Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Nobody likes the trip to the dentist...

.... and that goes for me, and my horse.

The dentist came out yesterday, and I got him to check Jingle. As I detailed in my last post, he's been shaking his head, and generally not exactly being a calm and collected horse - especially when I ask for a remote bit of contact. After I purchased him the first thing I did was get a Vet out, who also floated his teeth. He's a respected vet, and works with the University to train vet-med students. I'm sure I've said it 16 million times already, so bear with me, but when Jingle was 5 he was sent to a trainer, upon returning, they told his previous owners he had an "abscess" in his jaw. In reality, he had severely fractured his jaw on his left side, and it had been re-set without proper veterinary care. Fast-forward to visit from the vet. I was really nervous, I didn't want to hear my horse was in pain, I didn't want to hear that he'd never be ridable, I had a million thoughts in my mind, all of which were pretty grim and dark. The vet floated him, took off a couple waves and hooks, and stated that aside from slightly pointed in back molars (which he claimed to be a trait found in foundation bred paint horses), and his jaw being 7 mm off, Jingle was in great health and that his jaw would probably align over time. It all sounded too good to be true, but I really just desperately wanted it to be true.

Fast forward to the Dentist taking a look at him. At first he said that Jingle would never take a bit properly, the fracture is on the left side, but he also has trauma to his jaw on the right side (not as noticeable). Then, he delved deeper into my sedated horses mouth, he let me put my hand into Jingle's mouth and for the first time I felt the spot where the fracture had occurred - it has resulted in a big dip in his jaw. One of the teeth is also pointed outwards, probably as a result from the trauma. Due to this dip, one of his teeth on the top of his mouth, has more room to erupt, and has become pointed, and was digging into the bottom of his mouth. This, my dentist said, caused a large amount of pressure build-up. He filed down the erupted tooth, as well as floated some waves he found in the back and in the front. He changed his tune and said that I should attempt to ride Jingle in a bit for now, so for the next 5-6 rides I'm suppose to take it slow, and see how he responds. Basically, his mouth will feel, to him, completely different. It makes sense as to why he was shaking his head, the noseband clamped down his mouth, and the erupted tooth was causing all that pressure to build and then not be able to escape. The fact that Jingle attempts to open his mouth and avoid the bit every time I ask for contact is most definitely in response to how much pressure he was feeling inside his mouth.

He also told me to start doing some basic massage on his head and neck, and to use Apple Cider Vinegar to draw any heat out of his muscles after a workout. (I am a huge fan of ACV - I should write a post about all the horse-related things I use it for!) I did it yesterday after he was out of his sedation and he seemed relaxed and happy for me to rub on him for awhile. The dentist said that with how bad the fracture had been, tendons and muscles were probably severed and pulled, and then grew back differently. He has a hard time going to the right, and his jaw was very tight before the Dentist worked on him - afterwards I noticed a considerable difference in the movement he now has in his jaw, which makes me happy.

The Dentist said Jingle will be a 6 month maintenance type of horse, which doesn't bother me. That is what I expected all along. He also said that when the tooth erupts again (as it will, he said teeth erupt 4-8 mm every month or so!) I'll know right away when Jingle starts feeling that build-up of pressure. He also said that Jingle isn't in pain, especially now, and that a lot of his behaviours are probably learned from when he was in pain as a 5 year old. I can't help but worry though, horses, like humans, can have a lot of issues correlated with jaw problems. I'm especially worried about his TMJ muscles, he can't let me know if he has a headache, or a jaw ache, or if he just feels out of sorts you know? That's the hardest thing with horses - they just don't have a way of telling you, clear as day, "Mom, this hurts".

At one point, the Dentist looked at me and said, "He'll never be your show horse", which is true, and I always knew he wasn't destined to be. However, it still stung, it just kind of twisted that knife in my stomach you know? My only dream for Jingle was to one day come to the barn and watch some little girl learn how to ride on him. I just want him to be happy, healthy, pain-free, and ultimately yeah, I wanted him to be dead-broke.

I was really sad yesterday, sad for my poor horse who went off to some wonky trainer and returned with a horribly broken jaw, and no veterinary care. Sad for my horse who isn't able to communicate with me when his head hurts, or when he is experiencing pain, or when he needs to see the dentist right away...

