I am accepted without price.
It's been the year I have waited for, although I did not know if it was possible or it would ever happen for me.
I have struggled for several years now with a deep seeded frustration in my own riding skills, I kept trying to find a feeling in my own seat that I remember having as a child although I did not know the technicals of it as a child. I lost it at some point when I was no longer under my mothers instruction and entered the horse industry all on my own.
I kept trying to find the answer why and came up with answers such as , maybe when my body matured out of adolescence I lost the physical structure to achieve what I once had, or had my body just been broken up so much over the years it could not find that place ever again. I could see what I wanted every time I watched any Nuno video, which I have hundreds of times now seeking and searching. I saw it in another of my teachers, the Master German Baca .
I now know the answer to my own question. After so many years riding and competing in the show arena, I discovered I had become the master of about every contrived seat imaginable. Showing just about every discipline, gaited and non gaited breeds over a span of over 45 years I had learned to adjust my body to what ever the time and style of riding it took to win a class . To adjust to what ever needed to be done for a judge to use me.
Although it made me a very adaptable and versatile rider there was a price to pay. The thought of that is a sad one in what happened to good horsemanship across the board rewarded by each and every judge, not by the acceptable look, fashion and/or politics of the times.
So I had lost that ability I knew once existed of the feel of that horse giving it's self over to me in body 100% raising into my pelvis and us uniting as one unit working within the same energy and gravity together in perfect timing and harmony.
Oh I could get some of it and most people never knew there was more than what I was getting when getting on the horses all over this country, but I knew , it was not complete for me yet. Dave knew of this struggle within myself and pained over my frustration as the trouble was in me, not the horses.
The door came open this year for me in that friend Peggy Cummings came this year for a fast visit here at the ranch between her clinics. I shared my frustration and what I was seeking and she knew! She knew what I was seeking and she had the answers, the help I had almost lost hope of ever finding. So to work on me she went, my heart was singing, I felt what I had been seeking again. So practice,practice and more practice I worked on myself with every single horse I got on for a good 2 months before flying out to her in Aug. for more work and help. I had to know if I was getting it just right and more work we did. What an experience it was, one I will take with me forever. As technical as it was and most would be very lost in how refined it was and needed to be for me at this point, it was perfect. To be a student with the perfect teacher I needed at a very important time in my life. Hard work yes, oh my brain was working in over drive and to keep my body doing every minute adjustment Peggy directed me too was so hard, yet so amazing in the results, it was so real, so changing to what I wanted and needed to get to the next level I desired in my own abilities.
In Nov. we got together again in WA working a locomotion project together with Dave and Master saddle fitter Sara Odell and once again I came away with more in a review I needed, to catch some of those small pieces I had missed.
As a teacher I know to be good, one also has to be able to be a good student and I love being a student and Peggy has been the perfect teacher for me in what I needed.
Often at clinics I do have folks that don't come to be students or have forgotten how to be one or just say the words that they are but never really commit fully. No matter how many times we work with them and even over many years nothing will change until that person learns to let themselves go and be a true student, that's what clinics are, venues of learning, that's what lessons are, venues to learn. They are not a place to show off, market your wares, prove yourself worth, compete with others, to judge the other participants, the teachers or to play games. Understand as teachers we cant make folks learn and receive the help unless they are willing to receive it. Not for one minute would I dream of wasting any time or help Peggy was giving me.
Another treat this year was an opportunity to spend some time with Gerd Heuschmann author of "Tug of War". His message is strong and important to every breed and discipline in our own country and in spending time and learning from him, he also sees himself as a life long student.
It's the only way to truly get to be the best one can for the horses!
Well yesterday the blizzard hit us here and went through much of today. I really don't know how much snow as the 40 MPH winds drifted the snow to several feet in some places and the ground almost bare in others but we figure around 14inch .
I brought the horses in yesterday before it started , they love going in their cozy bed rooms as we call them as our stalls are very large. This time it was different in that they were frantic, almost in a panic to go in and the storm had not even started yet. They knew it was going to be a big one and they wanted no part of the great outdoors when it did hit.
I heard Dave today when he came to the barn chatting with the horses and telling them how lucky they have it and I know that came from some of the poor things we both see in our travels and when hearing him say this I thought about all the horses that had to struggle through this kind of weather.
