Thursday, December 2, 2010

Left brain (flash) right brain

Interesting session with Duke last night. Played for over an hour. Inspired by some tasks suggested on Parelli Connect (a new social media for Parelli students) I set about to see if:
  1. Duke would put his front feet on a pedestal with me 22' away from him.
  2. Put his hind feet on a pedestal.
Sent him to the pedestal at a casual walk from the end of a 22' line. Both front feet on the pedestal. Check.

Switch to the circling game at a trot and sent him to the pedestal from the end of a 22' line. Steps up and places both front feet on the pedestal. Check. And at a canter on the same line. Check.

With enthusiasm.


Now to work on task #2. Hind feet on pedestal.

This one is gonna take some time.

Started by asking him to back up to the pedestal and just stand next to it. He did and it was so uplifting to see him doing this with ears forward and a happy, engaged expression on his face. Asking questions.

Duke hasn't asked me questions for a long, long time! Is this what being provacative is?

Several attempts made it clear that I needed to stop and step back because at this stage of his learning it was too soon to expect him to place one, let alone two, hind feet on the pedestal. Everytime his hoof touches the pedestal, Duke takes a small step away. He's not sure exactly what I want. So out come the hoola hoops. Make it easy.We'll start with these and work our way up. He never quite got both hind feet in...but he was trying. My communication could have been clearer too, so I'll work on that.

Move on to something else. We can come back to this later.

At this point the most interesting thing happened. Duke went from left brain introvert to right brain extrovert in a flash. He did this performing a task he has performed dozens of times before. Dozens of times, and each time he was calm and rather non-chalant. But last night something was different. We were playing 'follow a feel' on the 22' line. I thought it might be a good way to send Duke off on a circle, rather than using the same old back up cue using rthymic pressure to push him away from me. As I have done before, dozens of times, I slowly placed the rope over Duke's head, then looped it around his body, back behind him and then stood, waiting for him to follow the feel of the rope, turn 180 degrees then face me. Usually he stands straight for a second, then turns his head away from me, bending his body around as he follows the feel of the rope. Usually. Last night he stood there, looking at me, ears foward. Asking. I took up the slack ever so slightly to encourage him to turn his head the other way, which he did, and then BAM! He quickly whirled completely around 180 degrees and began to back away from me. As if in fear. 100% reactive. No calm slow left brain, been there, done that response. This was a complete departure from the norm.

What changed?

Why the change in behavior? I repeated the exercise several times, and each brought about the same response. Stand for a moment, looking at me, then WHIRL around, hooves flying and try to get away. Even Debbie commented how odd his behavior was.

After thinking it over, I got to wondering if the rope resting just above his hocks was causing the problem. So we tried again, only this time I kept the rope higher and let it drape behind his rump. He was better and slower this time, so we repeated the exercise, and again got a slower more confident response from him.

Hmmn, how interesting.

On that positive note we ended the session. I still don't know exactly what caused the big change from left brain to right brain because we've done lots of desensitizing on the hind legs...lead by the hind legs, friendly game, the tarp wrapped around his hind legs and he took it all in stride. Meh. Didn't care, not a bother. Now I have something to think about, and it will be interesting to see what happens when we play tomorrow. Didn't have time tonight, had to get my hair cut, but we'll give it another go tomorrow.

We need to get ready for our Level 2 auditions: on-line and freestyle. If I'm going to reach my goal of passing both by the end of the year.

Come to think of it, I'm seeing a lot more extroverted behavior in Duke these past couple of months. Hmmm.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful...once again!

Wishing all my on-line friends a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving.

Take a moment to reflect what you are thankful for!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Another new goal...

Found this by following Parelli instructor Petra Christensen's trail. I'm inspired, awestruck and so ready to try to recreate some of the obstacles in this course and try it. The rider is Mark Bolender riding bridleless on Checkers during the Mountain Trail Championships at the Oregon Horse Center.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Time...and time again

Ugh! I hate being sick! I'm home nursing a severly swollen throat with chills and stuffy sinus'. Double ugh!

Duke, on the other hand, is healthy and happy. Yesterday the farrier pulled his shoes for the winter so now he's barefoot.  He's put on his teddy bear coat...getting all fuzzy and turning from summer slick red to winter rich chocolate brown. I love running my hands across his long neck and feeling his plushy thick coat. Think I'll forego blanketing him this winter, unless the temp drops down below 20 degrees; let him go au natural!  The cut above his eye from three months ago healed nicely and is no longer visible, thanks to Vetricyn. Anyone with animals needs to keep it on hand! Seriously.

Been getting several rides a week in, bareback and with a saddle, working on upward and downward transitions, leg cues and side passing. During a session last Sunday I realized the problem with side-passing was me...I wasn't using my seat properly. So I set Duke up to side pass to the right over a pole, only this time using my left seat bone to push him. It took a couple of tries but he did it perfectly, without any bend in his body or neck. Each time we accomplish success like this, I am reminded that Duke already knows everything he needs to know when I'm in the saddle, and I'm the one who needs training.

Last Saturday night I thought I'd try my hand at team penning, but in the end I wasn't quite ready. I was tense and nervous (this was my first rodeo!) and didn't set it up to succeed. Had I been thinking properly I would have taken the time to warm Duke up in the little arena, away from all the noise and other riders before we headed to the larger upper arena where the event is held. So for me, I'll be taking baby steps toward this goal. Next time we'll warm up like we always do in the lower arena, then just hang out and give myself time to get used to the sights and sounds of the upper arena. It's all very fast paced and as a Level 2 student I'm not quite there in my training. However, my friend Debbie (who has been there for me through it all!) expressed an interest in riding Duke for one of the rounds; he is after all a former ranch horse who spent the first eight years of his life on a cattle ranch. She offered to pony him during the warm up after I realized I wasn't ready for this. Duke took to it like milk to a cookie as I watched from the sidelines. He ponied great, never rushing ahead of Debbie and Ringo, nor dragging behind them. He showed interest in the cows and moved with them whenever Debbie stopped by them. Funnily enough, everytime he'd pass by where I was standing, he'd look my way as if he was searching for me in the crowd. At least that's what Debbie said...I think he was looking for the gate.