But, you know what? He's alive, and he's happy, and that's all that matters. Plus - I have a better knowledge now of what is going on with all his muscles and tendons, so I'm formulating a horsie game plan.
1) Research safe stretch and massage techniques that I can use on him on a regular basis
2) I'm moving him inside for the winter, meaning he can be fed grain if I want, so I'm going to research if I can put him on some supplements that might relieve any headache-y, jaw pain related issues.
3) Find a really good reputable equine massage/chiro and bring them in every six-eight weeks to look at him.
4) I honestly don't care if my horse is ridden in a bridle, bitless, bridless, whoever whatever whichever works. So, if it comes down to the bit not working for him - you know he's going to try every form of bitless bridle I can find until I find one that works for him. I asked the Dentist if the added pressure on the actual structure of his jaw from a bitless would effect him, or cause him any pain, and he said no - so hopefully if an answer doesn't lie in any of the above + a bit, the answer will be found in all of the above + a bitless bridle.

&, ya, it also sucks I spent a lot of money in July to have him looked at, by someone I thought was reputable, and it turns out that he really had no idea what he was looking at - which is also scary. Although, even my Dentist said the guy I had out was, and is, a really good Vet. The hard thing with Vets who do dental work is that they barely cover dentistry in Vet school, "Dentists" take extensive courses, and then on top of that very extensive training. My dentist said when he runs courses they do a bare minimum week of school-stuff, and then float over 300 horses! Insane. I was happy that my barn has the Dentist we do, he definitely knew what he was looking at, and how to deal with it, and I especially appreciated his honestly. Hearing my horse may never be perfect is hard to hear, but I at least know the truth, and we can grow from there.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Riding Diary: 25

Time: 1 hr.

Ride: I'm stumbling over my words for this post in my head already, so you know it's going to be a good one. Anyways, basically I had one of those rides where I was already tired and emotional from other activities, and ended up, afterwards, looking at my beautiful, but green, horse and thinking, "maybe I will never be a good enough rider for you." It's honestly so frustrating, and I know I shouldn't have such a negative attitude already - it's only been a month of lessons (so, like 3 or 4), but I just cant help go to that place every once and awhile. I just worry that he'll never excel, or succeed, with me as his rider, and I'll never get better, because I don't have a horse that can teach me - I'm trying to teach him, and sometimes it just feels like a big fumbly mess. You know? Sigh... Another ranch horse came home, and I know he'll excel, because of how good of a rider his new owner is, and then there's me. It just stings.

So on that super positive note, the lesson was alright. I hadn't ridden Jingle in a week because I was so busy, however his farrier finally came out (yay!) and he had his feet done on Thursday. He did really well, he stood better than last time, and he's really only going to get better with his feet. I notice know how easy he stands for me when I pick out his feet, brush his legs off, etc. (Still working on those hinds though...). His farrier commented that he falls heel first, and very flat footed, he also has a slightly clubbed left-front foot, so we're working on correctively shoeing to sort out some of those conformation-errors.

My lesson started off with a posting-trot, he was zooming around, and my trainer made me slow my posting down and work better on keeping him slow, but more alive at the same time. Sometimes if I slow him down, he almost forgets what we're doing. Then we worked on the jog, and then we came to a small circle and worked on the jog and the lope. The entire ride Jingle was tossing his head, and just being a sassy pissy pants, basically being a noodle-horse, with attitude. At the lope he would do well for awhile, but needed a lot of leg and rein to keep his lope up, instead of breaking down, but then he started getting frustrated and half running off on me, head-tossing the entire time. Finally, our ride ended with about 20 minutes of jogging a small circle until he finally would stop and relax into it - he never really did. By this point I was exhausted, and my heads were drenched in sweat from the reins. We then stood for about 10 minutes until he'd relax and just chill out. It's annoying because I KNOW he can jog better than that, he actually has a nice little jog, but when we work in the small circle, he just gets so frustrated, and annoyed, and I don't have the timing, or really know what to do properly, to correct it. Also, I really need to work on my vocal cues - my trainer said I'm not being strong enough in how I cue him, for example, apparently I say, "jooooogggg" all honey-boo-boo-princess-horse-face style instead of "JOG", as in "quit that you pain in the ass".

