Monthly Archives: May 2016

Reach Out And Touch Someone

Was that a commercial?  AT&T maybe?  Or a song?  I hate being stupid (old).

Well this weekend I felt absolutely horrible.  I’m usually pretty good at sensing people’s needs, or interests, but I blew it.

One of the beautiful young ladies in our youth group, who is graduating High School this year, is a horse enthusiast.  This I knew.  I also knew she had several horses.  She is extremely shy and a very private individual.  Usually if you meet someone who loves horses you can engage them, or they engage you in a conversation.  Just mention horses and even a shy person will tell you all about theirs, but I didn’t find that with this young girl.  I’ve known her for about 6 years.  She would answer questions I asked with a simple yes or no and a smile, but the conversations never went anywhere so I backed off.  But at the graduation celebration at our church yesterday, I was surprised to learn of the depth of her interest.  She wants to further her education in equine studies, and then pursue a carrier with horses.

I was truly blown away when I realized how much I could have shared with her over the last six years or more.  I guess I should have pushed more, but with some people it just scares them away, and I didn’t want to do that.

But yesterday we found that connection.  Her smile grew bigger and prettier than I had ever seen it.  Maybe she’s moving out of her innocent child like shyness into adulthood, or maybe she just opened herself up to trusting me.  It doesn’t matter, because we can move forward from here.

My first reaction was that I was too late because she’s going off to college, but it’s never too late.  I guess that’s the point of this post.  It’s never too late to help someone, not only with horse issues, but life issues.  I guess it all goes back to my original philosophy.  “Teach what you’ve learned and one less horse will suffer from ignorance, and never stop learning.”

After this I would also like to say, “Never stop reaching out.”  The one that gets away may just be the most important one of your life.

Reflecting on this while I write, I realize what I would have done was not what God had in mind.  His timing is always perfect, and right now, I’m right on time.

Don’t hesitate to reach out and touch someone, but wait on God’s perfect timing.  After all, Father knows best.  Now I know that was a TV show in the 50’s.

Training Vs Trusting

Losing my computer for a few days, so I’m posting this early.

I read this a while back, don’t know where, but it caught my attention so I wrote it down.  Every once in a while I look at it again.  It hit me odd then, and it still does.  I don’t know why, or what it is about it that leaves me with a strange feeling.

This is how it read – “You don’t “train” a half ton flight animal who could kill you in the blink of an eye; you prove to him that he can trust you more than his instincts.  That is true horsemanship.”  And basically I agree, but there is so much more to it.

In the old days you just jumped on their backs and rode out the bucks.  (The safest way was in the water, it stifles their movement.  The landing was better, if you can swim.)  You dominated them.  Now we have “Horse Whisperers”.  Most don’t even whisper, they just use common sense and a kinder approach.

So why did that comment bother me?

I don’t think it’s one or the other.  I think it’s a combination of both.  I see it as the horse needs to trust you first.  Only after he has determined that you are not evil, or inviting him to dinner, with him served at the main course, can you reach his brain past the instinct.

In some horses, the flight or fight instinct is stronger than others.  Having human contact at birth really does help, especially if the mare (mom) lets them know that people are okay.  I’ve had two foals who were both worriers from the start.  They were both handled from day one.  I’m just not sure how they were handled.  One I got at 13 months and the other at 17 months.  The hands on time I spent with the younger one overrode all his natural instincts.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have the same amount of time to spend with the second one, and it shows to this day.  Although recently I’m finding that she looks to me for security and guidance in all situations, when others are riding her.  Then I knew another baby from the day she was born who was in charge right from the start.  She bossed her mom around and everyone else.  She was the hardest one to work with.  Alfa mare with a definite opinion on how things were to be done.  You know that all the really smart horses are in Alpo cans because no one wants to use their time or brains to deal with them.  Unfortunately she died before her fifth birthday.  She was the most interesting and challenging one to break.  She was a shooting star,  she burned the brightest while she was here, but burned out too quickly.

Yes you can “train” any horse, but the fact still remains that they are a half ton – to a ton, flight animal who could kill you in the blink of an eye, if they wanted to.  So the main point to consider is if they want to.  Respect only goes so far.  There has to be more to it.  That I think is where not only trust, but something else comes into it.  It moves beyond respect, fear, or trust to, shall I use the word, love, or a form there of?

