"If my particular passion ever kills me, it won't be because I was on my horse's back... It will be because I was gaping out of my car window at some horse standing innocently in a field when I was supposed to be paying attention to the road."

Sunday, January 22, 2017


Mo, the worlds most clever pony, does it again!
Last time we played I touched on trying haunches in on the circle and it really didnt happen. Like not even a little bit, haha. Poor Mo. She tried a million things but was just pretty confused.
Initially today when we played, I wasnt even going to ask her about it, but everything was going so well and she was so soft and trying so hard, I kind of just thought about asking her to try and POOF.... it just happened!! One of those pick-your-jaw-up-off-the-floor moments! I honestly didnt really expect it to come, but there it was! Easy peasy, clearly understood.Balance, flexion, softness, engagement. All of it! WOW!!! She looked so FANCY!!

Both directions, it worked! I feel like Mo mulled over the issue since we played last. Such a clever pony she is! We were even able to play with it more in motion! She was understanding it so well that we did walk in haunches in to canter to walk in haunches in transitions! WOW. Crazy gorgeous pony!

In other news, the school halt is coming along too, as well as balance in the trot during shoulder in on the circle. I did a little bareback ride to test how light I could be to influence to haunches in while riding, and then went on a little trail ride in the hay field with Aeverie and Trixie.

3 hours later, cold toes but oh so happy!!!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Rides 1 and 2 !

Whoops, lax on posting already! On Sunday it was finally nice out so Mo and I got to play OUTSIDE! The arena is hard packed snow/ice stuff, but we can kind of walk around. We played with haunches in along the fence and both ways were super easy, so I started asking for half passe as well and it was great! Mo is really understanding!!

I started trying to ask for haunches in on the circle after playing with shoulder in. It didnt really work, but I think we can puzzle it out.
Then I decided to hop on for a little ride! We just walked around with playing with shoulder in and haunches in. Mo was really great. I, on the other hand, almost fell right off, just giving her a cookie because I was bareback and wearing snowpants. Snowpants are veeerrry slippery if you didnt know. I didnt. Now I do. Lesson learned. :D we played for an hour and a half

Then on Tuesday afternoon it was kind of warm so I saddled up and we headed out into the hay fields for a little trail ride, mostly just going grass point to grass point to all the little patches sticking out of the snow. Mo was actually really brave and blowing out a whole bunch, I am kind of surprised,, usually she is less confident out back. We had a great time though!
We rode for an hour

Friday, January 13, 2017

Session #3

Got to play again today! In the barn alley, because it is treacherously icy and bitterly windy.

Started with the boomerang draw. Mo is getting really good at seeking my bellybutton on her own and putting effort into getting there. Really really excited about that!

Her haunches in left was stellar right from the get go. Played with some turns on the haunches with my hand at the girth, instead of drawing the shoulders. She was a little wiggly at first, but got it really quickly.

The coolest part was watching her AHA moment with the haunches in right. For whatever reason, that is really really hard for her and today she finally went ITS THIS RIGHT and totally just picked herself up and floated over down the alley in a beautiful haunches in! She got lots of cookies for that ;)

We also did the best school halt she has done yet! It took a lot of trying on her part, but she really started to experiment with sitting on her back end and bending her hocks. I learned today the meaning of "touch the hair" - I hardly even touched her skin today, just used the tail end of the dressage whip to tickle the ends of her fuzzy winter hairs and she was shivering her skin, shaking her head as if to get rid of a bug when I was near her withers, and swishing her tail if I was near her back end. Mission: Annoy Mo until she tries something - Accomplished.

It was so fascinating to watch her go through this whole annoyed process, especially in the school halt, because she usually wants to get tense and just throw out everything she knows - spanish walk, piaffe, rear, the haunches in - anything to just get it "done" without really thinking about it. If I up my phases then she just kind of jumps around and happens to get it and I release because she got it, hoping the calm try will come next time. Today though (and each session since this started) I have really adjusted my thinking in applying phases and getting lightness and most importantly TRY. I stayed at that one annoying phase, just bothering her to try, without making it an issue that she must do it NOW. It was so interesting watching her work through offering everything she knows, waiting for the pressure to intensify and when it didnt, just calmly sitting down into the school halt. Smarty pants pony.

