Baby Sue!

I’ve been waiting a while to get my hands on these… pictures of baby Sue being born!!! Warning that some of these pictures may be considered a little graphic for some! I actually squealed when I started scrolling through them! He looks like a very tiny version of my now big boy!!!

Baby Sue (with sac)
Baby Sue (with sac)
Mama Banshee Checking Him Out
Mama Banshee Checking Him Out
Taking A Little Rest
Mama Telling Him To Stand Up
A Little Help Standing Up
A Little Help Standing Up
A Little Wobbly!
A Little Wobbly!
FRECKLES!
FRECKLES!
Got That Standing Thing Down!
Got That Standing Thing Down!

Working Cows

Today I had the very unique opportunity to take Sue out to a nearby ranch to learn to work cows. I’m not gonna lie… I was pretty much terrified. I had no idea how Sue would react (the one other time he was around cows was BuckFest 2014, but I think it was a combination of a lot of different things) and I had no idea what I was doing.

This horse loves cows. Apparently so do I because every picture that shows me head on shows me with a great big grin on my face. Honestly, it was so much fun!!!

We started the day by reviewing the basics – backing, turning, stopping. Then, they brought in the buffalo. Yeah, you read that right, the BUFFALO. Apparently they’re less aggressive than cows are and are a bit easier to learn on. Each of us in the class had the chance to chase the buffalo around the round pen twice. Once I pointed Sue in the direction of the buffalo, he was off! I swear, it’s like this horse found his purpose in life today!

After everyone worked the buffalo, we headed into the covered arena to start working on the cows. Sue and I got to practice cutting a cow from the herd – which sounds easy, but there’s definitely an art. You want to walk your horse in (the goal is to not disturb the herd) and chose the cow you want to separate from the rest. Once you get it out, you want to keep it out:

Cutting A Cow
Cutting A Cow

All of the hard work that my trainer, Sue, and I have been putting in really paid off! In fact, we were actually complimented for our stops and turns today! Here are a few more pictures of us chasing cows around. Also, I learned that a good cow dog is a huge help as well!

Chasing A Cow
Chasing A Cow
He Loves Chasing Cows!
He Loves Chasing Cows!
Making The Turn
Making The Turn
The Chase
The Chase

Today really was an amazing day! I’m so proud of my Sue and absolutely love taking him new places to try new things!

An Amazing Day With Sue

Yesterday was our third schooling show and I had one goal going into it… to not get disqualified. I know it sounds a bit silly, but we’re so new to showing and still learning so much that in both of the first two shows we went off pattern (first time was my mistake, second time was Sue’s). I honestly am not going to these shows to win ribbons (although it would be fun to get one), but rather to expose Sue to as much as I possibly can. My goal with him is to make him the best trail horse ever, which means that we need to see as much as we can and learn how to be calm together when faced with new and seemingly scary things. A show is a great place to do this – from the nervous energy of other horses and their riders to new sounds, smells, and things. I’m proud to say we made it through all three classes without getting disqualified!!! Sue definitely had his game face on:

Good Morning!
Good Morning!

Over the last three shows, we’ve made huge strides. He will now stand quietly while all of chaos moves around him. He doesn’t try to bolt across the arena when he realizes we go in alone like he did the first time.

Waiting For Our Rail Class To Start
Waiting For Our Rail Class To Start

Just before I did my trail class, my sister and the kids showed up… I got to take Chloe for a quick (about 3 feet) ride. Day made!

Chloe, Sue, & I
Chloe, Sue, & I

It was a great day! I’m so proud of my little fella!

One Year With Sue

A year ago today, a little redheaded gelding named Sue came into my life.

He’s taught me patience, he’s taught me strength. He’s taught me to remember to breathe. He’s taught me how to have a conversation without saying a word. He’s taught me what an amazing gift whole hearted trust can be. He’s taught me that I can’t muscle my way through life and that sometimes I just have to relax. He’s taught me to face my fears (and his) head on.

I’ve been bloodied, I’ve been bruised, I’ve laughed until my belly hurt. We’ve run from lightning and toward puddles. We’ve even competed in two shows. My car smells like a barn, especially when it gets hot outside. I do too… and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

I am so happy that I became Sue’s person on March 27, 2014… I can’t imagine a better horse for me! I’m also amazingly lucky to have a wonderfully supportive husband who has backed my adventure 100%. I truly do have the most fantastic life! I can’t wait to see what the next year brings!

