Saturday, September 7, 2019

Seasoning Your Colt At Home



Ten years ago it was nothing for me to load up a trailer load of colts, head to the barrel race and camp out for the day or weekend.  Now, something about having four littles to take care of, it’s a different story and my time away from home on my colts just got a whole lot shorter and that much more valuable.  

I’ve had to reevaluate how I train day to day on my colts in order that I can maximize the limited time that I have actually seasoning them. Here’s a few things that I do at home so that I don’t have to do them on the road.  

Tie them up saddled.  It doesn’t matter if I’m going to ride them right away or 3 hours from then, my colts can stand saddled and tied.  They learn that they can be patient and respectable just like I expect when they are tied to a trailer at a barrel race.  Even if you can’t ride them that day, saddle them anyway.  

Take them to water.   The old saying, “You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.” is no excuse, especially at home.  Let them stand tied for a few hours and let them get a little thirsty.  I’m not talking take the water away when it’s 110 degrees and you rode them for 2 hours nonstop.  I’m talking that they can stand an hour or two and then given a drink.   I have horses that now will drink anytime they are offered water, home or not.  



Ride them rain or shine.  I know that this is easier said than done, especially if you don’t have an indoor arena available during the bad weather.  However, it’s important that these colts know that even though it’s blowing, that they can still keep their cool and ride despite the weather.  If I don’t have someone to watch my kids while I ride, then they at least get saddled. 

Put their nose on fear.   I’m a pretty non confrontational person so this is a hard one for me.  However, it’s sooo important.  If your colt even cocks an eye to look at something or if it’s full on blowout, work that colt to where you can put their nose on what scared them in the first place.  I’ve found by doing this that colts get more and more confident and less likely to spook when they confront their fears. 

More chaos the better.  Walking through my yard with four boys feels like I’m riding into a jungle.  You never know when a monkey, ahem....kid, is going to spring out of no where whether on a bike, throwing a basketball, or swinging a rope.   This goes hand in hand with putting their nose on fear.   I encourage my boys to run and play, shoot the B.B. gun, ride bike, ride their ponies, light the firecrackers, and whatever else they just might be doing when my colts are tied up.  If they are doing something and I’m able, my colts aren’t too far from them.   Later then I’m riding them, they are not nearly as apt to be scared from that runaway stroller or screaming child that we are bound to see later in their careers. 

Put them to work.  I don’t get to ride on the ranch nearly as much as I did ten years ago, but I try to apply the same principles now as I did then.  Get on and go to work.  I want my colts to be able to be put right to work and not have to go ride them down first.  

Sit on them.   How many times do we get to a barrel race, hurry and warm up only to sit and wait.  It seems like by it’s your turn that you need to warm up all over again.   I like to stop every so often during my rides and let them sit.   Wether it’s watching my boys or just sitting there thinking, learning how to sit still and chill is often overlooked. I want them to be able to keep their cool to where I don’t have to warm them back up to get them ready mentally, only physically to loosen muscles back up.   

Keep them stalled over night.  For some this is commonplace.  However, I rarely keep horses in the barn and I don’t think about it until I finally have to spend a weekend away from home and my horses are going have to be in stalls for the first time. It’s good to get them used to that environment so that life on the road isn’t such a shock.  The same goes for an electric fence.  Get them introduced to it and used to it.  You will be happy that you did at home and they didn’t have their first experience at a jackpot.  

Getting colts seasoned is a process.  Some horses take more to season while others are born seasoned.   It’s one of my least favorite things to do but doing just some of these simple things has helped shorten the seasoning process for me.  I hope that these tips will help you as well.  





Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Words

When I started 2019, I was exercising and eating right. Spending every evening on the treadmill, I challenged myself like never before and was running 4-7 miles every night. I'd spend time listening to podcasts and reading books to help sharpen my focus and improve my mental game.  I was finally at a place mentally and physically that I hadn't been since high school. 2019 was going to be it; it was going to be my year.

One of my favorite books is "Coach Wooden's Pyramid of Success, Building Blocks For A Better Way Of Life" by John Wooden and Jay Carty.  It is eye opening and inspiring to me.  Within it, Wooden talks about each characteristic or building block needed to be successful and then related it to the Bible.  At the beginning of the year, I decided that I'd pick out a word to be my focus word.  A word that when I got to a low spot, that seeing, hearing, or thinking it would help me out of the hole and give me the push I needed to keep going.  My word was "initiative."

