Clarity of Trust- Outside of Horses- Great Video

Please take a minute and click the following link Trust it will help you appreciate the communication and trust that goes into a relationship beyond people and horses!

Games Day- Another Success

With threatening HAIL and emergency weather broadcasts- (the weather gods must have it out for me this year)- we still had a great group of riders show up for our Games Day. Most people think the "games" are for kids to just play on horseback. For me, I try to come up with games, that present questions that require clear communication between horse and rider, promote "thinking" partners and perhaps expose a few "gaps" by presenting scenarios where the horse and rider MUST get the job done NOW.
Light morning clouds coveted the sky but we all vowed to ignore them and continue on. I was proud of the group that participated- in their ability to "help" their horses through different tasks and their "open mindedness" for trying a few new games.

I will run through the list of classes to give you an idea of the point of a Games Day. As I told all of the riders, the point of that day was not for "training" but rather to allow an assessment of their own partnership with their horse and the level of communication with horses and people.

Game 1- Musical Stalls- same as musical chairs but with poles on the ground to make the "stalls"- one less stall than the number of riders. Each round the music stops, the rider who has not found a stall is eliminated.
Object: We hold this class at a walk- it's amazing to see the most "sluggish" horses suddenly wake up when their rider has intention about "getting the job done" and finding a stall. If more people worked on their own energy levels in the saddle to range from 1-10 our horses would be more responsive.

Game 2- Water Cup Handoff Relay- Team of three riders who must move at the same pace (walk heading out and trot and the return trip) and must handoff a cup of water to their team mate. Whoever has the fastest time AND the most water wins.
Object: Intention when riding, finesse when one hand is off of the rein, communication to their team mate when passing off the rider, and relaxation while carrying the cup of water so as not to spill it.

Game 3- Carrot on a stick Team Race- Rider has no reins and is being "led" by the person on foot that is holding the carrot- except they have to navigate obstacles while doing so. Then team switches for return trip home. Whichever team has the most carrot remaining and the fastest time wins.
Object: Although I don't personally choose to feed my horses treats because I don't want my horse to be with me for the sake of "food motivation," many horses at some point in their life have been "bribed" with treats. Ideally, if you are playing at liberty your horse should follow you because he wants to be with you. In this case we happen to have MANY food motivated horses and one Percheron thundered her way around the "course" to win the class.

Game 4- Follow the Leader- Most trail classes have the person riding the course, so this time I set up obstacles that included: Walking on tarp, walking on empty plastic bottles, dragging a 8' tree branch (still with the leaves on it,) backing the horse through an L, carrying a heavy duty black garbage back (had to let the air get inside so that it was inflated while being carried,) and dragging a sled across the finish line.
Object: Many people handle their horse on the ground by "working around the horse" instead of having their horse "work around them." The point of this game was to show when you had to accomplish a specific task, using only physical communication through the reins or lead rope, could the person effectively direct their horse's brain, head, shoulders, ribcage, hindquarters, and could they increase and decrease their horse's energy all with the distraction of "stuff" happening (bags, branches, tarp, etc.) close by.

Game 5- Sit A Buck- Bareback class where the rider places a dollar bill under the inside of their thigh. Announcer asks riders to demonstrate tasks, slowly increasing the difficulty until all riders are eliminated except one. This particular class increased to where riders were jumping fences and doing flying lead changes.
Object: Too many people are "reliant" on equipment to keep them on their horse. Pulling off your saddle is a great way to assess just how balanced you are.

Game 6- Banana Race- This was a literal race where riders could go as fast as they wanted- while carrying a peeled banana that had been dipped in water. Whoever finished with the fastest time and most banana won. There were three obstacles in the arena that the riders had to go around- the original winner did not pay attention and go around all three.
Object: Moving one's horse out at speed, feeling balanced riding with one rein, maintaining clear communication with your own horse while having the distraction of passing other horses at high speed and still having to ride accurately.

