It’s Me, Keno


Hello.  My name is Keno.  I understand that my human is rather fond of telling stories about me and I figured it was about time that I tell a story of my own.  

First, let me tell you a little about my human.  She used to get frustrated with me very easily which I found quite comical.  She would get red in the face and start yelling funny words like, “Keno woah!”  “Goddammit Keno!” “Listen here you sonofabitch!” Honestly, her funny tantrums didn’t much faze me.  She would get all red and shaky and I would just keep doing what I was doing because it was really kind of fun to mess with her.  I mean really, I am bigger than her I don’t need to listen if I don’t want to.  

She got tired of me not listening to her and sent me to an even smaller human for something called “training”.  I thought I was training her, but apparently she felt like I needed training too!  It was the funniest thing, this trainer she sent me to was a short female human!  I mean really?  What was this little human going to do to me?  It is more than a little embarrasing so I won’t go into details, but let’s just say that I no longer find it funny to make my human turn red and shake while screaming obscenities at me.    I would never let the small human trainer lady know this, but thanks to her I actually kind of like my screamy human!

During the warm months my human has taken me to all kinds of scary and interesting places.  We would stand around inside large buildings while other humans with clip boards walk around with strange expressions on their faces.  They were kind of scary at first, but they haven’t tried to bite me not one time.  Still, I keep an eye on them because they seem kind of shifty!  Sometimes they call my real name, Im Embezzlin McMoney, and my human would get real excited!  I am not sure what those brightly colored things are that they give her when they call my name, but she gets so excited that her face gets red for a whole different reason!  She gives me pats and tells me that I am a good boy.  I am not sure why she does this.  Is she even paying attention?  Of course I am a good boy!  

There is so much to see and do at these far off places that I can’t help but say hi to everyone and look at everything around me!  I am a social creature after all, it would be rude not to say hi!

Now that the nights are colder, I have heard my human talking to the little trainer lady about bringing me home for the winter.  She has been talking incessently about having some adventures, just her and me.

Let me tell you, I am not sure how I feel about this!  This is the same woman who tells me that I am a good boy for just standing around!  I want real adventure!  I don’t want, stand there till they call my name adventure!  I want to look death in the face and live to tell the tale!  What does my human know of adventure?

One morning a few days ago she showed up with the big moving box of terror.  When she grabbed my halter I was filled with a mix of excitement and fear.  I want adventure, I am just not sure why it has to include me standing in a box that shakes and rattles while the world whizzes by the window!  I want to stare death in the face, but also want to be able to run away from it if I need to!

Into the box I went and spent the next what seemed like eternity letting my humans know that I was not pleased with my current situation by hitting the wall with my front feet!  It doesn’t feel real good, but sometimes a point needs to be made even when it comes with a personal sacrifice.

After what seemed like forever the box of death stopped shaking and I could hear other horses talking nervously.  Oh no!  I was certain that I was at another one of those things where I am expected to stand nicely in hopes that my human get a brightly colored fabric pieces.  This was not going to be the adventure I was promised!

Let me tell you, I was wrong!  The whole thing was outside!  There were these crazy wood things that horses were running toward and actually jumping over…like on purpose without their humans turning red and screaming!  It was hard for me to know where to look because there was so much going on!  Now, this was the adventure I had been hoping for!

My human saddled me and asked me to run in circles.  I kept looking at her with my best, “are we done yet” look.  There was so much excitement outside of that circle and she kept asking me to move forward in that stupid circle!  For Pete’s sake, couldn’t she see how excited I was to be there?  But no, true to her form, my human didn’t want to have any fun at all!  So, I submitted to the boredom that is running around and around.

The real fun began after we were done in the circle.  We got to go to a place called a “warm up”.  It was a fantastic place full of excited horses.  They were running in all directions.  It was so hard to know who was having the most fun.  I am a party animal so I kept trying to hang out with the horse who seemed to be having the most fun.  Then I would feel a tug on my mouth and a jab in my side, “we aren’t going over there Keno” she would say.  Seriously, I am a social creature and here I was in a wonderful warmup with horses like me looking to have some fun and all she did was take my fun away! 

I don’t know why she kept apologizing to the other humans, it isn’t my fault that walking a straight line is super boring.  I like to mix it up and get away from the fence…is it my fault that I prefer to do that when other horses are coming my way?  Really, their humans should apologize to my human for asking their horses to go where I wanted to be in the first place.
I didn’t know that this warm up was not the grand adventure that my chatty human kept going and on about.  This was unlike anything I have ever seen!  Apparently, we were there for a thing called a Hunter Jumper Schooling Show!  What ever this was, I was having a blast.  As I would soon find out, this was not the show, this was the place where the horses took their riders while they were waiting for the show.  

After what seemed like an eternity we were off to another brand new and exciting place.  The humans at the gate were talking to my human and telling her that her class was entering.  I am not sure what that meant, but that crazy chatterbox actually asked me to go through that gate where the other talky humans were standing!

I would like to take a minute and explain just what my human asked of me that day.  You see where I was standing the ground was moist and dark in color.  It was clear that I was on very stable and safe footing for a horse of my size.  There was a small down hill path that lead to the thing my human called an arena.  The path down looked exactly the same as where I had been standing.  There were a lot of humans and a table with flappy things, brightly colored pieces of cloth….it hit me!  I am expected to behave myself so that they call my name and my human gets one of those fabric things!  Right as that realization hit me I looked down!  The ground inside the arena was an entirely different color!  I knew in an instant that this was bad!  Did my human even understand the peril she had put us in?  I tried to snort at the different colored dirt, but it didn’t go away.  My human kept jabbing my sides and I just could not come to grips with the fact that this idiot sitting stupidly on my back was completely oblivious to the fact that if I so much as put a single foot on that strangely colored dirt then we could both die a horrible death.  My stupid human would not be deterred so I gave my best, “don’t mess with me” snort to the death dirt making it to scared to carry out its diabolical plot to kill both me and my ignorant rider.  She has no idea how close we were to death!  

I had hoped that the oddly colored dirt would be the last of the horse eating obsticals for the day, but sadly it wasn’t meant to be.  As we trotted into the arena it was clear to me that my stupid human was too busy grinning like an idiot to notice the monsters just scattered all over the arena.  I did my best to communicate the imminent danger by hopping sideways, looking directly toward the danger and giving a good hard blow through my nose!  Chatty Patti on my back was rambling on about “jumps” and “nothing to worry about”.  I promise you that she didn’t even see the monsters!  I am not sure how much more obvious I could have been about the clear and present danger we were in, but she was too busy pulling on my face and flopping around like a giant fish.  Seriously!  This dense woman will be the death of us both!

My snorting and puffing up held the monsters at bay one more time.  The next thing I knew we were lined up and they called a bunch of numbers.  There was something about a second place and my human got all excited and patted me and said I was a good boy.  Of course I am a good boy, psycho, you didn’t die did you?


I was somewhat relieved to be leaving the arena of death until I got back to the spot where the ground changes.  I survived the first passage, surely I wouldn’t survive it twice!  That old familiar poking in my side and this time my human had the nerve to laugh at me and call me a dork!  Does she not know that this is a real danger?  The other humans were laughing too.  I just could not believe how dumb humans are…do they not pay attention to the dangers around them?  Either way, I prevented certain death once again.

I wasn’t sure why the chatty thing on my back didn’t get off.  Soon that question would answer itself.  You see, I had two more classes where I had to protect this thing on my back. 

