What My Horse Gives Me

My horse gives me a foothold in a day of chaotic voices.

my baby pony

“Every rider has that one horse that changes everything about them”

My horse gives me calm on a day where I have to pretend to love all of the people around me. People who’s voices may as well be screeching because that is what I hear after 12 years in this business.  Every client who thinks their suffering and misfortune is the only thing at that moment that matters to me. Although my horse has given me more heartache than these clients combined, from that grew in me a sense of pride and love in myself I have never been able to find anywhere or in anyone else.

My horse gives me quiet and contemplation on a day where I can’t seem to get my own reprimanding/loving/beating/burning mind to stop talking churning away in my own head.  I am spinning through each day and cannot understand how people meditate, have children, maintain calm exteriors when my mind just will not stop and I can barely keep it together.   When  I can’t make the movement of so much human energy around me melt together in any soft way that makes sense,  my horse turns his head to me.

My horse, in his calm presence, in his bloodline of mud and sweat and tears elicits a final cease motion in my head.  In a life where I am pretty much liked superficially by most people that I meet, my horse made me work for his affection and trust.  There was no sense of a consistent connection in our very early relationship made up of mixed signals, misunderstandings and two very different languages.  My horse now lets me hear his voice where I understand a few more words, and many more moments of affection, gentle soft breaths and curious lingering eyes.

My horse is my solitude.  But he is also my pride and my exterior self.  He is my friend and a true companion. My horse is my peace.


Fake Craigslist Ad for Chief


I could never sell Chief.  I am way too attached, and just love him way too much.  But if I was going to write a Craigslist Classified ad for Chief it would go something like this…


Love tears on Chief’s coat

“Red Ones are the Best Ones”

14 y/o, Almost 15h, old school chestnut aqha quarter horse gelding for sale.  Chief aka “Ten “o” sea,  A little horse with a mostly lackadaisical personality,  Chief is not exactly an “in your pocket” horse.   If you are a human, he could take you or leave you unless he is suspicious you have a treat for him. He is never blatantly disrespectful to your face on the ground, but is more like a passive aggressive partner.  He will probably give you dirty looks behind your back (a side eye or a wild eyed glare usually suffices) and he may try to bite you if he thinks he can get away with it.  If he knows you have a treat he will put his nose on you and blow hot breath until you give it to him.  He also doesn’t care how long the process of procuring the treat takes either.  For example, if you are picking his feet (which he stands perfectly for) he may put his nose on your butt and blow hot breath onto your ass until you get self conscious enough to stand up.  At which point he whips around to the front and pretends he was never there and has no clue what you are talking about.  Chief doesn’t love hugs, but will tolerate one for approximately 1.5 second before either going back to his pile of hay, or giving you a puzzled side eye from the highest height he can stretch his head.   He despises  selfies, is always aware the phone or camera is an object that he hates and when in very close proximity pins his ears and wildly only shows you one side of his face (in order to see you and your phone, camera weapon clearly.)  Chief has to go to an accepting and open home because he is bisexual. If his owner is judgmental of his sexual preferences it will make for a not so cohesive relationship.  Chief is into S&M and does not want to be judged or asked about it.


If their faces aren’t almost touching, they aren’t happy.

