Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The NFR Dream...

I think that every little barrel racing girl growing up has that goal of running down the alley of the Thomas & Mack in Las Vegas - becoming one of the top 15 in the world, qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo. It seems that as we grow older, that dream starts to fade, our lives have changed, our priorities, our goals.

Philip and I just recently came home after a few days in Las Vegas watching the NFR.  If there is anything to rekindle that fire, that desire and that dream, get to the Thomas & Mack early and sit down thinking about what it'd be like to be a contestant.  Just think of running down that alley way blind to that first barrel, the thrill of inhaling second and flying home from third.  If the very thought doesn't send shivers down your spine, then I don't know what will!

I was definitely one of those girls that wanted to make it to the NFR and run under the bright lights. It was great getting to spend time in Vegas, seeing the rodeo, the contestants and of course the Cowboy Christmas.  It was also great to reflect, to think about what it would take to make it to the NFR, to make that original dream a reality.   Could it happen?  How?  When?  As I went to college my first year, I thought that it was a definite possibility and by the time I left college, my goal had become just a memory.  "Why?" I asked myself as I was recently interviewed on the very subject for an article in Western Horseman.  Why had I let my dream slip away from being in my sight?  There are a multitude of different reasons as I reflected back on the last 6 years.  I have no regrets for where life has taken me, but I do regret that I have not been working toward this dream all this time.

After all this time, could it really happen? Do I have what it takes?  Could I do it? I don't know the answer to those questions but I know this, if you want it bad enough, you will make it happen.  I really believe in God's timing and I also believe that the talent that He gives us is a gift - what we do with that gift is our gift back to God.  I don't know what His plans are for me, maybe the NFR isn't in His plans?  Maybe it's something else? However, I do know this...God gave me a gift as a barrel racer. He has made things happen for me as a barrel racer that are not possible without Him.

Like I said, I don't know when His timing will be, but I can be prepared.  I realize that every day that I don't work out, I am that much weaker than my competition, that much heavier for my horse to carry, and have that much less reaction time that could be the difference of tipping a barrel or lifting my leg to save me from that 5 second penalty.  Along with this, I realize that every time that I eat that cookie, take seconds, or give into my guilty pleasure of pizza, that I am going have to work that much harder to get/stay fit or I will be weaker than the rest of my competition. I realize that for every day that I don't work on my mental game, I am weaker than my competition.  Every day that I don't ride my horse means my horse is less fit than my competition.  And every day that I don't think about my ultimate dream - the NFR - makes me that much weaker than my competition.  Don't make excuses...go DO it!  Make it happen!

If you want something, you have to work hard for it.  You have to be dedicated and be tuned into your dream/goal.  It's a lifestyle.  Philip, my husband has always been an inspiration to me.  He works harder than any other person that I know and he does the absolute best that he can do at everything that he does.  While at Vegas, we had a lot of good talks about the NFR.  One of the things he said to me that really is sticking to me is to make every run I make be like my last shot. You never know when you have another chance, another run, so make everything count and leave it all in the arena.  Go in there and know that you've done everything that you could to win starting from home and working all the way up into the arena.  Show God just how much you want it, just how hard you're willing to work for it, leaving the outcome in God's hands.  Glorify God in all that you do and in that, you will be giving a gift back to God.

My barrel racing friends, no matter what your dream is from the NFR, or maybe it's something else not even related to barrel racing, please keep this verse in mind; "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters." Colossians 3:23

Until next time, work hard, ride hard and DREAM BIG!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Making time...

There comes a time when you need to make some changes and make time for the things and people that matter most.  Ever since high school, I really can't remember a time when I was riding (other than right after having my boys) that I didn't have an outside horse in to train.  I've been blessed in working with some awesome people who provided me some amazing horses over the years to work with.  I'm so grateful for those that believed in me enough to entrust me with their horses.  This has been my life.  I love training horses and putting that solid foundation on them so that they can go on and excel with their owners and have a successful career long after they leave our barn.   Knowing that this summer was going to be busy with our two boys and getting back into the groove, I kept my outside horses to a minimum.  After sending my last outside horse home this last weekend, I was humbled as I read through my waiting list of horses to ride and of the continued support and belief people have in me and my program. This made my decision to not take in any more outside horses even harder to make.

