Monday, 12 September 2016

The Pitfalls of Being a Female Competitor

If you are a female, and you've entered a show pen before, this post will probably relate to you. I don't care if you barrel race, ride reiners, show cow horse, are on a drill team, you mounted shoot, or you show breed specific - ladies, let's get together and agree on one thing, sometimes it's tough to be a girl in the show pen, and there are many things that we go through as female equestrians that our male counterparts will never have to deal with. Some of them, can be downright funny, others annoying, and some a bit more serious, i'm going to delve into a few of them today.

When Aunt Flo Comes to Town...

No ya'll, I am not talking about Barrel Racer phenom, Fallon Taylor's, trusty steed "Baby Flo", I'm talking about that time of the month. I don't know about you guys, but apparently my biological clock takes showing just as serious as I do. Similar to how I can only wake up at 4 am for a horse show, Aunt Flo only ever seems to come a-knockin' at horse shows.

She's like, "Screw the whole 28 day cycle thing, you have a show today? I'LL BE THERE, I'M YOUR NUMBER ONE SUPPORTER." - Direct Quote from my Super-Fan Uterus.

A few more direct quotes, just so you guys can get really acquainted with my uterus... because you know, in the name of good journalism and all...

"Oh, you have to be on a horse for atleast 3 hours straight? That sounds like a perfect time to host a kickboxing session in your intestinal track!"

"Why are you so glum? It's totally fun to ask random girls for a tampon because your boss and all your clients are men, it's a fun get-to-know-someone game!"

"Are you a little chilly? I'm a little chilly, let's turn up your internal heater to like, let's just say, "BOIL THIS BITCH ALIVE", that's much better, okay now go show your horse and try not to look like a constipated tomato."

Show Shirts

There is no way my male counterparts have to deal with the struggle of show shirts as much as I do. I watch them ride around... they are never tugging at their shirts like I constantly witness women doing. Their shirts seem to be fitted yet still loose, no matter their physical body type. While female show shirts seem to really only fit very skinny, very long-torso'd women well. Do male show shirts have built in air conditioning? Because the amount of women I see with sweat sticking their shirts down WAY outnumbers men. Then, there's the price difference between the two sexes shirts, and how if I want a plain, normal coloured shirt, I'm out of luck because Ariat firmly believes that I need rhinestones, lace, patterns AND a logo plastered on top of my boobs. I only want that sometimes Ariat, OKAY?!

I should literally write an entire blog post about why I hate show shirts, there are SO MANY reasons...

When your show shirt is too short and so it keeps flying out of your jeans. 
When your show shirt comes untucked in awkward spots and you are just trying to tuck it back in but it looks like you are scratching your ass.
Going to the bathroom and having to re-tuck and re-zip and RE-your life back together for ten minutes.
When your show shirt is too long and it makes you look like you have this super fun inflatable tire in your jeans that at ANY MOMENT you are going to pull a rip chord for so you can just float off your horse. 
When your show shirts can't just go in the dryer - you have to "take them to the dry cleaners" - like I have MONEY for that bullshit. 
(DON'T get me started on starching shirts) 
When you have to iron your show shirts... Do I look like I am truly capable of that? I can barely put my own hair in a pony tail under a cowboy hat!
When your sweat, or your horses sweat/goobers/just generally horsiness stains your show shirt and it doesn't come out - WHY?! I spent so much on you and THIS is how you repay me?!

The struggle is real.

This is only mildly relatable to the post, but it is brilliant, so I had to use it


It's going to start getting a little bit more real, and a little bit less frivolous, so let's buckle up. 

Why... WHY... do men feel the need to tell me to smile when I'm at shows? 
Why... WHY... do men feel the need to tell me to smile when I'm entering the show pen? 
Men, by the way, that often I don't even really know. Why is it that these men feel the need to tell me, "you're too pretty not to be smiling." As if my level of attractiveness and the wattage of my smile effects my horse and myself in the show pen.