Game 7- Horseless Race (Partners)- This is one of my favorite events, and I actually do this as an exercise in some of my clinics. One person who will be "the horse" is blindfolded. The second person is the "rider." The rider only has "reins" (in this case a piece of baling twine that is held by the horse) to communicate. The rider must then steer the horse over a jump, weave cones, back through poles, etc.
Object: This is a great way to find out if you are a "heavy" or unclear rider. It forces the "rider" to have to assess how to communicate with their "horse" in a way that the "horse" can differentiate between slow, fast, turn, etc. It's great for the "horse" to feel what it's like to be "lost" due to unclear communication from their rider.

Game 8- Pairs Class- Two riders holding one piece of baling twine must move in sync to announcer's instructions. Class starts off at slower gaits and then increase in tasks until all teams except one are eliminated. Difficulty in this class increased to include jumping fences and weaving cones.
Object: Riders have to communicate with one another and their horse. They have to "plan" when they are going to ask what of their horse. They also must be clear to ride accurate so they don't accidentally "bump" their partner. Their timing must be accurate in order to work together.

The wind started to pick up by the end and we did get weather in the afternoon. It was another great experience that riders and horses both seemed to come away the better for!
See you next time

Word of the Day: Directing a Horse's Thought

Directing a horse's thought- communicating a person's intention to the horse's mind. The person's ability to have the horse literally look towards the planned direction of movement or focus.  This also leads to re-direct ability, or getting the horse to "let go" of his thought, and re-focus on where or what the human is asking. This influences the quality of the physical movement that follows. 

Travels in Denver- Off Topic

Okay, I couldn’t help it. I HAD to write this blog. I know it’s off topic- perhaps I can make a few equine related comparisons for you. But this one is about people. People traveling. More specifically, people traveling through the Denver International Airport. It’d been years since I passed through that airport. I’ve decided to go along with the “Mile High City” nickname they should call the airport “The Mile LONG concourses.”

The reason I know this is because both times that I arrived, it was at a gate in the single digits and, of course, my outgoing flight was at the gate somewhere in the high 80s. Even after walking a good 400 yards down narrow and long corridors (no I’m not exaggerating) from the plane to the airport building itself, I then took FOUR moving sidewalks and STILL had to walk to more to reach my next departure gate. At least I didn’t have to worry about not getting my daily work out, usually this is accomplished from the farm chores, but hey, I guess an airport will do.

Keep in mind I tend to look for “good deals” in buying tickets, but certainly when it comes to these outrageous times of charge, charge, charge it’s the small things that add up! So I carry on my bags to save money and work on my upper body strength. My “usual” is one duffle bag, and although deceivingly “small” compared to some of the so called “carry on” armored tanks people call luggage these days, my bag is usually around 35 lbs plus.

Here’s travel hint #1 of the day- If you’re technologically advanced enough to check in for your flight via the Internet, click on the option to “change your seat”- this will show you how full your plane is in advance. If it looks like it’s going to be a full flight, make sure you DO NOT pay the fee to check your bags. This is another peeve of mine- higher plane ticket prices AND we have to pay for FOOD and LUGGAGE????

I remember the days when passengers received free overnight toiletry bags, playing cards, snacks and more! Every seat there was a pillow, a blanket and headphones. Now a days it’s usually $20-30 PER BAG- plus if your bag is “overweight” (old days used to be 75lbs) now it’s usually 40lbs, you pay an extra fee. If you have golf clubs, skis and other odd shaped luggage you get yet another fee.

So back to checking out how full your flight is. Be a cheapskate if it looks full, pack in a bag that is semi passable as a “carry on” and then when your gate opens ask how full the flight is, or the desk agent may mention it’s a “full flight” and then you can either check your bag at the gate or at the front of the plane. And NOT just for that flight, you can actually check it all the way through to your final destination. And guess why you would go through this trouble? Because then you get to check your bag for FREE. Yes, free. Case and point I just stood next to a family of three who spent $180 EACH WAY because they checked their bags, instead of waiting to bring them to the door of the plane like I did. Hmmm.