Anyways, the dentist is conveniently coming out today to check some horses that another girl brought home from the sale of the ranch (!!! yay, some of them came home to my barn!) so i'm going to get him to look at Jingle's mouth again. He has his issues, which I thought were remedied in July when another Vet/Dentist was out to do him, but maybe not. His head shaking really does seem like a pain response to his mouth, and if not, i'm wondering if it's a learned response from previous pain. If he clears his dental exam, I might switch up bits, I was thinking of putting him in an O-ring, basic, basic snaffle, but I know he despises the nutcracker effect from bits I've used on him previously (albeit, harsher bits, when he wasn't mine and I was told what to ride him in). Right now he's in a D-ring three piece dog-bone with a copper roller, so maybe the roller is too much, he is in a noseband, so he can't play with it if he tried. So maybe a really mild french link? I don't know.

Blech, anyways, as you can tell... it was just one of those rides.

For Next Time: Work on my verbal cues, and don't let pissy-pants get away with things as much.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


I am a lucky girl; A friend (and super amazing photographer) Dean Imler, allowed me to use and abuse his services, and we went out to some of my favourite spots on the ranch and we did a little photoshoot. If any of you are in Calgary, or the surrounding area, check him out - he does amazing work, he does awesome work with horses, but his true passion and talent is in other photographic mediums, such as commercial work, and family portraits - truly awesome!

My new blog header, as well as the photo of Jingle and I on the right-hand side, are both photos from this day.

Here are some of my other absolute favourite photos...

Jingle being a huge goof, now do you know why he is required to wear a noseband?

We came upon the broodmares, and got some really cool shots of me running through the river with them! Awesome!

Us at the "Far Lookout"

Attempting a model-smile, instead of my general cheesy-photo-smile

Looking out, and onto, "Big Coulee"

Today, I am in a moody and weird place, I really am blessed to be able to get in my truck, drive a couple miles, and visit this beautiful boy. I sure am lucky to be able to have my own Bar J brand at home, safe with me.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Riding Diary: 24

Time: 1. 5 hr

Ride: I went out and rode Sunday, and Jingle was a perfect angel-face. He loped both leads so smooth and was starting to really stop when I said the big "W" word. We rode in the outdoor arena, and I really focused on my body and even leaning to the outside (because I have a tendency to lean inwards) which basically made me sit straight, sigh, bad habits. My saddle wasn't slipping even a tiny bit - waking me up to the realization that I truly am shifting my weight to one stirrup, things to work on. I was pretty pleased and left the barn thinking that the next day (Monday) we would rock our lesson and would surely soon be showing pleasure, and barrels, and cutting, and would definitely be winning money, because we are such an awesome rock n' roll team.

Ya, you know what happens when you think that way? You have a lesson where you and your horse just seem to be completely separate entities, and forget completely to somehow work together, and you walk away with 700 things to work on and think about. Happens to me every, single, time.

So, before I even got on, Jingle attempted to be sassy as I was going to step up. He shook his head and was just being a general idiot, so my trainer told me to get off, tell him woah, get on, and ask him to stand - he did, okay, maybe he got all of his sassiness out? We began our lesson with a warm up, and then my trainer asking me and Jingle for a stop - uhm, not so pretty. She commented on how exceptionally "hard-mouthed" he is, which is very true. She asked me if I had ever lunged him, I hadn't, it's on the list of things to teach my ex-trail pony, but had done lots of round-pen stuff. So, I jumped off, and we added side reins, and my trainer tied him back, on his left, then right, and then back, and asked him to simply move around the outside arena, attempting to get him to soften. She moved him around the arena and I just watched, she told me she wanted him to learn this by himself, and not associate any feelings of struggle or unhappiness with me. I liked that.... I am bad about being too much of a sissy-but this is my baby-I don't want him to be unhappy, mom. I try my hardest to not be, and on the ground I think i'm quite good about being Alpha mare, but when we start to ride, I tend to start to become less and less of an alpha... issue.

He picked it up nicely to the left, but then to the right, his hard-mouthed sassy behaviour really began to show. This is not the first time I've had issues with Jingle and his hard mouth, at one point in his life he refused to turn left on me and it became a massive fight. My trainer spent quite some time working with him to soften into being tied back.

