Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Affirmation, Hope & Courage




So many possibilities in that little word...a whole world of potential outcomes.  A feeling that I can do this.  That's a beautiful thing.

I read on Aurora's blog today that her husband and his mare are feeling this coming to fruition. They've worked hard, they're developing a solid partnership based on trust and trials.  Compassion, understanding, kindness, consistency and maybe most importantly, dreams.  The realization that if you dream and you really concentrate on taking the steps to make that dream a reality; you will see affirmation of your dreams.  That epiphany of "I really can do this" happens.  *nice*  Congratulations you two!

Speaking of affirmations, I had one last night too.  Maybe for the first time since I've been riding Eagle, I actually smiled and thought to myself, "maybe I really can do this".  There was nothing miraculous that happened.  But I had a good ride on my horse.  Another good ride.  But this time, something I can't fully describe happened.  I had this little feeling of gumption inside.  It felt good. My horse felt solid and reliable underneath me.  He argued a little bit with me, and I said, come on now, we got this.  And then he responded.  :)  I kept encouraging through my discomfort and he complied.  It sort of felt like he was saying, alright if you say so, I'll do it.  I felt as if maybe for the first time, I really was behaving like the leader, and that his trust was well-placed in me.  That felt really nice.  I've been feeling kind of pumped ever since.

Last night when I got home from work it was really windy.  Not what I'd hoped for.  But the weather otherwise was perfect for an evening ride.  So, I got Eagle out of the pasture, groomed and tacked him up and let him stand in his stall with a little bit of hay while I brought the other horses inside.  I figured I'd give them all a flake of hay and leave them in their stalls while Jess and I rode.  We'd made plans to ride around the orchard, do a little in the corral and then ride down and around the pasture as well.  In the 21 years we've lived here, I've never ridden any horses in their pasture.  I've always thought of that as "their space" - not really for anything other than whatever they choose to do there.  Anyway, it was Jessica's suggestion so I was game to try.  Anyway, I got a bale of hay out of the barn and a giant moth miller flew down my blouse.  I totally freaked, practically ripped my shirt and bra off before said moth miller flew out of my shirt.  I retrieved my sunglasses, straightened myself out and commenced to getting the hay.  I fed the horses their flakes, groomed Missy and got her saddle.  In the process of lifting the saddle on her back, I bent a fingernail backwards, said a few choice words and promptly dropped hubby's saddle in the gravel, resulting in a scolding to me from him, and then while placing the saddle on Missy's back, somehow I managed to left one of the ginormous stirrups fall back onto my elbow.  Oh man, I thought I'd broken a bone for sure.  It's still quite sore and bruised today.  At that point I looked heavenward and requested, "please Lord, don't let this be one of those nights?".  I was starting to question my intent of riding.  Not a good way to start.

About that time, Jess shows up and we get the horses ready and head out to the orchard.  Right from the beginning, I felt good on Missy.  Eagle looked relaxed and like he was ready and willing for a little ride.  *good deal*  We got down to the end of the orchard where we make our first turn and the neighbor's 3-legged dog ran out barking.  Eagle shied a little bit, no biggie.  We continue on and then, get this - a fawn came running toward us from their yard.  Totally adorable little baby deer!  Little guy makes a beeline right to Eagle, where he proceeds to meander in and around his legs.  Oh dear, little one, probably not a good idea.  Jess hops off to shoo the little guy away, but he's having none of it, choosing instead to skirt in and around Eagle's back feet.  We thought sure Eags might kick - but no, showing nothing but kindness and curiosity, he only drops his head and watches just like we did. Then the neighbor comes out, calls the little fella and he scampers back to their yard where we watch him frolic and play with their two dogs.  Hmm, who knew?  We just continue and from then on, Eagle and Missy are perfectly bright-eyed, alert but relaxed and enjoying their time immensely!  Despite the wind, the dog, the deer, the blowing plastic bag that crossed our path, they remain confident and relaxed.  On the second loop around the orchard, when we're just about back to our place, Eagle suddenly sees something new and different.  Hubby had filled the water trough and left the water running which had overflowed into and across our driveway making it dark and very different than just a while before.  I watch as Eagle's eyes dart back and forth, trying to process his escape.  Missy trudges forward, oblivious to it all.  Eagle takes it all in but is concerned nonetheless.  Jess tells him to not worry, it's just water, and of course points him straight to it.  Eagle does not want to touch the dark spot, so Missy steps through and across to the tall grass on the other side.  *of course*  Eagle takes it all in, and then tentatively steps up, lowers his nose to check it out and then marches in and stops.  It was so cute.  I'm watching his facial expressions and I swear he was saying to himself, "oh brother, I totally overreacted, it's only water!"  We stood there for a few minutes, relaxed and then switched horses.  My turn.

