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Trail riding in Ohio at Mohican State Park…bareback!

May in Ohio is a beautiful time to trail ride and one of my favorite places to go is Mohican State Park. Spring flowers and ferns are still sneaking up and because the leaves are not fully out yet it is possible to see further than you can in full summer. This day it was almost 85 degrees out but under the cover of the trees we stayed nice and cool.

One of my favorite parts of this ride are the multiple water crossings. The horses love to drink and play in the water before we head back up and down the many hills. This trip was also special because a good friend joined us and took her mare out for her first trail ride. I do have to admit that my pants were very wet and not very clean by the time I got done…and my inner legs were a bit sore…but I plan on doing it again as soon as possible!

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2015 in Life, Video

 

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Will us (fans) ever see you doing another bridleless/bareback routine?

“Will us (fans) ever see you doing another bridleless/bareback routine??…. I remember seeing a video someone posted on youtube (you/Roxy/Maggie) … Templeton Thompson was singing your song…… but then Roxy died and then Vaquero and I guess Maggie is retired…. so I was wondering if you have given up on that dream… or have you even thought about at all?”-Lesia Lowe

I am a big believer that when the time is right, things will happen. My job is to be prepared. I don’t know if another bareback/bridleless routine will happen again or not. As you saw in the video with Roxy and Maggie (below) I was experimenting with this as a possibility. I wasn’t sure if I could ever get it to a show level…but Maggie never recovered from a suspensory injury that she sustained running in the pasture and we turned her into a broodmare. Did you realize that Maggie is Newt’s mom?

I work my horses and give them opportunities but they get to make choices too. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t. I don’t lose sleep over it but I don’t sit on the couch thinking it will ‘just happen’ either. I work and then let the chips fall where they may…thats the mystery of life. I’m starting Newt’s two year old half sister right now (another Maggie baby) and I have plans to ride more of Roxy’s granddaughters.

I don’t know where life will lead…two years ago if you told me I would be living full time in a motor home I would have laughed at you…but I did leave the door open 🙂

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2015 in Inspiring, Members Question

 

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Stacy Westfall’s first time riding bridleless on Newt

Yippy! Newt is giving bridleless riding a try!

This is a video of the first time I took the bridle off Newt and rode him around. Newt is six years old in this video and I started his under saddle training as a two year old.  I had been practicing the cue system during his entire training. For several months before this I had also been tying the reins up and focusing on riding with only my body, leg and voice cues. I chose to ride with a neck rope (one of my reins removed from my bridle) because Newt liked the familiar feeling of the neck rein cues and was more relaxed and confident.

Please realize that many, many hours of training have happened prior to this and you should not try riding bridleless unless you are confident that you have a clear communication system with your horse that doesn’t rely on the bridle in case of an emergency. The prior sentence is not meant to be reversed to imply that the bridle should be your emergency system…but the reality is that for many people the bridle is their strongest form of communication with their horse in an emergency.

If I sound a bit concerned it is because I know that other videos of me riding bridleless have inspired many people to give it a try. Many have had success but there have been a few that have been injured because they (either horse or rider or both) were not properly prepared. Just last year I met a trainer who said one of his youth girls broke her leg while trying to imitate my ride.

Clear communication through consistent training is the key…I’m just saying don’t just pull the bridle off and hope for the best as it isn’t fair to either you or your horse 🙂

This was videoed in February 2015 while we were in California. You may also find it interesting that I have only ridden him bridleless a handful of times between then and now as I am still continuing to advance his ‘in the bridle’ training.

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2015 in Thought provoking, Training, Video

 

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How do you teach a horse to lay down so a person in a wheel chair can get in the saddle?

“How do you teach a horse to lay down so a person in a wheel chair can get in the saddle? The reason I am asking is because the end of August 2014 my boyfriend came down with west nile virus. As of the end of April 2015 he is still in a wheel chair and he wants to be able to ride again. Thanks for your time”, Angie E.

This question got me thinking in several ways. First, let me say I am sorry that both of you are going through this. Years ago a good friend’s husband nearly died from West Nile and has struggled ever since so I have an idea of the challenges you are going through. My heart and prayers go out to you both. I love that he wants to ride again. Setting goals is important for everyone because it keeps us looking forward.

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Michael Richardson gives amazing demos and trains from his wheel chair.

My second thought is that I am not sure if teaching a horse to lie down to mount is the best option for people in a wheelchair to mount. If it was a great method then therapeutic programs would teach horses to lie down. My guess is that there are several reasons why it isn’t the best choice.

