Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Winter Wonderland - Sarah Remix

 Corgis bark, are you listening,
In the lane, snow is glistening
A beautiful sight,
We're happy to ride.
Working in a winter wonderland.

Gone away are the hoses
We forgot to drain the water
We can’t feel our toes
As we go along,
Working in a winter wonderland.

We have to take a look the waterers
It’s a bad sign if it’s empty
When there’s ice on top we have to break it
But sometimes that can be a hard job.

Later on, we'll talk horses,
As we dine on the couches
To Facebook we post
Show plans that we've made,
Working in a winter wonderland.

In the meadow we can race our horses,
And pretend that it’s the Triple Crown
We'll have lots of fun being jockeys
Until the green young horse bucks us off.

When it snows, ain't it thrilling,
Watch the horses have fun rearing
They frolic and play, the Percheron way,
Working in a winter wonderland.

*Merry Christmas from Sarah at Rounder! I sincerely hope everyone is excited for lots more posts from her ..she's been writing a few& my lazy arse hasn't been posting them. I'm back in a groove now though so watch out!

Monday, October 24, 2011

If You Love It, Let It Go

A lot of my good thinking for writing happens in the shower or while I’m cleaning stalls. Today it was the latter. I’ve been meaning to write a Rounder post for days, but just hadn’t been hit with the right inspiration. I am a student, I am a learner. If I do nothing else in life, I hope that I will always always learn. Learn from my mistakes, learn from other’s mistakes and learn from doing. Light bulb moments happen for riders, too!

I was having trouble with a mare I was getting ready to show. She’s fairly young and has only been under saddle for a year and a few months. She did the basics well. W/T/C, turning, stopping. She even leg yields, shoulder-ins, and is catching onto haunches-in/travers and walk pirouettes. I wasn’t having trouble with movements. The problem to me was that she was heavy. My reins felt like they were weighted with bricks and there was a constant pull on my hands. My trainer gave me a lesson and I voiced my concern over this “problem.” As it is mostly all of the time with horses, I found out that the problem was not the horse, it was me.

My trainer observed me riding the mare then began to teach me. I did as she instructed, and like a light bulb flickering before turning on, something in my head hit the switch. I had been living in the half-halt for too long. I had been pulling and holding, waiting for the release instead of softening through my elbows and having the horse give in the release.

BIG IDEA: The horse gives in the RELEASE not in the pull.

It doesn’t make sense in things other than horses. If you want to break a stick in half, you bend, push, and pull until it snaps. You don’t bend it down, let go, and then see it break on its own. But in horses, that is exactly what happens! You hold, drive, soften, and then the horse carries herself instead of relying on me to carry her. I was missing the last ingredient because it didn’t make sense in my head to let go when she hadn’t “broken” or given in to the pressure yet. I had been correcting her for leaning on the reins when all along I should have been addressing the pull factor. I was there for her when she wanted to lean, no wonder she thought the reins were for leaning on!

I don’t know that I am doing the best job of explaining this all, but as I was saying earlier, I am still in the process of learning this training stuff. Horses are animals, not static objects. Take loading a horse onto a horse trailer, for example. You don’t just set it on the ramp and pull it in. You want the horse to willingly comply to your asking them to step inside. The lead rope is used to convey this as well as your body language and voice. It’s a pull and release on the halter and notice that the horse steps forward after you have given the release, the slack in the rope. It is like fine tuning an instrument. Even the slightest, smallest movement can make a difference. A word of praise when the horse turns its head to focus on the task at hand, a sigh, and lowered head. Knowing just how much to give and take on the lead rope and knowing when to let them stand and touch the trailer floor or when to pull and urge them on.

You shouldn’t have to push and pull your horses around. You should strive to make them respect you and have them move into or out of your space as you instruct. Less is more. Learn from observing horse people (they don’t need to be a “trainer” to know what they are doing) who have learned from years and years of experience and have been under the instruction of other who have done the same. They know how to speak horse and they know how to get respect from them, no matter the shape, size, age, or training of the animal. Patience and timing. That is what they all have in common and that is what I need to learn. I wish there were more horse people in the world who understood horses as animals, not objects or human children. I hope to someday become one of them, no matter how long it takes to get there. You can too.

*By the way, I apologize for not putting up posts in due time. I have no excuse and I will try to do better from now on. I struggle heavily with procrastination and wanting to give you all my very best and not just a paragraph full of rainbow unicorns, so it is just a matter of me getting my act together and becoming a real author, not one who just dabbles when they feel like it!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rags to Regionals!