We did two half loops of the orchard, cutting through and shortening the ride to about half the total area we'd just done.  I felt very good, more relaxed out there than I've ever felt yet.  Jessica kept checking in with me, keeping her eye on me and offering words of encouragement - sit deep, relax your shoulders, look at the beautiful clouds, oh what a beautiful sunset, check him, take a couple of steps back now, good.  Breathe...it was awesome.  :)  It wasn't technically perfect, plenty of room for improvement on the equitation part, but because I felt good and Eagle felt good, it was a beautiful ride.  He was quiet, responsive and the sunset really was spectacular.  *sigh*

We rode a little bit in the corral afterwards, where Eagle continued to be relaxed and forward.  Then we rode down to about the halfway point in our pasture.  Eagle was a bit argumentative at having to go down the pasture at all - after all, his hay was waiting for him back in the barn.  This is where my newly-found gumption came in.  :)  He tried stopping, he tried rooting his nose down, he tried backing up, anything but forward, which was away from the barn.  I kept looking up and out, asking for forward with my legs.  He did it.  Then he'd argue.  More asking, more forward.  More arguing. He did not win.  We made it to our mark, then took our sweet time heading back to the barn, did some haunch turns, pivots, small circles, backing, flexing and relaxing.  The ride back to the barn took a whole lot longer than the ride down the pasture did.  :)  Sweet success!!!  You know what I really love about this horse?  No matter how strongly he doesn't want to do something, he doesn't get stupid, he never feels like he's about to do anything other than go through his little bag of tricks and getting strong.  No hint at bunching up to buck, no thoughts of bolting, rearing or anything dangerous at all. He is so sensible.  He also has a stubborn streak, but it's short-lived when gumption comes into play.

This was our most successful ride yet.  And I'm beginning to love this journey more and more...this big, bay mustang is amazing, and I really do love him.  All that he is.  And you know what?  I am SO VERY GOOD at picking fantastic horses!!  *happy dance*



I know we'll have our ups and downs, I realize there will be good rides and bad rides up ahead.  But we'll get through them together, and we'll keep on this path.  This wonderful path of discovery.  This building of a solid partnership based on mutual trust.  I'm loving it.  I'm so, so thankful for Jessica's willingness to help me work through this.  I cannot thank her enough.  She is a Godsend, I'm pretty sure of that.

And so for today, I am filled with hope.  And I am beginning to feel courage...

*good stuff*

Until next time,
Lorie and Eags

Monday, June 20, 2016

Just remember to breathe

That's what I keep telling myself.  No matter what else, just keep breathing.  Deep, reassuring, cleansing breaths.  It helps with everything.  And so does your comments regarding my last post.  I would like to personally thank each and every one of you who left such kind, truthful, encouraging, heartfelt words of advice and understanding for me.  I am so very grateful for your thoughts, and even more happy that you took the time to leave them for me to read.  They really do matter, and they help me so much.  So, thanks.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.  I only hope that someday, somehow, I can be helpful and encourage you in some small way that will be meaningful when you need it.

I was feeling so discouraged.  Like no matter how hard I keep trying, I never will get to where I'd like to be.  But I also keep reminding myself that I haven't been riding Eagle for very long at all.  Maybe 15 or so rides last year and likely 20ish  rides so far this year - all since the first part of May.  We've made progress, and that I can't deny.

Breathe.

I keep telling myself that anything in life that's worth having, is worth working hard for.  Our relationship and our future riding together is worth all the effort, the sweat, the failures, the tears and the fears.  :)  But the more I ride; the more opportunities I will have to savor those sweet, little successes too.  And every time I do something that makes me uncomfortable, and at times even makes me downright scared, will be all the more reason to smile and enjoy that triumphant feeling that I can do this.  I am doing it!  So sweet!

Remember to pray.  I was recently reminded of this too.  And oh boy, I do not doubt the power of this. Above all else, I try to remember to pray.  To ask for courage, and then go forth in faith that I have and am, doing everything in my power to be safe.  To keep my horse safe.  And then maybe most importantly, thank God that I've been given the desire to want to do this, to have love for these amazing animals, and the fact that I get to do this.  How awesome is that?  There are so many people in this world who might never get the chance to do something like this.  To experience these amazing animals that have the power to bring so much joy, to feel freedom and rejoice in their power!  Maybe that sounds idealistic and like I live in a fantasy world or something.  But this is how I feel when I'm around them.   It's indescribable really.  You simply cannot explain this feeling to someone who isn't blessed with it.  And that's how I feel about that.

Sit deep.  Another big one.  When I get scared, I can feel myself start to curl into that fetal position.  I just hate that!  At least I'm picking up on it, and can then sit back, sit straight, look ahead, heels down and seat deep.  Important stuff.  I've been re-learning to relax my hips, let them swing freely with the movement of the horse, instead of sitting rigid and putting too much weight in the stirrups.  No wonder my back gets tight and my knees seem so stiff when I've been dismounting lately.  Never before have I had knee pain, but the last couple of rides out around the orchard, well let's just say I now have more compassion for my dear hubby's knees.  After a long day trail riding, my ankles tend to get stiff and the bottoms of my feet can get hot, but I guess that's to be expected.  I just let my legs hang loose without stirrups and I'm good to go again.  Looking forward to being able to free swing my feet riding down some wooded trail with Eags.  Oh yes! So yes, we're making progress.  Slower than I'd like, yes - but progress nonetheless.  Important to remember.

