Sunday, December 27, 2009

Many projects...little time

I'm still around...just haven't felt like writing lately.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas with their loved and dear one. I did. :)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rest in Peace Brit...

Signed on to read email and read headline of Brittany Murphy's passing. So unexpected...too soon...much too soon. Loved her in Clueless and Girl Interrupted, but my fav is without a doubt her music video appearance in Tears For Fears 'Closest Thing to Heaven.' Now she truely is...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Survivor's Story

Had techical difficulty with the video (sorry Karen) so, I'll try another option.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Brrrrr...what happened to fall?

Okay, it's been in the mid 20s for the past five nights. Highly irregular for October. Decided to blanket Duke since his winter coat isn't quite filled in yet. He's done a thorough job of getting it dirty already. Yep that's my horse.

I bought another Fallis saddle about a month ago, it's much newer than the first one and very different. Have only ridden in it a couple of times, yesterday being the latest. Pics to follow; forgot my camera yesterday so I didn't get any pics.
Spending lots of time on ground work, rehearsing for my Level 1 skill audition. A Parelli friend and I spent a whole Saturday afternoon working on it two weeks ago, it was a lot of work, and hot that day (hard to believe, but true). We had fun and this is the first time I've seen myself playing with Duke; quite an eye opener. Got lots of good footage, and several out takes. Duke was fantastic, but after a couple of hours, the rebel clown in him came out. Playful guy that one...with a twist of naughtiness. The look on both our faces at the end is priceless. Oh my Dukey horse, he keeps me on my toes...always thinking! He's waaaay too smart and I'm way too slow. After this, he earned the nickname RC, for Rebel Clown. We started indoors, and worked through the skills/games, but after a couple of hours Duke started making up his own games. During the squeeze game between me and a barrel, he made it clear he wanted to play dominate the barrel, so we moved outside, ending up in the parking lot with two chairs. Here are the out takes and the reason why I affectionately call Duke my Rebel Clown.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth...

My dad would always ask me if I had whenever he hadn't heard from me in awhile, cos he was certain I had fallen off.

Truth is I returned home from the Parelli Celebration completely and totally inspired. The Celebration was excellent, it exceeded my expectations. We laughed...we cried...and Sam really enjoyed himself. He went back to work and when asked about it, Sam summed it up by saying "Anyone who is thinking of having children should attend a Parelli event and learn about the program. It's not just about horses."

I whole-heartedly agree. Parelli = love, language and equal doses.

Duke and I have been playing and working on passing our Level 1 skill tests. Our relationship is evolving every day and Duke is slowly revealing himself to me. That's one thing I've learned in recent months...when it comes to Duke I have to take things real slow.

More later...I promise. With videos of us playing.

Keep it natural!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ahhhh, finally spring has arrived

What a week this has been! Mostly good, packed with duties and desires, and lots of out of the ordinary activities.

But first, in one of my previous entries I think I may have given the impression that Duke is traveling to Reno with me, but he is not. When I asked should we, I was contemplating a purchase option between regular tickets priced under $100 a piece, or Gold Savvy Club tickets loaded with lots of benefits but priced at $350 a piece; after thinking it over for several weeks, I decided on Gold. :) Why not?
Last Saturday I had 3 ton of hay delivered after finding a local farmer selling his hay at a very competive price, $150 a ton, delivered from his farm 70 miles away. I've been buying hay from a local feed store at $9 a bale...thats $297 a ton!!! The average weight of a bale of grass hay is 55 pounds, Duke eats about 18 pounds a day so one bale lasts about 3 days. I can get a half a ton of hay in Duke's tack room, but lacking a place to store a ton or more limited my feed options to the local supplier. When I learned the owners of the boarding facility allow us to use unoccupied box stalls in one of the arenas for hay storage, at no extra cost, I jumped on it!! Then I found the farmers ad, gave him a call and after a few weather delays ( April...whaaaa?) finally got Duke's hay delivered. Now instead of paying $9 a bale, I paid $3.94 a bale. And this supply should last about 10 months.

Not having to haul hay for almost a year is a huge bonus for Sam, as he has hay fever...or maybe that should be suffers from hay fever. Bad...real bad. Love knows no boundaries like that of a man who willingly hauls and stacks hay for his woman, hay fever and all; he steps up every time, without hesitation. No complaints, barring the sound of sneezing and nose blowing.

