Stacey Westfall

Elisia sent me a link and said 'Watch this, it will give you goosebumps'. The rider was Stacey Westfall riding bareback and brideless in a national competition. I don't know much about reining, but I would say it was a pretty impressive ride and there may have been a goosebump or two.

Stacey had NO instructor other than her mother until she was an adult. Her mother kept asking her 'How can you get the horse to do that', from a young age she asked her to get inside the horse's head. If there is only one instructor that you can have they should be asking you how you CAN get the horse to do that rather than how can you MAKE a horse do that.

The video on her site is down and I she posted that she is getting a lot of traffic. Below is a video that gives a sample as to why. She still has a saddle on, but she left the bridle at home.


8 Things to Accomplish with your horse in 2008

One of my most dedicated readers (and most excellent blogger) MiKael's Mania
tagged me with a meme of 7 things you might not know about me. I have decided since I shared 5 things last year I have my own spin on it for my horse blogging friends. And the best part about it, it isn't contagious but for all of those who have been tagged and those who have not, I challenge you to think about this question-what are 8 horse related things you want to accomplish in 2008.

1. Complete Parelli level 1 & get my red savvy string. I'm not sure if this is a horse or person certification yet (I'll tell you after this weekend), but if it is per horse, I want to accomplish it with all three of mine.

2. Put Zapa solidly in gait. He is all grown up and now is the time!

3. Compete at a dressage schooling show with Lily.

4. Complete at least one judges apprenticeship for IJA

5. Host my first 'Learning Horses Day' a day filled with educational opportunities for horse owners.

6. Begin bridleless riding with Tesoro (I KNOW-HUGE!!!)

7. Take at least 3 roping lessons with Craig

8. Take at least 3 jumping lessons

And since you are so curious here are the other two things to round out my 7 things you don't know about me.

1. I have completed two triathlons and plan to do at least two more this year.
2. I have never eaten a banana. Yuck. Gross. Blech.


Canter Departure

Today is my 6th ride with Lily, I rode her twice at Simrat's and this is our 4th ride here at Synergy Stables. I would have liked to have ridden her more, but I got a little discouraged by the sliding saddle and the time it takes. I have since solved that problem, so no such worries.

Keep in mind as I write this I have spent less than 5% of my time riding on a walk/trot/canter horse and probably less than .05% of my time cantering. Paso Finos can be very funny when they canter and mine are no exception. So cantering has always been perplexing, especially when I can't get the horse to canter. Oh me, oh my.

One of the things I liked about Lily is that she cantered and there wasn't some magic button, but she is out of shape and it was by no means perfect. HOWEVER, today we worked on a square stop and taking off from the hind end. We got very nice halt to walk and halt to trot. So then I worked on walk to canter and wouldn't you know it, we got TWO great departures from the walk.

I am thrilled that not only can she do it, but I could actually get it out of her!

Parelli Bound

This weekend I am off to my 1st Parelli clinic with Ann Keiser. I am very excited but also quite nervous. First, I can't decide which horse to take. My original plan was Precious but there are two issues, first, she has been off her meds for over a month and the experiment is failing in terms of her behavior (overall health is good, so I am SO GLAD for that). She is just pissy all the time AND I think she will be in heat this weekend. I will be getting her back on her meds this week.

The next problem with Precious is actually a good problem. I was hoping Ann could help me with her over-reactions but I had a huge LIGHTBULB moment yesterday doing groundwork with her in the arena. She has gotten more and more sensitive in her riding aids which just makes her a pleasure to ride. As I ride her better we become better together. BUT she has also become more sensitive in her aids on the ground and I have not become more subtle. OH DUH!!! Maybe she over-reacts perhaps because I yell (stage 4) when all I had to do is ask. So I want to work with that for a while before I get help.

I think I want to take Tesoro. He is great on the ground but under saddle he sometimes loses his mind, so perhaps Ann can help me bring him down several notches. Most importantly, it is one place I know I will not have pressure to put him in a bridle, so he can happily exist in a rope halter.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.


Can I trust you?

I have felt a lot of emotional attachment to my animals over the years, but with my horses it has often been about getting what I wanted. Today I think Tesoro and I went to the next level of a trust and I feel my heart warming.

I have been riding Tesoro primarily bareback and with a rope halter for the last few months. We have just been relaxing and enjoying each other's company. I asked Gina Gardner to give me a lesson and to get her observation about his leg/hock and to get some strengthening exercises. She came last weekend and we also had a gaggle of people watching, which works Tesoro up a bit (it usually makes me nervous so, he feeds off of that). For my lesson I put in his bit for better engagement which also makes him nervous. It was a good ride, he worked well and settled down.

