Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Video Camera!


Santa brought me exactly what I asked for this Christmas – a quality camcorder. The cheap one that I bought last year crapped out in the summer and would only take blurry video. My plan is to take a few videos a month so I get the chance to see what I am feeling underneath me. My goal is to improve my body posture and position in the saddle, being able to see what I look like should help with that.

I had a really good lesson with Sarah yesterday. We worked over raised poles which is something we did all the time when we rode with Penny. Walking the horses through a line of raised poles causes them to bend their hocks and walk a straight line as they pick their ways through the poles. Penny used to start all her babies by lunging them over a set up big heavy poles. Her horses always knew where their feet were and seemed very connected to the ground. Grace was started this way and it is something that I come back to often on the lung line but not often enough under saddle. During our lesson I was able to feel my tendency to stop riding in the poles. Sarah reminded me to keep my leg on my horse and to keep riding her after the poles. We had a big breakthrough at the lope when I finally let go of my inside rein which allowed me to be so much more effective with my outside rein. I also became aware of my head position which tends to be too far forward. I’m still figuring out how to fix it, bringing it back over my shoulders feels anything but natural.

Today I repeated the pole exercise at home and caught it on the new camcorder. While I was watching the film clips I was quick to tear myself apart. I saw the times that I dropped contact causing my horse to lift her head, and that while my upward transitions had improved my downward transitions were nonexistent. I could also tell the times that I tensed my lower back by the way my horse reacted. I have a lot of work to do, but then I noticed something else. At one point in the clip I walk Grace and change direction. Her walk is just that – a walk. Missing is the anticipation of the lope and of the pole exercise. I see a lovely little mare just walking like it is no big deal. The rider also seems to not be worked up about the impending exercise; they are just “walking”! Oh and the entire thing was done in a snaffle!
It looks like I need to figure out the software for the new camera. The quality I orginally had was much better than what ended up on YouTube. Stay tuned.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!


Grace and I wish you a Merry Christmas!
Wishing you quality horse time during the busy holiday season, longer daylight hours and good riding weather! 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Schooling Show Dec 1st and 2nd

“I enjoyed showing my horse this past weekend.” There was a time I wasn’t sure that I would get to say that. “I enjoyed showing my horse this past weekend.” I came home with a pile of blue ribbons and more importantly some show ring confidence. As always the Trainer was right when she said that riding English would improve my ride in the Western saddle, I saw evidence of it at the show. 

I was really glad that I hauled down to the show Friday after work. I had been contemplating hauling out first thing Saturday morning. Sarah doesn’t like to haul to shows on the same day as it is hard on the horses, she prefers that we get there the day before to loosen them up and then be ready for the show the next day. I hauled in a torrential downpour on Friday night; the drive was rough with a lot of stop and go. Grace was stiff in her right shoulder when I rode her that night so it was nice to get the chance to help her work through it. She also spent the night in a nice dry stall so she could be clean for the show on Saturday. 

Saturday stared with Showmanship which is still not my favorite class but I don’t hate it like I used to. I am past the nervousness and can now be present in the ring. I need to practice more at home and also see if we can incorporate it into our lessons. I had a really clear picture during my warm up of how practicing Showmanship on the ground correlates to my time in the saddle. My patterns were ok, but lacking finesse; again something that can be cleaned up at home. The riding classes on Saturday were one of the only times I’ve ridden Grace in a shank bit for the last month. I’ve been sticking to a snaffle since October.  Grace was the best she has ever been one handed at a show. I was able to pick up her right shoulder just by moving my right shoulder. The more square I kept my body the more square she kept hers – light bulb moment! My first Western Equitation class was a large class; I stayed in my bubble and focused on my ride. It felt really good, but I was so focused on my own ride I didn’t have any clue as to how the rest of the class went. I placed second and received an even bigger award on my way out of the ring when the judge who I’ve been showing under for the last two years said “Good job Melissa”. 

The afternoon was filled with pattern classes which started with Ranch Horse Pleasure. This was a schooling show and they didn’t have a set pattern so the judge ran it like a rail class but called for different maneuvers. I was able to let Grace go a bit allowing her to move out. We side passed, performed 360s, stopped and did some flying lead changes. The class was not only fun but was a great warm up for Western Riding; I’m really looking forward to Ranch Horse Pleasure in the future. I had two Western Riding classes, both using Pattern 4. Grace was as consistent as she’s ever been on pattern. Since it was a schooling show I picked up both reins to create a wall for her shoulders. Her changes were clean and she didn’t take over on pattern. Even the lope over the pole was controlled. We had 3 trail classes and after some issues with the gate – mine not Grace’s we had clean patterns that had a nice flow to them. I was really pleased with the lope transition which was out of the walk after a pole. Grace gave me a nice quiet lope which allowed us to be prepared for the lope overs. We ended Saturday with 6 blue ribbons but again I was more focused on the fact that I enjoyed showing. I think I even had fun! 