For us here this is when we really kick it in and make sure everyone has everything possible they need, being are full in their tummies, dry indoors, music to drowned out the sound of the wind beating at the walls and content in that they are safe.
It's the most fulfilling feeling in the world to me when the weather is the toughest and they need us the most we can do everything in world to make sure it's not a burden or stress for them.
Another nice surprise for the day was a big Beautiful long haired white cat with pink eyes came into the barn from the storm. Looked healthy and although would not let me touch , it would meow back at me every time I talked to it . The horses all seemed very comfortable with it being there knowing it must need shelter. It was nice to have the guest and we put out some treats , I hope it hangs out for awhile as I love cats but don't have any because of the coyote problem in that they become dinner.
It's also that time again folks need to winterize but also do safety checks also as we have already in the state had several tragic barns burnings with live stock lost and in most cases these don't need to happen if folks just do regular inspections of their facilities.
Every year we hear of fires started by heat tape or poor wiring and it's not the wiring or heat tape that's the problem in the existence of it, it's the human error in not being responsible in using heat tape properly and checking it's still in proper working order on a regular basis.
Also once a year turn off your power at the breakers and remove outlet and switch covers and blow the dust that builds up. When one can, replace any electric receptacles with GFI's, this is an important safety feature and especially with heat tape and tank heaters or heated water buckets.
Check your wiring for rodents damage or wiring coating for rubs which eventually can expose bare wire. If one can replace wiring such a Romax with wiring run through conduit, which we did in rewiring all the buildings here , this prevents that kind or damage. Yes it's a lot of work to do and pulling wire hanging off scaffolding and ladders is not my favorite job but doing it with friends and having a good electrician friend such as our friend Viv, the job can be fun and she kept me from electrocuting myself.
Save some money and energy use with insulated water tank boxes. We do not use automatic waters here as I am a firm believer in monitoring each horses water intake daily. Dave has built some very nice insulated boxes this year with doors in which the tanks can be removed and sanitized to keep them drinking good clean water, which they are more inclined to drink more than dirty skunky water I have seen in my travels at other facilities. Dave figured the cost of the materials to build these boxes will be recovered in 3 month in energy cost savings as tank heaters take a lot of energy to run.
When using my tank heaters I also run the cords through 2 inch PCV pipe so the horses cant get to any wire and attach the PCV to the fencing posts so the horses cant play with that either. Seems like anything that moves horses see as toys. Always plug tank heaters into a GFI receptacles, as they can go bad in time and short out, no one wants to electrocute their horse!
If I need to create a bend in the PCV I use a simple propane torch and heat it up slowly and bend softly so I don't collapse the pipe and create a crimp in the PCV pipe.
Keep them drinking to in this weather just as in hot. In collage which seems a million years ago now, we were taught that a horse can not get it's daily salt requirement from a block, I'm not saying to not keep salt blocks available but loose salt should also be offered daily. The average horse requires 2oz per day and I feed this individually after their morning feeding.
Also often in cold weather some lighting such as florescent don't work. Save money and have lights that always work in the coldest of weather and bright like day light, we put these in Dave's shop also as he can now do his saddle carving without using supplemental light for that job any more. We purchased energy efficient lights by http://www.equinelighing.com/ . It's been 4 years using them now and not had to replace a bulb yet and they are very reasonable in cost, durable , with good strong covers and easy to assemble.
I love ranch work, growing up on them and creating several of my own over the years now. I build my own stalls, round pens, arenas, fencing etc. You would not want me to build you a house as it may not be pretty but it would hold a horse, no problem! It's where I'm at home and a hard days work keeps me fit and happy. After 4 years working and creating this ranch Dave and I feel we are finally getting it to where we envisioned it. This winters project for me is building obstacles and designing an obstacle course for the field around the outdoor arena for our workshops.
Growing up in the horse community here in MN we never stopped in the winter, we even had indoor shows at the 242 arena and Rabines, played broom ball in the snow. People did not have their own indoor arenas back then yet the trainers still trained outside year round and I did to and now even with their own indoors to use it seems most go into a kind of hibernation, times have changed I guess.
Happy winter everyone, it can be a lot of fun even on the seemingly worst of weather days.
