Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Bridle

It hangs on a rusty old horse shoe, likely the very shoe of it's partner.  It's made of good harness leather with the only "bling" on it is the plain silver buckles that fasten it. The bit is starting to rust little by little and the purple reins that adorn it are getting stiff from the neglect.  It hangs dormant now that she's gone.

It's been almost a year now since she's passed. A day doesn't go by that I don't think of her and see her big doe eyes. I see her bridle hanging on the wall every day I walk into the tack room.  Each time it reminds me of the miles we rode and the barrels we turned together on that little gray mare.

The bit, just a nothing special "roping" bit was her favorite.  It was enough to control her powerhouse moves but yet light enough to let her do her job. It has never felt right on anyone else but her so there it sits.

A bridle around my place that is not used after a certain amount of time is always in danger of being disassembled and put on a different bit, one that is being used.  The reins, always a hot commodity are left, keeping it all intact. Just how she liked it.  Many times I've gone to the bridle, searching for that missing part to make my new head gear complete. But I just can't bring myself to taking it apart.  It was her's.  It feels like one of the last things that I'll ever have of hers and I'm just not quite ready to let that go just yet.

Today I held the reins, feeling that familiar feel as I slid my hand from knot to knot.  I closed my eyes and was taken back.  Taken back to a time where all felt right, a sweet gray mare between my hands and under my saddle getting ready to turn that first barrel - the complete thrill of the ride and her effortless turn.

I miss her more by the thought of her and all the memories that come flooding back every time I see that bridle hanging on the wall.  I'm not ready to give that feeling of her up just yet.  So there it will stay, hanging on the horse shoe; so that any time I need a reminder or to feel her, I can just grab the reins and she will take me for that ride that always took my breath away.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Back To The Basics

Finally!!!  It feels like forever since I've swung my leg over a horse!  After the birth of our third son last month, I'm back and ready as ever to be riding.  Knowing my time is extremely limited and there are not too many barrels races around here the next few months, I've devoted most of my riding time to my 4 year old and next year's futurity prospect, Honey.  She's just as broke as the last day I rode her, not to mention just as fun!

She had around 30 days riding on the barrels, but last winter I devoted most of my riding time with her to just getting her super broke and handy.  I focused on having her ride between my hands, being soft and supple, moving her hips and shoulders, using my whole body to ride her and just having a good understanding of what I asked her to do.  Its one of my favorite parts in this horse training journey is getting that foundation solid.  My time and work with her last winter yielded me one of the greatest compliments I've received, "If you're not careful, you'll get that colt too broke to run barrels."

Training her the way that I did presents a challenge when you're out of shape, balance and timing.  As I started Honey back on doing some slow work on the barrels, I could feel her wanting to drop in on the second barrel just a step. It wasn't until I watched a video of someone running barrels on a horse that I trained and seen them drop their shoulder and hip into the barrel and seeing how that horse responded did I put two and two together. I was doing the same thing.

The next day when I worked barrels, instead of drilling her on keeping her shoulders up and staying forward in the turn, I focused solely on me and my body position. Sure enough, by just staying straight in my saddle, driving forward with my hips and keeping my shoulders square and relaxed, Honey stayed correct and never gave it a thought about dropping in.

It's amazing how many problems were created just by our body position.  Had I not watched that video or seen it in myself how my body position was affecting my horse, who knows how long I would have been having to "fix" my horse. Losing my core strength and riding horses too powerful that when I ran I safetied up just so I could get by, have led to me to have an array of bad habits.

 I feel like I have to start back at ground zero and learn how to ride all over again.  Thankfully I have a winter to get back to the basics and focus on my balance, my riding and my body language.  In high school, I rode my barrel horse bareback to leg him up so that I was in perfect synch with him.  He was not an easy horse by any means to ride bareback, but it gave me an edge by knowing and feeling his every move and knowing how to stay balanced enough to stay with him.

I'm not sure that I will get to where I long trot my horses a couple miles every day bareback like I did back then, but I will definitely be spending more time saddle less and more aware of my equitation.  Rather than jumping and correcting the horse if it's not doing something exactly how I "want" them to, I will be looking first at just how I "asked" them to do it before making that judgement call that they did something wrong.  I've been taught all my life how to ride and use my body to help the horse so much that it was natural.  However, time off has left me dull.  It's time to sharpen those edges by going back to the basics.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Horses That Built Me

I think with most every horse lover, there are those horses that come into our lives, regardless of how long, that really make an impact on us and our horsemanship, attitude, lives, etc.  Still sitting here waiting for baby #3's arrival leaves me with a lot of time to think about horses and reflect on them since of course, I'm unable to ride any of them.  Lately I have been thinking of some of those horses that have really shaped me into who I am as a horsewoman today.

