What In The Blink?

Who blinked and made it half way through November???!!!

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I know you are out there somewhere. Just come forward and make yourself known.

How is it already half way through NOVEMBER?!

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Even more disturbing is that I have not written to you since LAST MONTH! Err, what? It feels as if it was just yesterday that we returned from our ride.

What have I even been doing, do you ask? A whole lot of the same…Living life. Taking time to breathe. That ADULTING thing (I am literally staring at a mountain of clean laundry over my computer screen that needs folding…I prefer to write to you! Hey, at least it is clean…). Wading through it while remembering to smile.

Sometimes life can just be hard, you know? Things seen and things unseen. Things talked about and things left unspoken. Sometimes, your capacity is just full and that is OK. AHA moment. Do you hear me!? That is OK. You are OK! This life has seasons, and as the globe goes around, so too does this life we live, giving you seasons. Seasons are for praying. Waiting. Listening. Learning. And changing before the season itself changes.

That is what I have been doing. That and, well, avoiding laundry clearly. I mean, I do not even know how I accumulate so much!

Work has been crazy. The farm has been the farm. A constant rolling list of work (which we are tackling!), but it is my blessing.

Friday evening at the farm, when it was full on winter blowing through these parts (which it is doing again! Half way through November and all the way into winter), I cooked some version of ratatouille. Really, I combined two recipes and put my own spin on it because Lord help me, I just can not follow a recipe. Go figure. It was pretty good though! I will make some changes next time and follow the recipe a little closer.

We watched the sun rise and set as we do.

Sunrises in the cold, especially after the first real fronts, are the prettiest. Merle thought so too as he sat just like a setter does, right in front of it. So, I did the only natural thing and took his picture.

Next to a big Texas sunrise (I sure do love those random pine trees), he does not look quite as big as he actually is.

I told you it was a pretty sunrise.

Speaking of Mr. Merle.

He has been living his best puppy life (wonderful, joyous, and glorious proof below!). Growing and raising all kinds of naughty trouble as he should (he is a puppy after all). Learning all the things. Growing into my wingpup. Boy howdy, I will tell you this puppy has the biggest and strongest personality. At present he is jealous of my computer and he is showing as well as telling me about it. I have deleted several of his ‘comments.’

I can almost not keep toys he goes through them so fast. I am not exaggerating when I tell you he has blown trough toys that Darcy had her whole life. He also tries to make everything a toy. His preferred wake up time is 4:45 AM, but he is generally kind enough to stay quiet until 5:15 AM. He leaves water and drool all over the house. He has a loud voice completely his own and so very different from Darcy. He is very much attached and watches my every move, but he seems to also have opinions on what we spend our time doing. Very loud opinions. He is also a fetch machine. Darcy never seemed to care for the simple game of fetch for lack of point. She was much too practical for that.

I will be honest. After all, that is what I do here. My heart is still more than aching over my Darcy girl. Still more than broken and almost completely open. Almost every day and truly as I type these words to you I get tears in my eyes with a storm brewing on my insides. Almost tormented by images, memories, and feelings. The whole thing is so wrapped in so many emotions, at times I do not even know where they come from or what they even are. Anger. Anguish. Sadness. Sorrow. Loneliness. Dolefulness. Despair. Despondent. May God help the person that ever tells me she was just a dog. Luckily for them, we have not crossed paths.

I told you. What joyous proof.

Given all of that I just told you, would you look at that face on that puppy. The joy. My heart almost can not handle it, and at the same time, it is the only thing that seems to help. Do you want to know what else I almost can not handle? Do you see the collar that Merle dog is wearing? That is one of Darcy’s old collars. My Merle man is good for my soul. My heart. Even if he tries my patience almost on the daily.

Do you want to know what is even better?

Merle with my horses. He thinks is is every bit one of them. (Let us not mention the bur filled tail on my Lito.)

 

It really is a sweet thing to witness. He seems to really have a special bond with Lito and Petunia. The above image is not a fleeing moment, but a scene that goes on for minutes multiple times!

While that love scene was unfolding, I turned into a crazy lady on the run with a pair of clippers and roached Cheetah’s mane again. I used to keep it that way when I first got her.