Sharon and Her Paso Fino Mare Rita
The above video was taken in Northern CA at a private advanced clinic I do every year.
This is a group of folks in which we have been working diligently on the 5 essentials of horsemanship and putting them to new challenging tests to refine them.
Sharon is one of my favorite people to work with in that she is one of the most dedicated workers and knows she has to come through as a rider, for the horse to come through in performance.
She understands, to advance one must go to that new place and sometimes uncomfortable place known as "risk" and just go for the 'Try".
She has also and will again spend time here at Shades of Oak Ranch doing the trainers internship. Every time I work with her it's like the rest of the world just melts away for awhile and it's just she, the horse and myself encased in this wonderful bubble of living in the moment, sharing the experience and going for what ever direction our horsemanship takes us.
It's a great place to be!!
My special fella Stryker now has a new saddle!!
This time I went with a slick fork and straight back cantle for him.
I have a slick fork for Major already in a leather cordura combo which I love.
Looking forward to spending the winter breaking it in!
Above is a photo of a lovely TWH mare I had a free afternoon to play with after the clinic at Pleasure Gaits in Belgium. She is also owned by "Pleasure Gaits" and was recently re-acquired by Sandra. She had been sitting idle and Sandra was bringing her back into work as a lesson horse for her program. I love, as I say "shaking them out", seeing what they have to offer, what I can get out of them, and it did not take long.
No short cuts here either, this mare is a natural without the need for gimmicks and gadgets to bring about what she had in her. Took her a just bit to soften up and feel what I was asking for. Notice no bit needed for it either, just a simple side pull of direct pressure application.
Getting the mental and emotional relationship established first of who is the teacher and who is the student is first in order which I will talk about later.
First was getting her to respond to leg and seat aids in understanding how to be straight, meaning being perpendicular to the ground, no dropping of shoulders and/or hips and especially in a circle of a round pen. It's up to us as the guides, directors and supporters of a horse to help them find this and know we will support them in what we ask, not get in their way, but help them in the changed dynamics of carrying a rider. It is our job to help them, not hinder them in something such as carrying a human, which they were not put on the planet to do.
Second was getting her to step deep under her self behind. As always this has to come from behind but it's what we do in the middle of the horse and up front that helps this happen.
A. Be sure sitting position is as close to the base of the wither as possible/or as the saddle your riding will let you. This is the strongest part of the horses back and the easiest place for the horse to lift and carry it's self and you, no matter what gait your horse does and on gaited or in non gaited breeds.
Any other seat position will in time be hard on your horse, sooner or later one can have performance problems as the body will start to break down in the worst case scenario. Often more so if saddle fitting problem exists, poor use of a fitting saddle exists, poor use of hands to head gear and / or hooves not being trimmed in balance and anatomically correct to the horses natural structure.
Sad to think it's after this happens that folks learn to change their ways of poor equitation habits and a horse has already paid the biggest price.
B. Be sure the pelvis is level and centered and open upon the horse, any other position gaited horse or not, immediately creates stress and interference for the horse to achieve what you are asking it do naturally within it's given structure.
C.Leg position should be shoulder, hip, heal or as close to that as the saddle will let you. One inch to far forward can change position of leg and seat and make you work so hard in finding position you can not concentrate on working with the horse , if stirrups are set to far forward, just drop the stirrups all together as helping the horse is impossible correctly. Hopefully a rider will have some kind of independent, working seat to be able to drop stirrups if they are in fact teaching/ training any horse.
Having this level pelvis is the only way to have complete freedom of hip socket flexibility forward and back as needed to direct a horse. Also have a shock absorbing effect of the entire leg from ankle, knee and hip. Bracing of the leg of any kind for any gait is unacceptable in upper level horsemanship and is an indicator of an uneducated seat, lazy and/or interfering seat allowing any gaited or non-gaited horse to eventually self carry in any movement forward to reduce resistance and over working of the horses body to maintain soundness and longevity.
D. Foot position of the toes should be forward as much as possible or even a slight toe out is acceptable. A slight toe out is more common in woman just because of our hip sockets being set a bit farther back than the male with our legs angled out so our pelvis can accommodate child birth, men maintaining a straighter toes is easier. The foot should be positioned on the ball of the foot and if possible to the back of the ball of the foot rather than forward on the ball. I am working on this refinement myself this year as a goal to maintain. More to the back of the foot ball helps those that lose stirrups often and more so if you are like me and put little or no pressure in the stirrups.
