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2006 Columns

Christmas Preparations!

     December has arrived, and the serious countdown until Christmas has begun! I’m never ready for cold weather, and this year is no exception. I did get plastic coverings over our stall windows, and we have plenty of dry bedding and a generous stack of hay. Our horses have winter coats and good weight and they’ve been wormed. I still plan to go through the tack room and horse trailer, remove all sprays and liquids that might freeze and put them in a big pail in a closet until spring.

     Now is the time to decorate with Christmas cheer. If you DO put Christmas decorations on a stall door, please be sure it’s safe for horses to chew on, because they probably WILL chew on it! And though it’s pretty, I’ve heard fresh evergreen is poison to horses. 

Trust is Earned!

     I hope others have enjoyed this Fall more than I have! The Autumn season has always been my favorite, with the anticipation of riding forest trails within a glow of golden maples and crimson oaks. The hot summer limited riding to early mornings around the barn, and I was looking forward to more time on the trails to enjoy the fall colors and sounds of leaves underfoot. Memories of long past competitive rides still linger, though distant.

     This year, Fall became a season of disappointment. The first beautiful day with cooler weather gave us the opportunity for a long overdue trail ride. And then Rocky ruined it all!

Pecking Order Perspective

    Watching RFD-TV recently, I heard Ken McNabb say that the pecking order in horses is often misunderstood. He said the real leader is not the meanest or toughest horse; it’s the horse the others look to for safety and security. I immediately thought of the pasture horses at our stable, where a couple horses in particular are more aggressive than the others; and I wondered which horse is the real leader.

     I can just imagine my Lady out there as the lead mare; and believe me, I’m protecting them all by not turning her out with them!

Just Me and My Horse

     Riding alone may not always be wise, but there is a definite joy in the special bond you develop with a horse out on the trail alone. I haven’t ridden alone much for several years. I enjoy riding with others, and I feel safer.

     I would feel safe riding Traveller alone almost anywhere. But I don’t ride Lady very far alone, and I’ve been asking myself, what is the basic issue here? How can I fix this? It isn’t the age of the horse, or the breed. I want to say that it’s mental confidence and maturity, which could be improved with training. But with Lady, it’s not that simple. It’s her temperament. (More)

Moving On, In Traffic

     Everyone at our barn loves my Lady! Her pretty black head is always over her stall door begging for attention, and she usually gets it. Walker’s Velvet Queen is her registered name, which is very fitting for this alpha mare. Beware, however, if you have the nerve to walk by without paying homage, because you may be startled by a kick and a squeal!

     Being a Tennessee Walker, Lady is smooth gaited and great on the trail. Only one problem: she doesn’t like big noisy traffic. Hoping to fix that, I’ve been riding her down the road near our barn with the help of two younger friends with more courage than I have. My first experience riding Lady down that road included meeting a large dumpster semi truck, when Lady spun with me and I earned the “Rodeo Award” from a fellow rider. I stayed on, but the memory has lingered to infect my whole outlook. Every time I think of riding Lady down that one mile road, I get a tension headache. (More)

Asking for More!

   Some of us don’t ask enough of our horses. We accept the way they are and we don’t know how to change that or don’t believe we can. We may struggle for a long time with a specific issue, or we trade horses, or we get help from others. Instead of simply asking for what we want with patient authority.

     I remember my problem with Little War Dude, an Appaloosa gelding I had raised from birth, my beloved Fanny’s only offspring. While Fanny had endless energy, I constantly had to push Dude. I was much younger then and didn’t appreciate his quiet spirit. When cantering him for a riding instructor, I was always told to sit quiet and let him do the work. But my body worked harder at it than he did, trying to make him go. As a result, of course, I hindered his balance instead of creating impulsion.  (More)

The Fearful Rider

         Horses are instinctively fearful animals. But if the rider has developed a “confident authority” and has taken time to bond with the horse and to introduce new things gradually, almost any horse that hasn’t been damaged in some way will usually respond with submissive trust to new situations and objects. (More)

Horse, Be Calm!

     How do you deal with genuine fears inside your horse’s head? Many of us have that problem at one time or another, and I’d love to hear from any readers with their advice! If I get enough response, it will be added to a later column. (More)

What Do You Want?

    My husband loves to watch videos by Marv Walker, a horse trainer from Georgia. These videos are not professional quality technically, but they are educational. Yes, I’ve mentioned these videos before, but I’m mentioning them again because there’s a specific lesson to be learned here. (More)

Spring Renewal

   The Illinois Horse Fair in Springfield the first weekend in March is something that Russ and I greatly anticipate. It has extra meaning for us, since it marks our anniversary. We actually spent our honeymoon at the fair! (More)

Reaching the Goal!

   Through the years, I have often wished I could study and ride Dressage. So why don’t I? I’ve also longed to go on another competitive trail ride. Why don’t I? In Don Blazer’s book, The 9 secrets of good horsemanship, his second secret is to determine what you really want. That’s the first step toward any goal, if we are serious about our decision.  (More)

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