Amateur Follies

When the only people to ring your front door bell are Amazon and the pizza deliver guy,  having it ring before 7 a.m. on a Saturday wakes you up fast!  To be fair, I was up feeding the cats at 5:30, but not Jameson.  I was holding out till seven.  (Time for her to eat a full breakfast before leaving for our lesson, but not so early as for her to think she should eat again.) Of course as I dashed to the door, only worse case scenarios played through my brain.

What greeted me was a woman, her teenage son, and a full grown pot bellied pig.  It seems during an early morning driving lesson, the pig was found wandering on Santiago Canyon, a major highway not a pig trail. Some how they managed to usher the pig past three properties to end up at my front door.

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Olivia having a drink

I want to help, but now the clock is ticking on my lesson prep time.  It is now pass seven and horse not fed.  Stall not cleaned.  And pig in my drive way.  So, we usher the pig up the hill to my barn level.  Now Jameson is used to goats, or at least one spoiled goat.


But  a pig is a whole different animal.   I foolishly figured she could eat breakfast, while we worked on a way to keep Miss Pig off the streets.  Nope. Nada. No chance was she eating with that thang here. Jameson decided running around and acting like we were being invaded by aliens made more sense than eating.  So much for that plan.

We quickly learned that the pig could not be contained on my open stalls or round pen.  She would scrunch under the fence.  The only stall that would have worked was housing some of my sons car parts to his ’70 GTO that he is re-building. Ah.. No.  I was left with my tack room or my feed room. Beth and I had spent a recent Sunday cleaning and reorganizing my tack room. So feed room it is.  Actually, it is  a box stall with pallets to raise the feed off the ground.  I knew my vittle vaults could not be opened by the pig so grain and supplements were safe.  Decision made and now to encourage her to go in.  Friendly pig, but not liking the idea of being contained.  We finally got her in, gate shut and tied shut for extra security.  The pig promptly began tossing everything movable that weighed less than her.  Meanwhile, Jameson was still trotting and pacing her stall and not eating.

With the pig safe it was time to quickly get ready for my lesson.  Fingers crossed my youngest (with the GTO) filled the truck with gas as I asked.  I have been having trouble raising the trailer high enough to get on my new(er) truck- another project. More time slipping away.  I figured I could just finish getting ready,  load, and make it in time to warm up Jameson before my lesson.

Still tight skinned and big eyed, Jameson was was happy to go away from her stall.  But even with the promise of  food,  Jameson was not sure about loading onto the trailer.  So using the adage act like you have 5 minutes it will take all day.  Act like you have all day and it will take 5 minutes, we just stood there and breathed.  It took 15 minutes.

Finally, in the truck and on our way- to the gas station.  Oh well, warm up is overrated on 3 year olds!  We did manage to get there saddled and in the ring on time for my lesson.  Thankfully, Amy was running a few minutes behind so we got some walk and stretching time, and then a great lesson.  Minus the hunting hawk in the next field, but that is another story.

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Jameson- it’s a start

I am happy to report that Olivia, the pig, found her family.  I had posted on the animal finder website, and called a local vet and friend and friend of mine. Lorrie (the barefoot veterinarian) and Beth saw a lost pig post and helped re-unite the pig and  her family.   By the time we got home from the lesson, the only thing left was my tossed feed room.  Cleaning up, I gave Jameson some of the loose hay. Apparently it smelled like pig and even a chow hound like Jameson wanted nothing to do with it. Horses!   Did you know that if you want a pig to go somewhere it doesn’t want to go, all you have to do is put a bucket over it’s head and it will back away, and where you want it to go? Now you do and so do I.  Thanks Lorrie for the tip!

Enjoy the ride!



The Horse Days of Summer


The horse days of summer are almost over.  However, in SoCal we are on our second week of triple digit temperatures and high humidity.  I had hoped to have my first real dressage lesson on sweet baby James(on) by my next blog.  Jameson has been coming along to the point where I thought we should try a trailer in lesson.  But, with the last crush of shows and traveling to look at prospects for clients, my trainer has been unavailable. With many days over 110 degrees,  it is probably a blessing we haven’t had a lesson yet. In spite of the heat or because of it, we have stayed busy.

Jameson helps 

Of course, summer needs rest and relaxation.  And tunes! Walking and rocking

I hope you enjoy the links and stay cool.  And as always, enjoy the ride!


Does Your Husband Ride?

Whenever I meet someone new and they learn I have a horse and ride, they inevitably will ask the same question.  “Does your husband ride?”  For a lot of people, it is more of an assumption than a question.  I am sure a lot of people have visions of husband and wife riding hand in hand into the sunset.  Yep, that is about as realistic as all the rom-coms I love.  These non-horsey people don’t realize what most riders know anecdotally: Amateur horse sports are dominated by women.  One statistic I saw stated it was up to 80% more women than men ride.  Another from the British Horse Society quoted 73% regardless of professional status.

