Make A Difference!

Today I volunteered in Detroit fixing up abandoned houses.  The lesson I learned: a little effort goes a long way, especially when there are many hands to help.  Make A Difference Day has been at Oakland University for the past three or four years.  The way it works: a few different sites are available for anybody to volunteer at.  Usually they are assigned to a group so there is an equal amount helping at each group.  At each site, people gather from all over the state just to help the area.  One person actually flew overseas just to help at our Detroit site because she fell in love with the city from his or her previous experiences.  I thought that was incredible; someone would travel such a long distance just to put in a helping hand for a city in need.  We probably had close to 100 people working on the houses in Detroit.  Our group of six covered about four houses.  When you add up the numbers, that’s a lot of hands and a lot of houses that were cleared up.  We had one of the neighbors come out and thank us for the hard work and offered to get us a cold beverage or anything we needed.  It was an honor to be a part of such a charitable event.

With the combination of being sleep deprived and malnourished from eating pizza and other junk food the past couple of days, I was exhausted.  I decided to stop off to get a coffee (just to add to the non-healthy trend), why not share it with someone?  I drove over a hot chocolate to one of my most fabulous friends.  To be honest, I just needed some best buddy bonding time!  It was a much needed six hour hang out.  We made strawberry jelly (more like talked while she made the jelly), discussed life, and kept it real while smashing peach pits with a hammer on the cement in her garage.  Did you know those things have little peach almonds inside?  CRAZY!  Can’t get much better than that!

I’m so grateful for what I have in my life.  That leads to me the question my brother posed to me: Are you attached to anything?  Imagine how great life would be if you let go of everything that you THINK you “need”.  You would be free.  Horses were of course the first thing I thought about when my brother thought this up.  But then I thought, no, technically I do not NEED horses.  I would continue to exist if I did not have horses in my life.  My heart would probably beat, my lungs probably would circulate oxygen to my body, and the earth would most likely still rotate.  When you tell yourself you need something, you obsess over it, and focus more on what you need to do in order to keep it in your life rather than taking time to enjoy it taking place in your life.  To need something produces fear of losing whatever that is that you “need”.  Fear leads to a restricted life style.  Why live your life in fear of loosing something if you could let go, live freely, and view that sensation of whatever you “need” in your life as a gift?

For my life, I do not NEED to receive lessons or ride in clinics.  I do not NEED more students.  I do not NEED to sit and watch my horse and his pasture mates roam around the field.  However, I sure do appreciate every moment I get the opportunity to experience acquiring knowledge from someone with a different point of view, sharing my knowledge with other people, and just sitting and taking in a breath of fresh air while looking over acres of horses grazing on the green pasture.  I had to go through the transition of letting go in order to appreciate it more though.  I talked a bit about this in a previous post, where I took a break from the chaotic lifestyle I was putting upon myself because I thought I NEEDED that to succeed.  Now that I am creating a negative-stress-free mindset for myself, my business is doing better than ever.  Not only the quantity of horses and riders being reached in the business, but the quality of training being put into my students.  I feel enthusiastic again.  I feel honored.  I let go of my needs, and I decided to observe what life has to offer.  I feel free.

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Back to work!

Today was wonderful.  I rode two of my horses in training.  Both were fantastic!  Magic was a bit sassy though.  He’s a gray off the track thoroughbred.  I actually ended up working him for two hours.  The first hour was spent trying to get him a bit more reliable on the lunge line.  I had to release my inner cowgirl/horse whisperer.  It’s amazing how you can put pressure on a horse just by looking at a certain spot.  All I had to do was look at his haunches, take a tiny step forward and he would turn and look at me as if I had just asked him to do a “one rein” stop.  A lot of hot and cold exercises for this boy!  Between a giant bite mark on his back from one of his pasture enemies and his owner being on vacation, it had been about four weeks since he had last been ridden by me.  He had calmed down the the Magic he was four weeks ago by the time I got on him.  We worked at the walk, trot, and canter in both directions.  We worked a bit on shoulder in, square turns, and leg yielding too!  He was wonderful!  I really pushed myself to keep my lower leg wrapped around him with just the slightest bit of pressure so my leg was able to stay quiet.  I have gotten in the bad habit of letting my leg come on and off of the horse when I post, which throws my balance off.  But, I felt very accomplished after this ride!

Mr. Magic

I was in a chipper mood after two successful rides, so I decided to put my happiness to good use and pamper my Fable.  He was drinking from the water trough when I drove up to the barn.  The sun was lighting up his coat with a reddish tint.  Once I got out of my car he nickered and proceeded to follow my path toward the stall.  Such a warm greeting.  I brushed him off, put his cooler on since he felt a little chilly, wrapped his legs, and then put his saddle and bridle on.  Before I removed the cooler I rubbed my hands all over his back and his rump to warm him up even more.  He was loving every minute of it!