I could hardly stand still waiting our next turn.  Pretty soon they called my human and once again we had to traverse the arena entrance from hell.  Somehow I need to find a way to convince my human that I am very intuitive when it comes to danger.  If only I had known that the  strange horse eating dirt wouldn’t be the scariest thing I would see all day.  Those things that had been scattered all of the arena?  They are called jumps and apparently I was expected to go over them in a particular order.  I was overwhelmed to the point that I did not trust that my human was even capable of protecting us at this point.  

While the jumps never actually attacked, they looked as though they were going to any second!  I had to keep a very close eye on them, just in case.  I still don’t know why my human felt the need to say things like, “overly dramatic” and “pay attention to where you are going”. It is as though she is the one not paying attention!  I know exactly where I am going, I really wish she would just sit there and enjoy the ride.


We had to go into that arena once more and go over those jumps.  I think she really messed up because she didn’t want me to go over them in the same order as we did the first time!  I feel bad that she isn’t smart, but I have given up trying to tell her where to go…she isn’t wise enough to listen to me anyway.  

Aside from taming the wild beasts inside the arena that day I learned a new skill!  Those jumps are pretty doscile considering how formidable they appear.  Apparently going over them is an activity that some horses really enjoy.  I love adventure and new things, and I was determined to find a better way of getting over these small fences. I discovered the best way to tame the jump monster is just to step on it with as many hooves as possible!  Those suckers can’t even try to attack while they are under my feet!  

It is painfully obvious that jumping horses are not nearly as smart as I am.  They just go clean over those jumps without so much as a tap!  Poor souls, they really don’t know how silly they look jumping over those things.  

Anyway, my human got a couple more of those brightly colored ribbon things, I am sure that we were the best team since I did such a good job of telling her where to go and stepping on the jumps!  

What a grand adventure!  I think my human had a lot of fun.  One day she might just relax and let me take the reins.  Well, a horse can dream can’t he? Hashtag horse goals.

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Stubbornness, Thy Name is Patti


It has been a little while since I have felt compelled write.  A lot of things ramble on in this brain of mine and often they don’t stay long enough to write more than a couple sentences. 

This morning as we near the end of our first show season together I have been thinking a lot about Keno.    I would guess that 99% of the advice I have received this summer has been people who are concerned that he is not the right horse for me or that he isn’t the horse that will help me achieve my goals.  I get it, I am very open about our struggles.  We do have our lions share of struggles, but that just makes our victories so much more sweet.

Earlier this year my trainer had a discussion with her mentor trainer and he assked, “who is more stubborn, your client or her horse?” She didn’t even hesitate, “My cleint, by a mile.”  Now of course I am paraphrasing because I only heard of the conversation second hand, but the fact is that I am the stubborn one.

Many years ago I got married.  I married a man who my friends and family didn’t much care for.  On the day of my wedding I had more than one person try and talk me out of walking down the isle.  It didn’t occur to me for a second that I was making the wrong decision, and 15 years later we are still plugging along.  Perhaps we have made it because we are both to stubborn to give up when the going gets tough, and we have had our share of tough times for sure!

I veiw my relationship with Keno in much the same way I do my marriage.  I married a man with a hair trigger temper who often made the impression of a chained pit bull, angry at the world but no way to deal with it.  I knew his temper was nothing more than that of a barking dog, and I was right.  He wasn’t the tyrant that most felt he was.  Over the years people in my life have come to realized that he wasn’t exactly the person they thought he was.  I always knew who he was and that is why I married him.  

Keno is much like my husband.  Resistant to change, prone to temper tantrums, obstinate and a little scary to those who don’t know him well.  He is a challenge to say the least, but I have never been one to back down from a challenge so it makes perfect sense why I am drawn to Keno like a moth to a flame.

To those who are supporting me in this adventure it must be a lot like my friends and family on my wedding day….please don’t, please find someone more suited for you, just find a nice boy.  My favorite recently has been, “find one who can help you achieve your goals”.  This is the one that has me thinking.  I don’t really have any concrete goals.  Do others know something about me and my goals that I am not aware of?  Truth is that I have been so stubborn with the idea that Keno and I are going to work that I have put any goals I may have once had aside.

As I sit here putting my rambling thoughts in some kind of order I am stuck at the thought that I don’t have any real goals with Keno.  I once did, we were going straight to the worlds this year in western pleasure, it would be a meteoric rise unlike anything anyone had ever seen.  We would be the best and people would worry when our trailer pulled into the show!  Now can you see why I shouldn’t set goals?  I don’t set little goals.  I never have.  I have always been the one to shoot for the stars.  

The problem is that Keno isn’t like me in that respect.  He got the memo, “you are going to be a world champion in western pleasure” and he immediately put that memo in the shredder!  It is important to me that he not only does well, but that he enjoys this adventure that I take him on.  He doesn’t enjoy western pleasure, he hates it.  

So, I guess based on my pie in the sky unrealistic goal, yes Keno is not the horse who will take me there.  But, much like marrying my husband, it was never just about me.  I bought Keno because there was something inside me drawn to him.  Just like my husband, it wasn’t love at first sight, it was an unexplainable connection that I simply couldn’t walk away from.  And like my marriage it certainly hasn’t been smooth sailing and I am simply too stubborn to give up!

I guess this then begs the question of why.  Well, the easy answer is that I don’t give up.  Keno is not now nor has he ever been violent or mean, so aside from my being an all-over-again novice he isn’t a danger to me.  So, if his worst offense is that he isn’t a western horse and he likes to challenge me then why the heck would I walk away from him now?  So, we do stuff other than ride the rail with his nose in the dirt.  I could have married a nice boring boy who has no fire in his belly, but I likely would have been bored by our first anniversary.  Truth is I love fire in the belly, I have a bit of my own and I know that when two beings with their souls on fire come together it is magic.  

To make a long story a bit longer…I understand the concern that comes from friends that Keno might not be the right horse for me.  So, after a long morning pondering this exact question, I have had an epiphany of sorts.  While he certainly isn’t the perfect horse for a beginner, he is the perfect horse for me.  He lights the fire deep inside me.  That fire burns so hot it is scary at times.  He challenges me to do things that are so far outside of my comfort zone and yet he fully supports me while I am dangling over the cliff.  He will never let me phone it in or get complaisant.  Like me, he is easily bored.  He knows that I will lose my spark quickly doing nothing but riding the rail with his nose on his knees.  He knows that my comfort zone is nothing but an excuse, a safe and predictable place where risk doesn’t exist and ultimately a place where souls like mine go to die. 

 Is Keno the horse that will help be achieve my goals?  Yes.  He absolutely is.  As long as I pick goals that are true to my authentic crazy self.  Goals like competing in a hunter/jumper show this weekend.  Goals like saying yes when friends invite me on a trail ride.  Going to fun shows for the sake of having fun.  Playing with cows and trail obsticals and anything else that pops up along the way.  You see, I think I got so wrapped up in the idea of showing at the breed level that I lost some of what makes me, me.  And with that Keno had to lose some of what made him, him.  

At the end of this month, for the first time in the 2+ years I have owned him Keno will come home and we will be on our own.  My promise to him was that we would spend the next few months playing.  That no two days or adventures will be the same.  We may go to a jumping show this weekend, an open show next, a fun show after that, a trail ride or two, maybe a ranch sorting as well.  Keno and I will find a way to fan each other’s flame and we will show the world that he is the right horse for me.  

