"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Training Recap: Return of The Sane Mare

Since I've been referring a lot to the changes in Lily and I have a lot of new readers (my followers have tripled in this last year! Thank you, all of you, for reading! :) ) I wanted to do a sort of training summary of all of the issues we've worked through since she became mine in July of 2011.

I got into blogging not having a clue of the "rules" or how it worked. Being a shy person, I didn't really, really start commenting on other people's blogs until almost a year ago! (Which matches the time I started getting more readers...haha...gee I wonder why?)

It seemed like every blog I read back then was about how awesome other people's horses were. My first experience reading an equine blog was The Jumping Percheron, and Klein mare was just an amazing beast-it seemed like they never had issues, or if they did, Stacey didn't post about them. So if you go back to the beginning of this blog, everything is VERY rose-colored. It took awhile before I really started posting in detail about Lily's bigger issues, my confusion (and often fear) over some of her issues, how we worked through them, and all of the different methods we tried. It didn't help that at the time I was working my butt off at the barn to get a break on board, so I wasn't very good at writing all the time. I was uninspired when an issue came up and often by the time I found time to write about it, that issue had been resolved. I mean, at one point her issues were so bad that I listed her for sale and had people try her out...and then didn't write about it on the blog until a month later!

So here's a timeline of sorts, with links to the posts where I actually do mention some of the issues. You can read the details of how I got Lily in the Tiger Lily tab above, which I just updated to include some of our adventures in the Northeast. The #1 reason why I signed her bill of sale was because she proved to be so incredibly sane when faced with new situations. Keep this in mind.

One of her initial issues was bucking at the canter on the left lead. We'd start out cantering just fine, but then she'd pick up speed and break into a series of crow hops. I stuck those initial bucking fits and rode her through them. She eventually stopped bucking at the canter, for the most part.

My next source of frustration with her was that she'd brace whenever someone was on her back. Back would hollow, head and neck would come up, and she was EXTREMELY sensitive to contact. She did not like you being in her face AT ALL and she was over-sensitive to leg contact. Touch her with a heel and she'd bolt forward. It took a long time to desensitize her to leg - the cowboy trainer that had worked with her previously had attempted to teach her to spur stop and it had not gone over well. To this day I wouldn't dream of using spurs on her.

During this phase we played with a number of bits and at the time settled with a Myler loose ring Comfort snaffle that I picked up on the Black Friday sale at The Tackeria in Wellington (only Black Friday sale I've ever gone to!). We also evaluated saddle fit, teeth, and she had a chiropractic adjustment where we discovered she was very much out at the poll.

I had my first encounter with Lily-in-heat on one of our first solo rides in the park, where she became jumpy and spooky over changes in the terrain that had not bothered her the previous day (I know I wrote about that but I can't find the post!), but I didn't think much of it at the time. Not really having much experience owning mares (I had owned an OTTB mare during my first year of college that I had to rehome due to lack of time to work with her; she was 100% unemotional 100% of the time. We never clicked), it would take me freaking two years to realize that my mare isn't on and off crazy; it's just that Lily-in-heat is a completely different horse from Lily-not-in-heat.

I had two saddles at the time: one that had been purchased for Rhythm, a narrow, mutton-withered creature, and a Wintec 500 All-Purpose. Neither fit very well so I started riding her in Judy's Wintec Pro Dressage that was too small for Judy and her mare Rose, and fit Lily to a T. Between the saddle switch, the bit switch and the chiro adjustment, Lily started looking more like this:

Yay more blurry photos! That's how elusive this Lily was...like trying to get a photo of Bigfoot.
Going into the winter of 2011, our first winter together, I was still riding her forward in warm-ups in an attempt to ride her into the contact and we had not attempted any collected work at all. Moments like the one above started becoming more frequent, but only lasted a few seconds. I did a lot of lunging with her in side reins while trying to get her to accept contact without a rider fussing with reins.

From a lunging session during our first months together.

What she looked like on the lunge 4 months later.
There was a huge field at the end of our street where we were allowed to ride. I lunged her a lot in that field to keep her accustomed to it. It was the one place where she would still regress to bucking at the canter under saddle. So you can see we have long-standing issues with riding out in the open.

