His Little Girl

When you look back on your life so far, what do you see? Is there someone or something that has been there as long as you can remember? Other than your two legged family?

When I look back on my life so far, which today I have done alot because today marks the end of my life as I remember it, I remember a dream as a child, probably 9 or 10. We had just gotten our first horse, a spindly little sorrel pony mare. She was amazing. Old, but kind and taught my entire family a ton. Anyway, back to my dream. I wanted so badly to be a show jumper. I grew up in Calgary so my closest interaction to horses on a regular basis was Spruce Meadows. I dreamt of a glorious white horse. He was magnificent. My dream was fairly long forgotten, until just before my 11th birthday.

I remember driving to meet Trooper. My parents lectured me in the vehicle about his age. “He’s only 4. Be mindful of that.” I took that to mean, don’t fall in love. But I did. And, I firmly believe, so did he. Trooper came home with us and my mom announced that if he didn’t work for me, he would be hers. I took THAT to mean that the entire family had fallen in love with him.

Trooper was white and just as glorious as my dream horse. Although he lacked a little bit in the height department for a show jumper, standing barely 14.2. It all worked out, because as time went on, my focus turned to barrel racing and Trooper decided he liked that game. Alot.

It wasn’t always butterflies and rainbows. I remember our first spring together. We were riding down the road with my dad and his horse when Trooper decided he was out and took off for home. He zigged, I zagged, and his legs took him as fast as they could back to the farm. When we got back, Dad jumped on my saucy little white horse and the fresh 5 year old did the same thing to him. Ohhhh Trooper.

I remember the summer before my first year of high school rodeo. Trooper was not a pole bending horse. He ran solid 23.0s, but was just as solid in taking down at least 3 poles. We were at gymkhana one summer evening and when Trooper stepped into a pole during our run, the big solid metal based flipped up and cut right through his splint boot, leaving a deep cut in his pastern. As fall approached, it was looking like I would be without my best friend for the fall rodeos. I made due with some other projects we had at home, but couldn’t get a point to save my life. When spring hit and Trooper was sound, rodeo became fun again 😊

Trooper walked me through so many firsts. He taught me how to win and how to lose. He humbled me. He taught me to love the horse first. He taught me what love was. He wasn’t the fastest I’ve been on. He wasn’t great to anyone other than me and the other kids he taught. There won’t a country mourning tomorrow about his loss. But that doesn’t take away for all the things he was.

Trooper was a jack of all trades, but a master of none. He was a barrel horse, a goat horse, an incredible breakaway and heel horse and every once in a while he cracked out as, you guessed it, a show jumper (in the show ring at our house 😉). He loved to work and he loved being loved by a little girl. As we both grew, I could always count on that look in his eyes… I was still, and would always be, his little girl.

I outgrew Trooper, and perhaps it was selfishness that kept him here with me but I don’t care. I lent him out a few times over the years to teach other young kids to ride. He built confidence like none other. He was simply amazing. He loved life.

Trooper was a part of every huge moment in my life. He raised me. He watched me grow from a little girl, to a know it all teenager to a woman. He was always loved and cherished, and oftentimes kept my two feet firmly on the ground. He gave me away at my wedding. That is a memory I will cherish forever.

This winter we’ve watched him slip away from the gorgeous, muscular white gelding into an old man. A ghost of a horse. We watched his spirits, and fed his body the best we could. Every morning and night he met me at the pen for his grain. Pawing the ground impatiently, whinnying his demands to hurry. I’m told he was equally as impatient just last night. That brings me a small amount of peace. Although the guilt of not being there will haunt me for a while I believe.

2020 marks 22 years together. 22 years as Troopers original little girl. Today, as I held his head in my lap and stroked his face as he slipped away, I could see in his eyes that he had the very best life. He waited for his little girl to return home, and once she was there, he said goodbye and left this world. Until we meet again old friend.

Rios Pine Troupe “Trooper” May 4, 1994 – January 19, 2020

My New Life

I’ve been asked alot lately what it’s like. What it was like watching the school bus drive by on the first day while I fed the hungry four legged students that are replacing the children I used to spend my days with. What it’s like to toss a ball cap on over my ponytailed hair after enjoying coffee and Oreos for breakfast. What it’s like living a life I always dreamed.