My Heart


As we pulled the small hill leading up to our homestead from the main road I saw him there.  He is a spectacular piece of artwork that has always taken my breath away.  At over 16 hands he is magnificent with his red neck and legs, the white of his rump shines as bright as the sun.  His long legs and neck seem to push him above the landscape and today he caught my eye in a way he hasn’t before. 

He was standing at the back gate.  A relaxed stance with his face off toward the back pasture that he is forbidden from entering.  At first I assumed that he was just longingly wishing that someone would open the gate and let him partake in the smorgasbord of field grass and noxious weeds.  As we drew nearer to the paddock I began to feel a strong sense of uneasiness overtake me.

You see, I have had this strange connection to Cash since the first moment I laid eyes on him and I can feel it in my heart that he is just as connected to me as I am to him.  I know what this feeling is and I know it isn’t good.  A little over a year ago he took a jaunt into that back pasture and got tangled in barbed wire.  It caused life threatening wire cuts and it was the first time since I had owned him that I could feel his pain.  

The last year has not been easy on either of us.  Each infection started with a feeling, a feeling that something wasn’t quite right.  Each time the vet confirmed that the infection had come back and that with it was less of a chance that he would survive his injuries.  In the beginning I was willing to do absolutely anything to save my boy.  Ultimately, it was not in my hands and only time would tell if he was to make it.
Today, that same feeling came over me and my heart just sunk.  It has been a year, there is nothing anyone can do and I know he isn’t right.  I said his name a couple times and he just kept looking off into the back field.  As I approached him he turned his head for a second to say hi and then back to his original position.

I could feel a lump in my throat as I continued toward him while still saying his name.  When I got about 20 feet away he lowered his head and struggled to turn toward me.  The well broke…the tears wouldn’t stop.  As he struggled to walk toward me all I could do was cry.  Until recently he was doing so well, hardly a limp and now he is struggling to walk.

“You have to tell me when you’ve had enough” I struggled through my tears.  “I can’t bear to say goodbye, but I don’t want you in pain”. The tears wouldn’t stop, the pain in my souls was just unspeakable.  He walked up, put his nose in my face and just breathed.  It was not the kind of “I’m ok, just having a bad day” kind of breath.  It was a “I don’t know how much more fight I have” kind of breath.

I grabbed his front leg and burried my wet face in his shoulder and sobbed.  Mocha, his pasture mate was in the other paddock and she quietly nickered in our direction.  She did not come through the gate, she kept her distance so that we could have a moment.

As I stood there face burried in his shoulder, tears rolling down my cheeks he reached his big head around and nuzzled my leg.  It felt as though he was asking me to fix something I can’t fix.  The only way I can take his pain away is to end his life.

What a horrible place to be.  I just want him to be happy and comfortable and I am completely unable to do anything for him.  How do I decide that he has had enough? Will there always be a nagging feeling that I did it too soon?  How come a year later we are having a potentially life ending back slide?

My heart is torn in a million pieces.  He isn’t just a horse, he is my heart.  I have loved every horse I have ever been blessed to have in my life, but Cash is special.  How do you even reconcile what is best for him with knowing that once he is gone he will take a piece of your heart with him?

I still have no idea what the future holds for Cash.  I do not know if I will be strong enough to make that decision.  Just the thought tears me into a million tiny pieces.  

I pray for both Cash and me.  I pray that he live to a ripe old age sound and happy, and if God doesn’t see fit to grant me that prayer…then I pray that he will give me the strength to do what is best for my big wonky boy and that he is the first to greet me when I get through the pearly gates. 

Baby Steps: Big Milestones

It is a lazy Sunday here on the homestead.  My hubby is making breakfast, and I am taking a moment to reflect on this crazy journey of mine.  


In order to properly share where I am and how far I have come, I need to share where I have been.  I was born on a small Wyoming ranch outside Cody. Well, not actually born “on”.  More like born in the hospital and brought home to the ranch.  We were a small town but babies were still mostly born in hospitals, but I digress.  My mom was the one who sparked my love of horses.  My dad, much like my husband thought them a completely unnecessary expedature.


Me 3 years old and my first horse, an Appaloosa named Apple.

I was in 3rd grade.  I had two friends spending the weekend with me.  We bounded off the buss and straight for the horses.  We were going to spend the weekend riding and playing.  I had a darling, but slightly bitchy yellow mare by the name of Sugar Plum Fairy.  Old Sugar Plum was going to have a weekend full of elementary school girls crawling all over her, laughing and making memories.

Those plans were dashed by a yearling Arabian colt by the name of Smokey.  When I approached the horses to catch Sugar Plum, something spooked them from behind and they ran toward me.  I tried to get out of the way, but ended up right in Smokey’s path.  The next thing I knew I was staring up at the tree tops and was confused as to what had just happened.  

I pulled myself together and stumbled to my feet.  The horses were at the other end of the run looking at me.  I was so mad that Smokey had knocked me down that I made a b-line right to him. It was in that moment that I realized my leg felt real funny.  I looked down to see a perfect fillet of flesh right along my groin!  Not only had he knocked me down, he had run me over and I was badly hurt.  

It was a frantic drive to town.  The ER was ready for me as was the surgeon who was supposed to stitch me back up.  I laid there trying to make sense of everything.  I was hurt really bad, but it didn’t hurt.  It really didn’t make a whole lot of sense.  I heard the doctor say, “She is real lucky!  See that, that is her femoral artery.  Thank goodness he didn’t nick that or she’d be gone.”  At 10 years old the only thing I really understood was “she’d be gone”.  How could I have been so close to death and not have any real pain?  My leg felt funny, but certainly not the pain one would expect from being filleted right down to the artery.  

They worked diligently to prepare me for surgery.  They wanted to cut off my cowboy boots but I begged them to please try and take them off.  They were successful.  My jeans were a total loss as were my Friday panties.  I had received a set of days of the week undies for Christmas and Friday was my favorite pair.  Side note: Mom promised to get me another set of days of the week panties and I never got them.  

I was stitched up and got to spent a while in the hospital before they sent me home.  Smokey had severed the nerves in my leg.  Half my upper leg was numb, and would be for years.  I walked away from the hospital with a perfect horseshoe shaped scar tucked neatly along my right groin.  It was a sort of badge, a horseshoe shaped reminder of how close I had come to death at the hands (or hooves as it where) of a horse.

I was released from the hospital with no idea that while I had been in there my dad took it upon himself to get rid of Sugar Plum.  At the time I had decided that I was done with horses so I don’t much remember being upset that I didn’t get to say goodbye or find out where she’d gone.  

I knew in my heart that horses were no longer something that I needed in my life.  My mom could see that fear had taken the place of love and wasn’t about to let fear win.  It didn’t matter if I was done with them or not, but I certainly wasn’t going to be afraid.  She loaded me in the car at the hospital and drove me right to the corral.  

I remember driving down the hill toward corral where the horses where.  My heart was pounding, I was shaking and the tears were flowing. I had loved horses so much and the silly act of a stupid young colt had ruined that for me.  My horse was gone and so was my desire to be a horsewoman.  

She didn’t give the the choice.  I had to get out of the car and say hi.  Smokey was the first to greet me. I stood there shaking and crying.  Uncertain if I could survive another “attack”.  As if he could tell that what I needed most was kindness, he touched me gently with his nose. He was still a young, stupid colt, but in that moment he grew up.  Even if only for a moment long enough to apologize for destroying something most dear to me, my love of horses.