To me, the one that started it all was a big brown gelding by the name of Shocka Bar Cody.  If you are a follower of my blog, then you probably will remember him in the post, A Little Girl And Her Horse, a tribute that I wrote after I lost him this spring at age 28.  He was the type of horse that every little horse crazed girl or boy needed to have in their young lifetimes.  A true one in a million type of horse that taught me the fundamentals, a champions desire and attitude and the importance of always being there for my horse after I almost lost him due to colic.  He brought a little nothing of a horse crazed girl and opened the door to so many championships.

Smoky by Lucky Boy, a grey gelding that opened more doors for me than I can count.  He carried me through high school and college and together we accomplished more than I could ever imagine.  Saddles, buckles and various other prizes lined my walls.  It wasn't all rainbows and butterflies though.  He was a bit accident prone in his first years together, narrowly missing his death by a quarter of an inch when he decided that it'd be fun to sit on a fence post, not to mention surviving his bout with West Nile. Despite it all, his heart won out and it brought us to the top.  He is the very reason for my program today.  He gave me the start and boost that I needed to get me going in this industry and his influence still carries me.  In a paragraph it's hard to sum up the impact this horse had on me.

This year was a hard one on me for horses. In addition to Cody, I also lost my great mare, Mae Holly Fire, who I also wrote about, The Little Gray Mare With A Heart Of Gold.  The lessons that I learned from this mare didn't just go towards horses but life in general.  As a sophomore in college I was looking for a eventual replacement for my good horse, Smoky. The search lead me to Oklahoma and a little grey mare.  I paid way more than what I should have, but I just had to have her.  There was something there that I had only felt on one other horse that was a very accomplished pro mare that I had leased the summer before.  The way she could move around a barrel was something that would leave me breathless.  That is if she would turn it.... One of the most talented individuals I had rode to date, she was one of the most challenging.  She had so much talent and it could be so easy for her, but her previous experiences just were much harder to get past.   It was beyond frustrating! It was a struggle to bring her to the winners circle, but she made it there and she made me a better horseman because of it.  She kept me on my toes and made me think outside of the box.  I really believe that many would have given up, but I had so much invested into her that I couldn't afford not to make it work.

For those of you that know me present day, these next two horses are ones you'll recognize.  First, a sorrel little rocket named Blazin Vandy Candy that if you aren't holding on hard enough going to first, she's going to leave you in the dust. I've had a lot of compliments on her through the years and how she looks like so much to ride.  Let me tell you, it wasn't like that in the beginning!  We bought her as a three year old and although she had a good start on her, she had an engine that just wouldn't quit.  Although she took a lot of just riding, she really was fun to just go ride and work with.  It wasn't until I started her on barrels that I began to lose my hair.  With an all business and all knowing attitude, she thought she had the barrels figured out from the very first day and she was so dang athletic and broke that if I'd let her, she dang sure could have done it too! The problem was it was on her terms and she wasn't going to listen to you if she needed a little help.  Remember she knew it all when it came to barrels.  I went through everything I knew in my barrel racing training handbook trapped in my mind and just could not get the result I was looking for.  Sure she looked cool, but she was a uncontrolled freight train when it came to barrels.  I have never been so close to giving up and calling it all quits in my life.  With her, I learned the value of leaning on friends and reaching to learn more from people that I didn't know personally.  My method wasn't quite working and it opened up the doors to learning more.   Those lessons are carried with me and are still used today.  It was quite the evolution and it has helped me develop the style that I have now.  She was a handful, but patience, hard work, and being open minded paid off with the little red mare. Just like with Holly, sometimes the most naturally talented individuals are the ones that take the most work.

