change of riding plans

Last night we made the all too familiar trek to the barn. Not too far down the road I realized, I forgot to switch into my sports bra!! Yikes! I know you women can related to what went through my mind...in a nutshell, I'll only be able to walk my horse. I had to change my riding plan. 

My kind hubby offered to turn around and go back home, but I didn't want to spend the extra time. Then the funny guy showed up, and asked "do you want to put an extra one of those in my glove box too"?? Ha ha ha. Yes, it's an inside joke. His glove box contains several of my things that I forget and apparently can't live without. 

Koda & I did some extended walk with figure eights, a little bending, attempted some 3 tracking and eventually I tried to trot a little. Um yea, let's just say that didn't last long. I decided to focus the rest of our ride on my leg cues, something we are in dire need of. I rely too much on my hands.

I wrapped the reins around the horn, because no matter how hard I try to hold my hands still and not use them, I end up moving them a little. Old habits die hard. The plan was to only use my legs and seat to cue, and when needed add my arms and voice. Back in the day I used to take entire group lessons without reins at all gaits, which can be very valuable (and scary at times). 

I had three cones lined up the length of the arena. We started by walked the outsides, stopping at each cone, and turning at the ends to walk the other side. I added directional changes, and an unexpected Nemo wall, where we had to tighten our turns. We proceeded to adding circles in-between and around cones. No traditional weaving in-between them, because Koda anticipates it. 

He was being a rockstar listener, until the grain cart started rolling down the aisles. I had to add my whoa! voice when he didn't respond to my seat/legs at the cone stops, that worked. I backed him up (with reins) to where he should have stopped. I also had to reach down at the gate end of the arena to add a little rein aid to help him focus on the turn I was asking for, and not the grain cart.

Overall I was really pleased, and it was a huge improvement over the last time I tried riding Koda without reins. I'll have to mix it into our rides more often. There is so much that can be done by adding gait changes, poles, etc. We all know how important legs/seat are for communication.

Incase you are wondering, I won't be adding articles of clothing to my husbands glove box anytime soon. A change of riding plans can be a good thing. 


Midwest Horse Fair 2016 ~ 2 of 2

Friday is our favorite day at the fair. We start early and end late. It's all about visiting with vendor friends we've made over the years, shopping, more shopping, visiting with local horse friends, and the rodeo. Highlights and photos were shared in my Midwest Horse Fair ~ 1 of 2 blog post.

We had a little extra time before the rodeo, and altho we don't aspire to do either, we watched a clinic called "Liberty & Brideless Bareback riding skills". Presented by my favorite trick riders, Jessica Blair & Madison McDonald. These down to earth gals are fun to watch & listen to and kept us entertained while they worked with their horses of various training levels. The early evening light shining through the entrance made me wish I had my camera...even more so when I found out they were not performing in the Friday night rodeo. We did however enjoy a sneak peak of what they performed on Saturday. Maddie did most of the bareback riding during the clinic, and - wow - can that girl ride!! 

On Saturday, we try to watch clinics that present information we can apply to where we are at in our horsemanship. To be honest, our expectations were low this year. There wasn't much that fit. Not sure why, when there are a gazillion clinics. You learn something new (or in a new way) from anyone you watch, on any subject, but if you can't apply it - it just gets lost. 

There were a few new clinicians that sounded interesting to me. Specifically Patrick King (not sure how to classify him?) Lisa Wysocky (therapeutic horsemanship) and Jec Ballou (dressage). However we never did get around to watching any them, not even Guy McLean's horse starting clinics (we've seen some in the past). Too bad, I wanted to hear more from him. It required talking an unmentioned person into watching them, and timing. Fair is alllll about timing!! There are eight learning opportunities offered most every hour, barns full of different breeds, mega vendors, musical entertainment and various competitions...timing can be a challenge, but ohhh, it's fun!!

So which clinics did we watch?? We were pleasantly surprised to find John & Josh Lyons presentations, fit where we are at. As you know, John Lyons has been around forever. Back in the day, I used to subscribe to his magazine. We did find John to be a bit long in the tooth, and he is still too preachy for me - but eventually concepts were explained well. We both really learned the most from Josh Lyons, his son. Primarily because he stuck to what everyone was there for, to learn about the training topic. He knows his strengths, as well as his weaknesses, and isn't afraid to share either of them. They both used a lot of understandable analogies to drive points home, and played off each other to sprinkle in some humor. 

We were drooling over Josh Lyon's horse...wow he was gorgeous! John let it slip out that he recently sold for a mere $185,000 dollars (gulp!).

I attempted to type key notes into my phone, and listen at the same time. I also snapped a few clinic photos with my phone. The things that resonated the most with me are in bold italics at the end of the clinic notes. Hopefully some of these make you think, as well.

Clinic 1: Lift, Pull, Trap: Three Rein Positions Everyone Needs to Know

The three rein positions that relate to three parts of the head/neck.

1st part makes them look pretty (LIFT position, nose back to poll).
If the head is even/down with withers, it's soft. Varies on discipline. A horse's head that is above withers, is excited.