Met up with my brother Mick and sister-in-law Char on Sunday while they were visiting from their home in the Portland area. Turns out they are both into horses and have two beautiful Arabians named Bay (short for Baythoven) and Boo. Who knew!!! One day I receive a friend request on Facebook and lo and behold, it's my brother. I have to admit when I saw Mick's photo of him wearing a cowboy hat, holding Bay you could have knocked me over with a feather. At first I honestly didn't think it was him. My brother...into horses?! Cool!!!! We spent two hours swapping horse stories at a local Starbucks. Sam was a real trooper, and if all that horse talk bored him, he gave no outward sign of it. It's been a long time since I last saw Mick and Char (1998) and seeing them again was a real heart warmer, and a great way to start the week.  BTW Char has a blog too, cleverly titled Canterbalance...pop over and check it out!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fall trail challenge

On Saturday, October 23, Duke and I participated in our second trail challenge held at Lewis Clark Saddle Club in Clarkston, WA. This challenge was quite different from the one last May and more challenging. There were a few tense moments, and Duke was definitely on his toes, more extroverted than normal. All in all, we had a lot of fun and learned a great deal. This was a real test of our relationship. And I have my homework assignments.

But I'm gonna have to have a serious talk with my cameraman-husband, because at times I'm not sure what he was recording.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Once upon a cold, dark night (re-visited)

Hmmm, here I am with a great place to write and yet when I sit down to do so, nothing happens. I used to write so flowed like water. What happened? I need to reconnect with that part of me again, because buried deep beneath all the layers of my life I know the writer in me is stirring.

So, until I find my muse (or vice versa), I'm reposting a previous entry I created in 2005 when my blog was a part of the AOL J-Land community. You can find the original entry here

With Halloween just around the corner, many are sharing scary stories. Sandra, owner of Sandra's Scribbles often finds a ghost story to share. And our beloved Blogfather, John Scalzi is prompting us to write, to draw on our own experience and relate a bone chilling, flesh crawling, hair raising Halloween story. Well, maybe not flesh crawling.

Okay. If you thought I was a little bit crazy before, well I'm about to remove all doubt from your mind.

Somewhere between fear and imagination lies the truth. And many years ago I learned the line between is often blurred. During the time that followed I have struggled to grasp the meaning of what happened to me on a cold dark night. Even now I do not fully understand exactly what happened; but I do remember.

It is September 19, 1978. I am a newlywed of just three months, spending the night at the home of my in-laws. They live in a split-entry house with four levels and the guest room is downstairs, in the daylight basement. A few hours before, at 12:45 a.m., I received news of my mothers passing. It is now 3:30 a.m. and I can't sleep. I keep wondering what life will be like with her gone. I feel cold, chilly, and alone, even as the heat of my husband's sleeping body radiates next to me under the warmth of several heavy blankets.

When I feel the internal urge, I get out of bed and silently make my way through the dark house to the bathroom across the hall. I switch on the light, shut the door and go about the business that called me out of my bed. The events of the night play out in my mind, and I think about what the days ahead hold for my young sisters. At only 12 and 14, they are so tender and young, too young to lose their mother.

I finish and wash my hands, struggling with the loss I feel in my heart. Looking up at the medicine cabinet mirror, I stare at the reflection; is the person looking back at me strong enough to deal with this? Do I have what it takes to help my sisters cope with the heart break I must deliver to them? Beneath my eyes the bags and dark circles belie my age. I am only 21 yet I look to be in my 30s. My mothers illness has taken its toll. I rub my eyes, take a deep breath and step away from the sink.

Without warning, I begin to shiver, as if the temperature of the room suddenly dropped several degrees. I shake it off, rubbing the skin on my arms vigorously with my hands, eager to slide back under the warmth of those heavy blankets on the bed. But when I reach out and grab the doorknob, an electrical shock stabs my fingertips. I stop and pull back my hand. Thinking it is static electricity created by rubbing my arms, I reach out again, and quickly withdraw my hand when the vibration of electrical energy touches my skin.

 I look down at the linoleum, then at my bare feet. How can I be getting shocked? I glance at the sink, step toward it and touch the metal fixtures. Nothing. Slowly I wrap my fingers around each knob. No shock. Okay, so it wasn't static. It's nothing. Feeling relieved, I turn away from the sink and cast my sight on the door knob. That's when I hear it. An inner voice that stops me in my tracks with the words, Don't look.

Look? At what? Gathering my wits about me, there I stand, thinking about being shocked by a door knob while standing barefoot on the linoleum floor in my pajamas listening to some voice telling me not to something.
 Nonsense! This is crazy, I tell myself. Not to mention silly and stupid. Again I reach out, ready to take control of the situation. Even as I wrap my fingers around the door knob, my sense of touch vibrates with electrical energy. I withdraw my hand, staring at it in disbelief.

What's happening? This can't be real.

Don't look. You must not look.

Slowly I back away from the door. Look? At what? Is there something out there?

Get a grip. I shake my head. I've been reading too many Stephen King novels.