Duke and I have finally started cantering, or should I say I finally found the bravery to canter Duke. Fear has kept us at a walk and trot up to now. The third time I rode Duke last year I was nervous and kept him on a very tight rein, which he responded to by breaking gait into a trot, especially when pointed toward the gate of the outdoor arena. I kept pulling on his mouth and doing everything wrong, until finally he decided he had enough and he bolted into a gallop. I kept my seat (somehow!) and stopped him with a gentle one rein stop. Right then I decided I wasn't getting off just yet, I needed to stay with him and work on the relationship. After that ride, he didn't bolt again, but the question of would he do it often entered my mind. That's when I realized it was time to sharpen not only my riding skills, but my equine psychology skills as well. That decision proved to further enhance my relationship with Duke as I learn to better understand the nature of his complicated mind.

At times I can't believe I used to canter and gallop horses all the time as a teen, back then I only knew two gaits, walk and canter. I rarely trotted a horse (too jarring!). In late March, Duke and I took the plunge and cantered (aka loped) a short but controlled circle for the first time. We've done it several times since and each time we improve our balance a bit; he getting used to cantering with my weight and the tack, and me getting my mind and body in sync with his. I never realized how much is going on during a canter, as a kid I just did it. I have since learned better!

Duke play races with a young colt in an adjacent pasture. Notice how they mirror each other?

When we canter, my favorite part is the rocking horse feel of Duke beneath me. Then there's that split second moment when I first ask him to go into the canter; when I feel him making that first stride I also feel my heart stop momentarily as he shifts his weight in order to lift his front legs and then reach under his belly with his hind legs. It is such a thrill! But we only canter after we properly warm up, spending the first 15 minutes of our ride at a walk reviewing cues and aides, then on to a nice soft jog (trot) for a few minutes. Then, if we are in tune with one another, and Duke is listening to my leg cues and responding to my hands, we will go into a short canter for about a minute. We're taking baby steps here, working to build up Duke's body condition and my riding skills. Slowly we are working toward the goal of total collection (mental as well as physical). He's such a patient and forgiving teacher.
On Sunday, Duke and I embarked on our first riding adventure of the year outside the confines of the arenas. We participated in the annual Sheriff's Mounted Posse Poker Run at Hell's Gate State Park on the Snake River. I've been wanting to get Duke on a trail ride since I brought him home, but again the fear kept me back. Riding him at the cabin last Labor Day was a huge step for us, and that went so well, I was never scared or fearful that he would spook or bolt on me.

Our trail partners Sunday, Ember with Leigh Ann up, Martina with Cary up (hidden) and Elvira with Barb up. I need to remember to hand my camera to other people so I get in a few photos when I'm on Duke.

200 riders turned out with their horses and trailers for the ride. There's a lot of money tied up down there.
On our trail ride Sunday at Hell's Gate Duke took very good care of me. He was in his element and loved the trails! He steps right out and sets a nice easy pace; the only trouble I had with him is he wants to be the leader and out in front, at all times. I few times I put him behind the other three horses we were with, and he wanted to pass them every time; at one time he saw some horses ahead of us and for a moment I thought perhaps he'd try to get a head of them. Fortunately he didn't, because the three in our group were having a time keeping up with him. We had to stop, circle back, slow down (ha!) many times to allow them to catch up. Duke didn't like waiting for the other horses, until we hit a very steep, deep sand hill and he had to stop halfway up to momentarily 'blow' (catch his breath). All in all we had a great ride and a wonderful day, and I can't wait for our next trek to Hell's Gate SP. The only bad thing that happened is I lost my watch; we back tracked most of the way we came, but never saw it. Oh well, I had been thinking about getting a new one anyway.

Untacking Duke after the ride. The weather was perfect, an exceptional day! Like my new Aussie hat? It's an early birthday present from Sam, that I found at a recent Back Country Horse event.

Riders returning from a day on the trails.

I'm a huge fan of George Strait and I have most of his CD's from 1989 on. I love his new song 'Troubadour.' Click this link to watch the video. ->

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mirror, mirror in my stall...

Every day I play with Duke reveals something new...a little gem I can treasure. Today was so different from yesterday.

This weekend, after rewatching the problem solving segments of the Liberty and Horse Behavior DVD's, I set off for the barn Sunday afternoon fully intending to get a ride in (so much for paying attention!). Well, at the very least a little time bareback to work on my balance. That was my plan. Duke, on the other hand, had other plans in mind.

Pat often tells his students that while we may be responsible for having principles and goals, it is the horse who is ultimately in charge of the timeline. And Duke takes his duty very seriously.

Right now he's probably in his stall, feeling pretty smug.

When I arrived at the barn Sunday, the moment I stopped the car I realized I had left my key to the trailer (where I keep all my riding gear) on the dresser at home. Drat! Perhaps that was a hint which I could have heeded. Instead I called my friend Barb (who has the other key) and asked her to bring her set as she was heading down too. In the mean time, I got Duke out to play with him to see what side of the stall he woke up on.

