Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Take Time to Observe: Part Two

Last spring I had the chance to observe a bit of a clinic by Kathleen Lindley. Two weeks ago I found this book, In The Company of Horses at a bookstore going out of sale and was so excited. It was by Kathleen Lindley! I hope to ride in, or at least just audit, one of her clinics next year.

Kathleen was Mark Rashid's assistant for a while and this book is a kind of journal of her experiences. It is a bit philosophical or pyschological in nature. I am really enjoying it. Here are a few quotes from the book that I found thought-provoking.

"We don't think our horse has anything of value to communicate, we misinterpret what he's saying, or we don't let him finish his thought and then speak for him. This desire the horse has to communicate with us is one of those things that we sometimes try to take away from him when we're working with him. I know when I was growing up with horses, I didn't really care why they did what they did (buck or throw his head, for instance); I just wanted them to stop it. These days, I wonder why a horse is spending all that energy on that kind of behavior, when he's a prey animal designed to conserve energy until it's needed in a flight situation."

 {photo credit: Ranch Boy's 5 year old daughter}

"I wanted my horse to move, to do athletic things, but I used equipment to hinder his movement. I knew my horse was smart enough to figure out how to open a gate latch, but didn't think he was smart enough to pick up the correct lead. I saw him gallop and play energetically in the pasture, but thought him lazy in his work. I spent so much time thinking about what he wasn't doing for me that I couldn't see what he was doing for me."

"As much as we horseman talk of 'partnership' with our horses, I feel like we don't really want  'partnership' in the true sense. We don't want to work with an equal, we want our 'partner' to be subordinate. At least that's how it looks to me, from where I am. We call our horse a good 'partner' as long as he does what we ask and as long as he allows us to hold the upper hand in the relationship. A horse that won't allow that is called 'rank', 'stubborn', 'lazy', or disrespectful.' But I think the very same horse could be asking the rider to do better, to find a clearer way of explaining things, or improve his horsemanship in some way."

Something Buck Brannaman says in his clinics, and in his movie, is that "our horses are a mirror to our soul." Funny how My Boy didn't want to be caught and in general is a bit stubborn. Sounds like someone else I know....

{photo credit: Ranch Boy's 5 year old daughter}

In thinking about how much our horses, and their behavior when we are handling and riding them, are a reflection of ourselves can be summed up in these thoughts from Kathleen's book:

"Because horses are they way they are, if we're serious about our horsemanship, I think that we end up living our horsemanship. Mark calls this idea 'horsemanship through life.' As an example of this concept, if we find we're not very patient with our horse, we're probably not very patient in the rest of our lives. If we are perhaps really good at sensing a horse's needs, we're probably pretty good at sensing the needs of people around us. Horses have a funny way of exposing the areas in our lives that need work, and I don't think that they buy it when we live our lives one way and act another when we're around them. I think they can see that coming a mile off, and they don't like it. When I began working for Mark, I sometimes heard him say, 'How we practice is how we'll go.' I think in part he meant that we can't, say, live our lives in turmoil and then expect to be calm and thoughtful around our horses. We can't expect to bring to our horses the skills and qualities of character that we don't practice in everyday life. If that's true, maybe the time and place to practice our horsemanship is not just in the two hours we're with the horses, it's also in the twenty-two hours of the day that we're not."

I hope you have enjoyed these reflections and thoughts on horsemanship and observing horse behavior. If you are into this kind of thing (and not everyone is, I realize) try reading Kathleen's book or one of Mark Rashid's. I think the more perspectives we learn about when it comes to understanding and partnering with our equine friends, the better horseman we'll become in the end.

I think at times we all feel frustrated, like we'll never be the great rider, trainer, horseman that we aspire to be. I don't think that I'll ever be great, but I know I can be better and build on the foundation I have. I can learn to read my horse better, to communicate my cues to him better, to develop a sense of feel and understanding when it comes to applying pressure and release. And most of all, to take time to observe him, understand how he ticks, so that we can find some common ground and have a partnership to enjoy for years to come.

Have a great weekend everyone. It's Rodeo time around these parts and I can't wait!!

Ranch Girl

Friday, August 26, 2011

Take the Time To Observe: Part One

Not everyone has this luxury, but if you find yourself in a situation to do so, I highly recommend this:

Observe horses in a herd situation.

Trust me when I say a horse's worst nightmare can be someone in their own herd. Throw 30 horses together in a pasture or corral you will observe them treat each other in ways that will want you to call the Humane Society. On the horses.

It is the most thought-provoking and insightful experience regarding horse behavior. Just sit and watch them. Who hangs out with who? Who is territorial? Who is cranky and kicks and reaches out to bite everyone? Who strays from everyone and finds a quiet corner on their own? Who seems to be loved by everyone? Who is buddying up or "cheating" on their former favorite buddy? Horses are quite selective in who they chose to have in their space and interact with. Which I find fascinating~ we choose them. Yet in their own species, they choose who to get along win their herd. Interesting.

More interesting is how they establish dominance. I never understood which horses became "boss" over others. It is not always the biggest horse, let me tell you. This little pony ruled the roost and chased a lot of the bigger ones around (neither of these horses are at the ranch anymore.)

One of the most amazing things I have witnessed in the herd is how one of the geldings has taken on a partnership and protectiveness of the Appy gelding with a blind eye. These two arrived at the ranch within days of each other and buddied up before being turned out with the rest of the herd. But what I found most profound is how for months the gelding would stay near and guide the Appy around the pasture or pens, and also fend off anyone who came near him with a vicious lunge and squealing.

