doing the right things

After my struggles last week I am savoring the feeling that comes from the satisfaction of a good ride. When Koda is good, he is goldenI am also processing, how to keep doing the right things and have less of last weeks struggles. 

Yesterday we had a special ride, and advanced together in more ways than one. It is wiser to increase one aspect at a time, but it was hard to not take advantage of a good ride. 
It helped having unseasonably warm late November riding weather, and not rushing. This is what we found when we went out mid afternoon to get our mounts:

Harmony, Cierra and Koda in a row
Nemo at feeder

Let's just say nobody was coming to the gate any time soon. Brad haltered Cierra, and she didn't even move. We had to encourage both horses to get up.

Cierra and Koda

Koda enjoyed a good pre-ride groom, and after watching this video I tried the Masterson Bladder Meridian technique that Shirley suggested. I am not sure I was doing it right, but I tried. I'll have to practice more. I watched for "the signs" and found some reaction in his left side poll area. I held my hand in place and watched, he seemed to release (not as much as the horse in the video). I think Koda liked it? Not much happened on the other side. I was going too fast, knowing Brad had Cierra all tacked up and was waiting on us (always). I still wanted to brush Koda's mane & tail, and suggested Brad start without us. We usually ride at the same time, but not always. He went out to the arena, and I brushed out my boys gorgeous Fabio locks before joining them. I softly told Koda, if you just listen to me we won't have to lunge very long. And much to my surprise, he did. 

Walk, trot lope progression one way and back down. Stop, switch directions without complaining. Repeat sequence. Done. Did he do a super nice warm up lope with vigor, nope. But I didn't care, I was looking for listening and no drama. He got lots of praise. 

I put on his bridle and headed to the mounting block. My plan was to not adjust the block or figit, and just get on. On our way to the block, I decided to change it up and walked over poles instead of mounting. Koda is a predictor. Changing sequence helps him listen. I was about to step up on the block and he shifted his hip. Not this time buddy. I repositioned him and softly said something like, I really need you to stand still, don't know what I'll do if you keep moving. Slight tug on the reins downwards and a simultaneous "stand" And much to my surprise, he did.

stepped up, seated myself as softly as I could and we sat there. Koda got lots of praise.

We did a variety of walking/trotting/cones etc with breaks just sitting in between. We trotted over the two ground poles for the first time, both directions. It was then I decided to lope. 
And much to my surprise, he listened.

We loped to the right first, just an extended corner (about a third of the arena) and got the correct lead. Yay, I've struggled getting the correct lead this direction with him in the past. It wasn't pretty, but it was without issue. We did a few other things instead of loping the other way right away. When I did ask him to lope left, he held frame for part of it and I floated on my Koda cloud :)))

Everything was going so well, I 
decided to try riding him outside the arena. We walked over to the gate, side passed and I unlatched the gate but didn't push it hard enough. Crap! Koda being the funny character he is, wanted to show me how it's done. Instead, he let me guide us in pushing the gate further open and walking through mounted. 

I could feel Brad's eyes, perhaps filled with excitement - or disbelief, not sure I didn't ask him. I was too busy trying not to be nervous. They quickly follow us out. I circled Koda in the surrounding field, just to make sure he was still with me. We stood next to Brad & Cierra for a little while, before leading us to the nearby wooded path. Koda planted his feet. Probably because I wasn't sure if I wanted to go right and ride the path, or go left and take the field back to the barn. Brad & Cierra took the lead, and we followed them along the newly created wooded path then back to the arena field to dismount. Our first little trail ride was a success!! 

After dismounting I gave Koda a well deserving looong hug, and held back the waterworks that unexpectedly bubbled up from having "that feeling" back. 

my sleepy decorated boy


things have changed, and yet are still the same

We have enjoyed a few more rides in our outdoor, but potential riding days are dwindling. It is getting colder, sunsets are earlier and late Fall light drops like a rock behind our pines. I really want to be further along with my comfort and skills, before another weather induced long break.

Last weekend we were in the 30's (F) and mostly sunny. Warm and dry enough to ride, except we didn't. Instead I jumped at the chance to help with our three grandkids on Saturday. On Sunday, the weather turned out not as inviting. It was also deer hunting opening weekend. Our arena is in a safe area, but one more thing in the back of my mind. Monday was our next chance to ride for who knows how long, before our predicted weather turned into this:

Tuesday November 24, 2020

Monday was brisk, and we headed out to ride later than I had hoped. Consequently I felt like I needed to rush to get a ride in before it got dark. You know the saying haste makes waste. So true. 