Ok, so back to Denver. Here are a few things I noticed along the way:

A couple walking two Chihuahuas on leashes get stopped as they are about to board because they don’t have “proper stowage containers” for the dogs to be brought on (they each had one of those over sized “shoulder bags” for each dog. The funny part was these were tea cup dogs- that means that each weighed less than three pounds- and their owners looked as if they were related to a few sumo wrestlers.

Next I noticed that it took two people just get the crowd to line up. First there was a gate person checking tickets and then there was also one making the boarding announcements. These days instead of boarding the plane by seat numbers, most airlines use a group number, which is ALWAYS printed in bold black ink on a person’s boarding pass. Can you guess how many passengers get in line even though their boarding section hasn’t been called yet????

And yet somehow counting sections from one through four became highly confusing. Also getting in line seemed to be difficult for a lot of folks out there. Inevitably, the line that the ground crew would close (designated with that portable stretchy material that can make portable “aisles”) but people would still line up in them. It became a bit of a comedy act to see how many times the gate agent would have to open and close the temporary gates because people had got in the wrong lane.

Then there was the commotion with the standby passengers. If you haven’t experienced this, a standby passenger is trying to get a different flight than what they were originally ticketed for (same destination but earlier time) or the flight was oversold and they did not check in early enough to guarantee themselves a seat. Yeah how about that one for customer service? You buy a ticket, but if you don’t check in according to the current “rules” of the FAA your seat may be given away even if you show up.

So anyhow, I saw on the screen above the ticket counter there were 14 folks on standby. Once all passengers with assigned seats check in, the ticket agent will then begin to assign the “extra” seats to the standby passengers by printing them a boarding pass. This all happened “business as usual” until two agents realized their computers weren’t talking to one another and neither could tell what seat had already been assigned, therefore causing double assignment of one seat…. So those poor standby passengers that had their hopes high once they had their new ticket in their hand, quickly deflated as they were called out of the boarding line and back to the ticket counter.

Next there was the issue of those passengers who had ignored the “please check your large carry on bags” announcement and instead had insisted that their luggage would fit on the plane. This sort of traveler is very persistent. As I watched them attempt to function I usually get an overwhelming feeling to put them in a round pen and flag them as I would a horse telling them “That’s not going to work, try something else.” But back in reality they just keep trying the same thing and surprisingly, it doesn’t work each time they do the same thing over and over. (This seems to be the case with a lot horse owners and how they interact with their horses.)

Before this happens though, there is a process. The person is sure they are going to make their suitcase fit. Even after numerous attempts with the oversized contraption falling out of the undersized overhead compartments people will keep heaving, pushing, sweating try all angles of shoving to get that darn luggage stowed. But I will give this personality type credit, they don’t give up- no matter what, or at least not until some poor flight attendant has to pry their fingers off of their luggage and send it to the front of the plane for checking.

As all of this was happening, I unwillingly was affected by the above sort of person. I personally experienced the “case of the poor vertically challenged flight attendant.” I’m allowed to call him that because I too happen to be of the shorter height (a whopping 5’2”) and can empathize with what it takes to stretch your frame to reach the six foot high overhead compartments. Except this time the compartment the flight attendant was attempting to reach for was above my head- and my aisle seat. And the more he “heaved” to try and get the compartment door shut, the more he leaned into me. Now if you imagine sitting in a seat and having someone stretch out their body as “tall” as they can- especially if the are male, you’ll come to see that clear visual image of this particular flight attendant’s package a mere two inches away from my face. No matter how far away from him I leaned to be polite, he leaned harder into me. Hmmm.