This is just my imagination getting the best of me. I'm tired, physically and emotionally. It's late at night, everyone in the house is asleep, and my overactive imagination is working overtime. Go to bed. Just open the door, turn off the light and go to bed. You've done it before, hundreds, if not thousands of times in your life. Do it again, like before. Open the door.

Even before I reach out a part of me resists. I am tired. I need sleep and I am not going to get it standing in this room. Once again I reach out, only to stop and withdraw when the shock of electricity hit my fingers.

Don't look.Again, I back away from the door. My heart is pounding in my chest, I hear it thumping in my ears. My pulse is racing. This isn't happening. This isn't real. I know what is real. This is not real. As if to convince myself, I do everything I know is real. I wash my face, splashing the cold water on my skin, willing myself awake. I'm still dreaming. I brush my teeth. I brush my hair. I run in place. I do jumping jacks.

And still the knob shocks me and the voice reminds me, Don't look.

I'm going crazy. My mother's death has pushed me over the edge of reason and sanity. There is nothing out there I tell myself. There is no need for fear. And yet my feet refuse to move, silently disobeying the order given by my brain.

It comes on suddenly, a sense of disturbance in the air. A feeling of unrest. In my minds eye I can see something, beyond the bathroom door, up the stairs, past the kitchen and dining room, where the drapes are open, on the other side of the sliding glass door. It's there, in the car port.

At first I think it is my mother's spirit, checking on me, wanting to know how I am coping. Dressed in white, she waits for me, calling out my name. The feeling permeates every pore of my skin, drenching me with an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. I lean against a wall, propping myself up, my mind swimming with thoughts, desperately trying to make sense of the here and now. It wanders back in time to conversations about the weakness of the human spirit; particularly when dealing with the loss of a loved one. I remember stories I heard and read about people who, faced with the death of a loved one, claimed to be visited by something. Each person thought it was the spirit of the departed, bound by love, unable to leave the other's side. It made sense; what could be deeper than a mother's love for her children. Maybe what I sensed was my mother's spirit nearby, hovering, lingering, wanting just one last look, before moving on to the other side.

No. It is not your mother. It wants to hurt you.


What wants to hurt me? Mom wouldn't do that!

Don't look. It wants to hurt you.
 I feel like the room is shrinking and the walls are closing in on me. I need to get out of here! I want to get out of this room. A part of me needs to confirm I haven't lost my mind and there is something out there. But I'm too scared. There's nothing out there. It's just my imagination getting the best of me. I try the door again. Shock. Okay. I won't look. Just let me out. I'll keep my eyes straight ahead. I won't look up the stairs. Just let me out of here!

Don't look.

Out loud, I say it. I won't look! Tentatively, I lift my arm and reach for the door knob. Nothing happens. I wrap my fingers around the metal and take a deep breath.

Do it. Go! Open the door, eyes straight, and move quickly. Don't look!

I turn the knob and with the other hand I switch off the light. My chest feels like it is about to explode! I jerk the door open and bolt across the threshold toward the guest room. As I pass in front of the stairs and the open drapes an ice cold chill runs down my spine.

Go! Don't stop or look.

My knees feel like Jell-O, my feet feel like concrete and I lose my balance, slamming into the bedroom doorway. I stumble in the darkness, bent over with my arms out, searching for the bed. What just happened? I feel the comforter and follow the bed, flinging my body down onto the mattress, then under the covers. He doesn't move. I feel like I've made enough noise to wake everyone in this house, yet my husband lies beside me. Undisturbed, the sound of his slow breathing fills my ears.

I don't feel safe, just yet. I feel like whatever is out there is now right outside the window above me head. Go away! Whatever you are, leave me alone. Go away! Fear racks my body and I shake as I pull the sheets over my head, burrowing myself under the safety of the covers. Go away. Leave me alone. Seconds pass, the tension in my muscles begins to ease, I close my eyes and slowly drift sleep.

When I wake up I am alone in the bed. I check my watch and remember what happened last night. What had happened? Whatever it was, I knew I could not, would not tell my mother-in-law, or my husband. Neither would believe a word and write it off as a bad dream. They would do their best to convince me it never happened. I imagined it all in my sleep and it was just a nightmare.

Thing is, it was. At least the part about losing my mother. That morning I remember the haunting feeling of being abandoned. Sitting on the edge of the bed, with the sound the words I didn't want to hear resonating in my ears, I realized my worst childhood fear had just come true. My mother had abandoned me. And that little girl who suffered from the nightmares which woke up her, and everyone else in the house, now found herself alone in the company of strangers.

 Until this moment I have shared this experience with a handful of people. My sister and a few close friends, as well as religious and spiritual advisors. A couple of pastors and priests scoffed at my words, explaining the events of that night as just the workings of my imagination as they patted me on the back and led me to the door. But the majority, they listened intently and many came to the same conclusion. The death of a loved one makes a person weak, spiritually. On that they all agree. From there, their interpretations vary. Some say in my weakness, the devil came to take my soul. Others say the devil only exists if you believe that it does. As for me, I think there is truth in both sides.

Throughout my childhood, I had nightmares; dreams in which my mother abandoned me. On those nights I would cry out for her and she always came to my side, her gentle voice soothing away the fear as she held me tenderly, rocking me back to sleep. She said she knew when the nightmares would come because an angel told her. My mother always said I had an angel at my side, silently watching over me. She said the angel spoke to her, but I never sensed it, or even heard it speak to me.

Until that night. I wonder if it was the voice of the angel I heard, telling me not to look, warning me. Guiding me through the darkness and reminding me...I am not alone.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A good hair day (revisited)

I originally posted this entry almost five years ago, in November 2005. It deserves another visit. May all our returning service people return home safely from their tours of duty to open arms. God Bless 'em, today and always.

"Today is a good day," the woman said as she walked through the hair salon.

