Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Toe in the water

Today I rode both my horses in the round pen in a halter and bareback. Briefly. After all it was 100 degrees out.

I'm teaching Smokey to neck rein. He did very well.

I'm perfecting my side pass on Lily. She told me I was doing much better.

I think I'm getting ready to get back in the pool.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Off Topic - Crib Notes - Attack of the Giant Ball

And now for something completely different. From my Weekly Column...

I had a friend once who always showed up at kids’ birthday parties with one present - a large ball. I knew she was on a budget, but still – a ball?

I’m here to tell you at every party it was a huge hit and it was all you could do to get the kid back to open up the other presents. I was shocked every time. Not one to be swayed by reality when faced with mommy peer pressure, I never had the courage to show up at a party with just a very large ball. But I never forgot how fun it was.

With summer insisting we all get our sunscreen on and hit the pool, the kids decided to break out their own very large ball. Very, very large – in fact it’s a GIANT inflatable ball, easily four feet in diameter and after nearly sending three of us to the hospital for oxygen, we blew it up to spherical perfection at the neighborhood pool.

Endlessly entertaining, the ridiculously large ball played the part of a slippery island, a monster, a bomb, and, at one moment, a way to conk your sister when she was becoming obnoxious.

Even a ball has its dark moments, I suppose.

When it was time to pile into the car we discovered that the ball, which had traveled to the neighborhood pool mostly deflated, was now far too large to fit in the car with passengers. This particular fact of geometry did not dissuade Sierra, who at 12 has a little bit of a stubborn streak (where could she have gotten that from?).

She squeezed herself and the giant ball into the front seat but discovered she was pinned in place and couldn’t reach the door handle, let alone close the door.

“Move the seat back! Move the seat back!” her sister shouted from the back seat.

“It’s already all the way back!” she shouted back, her voice muffled by the ball.

“Tilt the seat!”

Sierra moved slightly, the plastic of the ball squeaking in protest against the dashboard. No go.

“Why don’t you just deflate it a little?” I said between laughs.

Both children looked at me as if I was crazy. Hadn’t we nearly died blowing it up to the absolute perfect level of plumpness?

There was no way… well,… around it. We pulled the plug and let out some of our last gasps - and laughed all the way home, having had a “ball.”

Giant inflatable ball - definitely on my next gift list.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Another Lesson from Lily and Inside Turns

Taking my lesson from Lily

Today I watched as the trainer took Smokey off for a long trail ride. She really wanted me to go, but there's no way. I'm still rebuilding courage and haven't taken a step off the immediate area around the barn. Sometimes you have to dive into the pool. Sometimes you have to slip in the shallow end and mess around there for a while.

I remember when I was young and nearly drowned in a pool. I got kicked twice in the head by an errant swimmer and started to go down. I was sinking to the bottom, feeling my hair brush against my face like an angel wing. The life guard pulled me up, out of the water, and into the bright light.

After the commotion died down, I sat on the edge of the deep end for a good 20 minutes, then jumped in and swam to the shallow end. I was more careful in the deep end after that, more aware of people around me. But I still swam in deep water, never really worried that what happened would happen again.

I will be there again with trail riding. But right now I'm still in my 20 minute period, I suppose.


Lily and I were joined by Sierra and steady Cody for some work in the arena. I'd read this post by Julie Goodnight and wanted to work on my reining - specifically not pulling back when working reins. I quickly realized I wasn't sure how to fix it, but realized the value of figuring it out. I too have the issue of not maintaining a canter after a turn because I'm telling the horse to slow down as I'm telling it to turn. Which is not particularly helpful.

Lily proceeded to give me a different lesson on cantering in a turn. I wanted to work on this because I keep ending up in a corner of the arena during a canter circle with Smokey. I couldn't understand what was going on, and had worked on getting his turns better at the trot. We could do it in the round pen but didn't stay on the rails. Something was wrong with that horse!

Then I was in Lily's nice slow canter when she did the same thing.