Defined by Wooden, initiative is to "cultivate the ability to make decisions and think one. Do not be afraid of failure, but learn from it." This hit home because I have a hard time going outside my comfort zone and beyond something that I've done before. It's been a word that I started the year clinging to when I wanted to quit because it was just too hard or I was too tired, it helped me push through to that extra mile.  It helped me reached for more knowledge on a variety of subjects. It helped me push myself further in my horsemanship despite my fear of failure.  It pushed me to be healthy.  I took any extra step I could to do better.

I felt it in my bones and in my heart; this was it. This was the year that things came together. 2019 was my time.  Until tragedy struck.  The loss of my father-in-law in March rocked our family down to our core. The hurt and pain is something that I wish on no one. Our lives came to a standstill as we struggled to find our new normal.  Yet the duties of the ranch and the kids stayed in full force.

Our spring and summer were spent with dodging what's next to go wrong. Horses hurt, colts dieing, calves lost, kids hurt, our bad luck seemed to just keep coming.  Duties on the ranch and for the kids were starting to settle down and I was getting excited to finally be able to put the time into what I'd spent the first part of the year preparing for when the what's next came; I had an accident.

I didn't see it coming. I was taking my foot out of my stirrup when she turned into me, knocking me down to the ground.  The next moment seemed to happen in slow motion as I laid there and my horse stepped on my leg, just on the inside of my calf. Luckily my husband wasn't far away and took me to the house. After seeing my leg, he rushed me to the ER and then onto another hospital three hours away for surgery.

I'm thankful and blessed through my ordeal because it could have been so much worse.  The horse had scraped 3 inches of my tibia and had she landed a fraction of an inch over I'd have had an open compound fracture and a much different story.  As it ended up, I had a deep laceration through my calf but luckily nothing that couldn't be stitched back up and put back together.

It's been almost two months since the accident and I'm healed up beautifully for the most part.  Nerve pain is a nuisance that's been hard to deal with and kept me from riding. However my negative attitude and depression were my biggest hang ups in my recover.  I've had a lot down time to think, to read, and it led me back to my word, initiative.  Except in that moment, that word wasn't working for me. It didn't help push me or bring me out of the hard times like it had helped me do those extra squats or hold that plank for just a little while longer. I needed something else for that moment, not A word but THE word.

I began to dive into my Bible and in my searching I found, "We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope." Romans 5:34. Hope, I felt like I had no hope at that time, something that desperately needed.The more that I read this verse all I could think of was one word, perseverance.  Perseverance as defined is steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

It brought me a whole new attitude.  Suddenly the nerve pain that I deal with, especially when I ride, is worth dealing with and although I don't have the same mindset as I did at the beginning of the year, that 2019 is my year, I do know that all is not lost, it just no longer has a timeline attached to it. I will endure and I will push on in my journey and quest to my work on my passion and goals because I know in the end that I will take the initiative to do today despite the fear of failure of tomorrow, have perseverance to keep on going, but most of all faith in God.  "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to her purpose." Romans 8:28.

I share my story and my struggles with you today not for pity or recognition but for those that may be in the same pits of despair as myself. I pray for you in your struggle however different or similar it may be to mine.

Photo credit: Tina Graham

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

A Deeper Meaning of Horsemanship

One of my favorite phases of barrel horses is first starting them on barrels and getting them solid in their foundation.  My passion for horsemanship is really put to work as I help develop these horses into not only the athlete and competitor but also give them the confidence that they need and a love of a job through willing submission.

I'm going through this phase right now with a four year old.  I. Love. It. Due to life circumstances; something about having a baby and having four kids kinda slows things down, this mare is behind.  However, that doesn't change the game plan.  The ultimate goal is still the same.  A horse with a solid foundation that will willingly do a job that I ask.  It seems simple right?

When I start a horse on the pattern, some might say that I micro manage.  Meaning, I really spend a lot of time making sure they place their feet right here and there, their body soft, correct, and supple.  I find if I do it in the beginning, I don't have to do it later on so it works for me, even with the not so pleasant title of micromanaging.

As I was working my mare around a barrel, I was riding with two hands.  Although I try to be quiet, my hands are moving, my legs are moving, my whole body is moving to help encourage the horse to take the correct path around a barrel.  One step here, two step there, three step...wait, no, over here....it's a constant game, something like pin ball.  Soon, there won't be so much picking up, moving, or micromanaging, but right now, I feel like I am putting up road blocks here and there with my body to help encourage my horse to take the correct path around a barrel.

