Despite Obstacles, Drew and I Prevailed!

Woo hoo. Today was the last in-person horse show for the inaugural Working Horse Central year. Droodles and I showed up and did our best, though I wondered if we would sometimes.

Up so early.

First, I brilliantly set my alarm clock for 5:30 am. But on weekdays. Oops. It’s Saturday. At 6am I woke up. That gave me 15 whole minutes to get dressed and get Drew ready. I was pessimistic. But I’d laid out my clothing ahead of time, and Drew was waiting at the gate when I walked up. We were there when Sara pulled up in the trailer!

Some contestants were into the holiday spirit.

Second, Drew pooped all over the trailer and got it so slippery he was afraid to exit. Luckily I had a bag of shavings in the storage area. We spread it around. That helped him and Aragorn exit. I need to make the trailer floor less slick. Ideas?

I loved this Santa hat that fits over a riding helmet.

Drew really doesn’t handle trailering well. So he was covered with poop when we arrived. I cleaned him as well as I could with no soap. He was still stinky. All the horses were sweaty though, so he fit in.

The next challenge was me and my inability to jog for very long. I was worried that I’d have to walk both of my tests. But other than sweating a lot, considering it’s December, I was all right. I just walked when I needed to.

In the end, I made a couple of mistakes, Drew did a couple of things less well than he’s capable of doing them, but we enjoyed ourselves for a horse and human who hadn’t practiced!

Yay us!

It was lots of fun supporting the other folks in the show. They also work so hard and try to make good decisions. I’d encourage anyone around here who wants to learn new skills in a supportive environment to join us next year!

Many ribbons were handed out!

Sara and I enjoyed traveling together, too. It’s so good to have a neighbor to do the shows with. It’s also inspiring to see how hard she works with her horses and her great progress!

I’m so happy Tarrin set up all these shows. It’s so good for us all.

Achieving Goals

I always thought I’d get my goals achieved when I was young, vital, small, and cute. Nope. I learned a lot then, though, and it prepared me to be very grateful when, with help from others, I do achieve goals in this older, creakier, larger, and plainer phase.

Two happy hard working goal achievers

Apache and I have been trying to become good partners and have fun together for many years. I realized we couldn’t get there without help, so as you probably know, we’ve been working with a trainer, Tarrin Warren, whose philosophy of working with horses is compatible with mine. It’s been very hard work, but tons of fun, too.

Tarrin building up Drew’s muscles

As a teacher of adults, I appreciate someone who’s good at it. Tarrin is so patient and consistent with people, and she’s training them way more than training their horses! Thanks to her help and lots of practice, I can do this:

  • Ride my horse alone
  • Trot on my horse in a controlled way
  • Tell when my horse is having anxiety symptoms before he gets squirrelly
  • Give my horse good information about what I want him to do
  • Ride calmly, so my fears don’t pass on to him

And yesterday, while we were working on improving our skills, I hit a new milestone or two. First, some of the things I’m learning are becoming ingrained and I don’t have to think about them. And second, Apache and I can now go sideways. I finally got the coordination to ask him right and not feel all awkward.

Goal achieved! I feel like I can now get him to move in all the ways. I’ll need to get better, but this was a big milestone. No, I’m not doing advanced dressage, but I can safely ride and communicate with my very patient horse, who I’ve also helped get into good enough shape that he can listen.

So yes, I cried happy tears yesterday and Tarrin said if she had a certificate of achievement to give me, she would. But to hear her say she’s proud of our progress and to see a relaxed and happy Apache were enough for me. Heck, we even made it to the trailer without a meltdown (that took months— the boy hates that trailer).

Meanwhile, Drew is making great progress in his training. My little pony (he’s so small when I ride him after Apache) has been causing Tarrin no problems and progressing right along. He canters for her, and will get better at that! Mostly she is working on building his muscles up to carry a rider after his break.

