Sunday, 4 December 2016

Do you have a flag? A short and sweet rant from a short and sweet lady :)

Now, whether you are familiar with the comedy of Eddie Izzard or not, I can't help be mentally drawn back to this clip every time I am asked about my flag...and the recurring question after "Why do you use it?" is always a frivolous, "Can you show me some of the things you do with it?"  In a wave it around to desensitise as that is the only conceivable use for it, kinda thing.

When I try to explain that the exercises I am doing can be taught without the flag, and that those exercises are the aim of me working my horse on a lead rope, I get the look of puzzlement...

Now what Eddie illustrates above is the fixation with the tool, not actually the situation or task surrounding it claiming new territories or working with a horse, and I find it as irritating as hell.  Sorry, I'm usually a happy go lucky and helpful individual, but I find it so belittling it makes me burn.

It's not about the's not a parlour trick, it's not me lunging a horse to brain death, it is an extension of my arm.  Wouldn't matter what it was, tennis racket, whip, or rope that I am going to hang myself with if someone asks me again... it doesn't matter.  What does matter is the intend behind it, devoid of emotion and simply being used as an extension of what it.  Sure it gets moved around, but that moving is with a purpose.  Whether it is to get my horse used to commotion, or to help move a shoulder across or shape up when on a circle, it has a specific purposeful job.

If you want a tool with no purpose, go to any local tack store and find some side reins.

Now on a nice note, welcome to my new readers and newbie participants signed up for Buck's clinic in 2017.  I look forward to getting to know you all.  Here's a picture to prove I smile hehe  x

I'm off for a medicinal drink..

See you on the flip side x

Saturday, 19 November 2016

On The Road Again

"Whether it's horses or whatever you do, it doesn't become an art until your soul goes into what you do
 - Buck Brannaman

Before I said goodbye to Maite, I'd seen a horse for sale fairly local to me that I decided to go and view.  HBK Vanilla Fudge aka Ada, is a 15hh bay QH mare by Shiny Little Spark, and I instantly felt a connection.  In that moment I decided I was ready to have another QH and expand my herd to 2.  Following viewing Ada and before her arriving, I lost Maite.  

Now I have to admit, at that point I was ready to give up altogether. Horses, this journey, felt all too much.  

The last year in particular, has been filled with worry and loss. Twice.  My husband has always been supportive, and was obviously upset that we lost Maite, but I thought he would be thrilled when I announced that I was done.  Instead he looked at me with a worried look in his eye and said nothing.   Of course I took time to reflect, and realised that maybe this little mare had found me at exactly the right time.  A soothing balm to help heal my wounds, and to teach me more about her kind, and life if I let her.  

It was incredibly bittersweet the day she arrived.  You can't help but think about the life you have just lost, and feel disloyal that you have let another stand at the gateway to your heart.  Could I let Ada in, even if I desired it? Would she want to come in, or would she judge me lacking to be her guardian?  The first few days were filled with routine and the tasks that accompany looking after a horse.  I decided I was not going to approach Ada with any of my own baggage.  That I would get to know her without comparison, expectation or fear and see how we got on.  There was still the expectation when working with her on the ground that she should try, and I gave her a purpose in the little things we would do together.  When clearing the droppings from the arena for example, I'd set her back and to the side as if we were tying off imaginary cows (in reality me with a tub trug), seeing how particular and accurate we could be, could I get to those feet?  Ada is particularly bothered by the flag, but we are gaining each time we work and I am overwhelmed by her try.  The one thing however that I didn't expect is HER desire to connect. To hook onto me, at first physically and now more mentally.  She wants to be with me...I'd kinda forgotten I had anything of value to offer her, but apparently she can see what I failed to, and do you know what?  It feels lovely.  When we work with our horses, we always want them to feel like winners.  The ethos of 'you go, I go and then we go together'.  I discovered it may be me leading the dance, but it seems my horse is the one who asked me onto the floor....

I did go back and ask my husband why he said nothing to me after my declaration of, "No more horses!"  He answered, "Well Kate, your 2 favourite things after our family are horses and wine, I'm not sure who you'd be if you didn't have a horse in your life, it's who you are".

Seems my soul is in it for the long haul, so back to honing my craft I go....

Thank you Maite for everything you have taught me. Run free with Tuff.  I wouldn't be the horsewoman I am without having met you both x

See you on the flip side x

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Making the Call

Saying goodbye is never easy.  It is hard enough kissing our loved ones off in the morning, hoping that if the day goes well that we will see them again at dinner time.   Saying goodbye forever is a different ball game altogether, and sadly over the course of the last year and a half, I've had to do it 4 times.  In all incidences I have been involved in the individuals care and treatment plan, and I have had the responsibility, alongside professionals and family, in making that call.  The call that signifies the beginning of the end.  In the case of my Dad and brother, devastatingly nothing else medically could be offered and it was a slow, agonising (for us) period of days watching them reach peace.  With Tuff in January, and sadly this week Maite, the responsibility has been solely laid upon my shoulders, and quite frankly the enormity is soul destroying.

I feel like the Harbinger of Death.