I think back on some of the horses I've had the great privilege to throw my saddle on.  All of them I learned something on that helped mold me into the trainer and rider that I am today.   The experience and knowledge that I gained has been invaluable through these horses.  All the hard work, wear and tear on my body,  riding in the wind/rain/snow/heat/cold weather are all worth it as I hear about horses that have came through my barn go on to make nice barrel horses for their owners.  Some have brought home purple ribbons at the fair, are saddle winners, hitting the pro circuit, making the high school finals, whatever avenue they are in, it makes my heart happy to hear the updates from their owners.  

I realize though that my family is growing up too fast and all the time that I can spend with them now, I need to cherish it while it's there because it will be gone in the blink of an eye.  Not only our boys, but our own horse program is young and ready to go on with too. Our first colts are three and are in need of being first in line to be saddled instead of saddling that outside horse first.  The time has come for me to put my whole heart and soul into our own family and our horse program.  I'm excited to be able to spend this time on something that we've worked so hard for and seeing the results.  I'm excited to be able to spend more time with my boys, doing more things with them and not being rushed to do this and do that.  I'm thankful for my hard working husband for all he does so that it allows me to take this step back.

Now is the time...Now is the time, to make time for what matters most.  I'm not going to say that I'm done training for the public, but for now, my saddle is going on those O-O branded horses.  I'm happy, I'm hopeful, and I'm ready for this change.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sink or Swim....

This summer has just been flying by and we've been doing our best to catch up with everything that needs done.  This summer has had it's up's and downs for me.  At the beginning of the summer, I thought I'd be much further in my barrel racing than I am at this point.  I've been struggling with my confidence and balance like never before.  My husband commented after a barrel race earlier this summer that it looked like I just had no confidence anymore and it was shot.  He is definitely right!  I certainly thought that coming back after baby number 2 that I'd have a much easier time getting back in the groove, after all I've done this before right? Not....

I've set myself up for failure in many ways.  With hauling a stud and trying to prove him, I feel like I'm always under the microscope and any false move or bad run, people will look down on my horse. There is nothing worse than to have people talk ill about your stallion and the program that you've spent most of your life on.  However, the other day as I was riding Elvis I was thinking, no one else knows the details of our journey.  No one else has ridden this horse to feel what he has, and no one else knows how little confidence I really have left.  Quite frankly, it doesn't matter what other people think or say at this point.  It's all a matter of going out there and doing what's best for my horse, myself, and my family.

Also while on this ride (I think the most clearly when I'm in the saddle), I started thinking of something that I have really struggled with about trainer vs competitor mode.  I am a perfectionist so I always feel like I'm in "trainer" mode.  However, if you always looking for perfection and never step out of your comfort zone, you can never really achieve that next level.  With this, it hit me...You can't ride a horse like a 4D rider and expect to come out in the 1D.  You have to be able to ride that horse with all you have, whether it be hustling or just setting there on a free runner. Ride that horse to the best of YOUR ability but most of all, you have to go into that arena, BELIEVING you're on a 1D horse.

For me, riding aggressive has been a down fall.  I like my horses to go out there and just do their job, but sometimes, especially on these ratey/turny horses I've been riding lately,  I'm seeing how badly I need to adjust my riding style to being aggressive and ride up all the way into the pocket. For those of you that personally know me, you more than likely know about a little sorrel mare named Vandy.  Vandy is one of my barrel horses that was on maternity leave like me this past year and finally I've weaned her colt and am getting her back into shape.  She is the perfect example of having to ride aggressive.  Either your ride aggressive or you'll knock a barrel or she'll flat out leave you in the dirt as she spins around a barrel.  She's quick, powerful and unlike Elvis, she has no mercy.  She has no problem leaving me high and dry where as Elvis has taken better care of me this year than he should for his young age.

I'm hoping that with getting back to running Vandy in the next couple of weeks that that absolute "need" to ride aggressive will in turn cross over to Elvis who desperately needs me to be aggressive and have more confidence.  I don't really have any answers on how to get out of trainer mode and onto competitor mode, but I'm sure hoping that Vandy gives me a good jump start into figuring it out!

It's time to sink or swim....

Monday, July 8, 2013


I had the pleasure of riding with a friend of mine, Allene to a Dena Kirkpatrick clinic a couple of weeks ago. It was so refreshing talking to her about anything and everything, however there is one thing that really is sticking my heart right now.  I might not have it exactly right, but she said something like this, "Expectations will break your heart."  I can relate to that so much right now and I know there are others out there that can feel it too.

