Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Be Flexible

This past weekend I had originally planned on trying out the Ranch Pleasure class @TQHAhorse show at Harriman, Tennessee. My barrel horse, SV Shawne Fire N Te, also known as Fireman is laid back and will do just about anything you ask even though he's young. I figured he'd be a good candidate for the class and it'd be good experience for us both. 

Unfortunately, we tried shoeing Fireman differently and he was a bit gimpy so my original plan was out. We have nine horses and I had three more Quarter Horses to choose from. My next victim was Mister Decision, also known as Bubba. Well, as luck would have it he still wasn't tracking a hundred percent from a really bad abscess so he was out too. 

That left two more to choose from but the only problem is that neither of them are truly far enough along to ride one handed in a shank bit on a pattern and I didn't feel like embarrassing myself. I decided instead to haul one of those last options to an open show to get some schooling for us both.

Ryan's Bar Dee affectionately known as Toad, and yes that's another story, was the chosen one for the horse show. He's got quite a sordid history but suffice it to say that he's 16 years old and has been put on the back burner far too many times. He's a timid little critter but he's tough as nails and has more heart and try than the majority of horses out there.

My husband had lost a bet with me, that's another story as well, so he took his Arab gelding that he rides maybe three times a year. Fortunately, the Arab is a baby sitter so that was one less thing to worry about.

We arrived at a little after nine in the morning but didn't show until around five that afternoon. The horses stood tied to the trailer pretty much the whole time so it made for a long day but that's what makes good horses, in my opinion. They were both patient and behaved wonderfully well even though there were peacocks showing their tails and hollering near by.

We wound up having several 'firsts' for the day. My husband and his horse showed in their first Trail and Horsemanship classes, ever. They also won their first blue ribbon in the Walk/Jog Ranch Class. I was proud of them both. My little Toad experienced his first Trail and Horsemanship class and his first walk/jog/lope class which he placed second in.

I had a big smile on my face on the way home and it got me to thinking. The rides we had that day were far from perfect. They wouldn't have been acceptable to a competitive rider and yet I was thoroughly satisfied with how the day went. Why? My horses handled first time events better than I had expected and they had ridden much better than I was anticipating. You see, I hadn't ridden Toad since last fall. My husband's first ride this year was one session the week before the show and yet they had both horses had behaved very well with minimal warm up. So there was a lot to be thankful for!

I was on the fence about what to do and didn't decide to go to the show until the night before at midnight. So it truly was a last minute decision and yet it worked out just fine. I think sometimes you have to be flexible in showing horses. Sometimes with competing we get so caught up with the fact that it has to be a certain way and sometimes things just don't go as planned.

If you'd made plans that have fallen through, I'd like to hear about it. How did you handle it and how did they turn out? Were you flexible? What did you learn?

Friday, March 15, 2013


This time I'm not going to post my usual training tip. Instead I'd like to talk about something that I think we all need to be aware of and something that we all need to think about.

Earlier this week I read an article on +Fox News about blatant animal abuse and actual torture within the Federal Wildlife Agency. The scenes described made me sick to my stomach. The sad part is that this was not a sensational article. It was reality. The only good part about the article is that maybe more people like myself are more aware of the abuse that frequently occurs within the agency, and there is an investigation being to done to hold people (somewhat) accountable.

As an animal lover, I can't help but wonder how those people mentioned in the article became what they are. What led them to do what they did? What is their mindset and justification? What is their reasoning? Surely they didn't grow up thinking, "One day I'll grow up to blow up puppies."

I think first and foremost it was a basic lack of respect and empathy for a living creature. I also think it was a belief that animals don't feel,don't think and therefore it doesn't really make a difference what you do them. Then that thinking further justifies that you have to be really hard to get a point across because they're dumb. Furthermore than train of thought also perpetuates that they're really no different than an inanimate object that you can do anything to. One thought just leads to another, doesn't it? All those thoughts serve as justification for torturer.

As horsemen, we need to be careful about how we see our horses, and all animals really. Yes, as humans we're obviously more intelligent than our horses but does that mean because of that they deserve less respect? Absolutely not. We're less intelligent than God but look at how much respect and love He gives us.

