I just wanted to give you all a casual update on what has been going on with me and my family. My last few posts have been, well, boring. But that's only because I've been super busy growing a baby, delivering a baby, and now caring for a real-life-sweet-little-urchin of a baby girl. Emmalee Belle. She was born on May 22, and is as healthy and as beautiful as can be. The Lord really outdid himself this time.

Life with a newborn can be challenging. Throw in a four year old, a business, and three of your own horses to ride and it gets downright crazy. For the most part, our new family of four has adjusted smoothly and quickly. I rode Hot Rod and Kona up until the last two weeks before delivering, mainly due to the enormous amount of rainfall we had here in Oklahoma, and I worked in the barns up until the day before I delivered. After Emmalee was born, I started doing barn checks and light feedings three days later. Six weeks in, I'm riding three times a week and back to feeding everyday. Not bad! I could not have done any of this without my amazing and supportive husband. Thank you, Brad! This is three days after she was born. My body was still so swollen and puffy from all the fluids they gave me. Check out my monster feet and hands! Yikes!

Now, after weeks off from riding I have started to put together a new riding program for each of my guys and make a new list of goals individual to them both. As a mom, I know there's nothing more frustrating than putting a puzzle together and realizing you have missing pieces, and that's about how I feel with my horses right now. So, the last two weeks I have been running through a mental list during my rides checking off the skills they have and making notes of their missing pieces so to speak. Here are a few of Hot Rod's "holes" to work on:
1. Loping off immediately from a halt with collection
2. Performing a working trot that is quick and lively without being nagged
3. More quick and precise back up
4. Performing a lead change without baubles or a step
You'll notice that most of those things are polishing skills he already possesses. In my mind, this means they are primarily rider concerns. I have not asked enough of him. I know he can physically do these things and I know he understands when I ask him. So it's up to me to show him it's time to clean up and polish our rides.
Kona is a different story. Though Kona is "broke" according to any cowboy's standards, he definitely is not finished. Here is Kona's list of "holes:"
1. Precise steering with a neck rein
2. Trotting off immediately when cued
3. Performing a half-pass and side-pass
4. Performing a turn on the haunches
5. Not acting gate sour
6. Loping off immediately without baubles
7. Giving the face without false curling of the neck
I know what you're thinking, "how do you even ride that horse?!" Well, it's not always fun and it requires focused concentration. Which is exactly why I have neglected him. Tonight I rode him and reminded myself that every time he's naughty it is an excellent opportunity for him to learn and me to grow as a rider. I have considered sending him to a trainer, but I know I can accomplish these things myself. Now that it's on paper, I know exactly what I'm working towards each ride with him. Even if we work hard for two weeks, we will make huge progress.
I love starting new routines, setting new goals, and watching hard work pay off. So here's to a new baby and new goals! Happy summer, everyone!


The Horse That Got Away

If you’ve ever encountered a one-of-a-kind horse in your life, then you’ll understand and appreciate my story. I've had one such horse like that, and from time to time I think back on that special little mare. Unfortunately, I was unable to keep her; she was the horse that got away, so to speak. Her name was Barbie.

Barbie's story begins during my time at Oklahoma State University. I was working on my animal science degree when I had a opportunity to take a breaking and training class. I knew very little about breaking a young horse, but I was incredibly excited and eager to learn. Each student was paired with a filly or colt based on his or her prior experience and knowledge. I was paired with a cute little quarter horse filly named Barbie. This course was unlike any other in that it was entirely outside the classroom and hands-on. We learned how to lead our young horses, pick up their feet, go through showmanship patterns, lunge, saddle, and drive. At the very end of the semester some lucky students got to ride their colts if the professor deemed them ready.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I struggled. Up until this point I had only experienced my broke older gelding, Rusty, who made things very easy for a beginner like me. Barbie was different. Though she had an amiable personality and was fairly forgiving most of the time, like most young fillies she resisted me. She took advantage of my ignorance and challenged me. I got frustrated, but with the help of the teaching assistant, now a lifelong friend, I felt empowered to accept the challenge.

At this same time in my life, I happened to be dating a young man who also attended OSU. He was much more experienced and skilled with horse training then I was. In fact, to this day I still believe he’s one of the best trainers I’ve met. Young romance has it’s ups and downs, not unlike my filly’s fickle temperament. One day he asked me, if I were able to choose, would I rather have a ring or a horse to signify an engagement? Silly question. Of course I chose the horse, and of course I chose Barbie. How many times I regret my answer I will not know or care to count. He, too, liked Barbie, so it was easy for him to make arrangements to purchase her. His eyes twinkled at the thought of a new, solid rope horse he could finish himself. At the end of the semester, Barbie and I completed our course. The papers were signed, and we set a date to pick her up.