When is the last time someone told Matt Gaines, or Llyod Cox, multi-million lifetime earners, to "SMILE", before they walked to the herd? I bet you, fucking never. Alright, I hear you, those guys are pretty serious big time trainers Louisa, and you are just a lowly 2,000 Limit Rider, it's a bit different. You are right! So I tested this theory and watched my fellow male counterparts dry work their horses and enter the pen. Not one time, did I hear anyone tell those men to smile. Instead, I hear people (also mainly men) say to them things like, "Go out there and get tough", "Go Kill It!", "Get your game face on!". Meanwhile, in la-la female land, I often hear people say to us, "Go have fun!", and my personal favourite recently, "Judges score extra points for smiling!"

I'm just going to let that sit in for a quick second. Your second is up, I'll tell you what Judges score extra points for - level of difficulty, level of courage, clean cuts, accuracy. I would much rather grab those extra points, but thanks for the smile tip, next time I hot quit, I'm going to start giggling and smiling and hope that the judge throws me a "oh she's a smiling female" point.

and lastly,

"Why So Serious?"

This one sort of goes hand-in-hand with smiling, but I felt it deserved it's own space in this post, mostly because for me, it's even more infuriating. #MySoapBox #MyRules. I'm going to lay it out plain and simple for anyone that has ever asked another person in the warm-up pen why they look so serious... I don't care if you are wearing a blindly sparkly hot pink shirt, you have bleach blonde hair, and you also clearly have a uterus to accompany the previous accessories listed... women are allowed to take things seriously. We are allowed to dry work our horses with stone cold faces of concentration. When we show, we are allowed to look concentrated as well, and maybe sometimes that even reads as mad. When we get out of the show pen, we don't have to apologize for doing bad, or doing well, and if we do bad, we DEFINITELY don't need to smile for someone. If my face reads as mad, it's none of your business. Don't tell me I have "Resting Bitch Face", or am "Unapproachable", maybe just leave me alone if that's how you start conversations. 

The other day I was dry working my horse before going into the pen, the first time I had shown Lady in three months, I was excited and nervous and scared and happy all at the same time. But mostly, I was focused on things we have been working on at home, executing them in the show pen, and picking decent cattle. A man came up to me, that I had never, ever met, and said to me, while laughing, "Wow, why so serious?" If it was acceptable to pull someone off their horse and throat-punch them, I would have, but that's not lady-like, is it gals?

The whole point of this post is that as I think women face a vast array of interesting and individual situations in the horse world. In my own sport, one that is very much dominated by male trainers, and male competitors, I think I feel and see it even more than some women that compete in many female sports. Sometimes, when my show shirt is riding up, and I'm begging a tampon off someone, I'm cursing being a woman. Then, later, probably laughing about it. However, most days, when I'm visualizing my runs, and I'm serious about what i'm about to go do, whether it turns out good or bad, I don't even take into account I'm a woman. I'm a competitor, even if it is a low level, and I deserve to be treated as such. So if a man did make it to the end of this post, waded past the uterus comments and ended up here, I beseech you, next time you feel the need to be coy, or flirty, or sarcastic, or funny, and throw a comment about smiling, or being too serious, at a woman, just stop yourself because you really never do know when someone may snap and legitimately throat punch you. 

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

The Tao of Stall Cleaning

Tao is a Chinese word signifying 'way', 'path', or 'route', or sometimes more loosely, 'doctrine' or 'principle'. Within the context of traditional Chinese philosophy and religion, the Tao is the intuitive knowing of "life" that cannot be grasped full-heartedly as just a concept but is known nonetheless through actual living experience of one's everyday being.

So what does an ancient Chinese philosophy have to do with cleaning the stalls of horses? After many hours spent trying to solve mental problems and road blocks while cleaning stalls, I'm starting to actually think it has a lot more in common than most may think or see at first.

I've been trying to teach him to clean his own stall, so far our attempts have been futile at best

If you own, love, work with, or train, show horses, you have more than likely come in contact with cleaning stalls. You may do it yourself or you may pay someone to do it, but either way, your show horse has probably had their stall cleaned many, many times in its life. Recently, a few "Looking For Work" ads have caught my eye in the cutting horse world, and they've all said "not too proud to clean a stall." Which, at first may seem a little redundant, if you work with horses you have to clean stalls, what does that have to do with "pride"? But, in reality, if you dig into it a little, it isn't as cut and dry as one may think.

