't wanted to
be anywhere near a horse since her fall from
Canyon. She hasn't been willing to even
pet a horse since that day. The two
times I took her to the stables she
stayed in the car.
I've been despondent about it. There
didn't seem to be anyway to get her
through this, even though her own
drawings sometimes show her
riding a horse.
But she was with her best friend.
Sometimes we are brave with our
friends, certainly braver than with
Then they went over to meet Cody. Cody
is DEAD broke. An incredible old
And apparently, a miracle worker.
Because after petting Cody, Lucinda offered
to let Mireya's friend sit in the saddle.
And I have hope.
Horses don't have to be her thing.
But I don't want her scared of them.
Maybe we're going to get there...
a little different.
friends and neighbors who turned out in the
lousy weather, to wave to the kids, see Santa
and cheer for the pooper scoopers...
We offered everyone free fertilizer, but
no one took us up on it. Odd.
The fog had only partly risen from the hills...
Sattler remained clean.
Note: Mireya posted about her accomplishment on her blog. :)
Elfing and later, a parade
Today's the big Christmas parade and we'll be the pooper scoopers for the horses from our barn. I'll post some pics later on.
Friday, December 11, 2009
A tour of DC with a friend...
First order of business - lunch.
Fancy Schmancy place!
basement of the Canon building.
That's one of three buildings
where all the Congressmen and women
have their offices.
Cold for the thin skinned Texans.
is a little dry. Not a single horse back riding
Meeting with Santa's FAVORITE Congressman
Congressman Charlie Gonzalez.
He's sooo getting a gift this year.
One for Health, One for Wealth, and One for Love.
Then, off to the WWII Memorial.
You know, the buzz of the holidays, the
stress of the 2008 sleigh upgrade, yada...
how different the WWII memorial is
Vietnam gives a sense of a wound that is
still open, the despair over the fallen.
WWII is not that way.
It gives a sense of where that war is
in the American psyche. A war we
are proud to have fought.
honoring the noble cause.
had some hot tea and checked
Crazy airline delays made Santa decide that
reindeer are more reliable.
(Thanks to Michael Lindsey
for the lift)
It's good to be home.