I really think Mo is the best teacher I have ever had. When I shut up and listen to her.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Session #2!

Finally got a second session since Sunday! Again in the barn - not because it was cold this time, but because it was so warm today all we have is sheer ice now. I appreciate the warmth though, but I do hope we get some snow soon to cover up all the ice... or it just stays warm enough to ride in the slush? 

Mo was stellar! Started the "come" portion of the boomerang, which I hadnt done with her before. She was lame back when I got the dvd's at my birthday. I have played with both Zephyr and Surreal with it, but never got back to doing it with Mo because she only came sound in December, after I gave up on playing for the winter. She was pretty confused at first that I genuinely wanted her to touch me with her forehead, but seemed fairly pleased with herself when she sorted it out. 

Tried our haunches in again, left was super easy - she was able to maintain it the whole length of the barn right off the bat! Right was harder but more understood than last time. She was able to maintain two steps together by the end, and she was way more clear in what her feet and body needed to be doing.

Also played with some "how light can your follow a feel be" with right side lateral bend. I think sometimes, Mo is so sensitive, it is too easy to manage her through maneuvers and I need to give her more chance to be responsible for seeking her release. She started a teensy bit bracey but finished buttery soft. Finished with a bit of school halt, she is understanding more about tucking her bum and stretching her hamstrings. We both need yoga class.... 

40 minutes together, before dinner, after the gym  :) 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Northwood Farms Winter Challenge!

Today marked the start of the 12 week, 40 hour, 30 ride challenge hosted by Northwood Farms. They host the challenge through a Facebook Group and this year there are over 1000 challengers! It is kind of like NaNo for horse people, to keep motivated in the winter time.

I just started playing with Mo again, after her being lame for what seemed like forever, and then just taking a break from playing, giving myself permission to just do or not do, to keep myself sane with the winter darkness and bad weather. So now, to re-motivate ourselves in the depths of a gross winter, I thought I would join this challenge. You sign up with only one horse, and your goal is to spend 40 hours with your horse, over the course of 12 weeks, with 30 rides - only 5 of which can be bareback, so you must actually saddle up! It doesnt matter how long those rides are, but you must saddle up at least 25 times! I've chosen Mo to do the challenge with - in part to re-connect with her after her time off, and in part to get ready for our time with Lauren Barwick in May.

This morning dawned one of the coldest mornings we have had lately, BUT, I am the proud new owner of a HEATED JACKET and I could not be more pleased! It has battery power and heat settings of low, medium and high, to keep me toasty warm no matter the temperature!

Since today was the official FIRST day of the challenge, I felt like I couldn't not go out at least for a little while. I bundled up in all my under armor warm things and heated jackets, with snow pants and down jacket on top. I must sort out the fingers and toes bit now. I do not yet own the perfect gloves. I went out in the mid afternoon, hoping for the warmest part of the weather today. It was COLD and slightly breezy, so it was a bit sharp out to be outside. I decided to bring Mo into the barn, so we could play in the barn alley.

Ive been playing with the Art of Academic Riding lately, following the style and teachings of Bent Branderup, teaching correct posture, self carriage and engagement through ground skills before ever riding. I have done a bit of this with Mo over the last year and some, but not super consistently. Zephyr is really quite talented at it comparatively, as she is much straighter through her body. Mo, in all her squigglyness is much harder to align and have her choose to stay that way.

Today we focused on the haunches in. Shoulder in comes quite easily to her, so organizing and uniting her hind end is a much bigger challenge. To the left things come much easier to her. She seemed to understand the idea quickly and be able to maintain it down the length of the alley. The right side she had a harder time with, being able to maintain only a few steps by the end.

The other thing we worked on was being able to pivot on the HQ while drawing the shoulders towards me, without letting the hind end leak out in the last few steps. This was super challenging for Mo, but she did sort it out eventually. We practiced in the alley to change directions and also in the stall where there was more room.