  1. Awkward -I have taught horses to lie down and I have mounted while they are down. It is more awkward than I would have guessed from watching it. If you see a horse with a saddle on while lying down you will notice that the saddle is facing sideways.
  2. Difficulty -A horse standing up is a big motion. It is similar in a way to riding a horse going over a small jump as quickly raise their front end upward followed quickly by the hind end.
  3. Challenge- An unbalanced rider would make standing up more of a challenge for the horse

If I do mount my horse while he is down I prefer to do so bareback. This makes it easier for both of us because it solves most of the issues listed above but makes it a less appealing method in a therapeutic setting.

I would suggest finding a local therapy barn to become accustom to riding again. Just as learning to be in the wheel chair has been a learning curve, learning to ride again will also be a new learning curve. The people I have met that are involved in therapy have been extremely caring and will be in the best position to be able to help you guys with this transition, including the discussion about his ability to mount from a horse that is lying down.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2015 in Members Question, Thought provoking

 

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Old habits vs new habits: in horses and in people

Most of us are at least somewhat aware of our own habits. You probably recognize that you have a routine when getting ready for bed each night or the way you fold your cloths. We become especially aware of those habits if someone interrupts or changes them. Where did you learn that habit? How strong is the habit? What would it take to change it?

Successful peopleIn the last six months I have done more trail riding than I did in the last ten years. It was an interesting revelation in my old habits vs my new ones. I would have guessed that the rider I have become in the last 25 years would be the rider that hit the trail…but no. The rider I was as a teen when I logged most of my trail riding hours quickly showed up. Habits that had been lying dormant for many years quickly surfaced. My knees hurt after only an hour or so in the saddle. How could this be? I regularly ride for many hours a day in an arena. Same horse. Same saddle.

Different rider.

The rider I was years ago was more of a passenger on trail rides, not an active rider. As soon as I was aware that my old habit had shown up I was able to switch and become a more active rider again but the point remains; unless changed in those setting the old habits are still there.

It was a fun adventure every time I went out on a trail. The old habits meeting the new habits in my body while my mind observed it all.

I was recently working a horse that I believe already has some ‘habits’ that she has learned. Early on in her training she was allowed to be excitable, fresh and emotional during the first part of each work session. She would eventually come around but I now suspect that this has become a habit with her. The biggest clue is that the first ten minutes of a workout she is ready to come unglued. Almost anything can set her off; a bag, a pole, or simply lunging. She expects to be crazy. Day after day as I work her I see a horse that really isn’t scared of the bag or the pole…but expects to be emotionally out of control for the first 10 minutes.

I didn’t start her but if I could go back I would have changed the pattern early on. This horse is carrying on the ‘pattern’ even though she isn’t really excited. Interesting food for thought.

Can you think of an area where you have habits that you do, only because you learned them early on…even though they don’t benefit you now?

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2015 in Life, Thought provoking, Video

 

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Continuing education: how do you continue to learn about horses?

Jack BrainardWhen I was a kid I loved to read anything to do with horses. We subscribed to an equine magazine but received most of our ‘training’ information from other people that we rode with. At one point my mom and I took lessons at a dressage barn but with limited success as our horses were so drastically different from the lesson horses we rode. There was no YouTube, no internet, and VHS videos were not even common. There were no clinics in my area until I was in high school.

Boy have things changed.

Now there are so many ways to access information now that difficulty might be more in deciding what you like rather than what is available. I’m sitting in the parking lot at the Kentucky Horse Park where the Road to the Horse just finished up. Horse Expos…another great place to learn. Aside from studying your horse, do you make an effort to gather outside information?  If I had to pick my top three ways to learn they would probably be:

1) riding my own horse with someone

2) a book

3) video

I had an awesome thing happen to me this weekend. I was telling Jack Brainard that I wanted to learn more about western dressage and he invited me to come ride with him. I warned him that I would show up if he was serious…and he said he was! I’m so excited.

What are your top three picks for ways to learn? How often do you seek out new information?

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2015 in Life

 

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When you ride your horse do you have a specific plan?

A reference point helps the rider be clear in communication.When I coach riders I often put some kind of marker or markers in the arena. A cone is the most common marker I use but I have been known to use anything available including buckets, rocks or random manure piles. These reference points help me, as a coach, to communicate more clearly to the rider. If I ask the rider to circle to the right while staying thirty feet from cone we both know the goal. It isn’t important to me if the goal is met during the ride but having the clear goal gives me, the coach, a point of reference when discussing and measuring progress.

Having a marker is also helpful for the rider when the coach isn’t around. The clear goal helps the rider focus and measure their progress even when the coach is not available.

As a professional rider myself I am very aware where my horse is stepping at all times. This awareness didn’t happen overnight, it came about after years of riding with specific goals, and markers, to measure my progress.

 

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2015 in Training

 

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