Duke greeted me at his door and he was ready to get out. I wanted to use my 22' lead rope, but the latch mechanism was stuck (Parelli lead ropes have a nice brass swivel latch that locks securely...sometimes a little too securely), so I opted for the 12' lead rope, haltered Duke up and off to the arena we went. Inside the arena I tied Duke up and set up my iPod to play my Born to Ride playlist on my portable iBox (music really adds an extra level to our play sessions). Duke watched my every move, ears forward, patiently waiting for his chance to get down and have a good roll.

Sometimes I get into the arena with Duke and just go completely brain dead.

I used to be sooooo imaginative...what happened? I untied Duke and he began his quest for the perfect rolling spot. He soon found it, got down and rolled to his hearts content while I stood by, contemplating my plan. Check out his mood, gauge his behavior today and see what shakes out. On any given day when Duke's finished rolling he gets to his feet, shakes of the excess dirt, blows the dust out of his nose, blinks his eyes a couple of times, licks his lips and waits for my cue. When he got to his feet, shook his head, then arched his neck and starting trotting around with a LOT of energy I knew he was in a different mood. He wanted to play, but I misread his behavior and wanting to stay on task because I was going to ride today, I gently reminded him of the purpose I had in mind.

I have so much to learn.

And lucky for me, Duke is willing to teach me. I need to remember that.

We were at odds the entire time and what I missed in all his actions was that no riding was taking place. A half an hour passed and by the time Barb showed up with the trailer key, I thanked her but declined to take it. She's not a Parelli person but has a basic understanding of horses, and knowing Duke she didn't need any further explanation. But I couldn't leave well enough alone. I really wanted to ride Duke bareback. I turned the halter and lead rope into a hackamore (a bitless bridle with reins) and asked Barb for a lift up. From the moment I set myself on Duke's back, the game was on! He lurched forward and refused to stand still. He willingly gave me lateral flexion to the left (bend his head and neck toward my knee as a means of control) but he was stiff, rigid and bracey to the right. He refused to give; he runs about 50/50 on right lateral flexion. Sometimes he's soft and willing, sometimes he isn't. That was my second sign. Won't stand still. Won't give me his head both ways. These are classic indicators that the horse is not ridable. I circled him at a walk to the left but he was tense, high headed, and I felt him pushing against the pressure of the halter when I asked for a stop. Time to get off. I didn't feel safe, and it's been a long time since I felt that way on Duke's back.

Barb went off to clean Elvira's stall, and I set about to have a different conversation with Duke. What was up with him? Through several versions of the porcupine and driving game, I got the message. He wanted to play! Not with me on his back (thank God!) but on-line. The past couple of weeks I've tried something new with Duke, where we move around the arena, at a walk or run (me running...he's trotting...or loping). I mirror him. He mirrors me. And it's really added another level to our sessions together. With all the games we play, Duke learns new things quickly, but quickly gets bored with repetition so I have to be all times. He's also very much a 'what's in it for me' kind of horse Left Brain Extrovert with Introvert tendancies). Duke and I spent at least ten minutes (not counting the rest breaks for me to catch my breath) running and darting around the arena. My favorite part was when I glanced over at him and saw him doing his playful head shake...the same kind he does when he's playing with another horse, or by himself. That was pure joy for me. :) This was followed by a very brief session of 'stick to me.' Duke matched me step for step. Just a couple steps back and one forward but that's all I needed. Horse-human harmony. I'm still smiling about it.

We then moved to the round pen for a little play at liberty but the dirt was muddy and slick so I kept that session short. After we mozied outside for a little grazing time, then went back to the stall. Dinner for Duke, mucking for me.

No matter what, there's no such thing as a bad day at the barn.

What did I learn from this play session? The two things Pat keeps saying and I keep forgetting: put the relationship first; and principle before goals. And if I forget again, Duke is there to remind me.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Of building bridges and dreams...

Duke and I after playing in the arena for over two hours last Saturday.

For months I pondered it. Could we? Would we? Should we? Oh gawd I'd love to! I want to!

So I decided to do it. The other day I bought two tickets to the Parelli Celebration coming to Reno in May. I'm so happy I'm dancing inside!!! Woooooo hooooooooooooo weeeeeeeee! Even Sam is excited about the prospect of spending three days with Pat and Linda Parelli.

I know it may be hard for someone to understand what this really means to me, so I can summarize it by saying if not for Parelli Natural Horsemanship, I would not be enjoying the relationship I have with Duke. Pat and Linda made it all possible. It could easily have gone the other way, my dream could have died, and I'd be yet another first time horse owner who got frustrated and gave up because she didn't know what to do and when to do it. I came close, but chose instead to patiently persist in the proper position. :) They gave me the tools I needed to build my bridge from dream to reality.