Then I was surprised to get to ride Drew myself! I had taken off my helmet, but he was a good boy and I was fine. I’d ridden him before but not too well. This time went way better. I ended up trotting and even leg yielding on him! I’m doing way better figuring him out and he’s doing better taking my cues instead of Tarrin’s. I felt competent! Another goal achieved!

I told Tarrin I look huge in those pictures but she reminded me he is small. That’s for sure. When I went to pat his neck to tell him he was good, it felt so skinny compared to Apache. But his mane amazed me. It was parted in the middle like a human and there was enough on each side that it looked full. What a guy.

I don’t even have to train Fiona. She volunteers to get in the trailer

I’m proud of me and my horses. They aren’t fancy and can’t trace their bloodlines to any famous steed, but they sure have good hearts and are willing partners. And I’m chugging along and making progress. I’m glad to have a training partner to guide us so well and at our pace. It takes as long as it takes!

Now to go put on a green tutu. Explanation later!

Let’s Learn Horse Stuff

Today was a good horse day. Lee was kind enough to drive me and Sara met me at Tarrin’s ranch where we filmed Drew’s next set of obstacles for the Working Horse Central third quarter virtual show. I learned a lot more today, particularly about my capacity to do things in humidity.

Yep. Not my best skill jogging, carrying multiple objects and trying not to get stomped on by a large animal.

I had already gotten too hot bathing the heck out of Drew and grooming both horses, and I just went downhill from there. It wasn’t even all that hot! Just effing humid.

But Drew looked good and relaxed.

Everyone was kind to me and insisted I focus on what went well, even pointing out that when I dropped the lead rope after the jump he stopped and waited for me. That was way better than running off! I was actually pretty pleased, too.

He had no trouble with the bridge obstacle.

All these photos are screen shots from the video Sara took, by the way. He did very well on some new obstacles, like moving a cup, stomping on a tractor tire full of sand, and doing a series of tight turns. He’s really improving on so many levels. I wish I’d been up to the challenge of all the trotting.

Apache had a lesson after we sat in Sara’s car to cool off a bit to discuss his issues. I needed help with backing up, so Tarrin volunteered to work with him a bit, though she wasn’t exactly dressed for it! He was not thrilled, but got better.

I recovered enough to get in and practice. Sara filmed it, which was really interesting to me. I’m doing better with insisting on doing what I ask. By the end, it was much more smooth. We learned more stuff!

Back up, Jack.

When I finished backing, I had fun trying some of the obstacles with him. What a guy! Other than the backing up obstacle, He did all the things I tried like a champ! The bridge, the turns, the cup! He does have skills! I was so happy.

The thing I’m proudest of, though, was that Apache did his best job ever going through the “scary” corridor and to the trailer. There was only the smallest amount of nervousness! We are learning!

I guess it was worth the heat. That’s good, because this is a busy horse week coming up!

My Baby Made Me Proud

Drew and Aragorn attended a Working Horse Central clinic today with Tarrin. Clinics are always fun because you learn so much from the other students. I’m now glad Apache couldn’t come, because Drew and I learned so much and he was just amazing.

That’s right, I have a clue. A Drew’s clue.

Everything worked out so well! Aragorn was able to canter and do all the new things he was asked to do, even though he’d thrown his therapeutic shoe. I was very proud of him and Sara.

We lucked out and the weather was cool-ish and cloudy for the first two groups in the clinic. We missed most of the first group due to not wanting to leave that early, but we did get to chat with people we’d met before, plus got to meet interesting new folks.

Drew is watching the dremel tool in action, as Julie worked on Aragorn’s shoe

I really enjoyed the second group, because they were doing things I’d never done before, and I could watch and learn from them. They did backing up zig zags, which I now think I could do, walking over a tire, which some horses did NOT like. Both gave me a good insight into how to gently teach new skills. Every single horse made it over the scary tire! Here are some photos of the cool people and their horses in the second group.

Our group was me, Sara, and the woman with the gray Arabian mare we’d met before. By that time, the sun was out, so I was glad for my fancy sun shirt. I was worried that there wouldn’t be much Drew could do in hand. Was I ever wrong!