After having my son Colter in March, I had it in my head that I was just going to bounce back, jump on Elvis and away we go on our way to the top.  I knew that I could do it and I knew that Elvis could do it, so why would it take much time to get back there?  What I didn't realize is just how HARD it is to getting there, physically AND mentally.  I completely expected to be back where we left off last fall in no time.

Because of my expectations, I was really heart broken when I realized just how little balance and strength I had and how hard it is to loose that extra weight to be back in my game.  Not to mention, riding a relatively young horse (6) that still is not solid and needs help; help that because of my lack of feel, timing, and balance I am not able to give him fully. To add a cherry on the top, try to get everything back riding one of the most powerful horses you've rode to date.  I'm not trying to make excuses, just stating facts. It's not as easy as I thought it'd be!

It's time to get to reality and realize that it IS going to take time, more practice, more dedication, sweat, and tears than I had originally expected.  For those of you that know me personally, you know that I've been pretty down and hard on myself.  Thank you to those of you that stepped up and said, "Hey, you're doing just fine...it'll come back!"  Thank you to those that lifted me up, when I felt so far down. And lastly, thank you to those that believe in me and Elvis and keep encouraging us on.  We will get there.  It might not be next week, or next month even, but we WILL get back to where we need to be.    

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Taking the plunge....

I have been waiting for the day that I could load up and go barrel racing pretty much since my last run in August 2012. After having my son in March, I knew that although I still had some time before I would get to go run, that it was within my grasp.  I made a goal to run at a local series which would be great for both Elvis and I on way back into the arena.  I couldn't wait!

However, when the time came, I tried to back out and make excuses not to go.  You see, I'm a perfectionist and sure don't want anyone to see me not at the top of my game.  After having the baby, I am struggling getting those last pounds gone. Because of this my balance is way off, my timing is off and my confidence is low because of lack of balance.  For the past couple of weeks, I had been practicing the barrels and with each day of riding I felt better and better. When the time came for the barrel race though, I still was way out of my comfort zone.

I did my best to come up with legit excuses not to go.  For instance, poor Elvis had been bred every day that week except for Tuesday.  I hadn't gotten to ride him much that week with his breeding schedule and with my already low confidence in myself, not being able to practice made it even worse.  My husband reassured me that things would be okay.  "Elvis is in good shape and with the barrels, he knows his job," he told me.  He had a point.  My fears weren't really about Elvis, but about myself and there was only one way to conquer those fears and that was to go to the barrel race.

We loaded up the whole family and away we went. I was able to exhibition a few times before the barrel race to show Elvis the arena and get a feel for the ground.  I wasn't too worried about Elvis in those aspects so that was really just an excuse to get exhibitions for myself.  Since our last run in August, I was trying to "tweek" a few things that I felt would make us quicker.  It really wasn't Elvis, again it was myself that I was working on.  In the exhibitions, I was pretty pleased with myself in how I rode.  Still far from perfect but I was riding Elvis to the points that I wanted to and he just felt good.  That sure helped my nerves and gave me a little more confidence for when we were to run.

When it came down to my run, I tried my best to ride him like my exhibitions.  However, with the added speed my already lack of balance showed up and I felt like a rag doll on the back of a very powerful horse!  I held on for dear life, fearing the worst of falling off.  Poor Elvis was pretty much on auto pilot as I put all my thought into keeping myself in the saddle.  In turn I didn't ride him like I had practiced.  At the end of the run with me still having a death grip on my saddle horn, I was disappointed with myself.  I hadn't done Elvis justice and felt like I had let him down.

I was sure happy with how Elvis handled himself that day.  At times I'm sure he was thinking, "Work with me here woman!", but he did his part despite me not doing mine.  At the end of the day when people asked how my run went, I simply told them the two goals I had set for myself that day - first, I stayed on and second, I kept all the barrels up.

Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves that we need to take baby steps. I didn't expect to go win the jackpot that day.  However, I had hoped that I would have rode better than I did.   As we were driving home I kept reflecting back on my run.  Thinking of the things I did but most of all didn't do.  I had ran a few times at home and things had felt better (on my part) than they did that day.   I felt pretty down about it until I realized that I needed that run under my belt to use as a stepping stone.  I learned more from that one run at a jackpot about what I needed to do, how to ride, and my mentality than I had the whole last three weeks of working barrels at home.