My mom explained that Smokey never meant to hurt me.  I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and it would be a shame to stop loving horses just because of one stupid accident.  It wasn’t magical, but it was the beginning of me realizing that horses are worth the risk.  

I never did find out what came of Sugar Plum.  I suspect that she ended up at auction in Billings.  That is where the useless horses were sent.  I never got to say goodbye.  I also never forgot her.


Try as I may, the events of that day still stick with me.  Thanks to my mom I was able to find that great love again.  I was lucky enough to get a darling Appy mare who would “raise” me as a horsewoman.  She would teach me to be bold and brave.  She was the perfect mix of kind and loving and giant bitch.  She taught me how to trust and how to lead.  She helped me to overcome the demons of that day.

More than 20 years passed since I said goodbye to that amazing mare.  Twenty years of struggling with a horse shaped hole in my heart.  Twenty years of praying that Missy would not be that last horse to own my heart.

It never occurred to me that fulfilling my horse dreams would come at a cost.  Those demons came back.  They cause fear to overcome joy.  They tell me I am not good enough.  They tell me that I am too fat to ride.  They tell me that I don’t belong in the show ring with the “good” people.

Keno, sadly, has his share of demons too.  He didn’t come to me with those demons.  It isn’t important how he earned them, but sufficed to say it has been quite a journey to help him work through them.  With the assistance of a great trainer he is at a point where we have way more good days then bad.

My guess is that the single worst match up between horse and rider is when both have their own demons.  Especially when one is dealing with fear and uncertainty and the other has learned that fighting humans how you deal with nerves.  But, for what ever reason I refused to give up on him and he has decided to give me a chance as well.

Through this journey I have learned that he is happiest (and least fighty) as a hunter.  That means that I, the girl who isn’t sure that she even belongs in a saddle at all would have to decide if she would go hunter or give up all together.  One thing is for sure, I have come too far to give up.

Once upon a time I loved Riding English….too bad I could never find the right diagonal.

Learning to ride hunter has been a challenge to say the least.  There are no training wheels.  You cannot fake it.  That little piece of leather is not sufficient to give you any sense of security at all.  But, I decided that I would ignore the negative voices in my head and saddle up.  

So far I have been able to find a basic sense of balance in that saddle.  I can find and post the correct diagonal. I have survived a trail ride where we started with a spook, spin and trot back to the barn.  We managed a trail class where we completed each obstical with ease and confidence.  We survived a WT Hunter Under Saddle class where a panicked horse caused Keno a panic of his own that resulted in me on his neck.  Each of these has been a baby step that became giant leaps in our partnership and my confidence.

Yesterday was lesson day.  Melinda asked me if I wanted to work on trail or eq.  When I said that I didn’t care she decided that she would take the opportunity to encourage yet another baby step in our progress.  

I knew I was in trouble when she asked if I was feeling as balanced in my English saddle as I was in the western.  My first thought was to lie and say “NOPE”.  I knew that balance plus confidence equals canter.  

I had only cantered him twice before.  The first time was at a schooling show under the supervision of the trainer who had given Keno his demons.  It was a disaster.  He was so fast and out of control.  The only way I could get him to stop was to run him into the rail!  It was terrifying. 

The second time was last winter.  Still dealing with his issues, Keno once again took off with me.  The second I asked for a canter he shot off.  Throwing himself into a run, putting me off balance and bouncing around on top of him.  The reins had been ripped through my hands and I had zero control.  No steering, no stopping and being thrown around on top of him.  That moment would stick with me.  I didn’t come off, but it made me question if we will ever make it out of the walk trot pen.

Melinda explained that when I am ready to just move his hip and softly kiss. Relax into him.  Relax my hands and my body and move with him.  Sit deep through my heels and don’t be too stiff.  I couldn’t shake the memory of being a hostage to his whim last time.  I couldn’t shake the doubt and fear that this was not going to end well.

I reminded myself that the Keno who enjoyed terrifying me is gone.  He has been replaced with a guy who wants to take care of me and knows that I will do the same for him.  I told myself that while I look like I don’t belong in an English saddle that I have a decent seat and even if he takes off I will handle it.

I collected up my rein.  I slowly moved my outside leg back and he quietly moved his hip up.  Reluctantly, I softly kissed to him.  With confidence and ease he stepped into the canter.  He didn’t throw himself into a dead run, he quietly departed from the walk to the canter.  It was soft and easy.  It was the rocking chair gate that I remembered from days before Keno took my confidence.

It was only half the length of the short side of the arena, but I did it.  A deep seat and a quiet whoa and we came to a stop.  I was shaking with excitement.  I gave him a big pet and told him over and over what a good boy he was.  We, Keno and I, had taken a baby step that would forever be remembered as a huge milestone.  

Truth be told, I was not at all convinced that Keno and I could ever do a walk, trot, canter hunter under saddle class.  I made the mistake of listening to the negative voices in my head telling me that I have no business riding English at all let alone in the “big kid class” with three gates!  Keno said to me, “I can do this if you can” and then proved that we are both capable.  

It is funny how 5-6 strides at the canter can be so significant.  It was an affirmation that the time and money I have spent on training was necessary.  Keno is a different horse than he was and I am a different rider.  Neither would have happened without professional help.  Those 5-6 strides showed me the significance of baby steps.  I didn’t need to canter until Keno couldn’t any more or even be comfortable at the canter to feel like we passed that milestone.  Keno had a beautiful canter departure, an easy few steps and a soft stop.  That was enough call the events of the day a milestone!

I still have that scar on my leg, I still have the scars on my psyche, and I still deal with a significant amount of self doubt.  For a moment, one glorious moment, I was free.  Free of the bonds that hold me down.  I look forward to stringing those moments together.  For now, I will revel in the fact that we have checked off another milestone in our wild and crazy journey.

I See You


There you are, that glossed over look in your eye.  It is a wonderful mix of pure extacy and sheer terror and it shows all over your face.  I see you there waiting for your turn in the show ring.

I know that you are dealing with some pretty big emotions.  You see, I know that you are standing there in the shadow of what you once were.  I know that many years have gone by since you have stood there at the in gate with your equine partner.  I know that the last time you did this you were much younger, maybe a few pounds lighter, had the oblivious confidence that comes with youth, and I am sure that you had no idea that there would be so many horseless years between that kid and the you that is standing there palms sweating…heart pounding.


I see you.  I see that what once came so easy is now a struggle.  I know that there was a time in your life that this horse thing was second nature.  You didn’t think a thing about hopping on your horse bareback in the pasture.  Just you and your trusty steed, a halter and what seemed like miles of open field to run across.  

You had no idea then that this horse thing is real work.  Back then you could swing right up bareback from the ground.  Now you need a tall mounting block and a horse who will stand politely while you struggle and pull yourself into the saddle.  You apologize to him for being so uncoordinated and clumsy as you know that your horse is a saint for standing there when I am sure he wants to run far away from you.


I see you.  Put in a full day at work and then head to the barn because you are determined to get back just a little of what the years have taken away from you.  I know that riding is something that requires real work and dedication.  I know that you get home from the barn dirty, exhausted and sore.

I also know that for as much as you doubt yourself and your ability, you have a great many successes.  You frequently have rides where something is slightly easier than it was the last time you rode.  I see how those small successes have a huge impact on your confidence.  