Like it not, if you call yourself a Christian how you treat your horse is your witness to the lost. It's also a speaking testimony of who you are on the inside and how much character you have or don't have.

As Jesus said, when you are kind to the least of these you are kind to me. That can be taken as being kind to any thing that we think is less than we are. It's not just people. It's those times that tell who we are.

The old saying is character is doing the right thing when no one is looking. Do you treat your horses differently when no one is looking? If not, why? Is it because people wouldn't understand? I'm sure that's the same exact reasoning the people in the wildlife agency used as well.

We can justify anything and everything we want to. It doesn't make it right. We as horsemen need to be consistent in how we deal with our horses instead of justifying some of the things we may do based on lack of intelligence. We need to always treat our animals with the utmost care and respect. When we can do that, we'll reap a good witness and a great horse in the end.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Going Natural!

This past week one of our horses choked and coliced. Needless to say that was a stressful and expensive experience!

The blessing of it is that this particular horse had choked with me before so I knew what to expect. The second blessing is that because I knew what to do and what was normal, I waited to call the vet until I saw his breathing and responses weren't improving to normal for him. If I had called earlier when the choking symptoms were the main issue, we may have both missed the colic.

Although the choke appeared to be the primary cause of the colic, the vet did say existing underlying issues may have contributed to the colic as well. One possibility was Anterior Enteritis which is commonly caused by a parasitic infection.

You can pick up just about any equine magazine today and find an article on worming. One thing of concern is how some of these articles talk about how worms are building up an immunity to the traditional commercial wormers even with diligent rotation. Additionally the articles will often comment on the fact that outward appearance is no indicator of a potential parasite load.

All this worm talk led me to do a little more research on alternative parasite management. Companies like Silverlining Herbs carry herbal wormers. Horsepower Herbs is another company that offers an herbal alternative. One company that I just recently discovered in my search is Earth Song Ranch. They not only offer the typical herbal wormer but also a homeopathic formula for horses and dogs that have positive fecal counts for parasites.

Romans 8:28 talks about how God uses all things in our lives for good. That includes the stressful events that we go through. If it weren't for those stressful times, not only would we not have an opportunity to test our faith, but we may miss practical information that may benefit us down the road. My own recent event is a good example of that.

Ideally, none of my horses would ever choke or colic. God however, in His classic style, used my fearful experience to not only come out on the other side with a stronger belief in prayer but also to gain some very valuable information about my horse that I needed to have. He used it for my good, just like His words says.

The next time you're going through a tough time look for not only the opportunity to test your faith, but also look for the practical information in that circumstance that you may need. It's there somewhere!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Look Further Than The Surface

So often when a horse acts up we have a tendency to blame it on the horse. We'll say the horse is rank, or we'll blame it on poor genetics and that the bloodline doesn't throw good temperaments.

While I'm a firm believer that you should only breed horses with truly good temperaments because genetics does play a huge roll in how a horse works, I think sometimes we need to look a little further for the reason a horse may have acted up. Sometimes it might not be as clear cut as bad genetics and temperament.

Feed can have a huge impact on how a horse behaves. Over the years I've done a lot of research and experimenting with feed. There have many times that I've changed feed thinking it wouldn't make that big of an impact and it did. Sometimes I didn't realize how the previous feed was effecting my horse until I tried the new feed and then it became obvious.

Another factor that effects how a horse behaves is turnout time and management. If you combine that with a hot feed, turnout time has an even bigger impact on how a horse conducts themselves. Turnout time is an opportunity for a horse to wear off some of that extra energy. If they're deprived of that opportunity, they will look for other ways to get rid of that energy.

We need to do the same thing with our spiritual walk. If our actions aren't what they should be we need to take a look at our "feed" and our "turnout time". Are we reading God's word so that we're spiritually fed what we should be? Are we taking enough down time so that we have the energy and the desire to think about Christ in our life? If we don't get the right kind of turnout time, our energy will be spent in ways that aren't productive to our spiritual walk with God.