Sunday was all English; they started the day off with jumping which had a really good turnout. I took time in the morning to braid Grace’s mane in a running braid because I am determined to keep it long no matter what discipline we show. I’ll have to get pictures next time, but she looks pretty cute all braided up! Sarah had me ride in my breeches and half chaps in the English saddle on Saturday night. It takes me a good 20 minutes to find my body in the English saddle. Until that time is up I ride like a retarded monkey (no offense to any special needs monkeys you might know)! I grew up riding English and it seems that my body is fighting all kinds of old muscle memory. The same thing happened to me when I warmed up at lunch break on Sunday. Luckily I was over it by the time I got into the show ring. Grace was really good in our equitation classes, a few people from my barn pointed out that Grace seems to really like the Hunt Seat class which means that I’d better get working on it. My Hunt Seat Equitation needs a lot of tightening up, I’m sure it will happen as soon as I exorcise the old demons from my riding past. I only showed in 3 English classes as I had a good amount of classes on Saturday and I for one have only a few classes in me for English right now.

 When I look back to where we were a year ago at this time I see a ton of progress. Grace and I have gone from irritating each other in the show pen to developing a partnership that we can both start to rely on under pressure.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Horses are not like potato chips. Tattoos are!

I’ve heard it said many times that horses are like potato chips; you can’t stop at one. I have not found that to be the case as I’ve happily been a one horse owner for many years now. Now tattoos on the other hand are a different story. I’ve wanted another one within seconds of getting my first. I am amazed it took me this long to get it done. What took me so long was finding something that I wanted as bad as my first tattoo and it had to be the same quality, so I went with the same artist. This time I didn’t have an exact reference to provide, more of an idea. I walked in with a picture of Rosie the Riveter and told him what I wanted. I am beyond thrilled with the results. 

The inspiration behind this tattoo is every strong woman that has come into my life. From my mother the city girl who I watched raise a family and run a small farm while my dad was out to sea, my sister the single mother that raised two girls, worked full time and provided a house for the girls to grow up in, to Jeannie who is 10 years younger than me who taught me how to pull my first horse trailer and that if I wanted to get something fixed I could always do it myself. The list of strong women that have shaped my life is long, I now have a daily reminder to be sure that I thank them.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Picture of Grace and I years ago

“I have a new schooling show plan for you” was the message from Sarah. This could be anything from hauling to different shows than the ones we had planned to riding another horse. The answer was revealed during my Saturday lesson “I think you should stay and do English classes on Sunday”. Sarah explained that it would be more show ring time, more patterns and a chance to school two handed. She also suggested that I consider the equation classes at AQHA shows. Other than the fact that I no longer own any English tack or clothes, this seems like a really good idea!

When my family purchased our first horse my Dad assumed that we would ride Western. The horse community around us was predominately English. The kids I rode with were either in Pony Club or attended Hunter/Jumper shows. It wasn’t long before I had ditched the Western saddle and was riding in my first all-purpose English saddle bought from a neighbor girl that was off to college. I went on to participate in Pony Club and Hunter/Jumper shows. I developed some pretty bad riding habits from being over faced by large fences. I switched back to Western when I met Grace at Penny’s barn and began a long journey of learning how to ride all over again.

I’ve ridden Grace English a handful of times; I’ve even jumped her as high as 3 feet. Grace is actually the nicest horse I’ve ever ridden to a fence; the distance is there every time and she doesn’t hesitate at the base of a jump. I on the other hand was done jumping and much prefer having my butt firmly planted in my Western saddle. I have shown Grace Hunt Seat at schooling shows in the past, she actually does well and seems to enjoy moving out. I will have to see how I feel about it. Luckily I can borrow tack for the time being and since we are starting out with schooling shows I don’t have to get too fancy. That reminds me – I will eventually have to wear breeches again, good thing I just started hitting the gym!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Feel - Some Days I Have It

“Feel” is a word that is kicked around a lot in horse training conversations. The word often comes up in conversation when there is a lack of it; more often than not it is the amateur rider that is in short supply of the coveted “feel”. During the clinic with Mario he said one difference between amateurs and trainers is timing; trainers ride more horses and put more hours in the saddle which allows them to develop their timing and feel. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what feel in the saddle was, until a lesson I had just over a week ago; that day I hit the brick wall when it came to “feel”.

