roll out the barrel

Days have turned into weeks, and my saddle time continues at the speed of walk. I think my sore back is finally calmed down enough to begin progressive riding?! I know it will be limited at best, as I still find myself bracing. My stiffness promptly results in a "what's your problem" look from my horse. We've lost so much ground. Sigh. Every time we restart, which seems to happen a lot to us, the connection comes back faster. Right? At least that's my hope.

For a change of pace, we rode in the pasture last night. While Brad & Nemo loped a storm up, we plodded along enjoying the sights and sounds. Up and over, around - but not through the low lying area filled with thick black horse sucking mud. It was a beautiful night to be outside riding!

My hubby, the adventurer, was up to no good and looking for a challenge. Something to do out of the norm. Apparently the first pasture ride of the season wasn't enough. Koda spotted their find first, and wanted to investigate. Brad had pulled a plastic white barrel out of the brush, that the wind had misplaced. By the time we got to them, Nemo was doing a good job of trying to roll it. Which is interesting, because he has never liked rolling exercise balls. I guess barrels are different.

Koda was all ears and wanted to try rolling it too. We quickly discovered the barrel was doing more spinning then rolling. Between the four of us, we managed to get the barrel rolled out to mid-pasture. We decided it was time to call it quits when Koda tried stepping on it...what was he thinking? He's a trick pony?? Wish I had packed my phone cam to capture this rollin' kinda fun! A good reminder, that it's not all about technique or goals, sometimes ya just gotta roll out the barrel!!

Koda rolling his own barrel


Midwest Horse Fair 2015 ~ 2 of 2

What I strive to infuse in my horsemanship is listed below via tips and progressions that I noted as fast as my (very slow) texting fingers could enter in my handy-dandy new horse fair app. Some of these things I already do, but could do much better, other things were completely new. Have you ever tried laying a horse down? There were approaches with different twists to age old problems, that made me think.

What you can't see with my notes is the impeccable timing and soft handling. It wasn't doing the obstacles that was so impressive, it was the handling. I've never seen horses so in-tuned with their humans, and I've been fortunate to watch some accomplished horsemen at fair. The clinics below are all Jim Anderson's, his demeanor is described in my first fair postFor all these reasons and more, we chose to focus on his clinics this year. I'm thankful for the experience he shared. I may not be riding through a cowboy curtain anytime soon, but anything and everything encountered with a horse is an obstacle. It's useful to learn ways to approach the otherwise unapproachable.

I blocked my clinic note section off, feel free to scroll past for the rest of my review.  


Going over Obstacles: 
• send horse over obstacle vs leading
• have forward over tarp, horses can scare if tarp pulls back
• look for horse to find obstacle
• it's key to spend more time resting on obstacles
• rest should equal working time
• if horse shows resistance, allow them to leave
• put them to work so the obstacle is the release

Working Progression: 1st using a lead rope, 2nd loose loop around neck, 3rd at liberty

A question was asked about how to handle a horse that rushes out of a trailer. Jim suggested trying bridge work before trailer loading, and allow them to leave the trailer. All of the above tips apply to trailer loading.

The beginning of this clinic reinforced the above, but was done under saddle.
• get horse to do lateral release & neck to drop
• horse should be leading with nose not ears, before working obstacles
• when the horse looks away/turns right, put them back to work left (opposite direction)

Desensitizing horses
Jim likes to use tarps, and added in another horse.
• Bunch tarp to make thin
• Start behind shoulder and progressively increase tarp width
• Gradually move up and past shoulder, paying attending to horses comfort
• Progress backwards if they show signs of concern

Going through a Cowboy Curtain
• remove middle strands and gradually add them back in
• he loped as an exercise (not a punishment) and then used the curtain as the release
• always give the horse the option to leave if getting bored
• doing the obstacles should be the horses idea
• try backing up & ask again before going back to exercise

Another question from the audience was asked if he was "directing" the horse to the obstacles for release. Yes, when he lopes he uses 2oz pressure on outside 1/2oz pressure on inside, from his knee down.

