Not every training ride goes as planned. Toby and I have graduated from the arena to riding around the property. We were following Mel and Jake over logs, around trees, and Toby was handling every obstacle like a champ. I became over confident and thought it was a great idea to video our awesome training ride. As the horse in front disappeared around a corner Toby became nervous and wanted to catch up. I was busy playing videographer instead of trainer. When I added my leg to aid Toby around the large cactus bush, he didn’t pick up on the cue and aimed strait for the cholla. I’m pleased to report that both horse and rider avoided the prickly, instead I escaped with only a mouth full of pine needles from a near by piñon tree. When I’m asking a horse to learn they deserve my full attention. Although it was Toby’s training, I’ve definitely learned my lesson.
The red waters of New Mexico run through the salted desert like veins through an open hand. This photo was taken in the river bed of Ojito Open Space, where petrified trees and the bones of the largest dinosaur, the Seismosaurus, have been discovered
Two Ears Tuesdays are back! Follow our journeys through New Mexico here each Tuesday. Come stay with us and discover these places for your self.
This pictures was posted a few days ago by a childhood friend. We haven't actually seen each other since elementary school but with the ever updating world of Facebook I've been able to keep up with his beautiful family. Our dads were both team ropers and while I can swing a rope at a dummy, Reed still chases a few steers.
This photo should be in a magazine with big block letters across the top promoting a high performance suplement for horses. Instead it is a superbly captured moment of a horse ready to do his job. His eyes and ears remain pinpoint on the cow, intensity builds in his arched neck, he waits to spring as the gates slam open. Any cowboy will tell you that half the work is done by a good horse. This is a good horse that loves his job.
I wholeheartedly believe that domestic horses need and want a job. With the cold weather and shorter days setting in, my herd has spent most of the past month napping and eating in their paddocks. This may seem like the good life but, like kids cooped up in house too long, it makes for irritable, moody, and bored horses. Their manners begin to slip, nipping at each other at feed time or getting pushy at a gate. We often have to revert back to foundation training. "This is my space, this is your space, get out of my space," kind of schooling. My horses love their trail riding job and in the winter months I have to employ a parental like ingenuity to keeping them stimulated and out of trouble.
Like Reed, many owners can keep their horses working year around. My horses work seasonally, which leaves at least 3 months of down time. I'm hoping to fill some of those days with romps in the new pasture when the weather is nice. Just getting horses out on the walker or out on a lounge line helps. How do you keep your horses fit and entertained during the winter?
This weeks between the ears shot is a throw back to my month spent on the beaches of Africa with Mozambique Horse Safari. I believe the ears belong to Spice Girl, one of the many amazing horses the Retzlaffs rescued. The book 104 Horses follows Pat and Mandy Retzlaff's journey from Zimbabwe refugees herding horses across the war torn nation to horseback riding outfitters in the safe haven of Vinculo.
My journey through Africa wouldn't have been complete without this experience with the Retzlaffs and all the people at Mozambique Horse Safari. This is a once in a life time adventure I highly recommend to any equestrian.
Today's photo is of me! Being the photographer of the business I'm hardly ever in the picture. Although you can't see my face I'm still working hard with the GoPro stuck to my head. The two ears belong to Paige's Appaloosa mare, Risa. You might have seen our young outfitter on our Facebook video of Risa bounding into the Rio Grande River.
I ran across this great between the ears shot on Tumblr and was immediately drawn to the “End of the Road” sign. It looked like the horse was just as eager to see what was on the other side of the gate.
I couldn't choose! The Sandia Mountains are so beautiful this time of year so I decided to show them from the back side, full of golden aspen splendor, and the front side, swirling in clouds and the banks of the Rio Grande stretching at their feet. We had a spectacular weekend riding with this mother daughter due from California. Thank you Linda and Shannon for joining us for this end of the season ride.
It's Balloon Fiesta time! What better way to kick off Two Ears Tuesday than with my favorite shot of a hot air balloon between Cash's ears.