We did or normal warm up routine, two times around the arena each direction in hand… I have a confession to make though.  I have been giving him a lot of treats as a reward for doing something good while riding.  I just keep them stashed in my pockets.  Well, normally Fable turns his head around and waits for his treat as I am swinging my leg over.  Today, he started nickering once I stepped up on the mounting block.  I was laughing so hard I could have peed myself.  I love that Fable and I are such good friends that we can laugh at each other, even when nobody else is around.  Once I got my giggles under control I started working on a lot of change in direction on a loose rein.  He felt great!  We worked for a long time today… We trotted for a bit, working on circles and trot poles.  Then I set up a little cross rail.  He did surprisingly well!  His canter felt amazing too.  Forward, but not strung out! He was staying round without me even touching his face.  I made a deliberate attempt to keep my hands out of his way and to turn from my body: success!!!!

Mr. Cute

I am much too lazy to proof read this post tonight, so I apologize if it is horrible.  I am incredibly tired, and I have to wake up tomorrow at 7:30 to volunteer at Make A Difference Day.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m VERY excited! But I need my sleep!  Good night y’all!

RIP Prudence!

Prudence rockin’ the stairs

A few years ago, a couple of my friends and I decided it would be a fantastic idea to get friendship hamsters.  Prudence and Diesel were their names.  I kept Prudence at my house, and after the novelty of having friendship hamsters wore off she simply became my hammy.  Diesel lived at my friend’s house and was the wild child of the bunch… She would hang from the ceiling of her cage, hiss at the smell of mint, and she actually ended up chewing a hole in her ball which led to her disappearance.  A few weeks later, my friend’s dad found Diesel in the furnace vent.  Prudence lasted quite a bit longer, though.  She actually lived through two large bags of hamster food.  That could possibly be the new record for any hamster I’ve ever own!  Most of our bonding consisted of me handing her food.  She ate pretty much anything and packed everything in her cheek pockets.  I will spare the details, but she was simply not herself today.  We took her outside to lay in the grass and she was loving it!  She did not make it through the day though.  Rest in peace little hammy!

As for other occurrences today… I went to the mansion for a little “me” time, it was very nice.  I got into deep thought, as always.  I think I might start blogging in the morning, or midday instead.  Something different though, I don’t feel like I write as well when I am exhausted, like right now!  Zzz…

What a day!

Without sight, all of your other senses are stimulated.  The feel of the reins between your fingers, the swing of your hips as your horse walks forward, the ball of your foot supported by the stirrup iron.  The sound of hoof beats in the sand, the night time breeze whispering in your ear.  The moonlight illuminates the white fencing.  I cannot see whether or not Fable is through at the base of his neck or not.  I only see the shadow of a horse underneath me.  His level of connection can only be distinguished through feel.  I pushed my hand forward and gathered collection with legs and core when I felt any pressure on the bit.  Whether Fable was leaning or I was accidentally restricting, I want everything done through my seat and body.  Tonight, we were able to accomplish that.  Shoulder in, leg yields, half passes, haunches in, haunches out.    Dancing in the moonlight with my most beloved horse.  Moments like these are priceless.

Today was incredible.  To start off the wonderful day, my mom and I met up with a very close family friend for a “birthday breakfast!” She even had them deliver a cinnamon roll with a candle for me to make a wish on!  It was such a nice visit.  In addition to the breakfast and wonderful cinnamon roll, she got me a jacket.  But not just any jacket.  A jacket with my DuFour Dressage logo on it!!! I could tell there was so much thought put into every detail!  I loved the color theme: red white and blue.  It’s so comfortable; I just want to wear it all day!

Front of the jacket..
Back of the jacket…

Fantastic. So, onto the second fun event: Health and Wellness Fair! I was volunteering at the WHP Society Booth but it wasn’t too big of a hit.  There were mostly employees there, very little student activity.  However, I did get to talk to a chiropractor.  I actually set up a consultation with him.  He assessed my posture and was spot on with every concern that I have noticed, and off course I notice it effect my riding.  I’m really looking forward to discussing with him more and seeing how the adjustments help in everyday activity as well as riding!