Sarah had me working on lateral work getting control of Grace’s hip and shoulder. It seemed as though I could get one end of the horse, but not the other. If I asked her to sit on her hind end and move her shoulder Grace would always step out behind, never holding the ground. We then broke the exercise down to just getting control of the hind end which is where I found the brick wall. Our lesson was now happening completely at the walk, each time I added pressure behind the girth with my heel it pressed against an unmoving object. The harder I tried the more pissed off Grace became. Sarah talked about timing; when to apply the cue. We talked about foot falls at all 3 gaits and when the best time for the rider to influence a particular leg was. It all made sense to my brain but to my body it felt like calculus. I knew that this was something I would have to practice during the week. I pointed out to Sarah that my lower leg wasn’t reaching behind the girth where she wanted it. I was twisting like a pretzel to get it back there which was throwing me out of balance and pissing my horse off even more. Sarah told me to keep my heel down when putting my leg behind the girth and to stop curling my lower leg up. She also made a comment about my hip flexors and recommended that I get back into yoga. It was the first time in a long time that I left a lesson feeling unaccomplished.

I spent the week in between lessons determined to get back my feel. I spent a ride in the bareback pad with no spurs but a dressage whip. I rode another time without stirrups, another time with my eyes closed. Still, I couldn’t get my lower legs where I wanted them; I even banged my heel on the large buckle on flank strap – ouch! Those words kept haunting me “keep your heel down when you bring your leg back” How was I going to do that with my midget legs? It was Friday before the big “Ah Ha! light bulb” moment happened. The hip flexor! What if I started the cue from my hip, clear up at the top of my leg? I opened my hip angle, felt the hip flexor lengthen and then moved my lower leg behind the girth. My horse immediately moved her hip over off the pressure. It was so easy it was crazy! So I tried the other leg, same reaction! I rode the entire ride moving Grace’s hind end all over the place and laughing like an idiot. Good thing I ride alone. I was even able to soften my back and keep my abdominal wall engaged. This lightened my seat allowing my horse to drive up even further from behind.

At my Saturday lesson I showed Sarah the progress I had made and went on to repeat to her most of what she has been telling me for the last 10 years. Now that we had control of the hip Sarah had me move onto the shoulder. I was now able to get my horse to rock back on her hind end with a soft hand by using an indirect aid from the outside rein. The goal was to pick her shoulder up to “stand up the pillars”. I felt Grace’s stride completely change underneath me; there was a loftiness to it that was missing before. Her lope was a pleasure to sit and required a lot less work on my part. Grace forgot to drop her shoulder to the right when loping on the left lead; I was even able to slow her stride down by asking her to sit on her hock for a longer period of time. There was a flow to the ride, an “easiness” that I was just starting to capture.

I’m not sure what exactly causes that level of feel to come and go. If I had to guess I would think that it has something to do with the fact that I ride the same horse day in and day out. We get really used to each other’s patterns and our role in them. I have to give myself a break as I do have “feel”. I know this because I put snaps on pair of reins this week so they could be more interchangeable between bridles. Within seconds of that ride I was already cursing the snaps and them remembering why I have taken them off my reins in the past. Snaps attached to the end of water loops on reins mess with my “feel”; they break the soft contact I have with my horse’s mouth. I am also thankful for the brick wall rides because without them I would never grow as a rider and never strive for what I thought only months before wasn’t possible. The journey continues…

Thursday, November 8, 2012

That Time of the Year Again


It got me again - the time change thing. I don't know why it throws me off my game, every year I know that it's coming. I need that extra hour of light at the end of the day - that part of the day is MY time and now I have to fumble through it in the dark. I am determined not to let the lack of daylight get to me, but it's been less than a week and I'm already bummed out about it.

This time of year I am very grateful for my job which allowed me the flexibility to set my own shift. I start my day at the office at 6:00am with the idea that I will leave at 3:00pm. This week was the first time in months that I've come remotely close to leaving near 3:00pm. I've been working 9-10 hour days all summer, so there is one positive to the time change in that I am getting myself out of the office on time. I love being in the office before the sun comes up - really! I get to my desk while the place is still quiet, get to make the first pot of coffee just the way I like it and I get to enjoy some quality time with my customers on the other side of the pond. I wake up at 4:30am or earlier in order to feed Grace and get to work on time. Yes - I am one of those freakish morning people.