Making the tough choices I know is part of being a steward of our animals lives, but the self doubt, the questioning, the bargaining for an alternative is desperate and paralysing.  No different to any loss I know, but with an animal there is no opportunity to ask them what is wrong, we find ourselves interpreting symptoms, behaviour, test results, and professional advice... and amidst the chaos of information overload, there are our own emotions.  The love we have for these living breathing partners with a soul.  A soul so giving they forge a partnership with us in the first place, and you question yourself even when the inevitable decision has been made, right up to the final moment ... and then your brain just crashes... and in your head there are silent screams of 'NO!' as you comfort your friend into the next stage of life......death...and are hopeful that with that transition, they are finally free.

For us however, that is when the pain begins.  Relief accompanies it, knowing we did the best we could and knowing that our loved ones, be they equine or human, knew love.

Peace? Well that's what they now have, and we can be hopeful we might have some too.


Sunday, 15 May 2016

Pushing treacle up a hill....

The clue is in the title.  That's pretty much how I've been feeling this last month with everything.

That the amount of effort required to ultimately be no further forward than when I began is exhausting.

But as I sit here writing I realise that's not exactly true.  There has been remarkable progress with Maite (including but not limited to: crazy hack with lots of bullocks, solo hacking and some fab pole work) however, my enjoyment of anything has been completely marred by the devastating loss of my beloved big brother.  Sudden, unexpected and horrific.  Grief, again, has permeated my being and is caustic.  I have lost my Dad and brother within a year of each other (May is now not a month I like very much).

Now understandably at this time family is priority and I am going through the motions of day to day things, and I thought I was as fine as could be expected.  But I actually think that the lights are on but no-one is in.. my desire to ride or function beyond a basic level has disappeared.  The only benefit is that I'm more self aware (and that is down to the horses).  I learned a long time ago that you have to be true to how you feel and process what's going on.  So I am.  I am physically very tired, and I was walking the knife edge of eating my feelings (put the donut down Kate) but I am so very grateful for having my brother in my life and I'm trying to be kind to myself.

It has also reminded me not to sweat the small stuff.  We are here for such a short time, and the more I learn as we travel on this journey is that the everyday stuff is really the big stuff in life.  Those moments with the people and animals that we love, the moments that make us happy, and the ones that make us sad.  THAT'S what makes a life.  In honour of my brother (as it's his fault I started riding!) this week I will be saddling up and enjoying the ride.

So my friends, hug the ones you love, say yes to things that you might normally reject, open your heart and mind to how truly special being here is, and go live the heck out of it.

As for Maite... well, this is something our horses already know and try to teach us everyday.  Now, in this moment, is what is important.  So make it a good one.

See you on the flip side x

Friday, 4 March 2016

Them v Us

Mahatma Gandhi — 'Be the change that you wish to see in the world.'

I've been reading a few blogs lately that have stuck in my mind.  One in particular has been shared far and wide with feverish joy.  It covers the judgemental and intrusive actions of other equestrians who feel the need to comment or misunderstand our style of horsemanship. On the surface I agree with this fellow blogger and I am in no way belittling what she has put out there, more power to her.  She is right when she questions why they don't come up and ask what we are doing, instead of mocking and admonishing others against the way of our practices.  Lord knows I've been subject to it over the years, and now have a galvanised s**t shield (patent pending) to most of it.

But....and there is a but.

People react to us this way through fear.  Fear of something they don't understand.  Something they'll never understand if we label them and close the door.  Yes, they can be utter wankpuffins (apologies re language, that's as tame as I can go) and bullies, but people as a species DO NOT LIKE CHANGE.

When they see something different that presents results that means they have to change something about themselves, well that's just too gosh darn hard.   They've spent years being told and taught that gadgets and domination work.  When someone or something shines a light on that and renders it flawed, it is far easier for that person to think that the someone/something is wrong, than challenge their own beliefs.

Change takes work.  Heck, this type of horsemanship takes real personal growth.  Not to mention the skills you need to learn to do it.  Some people are just too proud to step back and realise that after decades they may have to leave some of their old skills by the wayside and learn new ones.  Such as feel and timing.  This may come easy to some, but others may never get it in it's entirety.  The appeal of staying skilled and proficient in something they've always done, as opposed to learning something new that may make them vulnerable, is all too much sometimes.

We know this journey is exactly that, a journey.  Some days I look like I've never picked up a rope and flag in my life, others I look like a semi competent horsewoman.  I keep going for my horse, because as far as I am concerned, that's why we all do this, isn't it?

So let people make mistakes by judging us, needless to say don't let yourself be bullied, however smile, nod and keep going.  Your horse will do the talking for you.  Equally, labels are dangerous.  Curiosity is never going to be piqued if it's a Them v us Mentality.  There is dark and light in everyone.  Not everyone who waves a flag is a good horseman, and not everyone who uses a pessoa is a bad horseman.  They just don't know any different.

This above quote sums it up for me. 'Be the change that you wish to see in the world.' Be that change, but remember those who attack us do it because it's awoken something within them.  It's not about you.  Hard I know, when you are made to feel ridiculous or accused of being cruel.  We know we are neither.