One of my first jobs in the horse world consisted of cleaning 30 stalls, that had to be pristine when I was done with them. Let me tell you, that is some back breaking work, day in and day out, especially in the winter hauling waste out and shavings back in to the barn from outside. Many barns are lucky enough to have stall cleaners, whose sole responsibility is to keep the barn and stalls clean and in working order. Many show barns i've been too don't turn out their horses every day, and as such, their stall cleaners will clean stalls 2-3 times a day to make sure they stay as clean as possible. This is much more common in the States than up here in Canada, where many Canadian lopers find themselves also being the stall cleaners, or starting out in stall cleaning roles and going up the ranks from there. No matter which side of the border you lay your hat, or if you have a stall cleaner at home, if you are on the road going to overnight shows, chances are you as a loper will be cleaning stalls as part of your roles and responsibilities. Let me tell you how I feel about the concept of being "too proud to clean a stall". If I were to bring someone to a show, and have them turn their nose up at the thought of cleaning a stall, no matter how good they were on horseback, that person would be heading home on the bus. It's as simple as that in my mind.

Tucking Lady into Bed for the Night
That brings me to the concept of the Trainer or Client cleaning stalls. I have had many clients that prefer to clean their own stalls, or are happy to help clean the stalls of the horses that we have brought to shows. At the same time, I've had other clients that don't offer to help. In my mind, if you pay a lot of money to have your horse in training, you do not have to clean your own stalls unless you want too, that is part in parcel for the monthly training bill and show bills you pay. As a trainer, if you have honed your skills enough to be able to have horses in training and pay employees, then you definitely don't have to clean stalls. In a way, you have graduated from that level. But, this is where that pride thing comes in again, if you are too proud to clean a stall, to lend a hand when your employee desperately needs the help, that's a bit of a different situation entirely.

I remember a time with a previous boss where a high maintenance client demanded she clean her own stalls at shows because she felt we took too many shavings out, however she did a terrible job. Later on, after the client had left, I came around the corner to see my boss cleaning her three stalls over again. I told her that she had already done them, and her response was "not good enough." She shrugged as she picked through the waste and said, "Look, she doesn't want to pull all the urine out because she wants to save money on shavings, but that's not how I do things around here. Stalls have to be clean at all times. We ask so much from these animals, and then to return them to a dirty stall is unacceptable to me." She continued, "It doesn't have to be a big thing, and I'll use my own shavings from my turn back horse if I need too, and I also don't want you to have to deal with it, so i'll just do it." She showed me then that she wasn't too proud to clean a stall, and paid enough attention to her operation that even small tasks such as that were important to her. More over, the entire story shows that her horses health and comfort was the most imperative thing to her, before anything else.

All this pride talk aside, there is another few key aspects to stall cleaning that can't be overlooked. You can learn a lot about a horse by what you find in their stall in the morning. If there's no manure, that may show signs the horse is colicing. If you have a horse that is very consistent in how they "keep their house", and all of a sudden it's changed, that may reflect upon something as well. If the horse was clearly restless and pawing and pacing all night, that may effect them during the day. What about how much water they've had to drink? If they finished all their hay, or if they pawed through it? There are so many insights in your horses activity the night before that you can glean from a stall.

Too Tired to Horse Today, Human, Maybe Another Time
Furthermore, like I alluded too earlier, I find I can solve a lot mentally while I'm cleaning stalls. It's the peacefulness of the earning morning, just you and the horses in the barn, where you can fully engrossed in your own mind as you go through your stalls. I often can think of blog posts, visualize my day, and how I want it to go, or my show runs, and how I want those to go, while i'm cleaning stalls. I can "solve world problems" as it were, as I quietly go through a task that is so key in our horses comfort. While i'm in those stalls, I am also with the horses, and you find out the small things about them that you wouldn't while riding him. This horse loves having his neck scratched, another is younger and a little wary of your rake, go slower, bond with them a little during the process.