There was something in the way she said it. A calmness in her voice that pulled my attention to her. Ev stopped cutting my hair momentarily and looked up as the woman sat down in the chair at the station next to us. With a smile, Pam draped a shampoo cape around the woman. "Oh?" she remarked as she cocked her head, eye brows raised in curious expectation.

"Yes," the woman smiled. She looked up at Pam, then said, "Today my son is back on American soil."

With those words everything stopped. She held our attention. There were only four of us in the salon, but with her words I was taken by the sense that I would carry this moment all my life. Ev dropped her arms to her side as I turned in the chair to face the mother, swallowing the lump I felt in my throat. "You must be relieved," I heard Ev say. "Does he get to stay home for the holidays?"

The mother turned to both of us. She radiated with a glow; a peaceful serenity of total calm surrounded her. "He's home to stay," she replied, her words floating in the air like the promise of a new day.

Pam asked the question we all formed in our minds. "Where was he?"

"Iraq." It was a simple one word response, filled with such emotion I wondered how many times she had said that word before, her voice then filled with uncertainty and a mother's fear. The uncertainty of wondering how much longer, how many more times would she say that word. The uncertainty was gone, replaced by pure joy.

For the next few minutes she shared her joy with us. Through her words I learned. Her son served in the National Guard, called to duty almost two years ago. Now he was returning back to everything he left behind, his family, his home, and even his job. His employer was holding his job for him. I learned the most dangerous part of being in Iraq for the soldiers, is the trip home. The soldiers do not fly out of Iraq, they must make a long journey across the country...a journey across open terrain in which they are vulnerable. A journey that for some ends much too soon.

"That," she said, "is when many of them die. On their way home."

As she calmly spoke my thoughts turned to them. Silence followed.

It was an ordinary day that started like any other. Normally I make my hair appointments late in the afternoon, after work. But when Ev offered the lunch hour time slot, I took it. I'm glad I did.

I am a creature of habit and while I don't always resist change, I thrive in the mundane and routine. In the structure of that routine I find security. Then one day, I changed the routine and did something differently, with a few second thoughts. Now, I realize that change can bring us blessings. I felt blessed to be there that moment. It gave me the chance to witness first-hand one of the happy stories. After months of hearing and reading so many negative accounts of this war, for me, this one moment helped to counter balance some of the negative. Not all of it, by no means, but some of it.

The mother finished sharing her story with us, then eased her back into the chair as Pam lowered her head down to the sink. The salon was quiet as Ev turned to me and lifted her hands back to my head. I turned my thoughts inward, silently remembering all the news reports, all the numbers, all the anger.

It was the opening of a simple door, and a simple change in my schedule, that brought me to the moment. A moment I never expected...a moment I will never forget. Guess you could say it was a good hair day.

Moments ago, as I was preparing to save this entry, I heard the sound of a car door outside. I looked up from the computer screen, out through the window and watched a young couple with a baby walk into the tree farm across the street. For years I have watched families walk amid those trees. Today I watched this young couple, undeterred by the blowing wind or cloudy skies, their baby carefully bundled against the cold, moving carefully between the trees, searching for and then selecting just the right tree. Creating a tradition. It is a time for traditions, old and new.

Change, it seems, can be apowerful thing. Sometimes change is good for the soul.

~~Create a new tradition this season; do something out of the ordinary!~~

~~Forgiveness is a choice to release the other person from the need to make them pay for what they did that caused harm. Forgiveness is the key to restoration in a relationship.~~

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Dave-isms =  musings and comments from Duke's veterinarian expressed during examinations and general conversations.

"In my next life, I want to come back as your horse."

"Don't worry, that cut is a long way from his heart."

"I like this horse."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Getting better every day...almost healed after only two weeks.

Day 18, Tuesday August 17, 2010
Probably would have healed a lot faster were it not for the numerous times the scab was rubbed off by Duke scratching it, or me accidently knocking it off while bridling him.

Saturday Sam and I, with friends Frank and Barb, ventured south to the small town of Joseph, Oregon for the 14th Annual Bronze, Blues and Brews Festival. Nestled in the peaceful and beautiful Wallowa Valley, Joseph is named for Chief Joseph, famous leader of the Nez Perce tribe. While the first theme of the event was bronze, it quickly became obvious to us that the primary focus is the blues and the brews. There were very few bronze sculptures (Joseph is a major bronze foundry of the Pacific Northwest), there were several bands, but there was lots of brew. We had fun, got too much sun but probably won't go back next year.

Passing by a buffalo farm on the way to Joseph, Oregon

There are two bronze statues in this photo. Can you find them?

Sam, me, Frank and Barb enjoying the blues and brews.

Sam and I with our new 2005 Jeep Wrangler in front of Lake Wallowa

Returning home on a lovely stretch of road called Rattlesnake Grade.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Birthdays and head wounds...

Saturday morning I took Duke for a ride to our local fairgrounds to check out their 100' round pen and huge riding arena. It was something new to do and we had a great time. Amy brought the girls over but they're just not ready to climb on Duke's back yet. To them he must seem like a giant! That's okay, we have plenty of time...

Relaxing with Duke after a nice long ride at the fairgrounds.

