Tuesday, July 24, 2018

A Deeper Meaning of Horsemanship

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Preparation, Patience, and Priorities

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Overcoming the How's

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your "Why"?