Full disclosure: it’s exhausting. It’s long, hard days. It’s full weeks and no days off. Its not all butterflies and rainbows. In fact, have you ever seen those memes that show a bunch of pictures labeled “what my mom thinks I do, what my husband thinks I do, what I think I do, etc?”… The “what I really do” picture is spot on 😂 Sleeping until 8 is my Saturday (if my internal alarm clock even allows it… today is Saturday and I was up at 6:45). The horses don’t know or care that it’s Saturday. They just know it’s another day and they want their breakfast. Now… I am sitting here whining but the reality is, there is nothing quite like walking outside to a dozen eager faces who only have eyes for you… and the bucket or hay net in your hand… but that’s beside the point. You see, morning chore time is one of my favorite parts of the day, second only to evening chore time. Sounds kind of silly right? Shouldn’t the time I spend teaching and molding these four legged students be my favorite? Well, you see, feed times are the most peaceful part of the day. There is literally nothing in the world that compares to the sound of horses munching their hay. I say this now… in September… when it’s 10 above and not 40 below 😉

To put it mildly, some days are far from glorious. Right now, I’m doctoring 2 abscesses and Saloon’s degloved hind leg (it’s healing better than we could have ever hoped). You want to know how much fun doctoring horses is after climbing on 12 head? It’s not 😉 There was also one day last week that I got smoked in the head by not one, but two different horses while loading…. Before 9am. I worked all day with a kink in my neck and a wicked headache. I love my job 😂

Then there are the moments that make it all worth it. I met the most incredible mare this spring. Those of you who follow me or my page on Facebook know who I’m talking about… Famey. The best part about Famey is the amazing people who brought her to me… But that’s a story all in itself. Anyway, Famey came to me as my very first client futurity horse. So exciting! I couldn’t wait to get started…. She, however, had other ideas. Now that I’ve made the deal to ensure that Famey stays with me forever, I feel I can publically disclose our true introduction to each other. Me gracefully (actually my guess is it wasn’t that graceful but for the sake of creative word choice just work with me here) flying through the air and landing with a resounding thud on the arena floor three days in. That’s right, Famey went straight to work teaching ME to sit back and think about how bad I wanted it. Normally when a horse bucks I ship them home. But there was something different about Famey. She had my heart, whether she wanted it or not.

By now you’re wondering how that qualifies as a moment that makes it all worth it. Well here’s the thing. Famey isn’t winning 1D cheques yet but she’s broke. Really broke. Fancy broke. TRUSTWORTHY broke. Four months later. Now, Famey is exceptional. She’s smart, she’s a go getter, and she loves ME. Not all horses go from broncy to fancy broke that fast. I don’t think they do anyway. Ok getting back on track. I, despite popular believe, am just as human as everyone. And, as we’ve discussed in earlier posts, suffer from that awful Imposters syndrome. I have days where I question my abilities and whether or not I have any business in the saddle. And then I climb on Famey. Those days I usually cry when I ride her. Sounds silly but Famey is all those great things because I do know what I’m doing and I do good work. She’s a reflection of my program. She’s a reflection of my work. She’s shown me that I am stronger than I ever knew myself to be. And she’s incredible, even as a work in progress.

Along with, and maybe even more rewarding to be honest, the great moments I get to spend in the saddle, are the moments when owners get back on their horses the first time. Watching that never gets old. The excitement is infectious and keep me driving on the toughest days.

So, you’re wondering what my new life is like? It’s exhausting, it’s stressful, it’s hard. But it’s pretty darn amazing too 💕

Don’t “should” your horse!

It’s been a while… I know. The last month of school was crazy! It always is for teachers… Appreciate them more in the month of June. They’re battling restless kidlets and trying to get report cards finished up.

July also hit like a ton of bricks… The good kind 😉 I figured I’d have more free time once school was done. I was wrong. Between horses and balancing OE and my marriage, it’s been insane busy!!! And, as per usual, I love every minute of it.

OK, getting to the point of this post….

