Harold the Horse

A little dressage freestyle humor to start your day!


Hack out? A Ring? Short Stirrup?

One of my favorite horse stories ever is also a story one of my favorite stories about language.  I have loved foregin languages since I was a kid and at some point in my life I spoke both German and Dutch fluently.  I can also say some random (but not profane) words in Japanese, Finnish, Gujarati, French, Spanish, Norwegian and Russian.  Some people collect coins or stamps or baseball cards, I used to collect words in foregin languages.

Juliana is a friend of mine who I introduced to horses and was Precious long time leaser and companion.  Over the years Juliana has grown to be part of our horse family and she would participate with us at the Oregon State Fair.  Precious was retired from showing, but she would ride my mom's horses and one year she decided she wanted to show in Paso Fino Western Pleasure.

A little secret about Juliana:  English isn't her native language.  It is really impossible to tell, but occasionally you hear the slightest accent and a on occasion a word doesn't quite get used correctly.  But when English isn't your native language and you decide to get into horses, you have to learn an entirely NEW language.  Walk, trot, canter, saddle, stirrup, cinch, browband, bridle, bit, breeches are not every day english language words. 

So when Juliana was riding in her Western Pleasure class the annoucer asked her to 'lope' her horse.  I saw the panic from across the ring and I ran to the edge and yelled 'CANTER!'.  She asked Lucero to canter and off they went (the judge told the story later that it was more like a hand gallop, but I digress. . .).  We ride Paso Finos and canter isn't a gait we usually ride and lope is definately a word we never use.  And although they are different in speed and extension, they are really just the same footfall.

Now that I live in New Jersey (oh, have I mentioned that?), I am learning language differences here with horses.  Back in Oregon we ride in Arenas, here there is a lot of riding in Rings. There is a much stronger English riding influence and a lot of discussion about 'short stirrup' in regards to Hunter/Jumper.  And Hack out, I guess that's just a relaxing ride.

East coast or west coast, new or old, there is always something to learn about horses. And I really miss Juliana.


Horses for Heros, Dreams for Friends

Several years ago I met an amazing horse woman named Elisia.  We boarded at the same facility, she had (still has) a 17.3 hand carrot colored horse named Soda.  Soda can do amazing things with his lips and is a beautiful moving dressage horse.

Elisia and I both moved away from Eugene, but stayed in touch. We see each other at least once or twice a year, a special effort on both of our parts and we can talk life and horses until we are blue in the face.

A couple of years ago, Elisia lost her job and and decided to finish her college degree.  It is a brave move for someone close to 30, and I was so proud of her.  During her time in school she started volunteering and became involved with Rainier Therapeutic Riding. They are an organization that basically uses horses to help our heros. 

They use Clint Anderson Horsemanship, you can view a video of when Clint visted them here. They have great information on their website on how they started their program and instructional materials for folks interested starting similiar programs soon.  All of the instructors are PATH certified and they lease the horses for the program rather than owning them outright. 

So why am I talking about RTR? Well, Elisia is another of my friends who pursued her dreams. This summer she graduated from college and became the executive director.  She has partnered her business sense, her horsemanship skills to live her dream. 

When someone tells you it isn't possible, ignore them and remember this gem: You must make a Choice to take a Chance or your life will never change.


Traveling with Horses

I have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to 'live the dream' (and make a good living).  I've read books, asked for advice, pondered and pondered and pondered.

The common theme in every piece of advice I have had is 'pursue your passion'.  I've got a few friends who have made the plunge and are doing quite well; a friend who started a DJ business, another who started her own consulting business. 

So my mom has taken the plunge and started her own Bed, Breakfast and Barn. She loves being on the farm and feels like she is living her dream.  She enjoys hosting, horses, people and guess what?  She is starting to get guests with horses!  How exciting. You can see her info at Territorialbbb.com

She is also very close to wine country, so you can enjoy Horses and Wine and MORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you don't have a horse, come stay anyway, she also offers farm stays that allow folks to really get a taste of life in the country.

She has two guest rooms, two RV hookup sites (water/electric), stalls. 

She is about 15 minutes from the Oregon Horse Center, 30 minutes from University of Oregon, 45 minutes from Oregon State University.

Come and Stay!


Horse Shape

I have been away from horses for a while and I have been away from young horses that need foundation work for a VERY long time. Add to that my sedentary job and I really am out of 'horse shape'.

Horse shape isn't being able to run for 30 or 45 minutes or swim 1500 yards, but instead it about stamina, strength and variety of movement. You have to be prepared for a reserve of energy when anything goes wrong (like today).

Today, here is what I did:

1. Walked to the end of Legado's paddock through 4-5 inch clay/mud to catch Legado (oh yeah-he isn't coming to me yet).

2. Walked back and forth several times in the arena to catch Legado who was being free lunched (did I mention he isn't coming to me yet?).

