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.
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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 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.
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?
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.
The first time I saw the lanky bay thoroughbred he was in quarantine. A large abscess clung under his jaw with all of the signs of strangles. I didn't dare touch him, in fear of spreading the infection to the rest of the horses, but his kind eyes pleaded to be acknowledge. I was a new volunteer at the rescue ranch, mucking paddocks and grooming elderly horses. Each job there has it's merit but I wanted to ride, and I wanted to ride the bay. When he was released from quarantine, the threat of strangles begnin, I doted upon him like a little girl with her first pony. It had been over five years since I had lost my own mare to colic, his horsy smell soothed my wounded heart. Our trust grew over grooming sessions and long walks and so did my confidence. I was ready to ride. Yet, my stomach fluttered as I took him to the round pen for the first time. My basic horsemanship skills were returning, but I knew nothing about rescue horses. Would all that my mother so patiently taught me about horses relate to this forgotten animal? Cash looked at me from the end of the lunge line, I cued him to move, and he shot off running laps around me. Apparently he thought himself to be quiet the racehorse. After a big breath I finally slowed him down and he began to move, settling into the most beautiful hobby horse gait. My heart leapt, I couldn't wait to be on his back. Months passed as Cash and I worked. I still didn't know exactly what I was doing, but I knew I had to gain his trust on the ground before he trusted me on his back. When the day came to ask for his sponsorship, I still hadn't ridden him, let alone any horse at the ranch. I know many people were concerned that I had chosen the big skittish gelding as my maiden rescue horse ride. An audience appeared leaning on the fences like gawkers at an old fashioned rodeo. I was no longer nervous when I lead the saddled up bay into the round pen. I trusted him, and I was hoping like heck he trusted me. His ears twitched a bit, picking up on the crowds tension. With one foot in the sturrup, I swung up easily. Visions of our first encounter in the round pen flashed throug my mind as I picked up the reigns and urged him on. He walked out in a gental stride. Ok, so far so good, let try him at a trot. I slid my hands down the reign and I could feel him tense beneath me. Moving him forward he thrust up his head and roughly trotted about the circle. Seeing this shift my audience began to offer words of advise. "Disengage his rear end," or "Work the circle to slow him." I'm sure they were all waiting for a bucking bronc performance, but I didn't have a clue what they were trying to tell me. Instead I did just as my mother always taught me, relax and ride the horse. I dropped my hands a bit, relaxed my seat and trusted this horse. He must have felt that change because he trusted me too and relaxed. It was beautiful.
Today Cash has found his forever home with us as one of our core ranch horses. I'd like to say that each day with him is as profound as the first, however plastic bags have sent both of us back to the round pen over our five year partnership. He has taught me so much about listening to the needs of a rescue horse. Each one is different and has their own wound to heal, but if you trust them they learn to trust you back. Along the way they even find the way to heal your wounds as well. I trust this horse to the moon and back. <img src="https://enchantmentequitreks.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/20140527-203354-74034396the story of Cash .jpg" alt="20140527-203354-74034396.jpg" class="alignnone size-full" />
I'm not sure when it happened but at some point in the last 30 years my mom became my best friend. We have always had a special relationship, she a single mother and I an only child. When times got tuff she always reassured me with a smile. "It's you and me against the world kid." This tenacious woman's passion for life made even her shadow seem large and I knew I had big shoes to fill. It was in my twenties that I felt ready to cast my own ample shadow and find a pair of shoes that fit just me. So she, like so many parents do, stepping off her heroic pedestal I had placed her on, became human. She showed me her faults, her broken dreams, and provided her mistakes as examples for me to learn from. I was shocked, I didn't understand how to relate to her as a woman. It was only when I quit childishly stomping my feet in protest, which took several years, that I realized the gift she was offering me. The friendship found between two women. Now, I am no longer her pigtailed, little girl and she my infalible parent, but we are equals, women, who can share our strengths and weaknesses, our daydreams and broken hearts. We are the best of friends. This relationship gave us the courage to start out on the new and sometimes intimidating path as business partners. Our love and avidity for horses has built the foundation for Enchantment Equitreks, but it is our mutal respect as women that gives it structure. On this Mother's Day I would like to thank my mother for her friendship. I am blessed by her wisdom, her knowledge, her vulnerability. I am in awe of her vitality and uncanny ability to sooth the soul of all creatures, two legs and four. It is my ardent wish that I will be able to establish the same relationship with my own daughter someday. And even though I went out in the world and found my own shoes to fill, they look an awfull lot like my mothers. Happy Mother's Day everyone.