He lets his boyfriend Puck (Warmblood) nip at his face, beat him up, and wildly chase him around the paddock, all the while happily prancing with  glee.  The more blankets that Puck tears up, the happier Chief becomes.  Although he doesn’t love looking ragged in his torn sheets, he loves the constant attention from his man.  Chief doesn’t have a “safe word” but instead only has to pin his ears and bite Puck back one time, and all nonsense ceases.  But when they are separated they pine for one another with whinnies, pacing and locked eyes and long stares.  Under saddle Chief has gotten much more calm when being cinched up, mostly taking good care of his rider.  I believe Chief is a dreamer though and if he starts to drift his attention from his job,  anything can scare the pants off of him.  Other than this little glich, plus the random girthiness that sends him into a small bucking frenzy he is “rock solid.”  Bareback though, Chief always assumes his rider is nonathletic with absolutely no independent seat and treats all riders equally, walking slowly as if he is anticipating you are going to come tumbling off at any second.  If you mistakenly ask him to trot while bareback, he will get pissed because he knows you are bound to fall off, so he makes that happen as quickly as possible.  When Chief really does not feel like being ridden he may test you and take a single large step away from the mounting block.  Adding to his passive aggressive personality Chief usually picks one small thing to make difficult for his rider at a time.  This may consist of holding his head up when bridling, spinning, bucking and other overly dramatic behavior.  When is it time for grain he doesn’t want to worry about anything else, but is perfectly content doing light work on a full belly.

He would probably make a great kid’s horse.

So clearly this is slightly embellished, and I love Chief way too much to ever sell him,  but if he had the wrong owner he would be many of these things to a “T.”



Hiatus over! Missing riding

So I am really over this winter crap.  I know that it really has not been a terribly bad winter considering New Jersey’s last 3 winters but I am still ready for spring.  Now I am sure there are days (many days) I could have ridden in the cold but considering there is no indoor at my farm, lots of mud and ice, added to the wind whipping across the property I am definitely a 3 season rider right now.  I would love to change that up in the next few years, but I am OK with it for now.

Plus I accidentally dumped chief over in the snow  on a hidden patch of ice.  Kind of graceful looking but the guilt I felt overrode the hilarity of the actual situation.

So some updates… Chief is doing great.  He hand his pasture mate, Puck, are closer then ever.  I think Chief is secretly a Masochist because Puck clearly rules the roost, but Chief seems to love him even more in all his pushiness.


Best Friends

Speaking of Puck, he is a 17(ish) Warm blood cross who’s owner relocated to Idaho years ago.  At first I did not pay too much attention to him.  Frankly he kind of annoyed me because he can act kind of skitzy if he does not know you.  But this winter he has totally grown on me.  I don’t know if it is the fact that Chief loves him so much, or it is the way he is such a human loving horse, but I really am starting to get attached to him.  Which is not a terrible thing because he is not going anywhere.  Puck is not a ride able horse due to arthritis in his back legs. I am not sure which area of his legs it effects, but sometimes he just looks a little wobbly back there.  He was originally purchased at a 5 figure price tag as a dressage prospect, was ridden pretty steadily even up until 3 years ago until his early arthritis kicked in.  I wish I could ride him, as he is beautiful, but I am happy Chief has a partner in crime that he loves. I will NOT be happy, though, if he rips a hole in another one of Chief’s blankets. I believe the last time he was ridden he took my friend on a bucking journey down a long dirt path on our property.


Dirty Puck!!!!

Speaking of my man Chief, I am really amped up to do more trail riding this coming season.  I know this is going to be our best year yet.  I would really like to do a little less ring work (even though sometimes our ring work is slow and doesn’t look like we are making much progress) less groundwork and more relaxed riding around the property.  Maybe Astrid will even want to take our ponies on a trail ride off to the park! I am sure I will be a little nervous but I need to get past that and have some more experiences!  Plus my new saddle will do a good job holding my real big booty in place.

In that same thought process I also have become obsessed with watching Hunter/ Jumper shows online.  And I would love to school specifically in that discipline.  My instructor and I have basically been working with Chief solely in the ride-ability and trust aspect, but I always considered myself a fair and pretty gentle rider so I know I could do well with the right attitude, time and horse.  So I figure I will work on my equitation with Chief currently because I really feel like although he is little, he definitely has heart and ability.  Eventually maybe I can have Chief as my trail pleasure pony and ride a second horse (lesson horse or my own) who could help me learn to improve and maybe do some light showing.  Gotta have goals, right?

Also I am becoming obsessed with horse blogs.  The ones I love so far:

To the Spring!