My husband, Ray,  has been on a horse a few times. I even brought home a retired roping horse for him.  But, after 6 months of feeding, cleaning, and working ‘his’ horse and only a few rides by my husband, I knew this would never be his passion.  Happily,  I found a wonderful home with a neighbor whose trail horse recently passed.  The ponies I had for my boys, also found new homes.  Although they both love animals and like having the horses around,  it was obvious riding would not be their passion, either.  So, the ponies moved on as well.  And every horse and pony deserves to be loved by a little girl.

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Hunter- lead-line ~ 2002
Hunter: At home on the stage

I recently came across the Horse Radio Network (HRN). It is a pod cast with multiple horse related shows.  One of my favorite programs is Horses in the Morning, a  Monday through Friday pod cast.  It is like drive-time radio, only in pod cast form.  On the fourth Thursday of the month is their horse husbands edition.  It is billed as for men only.  Apparently, the men have noticed  the disparity and have built a program around talking about it.   The topics are varied, informative, humorous and sometimes serious.  Not that I have listened to the show.  All horse girls do as we are told!   (A word of warning the HRN is habit forming.)

Two of my horse girlfriends, Karen and Trish, (from my Sunday Stroll blog) met volunteering at a therapeutic riding school.  Trish met her future husband there, as well.  The two young(er) women were both horse crazy girls and quickly bonded.  They began hanging out together and of course talked about everything.  Karen frequently talked about Joe, extolling his endearing qualities.  It was quite a few conversations in as  when Trish  realized Joe was Karen’s horse, and not her fiance.  Karen and Bob had met when they both worked at Knott’s Berry Farm during college.  He was a stage coach driver, and she was drawn to the horses.  Bob does not drive anymore and has little to do with horses as possible.  Trish’s husband has nothing to do with horses, either.  He was just helping the center with big equipment for a fund raiser. John admits after hearing the word horse in a sentence all he hears is, “Blah, blah, blah.”

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Karen and Joe 1991

So in answer to the question, no my husband doesn’t ride.  However it appears that when the horse girls are busy with their horses,  their husbands are involved with their own pursuits. So my husband and I may not ride off into the sunset, but we meet back up at the end of the day and share our experiences. He may not ride, but Ray gives good horse hugs!

*Helmet acceptance and laws have changed considerably since some of these pictures were taken.  My friends and I always wear helmets these days.

Enjoy the ride!




Sunday Stroll

Jameson has been progressing nicely in her exposure to life as my future dressage super horse (positive pony affirmation).  We have been cruising through the neighborhood to get over to Lorrie’s for a few months.  However, the shortest way there includes a narrow street side trail with barking dogs, a downed tree, and bridge over a stream frequented by birds.  This bridge has been a sticking point since we started.  My rule has been, you can stop but no turning or backing up.  We have sat there for thirty minutes at times before Jameson decided either it was safe, or she was going to starve to death if she waited any longer.  Jameson decided death by starvation was worse than facing a bridge troll.


Recently, we took Rattlesnake Canyon.  It is a short, scenic, zigzagging trail, hence the name. It  connects to streets on either end and is a way to pick up other trails or the park systems. After getting to the top, we took the road back down home. So, we have been getting some experience with trail and street conditions.

What we needed was an outing with a solid trail companion.  (Sorry, Huey. No need to apply.)  My long time friend, Trish, and the retired hunter she rides, Lauren were up to the job. With the excessive heat even by SoCal standards, we set a time for the evening, but changed to a morning ride while it was still early and even some overcast.  I was to leave from my house and she from the barn where Lauren lives, and we would meet on the trail on OPA boulevard.  This meant I would need to go through the S curve and over the bridge with the troll.  We hadn’t been over the bridge in almost a month as the tree was being removed and someone else was replacing their fence.

Jameson set out quite fresh. It was cool (relatively), and I have been limiting her exercise and turn-outs due to the heat. While a bit bouncy, Jameson was still quite manageable.    As we approached the bridge, dogs barked, Jameson’s ears flicked, but she never slowed a step.  Before the troll even woke, we were over and on our way!

As we turned on to the street to meet Trish, a car slowed to a stop, the driver jumped out of her car and asked to take pictures of Jameson.  A great opportunity for us to practice just standing, and well, she is just so pretty!  After passing another friend with her group of students on trail, we met up with Trish and Lauren.  What became apparent  quickly, was Jameson motored right along while Lauren also had her own speed. No faster than she deemed necessary.  It resembled a stroll. While Jameson’s pace was more like a power walker.  The good part was neither horse was anxious about the growing separation.  Of course, I took the time to practice turns, stops, and just standing.