Well darn. Apparently it's me. (Again)

So I rode it again and again (breaking it up with some other work so Lily didn't just throw up her hooves and head out for a latte). Then I found it.

I was leaning. Frankly I don't even know if I was leaning left or right. But I wasn't straight. I focused on being straight as a mast on a ship and BOOM. We turned.

We sidepassed just to show I still had it, walked through the cones and stopped with a thought. Enough for one day.


In my post on round penning someone asked how to consistently get inside turns. I think there are two things that help make that happen: Correct body position and demanding it.

I work on the theory that horses know that turning their butt to you is rude. I don't know for a fact that this is true, but I've been told it enough to suspect that it is. So turning inside is like not cussing me out when I ask you to do something.

Body position
While round penning you have to be very aware of your body position. Think of your core, that area around your belly, as a satellite dish. Where you point it is where your energy is most strongly felt by your horse. Your shoulders, arms, legs, they all focus that energy. If you bend slightly, you reduce the pressure of that energy toward the horse. If you keep a very erect stance, you up it. In general you want to point it at your horse's hindquarters, not the shoulder.

It's easy to start watching your horse's face, looking at his ear, his head, his muzzle. But you really need to focus on the hind quarter and push it away from you with your body position. I can turn my horses with just a shift of weight and movement of my shoulders. If they are paying attention. So as long as you are keeping your energy in the right area, you can be sure you aren't causing an outside turn.

The second part is just demanding the correct turn and rewarding it when it happens. When my horse gives me an outside turn I get after them like crazy. I raise the whip, make a growl, make face, stomp. It's crystal clear. And we turn again quick. And again. The minute I get the right thing, and inside turn, I dial the energy all the way back.

But some horses who haven't been through the process are going to get it wrong. Some are going to test it. Some are going to over react. Some are going to freak. You have to be fair, clear, and realize that every horse is so different. I don't have the same round penning with Lily that I do with Smokey. Smokey thinks he's going to figure out how to get out of it. Lily is worried that she's going to get it wrong. Those require some adjustments on my part. But the body position and demand stay the same.

By the end, though, there is little question that we've gotten to where we needed to go.

Again, your mileage may vary. And remember, while this is great on the ground it doesn't wholly translate in the saddle (as I am living proof). But it does make for a much safer horse on the ground. And both horses load well and have stellar ground manners.

Worthy ends in and of themselves, IMHO.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Finding Your Nose, Unwinding, and Two Despooking Tips

I've been working with Lily on various things, mostly just getting her back into regular work. I was stuck with her on side passing.

Lily is highly trained. I know little about her background, but I do know she is trained to have about 7 speeds, neck rein, travel collected, back up straight, and do long division with her tail and a piece of chalk.

So when I couldn't get her to side pass I was shocked. I can get Smokey to side pass. I can get Woody to side pass. I know the signal. So why would Lily go in the opposite direction?

Loren, the horse dentist, was in town, doing follow ups on horses. She was happy to see how well Lily is doing, healthy and in good spirits. I asked her to watch her move to see if she felt she needed any other chiro work.

After a bit of riding I showed her the problem I was having side passing. Loren walked me through some dressage tips. (See anything here familiar, folks?)

To move right:
  • Don't lean. At all.
  • Drop your right heel and open that leg all the way to your hip
  • Drop the right rein, keep the left rein lifted slightly
  • Apply pressure - or just tighten - the left upper and inner thigh

Boom. Lily crossed over like a tap dancer.

My jaw dropped. I had, in what seems now like how a clown would execute a side pass, been doing this:

To move to the right:
  • Leaning on my left side, quite exaggeratedly
  • Applying pressure with my left calf
  • Incidentally applying pressure with my right upper leg to keep from falling over, therefore "closing" her right shoulder.
  • Trying to neck rein her over.

After I marveled at my new side passing horse Loren said it. "She's a horse that'll teach you a lot."

It was like suddenly discovering my nose on my face. Maybe I have at least one instructor who I'm already paying. In hay.



