Taming Kindle: Week Two

Last week Kindle and I spent some time getting to know one another. I observed and let her come to me instead of forcing my presence on her. The result of that choice revealed a very inquisitive and brave mare when on the ground.

Though Kindle has had multiple people on her back, I don’t think she has been more than lightly started. With that being said, she acted like a very young horse that didn’t understand why this person, who should be petting her and feeding her cookies, is now sitting on her back asking her to move in weird ways. The way I decided to work on this is by spending time just sitting on her back. Not asking her for anything, just sitting. This allowed Kindle to get used to the idea of me on her back without the added pressure of cues she had to learn.

Though riding was not our main focus this week, we ended up making a great deal of progress. By the end of the week Kindle and I were trotting circles without any bucks! I discovered that Kindle really needs someone to be the alpha. The hardest part of becoming her alpha was getting her to accept me as her boss, and having her give up control. In order to get to that point, Kindle had to spook herself by trying to rub me off on a fence. Once she was spooked, and in a situation she was actually unable to gain control of, she listened. After that she became much more compliant and willing, and she listened much more.

Our biggest focus this week was manners and ground work, so basically charm school for horses. I wanted to gauge where she was on basic manners, as well as pushing her past her comfort zone to gauge how well she deals with situations that surprise her. I learned that Kindle does not like her back legs touched. I went to pick out her feet and she kicked sideways at me. Desensitizing Kindle to having her back legs touched became this week’s main project.

I started by finding a long, cotton lead rope.  These lead ropes are perfect for desensitizing work because the end of the lead rope is braided together; whereas, the poly leads are typically melted at the end, which creates a potentially painful situation. The goal of this exercise is to help desensitize a horse to pressure and movements around certain parts of their body. I love doing this with my young horses because not only does it help with jumpy horses or problem spots, but it also introduces a situation where the horse has to trust, and listen to you.

I always do this exercise in an open area with limited distractions. With Kindle, I used my arena so that she wouldn’t have the distraction of grass. I start by having the cotton lead attached to her halter. With Kindle I made a point of rubbing the lead on her neck, shoulders, and face to gauge her reaction. Once she calmed down I started the movement exercises. I start by lightly tossing the lead around her legs, letting the rope wrap slowly around her leg. The goal here is to keep a consistent rhythm, and to be reassuring. Once Kindle stood still and relaxed, I moved on to her back, hindquarters, shoulders, and lastly her neck. To be perfectly honest, Kindle took to this exercise very easily, and did not show any apprehension to having her back legs touched by the leadrope.

After the exercise she did not strike out as much, but I could definitely tell that she still had reservations about her back legs being touched. Moving forward I plan on continuing to work with her, but I do believe that the issue will disappear as I continue to gain her trust.

Kindle also went to her first two barrel races this weekend, just to observe! She handled the sights like a pro, and I believe the only thing she was scared of was her shadow at one point.

The biggest takeaway I have from this week is that Kindle and I have to have bumps in the road in order to succeed. I think she has gotten used to being spoiled, and allowed to do whatever she wants. Once I stepped up and told her who was boss, and gave her no other option (in a nice way), she started to listen and actually learn. From the way she made progress, I know she will amount to a truly good horse.

Kindle is a paint mare that I purchased from a rescue in Brownsville, Ohio. The lady who had rescued her picked her out of a kill pen in Pennsylvania. I have no idea what this mare has been through or what she has seen in her estimated five years.

 

 

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Taming Kindle: Week One

Well, I said I wanted a project…
You know how your mom always told you to be careful what you wish for? This is one of those times my mom could definitely say, “I told you so.” 

When I found the page for a rescue down in Brownsville that had a gorgeous paint mare, I was already hooked. When I convinced my fiance to accompany on the almost three hour drive with our four horse trailer in tow I was already thinking about names. This girl, even from her picture, was mesmerizing. She looked friendly, well-built, and even-tempered. Even as we pulled into the drive where she eyed our rig with bright eyes and alert ears she seemed perfect. 

While at the rescue I was able to do a little round pen work with her, and noticed that she was very “food-frantic”. Basically she would dive for a bite of food any time you stopped pushing her around the pen, so even though she was doing as I asked I knew that her focus was truly split between the temptation of grass and me. This made join-up impossible, but it did give me a glimpse into what this girl had been through. 

This mare, which they called Fancy, had been ridden before, so I decided to get on her for a few minutes to test her out. Fancy had never given her rescuer any issues under saddle, but as soon as I swung my leg over she bucked. Not enough to dislodge me, but just enough to know she was unhappy. I urged her forward and she baby-bucked again. In that moment I knew that I had found myself the project my mom had told me to not wish for, and that I was already in love with this horse’s enormous spirit.

As you are probably already expecting and aware, I loaded Fancy, now Kindle, into my trailer for the ride home and for the start of a new adventure.

The first few days were hard for me. I, by nature, am a very determined person. So when I brought this little mare home I had huge expectations for her. After training my current barrel horse, Allegra, I knew that I was capable of training young horses and providing them with careers, and I was ready to start that same process for Kindle. Kindle, bless her pretty little heart, had no intentions of being trained. 