So, if you grappling with some issues that you haven't solved yet through cups of coffee and conversation, why not go grab a fork and clean a stall, it might help. If you are questioning how your trainer is treating your horse, or their employees, be more observant at the next show. Is he, or she, around to lend a helping hand if needed, not even really to help the employee, but to ensure that your horse is getting the absolute best care they can receive? You can have won all the millions in the world, but if you don't care about how your horses are being treated and the care they're receiving at even the smallest level, then maybe there's some darker issues at play there.

Now, let's bring it back to my own situation. In any given day, we find ourselves very, very busy at our operation. I also find I am not the fastest stall cleaner in the world, there's no shame in my stall cleaning game, but it may take me thirty minutes longer than the next person. Hiring a stall cleaner has helped relieve atleast one to two hours out of our day to focus on the training and riding of our horses. It has been a big help, and not only that, it lessens even a little bit the physical aspect of what we do. So, if like me, you are lucky enough to have someone that comes to clean your stalls, and keeps your barn clean, tell them thank you, and that you appreciate them. They deserve it. Finally, if you are "too proud" to clean a stall, maybe you should go ahead and check yourself. Just saying.

Rewards of Stall Cleaning, Two Year Old Kisses

Sunday, 7 August 2016

One Year with Lady

This blog has really become a Lady love fest lately, but today marks a special day. One year ago, I decided to take the big leap of buying a new to me horse. At the time, an 11 year old sorrel mare, a trained cutting horse, who had been sitting in a pasture for a year, using that time to specialize in obesity.

She was a little older than I wanted, but she was so quiet, and so nice to be around, and I thought maybe she would be a really nice partner for me, and would be able to help me fulfill my dreams of finally starting to show. In the blog post from last year I wrote, "So, to now put a big investment into another horse? It was hard, and emotional, and some days, I'm still not 100% ready and there with her. But, I think, over time, it will get easier, and she truly is just a nice horse to be around - she makes me feel content, and happy. So I think, for right now, that's all I can ask for. "

Big Mama the day I bought her
Like any horse-rider combo, we didn't click right away, she's a little reserved, and she definitely still rolls her eyes at me sometimes, but after going through my archives of photos, I've realized the key to really getting with your new horse is selfies...

Lots & Lots of selfies...

I promise you, given the sheer volume I had to choose from, it apparently worked for us.

In late October I moved Lady to my boss' ranch, and we managed to survive cattle drives, and winter together. I worked Lady on cows maybe once before winter hit and we shipped ours, then we banged around on the flag until late November. December we spent long trotting in hay fields, and working some of that belly off that Lady likes to keep around.

Then in January, I timidly asked my boss if he thought we could show in the winter series, he said yes, and the rest is history, we started showing!

At our first show, we marked the first of many, many 60s we have since accumulated
Lady & I banged through the winter series cutting with a lot of low scores, and a lot of learning experiences, but it was good for us, because somewhere towards early Spring I started to really, really trust my horse. I started to just let her do her thing, and work on my own riding, and now thanks to that mindset, I can now work on both of us a little bit more comfortably.

From the Winter Series Cutting.
Photo by: Sandy Hansma

The hours, and hours, and hours of working on and thinking about our craft finally paid off in early June when she won me my first buckle, and first two cheques. It came at the right time, because I was starting to wonder if we'd ever achieve our first success together! Of course, as I've detailed in this blog, she then had a colic episode, and I gave her five weeks off to get some well earned rest and just be a horse for awhile. Now, after three weeks of slowly legging her back up, I can start working her again, and I'm so excited to pick up where we left off.

Somewhere, in between hauling down the road, trotting down fence lines in the snow, quiet moments in her stall, warming her up to show her, cooling her out, baths and down time in the arena, Lady and I have become a pretty strong partnership in the year I've had her. More than just a horse I can go show, Lady has become, in a year, one of my most treasured companions. She is kind, and sweet, and trustworthy, she is gritty, and hard working, and sometimes goofy. She loves water, she is a camel in horse form, and she loves cutting cows, and i'm pretty sure that she loves me too. 