When things go awry with horses and ourselves, it's worth taking a step back and looking a little further than the surface. Good horsemen gain better understanding of things by always looking a little deeper than the surface.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Plan Your Outings

As we're heading into a new show season, now is a good time to start planning your show schedule especially if you have young horses.

Seasoning young horses takes a lot of patience but it also takes a lot of strategy and periodic review to do it successfully. A good horseman doesn't just haphazardly start hauling their young horse to everything they can. To season properly, you have to know your horse and map out a plan accordingly.

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when hauling green horses is to take them to a high energy event. Basically a sink or swim approach.The horse acts up of course and they wonder why. He'd been so good at home!

To succeed in training young horses, and not get hurt, you have to set them up for success. Granted you can't control everything that happens but you can't put the odds in your favor. Instead of putting your horse in an environment that is a lot to take in and you know they're going to react unfavorably in, put them in an environment where they will encounter less new things and less high energy.

Instead of attempting to ride your horse in a crowded warm up pen or a big trail ride with a lot of horses, start out riding with just one or two horses and work from there. The more familiar the environment and the less amount of horses the more comfortable your young horse will be and the less likely he will be to act up.

We need to be the same way with ourselves in our faith walk with Christ. We need to take a hard honest look at ourselves and determine who we truly are on the inside. Then we need to keep ourselves in environments and situations that will elicit a Godly response from us instead of a worldly response.

What is not an issue with one person may very well be a down fall for someone else. The key is to take an honest look at yourself and your weaknesses and also asking God to guide you to see clearly.

As you move forward this year seek out those places that will bring out the best in both you and your horse!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Take A Break!

In working with horses we sometimes have a tendency to want to work to the point of perfection. After all, it's that perfection that gets us results in the show ring, right? While we do need to strive to improve our horse's performance, like anything else moderation is key.

Right now many parts of the country are under snow or rain. Pastures are frozen or knee deep in mud and riding pens are under water or slick with ice. It's just not a good time of year to get some good hard riding in. In fact, in many cases it's impossible unless you have an indoor arena.

We can't control the weather and not every one has access to an indoor riding pen. If that's the case for you, maybe it's a good time to take a break! 

Some of the top trainers will put 30-60 days on their two year olds and then turn them out all winter and barely mess with them. Why? If they kept riding them and drilling on them perfecting what they'd learned, sooner or later that colt is not going to enjoy its job. Just like us they need a break, except they need a break to just be a horse.

God knows we're the same way with Him. There's times we're driven so hard to accomplish or perfect something in our lives that we lose sight of the joy that we're supposed to have. The original Sabbath was meant just for that purpose. It was meant as a time to slow down and take a break so that we could spend time focusing on God and just being a human with Him. It's that time that makes us refreshed and ready to go again.

If you're frustrated with your riding or your life, maybe it's time to just slow down and take a break!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Train Like An Individual!

 I've just started reading the book, THE GIFT, by Barbara Schulte. It talks about how we're all unique with individual insight and abilities that no one else has and how to enhance those abilities with mental strategies for riding. It's great food for thought especially if you struggle with confidence, which happens to be the reason I bought it!

The concept of being a true individual doesn't stop at the rider. It applies to horses as well. Just like us, they have individual personalities but they also have unique strengths and weaknesses.

Every time we interact with a horse we're training whether we know it or not. Because of that, we can either grow that horse's strengths or we can magnify their weaknesses. A good horseman will be in tune to that fact and will work towards building their unique abilities.

By focusing on and encouraging a horse's strengths, just like us, they build confidence. Think about it. When you realize you've done something well, doesn't it make you feel good? Doesn't it make you feel like you've accomplished something? Horses are no different. If they're told, "No, that's not right!", over and over eventually they give up, just like we do. But if they're told, "Yes, that's right!" they just try harder for us.

God made us all different and I think He enjoys that fact. After all, it would get boring if we were all the same! The wonderful thing is that He's a big God that's equipped to deal with our individual craziness, weaknesses, and our strengths. He loves it all anyway and He finds ways to help us each grow our strengths in Him so that we're encouraged and try harder. So celebrate your uniqueness in God and ask Him to help you with it!