Lastly is of course Frenchmans Elvis.  How could he not be one of the most important horses that have influenced my life?  He is such a big part of it past, present and future. I won't get into the whole story of how Elvis came to be because I've talked so much about him in my blog but in addition to all that, he taught me the value of a good horse.  Training outside horses through the years and riding everything from no names to the top names in the industry, I had a pretty good idea what horses were nice to ride and what ones weren't.  There were those horses that came into our barn that I just hated to jump on because it was miserable.  Then there were those few that you just couldn't wait to saddle up each day.  From the time that you took the saddle off, you were counting down the time before you could ride them again.  That was Elvis for me.  He came to us at a time when I was getting burnt out and because of him, he brought the fun back into riding.  In addition to what he already gave me, I learned a valuable lesson on working with such a smart horse.  Gone were the days of doing anything less than perfect.  If you had the attitude that "oh, he only has five rides and turned that circle pretty nice for that amount of time," you'd have a hard time teaching him any different.  You have to do everything perfect from the get go because other wise, you just taught him the right way was less than perfect.   He was too smart, too receptive and too willing for his own good and it kept me on my toes but yet made it enjoyable.  His colts have turned out to be the same way.  They make riding fun  and again share their sire's smart, ever willing attitude.  Let's just say with my future being filled with Elvis babies, I'm looking forward to the ride and journey!

Words can not express my gratitude for these horses.  I don't know how I can convey what each one has done for me without writing a novel, which this blog post has almost turned out to be.  I feel that each horse that I ever had the pleasure to ride has taught me something that has helped shaped me into what I am today.  I've been blessed with many great horsemen and women in my day to learn from, but my greatest teacher of all has always been the horse.   They have not just taught me to be a better horsewoman, but have taught me so much about life and about myself.  Every time we saddle up or just even go catch our horses we have a plan on what we are going to "teach" them that day, but in reality it should be what am I going to "learn" from you today.  Don't take for granted the very horse that could be your greatest teacher!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Believe And You Can Achieve

A couple of weeks ago I started seeing all these 2015 futurity colts running already and looking great on my newsfeed. I got a little worried about how far behind my 4 year old is compared to them.  She was loping a solid pattern and wanted to run between them but was at the point that she needed to slow back down, work on her footwork and "come back to me."  I was just starting to work her on that when breeding season took over any free time I had to ride.  With being pregnant, I knew my time was limited on how long I could ride but breeding season took priority.

All I wanted was to put two more weeks on the pattern with my mare before she was put away until this winter when I'm officially back in the saddle.  Knowing that all I really wanted to do was go slow, temptation got the best of me and I saddled her up and climbed on.  It'd been six weeks since she had been rode, but she felt like it was just yesterday, never missing a beat.   I put her through her paces and she rode like a dream, soft, supple, waiting on me and literally right where we left off if not better!

I finished our workout, happy to be back in the saddle and less worried about the future.  I was reminded that I need to trust in the training and all that time I spent getting this colt broke and solid under saddle had paid off.  I also realized that the time off had done nothing bad to her.  She's never been the type of colt that I had to ride down before doing a job and was never the type to forget what we had been working on.  So my worries were for nothing.  Sure she might not be as far along as those colts cruising through the pattern, well on their way to being at the top in next years competition, but she will be solid.  She has the foundation to back her up and the mind set that she will catch back up fast.  Rest isn't such a bad thing after all!

  I felt good in the saddle but with an already bad back and SI problems, I decided if I kept that up for the next two weeks that the next three months of my pregnancy would be miserable. So, with a big smile on my face, I unsaddled my colt for the last time until after baby is born.  Sure I will miss being able to ride the next couple months but I really realize how much further this colt is even with the time off.  When I'm finally back in the saddle, I know that although she's bound to make mistakes and go through the motions that futurity colts go through, she has the foundation and mind to see her through.  She will be stronger and ready for the speed when I ask her, knowing how to place her feet and having the strength to easily do it.

My worries have been eased, my heart full, and my mind ready for the day that I can saddle the little palomino up and get to work.  It's a wonderful feeling and makes me even more excited about the future.  I don't need to worry about how far along others' colts are, rather I need to trust in the process, the foundation, and my colt.  We can only do what we can do and make the most of it.  If you believe, you can achieve!

PA Honey Im On Fire earlier this summer.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Barrel Racer, Mother, Or Both?

This year I sat at home over the 4th of July.  One of the biggest times of rodeo, dubbed cowboy Christmas, it was the first time that I didn't at least dabble in it since I first started rodeoing. It's a little hard to swallow at times as I sit this season out, pregnant with our third (and final) baby.   Due in October, I'm chomping at the bit and counting down the days until our little bundle of joy arrives and I can once again regain my identity back in the saddle.

Because I'm just that age where most of my friends are new mothers as well as avid barrel racers, it's a popular topic in our conversations on "how are your kids" and "where do you find the time to get it all done?"  But the biggest and one that I've personally experienced and struggled with is how to regain our feel, timing, and balance in the saddle, our confidence, and just being able to juggle our new everyday life routine with baby and still be able to have the time for the horses.