I was just staring at her mane shaking my head at the burs and the ragged, scraggly look of all the hairs as she stuck her head and neck through the fence. Before I knew it I was shaving her mane off. Boy we both felt good after. She looked and felt so clean and sharp! While I did not, covered in her mane!

Afterwards, we had a nice, relaxing ride. Another great thing for the heart and soul.

You can not see them, but there are at least six white tail does under the changing pecan trees in the distance. Do not miss the moon there though! Or the fiery sunset light!

So, whoever is blinking out there, just stop already! It is almost Thanksgiving! I have gifts to find and desserts to bake! Sunrises to catch and horses to ride! A Merle pup to watch grow!

Slow down and find the joy in the season you are in, even if it feels like you have been in one hard season after another.

Walk in love, dear readers!

The Mark Rashid Clinic

Today is a two cup of coffee kind of day. What about y’all? It seems every day this week has been a two cup day.

It appears as though I have been surprisingly void of any real, seemingly conscious thought to share. The truth is actually, probably the opposite, but we shall worry about that another day. I have not even taken very many photos. Weird.

But. We did do a thing last weekend. More than write home worthy. It has taken me a few days to digest the experience. And well, life keeps happening and has left me with not as much time for this space. Anyway.

I rode Lito with Mark Rashid.

Let us start at the beginning.

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See what I did there? You will soon find I have only four photos of my own to share with you from the whole weekend. I did get a few from one of the other participants of me riding on Sunday, so that is something. I also took zero notes. I intended to take notes, but when you are actually riding in a clinic, it is a lot going on. I did not get to watch as much as I wanted to either, but that is OK because hey, I got to ride!

We arrived on Friday around 4:30 PM. A little bit later than I had planed for, but all is well that ends well, right? Right. We unloaded and got settled in a stall while the last rider of the day finished his lesson. When the arena cleared out, I took Lito for a little stroll to have a looksee at the surroundings.

He was unimpressed by the pretty painted sticks.

After our stroll, I gave him his evening feed and tucked him in for the night to go check into my hotel and rustle up some dinner for myself.

Saturday morning I arrived at the barn at 7 to feed, take another walk around, and get some grooming in before the clinic started at 9. My ride time was at 11 so I watched the first lesson and part of the second before going to tack up.

I did a good job of keeping my anxiety in check once I got mounted in the area. It has been a long time, and a long time over due, since I have ridden in a clinic or taken lessons.

First order of business, bitting and conact. Lito has never really liked any bit I have put in his mouth and has always been fussy and worried about it every time we attempt contact. I have never really had or ridden horses that had bitting issues. They all just seemed to go happily in whatever you put in their mouth. Not the case with Lito and his fat tongue. I have tried different bits with no luck. It is one of the main reasons we have not really done much work towards getting collected and ‘on the bit’ and learning what all that means.

After going through a few transitions from the walk to the halt, back to walk and some turns, he suggested I try, if I wanted, a different bit with some tongue relief that he had for his horse that has a similar mouth. I replied in the affirmative. We gave him a minute to get used to the feel and then it was like a night and day difference. One minute he was shaking his head with his mouth gaped open and tongue flailing about and the next he was light as a feather and just there in the contact when he figured it out. Like floating on a cloud. Now we can start to build from there. Granted he still has a way to go and still has moments of confusion and worry, but nothing like before and I believe most of that will iron out with time.

By the way, I ordered that bit. I hesitated to do it a little because I did not want to be sold by a salesman trying to sell his own product. However, that really was not the case. He never once said, “buy this and it will fix all your problems.” He said, “hey, if you want to try this you can. Or I have a Myler you can try. Whatever you want. If you like it, that’s great, if you don’t, no worries.”

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This is a large block of text, so here is the bit I got to try Saturday. I ordered it earlier this week. I might also get the Myler.

The rest of the lesson we focused on getting a soft and solid contact (mainly me being consistent and keeping my reins shorter and being there for him, closing the gap. My reins seem to always be too long.) and soft and solid transitions. Halt to walk to halt to back to halt to walk to trot to walk to halt. Maintaining that contact for a few strides and then letting him stretch and relax. Building that strength. Feeling that softness and openness of the transition from inside me and allowing them to happen. This is something that Mark is so great at. Getting everyone to be soft and open, mainly by being so himself. Searching for the feeling of what we want so the horse can meet us there. To achieve the same feeling in everything we do. He did not speak down to anyone or make anyone feel small. He wanted everyone, no matter the level, to achieve that inner softness and openness and to get better.