Then I got on. His jog is coming along really nicely, he softens right up and we move along the rail pretty well, I think. However, from all of the gaits, sometimes when I ask him to stop, he shakes his head and stomps around. My trainer told me that the minute I do that, kick him, and quickly reprimand him for his actions. It's a timing thing though, and I often miss the chance to apply pressure. Then, his lope... well.... my trainer asked me to lope in a circle around a half of the arena. Loping in a confined space is not exactly Jingle's thing, I feel him breaking down every second step, requiring a lot of pressure from my legs, vocal aids, hands, everything. My trainer got me to really focus on keeping my inside hand up and out, and also not dropping, or keeping too much contact on my outside hand. Then Jingle stopped loping, completely,... I was handed a small crop, i've never ridden with a crop, uncomfortable floundering abounds! Finally, we got it together, I realized how much contact I was holding. I've never ever ridden with contact with him, obviously I wouldn't on the trails, and no wonder he was freaking out about it. So I tried to really give him more slack, until I needed to ask for something specific. We ended up loping consistently through a few circles, and we quit for the day on that good note.

Then, since 3 other girls were coming in for a lesson and the outdoor arena was getting pretty dusty, my trainer told me cool him out by just walking him down the rode. So, out we went, walking down the rode and a lightbulb flashed in my head. My poor horse, I've been so gung-ho about the arena and all this work, that I forgot about what he loves to do - go out, and see things & I forgot about one of the golden rules of horseback riding - give them a mental break. For Jingle, trail-riding aint no thang, it's like me going out for a nice casual, leisurely hike, but the arena for him is akin to me attempting to read a textbook while doing a hardcore cardio-weights workout - not only am I straining mentally, but I'm going to come out of the gym totally sore because I worked my muscles intensely. So he's probably coming out of this brand new arena setting totally fried. Atleast, that's what I think.

So, I'm going to try to re-work my riding schedule and see how it works. Monday's I have my lesson, and I'm generally out thursday to ride - that should be another arena day, then every second Friday I plan to go out and do a "ground-work" day, and then Sunday's, I think I should just do a bit of a trail ride, no arena stuff, no big-mental stuff for him, just a casual walk down the rode, or up behind the barn, wander around for 30-60 minutes, then quit.

I think that's a really good schedule, but I only have a couple months until the snow starts to really fly and riding outside becomes harder and harder.

Anyways, after the big day for him and I, I walked him outside to cool him off, and sure enough, I looped his lead around his neck and he followed me around with this big 'ol look of love. I love you horse, we're going to figure all of this out.

For Next Time: Oh man, everything? Stops, softening and loping smaller AND bigger circles.

Monday, September 17, 2012

This Outfit's History..

Anyone that knows me, knows that I have an old soul. I was born and raised listening to Ian Tyson play through my grandma's stereo as a child, and back then I didn't appreciate the music one bit. It was only long after she passed on that I found Ian Tyson again, and began to love and cherish his music. It makes me sad that most often in life, you don't fully realize what you have until it is gone. I sure would give anything to two-step around the living room with her now.

& so, on that somber note, a favourite Ian song of mine, "M.C. Horses", which seems fitting for the dispersal sale of my own ranch's horses that is occuring this weekend...

"The people they come from everywhere, just to bid on 'em high and low,
and thereby own a piece of the legend.
With the cow herd all dispersed, the old cavvy, she had to go...
back in August - 100 head or more.

So come on boys, run 'em in, we're gonna let this sale begin.
Last of the big remudas, of the mighty M.C.
There's horses here for everyone, saddle 'em kids - let's get 'er done.
By the time that Oregon sun goes down... this outfit's history.
This outfit's history."

Heartbreak seemingly comes in all shapes, sizes, colours and manifestations doesn't it?

Anyways, if any of you are looking for foundation APHA and AQHA broodmares, colts, or dude horses that are wonderful, beautiful, amazing creatures and that I have, and wouldn't hesitate to continue to, put 2 and 3 year old kids on - you should come check out the Bates Bar J Dispersal Sale this upcoming weekend 21/22. Registered, and unregistered, Paints, QH's, Draft x, and two teams - Belgian and Percheron, as well as wagons, harnesses, and a huge assortment of tack. I would really like to see all these horses go to good homes, the other outcome is absolutely devastating to think about...