I wish I had the answer to all of this.  It's a struggle I've faced since I had our first son in 2010.  I was just starting to get back to myself and found a routine that worked for us all when we had our second son in 2013.  Between 2013 and present, it's been a battle to get back my confidence, my balance and just be myself.  Now for my last baby, I want to try to take all I've learned from having our first two kids to make a comeback on the barrel racing trail.

Let's face it.  It's hard to have a family and be able to have time for any other extra curricular activities.  However, as we as moms get engrossed into our children's lives, it's important that we still have our own separate identity.  What makes us be us, will only make us be better parents in the end.  This is so tricky to achieve and can feel impossible at times.  I know that I wouldn't be able to do it without all the help and support from my husband, our parents, and several close friends who come to help us out when we just need to get things done, a shoulder to lean on and just get away for awhile. The support system is huge.

Many women, not all, when pregnant sell their good horses because they don't want to see them sit all that time and besides, they have several young horses that will be ready when it's time for them to crack back out on the barrel racing scene.  I've done both.  My first, I kept my good horse but she was bred so our son was 8 months before I got to run her.  In the mean time I rode a 4 and 5 year old, seasoning them and preparing the 4 year old for the futurities the following year.  And with my second, I didn't have something solid, just a 6 year old that had been ran a handful of times and far from being seasoned or solid.  That one was tough on not only me, but my horse.  I found that my time, feeling, and balance and along with my confidence came back so much quicker and stronger when I was riding my solid horse verses trying to get it all together while also having to train and help an unseasoned horse during that process.  It was hard and a huge setup for failure, at least for me.

It's so hard not to get wrapped up in all that you've missed during your maternity leave that once you finally get back in the saddle, you want to pick up right where you left off and go full throttle.  We make unrealistic goals for ourselves and ultimately make it even harder to achieve.  Leaving our passion turn more into work - a job and no fun.  Why would we do this if it wasn't fun?

It's can be a struggle going from being a top 1D rider to having that feeling that you have to hang on for dear life just to stay with your horse coming out of a barrel.  It's humbling to say the least and it's heartbreaking when you feel you have something to prove.  You see, barrel racing isn't just my hobby, it's my lifestyle, it's a big part of my livelihood.  With having a business in breeding, training and selling barrel horses, people don't look lightly on you when you don't perform to their expectations, let alone yours! The pressure one can feel in that situation can be mind crumbling and be like the feeling of doom.   Even if your business isn't horses and it's strictly a hobby, the competitive side of you will put yourself in higher expectations than sometimes can be realistically achieved at that given point in time.  It's a hard road to be on, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

One of the other factors to getting back is of course losing the baby weight.  Oh joy! I wish I was one of those women that when 9 months pregnant look like they just are smuggling a basketball under their shirt.  Unfortunately for me, I more so resemble a beached whale look.  The weight doesn't just fall off and what's even worse is the core strength is literally non existent after baby.  I personally struggle with a bad back which only makes it harder to lose the weight and get those core muscles back in shape, but it also makes it that much more important! Remember, it takes time and work!

Then there is the juggling of trying to make sure there is enough time to keep your horse in shape and tuned up all the while trying to find time to do all the new duties that are required with children.  I'm so thankful that I have found a great babysitter for a few hours of the week that when I go ride, I don't have to worry about if they are going to wake up from their nap, if the sandbox by the barrel patch is going to entertain them long enough for me to ride one horse, if they will get too hot or cold, or just what in the world did they put in their mouth?  It's stressing and for me, I really need some time when I can focus solely on my horse.  As they get older, the easier it gets.  My oldest and I could get a lot done if it was just the two of us, but I realize they are only little for so long and I try to make the best of it and enjoy that precious little time we have at that stage too.  It's hard enough to barrel race at home, let alone thinking of having to do it all at an actual barrel race or rodeo! For those moms who have mastered the art of having their kids in tow and still be able to keep their competitive mind set along with all their hair, huge kudos to you!  I for one am not one of those people.

I think one of the most trying times in our barrel racing careers are after having children.  Trying to keep our identity, not only for us but also to be better mothers to our children.  I know that I don't want to miss out of my children's lives, but I also know that if I don't keep my identity, then I am not going to be the mom that I could be for them.  It's good for them to see you making goals and working hard.  You become ever more of a role model showing your hard work and dedication beyond just for the family.