When I first arrived on the farm, I was quickly introduced to two young stallions. They were four and five at the time and had only been halter broke for a couple of months. One was steel gray and other was a faded bay. They were by the Oldenburg stallion, Routinier, and out of Percheron/Thoroughbred mares.

After a few days into my internship, I was taught how to lead them in and out from turnout and a stall in the barn where they were being taught to be tied and handled. It must have been a wet spring because the dry lot was deep with mud. The stallions didn’t seem to mind trading it for a dry stall bedded down with straw. I didn’t like leading the bay one into the barn because he would jump and spook at every little thing that seemed to be out of place in the aisle. The gray one, however, strode confidently past it all. I began round penning the both of them and teaching them how to wear tack. I should mention that I was also being taught how to do these things because I had never even touched a stallion before coming to the farm, let alone start a horse undersaddle. I had to call my trainer into the stall often when I was working with the bay one (turns out he is actually “seal brown”). The problem was that he wouldn’t let me pick up one of his hooves. In fact, he would raise the opposite foot and put all of his weight on the particular one I wanted to lift. Then he wouldn’t let me slide my finger into the side of his mouth in preparation for a bit. My work with him consisted of going into the stall with him, tying him to the post, and trying to pick up his feet and touch his mouth. Slowly, we progressed.

Another intern, who already was experienced with starting young horses undersaddle, soon came into the picture. She started both of the stallions, but made quicker progress with the bay horse. He was less prone to explosive bucking and was her favorite. I watched them work in the round pen while she explained to me what she was doing. She didn’t last long and when she left, I was suddenly in charge of riding the stallions. The stallions were flip-flopping it seemed and after getting bucked off of the gray one, I began to work solely with the other. He was calmer, beginning to understand his new job, although he was still a little frightened by it. I rode him in the round pen until I felt brave enough to come out into the arena. I still felt nervous when I went to canter him because all of a sudden, his head would drop to the ground, making his back round up beneath the saddle. A feeling similar to the hump (humpiness, humpy-ness?) before a bucking fit. But he never bucked. It was a while before I got him to canter with his nose not dragging in the sand. He made up for it by not being a wild stallion. In fact he was quite manageable. I just had to be careful not to scare him when correcting him for losing focus.

He had most of the winter off and although I did lunge him periodically, not much training happened during the coldest months. As it warmed up, the riding and training picked up as well. In May we stepped into the show ring for the first time. He had been under saddle for roughly nine months, if you didn’t include his winter vacation. To say I was nervous would be putting it lightly. Rocket was nervous too, as it was his first time off of the farm. I unloaded him and put him in his stall at the show barn and he stood there amidst the shavings and trembled. Aw… I lunged him and then had my trainer hold us on the lunge line as we hovered along, slowly gaining confidence along the way. Show day arrived bright and early. Rocket worked out of being introverted as the day continued on. He LOVES getting scratched on his neck and soon had a fan club of scratchers who would fawn over him after he did his tests.

As time does seem to slow when waiting for something important, it felt like twice as long, building up inch by inch to the regional championships. Qualifying proved to be easy and we got the scores we needed at our first recognized show. All we needed was more experience under our belt (and girth)! And experience did we get! FHF Rocketman and I went on to six shows altogether before regionals finally arrived. As we rode on the high of a very successful weekend of showing off, I took a few minutes to reflect on how far we had come in the past year. We both felt so much more confident in the show ring, like we both knew our jobs. Somehow, through all of the sweat and tears (and I’m not joking about either of those!), we had become a team. As they say in the dressage world, it felt like we were “harmonious.” It earned us fifth place in our Training Level championship class of twenty-nine competitors. I sure can’t complain about that (Yvonne here to say MAJOR congratulations to Miss Sarah)!


It felt good because the road had not been easy. After that first show, Rocket had blasted into full-fledged stallion mode and screamed at anything that moved and had hair. Even more unnerving? Just two weeks before regionals he started the trend of being backed off and acting like an obnoxious stallion. True to Rocket-style, he never did anything blatantly disobedient, but it was big for him when you consider that he never had acted up before with me. We worked through it both times, with a lot of coaching and pep talks for me. And this isn’t even mentioning all of the ups and downs that go along with showing. Like the time that Rocket feared for his very life when he saw a black and white pinto Gypsy cob stallion flailing hair everywhere and all the times I for sure thought my heart would stop beating and I would die right there in the saddle. As we stood in the line-up of eight horses with a pink ribbon on our bridle, I couldn’t help but feel proud as Rocket trembled beneath me and tried to leave the arena.