Again, I went to swing my leg over and she bucked. I asked her to live forward and she bucked. She eyed me with disdain as I made her go through her paces under saddle, but then turned back into that sweet, alert horse as soon as I was on the ground. I tried different bits, equipment, saddle pads, and cues to no avail. After a few days of power struggles I knew that my enthusiasm was hindering my progress. I was seeing Kindle as another Allegra (who never bucked once, but had the same forward motion problems) instead of evaluating her the way she actually was.

The rest of the week was focused entirely on observing and light ground work. I watched her learn to use Allegra for support when situations became too scary for her. I’ve watched her “food-frantic” behaviors slowly diminish to the point where I can hold her attention. I’ve managed to teach her to bend and be supple, a complete turnaround from the startled mare that refused to back out of my trailer. It took me an entire week to realize it, but even though I brought home a project, I also found a diamond in the rough.

We had a lot of issues this week, but we also shared many successes. We’ve learned how to communicate with each other, we’ve built trust, amd we’ve started to establish a herd order. When I stepped back and observed the baby steps she was making, she was able to show me how smart she was. Had I continued to be angry and frustrated I would’ve completely missed those little steps she was making to try and meet me in the middle. 

My biggest takeaway from this past week was learning how to celebrate the little things, that for a horse like Kindle, truly are very large steps.

Kindle is a paint mare that I purchased from a rescue in Brownsville, Ohio. The lady who had rescued her picked her out of a kill pen in Pennsylvania. I have no idea what this mare has been through or what she has seen in her estimated five years.

Getting Back In the Arena

I haven’t shown my horse in over two years. I’ve ridden, sure, but there’s something completely different about being back in the show arena.
I am a barrel racer. As a child I showed Western Performance for one year, decided I wanted to go fast, and quit the world of lipstick, chaps, and too many bobby pins to go play in the dirt. As soon as I ran my first set of barrels I was hooked. Almost 17 years later, with a two year hiatus, here I am getting back to it.

This journey hasn’t been easy. The last time I showed I worked part-time and ignored my school responsibilities, which meant it was really easy for me to work my mare every single day. I also boarded back then and had an indoor arena which meant that I could ride at anytime of the day or night in whatever weather might show up. Now I have a full-time career, a farm to tend to, and I have no arena at all to work in. If it rains I can’t ride, if it’s dark out when I get home from work I can’t ride. Basically there are a lot of days where I just can’t ride.

You can’t change your circumstances but you can change the way you deal with them. When I have days that I can ride, I make them count. I have a grassy area designated as my riding arena that I’ve walked foot by foot to check for fox holes or rocks. If I can’t fit a full ride in I at least lunge so that my mare stays in shape, and my horses are outside 24/7 which helps her stay limber and allows me to warm her up faster.

The other obstacle I’m dealing with is my competitive nature. I love to win, who doesn’t? I often lose sight of the fact that my mare and I haven’t done this in over two years. I forget that we’ve both changed. I’ve lost weight and that has a effect on the way I ride. I’m in the best shape of my life, and that has made me into a more athletic jockey. My mare has filled out and matured to where she runs differently. She used to be a very push-style horse, and now she’s much more a free-runner. We have to learn how to communicate again and how to work together again.

I constantly find myself watching others work their barrel horses with envy. Last weekend I threw down a run that I was pretty proud of. We had shaved a good second or two with room for improvement. The run had me sitting 2nd. I was one of the last to run in my class, but by the time they placed the class I had dropped down to fifth. Instantly my run was no longer something to be proud of. It only took two minutes for me to hate myself for the errors in my run instead of focusing on how my second week running barrels I was still cutting checks and earning back my entry fees. I was shaving time off each run and working out the kinks one at a time. Keeping a positive mindset is one of the hardest things about surviving as an athlete in this sport.

The problem with leaving a sport and making a comeback is that when you return to it you aren’t always as good or as prepared as when you left. I know that when I start running for points on my circuit that I am not going to be placing where I used to. I took two years off while everyone else kept working. During this season I’m not just competing against my peers or the timer, I’m competing with my ghosts and insecurities. 

The bottom line is: It’s okay to go easy on yourself while you’re getting back into the swing of things. Appreciate the small improvements and don’t let yourself focus on the few mistakes that may have happened. In this sport there will always be something else to work on.

How I’ve Changed My Life

The biggest change I’ve made in the last couple of months involves my nutrition. When I started working out over a year ago I tried to tell myself that I could eat whatever I wanted as long as I did my workout for the day. Don’t get me wrong, I was still losing weight but I wasn’t gaining the muscle mass that I wanted and I definitely wasn’t burning fat as fast as I wanted to. This type of lifestyle let me slip back into my old eating habits way too easily, and it also let me convince myself to not workout. 

About six to eight months ago I started logging my calories in my Fitbit app on my phone. I started running a deficit, but I still wasn’t seeing the changes I wanted. Just counting calories allowed me to fit unhealthy foods into my day, so even though I was watching what I ate, my macros were way out of wack. In order to see the change I wanted, I knew I had to change the standard I held myself to. I had to make a commitment to myself to honor my body enough to make healthy choices over the easiest choices.