Although, that video won't be made public any time soon, I've watched it over and over, seeing where I lost time, what I did right, and what I did wrong. Had I not taken the "plunge" and stayed home I would have missed the opportunity to learn and use that for my next run.  If I wait until everything is "perfect" before I go out and run, I will never get the chance to really go on and do something.  By going to the barrel race, it will act as a catalyst for us to improve for the next barrel race.  It gives us something to base our progress on and as the summer goes on, we will be able to see how far we have come.

Even though I felt like whiplash the monkey on the back of Elvis, sometimes those times of putting yourself out there before you're perfect are worth it.  I know because of this, my time getting my confidence and balance back in the saddle will be that much shorter because of the experience I gained.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Why Do We Stand A Stallion?

We're starting to get some beautiful weather here the last week or two.  Thank goodness because Philip and I have been running around like crazy.  We're really getting deep into the breeding season and so collecting Elvis and breeding three mares or more every other night is part of our every day life now a days.  Not to mention the checking to see if mares are coming into heat, going out of heat, how close are they to foal (we still have two left), and soon it'll be time to ultrasound to see if our hard work has paid off with a tiny little embryo.  Once I see that embryo on that ultrasound screen I start to breath easier.  

There was a post on BarrelHorseWorld.com about why do you stand a stallion.  I thought that this was a pretty good topic.  I've talked about how we came to have a stallion earlier in my post "Dreams Coming True - Part 1", but why do we keep doing this? It is so much easier to let someone else stand a stallion and breed your mare or even buying the colts already on the ground.  However, it seems like there are many out there that dream of owning a stallion and everything will be butterflies and rainbows.  Let me tell you, that wasn't quite the "dream" we had at first. They are work!  Even with the best mannered stallion, they are work!  Not just physical work with making a facility safe for them, doing everything you do to train, manner, and breed them, but also emotional stress can take it's toll. You constantly have to be on your toes with a stallion, even with the most docile.  They are creatures of habit and need a handler and trainer that will always keep them correct and they know they are to obey and have respect.  You have to be aware of your surroundings constantly.  Parking at the jackpots and rodeos aren't just a matter of a good spot closest to the water, but also who are your parking neighbors and if they have mares, will they be respectful and keep their distance from your stud?  It is tiring, no doubt physically and emotionally. 

No matter how much work, there are rewards.  Elvis is the type of horse that I enjoy to ride and with that we have a connection that I haven't felt with another horse.  He's smart and always wants to please.  Running barrels, working cows, giving our kids rides, he does it all and enjoys doing those things.  With riding many different horses, I have found that there are just some that I dread to ride every day.  With Elvis, there is not that feeling of dread.  I have enjoyed riding and training that horse every day I get the opportunity to throw my leg over the saddle. Am I biased? Maybe, but it wouldn't matter who owned this horse for me to feel this way.  It is this along with his other attributes of good legs, feet, solid conformation, trainability and athleticism that makes me keep a stallion.  With Elvis I have the opportunity to produce colts like their sire, that every day I enjoy to go ride and work with them.  They make things fun and easy.  I no longer have to go searching for my next prospect that I know can take me to the pay window.  I just have to look out my kitchen window to see them! 

From Elvis' first foals to be started to working with the yearlings and weanlings we know that they have a striking resemblance to their sire.  With this, we will always put up with the extra work and hassle of a stallion because not only does Elvis deserve it, but because of him, we will always have horses that we "love to ride".  

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Making the most of it...

Well, I can finally say that I'm back in the saddle!  After having our second child, Colter, I've been waiting anxiously for this time to come!  Barrel races are already under way in our area and I had the feeling that I was going to be left out for most of them that I had planned on going.  Thankfully for me, the good thing about riding a stud horse in spring is that I don't have to worry about getting him in shape He does that job without me so I'm able to get right to work instead of spending weeks getting him legged up. He knew my plans of running barrels so while I wasn't able to ride, he was helping me out getting ready. ;) Well, okay it wasn't quite that that. He might not have had barrel racing on his mind while he was getting in shape, but I sure did!