I can’t wait to see what next year brings! (And I am so utterly grateful for this wonderful opportunity to ride, train, and show such a talented young horse.)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Trail time!

In my intro post, I briefly touched on the subject matter of my horse at home. What I didn’t mention was that I have a pony here at the farm I’m interning at (a real pony, not a horse sized animal that I fondly call “pony”). She is my training project and not intended for keeps. At the moment, I’m trying to expose her to a little bit of everything, so when I got the chance to take her on a trail ride, I jumped at it. The only incident of the otherwise perfect day was that I forgot that little Sadie didn’t know how to back out of a straight load trailer.

The only other time I unloaded her was when I bought her in freezing cold February and we just opened the partition and let her turn around so we could get her out and go back to the warmth of the house. Anyways, I watched the other horse unload like a pro, undid the butt bar and untied Sadie, expecting her to do the same. She did what she had been taught, turn around and walk out. Or at least she tried to. The trailer shook only slightly (she’s not big enough to rock it very much) then stopped as she realized even she was not small enough to turn around in the slot. It was then that I remembered that she didn’t know how to back out of a trailer. Oops. I took my time and showed Sadie how to unload.

Once that was dealt with, everything went smoothly. We tacked up, covered the horses and ourselves in bug spray (Sadie handled the aerosol spray can without batting an eyelash) and headed for the trails! The park was well cared for and very pretty. I was thrilled when I discovered that 95% of our riding was done in the shade. The trail was only wide enough for a single file line in most places, so we took turns leading and following. Mecca, the Clydesdale/Thoroughbred cross whose owner is the one that invited us to trail ride with her, took the lead when we were unsure of our way back to the trailer and she picked the correct and most direct way each time. It was cool watching her figure it out and I felt very confident in her bloodhound skills.

While Sadie and Mecca didn’t talk much (Or at all really, other than their telepathic messages… just kidding!), their riders chatted almost the whole time. One of the things we briefly talked and agreed upon was the headset that we find acceptable on the trail versus what we expect when we are working on our dressage in the ring. When riding at home in the arenas, we work at making our horses supple (bending in whatever direction we ask for during any movement or gait we are doing) and round (not just a headset here, roundness comes from behind, remember my recycling post). When on the trail, although we often have a light connection on the reins to the bit, we allow our horses to look around and observe their surroundings. We do not, however, allow them to become so intently focused on something that they lose their attentiveness to their rider and the trail that we are traveling (it is like Sally Swift’s concept of having soft, not hard, eyes while riding. We do not want our horse to get hard eyes while trail riding). We also expect our horses to remain bendable. I feel strongly that if your horse is bendable and attentive to you, you will be able to practice safe trail riding.

On the other hand, if your horse keeps zoning in on potentially scary things and has a neck as stiff as a board… let's just say that I hope you’re wearing a helmet! What are your expectations of your horse’s body and mind while trail riding?

After almost two hours of walking, trotting, and cantering, we came back to the trailer, grinning and gushing about how wonderful the weather was and how we had the best trail mounts. The horses enjoyed some hay while we riders had a lovely picnic. Altogether it was a completely enjoyable experience and I look forward to going out and about with the pony again.

Here’s a handy trail riding tip for you. When rising/posting the trot on the trail, make sure to alternate posting on either diagonal. I did this without thinking because of my very slight OCD (if you even want to call it that), but it was pointed out to me that your horse may become sore if you post the whole ride on just one diagonal. So switch it up!

P.S. When we returned to the barn, Sadie unloaded like she’d been backing out of trailers for years ..what a smart pony ;)

Monday, September 5, 2011

New surroundings

I’d like to introduce you to a new randomly occurring feature here at Rounder! I have dubbed it “A Photo With A Story”, which I think that is fairly self-explanatory. For now, I plan to use it as an outlet for eventually getting to tell the story in bits and pieces of my first  and lifer horse. But who knows where we’re rowing or which way the river’s flowing, wait, wrong movie, sorry! Haha, okay so onto the real content, I promise.