About two months ago I made another big change. I started taking supplements and watching my macros. Fitbit had come out with a new update that included tracking macro nutrients. I didn’t start out wanting to overhaul my diet, but after seeing how skewed my macros were I knew something had to change. I started focusing on my protein sources and planning my meals ahead when I could. I still let myself indulge. If my fiance and I go out to eat I still eat my favorites, but I make sure that I am still eating foods that nourish my body. 

On of the other ways I was able to change my results more dramatically in the last couple of weeks was by including supplements. Pictured above are the main supplements I use. As someone who struggled with an eating disorder in high school it is very important that I stay away from any “get quick results” products. I don’t take any sort of diuretics, thermals, or fat burning products. I only wanted to take products that would truly supplememt my body, not purge things from it.

On a normal day I drink two protein shakes by Aria Protein. I drink these as snacks between meals. I do not use these as meal replacements. Sometimes if I haven’t had enough fat in my day I will add a tablespoon of PB2 to either flavor.

Everyday I have at least one serving of Aminos, or Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs). I use BPI brand powdered Aminos. I currently use two types of BCAAs, one that has added energy and one that doesn’t. I will use the energy version before a workout and the plain version after a workout.

I also have a pre-workout, but I will only take it before gym workouts if I’m really feeling sluggish. This stuff is really powerful so I only use half a scoop if I use it.

I never thought that I would be the type of person to take workout supplements. It wasn’t until one of my idols, Fallon Taylor, started talking about these types of supplements. She and her squad made a good point when they said that we feed our barrel horses the best supplements to keep them in top shape, why shouldn’t we treat our bodies the same way? In order for my horse to work the best she can I have to be able to ride the best that I can, and that comes with being in the best shape I’m able to be in.

I started this journey to look awesome in my wedding dress, but now it’s more than that. Now I just want to get into the best shape of my life and be the healthiest I can be.

Where I’m From

In order for you to understand where I’m coming from I think it’s very important to understand where I’ve been.

I started riding at a pretty early age. I can’t remember exactly when, but I know it was at some point during elementary school. I begged and was finally allowed to take lessons at a stable near my home. 

Honestly-the first few years of my young riding career were very non-descript. I went to lessons once a week and rode around for about an hour and then I would go home. It wasn’t until I was told about an organization called 4-H that I considered horseback riding the highest priority of my youth. I showed western performance my first year at the county fair, but showing wasn’t really the highlight that year. While hanging around the show barn I heard my parents discussing possibly owning a horse, so that second I started horse shopping.

We ended up buying a 16 hand, 15 year old thoroughbred mare named Jima. Having already experienced, and developed a lack of interest for the western performance world, I decided to start barrel racing. Jima had never been trained western, but I, in all my fifth grade excitement, got to work right away in a saddle that was far too large in a bit that made absolutely no sense to my horse.

Jima was my learning horse. I rode around and did basically nothing to keep her in shape, I rode her on the patterns way too many times, and I often couldn’t be bothered to put a saddle on. Jima was the horse that I fell off of after I made what would’ve been a winning pole run at the county fair. She was also the horse that taught me that horses are for always, not just while they’re sound and rideable. When her arthritis became too bad, I bought her supplements and let her just be a horse. When her weight started to slip I about went broke buying feed. When it was finally her time to go I cried into her neck and told her how much I loved her while she drifted off to sleep.

When we retired Jima from showing I ended up finding out about a fresh two-year-old APHA mare. We aquired her through a family friend on a temporary basis, but as soon as I met her I was in love. I named her Allegra. Allegra was the first horse I had ever broke out. I trained her as a barrel racer, but I also made sure she had good riding basics. We won our contest horsemanship class two (three?) years in a row, and one judge said that “even he could have rode that horse and won”. My last year showing in 4-H we won the barrel class. Allegra is definitely my proudest achievement.

Currently I have Allegra and her miniature donkey, Cocoa, on my farm.

Hello

Hello.

Such a simple word. Two syllables, four letters. How many great things have started with “hello”? Maybe this blog will be something great for me…maybe it won’t. How many missed opportunities have passed you by because you were too afraid of saying “hello”?

My name is Taylor, and I am a twenty-something barrel racer from Ohio. I have a wonderful fiance, an APHA mare, a miniature donkey, and a beagle. I have a degree in Music and Journalism and  don’t use either of them. I love boxing and yoga but I absolutely hate running.

I honestly don’t know what prompted me to start this blog. I have had three blogs before this and I lost interest in all three (which is probably why I don’t use my Journalism degree). I think it might have something to do with my fangirling over Fallon Taylor and the way she chooses to live her life.

Honestly, I have always wanted to be in the horse business. I have always loved working with horses, and I don’t believe that there’s anything better than being in the saddle. I want to use this blog as a way to talk about my experiences, my methods, and my thoughts about  the current horse industry. I may not be able to be a professional in this industry, but I still live it.

My goal is to post at least once a week. If there is anything you guys want me to write about please contact me using the form on the Contact page.