After a break for lunch, which I couldn’t really eat because I was just still a little high, I worked with Mark’s student to reestablish the level we got to during my lesson and take it a little further.

By the end of Saturday, Lito and I were a bit exhausted and hungry and ready for a shower and bed. I brought a pizza and a bottle of wine back to the hotel and crashed.

On Sunday I did the same morning routine as Saturday and settled in to watch the first lesson.

Then at 10, Lito got a Masterson Method body work session! Y’all. That was amazing to watch and Lito was very responsive and gave big releases. Mark’s wife, Crissi is certified in the Masterson Method. It was fun to watch her work because she is so quiet, soft, and confident like Mark.

I do not have any photos or videos of his session, but this is an introduction on the method. There are many videos out there to watch. I wish I had videoed his session!

It was about this time that the wind picked up and changed the energy of the day.

My lesson was at 2, so I watched what I could and then got tacked up. While I was waiting outside of the arena, a gust of wind made one of the standing tents take flight and every horse thought it was going to eat them. Unfortunately, that set the tone for the rest of the afternoon, but it gave us a chance to work through that tension and get his attention back on the task at hand by changing direction and going to do something else. Redirecting the energy. Not reacting to his responses.

I used a Myler bit that was similar to the bit I used on Saturday to see if Lito responded differently. I think he liked the bit from Saturday more than the Myler as he was a bit mouthy the whole lesson, but we got to a good soft place faster than we did on Saturday. It is all still new for him and with the tension/reactiveness caused by the wind, there was a lot going on. It will take a little time I think for him to break the habit of worry and tension created from the previous bits.

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Thanks to C for the photos! My boy working through it. It was so windy, I bailed on wearing my hat.

We did more transition work and building on what we did the day before. Being better about my consistency and defining the expectations. Teaching him where the boundaries are. Towards the end we got some really nice downward transitions keeping the energy, momentum, and push all the way through.

Afterwards we worked again with Mark’s student, G, but I probably should have opted out of that because he was just fried at this point. And I guess so was I.

All in all, I was quite proud of him. He handled himself very well. And. I will say. So did I. I am proud of the both of us.  It was a great clinic and I am glad I did it. We have more to build on and a next level to reach now. We both received compliments and I am over the moon.

The afternoon was wearing on, Monday was fast approaching, and we had a ways to go to get home. I packed and loaded everything and lead Lito to the trailer…

…Then…

He would not load in the trailer to go home.

And that is a story for next time.

Walk in love, dear readers!

 

The Charlotte Dujardin Clinic.

Remember how I told you I was excited to get learn-ed? Well, here is my take from this great clinic.

The Charlotte Dujardin educational tour. A through the levels masterclass. Presented by S H Productions. Five riders from Training/First Level through to Grand Prix.

To say I was excited is an understatement. As a rider who has a strong desire to improve skills and who does not get to take many lessons despite my best intentions (still something I want to change and I have been reinvigorated since this clinic), I jump at as many opportunities to learn as possible. Needless to say, when I first learned of this clinic, I purchased my auditor ticket directly.

I will try to keep this short and direct. To the point. Ha. Well. I will try at least!

I was most interested in young horse to training/first level, so that is what I took the bulk of my notes on. Reasons being, I do not have a desire to rise up the levels, just to improve my horsemanship and riding, and because the basics are EVERYTHING. If your foundation is good, everything else will come. Everything is built on the basics.

Given that fact about basics, you will not be surprised to hear Charlotte said that exact same thing multiple times to each rider, no matter the level achieved (Some of my favorite horsemen say this all the time). Along with a few other things, but it all stems back to basics. Everyone had to work in transitions and really moving forward and through. Going for a ‘yehaw’ as she said. Picture a British person saying yehaw for a good chuckle.

It turns out my favorite pairs and rides were also the lower levels.