Lunging in the field at the end of the street.
(This photo was taken 2 months prior to the one of her looking pretty on the lunge above.)
Around this time, we switched barns briefly when my BM was evicted from our barn by the BO. (You can read about that glorious event here. MAJOR barn drama in South FL, I tell you.) I took Lily to my trainer's barn in Parkland, FL, where we boarded for a month before my trainer took over management of our old barn. 

Up until this point, Lily had been extremely sane and calm on trail rides solo and in company while boarding at the old barn. We had not attempted anything faster than a walk yet. We had no trails in Parkland and the "arena" at this barn had the deepest footing I have ever encountered. About a mile down the road, there was an equestrian center with 2 real arenas and a field next to it. I would ride Lily down to the equestrian center a couple of times a week. The problem was that we had to pass a cow pasture and a huge, busy schooling barn to get there. With each ride down that stupid road, Lily became more and more worked up over the cows and the schooling barn as she became more and more attached to one of the mares at our barn. And I got more and more worked up over drivers passing us at 50 mph without slowing down and the road being next to a 3' drop into a damn canal. I'd heard stories of horses falling in there and breaking legs. Bad, bad mix. During one of my last rides solo down that street, Lily decided to rapidly back away from the cow pasture and rear a couple of times...in the middle of the street. To say it was a terrifying experience is an understatement. I talked about it and SIGNIFICANTLY downplayed what happened here. My attempts at curbing her behavior that day were completely ineffective. 

This was my first encounter with confidence issues in both myself and in my horse off property.

Riding on the street at the Parkland barn. See the canal on the left? You can't tell but there was a 3' drop into it from this side of the water.
Thankfully we moved back to the old barn and the issues off property resolved partially once we were back riding on our familiar trails at Tradewinds Park. Trail riding frequency dropped as I focused more on arena work and trying to get Lily ready for the dressage show season - I had hoped to start at Training Level. (I ended up not making it to a single show that season because something always seemed to come up.) 

Temperatures dropped in late December 2011-January 2012 for the first time that winter and Lily morphed into something of a monster. 

She became very high-strung, jumpy, and hot-headed, a side of her that I had not imagined existed in her when I first got her. Riding her forward into the contact seemed to become less and less effective. 

We planned a group trail ride on a very cold, overcast Saturday morning. Lily was SUPER wound up even before I got on and I remember debating not riding her on the trail. Once I was in the saddle, she just wanted to zoom manically around the arena. We did walk, trot and a very brave canter to try to get her head in a better place. We went on the trail ride and actually had fun. When we returned, I decided to work her some more...

Magic happened.

This photo again! But like I said before, this was the first time she attempted to reach for the contact.
And that's how I discovered the big key to getting Lily in a better place under saddle. I realized I had to warm her up in collection before she could do the fancier stuff we were trying to work on in our lessons.

Her trot work evolved and her body REALLY started to change. 

Her canter, however, still looked like this:

In late January '12, the whole barn went to Treetops Park in Davie. We had a fabulous time, except for Lily bucking in the field when we cantered, getting overly attached to Pink (Pink didn't care for Lily and Lily had never paid her mind before. Looking back, I realize she was definitely in heat that day) and getting away from me while trying to lead her to the watering station. 

As we started cantering more, Lily developed a new habit. When cantering on the right lead, she'd throw herself above the bit, bolt, spin and switch directions. I somehow sat that every time but it was terrifying, as she would spin towards the very solid concrete arena wall and skip over the hitch of Mark's trailer half the time. I'd be afraid we'd trip over that thing and/or I'd get slammed over the arena wall or against the trailer. (Mark's trailer lived in the arena for over a month so Elisabeth could work with Christa on trailer loading.) I could not figure this one out. I had Lily thoroughly examined again and we couldn't find a source of pain. When she did this, it was always in the same corner of the arena. But she didn't do it every single time we cantered-I had no way of predicting when would be the day that she would choose to do this. 

We took a hiatus from cantering around this time.

At the end of February, we had been having a really good week. I decided to go for a solo trail ride. Lily had been sweet, affectionate and super calm on the cross ties. It was an overcast, windy day but Lily seemed totally unfazed by the weather when I took her to the mounting block in the parking lot.