Monday was the first day that I had to deal with the time change after work. I had this great idea that I would get all my chores done before I rode, cleaning the pasture, putting down new bedding in the shelter, filling and hanging the hay net. It was 4:30pm before I set my seat in the saddle. I dislike being kept to a schedule when I ride, if Grace needs an hour, I will take the full hour. If we accomplish the task at hand in 25 minutes, then exit the arena and hit the trail. Monday was an hour long ride, and we had ended with a lot of loping. I now had a horse in need of a good cool out and there was very little light to see by. So I did what any stubborn cowgirl would do and I took my horse for a walk on the trails in the dark. Luckily Grace was steady as a rock, and was very much my Seeing Eye horse.

Tuesday and Wednesday I was smarter, I made sure to get out of work close to 3:00pm and rode as soon as I got home. I was even able to get most of my chores done with some daylight. My LED head lamp is now with me morning and night since I start and end my day outside in the dark. I'm trying not to think about how much darker it is going to get over the next month and a half, I really want to keep Grace going 6 days a week this winter, I would imagine that a few of those weekdays will eventually be groundwork days. Riding all winter isn't just for Grace, though I do get a ton of valuable training done in the off season; I need to keep riding for me. It is my happy place, my Zen, my chance to reconnect to my soul. I end up getting more creative in the winter; riding in the dark, riding on the driveway when the arenas are flooded, more groundwork or hauling out to covered arenas. We "spring forward" on March 10 2013, 123 days from now, in the meantime I will be making use of every last second of day light.

Monday, October 29, 2012

My Horse Smells Like a Pina Colada - Calm Coat Product Review

Every once and I while I find a product that I love so much I just have to share. This time it is an entire line of products. I was first introduced to Calm Coat by a friend that owned a tack store. She sent me home with a handful of samples of the Natural Topical Spay telling me to add it to my fly spray. It was mosquito season and when I would tack up my horse in the evening she was constantly swishing at the gnats and mosquitoes. "Calm" Coat is aptly named because after spaying her down with the fly spray/Calm Coat mixture there was an instant change in the energy. My irritated horse, was now calm, not only did the bugs leave her alone but she was no longer itchy, you could almost hear her breathe a sigh of relief. I bought a full size bottle and continued to add it to my fly spray mixture, about 1/2 an ounce to a 12 ounce bottle of fly spray. The Natural Topical Spray is oil based and contains Lavender, Tea Tree and Eucalyptus oils in a base of Canola oil. I would of course recommend using cation with an oil based product on horses turned out in direct sunlight, but I never had a problem, the fly spray I mixed it with was water based. The smell is amazing, I spent a lot of time this summer with my nose buried in my horse's neck.

In August I saw Calm Eyes at tack store down the road from a horse show. We had an unusually dry summer for this area and it was taking a toll on Grace's eyes. Even with a fly mask her eyes were crusty each afternoon when I would pull her out for a ride. At times her right lower eye lid would be puffy from rubbing it. Calm Eyes is easy to use, I just wiped it around the eye area with a rag. It cleared up the crusties and the tear staining that had just begun. I used the Clear Eyes until the rains came back and the dust settled down. I don't think I even used half of the 4 ounce bottle. I would think would be  a great product for dogs as well, especially those that deal with tear stains.

Last weekend I stopped in at Del's on a trip to visit my parents. I came home with a bottle of the Calm Coat Detangler & Shine. I use Cowboy Magic Body Shine at shows and in the winter, I like it but don't want to use it every day. The Calm Coat Detangler and shine doesn't have any ingredients on the label. Their website says it is fortified with Vitamin E and I can tell you that it smells like a pina colada. It seems to have essential oils, including what I assume is coconut. I sprayed it on Grace after a ride this week and brushed it into her coat. It cleared up that dander layer that is coming up to the top of her hair as she grows in her winter coat. Once again Grace smelled incredible, I couldn't stop leaning in and taking a whiff. I also sprayed her mane, but didn't brush it through. The next day when I tacked her up her mane was tangle free and her coat under her blanket was slick and shiny. Her coat felt better than when I use a silicone product, it was softer; more natural and less chemical based. I wash and condition Grace's mane and tail weekly, if I go longer than a week her mane becomes dry and frizzy, the Calm Coat Detangler & Shine seems to buy me a few more daysThis might just become my new go to grooming spray. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Slow Feed Hay Net Update

I've been feeding Grace out of the slow feed hay net for two weeks now. At first I was worried that Grace wouldn't eat enough hay and might lose weight. She surprised me by eating more at times out of the hay net than if I had put her  hay on the ground. She still doesn't empty the hay net all the way, but I take the left over hay, usually about a flake and mix it back in with the new hay when I refill the net. If she had left that same flake behind while feeding on the ground, it would have been spread out, stepped on peed on and then thrown in the manure pile. Now I hardly ever have to put hay in the manure pile before it makes it way through the horse.

