Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Liebster Award -- from Briana!

Ok, I have been nominated for this same award twice in the last month. I guess I was just too lazy to claim it the first time. :P So, after much thought and pondering, I have decided to accept the award both times (it’ll be fun!).
But I’m gonna tweak it: After every blog or blogger that I name, I’m gonna give a short bio about them or their blog; since the whole point of this award seems to be getting know lesser-known bloggers. J

HOW TO ACCEPT THE AWARD: The Liebster Blog Award is a way to recognize blogs who have less than 200 followers.  Liebster is a German word that means beloved and valued.  Here are the rules for accepting the award:
  1. Thank the person who nominated you and include a link back to their blog.
  2. List 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions given to you.
  4. Create 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate.
  5. Choose 11 bloggers with 200 or fewer followers to nominate and include links to their blogs.
  6. Go to each blogger's page and let them know you have nominated them.
I was given my first Liebster Blog Award by Briana at Equestrian Diaries. Equestrian Diaries logs the adventures of a young college student who is studying to work in elementary education while maintaining a huge passion for horses. It’s a really fun blog – especially now that she’s entered the world of horse-ownership through the buying of River, a gorgeous grandson of Seattle Slew! So go on over and check it out; leave an encouraging word or some advice you have from your experience with horses. I know Briana would appreciate it all! 

11    random facts about me:

1.     Bratty teenagers quickly turn me into the Incredible Hulk.
2.     I will dream and philosophize all day if you let me (and if you do let me, you will not be able to snap me out of my trance for literally hours; my sister timed me once).
3.     I have lived in 7 houses and moved 9 times since I was born (and we’re about to make numbers 8 and 10, respectively!)
4.     I am working on building my collection of books of photography (books of photography, not about photography). I could lay out on the floor and flip through them all day. They never fail to send me to a world of wonderment and inspiration.
5.     Right now, I am buying/reading all the most recent memoirs and biographies about people and their horses so that I can better understand what’s selling and tweak my book to make it more appealing (sometimes I refer to it as cheating ;) ).
6.     I am very protective of my bed. Having six siblings (and sharing a room with another teenage girl) I generally have to share just about everything. I view my bed as my own personal space that I am not called upon to share (that often). I can get uptight if somebody sits on it without being invited.
7.     My tastes in everything are pretty broad; I couldn’t tell you about my favorite genre (of anything), color, flower, scent, etc.
8.     I love hats, and I collect them (even though I can pull off only a few styles).
9.     My “scent” (ya know, perfume and lotion and stuff) *is coconut-anything. (Mom recently got me some cherry blossom, and I am finding that I do really like that one, too.)
10.  I either imagine the majority of love songs are between a person and their horse, or I rewrite them to fit that way (I have whole movies in my head with complete soundtracks).
11.  Believe it or not (you probably won’t, it’s so ironic): The only Monopoly game I have never won is Horse-opoly. (All the other ones I win pretty consistently.)

My 11 questions from Briana were:
  1. When and why did you start riding? I first climbed on the back of a horse when I was between the ages of 8 and 10. I was taking English riding lessons while we lived in Florida. I don’t really remember the reason why except that that was when my horsenality exploded and was born after seeing “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron.” I was just so in awe of these magnificent creatures. But the first time I rode a horse and really understood that I was riding was when I took lessons at a jumper barn for two years in California when I was 13.
  2. Have you ever taken any time away from riding? Why? Well, I had to stop riding after we moved from California because there was nowhere to ride here. But that was inevitable. If you’re asking have I ever deliberately taken time away from riding to do something else, then sure. I don’t ride on days when Joey lets me know that our relationship could use some cookies and hang out time instead (like when I’m at camp all summer). And I don’t ride on days when I feel really, really bad (but it normally takes a few up-chucks for me to get there).
  3. If you couldn’t ride, what would you do with your horse(s)? If I suddenly woke up this morning and learned that I would never ride again, Joey would stay with me. I would probably try to scout out somebody willing and special that I trusted to ride and work with him. But if he had to spend the rest of his days being a lawn ornament, then so be it; I highly doubt he would have any qualms about that. And besides, he’d get plenty of visitors when he becomes famous through our books. ;)
  4. Where have you lived during your life? Perfect! Since I told you how many times I’ve moved, and all. :P I was born in Washington (state), and then we moved to England. Since then, I’ve lived in Mississippi, Florida, and California. But we’re about to make our next move to Ohio!
  5. If you could travel to any place in the universe, where would you go? I do catch the whole “universe” bit here. But honestly, I’m content to view space from Google. I’m not quite that adventurous. One place I do so desperately want to see, though, is Africa! :D
  6. What horse (real or fictitious) has had a big influence on your horsey career? As much as I would like to say Jeanette Sassoon’s Valiant, the first horse that comes consistently to mind is the Black Stallion. As silly as it may sound, right after Joey went blind I didn’t know what I was going to do with him, or how I was going to handle him or even behave around him. But soon after the ordeal, I was watching the Black Stallion movie. And for some reason, Alec’s awesome beach ride on the Black reminded me that my horse was still a horse and still possessed all his former potential. Watching that amazing scene (and rewinding it a few times) gave me hope, and let me dream that Joey and I could still have that kind of a friendship. I am now less apt to shut down or give up on dreams, no matter how impossible they may seem. <3
  7. What is one big thing on your “bucket list”? To have some of my writings published and read; whether it’s the fictional or nonfictional.
  8. What are two goals you would like to achieve with your horse? (Jumping is still one buried deep in my heart.) To ride bareback and bridleless as effortlessly as Gandolph on Shadowfax; and trailering him out successfully to ride on a public trail.
  9. What is your horse’s favorite thing to do with you? I’m not really sure. I think it would be a draw between riding (he loves it when I climb aboard! ^.^ ) and just hanging out with a pile of hay (when I have to leave, he looks up sorrowfully over his shoulder and watches me until I’m back in the house; makes me feel so loved <3).
  10. Do you play a musical instrument? If not, what is one you’d like to play? I’ve been playing the piano since I was 10, yet I’ve only had a grand total of two years’ worth of lessons. I bought a pink guitar off of the interwebs in January of last year, got on YouTube, and have been jamming ever since. And most recently I have been spending a little time learning to play the Ukulele and the Mandolin. I will go ahead and name two instruments that I’ve always wanted to play, though: the violin and the banjo. It’s a draw between the two. J
  11. What is the most “spur of the moment” thing you have ever done? If we’re talking most crazy spur of the moment decision, then buying the horse I did not want tops it all, I’m pretty sure. Other than that, I’m not sure.