Or let’s talk about the other outbound flight experience I had in Denver. After gallivanting a mile down the concourse I finally reach my gate and realized it was a “mini” gate because I was heading out to such a remote location that not many people wanted or needed to fly there. There also happened to be three other mini gates alongside mine. They used four of those “portable” lanes (the ones I’d mentioned earlier) that outlined where to line up when it came time to board the plane. Each “lane” was marked with a sign, except instead of being in numerical order according to the gates numbers, they were marked like this: “Gate 67-69, Gate 68, Gate 68-69, and Gate 72.” Hmmmm. I wonder who came up with that numbering system.

It was then that I looked up at the board behind the ticket counter and saw that there were four flights departing out of these four gates within two minutes of each other… Two leaving at the same time…. Okay- I’d love to hear the air traffic control tower when those planes were about to take off… Then an announcement comes on to start having people line up for their flight. Except even though there are four gate agents, only one of whom appears to have gone through this procedure before. So they decide to be fair, they are all going to take turns practicing speaking on the PA system- one for each upcoming flight. Except in all of their excitement, they forgot that there’s only ONE machine that can read the passenger’s ticket barcode as they board. This means three flights have now lined up prematurely. There’s nothing worse than people and waiting- especially when it comes to getting on the plane, to getting off the plane, or waiting for their luggage, etc.

Then because two of the newbie gate agents are so nervous, they rush through their announcements without enunciating. This caused much confusion when passengers start to realize there is a flight to “Rock Springs” and there is also one to “Palm Springs.” Two very dramatically different destinations that can sound identical when mumbled over a PA system filled with static.

So basically, numerous people lined up in the wrong line for many reasons. One reason was the lack of clarity in the announcement. The second was due to the unclear signs on the lane numbers because you had two options according to how the lanes were marked…. And this brings me to the third reason for confusion.

Once a passenger managed to actually get past the gate check in process, they then had to walk another ½ mile to the actual plane. Now remember these were not very popular destinations so we were all flying on puddle jumpers, or a plane that only has about 12 rows. These planes you board by walking outside onto the tarmac of the airport and climbing stairs to board. Except they are so small that if you carry anything larger than a laptap, it won’t fit in the overhead compartment. So there is a “baggage check” where you can drop off your bags before you board the plane.

Now this all sounds fine and dandy, except there wasn’t just one plane parked outside, there were four. None of which were marked. None of which the ground crew seemed to have a clue as to where they were going. On my plane alone we had three people board the wrong plane. Luckily they were “ejected” from the plane before they’d settled down, but the bad news was they’d had their bags checked with the ground crew. So the ground crew then had to dig through the luggage and find these people’s bags. The other bad news was our crew had no idea where to direct them to find the correct plane. I happened to be sitting in a window seat and watched as one poor woman tried three planes before she found the right one.

And they wonder why passengers are so angry these days?