I found this website full of great ideas on how to set up slow feed hay nets. I took the idea of running the bucket strap through the top to close and hang the bag. I have two nets and quickly learned that I like the larger one. It holds up to 30 pounds of hay and I can leave it up without refilling it for more than one feeding. I still like to pull the hay through the holes to get it started for Grace, my goal is not for her to lose weight but for her waste less hay. She still gets her flake of alfalfa mix on the ground twice a day, the orchard grass is there for her 24 hours. Last night I had a late meeting after work so I was gone for over 13 hours, I didn't have to worry about the increased amount of time in between feedings causing an ulcer flare.

This is what the net looks like right before I refill it:

When it is full:

Bucket strap:

I had a hell of a time uploading these pictures tonight. Blogger kept rotating them every time I would upload. I went to Google to see what was up and the party line put it back on the camera that I took the pictures with. I'm not buying that because when I logged out and back in I was able to get one picture to load correctly. If it acts like a bug and looks like a bug it is most likely a bug.I knew there had to be a way around it. I uploaded the same photos in Picasa, one of which uploaded rotated (Picasa is a Google Site) but I was then able to rotate in Picasa and upload here. Nice to know all those hours working for a software company are paying off!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Mario Bosijoli Clinic - Transitions and Other Pesky Details!

Yesterday I had the opportunity to ride Grace in a clinic with Mario Bosijoli. I had audited one of his reining clinics in the spring and was impressed by his series of exercises that cross over well to any discipline.  For those who don’t know Mario here is an excerpt from his current bio: Chairman of NRHA’s Animal Welfare/Stewards Committee. Over the last thirty years Mario has officiated at horse shows on five different continents. His judging assignments have included the US Arabian Nationals, the AQHA World, Amateur World, Select World and Youth World, NRHA Futurity and Derby, All American Quarter Horse Congress, International Quarter Horse Championships, Italian Reining Derby, European Reined Cow Horse Derby, and Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show.
Mario is an AQHA, APHA, NRHA, NRCHA, NSBA, PtHA, POAC, ApHC, ApHCC, ABRA, USEF Western & Reining, FEI and EQUINE CANADA, approved Judge, and AQHA and NRHA approved Steward.
It doesn’t mention his years as a trainer, many NHRA and AQHA championships along with trips to the World show. One of the reasons I so enjoy working with him is that I get the view of a top notch trainer along with the added benefit of a many carded breed show judge. My favorite part of any time I’ve spent around Mario is when he shares stories from his years of judging, it’s a real treat to hear what it is like from the other side of the show pen. I also takes away some of the fear of showing for me, it turns out that judges really are just people too; it is not their goal in life to chew me up and spit me out!

There were 7 horses and riders in the clinic including Nina and Milo. Mario spent the day working us through his series of exercises which focused on rein control, lope transitions, stops, roll backs, spins and counter lope. The exercises were great, but the real gems in the clinic were the little nuggets of information delivered in between. Mario got on everyone about having too long of a rein length, he pointed out that the sport is called “Reining” so yes, you can use your reins and have some contact. As a judge he actually wants to see how your horse will react when you pick up on the rein. He wasn’t a fan of the Texas drape often seen now in horsemanship classes.  One word that we all heard during the day was “Forward” Mario talked about tempo and how there was an optimal speed to begin a maneuver.  A horse that was going too slow could be just a sloppy as one going too fast. I watched a 3 year old clean up its lope considerably just by asking it to go forward.

One of the biggest light bulb moments for me was when we were walking a circle to set up a turnaround exercise. The idea was to stop in the corner about ten feet off the wall and then turn a 180 towards the wall. Later we would turn a 360 away from the wall – a spin. The wall would do most of the work. What I missed was the importance of the circle. I was using it as a way to get to the wall and not actually riding the the steps to get me there. My horse was drifting to the right so Mario got on me about actually riding each step of that circle. I took a feel of my outside rein and pushed Grace up into it with my leg, immediately felt her step up from behind and lift her shoulder. When I then arrived at the corner for the 360 she was much better prepared and gave me an actual spin. Sarah is always telling me to ride each stride, but that moment really drove the idea home. Mario reminded us many times during the day that everything we do while sitting on our horse’s back counts.