And then it dawned on me.  As I was working my colt, it hit me....this is what God does for us.  You see, I know my God has great things in store for me.  Just take a look at Jer 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  However, He doesn't always just open the door right away.  In fact, we find ourselves in trials and struggles, but with God, all things are possible; "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13. We might see road blocks here and there, speed bumps, detours, etc. in our journey of life, but through it all, God is there, picking us up here, moving us there, encouraging us too to take the correct path in life.  "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4 His ultimate goal for us is much the same, to be a believer in Christ, be confident in our Lord and Savior, and to willingly summit and love the Lord.

I've always felt closest with God when I'm on the back of a horse.  I don't know why, but I always have.  And then revelations like those today put it all together for me and show me why.
Photo by Tina Graham 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Preparation, Patience, and Priorities



Preparation, patience, and priorities.  These three words swim in my head as I'm thinking of my barrel racing goals for this year.  Sitting out a year leaves a person craving to return to the arena but sometimes life doesn't always let that happen right away. Mother Nature and calving sure has put a damper on my hypothetical barrel racing schedule among other things. Spring weather and above freezing temperatures are coming, sooner or later. Although, patience for such things hasn't ever been my strong suit.

This year I feel it will be a fly-by-the-seat-of-your pants kind of year. Never knowing what is to come, in what order to do it, or when it's going to happen, these three words come back into my mind. Preparation, patience, priorities. I might not know when I will get to go to a barrel race, but I can prepare as best I can and have the patience that it will happen someday.  One thing I've always felt is if I have my priorities in line, then the rest will fall into place. I just have to be ready for when the opportunity is within my grasp.

I think these three words can be applied to our horses as well. Especially for those goals with timelines such as Futurity horses. Lately I've been asking myself these three questions when I'm riding.

1. Have I prepared my horse for the task or job that I'm asking to complete? Whether it's getting them in shape enough to run barrels or making sure that I've given them the foundation in our training to have the tools to complete the job, this question is valid in every level of horses and can also be applied to ourselves.
2. Have I had the patience? Getting a horse in shape doesn't happen over night so being patient and making sure I'm preparing my horses go hand in hand. In the same token, it's hard for a horse with a kindergarten education perform a high school level task.  These things take time.
3. What are my priorities? This follows the same line as what are your long term goals but also short term day to day goals as well.  Am I rushing a process for short term gain/long term loss or am I operating for the long term?  There might be a barrel race this weekend but is my horse in shape? Am I ready? What is more important, running to run and not being prepared, loosing confidence, etc, or working hard to be ready for the next one and setting your horse and yourself up for success Whose agenda is more important? Your's or the horse's?

I heard legendary Coach Wooden say, "Failure to plan is preparing to fail." This year I might not be able to control the circumstances but I can control the outcomes by being prepared, having patience that our time will come, and making sure that my priorities are in line with my long term goals.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Overcoming the How's

A year ago My husband and I found out that our lives were going to drastically change.  With three boys already, we were pretty content and happy with our family of five but God said we weren't done yet....and we found out we were pregnant.  When I say that we were content, I mean we had given away pretty much every last shred of anything baby we had.  We were done having kids...done!   But God's plans are greater than our own and we welcomed another baby boy into our family in October. Now there's no way I could imagine our life without those four boys that I'm proud and blessed to be their Mom.

However, I'm going to admit that baby #4 has came as a shock and certainly rocked our world as we were in the midst of buying a place, fixing it up and eventually moving to.  Our plates were beyond heaping full with all that we had going on in addition to our horses, cattle and of course our boys.   As a result, my horses have been set to the wayside as I try to care for and do the things that are set on a strict timeline.  Suddenly with a baby, our little trailer house was not going to fit our family and the house we had been working on got a huge promotion on the priority list. Horses I never planned on selling, were sold, and we just got by this last year, doing what we could. Survival mode.

When you have so many dreams and goals of your own, spending a year sitting out and being on the sidelines sure is hard.  It's even harder when you don't even get to watch the game due to your hectic schedule! The hardships that have came with the baby to be able to work on my horses and goals for some reason have been much harder with this time than the others.  Most of the time I feel like I'm drowning.

I'd be lying if I said that I've been upbeat and positive about my horses and our program.  I'm one of those "all in" kind of people and haven't felt like I've been able to devote enough time into the horses and with that I thought very hard about selling out. Quite frankly I was throwing my sucker in the dirt and maybe stomping on it a little too.