First we practiced our dressage stuff, and I learned a better way to back him straight, plus we did our circles great. Ha! He got annoyed at me for keeping him out of my space and tried to nip back. That got shut down. I think our next show will me much better.

Then we did obstacles, most of which we’d never tried. That was so much fun. The zig zag backing up was cool because I was supposed to do it from outside the obstacle. We figured it out!

There was a jump, which I had to do from outside the jump, then at a canter. He did so well. We both were confident. I smiled and smiled. And I got Drew to do a zig zag side pass without using a dressage whip to guide him. He turned on the forehand! He turned the other way. He got applause. It wasn’t great but he DID it.

No photos of all this, so here’s my new bougainvillea.

The best one, though, was the dreaded tractor tire filled with sand, which they had to approach straight and then go through. I was surprised that it was so hard for the horse and rider pairs but learned so much watching them work through it. Patience worked! Even horses who were spooked by it got through.

And here’s a dragonfly I saw while waiting our turn.

As for Drew, I’d already walked him over it twice when we were warming up, so Tarrin said I had to do it on the long rope. To my surprise, he went over it repeatedly at a trot in both directions with me just directing him a bit. Everyone praised my rope handling and how I followed him. Holy cow! I’ve really gotten better with all that practice. I used to be so bad at this! I was so proud of both him and me. We are becoming a real team. Drew really seemed to have fun. What a guy.

After the clinic I got to watch Tarrin make a new hoof treatment device for Aragorn. It is very complicated and involves flames, mixing glue compound, molding, and hotness. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but Aragorn seemed happy. He really liked a cushion thing he was putting his feet on. It looked very comfy.

And I got to hang out in the pool with Lee later!

We were tired people and horses when we got home, but so happy. I had two wonderful horse days in a row. Wooo.

Pain, Worth It

I seem to be dealing with the hurt of my lost friendships by replacing it with physical pain to distract myself. I’m pretty sure I have a stress fracture in my foot, because it didn’t bruise much, but hurts unless I wear supportive shoes. And falling in the hole definitely sprained my second toe on the other foot. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I also twisted all my back muscles. I’ve been walking around all hunched over like a person my age. Ha ha.

I did buy these cute boots.

To help me stop slipping and sliding while I’m trotting beside Drew, I got the fine Justin boots above. They qualify as Western boots, but have a rubber sole that will give me traction in sand and arenas. Plus, turquoise and black! Drew’s theme colors!

Too cute!

I’m just pushing through the pain and doing fun stuff anyway. Anita and I went to the local nursery today and I got some bright and happy plants. I hope that cheered her up a bit.

Photos of the plants are to come, when it’s light. I was too busy all day to take photos. There was lots of work, Zooms with friends, and fun chores like hauling horse poop. I think I should have dumped this load sooner.

Growing a mushroom crop.

But, everything is clean, including the trailer. I even towed it all the way to Sara’s tonight! That’s maybe a mile on the main road.

Here we go

It wasn’t all work today, though. I managed to work with both horses while waiting for Trixie to come do feet this evening. Drew really paid attention in his last lesson, because since then he’s like a new boy, with no more Zoolander problems. We turned right at all speeds, transitioned between gaits, and stopped on a dime consistently. There was no crowding or pushing. All his lunge line work was spot in today, too. He got the reward of being done quickly, because he did exactly what I asked!

We were all tired, too.

Apache, well, he was an absolute DREAM today. We had the best ride of our lives today. It was relaxing and fun. I think he may be a bit woozy from all his shots yesterday, because he was not terribly interested in trotting fast. But, he trotted when asked, and did his jumps like a man. We rode all over the pasture with zero issues. Once or twice he started to go astray but all I had to do was refocus him. It was GREAT. He’s becoming the horse I knew he could be.

I’m tired, but a very good boy.

It’s been a good week of spending time with all the horses. Even Mabel and Dusty are enjoying all the togetherness.

