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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