As for Smokey, here's where I am:

I can't forget what cowboy Dave told me. "I can train a horse, but I can't keep you from unwinding a horse." There's a line that'll stick in your head. This IS what I worry about. I don't know how to get from here to a place where I'm not unwinding. Am I unwinding Smokey? I see other riders and I know my skills are better than they were a year, a month, a week ago. It all builds. With Lily could I do more building? Perhaps this is more about not getting that one element - trail work - in and less about my saddle abilities.

I thought about how Smokey "deserves" a better rider. Then I heard about a horse in a terrible situation, even though they'd been with a great rider. So I wondered about the value of that guilt trip.

I thought that this may be a lesson about an element of me that can "cut and run" too readily and it's a lesson I'm going to keep repeating until I learn it.

I thought that if all this horse and I do is tool around the arena and local trails would that be enough.

Still thinking...

From Ray Hunt (found on this cool blog)

Clinic spectator: "Ray, how did you get such good judgment with a horse?"

RH: "Experience."

Spectator: "How did you get so much experience?"

RH: "Poor judgment."


Your Despooking Tips

There are two horses in the barn right now with HUGE plastic bag phobias. They are learning to live with plastic bags in their paddock, tied to fences. But here are the two things I do that the trainer has started to do as well.

1. Plastic bags in the round pen. While having bags in a pen or paddock and just having the horse deal with them is one thing, it's not the same as them having to listen to you while the plastic bag is doing its morphing thing in the wind while you're directing the horse.

I like having a plastic bag tied on the round pen in different places at different heights to teach a horse that they can listen even if there's a scary thing close by. It's made a nice difference with Smokey in the last two weeks.

2. Treats or grain from a plastic bag. You know how dogs will fly into the kitchen if you open their treat jar? Well, even if you don't train with treats, you can use a plastic bag to carry grain and empty it into the bin. Pretty soon the positive association will be there. Remember Pavlov's dog? You can make this work for you, even if you aren't trying for a Nobel Prize.

The Office - Pavlov's dog from Rauno Villberg on Vimeo.

Again, these are ideas. Your mileage may vary.

Also there were some round penning questions in the comments last go round. I'll post some answers (at least in so far as what I do) on my next post.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Limbo - Options and how to round pen the snot out of your horse

I've been thinking.

But you know that.

I've been thinking that I owe a little to all the people around me - including the commenters here - so much for helping me on the journey. We are in week two of Limbo and I thought I'd share a little of the one thing I really feel I know how to do well.

Round penning.

I've learned, from spending so much time with horses who behave badly, how to round pen a horse back to a solid place. (I think I've also identified something about my short comings in saddle work too, but I'll get to that shortly).

So here, with a million disclaimers including I may not actually know what the hell I'm doing, are my tips on Round Penning.

I enjoy round penning because it's an incredible place to spend with a horse. Everything disappears. The circle is filled with only what you and your horse bring to it. Granted, your horse can't leave, but if you are working at liberty it's really only the force of your energy that makes things happen.

Smokey and I are starting back, a bit, and I've found a few little holes here and there. It is, as it nearly always is, about taking your time.

When we first enter the round pen, I see what horse I have to work with. A few of the mares are in heat and one in particular is quite... slutty about it. So right now Smokey needs to immediately run out the testosterone.

Everybody gets a couple free laps. Sometimes with Lily she just moseys in and has to give all the poop piles a sniff. Sometimes she has to toss some bucks. It's all okay at the start.

When things are where they were with Smokey, I make my requests for turns big. If he doesn't turn on a dime, I *insist* he do so. If he turns with his butt to me, I get equally big.

But I don't get mad. Okay, maybe a little irritated, but I try to keep all my reactions physical, not emotional. Not turning? Then here comes the big mare.

For those who don't know me, the rope NEVER comes in contact with the horse (although I have accidentally hit myself before. Sigh.).