Saddle Browsing… and hopefully buying

So I rode Chief yesterday and he was a doll.  I rode a bit throughout December but really not much.  I think I rode 3 or 4 times total, and managed groundwork one or two days.  This holiday season has been totally nuts.  My fiance’s son came in from California, and we managed to run everywhere we needed to go.  Combine the holidays with the lack of light after work, and packed

renee pics 137

Friday the pup looking rather evil

weekends and my attempts at being a horsewoman get totally screwed.

So what am I doing now… Making myself a horse schedule.  When I rode yesterday Chief was really relaxed, but also very dull… So I can work on that with him doing some simple exercises, even in his stall at night when it is dark out.

I have big plans for next season… BIG PLANS!   Just with my work schedule, I totally get screwed up as soon as we start having dark nights here in Jersey.  Good news is it is staying a minute lighter every day now.  So here’s hoping the winter flys by.

I am also a baby about the cold.  Which it has not been cold yet so I have no excuse to complain, but I have a feeling it is coming. Plus I am slightly sick… the annoying scratchy kind of sick, not full fledged.

What am I concentrating on now is the great saddle debate! I am debating between the Fabtron Lady Trail saddle or the Fabtron Cross Trail.  All of their reviews are fantastic, and  I love the idea that the tree is really reputable and supposedly fits most horses pretty well.  I am borrowing a friend’s saddle to try it out soon so hopefully I love it . Both of these images are borrowed from horsesaddleshop.com… Who have a great reputation.

I also found this video really helpful, and am considering rigging up the cross trail for center fire rigging which I think looks really safe.  We will see how Chief likes it.  In the end, he’s the one who has to be most comfortable!

In my barn slacking… things I have been working on with him… Soft feel at the walk and stand still.  Nice gentle head bends and head lowering.  And… actually being able to spend more than an hour at the barn per time I am there.


Late Season Rides

IMG_2691I have been having such a great time kind of relaxing before winter hits.  This week I was only at the barn one night, and both days last weekend so I feel a little guilty… almost like I am slacking.  But it has been getting dark before I leave work, and I have just been in such a mood where I want to go home, get dinner ready and catch up on my T.V shows that I watch.  But since I last written about our workouts, I have probably rode Chief maybe 4 or 5 times, and did some groundwork only on 2 or 3 occasions.

Just because I can remember specifics about this past weekend… Saturday the 14th I did groundwork only in the am, probably for about an hour,  I groomed Chief beautifully, and cut his bridle path.  Sunday we did like 30 mins of groundwork and I could tell Chief was good to go, so we rode for approx 40 mins.  We worked on serpentine’s, turn on the forehand, turn on the hind, rolling his hindquarters over and smooth transitions.  I worked him in and outside of the arena, and he loves when we work in the grass.  He obviously likes the footing much better.  But he was a superstar so I was happy.  We tried a different bit on him, thinking it would be a little less pressure on his tongue than the one I was riding him in, but I am switching him back because I don’t love it.  And I don’t think he loves it either.

Also, Astrid and  I rode the property a few times, which was fantastic and beautiful.

But I am kind of glad the season is winding down… There was a lot of goings on this year that just stressed me out.  My goal for next year is to stick to a good schedule with Chief, ride him more than I rode him this year, and get better at my groundwork and connection with Chief and maybe other horses.

Two or 3 weeks ago Chief spun and gave a little buck when walking away from the mounting block.  It was the first time trying the new bit, was getting a little dark outside and was kind of windy.  I got him under control pretty quickly and dismounted after he was calm… I haltered him over the bridle and lunged him and did some desensitizing groundwork with him before I mounted again.  After that he was great.

Other than that, he has been great.  I haven’t ridden him since Sunday, so I am hoping for good weather this weekend! We are also joining our church this weekend, so I am so excited about that.  And the wedding will be coming up soon enough.

Also, RIP Rascal.  What a great pony you were… you will be missed.


