Some days it feels like yesterday, others, it feels like an eternity has passed.  I can talk about you now without crying… much.  I no longer wake in a panic because I haven’t been out to take care of you.  I know where you are, I know you’re safe and cared for, I know you’re happy and free, and I know someday I’ll see you again, in all your handsome glory.


You were, and continue to be, my True North.  Always guiding, never fading, gently helping me correct course when I begin to stray.  You were a champ in the pen, and a champion of my heart.  I miss looking into your sweet brown eyes, the way you liked to snuffle my hair with your velvety nose, your smell…  Just your presence, and the effect it had on me.  Telling you it was time to say goodbye was arguably the hardest thing I’ve done in my life.  When we laid you to rest, part of my soul went with you.  I’ll never again be who I was when you were here.


I’d give anything to hear you call out to me from your stall again.  To hear you impatiently muttering and stomping around, because I was taking entirely too long to get to you from my car.  To see your brows twitch and furrow when I ask you to do something new or different, you could never hide your feelings.  To see you rooting around in your corner feeder to find the handful of gummy bears hidden among the alfalfa cubes.  You had a sweet tooth just like me.  I was so fortunate to have you for as long as I did, but I miss you every day just the same.


Missing and loving you here on Earth every day my darling boy,

Your Mama





Fall is the perfect season to introduce your horse to a new discipline.  There are usually a few bigger shows still to go, but often times we show through the summer months, and take fall and winter off.  To keep both you and your horse from getting bored of your routine, why not try something new?


I know we like to protect our valuable show horses at all costs, but they need fresh air!  Allowing them to be horses instead of performance machines from time to time is so good for their minds and bodies.  They’re no different than us, we can’t sit in an office day in and day out without getting bored.  We take walks and trips and do things to freshen our minds, horses need it too.  Trail rides are the easiest way to clear out the cobwebs and let them enjoy themselves a little, and the fall is a beautiful time of year to explore.  I’m not saying take them on a “Man from Snowy River” type gallop down the side of a hill.  If you don’t have trails to access, try riding them in open fields.  Anything to take them and their minds out of the pen will give your horse a new attitude.



Horses are thinkers and like to have jobs.  Giving them new things to think about makes them happier because they feel busy and pleasing to you.  Another easy transition is teaching your riding horses a little showmanship, or take your halter/showmanship horses for a ride.  You don’t have to perfect any new skill, but teaching a horse good ground manners isn’t a bad idea, and it’s good for them to think in new ways.



A discipline I think every riding horse can benefit from is basic Dressage.  You don’t need a new saddle or an arena with markers for this, it can be done anywhere or in any equipment.  Some simple Dressage elements can be used to encourage flexibility and soften your horse, and work well as warm up and cool down exercises.



If you don’t want to stray too far from your chosen discipline, you can still liven up your routines with small changes.  Take your flat hunt seat horse and try some low crossrails at a trot and canter.  If they’re quiet enough, consider driving them.  It’s a fun way to make use of the gaits you’re already comfortable with, in a different perspective.



Maybe you have a performance horse for Reining or Western Riding.  Show them some actual livestock for something different.  You likely know someone with a field of cattle that wouldn’t mind you and your horse taking a stroll among.  I’m not saying dig too deep and try Cutting or Roping on day one, but let them see new animals and interact with them.  The opportunity to engage in movements they’re used to, with actual purpose, could help make them better performers in the show pen.



Obviously, the point here is not to do anything that will put you or your horse in immediate danger, just to consider what else they might like to think about, that can still tie in to your current program.  Use their curiosity and desire to please to your advantage, think outside the arena a little.  You might even have fun!







Re-sharing on our day of remembrance


I’m taking a turn from my usual subject matter, for what I hope are obvious reasons today. Every year, I like to share the Budweiser tribute commercial. I think everyone has probably seen it by now, but if you weren’t aware, Budweiser only aired the commercial once, so as not to benefit financially from it. Their only goal was a show of respect. For a horse-person, and an American, it’s deeply touching ( I share it, but I don’t watch it unless I’m alone, because it still brings tears, even after seeing it so many times).

Every year I’m reminded of where I was, what I was doing, and the events of the day as they unfolded. I recall thinking, “I need to remember this. I need to record it, or find a way to keep the memory alive. These are the stories you share with your children and grandchildren.”…

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Much like the fashion trends of the 70’s and 80’s…  Wide leg pants, tie dye, neon colors and acid-washed denim…  Everything manages to find it’s way back at some point in time, and the Quarter Horse world is no exception to that.  Once upon a time, Quarter Horses were found to be hearty working ranch horses.  Their compact size and agility made them ideal for working livestock, and their durability made them great partners for days spend on the ranch.  It’s easy to forget that sometimes, when I’m walking through a fairgrounds, surrounded by glossy, groomed, machine-like performance horses.  Times, they are a changin’.


For the last few years, a new/old class has been introduced throughout the Quarter Horse industry and show circuits, known as Ranch Riding.  To the untrained eye, it looks like a hybrid of trail and reining, ridden in what you might wear to practice in, not “show” as we know it.



AQHA offers an introduction to Ranch Riding here:  https://www.aqha.com/daily/on-the-international-trail/2016/july/an-introduction-to-ranch-riding/  It explains the stark differences between traditional showing attire and equipment and how to “ranch” appropriately.  Silver embellishments on any tack or equipment is frowned upon.  Cowboys don’t need no stinkin’ silver on thar saddles to work the herd.  Focus switches from fashion to function on the rider’s apparel.  Custom outfits, “bling” of any kind, all set aside for more traditional work attire.  Long sleeved, button-up shirts, often with a “wild rag” around the neck (not because the color really makes the shirt’s accent stripe “pop,” but because they serve many purposes.  Moisture wicking in the heat, warmth in the cold, covering the mouth and nose in dusty conditions… or bank robbing in the 1800’s…  Just sayin’).  Chaps are of the heavier, non-fashion leathers, or even chinks, that only cover to below the knee, paired with a tall boot and jeans tucked in.  The look needs to say, “I can protect myself from whatever elements or events I encounter, on a day at the ranch,” as opposed to, “look at me!  Look at me!  I’m sparkly!!”



The horse should be utilitarian in appearance and function as well.  Leave your banded mane and show tail in the trailer.  Here, he needs to just be a horse.



For the Quarter Horse purists, I suspect this feels like a breath of fresh air.  For the show folk, I suspect they’ll start finding ways to work in a designer shirt or Kippy belt.  It’s in their blood, and that’s hard to turn away from.  For me, it gives me a little direction as to what kind of horse I might like my next one to be, and a little relief.  If I want to get back in to showing, this could be a great way to put a foot back in the ring, without having to take out a second mortgage.  All in good time, and I’m looking forward to checking these classes out at The All American Quarter Horse Congress next month…