We've had some more moisture here in Montana and I'm so thankful for that but it can put a cramp in my barrel racing training/schedule.  As I was riding Elvis through my barrel patch yesterday to see what it looked like and just how wet it was, my first thought was that it'd be a long time before I got to work barrels in there.  We're blessed with a mixture of nice gumbo with a hint of sand....perfect for barrel racing....well not really.  However, we do make it work and with the drought we've had lately, it worked pretty good!  

Riding along, I got to thinking of rodeo horses.  My plans for Elvis this year is to be seasoning him at the local rodeos and although we have some nice ground in the area arenas, there are a few that my barrel patch would be the better place to run on any given day.  So, while my barrel patch is not in the greatest of running conditions, I've decided that it shouldn't keep us out of the game.  The best thing I can do for to prepare Elvis for rodeos is not to baby him and let him experience this 'not so great' ground while there is no money on the line so that when there is, he'll have a better idea how to handle himself and I also will know how to ride him through that ground.  

We often times baby our horses when the practice ground isn't the best.  Although I won't be asking my horses for their life on this ground, I will ask them to do our slow work so that when we hit that rodeo trail that they aren't afraid to go run and will have confidence that they can turn the barrels. They can learn how to stand up and know where their feet are and I can help give confidence in how I ride them as well as I'll prepare myself on how to help them in those situations.  

So for that short while that I was down about not being about to work barrels, we've decided that the ground and weather isn't what is going to get in the way of our barrel racing aspirations.  We'll do our best to prepare ourselves for this coming year with what's being dealt to us and make use of every learning opportunity! 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Facts of life...

The horse business is never easy. You have your highs and your lows.  A fact of our horse business is that it's not just a business, it's our lives.  We've put so much time and effort into each and every horse that they are part of our family.  They are something special.  

One of the facts of life though is that things are not always rainbows and butterflies.  I've been raising horses for over 15 years and have been very blessed with relatively good luck.  Sure there's been a few bumps and hiccups here and there but in the big scheme of things, we've been very blessed. 

It wasn't what I was expecting when I walked to the barn yesterday.  Our broodmare, Punkin was by the barn and was acting funny.  She wasn't due to foal for another couple of weeks so I hadn't been really worried about her having her foal.  However, when I saw her I knew that things weren't right and she was having it then and it wasn't good.  Thankfully my dad was in town and was able to come right away to check her out.  (My dad is a vet.) He was there within minutes to our rescue.

My heart sunk when he said the words "the foal is dead", although in my heart I knew the sad truth already.  The head and legs were back and although she was pushing, there was no way she was going to get it out on her own.  Between my dad and my husband Philip, they were able to get the legs and head in position and deliver the dead foal, a beautiful sorrel stud colt with a star and Elvis' signature snip. It appears that the umbilical cord was detached leading to the death of the foal.  Punkin, although heartbroken over her lost foal, will be fine.  The outcome could have been so much different if we hadn't been there for her and I'm so thankful that we were there in time. Time will tell if we will ever have another Punkin foal, but with the loss of this one, I count my blessings in the foals she's given us already.  

The loss of this colt has hit us hard. We had such big plans for him and like I've mentioned in my previous posts, all of these colts are special to us and mean so much.  This business is full of hard work, sweat and tears.  We do our best to provide and protect but somethings like this are just out of our hands. Because we are dreamers, dreaming of that next foal, dreaming of what it can do and will do, we will continue on.  We will never forget what was lost, but we will always remember what there is to come.  

Proverbs 16:9 reads, "In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps."  All this time we've planned for this foal, our hopes, our dreams will not be wasted.  We take comfort knowing that the Lord is leading the way. 

Punkin with her 2012 filly by Frenchmans Guy.

Punkin with her 2011 filly by Frenchmans Elvis. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

With every horse comes an opportunity...

Have you ever been in a rut? Just can't seem to climb out of that hole that you felt you hit rock bottom on? Or have that horse that no matter how much time you put into them they just can't seem to get it or things just don't "click"?  It can really take a toll on us as riders; making us lose interest, our passion.  It can make your frustration grow which in turn takes it's toll on our horses.  This is never a good combination with horses and has no business in the saddle. We've all been there, myself included many times.  

I've been so frustrated before that I was ready to sell one of the nicest horses I've ever had because she presented a challenge to me that I just felt like I couldn't work through.  I was ready to hang it up, sell them all.  I was throwing myself a pity party.  It showed in the horses I rode, in my barrel racing, in my attitude towards life in general...I was at a pretty all time low with this particular horse and it sure carried over into every aspect of me.  I've worked most of my life to better myself in the saddle.  Horses were my life and it was something that I strived to be better at every day.  It consumed me and when I hit that low it felt like what I'd worked so hard for all that time was for nothing.  

