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!