I see how you are made painfully aware of what the passage of time has taken from you.  I know that your body doesn’t move or feel like it used to.  Where did your flexibility and balance go?  I sure wish I could answer that for you.  Time is a cruel mistress.  She only takes and never gives back.


I see you in the walk trot class.  I know that there was a time that you never would have imagined that walk trot would be “your thing”.  The reality is that you don’t feel anywhere near ready to canter among your fellow show competitors.  I know that there is a feeling deep inside that you are letting down that person from all those years ago.  That person could run across a field bareback with nothing more than a halter, and here you are full western bridle, nice big comfy secure western saddle and a look of sheer terror in your eyes!  I see you.


Yes, I certainly see you.  You know how?  Because I am you!  I stand there before a Showmanship class with sweaty palms, a giant smile and tears in those glossy eyes!  Yes, I am you.  I am right next to you in that lesson where your biggest accomplishment is a rising trot for more than one lap of the arena.  I know the pain of struggling to get into the saddle and stay there.  I also know that the dismount is often harder than the mount.  I don’t even know how that one is possible!

 I am next to you in that walk trot class praying that my hunt coat doesn’t pop a button and that I can keep my horse between me and the ground!  I am right there clapping when they call your number ahead of mine, because I know what that means.  

We, you and I, waited a damn long time to have horses again and we deserve to know that there are others just like us who struggle with things that others seem to breeze through.  Yes, I see you and you are doing an amazing job of following your dream.  Hold on tight to those little successes because one day you will look back and see just how far you have come!


Next time you are standing at the in gate fighting back the happy tears waiting for your class to be called, I am there right with you!  Look around, if you see me then flash me a big old smile and get out there and kick my butt.   I’ll be rooting for you!

9 Things You Should Never Say to Your Trainer

My trainer asked me to print out these rules and hang them at the barn 🙂 By the way, she scares me too much to ever say no!

The Half Halt Blog

1- It didn’t feel like this yesterday

I wholeheartedly believe you that it doesn’t feel the same as it did yesterday.  You probably weren’t as sassy as you are today, so you should really just keep going forward.  Your horse will not feel the same everyday.  Maybe he’s more uphill today.  Maybe he’s starting to become an actual dressage horse.  I don’t know, just thinking out loud.

2- I can’t do it

You could probably do it pretty darn well if you weren’t so focused on what you think you can’t do.  Get out of your own head and just listen; your trainer probably has some pretty helpful tips on how to get over whatever hurdle you’re going through.  Frustration and defeat comes with the territory, but please for the love of all things good in this world don’t say you can’t do it, because you most certainly can.

3-…

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Just a Western Girl in a Hunter World

As I lay here this morning plagued by sore muscles that are seriously impeding my ability to start my day I can’t help but wonder if I have completely lost my ever loving mind.  You see, I’m no quitter.  I’ve never been a quitter.  When I set my mind to something nothing can deter me from my goal.  But today, lucky to be able to move my fingers enough to type I can’t help but wonder if my stubborn will to succeed will be my undoing.

Nearly two years ago I purchased Keno to be my show horse.  I already had a horse, so I was able to pull off the second horse by convincing my husband that “he needed a horse so we could ride together.”  You see, he likes the horses…ok, so maybe he merely tolerates them.  He simply does not understand what drives a otherwise normal person to sacrifice so much time and money for a giant bag of hair that does nothing but drain the bank account.  Even though he does not understand why, he does know that they fill a spot in my soul that has otherwise been vacant since saying good bye to horses when I left the ranch so many years ago.  Even though he saw right through my “you need a horse too” scam, he agreed that Keno should join our family and my two spotties became a little herd.

Keno was a challenge from the start.  He was very insecure and at times overwhelmingly scared of life.  I picked him a trainer I thought could see us through to the show ring while making him “husband safe”.  Long story short, after 10 months of training, Keno was not ready for the show ring any more than he was husband safe.  I took him to Melinda Corigliano, owner of Dream Meadow Arabians, a show trainer who had done wonders with my daughter in hopes that she could teach me to ride this horse whom I had placed all my Western Pleasure hopes and dreams.

It didn’t take real long to realize that my hopes and dreams with Keno as I knew them would have to change.  He was not a western horse.  Keno is very forward and “go-ey”.  Not exactly a quality among those who do well in western pleasure.  I had a decision to make.  Keep Keno and school him as the hunter he is, sell him, or relagate him to the ranks of pasture pet that gets ridden occasionally.

It was not a decision that I took lightly, and frankly it wasn’t a decision I wanted to make at all.  Why couldn’t he just be trained to carry himself western?  Couldn’t I just learn to ride that big floaty trot and make it look like a western jog? 

Aside from not being the western horse I had hoped he would be, he also has a big giant personality.  He is so funny and quirky.  It is really hard not to love him…most of the time.  But then there is what I call his assaloosa side.  He isn’t dangerous, but he is a jerk.  He is smart as a whip and figures things out very quickly.  But, unlike many smart horses who learn so they can be left alone, Keno learns so that he can then try to figure out his own way of doing things. 

We have been with our new trainer for a year now.  In that time Keno went from a stressed out mess who was so unpredictable under saddle that he was scary to a Keno who is so predictable it is scary.  Our typical day with Keno involves him fighting through his warm up (a series of exercises to warm up his body and get his mind right for the lesson ahead), about 10 to 15 minutes of NO.  If you have much experience with Appaloosa’s then you know how expressive their eyes are, Keno’s eyes during this time are basically flipping off the world.  He goes through a few minutes of screw you just about every day.  Once he is warmed up and his screw you switch is turned off then you can get to the task at hand for the day.  

Knowing this about him makes the idea of riding hunt seat all the more terrifying! I mean, I am reasonably secure and balanced in the safety of a big old western saddle with a nice horn to hang on to if his “screw you” takes a drastic turn.  A hunt saddle is nothing more than few small pieces of leather sewn together over a bit of padding.  There are two stirrups (called irons…don’t call them stirrups English riders are always quick to correct you on that mistake) that are attached to the sewn together leather by a small strap of leather.

If I know the peril that I face in making the transition from western to English on a horse who is predictably a jerk for 20-30 minutes of each ride then why in the hell would I, a relitively sane person, put themselves into that position.  I have always said that horse people are a very special brand of crazy and I am no exception.  You see, I had plans for Keno.  I bamboozled my husband to get him.  I dreamed of all the blue ribbons we would win.  And like I said in the very beginning, I am no quitter!

So, here I am.  A western girl trying desperately to find her way in an english world.  I have to admit that the obligatory attitude that Keno has to work through at the beginning of every ride has made for some serious nerves.  I am not necessarily afraid of him.  You see, his attitude is just that….attitude.  He isn’t dangerous or unpredictable.  He does what is asked of him.  He just needs to check your level of commitment to being his leader.  He likes being the leader and each time he hopes that you will decided that today is the day that he gets to make all the decisions.  Sadly, that day has never come for Keno and if I have anything to do with it, it never will.  He may be my partner, but I will always be in charge.

While I know that I am in charge, I do admit that the idea of going toe to toe with him in an English saddle is enough to make me lose sleep!  How can I school him in those moments of “screw you I am doing this my way” when I feel like I can barely keep him between me and the ground.  

