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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We were tired people and horses when we got home, but so happy. I had two wonderful horse days in a row. Wooo.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
It’s been a good week of spending time with all the horses. Even Mabel and Dusty are enjoying all the togetherness.
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).
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.
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.
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’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.
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.
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’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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Back at home we are all happy and eating dinner. Life’s good if you are one of our horses!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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.
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.
I’m not referring to my spouse. We’re pretty good, even when we’re grumpy. I’m talking about the horses, yet again, mainly Apache. How many years have I been trying to get the whole leadership thing down with him? Six, eight? A long time.
Oh, we’re making plenty of progress, for sure. I’m a better rider and he’s a better horse in so many ways, thanks to our lessons. And it hasn’t even been a year yet since we started back up learning from others. Breaking bad habits takes a long time.
I’m just hard on myself, as any of you who know me in person would confirm. So, when Apache completely fell apart over at Sara’s on Friday and put us both in danger, I blamed a lack of leadership skill on my part. Why didn’t I widen the reins more, relax my legs more, bang my leg harder?
The horse, on the other hand, was back in his old home pasture, near his favorite horse friend (Spice, Sara’s retired previous main horse), and not interested in Suna at all. He was also not noticing the new fencing going in, nor the open holes for fence posts. I knew Tarrin would want me to keep working with him, but I also know she wouldn’t want us in danger, so I got off.
Once I was safe and over being annoyed, we decided to walk back, with Sara riding along. It was good for Aragorn, who is also having his own interesting issues. It’s always something!
What’s weird is that Apache acted all rude and pushy, plus refused to back up (which he’d been doing in the saddle, too, for unknown reasons). But the moment we got past the cattle guard and headed home, he relaxed, slowed down, and walked at my side like an equine gentleman. We stopped to talk by our gate, and he stood quietly at my side, not even trying to eat when Aragorn did. Huh.
Today I went out again. This time I groomed Apache by the tack room, not the new trailer. He seems to not like the trailer, intensely. That at least started us out calmer. And I have to say, he did great at all his schooling stuff, even leg yielding. He jumped, too, in his way. It needs work.
We rode through the front field, too, turning and not heading back immediately. If I had stopped there, I’d have had a good day to make up for Friday. But, I wanted to go in the small paddock to do more leg yields. That required us to pass these horses’ asses.
All Apache wanted from then on was to go to them. He repeatedly tried to go in the pens, out the gate he came in, or anywhere except where I asked him to go. He got pretty insistent and started hopping. I had no urge to get bucked off into a fence pole or pen. I got off.
I promptly converted his reins to a lead rope and marched him off for ten minutes of ground work. Whee. I hope he enjoyed the figure 8 at a trot, the serpentine, and the repeated stopping and backing up. At least he backed up a few steps. He got to go back in the pasture only after the other horses had headed out to graze. Well, I try.
I’m just so grateful for Drew. We had a very nice session and worked on all his skills. He followed all my gait changes (I got in a fine workout with all the trotting on lead line). He practiced standing by the mounting block. Ah. And we just had a nice, long walk and chat together. He’s a joy to work with and I credit those months of training!
Back a few steps, I guess, but I’ll get there. I’m not a failure even when I feel like it. Just a work in progress, trying, failing, and trying again.
I wanted to share some of the things I’ve been doing with Drew and Apache over the past few days, in the wake of Drew’s choking incident and me putting in a lot of work with Apache on leadership and partnership. It’s all good, so that’s a huge relief!
Friday I had a late lesson over at Tarrin’s. Apache was not in the mood to go, but he did. I think the horses liked the other trailer better, because it was more open. But, we can’t tow it with the Tahoe, so too bad. Fancy trailer it is. By the time we got there he was all in a lather and everything was all dusty, but by gosh by the time we got to the working area, he was ready to work. Now, the work he did wasn’t his idea of a good time, at first, but he was a real sport about making attempts at jumping over the little jump. It wasn’t any fun for me, since I had to use the broken whip that tries to break my arm, and my arm was already tired from grooming him an hour the day before. He’s quite a good shedder.
After I got on him, we both learned a lot in an exercise involving trotting circles and side passing. Since I never thought I’d get that far in my feeble attempts at horsemanship, I was quite pleased to get the chance to work on it. We are both getting the hang of it, and again, Apache is quite the trooper at doing hard things. That way they will become easier!
The best part of the lesson was another test of Apache’s trail willingness. Tarrin walked behind us this time, and I got to practice being calm when he decided to turn around. It all went extremely well and we had a lot of fun. That’s when I spotted the violets in the woods and we forgot all about horse lessons and reveled in a new discovery. Plus, we got to look at all the axis deer in the next pasture over. No one spooked each other. That was cool.
It was such a great feeling to know that at last, he will go where I ask him to, because he trusts me not to send him anywhere scary. Tarrin got these nice photos of us looking all confident and happy together.
As for Drew, I told Tarrin I was concerned about him going so long between meals and not being able to do much in his pen. She told me she’d had a horse choke this week (it’s an epidemic, we think), and that she is feeding her wet food and watching her carefully, but she does have grass to eat. Our grass is still pretty short, so it would be hard for Drew to choke on it, anyway, so I decided he needed to be let out.
I was also worried about him developing stomach ulcers from being without food, especially since the vet had indicated his tooth grinding was a symptom. Hmm. Well, what a nice coincidence it was that Kathleen had many, many syringes full of ulcer medicine that Mabel hadn’t taken. Drew is all set in that department now, too.
That boy is eating a LOT and seems in a much better mood now.
All that continued yesterday, when nothing that the other horses were doing bothered him. Other than Apache starting back in on his grass eating, I could not complain. And Drew was so good and sweet. He comes right up for me to give him his Pepto Bismol stuff.
Today was really a big day for me and Apache, though. We went on a trail ride with Sara and Aragorn and I felt no nerves at all during any part of it. We managed to open a gate and at least push it shut. Score! And when I had to dismount to unlock the one with the barbed wire that tries to kill you, I had an easy time getting back on using the gate rails.
Then we walked and chatted and had a fine time. Apache did try the grass thing, but after whacking him with the saddle strings a couple of times, he got the idea. We went all around the creek, walked over logs, and easily settled when anything got scary. The best thing for me was that we were able to go up the hill to the woods, walk in, turn around when the way was blocked, and go back down calmly. We even went back up and walked up to the gate to our house to say hi to Goldie. Apache was good as he could be, possibly even having fun.
As you can see, it’s a beautiful day. We had a lot of fun trying new things and seeing what we could do. This was my horsemanship goal, to be able to go out on our property and ride around with my friends without worrying or spending the whole time feeling like I am in a battle. Sure, there will be challenges, and there were some today, but mostly we had fun and so did our hard-working horses, who got a break from cantering and leg yielding.
This is my view from the front porch as I type. No complaints for me. I’m in a time right now where there’s anticipation instead of stress, peace instead of worry, and joy everywhere I look. Even a short period like this in your life is one to treasure. And in these times, it’s especially true.
And oh yes, even the dogs are all mellow and happy. The chickens are all laying. And Fiona is free grazing, her favorite hobby. The Hermits’ Rest is a restful place today.