Not off to the best start. Koda was the only horse not coming up by the gate...he used to come up to the gate. I swung my saddle up and didn't get it in the right position...red flag, my shoulder was sore. Grumpy pants was a cinchy puff ball...I always tighten his girth little by little, walk him around and wait for him to de-puff. Not new, he has always done this. Then Koda lifted his leg and bonked my head while I was putting his boots on...pretty sure this was on me for rushing. 

I waffled between lunging him and asking Brad, because - same ol' story, my shoulder. I am a "suck it up butter cup" kinda gal, but over the years have learned to accept help. Brad offered to lunge Koda, I was humming-n-hawwing but said okay...I really want to just do everything myself. Meanwhile Cierra and I walked around in-hand, while he twirled my bucky boy.  Apparently we are back to "that" frame of mind. I instantly wonder if Koda is hock sore (has been in the past) or sore elsewhere, or just being a brat. He was moving fine. It was pretty close to supper time, and if you ask Koda no horse should ever have to wait for supper! I think it was the latter. Nothing New.

So what is new? The sh%t has started stepping away from the mounting block. Grrr!! Years ago I had a lesson horse mess with me at the mounting block. Consequently, it is one of my pet peeves!! I tend to adjust the mounting block so I am at just the right angle. Koda has picked up on my hesitation. I re-adjusted him once, treating it as a none issue. I always try to land gently. We stand mounted relaxing at the block, he gets praise. I don't want to fling my leg over and flop on, while he walks away. I want him to stand and wait for me. Instead it went like this: I step up. He steps his hip over. I step down, and "baaack up" we go. Reposition, whoa Koda! I step up. He steps over. I step down. Unexpected shoulder rein smack. WHOA! rein downward motion. Repeated sequence, twice. After I step up. He still steps over. Ugh! 

I know he got what he wanted, but...if Koda doesn't want to stand still then he can move. Okay so that wasn't exactly what he wanted, but it is what he got. Since I wasn't mounted, back to twirling we go. This time with me. Not to worry I did not lunge him into a lather, just a few active rounds moving at my pace each way. Koda was still sassy with bucky on again/off again moves. It didn't effect his lunging, but I decided not to ride. Brad offered to ride him, and we switched horses. Koda listened well under saddle for him (of course!) and they even loped (for the first time in years) a short stretch both ways. Guess I am not loping him first after-all :( It was my choice to wait until I get my seat back, or at least closer than I am now.

I still felt like a duck out of water walking Cierra around (because a fish is floppy, I just feel less than comfortable). I need to figure out my rides with her too. We switched back, and I did end up riding Koda. We walked around, cones etc. He intentionally refused to comply when asked to side pass over the poles. The little turd. Something he did flawlessly for me the first time I asked on our previous ride. I was a little puzzled but didn't make it an issue. We just went back to walking around. I tried again, and first ask - cross, cross, cross. Walked around, tried the other direction. He moved and crossed over like he can. We ended there. Koda makes everything so damn difficult. Our trainer has told me many times over, Koda makes me work way harder then I should have to. 

Brad has been so supportive while I try to find myself, and feel comfortable riding. I think he knows all too well now, the struggle is real. My thoughts linger on the rushed flawed beginning. He reminds me, I still rode. Regardless of all the earlier stuff. It is something.

Not every ride can be fun and flawless. That would be too easy. Koda makes sure I know this lol. My struggles are all on me (bangs head against wall). Among other things I didn't take my time grooming Koda (he got
 a rushed body brush offwhich he loves, and Koda has always had opinions about riding around supper time. Nothing new. I mumbled something about Koda will always require training. Brad replied, or is he always training us? Yep - things have changed, and yet are still the same.

Harmony & Koda heading for shelter from the rain
October 12, 2020


cleaning house and a surprising cancellation

Blogger continues to be quiet, especially in my tiny Equine Expressions corner. I started seeking out active bloggers, and tried to find places to connect with others. In the process, I decided to clean house. I reviewed my reading list and cleaned up my read feed. Removing any blog that had not posted since 2018. If I haven't heard from you in two years, I most likely won't. Some were harder to unfollow than others. Even those that said good-bye. I held out hope they would come back and interact more in-depth. Other bloggers just plain 'ol disappeared. I found more than one site had been taken over by Asian gobbledegook. Best not to be connected to those!! Time will tell if "house cleaning" helps with connection. I am not holding my breath.