Today, he was very calm, but the old habit of not standing for mounting came out again. He wasn't erratic as in the past, but he was definitely moving around and I was going to ride bareback, so I needed him to stand still next to the mounting block.

Instead of getting mad or frustrated with him, instead I said to myself 'how can I gain his trust'. So we just went back to the 7 games, I gave him lots of affection with the friendly game and in 5 minutes he was standing still. It was our best bareback ride ever.

7 acres of snow

7 acres of snow
Originally uploaded by learninghorses
Today we had our Sneak Preview of Synergy Stables, but sadly we had snow. LOTs of snow. In the eight years I have lived in Oregon I have never had this much snow where I lived and although it surprised me, I have to say I did enjoy it just a tad (but don't tell anyone). Here is our pasture covered in snow.


How To Identify Moldy Hay

I hate moldy hay and we bought 4 tons that has lots of bad spots. Yuck, I hope we don't buy from them again! Since I will occasionally have to give Uriah feeding duty, I showed him some of the sure tell signs that hay is bad. I have to give credit to Pam the owner of R-Way Farm in Eugene for really filling out my tips.

Moldy hay is BAD for horses and can cause them to colic.

1. It poofs mold spores. Did you ever see those puffball mushrooms when you were a kid? The ones that when you break them filter what looks like dust in the air? Well, moldy hay does the same thing if you hit it, tap it, drop it. Make note of the difference between DUSTY poof and moldy poof-they look different.

2. It looks like mold. Yep, the same thing the experiment in your fridge gets, I have seen it on hay.

3. It looks yellowed. Some of the hay that has not yet molded turns a yellowish color, often with spots of black in it.

4. It feels damp. In Oregon, stuff in the winter often feels damp, especially if there is condensation in your barn. But moldy hay will have a slightly heavier feel to the dampness

5. It is heavy. Do you have a bale that weighs twice as much but is the same size? Mold is a likely culprit.

6. It clumps together. Depending on the hay equipment, I have seen some very tightly packed bales, but when hay is moldy it doesn't break apart evenly as a dry bale does. If you have tightly packed hay in a flake, lightly use your fingers to separate it, if it goes easily it is unlikely mold, if not toss it.

7. It smells like mold. Nothing like an old fashioned smell test. Stick your nose in the flake (or bale), if it smells like blue cheese or the yogurt you bought six weeks ago throw it away.

Disposing of moldy hay-I throw it in the trash or on the burn pile. If you horses will have access to the manure pile don't put it there. I like buying hay from a reputable dealer or from the field (and I have watched the weather), if someone has asked you to pick up hay in the field 2 days after rain-think again.

No matter what, a wasted $10.00 bale of hay is cheaper than a vet farm call. Toss it!
Photo Credit Victor Geere


Synergy Stables

We finally have a name! I am pleased to let everyone know that Synergy Stables is officially named! You can see our site at SynergyStablesor.com (don't forget the OR at the end, I already did once).

We are having a Sneak Preview this weekend, so I welcome you all to join us (even if only in spirit). Our tag line is 'Celebrating the Horse and Human Partnership'. I get credit for the tag line, mom gets credit for the name.

We still have work to do, but we have come so far and I know (yes, I know) that I owe lots of pictures. I will be putting them up soon, I promise.


Stand Still Silly Lily

Lily and I went for our first ride together at my place yesterday. She just took everything in stride and I am pretty pleased (after day two) of how well she is adjusting. But ride one is always tricky (I had ridden her twice before she came here) and I had a new experience.

Lily doesn't have well defined whithers which (I learned) can cause a saddle to slide. So I worked hard to get it cinched up which between stick rollers on my girth and a little puffing was quite the task.

I go to mount and she starts walking off as the saddle is sliding down her side. UGH! So more adjusting and I get the saddle straight then a few more tries and she is still walking off. After a few minutes, she gets the idea that I might be more patient that she is silly and I manage to climb up (all 14 hands worth) without my saddle falling over and the brand new horse walking out from underneath me.

After our initial troubles we had a great ride and I was really pleased with just the simple work we can do. Elisia is coming Sunday AM to give me a lesson. We had another ride today-I got smart and last night used a little WD40 to get the rollers on my cinch working properly! It was a short but great ride, I am really looking forward to getting in shape-but not to being sore the next couple of days!


Learning Horses welcomes Choctaw Lily

After months of searching I found the right horse and the right situation! So today, I am pleased to let everyone know that for a short time, Choctaw Lily, a Spanish Mustang, has joined the Learning Horses family.

I have been looking for a walk/trot horse to buy or lease. I decided to do so when it was becoming clear that Zapa was going to be very gaited (duh!). I originally thought I would buy, but as time went on it was becoming more and more clear that the horse I wanted and the horse I needed were two different things.