Photos thanks to the lovely & amazing, Dean Imler.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Glimpse: 5

Things that make Jingle happy:
- grain after a ride
- big long grooming sessions, featuring coconut oil and big mane and tail rubs
- people watching (he makes me laugh, he acts skittish when someone enters a room, his big white "expressive" eyes start going all sorts of crazy, and he kind of dances around, but you can tell all the while he likes it - my boy is a creep!)

Things that make me happy:
- the way my boy just seems to "get" things so quickly - I had some pretty good backs and stops today!
- the way he'll prance around behind me when I have a grain bucket, he never gets too close for a whack, but he'll deek around from one side of me to another like a little monkey
- How he's getting more comfortable about being left alone in the tack-up area
- How happy he seems at the new barn
- Him, god, I love him.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Riding Diary: 23

"I don't like these boots..."

Horse: Jingle (lalalala... :) :)... yipeee..)
Bit: D Ring Snaffle with three piece roller bit.

Time: 1 hour

Ride: My first ever lesson with my boy! Life is so good! Exclamation marks for everyone! Anywaaaaaaaays, to start things off before I even got on my trainer commented what a nice and cute boy Jingle was. (I agree) Obviously Jingle hasn't exactly been "trained" by anyone with expertise (... I've been riding him the last three years, and we haven't done much aside from riding trails, and often running off into trees) so we have a lot to work on. However, the first thing I really wanted to target was his head-shaking. When Jingle feels pressure on his mouth, or decides he doesn't want to do something, he opens his mouth exceptionally wide, and tosses his head and snorts at me, in a, "screw you mom" sort of way. We decided to put him in a noseband, and used "rings" (so, a training fork, or just the rings of a martingale) to curb this problem. Well, it worked, at first he was sticking his tounge out every which way, and just generally unhappy about the predicament he found himself in. But then he settled into it, and the combination worked well - however, he is still tossing his head in defiance, especially at the stop. My trainer commented that I need to be able to feel when he's about to toss, correct it at the perfect time, then release.

We did a lot of posting trot and jogging, and as you guys know, jogging is my fav. Jingle is picking up a jog really well, in the beginning he would break down to the walk quite a bit, and I would have to encourage him verbally which caused him to race off, but now he's keeping a more consistent, slow pace.

Then we worked on his stop, my trainer asked me if Jingle has a stop, wellllllllllll.... he'll stop. Okay, gotta work on that one. I was throwing my weight back more than I should and so my trainer got me to really focus my weight into my stirrups, ask for a "Woah", and then give him a sharp direct "stop" with the reins. He is bad at leaking forward afterward, so I have to watch my release. Then my trainer asked me if he backs, welll..... kinda. Jingle's "back-up" is a bit more of a stall, he will head-toss, snort at me, and just generally not back-up very gracefully. He decided in the lesson that backing up just wasn't happening, and no matter how hard I pulled on my reins he would not back. My trainer commented that he is very good at avoiding and ignoring pressure, especially on his left side, and commented that perhaps tying him back before our lesson Monday, and working him on the ground may soften him up, and get him to respond a bit better to me.

Finally, we loped! He's picking it up. At the ranch this summer I encountered a problem I've encountered quite a bit with trail horses... they won't lope on a curve, only in a straight line. This makes sense, as primarily when trail riding, if you are loping, it is generally in a straight line, in a field, or on a flat, so when you ask them to carry themselves around a corner, they break down into a trot. Asking Jingle to lope in the arena isn't pretty, it requires me to use a lot of strength in my legs, and I realize that my legs are just not that strong when it comes to isolating certain muscle groups. However, he picked it up, and I think we got one or two full laps around the arena from him, and I was really happy with that.

So, all in all, it was a pretty big lesson for his first time, but we pinpointed some really specific things, and afterwards my trainer commented that she thinks he's "going to work out really well." Smiley faces and exclamation marks for everyone!!!! =) Even when I was doing something wrong and my trainer was yelling at me from across the arena, "For heavens sake - stop petting him! He didn't do anything right!"  I had such a big goofy smile on my face - I'm riding MY horse, in an arena, in a LESSON. How awesome is that?! He could have probably bucked me off and trampled me, and I bet you I would have still been smiling.