For a long time, (I’m not sure how long, but for years okay) I wanted to ride in an indoor arena, just to experience it. Since Hawaii does not have seasons in the traditional sense, an indoor is not eminent to riding in the wintertime. Until I came to Indiana, I rode outside or not at all. There was no try. I mean, no middle ground. I’ve even ridden on days that were supposed to have a hurricane and tsunami (not the same day, thankfully). My point is, weather on my island is mild. The most people will do is have a covered arena. In my mind that was second best next to an actual indoor arena with walls. Once I bought my horse, my dream to ride in an indoor expanded into specifically riding her in an indoor arena. Yeah, I reach for the sky.

I knew of only one covered arena on the island. I looked at it intently every time we drove out of town. It is located on the “wet side” where it rains so often that mold discolors the sides of houses. (My town has a “wet side” and "dry side” and we refer to it as such. But that’s off the topic of horses, so I’ll let it go.) I suppose the owners wanted to be able to ride and hold events without getting wet. Makes sense. I did not realize that the community college had built a newer covered arena for their budding equestrian team. I found out about it when my barn owner told me that she was going to do a vaulting demonstration there with the vaulting team she had organized. I quickly peeped up “Can I come along and bring Miss Take to keep Roxy company?” Roxy was the Shire/Percheron that the kids did their vaulting maneuvers on and was not as versed in travel as my horse was. I was super excited when I got the okay and started imagining how my horse would react to being ridden in a covered arena.

Although I had taken my horse to the two venues on our island that held dressage shows, it did not count as going to a “new place” because she had already been to one of those places in the past and had actually lived at the other place before coming to my barn. So I had never experienced how my horse reacted to new surroundings. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Miss Take, or Miss T as we fondly call her, had begun to develop a certain degree of trust in me. She only spooked with me if there was a plastic bag whipping in the wind or a sheaf of papers blew at her feet (or that one time that she thought a lone calf was running straight for us). And even those spooks were getting smaller and smaller. Despite her placid nature, I knew that she also had more of a timid side as opposed to being naturally brave and confident. I wasn’t sure if I should expect my usual saint of a horse, a frightened mare, or something in between.

Covered arena? Meh. Give me more carrots!
How does your horse react to new environments and surroundings?!

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Do you have horseflies where you keep your horse/ at the barn you go to? I certainly never had them at home. We had bot flies, those wasp looking things that hovered around your horse’s legs trying to lay their tiny yellow eggs. Nasty! I once had to get off of a horse and walk him back to the barn because he was being bombarded by one and kind of going nuts. Not fun.

I really haven’t seen any bot flies here, which is a relief. We do, however, have these massive horse flies. They’re at least the size of a large bumblebee. The horses hate them and I know I would too, if their size is any indication of their bite. Of course I’d never dealt with them before, so I had to learn the protocol.

It starts off with being observant. You’ve got to know when one is stalking you and your horse. And believe me, your horse will let you know. Some are more dramatic than others. Sometimes you’ll get just an annoyed look and a quiver of skin. Or you might get a head turn and the horse will try to bite or kick it and whip their tail back and forth. You just might even have a horse who will attempt to buck it off and when that doesn’t work, go down and roll to squish it. It’s always a little tricky riding those in the latter group. That is why it is important that you get the horse to be on your side, to understand what it is that you want to accomplish. The death of the horsefly!

Okay so now that you know the little monster is after you, wait for it to land on your horse. Practically dare it. This is where your training of the horse comes in. You must tell the horse to stand still, because a moving target is harder to hit. When the bugger lands on your horse, hit it with your hand. Whammo. Double check to make it is dead by smashing it with your boot once it has fallen to the ground. Then rub the area that it had previously occupied on your horse. This probably feels good to your horse and will help them catch on to you master plan of killing all horseflies that bother it. With young horses, you have to edit the plan a little. By young, I mean still green and impressionable. If you hit them, they might at first think that they are in deep trouble and get frightened, which means that they will most likely not stand still and then you have a much greater chance of missing and the horsefly getting away scot free. NEVER!

There is also a slightly more gross approach. Crazy horse people, though, do anything for their horse. This is way more practical than putting hoof glitter on, okay? So listen carefully. With your young horse, you put your hand over the horsefly and squish it to its death. The trick is to not be too quick so as to alarm the horse or scare the horsefly, but to be very very stealthy. Like a ninja. No spooking so just grin and bear it!