My 11 Questions for my Nominees:

1.     Who’s your favorite cartoon character and why?
2.     What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done (on horseback, if you have a horse)?
3.     What is the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn in life thus far?
4.     If you could have any super power, what would it be?
5.     What’s your favorite voice-accent?
6.     What’s your favorite scented candle?
7.     What was the last dream that you remember?
8.     What three songs would be on your life’s soundtrack? (They don’t have to be lyrical, either.)
9.     Choose: A rumbling summer storm, or a cozy fire by the hearth?
10.  Which question above was the most fun to answer?

I present the Liebster Blog Award to *drum roll, please* . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .:
  1. Mare and Missy at Simply Horse Crazy! These girls are two peas in a pod. I’ve always been an admirer of Mare’s choice of design on their blog, as well – always so tastefully put together. If you enjoy colorful pictures and consistent posting of everyday life with a horse at a boarding stable, then you should definitely check these crazy girls out!
  2.  Karley and Henry at All In! Karley’s posts are consistent and full of information on training with Henry – it’s been so educational following her blog! Even on days when they’re not in the arena, Karley shares pictures of her beautiful chestnut goober-horse, and those are always so entertaining. ;)
  3.  Gingham and her three beautiful equine children at Pia & Prairie’s Parade! This is another blog that I thoroughly enjoy all the time. With Gingham’s great sense of humor, it’s entertaining as well as educational. I learn so much from her posts about training and showing! She recently added an older Trakhaner gelding to her brood. His name is Gus, and he seems to be really enjoying his new life with his new sisters. Check them out! You won’t regret it.
  4. Amy and the gang at A Work In Progress! Honestly, this has got to be one of the most fun blogs I have ever read! My mom is constantly telling me that that is exactly what I'm going to be like when I grow up. xD Whether she's taking her sainted mare Sugar out for a spin, creating memories with her kids, or critiquing Brenda Breyer in a model horse show, Amy's bound to have you chuckling by the end of her entry.
  5. Sarah at The Laird Family blog! This is one of the non-horsey blogs I follow, but I love it just the same. Sarah is a great friend of mine with a wonderful sense of humor and love for the Lord and her family. She's always posting fun tidbits from their humorously southern life! She's fairly new to the blogosphere, so drop on over and give her an encouraging word. You won't be sorry you made friends. :) 

I don't know that many blogs (and even then, it seems to be Liebster Award Week as most of the blogs I've been wanting to nominate get nominated by someone else by the time I get around to working on this post. -.- )
So I will nominate half of 11 here, and then do the other half in my next award.

I hope you enjoyed getting to know a little more about me. Now I'm off to snag my nominees before somebody else does.


PS: Since I copy/pasted this from a Word document, the colors are a bit funky. I apologize if it's throwing you off as much as it does me.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Babe, the Mustang Racehorse

Somebody I met at camp last week asked me for some advice/suggestions on how to get his new mustang mare to go forward without going 0 to 60 in 2.3 seconds. I thought I'd (b)log what I told him here in case anybody's ever interested, but mostly just so I could have some place to file it away. :)

"I don't know how you've been raised to think about horses or what theories you may have developed about how best to train and work with them. This is my opinion after all that I've seen and learned about horses, from horses so far. The biggest thing that I can tell you is that when I listened only to the human voices and advice, Joey and I were much more confused and frustrated. But when I would actually take the time to listen to the horse and open up my mind to what it could possibly be thinking about the situation, things became so much clearer and progress and success is usually inevitable. Like I said: this is my opinion; you can take it or leave it.