I don’t think the word “love” as we know it is what it really is.  In their world they have “connections”.  They protect and care for their “herd.”  Just like a dog will protect his owner, so too, do I feel a horse will learn to trust and “love” their special friend.  Do they see us as owners?  They don’t know what owning anything is.  They claim things as their own.  Do they see us as special humans in their life?  I believe they do.

Having a boarding facility I watch horses interact with each other and the different humans that they come in contact with.  There are some they dominate, and some that dominate them.  They care very deeply about the ones they choose to be their pasture buddies.  They will watch over them as they sleep.  Protect them from perceived dangers.  Groom each other, and stand head to tail to help with fly protection.  There is nothing like a protective mom over her foal if a predator tries to attack.  With people, they know who their owners are, and know who feeds them.  They react differently with everyone, according to the rules, boundaries, limitations, and kindness, that each person shows them.

So I think the bottom line is that you must gain their trust, before you can actually train them.  Then throw in a pinch of communication and understanding.  Stir until you get a connection between human and animal that is beyond explanation.

Training vs Trusting?  Nope, both, with a pinch of sugar, and love.


Was that a movie?

It’s a part of life we don’t even pay any attention to, unless something happens.  Gravity is a good thing.  It keeps all people and things grounded.  Dropping anything on my kitchen tile floor will prove it instantly, usually in a million pieces.  Imagine a world (like in space) where everything just floats around.  Cows floating by.  If you think it’s hard enough to catch your horse now, try it with your horse floating around in the air.  Bummer.

Looking at the chair in my bedroom will testify to the fact that gravity is happening in my household.  Bob has now stacked up, just about all his dress pants on that chair.  He tells me that none of his pants fit.  He hasn’t gained weight, so I must be shrinking them.  My theory is that gravity is pulling his belly fat down to his waist line.  He used to carry his weight higher.  Looking at my body in the mirror, a lot of things used to be higher and tighter.  I have old people’s skin!  Agh!!!!  You just always believe that it’s never going to happen to you.  The good thing about living in Florida is that most people look that way.  You’re either old with saggy skin or overweight to fill it in.  I’ll do the saggy skin look (I’ve been to Walmart).

So now to our horses changing bodies.  And yes, they do change too.

We know that when a winter blanket comes off, sometimes we don’t end up with the same horse that went into that blanket last fall.  It’s like a magic show.  There’s your horse, you place the sheet over it, pull it off and it’s different.  Sometimes he’s gained weight and sometimes he’s lost it.  It should be that easy to lose weight for us.  Pass the sheet over our bodies and Voila! no dieting.  Well it wasn’t that easy for the horse either.  Mine gained weight, so now we’re doing the Jenny Craig/Weight Watchers thing for horses.

Okay, let’s get back to gravity.  Over time our horses body changes just like ours.  My mare used to be a fifty-five gallon drum with legs, with mutton withers.  I’ve been noticing more pronounced withers in the past year, but it’s now to the point where I have to start really checking things.  Her saddle isn’t slipping around her body any more, it’s staying in place.  I can ride with a loose girth and not find myself looking at life from between her front legs.  She will be only sixteen in two weeks, but her body is changing.

So what does that mean?  Her blankets and sheets still fit her like before, but her saddle doesn’t.  We think.  Oh but this is her saddle, it’s always been her saddle, but this has not always been her body shape.  You have to pay attention to the changing shape of their backs.  If they gain weight; do they need a wider tree?  If they lose weight; do they need a narrow tree?  Perhaps a thicker pad or a different pad will help make up the difference for now, but the back is going to keep changing so you have to keep watching.

Most people don’t even think about fitting a saddle to the horse, but it is so important.  If your horse gets cranky when you ride, check your saddle fit.  Look at sweat marks when you remove it.  Are there dry spots?  That will tell you your saddle isn’t fitting right.  You can sprinkle Baby Powder on their backs, put your saddle on (without a pad) and see where the baby powder ends up on your saddle.  Where it’s touching and where it isn’t.