In the beginning I'm only asking for direction. I don't care about gait. I always care about body position, though. I don't want a hip cocked toward me. This is one thing I was never too conscious of but got better about after watching the round penning videos by Chris Irwin.

Once turns are good and sharp, it's time to work on speed. I use the angle of my shoulders and the energy of my body to bring down the canter to a trot and the trot to a walk. If it doesn't work, I step slightly in front of the horse's shoulder. If that doesn't work, then I turn him. And turn him. As Kathleen taught me, it's his job to try different options till he gets it. It's your job to reward the right thing in the right way. Step back. Drop your stance, folding slightly. Almost a bow. Lead mare happy with Smokey-san.

Generally at this point you'll get this. With some horses, less "testy" horses, this is submission. With this horse this is "whew, can we be done?"

It's fake. You still have work to do. Even if there have been some licking and chewing, you need something much more. You discover just how fake the submission is when you try to send the horse back out.

Smokey: Ah, come on. Do I have to?

Lead mare does not negotiate.

I am looking for one thing. And it has to show up in both directions.

Nose nearly to the ground, while moving, no arch to the neck. That is submission.

Now we are done.

Unless... Unless your horse doesn't come to you and follow you around after the whoa. Because some horses learn the "trick." But I've found that if I wait for this moment, then we are where we need to be. We can begin other work, or maybe this is enough for the day. Sometimes it's 5 minutes. Sometimes it's 45 minutes. But when it's done all the way, this horse is willing to go precisely where I point him, at the speed I request, and turn on a dime with a tiny hand gesture.

Again, your mileage may vary. Best videos online for the subtleties of round penning are Chris Irwin's who, unfortunately, has taken them down.

Darn that capitalism. If I find a sneaky way to find them, I'll let you know. He does have a series on riding collected here.


I have come to the conclusion that while I have some identifiable holes in by leadership with Smokey, more of the issue is very tiny holes like a colander. Big stuff doesn't get through, but little stuff does.

At this age, with this horse, I have to be "on" very consistently. And for me, miles and miles is where can it be hard to be on the whole time.

The trail. So I've been taking Smokey bushwhacking. We aren't riding trails. We are riding through cedar trees. Up rocky hills. Around cactus. In and around big rocks. Things that require me to concentrate and him to concentrate. These have been very much bonding rides, they come after he's had a chance to run and work hard in the round pen or the arena. We go further each time, further from the barn, for longer, we're up to 30 minutes. It's been so much fun. We have been very solid in each case.

Donna has agreed to take him on some long miles to get that trail time in.

And I'm continuing to mull.

Next time: Despooking tips.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Limbo - Round Penning the Wild One

Not sure what's tougher. Horses or politics.

When I got back from DC, having been gone for seven days, I headed to the barn with some trepidation. I wasn't clear how I felt about being at the barn, whether this was part of my life that needed to continue.

But on the trip the one thing I came to realize was that this was not the point where I could quit.

Brief background jog:
About nine years ago I had this idea. (Like many of my ideas, it's become a bit of a pain in the arse. Someone stop me next time I get that look on my face, please.)

I decided we needed a family motto. I heard some guy on the radio talking about his family crest and the family motto that's been in his family for hundreds of years. I thought "how wonderful to have that kind of history, wish I had one."

Then I thought "you know, history starts every day."

So I contemplated for a few months what kind of motto would be the best gift I could give my children and those that would come later. The one I came up with was: Non ti arrende

Never give up.

Back to the present. Given the very real life lesson I was trying to teach my children I couldn't quit at this point, because this would be incredibly defining. I have fallen rock climbing (sustaining a concussion and a broken thumb and one of the most hysterical rescue stories in history), taken a beating while fencing, and each time I've gotten back to the sport and dealt with my reticence. I've faced the fear, swallowed the bile in my throat, and gotten back on the rock (or in fencing, the line). I hate being irrationally afraid of anything (by this I mean where it gets out of proportion, not the reasonable fear of getting injured any reasonable adult has) and the only way not to be is to get back there and get through it.