3. Spent 45 minutes walking through mud, holding rope, carrot stick teaching Legado to send, give to pressure and more importantly, walk into his paddock calmly. The mud is so deep and slick.

I used just about every part of my body. I'm so tired. Good thing I don't have to go to work tomorrow.


Is it time for a new horse?

I've been pretty dispassionate about horses the last 3 years. I'll find moments of inspiration but it is easily lost. Is it the wrong horse, the wrong time, the wrong horse community? Or just a general complication of life in general?

When Carmen Micheletti and her trainer Bruce Beyer came to Synergy Stables for a clinic, I realized (even though I didn't have a horse in the clinic), I belonged on a Paso Fino.

So as much as I love the beautiful Phaedre, I don't belong on a walk/trot horse. I learned to ride on a Paso Fino, my heart, my mind and my body all want to hear the four beat gait. Phaedre is doing well and earning her keep as a lease horse, so she will remain in my horse family.

So, now I know that if I am really going to be passionate again, I need a Paso Fino, well certainly narrows things down. I also realized that I loved to show, so I need a show horse.

Last weekend I went to Paso Largo farm and rode 6 different horses, all fun in their own way. I was looking for a pleasure mare and I really loved a mare named Charisma. I also really enjoyed a national chamption Performance Stallion, but of course, he wasn't for sale.

But a black performance gelding caught my eye. He is a big mover, sensitive, and the one that really stuck with me. He would be fun in the show ring and he and I could figure out our business on the trail. I'm trying to make it happen.

My friend Julie of Equine Mine, started her blog years ago in search of her dream horse, I'm just looking for an inspirational one. Wish me luck.


Precious: A tribute. June 1997 to August 2011

I thought it would be a long time before I had to write something like this. But as I hang out with her this morning, for what will be her last time in the pasture, I know I am doing the right thing. After several minutes she has finally decided to eat, but moving from place to place is causing her such great pain, that she moves slowly and deliberately. They are not the movements of a healthy pray animal, who could flee from a predator at any moment; they are movements of the wounded one, the first to be taken down.

It was almost exactly 10 years ago that my mom dragged me to the Oregon State Fair to see the Paso Finos. It was there I met Bruce and Betty Reed who are the reason I have horses today. Life changing words: “Come out and ride, we love to share our horses”. Not much time later, Precious became my steady mount.

10 years later, here I am, sitting in the pasture at Heavenly Ranch, listening to the birds and the occasionally sound of grass being eaten, waiting for the vet. She looks beautiful this morning, as always the sun darkens her liver chestnut color in the summer and it is especially beautiful this year. She is graying around her muzzle and the white spot she developed on her withers this year stands out. Juliana as brushed her main and tail, her tail reaches the ground and drags through the grass. I hate looking at her cresty neck, a constant reminder of the disease killing her; she is mane side to me now, so I can’t see it.

I was probably crazy to buy a 4 year old horse with hardly any riding experience under my belt, but as I reflect back on our time together, I can’t imagine another horse who could have challenged me in just the right way throughout our time together. Even today, pushing me to make the right decision, no matter how much heartbreak I feel.

She has been my teacher. She has taught me patience, leadership, compromise and made me a great horse woman. That is a lot for one horse to accomplish, which is why I pay tribute to her today.

A few years back I participated in a trail obstacle race with Precious. I rode in a rope halter and a dressage saddle and we pulled a log, took jumps, bridges, a teeter totter, opened gates and about 20 other things I can’t remember. She didn’t do everything, but she did most things and she did them for me. I came in last, but I was so proud of our accomplishment, I felt like the winner.

Precious is known for her bad attitude, but people who really get to know her understand that beneath her protective exterior, is a horse who will try her heart out and challenge you to be your best. She has taken many children for their first ride, she has offered up her services to a lot of kids and teenagers, some who appreciated her and some who didn’t. About 5 years ago, she met Juliana and they fell in love. Juliana spent last night in her stall and will share tears with me today, she is a good friend who loves this horse probably as much as I do.

For all that Precious could do, she hated the show ring, it was one place we really didn’t get along. She was terrified of clapping, a problem we never solved and she would get so stressed out by the entire experience, that I finally quit. She was a much happier horse after that.
Precious helped me learn natural horsemanship, our first teacher was Steve Rother. Years later I discovered Parelli and had many lessons from Ann Kaiser who helped me pass level 1 and earn my red savvy string that I am so proud of.

Gina Gardner introduced Precious and I to dressage and helped me understand what it can do for a gaited horse. My riding and my training will never be the same and she helped me turn Precious into a beautiful picture, I am sad we were not able to share that with the world in the show ring. Precious is one of the Paso Finos featured in her video on gaits.
Julie Fisher is the reason I am in love with trail obstacles and while I don’t think I ever had a lesson with her on Precious, she is the reason I had so much fun in the last years we rode together.