I can't say that I have this mastered, the whole barrel racing mom thing, but here's a summary of what I've learned over the past four years.  A strong support system will make it possible.  I can't thank everyone enough (especially my husband and family) who have stepped up and helped me watch the kids so that I can get my horses rode, go to a barrel race, etc.  Don't set too high of goals too soon.  It's going to take time.  Realize that you may be starting back at zero and working your way back up.  Set stair stepping goals and keep it fun.  Keep a good horse around so that you can regain your lost ground that much quicker!  I learned my lesson and my solid and true horse is getting fat and sassy out in the pasture, not bred, and waiting for her day to be saddled up again.  Work hard to lose that baby weight and regain that core strength.  This isn't only good for barrel racing but you as a whole.  Your confidence will come back quicker as will your feel, timing and balance.  Don't let the pressure get to you.  No one is walking exactly in your shoes and they don't know the journey that you've been on to make it where you are today.  Forget the pressure, the people, and just go out there, try hard, have fun and make your comeback.  Time management is important to make it both work.  You might not have the time to keep three open horses in shape and tuned up as well as all those colts that also are in dire need of being rode.  Pick and chose what's best for you and your family time.  Your family is just as important as you keeping your identity!

It's not an easy road to be on, but it's well worth it when you can find that happy medium.  I'm a mother first and a barrel racer second.  I will always be there for my family, but as they grow up, they will see a mom not only being a mom but also settling goals, working hard, and being a role model.  In the end, I hope my children know they are loved, know how to work hard for what they have, have the courage to chase their dreams and know that just as I had a support team, that I will be their biggest cheerleader.  Never give up!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Driving Force

I feel behind every successful breeding program, there needs to have a fire fueling it, a driving force. What is it that makes it special? What made you start it in the first place?  What makes you keep doing it?  Is it for the money? the glory? the fame? or is there something deeper?

I think back to when it all started for me.  Although I have always had a deep interest in equine reproduction, I had NO intent in ever owning my own stud and doing all that it entails.  I'd been around enough other studs and around that block enough to know that I really didn't want any part of it.  However, the mare side of it, I was super interested in.  And that is why we are here now, what started me and what keeps me going all began...or did it?

If you know me or read my blog, surely you've heard about the grey gelding, Smoky By Lucky Boy.  The horse that took me through High School and College and who with his help I completed some of my biggest accomplishments. Smoky, a son of the late Dollys Lucky Boy, a little known stud in Texas of Doc Bar and Sugar Bars descent with nothing so special in his pedigree to stop someone in his tracks.  Although, he was little known and had less than 20 registered colts on the ground, he proved to have many proven performers besides Smoky in the barrel pen.  It was a bloodline that I knew would die if no one carried it on and it was something that meant a great deal to me.   It was when I was in college that I finally got this start by buying a half sister to Smoky, my first Dollys Lucky Boy daughter.  She was followed by two more Lucky Boy daughters in the next two years.

My plans were to train and compete on the two younger mares (then 4 and 2) and then breed Smoky's full sister, who although was a barrel horse, she was crippled enough to keep her from being rode.  These three were supposed to be the start of my breeding program.  The foundation, the drive, the passion came from them, but most of all from Smoky.  I believed in these genetics and wanted to preserve them, promote them and give them the recognition that they deserved.

Then when Elvis came, born from Smoky's full sister, things changed.  (See previous blog post, Dreams Coming True Part 1 for the full story. ) I knew that I wanted to go on with this bloodline that had carried me to the top but it changed from having the broodmares to having a stud.  What better way of getting these lines out than a stud who could reach much further than a mare could.  That's far from the reason why Elvis is still a stud. Although his pedigree was special, especially to me,  he earned his right from his conformation, trainability, versatility, performance, etc. and continues to earn it every day now with his colts.

This breeding game is a tough one.  It's filled with heart ache, tears, sorrow, the coulda woulda shoulda's. It's not for everyone and when people start to go through the tough times, many drop out.  However, no matter how tough it may be, how down I can get through a given situation, I push on because this is a horse, a program and a dream that I believe in.  It's not built on just a whim. I've ridden this line of horses for years. I've won on them for years.  I've dreamt of producing horses like these for years.