It's been a busy Easter Sunday. While many people are out hunting for rainbow colored eggs, we have been evaluating a new horse. Rising Desert, RD for short, is a 17 hand, off the track thoroughbred. For the past eight years the fifteen year old , sorrel has been used in endurance. Now with a new horse coming in, his owner is looking to give him away to a good home. When we asked why no one else wanted him, the owner replied "Because he's so big." He brought the big horse out to our ranch today so that we could all ride together. It was hard to notice anything else but his size as he walked off the trailer. However we all realized there was something very different about his front left leg. Perhaps that was the real the reason he was having a hard time being rehomed.
We had been warned that he has a tendency to hold his leg back and it shakes when he is nervous. His owner believed it was due to an old injury, but when mom ran her fingers down the leg she couldn't find any signs of previous trama. It didn't seem to bother the horse or slow him down as we trotted out to ride, all of our horses were a little fresh. I kept an eye on that left front leg on RD, although his knee never seemed to straiten or lock, he didn't take a misstep. When he finally calmed down I could see that his gate seemed smooth and powerful, his temperament quiet and inquisitive. Mom and I decided to give him a month trail to see if he could fit in our program.
As he wondered about his new paddock, trying to make friends with two mares, we watched his leg it seemed that the way he held it was unusual. Mom looked again and confirmed that he has a confirmation flaw, he is over at the knee. This odd way he was standing wasn't due to an old injury, but just a physical defect, one that non of us had seen on a live horse before. Thankfully many horses adapt to this flaw and have lucrative and long performance careers, such as Seabiscutt.
We are very excited to be working with RD and we hope that he will fit right into our herd of rescues. Yes he isn't a traditional rescue from a shelter or bad situation. He had an owner that cared for him, however with RD's odd flaw, not many people would want him. We are the ranch of the misfits, all with a little something different that needs to be understood and cared for.
So we hope that you have a happy Easter and that the Easter Bunny has brought you something special. Maybe as special as our RD.
I am clearly adulting correctly lately. Although adulting hasn't made it into Webster's yet, its become a highly used slang to describe Performing tasks that are associated with adulthood. I am usually trying to postpone adulting, like leaving my laundry until the last minute. This procrastination is usually the result of working for a boss, i.e. I have to do this or I will get in trouble. However, there are days when adulting produces outstanding results and overwhelms me with a since of accomplishment and responsibility. This go getter attitude is a direct result of being my own boss. There is no one to blame but me. Two things have happened lately due to my adulting. First we received our first repeate booking. When I found out I danced around the house chanting, "We're a legit biz!" Then it dawned on me. We're a legit business, I've got more adult things to do! I would like to think that our client would have booked again this year regardless my little prompting email I sent a few weeks ago. However, my adulting ego was proud of my follow through and was thuroghly beaming.
My next great success is Mia, our little tiger striped dun mare. She is our first foster from The Horse Shelter and my first horse to pick out on my own for the business. Most of the time Mom and I visit the rescues together, pick through a few candidates and work together to choose our newest foster. Last year, due to illness, I trucked out to the shelter on my own, waded through the candidates, and settled on Mia. Since then she has become my pet project, with her snarky attitude, big doe eyes, and huge heart. And as we began this journey together we are finalizing it tomorrow when a representative from the shelter will come out for a home inspection and will have Mia's adoption papers in hand. I'm so happy to say Mia will be joining our heard as a ranch horse and will be avalible for clients to ride this season.
My adulting is simply trusting that I can actually do adult tasks effectively and realizing they're not as daunting as I believed. When I complete a project, a blog, or even the laundry I feel a since of order and accomplishment. It gives me the drive to do more adulting, even when I sit in my pjs all day binge watching Gotham.