So I came back determined to ride and work both horses for a month. But when I came back to the barn, Smokey was unrecognizeable. Usually patient for the gate to open to his feeding area, he was tossing his head, snaking about, keeping Lily (who is usually the boss) back. He kept charging back at the mare across the fence. Who the hell was THIS horse?

When I took him out he had zero leading skilz. It was as if he'd never had a round pen session in his life, and this is the horse who has some of the best ground manners around. He was acting as if I didn't exist, being downright dangerous. He pulled loose on the lead line and that was it.

After calling him many, many, inappropriate names, and doing what I could to get his attention (backing and backing until I felt we could cover the 25 yards) I took him to the round pen. We spent 45 minutes there, having one of the hardest round penning sessions I've ever had with a horse. Turns on a dime. After one outside turn I sent a message - there were to be no more of those. Period.

He fixed that, but was still being a jerk.

When he refused to listen to the gaits I was signaling it was time for repeated turns over, over, and over.

By the end he was more compliant that I'd ever seen him. Zero nonsense. Zero dancing around. Zero movement when we were in the wash rack.

No more chasing off Lily. No more charging forward. Hasn't done it since either.

So. There's one thing I can do as a horsewoman.


I take the comments I've gotten to heart. I appreciate the support, the tough talk, the permission to make the hard choice.

I have since ridden Smokey in the round pen and arena and in the immediate trails. No issues. But, as was pointed out, we all have a line. Maybe Smokey is on the other side of mine. I still have three weeks on my "think it through" process. Where I am now is:
  1. I can work this horse with no issues in an arena and round pen and on familiar trails. I could limit my use of him there until... I don't know, till I can get over it or I can get him over it.
  2. I can step up my discipline to keep him in compliant space, since he needs that.
  3. Barrier: I don't know if I can deliver the miles on the trails that it will take to get him beyond this point.
  4. This horse has potential to be a great trail and endurance partner - but I don't know that I have the time to get him there any time soon. Demanding job and family don't afford me the time.
  5. He is my ideal horse on many levels - temperament, capabilities, breed, color. What happened on the trail stems from youth but also not enough regular trail time. He's a forward horse. He needs a confident rider on a trail that can do some cantering here and there to get some of that energy out. I'm not quite there with him (and certainly less so now).

When I bought Smokey, I was in a different financial situation. I figured I could get training and get him training at various points along the way when I needed it. Now, not so much. That will change at some point, but right now it's a consideration.

The thinking continues.

On another note, Lily is doing fantastic. We have at least two more arena sessions to go, then we'll be working on trails. She is taking a bit (although I'm riding her bitless anyway), lifting her hinds much better and holding them gently much longer. She's even coming up to me in the paddock instead of being evasive. I've catered on her in the round pen with just a thought and slight weight shift and her transitions have gone from bolting to smooth as silk.

So there's that.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Limbo - From Stephanie

(He was a smart guy, maybe he can figure this stuff out)

I deeply appreciate the thoughtful and caring messages over that last few days. It means more to me than I can say. I swear I want to copy every response and pin it up on my wall. It's been very empowering to have such friends right now, when, frankly, I need them the most.

I want to share my friend with you too.

You remember Stephanie, right? She bought Cibolo, and recently had a serious fall.

She was there when I walked resolutely into the barn with my folder of information on each horse. I was broken hearted, so many of you in the comments have hit it on the head - kicked in the heart.

I was ready to give the paperwork to Donna. I had spent a day throwing out horse magazines, pulling down photos from all over, just looking at them rubbed salt in the wound that only seemed to be growing inside.

I knew I could sell both horses, even in this market. Morgans are rare around here and a buckskin would go fast. Lily has so much training and is now sound. Then it would be a matter of getting rid of everything else. This was where I was, what I was contemplating.

Because I felt that I couldn't keep doing this. I was putting the well being of my family at stake (i'm the bread winner, what if something happened to me?), that I was pouring time down a sink hole, that I had made no progress in my horsemanship after so many years. I was in a cyclone of disappointment in myself. Because I don't blame the horse. It's never the horse.