The highlights far exceed the down falls.  As I brushed out Elvis' mane yesterday, enjoying his company, I couldn't believe how far we've come in our program. Its been a long tough road, but its been worth it in so many ways.  You see, what makes it so special is that I can still feel the presence of Smoky when I look at Elvis, ride him and his colts.  I can still see the vision that I had when we first started out and it's better than I ever imagined. I keep going because I know that there are better things to come!

It's never been about the glory, the money or the fame for me. Theres a passion that lies within me for this business.  It's not just a business to me, it's my life.  A program that my family can be proud of and will enjoy for years to come.  It started with a gray gelding, continues with a palomino, and has the future of so many colts that all share in the line that now, will not be lost or forgotten.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Little Girl And Her Horse

It seems like every little girl has the potential to become horse crazy.  However, many lose interest as they grow due to boys, other sports or lack of that special horse that will give that little girl an even greater love and appreciation for the equine.    You've seen it all over; kids get outfitted with the spoiled pony or a horse beyond their riding level, scaring them, and leaving them for no more want or desire to uncover the true partnership, the magic that can happen between horse and rider. 

I had my shot at a spoiled pony; however my parents as well as a man that is like a grandfather  to me, George, kept me and my siblings mounted with nice horses.  We started out with Spicy, a nice all around mare we got from a good friend and the person that actually gave me my start on riding, Jen Obrigewitch.  She was a great step up and helped me build confidence.  I showed her my first year in 4H.  George also kept us kids mounted on his two baby sitter mares, Red and Lonesome.  These tried and true mares carried us kids many a mile working cows and Lonesome was the first horses that I was able to run barrels on.  I was always partial to Lonesome. But then I hadn't met the horse that would change me forever....

A big brown gelding is who took my heart, showed me the ropes and gave me the confidence and love to ride that still fuels me today.  His name, Shocka Bar Cody was one of my parents' greatest gifts they could ever give me.  I'd spend hours out at the barn riding, brushing and just taking care of Cody.  Little did my parents' know at the time that instead of a horse, they had really invested in a baby sitter and one of the world's greatest teachers.  

Cody and I went to many horse shows from 4H to open shows.  He was already a very accomplished show horse and knew the ropes better than most people.  He taught me so much going through the ranks.  With a horse that already knew what he was doing, it allowed me to focus on my riding and my horsemanship.  He was a jack of all trades, a master at showmanship and the trail course, a beautiful sight in the western pleasure, a breeze jumping over fences, and a force to be reckoned with in the reining and western riding....he was a wonder horse.  Together we filled my bedroom with trophies, belt buckles, prizes of various sorts and ribbons.  We were quite the pair. 

It wasn't all a fairy tale though. While at the State 4H Horse Show, literally on the other side of Montana, Cody became ill.  A simple colic that turned deathly in a blink of an eye.  I knew something wasn't quite right.  We struggled to keep him walking, giving him banamine and constantly talking to my dad (he's a vet) as well as the other vet that worked with my Dad, JJ. We did the best we could to help ease his pain.  It was evident though that our efforts were not enough and by the grace of God, a local vet that could perform colic surgery just happened to be at the fairgrounds right then and was able to take a look at Cody.  With no hesitation after hearing those terrible words that this horse needs surgery, we were on the road to Missoula where Cody received a lifesaving colic surgery. 

I have tears in my eyes, remembering that horrible yet amazing day.  I was prepared by the vet and my parents that we might not get to take our boy home again.  I about lost my best friend, my teacher, my mentor and a few hours later he was out of surgery and in recovery.  It was going to be very touch and go for months and months.  Recovery was a hard road and those first six months were going to be crucial. 

I never strayed.  The horse that gave his all to me every time we went for a ride was now in desperate need of my care.  It was my duty but most of all my privilege to give back to him. Hand walking him for six months, I eventually was able to ride Cody again.  We competed at the local fair that following year, not losing our tradition of purple ribbons.  

Eventually, I semi-retired Cody.  Although I could have named my price for him multiple times through out the years, he had earned his retirement, his life of leisure here with me.  He had given me so much; words cannot express my gratitude for this amazing horse. 

We lost my beloved Cody in February at the age of 28.  I had a good solid 18 years with this wonderful horse. He was my biggest supporter, best friend, and the world’s greatest teacher for me growing up.  My only regret is that my kids being so young did not get to experience as much as I'd like what an amazing horse they had out their back window.  I wished he could have lived through their childhood years, giving them the same confidence, teachings, and friendship that he had always given me.