Assessment of Cross Country Day

I rushed back to the desert for a few days of catching up, dealing with a crashed computer and then repacked and was on the road again. I find the airport a perfect place to watch human behavior- which of course gives me a MILLION ideas on different blogs that would be funny to write. But, before I hope up on the pulpit, I want to first finish my assessment of the cross country school from the cancelled show. If you missed that blog you can find it here:  . Flying gave me time to review my teaching and preparation for my students and how our Show turn Schooling cross country experience.
First I’d like to just state that I was impressed with all three of them. When I thought about what I had actually “taught” while at the course, it was more of the specifics in technique, what each fence was asking of them, the pros and cons to different approaches to the same jump, along with a few other factors that could affect the quality of their ride such as weather, footing, where to “make up time” with a gallop, possible distractions, etc.
As we started out in the warm up that morning another trainer with several of her riders showed up to school. Keep in mind two out of the three students I’d brought had never even SEEN a course, never mind had watched a rider “on course.” As they overheard the “instruction” from the other trainer their jaws seemed to drop. In one sense I guess they are lucky for having been a bit “secluded” from the “real world training mentality.” The other trainer was a great example of the norm. Comments such as “Kick more, go harder, drive him…” And then we watched with our hearts in our mouth as the poor horses stumbled, scraped, crawled, chipped on, jumped long and struggled in numerous other ways over decent size SOLID jumps. It definitely seemed to be a 50/50 chance of the rider AND horse making it over – together- AND- in one piece.
I told my students to “not look” and we continued on. What impressed me most is because I didn’t have my PA system to help “instruct them” from afar- here were “real life” opportunities for them to use all of their acquired “tools in communication” with their horse. To watch the riders not get overly focused on the jump, but rather continue to ride with a priority to attain QUALITY flatwork BEFORE they presented a jump- even if it meant taking a few moment to help their horse if he was struggling- to witness the literally INSTANT change in the horse’s willingness to try and to participate was amazing.
In one sense I wished my riders “knew” more about the all too common “quick fix” ways of working with horses in order to appreciate their own level of clarity in being able to assess their horse and themself. Once that was accomplished, they would continue on with the task at hand, using numerous ways of communicating with their horse to find that ideal clarity for an ideal and rewarding ride.
Remember that two of the horses had never even SEEN a cross country jump. They completely relied on communicating with their rider to attain a positive experience through quiet, balanced jumping that allowed the spectators to breathe easily as they watched. Banks, ditches, drops, water obstacles, leaving the “group of horses” and then coming back towards them, cold/windy weather, slippery footing throughout, motorcycles, trucks, dogs & kids on bicycles were a few of what they encountered on the course that day.
Another great, but totally different experience was also the third combination of horse and rider. The rider had never ridden a course but had watched a few competitions. Her horse had cross country experience, but he was basically “manhandled” when ridden. He thought to jump a course that he had to be running at full speed, on the forehand and for the most part was jumping out of fear. It was so awesome to watch his rider work through “trial and error” using tools we’d created as a foundation in building their partnership and clear communication. She was able to take a horse that at the beginning of the ride was on the verge of a total mental melt down and physical explosion, to reach a mental calm and availability in order to try approaching the task of cross country with a completely different emotional and mental perspective and physical relaxation.
I don’t think the riders were really aware of how much they had helped their horses nor how different that day’s events could have turned out had they not maintained their focus and clarity throughout their rides. It was moments like that from the teaching perspective that “makes it all worth it.” To know that the students maintained independence and to think without having “had their hand held” (as is the case with so many “students” these days) was a great success.
Hats off to the brave (and crazy as some may think) newly discovered cross country fans who left that day grinning ear to ear….


Word of the Day: Communication with the Horse

Communication- the sending and receiving of thoughts between the horse and person; each needs to safely express themself. Each needs to be mentally available to believe what is being conveyed. There needs to be adaptability in the energy and intention in both the human and horse.

Hoofprints & Happenings Spring 2010

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Word of the Day: Avoidance

Avoidance- This is a horse who is mentality unavailable or "shut down." He will create methods to evade communication with his handler or rider usually because of defensiveness, a lack of clarity, pain, and distrust. Physically he may display behaviors such as tucking his chin towards his chest evade the bit, his focus is often not where he is at physically, if experiencing pain he may raise his head to avoid discomfort.  In many cases, people use severe equipment to "make" the horse comply. Instead, they need to revisit the quality of communication and mental availability in the horse to recognize what triggers the horse to avoid scenarios.

Subject: A page from an 87 yr. Old horsewoman's handwritten Journal: I ride.