You don't go into the horse business to get rich. This is very true. Yes there are the elite few who do make money in the horse industry but for the majority of us equestrians we usually eek by with paying our bills, often filing our barn stores before filling our own fridge. Many of us work one or more other jobs to make ends meet and inevitably the emergency fund is being tapped for yet another vet visit. I'm blessed that my regular job can support my horsey habit and offer me ample time to enjoy my ponies. I applaud all of those who feed before and after your twelve hour shift and sneak in a weekend ride. I recently spent time with my boyfriends mom on her ranch in southern New Mexico. With the passing of her husband and her boys gone, she works the near 4,000 acres on her own. Back in its prime they supported 60 head of horses and twice as many cattle. As we drove around that day looking for early calves we chatted about livestock and her days training race horses. “I had few years where I was making really good money at it,” she said. “But it takes a long time to make a living at it.” I thought a lot about that as we bumped along. In a world where so many people are focused on making money, horses give us a way of life. For those of us who have stayed up with a foaling mare, walked for hours with a colicing gelding, or finished feeding before making our own dinner, we know that these moments aren't done just for a paycheck but for a passion that runs deep inside the horseman. It’s a way of living that only those who get up at dawn and end at dusk can understand.
Now the ranch only run a few cattle, chores are done in a Mule, and horses no longer grace their barn. Yet the halter that still hangs on a fence and old tubes of wormer sitting in the medicine cabinet linger like spirits of a time gone by. “I still love horses,” she said as we pulled through the last gate, “but I just don't have time for them any more.” No this rancher woman sitting next to me may not have gotten rich on horses but they have definitely enriched her life. Two generations of horsewomen sat there together enjoying the warm, quiet morning without saying a word but fully understanding each other.
Usually with Valentine's Day creeping upon us I would be writing about how much I love my horse, my dog, my man, friends and family. Instead I'm wanting to spread a little love this year. Five years ago Mom and I spent about a month volunteering at Mozambique Horse Safari with Pat and Mandy Retzlaff. We came to them with a big five year plan to start our own horseback riding business. I'll never forget Mandy looking at us and saying, "Darling, don't wait, go home and do it." With out the encouragement, guidance and friendship of these wonderful people and their horses we would never had taken the big leap and start Enchantment Equitreks.
The Retlaffs have an incredible story themselves. Mandy actually wrote 104 Horses about their harrowing endeavor to heard 104 horses across Africa during the Zimbabwe land reallocations. Yet their struggles continue. Mozambique has found itself in a devistating drought and much of the grasses that their horses survive on is gone. Pat and Mandy are now in need of help to feed their herd. Here is where I am asking all of you this holiday to send a little love all the way to the horses in Africa and give what you can. They have a set up a go-fund-me account for any one who can make donations. I thank you in advanc for these amazing people mean the world to Mom and I.
If you are interested here is the like to the Go-Fund-Me account on Facebook. Happy Valentine's Day.
My first instinct in winter is to pull the blankets up under my chin and marathon Netflix, but with a barn full of ponies, chores are always delaying my hibernation. With the short days and finger numbing temperatures it seems just as I finish the morning chores, I'm having to trudge back out for afternoon feeding. It's exhausting! Recently I have found a few helpful tricks to ease the wintery load and add a little more fun to my daily routine. After enduring mountain winters for the past few years, I decided to confiscate my nephew’s sled and employ it for barn chores.
Mornings I hike up the hill, towing my sled with two tubs of hot mash for breakfast, it slides right behind me into the feed room. It transports feed buckets to all of the outside stalls and back again. I can precariously place an entire bale of grass hay on it and tug it along to the various slow feeders in all the paddocks.
Although it took a little finagling, both of the manure buckets will slide on it, just don't get them too full or the sled gets a little tipsy. I might consider a bigger sled for that next year. Sloshing water from water buckets form icy pools in its bed, saving my pant leg from becoming a moving ice cube. Even a few feed sacks ride neatly from the feed room to the chicken coop. I have yet to explore all the possibilities of my new found sidekick. However, like any good tool it has its faults. It will take a nose dive in deep snow and tip its contents off to the side, or it will zoom by on slick harpack leaving everything behind, me included. I've had a few choice word for my little, blue sled when it gets unruly but when the day is done I still have a child like excitement to ride it back down the hill with dogs barking and chasing until I crash into the snowbank at the back door and come up laughing and sputtering.