The only reason that killing a horsefly is ick in the first place is because if they’ve already made a few successful landings on your horse by the time you smash them, the blood they have been slurping will gush out all over your hand. And it can be a large amount if the bug size is huge. But hey, wipe it off on your horse’s neck or on your already filthy shirt and carry on! Now the rest of your time with your horse won’t be spent frantically running away from a horsefly! Unless another one finds you, which in that case, you must hunt it down and slap to kill.

I hope this equipped you so that you will be able to keep yourself and your horse comfortable, safe, and fly-free at all times! You can even employ this swatting method while riding your horse. I know someone who rode down the centerline, halted at X, saluted the judge, killed a horsefly on their horse’s shoulder and went on to do their test. You can bet that their test went much better than if they’d had a horsefly following them around the ring!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Collection& things

I am not even remotely bothered by the fact that all I think, breathe and talk about is horses. Or at least 90% of the time. I mean, I pretty much live at the barn, have horses outside my window and ride six days a week. Doing this internship was a test. A test to see if I got sick of horses day in and day out. The exact opposite happened. I am now even more horse obsessed than I ever was in my entire life …okay well maybe not as much as when I was 10-12, but I’ve still got the bug pretty bad!

Random fact:
As of this summer, I’ve now been riding horses for half of my lifetime! :D It can only go up from here.

Early morning horse show.
-Yvonne here: gorgeous. Okay.. back to Sarah!

Anywho, back to why I started this bragging on my horse infused life… As an unexpected twist, I not only get to learn how to train horses here at the farm but I get to show them, as well! About a month after I arrived, I was headed to a schooling show with two horses. I showed so much last summer that I was completely burnt out, a new experience for me. This year we have had more breaks in between so the balance of training and showing has been perfect. Not only that, but I’m riding kick-butt awesome horses that make me look good. I’m a little bit less stressed about making the cut, as far as getting qualifying scores goes and not letting my trainers down. One big thing I’ve learned after my extensive show season last year: ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING. If you remain positive, you have very little space to fail and even if you do, you will have enjoyed yourself.

I want to give a shout-out to the good judging we had this past weekend. Something I’ve experienced quite a bit at the schooling and rated/recognized shows we’ve attended? Higher expectations than what is required in the particular level. For example, a comment like “needs better uphill balance” or “lacks cadence” when I’m riding Training Level?! The horse doesn’t even need to be on the bit according to the standards! There was none of that at this show. My fellow intern and I showed our horses at two consecutive levels and the judges showed clear distinction between how the horse was to go in each level. They were very fair and right on in their comments. I learned that my twenty meter circles tend to not be centered and that I make the second half too small. In the grand scheme of things, if they only had to pick on my circles… I must be doing pretty well, eh? Hehe.

Tom Poulin judging Rocket and myself

On the almost five hour drive back to the farm, guess what my trainer, fellow intern and I talked about? You guessed it, horses! The topic within the category of horses was varied but somewhere in Illinois we landed on what we felt like we had learned the importance of during the past year. My fellow intern said that for her, it was the importance of collection.

Collection is the foundation of doing anything other than a working walk, trot, and canter. Even Training Level horses have to learn to sit on their hocks for a ten meter turn to go down the center line. It is just “baby” collection, but it’s there all the same. And for lengthening stride or medium and extended gaits, you absolutely cannot have that without the transfer of weight to the back end of the horse.

On the thought of collection, here’s my two cents.
You can’t make a transition from a medium trot to a collected trot using only your seat when the horse is on the forehand. They’re already pulling on you by then and you pretty much have to use your reins to get them back. Only when the horse is uphill and balanced are they able to respond to your seat aid of coming back to collection. But my, is it hard!

In conversation, I said that I have just been realizing the importance of thoroughness. My trainer came up with the best description of this very elusive thing. Imagine thoroughness as the recycling triangle. You know, the arrows that go round?

Perfectly clear, right?! Haha!

Right then. So the cycle goes something like this:
  1. Your aids activate the horse’s hind legs
  2. Your reins prevent this flow of energy from just bursting out the front end and contains it; making them lift their back and have that lovely chess piece neck.
  3. You reapply your aids in a half-halt to continue the energy flow.
So pretty much you repeat that throughout your ride. Your seat and core will determine the tempo of the horse. So yeah, that is the basics of maintaining thoroughness. Getting it in the first place is another thing. I haven’t really accumulated all of my thoughts on that. I think the very basics of it is that your horse is supple. Suppleness and thoroughness really go hand in hand. You also can’t have a half-halt without some degree of thoroughness. If you don’t have that, the half-halt usually ends up being just a halt or just a random burst of speed.