I’m a firm believer that every single horse comes into my world for a reason. Even the ones that are only with me for a short time.
The past month I’ll admit I’ve been struggling. Famous got really sick beginning of June and I have been on some challenging horses. I felt like I had lost my groove, my confidence was shook and I was questioning my abilities.

Let’s back up for a second so I can introduce one of my “challenges”. I bought a gelding in December to back up Famous. He was a 10 year old son of FDD Dynasty. He was gorgeous and I enjoyed him a ton. But, as I started hauling him, I quickly realized that he and I were just not jiving. Don’t get me wrong, he’s super talented and a nice nice horse, but it just wasn’t working out. It just so happened that a good friend called me the day after a particularly rough run at the end of may.

“I need you to take Boss.” Let me tell you about Boss aka Scootin Ta Fame. I had the opportunity to ride Boss for 3 weeks in 2018. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s opinionated, and he’s one of the most naturally talented horses I’ve ever sat on.

I laughed. “I have no money. And let me remind you, I quit my day job”

“Just take him. Make payments. Whatever. I’m not riding him and if anyone can get him going it’s you. I need you to take him.” By now my gears were turning. Clearly this was important to her.

“I can’t buy him. But I might have a better option for both of us.” You see, this friend of mine, she’s one of the handiest gals out there. She can take a horse that’s been tossed out by everyone else and turn it into a winner. I think it’s because she’s a true jockey and doesn’t really pick at them like a trainer does. So, I offered her my FDD Dynasty gelding in exchange for Boss, who, I might add, is equally as well bred. She watched some videos and messaged me. “We’re bringing Boss over tomorrow. Have your papers ready.”

Well, let me tell you, Boss has challenged me in ways I never thought possible. He has made me step back and take a good look at myself on multiple occasions. He has made me wonder if I know anything at all and oftentimes I stepped off him thankful that I own him, not because I was proud of the job I was doing on him but because I felt that I shouldn’t be paid to fail and I was failing…. And thank the good lord I didn’t have to hand this one back to his owners 🤦‍♀️

After the last time he tried to buck me off (about 3 weeks ago) I gave my head a good shake. I was doing exactly what I always preach… I was doing with this horse something I would never catch myself doing with a client horse. I was “shoulding” him.
You see, I figured I would step on the exact same horse I stepped off a year ago. Due to no fault of his own or anyone else, he just wasn’t that horse. He’d been pushed to the backburner and along with having a chip on his shoulder about being tossed out, he was unsure of himself, which, as with most horses with confidence issues, translated into what was interpreted as “bad behaviour”.

Thats when I slowed right down. I took him to the round pen. I stopped getting in fights with him. I allowed us both to fall in love with the sport again. I allowed him to start to love me and I him. A month and a half into our journey, I feel like I’m starting to make a pretty nice horse. He came into my world to remind me that sometimes we need to slow down and toss out the timeline.

I’ve always said you can’t train try. I still don’t think you really can. What I do think though is that circumstance can shut the tryingest horse down. Boss was one of those horses. He’s taught me, and this is a big one, that a horse who has natural try can find it again, with the right person. Proud of my Boss man and super excited to run down the alleyway on him… When he’s ready 💕

It’s a Cat’s World

Last night I realized something. Well I realized it a long time ago but last night I realized it would make a good blog post.

Animals run the world.

Or at least in our household they do. I’m not even talking about the horses right now. Although they are equally as demanding, but somewhat easier to ignore. I’m talking about cats. Those cuddly and soft and loving purr machines that sleep all day and, past the age of about 2 years, all night too.

What triggered this thought, you ask? Well you see, we have an army of barn cats. Don’t judge — I feed them all and never complain. They are loved and spoiled. There is something about watching two young barn cats play in the long grass that makes a barnyard. Anyway, we also have three indoor cats. Two very overweight old boys (they’re 11 this year and still play and fight like they’re kittens) and one tiny, sensitive, OPINIONATED little girl (she’s also a senior citizen… but you’d never guess it).

Let me introduce you to the crew. It’ll help set the scene.