To finish I checked out our school halt as well, which we started working on I think twice now. She still gets a bit unsure which leg I am asking her to weight - and I think she is a bit like me, tight in the hamstrings, so the "sitting" action is challenging. It is so interesting to have seen Zephyr do it though - because she can almost sit right down! I am not sure if Mo is tighter in her back end because of the extended lameness or if thats how she is, or if she just isnt sure what I am asking yet.

Overall, an hour and twenty minutes later, we concluded or inaugural Northwood Challenge Session!! Here is to many more in the next 12 weeks!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Demo Psychology

Doing a demo is such an interesting thing.  I think it says a lot about a person. You have to be brave to want to get out in front of anyone with something as personal as horsemanship - brave, or supremely dedicated to your horse!

This past weekend, me and Mo went out to the local fancy equestrian park with two other Parelli Professionals to show the area what Parelli is all about. I think we were very successful, and shared our message in an appropriate way.

Its everything that goes into sharing that message that has been making me think, over the last few days. First, there is the OH BOY factor in originally signing up. That point when you go "YEY! I get to ride at X Fancy place!". The joy of sharing that message with everyone you know - the "HEY! Im going to be riding here on X date! Come support us!" That part is one of my favorites. I love getting people excited about coming out to fun events.

After that comes the "Oh, I guess I better make sure my horse is ready for this" part, when you go out and play with your horse and practice the fun stuff you want to share. For me, this time around, it was pretty interesting. Firstly, Mo was just coming off an injury, so I wanted her to have as much recovery time as possible, before starting to push her buttons, so we didnt DO a lot. Secondly, the first time I did try and test out my  bridleless FreeStyle - which is usually our specialty - Mo was a crazy gooberball. She was tight, tense, fast, over reactive, and generally not a super demo horse to watch. It was such an odd ride that night. She was doing what I asked, sure, but there was just so much.... internal fizziness... that it just wasnt pretty or fun looking. It was extra interesting, because its the first time I can remember consciously thinking "Relax, go through the process, it will all work out and be fine tomorrow. Embrace the messy". I totally surprised myself on that one. My inner voice was so calm and blasé about the whole incident! When did that happen? [Im usually one of those terribly perfectionist type people] Apparently Ive turned a new leaf.

That whole thought process in and of itself caught me so off guard. But, apparently, I was completely correct. The next day, I went out, saddled up, hopped on, and VOILA. My perfect demo horse was back! Now, what all that fussyness and crazy business was about the day before, I will never know. What I do know, is that I guess my inner self was right, because once I embraced the messy, it resolved itself, and my normal pony came back to me.

Going into this event I wasnt to sure about Mo's fitness level. That tends to be the one thing I worry over, when taking my horse places. We have a lot of pasture. She is fairly round. And due to her time off, she wasnt/isnt in the best shape of her life. Turns out I had nothing to worry about. But I still dont like to over-face my horse and leave her exhausted by accident.  We had maybe a handful of rides before the actual day. She was so good though, I wasnt going to over stress it.

After you know your horse is ready, its time to get YOU ready. Getting myself ready for these things, is probably the hardest part. I always forget things. This time, I forgot my BUSINESS CARDS. Seriously. I thought I had everything. Every. Single. Thing. Any yet, somehow, that one little IMPORTANT cardboard box, sitting on my desk, got left behind. *sigh*  Luckily, I have 5 or so in my wallet, to put in my display, so it didnt look too sad.

Getting to the venue on the morning of is usually somewhat chaotic. This time, I felt fairly prepared, and woke up early before my alarm, so I had loads of time. Mo loaded like a pro, and we hit the road with Derek in tow for once. That was nice :) Having a someone to keep me on schedule and make sure I eat/drink enough water and to collect the various things I forget in various places was a real treat at this event!

Setting up the booth went pretty well. We were so lucky to have a super helper team - so I really didnt even have to do anything! By the time Mo and Toby were settled, I  went back and voila, gorgeous booth! Having a super support team can really make or break a day! I am so appreciative of the people who came out to help us!

Talking to people is the easy part for me. I love to say hi and share all of our free stuff! Somehow, it was already time for us to get the ponies ready for our first demo though! Mo was in heat, so she had made a mess of her back legs.... ew... and needed a quick wash up. After washing her up, I  didnt really have time for a warm up, so we kind of saddled up and hoped for the best!