So the other night Jess and I rode in the orchard.  I was timid, but not overly afraid.  I felt good afterwards and it was a good ride.  I rode two or three times during the week with hubby nearby in the outside corral.  Some good rides, some not so great, but time in the saddle is never wasted.  Last lesson was Thursday evening.  We did a little warm-up in the round pen and then headed outside to the orchard.  Jess mentioned that Eags was doing well, didn't require nearly as much trotting up and down the hills to persuade him that getting all strong and going "hulk" on her wasn't such a good idea.  But he didn't look tired to me.  At all.  No foamy cheeks or anything; and he'd spooked at some birds fluttering in the dry grass by the creek.  I saw just how much effort it took for her to get him back in control.  *gulp*  When we'd made the final loop, I knew what was coming.  She asked if I was ready?  Nope, I shook my head.  I wasn't looking forward to riding him that night, at all.  Not sure if it was the spook I'd witnessed or just what the deal was, but I did not want to get on him.  Nope, not one little bit.  But I did.  Jessica made me.  She's mean like that.  *sigh*

We rode about half the way around the orchard twice, and I had moments where I felt okay.  But mostly I was just plain scared.  Down to my toes scared.  Deep in the pit of my stomach kind of scared.  I hated it.  Jess reminded me several times to breathe, to look up at the clouds, feel the breeze on my face and smile because I was riding a magnificent Mustang who was looking to me to be brave.  She told me to relax my hips and remember to be happy.  I did everything she asked and it all helped.  For tiny little bits of time, it all helped.  Not sure why that day everything seemed so wrong, but it just did.  I can't explain it.

When we came to the finish spot, we sat there and talked for a little while.  I relaxed somewhat, but mostly because I knew we were done.  I did not want to end the evening like that.  I asked if we could finish riding in the corral for a little while.  Sure we can!  What followed was one of the best rides on Eagle that we've ever had!  Was it my complete and total relaxation at being in a controlled environment?  I'm not sure.  But whatever it was, it was good.  Eagle walked out and forward with relaxation and a good, working stride and I was so happy.  I think he moved with such forward and no hesitation because I felt relaxed.  I do believe I am the reason he's so hesitant on so many occasions.  I've always wondered, but now I'm pretty much convinced.  So, we ended last week's lesson which started out as the worst ever to it becoming the best ever.  Whoohoo!!  I've ridden him twice since then.  Both with my hubby riding Ladde in the corral.  The first one was awesome!  The second one was not so great, but okay.  Twisted Ladde showed up and I didn't want him to influence Eags, so I switched to riding Missy and we rode around the orchard because Ladde was in need of a little mental and physical exertion.  *sigh*  Horses!  It was all good though...life's experiences come from taking chances.  Experience comes from having lived through those choices, good and bad.

We're all still learning.

Another lesson with Jess tonight.  Will keep you posted...

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Life is like a potpourri

Blog post titles are hard for me.  I've pretty much given up on having just the right, catchy little title. Just requires too much mental effort, and I'm all about easy lately.  So...today's title feels just about right.  *grin*

I had another ride on Eags last night.  Hmmm, what's the right word???  Oh yeah, I've got it!  Crap. Well, not entirely.  It was late.  It was cold.  Yes, cold.  Highs were in the mid 60's today, wind was blowing, showers on and off.  Talk about a potpourri - our weather has been all over the place. Anyway, I groomed, tacked him up, did a little ground work in the round pen and then we headed on out to the big ring.  I thought I had my big girl panties on, and I guess I can feel good that I'm brave enough to mount up without anybody else there, ride outside when it's windy in the big ring and not cry.  Progress right?  Eagle had my number though.  *sigh*  He wasn't exactly cooperative.  Big brat. Anyway, we walked around a little bit, did some backing, flexing and I sort of had him pivoting on the forehand, but boy did I have to work for every.  little. step.  Wish I just had the cahoonas to whack him squarely in the butt with the end of my lead and tell him to MOVE OUT ALREADY!  But I don't.  Not yet anyway.  So, I took satisfaction that I was able to do what I did.  Dear God, sometimes I'm such a big chicken shit.