• get them to want to hold their feet
• if the horse is worried and wants to move their feet, stop and distract them by moving exercises and then restart where you left off

Working Progression: desensitize standing still, dragging rope in a circle, dragging straight, dallying, tossing

• rope out to side while standing still (side is from cinch out) progress to front of horse
• start dragging with nothing on rope in a circle
• straighten rope so it's following behind
• make sure rope touches butt, both directions
• if horse gets worried about rope while dragging, try going straight or stop and turn facing rope with slack to let them relax
• for dragging things, likes to start with a bunched tarp working closer with more increased active tarp
• if rope goes under tail, move hip to undo rope 
• dallying is next, used a gator & tracked it at back angle/corner. If the horse wants to leave, put it to work/exercise so he finds the gator is the reward
• to start swinging (roped a muck bucket in back of gator) stop gator after toss as reward

Ponying: look for release spot, give pressure when ponied horse is in wrong spot

Laying Horse Down:
• start with head & neck lateral
• sets neck down with pressure cue on top of head
• rope around foot then belly
• tap & lift foot, bend head lateral to ask for crouch and release
• let it be their idea to lay down
• upon rising, he asks for a sit and the horse to wait on us and trust, before getting up

Jim shared that he believes a handler should be able to lay a horse down. Because laying down is the most vulnerable position in the wild. Once achieved, confidence in handler goes through the roof.

• face the fence, side pass, side pass, release & reward
• get impulsion, both sides before loping
• make sure horse is with you, can't be behind you, drive horse up first
• use a fence at 90 degrees, because you can really tell if hinds & front match
• good for lope off, moves hips in a little at 45 degree
• horse should wait for cluck or kiss
• shoulders: look for the reach

Working Progression: walk, trot and lope

• starts head & neck to the inside first, watches for crossover
• head & hip pushed towards direction going (small circle)
• breakdown: hip, then head & neck, walk out and increase
• inside leg off once you have forward
• they should spin on there own

• need to have the back up solid
• pick hands up & add soft legs until they try a little harder/faster (fixes the stop)
• if they stop to one side, fixes by side passing to opposite side

• head up, do lateral neck work
• spin fixes the rollback
• build speed gradually so they stay with you, after consistent at slower speeds

Jim stressed that putting the horse to work is not punishment, they are exercises. There is an exercise to fix everything.

"Good horsemanship is when we relax, they relax" 


A fair review wouldn't be complete without mentioning shopping! 
There are a ton of vendors, and many are repeat. It's a shopaholics dream. Vendors come from all over the US. We get what we need on Friday, try to avoid "cattle herding" on Saturdays, and revisit on Sunday's. Pricing is not created equally, and neither is quality. But there are sooo many, many gems and rare finds. You just gotta look before you buy, but don't wait to long or - poof - it will be gone!!

Our take home goods:
Horseshoers Secret (year supply) for Nemo, fly spray, show sheen, new straw hat (for me!), new stirrups ordered (for Brad), bell boots for Koda, show fan hangers, stitched show halter for Cierra, and much to my hubby's demise and by far the most fun, I got to pick out Cierra's handmade show slinky (& matching tail bag)!!

I'm a sucker for anything metal, and struck a two-fer deal on Sunday - heehee! Doesn't hurt to ask, right?! think I've been watching a little too much American Pickers!?! I'm not a TV person, but that show draws me in. I scored a hanging hummingbird for our yard, and a horse bell for our new future place...because we will find a new place to bring our horses home, eventually...

Our not so goods: The person that was supposedly buying my saddle at fair didn't call, turns out my custom saddle wasn't ready early as hoped (I knew before fair) and the boot wraps we really needed to replace were overpriced everywhere, so we are ordering them online.

Midwest Horse Fair set an attendance record this year of 61,000 (23,000 Friday, 25,000 Saturday, 13,000 Sunday). The local economic impact is estimated at 8.5 million. I'm thrilled the horse industry is being fostered and get's to shine!! In our many travels to/from the truck I saw out of state attendee license plates from New York, Kansas, South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota. No doubt there were many other states represented. It's a good time to visit Wisconsin, altho be forewarned our spring weather is a crap shoot!