"It sounds like your mare could have people problems worse than her owners having horse problems.
I don't know how she handles on the ground. If she's wonderful and just lets you do anything and everything with her, then we won't have to start from square one. But if she's a little standoffish or wary of you then I would suggest that you spend as much time as possible just hanging out with her, letting her know that you're not the bad guy. I've found that horses are really just like everything else in life in that you get out of them what you put into them whether it's time, effort, or affection. I don't know if you'll be willing to spend time just hanging out with her, but I'm telling you what I've learned is that it helps a whole lot. We've got to take into consideration where she's been so far in her life. If it's been rough for her, either due to stupid people or her own nature, then you've got to set a different standard. You've got to help her realize that she can trust people, and she can trust you. I believe that gaining that trust is the first step to getting her to ride smoothly for you.

"Next I would say that you need to be able to bet your life on her brakes before you start working with the speed (even trying to downsize it). If the only speed she knows right now is full-speed, then logically you're gonna need some reliable brakes so you both don't get hurt like before. Since the only forward motion she seems to know is run, then let's try backing up. You can stop from back up, so let's give it a go. I just recently taught Joey how to back because he hated it and normally would only do it if I was super rough and loud with my cues; and even then, he was angry with me while doing it. I knew that wasn't right, so I tried to think how I could get him to be more supple and consistent. Guess what worked? I had to get supple and consistent in my cues. Horses can feel the slightest movement or touch. So we went back to the beginning, to the softest cue: I shifted my weight backwards in the saddle. At first, it was an obvious shift, just to let him know we'd changed our tune; but now I just have to think about shifting back, and he gets it. So I shift; then almost immediately on top of that cue, I pick up the reins ever so slightly (not pulling them back, just picking them up); and then almost immediately on top of that cue, I gently bump my legs in a steady rhythm against his sides while saying "back" or "back up" in the same voice. Everything has to be the same every time I do it; you'd be mighty surprised at how observant horses can be to detail. And I'll let you know that I'm somebody who is hard-wired to try the quick-fix system. But it is true what they say: practice makes perfect. And the more Joey and I work on backing, the better we are at literally backing up, or even just slowing down from a faster, forward gait. It really does pay to be soft and consistent. I've tried the harder, "more dominant" methods out there. But I've found that this works the best; and Joey and I are both having a ton of fun by the end of a ride that may have started out less than perfect.

"After you can rely on Babe to back up at the slightest pressure (and stop from that backing up and stand still), then I would begin slow work on getting her to move forward without becoming a frantic racehorse. Keep in mind that this may take quite a while to work through and get right for her. It may really depend on how much time (and affection) you put into her.
"Like I said: Joey used to be very much like your mare. It was either we stood still or we galloped around the paddock; there was no happy-medium. And since she responds so well to heavy pressure, this is where you'll really have to pay attention because we want her to respond to light pressure. We want her to respond to light pressure, because the slap with the reins seems to make her frantic and take off (at least that's what it did to Joey: it made him get super tense). I have a dressage whip that helps me in this department. But just a long-handled anything could work (preferably with something ticklish on the end). Again, I would start from the beginning with the softest cue: a squeeze or bump with my calves just behind the cinch. He didn't respond, so a squeeze with my calves and then a slight tickling or teeny-tiny tap with the whip. That would usually get him to wake up and pay attention. Maybe he wouldn't move off just yet; so I squeeze again, tap a little harder with the whip, and now he may be ready to jump out of the starting gate like he used to, but here is where I do something different: instead of tensing up, ready for that jump, I stretch my spine up and my heels down into my stirrups in balance and I shorten my reins gently and softly massage the reins until he slows back down. Sometimes I have to sit deep in my saddle and roll with him while I massage the reins if he decides to be hard-mouthed. Bring him back down to a halt and start again. If you work at it enough and are soft and understanding every time you do it, eventually your mare won't tense up anymore which will then let her be able to go from fight-or-flight mode to thinking mode: "Hey, I wonder what he really wants me to do?" The key is rewarding every time you feel a try. Even in backing up or stopping, a try might be just a teensy shifting of weight. But you've got to be on the lookout for even the tiniest try, and reward it. You'll gain success and progress much faster if you keep your eyes open like that. And then build on the tries. To begin with, you might reward a slight shifting of weight in the correct general direction; but after that you can wait and reward her when she takes a step in the correct general direction after shifting her weight. You see what I'm getting at? And rewards can be anything from a pat on the neck, to a generous word of praise, to the complete release of pressure, or even a cookie. Joey responds much better and tries much harder if I notice even the slightest effort and give generous praise while we're out riding, even if it's for something that he should have already known how to do.
"Another key is to give your mare a chance to respond to your cues. After you squeeze with your legs, give her a second to try and figure out what it is that you want from her. More than likely at the beginning of training, she won't think for herself, because she's expecting you to just slap her and tell her what to do. But if you consistently give her even a millisecond of chance to think for herself and respond, she'll get it that much faster."

Thanks for reading. I'd love to hear your opinion on the matter, so leave a comment below.