I recently started reading a book by John O'Leary called "On Fire". I haven't finished it yet; something about four little boys makes it hard to read much at one time.  However, early on in the book something grabbed me, a quote. "When you know your why, you can endure any how."  As I fight back to my journey to the saddle, I have been saying a lot of "How's"? My life feels consumed by "How's". "How am I going to ride with a brand new baby?" "How am I going to get my colts rode?"  "How am I going to foal my mares out at our new place?" In addition to all the how's of just every day living with four kids. "How, how, HOW?!?!?"  The list of "how" grows by the day that it becomes overwhelming - crippling almost.

It was about this time that I finally was able to bring our stallion, Frenchmans Elvis home.  It wasn't a plan to bring him here yet. But due to safety concerns where he was at, we brought him home early without a safe place to put him but in the corral.  After spending his whole life out in the pasture, spending his days in a corral left him bored and you could tell he wanted to stretch his legs.  Luckily for me, one day Philip got home early from feeding cows and kicked me out the door to go ride.  He expected me to go ride Honey but I wasn't eager to walk the quarter mile in deep snow to go catch her with Elvis in the corral within easy reach. After not being rode for over two years I wondered if I was crazy as I saddled him up to give him a little exercise.

You know the saying, "fits like a glove"?  That's how it felt that day as I stepped on him for the first time in years.  I rode him through the cows as they were happily munching on their hay and headed out to the back pasture. As we were riding the hilltops, deep with snow, that quote came to me and hit me hard.  "When you know your why, you can endure any how."   Right there was my "Why", Elvis. There is a connection to everything I do with a horse and Elvis.  From the breeding side of things to personal barrel racing goals; he's part of it in some way, shape, or form, through himself or his foals.

As much as the horses are a part of me, this season of life that I'm in with my kids is something that I don't want to miss out on. While the obstacles ahead of me or the "How's" may be great, the simple reminder of "Why" has helped change my attitude.  It might take me a little longer this time, but in the end it will be worth it.

What is your "Why"?


 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

It's Not Always Beautiful

As with everything that we learn, there are struggles as we go through that learning curve.  Despite the front that social media allows us to portray, not everything is beautiful; not everything is rainbows and butterflies.  So often we only see the triumphs instead of the failures leaving us with the sinking feeling of why are we struggling so much on our own journey to do the same thing?  The fact is, that we all have our own struggles, just not many people are willing to share it.

The past year I've started doing a horsemanship and barrel racing clinics.  It's been a great experience being able to help people learn how to communicate a clearer picture to their equine partner and to help share the love of horsemanship to my students all the while helping them succeed in barrel racing. It's been rewarding and something that I love to do. Teaching has become a passion. At my clinics, I start out by doing a demonstration on one of my more solid horses so that I can paint a clear picture to my students what my end goal is. My demo horse has gone through these motions every day that I've saddled her up since she was two (she's now seven). It's easy for her and second nature. A foundation build on willing submission, she makes things look simple when they are not.  Although it's valuable to visualize that end goal the demonstration doesn't show the rocks we climbed to get to that point. I get a lot of looks like "you make that look easy" when in fact in the beginning it wasn't.  It didn't get that way over night and it's not going to stay that way without working at it every-single-day.  We live in a world of instant gratification but the real world doesn't work that way.

I was doing a drill yesterday on my demo horse that should have been easy for her. For what she can do, it really should have been a cake walk but I'd never done this particular drill before on her.  I thought, if only my students could see me now. It wasn't pretty.  However as we chipped away and broke down the barriers of miscommunication, it did become "beautiful".  I wished I could have had a video of that process to show my students that we all struggle, and not everything is piece of cake.

As proud of my mare as I am when we do these demonstrations, showing that we are working together as one and with willing submission; I was even more proud of her yesterday as we found holes in our foundation and we fixed them.  Life isn't like Facebook and Instagram where all that is shown and thrown at us is rainbows and butterflies. If you look past social media you see the blood, the sweat, the tears, and the endless hours of dedication to hone your craft.  You'll see the times that we take two steps back after taking just one step forward.  You'll see those that are not willing to give up just because they had a set back or things didn't go their way.  You'll see those fighting, working, striving to always get better and not always looking for an opportunity to post to their social media page how great life is. Life is hard, but keep working at it. Keep working towards your goal and know that those of us that are in the real world, we're right beside you - working with you, supporting you and here for you the whole way!

DON'T. GIVE. UP.












Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Destruction Or Destiny?

I don't know where you are but here in Montana, it's COLD! I mean, C.O.L.D. cold! Although we have only just begun the winter season, it feels like a lifetime ago since we've seen even sweatshirt weather.  This winter has been brutal. Brutal on the livestock and the people that care for them.  With near records amounts of snow and cold, it's not an ideal time to be riding for horse or rider, leaving us susceptible for the winter time blues.