I swung up and when I gently squeezed her sides to ask her to walk forward, she went from 0 to 20 in a split second and literally took off bucking like a bronc. I yanked her head around to bring her to a stop and tried again. She took off bucking again. Third attempt: same thing. I was finally able to just get her to whoa and stand still for 5 seconds, and then I got off. I lunged the crap out of her and once she was tired, tried again.

She was fine. 

To this day I don't know what the hell happened that day. I'm assuming she was in heat.

That afternoon Judy texted me about a Donnerhall grandson for sale in Loxahatchee. We went to see him and I was smitten. After that ride and her unpredictability all winter, Lily was put up for sale without a second thought. I went to the trouble of listing her on multiple websites, too. That's how disgusted I was with her at the time.

This is Donnerhall. His grandson that we looked at was only a year old and he already had THAT movement.
They only wanted $2500 for the colt.
I had never sold a horse before.

The colt sold to someone else 24 hours after we went to check him out. Two girls came out to look at Lily. The first was a complete and utter fail, and the second one worked out. We talked about trading horses. I went to check out her horse, a Selle Francais gelding that the girl seemed to be afraid of. He was fine for me, but I did wonder what I wasn't being told. Plus he had a HUGE bite mark on his long neck and I thought that might be problem later on, especially after dealing with a neurological horse. He looked like he'd been attacked by a shark. I've never seen such damage done by a horse's teeth. Him and I didn't really click anyway, and I realized then that most of the horses I'd be looking at in my price range were not going to be much better than him. With whatever horse I bought, I'd have to start all over again from scratch to bring him to the level where I actually wanted to compete.

I returned home that afternoon and rode Lily. She was absolutely amazing. And reality hit me. "What in the world are you doing???" I thought. "You have a REALLY NICE horse! A very TALENTED horse! KEEP HER!"

I did. The sales ads came down that same day.

I had started cantering her again in preparation for showing her to possible buyers. She was still going around with her nose in the air at this gait, so I started using draw reins as a mere suggestion to bring her nose down. I hate gimmicks like that, but I held the reins loosely and the weight of the reins through the bit rings was often enough to convince her to experiment with lowering her head at the canter. It worked. Within 2 weeks I had her weaned off of the draw reins and going MUCH more balanced at the canter. I reinforced this work by alternating small canter circles with larger circles on the lunge. 

In March 2012, Judy was trying to get her certification as an Aria trainer and needed a video of a student riding First Level. Lily was the only horse in the barn that could do lateral movements and we started working on her leg yields for the video. We got the video but I was a little horrified when Judy insisted on continuing to work Lily on leg yields afterwards. Lily started really bracing during leg yields to the left, to the point of not wanting to do them at all anymore in that direction. I knew we had to step back and start over but Judy kept wanting to try it without changing the training method that was obviously not working. Lily was telling me it was not working. That's when I realized that, while Judy could do these things on a horse and had been schooled to Second Level herself, she had no clue how to teach above Training Level. I eventually had to speak up and tell her, "I want to work on other things." She gave me great tools for my toolbox. But it took me a year to undo Lily's resistance to leg yielding to the left. She's still better at doing it to the right because Judy had me work just on that side during so many lessons. 

A very tense and resistant leg yield to the right.
This was her good side...
In April 2012, we had our first ever dressage clinic together. We went to Manuel Trigo's clinic in Stuart, FL. (I did change his name in the original post because I didn't want that to come up when people Google searched him. I was pretty clear with my frustrations in that post. He's still a great trainer and he brings to the table a very interesting mix of classical dressage principles. There is a language barrier-his first languages are French and Spanish, and he does have weird notions about horses that are not baroque-type, like Lily, but in the end the clinic was a turning point for us.) 

I didn't agree with everything the trainer said - a big one was that he believed you should always carry a whip. (Ironically, I now carry a whip all the time even though I never use it.) He didn't believe me when I told him Lily was TERRIFIED of whips until she bolted on me twice, the second time giving 3 enormous bucks and taking off, nearly running him over as we careened around the arena at a mad gallop before I could pull her into a one-rein stop. 

He let me ride without a whip after that. 

I won a lot of admirers that day.