And what a beautiful bridge it is...

Let the countdown to the celebration begin!!!!

Here's a teaser of what's in store...from the 2008 USA tour.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Trippin' Through the Snow...

...better late than never. Cliche, I know, but true.

Right after Christmas the hubster had a serious case of cabin fever. After being tied to the house and tree farm every weekend since Thanksgiving he wanted to get outta Dodge. So we did. Might as well take advantage of the low fuel prices too (I can't believe I actually filled my tank for under $20 not so long ago...of course that was short lived...nice but short lived).

With record holiday snowfalls in our region, it was a perfect time to take the Jeep on a four wheeling run. Friday, December 26 we headed to the mountain towns of Waha and Winchester. On Saturday, we headed to our cabin in the mountains of Clearwater County.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Fancy footwork...

Yesterday I realized something, it's been 8 months since Duke came into my life; notice how much my journal entries have dropped? And I can say with certainty that he has certain traits and characteristics. He is very complex, like me, so in that way we relate to each other. He can go from being soft and obedient to bracy and disobedient in a heartbeat. He's always thinking, very mouthy, confident, naughty, dominant, and playful. He keeps me on my toes and teaches me something new everyday; he is an awesome teacher.

What has he taught me?

  • To be patient, again
  • To relax and not be such a direct line thinker
  • To be as gentle as possible but as firm as necessary (assertiveness)
  • To say "Oh boy!" instead of "Oh no!"
  • The fine art of moseying
  • Leadership
I could go on, because it's something new every day.
Thankfully for me he's also patient...most of the time. And one other thing I've learned is he gets bored with arenas. Bored! Bored! Bored! This time of year we have to stay inside, in the arena to play, whether on the ground, or in the saddle. I love playing on the ground with Duke. I love riding too! But the ground work is so important. If you don't have respect on the ground, you won't get it in the saddle.
The other day I was playing with Duke and had one of those moments...a moment where I was able to work my way through a situation with him. To keep him engaged in the activity, I have to be provocative and mix things up. Repetition isn't his thing. When learning something new, once he gets it, move on.
So, this time I decided to get out some barrels and ground poles; two and three, respectively. The barrels to play a 'squeeze' game to help both of us become more comfortable with trailer loading, and the poles to keep Duke's mind engaged during the 'circle' game we play. I thought, if he has to think about where he's putting his feet, he won't be so bored with circling. Additionally, lately I've noticed him tripping over his feet, even though we pulled his shoes and trimmed his hooves on January 5th. Could be laziness or boredom, but I thought perhaps an exercise in moving over an object, and having to pick up his feet, would be useful and beneficial.

I set the two barrels on end about three feet apart, and the poles off to the side in a V pattern, but with the extra pole in the middle. We played on-line (on the ground with a halter and lead rope) with the barrels, backing Duke in between, which is difficult for him because he's not confident with objects behind him. From there I sent him forward into a circle, using the barrels as obstacles in his path to keep him from getting bored with the mindless act of going around and around and around in an endless circle. At a walk then a trot, we went around one barrel, then between the two, then out away from the barrels, then back around one, change direction, and go the opposite direction. My timing was off several times and the lead rope hung up on the barrel causing Duke to stop when he felt the pressure, so I need to work on that. I get so into watching his movement that I often forget I have a lead rope in my hand.

Then we moved over to the poles, starting Duke off at a slow walk first so he could negotiate the placement of the poles. Immediately Duke offered to trot. The first two circles he completely avoided the poles, first skirting around the outside, then skirting the inside toward me. Oh boy! The third time I positioned myself properly putting Duke right over the poles. Going over he hit them with his hooves and stepped on them, knocking them around while tripping and losing his balance...and his confidence. He genuinely looked frustrated and very sour. So we went off to other games...touch it, sideways, porcupine...all things he knew giving him time to gain back his confidence and me time to think of a different strategy for him. Then I had a thought...what if I went over the poles with him, both ways, so we do the exercise together? Back to the poles we went, walking together this way over them, and then back in the other direction. I gave him a moment to think before I took up my position and I sent him over the poles again. First at a nice calm walk, then Duke offered to trot and this time I watched as he crossed over the poles, placing his feet perfectly between each pole, never hitting or tripping as he moved. He looked like he was beautiful!!! As soon as he finished his expression changed to excitment as he happily trotted right to me, licking his lips, ears forward, attentive and ready. If he could talk he might have said, "Wow! That was fun!" Considering our past experiences with poles at a trot always resulted in him clumsily striking them and tripping, this moment was a major breakthrough.
And with that, we called it a day.

I've also learned to end our sessions on a positive note. We'll both remember that next time.
The journey continues...