Lady has been turned out with her buddy in a big turn out that follows the path of our km long driveway, it takes about five minutes to walk out to her turn out and she's generally way down at the end, so I have to hike out to get her. It has become our routine that I grab her in a halter and then swing on to her bareback, using any device I can find to boost me. The other day it was a rock and I scrambled onto her back, spurs hitting her sides as I swung over her neck and scooted back. I clucked at her to walk on and away we went down the driveway, past the dogs, and big garden with a spooky scarecrow, and around the lawn mower running and beside a vehicle all the way to our tack room. In that moment, I had the comforting feeling that Lady would truly take care of me in any situation, that even though she can be stoic and quiet, and even though she sometimes questions why I feel the need to ride her all the time, especially bareback! haha, she is the type of mare that thinks her duty is to keep me out of trouble, and she has done such a good job of it this year. I am so thankful for her. Every day I look forward to next show season with her, and then the future of hopefully being granted the luck and blessings to ride her babies.

I love this photo because I think it embodies her heart and try
Photo by: Sandy Hansma

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Videos From The Claresholm Show!

I finally got around to getting and uploading the videos from Claresholm in June. I talked all about the show on this post - here - but the summary is that I achieved three of my major goals for this year... Win a Class, Win a Circuit (I won both days, with a 72 and 71 respectively), and Win a Buckle... it was a wicked high having everything click for us, and the reward being two wins proving how we are becoming more and more consistent together.

Here is our 72 run, we were first in the herd...

There is always room for improvement, and after watching both these videos, I know where I need to take my riding to get even better, and even more consistent. I swear, some shows my cuts are nearly perfect, and my runs go to absolute shit, and others, my runs are nearly perfect, and my cuts are absolute garbage. This show, both days, my cuts need some serious help. My nervousness gets the best of me, you can see it in the above video with how I'm hanging my hand up in the air a lot and not stepping her with my feet forward fluidly amongst the cows. However, this was bar none the best run I've ever had on my mare, and that second cow was absolutely, 100%, the best she has ever worked for me, and I, her.

Here is our 71 run the second day, we were second last in a big combined herd of 14 riders...

This video just makes me laugh and smile, I was so dang nervous. Shaking nervous. The cows were also freaking tough and had bested a lot of the big Non-Pros that were combined before us in this class. After telling you guys the second cow from the first day was the best we've ever cut, this first cow was the absolute scariest cow I have ever cut. Watching how hard Lady worked to control that cow and get it in the centre of the pen makes me so proud. Watching back now I really wish I had worked it a bit longer, but I was so nervous I wanted off of that cow like yesterday. Cuts were still a little messy in this video, and I needed to drop my hand a bit sooner in all three cuts that I did. That second cut went to hell pretty quick because I focused in on a cow that wasn't meant too be too early, if you listen close you can hear a friend scream "LOOK UP" at me, and that's what I did. That red cow was good, and once I got it cut, it worked well for us. Realistically the judge did me a favour with the 71 he gave us, but my horse worked her heart out for me, and I'm glad the score reflected that.

So there ya go, rare good quality videos of Lady and I doing what we love! I have been slowly legging Lady back up after her five weeks off, and for the past four weeks she has felt really good. Next week, she goes back into work, and hopefully Mid-September if the stars align for us, we can get back to doing what we love for real.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Calgary Stampede 2016

Another Calgary Stampede has come and gone, and like usual, it feels like the shortest and longest ten days of my life, all at the same time.

Hey, that's me with the Blue Bareback flag!
Photo Credit: Calgary Stampede Rodeo
As many of you know that follow this blog, I've had the honour of being one of the Calgary Stampede Ranch Girls for the past four years. The group of girls that you see shooting out of the centre alley gate, amongst smoke and flame and fireworks, carrying the flags of the rodeo during the greatest outdoor show on earth. It's crazy, honestly it is, it is one of the craziest, best, coolest, glitziest, fastest things I have ever done, or will ever hope to do, and I always count myself lucky to be included amongst such a fantastic group of girls.