E. Foot pressure in the stirrups should be as little as possible. Just gently setting in the stirrup. If I was to place my finger under your boot and you smashed my finger with the pressure, this is to much and also tends to send the foot forward out of a open, soft, balanced seat.
I think of the hind quarters of the horse as the engine and the muscles that run along each side of the spine (Longissimus dorsi) as the fuel line. Any time we apply downward pressure into the stirrups which are attached to the saddle bars or panels, we put a crimp in the these muscles or the fuel line interfering with the energy of the hindquarters needed from back to the front of the horse. It takes the energy from the hindquarters to push the other 2/3rds of on the front of the hindquarters to move forward. Any interference here makes more work for your horse to do the job asked.
F.Leg pressure applications.Of course every horse has it's own individual response level to legs aids application in response to application from the rider, more often this becomes less responsive with poor training applications or can be over sensitive again to poor training applications. I seek to make a responsive horse, not a numb horse or a reactive horse in the sides. This mare still had a very nice listening body so she was very receptive to my leg aids without any defenses or over reactions. I want my thigh on the horse but with no pressure application until I need it as an aid not a constant push or pressure. In this photo I am actually using my ankle to her barrel in a slight ,very hard to perceive with the human eye a gentle rub asking her to bring her abdomen up to my seat bones to level the spine for a gait of running walk, in turn engaging her pelvis so she can step under herself as much as her structure and current conditioning would allow.
Also in engaging the pelvis creates the pushing effect hinds ,in turn lifting the loins, leveling the spine also raises the root of the neck to open up the shoulders for reach forward and pulling effect of the front legs. As this mare become more conditioned her reach in front with push behind will increase. You cant have it all at once with out stressing the structure. Be patient and give them time to condition to the maximum their body will allow in gait performance.
G.Use of hands to head gear aids. Prior to this photo it did not take long to get this mare first to the relaxation to finding "long and low" and then working to "down and round" in a relaxed manner in the walk before asking for her to move more forward with energy.
In this photo I have straightened out my elbows and softened my fingers on the reins, saying to her with my hands "I trust you to hold this shape, to hold the gait". Earlier I had to help her and support her more to hold the correct shape for gait. When she would fall out of the correct shape I would then close my fingers and again create a bend back into my elbow to help support her in gait but when she held the shape on her own I would again let her carry herself in the shape.
F. Creating the energy and open this mare up to increase her extension to running walk from flat walk without stiffening or bracing is simply breathing deep from my core , not my upper body to maintain relaxation, so the mare maintains her looseness effect needed for the gait. Also connecting my pelvis into my sternum by creating a stretch from my pelvis to my sternum with the muscles in my own body that run along each side of my own spine, stretch from pelvis up and forward until you feel the pull of those muscles up and forward all the way under your shoulder blades.
I work in my own mind a lot to help my body create the shape and energy I need from the horse, so if I increase my energy forward in a positive emotion, not a negative one, as negative creates the horse to stiffen and lose that looseness element it needs for the gait. I am doing the running walk in my own mind the horse always follows through in it's body if it's not a reb hab- horse that is not yet open to receiving direction from it's human teacher.
Note:This stretch also puts you onto your seat bones for that deep close contact every one talks about but cant seem to find. This opens your pelvis even more allowing the horses back to come right up to you, the rider with feel this as that light bulb moment in that you and your horse feel as one working unit , not two separate bodies trying to find each other. At this point everything connects.
Final notes in this mare:In this photo she is in the lowest point of her head shake and is in time with the right foreleg which is in full aerial phase sequence. As the head comes up in the head shake this leg will be coming down into full support phase sequence as the left fore starts forward and up in reach. What I want to point out in this photo is the mare has some flexing up at the 3rd and 4th cervical vertebra as she should with some flexing at the poll, not be broken only at the poll. As she conditions she will in time have much more flexing at theses 2 vertebra up allowing for even more reach of the fores and the hinds opening her up to more ground coverage to the gait of running walk with that desired look of leaning into a plow . As she conditions will also have more speed in gait although she had a very good amount already.