First there’s Pepper. Pepper is the biggest brother. He’s a grey tabby with more grey than black, creating a ‘salt & pepper’ look throughout his coat. Or at least what coat he has left. Pepper has anxiety. And because of this, he has an awful habit of pulling out his own fur. Don’t judge – he’s seen vets and we’ve tried a lot of different things. Currently he’s on Petanicals Calm. Fingers crossed that does the trick.

Next is Fudgey. Fudgey is Pepper’s brother and he is the golden child. Fudgey, other than being a little overweight, is perfect. He has a perfect black tabby coat that shines in the sunlight and is super soft all the time. Fudgey’s weirdest habits include a love for the bathroom and drinking water with his paw… you probably have the best mental picture right now. It really is that funny to watch. Fudgey never cries or makes a big deal about feeding time. All cats should be like Fudgey.

Lastly we have our little princess, Tigger. Tigger is a weird duck. Well, she’s actually a cat, but you get the idea. We took Tigger to get spayed a few years back (ok by a few I mean 9…) and she had no ovaries, and no scar to suggest she had already been spayed. She’s one in a million. Tigger is a calico queen who drools and loves to snuggle.. on her terms.

So on to last night. I got home from a barrel race at about 8 pm. I was excited to be home this early on a Sunday. Not placing worked in my favor I suppose, although I was feeling a little defeated from knocked barrels and not having the runs I’d hoped but such is the sport. Tylor had dinner ready and as we were eating, the crying started. Tigger’s crying I mean. When she has something to say, she will not stop until we hear her. Seeing as by now it was nearly 9:30, we knew she was ready for bed so we went into our room to watch a movie.

The crying continued. Throughout the entire movie.

We tried everything. Calling her, cuddling her, talking to her, feeding her. NOTHING worked!!! She just kept crying!!! Parents everywhere are dying laughing right now… I’m not naive don’t worry.

Finally the movie ended and we turned out the lights and turned over to go to sleep. As soon as we did, Tigger hopped up on the bed, curled in a ball between us and went to sleep.

This cat dictates our entire lives.

I wish I could say this was an isolated incident but it’s not. Tigger runs the household all the time, and when she’s not, the other cats, horses or dogs make sure to sneak their opinions in.

So, here’s some food for thought: who ACTUALLY runs the world???

Every Dog has it’s Day

” It was my day.”

I wrote that in a text to a friend after cashing in at a slot race last week. I know it may come across as ignorant, but the truth is, when it’s your time, there’s not much that can or will interfere with the outcome. Realizing this has become super integral to my mental game. About the time I collected my cheque and the 1D buckle cup was when I realized just how much.

I’m pretty proud of how my mental game has progressed this year. I can say with conviction that I don’t generally get nervous. It’s pretty easy to claim that when you know exactly what’s going to happen when you run down the alley… and when I’m on Famous, I do feel that way. There are no surprises. He goes in, turns 3 barrels (if I’m not sitting deep in the turns, I look and feel like a monkey hanging on for dear life), and he runs home. Usually, the clock stops in a respectable time. It’s a cool feeling. But it hasn’t always been this way and on the day of this slot race, for some reason I had it in my head that it wouldn’t be that day either.

It started the night before. I was falling apart. For some reason, I had major anxiety and could see nothing more than second barrel crashing down and my $500 entry fee going with it. My ego was trying to convince me to break all the rules and do all the things I always preach not to do – focus on the outcome, allow the entry fee to play a factor, and let past performance bother me.

The down barrel in my thoughts didn’t surprise me, but didn’t make it any easier to push out. I’d been struggling to get Famous by that barrel. This spring he is stronger than he’s ever been and is proving to be a lot like his momma… the harder I ride, the harder he turns. Second barrel has happened to be a casualty a lot this spring and it has bothered me. Which is ridiculous. Because I know the ‘problem’ is all in my head. I’m making silly rider errors because I’m anticipating a problem, in turn… I’m actually creating a problem. Fact is, everyone hits barrels. A tipped barrel doesn’t define us. Might cost us a cheque or two… but doesn’t define us.