Little pre-show pep talk as we head in to the Agrium Event Centre for the Mercuria
This year was also incredibly special to me, as I got to split Ranch Girl duty with loping my most favourite stallion in the whole wide world, Reys From Heaven, owned and shown by my boss, at the Pre-Stampede show at Silver Slate, and at the Mercuria show at the Stampede itself. The Mercuria is a massive show in the cutting horse world, and only the best of the best are entered. Many of the horses we competed against this year are hauled down the road and showed at most of the major shows, a lot of them are amongst the top ten best Open horses in the world right now. We don't haul Rey down the road, but we know that he is special and incredibly talented. It has been a good year for Rey, coming off an exceptionally strong breeding season, where we bred tons of amazing mares and were shown so much support from the cutting horse community.

So, as a warm up, we showed Rey at a few shows, then headed to Calgary.  Rey worked his heart out for my boss in Calgary and they went through to the finals amongst a group of incredible trainers and prestigious horses. It was a great moment, and I am so happy that both my boss, and Rey, received the accolade of making the finals, and the recognition they both deserve.

My Sweet Rey, just love him.
The real story amongst all the glitz and glamour of the Mercuria finals is that Rey is an incredible individual. So often when I'm on him, getting him ready to show, people question if he is one of his offspring, because he's so quiet and well behaved. At the breeding farm, he comes off the trailer quietly, jumps the dummy, then goes for a quick and quiet graze, before he quietly get's back on the trailer. He is the epitome of a gentleman, one of the best looking "Dual Rey's" you will hope to find and he passes on his wonderful, sweet nature, good looks and exceptional talent to his offspring. The oldest being two this year. We, as a team, are so, so excited for their future.

Family Traditions with mama
I was also able to take in a day of the Stampede with my mom, this is the 22 year in a row that we've done our annual "Stampede Extravaganza" and it is always so much fun. Sadly, we didn't win the dream home or the million dollar 50/50 this year, but atleast we were able to take in the sights, sounds and dill pickle corn dogs of the Stampede together for another year. Also, a reminder for next year mom - you don't like corn dogs, as much as you think you do.

Gone Muddin' at the Calgary Stampede
Making the Mercuria finals was a huge high, and right from that high, I went right back to Ranch Girlin'. The last half of the Stampede was very, very wet. One of the absolute rainiest in recent memory, with some crazy storms rolling through. It took a lot to keep smiling through the mud and the slop, but like I said above, thanks to an amazing group of girls and coordinators, it was pretty easy to keep the morale high, and keep having fun. My horse this year, Freckles, was new to me, and he did an incredible job of keeping me safe in the mud. It's a little nerve-wracking to see an arena under water, and be able to trust your horse enough to run out there and have fun doing it. Super thankful for him.

The incredible Mary Burger with us Ranch Girls!
Photo Credit: Gail Cummings
The Stampede is always full of so many incredible stories, my personal favourite (and I know many others too!) narrative was that of Mary Burger, the 67 year old Grandma, who won all four of her go-rounds, then went on to win the finals by 0.001 of a second! Her incredible horse, Moe, handled the intense rounds of Pool A, then a sloppy, wet and raining finals in stride. She was a fan favourite, with the crowd giving her multiple standing ovations, and is incredibly gracious and kind. It really goes to show that at any age you can go out there and follow your dreams, and she is a true testament to that. Love stories like that!

Freckles & I, note the slicker I am wearing... very glamorous ya'll.
& so that's that, back to reality and the "real world", which I'm thankful continues to be horses, horses and more horses for me. (But a lot less hairspray, and makeup). I am so thankful for the Calgary Stampede. For the Rodeo Committee and everyone else that puts on the greatest outdoor show on earth. For everyone that has a hand in letting the Ranch Girls proudly fly the flags of the rodeo. For the Western Performance Horse Committee for putting on the Mercuria World Series of cutting - the crowd was incomparable to any other cutting i've been too, and they do SUCH a good job of keeping it fun and interactive for spectators. It has been such a wonderful ten days, and it's hard to believe it's already come and gone just like that!