Basking in the afterglow of all things fair finds us reminiscing about the friends we caught up with, the vendors we look forward to visiting with every year, the woulda shoulda coulda but didn't, the purchases we have/will be putting to good use, and the clinicians who left a lasting impression. 


Midwest Horse Fair 2015 ~ 1 of 2

One of the most obvious things to appreciate about Midwest Horse Fair this year was the impressive building improvements made to the fair grounds. The two new pavilions are gorgeous! You can count them with one hand, building one or building two. Gone are the ten plus random buildings scattered throughout the grounds. It was always a guessing game to know which one you were in and/or hoping to find. The new pavilions go on forever, for this event they housed all the stalls and two (of four) arenas.

outside a huge new pavilion (L)
The round coliseum building stayed intact, hosting the main shows and an enclosed side arena. The Alliant Energy Center remains as well, it holds a sea of vendors. This year fair attendee's were also blessed with gorgeous weather, all three days!!

My clinic reviews are going to sound a bit similar, as we really only watched one clinician intently. I can't even believe it myself, but Jim Anderson was that good. He was clear, consistent, and happened to be sharing much of where we are in our horsemanship journey. There was no show boating, cute phrases or distracting stories. His clinics were not about entertaining the audience, they were about teaching the way he handles horses. Jim was accompanied by his wife Andrea, who clearly is an accomplished horsewoman in her own right. Their handling timing was impeccable, throughout all four clinics we watched.

Of course we caught bits and pieces of other clinics, but I've learned it's not fair to review unless you watch the whole thing. We never saw Pat Parelli, and only watched a small portion of Julie Goodnight, Aaron Ralston and Al Dunning clinics. Our daughters friend rode in Jonathan Field's clinics, from what I saw I liked how he worked with the three gals/their horses. 
Much to our surprise, a dressage presenter drew us in. It was so refreshing to watch Matt McLaughlin take the seriousness out of the discipline, and share sheer joy while he talked about/did impressive dressage test moves with a big smile on his face.

We also enjoyed a Double Dan "Mastering Flying Lead Changes" clinic, but understandably it was different this year. Dan James was wheelchair bound, after a horse fell backwards on him and severely broke his leg. I commend their valiant efforts, and yes the funny was still infused. It was so sad to see Dan out of his norm. A vivid reminder, accidents can happen to even the best horseman. Unfortunately, to add to an already confusing subject, my notes disappeared! I was taking them on the new Midwest Horse Fair app. I used the app a lot, and for the most part it worked very well. I'll share the progression if I can make sense out of what I remember.

Every year fair is different, and yet some things are not. We watched the same One Arm Bandit buffalo routine from previous years, not once but twice (by default). Here it is, again: 

where the buffalo role

One Arm Bandit
(standing on a mule, turning & firing a gun,

with two buffalo on top of a trailer)
One of the reasons we don't enjoy the Saturday night shows anymore, is we have already seen many of the acts earlier during fair. However, the main reason is they've made the show so darn hokey! We thanked our lucky stars we didn't buy tickets when we saw the Fairy God Mother act previewed at the rodeo. But after I saw video and photos of my favorite trick riders doing their different Saturday night acts, I realized I missed out on some amazing riding and spot light photo opportunities. Guess you gotta take the good with the bad. Watching both evening shows makes for long days, and we opt to see the rodeo. With that said below are a few shots from the Friday night PRCA Rodeo, which is always good!! 

To see other select rodeo shots, click here. I'll post details on what Jim Anderson shared, some fun shopping finds and my overall reflection in my second review post. Until then, stay in the saddle!


wrapping things up ~ 5th and final in the winter trail course series

After four days of rain, the final trail course day came - and so did the sun! Thank goodness for well-draining outdoor arena's!! It was a gorgeous day to be outside!

Altho Koda's heel bruise is much better, I did not take him to the competition. We've barely ridden at the trot, and not loped for weeks. It wouldn't be fair to ask him to ride for hours, and risk setting him back. The kind hosts offered sharing their accomplished seasoned horse Chance, but I even turned riding that beautiful boy down. My lower back is in bad shape after trying to get the borrowed Back on Track boot off Koda. Sigh. My back woe's have come and gone for years, I should have known better...however, I turned my lemons into lemonade and shot photos of the event!!  