That seems like such a simple statement. However as many women who ride know it is really a complicated matter. It has to do with power and empowerment; being able to do things you might once have considered out of reach or ability. I have considered this as I shovel manure, fill water barrels in the cold rain, wait for the vet, farrier, hay delivery, change a tire on a horse trailer by the side of the freeway, or cool a gelding out before getting down to the business of drinking a cold drink after a long ride.
The time, the money, the effort it takes to ride calls for dedication. Atleast, I call it dedication. Both my ex-husbands call it 'a sickness'. It's a nice sickness I've had since I was a small girl, bouncing my plastic model horse and dreaming of the day I would ride a real horse. Most of the women I ride with understand that meaning of  the sickness.' It's not a sport. It's not a hobby. It's what we do and-- in some ways-- who
we are as women and human beings.
I ride. I hook up my trailer and load my gelding. I haul to some nice trail head somewhere, unload, saddle up, whistle up my dog and I ride. I breathe in the air, watch the sunlight filter through the trees and savor the movement of my horse. My shoulders relax. A smile spreads across my weathered face. I pull my floppy hat down and let the real world fade into the tracks my horse leaves in the sand. Time slows. Flying insects buzz loudly, looking like fairies. My gelding flicks his ears and moves down the trail. I can smell his sweat and it is perfume to my senses. Time slows. The rhythm of his walk and the movement of the leaves become my focus. My saddle creaks and the leather rein in my hand softens with the warmth.
I consider the simple statement: I ride. I think of all I do because I ride. Climb rocky slopes, wade into a lily-pad lake, race a friend across the hayfield... all the while laughing and feeling my heart in my chest. Other days just the act of mounting and dismounting can be a real accomplishment. Still I ride, no matter how tired or how much my sitter bones or any of my other acquired horse-related injuries hurt. I ride. And I feel a lot better for doing so.
I think of the people, mostly women, that I've met. I consider how competent they all are. Not a weenie in the bunch. We haul 40 ft. rigs, we back 'em up into tight spaces without clipping a tree. We set up camp, tend the horses. We cook and keep our camp neat. We understand and love our companions, our horses. We respect each other and those we encounter on the trail. We know that if you are out there riding, you also shovel, fill, bathe, wait and doctor. Your hands are a little rough and you travel without makeup or hair gel. You do without to afford the 'sickness' and probably when you were a small girl, you bounced a little model horse while you dreamed of riding a real one.
"My treasures do not chink or glitter, they gleam in the sun and neigh in the night."
Horses don't have horse problems, they have people problems!

One Day Horse Trials, CA - The play by play

Whew I’ve finally had a few minutes to sit down and jot down some notes from the weekend… Below is a quick timeline and great example of “expect the unexpected…


• 9 am We complete the final packing- loading horses @ farm in AZ

• 10am The horses, students and stuff loaded and we’re on our way (heading into a very brooding storm!)

• 12pm We hit rain showers in the southern CA mountains

• 2 pm exit Temecula parkway

• 3pm arrive (yes, that is an HOUR of windy, twisty, road not fun with the horse trailer) we enter thru the wrong gate- and wind up driving thru the cross country course. There’s no one around except the “honey do” husband finishing last minute chores…

• 4pm We find our wet stalls- the water is literally running off of the hill through the temporary stalls. (Student’s horses are designated in separate stalls even though we’d requested them next to each other,) unload horses while dodging ever increasing streams. We unload the horse trailer and convert it into our “sleeping quarters” and set up the enclosed trailer as our temporary “spill over space”

• 4:30 Three students and I head out to walk the cross country course twice in rain soaking wet, and the wet footing is a bit concerning…

• 5:30 Just as we arrive back at the trailers we are informed that the competition has been cancelled! BUT, if it dries up the next day we can school the cross country if weather permits. While we were walking the course some of the families that traveled with us started a fire at our trailers, got dinner started (hot dogs boiling on the reliable Coleman camping stove…) We realized we had no cell phone service to warn the other people coming out to watch my students that the competition had been cancelled. We were told there was a land line but when we tried to use it, the water had damaged the lines and we could not get a dial tone…
Trying to sort our gear.
The dog "Ace" had other ideas about the sleeping arrangments.
• After checking on and feeding horses, we all changed out of our soaking wet clothes- despite our layers of rain gear. First we set up our folding chairs inside the enclosed trailer and ate by flashlight… With the help of hot chocolate we slowly began to thaw and we were able to move our portable fire close to the side door of trailer… From the one vendor that had arrived early we were able to borrow an extension cord for my plug in heater, but after rigging 5, yes FIVE cords together it left little power received at trailer so the heater only worked at ¼ of its original strength. The horses were unimpressed with the leaky stalls wrecking their dinner but ate and drank.