Don’t just sit there and think – this has always been her saddle, I love this saddle, I can’t afford a new one.  What you can’t afford is a horse with a sore back.  If you were your horse, and you had a sore back, would you want YOU to sit on it?  Would you even want a five year old child to sit on it?  Their backs weren’t created to sustain the weight of a person on it.  Then add movement on your part, and you have more soreness.  So be kind.  Check that saddle fit.

These are changing times in our lives.  We have changing bodies.  And so do they.  (Now all you young people out there thinking that it won’t happen to you.  Surprise!!!!!!  That’s what I thought.  It starts at 11 – 13 and goes down hill from there.)

A comfortable horsey, is a happy horsey.  This in turn, makes a happy, safer horsey owner.

Fly be free (for those of you who remember Mork with the eggs).  Just watch out for flying cows.

When It’s Time To Let Go

First let me say, this is not about our horses crossing the Rainbow Bridge.  We’ve done that, and know it’s the hardest decision we’ve ever had to make.  This is about other decisions that a horse owner, barn owner, and trainer/teacher has to make.

While I was sitting and chatting with one of my boarders the other day, she was telling me about another horse of hers.  Now I have her older gentleman, a retired Quarter Horse.  She has a Welsh/TB cross and a Warmblood at a show barn about an hour from here, nearer where she lives.  The Warmblood is five and was brought over from Europe.  He just shut down, won’t do any sort of ring work, plants his feet and won’t move.  She’s had him with several trainers, and is now with another one about another hour further away.  She’s had him checked for pain and nothing was found.  This trainer was recommended by her current trainer to straighten this horse out.  She called the breeder/owner in Europe and she told her, just beat him.  Hello!  That’s what has brought this horse to where he is.  My boarder has not had this horse very long, and has paid quite a lot of money for him.  He won’t even walk through the ring to go out trail riding.  After acquiring a barrel horse who felt the same way about going through a gate, and an open jumper who felt the same way about circles, I know what she’s up against.

My suggestion was turn him out for a year, and start him over.  He might come around, but most probably he won’t.  They do this with Thoroughbreds, off the track, all the time.  He most likely needs a different job.  He’s a good size horse and truly loves to jump, just not in a ring.  I told her that he needs to be sold as a hunt horse or cross country horse.  If he loves to jump and run in a field, find him a home that wants to do the same thing.  He needs to be hacked out on the trails with other horses. Gallop across fields and over jumps with other horses. He needs to be a horse again.  She said that she didn’t have a year or more.  She needs this horse for her 16 year old daughter now.   Well then you have to let him go.  They’re investing so much time and money into this horse, that may or may not work out, it’s time to bite the bullet and move on.  Then you have the process of finding another horse for her older daughter all over again.

It’s kind of like an old car.  You loved that car, (you named it Brad, you two have been through everything together – only kidding) it served you well.  You’ve been buying new tires, fixing the transmission, and a few other parts here and there, but you have to recognize when it’s time to let it go.  It becomes a money pit that’s just going to continue to go down hill.

Now I don’t consider any horse a money pit.  Sometimes they just need a new job description.  If they’re not happy, and you’re not happy, nothing will ever be right.

My lessons and their parents, become like family.  But when it’s time for them to change instructors, it’s so hard for me to let them move on.  I love these children.  I love to see them progress, but I also know what is best for them.

The other thing that is hard for me is to watch one of my horses move out.  They may be owned by others, but they are all my babies.  I have one that is being adopted by someone else.  He hasn’t been here that long, but he is quite a character.  I’ve contemplated just adopting him myself, just to keep him here, but it wouldn’t be fair to him.  He loves people, loves attention, and he needs a person of his own again.  The woman who owns him now, took him because her friend had to make the choice of paying his expenses or her grandmothers, who was going into assisted living.  She was helping her friend out of a spot.  Now she’s found someone who will take him and love him.  I can’t be selfish, I must think of what is best for him.  Yes he loves being retired and running around the hill with his best buddy, but he also comes to the fence anytime he sees a person.  He will leave his friend in a heart beat for some human attention.  So he must go to (hopefully) his forever home.

There are other painful goodbyes beside death.  In the end they are all in the best interest of the animal, and the success of both the animal and the person.

You’ll miss them, but be happy for them.  Know that you are doing the right thing.  The right thing is always a “Good Thing.”