Beautiful Friesian cross

April Trail Course:
Start: Gate, left hand push, Walk through gate and close
Back through L poles, walk out over pole
Jog through serpentine, over four poles (small letter h shape)
Lope over wagon wheel poles (four poles) right lead
Lope to side pass pole, stop, side pass right over pole
Walk to pole, side pass left over pole
Jog to and over poles (one single pole, turn over three)
Walk over bridge and over poles
Lope over two poles in left lead and into house

Perform a 360 turn either direction, walk out of house
Walk to and over four elevated criss cross logs
Exit arena

Brad & Cierra over the criss cross logs

Jogging over the h shaped poles

Chance stopping in the house

Getting ready to side pass

Snapshot of how our horses did:

Cierra: She was quiet, but uncharacteristically distracted and unfocused. Our trainer thought Cierra was coming into heat. Somehow when it came time to ride the scored course, she pulled her focus together and took first with our trainer!

Patty & Cierra loping the wagon wheel

Nemo: What can I say but he was very Nemo, nothing out of the wonderful ordinary to share. He placed third with Brad!

Brad & Nemo practicing

It was a very different experience to be an observer. I really don't have a good sense of how the course was, altho I heard it was tough. Saw a lot of improvement, but no super clean courses. Chance competes (and wins) in trail, and even he had trouble spots. Attending numbers were down, only eight course's competed (hosts scores don't count). With six places, every rider went home with a goodie bag - which is nice. Altho we all felt kinda bad about the turn-out for the hosts, and can't figure out why there aren't more people attending?! It is such a welcoming friendly learning environment, with all different levels of riding capabilities and disciplines. It's fun to see how much every horse & rider improves! They mentioned starting the trail competition up again in November. You can bet we will be there! 

These cuties didn't compete, but they stole the show

High Point winners
(Cierra) Kris, Brad, and Patty (on Nemo)

Our trainer Patty took home Highpoint, a pretty embroidered halter. Brad tied for second, and gave the embroidered Reserve hay bag to Kris. He opted for a nice set of polo wraps! Well-deserved congrats goes out to these three great riders!! We wrapped up the series with a potluck, and headed home with forever kinda memories. 


tick tock tick tock

Time. It's guaranteed in life to move on, doesn't matter if you want it to or not. Typically allowing for both good and not so good things. This year Spring finds me in a holding pattern, watching the calendar more then ever.

A lot has to do with waiting for Koda's bruise to heal. I can't really ride, or work on the things we were beginning to make progress on...one step forward, two steps back. Sigh. Last week he did show improvement, and wasn't nearly as sore. A good thing.

The last trail challenge is Saturday. I really wanted to compete - one last time - together with my boy. It didn't help that the organizer sent me a message letting me know I have a chance at a high point prize, if I place higher then Brad again. They are also a riding couple, who can relate to our fun. Koda & I aren't doing any show circuits, so this is likely it for us this year. The competition is not remotely about prizes, or even winning. I wanted to see if Koda & I could succeed together again as a team, or if it was just luck. I really enjoyed the camaraderie, and growth the trail series fostered. I learned a ton, and even surpassed my goals. Who wouldn't want more?

The real show season begins in May. Watching everyone else ride is not nearly as much fun. I love supporting others, shooting pictures, and helping with stall duty - but being a bystander is not the same. Missing out on our last trail competition is a not so good thing.

WI high point winner
Midwest Horse Fair is 9 days away, but who's counting. I'm always anxious what we will find, learn, see and experience. This year we are looking forward to what Jim Anderson (a new clinician to us) is all about. I would also be interested in learning from Jim Masterson, but doubt my other half will agree to lectures, but maybe his hands-on presentation? We will try to catch more of what Double Dan has to share, and probably sit in on one of Pat Parelli's performances clinics, among many others. Our daughters friend is participating in the eventing clinics, hoping to watch her. We try to attend Fair with a plan, but with so many things going on at the same time, plans inevitably change.