When Duke and I returned to the barn I noticed a nasty cut above his left eye, and for the life of me I can't figure out how he cut himself. He didn't have the cut when I loaded him at the fairgrounds, and I didn't notice it when he stepped off the trailer. It wasn't until he was in his corral that I saw it.  I was a little panicked and called a friend who got me calmed down and pointed me to a great product called Vetricyn, which I've seen advertised heavily on RFD-TV.  My tack room is stocked with several first aid products, but with a wound so close to the eye the risk of the medication running into his eye is too great.  My biggest concern was get the wound clean without getting soap or medication in his eye. Vetricyn can be sprayed directly on the wound without damaging or hurting the eyes. All the while I'm cleaning the wound, Sammy is calling wondering where I am (I'm at least an hour late in returning home by that time). I explain the situation, he's pretty sure I'm exagerating until I show him the pictures. A quick trip to a local pet store and I returned to tend to the wound. This stuff is amazing!! Within 20 minutes of spraying Vetricyn on the wound, the swelling reduced by half!! If you have animals, you need to check out Vetricyn! It's not just for horses.
Duke annual dental work and vaccinations were coming up, so we visited the vet on Monday to have the wound checked out (ironically it was shaped like a check mark). I thought the vet would opt to stitch the wound, but in the end it was best to cut the flap of skin off so the wound could heal cleanly.


Day 1: Saturday, July 31. Right after I first noticed the wound.

Day 3: Monday, August 2 after our visit to the vet. Still swollen and looking very painful.

Day 6: Thursday, August 5, swelling gone and healing is underway. He even looks happier.

I've been going out twice a day to apply the Vetricyn, but we've reached the point where we can cut the daily treatment back to once a day.
Dukey loves his kitten.

We have several barn cats, two of which had litters this spring. Three of the kittens from a feral mother adopted me last April and they've been living in Duke's hay room ever since; they just showed up in the room when they were about three weeks old. Only two remain now, exactly one month before making the decision to put Rumbeau down I had to make the same decision for one of the kittens who did not have any use of her hind legs. She just dragged both behind her; a visit to the vet revealed she had no hip joints. As I debated taking her home with me, the vet took me aside, and offered guidance as to the amount of care she would need. She would not be able to urinate and defecate on her own, she would require constant care, and such care demands 100% comittment from every family member. Then the doctor left me alone in the room to make the decision. It was a very difficult decision, the kitten who I had named Honey was barely six weeks old at the time. Concerned that I would want to hold the kitten during the procedure, the vet explained this wasn't something I would want to see because of the way she would have to put her down. I hated having to do it, and even today I still cry. Born to a feral mother who probably didn't get enough nutrition during the pregnancy to feed herself, let alone her babies, I just wanted to give the kitten a chance for a normal life.  Her brother and sister, who I've named Boots and Bitsy, are happy, healthy and thriving today; and Dukey loves his little babies.

Sam turned 55 on Sunday. We celebrated the occasion with dinner at Amy's on Saturday and dinner with friends on Sunday. Amy prepared a wonderful grilled steak dinner and our friends put together a crawfish feed (fresh from the Snake River). Both were scrump-dilly-lish-ous!!!

Snake River crawfish....yum!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Moving closer....

What a view!

Wow!  Double wow!

Best trail ride ever today! Duke blew my socks off today during an early morning trail ride at Hell's Gate State Park. The partnership is really blooming and the bond is deepening. I rode him on a loose rein for one and half hours. He listened, didn't fight, just stayed relaxed. Every trail ride up to this point he always had to be in front, the leader. I learned right off the ineffectiveness of holding him back. But then I discovered a technique called quartering. I tried it earlier this year during the Poker Run and it worked. We start with it right off the bat...within a few minutes Duke is calm, not fighting the bit and rushing to be in the lead. Today, for the first time, Duke and I spent the entire ride following our friends. It was so wonderful, for a change. Yes!

Just a nice, relaxing ride. Woo-hoo!!!

Thank you Parelli!!!!

I'm starting to get the hang of this. Finally!

Debbie and Ritz taking a break with the Snake River and the city of Asotin in the background.
Doc and Danel taking a break.

After the ride with Duke at the trailer.

Maybe I'll submit a little piece of our day to Life In A Day. Have you submitted something yet?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Never enough time

Rumbeau Cox
January 31, 1998 - June 7, 2010

I've tried several times to write this entry.

Last week Sam and I said good-bye to Rum.

It was time to let him go, and put an end to his pain.

We knew it was coming, but it's never easy.

He was always there for us, and will be deeply missed.

Irreplaceable. Unforgettable. Rumbeau.

12 1/2 years of memories...

We recovered his ashes. We'll bury him at the cabin, he loved it there; but I'd like to take some to the North Fork of the Clearwater River this summer...he always loved swimming in the Clearwater.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Oh, the trails to travel!!!

Sam and I returned this morning from a quick trip to Georgia to see my nephew, Mat, graduate from high school. Wednesday we flew into Atlanta, rented a car for the drive to Lincolnton and arrived at my sister Chris' in time for fried chicken dinner with macaroni and cheese and brown crowder peas. I could get used to southern cookin! Spent Thursday catching up, Mathew graduated Friday night and the next thing I knew our departure was looming on us; we had to leave Saturday afternoon to make the drive back to Atlanta in order to catch an early Sunday morning flight. Leaving was hard for Chris and I, maybe more for was, as it always is, a tearful departure.

In Atlanta another reunion awaited us; several friends who moved from Idaho to Alabama made the trip to Atlanta to join us for dinner. After several drinks in the hotel lounge, we were headed downtown (thanks to our designated driver) to experience Fogo de Chao an authentic Brazilian steakhouse. Wow! What an experience, the food was amazing, the environment was warm and friendly--I can't believe we got a table on Saturday night! I've had what I thought were delicious steaks before, but nothing I ever had came close to the meats we sampled at Fogo de Chao. I wish we had one in the Seattle area...I'd make the trip for that reason alone!!!