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Our trail angels- Trish and Lauren

Then came the water crossing! We have not attempted this previously, because it is all concrete, has a short down ramp, a crossover with water flowing over the elevation change, and another ramp up. At this time of year the crossover is only a few inches. However, it you go off the side it is concrete and rocks. Further down it is a dirt stream but deeper with uncertain footing.  (I did have a horse, not mine, fall off the side with me and the water was deep enough then for some swimming in riding boots. But that is another story.)    To keep this as much of a non issue as possible, we had Lauren walk up next to Jameson and cross.  Jameson started down the concrete, then stopped. It took a minute of contemplation, a bit of encouragement, followed by tentative steps, and then we were over. I did feel us being drawn to the rocky drop-off, but a little more left leg and she straightened her course.  I was happy with the little stress and no drama.

Looking back on our accomplishment!

The rest of the ride was a pleasant blend of up  and down hills, some neighborhood streets and good conversations! At the end, we split off to our own places and Jameson took the troll bridge like a rock star before completing our 2 hour ride.  It’s not Tevis, but a great learning ride in its own right.

Enjoy the ride- I am!

Building an Arc

It was’t really forty days and forty nights.  It felt like more!  Winter brought record setting rains to Southern California.  With the rain came spring, and more rain.  The flooding and saturated grounds were a problem in our stall at Lorrie’s.  So, I brought Jameson home.  Ready or not.  Fast forward- It’s summer and I have started Jameson under saddle.  It’s not all rainbows, but she is progressing nicely and is fun to be around.

“It’s the control of the feet through the mind that a person [should be] after. If you’ve missed that on the ground, [from] the start, why you’ve missed the part that means the most to the horse. The person should be focused on getting the best possible connection with the horse on the ground – through feel – if they want to have those parts of the horse available to them when they ride.” – Bill Dorrance

Regardless of  the riding style, I believe there are many things all horses should learn. Proper bending is one of them.  Some people become confused when talking about bend and arc. A bend becomes an arc when the horse is put into motion in the direction of the bend with self-carriage.  Driving into the arc is the secret to success.  Back to front. (Thank you Sarah Rolston for the succinct definition.)


(Disclaimer: This is the part where I reiterate, I am not a trainer.  I read, ride, and study.  I am just sharing what I am currently using in my equestrian tool bag.)

Starting from the ground,  Jameson learned about bend. First from the ground we worked on yielding her shoulders, haunches,  picking  up her abdomen,  going forward, sideways, and back.  I need my aids to be consistent for her to learn.  I want to ride what she has learned.  Therefore,   I must have the same conversation on her back as on the ground.

Shaping – If I can gently rub with my hand up the girth area and have Jameson give me her eye (bend),  then same aid from the saddle should yield the same results.  Besides the beginnings of bend and ultimately arc, this is a useful skill.  If my horse becomes distracted in the ring or on trail,  a little touch helps get her back without pulling on her face.

I’d be lying if I said this works all the time.  Since Jameson is only three, conversations need reinforcing.  And it is the conversations that helps reinforce leadership, rain or shine.


biomechanics of bend
Great Diagram!

As always, enjoy the ride!

Graduation, Wedding, & More

June – the month of graduations, weddings, and Father’s Day.  In my case, a month of events are taking place in 4 jam packed days.  I look  less like someone trying to peck out the next ‘Great American’ novel, than I do a displaced lark in a Las Vegas casino coffee shop. My husband and boys are night owls and I am a lark.  This is a problem best handled on vacations with gyms, coffee shops, and long baths with a book.  With my coffee in hand, I type.

I am in Vegas for my step-dad’s wedding. My parents moved to Vegas about 25 years ago to an acre that has been and is currently home to chickens, cats, rescue horses and donkeys.  Sadly, my mom passed a year and half ago. Today, Gene is marrying someone I have known since I was in high school.  Auntie Linda was a good friend of my parents, worked with my them and been there through the years.  She was even there almost 30 years ago when Mom and Gene said “I do”.  I have lots of emotions, but I love them both and wish them all the best.

Gene and Linda say “I do”!

We are also in Vegas as my husband is bowling the USBC National Tournament. This is a tournament Ray, and his 5 man team have competed together in a combined total of 133 years! The nice part of his bowling is that Ray usually makes some money.  Always a good thing and  it makes my horse husband happy.

Rewind a few days, and this is a BIGGIE,  my baby graduated high school.  Sure thousands of kids have graduated this month, but this was Hunter’s graduation. Did I mention he is my baby? If you don’t have kids, but ride dressage, this would be like taking your home grown/trained horse to his first show.  Your horse may not have been high score for the show (valedictorian), may not have won his class (honor student), but he finished with some nice moments.  “Horse has a dressage future!” (judge’s comment).  “I can’t wait to tell people I knew Hunter when…” (counselor’s comment). You get the idea.  He has big potential.  I am my kids’ biggest fan and encourage them to follow their dreams.  But like my horses, I have set them up for success but leave it to them to do it.