I remember one night lying in bed praying to God to help me find some sort of direction, that obviously this wasn't what I was meant to be doing.  I had tried all that I knew and I just wasn't good enough.  That next morning when I went to the barn I can not explain the new feeling that I had.  The strength, the freshness of my mind and the new found determination.  The Lord whispered in my ear, you have a lot left to learn. 

This horse was put in my path for a reason.  She made me grow in ways that I can't explain and she presented a challenge that pushed me beyond my limits. I've had many horses that have made me think "outside of the box" and when I started to think about all the things that I've learned from each and every horse, I realized that no time is wasted in the saddle if we keep an open mind and we learn something.  Each and every horse that I've rode has helped me develop my riding, my thinking, and my style.  I've gotten better with each horse, my horses that much more prepared - more solid.  Even though not every horse has made it into a barrel horse for a variety of reasons, I've always learned something from them and have put it to use on the next horse.  

We all have dreams for our horses, goals that you have set in your mind, etc. Since the majority of horses I work with are just prospects, I spend most of my time trying to mold that horse, unlock the promise that individual has into a top barrel horse.  We spend countless hours to achieve this goal and the end product takes years to make. Truth be told, not every horse is going to make it as a top barrel horse and many you won't know until you've already put in years of work.  There may come time where you come to a point with a horse that you feel like I once did, defeated.  However, don't let that sense of defeat get you down.  That horse may need to go down a different path than you had desired for it, but as long as you have learned something from it and are willing to use that for the next time you swing your leg over a saddle, that time was never wasted. You can learn something each and every time you sit in a saddle, halter a horse, or just by just brushing him. 

You may learn what to do better for that next horse or you may learn what not to do, but regardless of what it is, never stop learning.  If you open up your mind and eyes to your horses and your heart to God, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in the end. 

The challenge that I almost gave up on, who in turn gave me more than anything than I could have ever imagined! She  continues to challenge me, making me grow and learn every day I get to ride her.  She's a one in a million! 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Burn Out

Many people get caught up in the monotony of their jobs.  They do the same thing day in and day out and it takes away the love and desire they once had to do the job. Maybe it's not the monotony but the stress and constant pressure to perform, meeting deadlines, your coworkers or boss that has done you in.  You may try to do your best but in reality your heart is no longer in it like it once was; your passion is gone.

I'm sure many of you know the feeling that I'm talking about whether it's about a job or maybe even a hobby or sport you once loved. No matter what it may be from, taking a leaving of absence or a change of pace or scenery is what most people will do to clear their head after being burnt out.

The same is true for horses. They can get burnt out and sour just as we can. That's where you can see horses starting to wring their tail, baulk at the gate, get panic attacks, buck and rear.  There of course are other things that can go on that could cause the very same issues such as pain and miscommunication that need to be factored in to know the true reason why a horse does these things. However, horses regardless will become bored or lose their desire just as we do.

It is our job as their rider and trainer to be on the watch for this in our horses and prevent it from ever happening. Those horses that are constantly in training and being drilled need some time to refresh their minds.  Ranch work and pasture riding are so important to let a horse breathe and rejuvenate. Although technically you're taking a "break" from training, there are so many things you can do under the radar that will further your training.  Go work on circles around a sage brush, switching leads between them, work on speed control, walk slow, walk fast, trot slow, trot fast, (you get the picture), etc.  If you're on the ranch, position your horse on a cow much like you would if you shape your horse for a barrel.  Let the cow move your horse and your horse the opportunity to "think" on his own without being told.  Give them praise and give them meaning to their work.  The time away from actual "training" will do them good and they will come back willing and wanting so much more.  If they've lost their "passion" to run barrels, just by giving them a different job or just time off in general could make all the difference and bring them back to loving what they do. 