Just over a week ago, on May 15th Duke and I entered our first competition together, a trail challenge organized by a local saddle club. For me the greatest challenge was getting there, then getting over my nerves. I haven't done any riding in front of an audience, and I was extremely nervous while Duke and I warmed up. He sensed it during the warm up and a couple of times I thought I wasn't ready for this, but remarkably when it was our turn we entered the arena and the nerves disappeared as I focused on Duke and the obstacles. Duke was awesome! Except when he pooped on the plants the club borrowed from a local greenhouse! Oops! There were 11 obstacles and we've only practiced 2, open/close a gate (not captured on video) and walk through 'L' then back through 'L'. Everything else was completely new to us. His personality came out through it all, from his snatching a bite of foilage from the brush obstacle, to playing peak-a-boo at the end of the tunnel. The last obstacle was a old spongy mattress covered with artificial grass obstacle many horses refused to cross; but my boy Duke never even hesitated. I am so proud of him, he really enjoyed it...although he wasn't too sure what to make of the miniture horse at first, lol! You can just see him thinking 'What the...?' All in all we had a blast!! It really ended too soon, but we will definitely do another trail challenge this fall, if not sooner. :)

This time, I handed my camera to a friend who was not riding. When she asked me if I wanted photos or videos without hesitating I responded 'Video!!!' It's been uploaded to You Tube (of course).

We're having fun now!!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

This horse of mine...

Every now and then he blows me away.

It's like he can read my mind. He's always one step ahead of me.

I need to give this boy of mine more credit.

He deserves it.

Saturday Duke and I had one of the best sessions ever! And I really needed it. I'd had a tearful morning...been feeling a bit emotional lately and it all bubbled to the surface Saturday morning. So when I headed down to the barn that afternoon I was ready for something good. I don't know if he sensed my emotions were fragile or what, but from the moment I put the halter on Duke he was unusually compliant and extraordinarily willing to please me. It started with picking out his hooves; as I moved from hoof to hoof there was no fight, no resistance. I remember thinking to myself Wow, that went really well.

We played around at liberty in the round pen a little bit, then out to the trailer to tack up. I decided to ride in my older Fallis saddle (for several various reasons) and wow, what a difference going back to that saddle made. Duke was amazing. He was soft with just the right mix of go and whoa. On a whim I thought about practicing our side pass so we can open gates. Not one of our strong points (that should read not one of my strong points)! Opening gates by side-passing has been a goal and Saturday after he figured out what I wanted he was side-passing like a dream!!! Oh, you want me to walk sideways toward the gate! Usually he wants to push the gate open with his head, lol!

Our list of goals now are:
  • Briding without the brace
  • Confidence in Zone 4
  • Restoring our draw
That's the short list...there's more but for now those are my immediate concerns. His attitude toward the trailer is improving every week. We have sessions almost every day and bit by bit he's improving. Trailer loading has become a game to him and I'm finally figuring out how to turn everything into a game to keep him engaged, confident and wanting more. I'll have to set up the camera one of these will be interesting to watch that.

We've been trail riding at Hell's Gate State Park twice this year. Great times both days. It was sunny and warm in February, but cold and rainy in March.

All Morgan trail ride, Hell's Gate State Park, February 28, 2010
 L-R: Dona and Duke, Barb and Elvira, ? and Squirrel, ? and Sabrina, Ray and Chelsea, Cary and Martina. Not pictured: Leigh and Ember.

Sheriff's Posse Poker Run, March 21, 2010
Barb and Elvira, Dona and Duke
El and Duke are looking very Morganesque in this pic.

Riders returning in the rain. March 21, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

From Baby Steps

Sometimes I don't realize how far I'm come on this journey. I think it's about reflection and taking the time to reflect. I have the perfect place to do this with my journal, and I need to give myself time to write about it. So, I'm making a promise to myself to spend more time reflecting on our journey.

Besides officially completing Level 1, Duke and I have gone out of our comfort zone numerous times the past two week. And I'm finding myself moving away from 'Oh no' and thinking 'Oh boy!' more often.

First, there was the goat. And through this goat I experienced a successful It's not about the... from start to finish. :) Duke met a goat face to face a couple of weeks ago. At first he was skeptical and a little nervous, then he became curious, and within a few minutes Duke was sniffing and licking the goat. :) The key was approach and retreat. I had been riding when the goat came in with a young girl. When I saw this opportunity my heart skipped a beat. This was something I wanted to do for some time. Before purchasing Duke in 2008, his former owner told me about an experience he had while riding Duke when they encountered a herd of goats in a small field. Duke refused to pass by the field and went into flight mode. I'd seen the behavior once before when I brought Duke into the arena while a girl was practicing goat tying. At the time my confidence was minimal so I kept the approach and retreat session short and our distance from the goat long as we made our way to the round pen located at the far end of the arena.

But I couldn't shake the lost opportunity from my mind.

What kind of leader was I? A safe one, for sure, but at some point we'd have to leave our comfort zone. Fast forward to this month. We're enjoying a lovely, connected ride when we hear the sound of foot falls on the bridge outside the arena. From Duke's back I can see over the wall between the arena and the hallway and I see the top of someone's head bobbing up and down. I watch as they round the corner and approach the gate, leading a goat. Duke's head immediately went up and he stopped in his tracks. Stay calm.  Go slow. Oh boy! Now we get to play with a goat! I will admit the riding session was coming to a close as it was getting a little boring for Duke. Well, our session was about to get very interesting.

As I dismounted the girl saw Duke's reaction and offered to leave. The look on her face when I asked her if she would mind if I introduced Duke to the goat was priceless. When I explained that this was something we needed to do, at first I don't think she believed me. Maybe she wasn't sure she heard me right. She kept saying 'I know most horses don't like goats, so if you want to keep riding, we can leave.' I convinced her this is good, and I've been wanting this kind of opportunity for some time.

