Saturday, March 31, 2012

Steady Eddie

It's March. And last week, the weather in Connecticut was fabulous. With that, and my entry being sent in to the Leverett 25-mile competitive trail ride on May 5th, I have been riding more.

All three horses are doing well, but the surprising theme so far is that Secret has been the steady eddie. She had a monumental day earlier in the month, and has followed it with more good behavior. Those of you who have met Secret, are probably a little surprised to find out she is the horse that I can trail ride around the farm on a loose rein. I'm very proud of her!!

I'm not really sure what this year holds for her and Remi. Ideally, I would like to get both of them out in public some. But I'm not too worried about it either. If they get out and about, that's great, they are both fabulous horses. But I can also enjoy them at home just as easily, and continue to build on what we have accomplished.

Time will tell.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

It's Not Just About The Ribbons

But sometimes the ribbons are nice.

The title of this post is actually the title of one of Jane Savoie's books. And it's true, we don't ride for the ribbons. I ride for a multitude of reasons and at the end of the day, it comes down to the love of the horse and the sport.

The ribbons can be affirmation that we are on the right path. Or recognition from our peers for a job well done.

John had a great season on the competitive trail circuit in 2011. He completed 155 miles, his lowest score was a 94.5 out of 100. I was really proud of everything we had accomplished, while still realizing that we have lots of room to grow and areas that need improvement.

His scores and accomplishments garnered him some outside recognition too. He is Grand Champion in Limited Distance for the Eastern Competitive Trail Ride Association for 2011. He also received a gold medallion in Limited Distance. I am so incredibly proud of him, and appreciate the recognition from our trail organization.

And he won a really big ribbon :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Another Monumental Day

It was absolutely beautiful in Connecticut today - warm and sunny (this picture is from the fall, but you get the idea). Even though I haven't been riding a lot, I felt the urge to try a trail ride around the farm anyway.

I took Secret, she's been working the most consistently, even if it is just a bit of ringwork here and there when we have decent footing.

If you don't know anything about Secret, here is the 411:
- she isn't very brave
- when in doubt, she thinks we should head for home...and is willing to take control

She has done the loop around the farm countless times, alone and in company. If another horse is leading, she behaves a bit better, but is still known to act up.

However, today was different. I think she is as bored with bending and transitions as I am. She walked along on a loose rein for most of the ride. She didn't jump sideways three feet at "scary" things. The only time she thought about turning around was when we had to cross through the cow yard (the cows can't touch her, they are on the other side of the gate...but thats close enough). But she did it.

I was very proud of her, she's finally maturing!! Or I finally gave her enough time and confidence building exercises to allow her to do it? Whatever the reason, I think we both had a great ride.

Think spring!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Horse Sense

I was browsing my email, and came across this forward a friend sent in 2010. Well worth reading again.

You Can Have a Great Ride on Your Horse Every Day!

by Jane Savoie
Posted: Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Attitude is a choice. You don't have to have a bad day. Here are 3 simple ways to insure that every ride you have with your horse is a great one!
1. Learn to see things in shades of grey.
Want to know how to have a great ride everyday? Stop expecting perfection. Don't look at training and competing in black or white terms. Instead, learn to see things in "shades of gray". The key to seeing shades of gray is to recognize when things are "a little bit better".

For example, when you evaluate your daily ride, ask yourself if:
Regarding your position:
1. Were your hands a little quieter?
2. Did you sit a bit straighter today?
3. Did you keep your eyes up for more of your ride than you did yesterday?
4. Were you able to use your legs, hands or seat a bit more independently? That is, when you used your legs, did your hands stay somewhat quieter than last week?

Regarding your riding:
1. Did you remember to use your legs before your hands more often?
2. Did you control your emotions a bit better so that you were more relaxed, patient, brave, or calm?
3. Did you stay slightly more focused throughout your ride?
4. Did you remember to breathe more often?
5. Did you reward your horse for every effort he made that was a bit closer to what you want as a finished product?

Regarding your horse:
1. Did he pick up the correct lead more often today?
2. Did he stay on the bit longer than he did last week?
3. Did you feel like you were having a better dialogue with your horse?
That is, you were a bit clearer in what you were asking him to do, and he understood you better.
4. Did you start to teach your horse something new today?
5. Was he a little braver when faced with the scary tractor, a deer in the woods, or other horses passing too closely to him?
6. Did he go sideways a little more easily in your leg yields?

Regarding competition:
1. Did you ride into your corners better than you did last season?
2. Did you think throughout the majority of your ride?
3. Did your legs become less jelly-like?
4. Did you remember to smile more often than at the last show?
5. Were you able to objectively evaluate what went wrong and come up with a better plan for the next event?

Get the picture? Seeing things in shades of grey will keep you feeling optimistic any time you or your horse do anything that's just a little bit better. I think one of the best ways to keep track of your shades of grey is to keep a daily journal of your rides.

Ask yourself, "Have things been a little bit better, not only within each ride, but also from day to day?" Then if you feel like you or your horse are just treading water and not improving, you can look back over your journal and see where you were last week, last month, or even last year. Your journal will help you keep things in perspective. For example, maybe you're feeling frustrated because your horse doesn't stay on the bit during every canter depart. But when you look back at your journal, you'll see that two months ago, not only was he coming off the bit, but also he was racing off into the canter like he was possessed! By looking in your journal and seeing your progress, you can stay positive. You won't feel pressured that everything has to be
perfect right now. Instead, you'll be content with shades of grey. And you'll find that all those 'little bit betters" pretty quickly add up to a "whole lot better".

2. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
To have a great ride every day, be "great-ful"...I mean grateful. Not only will gratitude insure that every day and every ride is a great one, but also gratitude will actually attract more of the things you appreciate and value into your life. As simply as I can put it, when you start to get discouraged about your riding, remember these two little words: "Thank you".

Be grateful that you get to develop a relationship with these beautiful animals.
Be grateful that you get to spend time outdoors with your horse.
Be grateful your horse is sound.
Be grateful that you're healthy enough to ride.
Be grateful that you can make the time to ride.
Be grateful that you have a terrific riding teacher.
Be grateful for beautiful trails.
Be grateful for the awesome way your horse smells and the feel of his warm skin under your hand as you stroke his neck.
Be grateful for an indoor arena.
Be grateful for good rain gear because you don't have an indoor arena.

3. Have a great ride every day by asking high-quality questions.

I learned from peak performance expert Anthony Robbins the importance of asking high-quality questions. When you ask low-quality questions, your brain searches for an answer and can only come up with low-quality answers. Here are some low-quality questions:
"Why does this always happen to me?"
"Why am I so uncoordinated when I give the aids for lateral work?"
"How come I always blank out and forget my test or course pattern in competition?"

The only kinds of answers your brain can come up with to questions like
that are:
"Because you don't deserve good things."
"Because you're a lousy uncoordinated piece of do-do-do."
"Because you're a mental midget."

Notice that low-quality questions often start with the words "Why?" or "How come?" As soon as you hear those words come out of your mouth, stop mid-sentence! Then, ask a better question. Better questions would be:
"What do I need to change in order to create the results I want?"
"What's the best way to memorize my test or pattern so if I momentarily blank out, I can quickly get back on track?"

I had to put this concept of asking better questions to the test recently. I was very excited that my horse, Moshi, was going to have his debut at a show in Florida. By Thursday, Moshi had had his shampoo and beauty treatment, the trailer was packed, and I had my show clothes laid out. Early Friday morning, I received a phone call telling me that Moshi's right eye was the size of golf ball. I called the vet immediately. She stained his eye and found an ulcer on the cornea. After treating his eye four times a day for three weeks, I'm happy to report that it healed perfectly, and he's doing well.

On the Friday morning of the show, however, my first reaction was to ask some lousy questions like
"What if the ulcer gets infected and affects his sight?"
"Why does he have to put his head so high that it's a
struggle to medicate him?" and
"How am I going to be able to find someone to help me hold him so I can treat him four times a day?" and
"Just how much can you impose on your friends for help at all hours of the day and night?"

Those kinds of questions sent me down the wrong road emotionally. So I asked some better questions such as:
"How can I use this to my advantage?" The answer was "Now I have a bit of extra time, and I can catch up on those projects piling up on my desk. I also asked, "What's good about this?" One answer was, "I have a super vet who came quickly,
and diagnosed and treated him expertly." Another answer was that I had been working Moshi hard to prepare for the show, and it was good for his muscles to have some down time. But the best answer was, " His injury is not serious, and there will always be another show."

So, when "manure happens", have a great day every day, by ASKING A BETTER QUESTION such as, "What's good about this?" "What can I learn from this?" or "How can I use this?" Your answers will surely empower you.
Are you tired of complicated and confusing training techniques? Are you
frustrated by negative emotions like fear and lack of confidence? Learn
more by going to:

Friday, March 2, 2012


I saw another fox when I was driving home last night. This was a big one, and the second one I have seen this week. Considering I have lived in Ashford close to three years, but have only seen foxes in the last six months, it has gotten me thinking.

One of two things is going on here:
1. There has been an increase in the local fox population.
2. Its some kind of symbolism for me.

While the first is quite likely true, its kind of neat to think about the second one. I went to the Native American Encyclopedia and looked up there Fox Symbolism.

I'll summarize a bit for you:
- the Celts believe the fox is a guide and known for its wisdom
- in Japan the fox symbolizes longevity and protection from evil
- the Northern tribes of Native Americans see the fox as a wise and noble messenger

The take home message at the end, at least the message I took home:

"The fox encourages us to think outside of the box and use our intelligence in different, creative ways. The fox also brings us a message to try to approach our circumstances differently that we normally would. Be aware of some of our habits, and try a different angle of action."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Monumental Day

Only a horse person could get excited about this...

However, any of you that have been reading these posts for awhile know that John has had some difficulty adjusting to camping overnight at competitive trail rides (the ones that don't have stalls). His issue is that he prefers to only urinate in a stall. The Warren Tessier ride was awful for him in 2010, and that was the ride when I realized I needed to work on his issue.

In 2011, he did better. He found a nice grassy spot to relieve himself in as soon as I unloaded him from the trailer at Acadia National Park. Then again, if I had been in that trailer for that crazy ride, I might have done the same thing.

Long story short, he has been getting better about urinating outside as the season progressed. At home, he has still been waiting until he gets in his stall at night.

On Saturday, February 25th I put Secret in first, like I normally do. When I went back to the gate to get John, he was taking care of business. Progress!! Sometimes, time really is the best thing you can do for a problem. Next issue to focus on: his behavior issues while we're waiting to start at a competitive trail ride!