It makes me want to stay out side a little longer and enjoy the wonderland, maybe even make a snowman, before spring’s fingers reach out and melt away all my fun and put my sled out of service until next snowfall.
Not all my winter tools are as fun and nostalgic but so many household items can help out at the barn, such as a strainer with a handle to swipe out ice in water troughs. What other items have you used to beat the winter barn chore blues?
What exactly is Equi-Yoga? You may have visions, like I did, of a graceful yogi in down dog on the top of a bareback horse, lounging in circles like a vaulter. It is actually a practice developed by Marty Whittle that combines yoga techniques of body awareness, breath and movement with equestrian training. Whittle found that implementing these yoga based exercises with the movement of a horse will help stretch, strengthen, and balance the rider. So our vision isn't so far fetched. In Enchantment Equitreks Equi-Yoga program you will begin on the mat, creating a foundation of poses and breath that will be translated into the saddle. As you move to the saddle our horses stand patiently, often breathing and stretching with you, as you begin to find a flow. When you are ready to advance, the horse walks out on a long line as you match your rhythm with the animal. For more advanced riders, the horse is urged into a trot and a true study of balance is achieved.
This unique technique targets many trouble areas, such as the neck, shoulders, arms, seat and legs. By loosening and strengthening these areas, the rider allows the horse to flow through them. By facilitating Ujjayi breathing, new lines of communication form between horse and rider. “It helps you explore your body from the inside out,” explains Whittle. Personally, I found that I often forgot to use my core and compensated by using alternative muscles. For example, after reaching down to my stirrup I would squeeze with my knees and leg to help right my self in the saddle. My horse took the cue to move forward and I would over correct to stop the movement. How many times do equestrians lean down to adjust a stirrup and the horse trots off? My natural reaction is to tense through the saddle and hold my breath, which in turn makes the horse tense. I had to learn to engage my core and regulate my breathing to keep my body relaxed and in control. Through Equi-Yoga I began to understand that communication with my horse can be misconstrued by being unaware of my body.
I also found a deeper understanding of my own yoga practice by testing my balance on a moving mat. Although our horses are well trained to stand as the rider reaches new positions, they can be distracted and take a step. When in a twist the rider may have to adjust to the new position of the horse. There are also moments when the horse will stretch its neck as you lean forward and both of you are working together to reach equilibrium, finding that unspoken partnership. My greatest revelation came when we started the moving portion. As my horse walked at end of the lounge line, my instructor guided me in twists and bends that complemented the animals natural gait and I realized that I am a booty rider! In order to keep my balance I tended to over compensate by sticking my rear end out just a bit and slightly arching my back. This throws my seat forward and legs back in the saddle, which explains my habit of sometimes loosing a stirrup. Even though it was a slight misalignment in my body, it highlighted the affect it had in my riding. When I returned to the mat for my regular yoga sessions I felt my rear end creeping back out. Now that I am aware, I tuck it right back under my pelvis where it belongs.
By adding the equine element to yoga the equestrian will learn to adjust to new situations with breath and suppleness, recognize and adjust the body cues to keep clear communication, and build a deeper connection to your horse. The yogi will challenge balance, develop deeper self awareness while staying cognoscente of out side influences.
For this new and exciting program we are blessed to be working with Nicole Fitzgerald, an experienced yoga teacher who has completed Equi-Yoga training with Marty Whittle. Her enthusiasm for yoga, horses, and Equi-Yoga is contagious. Nicole focuses on making this experience fun, relaxing, and informational for many levels of riders and yoga enthusiasts.
A single day course includes an introductory mat session, an on the horse standing flow, and a walking sequence. However, we believe that a foundation for the practice is best built during an Equi-Yoga Retreat Week. This encompasses multiple mat sessions that reinforce poses and helps work sore muscles, multi standing flows, walking sequences, and the introduction to the trotting positions. We then take this knowledge and apply it while trail riding, such as warming up with your horse and after lunch stretches. The team here at Enchantment Equitreks look forward to sharing this extraordinary and new technique in both the equine and yoga world.