Third fun event: Stress management! In class today, we talked a bit about a new coping skill for when people are talking at you in a hostile way… It is called whooshing.  What is whooshing you might ask?  Well, let me tell you.  Whooshing is when you imagine a streamline of words and letters coming out of the persons mouth, and watching them float right on by you.  That way you don’t feel like their anger is directed right at you.  Next, we did a little bit of Tai Chi!  It was my first time, but definitely not my last!  I felt so revived after that.  I couldn’t stop smiling all the way back to my car.  It’s something I’d like to study more so I can relate it to riding… I took some of the concepts and incorporated it in tonight’s ride, I had great results.

Fourth fantastic event: A trip to my second family’s house!  I have the best friends in the entire world.  Seriously.  They’re so supportive, caring, and just simply awesome.  Especially the friend I visited today- you know who you are, Diddy.  Anyway, I don’t even know where to begin to explain how grateful I am to have this person in my life.  She’s always there when I need her and keeps me thinking positively.  I cannot thank her enough for that.

Alright, final major event of the day: Pony ride!  The sun had already set by the time I got to the barn, but that wasn’t going to stop me!  Threw on the saddle and bridle, and off to the arena we went!  I have a new warm up ritual, I always hand walk him around the arena two times each direction.  That way it gives him a chance to unlock any kinks and loosen his back without me sitting on him.  We both enjoy it, it gives us a chance to relax a bit before we begin.  I rubbed liniment on his legs and gave him a massage after the ride.  I can’t help it, I’m simply in love with my horse!

Catching up!

Wooh!  Lots to catch up on.  Okay, Saturday I turned 19, woopdey do.  Sunday, however, was great!  I had a wonderful ride on Fable, and I got to witness a wonderful ride from one of my students.  Hopefully she doesn’t get too mad about me writing this, but I am very very proud of her.  I started riding her horse a year or so ago, just to work on some basics and to get her lateral work started.  I believe she started taking lessons sometime last winter… She has come so far from that first lesson of “10 meter circle left, get her attention, 10 meter circle right, get her attention, walk, trot, circle, stop, attention, trot, go, stop, back flip…etc” to now working on turn on the haunches, turn on the forehands, shoulder in, leg yeilds… Most impressively she has gone through this transition of training theory with me and always does her best to listen and understand the things I am saying.  She has a wonderful bond with her horse and I am so excited to continue working with them.  Their future is very bright.

The Wonder-Team!

I wish I had a current picture of the two, the one above is of their first show together a few months ago.  Since then, we kind of “started over” in a way, the same way I did with Fable. Working on getting her off of the leg and seat more than the hand.  The super mare’s muscles have developed so much since this picture was taken.  My student (who will remain nameless, you know who you are!) has put in all of the work herself.  It’s so rewarding to see the difference not only in my own horse, but my student’s horses as well in all of the different aspects including muscle tone, and their attitude towards working.

The two I mentioned are not the only ones who are making tremendous improvement.  I am proud of ALL of my students and horses.  I have to pinch myself when I realize how many wonderful people and horses I get to work with on a regular basis.

On another note, my rides with Fable have been getting better and better.  We are both getting stronger.  We’ve been doing a lot more trotting (with lateral work too) and he’s able to carry himself so much better.  I feel better in my riding too.  I have been doing my part in working out, in addition to the riding.  I started running at the University’s gym.  I’ve also been doing my shoulder/back exercises to help with my posture.  I’m looking forward to getting more fit!

Speaking of fitness… I made a deal with a lovely friend of mine.  If she works out 6 days a week, then I have to spend an hour studying or reading 6 days a week too.  Health, and education.  What a lovely combo.  I’m actually very excited, as silly as it may sound.  I’ve never been very good at studying.  Or, shall I say, I’ve never been very good at getting the motivation to start studying!  I’m a busy body, always have four million things going on at once.  BUT, I’m going to try to get better and have a little more focus.  I think it’s great to be well rounded and do as many things as possible, but not at the same time.  I am going to start scheduling my time a bit better so I can prioritize the things that need to get done vs. the things I can wait until tomorrow.  That way Facebook and blogging doesn’t come before studying for a big test.  To add to that, I actually went to a tutor to help me study for a Research Methods test coming up on Thursday.  Progress!

One last thing before I go, Fable and I will be riding in the Novi Horse Expo.  We will be riding in the “Dances With Horses” Exhibition which is November 9th from 1-2pm.  I will be doing a solo act, a Pas De Deux with one of my most beloved friend, and another surprise act.  Please come and support us!  Let me know if you would like more information, or you can visit this website: http://www.noviequestrianexpo.com/info.html

Peace!