Our clinic is just two weeks from tomorrow.  And I'll just bet that I'm the only rider there that has problems getting her horse to walk.  I am thankful that this clinic will be a small one.  I am thankful that the riders are all "middle-aged" women who are like-minded.  I am thankful that our clinician is kind.  And very laid-back.  Thankful that I get to go.  Thankful thankful thankful...so why are tears steaming down my face while I'm typing this???  I know we all have our ups and our downs, but what is it about this horse that has me so intimidated?  Oh, how I wish I knew the answer to that!  What the heck is wrong with me?  I am not a beginner rider.  I am not un-knowledgeable, or whatever the correct word is here.  But I am so afraid that if I push my horse, he will do something that I will regret.  And yet - as I've watched others ride him again and again.  Pushing him to do what they want him to do, he does nothing but be accommodating, and give them his best.  His try.  He is soft-eyed and kind.  I just wish I could take a pill.  Or take a shot of some liquid courage that would get me past this crappy, scared feeling deep in my gut.  I've been asking and asking for this horse to trust me. Trust me, I won't hurt you.  Trust me, I will take care of you.  Trust me!!!  And you know what?  He has.  He has given me his complete trust.  I feel it.  I see it.  And yet...I struggle so with my trust of him.   God, I feel pathetic.  And weak.  And so much like a coward.   But I will not quit.  I'm way too stubborn for that.  I just need to get past this, have a few good rides, and I think I can move past this enormous stumbling block in my brain.  I hope.

Enough of that.  Last weekend was again, very busy.  I felt like I accomplished nothing.  We did make it to church Sabbath morning, and for that I am so glad.  Our pastor wasn't there and they played a video of this speaker named Louie Giglio.  "How Great Is Our God" was the title.  It was awesome!  Seriously awesome.  I highly recommend each and every one of you go to Amazon and purchase the CD.  I did.  I got a 4-in-one CD of four different sermons this guy has done.  Haven't had a chance to watch any yet, but seriously, just do it.  You won't be sorry.  Then we went out for breakfast, went home and changed our clothes and drove south a couple of hours and delivered my friend's saddle which I had borrowed to try out.  Saddle exchange didn't work out, her stirrups were so long that I could barely reach them, and the saddle rolled all over my horse's back.  But...I did absolutely love the way the seat felt and the free-swinging stirrups I think would be really nice.  I am sort of looking for another saddle.  I'd love to have a ranch-type saddle with a rough-out seat and wide, free-swinging stirrups.  Oh, and a close contact tree, the Wade style if you know what that is.  Anyway, I digress.  We stopped at a beautiful park alongside the Willamette river on the way home and let the dogs out to frolic and got a little exercise.  Then when in Corvallis, we decided to have dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory.  So good!  I ate too much, but it sure was tasty.  We were way late, almost midnight when we got back home, and the horses thought they were starving!  :)

Sunday morning I had a quick ride on Eagle, then showered and changed and drove to Willamette Park for a family outing for our newest nephew's first birthday party.  It was a beautiful day, and we had a nice time seeing Scotty and Teleea and baby, Emry.  He has the typical Lundgren family cheeks.  Looks like he's storing up for winter.  Totally cute, but the little turd cried whenever I tried to hold him.   *sigh*  By the time we got back home it was time to do the chores and I was pooped.  No energy left for any house cleaning, no laundry, nothing.  I went to bed fairly early, shocked and dismayed that the following day was Monday morning all over again.  I have been so very tired lately.  Not quite sure what's up with that.  Maybe it has to do with all the stuff that's been going on and not enough down time.  Whatever it is, I sure am looking forward to my week of vacation time coming up soon.  I have the whole week off beginning June 27th and will go back to work after the July 4th holiday.  Yay!!!  Hoping to enjoy some time at home that week, doing whatever that strikes my fancy, attend my clinic and get in a few rides on Eagle, and maybe a night or two away from home.  Already starting to sound a little more busy than what I'd originally planned.  It's quite possible, I just might be my own worst enemy.

Such is my life!  I'm not complaining, not too much anyway.  But I just have to say that I am looking forward to the day when I am a retired lady and my time will be my own.  Best to stop wishing my life away!  That's what my dear, sweet momma used to tell me.  The older I become, the more I'm realizing the wisdom that she shared with me.  Sure wish she were here for me to tell her that.  I'd hug her tightly and never let her go...



Just couldn't resist sharing this tidbit from the local news.  Wish I could have been there to see this!!  Ha!!  We really are living in the wild, wild west!!

In case you didn't see it, or missed it when Arlene shared it on her blog - the fellow on the ground with the rope around his ankles was trying to get away with somebody else's bike.  This cowboy saw what was going on, pulled his horse out of the trailer and lassooed the "would-be" thief.  You gotta love it!  Cowboy justice in 2016.  :)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Just trying to catch my breath

Yes, I'm singing that old familiar song again.  We've been overly busy the last couple of weeks, and I just feel like my head is spinning.  Our first camp-out of the season has come and gone.  It was glorious!  I really couldn't have asked for more.  The preparations went smoothly, we didn't forget anything, and travel was relaxing,  in part to our borrowed truck and leaving early Saturday morning instead of rushing out on Friday evening after work.  We were much more relaxed this way, got a good night's sleep, fresh from the shower and a quick breakfast on the road.