So after Elisia and I had been several times to look at different horses (and had planned a trip to the coast to meet a nice potential), I wrote an ad for what I really wanted. And, a day later, it came into my life. A note about the horse on the coast-I haven't had a chance to email its owner Pam, but she reads here. Pam, I'm going to keep looking to find the right PNH home for your guy-he still intrigues me!

Simrat Khalsa, of the Akal Ranch was looking to lease her 6 year old mare Lily for the short term. It was the perfect situation. Unlike many horses I saw advertised or horses I rode, Lily has lots of experience doing all the things I love and the best part about it-she isn't spooky. I wanted that, but I also wanted a horse that hadn't learned to be round because she had been tied down and an owner who had put love into the relationship rather than fear.

So I found what I needed in Lily and she won't be around for all that long (in terms of horse ownership), but she will help me learn the trot, the canter and to REALLY get some balance so I can start moving on to bigger moving horses. What I love about Lily though is I can just get on and RIDE. No starting from scratch, worry about being thrown, we can just get to work.

You will hear a lot more about Lily, even about our first ride soon, but I wanted to welcome her and make sure each of you offer her a carrot if you come by the farm.
Photo Credit: Simrat Khalsa


Zapa plays Soccer (in slow motion) (Trilogy)

I took this video of Zapa's new friend riding him while he kicks around the big green ball. Prior to this he had never played with the ball under saddle. Tomorrow I will post on How To Teach Your Horse to Play Soccer to let you know how I did it. He is going slow here (and staying calm), but over time it would be easy to pick up the pace. Isn't that CUTE???


5 Reasons to Play Soccer with your horse (Trilogy)

Horse Soccer will be my first Learning Horses 'Trilogy' which will include a 5 Reasons, How To and Video. Enjoy!

1. Soccer teaches your horse NOT to be afraid of big scary things, a skill that translates to many different useful purposes.

2. Soccer breaks up the monotony of arena work, engaging the horses brain rather than just his/her body.

3. Soccer is great for bending. There are lots of turns involved in chasing the ball around the arena. Use this as a GREAT way to ask your horse to bend his/her body without just pulling the head around. Focus on moving the shoulders and hind end while keeping the head straight.

4. Soccer is great for your balance. As you pick up the speed of chasing the ball you will have to stay balanced to keep your horse bending through the body.

5. It is FUN!!!!! Watch the video of Zapa playing-How can you argue with that????


Holy Jumping Bat Horse!

Thanks to Jax for this one (is her blog deleted?). AMAZING!


5 Reasons to Mat your stalls

My last boarding facility was the first barn I have boarded at with matted stalls. After two years of matted stalls, I have no desire to go back to dirt. Here are 5 reasons to consider mating your stalls. And yes, with 10 stalls to mat I know how expensive they can be, keep reading. . .

1. Mats prevent urine from passing through to the base floor of your barn. Urine is what causes the smell and the better the barrier, the less permanent smell your barn will have. It isn't quite as simple as that, but it is a good start.

2. Matted stalls give you more bedding choices. Whether you use a lot or a little, it is easier to manage with mats.

3. Mats can save you money on bedding. I have found with mats I can use a LOT less bedding, almost 1/2 of what I was using previously. Conservatively if used 6 bagged of pelleted bedding each month at $5.00 a bag and I was able to use 3 with mats I would save $15 per month. In a year I would save $180 which would cover the cost of mats.

4. Mats save you time. Mats save a lot of time in stall cleaning, especially if you go with the low bedding option. At my previous barn I could clean 4 stalls with runs in 30 minutes. It now takes me 30 minutes to do 3 stalls with no mats and no runs. If I save myself 10 minutes a day, even only an hour a week that is 52 hours a year. Based on even the lowest paying job (or paying someone to clean your stalls, $520 pays for a lot of mats!

5. Mats help keep your stalls level and safer for your horses. If properly installed (gravel first, crushed rock next (easier to level, not quite as shifty as sand) mats will keep your stalls from getting holes dug from urine spots, pawing, etc.



Georgian Grande

I have been LAX at reading my favorite horse blogs, but decided to catch up on my lunch hour today. In visiting Halt Near X, I read her post on the Georgian Grande. Halt Near X isn't a fan, but one person's pain is another person's pleasure.

I visited the registry and a farm website, these are some very pretty horses, a combination of a saddlebred and a draft. I must say, I like, I like!

Maddy's Video!

I love reading Pony Tail Club, she always has a way of making me smile. If you haven't already checked our her end of year video, please watch it, it definately made me smile. I love being asked to Dream Big.