Unfortunately things did not go so smoothly for me and my beau. As I looked to the future I could see our plans crumbling: the romance was not meant to continue. Nothing hurt me more than knowing he would take my Barbie with him. She was an innocent bystander, and I felt awful about her leaving in his trailer, not mine. After he picked her up, he showed me the courtesy of letting me tell her good bye. I was eating Sunday lunch at my parents' house as the gooseneck trailer drove down our residential road. I petted her nose and told her I’d be looking for her and I’d get her back one day. As they drove away I had such an odd feeling, knowing that a chapter of my life was driving away in a red Dodge dually. I haven’t seen the horse since, nor have I received any word of her whereabouts. I think of her often and hope she’s in good health, being used on a ranch as she should be. With all the experience I have now, I'm even more disappointed not to have her because I know with certainty what a great team we would have made.

Have you, too, experienced that once-in-a-lifetime horse? I sure hope so, and I hope he or she is grazing happily in your own pasture. From one horse lover to another, next time you see a beautiful bay roan mare, ask for me, Is her name Barbie?


Raising Children and Horses

As I sit here in the last few uncomfortable days of my second pregnancy, I can't help but reminisce about life with my first child and all the memories my husband and I have shared with her. I'm eager to start new memories with our new little girl, but I'm sad to know that this marks the end of our alone time with Gracie. Some of the best times I've had with her have been around our horses. She has always been included in my work out of necessity, but I have tried to share my love of horses as best I can. She's only four, but she has done her fair share of barn work– scraping manure from stalls, feeding horses, cleaning water tanks, and essentially living the first four years of her little life outside, in a barn, despite the weather. My heart swells with pride when she helps me work.
Two years ago I made a resolution to spend more time with her in the saddle. She was getting a first-hand experience caring daily for horses, but her riding experience was limited. Riding horses has so many benefits for children. It gives them the opportunity to learn patience, responsibility, and trust-and how to learn from their mistakes. Here are some of the intentional things I started doing for her that I would also recommend to any other parents seeking to expand their child's equine horizons.
1. I enrolled her in riding lessons. Gracie started taking lessons when she was three years old and I've watched her start from meek beginnings in the round pen to now trotting by herself in the outdoor arena. She is learning important lessons about grooming, handling, and riding horses. Lessons are perfect for young children interested in horses. It should always be the first step in introducing your child to horses and riding in general. Buying the horse can come later.
2. I took her to her first horse show. Personally, I am not a huge fan of horse shows, but one spring we did go to a small local show and let her ride in the lead line class. It gave her a chance to get dressed up, experience what it's like to ride in front of a crowd, and then be judged. Unfortunately, it was an awful show. The weather was downright crummy, and my horses were ill-behaved, but Gracie placed second in her class and she was ecstatic. What seemed like a disaster to me has ended up being one of her favorite memories. If you already have a horse your children can ride, show quality or not, then showing in some capacity is a great experience. They will learn the value of hard work and patience, and they'll learn how to accept a win as well as a loss.
3. I invested in her own tack. This is one part of my resolution that is still a work in progress. Starting on her second birthday and each subsequent birthday, we've given her a new pair of cowgirl boots. She looks forward to helping pick out her riding boots for the year. Hand-picked birthday boots make riding that much more enjoyable. One her fifth birthday she'll be getting her own saddle, bridle and reins. The intention is not to give her an extravagant gift, but to encourage her in her riding lessons and teach her how to care for her own things.
Perhaps you've heard the Old English Proverb, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. But if you salt his oats, when you get him to the trough, he'll be thirsty." That is exactly what we're doing with Gracie, and will continue with our new girl. We intentionally "salt her oats" so she looks forward to spending time outdoors, working with animals, and riding horses. Are some days harder than others? You bet. She's still only four. I realize horses may not end up being her passion like they are mine, and if that happens I might shed a private tear or two. That's perfectly allowed for a cowgirl mom, right? More important, we will have helped build a solid foundation built on perseverance, patience, and determination for whatever path she ends up choosing.

A Bad Case of Horse Fever

I will admit it: I have been a victim of horse fever. Some of you may be able to relate. You can't stop looking at sale ads and counting your pennies. Every horse looks like a possibility. Sound familiar? Buying a new horse is one of the most exciting parts of being a horse person. I've bought several horses in the past few years, but I'm going to tell you about one time in particular I made some big mistakes and learned some valuable lessons.

A few years ago, my husband and I were looking for a horse for him to ride, and horse fever had hit me hard. We had done our research, had a budget, and had a set of criteria in mind for the perfect horse. We planned on purchasing a horse we had previously viewed at a ranch dispersal sale: a big, stout palomino with lots of ranch experience. When the day of the sale came, my husband ended up needing to stay at work, so I convinced my brother to go with me for moral support. Instead of patiently waiting in the ring for my horse to come up, we browsed through all the young colts and fillies awaiting their ring time. My perfect palomino walked into the ring and I patiently waited on the edge of my seat to bid. The numbers started going higher and higher until I ultimately was out of my price range. I was disappointed, to say the least. Instead of leaving immediately afterward, however, my brother convinced me to stay and watch more of the auction. A skinny, wide-eyed colt came in the ring. Only a couple of people raised their hands. The ringmen had their work cut out–until they spotted me. My sad eyes spoke more loudly than I had intended, so they pounced on me and my broken spirit. My brother turned to me and eagerly pointed out what a great deal I would be getting. One more look at the sorrel colt and I caved.