Nap time.

When Trixie got here, she was able to just do Drew and Apache’s feet. She has only one good hand after being scratched by an angry cat that didn’t want to get in a crate to go get neutered. Cat scratches go septic so easily! I’m amazed she could get anything done, so I’m happy to wait for Fiona and Dusty. But Drew is now ready for the clinic tomorrow, since Apache’s Coggins results aren’t in yet (not surprised).

I’m more ready after pain pills and a visit to Carlton’s favorite chair, the massage chair.

It’s really great to enjoy all your tasks so much that pain is inconsequential. I just looked at the sunset and felt better. I’m content right here. Where I belong and am loved.

Sunset over chickens

Drew and Sully Part 2: The Good Gray Horses

This morning Sara and I took advantage of the cooler morning temperatures to film the second part of Drew and Sully’s in-hand virtual show. She was going to do Aragorn, too, but he lost one of his fancy shoes that is fixing his foot issue. Tarrin spent a lot of time on that shoe, and showed Trixie how she did it, but horses get into stuff! They’ll get it fixed. But for today, she could not film Aragorn and ride with her new saddle. Boo.

Ready to do their show, and matching Sara’s classic old truck perfectly.

We both agreed that setting it up was a lot more work than anticipated. I really appreciate that Sara has a dressage arena set up on her part of the ranch and has kept it so nice. It’s a lot of effort, not to mention scooping poop and arranging all the other stuff we’d need. For my part, I had to bring both Drew and my stuff from my house. It’s too close to trailer him, but far enough that pulling the wagon with my stuff in it was hard. Drew, though, did fine walking beside the wagon.

I like this. It has my halter and a banana in it!

I’d hoped that walking over to the dressage arena would be enough warm up for Drew, but I don’t think it was. He ended up being a bit “spirited” when we tried to do the patterns the first couple of times. Once he pushed himself out of the arena boundary (BZZT – disqualified), and the other time, he pushed me all over the place when we were trotting and just didn’t seem to want to turn left, sort of like that model in the movie who could only turn one way.

I did a lot better than yesterday, though, and kept calm. It helped that I got rid of some of the distractions. For one thing, I wore different boots, which were more comfortable and less slippery. Sara let me wear her hat that has a string on it, because the wind kept blowing mine off. And I figured out a way to deal with attaching our number, even though I apparently left my actual number in Sara’s tack room. Geez.

Our pretty gray buddies Notice my shoes. I took my boots off the second I was finished getting videoed.

Luckily, after getting the pattern down, Sara set off with Sully and did a spectacular job on the pattern, PLUS the video software thing worked and caught it all. Winner! She trotted so calmly and did the backing up part perfectly, after not doing it well at all every time she practiced. Yay, she came through when she needed to. What a gal! She’s only had four lessons, so she is both an easy-to-train Andalusian and has had great work done by Sara. Trixie, who owns her, should be so proud!

After being tied up to the truck and watching Sully (and looking chastised), Drew and I tried again. I used his regular halter this time, and maybe that helped. He did a GREAT job on his pattern the last time. I was so proud of him. Our mistakes are mostly things we aren’t good at yet, but otherwise, he did well and so did I. I talked to him and that may have helped, too.

Apache took all the water, Suna. I want some.

We both ended up with smiles on our faces and felt like the hard work was worth it. Teamwork made the dreamwork as we helped each other and encouraged our gray beauties to do their best.

I love you, Suna. Thanks for the cookie and reminding me we have two water troughs.

I’m glad the next show is indoors, however. And of course, I am very grateful for all the support from our extended equine community and our families, which allows us to have this fun.

Drew and Sully Do a Show

Today Sara and I took Drew and Sully, the mare she is training while waiting for her to get pregnant, over to Tarrin’s to film the obstacles test for the Q2 Working Horse Central show. We were ready for fun!

In our horse show outfits.

It went pretty well, other than Sara’s first video failing. Luckily Sully did just as well the second time. She’s learned so quickly! And it’s beautiful to watch her trot.