That clinic was HARD. So hard. Manuel was my first experience with lightness and classical dressage. I realized how far I still needed to go to regain trust in my mare as we worked on circling in the arena at the trot with only one rein. Talk about a security blanket... Lily, however, thrived on this method. And I loved the concept of getting the horse to work correctly with minimum effort on the rider's part. By the end of the clinic, she looked like this:

If you look closely, you will see that there is slack in the reins.
This was another affirmation of less being so much more with her. I tried her in a Spanish bit for the first time during the clinic and that's when it started to dawn on me that she prefers a low ported mouthpiece to a jointed mouthpiece on the bit. Completely different horse with a ported bit vs a jointed bit in her mouth.

Lily in the snaffle.
Lily in the Spanish curb.
Note the difference in her body in these two photos. They were taken less than 2 months apart.
I actually e-mailed this photo to Manuel from the clinic, telling him I'd bought a new horse, and he believed me!
He was shocked when I told him it was the same mare from the clinic. :)
We continued this kind of work in the arena at home, going out on the trails maybe once every other week depending on who was available to ride, and sometimes solo. The less I went out by ourselves, the more timid I became about it-I'd go through phases of being very brave and going out, and then stop on days where I didn't feel as confident. Mark used to be my main trail buddy and he was doing so much work at the barn on the weekends at this time that he was just too tired to ride.

We made huge progress overall with our arena work, though Lily would still occasionally bolt at the canter on the right lead.

Sarah, owner of Romeo the Trote-Galope horse (the same person that introduced me to the Alta Escuela saddle and the organizer of the Manuel Trigo clinic), told me about Klaus Hempfling around this time.

Romeo was a much hotter horse than Lily but just as sensitive and she had had great results using this method with him. After watching a couple of Hempfling's videos on YouTube and deciding I really liked what he had to say, I bought his book, Dancing with Horses. I like natural horsemanship concepts, but dislike the blind, gimmicky and fanatical following that some of these trainers inspire and while I've adopted some of their "tricks" into my own way of training I've never been one to explicitly stick to any one trainer's methods. Training is training. You don't really need fancy rope halters (though they can help with specific cases), fancy modified whips/crops, or any special tools. All you need is the horse, a long line, a cavesson of some sort on his head, and maybe a whip-like object. Each horse is different, has an individual personality and individual issues and histories: you can't cookie-cutter a training method and expect it to work the same way on every horse.

Hempfling poo-poos the round pen. He insists on a square pen: the picadero. Why? Because this was the original classical training space. Look closely at Nuno Oliveira's video that I keep pushing on you guys:

He rides in a square space. That's the picadero. The horse was worked in a circle within the square and one day someone decided to remove the corners and just make it a round pen. This works great with some horses. But some claustrophobes or hypersensitive individuals do better in a square pen. Hempfling also believes that circles are disorienting and it is why we don't build round houses or round rooms for ourselves. He does have a point there.

Lily in a round pen.
I barely mentioned this on the blog. But for a month or so in early summer (end of May into June), I started working Lily at liberty in one of the turnouts. It was a rectangular space that I would rope off into a square space using an extra-long lunge line, and work Lily in there. She never once used those corners to escape into. But it gave her a little extra room to feel safe in while I bumbled with my body language.

Lily had had enough Parelli training to make her aware of respecting people's personal space and being really good at reading general human body language.With Hempfling I discovered that Lily was, in fact, SO GOOD at reading body language that I was constantly giving her involuntary signals without realizing it. With Hempfling I learned to really streamline my way of communicating with her, become more aware of every move, the speed and intent of my walk in the center of the arena, the force of my energy around her. I had always known that me being angry freaked her out. I learned in the picadero that I just needed to empty my mind before entering the square space - it was a moving meditation with a creature that can't speak in words. Among other things, I learned a lot about her and about myself. I learned that I could bring Lily to a halt by releasing my breath and just bringing all of my energy to a stop. It was fascinating to discover that I could communicate with her like that. It was a communion of minds. The only times this didn't work was if either of us was distracted. There are barely any photos of this time (all in the computer that we can't get to turn on!) because just having a photographer around broke our concentration.

Sarah watched us work a couple of times and greatly approved.

We eventually started adding some Parelli cues to the mix to make things clearer for both Lily and myself, especially when I later started working her at liberty in the arena. Some of the Parelli stuff, being more cut-and-dry, was better for cueing her from 60 meters away.