Although sad about our loss of a great horse, I think back of all the wonderful memories and can't help but be so thankful that my parents and God blessed me with such a wonderful horse.  I wish that every little girl or boy had the same opportunity to have a horse like Cody in their lives. They don't make horses like him every day and he will sure be a hard act to follow.

Rest in peace Shocka Bar Cody.  You are a champion in the arena but most of all; you were a best friend in this little girl's heart.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

New Beginnings...

"Every day is a new beginning.  Stay away from what might have been and look at what can be." Unknown

It's been a little over a month since I lost my great Holly mare.  If you're a follower of my blog, you know from my last post just how special this mare was to me.  I had so many plans through the years with her and lastly I had so many plans of her foals for the future.  It wasn't meant to be.  I have dealt with the sorrow and the despair of this loss til it was about to break me.   It took me time to be able to saddle up a horse.  It took me time to saddle up her only foal I own, Honey and not break down in sobs.  I wasn't in the mindset to better me or my horses.  I was no where where I needed to be to accomplish anything.  

After a couple weeks, I realized just how important it was to just finish off what we started...Honey.  Not just Honey though, but all my colts.  Just as Holly deserved someone to help her reach her full potential, so do these colts.   I have so many hopes and dreams for these colts that I can't sit around and wallow in my tears and pain.  Instead, I think of all that I learned in my time together with Holly and put towards these colts.   

I hope that by riding Holly that it will help make the learning curve with Honey be that much easier, which I already know this is true.  Case in point, since it's icy out, I've been spending most of my riding time at the indoor arena.  I'm not a huge fan of working my colts on barrels in this particular arena due to only being 80 ft wide.  So I work a lot of one barrel drills to help them get better in their turns without running into a wall.  I was having a hard time getting Honey to feel the way I wanted her to around the barrel.  She'd turn it just fine but she just didn't "feel" right and how I knew she could.  Then I remembered how I'd ride Holly...with just a little outside leg pressure, that colt went to feeling like she would have to take five strides to make it around a barrel to three.  She flowed and kept her forward momentum.  She felt like her momma. With that a smile came across my face as I remembered that sweet little mare.  

I shared a lot of dreams with that mare but now, I shall get to share them with her foal, Honey and all the other colts that I am blessed to ride. She gave me so much through out the years and I have the feeling that with every ride that I make, I'll realize just how much she gave me. I won't sit and dwell on what could have been.  I will get up and work to see what will be; because of her, I'm one step closer to making it.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Little Gray Mare With A Heart Of Gold

It was a early November morning when my good friends Brenda, Mary and myself headed south to Oklahoma in search of that perfect horse for me. I was looking for something special to replace the role of my great gelding, Smoky. These were pretty big shoes to fill.  

 It was a bay gelding in particular that brought me to OK but it was a little gray mare that stole my heart. I had the opportunity to try four horses while I was there. I remember seeing the fourth horse, a gray standing by the trailer. I thought to myself, there's no way I'm buying another gray. Having a gray barrel horse and rope horse, I was constantly teased that I didn't see a horse unless it was a gray. I was bound and determined to add a different color to my trailer. 

But fate had another plan, which led us on the long road north with a little gray mare in my trailer by the name of Holly. To say that it was a perfect match from the beginning might be an over statement. Holly having been blown up on the pattern was just being brought back by the gal that I bought her from but she still had a long ways to go. Loaded with unimaginable talent and ability she felt like a runaway tornado at times. I can still feel the way she could turn herself inside out and you didn't even know it was coming. Although she was talented, her poor mind was a mess. Damaged and untrusting, she needed confidence in the worst way. But her heart, it was golden and whatever you asked she put her whole heart into.  

 We were side tracked in our journey together as she started to grow in the belly. A few months after I had bought her, a gray filly was born. I didn't buy her knowingly bred, but apparently she was. Time off though was just what was needed for her sanity and the filly turned into be a great blessing. When finally the day would come to be able to get back on her, that's when the real work started. I won't go into all the trials and lessons that I learned but she taught me as much as I taught her.  

 Holly became the standard for how I wanted my horses to turn and feel going around the barrel. The effortless way she could inhale a barrel and pull herself around was something that still leaves me in awe. She could keep her inside hind leg up underneath herself and drag her butt leaving tracks around the barrel. Her first barrel when I had bought her was her nemesis. If you went faster than a slow lope holding onto her face you were bound to go up the fence. She was fragile and broken.  