They are friends now that they’ve trailered together. Before, Sully wanted to eat Drew.

Drew did okay. He started out refusing to do the figure 8, which confused me, because he hardly ever refuses to walk with me. Then he got better until he fell down heading into the slalom! I did the right thing by checking on him.

Oops. Dramatic film footage.

It got better after that and he did fine on the other parts. Tarrin said his jump was beautiful. That made up for the other parts.

That’s my boy.

It was a good experience except I got all upset with myself for not leading Drew well enough and that he fell. Normally I’d be fine but you know, it’s been a hard week.

I’m proud of what we can do, since we’re both rank beginners.

Also, since I get overheated so easily, I gave up trying to do a second take. It’s just like an in-person show, you lead the horse that showed up and accept the performance. Tomorrow we do the Functionality test. Maybe this time we will do better on that! If not, we will learn things and know what else to work on.

Here is the raw footage. Six minutes of our lives.

Back at home we are all happy and eating dinner. Life’s good if you are one of our horses!

Dinner time.

Lots got done here, too. Both the Hen House and the Suna Shack got latches to hold the doors open, and lots got done of the living space for Lee’s brother (no photos yet).

Book Report: A Journey to Softness

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Yes, indeed, I read another book by Mark Rashid. A Journey to Softness: In Search of Feel and Connection with the Horse taught me a lot about horses, but also gave me a huge insight into dealing with people that I think will come in handy during the hard days I see coming.

I will admit that softness is a thing I always wanted to have with horses, but I thought I was just making up, since nothing seemed soft about dealing with them for much of the time I’ve been around them. I have always been told to be harder, be more assertive, and be more of a leader (which is what I learned about in the previous book about passive leadership).

I know why that all is, of course, but I was intrigued to read how Mark Rashid and some of the people he’s worked with have gotten to a different level with horses, to where they don’t have to do much at all to work together as a team and achieve goals. The softness does require concentration, attention, and effort, so it’s not a breeze. And it’s a lot of working with energy and intent – something that I actually am good at! How about that?

I got some great ideas about how my attitude and intentions when around the horses can make things go better, and I was eager to try them out when I got back from my trip.

Who knows if it’s “working” or not, but I have enjoyed keeping positive intentions and kindness in my heart as well as taking everything that happens as the right thing. It’s been nice to think the horse has a voice in what we do, too. That was great with Mabel when she was sick, and in both my lessons last week. I’ve continued it all week when I work with Drew and Apache.

Another thing Rashid talks a lot about is aikido concepts of meeting force with less resistance. I don’t explain it well, but he told a story of when a man showed up at the ranch where he worked all bent out of shape, aggressive, and rough. Rashid’s mentor didn’t react much, just asked quiet questions and moved slowly in response to the man’s aggression. Soon, the man quieted down, and the mentor was then able to give him some suggestions. The idea was the more violent the guy got, the more passive the mentor got, so that the average of their energy was in the middle. Rashid talked about doing that with horses as part of his softness energy work.

I thought about doing the same with people and even got a chance to act on it when someone in my life got angry and acted out. I didn’t respond until they began to settle down, and I am pretty sure that happened faster because I didn’t add energy into the mix. That wasn’t easy for me, but I breathed and thought of lovingkindness. I’ve been doing that a lot these days.

Back to the book. An added bonus to this book is that he included some stories from people he’s worked with, about how they found softness in various aspects of their lives in addition to the horses they worked with. That was invaluable to me. This book was well worth reading and had way fewer typos than the previous ones.

Book Report: Horses Never Lie

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I read another horse book on my way to South Carolina, Horses Never Lie, by Mark Rashid (2011) (Sara tells me it’s pronounces Rash-idd). It’s the kind of book I enjoy reading, with lots of stories used to make the point, rather than a lot of pontificating and such. It also backs up my gut feelings about horses and explains why some methods of horse training (such as forcing a horse to keep going on and on until it bows to your wishes) make me uncomfortable.