A problem that I run into with one of the horses I ride is that I do step one and two and then forget to re-energize him with my leg to keep the cycle going, so we end up looking okay but only having two of those green arrows. It kind of arches up then ends.
With the other horse I sometimes only have one arrow because she is still learning to stay uphill throughout the whole ride and ends up leaning on my hands for balance and I get into the never-ending tug-o-war in which she wins and I only have the flow of energy going on a straight line with an arrow at one end. Not quite a triangle.

Anyways, I hope that gives your brain something to mull over during your next drive to the barn. I now know that dressage pretty much will go on forever, there will always be something more to learn and accomplish, which is a good thing for me since I don’t want it to end!

Can’t let Rocket steal all of the limelight. 
Here’s the queen bee herself, Renee’!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Early Riser

It’s been hot in the Hoosier State. By “hot” I mean that it’s been in the nineties (Fahrenheit) for a prolonged period of time. About twelve days. And honestly, I don’t think just being in the upper nineties would be so bad, but we have this thing called humidity. It basically makes it feel like a hundred and ten degrees Fahrenheit. Fun right? Now, as an island girl, most people would think that I’m used to this. Nope, wrong! I’m used to very mild weather, a higher elevation and fairly dry heat where I’m from. None of this oven/baking sensation. I do find it terribly ironic that Yvonne’s weather posts as of late have been about the opposite problem, cold. I would love to trade her for a few days!

So, off of the weather and onto the pony talk. Normally, my internship goes a little something like this: wake up, clean the barn, ride all day, feed horses, go to sleep. However, when it feels like you’re being cooked, riding all day is pretty futile. Horses are dripping sweat just standing in their field and you feel like the air is pressing down on you. Literally, not cool. One of our solutions to beat the heat is to do the morning chores, ride one horse, have a siesta in the mid-day heat, and then ride a few more horses in the evening. I decided to try another solution one Saturday.

For some reason, an idea flourished in my mind. As someone who hates waking up, other than the fact that it means that you’re alive, the idea surprised me. But hey, I’m young; I don’t need sleep, right? I jumped in. Change can be fun. I forgot about that when my alarm rang at 5:30AM the next morning. It looked like night outside. It’s wrong to get out of bed when the stars are still out. I went back to sleep for thirty more minutes then dragged myself out of bed. Once, I was out, I was on a roll. I let the horses onto the grass, walking from one end of the farm to the next. I was hoping for a storybook sunrise so I could write home about it. The clouds decided otherwise. I didn’t see a sunrise as I hopped on my first horse of the day. It was a blessing in disguise, since the cloud cover prevented the fine, almost white limestone in our outdoor arena from blinding me. I rode outside to take advantage of whatever breeze might come along. Had a great schooling ride. It’s nice to work hard and achieve something with the horse. I guess it’s just training, but it can still be thrilling.

Bam, I was onto my second horse of the day, Rocketman! I’m one of those riders who’d rather be safe than sorry, so not only did I lunge him for several minutes, but I rode him in the indoor arena before heading to the outdoor. Being a stallion and under saddle for barely a year, he did marvelously! Only got distracted a few times and was easily convinced otherwise. It was an enjoyable ride. As we were cooling out, I eyed the pile of dirt scraped aside to level out the arena. I decided it was time for Rocket to become a mountaineer. He climbed up the pile and we stood on the top of it for a minute. Then I pointed him down the other side and nudged him with my calves. He leaned forward and looked at his toes. He didn’t know how to get down! I nudged him again and he quivered anxiously. Poor Rocket was used to the flatness of Indiana and had never in his life had to go downhill before (apparently, going down the trailer ramp doesn’t count)! It was really only two feet to the ground, but Rocket was pretty sure he wouldn’t make it. I tried to be the tough but fair leader. I even gave him a pep talk and when that didn’t work, I called him a wimpy stallion in hopes that he’d get mad enough and just do it (way to anthropomorphize, I know). We went up and down all over that dirt pile. Once Rocket realized that he was not in a dire situation, he started getting cocky and strutting down to show the horses in the surrounding pastures just how cool and confident he was. I laughed, silly boy.