 I knew that if we could get that first barrel down that we would really be onto something. However any sort of speed, there was no way you were turning that barrel. If you touched her head, she'd speed up, put her head in the air and fight you for a split second enough to run by the barrel. We needed to figure this out. My horsemanship background reminded me of a drill that John Hovde would have me do all the time. Without the reins, I would ask her to walk slow, walk fast. Soon we started the trot slow, trot fast until finally we could lope slow, lope fast, trot, walk, and stop with just the use of my body language. It took time to perfect this but it was the door opener to conquering that first barrel. We would head to first barrel free as a bird. I'd sit down as we crossed the timer and drop my rein about half way to the barrel never touching her head but relying only on my body, trust in each other and confidence in herself. It was then that we truly connected, gaining trust with each day and instilling the confidence that she so desperately lacked before.  

 She made me think outside the box. She made me become a better horseman and a better trainer. She made me. She made people stop in their tracks and run to the fence. She loved her job and people loved to watch her. She was incredible.  

 As time went on, priorities changed to colts and babies. In the time that I was pregnant with our first child I bred Holly to our stud for his first foal. It was only fitting to breed the best mare I knew to him. The result was a palomino filly that earned the name Honey. As the number of colts to ride grew and my time went short, Holly was put on the back burner. Holly was meant to be running under the big lights and at the time I was lucky if I could run her at something in the daylight! I knew she deserved to go on and do greater things and the hard decision was made to offer her for sale. People called and a few people tried her but it just never was meant to be. She had earned so much more that I turned more people down if I didn't think it would be the right fit. She deserved the best that I could give her.  

When the perfect fit wasn't found, it was decided that Holly could live out her days here with us. By this time we were riding Honey who is like a young Holly but not broken as she once was. We were beyond excited to see Holly crossed on Elvis for years to come. I dreamt of the foals. Would they look like just like Honey? Would they have the same effortless move around a barrel? Would they have her big doe eye? My heart danced with excitement and anticipation. I couldn't wait to see what was in store for Hollys next chapter. 

Holly and Honey 2010
Just as I was seeing a new chapter beginning, God was ending it. As I went out to do chores on that January 12th morning before church, I saw my Holly laying there; already gone. My heart shattered in a million pieces as I cried over my beloved mare. I will never know what could have been. I will never get to see another colt from her that I dreamt about. I will never get to feel her as she inhaled that first barrel again. I will never get to see what could have been.  

 As I sit here going through the what ifs and the why did it have to happens, I try to think of the good times. There are so many great memories, so many lessons learned, so many smiles, sweat and tears. I remember after Holly had Honey I was anxious to get back on her. I started legging her up when Honey was two months old and although Holly was in good shape, she held onto that baby weight. I entered our first jackpot in preparation for a rodeo that Holly always loved. We took Honey along with us and away we went to make our first run in a year at a jackpot. We ended up winning it. Later that week at the rodeo, we again took Honey leaving her at the trailer as Holly and I warmed up to run. On a soft and wet track we ended up winning that rodeo, the only 16 second time to beat the rest of the field by 3 tenths of a second. After the rodeo, two little girls came searching for the gray horse that won the barrel race. As one pointed to Holly and said, "Do you think that one is it?" The other girl shook her head and said, "Naw, she's too fat!" Overhearing them I giggled knowing that it was in fact that fat mare that smoked 'em all.

 I will always remember one of my last runs on Holly. Out of the thousands of runs I've ever made, this one was as near perfect as any that I've ever ran. To achieve a run like that was a result of complete trust in each other, willing submission and confidence, all things that we lacked when we started this journey together. We ended up placing 2nd out of 300+ runs that day. The feel as she inhaled that first barrel, how she effortlessly turned the second and the power as she left third will always be with me. Reliving it gives me the chills. 

There are many memories that I shall keep near and dear to me. She took a piece of my heart that day when she left this earth. However, I shall always carry her with me. Because of our time together she has made me be the rider that I am. She gave me the knowledge, the feel, the memory of how a winner should feel. She will be with me with every horse that I swing my leg over and every run that I make. I still can not believe that she is gone but her legacy lives on through a palomino filly named Honey. A legacy that I hope will do her proud.
I will never forget the rush, the thrill and the heart of that little gray mare. 

May you rest easy my dear girl. May you enjoy the belly deep grass of heaven and the feel of Jesus' arms around your neck. I will love you forever but shall see you again someday. I hope to see you at those gates of heaven so that I can ride you once again. May your legacy live on.  

 Rest In Peace Mae Holly Fire
1999 - 2014 

"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." Jer 29:11