Barn, dressage, dressage training, equestrian, horse/rider communication

Eyes Up, Looking Where You Want to Go

Through the darkest, most difficult times in my life, horses have been my safe haven — a source of joy and a reminder to live in the present moment. Your mind cannot, should not wander when you’re in the presence of a 1,000-pound animal, no matter how gentle and good-natured he or she may be.
Through this past year, as my mother and I held one another up, watching my father’s health decline, horses remained my reminder that life holds happiness even when sorrows are deep. While I sometimes arrive at the barn with a heavy heart, the familiar faces of my friends and their horses help me set my troubles aside for hours at a time. The barn is a world where priorities are clear and simple. A place where I define myself as a horse person, striving to meet the mind and spirit of another species. I find it deeply satisfying.
As I approach my horse in pasture, his halter in my hand, I bring my best self to him. I’m asking him to leave the leisure of his pasture to come with me, not simply for treats but to do a job that is my idea, not his.

Skipper sees me coming

As I approach, Skipper hears my voice, lifts his head from grazing, and strolls up to me, knowing I’ll have a carrot in my coat pocket. His ears prick forward and he chooses to leave his herd. My heart lifts at the sight. He is saying, “Yes, I’ll come with you.”
Even on the most painful days, where my dad’s memory stings with loss, the simple steps of caring for my horse soothe my soul. I brush Skipper’s coat, admiring its bright chestnut color. I comb out the stubborn shavings that cling to his tail and tidy up his mane. With each grooming, I check to make sure he’s healthy,his shoes are secure, and there are no new lumps, bumps, or bites from pasture mates that need attention.
Before I saddle up, I rub Skipper’s forehead in the spot he’s taught me is his favorite — the white star at the base of his forelock. He nods his head in approval but stands stock still to tell me he appreciates the attention. Skipper likes having a person and I love having a horse. Like happiness itself, a horse is not a thing to take for granted.
As I swing my leg over Skipper’s back, settling gently into the saddle, I remember the words of my trainers … all of whom have reminded me to keep my eyes up, looking where I want to go. Don’t stare at the ground, unless you want to go there, they advised. These words ring true for any riding discipline you choose. And, after this tough, trying year, it strikes me that this is good advice for living, in general.
I chose to buy Skipper just months ago, when I realized that after losing dad, I couldn’t bear yet another loss. My little horse soothes my sorrow and gives me hope for the future. With each riding lesson, I make a plan for what I need to work on, looking for ways we can improve, with hopes for a strong show season. As my relationship with my horse blossoms, my heart heals. My eyes are up and I’m looking toward the future.

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Barn, Chiropractic, dressage, dressage lessons

Back to the Barn

After the holidays, head cold, freezing temps and seasonal flu, my barn time has been seriously limited for the past two months. Having gone through the 12 stages of grief, I finally had to give up and accept that nothing is going as planned.

Cold temps and lots of snow mean time off for many of the horses in our barn.

Cold temps and lots of snow mean time off for many of the horses in our barn.

Today I made out to the barn for Micah’s chiropractic session, choosing to let Natalie ride Micah during my lesson time rather than risk a relapse of the head cold. Between lesson and chiropractic time, I would have needed to spend nearly four hours in the barn, which I just didn’t feel ready for at 30 degrees. (Granted, 30 degrees is feeling almost balmy compared with this season’s foray into the low teens.)
Despite not riding my horse, it was good to be home. How I’ve missed my horse and barn buddies.
Micah and his pasture mates were hunkering under their shelter, likely complaining about the two feet of snow covering the grass. Micah saw me coming and headed my way, certain that the carrot in my pocket was better than a mouthful of snow.
Horses stay under shelter, hiding out from heavy snowfall

Horses stay under shelter, hiding out from heavy snowfall

Chiropractic went well, with Dr. Taryn Yates giving Micah a thorough adjustment. “His back is doing so much better than when we first started working on him,” she said. “Just some minor sore spots.”
Dr. Taryn has been seeing lots of sore shoulders from horses walking and slipping on ice. So, while Micah hasn’t been getting much work this month, at least we’re not letting minor problems turn into major events.
As my head cold subsides and temperatures rise above 20 degrees, I’m ready to start bringing Micah and myself back to work. While it’s harder to get myself out the door when it’s cold, it’s certainly worth it to spend time with my barn family and my horse.
May your roads be plowed, your pipes thaw, and you and your horse stay healthy through the season.