(Just to be clear, the spook wasn't a pain issue for Smokey. But he is spooking because of how inconsistent I get him out of his comfort zone. That's my theory, anyway. But we've ruled out pain as a cause)

So there I was, ready to walk away from this five year journey. It was this email made me decide to stop and give my mind and heart some time, maybe a month or two, to decide. Thanks to Stephanie for letting me include this in the blog.

Let me start off by talking about myself a little...

Currently, I'm suffering from the worst injury I've ever had, not to mention the worst I've had from a horse. I'd like to explain my confidence like my fractured humerus. The humerus is the second largest bone in your body, and apparently pretty damn hard to break. You're not born with your bones as powerful as they're ever going to be, but you slowly build them up as you grow (is this lame yet?). Much like confidence, self esteem, self worth, etc etc etc. It takes all these years to form, and just a split second for me to break it. I stayed away from the barn for a month. Not just because I was hurting from a broken bone, but because in all the years I've been riding I've never once had a fall this bad. My confidence is akin to my humerus at the moment. Severed, and taking far too long to heal. You can't fall without losing a measure of confidence. And I've taken a pretty major blow to mine. I'm really trying hard not to show any of this because to be honest, I'm pretty embarrassed by it. I'm crazy embarrassed that I lost my seat enough to fall, let alone break a bone. And every single time someone asks "What did you do to your arm?" something deep inside cringes and threatens to not come out of hiding anymore. I want to say something memorable, something fierce...and yet all I have is a cat and a spook.

So I took a month.

And you know what I did during that month? Absolutely nothing. My mood soured, focusing primarily on bad days at work and the ache in my arm. I browsed Craigs List, looking at horses I could never afford that had all the bells and whistles, training up the wazoo. Beautiful horses, all work and no funny business. And I kept thinking to myself...why on earth do I have a horse that would spook so badly? The would spook nearly every time we leave the barn, and go nuts on the trail with other horses. Why do I kid myself, thinking that I can train this horse to be one of those "perfect" horses. Who am I? What skills do I have that makes me any better than a second day rider?

But bones heal. Slowly...but they do. I've got a pretty nice angle to my arm now. Every couple of weeks I look at the x-rays, compare them to the ones before and think to myself "Wow, it WILL actually heal." Just like my confidence. It's pretty fragile right now, and another fall would surely send me to surgery. But what's the point of sitting by and waiting for something that's not going to happen unless I get off my ass?

All those horses I've stared at, drooled over...they started somewhere, too. And I guarantee they weren't perfect.

I feel like you and I are feeling something pretty similar right now. You took a pretty hard hit to your confidence, just like I did. Fortunately for you, there's no lasting physical damage. I'm not going to tell you thinking about giving it all up is a mistake, because that's for you to decide. Sometimes you need a break. But I will tell you to not make ANY sort of decision right away. All I can do is give you advise, and help you to feel sure about whatever decision you make.

I'm not giving up. It's pretty painful right now, and crazy difficult...but getting up there yesterday...I can't even describe it. Some little spark deep inside of me was set to a slow smolder again. It was scary to be up again, but it felt RIGHT. I don't know about you, but even just the smell of my horse makes life a little more bearable. And I forgot about that. I forgot about all the good times Cibolo and I have had together. The rides alone, the little accomplishments, the slow improvements. Those are mine. I did that. And I know you've done it, too. My fall feels like a monster in the room. Huge, scary...and just like the bogey man, that monster is going to grow as big as you allow it to. The more you focus on it, the more stifling the room is going to become until some point it's so enormous that there's no space to move at all. Suffocating, if you will, on the monster itself.

Or you can accept it. And the more and more you think about all the good times, the smaller that fear is going to become. It's always going to be there...and maybe it'll bite you in the ass every now and then...but the sooner you see it for what it is, the sooner it loses power.