Bruce and Betty Reed, Marianne Deering, Patricia Brady-McKinney and my other Paso Fino friends got me out on the trails and watched me learn and struggle and figure it all out, I hope they are proud of how far Precious and I came together.

My mom intervened in that first year when I pretty much untrained her and was scared to even take her out of her stall. It was because of her I figured out I needed help owning a horse, not a Paso Fino that led me down the path to learning. I know my mom has had moments since then that have topped this, but I think for many years one of her highlights was winning Pleasure Amateur Owner Mares at the Oregon State Fair on Precious, then earning the Reserve Championship. The competition is much fiercer these days, but it doesn’t matter, it was a very proud moment for me as well.

Luis was a Columbian trainer I sent her to after she was diagnosed. I hope I can see him again to tell him she is gone. He and his son Sebastian really liked her and years later would always ask me about her and say in that special way. You could tell how much they really liked her.
That was the thing about Precious. She loved anyone who really bossed her around. Men did that, I did that, so she adored Bruce Reed, Luis and I. She absolutely loves Juliana, but I think the under saddle relationship isn’t quite the same, but of course, she doesn’t fawn over me the way she does Juliana. Our relationships are different.

At 14 hands and 900 lbs, she was a force to be reckoned with and was in control of any pasture situation she was put into. I avoided it most of her life, because if a bigger horse decided to challenge her, I would have had a pretty bad vet bill on my hands. Luckily, when she lived on the farm no one did challenge her and that tiny horse controlled the entire herd of 8 horses. No one went into the barn until Precious did. There was rarely any challenging her, her face showed it all. If I was a horse, I’d stay away too.

Although I came off of her 3 times, only once did she buck me off. Boy did I deserve it too. I had put an old western saddle on her; the skirt was so soft when I cinched the saddle it was folded up underneath itself. I didn’t know it, but I was pinching the crap out of her. Based on the imprint in her body after we took off the saddle, it must have hurt like hell. She launched me out of the saddle and onto my hip and wrist. I was so traumatized. Gina Odermott saw the whole thing. She said she looked like a bronc at the rodeo. I had already known that Precious was a leaper, but it wasn’t until someone took some pictures that I realized how high she would leap into the air. I felt it first hand that day.

I made so many mistakes with her and she still lets me catch her. This morning while I sit here in this small pasture, she has made one loop around the edge; I think the footing is better. When she passed by me, she sniffed me all over and reminded me that my sweatshirt doesn’t smell good. I appreciated the reminder, a very Precious thing to do.

Precious wasn’t ever really ‘diagnosed’ with Cushing’s disease. We eliminated everything else. For months I was at the barn 2x a day, soaking her feet, cleaning her stall and trying to keep her comfortable. I spent thousands on the vet and when Gina suggested it might be Cushing’s the vet agreed it was possible. The tests then weren’t great and ultimately the best test was medication. So we gave her the medication (oh how she hated it-my mom calls her a drug sniffing horse). 4 weeks went by. Nothing. 6 weeks. Nothing. 8 weeks. Nothing. 10 weeks, I had my old horse back. It was Cushing’s, without a doubt.

After almost 6 months of illness, she was back to her old self in almost no time flat. The next 5 years she was completely healthy. She started having problems each spring and fall about 2 years ago. This time she has had problems since February and they aren’t getting any better. She is miserable and in pain and her quality of life isn’t good. So today, I am doing the right thing; making a responsible end of life decision for someone I love very much. It is sad, but when I look back, I know I will not have any regrets.

Today, my mom, Juliana and my friend Christine will share this experience with me. We will cry a lot, but I will tell some of my favorite (and often funny and self deprecating) stories about Precious. We will laugh too and tonight I will probably drink too much wine. I will go to work tomorrow, but probably not at the top of my game.

In this journey there are three people I am forever indebted to. The first two are, Bruce and Betty Reed who invited me into their lives with open arms and who gave me a break when they sold me this horse. They shared their trails, their time and their hearts with me. I love them like family.

The second is Gina Odermott. Gina owns heavenly ranch and has been on this journey with me since the beginning. Even though I left for 5 years to live in Eugene, when I came back, it was just like old times (but with a new amazing barn and arena). Gina has given me advice, called the vet, dealt with broken fences, special accommodations, medication and an often absent owner. She even made the arrangements for me to take care of Precious’ body, which I couldn’t have dealt with. Gina had to say goodbye to her Cushing’s horse earlier this summer, it has been a rough year for this disease. Gina might be the barn owner, but her friendship is what has made it possible to get through this.

The vet will be here in 30 minutes and I think it will be difficult to get Precious to her final resting place. She didn’t want to make the short trip into the pasture. But she is enjoying the sun and the grass and totally annoyed by the flies. Everyone is arriving, the horses are being fed, it is almost time.

Tonight I will raise my glass and say a toast. I hope you will all join me virtually from wherever you are. “To Precious: May your spirit live on as the herd boss of the great big pasture in the sky”.