I had a general admission ticket which granted me a seat on the outside. I was able to get a seat in the middle of the long side to be able to view and be as close to as much of the action as possible and I was not even the first one there.

However, while I was indeed not there the minute they opened the doors, I was there early. After I secured my seat, I had ample time to have a look around the grounds. I had yet to visit this equestrian center and was eager to see the place. They host many open and schooling shows throughout the year.

After my own personal tour, given by yours truly, I went to see if I could manufacture ways to spend my hard earned money. The vendor village left a little something to be desired and I really did not need anything anyway. Which really was a shame if you ask me, but alas, it was not meant to be.

Apparently an autograph signing was scheduled before the clinic began. I missed that little tidbit, but I am not really into autographs anyway…one of the few given the long line of autograph seekers. My seat was however, right next to where Charlotte would be signing. Naturally, I did a creeper stalker shot instead. Way better than an autograph.

I got tired of hanging out, so I went to see if I could find the first rider warming up. I love to watch riders warm up. I found them, but unfortunately for me he was basically finished.

On my way back to my seat, I grabbed a glass of bubbley, because why not, and got comfortable with my note pad.

Now is time for the nitty. My notes on Charlotte’s teachings by lesson/level (both to that rider and general comments to the public) as I wrote them…repetitions and all. There are a lot of notes, so…sorry to my non equestrian readers! If the details are not interesting to you, go watch the 500 Mile video on the AHAmoments Facebook page. You will not regret it. It is what true horsemanship is about. How horses make us better humans. Then skip to the bottom of this post for the take aways and how it all relates.

OK.

For the young horse.

-Look for…3 good gaits/paces. Especially the walk and canter because you can not really change these. Not too big of a walk (which can be hard to collect) and good jump and rhythm in the canter. Get a marching walk through hacking out and doing hill work. You can improve the trot. Not necessarily the flashy and well bred…the do not always make winners, especially if they do not have a good walk and canter. Look for the easy, flowing movers. That have good mechanics, good stretch, and swing. Good use of the shoulder. A good hind end so you have a good engine.

-You need to focus on developing yourself and being even. It is not just the horse. Your strengths and weaknesses show on your horse. Work on your position make sure you are in the middle.

-The basics are more important than the tricks. The tricks come through the basics. Be consistent in seeking the right.

-Can you give the the rein away and have him stay? Self carry. Not speed up or slow down.

-Do not ride in a frame all the time. You have to let them stretch and decompress. Take the pressure off. Take them out in the field. Stop looking perfect or trying to look perfect all the time.

-Wait to sit the trot till they have developed the strength. Till they do not stiffen through transitions.

-Make ALL transitions straight and forward. Focus on them. Are they good enough. Are you in control of the tempo. Do not let them anticipate. Do not settle for less than correct.

-Riding young horse is fun. You have to get out if your comfort zone.

-You probably are not doing enough transitions if your horse stiffens through the body when you slow. You have to do thousands of transitions. Both within gait and out of gait.

-Develop, develop, develop the weaker side. It is your weaker side as well.

-Do not chase them with your body. Stop kicking every stride. If they do not react when you ask with your leg, go for a yehaw and get them going. Get them reacting to your leg aid.

-The leg yield is a pole flexion, not a neck flexion.

-This is like weight training for the horse to build strength. Make sure you give them enough time to get their air.

-Get them out of the school/arena. Go out for a hack/out on trails. Climb hills. It can not all be pressure.

-Go for a yehaw! Go for a gallop in the field. You can not always ride collected. You need to get a reaction when you need it. Think forward.

-Pat and reward when they do something right.

-Think forward into downward transitions. It is still a forward movement. You can not chunk away the energy.

-Do not be greedy and ask or take more than the horse is ready to give.

-Make sure your upward transitions are the same as your down.

-Let (allow) them to reach for the contact from your hand.

Second Level.

-Sit and push.

-Forward.

-Do not slow when doing a movement.

-The shoulder in is a flexion in the pole not a bend and FORWARD on the line.

-Does the horse want to work? Does he look happy? A good character is the upmost important thing in any horse, regardless of level.

-Do not override with your leg or kick every stride. They need to react to your leg. Think forward. Be between your aids.