In movie Buck, there was a story about a 3 year old orphan stud colt that was quite dangerous and vicious. (If you have not seen BUCK yet, I highly recommend it!) This horse's dam died during birth and the colt was oxygen-deprived and raised by hand (and in it's owner's home) then allowed to run with a herd of other stud colts. I won't give anything from the movie away but I will say that not having a dam to teach him respectful manners, nor a human to do so, created quite a monster.

To be continued......

Ranch Girl

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fence Fixer and an Update

This is how my Ranch Boy fixes corral fences, Jimmy Buffet style.

By the way, he is using a rock to pound in the nail.

So here is the latest. My horse is getting a week's vacation. On Sunday morning I fed him his hay, then started filling a wheelbarrow of poop from his pasture. As I was about finished I approached him as he was eating. I went to brush a pile of bird poo off his back and something about the feeling of my work gloves (or who knows what it was) spooked him and as he jumped away from me he caught my foot.

I think he stepped off my foot and pushed away. Immediately I felt burning sharp pain, dumped the wheelbarrow, went inside and took off my boot and sock to find a purple bruise on the top of my foot. Luckily no toes involved. Since then, I have been icing and taking Ibuprofen. Unfortunately I can only wear Uggs, flip-flops, or ballet flats. Nothing that presses on the top of my swollen and bruised foot! I am missing some fun rides this week.

Do you ever do something with horses and immediately regret it? I didn't need to approach my horse in the pasture as he was eating. I was wearing rubber boots, which I sometimes do when "mucking" as they are closer to the door than my cowboy boots. The cowboy boots probably would have provided better protection! Ah well, live and learn. Hopefully nothing is broken and I'll be on the mend and back in the saddle next week.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on me acquiring a new horse! I thought for sure some of you would be little mama's and discourage me from getting in over my head. I do have an interview on Friday so I am keep my fingers crossed that I on my way to employment (luckily I am still getting one more paycheck from my former school.) I would like to purchase the mare soon so I have a few months of good weather to do some work with her before winter kicks in.

Ranch Girl

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Roany Pony

So who is the horse I was riding in the last post?

Loretta (on right) a bay roan grade mare (unregistered AQHA.)

She only has about a month of riding on her but is doing very well, gaining experience on trails and in the arena.

She has a great, calm, mind and a sweet loving personality. Her owner calls her a future kid's horse.

No that is not me standing on Loretta, I am not brave enough to do that!

I kinda fell in love with her from the get go, her bay face and white star and sweet expression.

And she is to be for sale.

And yes, I'm thinking about buying her.

But I am still unsure. Two horses are a lot more work and expense than one. And quite frankly, I need to get a job before I get another horse.

And because she is young, she still has a lot to learn. From the 5 times I've ridden her, I feel like we could work well together and I have resources to help me with her training should I need it.

My Boy will always be my boy and he is going nowhere. But at 17, with the arthritis in his hocks, I can't do some of the things I'd love to do with a younger horse. And it would be nice to have a spare that I could ride when friends or family visit.

What do you all think? Does one person really need two horses?

Ranch Girl

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Horse Thief!

If you ever get a chance to ride with my sister Paint Girl, watch out! She's a horse thief!

Look at that innocent look. She thinks she's pretty clever about it.

And what is with this using your Blackberry and riding thing? Paint Girl if you're not careful, My Boy is gonna snatch a bite of grass on you!

Wait a minute. If Paint Girl thieved My Boy......

Then who am I on?????

More on that next time.......

p.s. Thank you to those of you that found my Rockin Heart Jewelry page on Facebook. If you are interested in a custom leather cuff, please send me an email at

Ranch Girl

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Rockin' Heart Jewelry- Debut!

Howdy friends, I hope you are having a great weekend! Mine started off with minor surgery. I had my two upper wisdom teeth pulled. I'd been putting this off for years! They put me to sleep for the procedure, the first time I've been under anesthesia. I loved it- I remember getting the I.V. in my arm, then waking up with gauze in my mouth wondering "have you started yet?"

My recovery has been remarkably easy so far. I wanted to share with you my newest venture! I have not set up an online shop yet but hope to in the coming weeks. My talented cousin Tara designed my logo for me (I just changed the crown to a horseshoe on the heart.)

I will share the story in a future post of how the name came to be. Anyone who has come up with a name for a blog, hobby, or business knows how tough it can be. For one, it's important and should summarize who you are and what you are doing. And it seems so permanent (ideally you do not want to start a business then change your name!)

leather cuffs made from "upcycled" belts

I wasn't sure the leather and bead necklaces would sell as well as the solid beaded ones, but I sold two the first time I opened "shop" at the ranch! This blue cross looked so darling on the gal that bought it!

These are just a few photos of some of my first jewelry creations. I will be adding more as time goes by. If you ever see something you interested in purchasing, please let me know by a comment on the post or via email:

In other news, I have been busy getting in some riding and attended my mom's annual family reunion. I always love these get togethers and I am looking forward to the Pony Cousin Stampede next week!

Ranch Girl

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bun In The Oven

Yep, Skyler and Okie better believe it- their cowgirl has is in foal having a baby. Therefore, no riding with the Pony Cousins this summer! I admit I'm a bit bummed, as I was hoping to try some fancy cowhorse riding with my dear cousin in her neck of the woods this summer.

Regardless, congratulations dear cousin I am SO excited for you, and even more excited that you are having a colt boy!

XO, Ranch Girl