It’s On…

My flame for dressage has been reignited.  Sometimes discouragement can find you when something you’ve been doing so easily for years suddenly becomes incredibly difficult.  I hadn’t been challenged in a long while, so when I was faced with the reality of having to change my entire theory behind training to protect my horse’s musculature development, it was quite shocking.  Months of pondering what I had been doing, why I had been doing that, what I need to do, and why I need to do it, really took its toll on me.  That, combined with five trillion other things going on in my life really wore me down.  I have always been one to have a million things going on at once to keep my mind occupied; however, I needed some down time to think.  I had been so busy I wasn’t even seeing the beauty in the everyday activities involved with owning a horse.  When I was younger, I could brush the horses for hours.  I would be honored to ride every single horse in the barn, even if that number was 52.  I would bend over backwards to work with them more than once a week.  Amount of time spent in the saddle each day?  Oh, say seven hours?  Minimum?  Sounded great back then.

That little Heather would have kicked my ass had she known what was going through my mind the past few months, even the past couple of years if I think about it.  I still loved horses, no doubt, but I was getting tired.  Instead of wanting to ride, it turned into having to ride, or having to give a lesson, after another lesson, after another ride, and then another lesson.  Let’s not forget about class, the Equestrian Team, time for my horse? A social life? My family? How was I supposed to have time for all of that on top of reconstructing my entire belief system on horse training? Talk about mind boggling!  Not only did it take a lot of physical energy out of me, but I was mentally drained.  I tried to mask it the best I could, but I knew if I wanted to find my passion again I had to step back for a little bit.  Gradually, I went from riding 5-6 horses per day in the summer to riding once a week recently (and a few weeks ago, those rides weren’t even on my own horse).  I was almost afraid to ride him, in fear I would resort to my old ways and make his body deteriorate even quicker.  So instead of riding him, I just fed him, brushed him, did some trail riding, and maybe a lunge line session once a week, and that was about it.  I started recognizing the minor details again.  The smell of hay, the sound of grain being poured into a feed bin, even the sound of sliding a stall door.  When I was little, I used to dream about walking through a barn and opening a stall door to greet my horse.  I had totally taken that for granted.  Thankfully, I recognized what was happening and I decided to put it to an end; I have been so much happier since.  Not only have I fallen in love with horses again, I also have the urge to ride again.  I am craving that feeling of forward, back, right, forward, back, left, in the walk.  I found the magic within the incredible bond between horse and rider again.  From this experience, I am able to appreciate horses more than I ever have.  It’s easy to get back in the old groove and take those beautiful gifts for granted, but I am going to try my hardest to remember how special horses are.  That’s another reason I created this blog.  I want to remind myself how many beautiful things are presented every single day, and I want to take note of them instead of taking them for granted.  So here we go, diving wholeheartedly into riding again.  We’ll see where it leads me this time.

Laughter

Autumn just inhaled my pumpkin pie.  She inhaled it.  She did not enjoy it nearly as much as I would have.  How do I know this? Because it didn’t last more than a second.  I sat it down next to me on the couch while I adjusted my laptop, next thing I heard was the metal fork bouncing off of the plate.  I looked, saw a crazed Autumn hoovering my pie.  I blinked, and the pie was gone.  Gone.

Today was filled with a lot of laughter.  Started my day with an uncontrollable, squealing, tear streaming laugh.  I had not laughed that hard in…. a very long time.  Coby and Autumn were running around the house at top speed, lap after lap.  Autumn decided to change the course and launched herself toward the stair landing.  Coby was feeling good, so he thought he would try to do the same.  Mind you: Autumn is three a month old Border Collie, and Coby is an eleven year old West Highland Terrier.  Autumn has a bit more spring than Mister Coby.  So, Autumn’s whole body clearly made it to the landing; however, half of Coby wasn’t as fortunate.  When he pushed off, I could see the look in his eyes staring in the same path that Autumn took, but gravity had a different plan for him.  I couldn’t help but think of this as a physics equation… Coby maintained the same velocity in the direction toward the stairs, but his weight made gravity take account a bit faster than he was hoping.  His front paws made the landing, and then his hind legs (already lower than the step, thanks to gravity) whacked the face of the stair, then got pulled up and over the ridge to follow the rest of his body at the intense speed.  I’m sure I didn’t give the image I saw any justice through writing.  But it was hilarious.

I didn’t do much today except for laugh, eat pie, ride my horse, and run a mile or three.  Fable and I had a lot of fun.  My mom came out and took pictures of the two of us (thanks Mom!).  The fall colors were incredibly beautiful today.  It was as if the rain this morning cleansed the trees and made them feel revived.    I couldn’t help but take 722 pictures of them.

This much fun should be illegal.

Well, my eyelids are getting heavier, and my 8am class is getting closer.  So off to bed I go.