-Keep kicking and they will not respond.

–Always ride forward. Even in collected work. Collected does not mean slow. Or short. Or quick.

-Bigger steps. Ground covering steps. Not quicker. Not necessarily faster.

-When they are lazy, do not cover it up with kicking.

-They need to keep going they same way as if you give them the rein when you have a quiet leg/are not kicking. Need to go when you say go and stay there till you ask for a transition.

-Doesn’t matter. Do not focus on the mistake. Keep riding. Just do it again.

Third Level.

-Preparation into the movement. Set them up. Set them up for success.

-Do not settle for a bad transition.

-Every transition has to be ‘perfect.’ If it is not, so it again.

-Do not neglect the basics.

-Do not forget how important the corners and short sides of the arena are. They set you up for what is next.

-Do it till you are happy with it.

-Inside leg to outside rein.

-Keep going even when you make a mistake.

-Do not rush.

-Take your time.

-Soft hands.

-Do not punish your horse or yourself. It doesn’t matter. Just do it again.

-It is not about age and numbers. The horse is ready when the horse is ready. Learn from the horse. Stay patient. They will get there. Do not expect more than they are ready to give. Do not be greedy. Horses and riders are all individuals, do not compare one to the other.

-Learn everyday from the horse. Work hard every day. You do not need to spend a lot of money to have a good horse. The secret is in your training system. Have a good direction and follow the feel.

-It is all about about the horse. The connection. The partnership. The relationship.

-Get eyes on the ground whenever you can. Get mirrors. Set up a video camera.

-Finish how you start. Relax and stretch in all three gaits.

Prix St. George.

-It is about the exercises not the tests and movements. It keeps them fresh and on the side. Keeps them from anticipating. The exercises make the movements better.

Grand Prix.

-Do not leave the basics behind.

So. There you have it. My notes and learnings from one of the top riders in the world.

The take aways?

Each rider had the same things to work on…

No matter what level you are: More forward. Say yehaw and go for a good gallop. Focus on transitions. Work on your bad side to be balanced. It does not matter if you make a mistake, just keep your leg on, keep riding, and do it again.

Sounds a whole lot like life, doesn’t it??? I thought so too. Go figure.

Walk in love, dear readers!

Exciting.

I am going to get learned this afternoon/evening. That is right, learn-ed. And I am turbo excited about it.

A certain Olympian that even non equestrians might know of is going to be in town giving a masterclass and about a year ago, I bought a ticket to audit it. Because, well, how could I not? Duh, I had to. Life is about opportunities, and this is one!

I have heard very good things about Charlotte Dujardin Obe‘s clinics and I am exited to see and hear in person. There will also be vendors, so there is also that. Hopefully I practice restraint and not spend too much. No promises that I will not be the first one there…

Exciting, I know.

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Do not be jealous, I will share all the details and exciting learning with you!

Can you tell I am excited???

Not your average Friday night out I dare say.

Walk in love, dear readers!

Great Reads

So. You know how I shared with you my urge the other day?

Well, a friend of mine asked if I would be so kind as to share the reading list that Pat Parelli shared with me of influential books he has read that have helped him in various parts of his life.

Great idea, I know! Thanks, M!

Her wish is my command! I decided to share it here in case anyone else was curious about the reads on that list.

Please enjoy the following recommendations…with a few of my own additions.

~Books by Malcolm Gladwell

~Tribal Leadership By: Dave Logan

~Play to Win By: A. G. Lafley &  Roger L. Martin

~The Revolution in Horsemanship By: Dr. Robert Milller

~Thinking in Pictures By: Temple Grandin

~Psycho Cybernetics By: Maxwell Maltz

~The Psychology of Winning By: Dr. Denis Waitley

~The Gifts Of Imperfection By: Dr. Rene Brown and any other books by Brown

~The Richest Man In Babylon By: Dr. George S. Clason

~Frogs into Princes By: Richard Bandler

~Using your Brain for a Change By: Richard Bandler

~Move Closer Stay Longer By: Dr. Stephanie Burns

~The Labyrinth Course- Dr. Stephanie Burns

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Happy reading!

Do you have any great reads to recommend???

Walk in love, dear readers!