Me & My Horse!
The Day I Become His Person
Show Morning!
Us Now

An Important Anniversary

One year ago today I took my very first riding lesson. At the time, I had it in the back of my head (as I had since I was little) that it would lead to actually buying a horse. But there was always a bit of doubt… that I wouldn’t have the time, the money, or the patience. The funny thing is that it was running that led me to my horse… I had been training for my second marathon and had run past the stables about a million times. My mom and I were driving around the area checking out places to take lessons and I mentioned we should pop in to the one that I had been running past. I met my trainer who told us to come back later that afternoon for a trail ride… the rest is history!

Little did I know, that first ride on Nike the Appaloosa would lead to my amazing Sue.

Me on Nike
Me on Nike

I’m so thankful that I’ve found my amazing trainer and of the progress that Sue and I have made together over the last nine months. Here’s to a lifetime of riding!!!

Showtime!

I’ve been doing a ton of riding over the past few months and have decided to enter my first show! It will be on Sunday, November 9th and to be honest, I’m terrified. Sue and I have made great progress in our partnership, but we’re far from perfect. This show is a schooling show, so it’s meant for folks of my experience and ability. Those of you who know me know that I get competitive and super nervous… so even though there’s not anything on the line, I’d like to do well!

This past weekend we practiced a lot… everything from going to a new arena (Sue’s thoughts: “scary”) to working an obstacle course (Sue’s thoughts: “cool!”). He really had a blast with the trail work – pulling a log, weaving through cones, walking across poles. We might need to do some more of that! The new arena had cows… Sue has yet to decide if he’s scared of them or really, really excited about them. He’s cowhorse-bred, so it’s in his blood to be a little bit of both. One of these days we’ll get out and work with some cows!

Here’s to another week of practice before the big show!!!

Western States Horse Expo

Last weekend Mom, Dad, and I went down to Sacramento for the 16th Annual Western States Horse Expo. I was very excited to visit my first Expo… I’d heard good things. The Expo had several different components: the clinics, the shows, the live horses, and the shopping.

I actually liked the clinics best… the first one we attended was Bob Avila who spoke on the different types of bits. He explained why you would use one instead of another and how to tell when your horse was ready for a more advanced bit. We watched a little bit of the Parelli Natural Horsemanship (how to get your horse to listen and respond to touch) as well as Marvin Pierce talk about how to train your dog to not chase livestock when they shouldn’t.

We had planned on making an entire day out of it and staying late to watch the Ultimate Super Horse Finale competition, but after watching a rather disappointing elimination round, we decided to save our $10 and go get Mongolian BBQ instead. I had expected professional level competition and knew we weren’t getting it when one of the riders had to stop and pull out a map because she forgot the pattern.

I was a little bit disappointed with the event as a whole. Yes, there were tons of vendors there. But most of it was stuff that wasn’t entirely useful. I honestly went with an open mind and open checkbook and left with a cowboy hat and a $20 bag of treats.

I do love my new cowboy hat (thanks Mom & Dad!):

My New Hat
My New Hat

Bonding With Sue

Today I headed over to the barn after work to spend some time with Sue. We’ve been working really hard in our lessons, so during the week when it’s hot after work I’m trying to spend some time bonding with him. Sometimes that involves taking him out of his stall and just walking him around the ranch. Sometimes, like today, it’s just petting him and singing to him (the horses listen to country music all day). And, of course, treats. Lots of treats.

He’s still very young and very curious, so a lot of the time it’s hard to get good pictures. He loves to sniff and nudge me to see if I’ve got any treats on me. I actually got him to stand still for a bit so I could give him kisses. That nose is indescribable… ridiculously soft!

Velvety Kisses
Velvety Kisses

Here’s an example of his mischievous side… I keep seeing all of these great pictures on Pinterest of people snuggled up with their horses, the horse looking at the camera with soft eyes. I, on the other hand, get the show stealing horse… “Look at ME!”.

Sue, The Star of the Show
Sue, The Star of the Show

But seriously, he makes me laugh, even when he’s being a hooligan. I took a zillion pictures, including ones of him nudging me and trying to dig through my pockets. This picture takes the cake and might be one of my favorites of him:

HAYYYY!
HAYYYY!