As the doom and gloom continues to get worse, it is important to have positive connections.

I was surprised to see yet another cancellation, for next Spring. Midwest Horse Fair 2021 has been officially cancelled. The venue is used for emergency needs due to COVID-19, and our State extended use through April 2021. The fair is too large to hold elsewhere. It doesn't affect me personally, although depending on conditions I likely would have attended. How sad for the horse community at large, and the vendors that depend on its revenue and exposure. 

Some days it is easier than others to look on the bright side. Animals live in the moment, and help keep things in perspective. SO grateful for our four legged family! I wouldn't be me, without them.

Hiking with our Tank,
Jameson and Remi (grand dogs)


our red heads day in the sun

Friday the 13th was our red heads day in the sun. Nothing unlucky about it. As expected, Harmony was on high alert for her outdoor arena debut. However, she did okay for her first time. At least the part I saw. When I asked how Harmony started out, Brad replied "ohhh, she got big - and I mean BIG". She must have been a horse kite in the beginning, for him to say that. By the time I got out to the arena, she was still full of excess energy but doing pretty good. I took a quick video, then switched to taking photos with my camera. Nemo did not like having Harmony out of his sight, and called out the entire time she was gone from the pasture. Consequently she was preoccupied communicating with her pasture buddy. You will hear them, and notice she is rusty at listening to gait and directional changes. 


She has been primarily free lunged and hasn't done much twirling at the end of a rope. At least not the way we do it. Free lunging has its place when done correctly, but neither of us are fans. Brad was forgiving and reassuring while working with Harmony, exactly what she needs.

on fast forward

resting bitch face

calling out and needing a nudge
to unglue her feet and switch directions

I was so happy Harmony got to expand her world, and get one-on-one time!! I wonder if she will continue waiting at the gate while we ride the others? Probably. It was interesting, there was zero calling when Brad took Nemo out to the arena right after Harmony got her turn. 

good job Harmony

she has always had a naturally shiny coat

On a semi-unrelated note, I was pleasantly surprised how our outdoor arena is handling moisture. It rained the night before, and turned into flakey snow. Some of it stuck around. It definitely got cold, but warmed up and the footing was great by afternoon.

We have continued riding Koda and Cierra, and hope weather allows us to keep up some consistency until the end of the year. We hope to get more rides on Nemo too. It will be a looong time before anyone get's on Harmony's back. She may be 20 but there is no reason Harmony can't be ridden lightly,  if  when she calms downs. Will see what kind of mood Mother Nature is in this Winter. If we can't ride, then we will do some walk-a-bouts as weather allows.

Harmony and Brad
walking the new tree line path back to the barn

Harmony and Brad (deep in thought)



the perfect gift

Koda earned himself a break after two days in a row of arena work and trail adventure. If you missed my recent early November posts, here are links to day one and day two

You may recall I mentioned Brad had a goal, better said a gift, and suspected it was to get Koda ready enough that I would feel comfortable riding him during my birthday week. I didn't bug him ask for it, this time it was his idea. It was a very sweet surprise, as I had pretty much given up on riding this year. He was not only determined to find time, but patient and supportive with my never-ending hesitation.

I decided to cancel b-day dinner reservations on my day, because virus spread continues high in our area. Instead we stayed home, enjoyed rare November weather in the 70's and had a wonderful day in my favorite place = home. Brad surprised me, took the day off work and made breakfast. Yep, I am spoiled!! The plan was to work with the horses again. I told him I was ready to ride, but he wanted me to ride Cierra first. I did, while he lunged Koda. Brad briefly rode Koda first, before I got on. Riding Cierra felt awkward. I have ridden her before, but not much. Cierra was looky. She is used to getting to work, not lollygagging with a rider who isn't completely sure she even wants to be riding. I tried not to be nervous, walked around a bit but didn't stay on long. I felt like a duck out of water.