After that I cleaned the barn, rode another horse, relaxed and took a nap, rode another horse and did the evening chores. I decided that waking up early could be worth it. However, when the time came to wake up the next morning, my body thought otherwise. Needless to say, I haven’t done it again yet.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Escapees (and a cat)!

Since Yvonne is horsey storyless, I shall attempt to entertain you with one of my own!

After a long day of work at the barn, I usually want only three things; food, a shower and sleep. I had come into the house and had taken care of the eating portion of my three steps. I sat down and was promptly sucked into the interwebz and pushed the shower step further back in my mind. It was another hot night so I had my window open. Around 11pm, I heard a yell. I paused my music playlist, but didn’t hear anything more so I resumed what I had been doing.

About half a minute passed, then I simultaneously heard another yell as well as a knock on my door. My fellow intern asked, “Did you hear someone yelling?” I got up and went to stand by the window. There was another shout, and a shrill whistle. We both heard that. I leaned closer to the screen to try to make out if there were any words I could make out while she ran down the stairs and outside to investigate. I didn’t hear anything helpful. But I did hear a cat meowing, loud and clear. It was unusual, since the barn cats usually stay in the barn.

“The horses from the East pasture are loose!” was the report. Since I hadn’t showered yet, I was still in my barn clothes. I pulled on a pair of socks and stuck my feet into my rubber boots. That would do. The moon was almost full and provided us with some light. Our boss had the escapees herded into a grassy area that had a fence on three sides. My fellow intern was sent in first with a halter and lead rope. I looked down and noted that a gray cat was in our midst. (We call her Stormy since we weren’t sure of what gender she was at first and that name can go either way.) The cat meowed and started to follow her out to where the horses were. She couldn’t see the cat in the dark and started tripping over it. I called Stormy back and it picked its way through the dewy grass to me and my trainer.

I was sent out and with our two captured beasts, we were able to lure the remaining two escapees back into their pasture. Upon inspection of the gate we concluded that they had simply barged through it and made the weak latch break. We tied the gate shut and walked back towards the barn. The cat trotted up ahead of us, its tail lifted with a little crook at the very tip of it. It had stopped meowing an alert and now just looked very accomplished, as if it had been a key component to our strategy. We all laughed at Stormy’s antics and went back to our beds. Well, I didn’t. I still had to take a shower.

[Now this is Yvonne!]
Sarah is, clearly, a much better story teller than me. She has also included some pretty awesome photos of the moon. I'm going to attach them now so you can all be jealous (or at least I am).
PS don't forget to leave Sarah some comment love :)

Monday, July 18, 2011


That Magical Feeling:
When a horse “gets it”!

You know those lightbulb moments that you happen upon in life? When you go, “Oh. I get it now.” and proceed and life is suddenly better and you feel accomplished at learning a better technique or something of the sort. Horse people, y’all understand this, I know. It is when your trainer keeps yelling at you to fix your riding position and you keep fighting with your body and then, suddenly… WHAMMO you’re sitting up straight ;) and your horse suddenly feels show-worthy. Or how about when you get that feeling and think “So THIS is what a “insert-name-of-fancy-dressage-movement-here” feels like!” I live for those flashing lightbulbs. It’s even better when it is something you have been trying to learn and been struggling to achieve. It makes all the sweat and frustration worth it. At least it my eyes it does. And it should for you to!

The good thing about a lightbulb moment is that it lasts long enough for you to grin and rejoice but not long enough for you to bask in its glory and get a large ego. Because, well you know dressage, if it’s not one thing it’s another and you never stop learning.

I have found that horses have lightbulb moments, too. During the past year, I have had the opportunity to work with many horses that are just learning the ropes of basic riding and dressage. Although some of them are born ready and literally flow along in a round fashion the first time you ask them to trot in the round pen, most of the “greenies” do a lot of muddling through the aids while trying to figure out what the heck you are doing on their back. I’ve worked with horses that I’ve had to hit and kick over and over to get them to take a single step then one day a lightbulb flashed above their head and I swear I could hear them think, “Oh okay, kick means go forward. Got it!” And then we move up onto the next block on the training flight of stairs. This particular lightbulb moment was very cool to me because I immediately felt the change. And boy did it feel good! So let me give you a little background. I’ll try to keep it short, promise!