Liberty work in the full-size arena.
In the picadero I also decided to tackle Lily's bolting issue. This initially did not go as smoothly as the ground work. She had tried doing this in the arena a couple of times after the clinic, but it was a lot harder for her to do it with the Spanish curb and the double reins. Still, I wanted this behavior GONE and thus I decided to just start riding her in the smaller space of my hand-made square pen. We worked HARD on lateral movements, turns on the haunches, transitions, collection. And cantering for short spurts. The first time we cantered in the square pen to the right, she tried to bolt and swap leads to spin to the left. There was no room for her to attempt this little stunt so I ran her into the 6' fence, where she came to a sliding stop. We picked up the canter again to the right as if nothing had happened. (Except my heart was ready to pound out of my chest...)

She never tried to bolt again.

We eventually started working again in the arena. Our canter went from looking like this:

November 2011
At our one and only dressage show so far.
To looking like this:
July 2012

About a month after this, I stopped taking lessons with Judy entirely and just worked on figuring things out on my own. Several factors played into that decision; I went over it in my 2012 recap. Read it here if you want to hear more barn drama.

Training-wise, everything went fairly smoothly with Lily after that. We even cantered on the trails on our own for the first time in July, but only attempted it one more time after that. And then our last solo trail ride in South FL happened, where I got violently bucked off and Lily ran straight out of the park and into the street to gallop home. To say it was a terrifying experience is an understatement.

Massive scrape on my left elbow from that day.
I still have the scar.
I didn't go back out with her on the trails until we were living in Maryland. My confidence in her as a trail horse was utterly shattered.

Arena work in Maryland continued to be the same. She was nowhere near as hyped up as I had expected her to be given the weather change. I loved the barn I was at, but I wasn't thrilled with the setup: they had 12 hours of turnout and 12 hours in the stall depending on weather and season, BUT when they were in the stall, they couldn't see the horses next door. And the stalls didn't have windows.

Lily's stall at our first Maryland barn. No windows. The only way she could see the horses next door was if they all had their heads out over the doors at the same time. She couldn't interact with them or even touch noses with them.
In South FL Lily had a 14'x14' stall with an attached walkout that was at least 14'x28' AND an adjoining small paddock. She had full access to that during the day, and she chose to spend most of her time outside. At night she was turned out in a larger paddock with her mini Willie. The stalls were open and airy; she could always see the horses next door and always befriended them. She's always been very social with other horses. At that first MD barn, she'd become extremely agitated in her stall when she saw horses being turned out and was sometimes hard to catch when turned out in the field. I could count in one hand the number of times she actually came to me when I approached her. Most of the time I had to chase her.

This affected her under saddle. She was sometimes distracted and amped if I was riding her at turnout/bring in time. If it was even close to turnout time, she would be amped. If she was in heat, she would become herdbound. I often secretly dreaded riding her, and I became so, so bored with arena work.

She looked pretty anyway:

Due to all of the above, I was afraid of going on the trails solo but found a riding buddy in Tina with her Morab Houdon.

Riding with Tina and Houdon
The trails here presented Lily with a whole new set of obstacles: steep hills, bridges, ditches, and water crossings. On our first ride with Tina, Lily followed me through the ditches when I led her, but refused to cross water. She WOULD NOT. Not even when I got off to try to lead her across.

We later revisited the water crossing in question on foot, armed with a lunge line and dressage whip. It didn't take much convincing this time. I got her to the water's edge, where it was majorly muddy, and hopped across first, giving her slack in the lunge line. She gathered herself up to jump. I turned around to scurry out of the way, as my side of the creek was too narrow for both of us. And slipped and fell in the mud at the same time as Lily became airborne. I curled up into a fetal position, closed my eyes and prepared to die.

When I opened them, I realized I was still alive. I had no idea where Lily was. I lifted my head and realized I had one front leg on each side of my head. Oh, there she was! Standing directly above me, all 4 legs splayed out so as not to hurt me. OMG. I very, very slowly rolled over and got out from underneath her (she held absolutely still while I did that!) and in standing up realized that my right foot, which I had not managed to bring underneath me when I slipped, seemed to be broken. She must have stepped on it on the landing but had immediately taken her hoof off. I didn't even feel it when it happened.