Buck Notes From Clinic- September 27, 2015

Buck Brannaman Dover, Delaware  Sept.  2015

Buck Brannaman
Dover, Delaware
Sept. 2015

My personal disclaimer.  These are my personal notes for how I interpreted the clinic and the exercises Buck was teaching.  If someone reads this and wants to really see the exercises in action, check out his 7 clinic DVDs or his newer DVDs he sells that really take you through exercises step by step.  That will probably make it really easy to understand.  I am sure I may have fumbled a word or two in my notes, so they may be difficult to interpret.

Early Class

Exercise 1- Neck bend and reach

  • Position 1-  Bring your horse’s head around while he is standing still.
  • Position 2-  Move your hand by your hip-  Slide your left hand gently as the rein loosely moves through.  Drop your left shoulder back, and your hand should land by your hip, falling behind your leg.  At the same time use opposite side hand to bring opposite rein for some gentle pressure against your horses neck.   Your goal is to cause horse to reach head to the side and reach out with the same side foot.  Once you get reach release the pressure, and return to center and your original centered position.  Ideally your hindquarters should be still.

“Master the Standstill first, before moving on to 2”

“When you’re bending left you are working on the left front leg”

“Master this on both sides before moving on to working circles.”

Exercise 2-  United Circle to a smaller circle

  • Bring your horse to a larger united circle pattern (larger concise circle placing your horse’s feet where you need them), use same maneuver as 1st exercise to bring his front legs around his hind, and when complete go united again.
  • Use your reins and leg only as much as you need to guide your horse. Goal being to teach horse to yield to pressure.  “Shape them up to be prepared for their next move.”

A working walk is very important to master.  Initial goals to learn and master this is loose reins, wide hands keeping your horse centered.  You need to have a rhythm in your body encouraging your horse to walk on and keep him alive.  And this applies to all of your gaits.

Getting a Soft Feel

This is always a main theme for me sticking out when I watch the 7 clinic vids, as well as in Buck’s Clinic in Dover. This is like the Unicorn for me.  Something a little out of reach for me.  It is something I am constantly working on but still do not entirely have down.  I kind of understand the process but haven’t gotten good at this yet.  I can manage a working walk.  I just have trouble asking for a soft feel while keeping my horse moving.  I have soft hands for the most part, but I do need to change my bit to a snaffle. I am riding in a western curb bit now.

  • Practice getting a soft feel on your horse with a bit in his mouth (Buck demonstrated this on the ground. ) But I have also done exercises for this in a halter like this.
  • This is buck talking soft feel at a walk.  I am sure it is a pirate vid but I enjoyed it.
  • The magic seems to happen in the timely, proper release of pressure.

Class 2

I really enjoyed this class just as much as the first one.  There were some more experienced riders who were nice to watch.  It was nice to also recognize that  I could look at others and see the issues they were having and think in my head ow I would go about adjusting or correcting myself if I were in their shoes.

Buck instructed that (my notes and interpretation) “developing a soft feel, collection and engaging starts from engaging the hindquarters first.

Exercise 1- “When you get to the feet, the mouth is quiet.” -Buck

  • Start in position 1… Hand with rein in front of the horn, elbow touching ribs.   To bend head move hands to position two- Slide hand even with your hip and and out about 6 inches.  Bend head with a soft feel to either side, pressure an release.  Work on just this bend in the neck first.  The timing of your release is critical, and the exercise should be relaxed and calm.
  • After you get it right with the head bend use your leg to set the hindquarters back and forth.  “Head first and then feet”

These exercise help with getting horses united by isolating either the front or the rear end.  When you isolate the front end and reach with either leg and really strengthen both sides you can get your horse really balanced before you attempt to get that soft feel consistently.  A lopsided horse laterally will never give to 2 reins properly.

  • Work harder on the side he has more trouble with moving his HQ to get him level and balanced.