We went to one of our favorite spots, Mt. Adams and the weather was just perfect.  The horses were fresh and enjoyed themselves immensely, and so did we.  Missy overall did fairly well.  I was giving her some pain meds several days in advance of our trip, and all the days we were there just to provide a measure of comfort from her heel pain.  We only had to cut one ride a little bit short because of a fairly long uphill climb that left her head bobbing, so I got off and walked her for a quarter mile or so and then we did the jog pretty much all the way back to camp, which was down hill.  It ended up being a perfect distance for a first time out and we were so grateful that it went well.

Ladde did amazingly well!  He was sound, happy and only spooked at a couple of trail buggars.  :) Both hubby and I commented on how absolutely happy he seemed.  Ears pricked straight ahead, hips a-swinging while he led the way down the trail.  Good times!  I cannot express how thankful we are that he's doing so well.  If you would have told me this was the way it would go last winter, I wouldn't have believed it.  It was so good to see our boy moving out and navigating the mountain trails again.  It really does seem like a miracle to us after all we've been through in the past year.

In other news, I've been riding Eagle regularly.  I'm taking weekly lessons with Jessica and we're working very well together.  I'm very relaxed and comfortable with her instruction, and she doesn't hesitate to call out orders or improvements that can be made while I'm in the saddle.  I appreciate that so much.  Eagle is just picking right up where he left off last year.  In fact, I do believe that the winter off just cemented all his lessons and did him nothing but good.  You do not have to ride a horse absolutely with regularity to ensure they remember what they've learned.  I've seen the proof in the pudding.  He really seems to enjoy his sessions and just takes everything in stride.  Phenomenal horse, I'm just sayin'.  He isn't perfect, does have a bit of a stubborn streak, and seems to "have my number" at times.  Nobody's perfect.  But overall, I couldn't be more pleased with his progress - and mine.  I'm feeling more and more confident and comfortable all the time.  We're making strides in that department as well.  I've been riding regularly in the big ring and it's going overall quite well.  I have my moments, and he always knows, when my confidence falters, but I'm learning to sit deep, relax my body and just take a pause and breathe deeply when I get fearful, or tentative is probably a better word.  He is amazingly keen at picking up on my emotions, sometimes quicker than I realize them myself.  Amazingly intuitive creatures they are!  So sensitive and so very good at reading us.  Way better than we usually are at reading them.  He's teaching me a lot.  We've had "issues" come up, and they differ with the day.  Forward was my first obstacle, and we've improved that a lot.  Then straightness was the issue that came up.  We're still struggling with that one, but the last lesson he wanted to turn on his forehand, again and again and again.  I wasn't quite sure what to make of that.  Now, if he pulls that, I give a quick and upright little lift of the rein and some pressure with that same leg.  When he straightens out, I release just as quickly.  We've also struggled with the nose "rooting" that he does, and that's greatly improved with assertive and increased leg pressure to drive him forward instead of pulling on the reins.  I am so guilty of using too much rein and need to improve my leg skills significantly.  We both have lots of room for improvement, but we're progressing steadily, and that's what counts.  We just have about 3 weeks before our clinic, and I'd really like to feel confident and know exactly what to work on there.  They always ask, and I'd like a definitive main objective to focus on.  Right now I have several, but we're honing that list rather quickly.  I don't want to have too many issues and feel like we'll benefit if we narrow it down to 1 or 2 main objectives.  We'll see.

Tonight is our lesson again, and I'm hoping that we ride out and around the orchard tonight.  Jessica will ride him first and then we'll probably switch horses and I'll ride him afterwards.  I've always become much more timid outside a ring with Eagle, but this is my main objective - to ride him out on the trails and feel confident and ready for whatever happens.  Wish me luck, or better yet, keep us in your prayers will you?  :)  Ready or not, I'm looking forward to getting this "first" behind us.  Our weather has been "over the top" HOT lately, and this seems like an enjoyable way to spend our lesson rather than focus on just work.  We can accomplish a lot while (hopefully) having a little fun outing at the same time.

Speaking of unbelievably hot temperatures...of course we've been putting hay in our barns.  Like clockwork, hot days mean hay days.  That's how we spent last weekend.  We put ten and a half tons of beautiful grass hay in the barn.  One barn is full and one more to go.  Think we'll be getting the last two deliveries tomorrow evening.  My arms and both calves are just starting to feel a little better after all the dragging and lifting of those bales.  I'm just thankful that I didn't hurt my back, and at my age I'm still willing and able to store hay.  Well...willing might not be the most appropriate word to use, but you get the idea.  I'm super thankful that our weather is on a cooling trend, so that will make the job go easier for sure.  We were 98 on Saturday and just hit the 100 degree mark on Sunday.  Good heavens, but it was miserable!  Way too early to be this hot.  Today is more reasonable, think we're in the upper 80's or so.  Still too warm for my personal preference, but we're heading in the right direction.  Upper 60's with a chance of showers are forecast for this coming weekend...Amen to that!  And hopefully, we'll have our year's supply of hay safely tucked in the barns and that's one more thing I don't have to think about for a whole year.  Phew!