Being bothered by the outcome caught me off guard. And being caught off guard by that made me feel more anxious and nervous. One of the major things I’ve worked toward in the past year is feeling comfortable with any outcome. I know that Famous and I are winners. If we don’t get a cheque, it doesn’t make us any less competitive. So why was I feeling like the world would end if we didn’t win the slot race??

Thankfully, I have also worked really hard to learn and master some pretty neat mental strategies to identify and conquer these feelings. I’d share them with you… but the fact is, I’m not a mental coach. Best I can do is direct you to my saving grace – Michelle Davey and her Mental Bootcamp. This woman has been so instrumental in teaching me to believe in who I am… a winner. This program is a 6 week program that changed the way I thought. A year ago I would have been toast before I even left the house. But last week, I overcame it all to bank a really nice cheque and cross a goal off my bucket list.

I wasn’t going to post this. I had no intention of sharing my insane anxiety with the world. But, a good friend pointed something out to me. Often times we look at the winner and think that they have it all figured out. When really, sometimes, the winner went through just as much crap as anyone else. They just had strategies and tools to get past the struggles.

Something that I will share is that the one thing that is ALWAYS in the back of my mind before I run down the alley is to trust in the universe. Either it’s my day or it’s not and I have to accept that. Every dog has it’s day… yours too will come 🙂

Jealousy – Life’s Natural Motivator

Turn your obstacles into excuses. Then, stop making excuses.

I was having a conversation with a colleague recently and the discussion turned to priorities. I’m the kind of person that firmly believes you get out what you put in. If you want something, make it happen. Turn your obstacles into excuses and then stop making excuses.

As a kid, my sun rose and set around horses. I loved being outside with the horses. In that respect, not much has changed. My parents get all the credit for using my love and passion for my horse to guide me into a responsible, driven adult. I don’t ever remember having a chore list or chart.. but I do remember being punished if I forgot to feed or water the horses.

I also remember being threatened with missing the rodeo on the weekend if I didn’t get on my horse at least 3 days during the week… this was all fine and dandy until I turned 16 and got a job. Then I needed to find new and innovative ways to get my horses rode while juggling a job. My solution: get up at 4:30 and ride in the dark before school. It was brilliant! My mom wasn’t impressed with my plan. She was even less impressed when I followed through. But hey, I never missed a rodeo!

Now, I’m a hard worker. To a fault actually. When I’m passionate about something, I will work myself into exhaustion. As I get older, I’m learning how to schedule better and prioritize. But I’m still the kind of person who feels a great deal of guilt if I don’t get done in a day what I have programmed in my mind I need to… such as getting my horses rode. This is probably part of what makes me a shoe in for a training business. I’m too hard on myself to screw anyone over with taking their money for not getting the job done. The trade off to being a hard worker is what I just outlined above. I don’t allow myself to rest. Even when I am resting, my mind is focused on what I should, could, or will be doing later on.

I get asked a lot “how do you find time to ride so much when you work a full time job? Aren’t you exhausted?” The answer is simple; there’s no other option. I don’t look at it as exhausting or something extra. It’s never been an option. It’s always just been what I do.

So, getting to the point I wanted to make with this post. I have always felt it is human nature to have feelings of jealousy or simply a longing for what others have. It’s how we express or handle that jealousy that turns it into a negative word. I have lots of friends that I’m jealous of for various reason. Notice how I said friends… I tell them I’m jealous all the time. For example, a great friend of mine put up her own indoor arena a few years back. I told her I’m crazy jealous. Because I am. We laugh and joke about it still…. because there are things I have that she wishes she had too.

Ironically, jealousy can be one hell of a motivator! When my ego tries to convince me that I’m jealous of someone in a negative way, I remind her of all the great things I have going… and once in a while I’ll tuck it into the back of my crown to work towards. If we stop wondering how someone achieves something and start working towards having it too… what a wonderful world we would live in!!