That, my friends, was broken.
I never had it properly worked up because I had just started my job at the MD veterinary hospital and there was no way in hell I was going to be able to stay off of the foot long enough for it to heal AND keep my job.
Vetrap, ibuprofen and Epsom salts are wonderful things. Within 2 months, I was able to walk without hobbling.
So there you go. THAT'S how bad she was at crossing water! It still took a good 4-5 months before I could get her to cross familiar creeks without having to get off and send her across. (I taught her to go first. She was incredibly accepting of this method.) You can see why I'm so, so, sooooo excited to have her go into mud and water on new trails without hesitation!

The beginning of 2013 was spent working on that. We ventured out alone on the trails a couple of times but it was hit-or-miss with Lily's attitude. One of the drawbacks of riding with Tina was that Houdon could not be second. So we never got to lead, which affected Lily's confidence for riding by ourselves. One of the things I learned about her in South FL was that leading gave her tremendous confidence. If she led once on a specific trail, she would be able to go out solo next time on that same trail. So while not minding being second (she doesn't get competitive about it), it was still a huge blow to her confidence on the trails here to not be able to go in front. She had a huge meltdown here  at the beginning of the spring while out with Houdon and Tina. We had one more trail ride after that before the diagnosis of Lily's soft tissue injury.

We then started her 4 months of rehab, where she was spastic on and off whether on drugs or not. You can't blame her - I too would go bonkers cooped up in a box. I still yearned to be able to work with her like a normal horse...you just can't correct appropriately when your horse is injured and I really started wondering just how bad she would be afterwards. I was reaching my wit's end in July when we went to visit Liz in West Virginia: Lily's rehab was approaching its end by then and I was terrified that she would be a maniac once back to normal. Riding Q and Little Bit made me remember how much FUN riding a sane horse on the trails can be.

Riding the awesome Q during our visit to West Virginia in July.
I talked to Charles about having a second horse and keeping both at a place with cheaper board, selling Lily and getting a calmer horse, and a million options in-between. In the end I took the last few weeks of Lily's rehab onto the trails, forcing myself to take her out every.single.day that I rode her. Every day. By ourselves. And she started to get better about going out alone. And I started to get better about riding her alone. I stopped being afraid we'd die. One key thing during this time was music. Having the iPhone was a huge bonus: on Pandora I set up stations with upbeat music that I listened to while we rode on the trail. When I felt myself getting tense or Lily getting upset, I sang out loud. (Another perk of riding solo? No one to hear me sing! Hahaha...)

You hold your breath when you're afraid. Horses react to that. But you certainly can't hold your breath while singing.

This worked AMAZINGLY well!

I will be honest. I dreaded each one of those trail rides. I dreaded them so much. I am a fatalist at heart and a worrier. It took all of my willpower to lead her to the mounting block at the trail head and stay calm while I mounted up. Half the time I was in a borderline panic attack.

But after each successful ride, the next ride was easier. And then one day I opened a fortune cookie at work:

"Each day, compel yourself to do something you would rather not do."

I still have it on the refrigerator door.

Sometimes there were perfectly good reasons for staying in the indoor arena - bad footing, rain, etc. But I found myself taking Lily out regardless. Every day. One day I realized I was actually looking forward to riding her. That had not happened in a long time.

Mind you, Lily was still being medicated for riding since I was not yet allowed to turn her out. I still wondered how bad she'd be off the ace.

Regardless, as I slowly weaned her off the sedative, the trail became the place where we finally, finally started to really trust one another, understand one another's thought processes, and overcome our fears. Together.

The trail is what brought us together.

One of our first "ears" photos taken at the beginning of Lily's period of rehab on the trail.
As we neared the end of our rehab period, I decided that it is hard to accurately evaluate the sanity of a horse that has been confined to an 11' x 14' space for 4 months without turnout. I would set her free and see what horse I had then. Maybe I'd really have a sane horse after all...I had seen her before, and with the ace to take the edge off, I had discovered that she was still in there. Maybe Sane Mare would stay for good once she was living outside all the time. One could only hope, right?