Note that it’s the second edition.

The book talks about passive leadership, a concept Rashid explains in his comments for the second edition to have been a hard one to make sure people understand. I like the idea, and it makes sense after my limited amount of horse observations.

The idea is that horses don’t necessarily follow a leader who pushes, prods, bites, kicks, or hits them (human or horse), but rather a leader who is calm, seems to have a clue what they are doing, and treats them with respect. That’s what passive leadership is. In horses, these leaders don’t set out to lead, they just end up leading because they are the horse with the most chance of keeping the rest of them safe, at least in the other horses’ eyes.

The dominant horse (mare, stallion, or gelding) is obeyed, but never trusted or sought out for companionship. Interesting ideas when you apply them to people. Rashid provides helpful examples, both of how horses act when left to their own, and how they act with people. I know that I’ll be a better horse leader having read this, which is good, because I have been repeatedly told what a sucky leader I am, because I can’t “make” Apache do what I want to do. Now I see that sometimes I am letting him have a say in his life, and sometimes I do need to show him leadership…just the right kind.

In any case, there is always more work to do when it comes to horsemanship, and the big lesson I’m getting right now from the books I read, from my trainer, and from wise friends is that you should take what works for you and leave the rest – but make informed decisions based on your learning. Where did I hear that before? Oh, yeah, back when I was a La Leche League Leader and trying to figure out how to best feed and parent my children. Ha, maybe I’ve just moved on to a different species for my caring and nurturing focus.

By the way, if you’ve read this far but didn’t read the review of the horse book I read before this (hardly anyone read it), I encourage you to read the Horse Brain, Human Brain book. It also provided great insights into both human and horse behavior that can be helpful.

Why the Three-Star Review

You may have noticed that I gave this book only three stars. Well, besides the fact that not every book can have five stars, I just got annoyed by the typos in the book. My guess is that it was self-published, but if I spot three typos in a book, I get disappointed. In this one, I found three separate instances of the letter “a” appearing where there should be a letter “u” in the word. And it wasn’t some weird dialect of English either.

  • Ran for Run, p. 91 and 176
  • Rash for Rush, p. 201

Ok, yeah, editors should not read self-published books. I know that. The last one I read had a whole bunch and the person wasn’t even interested in hearing about them. OK, fine. Hope someone buys it anyway.

By the way, yes, I know my blog has typos. A lot of posts are written on the phone, and my ancient and chubby fingers end up making some doozies sometimes. I would appreciate it if you pointed them out so I can fix them. I typed this post. Let’s hope it’s not too bad.

I’m probably going to read another of Rashid’s books, so I didn’t get all that upset with the typos; I’d just prefer to not see any. Back to staring at the ocean.

Remember the Day Apache Would Not Ride Up to the Trailer?

I’ll never forget the day, myself. It was Easter and Lee’s friend, Matt, was with him. Matt said he’d take some pictures of me riding, which I thought might be useful for identifying things to work on and such. I wish.

Tarrin’s horses thought it was a great show.

Instead of me working on Apache’s inability to jump, me learning to leg yield, or anything remotely calm, I got a series of photos of Apache having one of his stress meltdowns.

I could do better than THAT, says baby horse.

I’ve decided it’s pretty educational, though. You can see my technique issues, my poor posture, Apache’s annoyed disconnection, and more. Matt already posted 51 pictures on Facebook of me and Tarrin working on this, so I’ll make the best of it and turn it into a fun picture story for any readers who are interested in what was going on in the photos.

All that took about 20 minutes of our lives, which are seared in my brain. But, by gosh, we did it! Apache made it to the trailer. Now you know why yesterday’s approach was an impoverishment.

Much needed sweaty hug of relief! Lee and the baby horse approved.

I’m proud of myself for being patient and willing enough to move through this and make progress. I have different goals from many of my equestrian friends, but by gosh, I’m getting there.

All photos in this post are by Matthew Hickner.
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