Sidenote - Remember how I rode like, 6 hour days all summer? Ya well... turns out the minute I get in an arena, and have things to actually work on, my body turns to mush. I am one sore puppy, even though it's been two days. My thighs! My poor freakin' thighs.

For Next Time: Stop & Back-Up !!! Work on clearly communicating both of these things to Jingle, and remember to keep constant pressure, and release only when he's given me a backwards step, or a good solid stop. Also, I really need to watch myself while loping, I'm over compensating for him, and it's causing me to put weight into one stirrup, thus causing my saddle to shift - this is something I realize I do, since I had the same issue with Quiz, whose smooth as anything. However, it's something I don't notice until afterwards - gotta work on my body!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ponyboy Comes Home

Since I keep recieving text messages detailing how exceptionally sad my "summer posts" are making them, I will move on. Besides, it's time to start moving on a little bit, isn't it? The most exciting, happiest news of all is that Jingle, (also referred to as Baby-boy, Wild-boy, Jingle-Bell-Rock, Jingle-Bells, Pretty-Boy-Rock and sometimes... swear words) has come home, and is now a resident of the barn I rode and took lessons at during the winter!

Here I shall detail his trip home...

We arrived at the ranch to the site of horses all over the place, the one in the centre, Flare, refused to get out of the way of our truck and trailer. Happy to bring my horse home? Yes, yes indeed.

Jingle has only ever been run onto a stock trailer, so we wondered if my friend's straight-load with a ramp would be an issue. Being the ever-intelligent, over-compensating mother, I put shipping boots on my boy... which caused him to walk like a spider... "Where, do, I, put, my, legs". So he proceeded to high-step right up the ramp and into the trailer, due to the confusion of the soft stuff velcro'd on to his legs. Good boy.

"Mom, what is happening?"

"Mom, I know you think I look cute in these boots, but I'd like them off now, oh by the way - where are we?"

"Mom, are you leaving me in this thing?"

Jingle proceeded to bang and whinny for quite awhile in the trailer, but ultimately survived the trip home. When we arrived to the barn he seemed pretty excited to just look around at things, remember, he is a creep, and a total people watcher.

Jingle in his quarantine pen...

"Mom, there's hay in here... excellent."

"Go away now, I'm hanging out with my hay"

Then, I proceeded to groom big baby, anyone that knows me and my horsie, knows that, that is a ritual I really do love.

And then I put him away from the night, and was of course the most nervous for his well-being, but he did really good!

Then, the epic adventure of finding him a saddle began, my Circle Y wasn't fitting and the folks at Frontier in Claresholm told me they'd take it off my hands - excellent. I couldn't trailer Jingle out there, as I do not have my own trailer, but I brought home a 10x Frontier Cutter hoping it would fit - nope, not at all. The next day I went and under the excellent, but expensive guidance, of the tack manager I found this beauty:

A Jeff Smith roughout cowhorse... absolutely beautiful...

so pretty... so expensive...

and, it turned out to fit my high maintenance bush-pony...

He seemed happy, that's all that matters...

and then I rode him in the indoor arena for the first time. Jumps? no big. Fake flowers? no big. Everything I ever hand to him? ain't no thang.

So of course, he gets his grain.

"Mom, go away now please"

So, I'm very proud of my boy. He's taking this new environment in stride and is doing very well.

But his mother? and her slight tack obsession, well.... small confined tack lockers are a struggle...

Two favourite bridles, as well as my two favourite halters (Weaver rawhide tie noseband, and monogrammed nylon halter) & his back and front splint boots.

Progression of a tack locker:

Helmet, rubbermaid, breast collar and cooler

Bits, notepad, pens, extra dewormer...

Extra reins (english and barrel loop reins), lunging stuff, and shampoo, conditioner, extra grooming things...

Everything stuffed into the locker...

Including extra grain bucket, which doesn't fit... I need to start slimming down on my things I think...

All and All I am exceptionally happy, Jingle is doing very well in his new environment and I couldn't be happier that I can just bounce on down the highway to see my baby. Life is so good when I have him close by. To even think that I now, officially, own him and can do whatever I damn well please with him, brings the absolute biggest smile to my face. He's my baby, wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Summer: A Finale, In Words.