To you all: here’s to  love, happiness, and  dreams coming true.



Welcome to the Herd

Horses are herd animals. They prefer to hang in groups like teen age girls at the mall.  (Hey! I used to be one.) Being in a herd means there is a definite hierarchy, every member has a place.  Unlike a pack of dogs, where there is a leader and then the rest of the pack.  However,  cats are unique animals.  They tend to assign a mother role to one of their people.  A devoted human who will feed, clean, and adore them even as they are being ignored by said cat.  Again,  like teens.

Since Jameson came out of a pasture with other 2 year olds, it would not be fair to bring her straight home as an only horse.  (Neighbor horses  are separated by a few fences, and in time this could work.) But for now,  Jameson headed to the Barefoot Veterinarian’s and a new herd.  Lorrie is a long time friend and she runs her small animal clinic on the property.   Beth, Huey’s mom,  is frequently there, too. So, I knew she would have someone keeping an eye on her all the time.

More Members   


Of course, not just other horses figure into the new herd equation.   Horses have the obvious size advantage over us.  I am not going to out muscle any horse,  but I want to be the leader with my horse in our mini herd.  This is so important for training, enjoyment of horses, but most importantly for  safety! Fear based training has a major flaw, there will always be something scarier.  So with these thoughts in mind, I started working with Jameson.

fear and horses

I had the great opportunity to meet and become friends with Sarah Rolston. She is based in New Zealand, and a popular trainer for all disciplines with her “Release Riding” clinics.  Even though she is based half way around the world, she has been helpful and supportive.  I hear her in my head as Jameson and I work.  “Based on the old classical methods and riding with purpose where you and your horse form a positive partnership. The focus is on soft feel and good leadership. You learn to listen to your horse, and your horse learns to follow your leadership… ”

Introduction to Release Riding

So even if it’s from the ground, enjoy the ride!


New Math

I remember the feeling that day.  I felt the same mixed feeling of accomplishment and uncertainty when I graduated college. I was sitting in our tack room at the El Sueno dressage show.  It was a pretty good ride at Intermediare 1 and we scored a 65%.  Great, but now what?  My trainer, Amy Miller, and I had this discussion a year earlier, after PSG and my silver medal.  But  getting  to Grand Prix would be like going from base camp to the top of  Everest, when getting to base camp represents training level to I1.  I had owned Zinca since she was 18 months, and at the time she was only 12. If I had more money, she would be with me forever. However, that is not my reality.  All my horse money is tied into one horse.  I had to consider if she could handle the work.  We were already doing joint maintenance.  I loved (and still do!) her. My trainer loved her, and she was the barn princess.  In the end,  we decided to offer her to someone to go through levels.  I am happy to say she quickly found her kingdom.  So with money in hand, I  started looking.  After checking out local ads, and on-line postings, I head to Hanford.    I have known Willy Arts from DG Bar for many years  and trust him explicitly and just asked, “What’s the best young horse (for me) I can get for this amount?”  My husband tried to tell me how this is not how to do business. And don’t I want to save some of the money?  (Now we are not talking Tesla money, more like a Ford Focus money.)  Ummm, no I don’t. Besides look at ALL the money I will be saving on stabling (new young horse coming home), joint maintenance, shoes (only trims for a while), horse shows (only 2 y.o.), and training.  Husband with a math degree not convinced.  After all he has been a horse husband for 24 years.   Back on the ranch, Willy showed me a number of horses from 2-6 to help me solidify what I wanted.  What I want is my next FEI horse. But, without a crystal ball we factored in potential plus my likes and needs. And with Amy Miller’s blessing, I  chose Jameson, a Judgement filly bred by Iron Spring Farm.  Out of the pasture, and  halter broke.

First blog post

It’s Mother’s Day and my kids ask me what I want.  I have boys. Two I gave birth to, and one I married.  I am the odd woman out.  After 24 years of marriage, I should be used to it. I have tried to even the odds with our Pixel girl cat, but there is her brother Orangello, and the brother from another mother cat, Flop.   So, I have gone to taking the female balance with sheer weight with Jameson – my Dutch filly.  I digress. Get used to it.  Anyway, I try to ask for things that play to my kids’ strengths. My college age son loves his technology and I have always wanted to try blogging.  So for Mother’s Day,  T set this up for me, and has been encouraging me to ‘just do it’! So here I am. Here’s hoping others will relate to my blog dedicated to my passions and my loves.  And a few things that leave me wondering.