2nd part controls height (PULL position, poll back to crest). Pull up, lightens the front end Pull to side is moving hind quarters. Reins lighten the leg cue. Could think D Ring on saddle to move hip (or conches, for front of horse). John used spots on his saddle a lot, in all three clinics we watched. I've since tried, it works.

3rd part evens pressure (TRAP position, crest back to withers). To soften & give, without resistance. Ride forward, and release gradually (developing the poll). Horse's head doesn't change position. Josh did an excellent job of explaining & showing the release. This is far from new for me.
 I try to do gradual releases, but the way he taught it really hit home. 

• Legs are the gas pedal, reins are the steering wheel
• Release means keep doing it, not stop (ex. dog sit & stay)
• Don't throw the reins away. To the horse, this means your done
• 50-50% legs & reins
• Change gait not speed
• Train for more then what you want

For confidence, ride where you can. Otherwise you are teaching the horse things you don't want them to do.


Clinic 2: Softness vs Responsiveness:

Speed Control:
• Move hips over on the ground, at a walk
• Moving head & neck doesn't work, they have to move hips
• Nose to base of neck. Relaxes neck & softens shoulder. Changes how they use their neck
• Bottom of the horse follows the top of the horse

Lope & Lead changes:
• Hurry up & then slow down speed
• For a slow, lazy horse = speed up (no slowing down)
• Softness slows them down
• To become less responsive, use more cue (aka legs) until you feel them soften/relax
• They should give us no pull and come back to you
• Cold is reins wide vs hot is reins touching = responsiveness

• Hips R > nose R (pick up right rein) > walk R (3 tracking)
• Teaches horses to always use their hips
• Start at a walk, you will be riding the whole horse

 Legs are typically inconsistent (ex. truck stopping)
• Build back pressure = where softened comes in
• If they come off circle, make small turn inside & try again until he stays on circle by himself
• Work on softness. Then work on speed. 
Work on horse placement last 
• If horse is too reactive, to make less reactive use cue often more
• If you want more reaction, use cue less often
• If you have trouble going straight, work on turning
• If they spook to the left, work on turning to the right

As you think differently, you are different.


By Sunday, we were tired. We typically go late and leave early. Everyone else must have been tired too, because fair was a ghost town. Midwest Horse Fair claims they set an event record attendance again this year, but if you ask anyone who was actually there...

We wrapped things up, said good-bye to our vendor friends, and try to catch a few more clinics. Below is the last clinic we saw on Sunday worth noting.


Clinic 3: Exercises for the Green Horse:

Replacement concept:
• Add on. Can you do this, and also do this? Eventually they stop doing the bad thing.
• To 
get rid of bad behavior, don't mention the bad behavior 

• Motivation, creates change
• Pressure without contact is valuable
• Spot, find one to work on
• Back a lot, because that is the stop
• Go forward, stop, soften nose, every 3 steps

• Walk forward, stop, look back at the line by rotating torso all the way
• No leg lift & take it their, as soon as they do - release at the line
• Add letting them do it (at release spot) without taking them their

Focus on what you want them to do, not on what you don't want them to do.


Have you ever learned from John/Josh? They've been to Midwest Fair before, but we've never watched them. We got the most out of the first clinic, and stopped at the Lyon's booth shortly after to talk with Josh. I wanted to ask him for input about the horse that anticipates moves, like Koda. Changing things up help, but it's always been a struggle with him. Josh gave me 100% of his attention, which is hard to do in midst of chaos. We talked about early body/mind signals & re-thinking differently.

Something about the way Josh Lyons explains things, has made me more aware of my interactions with Koda. It's been fun trying (and I mean, trying) to implement some of what I learned. So far, it's been well received.

Thanks for reading along! If you made it this far you deserve a medal, these are loong posts!! 


Midwest Horse Fair 2016 ~ 1 of 2

Midwest Horse Fair was blessed with the most beautiful weather possible. Sunny and 70's ~ all three days! I think the sudden change & above average weather may have actually worked against attendance. It was visibly down, especially on Sunday.

I swung by fair on Thursday while vendors were setting up and picked up a saddle tree to try on Cierra. As planned, it was Brad's turn to order his forever saddle from Reed Tack. It will be completed sometime early next year, and totally worth the wait.

Tree fitting Cierra
Friday was all about getting our shopping done. We got a smoking hot deal on Nemo's Horseshoers Secret, and came home with a year's supply. Brad typically carries four buckets, and I carry two, allll the way out to the truck. By the time we get there, our arms are at least 3 inches longer. This year we found out the vendor offers complimentary transportation shuttle out to your vehicle (and back) and has for years! Who knew?!! 

I bought a replacement fly mask for Koda. I had given his like new one to Nemo, who is still having a hard time with allergies. I ordered a custom holster from Reed, of course it will match my saddle. That was it for my purchases. 

Brad's shopping revolved around showing. He got a nice buckskin felt hat and a handy-dandy Brute Rope tie stall for Ms. Cierra. We found an awesome deal on a rolling saddle/tack cart, and bought the last one. They were a hot item.