This weekend we have family coming in from out of town, so we're planning a little birthday party for my great-nephew's first years' celebration.  BBQ and birthday cake Sunday afternoon at Willamette Park, which is about an hour or so drive from us.  And then, the adults will meet up for dinner Monday evening in Portland.  I'm looking forward to a relaxing and entertaining evening in the city where the most difficult thing I'll have to do, is decide what to wear.  Sounds wonderful to me!





Thursday, May 19, 2016

Isn't it grand?

I had a wonderful ride on Eags last night.  It was so peaceful and quiet...

We spent a bit of time doing relaxation maneuvers (him, not me) with flexions, head and neck, then legs and a little massage.  He adored it!  His eyes were so droopy he kinda looked like a hound dog and he just yawned and yawned and yawned - licked, chewed and more yawning.  *sigh*  It was a beautiful sight.

Then I saddled him up and we just walked around.  I decided to use as little rein as I possibly could, and I rode him in the side pull, no bit.  We were in the round pen, so I wasn't worried about anything. The evening air was cool and there was a slight breeze.  Perfect weather for riding.  He did no rooting at all.  Not one bit.  I'm not sure what made the difference, but I think it was directly related to how mellow he was to begin with, and I wasn't nervous or worried at all riding in the small ring, as opposed to being in the big corral, and nothing in his mouth.  Likely it was a combination of all those things, but it was so enjoyable.

I didn't ride long, probably twenty minutes or so, but quality over quantity, pure gold.  We both felt good.  Afterwards I brushed him down and held his head in my arms and told him how wonderful he was.  First horse I've ever had that would let me hold him and be so at ease with it all.  I just love that.
I've had several people and one close friend who've told me how silly I was to get this horse.  How someone like me, who's become what many will call, a timid rider, shouldn't have picked a troubled horse, one who especially needed a very confident rider to give him confidence.  I can't say that I disagree with their logic.  In my head I would agree with the strong leadership being so important for a horse like Eagle.  But, mostly I just shake my head and tell them that we're exactly what the other one needed.  And at the perfect time.  When I watch Eagle in the field with the other horses, he oozes confidence and exhibits a quiet leadership role over all the other horses in his herd.  He shows kindness and patience.  And that's exactly what he's needed from the people in his life.

For whatever reason, and I no longer question it - we needed each other.  For different reasons, maybe.  But he is the perfect horse for me, emotionally.  He's so cool, so loving, so patient and kind with me.  All I ever want to show him in return, is my love and my trust.  He's given his trust to me.  In spades.  Now it's my turn.  I will learn to relax and place my trust in this horse.  This very special horse who I'm so very smitten with.  He is my gift.

I'm so sure of that.

And I'm so very thankful that I was chosen to care for him.  Aren't I the lucky one?  Deep in my heart, I know we were meant to be.  I have no idea what our future together holds.  I don't know if my dreams of riding in the mountains on the back of this majestic Mustang will ever come true.  Maybe we will.  But if all we ever have is this relationship we're building in the safety of our back yard, then I will be eternally grateful for that.  All I know for sure is this:  I am enjoying this journey.

And who knows where we'll end up.


Until next time,
Lorie

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Tractors, chainsaws, barking dogs and monsters

Seriously.  Those were the distractions we faced during last nights' ride.  *sheesh*

But we've lived to tell the tale!  Neighbor Bob was on his tractor mowing, moving logs, cutting those logs into firewood, and providing plenty of nervous distractions for me.  Eagle was good with all of that.  Mostly.  Me?  I was as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof.  Oh, and I forgot the goats.  Eagle nor I were too concerned about them.  They're always coming through our fence and cruising wherever they want to go, whenever they want.  All good stuff right?  Well, tell my poor old heart that, will ya? My back is actually a little stiff from tensing up so much.  Oh, and it was our first time riding in the big, outside corral.  Shouldn't have made a difference, but remember we're dealing with my head here.

The distractions that did prove to concern Eagle were the "monster" that lives in the brushy area near the apple tree in one corner of the corral; and Charlotte, who was barking continuously at the injustice of having to stay in the yard while we had our lesson.  Occasionally, she'd come up to the fence line and bark, making herself invisible in the tall grass.  That proved to be Eagle's un-doing. He spooked, rather shied really, a couple of times.  One time he did the stop and drop deal.  Neither was a big deal, both were good lessons for me, but still.  Let's just say, a relaxed ride it was not.

Jessica praised my efforts, told me I'd done well, but I know better.  I so wanted to quit.  I was tired.  I was not having fun.  But I hung in there.  Bless Eagle's heart, he was doing his best to take care of me.  I know he was.  Jessica said as much to me as well, so I know it's the case.  But, he made me work for every little movement the whole time.  Good grief!  We had no rhythm, no cadence at all - even at the walk.  Eagle was so tentative in his movements, just wanted to stop, which meant I had to work for every little bit of forward movement the entire time.  He stops just fine.  No doubt his favorite thing.  I really had to struggle to keep him straight between my reins.  Who am I kidding?  We had no straightness!