Some things to think about: The running walk seems to be the most illusive gait to folks as they seems to blow right on by it going to a stepping pace or a racking gait and it's due to being body tight not having effective equitation. Just cramming, jamming and bracing is much easier than learning to really ride. I hear folks excuse all the time why they can't or don't need to do the work to be a good rider, it does not take rocket science to do this, just dedication, some use of ones grey matter , physical work and really not all that much time, just that it is correct.
Even in all the other gaits that are easier to come by is using up your horse if one does not learn how to help the horse do it's gait easily and without the stress. The horse pays more than you do with it's soundness and even life in the worst case situations.
When you acquired your first horse weather you knew it or not, it needed you and is not a machine you can expect to just do what you want with no effort on your part. So riding like a wet sack of flour, with crummy equipment or miss-used equipment and behaviors like a humming bird on a sugar high or the opposite end like being gassed by a dentist is not going to give you great results. For those that have no feelings or attachment for their horses and just look at them as a tool , then think of it like this, if you don't take care of your tools, they don't last and it's just money wasted on your part.
No matter how big your trailer, fancy your truck, how big your belt buckle, your equipment colors are cute and match, have the most popular "in" brand name boots , or spend more time judging others horsemanship rather than working on your own,your horse understands none of this and it sure does not make any one a better horseman. Do the work, just get out and do the work!!
Here is a link to an article I wrote for the Valley Equestrian Newspaper ,titled "Smart Gaited Horse Shopping". The link is for their on line October issue. Page 16 continued on Page 18.
After a couple of years search for a very high artist quality Kangaroo Bosal to add to my special bosal and bosalita collection, I recently got lucky and located 3 in which I purchased. I only want to keep one and have sold one already so any one interested in either of the ones in the photos above , I will sell one.
They are 42 plait, by artist Chauca. Each are of medium flexibility, raw hide core with rawhide accents, 5/8" diameter.
Bosal#3 photo measures inside 11 3/8" by 5 3/4"
Bosal#1 photo measures 11 3/8" by 5 1/2"
Price is $500.00 plus $14.80 for insurance and shipping
For more info or questions you can e-mail me at email@example.com or call at 507-346-2422
Lessons from Bubba
In 2007 I was asked the question below from a fellow horsewoman:
What is the special connection you have with Bubba? I love those pictures. They express so much love, respect and understanding.
Below I will paste my answer back in hopes of sharing myself with those seeking the same relationship with a horse.
Those that know me best or truly see me as I am and my work, know how serious of person I am, maybe to much so but not when it comes to horses in my opinion. I'm not an entertainer in the business but worked hard through lots of schooling to teach and learn myself to bring real, honest and hard earned experience to those seeking real direction. The work I do is not a game to me and Bubba was one that kept me on track. I was 19 years old when he came into my life so he had much work to do.
The Answer in 2007:
I'll try to explain it for you and hope I get it right.It's just now starting to come clear to me after all theses years he and I have been together.
I think I'll start with all my personal horses as in knowing them, one can see a consistency in what they are as a group. All are very social, mannerly, playful yet each in different in other ways I know, but most just see the social, mannerly part as they are not with them like I am to see each one's differences at another level. I also see horses I think in a deeper way than a lot of people, Bubba taught me this but my Mother opened the door to that for me,but he showed me. He has shown me to see the horse for what it is, not as a human and not to humanize it , but to understand what it is to be a horse having to live and survive in a man made world. In return making it easier and clear to see their needs, how they learn, how they think and how they perceive the world around them.
I think Bubba has also been not only one that has taught me how to see, but help my other horses know I'm OK, while helping them come to appreciate their lives here and help me as well.. So again they are all teachers to me. One thing Dave and I have come to see now over the years is that my horses seem to try to help the troubled training horses that come in. Through their comfort level here it's like they want the other horses to relax and let them know it's OK here, none of mine feed off the new arrivals upset or tense behaviors, but try to get as close as they can to them, stay calm, be friends to help them settle in faster. It depends on how troubled the horse is though as to how much effect they have, but in most cases it's huge.