Related posts
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Barn, Barn Cat, dressage

Miss Kitty, the Barn Cat

Nearly every barn worth its salt has at least one barn cat.
As a cat lover who doesn’t currently own a cat (due to the high risk of coyotes and cars in our neighborhood), part of the charm of visiting the barn is spending time with Miss Kitty.

Saddle pads make a nice mattress for Miss Kitty

Saddle pads make a nice mattress for Miss Kitty

Miss Kitty is a bad-ass tabby missing most of her tail. Barn lore has it that Miss Kitty lost her tail to an especially naughty dog. Surprisingly, Miss Kitty isn’t afraid of dogs, despite this traumatic experience. This is fortunate since dogs of all shapes and sizes visit the barn, my own dog included.
Skittles, my 14 year-old Standard Poodle, used to have a barn cat of her own. Every morning she and Tiger, another awesome tabby cat, would greet one another at the door and Tiger would generously accept Skittles’ affectionate pawing and nuzzling.
When we put our home on the market, I felt Tiger was too old and too much of a barn warrior to adapt to life in a neighborhood. Happily, the new owners agreed to keep him. It hurt my heart to think of leaving Tiger, but I felt certain I was making the right choice.
Tiger surprised us by making a choice of his own, opting to find his way to Kitty Heaven just days before we moved. We never found his body (which isn’t unusual in coyote country) but I choose to believe he fell asleep under a tree and never woke up. I do appreciate that he’d led a long life and chose to leave under his own terms.
Watching Skittles going out to look for Tiger on those few, final days before we moved broke my heart. It was a loss for both of us. And so, having Miss Kitty greet us at the barn is good for Skittles and I. Miss Kitty is part of our extended family.
Miss Kitty assumes the throne

Miss Kitty assumes the throne

One smart girl, you’ll find Miss Kitty in barn’s the heated restroom on cold winter days, curled up on a towel on the back of the toilet, using a roll of paper towels as a pillow. She generously shared her spot with me, gracing me with a purr as I stroked her soft fur.
On warmer days she’ll sleep on a stack of saddle pads in the tack room, beneath the bridles. Our barn life is full and happy thanks to a warm and wonderful assortment of humans and animals.

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Barn, dressage, horses, horsewomen

The Outside of a Horse

Sir Winston Churchill is credited with having said, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” I’m sure Mr. Churchill meant to include women in that statement and I know for a fact that horses are good medicine for some of us.
Here’s proof. The flu has been running rampant here in Central Oregon — as it probably is in your town, as well. It’s a great time to be on a cancellation list for almost any kind of service: clients are falling like flies. If you’re healthy enough to drag yourself in for a last-minute haircut or dental cleaning, you’re in luck.
Out at the barn, poor Mari was really suffering earlier this week. She sounded stuffy, looked pale, and clearly lacked energy — but still made it to work every day to give lessons and ride. She was relieved when a few cancelled lessons helped to lighten her load.
Akela came down with the bug and even went to the Emergency Room. “I felt like I couldn’t breathe,” she said. It’s important to note that Akela said this while she was brushing her horse, RJ. She was still sick but rode, anyway.
I woke up with clogged sinuses and chills on Saturday and slept on and off through the day, with plans to ride Micah on Sunday. Some effective over-the-counter meds helped to make that ride possible, as well as today’s.

Better living through medication

Better living through medication

As I finished up my ride, I saw Hannah watching near the gate. She’d been so sick with the flu and fever, she’d been grounded for the weekend. She came out to the barn today just to see Micah. I offered to let Hannah cool Micah out, knowing that just being on the back of a horse can transform an average day into something special.
Hannah smiled and declined my offer, for fear of starting another coughing fit. She was happy to pet Micah and feed him carrots as I brushed him down.
As Hannah led Micah out to the pasture, for turnout, I had to laugh.There are those who make excuses to avoid coming to barn and those who simply can’t help being there. No wonder I love these people — we are all crazy together.

Related posts
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September 7, 2016
Miss Kitty, the Barn Cat
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