  • be on the balls of your feet, not on the outsides of your feet.  Athletic stance in stirrups.
  • Protecting the environment around your horse is your job as the rider.
  • If a horse is heavy going forward on his front end, back him up, get him level and then try again.
  • Back up—-> Soft feel—->Try again
  •  “Every time you stop and back your horse, you have a chance to practice a quiet departure.”
  • “A horse surging is a loss of balance.”
  • “the more Maneuvers you have, the more skills you have and they are all tools.

The end of my notes! What a great experience.

Woodsy Walks and Calm rides

IMG_2516 So I NEED NEED NEED to add my Buck notes from the Clinic to the blog.  I keep procrastinating.  Work was so busy up until last week, and then I brought my journal home.  I just keep forgetting.  But October was half productive, half lazy with Chief.  I rode a lot in the beginning of the month, but the last two weeks of the month I was really just doing a lot of groundwork, walking Chief around the property and being uninspired and lazy.  Earlier in the month he was pretty girthy (probably bc I was slacking on my work with him) but as of now he has been as tame as a puppy as of these last two rides this past weekend.

So just to re-run our last week together:

October 24 and 25th we were away for Sierra’s bday.

Tuesday Oct 27th-  This was my typical lesson night but I was feeling so lazy! It was kind of cold and a little windy and I was in a blah mood.  So I was not really feeling like riding, but I really was excited to do some ground work.  So we put some ground poles down, and chief handled them like a champ.  I had never lunged him over poles before, but it was fun and new for me and him together… I really had a good time this night.  I always am so proud of Chief when he takes on something new like a champ.  Who knows, it was probably old hat to him.  He is approx 16 after all.

IMG_2517Thurs Oct 29-  Lazy again, Groundwork.  Solid 30 mins.  We have been working on backing and Chief yielding to pressure off of either me poking him (and adjusting the pressure) or using his stirrup if I have him saddled.

Sat Oct 31-  Chief was a superstar! Solid 25 mins of groundwork, 45 Minutes of riding.  I saddled him and he walked off like a champ without being cinchy.  We did some really nice walk trot work, and some nice transitions.  I was lucky enough that Astrid came while I was working him and helped me with adjusting my body to transition downward from a trot a little more comfortable.  Whenever I want to sit trot from posting, I always feel rather sloppy.  But Chief felt wonderful under saddle, was giving me a nice extended trot, and I made sure to tell him he was a super star.  Then we took a walk by ourselves around one large cornfield.  Astrid was nice enough to watch me walk him by the “scary stuff” (tractor, some wood, some plastic bag like stuff the farmers have been using that keeps blowing in the wind) just in case he had a melt down over something.  But he was a trooper… Was a little nervy about a couple things, but nothing that he really even reacted to.  Great day.

Sunday Nov 1- What a great day!  Craig and  I went to church in the morning and then stopped at the Horse Part to watch some barrel racing.  It was really fun 🙂  Some of the people seemed a little confused, and even a little scary to watch, but most people seemed really like they had some nice horses and were having a good time.  We only watched 4 rounds bc they kept having to drag the arena.  The fumes in that place were giving us headaches so we took off.

I met Astrid at the farm and we went on a nice trail ride after some light ring work, and I only did like 10 mins of ground work before I mounted! That was huge for me! But I could tell how nice and calm Chief was as soon as I saddled him.  He has one tiny tiny little reaction when I gave him a little leg from the mounting block.  Astrid instructed me to just stand with him until he relaxed, and sure enough he took a nice deep breath,  Walk/ trot we were good to go after that.  We took a nice walk through the woods and around the farm.  Chief loves to follow Crystal and seems pretty unfazed by a lot of stuff. No deer have jumped out at us yet and I really hope that doesn’t happen tonight or tomorrow.  He stood really nicely also when we took breaks, and was really just a relaxed gentleman.

Tonight and tomo are riding nights too! it is 70 degrees here in Central jersey.