We spent time all three days consulting with various vendors that we've never had a need to talk with before. It was sooo interesting and gave us a lot to consider. I'll share more, when the time is right :)

The Friday night PRCA rodeo was exceptionally funny. We've had the same great announcer (Kelly Kenny) and funny clown (John Harrison) for years, they play off each other so well. Below the clown had borrowed a little girls hat from the audience and after running around with it on his head, and various other places, placed it on the announcers horse...guess you had to be there.

The little six year old that sang the National Anthem was amazing! That kid needs to be on the Little Big Shot show, and share her talent with the world. 

Cowboy/girls rode proud & loud. No bareback broncs tho, which was odd. They didn't have many bull riders either. Maybe they were trying to shorten the rodeo up? Who knows. 

Here are some rodeo & entertainment highlights:

What goes up...

Must come down...

The pick-up men are fast & fearless...

Some cowboys got a high flying re-ride...

When the bulls are spinning & doing handstands, it's a good thing to wear headgear...

There is always entertainment infused between sections of the rodeo. Below is Aaron Ralston working a steer. Notice anything unique (click pic if you are curious)? 

Of course Guy McLean amazed us all. I have to admit I was surprised to see the identical (or extremely similar) presentation that he gave years ago. Regardless, it was great to watch him perform again!!

They circle together, he leaves the group of three & then rejoins in-between.

Below is part of the (in-place) rocking horse routine.

The horses intentionally don't line up...

...and when they do, it's impressive!

We were lucky, he performed right in front of us.

To be continued. I'll share some observations & tips from a few clinics we watched in my second post.


living in a snow globe

One minute it's sunny, then the wind wildly kicks up every possible direction. Big fat flurries start floating around willy-nilly. Sometimes softly, then becoming a white out, or spitting ice pellets. Suddenly it stops, and we find ourselves living in endless clouds and grayness. Someone shakes the snow globe, and the whole thing starts all over again! Day, after day, after day. Mother nature is having some fun with Wisconsin this Spring...keeps us guessing and wishing for tranquil sunny days...

Instead, we had a breathtaking beautiful ice storm...

Thanks to the wackadoo weather, we haven't been riding outside. The water table is at flood stage. One of many area's where the river overflowed...

Rides with Koda continue progressing and typically last around 35 minutes. I switched from setting a timer to a stop watch, that just tracks time. Koda quickly learned that when the timer alert went off, it meant we should be done riding. He was never very happy to continue riding after the minimum time alert went off. I found myself distracted and checking the timer too often. I think it was helpful in the beginning of our rehab, for progression to be more consistent. But now that Koda is healed, I can concentrate more on the quality of our rides and less on the length. I am still tracking saddle time, more for curiosity then anything.

We continue working at a walk/trot, with a little lope mixed in most days. It's not always pretty, but we have our moments. He continues to respond well, and I feel most of the time Koda is really trying. It would help us both if I was clearer with what I ask. I am rusty after not riding for so long, it takes extra thought on my part.

I am still in awe of yesterday's ride. The difference from previous ones, was mainly his lope. Both directions and just a bit longer, with correct leads and frame held (to the level we are currently at). I recently added back in a couple forehand turns, and for the first time in a long time, I asked for a side pass. He did all of it, and nicely. Who does that after almost an entire year off?? It's a testament to a great horse, and good solid training. 

The fact that Koda is trying so hard, makes me love him even more.

We are closer, and yet so far away from anywhere we were when Koda came up lame. I am hopeful in the long run we will be further ahead, and more united. Learning from both the good and not so good experiences. Both of which have more to come. We continue taking our sweet time, and doing things our way. When it feels right. Together.

Other things happening inside our snow globe:

Brad & Cierra got into the Mozaun McKibben Ranch clinic, coming up at the end of the month. There are other people going from the barn, including our trainer. I may audit one of the days, just to support him. I am sure I would learn a thing or two, altho I have zero desire to compete in Ranch Riding. Brad's technical riding has really improved. It's been fun to watch his progress.

Even with our non-spring like weather, Nemo is already having allergy problems. Sigh. We figure it stemmed from the one week of blissful warmth we enjoyed early in the season. Allergies pop up out of nowhere, and when they peak...let's just say Nemo stayed inside until the vet could see him. His allergies really effected his eyes this time. He was given a shot of Dex. to calm the flare-up, with an ongoing care plan of eye ointment & low dose Dex. 3X a week. Hopefully allergies won't be too problematic for the big guy. Nemo loves being outside best, and we have high hopes for trail riding this year. 

Next week is Midwest Horse Fair!! Already. Wow that is coming up fast! I am excited to see Guy McLean again. He is a special horseman, great entertainer and a bush poet. I have yet to pick out which clinics to watch at fair, and haven't made a shopping list either. Maybe that's a good thing!! 

Altho horses and snow globes are pretty, and we have large new pavilions to help keep us dry, I hope for everyones sake (especially the outdoor vendors) that Mother Nature decides to show us a more pleasant side.