I've always been good with words, ever since I was an itty bitty little thing. I've always been able to write pages, and pages, in the blink of an eye, and I rarely find myself at a loss for words. For some reason, I've tried writing this post a thousand times, and I just keep deleting my sentences, struggling to convey my emotions, and just generally feeling miserable about the concept of writing a post detailing my last summer at the ranch.

So, I begin at the end - as you've seen through my picture-posts, I'm home from my summer at the ranch. It is hard for me to explain what the ranch means to me, but it means everything. My entire life has been shaped, melded, and profoundly changed by a single place. Sometimes I feel like I've been a puppet, or a pawn, in it's games, other times, I have felt like it was a sanctuary in which I was allowed to grow in peace, and sunshine. So, with this duality in mind - a constant tug of war of good and bad - i've been thinking a lot about the place that raised me.

This summer was hard, in a myriad of different ways, but it was also an amazing summer at the same time. I had the lows, and then highs of losing my horse, and losing my mind about it, and then finding him, and having him home. Nothing is better than being with him.

There were hilarious moments...

During one of our group orientation rides my horse Cash and I were in the river, waiting to get up onto the bank. I was letting someone pass when Cash turned and looked at a muddy cliffside (much like this one in the photo) and thought to himself, "Hey... I could just help Louisa out by climbing this". So he did. Insanity. So, here I am, on my horse, totally vertical - literally holding onto the horn with both of my legs hanging off of his bum, kicking him because either he was going to get up, or fall down on top of me. Realistically, I was more worried he was going to fall on top of me, in the river, and break my new saddle's tree. I bailed at the last minute, and he went down onto his side like a drunkard. He stumbled back up, I still had the reins in my hand, and stumbled up the nice, soft bank, and then looked down at me with a look of, "Uhm, I'm really sorry about that." Poor boy, you can't fault a horse for being too willing, can you? Both of us walked away unharmed, and I am happy to say that was my worst "wreck" of the summer.

There were tough moments, attempting to run the barn without the guidance of my FHGM was hard, and really tested me - my confidence, my abilities (or lack thereof), my patience... In the end I walked away feeling stretched pretty thin, and pretty battered and abused. However, in situations where you are highly stressed, but still functioning, and proud of the things you accomplished; you learn, you grow and you change. This summer changed me in many ways.

The ranch is so full of beauty, as you probably saw in those photos, but I can't really convey the perfection of some of our rides, how perfect and crystal clear the water at the springs tastes, how amazing life is out there.

Finally, the friends....

Somewhere, between sharing dorm rooms, sharing rides, sharing everything, as corny as this sentence is, I found a family in a bunch of misfits thrown together that loved the same things as me. My life has changed so drastically since I met so many of these wonderful people that I can't bear to think about life without them. I've struggled with maintaining friendships the last couple of years, I'm selfish by nature. I like to spend a lot of time alone, and I like to be busy - with jobs, school, activities, and when i'm not busy, I like people to seek me out, or I choose to be alone. That is a really horrible trait. Somehow, I've found people that come hell or high water continue to be my friends, through everything. I've found people that I can talk to for hours, and hours, and hours. I've found people that like my photos of Jingle, that like to talk to me about my horse, even if they also think i'm crazy - they allow me to share my passion, and that means the world to me.

So many of the people i've met through the ranch have influenced me, made me laugh, spent hours talking to me, had amazing, memorable, unforgettable times with. However, there are a handful of people there that are my absolute best friends - the type of people you want your kids to call "Aunty and Uncle" because they are so wonderful, and you want your kids to grow up under the gaze of such amazing people. It still stuns me that in the entire world, I was able to find so many friendship-soulmates at a tiny little ranch, at the end of Grand Valley Road. I am blessed, and am bettered by them.

Honestly, I still don't like how the words have assembled themselves in this post, i've only scratched the surface, and I can't seem to convey anything deeper than that. I think, in life, there are some things that words will just never be able to explain.

Thank you. A million times over. To the people, who created the place, that defined me.

& finally, the whole purpose of this blog, I figure between taking the kids out for trail rides - 6 weeks straight, riding my own boy, chasing horses, searching for horses, losing horses, and everything in-between, I probably rode over 200 hours, so out of the two months I was there - 8 full days were spent in the saddle. Pretty cool! So, to leave the sad, mushy stuff behind - here's too a pretty amazing, eventful summer, that allowed me to spend over 200 glorious hours, horseback. What is better than that?!