Slowly we approached the goat, who was completely unaware of us, nor did he seem to care. Duke's ears were forward, he appeared calm but his head remained a little high. I wanted to switch over to the halter and lead rope (better tools for the task), but they are on the other side of the arena. When we turned away from the goat to fetch the halter, Duke's life came up and he began to dance around me. Okay we'll face the goat again, and back up to where the halter is. Nope. Hmmm. What to do...what to do. Adjust to fit the situation...use the tools I have. If we were on a trail ride and the halter was back at the trailer, I'd have to use the bridle and reins. I wasn't keen about doing this with a bit in his mouth, so I unclipped the right rein from the bit (I love these Parelli reins!) and I now had a 22' lead rope.

A few steps forward, watching Duke's reaction (ears, eyes, head, mouth), he's relaxed. Take a few steps back. Stop. Breathe! He's blinkin' and thinkin'. Ears forward. Head has lowered. Forward a few more steps. Watch. Back a couple. He's curious...this is good. The entire time I remained calm, not once did I hear the echo of my heart pounding. Yea!!! This is what confidence feels like...finally! I'm moving a little closer to horse savvy!!!

We repeated this and I'm guessing it took between three and five minutes before Duke was standing in front of the goat with a mere few inches of separation. Through it all Duke remained curious. I noticed him breathing more when he stretched his neck out to sniff, then touch the goat with his nose. Check the goat's rope to be sure Duke doesn't get tangled up in it. I backed him off one step, and watched him confidently approach the goat again, head down, breathing normal. All this time the goat was still ignoring Duke and I, but then he turned around and the two were face to face, eye to eye. The goat's owner observed how it must feel to be a goat having something that size coming toward you, but the goat was calm and perhaps curious too. Clearly he wasn't afraid of horses.

Duke got closer and closer sniffing and investigating this strange little creature until the goat was almost under his neck. When he started licking it I wondered how long it would take before curiousity turned to dominance. I've played enough with him to know two things: 1) he comes down quickly from fear and 2) once he gets past his fear of something he immediately wants to dominate it.

Time to move on. I thanked the girl and she expressed a grateful and hearfelt thank you; I think she was in shock. Maybe in the back of her mind she was thinking this isn't how most horse owners react...they always want the goat to leave. :)

This time when I turned Duke away from the goat to retrieve his halter, nothing changed. He calmly followed me, relaxed and confident.

What goat?

Since it was time to clean his stall and corral, and I knew the goat would be in the arena for a while, I wanted to further maximize this opportunity. After switching over to the halter, I left Duke tacked up and tied him to a pole near the goat...about 20 feet away. Allow him time to take this all in, give him another perspective of the goat while I clean.  Twenty minutes later when I walked past Duke to take a wheelbarrow load to the designated dumping site, he was standing quietly, facing the goat, watching. Smile.

Chores complete it was time to untack Duke outside at the trailer. By this time the girl was talking to a new boarder, a young man who recently offered to train Duke for me (that's another story). As I walked past, I noticed they were talking about horse training and I overheard him commenting about how few trainers there are in this area (not quite true, but...) and how he normally charges $49 per hour (funny, he quoted me $7 last month). Someone was definitely struting his stuff and it wasn't Duke. Outside at the trailer, we get untacked and go back inside for a little roll before dinner. Duke must have been thinking about that goat because as we came down the alley his attention was on the arena. Ears foward...where is it? Around the corner, through the gate, there's the goat and without hesitation Duke walked right up to the goat, ears forward and curious the entire time. As if they were best buds...reunited; the same way he greets Elvira when she visits. Again I thanked the girl, and again she thanked me with a tone of gratitude and relief. It was amazing. We walked off to find the perfect place to roll, then back to his stall for dinner.

As I stood watching him munching away, I remembered something...a moment, a gift Duke gave me. During the initial approach and retreat, after I decided not to fetch the halter, Duke and I had just retreated from the goat. It was during that quiet moment as I was debating whether it was time to get a little closer, Duke slowly turned his head to me, softly touched my right hand with his nose, then turned his attention back to goat, licking and chewing. Even now it brings tears to my eyes. What a truly beautiful gift for him to offer. I noticed it at the time and remember thinking He wants to do this. Trust him.

Trust him. I haven't allowed myself to trust Duke. There's this part of me that holds back. The toxic remains from a word of caution carelessly offered by a person just minutes after she retold the story of the time she climbed on the back of a green three year old mare she didn't know, with no preparation, only to find herself later trying to stop a runaway who only wanted to return to the safety and comfort of the barn. And she's giving me advice. Don't you trust him! If she only knew. When it comes to horses, everyone has advice. They give it because they once had a horse, or rode ponies as a child. But they always give it...without thinking, without knowing. I'm learning being a horse owner doesn't make one an expert on the subject; I own a closet full of clothes, but that doesn't make me a clothing designer.

Everyday I thank God I found Parelli. Parelli keeps me safe, sane, well-grounded and on the path to continuous improvement. Better your best. Never let it rest. Get your good better and your better best.

Well, this entry took longer than I originally planned. Another reason I don't write so often, it takes me hours to write one entry. Okay, we can work on that!  There are more baby steps to write about, but I need to wrap this up and move on to some household duties before heading down to the barn today.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

We passed Level1+!!!!

We received our score card today for our Level 1 audition; we passed L1+!! Possible scores are L1, L1+, L1++. I'm so excited. Duke was awesome! We received a L2 friendly, and a L1++ relationship.

Reviewer comments: Well done! For your Level 2 make sure to stay at the end of the 22ft line. Good job!

Woo hoo!!!!