Jessica Blair
The Friday night rodeo is always a highlight for us! We enjoy watching the brave cowboys, in suspense. My favorite trick riders are back, as well as the funny clown from last year. Click, click, click, click, click. It's the only time I tote my big camera at Fair. We gave up on the lame-o Saturday night performances a long time ago. We have several planned stops to make throughout the exhibition. By far the most exciting is, my new custom saddle should be done! I'm anxious to see and feel it. All good things.

In addition to horse this & that, my gardens are springing into action and begging for attention, it's outdoor photo time again and I have never ending behind the scenes work in progress, there is a baby boom happening around me, our search for a new place to call home continues etc...somewhere in between the madness, I'm hopeful a lot of peaceful trail riding occurs...a mix of good and not so good things. In other words life.

Time is like a river.

You cannot touch the same water twice, because the flow that has passed will never pass again.

Enjoy every passing moment of life! 

~ author unknown


Easy Boot quick recommendation needed

Anyone out there have an Easy Boot (or other) recommendation to share?

I need to order a pair of boots for Koda asap. I'm hoping the boots can be used for light arena riding while his bruise heals up, and later on for trail riding on rocky terrain.

These are the two I am considering:

TRANSITION: https://www.easycareinc.com/our_boots/easyboot_transition/easyboot_transition.aspx

BACK COUNTRY: https://www.easycareinc.com/our_boots/easyboot_glove_backcountry/easyboot_glove_backcountry.aspx

If you use boots, what kind do you use for your horses? Thanks in advance!

teachings of a bruise

Towards the end of a long sunny arena ride, more layers of understanding were revealed. The kind you wish you knew all along, but apparently weren't ready for in the learning process...I thought I felt it. Was Koda short striding? Nah. Just my imagination. 

Several days passed before we rode again. Early on in our ride I felt it, altho once again very subtle. I asked Brad if he could see that Koda was off. Nope. Then I asked our trainer to watch us before riding Cierra. After a hard look, she wasn't sure and asked to ride Koda. I watched them go intently, hmmm...you couldn't see it, but I know what I felt. Subtle or not. It wasn't long after I began riding again, it became obvious. Koda was short striding. I hopped off to untack. We would start by having the farrier check Koda's left front. 

To make a long story shorter, after some stretch testing etc it was determined that Koda has a bruise on the heel of his frog (more on the outer, then inner). The farrier didn't think it was an abscess, but suggested treating it similar for a couple days and continue light riding with no tight circles.

I am so glad I was able to be at the barn, to learn first hand from the farrier. You see, this is my first time dealing with lameness on my own horse. Koda has rock solid Appy feet, but even those can have problems too. Apparently this type of bruise is common. It can happen from their back foot kicking the front foot, while running across the field or simply from getting up from a roll.

Instead of soaking, we wrapped poultice. I learned to wrap Koda's foot. My husband and daughter have always done the foot care on our other horses. They know much more about horse care then I do. I've always been a bystander, guess I'm fortunate to be surrounded by knowledgeable people. Koda pulled the wrap off on more then one occasion, so I'm not sure how effective the treatment was. I was pretty proud of myself that the couple times I wrapped, they stayed on! 

Our rides were very short and consisted of walking, and a little trotting. With the added flexion he would begin short striding again, which ended our rides. I'm more inclined to give him time off, but all the powers that be suggest continued light riding. He is getting a mix of both. His foot certainly doesn't bother him when he's tearing across the field!

Four days passed, and the farrier checked Koda again. Unfortunately I wasn't able to be at the barn this time, so we discussed his findings on the phone. He still thinks it's a bruise, that will just take time to heal. No more wrapping. We talked about giving Koda complete time off. Instead he suggested even lighter riding with more frequency, and to try using a boot while riding. I borrowed one last night, and Koda seemed a little better. If needed, we will reevaluate in 10 days.  

Pretty bummed that I most likely will not be able to ride in the last Trail Competition. Oh well, I'm more concerned that Koda heals up in time for the trail riding season that is rapidly approaching. Hoping this is a minor setback...that among other things is teaching me patience. 

Trail Riding, 2014