There she is!
Hi Sane Mare! :)
It took 2 barn moves, but we found the perfect scenario with the field board situation at my current barn. A barn with a million trails within riding distance. Between being out 24/7 and riding her off property at least 3 out of 4 times a week, Lily's head is in a completely different place from where it was this past summer. It seems like the sane mare is here to stay.

All relationships are a constant work in progress. There is no such thing as a happy ending; only happy progress as you go through life together and negotiate problems together.

I am so freaking proud of my girl. 

You guys read about this one.
This photo means so much!

Lily, this one is for you. For us!! 
(yes I'm SOOOO incredibly corny!! But it's my blog and I do what I want. ;) )

(Seriously...the video couldn't be more appropriate! I hadn't seen it until now!)

I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sat quietly, agreed politely
I guess that I forgot I had a choice
I let you push me past the breaking point
I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything

You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder gonna shake the ground
You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Get ready cause I’ve had enough
I see it all, I see it now

I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar

Now I’m floating like a butterfly
Stinging like a bee I earned my stripes
I went from zero, to my own hero

You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder gonna shake the ground
You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Get ready ’cause I’ve had enough
I see it all, I see it now

I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
You'll hear me roar
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
You're gonna hear me roar...

Ro-oar, ro-oar, ro-oar, ro-oar, ro-oar

I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
You'll hear me roar
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
You're gonna hear me roar...

Take THAT, Fear!!

And if anyone is interested in reading some of the material that has kept us going so far, here are my fave books:

Dancing with Horses by Klaus Hempfling
Another Horsemanship by Jean Claude Racinet
Trail Training for Horse and Rider by Judi Daly (she also has a blog, which I discovered later! Check it out here)
Lightness Proof of Balance by Manuel Trigo (you have to go to one of his clinics to get it)
Better Than Bombproof by Sgt Rick Pelicano
The Natural Rider: A Right Brain Approach to Riding by Mary Wanless (I LOVED this book and it played a huge part in helping me understand where my body is in relation to Lily's while riding and how it affects her ability to do things.)


  1. Whateva whateva I do what I waaaannnnttt.

    you do. And you do it well.

    Very well written. I love your spouting off about the training methods and fanatics. Right there with you.

    I think I may need to acquire that dancing book... and music for rides. Though my idiot horse pays so much attention to rustling leaves its sometimes nice to be able to anticipate. Does Lilybird spazz at sounds?

    1. It depends on her state of mind at the moment. If she's calm and paying attention, she might give a little startle at something big, like a deer bounding away right next to her. If she's tense and spooky, it's more of a free-for-all. But she doesn't mind rustling leaves, which I've been surprised to discover. She's more visual than other horses I've worked with - she's more likely to react to something that looks weird than something that sounds weird.

      I play the music low enough that I can still hear everything like, say, birds singing. It was my gauge over the summer when I started taking her on the trails during her rehab - I'd lower the volume until I could hear the birds. I'm pretty certain she could hear the music too, even that low, and I swear she paid less attention to her surroundings in the beginning because of it. But it could have just been because I was more relaxed. :)

  2. Aw, y'all have been through so much together. I'm glad you decided to stick with her during those rough patches.

  3. Thank you for the recap. That was very interesting to read. You guys have been through so much and have come out on the other side so much stronger and with so much more understanding for one another. Keep up the great work and thanks for blogging so we can follow along. :)

  4. Great post! You guys have had an amazing journey together.

    I really feel like Klein is just one of a kind. There are always things we want to improve on and things I would love for us to be better at. If you read back a couple years on my old blog I think I posted about her throwing baby fits on the lunge line while we were still in Hawaii. I know I posted a pic of her rearing up on the lunge line when we were in New Mexico. So, she does have a moment every now and then, I promise!

    1. Haha I remember that pic of her rearing! That was pretty epic! And I remember her baby fits on the lunge line too. But even as a baby, she was already so SOLID mentally. Physically too, of course, but she just has ALWAYS had such a wonderful work ethic, heart, and bravery. I also have always admired your perspective whenever she had any kind of little bit of misbehavior: you addressed it and moved on, and just focused on the positive. I think all of us (I know I speak for several people who read this blog!) fell in love with Klein because you write about her in such a way that we, too, get to see her through your eyes. She really is one of a kind. I'm so glad you're back and that both girls are doing great!