Duke says that's pretty cool!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Parelli Level 1 audition - check! PASSED 1+!!!!

We did it! Finally, after riding the fence, hemming and hawing, making the decision to go forward only to be side-lined for two months by a persistent hoof abcess, Duke and I completed our Level 1 audition. I submitted it to Parelli for evaluation this morning. :) Yea!!! Last I heard Pat Parelli himself is personally evaluating all the auditions, so I'm really excited about that!

I'm very pleased with how it turned out; was nervous at first but once I forgot about the camera my nerves disappeared. Duke was awesome, but I definitely need to work on my draw. He used to come to me with a lot of energy; last summer I could send him 100 feet away, get his attention and he'd canter or trot right back to me. Something happened and now my draw is broke....OR I spent way too much time in Level 1 and he lost interest (I'm thinking the latter). I have to really keep things interesting for him.

In the Parelli program, Level 1 is all about safety and building the relationship. Basic horsemanship skills must be demonstrated, but Parelli isn't looking for perfection. As Pat says, "It's not the technique that matters, it is the respect that follows." I admit I got hung up on the perfection thing...but mainly because my rope handling skills were lacking. I was constantly fumbling with the rope, stepping on it, and completely unable to manage it and the carrot stick (the tool you see me's not a whip, but an extension of my arm).

Compulsory skills for Level 1: friendly game, massage all four legs, porcupine game (move horse around using direct pressure), driving game (move horse around using rhythmic pressure), touch-it (ball), yo-yo (drive horse away and draw back to you), figure 8, squeeze game, sideways game, walk/trot forward then stop and back up keeping horse out of personal space, back through gate (or stall door in our case...up a short hill no less!).

I had to find royalty free music...that also created a delay finding just the right music to accompany us. What you can't hear was all the background noise going on that night...another horse munching on his dinner, a tom cat yowling, one of the barn cats crawling around on Debbie (my camera person) although you can tell when he jumped up on her at the beginning of the tape. Just before then, you'll see me laughing after I untied Duke...that's because two of the barn cats were playing at Debbie's feet. You'll see one walking away from the camera at the very end. We see them almost every day, sometimes they sit by the door, waiting for us. They actually belong to a neighbor, but prefer to spend time with us. Must be because we're so much fun!

So anywho, enjoy the video. I'll post my results after I receive them.  Yee-haw!!!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Turn back the hands

Someone once told me when it comes to writing, stick to what you know. This is what I know.

Last night while writing my last entry I was struggling. Struggling with a name. As I read what I wrote, I repeated the name, over and over, Roberts, Roberts, Roberts. Something didn't seem quite right, something didn't connect. I knew it, but didn't listen. And in doing so I set myself up to tarnish my own credibility. Not a good thing. Deep down inside I knew Oral Roberts would never make that kind of statement, he was not that kind of leader. I knew he passed away recently. But I didn't listen to my own inner feeling. I made a huge error in judgement; I should have proofed my entry. If I offended anyone, that was never my intent.

That is one entry I wish I could do over.

Again, thank you Dan for setting me straight. I appreciate your comment and am grateful you took the time to correct my statement.

Lesson learned. Next time I'll engage my brain before I put my fingers in gear.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A eulogy for credibility

If change is good, where does that leave consistancy?

I'd rather watch Jay than Conan. I want to be entertained, not bored. I want to laugh, not yawn. To watch a show in it's entirety, not grab the remote the second the show begins.

I've got nothing against change...BUT, I don't like what I'm seeing in my country and for the first time in my life I'm wondering what the future holds for this nation and its people. It all starts somewhere...

We have comedians who aren't funny. Reality shows driven by scripts. And Hollywood seems to think the movie-going public needs doom and gloom, end of the world films to take their mind off daily headlines. Politicians have lost touch with the people.  And then there's Oral Roberts (I stand corrected, that should read Pat Robertson, thank you Dan); does he ever engage his brain before he puts his mouth in gear? His comment last week about the Haitian people exemplified ignorance; was it really necessary? If he is the face of Christianity, no wonder people are turned off by religion.

Has credibility passed away? Is accountability a lost characteristic of humanity? Where are we going?

Twenty some odd years ago, after seeing movies like Running Man, or Robo Cop, I told myself the world I live in would not turn into that. It's not what I's not acceptable.

I have a dream...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Highlights and Pickings

2009...a year of discoveries and affirmations

One year ago the following was unknown to me. Here is a glimpse of the little things that I discovered along the way.

Best Wedding Entrance EVAH!!

I love this!!! It puts a smile on my face everytime I see it. The expression of delight, joy, and happiness is so evident on everyone's face...every generation present is swept by the moment! They all got it! What better way to create a new beginning! Now that's originality.

iFinds on iTunes

Every now and then I find an unknown treasure on iTunes. In late summer, while wandering around iTunes, I noticed their 'Free Download of the Day' and it piqued my interest. So I listened. From the first chords I knew I loved this song. It's sad and beautiful. And a treasure...well written from the heart. Love it!

Another freebie I found. I love this song!!! I also have Love Me Too Much from the same album, Love This Mess, but Big Sky is my fav.

Our Family Grew by Four Feet

Meet Oliver aka Louie. He joined our family the day before Halloween. A co-worker's husband found him on a golf course when he heard a strange sound coming from a bush. He investigated to find this three week old kitten staring up at him, alone, crying and shivering. He must have been crying for some time because the first few days after I brought him home his meow was weak and inaudible. Nothing a little TLC couldn't take of. It took awhile to name him...Oliver seemed to fit at first since he was an orphan, but Sam noticed something and started calling him Louie..."because he's evil"...and well, he does have a very high play drive. Now he's fully recovered and running the house.