Have you ever been in the grocery store with your child and they begin to throw a temper tantrum?  Did you immediately feel as though you couldn’t actually discipline them for their completely outrageous behavior because you didn’t want to be judged by your fellow shoppers?  So instead you try and reason with the unreasonable human you created when what you really want to do is scoop them up and give them a big swat on the behind?  Well, Keno is that unreasonable child and my English saddle is the judgy fellow shoppers.  The thing stopping me from setting firm boundaries with my temper tantrum throwing toddler.

I am not sure if it was the single beer I drank before stepping foot into those irons, or the fact that I was already tired from a long day or that I am finally finding balance and confidence in that teeny tiny little saddle. No matter what the reason, last night I scooped up my rotten toddler and whooped him right on the bare ass….metaphorically speaking of course!  

While I was trying my best to find the correct diagonal and control his direction and speed, I became increasingly frustrated.  Why does he do so good with the trainer and then acts like I am speaking to him in a foreign language?  It was 5 little words that I have heard over and over, but last night I actually “heard them”.  He’s taking advantage of you. Wait, it isn’t that he doesn’t know what I am asking…he is actively avoiding doing it?  That bastard!!  I thought we had this relationship of you take care of me and I’ll be sweet to you?  Just like the toddler in the grocery store knows that mom won’t blister his hide in front of witnesses.  Keno knew that as long as I was unsure of my ability to handle the twists and turns that come from schooling a horse who wants to make his own rules in an English saddle that he could basically do what he wanted and I was along for the ride no matter how frustrated I was…he was in charge.

When it sunk in that he was actively defying me, I decided right then and there that riding this horse with all his quirks meant that I had to buck up.  I had to realize that each ride in that little piece of leather is better than the last.  I had to take comfort in the fact that I didn’t nearly fall off one time…yet.  I had to decide.  I can either find a way to get comfortable schooling Mr. Tantrum Throwing Toddler or I needed to find a horse who could at least meet me half way in this journey to be a better rider.

Have I mentioned that I am no quitter?  Nope, all it took was to realize that just like my toddlers throwing a public temper tantrum thinking they can get away with it, Keno was going to meet a new confident rider in me that night.  The schooling was on.  I’d ask for softness and collection and then I would expect that he keep it.  If he couldn’t keep it then we would circle until he would soften and then back on the rail.  It was a very long process of mere moments of beauty followed by a lot of rounding and softening.  The one thing I can say about this big spotted toddler is that he doesn’t like to give up a fight!  He and I continued in this dance until I was cramped from my lower back to the tips of my toes!  

When we were done, he had a complete change of attitude.  He was soft and relaxed and it was a great time to call it a night.  I don’t for a second believe that this one time will change his approach to arena work, but I certainly know that he will no longer be taking advantage of me in my English saddle!

They say, “Some horse will test you, some horses will teach you and some horses will bring out the best in you.”  I believe Keno is the horse to do all three.  He is not an easy horse, he often won’t even meet his rider half way, he has to have an opinion about every single thing, but he is a great horse.  I believe with all that I have that one day I will look back on how far we have come and know that it was all worth it.  I don’t know if we will win any blue ribbons, or if we will just be content to hack out on the trail (see that fancy English riding term I used there?). What ever the future hold for Keno and me, I know that I am up to the challenge and because he isn’t one to back down from a challenge either I know we will make it.

There’s No Crying in Horse Shows

It is unusual for me to write two blogs in one day, but I felt compelled to do so because each subject needed to be explored and addressed independent of each other.  My last post was pretty much me-centric but with this post I want to talk about that person behind the scenes who does her best to hold the shit show that is my show career together while working her tail off so that I don’t embarrass myself in the quest for a fifty cent ribbon.  Even though this is about my trainer, I am sure that this applies to all show trainers out there.  

As you may or may not know, I am a real estate agent.  My job is to sell houses.  My job is not baby sitter, emotional counselor, fortune teller, or sorcerer capable of making people love your home, yet these are often the expectations.  The part I struggle with most are the basket cases that are on the phone the second a buyer has left their home asking if I have received feedback.  “Of course I haven’t gotten feedback, psycho, they haven’t left your driveway yet” is what I desperately want to say.  Instead I grab a shot of fireball and say, “Not yet dear, but honestly how can they not love your home?  I will certainly let you know the second I get feedback.”  While I fully understand the stress that leads normal people to become insecure, impatient, and demanding emotional wrecks, I really struggle dealing with irrational emotional psychosis.  I tell you that not to slam my clients, but to admit that I am not much different.

I am very new to having a “show trainer”, in fact I was perfectly happy on my big barely broke spotty tooling around the show ring coming in last and extatic on those rare occasions we actually beat someone…..so excited!!  Our biggest accomplishment was winning the Non-Pro Walk Trot High Point at the local Appaloosa Breed and Open Show.  As it turns out, thanks to a tangle with a barbed wire fence my big spotty is now permanently retired.  

It was my little spotty that lead me to this show trainer thing.  He was in training because a previous trainer had made him all but impossible to ride and I wanted him in the show ring especially since my big guy was done.  I had no idea that a show team was even a thing, but I figured if I was paying for professional show training then it might be a good idea to have some kind of guidance at the shows as well.

So, here we are a year later and with horse that is trying his level best to be that show horse I wanted.  It was our breed show last weekend that made me take good long look at myself.  

You see, being a horse trainer is not all that different from being a real estate agent.  The job is to make unrideable horses rideable in as short of time possible.  In the case of a show trainer those once unrideable horses are also expected to bring home prizes and blue ribbons.  Seems easy enough, right? I mean like real estate agents, horse trainers are way overpaid and are doing something anyone can do…right?  

Like real estate, training horses involves dealing with people, and for lack of a better discription…people are crazy.  Horse people are a very special brand of crazy.  Like in real estate, you can’t really call your crazy clients out on their crazy.   The reality is that in most cases the crazy is situationally induced.  

I know this because I have now been on both sides of this crazy teeter totter.  Here are a couple things I have learned.

1) Hug your trainer….and I mean hug them tight.  They have to put up with your crazy ass in the frantic moments before the show when you are screaming and stressed and mad at the whole world.  Those moments when you realize that showing horses is the single dumbest thing you have ever done and it is most certainly your trainers fault and you want to make them pay!  Because that very same person you screamed at, or wanted to scream at depending on your level of fear of your particular trainer (I am not ashamed to admit that my trainer terrifies me a little) is the first one at the out gate with a huge smile and a high five for a class well done!  Believe me, they really want to smash your face into the dirty stall bedding before your class yet they can forget the horrible way you treated them before you walked into that ring.  So, when you aren’t being a hot mess, hug your trainer!

2) They don’t do it for the money.  I am not sure what you pay your trainer, but my monthly fee includes training and board.  If you add up the hours they spend training your horse, giving you lessons on your horse, holding your horse for the farrier, filling out show entries, helping you clean your show tack, creating lists of things you and your horse need and feeding your horse, I can tell you that they make less than the kids in China making Kathy Lee Gifford’s clothing line.  No, my guess is that they are just crazy enough to do this idiotic job for the love of the horses and yes the love of the people.  The very same people who become raving lunatics at horse shows!

3) They are loyal to you, stay loyal to them.  They are not analyzing your every move and shopping around for a “better client”.  If you don’t get along with your trainer or they are abusing your horse then for sure you need to find someone that fits you and your horse better.  But, if you and your trainer are on the same page with your goals and you are still shopping around, don’t.  That is a jerk move and believe me they already put up with you at your worst, shopping trainers only makes you look bad.  Around here it is a pretty small and tight horse community and if you get the reputation of being that person who goes from trainer to trainer then word will get out and you won’t be able to find anyone who is any good that will want to work with you.  Loyalty is the cornerstone of any good client/trainer relationship.  Plus, no one wants to be a trainer hopper….you stand out in a crowd and people will think you are crazy!