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Why Horse Ownership is Not for the Faint of Heart

My girl, "Mates Special Lady"
Photo by Sarah Mckenzie
It has been a month since I've blogged, crazy.

I have so many blog posts percolating and swirling around in my mind, but at the end of the day, I don't have the mental capacity to speak, let alone coherently post. Working for a trainer is hard but rewarding work. In any given day we are balancing a million different things, and trying to fit it all in so that we have enough time to sleep before we start all over again. Between working horses, checking cattle, cleaning stalls, feeding, ranch chores, hauling our stallion or mares to the breeding farm, vet and farrier visits, and all the other miscellaneous things that come up in any given day, there isn't a lot of time to do much of anything else. I'm desperately trying to find a balance, but for many of you that own, love and work with horses, you know that there is little balance, especially in the thick of show season. The horses come first, and everything else comes second. It's not always healthy, nobody said it was, it's an obsession, but it's an obsession I love. I really wouldn't have it any other way.

So this blog post is about that obsession, and the ups and the downs, the highs and the lows that come with horse ownership. I have been blessed with many highs, and I have been gutted with lows as well - we all have, that's horses.

Photo by Sandy Hansma
The highs, the highs are pretty great. You can ride those highs for a pretty long time.

You are ready for that next level horse
You achieve something you've been working on for months, or years
A new foal is born that is the epitome of your breeding program
You win your first big cheque

I recently had a pretty amazing high. At the beginning of the month Lady and I achieved not one but THREE goals I had for this year. Win a Class, Win a Circuit AND Win a Buckle. It was amazing, but it was hard-earned, I had to change a lot about my riding style to be able to get through a run. A combination of nerves was fuelling a bad habit of gripping with my herd side leg, and not trusting my horse to wait on a cow, and control a cow in her own style. This meant show, after show, after show, I came home empty handed and with lack lustre scores. So I worked harder at it, I took every single thing my boss told me to do, and went home and thought more about it before I went to sleep at night. At home, our consistency and hard work was working, but at shows I was still struggling. So, I took off my spurs, and tried desperately to calm down my riding, and quell those pesky nerves. It came together, and it clicked.

The newest piece of jewellery to add to the collection!
At the NCHA Day's show in Claresholm, AB I went in with my only goal to be clean and consistent runs. I entered a class called the "Never Won a Buckle" where the aggregate champion (best combined score from the two days) wins a buckle and is entered into a finals at the Canadian Supreme in the fall to compete against other NWB winners from the year. The first day we drew first, and won our class with a 72. The second day I knew that if I "pressured-up" I would blow my class, like I have in the past. I tried to just keep telling myself "clean-consistent-clean-consistent." That day we were combined with another Non-Pro herd, so I was second last in the class in a big herd of 14. The cows were really tough, and were proving to be pretty tricky. The first cow I cut took one look at us and tried to run us over, I held my breath the entire time, I heard people gasp and I just thought, I need to ride my horse, it needs to be clean. We survived. The second cow was better. The third cow I chipped off and cut well. The judge scored us a 71. I left the pen, covered in sweat and shaking, I had made it through the run, it was clean and consistent, that's all I had wanted. Then, I heard the score from the last rider in the class and knew I had won the class again, and the buckle. Then I cried, in front of everyone there, like a massive baby. I'll tell you one thing, when you have a horse with a heart as big as mine, who tries so hard every time she walks to the herd, and you've struggled to showcase her ability due to your own shortcomings... to pick up two first places on her, is a very, very special feeling. Our first wins together, like I said - an unbelievable high.

Lady hooked up to fluids at Moore & Co

Then... there are the lows... What goes up, must come down.