We traded horses, and I rode Koda...my own horse for the first time in what feels like forever. 2 years and 4-ish months to not be exact. That is a long time! I really thought I would be so excited, happily emotional and love it - but, I wasn't any of those things. That was unexpected. Being in the saddle didn't feel like my happy place anymore :(


Oddly enough, riding Koda felt awkward too. I think I forgot how to ride!! Oh yea, heels down, sit back on your pockets, don't be tense, look where you want to go etc...good grief I think I need basic riding lessons again!!  Koda didn't do a single thing wrong, and yet once again I felt like a duck out of water. Maybe I wasn't meant to ride? Maybe those days are over for me?? Where did "that feeling" go? I didn't ride long, but I did it and survived to tell about it.

Brad decided to try ponying Koda just for fun. It has been many moons since my boy was ponied. At first Koda was like "you want me to do what?!" It was short and sweet, but Brad had a bit of fun and they all did good.    


Two days later we tried again. I was looking forward to riding Koda, and in a much better state of mind. This time Brad lunged Koda for a bit, then I asked to step in and lunge him. Know we do light lunging, and I look forward to the day we can once again skip this part. I hate lunging (even free lunging) and it didn't feel good on my injured shoulder. Meanwhile, Cierra waited by the rail. Much to Brad's surprise, I rode Koda first. I felt a lot better in the saddle, and we had a nice ride. Mostly walking with a little trot mixed in. My least favorite Koda gait. His trot is choppy, but he has the smoothest lope. Someday, I will float on my Koda cloud again...baby steps. He is totally ready to go at a lope, but I am not. 


Brad & Cierra in-between Koda ears

I am keeping our arena rides short on purpose. Not only do I not want to get sore, I want to keep it sweet. Brad wanted to ride Koda after I was done, so we switched and he um rode Koda out the gate! I hopped on Cierra and walked her around in the arena areas she got looky with me last time. We watched Brad and Koda ride the field like they've done it a hundred times, and then much to my surprise they went down a fresh bordering untrimmed trail Brad blazed a day ago!!

Brad & Koda in the trees, between Cierra ears

Koda was a rockstar, and it made my heart sooo happy to see Brad riding out on the trail!! 

our new tree line trail
Between the arena (on left) and the barn

I declined taking a turn on the new trail & field ride. Koda and I sat around for a bit watching Cierra & Brad explore the general area.

Koda & Aurora-sponge square pants
(sitting on the mounting block)

Koda: "are we done yet"

Brad and Cierra riding to the back of the barn

Later on the same day, I got what I asked for my birthday: to clean the junk up at the bottom of our property left by previous owners. You can't see it from our house, but I see it every time I hike the trails - which is often.

we loaded the tractor tires full of crap

Old mowers, shutters, metal you name it, tv etc. All this, and Brad had removed a refrigerator plus other large items the previous year. There is still some clean up left, but the major eye sore junk is cleaned up and about to be gone! 

a rare sight, Koda alone sleeping in the shelter
I think my boy was still tired from previous days activities!

OKay, so maybe they were all tired,
soaking up the sunshine before the rain

(Koda, Harmony, Nemo and Cierra standing watch)

We took advantage of the last day of warm beautiful weather, and rode a third time. Three times must be the charm, because I had fun and forgot to take photos. This time I did it all myself, lunged then rode Koda. He is being a sweet well-behaved boy. Brad snuck some poles into the arena. Love going over poles! I sang a silly song as I trotted around them, walked and side passed over the poles. It was a nice ride.

Truly the perfect gift.



the very next day

After Monday's arena time and walk-a-bout, Koda wasn't first to the gate. Impatiently waiting for his staff to come get him. He wasn't pushy and trying to do everything himself. Koda's mind was quiet. Soaking in all the sights and experiences of the day. It is a wonderful thing!!

The very next day, back to the arena he went. The look on his face was something like "me? again??" meanwhile our other horses are jealous. Cierra and Nemo would gladly take Koda's place, and poor Harmony waits by the gate. Wishing it was her turn. Just once.

They all get loved on the way to gather my boy, and some day it will be their turn. But right now, it is still Koda's. As valuable as sporadic lessons throughout the past year have been, it is a consistent string that will connect the dots. The twirling sessions are getting shorter and shorter, the easier Koda listens to transitions.

I thought to myself, maybe today would be the day I hop on Koda? It should be me getting on him first. I was gearing myself up, but then saw him hunch up and get bucky while twirling on the rope. Yea, not today. Brad had gotten after Koda for being a slacker and he didn't care for that. The fresh was still there. It didn't take long for me to talk myself out of it. I never said anything out loud, but once again felt defeated. Story of my horsemanship life.

