Salvaging The Winter

This time of year it’s difficult, if not impossible, to work your horse unless you’re blessed with access to a covered pen or an extremely sandy arena. In most places the ground is covered in ice or deep mud to the point that a horse can barely stand up, let alone move around enough to get worked on a lungeline or under saddle.

 

Most people give their horses the winter off and then take a couple of months to get them legged back up and tuned. While it does a horse good to have a break, the winter doesn’t have to be a complete loss if the ground is too dangerous to ride. There are things you can do to keep your horse tuned throughout the winter that will also help to shorten conditioning time.

 

Horses in the snow
Horses in the snow

If you’re turning your horse out every day it’s an optimum time to work with your horse for just a few minutes. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in just a couple of minutes every day. The consistency of even small doses of work can add up over time and you’ll see a huge improvement in your horse.

 

When you’re turning your horse out, you can work on things like shoulder control or hip control. Just asking your horse to move their front end over a step or two every day will result in his being a lot lighter under saddle.

 

You can also ask your horse to move their hips to move over or work on things like side passing, half passes, and pivots as you’re heading to the turnout or before you turn your horse loose. By asking your horse to do maneuvers before he’s turned loose you’ll also help to minimize issues that are caused by anticipation such as pulling away when un-haltering or becoming too hot when going through the gate. Instead of relating turnout time with freedom, they learn to associate turnout time with work first which eliminates the anticipation.

 

Another opportunity that’s often over looked is feeding time. Some horses can get a little pushy when they’re not handled, especially while eating their feed. By asking them to move their hips, shoulders, or their whole body over while they’re eating works on attitude, trust and lightness.

 

A stall or any area that’s the same size with good footing can be a work area for your horse. Even though it’s a relatively small space, it’s ideal for working on things like bending and body control. You can ask your horse to walk a circle around you in this small area. Small close circles not only work on bending and flexibility but they also help with balance and impulsion if done correctly. Because you’re in close quarters, you have the opportunity to help you horse just as you would under saddle. You can also work on shoulder control and basic body control by making your circles smaller and bigger.

 

When doing these exercises with your horse, always strive to see how little effort it takes to accomplish what you’re asking, and to see just how precise your horse can be. As with all groundwork, the lighter and more precise your horse is on the ground, the lighter and more precise they’ll be under saddle.

 

You’ll still have to do some conditioning to do when the weather breaks. Think of these exercises as yoga for your horse. Just like yoga for people, these exercises may not get their heart rate up but just like regular yoga they will help with flexibility, balance, and strength which will shorten the time required to condition your horse.

 

What are some things that you need to work on with your horse? What are some small things that you can start doing now with your horse while the weather is bad to help improve those weaknesses?

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Failures As Fuel

It took me until I was 44 but it finally happened. This past week I received an offer from a publisher for a book I started writing ten years ago. Needless to say, when I received the email I was in shock. I’ve dreamed about becoming a published writer since I was a teenager. While I’d written a few articles that were published, the queries for my books had only garnered rejections. The belief in my writing ability and vision were beginning to wear thin.

The last few days have been filled with writing a bio and a blurb for the publisher and perusing thousands of hot cowboys for my book cover- a rough life I know, but someone’s got to do it! This afternoon I received an email from my editor so the reality is finally setting in and I have to say it feels good and I’m genuinely looking forward to the whole process.

My romance novel, Lost Betrayal, will be published by Solstice Publishing in 2014 in digital format, initially. Here’s a snapshot of the book –

THE FUTURE OF THE RANCH HANGS IN THE BALANCE

Sage is just getting her life back together when a tornado touches down and destroys her family ranch in northern Georgia taking her hopes, her dreams and the very horse that the ranch’s future hinges on. An ex rodeo cowboy with a past, Garrett has sworn off rodeo and the last thing he needs is entanglement with a woman on a wild horse chase but there’s too many unanswered questions, such as how a horse could stay gone so long.

Refusing to believe her horse was killed in the storm and refusing to give up on the ranch, Sage begins the journey of rebuilding her life once again and searching for the horse that to her, holds the past, and her future. Sordid secrets and malicious betrayal jeopardize her efforts. Is she strong enough to push past the hurt and the lies in order to get back all she holds dear?

 

Everything that happens in my life I always wind up relating it to horses somehow, of course! This is no different.

Whether it’s breaking a colt or riding at the nationals, we all have dreams and goals that we want to accomplish. With every dream that we have, there’s going to be setbacks and failures and things that make us question whether or not we should pursue whatever it is that we want to achieve. Those failures make us question whether or not we’re being rational with our goals.

I’ve read time and time again to use your failures as a way to improve. Every time I received a rejection for one of my book projects, I always went back and tried to figure out what it was in my writing that caused the literary agent or publisher to not like the book. A rejection always resulted in a revision in my book, and ultimately improvement.

Working with horses shouldn’t be any different. When a horse rejects what we’re trying to teach them, sometimes the tendency is to think it’s the horses fault and in that case no one improves and the horse usually suffers for it.

In other cases, especially with better horsemen, failure in training should result in self-evaluation first. Just like with the rejection of the book, what was it in the training approach that caused the horse not to reject what was being taught? It’s only then that as a trainer can you move forward and improve.

I’ve always said that it’s the toughest horses that make the best horsemen. For that reason alone I love to work with difficult horses. The more difficult they are, the more I’m drawn to them. Why? Because the refusals are usually extreme, and the greater the refusal, the greater the self-reflection in an attempt to fix it. In the end we both improve better than we ever would have had the whole process been smooth.

Use your failures to fuel your success. What dreams do you have and what have you failures been in reaching that dream? What have those failures taught you and how have you let them make you better?