4) Whether you like it or not, your trainer is right.  When your trainer tells you to drop your hands, it is because your hands are too high.  When your trainer tells you that your horse whom you have placed all your western pleasure dreams is actually a hunter, they are right.  When your trainer tells you to take your horse into a circle to get them soft then they expect to actually see a circle not a trapezoid with round corners.  When they tell you that you are doing a good job they are also right!  When you come out of a class and they say that it was your best one yet, believe them.  You don’t pay them to needlessly pick on you, but you don’t pay them to lie to you either.  If you sucked ass in your class they will tell you so…even if you managed to walk out with a blue.  Conversely, if you walk out dead last in a class that you and your horse put your best effort forth and gave all you had they will tell you how great you did!

5) When the dust settles and the ribbons have been collected, your trainer may have what I call HSEIE (Horse Show End Induced Euphoria).  They survived yet another weekend with your crazy ass and they didn’t kill you once!  Don’t get me wrong, they probably have a voodoo doll that looks like you hidden in the trailer that they take great pleasure in stabbing with pins.  Funny how right after the last class clients can breathe again and are no longer acting like 2007 Brittany Spears.  Your trainer may begin to randomly giggle and start singing wildly inappropriate songs.  Don’t judge them for they have put up with you all weekend long.  Just try and pretend not to notice when they start singing “Rappin’ for Jesus” even though it is very impressive that they know the song word for word, don’t judge.  On second thought, it might be best to learn the words for yourself so that you can sing it as a round!  

6) Apologize.  When you are the nightmare client, admit your faults and apologize to your trainer.  Pulling them aside and giving a heartfelt apology for being the exact brand of crazy client that you yourself cannot stand to deal with is sufficient.  If you were a class A crazy bitch of a client then you must do something really grand.  My brand of apology should really match my brand of crazy so I shall go big, like dedicating a whole blog post to them in hopes that when my new English saddle arrives she doesn’t immediately take away my stirrups in retaliation!

Thank you Melinda for putting up with my special brand of show crazy!  Thank you for not firing me, punching me in the face or taking away my stirrups when my saddle arrives!  Our whole family is very grateful for all your time and hard work and rap you sing songs along the way.  I will try to be a better client, but I will not learn the words to Rappin’ for Jesus so that we can do a post show duet….nobody wants to hear that!


Thank You for Not Killing Me

I sit here this morning with a pounding head, my muscles ache, I am completely dehydrated and   overcome with feelings of “why do I keep doing this to myself”?  You see, I have a particularly bad hangover this morning.  I tied one on pretty good over the last couple days and now I am paying the price.  Like all hangovers this one was self inflicted.  But unlike most hangovers, I can’t wait to do this to myself all over again!  You see, it isn’t alcohol that made me feel this way.  It’s a horse show hangover and in my opinion the best kind there is!

It is a particularly warm Sunday morning as I sit here and try to collect my thoughts enough to recount the events of the Appaloosa club’s Fist Full of Silver Appaloosa and All Breed Horse show.  It was once again a great show with some beautiful horses and as both a lover of all things Appaloosa and a member of the sponsoring club it was great to have a nice turnout for the breed.

This show started off like nearly all the other shows.  We got there really late, it was stressful getting moved in and the horses settled.  I could feel myself starting to succumb to the stress of the day.  To add to that stress, I had to leave in the evening to show a house and I was praying that I would make it back in time to do the trail class that I had signed up for.  

The day moved along at a snails pace and somehow managed to make it through my showing and back in time for my class.  This is where it really went to hell.  My show bridle was not in the trailer, the bridle and reins that were did not fit Keno.  He was none too happy to have the ill fitting bit and too short reins.  At this point I was either going to curl up in the fetal position or sob my way through the entire course.  

After being yelled at for my tack mishap which caused a gate hold by the gate attendant, we were on the course!  Did I mention that Keno has only ever seen these obstacles one other time in a trail in hand class?  We managed to complete the course even though there were terrifying cones, horse eating geese, a bridge of death, oh and a side pass that Keno decided immediately that he was going to do “his way”. We got disqualified even though Keno’s way of doing that course was, in his opinion, the correct way.  The judges disagreed and our entry fee became a donation to our show committee.

Day two was exciting in so many other ways.  Keno and I gave our best attempt to complete the Hunter in Hand course.  For those of you who are not familiar, two triangles…one you walk and one you RUN!  Keno had exactly 2 days of work on this event and I only one.  Mostly because working on HIH involves running and well…I don’t run.   Not only do I not run, but running in the thick footing of the arena is a disaster waiting to happen.  

As I entered the arena, I was far less concerned with how Keno was going to handle the class and far more concerned with not taking a wrong step and falling flat on my face.  

We greeted the judges while they walked around us, then we were off.  We killed the walk!  I walked as fast as my short fat legs could walk and he kept a nice pace beside me.  Then it was time to run!  Running a straight line is hard enough, but running in a large triangle with its severe angles and turns is enough to bring any big girl down!  We managed and I ran as fast as my legs would carry me and Keno…well let’s just say that Keno didn’t have to struggle to keep up with me.  I didn’t fall and he didn’t break gate!  It was a success and we took home 3rd in a pretty big class of Non Pro Hunter in Hand competitors!  Our day had started off with a bang!

We managed a 3rd and 4th in Non Pro Halter in a big class. In showmanship he was his best yet.  We got 8th from one judge and nothing from the other but the success for me was that Keno had a great attitude and did what was asked of him.

We only had 1 class left for the day…Non Pro Walk Trot Hunter Under Saddle…the scariest of all classes.  The one that I forced myself to sign up for.  The one I really didn’t want to do.  The one that I was completely unprepared for.  The one that would prove that we have something to work for or the one that permanently relegates me to the ranks of show mom and not show competitor.

The preparation for the class was a day long event in itself.  You see, I don’t have a hunt coat that fits me well so I have to do some cheating to get into it.  I only share the details of the preparation with you because looking back on it all I can do is laugh.  

It is funny that I own two body shapers that will allow my transition from western showmanship to hunt seat to be seamless and easy.  Could I find either of them?  Nope…no idea where they are!  So, I used the next best thing, my swimsuit!

You see, the reason that my jacket doesn’t fit is because I am a bit top heavy.  And by a bit, I mean VERY!  Do you see many busty broads going over fences?  Not often. Even though we are not jumping, we need to look like we could. What is one to do with the girls when they are the reason you can’t button your coat?  Well, spread them out of course!

Spread them out?  Yes!  I wriggled into my speedo and smashed those girls down so much that the reached from my belly button to my chin.  They were hiding under my arms and nearly tucked into my breeches!   I couldn’t get my sweaty arms into the satin lined jacket so vet wrap to the rescue.  With arms wrapped and boobs smashed I was ready to try on my coat.  It was a team effort and the more we tried the more I sweated the harder it was to get on! Eventually, it was on and even though it looked like I was hiding a couple woopie cushions under my jacket I was ready to ride!