It's easy to get in the winter time blues. Just stand out in the cold cutting baling twine on bale after bale until you can't feel your fingers as you're trying to feed cows.  Or see your horse trailer get buried under snow after your husband had just cleared it and the road the day before. Or dealing with frozen water hoses for the umpteenth time.  Or... Or.... Or...The struggles of winter have a way of wearing on a person and in case you haven't noticed already, they've worn on me.

Beating the winter time blues can be easily remedied by going somewhere where it's warmer for the duration; so in Montana, expect to be gone until June.  Unfortunately for me, my life situation doesn't quite allow me to pick up and leave.  As I was wallowing in the blues, I started thinking about things.  It's easy to sit stagnant in the house, wishing you could be somewhere warm, riding, not worrying about frozen water hoses, thawing out your coveralls and if your toes will return back to normal color, etc. Right now the opportunity to ride is slim, but the opportunity to grow, to prepare, and achieve your goals is right at your grasp!  I've decided that since moving to Arizona right now is impossible,  there has to be other ways to beat the winter time blues and be improving myself and my barrel racing game.  I started asking myself with everything I was doing, "Am I walking towards destruction or to destiny?" That time that I'm wasting time and energy wishing that I could be in the saddle, I can be putting to good use to improve my barrel racing game without actually stepping foot out of my warm, toasty, climate controlled house.



Here's a couple things I've found to help me beat the winter time blues:


  • GOAL SETTING - I'm not a big goal setter, you know the "2017 is a whole new year - whole new life" kind of person. But when it comes to my horses, I need to know and focus on where I'm going with each individual, what is my ultimate goal and where I do I need them to be by a certain time, etc.  If I don't have that in mind, I won't know if I'm behind or on schedule.  Because I ride mostly colts that I hope to futurity, this is an important factor for me. 
  • DIET AND EXERCISE - yeah I know, we're coming off the holidays and we've been packing on a couple extra pounds, now is the time to take careful watch over what you eat and start working out on those six pack abs (they've gotta be in there somewhere right?) 
    • So at first glance I realize this doesn't sound all that fun, but once you get into the habit, the feel good feeling you get after completing a work out, you'll be seeing what I mean about beating the blues. 
  • MAKE A GAME PLAN - Get out  a yearly calendar and write down the races that have been scheduled.  Some you may make and some you may not, but focus on the ones that you're wanting to make. Refer to your Goal Setting to know what will be most beneficial to you, your horse, and your ultimate goal. 
  • IMPROVING THE MENTAL GAME - The mental aspect of barrel racing is vital.  You may have the horse and you may have the ability but if your mind isn't in the game, your ship has sunk.  I listen to a lot of motivational speeches or read up on mental toughness. My favorite book is Mind Gym by Gary Mack but there are several out there that I've enjoyed and revisited through the years. 
  • RESEARCH - Instead of scrolling through Facebook seeing all the videos and pictures of your friends riding in t shirts in Texas or Arizona, spend some time researching a topic that would be beneficial to you and your horses.  For instance, if you have a bleeder, learn more about EIPH, what is it? what does it do? how to prevent it? how to treat? you get the picture.  Have a problem last fall with a horse, watch barrel racing or horsemanship videos. Study, take notes, and be prepared to use it when you saddle up. Knowledge is power and here's a chance to educate yourself. 
  • CLEAN & DECLUTTER - Get your equipment ready to use. Now's a great time to clean those saddles, check chicago screws, make repairs as needed, etc.  Get everything in order and ready to go so that when the day comes to ride, all you have to do is saddle up! 
  • CATCH UP - For me being a mom of three boys, trying to help my husband with the cattle, my horses, all the while managing the house, I realize that now is a great time to be catching up on things in the house so that when it's nice outside, I can utilize that sunshine.  Spring cleaning starts now (it may be 8 years late but better late then never right?), meal planning and making freezer meals, doing things now that will make my life and my family's lives easier come spring. 
In thinking of ways to help improve my barrel racing game as well as life in general; I was amazed at all that I could do and work on from the comforts of home.  There's so much more that you can do, maybe you do this already, maybe you do some of it. Regardless I hope that this helps those that are in the same position as me and needing to beat those winter time blues.   Ask yourself, are you on the road for destruction (wasting time when you could be doing something to benefit yourself and your family) or are you on the road to your destiny (taking meaningful steps that will improve and help you reach your ultimate goals). Make your your actions meaningful!  


Hold strong my friends, there's light at the end of the tunnel!  I see 20s and even 30s in the 10 day forecast!