Going into the arena for the first time is always a rush! A) ITS HUGE [grand prix stadium ring!] B) there are PEOPLE watching! C) You want to show Parelli at its BEST for all the people who have never seen it before.... no pressure.

Our music was great though. Started out nice and slow, and let us get in and get comfy before bringing out the exciting tunes to do exciting stuff to. It usually takes me about 30 seconds to forget where I am and who is watching me, and to totally and completely become absorbed in my horse. This isnt unusual for me at all. This happens at home too... I lose hours and hours when it does!

Mo was a total rock star. Allow me to re-iterate. SHE WAS A ROCK STAR!  She was spot on, perfect. I couldnt have asked for more! We played, we laughed, we had fun, we rode, we had some goofies, and then somehow it was over? That fast, it was time to finish up!

Looking back at the pictures is always my favorite part - I always wonder if it looks like as much fun as I am having in the moment. Sometimes, when you are having fun and concentrating hard, you forget to tell your face to smile and tell the world you are having fun. Seeing the photos from this event, there was no doubt I was having the most fun time out in the arena with my pony :) Im glad my brain remembers to tell my face ;)

Demo # 2 was so much more mellow. I didnt really have any expectations of Mo, given that she gave me her all in the first time slot. She pulled out all the stops once more for me though! That pony is all heart! I love her so much! I didnt even blink at the crowd the second time, I just went and had fun with my best pony, and it showed, to her, I think. Thats why she gave me so much, all over again.

It was such a great day, with so many great memories made, and hopefully many new friends!

   - S

Monday, March 24, 2014

The End of An Era

One of my most cherished and favorite times in my life has came to an end on Saturday around lunch time. My dog Ajax slipped away into the afterlife, quickly and without pain in the end. It was the worst moment of my life this far. A moment that I have been dreading in the back of my mind for a while now, knowing that thirteen and a half years old for such a big fluffy fella was a lot. The only thing I can come with that might supersede the pain of Saturday will be the day Mo goes...

Things went quickly, and for that I am grateful. I never want any one to suffer. Friday night all was well, he was tail wagging and stalking me around the house eating cookies. Saturday morning he went out for his usual yard tour and then we got a freak snow storm. He was napping on the front porch, becoming a snow dog when I brought him inside. At first I didnt think anything was really wrong - sure his hips were stiff, but that has been semi-common the last week or so, on and off. Having to carry/drag him in just seemed par for the course lately.

When he got in though, things were different. Subtly, slowly at first, but then progressing faster. At first his breathing rate was just elevated. Not to all out panting, just .... heavier. Harder. Like his tummy hurt. I tried to give him a treat but he wouldnt take it. Not even CHEESE. That was a big uh-oh. He drank water though, so that was good.

The day was a busy one around the house, while D and his father went about lifting and re-setting the floor with insulation. Trying, one step at a time to make out drafty old house just a little bit warmer. I, luckily, wasnt needed to help so I sat on the floor in the front room with my old fluffy pal and snuggled him, while trying to red light away his pain. He wasnt comfortable, kept shifting from laying flat to laying up on his belly - but I thought maybe his hips were bothering him.

Then I noticed he started drooling. Jax NEVER drools! That was a big red flag. Then I noticed he had peed himself - just a little. Another big red flag. I started to panic. Ill admit it. All my biggest fears were coming true, I could feel it, and I wasnt ready! Jax was supposed to get another bad haircut this summer. Jax was supposed to be a best man at my wedding, in his little [big] doggy tux. Jax still needed to run over Varo a few more times so he stops going to the road!

He gave me the look though. That look that sees right through your soul and tells you its time. I wanted so much for him to be able to just pass quietly in his sleep one night. No pain or fear or car rides to the vet. At the same time though, I am thankful I was home that Saturday. Thankful I chose to snuggle him on the floor all morning. Thankful each and every night before going to bed, I hugged him and told him I loved him.