• 7:30pm The rain finally stops! We move out all the chairs and hang wet clothes around fire to dry, we realize we have no batteries for the air pump for our air mattresses, but manage to jury rig a different air pump and are able to inflate the mattresses without them getting wet.

• 9pm the rain has started lightly so we head to bed. In our attempts to go to sleep, we realize the plastic bags that had carried the shavings we taped up in the opening of the trailer is now flapping with the suction of the wind forcing it in and out of the trailer, one air mattress has a leak, three leaks inside of the trailer causing rain water to drip on the two people sleeping below, and the rain continues throughout the night.

• 6am We are tired but awake, I jump start the day with cowboy coffee, and NO it’s not raining!!! With the horses fed, we clean up all of the “show stuff” we’d brought and just keep out the gear needed to school cross country. A hearty breakfast of pancakes, sausage, eggs, muffins and cowboy coffee gets us going.

• 7:30am Riders head out for a hack down the road to let the horses stretch after being cramped up in the small stalls and the long trailer ride. There horses are a bit stressed with the wet, wind and being at new place.

• 8:30 All three riders and I head down to the warm up in still soaking wet jumping arena, as we’re on our way, other competitors pull up and ask us where to park. We realize they have not been informed of the show’s cancellation…hmmmm
We had to wipe off the mud from the bottom of the rider's boots because their feet kept slipping in the stirrups!
My sleeve was the only "rag" we had.

• Cross country schooling for the next three hours- a great experience for all three riders and horses. After a quick pack we are on the road by 1:05pm

• “Alternative” directions given for the return trip home wind up detouring us NW by a 1:30 hr driving time…. After trusting the GPS (when it finally got service once we were out of the mountains) we find ourselves wandering through neighborhoods, stop signs and huge drainage ditches- not ideal for hauling horses or trailers of any sort.

• 2:30 We are relieved as we pull onto I 10 and have an uneventful journey with us arriving home in AZ at 6pm- all the while keeping in touch by phone to hear the “play by play” of the super bowl score was (I didn’t even have a clue it was that weekend)

• 6:15 As I transfer my gear into the truck I left at the barn I find it has a dead battery…

• The NEXT day as I start to write this blog my computer COMPLETELY crashes and I spend the next two days swiping the hard drive and restoring all the old files… NOT fun…

I hope you enjoyed the “journey”! Sam

Follow Us! One day horse trials in CA! 3 Competitors

I’m writing this update right before I head over to the barn for the final review of packing, loading horses and students and then hitting the road. If technology decides to cooperate I will be able to upload a cross country and stadium course walk that I will do with students, (pictures and lecture included,) and a play be play of "You're first horse trials!" This will include Dressage, Stadium and Cross Country all ridden in the same day as this is a schooling show. Stay tuned... The weather forecast is rain all day today (five hour drive) and then just before my three riders start the competition tomorrow the rain is supposed to die down.

These three riders have NEVER been to a competition like this before and are proving to be good sports... Here’s a little on their background.

Combo #1 has an advanced rider but the horse has a history of being "manhandled" when he feels any level of stress. He then mentally checks out. He’s a gorgeous thoroughbred that has already competed in these sorts of events, but never feeling good about it. He also has a racing past, which he resorts to when his brain gets fried. So the goal for him is to participate in the event and to stay mentally available. His rider's goal is to feel like she is "taking the horse" for the rider, rather than hoping to survive it.

Combo #2 has a SUPER laid back ranch horse that will try and address whatever you put in front of him, even though he's not the most athletic of horses. As long as his rider stays focused and rides accurate, they'll be able to "take on" anything presented to them.