A friend, and client of mine sent me this meme a little bit ago and said that it made her think of me. It really resonated because it’s true. I do get complimented all the time on my drive and the great job I do on client horses and running my business and on my own horses. I get told even more that people wish they had my drive and passion. Now, I’m not saying that I don’t love what I do or that I would trade places with anyone to get out of being me. I love me. I love my passion and drive. But I can, 110% say that it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. I love my crown. I love having 4 million things to do and being under pressure to do them. That’s just how I operate. Always have, always will. BUT, there’s no denying that my crown is heavy. As I stated above, I work myself into exhaustion. I don’t get ‘me’ time… at least not until the school year is over. I can’t actually remember the last time I had dinner before 9pm or got to sleep past 7am (and THAT is sleeping in!).

There are people I look at and wish I had what they have too. I’m no different than you 😉 I’d love to make the NFR one day. Ultimate goal. I think it is for most barrel racers. But, I also realize that that road isn’t always smooth and paved. Those girls spend more time on the road than they do at home. They have weeks of no cheques and empty bank accounts. They have injured and tired horses pop up at the most inconvenient times. They have struggles. Their crowns are heavy. I’m not going to say heavier than mine or yours… but definitely different.

The biggest similarity between everyone else and me… and you too, is that we all have passions. We all put our energy where we desire it to be. Think about that the next time you watch someone work a full time job and then ride 6 head and wonder how they do it 😉 On top of that… put jealous into your positive word bank. It’s ok to be jealous. But own it, recognize it, use it as motivation and know that someone is jealous of you too!

Would the Real Me Please Stand Up!

Before you go any further, I need you to do something for me. Stop. I need you to read this blog post from my very good friend Michelle Davey before you read what I have to say. https://michelledavey.com/feeling-like-a-fraud-in-the-horse-world/

Are you done? Good read eh? I have a secret… I know where the inspiration for that post came from. Me. Me and my Imposter’s Syndrome. Bet you thought you’d never hear those words come outta my mouth. But it’s true. I come across as poised and confident but the truth is, I’m human. And my ego can be a real Bitch.

A few months ago I was having an unusually tough time. I was feeling sorry for myself, beating myself up over something. Something that, looking back now, seems ridiculous. I was in the early stages of coming to terms with the idea of not teaching next year and trying to wrap my head around training horses full time. I knew then I was good at what I do, but I had big reservations about other people feeling the same way and, in turn, making enough to justify quitting my perfectly good full time job.

“You need to look up Imposter’s Syndrome.” This came from a close friend of mine. She’s a rock and also an important part of the team that keeps my equine athletes healthy and happy.

So I did. And my eyes popped out of my head. “I have that!”

I recognized everything about Imposter’s Syndrome. The feeling of not-enoughness, the fear of being exposed as a fraud (even though I’m far from it), and constant self doubt… even the doubt of the things I had already accomplished… a feeling of it being a ‘fluke’ (umm… WHAT??). The burning question for me… and my actual first line of defense was “Ok… I have that… but what do I do to get rid of it?” In my world… when something catastrophic like this happens, we text Michelle 😀

I believe it went something like this. “Imposter’s Syndrome. I have it and I think you should do a blog post about it. I don’t know how to get rid of it.” I’m pretty sure Michelle was thinking I’d lost it. Like literally lost it. She had never heard of it. So she rushed off to google it too. It was about that time we both felt like we’d hit the mental jackpot and were on the road to curing millions of people 😀

Just as I’d hoped, Michelle’s post helped me. It led me to the realization that I’m normal! Who’d have thought! As Michelle points out, everyone, at some point, experiences the feelings that make up Imposter’s Syndrome. It is human to experience times of not-enoughness. And, as she reminds us in her post, we need to take a look at our egos. My ego can be real awesome. She can be supportive and happy and confident and poised. She can also be insecure and panicked and cranky and judgemental. She can make me feel on top of the world and she can make me feel like a total failure. Recognizing her sneakiness has been instrumental to pushing Imposter’s Syndrome out of my daily life. It shows up once in a while still, but when it does, I check in with my ego to let her know that she’s not running the show (she also really likes to be the star… figures). I kindly remind her that I’m busy over here building an empire and I don’t really have time for her negativity 😉

If you’re anything like me and had an “OMG I have that!” moment, do me a favor. Sit back, relax and tell yourself that you are enough. Get those feelings that your ego is trying to convince you are right out of your head and pump the good stuff back in.

You are enough. You are worthy. You are deserving. You got this!