The previous nights' ride in the round pen had been my best to date.  I thought so anyway.  I was totally relaxed, had some confidence too.  Eagle was working fairly well for me.  Still makes me work for forward, tries to root his nose down, but it was a pretty good ride.  I guess they were both good rides though, I prevailed and ended on good notes both times.

An issue that seems to come up fairly often is while travelling to the left, he likes to get strong and go to the inside.  All the time.  I really have to use a lot of inside leg and outside rein to try and keep him on the rail.  After a while my arm gets tired and I just try to use leg and ask for more forward to keep him moving.  Jessica would like to switch bits, I'm not certain at all that's the answer. I just don't really know what the solution is.  Keep at it I guess.  Seat deep, heels down, eyes where I want to go.  Breathe.

I'm already questioning my instructor's approach.  Not good.  Certainly not everything, just some. The problem is, I've learned my methods from the best of the best.  Now to me, that's not a problem, it's the best way to approach horsemanship.  The problem is, most trainers/instructors don't necessarily follow how I've learned.  In part they do, but in part they don't.  Presents a challenge.  In my head, I know the answer is not a different bit, or any kind of gadget.  It just never works in the end.  Truly, the best way is to work with the horse's mind to control the life in the body, through the feet.  Simple enough right?  However, it's more difficult in practicality.  The approach is everything.  I run short on how to, really quickly.  I'm not getting discouraged.  Not really.  I just want to stay true to what I know is right, and find the best way to get Eagle to stay soft, and continue to get softer through his body, but liven up his feet and lighten up his body.  He feels heavy.  He feels strong.  Just don't know how else to describe it.    He is soon to be 16 years old, and was in reality, started at 15.  He's not had anything done right, for most of his life.  Truthfully, he's been treated unfairly, unkindly, was starved, neglected and mistreated.  My promise to him was this.  No more pain.  Ever.  Nothing that is unfair.  I just will not treat him in any way, but respectfully.  How do I accomplish this when I need help from someone for me?  For my confidence?  Nothing's ever simple is it?

I've ridden 5 times since my last lesson.  I have a little over a week to make some change for the better before our next session with Jessica.  I'm certain of only one thing.  The problem lies within me, not with my horse.  With time and consistency, Eagle will improve and learn.  He's super smart and willing, if he's got a good rider aboard, the odds are stacked in his favor.  I just don't want to compromise the standards for my horse, for my sake.

I need to put my big girl panties on.

In between rides, I guess it can't hurt to brush up on a little reading.  It's supposed to start raining tomorrow, that will likely cut into my riding time, but as I keep trying to remind myself - there is no time clock here.  I just need to keep at it.  Like that tiny trickle of water that over time will carve a crevice through the rock...

be like the water.



Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Rock Stars and Courage



Remember to breathe.  Important stuff when trying to relax.  In case you're wondering, this is filed under my mental, "notes to self".  My list is getting quite long these days.  But it sure helps.  

"Whistle, grin and ride".  Something Ray used to say.  A lot.  It's why I ride.  I feel more pure and simple joy when in the saddle than at any other time.  I can't whistle, but I sometimes sing and I'm real good at grinning.

I've ridden Eagle twice this week.  First time, we spent the majority of our time doing groundwork, catching up and getting rid of my third thumb.  *sigh*  Remember that old saying?  "If ya don't use it, you lose it".  True enough.

I haven't done anything except for caretaking and some grooming since last summer, and it's showing.  For the first few times, I feel like a total newbie.  Like I've never done this before and I'm all thumbs.  Then it starts to come back to me, slowly at first, and then it's like riding a bike.  I just go with the flow, it comes naturally and it feels so good.

Eagle, of course, has been a perfect gentleman.  *sigh*  Dear God, how I love that horse.  I often wonder to myself, what did I ever do to deserve such a horse?  He is just wonderful.

So, getting a little ahead of myself.  A week ago yesterday, May 3rd, Jessica came out to meet my horse.  We decided not to waste the beautiful evening and got to work.  We did some groundwork, saddled him up and Jessica rode him.  Beautifully, I might add.  I was just a tad jealous.  Well, if I'm truthful, I was completely enchanted with watching how beautifully she had my boy going.  Amazing what a little confidence can do.  Or a lot.  Just makes me sad that I struggle with my own abilities so much these days.  Honestly, it breaks my heart.  I sometimes think that I'll never get back to where I used to be.  You know, completely at ease, and feeling more at home than at any other place I could possibly be?  Yeah.  That's how I used to be.  My favorite spot in the whole, wide world was on my horse's back.  Out in the woods, feeling so free.  And peaceful.  Joyful beyond explanation.