Metaphors and analogies aside....Smokey is a wonderful horse. I've watched the two of you since you first started riding him. I can't believe the progress you've made and how much you've grown as a team. I've seen how happy you are with him, and how happy he is to be with you in return. He has a beautiful spirit and energy and is such a character. He never ceases to amuse me. And like one of the blogs you had before, I really think our horses can be a mirror image of ourselves. And he's you, Winter. Just like everyone around you expects you to be a pillar of self reliance, confidence, and perseverance...The same goes for Smokey. But no one can be that strong. This may be getting too in depth...maybe stepping over lines...I don't know. But from what I've seen, everyone around you relies on you. Your family, your work...Everyone expects you to just ooze perfection and wisdom and cool. But no one is that strong. Sooner or later, you need to just kick your heels up and run. Smokey is like this, too. He tries harder than most horses that I've seen. He tries to be perfect...and in that constant attempt at perfection, wears himself so thin that it snaps. Something snaps...and he loses everything. But that's not what makes him. A break down every now and then is pretty common (I do it).

I think before you make any sort of decision...you need to think. Horses, like people, aren't perfect. They have bad days, just like we do. No horse will ever be perfect, just like no human will. Smokey had a bad day, and so did you. And for that, I'm sorry. I wish there were never bad days...I really do. But even those "perfect" horses you can buy for $30,000 will throw a shitty day now and then. I sure as hell don't have a perfect horse. But I love him. I love who we are together...and the good times we have together are just that. Fantastic. We work together as a team...and slowly but surely, I know we'll get better. We may not ever be able to ride in a huge group of horses without dancing and sweating...but I'm going to try. Maybe one day it will all click together..maybe it won't. I don't know. And to be honest, it's still a bit frightening. But I want to do it. And I really hope you'll be there with me because I could really use a friend in all this. I love having someone to share the good and the bad with.

With this email in my heart, and tears in my eyes, I left for a trip to Washington for a week.

When I came back, the horse I found was nearly unrecognizable. It was that interaction that made me realize even more about myself and my journey with horses.

Which I'll explain in my next post.

In Limbo - Broken

The thing about blogging, at least for me, is that it is a very vulnerable thing. It's my own fault, I've chosen to be very honest about this horse time. I am not the kind of person who can write some sort of Christmas Letter blog where all the stories are about how fabulous the kids are doing without mentioning the daughter in rehab.

Because there are plenty of places where I do write that very thing, all day. It's called WORK. Where the sun is always shining, the birds are tying ribbons in our hair, and things are just getting better all the time, darn it!

I'm even quite good at it. Inspiring some say. But this blog is about being honest, and therefore, about being vulnerable. And not just to whoever reads this. For me the act of putting things into words makes them real in a way that nothing else does. It requires me to examine myself. To embrace what I may not want to embrace. To take in my flaws and weaknesses and realize that they are, indeed, part of me, and are inescapable.

Yet this most recent ... incident...

I just haven't wanted to talk about it. Which is unfair of me, really. The blogs I follow are honest. Are authentic. Are the places where people share the tough times. And while I've bounced around and commented, I swallowed my tongue about my own place in time.

Frankly, I come from a long tradition of suffering in silence. When things go wrong I get in the cave and hide out. It's not particularly healthy and it certainly isn't anything I'm proud of. But if I've been sent to this life to learn a few things, one has got to be to live with the integrity I admire in so many.

Without going into more detail than I can stomach for the moment, let me just share that I had a very scary incident with Smokey. We were on a trail ride with two others and he bolted. Then, crossing a street, he bucked.

I wasn't thrown. I wasn't injured - except where it counts.

I dismounted and my trainer and friend rode him back. She encouraged me to get on her horse, but I was too shaken, too angry. She encouraged me, after a mile of walking, to get back on him.

I couldn't, I wanted nothing to do with him.

Nothing. Not him. Not any horse.

I walked back on a river of anger, fear, humiliation, and sadness for two miles.

I would have kept walking, walking far, far away, but for the email Stephanie sent me.

Which I'll post tomorrow.