The horse in question is a very endearing black and white pinto random cross-breed named Oscar. He’s had a handful of rides and is here for a month of training with me and my fellow intern. My first workout with him showed me that he needed to understand that when I told him to go, I meant GO FORWARD WITH ENTHUSIASIM not tralaladeedum jogtrot. I believe today was Oscar’s seventh ride here. The difference from where we started is already rather drastic in the best way possible. Lunging in side reins is improved with a few bobbles here and there, the forward motion is very much understood, and he finally yields to pressure. I, personally, felt that once we were able to establish forward, obedience, and acceptance of a light contact, that the roundness would come. And for once, I was right!
Today’s ride started off normally enough. Got into one argument on the lunge line in which Oscar attempted to lunge me instead, but once I showed him that no, I was not going to be lunged, he put on his “yes ma’am, but I really think this is a lot of hard work, you are a meanie” face and I got on him.

I worked on making sure that I was using my outside aids to turn him and we did w/t/c, halt, transitions, and circle-y figures. After our brief canters, I shortened my reins up to the next rein stop and pushed Oscar into a slightly more steady contact. “Whoa, something feels different!” I thought and looked across the arena into the mirrors. Imagine my delight at seeing a round pony reflected there! I tried to maintain this glorious feeling and realized that what I was feeling was the pleasant weight of a horse that was supple, soft, and on the bit in my hands and the other marvelous feeling was due to Oscar’s back now being lifted up underneath the saddle. Compare that to the jigging of a horse with its mouth sometimes gaping against the contact and head lifted up, thus making his back a hollow for me to bounce in. Mental image comparison for the win.

Oscar had his lightbulb moment (it will be one of many)!

It didn’t last very long. He thought it was hard work using different muscles than he was used to. But I just gently asked for him to lift his back again and we got intermittent bursts of beautifulness. He got it. He knew what I wanted. It was training. It was progress. I do love my job. To me, a big part of dressage and training in general is stringing together these lightbulb moments to create a “glowing” harmony between horse and rider.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Hi there! I’m Sarah. Yvonne& I have known each other for about four years, I would say. We bumped into each other on a horse forum and were both part of a group of closer-knit friends that migrated to a private message board when the larger community got flooded with spam. Yay us! That is how a girl from a volcanic rock in the middle of the Pacific came to know a girl from an island in the middle of the Atlantic and why we both share a love of horses. And cute doggies. And photography. And writing. Yvonne constantly says she likes my photos so here are some for you to enjoy:

For those who want to know, my camera is a Canon Powershot S3 IS. The best way to describe it is that it is a step up from a point-and-shoot and step down from a dSLR. It’s on the middle shelf. For the past year at the very least, I have been photographing ninety percent of the time using manual settings so as to force myself to be self-taught and experiment. I think it may be working.

Now I am going to talk more about myself, which I find rather awkward at times, because I’m not sure that you even care, but it may help to put the rest of my writing into context. Or not. But my thought is that I’ll just get rid of this all in one post then you won’t have to ever read about me anymore!

Although I am not Hawaiian in ethnicity, I am what one would call a “local”, having been born and raised there. I know what you are thinking. Watch me read your mind:

1. What is it like being in the States? Hawaii has been a part of the USA for over fifty years! rAwr.
2. Do you dance hula and wear coconuts/surf/speak Hawaiian/eat raw fish/live in a grass shack in Kealakekua? No. Sorry to disappoint. But I do eat Spam!

Did that help? So pretty much I lived about a twenty minute drive away from the beach and my town is known for its cattle ranch. I do have a horse that I had to leave behind (I’ll get to that part soon, I’m trying to stay somewhat in chronological order!) and she is the bestest. I’ll save her for a later post though.

This is her, Miss Take

In the summer of 2010, I moved 2,400+ miles to the state of Indiana to pursue my dreams of becoming a horse trainer(woo)! I am an intern at a dressage farm and LOVE it to bits. So far I have been working with unstarted& green horses, doing AI breeding, riding upper level horses, showing, trailer/tractor driving and much, much more. I came with the intention to stay for three months, but somehow that has turned into a year and I cannot be happier!

This is me and Rocketman.
5-year-old stallion from the farm at his third horse show.

People who meet me always peg me as being mature for my age (or stature? I am short), but when you get to know me better you might find out that I can be a little bit on the silly and random side, as well. I am hoping to bring some humorous insight into what I am learning here at the farm as well as blabbing about whatever happens to be on my mind. As you can tell, I tend to easily go on and on. This was pretty much a quick, albeit a bit sketchy, summary of me, so there you have it!

Aloha :)
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