Combo #3 has come a LONG ways. This was an abused ranch horse (with stifle and tendon injuries) that a novice rider took on after she inherited him and quietly persisted with. We were saying the other day if anyone had ever told her three years ago she'd be jumping (he's super tight and catty) what she is today and having her horse respond and try the way he does now, she'd have never believed it. During times of stress will still cause his brain to check out, but as long as she is persistent and doesn't accept the "minimum" he tends to be able to let his concerns go and refocus on the job at hand.
Stay tuned!

Word of the Day: Bombproof Horse

Bomb Proof- more currently known as a "husband proof" horse.  This is frequently the inaccurate description of a horse known for its seemingly calm, quiet, unflappable manner that makes people feel secure in permitting inexperienced riders to mount up; typically these horses are very confident in controlling familiar situations but can become extremely hard to manage in new and unfamiliar situations rather than being available to receive help and support from the rider.  These horses are the ultimate example of a Patternized animal.

Honesty & Horses- A Few Thoughts While Flying Back from WY

As I was driving the four hours from my remote WY hideout to the Salt Lake City Airport I began composing this blog in my mind. Then as I boarded the plane for the first leg of my trip home I encountered a young family with two small children with their father relying completely on his Seeing Eye companion. As his trusted pal guided him carefully and calmly down the narrow plane aisle I felt a slight lump in my throat and started to think back to all the times that I'd felt that same feeling from horses that I had been working with.
My personality is very much "Need to see it/experience it in order to believe it." As I interact with society I am constantly stressed by the general "chaos" people accept as their lifestyle and their feelings towards this "living in the gray" to think that this level of stress is normal to have in their lives.

In my opinion many people are drawn to horses because there is a calm that the horse can offer us. The person may not realize what exactly it is that the horse is offering, but I find there is an honesty in our horses that is rare to find within people. The horses treat us with an honesty that the rest of society does not. In doing so, they wind up building a relationship with us, and because of the "safety" and "honesty" they offer us, they end up being a person's emotional outlet.

After settling in on the plane I opened the in-flight magazine and was struck by the irony with the first article I read, which was written by the Harvard Business Review and was titled "The Long Term Effects of Short-Term Emotions."

I will include the first paragraph:

"The heat of the moment is a powerful, dangerous thing. We all know this. If we're happy, we may be overly generous. If we're irritated, we may snap. But the regret- and consequences of that decision- may last years, a whole career or a lifetime. At least the regret will serve us well, right? Lesson learned- maybe."

Here people were thinking that operating in the "chaos" was the norm and that good things would result of it. For years I'd been working with people trying to clear the "gray" areas out of their relationship with their horse, and now a BUSINESS magazine was trying to do the same thing to get people to make clear black and white business decisions. Wow.

Horses tend to strive at operating within the "black and white" area and that is what allows them to survive and gain confidence in life, leading them to clarity and a calm mentally, emotionally and physically. It is unnatural for people to demand that of one another, but with horses, it's mandatory for clear communication and trust building. There is something about surrounding oneself with animals that demand honesty from us at all times that is emotionally relieving for us. I can't recall the number of times a client and their horse has struggled and persevered to reach that euphoric high from finding a clarity with their horse. Their tears tend to come flooding out soon after!

Working with the horses is rewarding to me because no matter what has happened in life their honesty never waivers. They aren't moved nor do they care about however "good or bad" our day was. They don't care if we woke up in a good or bad mood. What they do care about is the honesty that affects the quality of our communication and OUR mental availability towards them. If WE are not 100%, how can we ask our horses to be? I joke in some of my clinics about "leaving reality at the door" when a person heads out for a ride.

I believe if we treated our horses as if our life depended on it, just as the man with the seeing eye dog on the plane did, the honesty and clarity of our interaction and how we communicate with our horses would allow us to build a trusting partnership in our horses from the start…

To honesty- Sam

Word of the Day- Assessment

Assess(ment)- Of the horse
To evaluate the mental availability, emotional state, and physical softness of the horse.  This is a foundational key to build a partnership with your horse.  By recognizing the horse's starting point, can help a person understand how to proceed in the session to address, support, and guide the horse to let go of fear, tension, or defensiveness.