Maite and I are moving yards soon.  Into the Lion's den.  A large competition yard with around 90 horses.  I'm pretty sure I may be the only flag waver and lariat thrower, but my shield is polished, without being defensive and I'm looking forward to seeing aspects of good horsemanship around me, instead of fearing the dark.

See you on the flip side xx

P.S..... Tuff passed away in January.  I can't bring myself to write about it yet.  I have lost my soulmate x

Friday, 1 January 2016

Goodbye old habits, hello New Year.

So this time last year I was still on a high after finding out I had a place at Buck's first UK clinic.  2015 yielded a myriad of experiences, both good and bad, in both my horsemanship and private life.  The funny thing about life is that even though we like to compartmentalise feelings, thoughts and experiences in our head, real life weaves them all in a rich and sometimes dark tapestry.  It's not until we stand back and reflect on the sum of years worth that we can completely appreciate our experiences.  How they shaped us and changed us.  How they solidified parts of our being and how they made us question ourselves to the core.  Sometimes this happens on a small scale, but it is no less important or significant.  Sometimes it happens on a scale so large, it blind sides you until you come out  the other side still smokin'!  That was my 2015, and the biggest thing I learned (and that Buck helped teach me) is my horsemanship and who I am is not separate.  I may divide up things in my head in order to organise my life and 'chunks' of what my feeble brain can cope with, but who I am is who my horse sees.  It doesn't matter what discipline you ride, what colour you are, what you had for breakfast... your horse knows who you are.  Now let me clarify something here, I don't mean what skills you have with your tools, timing etc (we're all works in progress) I also don't mean your horse thinks, 'oh well she had a bad day, I'll cut her some slack'.  No.  What I am referring to is your horse knows your intention, he knows down to the core of you who you are.  The species has had to be a very good judge in order to survive.  Sometimes seeing yourself through your horses eyes is a bitter pill to swallow.  Sometimes, your horse reflects back a potential version of you that you did not realise was there.... that is what both my horses have done to me this year, and I was oblivious.

First the mighty Tuff.  Through the fog of grief and despair he was nothing short of a true partner at the clinic.  I have wax lyrical about him in many a previous blog.  I assumed it was because of his good nature and being a pretty well broke horse that he stuck through it all with me, but on reflection I'm not convinced that is the case.  He can be very insecure and he needs you at times to step up when he becomes unsure... there was none of this at Aintree.  He was the very best version of himself and was willing me to meet him there.  Sounds batty I know, but he did.  I had fallen apart and he had stayed true, for me, he expected more from me.  Because, and I don't say this lightly, if he had fallen apart I would have crumbled and possibly never recovered.  My horse knows me, he knows the heart and soul of me I he knew I needed him to fill in for me and push me through it.   It's taken until now for me to realise that, and had it been in isolation I would have pessimistically brushed it off.... until Maite decided to make her feelings known.

Maite is a very confident mare and I have struggled internally as to whether I am good enough to own her.  Would she be better with someone more skilled, patient, more time etc.  This has been quite a battle for me.  This constant battle and feeling of not being good enough has marred my progress with her, and my building a relationship with her.  So, before I had my operation I was working her on the ground and bumping her up to the mounting block (as this needs some work).  She wasn't saddled as I had no intention of riding her that day, but I went through the motions of leaning over her, running my arm on her off side etc.  Now, even on a mounting block I am neither tall nor agile enough to bounce on to her back, but I was making enough commotion as if I was planning to mount to the point when Maite just turned her head and looked at me.   What she did next I decided no one would believe me if I told them... she then proceeded to slide her left fore forward, dropped her shoulder and looked at me again.  It was an invitation to get on with the expression of 'here you go, you getting on or what?'   That day changed our relationship.   We worked together right up until my operation, and then 14 weeks after my surgery I had a little ride, and I picked her up right where I left her at the end of the Summer.

Both my horses set the bar at where they see me, and expect me to be.  I have to meet them there.  It's not about me trusting them, it is all about me trusting myself, and this is a theme that runs through the entire fabric of my life.  Who I am is most definitely who I brought to the barn and my horses are helping me work through that and fulfil in my riding where I need to be.  As an instructor said to me once, 'Kate you have all the theory and knowledge up there, you just need to filter it down into your arms and legs'.  

My hurdles with my horsemanship have never been about my horses, they've been about me trusting myself all along.  What Tuff did was not let me project my emotions onto him.  That grief fuelled self destruct feeling that threatened to end my participation in the clinic.  What Buck did was point it out to me.  When I approached him and said I can't do this, my horse feels disconnected, Buck had a look at him and said, 'Well he looks alright to me'.   He was, he was fine, it was me...but I'm pretty sure Tuff and Buck knew that and they expected more.

So, my lovelies, my only resolution for 2016 is to BELIEVE.  Believe that despite all the bad, there is ultimately the good and our horses guide the way.  

I wish you all a happy and healthy 2016 and I hope to see you on the Road to Buck.

See you on the flip side xx