While chasing clouds in my coffee this Valentines Day morning I ruminate on all the people I love and love me in return. This holiday can be about expressing your love for others, and I am very fortunate to have friends, lover, and family to share my heart with. This holiday, although can be bogged down with a hefty price tag, is essentially about passion. I've met so many people who talk about what they love but so few express passion, that all encompassing emotion that drives you to extraordinary feats just to be apart of that particular moment in time. As I drain my mug and head out to feed the horses I know that I have found my passion. I know because I wake up every morning willing to do what ever it takes to be apart of this equestrian world. Love can be easy, it's passion that proves to be a challenge. So I beseech all my Valentines to reflect not only on love today but explore passion.
Thank you Julie Goodnight and Redmond Equine for picking our between the ears picture for the fave ride nation contest! We had a great day chasing hot air balloons with Enchantment Equitreks during the Balloon Fiesta Ride in October. Check out our picture and other fellow winners at Facebook.
With winter finally rolling into the southwest we've been hard at work preparing for the oncoming snows. The last of the garden has been gathered, with a few purple cabbages and a bushel of kale. I'm looking forward to a warming soup of lentils and butternut squash from the storage.
The patio chairs have been stacked and cushions stored until spring brings around dinner outdoors. Wood has been stacked and bird feeders filled. Even the tractor had its winter plow adjusted.
Our horses wait to be fed, blanketed, and settle in for the night. The days are ending so early now. We are all tucked in by the fire, the glow of the Christmas tree illuminates the room. A soft snow will fall, blanketing the ranch, and covering all our hard work of the last harvest.
Harry and the Snowman is the newest documentary about Harry de Leyer and his grey gelding Snowman. ThIs is one of my absolute favorite equine stories. In 1956 Snowman, an old plough horse, was standing in a trailer waiting to be sold for slaughter. Harry took one look into the horse's eye and knew he could be something great, however he didn't recognize the horse's talent until after he sold him to a neighbor and the big grey jumped the fence to return home. The pair went on to win many prestigious hunter jumper classes and even made a guest appearance on the Jonny Carson show. This eighty dollar, Cinderella horse became a priceless champion. This story has been immortalized in books but it Is listening to Harry speak about Snowman that offers the true insight into their exceptional relationship. These two had to fight to prove that they were just as good as any team competing. Harry knew that "every horse has a different personality, just like a human, and it's like finding the key for the lock." Apparently Harry was a master locksmith because Snowman trusted his rider completely and would jump anything Harry pointed him at.
I believe that in order to find that key a horseman must understand the type of lock they are working with. Here at Enchantment Equitreks we come across many different horse personalities and usually we have limited or no information as to what created the lock. So we have developed a series of exercises to divulge the mechanisms of the animal. The easiest lock to rekey is the tune up. Horses like Teddy have all the working parts and foundation needed to be an excellent trail horse, however some bad manners and a threatening disposition landed him at a rescue. We recognized that all he needed was a little work to re-instill that training, kind of like a rusty padlock that pops open with a little D-W40. Then there are locks so mired in fear, frozen in pain, and welded shut in mistrust that the only option is to take the mechanism completely apart and slowly put each piece back. Our Jake is that type of horse. With each layer of gunk that we wipe away another deeper problem is divulged, which can be frustrating. This is when you have to start looking at the key you're trying to use and retool the method. Often with Jake we have to reevaluate how we are approaching his training and adjust to better suit his needs. We also know we can't force a lock like Jake and sometimes he needs a step back to be able to move forward.
There are as many locks, as there are horse personalites, as there are keys. I live for the moment the mechanism slips open and the horse places its trust in you. However, it often doesn't mean the horse is fixed, all locks need a little grease to keep them working properly, keys need to be refashioned , and parts reassembled. This is what makes rehabilitating rescue horses so intriguing and fulfilling, they are a constant puzzle just waiting for the correct code.