Very soon I plan on giving him a good bath and taking him out to one of the pastures for a photo shoot. He’s super dusty and dirty right now out of necessity… it’s fly season and every ounce of dirt helps keep them away! I brushed his tail out the other day and it’s glorious… I need to get some good pictures! Happy Friday everyone!

Life With Sue Part 2

I have very seriously enjoyed every facet of owning a horse.

Sue has his own silly little personality. Like any young creature, he likes to test his boundaries… everything from nibbling on my arms to pushing on me with his nose. He tries it in the arena (“You want me to run? I’ll show you run!”). For me it’s been a learning lesson because I’ve had to learn the basics about horses and their behavior as well as the ins and outs of riding. My trainer is one of the coolest people ever, but she challenges me. A lot. I love that, even though it’s hard and sometimes uncomfortable. Dana gets me and helps make me a better rider, even on the days we don’t ride and just do groundwork.

A couple weekends ago I had a ride that started off rough and then felt like everything that could go wrong did. When I tried to mount up, Sue started a little bit of bucking, which scared the daylights out of me. Lesson 1 of the day: pay attention to your horse when walking to the arena… if the cinch (the strap that goes around their belly) is pinching at all, climbing up in the saddle can hurt them, causing bucking. After that, I lost a bit of confidence and by God, that horse knew it. He tested me at every chance (didn’t lope when I asked, stopped when I didn’t ask, etc), but we made it through. I went home feeling like the worst rider in the world.

I went back for a trail ride the next day and everything fell back into place. Over the last two lessons, things have just clicked. I feel like Sue understands what I’m asking him and actually wants to do it. We had one of the most wonderful lopes around the arena that I’ve ever had with him – we made it four or five times around before I asked him to walk. It was just one of those blissfully good rides.

I still find a lot of solace at the barn… when I’m there I don’t worry about other things in life. I don’t think about what’s for dinner or that email I have to send when I get home. It’s just me and Sue. I’m learning to be the alpha with him and it’s been really fun. His stall is right next to his mama’s (her name is Banshee) and she neighs every time I take Sue out or bring him back in. I sneak her treats for being a good mama.

Life is so darned good!

Tack

It’s official… I now have everything that I need to own a horse. Technically. I learned this weekend that there is so much amazing stuff out there… it could be very easy to spend TONS of money on horse gear!

This weekend I bought my very first saddle! My trainer hauled Sue down to the Rancho Murieta Equestrian Center, where a cutting show was being held. I have been riding in one of her saddles that I absolutely love, made by Roohide Saddlery. John, the owner and saddle maker spent lots of time with Sue, trying different trees (that’s the shape/form of the saddle) on him to make sure we got a good fit that allowed his gait to be free.  After sitting on what felt like a thousand different saddles (it was actually about 40) and trying a few out (who knew that’s how you picked a saddle), I finally found one I liked. I honestly could not have asked for a better saddle… it’s like he custom made it for me! I absolutely love it – the skirt and gullet have rough out leather, which is basically a roughed up version of the leather on the rest of the saddle. The edges all have barbed wire tooling – nice and manly for my Boy Named Sue! I left it overnight because John wanted to do some customizing on the stirrups (since I have seriously short legs he wanted to change up the length so that I had more holes – ie. could raise them higher if needed). I rode on it this afternoon and it was beyond comfortable!

Sue's Saddle
Sue’s Saddle

When I went back today, my parents met up with me to watch some of the cutting competition. Cutting is basically a judged version of separating or “cutting” one cow from the herd and keeping him there. It’s so interesting to see the different techniques and the level of discipline the horses have! My parents were awesome and decided to buy me the last piece of tack I needed – the headstall (when put together with reins and a bit, it becomes the bridle). Since I had my saddle there, we were able to match the leather. I absolutely love it – the tooling is arrows, which goes well with the barbed wire on my saddle!

Sue's Bridle
Sue’s Bridle

Here’s the bit I got from my trainer… I love the silver detail on it!

Sue's Bit
Sue’s Bit

Now it’s time to break it all in… tonight’s project is to sit on my sofa and bend and smush my reins… the softer and more “broken in” the leather is, the better! I am one happy, tired cowgirl!