When he gave me the look I couldnt control myself anymore... and D walking by asked me what was wrong. I am sure he didnt expect me to say " I think Jax is dying" - but when I did, he did the right thing, hugged me and echoed T's sentiments of taking him to the vet.  It was a snow storm though, and all the emergency vets were in the city. Our regular vet was closed. D went online and found out that one of the other clinics in town was open. With a tiny shard of hope in my heart, that they could just give him some medicine and he would be better, we went off to the vet in town.

I sat in the backseat with him on that slushy snowy car ride to town. Held his head in my lap, burying my fingers deep in his winter fluffies. I must give credit to the clinic we went to - they were great. When we walked in - D carrying Ajax- they rushed us right into a room and a vet came right away to see him. I was a mess, but I tried really hard to answer all the questions they wanted to know - how old is he? 13.5 What happened? He is old.... What did you notice that was wrong? His breathing, he couldnt walk, he peed, [he had also pooped when we came in.. ] his tongue and gums were getting paler.

They went through their analysis, the vet and her assistant, while I sat on the floor, touching as much of him as I could. I wanted him to know he wasnt alone in this strange place. He was never alone. When the vet finished her assessment, she said what I knew, but what I didnt want to hear -"He is trying to die" She said. My heart broke. Clean in two, Im sure. She said likely his internal organs were shutting down, or some kind of heart failure. His heartbeat was already really slow, and obviously with the uncontrolled pee and poop, that was a terrible sign. I made the choice, the one I never wanted to have to make, to help him slip those final few steps to peace. And I hugged him and told him how much I loved him the whole time. He was never alone.

Just like that... in the space of a few hours, my best friend for more than a decade was gone. No more patrolling the property line, no more bad summer haircuts, no more summer shed brambles rolling around until fall, no more inopportune flopping in front of me while I walk, begging for a belly rub.

I cried for a long time. I dont envy the position of vet clinic staff in those moments.

Then they finally had to ask - "What did you want to do with him now?" Obviously, they have that service, where they do... I dont even know what with bodies of passed animals. I panicked and just wanted to say YOU CANT HAVE HIM HE'S MINE. But its winter. What can I do? A quiet voice in my head said Go to Russell. So I made D call my dad. It was a quick phone call. "We had to put Jax down, can you bury him please?" "Yes, bring him to my house" and that was done. Thank goodness. I am so grateful that on that day, my dad was home, and free, and has a backhoe that can dig through snow and frozen ground to give my best friend the burial and honor he deserves.

Finally I was able to compose myself just enough to be able to get Jax back in the car, and get home to switch vehicles so I could take him on his final trip to Russell. I cried the whole way there. Sometimes I would get some control over myself, but mostly it was awful. I dont actually know how I made it there, but I made a point to keep two hands on the wheel and my focus on the road....

I had been texting with T this whole time. I cant even imagine how she felt getting the text simply saying "hes gone" .... I hate that I had to do that to her, but I am so infinitely grateful that, without hesitation, she was on her way to dads too. Jax was her friend too.

I passed dad on the road to Russell as I was heading to his house. He was on his was to the Garage to pick up the backhoe. Probably better that way. T and I met at dads and just hugged each other and cried for a long time.

Finally dad came back with the backhoe, and after more hugs and tears, we went into the field to dig a hole. He dig a nice hole, by a nice tree. Jax went out in true Russell style, charioted to his resting place proudly in the backhoe bucket, between T and I . How many times have I ridden around in that bucket? Countless. I never thought it would be for that reason though. I never thought I would have to get in that bucket to escort Jax to his final nap.

After one final hug and ruffling of his fluffy scruff, Dad reverently laid Jax down - and for that I am thankful. I looked away while he covered him... that part I couldnt watch. And then it was done. Just like that... I needed some way to mark it. So comemorate the amazing partner in crime that he was, so dad took the bucket and scratched some bark of a tree and gave me his knife to carve his name with. It seemed that when they do that in movies, the trees are not made of real bark, and it was much harder than anticipated. Dad got his chainsaw though, and made it permanent. His name in a tree, while he overlooks the river and the hayfield, forever at peace now.

And so the Era of Ajax comes to a close. He was so loved and touched so many lives with his infections joy and conversation. Nothing will ever be the same. 

  - S