The one thing that became crystal clear for me was that I need to work on my transitions every time I get on my horse. One of the first exercises was picking up the lope transition while walking at the wall at a 45 degree angle. He talked again about riding each step to that transition, loading the spring for takeoff. This made so much more sense than sneaking the transition in out of nowhere like I often do. Mario said he likes to know that the answer is going to be there before he asks the question. He also pointed out that the lope transition is a scored maneuver in Western Riding and it sets the tone for the quality of your lope. If we were loping an exercise and he wanted us to walk so we could talk about it he would say “trot, then walk”. The idea was to ride each step of the downward transition and not just fall into the walk. Turns out that is a terrible habit of mine, I tend to just let my horse fall into the walk and I found that in the snaffle yesterday I don’t have much of a downward transition.

I have a ton of homework do to and I am once again looking forward to working in the arena. I know I can also work on my transitions out on the trail and I need to since everything I do in the saddle counts. I can see now that many of the little details I overlook are where the polish in the show ring comes from. I called Sarah after the clinic to fill her on how the day went and to tell her that I now have a new appreciation for her. Many of Mario’s words where what I have already been told by Sarah, just said in a different way. We are making plans to haul out to ride with Mario this winter, in the meantime I have plenty of homework to do!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Ring Sour

It’s not the horse – it’s me! I felt it hit the Tuesday before the last horse show; I didn’t want to work in the arena. It didn’t make sense at first; here I was having some of the best rides of all time and suddenly tacking up felt like a chore. I knew better than to give Grace the day off that close to the show so we hit the trails in the bareback pad instead. We then went off to the horse show and picked up some new exercises for the tool bag, followed by weekly lessons which built on those tools. The rides were only getting better, not only was my horse moving better than she ever has, she was enjoyable to ride. Then it hit me again last night, I didn’t want to go into the arena. The footing was good, no need to water now that the rains have returned, but my heart just wasn’t in it. Much to Grace and Belle Dog’s delight, we went past the in gate and headed out to the trails. 

We experienced an unusually dry end of summer and start to the fall for the Pacific Northwest. The trails where I ride were so dry that the footing was little hard for my taste. We’ve been taking it slow out there for the last few months, keeping those tendons safe. Grace and I usually walk a 5-10 minute trail loop before entering the arena; it gives me a chance to ground myself after a long day at the office. Last night the footing was just right after a few days of rain so we extended our loop adding the jog and lope. I was really pleased by how well Grace worked out there and Belle Dog was ecstatic that we finally picked up the pace. I then took Grace into the arena and worked through all 3 gaits, I could tell that my heart just wasn’t in it. Grace was wonderful; I had nothing to complain about, but nothing to really get me excited either. When I pointed Grace to the out gate after only 10 minutes I could feel our communal spirits lift. Grace had a spring in her step, I was already back on the trails in my head and Belle Dog took off for the trail head barking at us to hurry it up!
As I was cooling Grace out at the end of our ride, listening to the sound of hooves crunching across the freshly fallen leaves in the forest, it occurred to me that I might just be burned out. I have shown more this past year than I have since I was 19. Grace and I have been to at least one show a month since December. We also added bigger shows to our schedule that included more overnight stays. It turns out the only vacation time I took from work this past year was for horse shows. I have a job that I absolutely love and look forward to going to everyday, that same passion for the job makes it difficult for me to take time off. The company has no problem with me taking a vacation; I am the one that isn’t willing to walk away for an extended period of time. In between shows we were busy training for the next show and hauling out to the trainers once a week. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE showing my horse and I love my weekly lessons even more, but I don’t want to forget to just take a step back and enjoy my horse for just being a horse. 

We have a clinic this weekend which should give us some new tools and get me back to being excited in the arena again. I am realizing that I need to fit trail rides and other fun outings back into our regular training program. I hope to hit a cow sorting or two over the winter which I thought was to cross train my horse but more and more I’m thinking it is for me. I miss the thrill of Grace locking onto the cows while she and I work together to sort the herd. I miss hauling out to for 3 hour trail rides with Grace and Belle, even when we do get chased by a coyote. I know that there is no happier place on earth for me than in the saddle, but I am now learning that I need to mix it up or I am the one that is going to become ring sour.