So the question is how he did this for me? The answer as best as I can give it first, is I had to open my eyes to see what he was telling me through his own behaviors, his tolerance of me when I was exhibiting unreasonable human behaviors. We have been together 28 years now so he's been with me through much of my growing years, the bad and the good phases in all of it. He always waited for me to get my head back on straight and when I did something right he always gave everything, you could tell it just in his happiness to do the job I asked and his resistance when I got it wrong.
He loved horse shows and still if a trailer door is open and he has access he loads himself on and starts banging to get going.If he was not the first horse to be called up for the blue ribbon the impatience would start and be very evident if he did not place, he liked staying in and doing those victory passes.
He does have a arrogance and strong dignity I've never seen so strong in a horse and still has, but I also say he has earned the right to it. He loves trail riding and is very forward and taking it all in on the way out, but still when coming home starts going really slow, I have to push him to get home.
This is the horse I have come off of the most in my career, every time I had it coming, he took a lot before saying" OK that's enough, your off"! There was a time I was a bit of a dare devil on the back of a horse, I knew no fear, so I asked a lot.Times when I thought of myself and my needs, but not the horses needs. It was like he was saying " Your mother taught you better than this, straighten up"! Interesting point is when someone else would ride him and be unreasonable he always took it, never put anyone else on the ground, and would take care of them.There was a time this made me unhappy, but now I understand it.
I've had a long road in this life, not easy and that's the way it's supposed to be for me, I understand that now and it's still hard but in different ways now. In all this Bubba has been the horse or living creature that seems to know this about me. When things are hard or unfair and I hurt he always will put himself in my space, or asking with his eyes and/or a big bang on a gate or door to let him come to me, let me lean on him and yes sometimes sob on him.He knows what part of my body is not feeling well, when my back is hurting he's right on that spot, licking as hard as he can, he's been doing that with my shoulder and arm too since having a training horse hurt it. It's hard to put into words,but it's like this horse has been put in my life not just as a horse, to be a horse, but also as a guide and a support system to help me travel my path in my work as a teacher of horses, people and his student, so I got it right.
I accept death and know it's just another part of the journey and have had so many of my human and animal friends pass now, but I'm very afraid of what it will be like when Bubba decides it's time to go and I don't have him to show me how to do things and how to be a decent person.I've learned and depended on him more than any person would ever take. I hope my life with Bubba has and will help so many others to find the same relationship we have together. The Ring
In closing I will share a final piece of this journey. When I went to Europe this year I carried with me a handful of Bubba's tail hair to have a ring made. I had no idea when I returned from my clinic tour I would be faced with the loss of Bubba. Several weeks after my return home, Sandra from Pleasure Gaits in Belgium hand delivered the ring to me.
It's lovely and means even more now to bring forth those wonderful memories . Yes there is a selfish side of me that still wants him here in his physical form, to see, touch, and be with.
I also now know he prepared me well to keep going on without him and be what he taught to be so well . I in turn could give him a life of value, respect, never see him as a possession but a friend, being responsible to take care of in the best way possible, never to demean him with doing tricks to entrain myself or others humans, but just true pure work we did equally together because we both enjoyed it and I never took away his dignity.The very least I could do in return.
Somewhere along the line this industry has it seems made some of those that trail ride as their main pass time with their horses, to feel like second class citizens. That is absolutely not true in any way , shape or form!
Those that do, have to have better trained horses than any horse that just has to hang a rail for a class in a show. They are exposed to so much more in their environment, terrine You name it ,they are going to be seeing it if ridden enough. It takes a lot of training to make a great trail horse and there is no error for tack, in that they have to wear it much longer than a 15 minute class. Proper conditioning is mandatory for a good horse that has to hold up for hours on end. The responsibility for the trail rider is huge and they know this most of the time to if they have been doing it long enough.
As a youth this was part of my parents program that our own show horses and the clients all spent lots of time on the trail, with less in an arena . I kept the same program for the show horses in my own business later. I still to this day feel it was a huge part of our success with all the horses in the show ring, not only for the horses staying fresh, happy and not just becoming drones but also kept us fresh as the teachers for the horses too.
Just about all your advanced horsemanship, for those working to upper levels can be done on the trail too, its the best training ground one could ask for in my opinion.
So take pride and have dignity in that you trail ride!!!!!