I threw my old saddle (the one that makes him sore) and hoped that we would both survive the 3 minute class.  We had all of 5 minutes to warm up and Keno was making darn sure that I knew he was not enjoying the atmosphere of the warm up.  They called my number and in we went.

“Trot your horses” was the first thing I heard upon entering the arena at the walk.  I asked for a trot and he obliged.  He was nervous and had no rhythm.  I would pick up the correct diagonal and within seconds he had bumped me off it.  We were giving a class in “what the judge doesn’t want to see”.  I was floundering around on top of him and he was floundering around underneath me.  I said a silent prayer, “please God let us just get through this class”.  No sooner did I think that and Keno spooked at something proped up outside the arena.  He stopped and spun and as I was collecting myself and him the announcer asked for a change of direction.

We were waking away from the thing that wanted to eat him and I was able to better get a handle on his face and he was listening to me.  They asked for a trot and I took a second to squeeze him up and gently asked for a trot and he went into a nice trot!  I picked up the correct diagonal and we had found our rhythm.  One, two, one, two….we were doing it.  I was posting, he was listening, we had rhythm…this class was a success!!

As we rounded the corner I see a horse in front of me spook and go straight into the air!  I mean Roy Rogers and Trigger style!  My initial thought was, “oh shit, Darlene’s in real trouble!” It looked like her horse was coming back on top of her!  

I had enough time to be concerned and in a split second the horse directly in front of me spooked and then my concern was far more self centered.  I am not sure what happened but the next thing I knew I had mane in my mouth and my helmet was on the ground. It felt like an eternity that I was there helpless, struggling to keep from hitting the dirt but wondering if it was my only option.  I really didn’t know how far out of the saddle I was or what Keno’s next move would be.  All I knew in that moment was, hang on! So I did. Keno seemed to freeze when he realized that I had been unseated and that allowed me to regain my balance without an unscheduled dismount.  When I was able to collect my thoughts and look around I realized that Darlene appeared to be ok, she had bailed and was standing there with her reins in her hand and Trigger (aka Truffles) by her side.

I am not sure why in that moment I began to laugh and said, “this is my best class yet!!” In a way I wasn’t lying!  You see, I often find trust difficult when it comes to horses and horses with big personalities are even harder.  Keno has a big personality and that makes trust real hard for me.  

A wise man once posted on Facebook about trusting your horse…always trust your horse to be a horse.  Of course I am paraphrasing, but he was right.  The reality is that trusting them to be a horse is the only thing we can do.  Keno acted like a horse when he was spooked by the two horses in front of him.  But, his training and his trust in me allowed him to look to me for his next move.  He had to wait for me to get back into my saddle for that direction, but in the end he made the right choice for both of us.  We came out of that ring in second place and knowing that we could handle a worst case scenario if it arises.

I thanked my little spotty for not killing me and climbed off.  He was still pretty well rattled from the whole ordeal but made it back to his stall in one piece.

Getting out of my hunt coat was as much of a challenge as getting into it!  You see, between sweat, satin and vet wrap it created some kind of bond that was nearly unbreakable!  I got it off with a few tears, cuss words and some good old fashioned try.  Then wriggled out of my swim suit which was now dreanched with sweat (did I mention it was nearly 100* and we were in the outdoor arena).  I went and collected my red ribbons and got to watch Kodee take second in her English Pleasure green horse class.

All in all, it was a very successful show.  We had some big successes and we know things we need to improve for next time.  No one got hurt and we all shared a few laughs and a few tears as well!

Dear Horse Crazy Show Kid

Dear Horse Crazy Kiddo,

When I was your age, I too was horse crazy.  My persnickety mare and I were the same age and she was my best friend.  I cried in her mane more times than I could count.  She knew all my secrets, fears, goals and dreams. She and I won a whole wall full of ribbons.  At the ripe old age of 13, she was my world.  

When my parents divorced and my dad refused to let my mare stay on the ranch, so I had to sell her.  My hands shook as I wrote out that bill of sale to a man whom I thought was going to give my best friend a leisurely life toting around grandkids.  When his check bounced my girl was gone and I would never find out what became of her.  To this day that haunts me.  

And now here we are, I am no longer 13, but you my beautiful daughter are.  You are the same horse crazy kid I once was.  You have a beautiful mare that has become your dearest friend and confidant.  She, like Missy, takes amazing care of you and is willing to do things out of her comfort zone simply because you are asking her to.

It is time that I get to the point of this letter.  At your age, due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to say goodbye to horses all together.  It was more than 20 years before I was able to have a horse to call my own.  I don’t want that to happen to you.

Sadly for you, you were not born into a wealthy family.  We struggle for everything we have and it isn’t much.  Horses put a huge strain on our finances as well as our personal lives. You know, you’ve see us struggle to keep this dream alive.

There are a few things I want you to know.

1) I see you.  I see you working your fanny off to pay for your training.  I see you pushing yourself to be a better rider.  I see you growing as a horse woman.  I see that there are kids out there who don’t have to work for their keep.  I see that there are kids in the show ring with show clothes covered in Swvarsky crystals, on horses who have been groomed by payed grooms while you are responsible for grooming your own horse and you are wearing a borrowed show shirt.  I see it.

2) I understand.  I understand that you wish this wasn’t so much work.  After all, you see kids who do nothing with their horses and walk into the show ring and clean up.  I understand that there are days that you might think this is more work than it is worth.  I understand that you might wish that you were among the lucky few who get a new saddle because it doesn’t shine like it once did, while you are riding in a borrowed saddle.  I understand and a big part of me wishes it were different.

3) I am sorry.  I am sorry that this horse thing is so expensive that we cannot make it happen without considerable sacrifices made by every member of our family (including your very resentful father).  I am sorry that you have to work in exchange for your training. I am sorry that “your horse” is actually a leased horse and not really yours.  I am sorry that you don’t ride into the ring covered in crystals on a world champion mount.  I am sorry that you are having to work so hard at such a young age.  But, mostly I am sorry that you have to watch us struggle so much to make sure the horses get to stick around.

4) I’m not sorry.  I am not sorry that I haven’t just given you everything you ever wanted.  I have seen those children, the ones who were mad that the won an “ugly trophy” when they “already have so many”, I have seen the kids who exit the show ring placing below where they’d hoped and jump off their horse while screaming at mom about how horrible their horse was while throwing her the reins so little Miss Entitled can stomp off because she didn’t win.  (I’d like to add a side note here…the first time that happens will be the last time I take you to a show…just so we are crystal clear). I am not sorry that you are learning from an early age that you have to work for what you want.  I am not sorry that you are having to work for your training.  You have an amazing trainer and she has taught you more about horsemanship, care,  grooming and responsibility than little Miss Entitled will ever know.  I am not sorry that you are in the ring in borrowed clothes and borrowed tack on a borrowed horse, I know that when you get your own they will be very special to you and you will take great care of them.  And mostly, I am not sorry for any of the struggles you have had along the way.  These struggles are what will make you a strong and independent woman.  These experiences you have now will stay with you a lifetime and I am not a bit sorry for the sacrifices we have made as a family to ensure that you can follow your dreams.

In closing, my sweet girl, keep plugging along.  I will continue to remind your dad that horses keep you away from boys.  Please do me a favor and always love them more than boys…the right boy will understand that he will always play second fiddle to your equine love, and your dad won’t complain so much about the expense!  Keep following your dreams and your dad and I will make sure that the path is always visible.

Good luck at the show!  We will be there to cheer you on!

Love Always,

Your Broke Mom