Your next level horse comes up lame
You horse starts to sour in the show pen
Your new foal dies from complications
You don't pick up a cheque the entire show season 

Our low came one week later at another small club cutting show. I had given Lady most of the week off, worked her once on the flag, and once on cows, she felt really good. Then when I started to warm her up, she felt a little slow, but nothing crazy. Then right before we were suppose to walk to the herd, she felt dramatically off on her front right. I got off, no heat, didn't overreach, nothing. So I walked her out, and she felt okay, so I went ahead and showed her, she was pretty fresh because of the walking and we didn't have the best show because of it. Afterwards I put her up and she seemed fine. When we got home we jogged her and she now seemed off in her hind end, swinging out her back right leg as she trotted. She seemed lethargic as well. I gave her a bit of bute, and planned to call our lameness vet the next day. When I went to put her into her turnout, she kept trying to lay down, she wasn't rolling, or seemed uncomfortable but again just seemed so lethargic. So I called the vet, he couldn't be sure what was happening, but agreed she didn't seem right. He gave her fluids and told me to monitor her. She seemed fine that night, and looked like she was bouncing back.

I recommend having a good dog to keep you company,
and sleep on the barn floor, in situations like this. <3
The next morning, she seemed even worse, very lethargic, and kept trying to throw herself down, or alternatively stretch out her hind out constantly in a "prayer" type position with her front legs extended. I loaded her on the trailer and took her to Moore and Co. When we got there, after multiple ultrasounds throughout the day, they found she had excessive fluid in her colon, colitis, as well as an impaction. Due to the fact her colon was enlarged her small intestines were moved and displaced as well. They put her on fluids, banamine, and pulled her feed. Throughout the day they were able to physically remove a lot of the impaction by hand, and treated her for the colitis. I was able to get her two days later, and tapered her back onto feed myself at home.

In the end they suspect she contracted a virus or a bug, and by the time it exhibited itself it had already passed through her system so they couldn't be sure what it was. She had a bad spell of diarrhea last fall and they said that may have affected her colon flora, so when faced with a bug, it could have spiked that causing the colitis, which in turn likely caused the impaction.

It was a very scary and stressful time for me, after losing my three year old bunny last year, I am pretty sensitive to horses getting sick, and tend to jump to the worst possible conclusion. I am so grateful to the team at Moore and Co for taking the best care of my horse, and also happy that we were able to avoid surgery for so many reasons. I am happy to report that it has been a week since Lady has been home and she seems much better, and back to her normal self and feeding schedule. The only small thing I have noticed is she seems to be dragging her hind toes a little when she walks, so we'll see how she feels when I get to start riding her again this week. Our show season was halted a little, but i've refocused my goals with her for the fall, and having her in prime condition for the Canadian Supreme in Red Deer at the end of September. Lady owes me absolutely nothing, if I had to retire her tomorrow I would be gutted, but would move on from it. In my mind, her health and happiness is the forefront before anything else.

So there you have it, that story is in it's very essence why horse ownership is not for the faint of heart. In a week's time you can have a massive high, and a gut-wrenching low, and you still have to roll out of bed the next day and go through the paces. You can come off a big win, but you still have to listen to your coach tell you that you need to fix something in your riding. You can come home with an empty trailer, and you still have to bring the rest of the horses in and feed for the night. That's how it is with horses, because when you care for them, when you take care of them, there will be highs and lows every single day - some bigger and better than others, some worse and more terrible than the ones before them... that's just how it is out here, so you better have pretty thick skin, and be able to roll with the punches. I think, atleast, that it is totally and completely worth it.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Western Horse Review Young Guns

If you haven't picked up the May/June copy of Western Horse Review yet, you probably should. Be sure to flip to the "Young Guns: Top 16 under 25" feature, you may see a familiar face on a familiar paint horse... 

When Western Horse Review reached out to me and asked to feature me as one of their "Young Guns", I was pretty humbled and shocked. It's not everyday you get to see your name, and your blog, highlighted in a major Canadian magazine.

A huge thank you to the team at Western Horse Review, specifically Jennifer Webster, Ingrid Schulz and Cassie Hausauer for taking the time to reach out to me and interview me as one of the Top 16. To be ranked among some of the most fascinating, hard working, ground breaking and competitive up and comers in the country is such an honour, it's truly hard to put into words. 

So go check out the feature & let me know what you think!