I see this alot in horse trainers as well.  We get so caught up into what we're doing that we forget why we are there in the first place. We're constantly on deadlines to get a job done that can have so many variables, the stress of performing well and the aches and pains that we put our bodies through day in and day out to complete the job is enough to make anyone lose a little bit of their focus after awhile. Although I haven't lost my "passion", I can say that I have lost focus on why I really do what I do.  With being pregnant with our second child I have gotten more than enough time off to be reminded and brought back to see why I love what I do.  This breath of fresh air sort to speak brings me back refreshed and hungry to get back to it.  I'm reminded of this verse, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." Colossians 3:23 NIV .  There is no shame in admitting your heart is not in a job because of being "burnt out" and I respect those that realize it in their horses and themselves before it gets too bad and will do something about it. 

With this breath of fresh air not only are my horses refreshed, but I am as well.  I am recharged and ready to get back in the saddle!  I don't know what 2013 has in store for us, but I do know that I will ride through it with an open mind, renewed focus and a heart full of passion.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Preparing For Our First Rides

When first starting a young colt under saddle, we do a lot of preparation for this big event whether we realize it or not.  Ground work, sacking them out, getting them to "join up", creating a good partnership based on willing submission, etc is what most comes to mind when people think of "preparing" a horse to be rode. 

However, there is something that many over look - floating teeth.  Many think that the only time you need to worry about the teeth is when a horse's condition is going downhill or if you are having trouble with the bit. What is that saying? "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Why wait until you have problems?

I am a big believer of getting our your horse's teeth done before we think about starting them. Not only do we need to make sure that there are no wolf teeth there that will interfere with how well a colt takes a bit, but even as two year olds they can have sharp points that cut into a colt's cheeks causing discomfort. Not only will floating their teeth early help with riding but by keeping their teeth balanced year to year, we are setting our horses up to have a mouth full of teeth as even older horses keeping them that much happier and healthier.

Last year I was guilty of over looking the teeth of our young horses and boy did it ever show to me when I was riding.  As horsemen we know that there are bound to be a few bumps in the road caused by miscommunication, unwilling submission or self preservation due to pain.  I would rather take the guesswork out of it as much as I can by making sure their teeth are not the problem so that I can move onto finding the right solution and to curb the potential problem before it ever starts.

Although I am not able to ride yet, yesterday I started "preparing" by having our two and three year olds teeth done as well as the other horse I will be riding this spring, Elvis.  It may be a month or more before I will be able to swing a leg over a saddle but I will know that when that time comes that I will be that much more prepared and the horses will be ready to get to work.

I've always been a stickler for having a horse's teeth done every year and after overlooking/forgetting about it last year, I was not going to make the same mistake twice!  Have you done all you can to "prepare" your horse?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Spring is in the air!

Spring is just around the corner and that means one thing to us here in Montana...babies!  This is particularly true for us this year as we are expecting our second child in just a few short weeks!  Calving season is ready to begin at any time and foaling begins this year the first part of April for us.

Awe...foaling season, one of my favorite times of the year.  The possibilities are endless, well...sorta.  Four of the six mares we have in foal are sorrel.  Sorrel paired with a palomino means you have two options.  Of course the first is filly or stud colt and the second is palomino or sorrel.  I guess we like knowing our odds! ;) The other two mares are bay/brown so their color options are much more open than our sorrel mares can genetically offer. 

No matter what the color may be, these foals born here we are proud to produce.  We strive to breed for foals that have the potential and ability to do whatever is asked.  Whether it be a top level barrel horse, a horse that is handy on the ranch or one you can trust to put your kids on, our colts are bred to have that trainability, athleticism and soundness that all of these jobs would require.

By keeping our program relatively small, we are able to have a very hands on approach to our mares and foals.  Our mares were hand picked by us to what we feel will compliment our stallion, Frenchmans Elvis, and will help us reach our goals in our breeding program.  Each mare brings something special to the table, making the resulting foal that much more special to us.

As a breeder, I am pretty proud of the fact that whatever is born on our place is exactly what I'm looking for in a prospect and I have no problem keeping them for myself to ride.  This value was one of our conditions when Philip and I started out, we are breeding for horses that we want to ride and are proud to do it!

Our program is relatively young with our first foal being just three this year, however, it is showing the hard work, the hours and hours of endless thought and consideration we put into each mare, and our vision is paying off.  We are so excited for the future and can't wait to saddle up the next prospect from our program!

What will this year's foals bring? We may not know the gender or what the color will be, but we do know this, they will be the kind we want to ride! 

PA Frenchnickerbars, 2012 filly and her dam Nick Bars Babe. Babe is bred back the same way for 2013.