I called my husband and delicately told him I did not, in fact, buy him the gelding we had originally come for, but instead I would need him to bring the trailer to pick up my new sorrel project. He arrived and warily led the little colt to the trailer. Needless to say, it was a long drive home in silence. We pulled up at the barn and I opened the back door. Without unlatching the lead rope, a sorrel lightning bolt flew out the back of the trailer and proceeded to gallop full speed around the property, broken lead rope waving in the air like a victorious flag of freedom. My mouth (and spirits) dropped.

The next year was a blur of frustrating days. Some days it took at least an hour to catch him, and when I finally did, we started from scratch with groundwork and trust-building exercises. Finally, I saddled up and rode. We had good rides in the beginning. He was quick, athletic, and smart, though at times he could easily switch to being untrusting and flighty. Between his personality and my being a greenie with young, athletic colts, we were doomed from the start. After a bad fall and a trip to the emergency room, I decided to throw in the towel and rehome the colt. We simply were a bad fit and had been from day one. I found an excellent home for him with a former border who enjoyed his athleticism and challenges. A year later, tears rolled out of my eyes as I saw them pass by in the OSU Homecoming Parade. Not only had Scout grown up and graduated, but he also had the perfect partner to guide him.

I'll never forget that horse and the valuable lessons he taught me. It was challenging, but I don't regret any minute of it. I learned never to be hasty in buying a new horse, and that you get what you pay for in the horse world. I learned how to recover my confidence after a bad fall. And I can now say I have the skills and patience (and good walking shoes) to catch even the hardest-to-catch of horses. Most important, I learned that nothing matters more than choosing a compatible horse you'll develop a bond with forever.

Barn owner, mom, newspaper columnist?

I’m super excited to announce that I’m going to start writing a monthly column about horses for our local newspaper, the Stillwater NewsPress! It will be featured on the Farm/Ranch page. I’m hoping to add a new dimension to the page since it is normally written with male voices and almost always about cattle. Us ladies need to speak up, y’all! I’m posting my first column installment today that will be published on Sunday January 25th. If you have any ideas for me to write about, please send me a message!

Happy Trails "Setting and reaching goals with your horse"

Because I'm a goal setter, January is one of my favorite times of the year. Without goals, I feel lost and wandering, especially when it comes to my horses. The beginning of the year is the perfect time to set new goals for your riding or horse-keeping and develop strategies to achieve them.

Start by naming the goal, and be specific. For instance, simply stating that you want to be a better rider is too vague. You can never reach a goal without knowing the specifications. Narrow it down to something for which you can create a starting point and can measure. Building your confidence in the lope is a better goal, and loping the length of the arena with rhythm and cadence is even better.

Create a timeline. Set short term goals in weekly, monthly, three-month, six-month, and yearly increments. If building your confidence in the canter is your long-term goal, then perhaps start with a two-week goal of having a friend help you longe your horse at the canter while you're in the saddle, or even take a couple of lessons. Once you achieve that goal, move on to the next step in the process. Having a set of check points such as these along the way will break up a seemingly insurmountable project into realistic stages.

Don't use shortcuts. As horse owners, we know that many things take time. We are dealing with 1,000 pound animals, after all! Resist the urge to use shortcuts in order to reach your goals faster. If your goal is riding related, remember that the use of some training aids can be highly effective in light experienced hands, but they can be equally damaging in heavy hands. If your goal is related to creating a better living space for your horse during 2015, choose quality materials instead of the cheap ones. I have one shed in particular blow over two separate times during storms because of that very reason, and every time I shake my head, wishing I had spent the money on something better. Try not to make shortcuts, because they will always cost you in the end.

Be flexible, and be patient with yourself. Two years ago I made a goal to always pick up the correct lead with my horse, Hot Rod. In particular, he had trouble with the right lead. I took lessons, and had my trainer work with him until we finally realized it was a medical issue. Boy, did that throw off my schedule for the year. I had to be flexible and patient with the situation, and after dealing with the root cause, I can now say Hot Rod knows his leads very well.

Lastly, don't be hard on yourself! Remember that when it comes to horse-keeping, there is no such thing as a failure, only a result. Train yourself to see these results as opportunities to learn and grow.

Happy Trails!

About Allie

About Allie

Welcome to my blog! My name is Allie and my passion is caring for horses. My days consist of feeding, cleaning, and nurturing my two favorite things: horses and my little girl! I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures in equine ownership and life as a business-owning mommy!