I was surprised when Brad asked for his halter. You are going to ride him?! Brad said he has a goal, and for the first time in 2 years and 4-ish months, Koda had a passenger!!

I love watching Koda under saddle, he is such a beautiful horse!! I know I frequently make him sound like a naughty unruly boy, but he really isn't when there is understanding. 

They had a nice sunset ride, walking and some trotting. Koda would frame up, and get ready...no lope. Lol. "What, slow down?! Walk, trot, lope, then I get to eat. That is how this arena stuff is suppose to go." Much to Brad's dismay, I coached just that from the side lines. He is used to working Cierra, and Koda hasn't been in training for many years.

Brad has become such a good rider, he has the confidence Koda needs to settle his mind. Horses know. I am not only glad he rode Koda first, I am thankful! All is well that ends well.


sunshine for days

In the midst of the political and virus divide, there is one thing every Wisconsinite can agree on ~ our early November weather has been incredibly beautiful!! A week well spent soaking up sunshine for days, brightens up everything. Especially when out of the norm.

The great weather this past week inspired us to spend more time outside and for Brad to work with Koda again. Because Koda needs it, and I need it. All horses minds change when you give them things to think about, and his definitely settles.

It has been a while since any of our horses were asked to do much of anything outside of behaving during turnout & farrier visits. The earlier days Brad spent with Koda was evident. He is still acting up a bit when asked to move out on the lunge line, but my sassy horse is remembering what is being asked of him. Much faster.

On Monday Brad lunged him in the arena...

Then off to the woods we went for a walk-a-bout. This time all four of us. Brad with Koda in hand, Tank and I. Huge difference. Koda took the bottom of the pasture walk in stride. On the last attempt, he almost came apart rounding the first corner and couldn't take the increased pressure. Until I went back for the link, I didn't realize it was December 2019 when Brad began working Koda with long stretches in between. Not for the lack of wanting to, it was such a crazy busy year for him in so many ways. I am thankful Brad finds time to work with my horse when he can.

Cierra and Nemo joined the walk from inside the pasture
while Brad, Koda and Tank took the path

checking out the open field

walking the upper pines

Koda has only walked the actual pine trails once,
the year we purchased the land and rode them in June 2016

stopping on the main trail to soak it all in

Koda did struggle a bit with too much energy in the wide open field heading back home, but with Brads reassurance he kept himself in check. 

Reassurance is the main reason Brad is handling Koda in precarious situations first. Koda needs it and I don't have that in me naturally. Unfortunately I have to build it back up. I wasn't remotely this way in my younger horse years, but it's my reality now.

This walk gave me hope, and was a great way to kick off a week of warm late Fall weather.


October flew by...

...like a witch on a broomstick and no, that wasn't me on the broom!! Not much happened out of the ordinary at our place in October. Just trying to stay healthy at home, while the over-mentioned virus spreads like wildfire in our area. Sigh. 

As Winter approaches, we put future large projects on the back burner and work on as many smaller outdoor ones as possible. Like cutting wood, and cutting more wood. We have also worked on our trails. The rest of the time we are enjoying things like this:

Finding, Tank snoozing in his dads spot

Discovering, Angel fish floating in the Western morning sky

Seeing, tigers (aka Leo) on our walks in the woods

Watching, Leo love on Tank. He loves him soooo much its ridiculous

Enjoying, lingering Fall blooms like this surprise Iris bloom

These iris were transplanted from our old house, and bloomed a color I've never had. Iris are normally Spring bloomers, and even my re-bloomers have never bloomed in October. I am (re) learning to garden in different soil, where everything seems to bloom later.
Maybe this is the new normal? Very curious to see what familiar (or changed) Spring flowers appear this coming Spring in our sandy loam soil!!

Dreaming, always dreaming

Some day, the back of the barn will be extended with an indoor riding arena attached to it.

Walking, under huge powder puff clouds close enough to (almost) touch

Doing, endless chores while these guys enjoy Bed & Breakfast

(Koda, Nemo, Harmony & Cierra at feeder)

Appreciating, our horses. Every. Single. Day.
They all get along so well now, and trade-off being buddies.
(Koda, Harmony, Nemo & Cierra)

Nothing spooky about peaceful morning views in the upper pasture. 
October 31, 2020