But, if you've been reading for any amount of time, you know that these days I struggle.  I have to work so hard at my confidence, my abilities and my level of comfort on my horse.  I've not suffered any wrecks, have no concrete reason to feel fear.  But it is fear that I feel.  It can be crippling on some days, but I'm not about to let myself be overcome.  I will survive.

And more than that, I want to triumph over my fear.  I choose to acknowledge my fear, give it its' due, but then put it down, and mount up anyway.  I try to quiet my mind, squelch my thoughts and breathe.  Sometimes I pray, sometimes I sing.  Sometimes both.  I've been known to cry.  But, I have absolutely no plans of quitting.  I want this, so I am willing to work at it.

So far, Jessica seems to be a good fit for me.  She has the skills and the experience no doubt.  But more importantly, she seems to understand and be willing to work with me, at any necessary level and speed, to bring back my level of comfort and revive my confidence in myself, and help me convince my horse that I am capable of taking care of him.  That is my goal.

True partnership.  True harmony.  I do not believe in overpowering the horse, or manipulating him into doing what I want him to do, by any means at my disposal.  Absolutely not.  If that were my only choice, I'd never ride again.  What I want is to see my horse as my equal, have respect for him and his emotions, his likes and dislikes, and yes, give him permission to feel his own fears.  Show him that there will never be any punishment, no pain, no retaliation for any of his expressions, whatever they may be.  Some things he could choose to do are unacceptable to me, of course.  But I want him, to want to take care of me, just like I want to take care of him.  It's the only way.  For me, it is truly, the only way.

So.  First ride was short and sweet.  I won't lie, I was timid and nervous.  But I got on, walked around for a short while, did some flexing and then just sat there and enjoyed being on my horse's back.  I stroked his big, beautiful neck, ran my fingers through his mane and talked softly to him, told him how very amazing he was and what a gift I thought him to be.  And after he let out a big, old sigh and started licking his lips and chewing, I got off.  I felt good and so did he.  It had been a good start, and was a perfect place to stop.

Last night, I did some groundwork while Jessica watched, then she mounted up and got Eagle good and warmed up for me, and then it was my turn.  Again, I was a bit nervous.  Not like the previous time, but still uneasy.  I rode at the walk and the trot, did some flexing, some backing, some cross overs in the front and a lot of changing directions and practiced our one-rein stop.  That is my go-to emergency button so it needs to be smooth as silk and as common to each of us as eating our breakfast, or breathing.  Yes, I believe it's that important.  If you don't practice it perfectly, you won't ever achieve a perfect one-rein stop.  Bottom line - it won't be there when you need it.  Notice I said when, not if.  Because if you ride enough, you will need it at some point.  Harley had the one-rein stop better than any other horse I've ever ridden, and it saved my butt more than once.  It worked like a charm.  That's how common and reliable I want it to be for Eagle.  Harley wasn't a small horse, in fact he was a good inch taller, but he doesn't feel half as strong as Eagle does.  Eagle is a powerhouse and having lived in the wild, his self-preservation runs deeper.  I have the ultimate respect for that.  I need to for both our sakes.

So, long story short.  By the time I finished up with my ride, I felt good.  I felt relaxed on my horse.  And Eagle?  He was like butter warmed by the evening sun...I couldn't have wished for more.

I can't wait to try it again.  I'm a softer rider than Jessica.  She's not aggressive, but she is more assertive than I am.  That's not a bad thing, we're just different.  I need to be a little more assertive for now, but in between lessons I'll be working on softness, lots of flexing, directing the feet, backing, getting that "soft feel" whenever I ask for it, and yes, that ever-important one-rein stop.

And, at the core of it all, maybe the most important element of all.  I will give my horse the time that it takes for him to learn what I'd like, the luxury of not understanding, or even making mistakes without fear of punishment.  Isn't that how we all learn, how we all learned?  Rome wasn't built in a day.  And my favorite horseman of all time used to say, "the slower you go, the faster you'll get there".   The clinician that I'll be riding with this June, Joe Wolter says to, "give him time to soak". Important stuff, that.

It feels so good to be riding again!  I just can't explain how good.  So, although I'm just in the round pen for now, I'm looking ahead to moving into the corral, and even beyond to those glorious mountain trails.  Jessica has already offered to bring her trailer and one of her horses, so we can go ride the trails.  When I'm ready, no pressure...but I can't wait.  She even offered to ride Eagle, and let me ride a more experienced, well-seasoned trail horse and if I want to switch, we can.  I think we're going to get along just fine.  I'm looking forward to more.

Courage was my chosen word for this year.  And yes, this is exactly what I had in mind when that word came to me.  My horse and my riding.  Courage.  Stepping outside that comfort zone even though fear is my riding partner.

My faith is bigger than my fear...

and it sure doesn't hurt to have the most amazing horse in the world.  Seriously!!  He blows my mind with all that heart, all that try.  The willingness to please and be accepted and feel safe.  So humbling for me to think about what an awesome responsibility I have to protect and take care of this horse.

And what a pleasure it is.


The Rockstar