Focus On Success- Late Bloomer

 Martha’s Story

Martha & Luke.JPG

     If you have spent any time in our barn, you know either Martha, or her horse Luke. Martha was almost 60 years old when she took her first lesson at Lazy Acres. After some lessons, Martha decided to do the Horse Ownership Coaching and completed the workbook assignments. Once her coaching course was complete, Michelle took her horse shopping. It took a while to find the right horse, but, Martha has owned Luke for about two years now.

     “Everything is given to you at the perfect time” explains Martha. She says “since I was six years old I wanted a horse, there was always a draw to them.” Many times, really for decades, Martha believed her desire to have a horse would never be met. She tells us “it’s never too late to start with horses. Let the desire drive you, don’t allow life to get in the way.”

     When asked about the lessons she has learned along the way, she includes learning to ask a better question. She reports finding success with Luke by not allowing herself to stay in that “stuck” place. “Just try or start, and success shows up!” Martha also describes learning that the limitations she believed she had, were only in her imagination. She has found ways through or around each challenge. “It’s encouraging because there is always something more to learn.”

   I asked her what the number one lesson has been in this journey. She smiles as she says “the value of just showing up.” She follows up with “and the value of being quiet enough to listen to Luke.”

   The biggest challenge on the journey has been “letting my yes be yes and my no be no. Clarity and follow through. Basically, aligning my intentions and my actions.”

    Martha continues “It’s okay to fall back here and there. A bad week will erase itself if you show up for your horse. It’s true of people too. Whatever age you are- if you love horses- do it! Allow yourself to be surprised at the things that will show up. You won’t know unless you try, once you try your perspective changes. Don’t be afraid to commit, and don’t see it as an all or nothing commitment. Just take one lesson at a time.

     If you are passionate, the horse and the instructor will pick up on that. It’s not up to you and you alone, there’s lots of help along the way. If you just start- things open up and things will just start to happen. I dragged my feet, I hesitated to set up the first lesson. I have this passion and there is no denying it. It’s the best thing I ever did!”

Michelle’s Thoughts:

     When I started this interview with Martha, I realized I never have known her age. I love that she got her first horse at sixty! Her words are inspiring. What I find remarkable about Martha is her willingness to try new things. She jumps at every opportunity to try or learn something new. She doesn’t allow her comfort zone to hold her back….we often say here…..nothing grows inside the comfort zone. Martha’s willingness to jump out of her comfort zone is what has created her success. Her partnership with Luke is one of a kind and they have been just great for each other!

Focus On Success- Heidi's Story!

Heidi has been studying horsemanship here at Lazy Acres Equines for a few years now. I asked her recently to share her thoughts on her success. Heidi reports that the things she has learned from horses are assertiveness and leadership. She reports that being assertive and having effective leadership skills transfer from the barn to work and home as well! 

I asked "what advice would you have for someone who is interested in horses or just starting this journey?" She answered "take lessons". She has found it beneficial to know about horses before committing to ownership. "They are not like dogs! You must understand their behavior first." She advises understanding the different temperaments of horses and matching that with your own, so you get the type you really want. "They all have different personalities" she reports, and you will click with some more than others. 

She also advises students to jump in, not to worry about being perfect. She has seen the joys of both riding and ground work, she loves that ground work is available to anyone, even those who can't ride. It (groundwork) makes horses accessible to anyone!

"They (horses) tell you who you really are as a human being."

When asked to name her biggest success she says it's Riding With Confidence! She reports that riding had always been a dream, but being "mature" and dealing with some chronic injuries "I wasn't sure it could happen". While she loved horses and the idea of riding, "I didn't think about being in charge of the horse and it's mind, when I was, it was hard to be confident!" She reports that she is conquering that! She now rides multiple horses, different sizes, shapes, personalities and disciplines. She encourages new people to do their homework, analyze and learn as much as possible! 

When asked what she is focusing on now, she reports quality ownership. She reports seeing situations where the horse just can't (physically or emotionally) do what you want to do. She wants to have a plan for success in those situations, but wonders if we ever really know what we will want to do in the future. How do great owners handle a current horse, while they get ready for the next one? (No, worries! I have a few thoughts on that subject!)

I asked Heidi what is next for her. What does she dream about? She reports...her own horse! :)

The Value of the Older Horse

by Michelle Kingston

I love older horses! Often I meet people looking for a horse, who won't even consider a horse who is a teenager or above. I say, they are missing out.

Older horses often have a confidence that can only come from experience. They have seen so many things, nothing phases them. They know not to waste energy on things that aren't a true threat.

The perception is that these horses are too slow, or too broken down. These perceptions are false. A well trained and well maintained older horse can be sound to the very end of it's life. A few supplements and some proactive joint care can ensure a healthy, useful life.

A healthy aged horse will still have zip and vigor. They will be just as fast and just as responsive as always. A change in that is an indicator that something might be wrong.

More than one "older" horse who I have had the privilege to ride were perceived by others as dull and unresponsive. They were actually excellent horses who had learned to filter the riders requests. If the request wasn't quite right, or the aides were unclear, the horse didn't respond. This is what I like most about older horses, they keep you honest! They make you ride better because they are willing to wait for you to get the request right. Once you ask correctly, they respond perfectly. Older horses are a perfect reflection of your ability, they don't lie.

I also find that the human/horse bond seems greater with the older horse. They know what they like and they appreciate your efforts. Those scratches behind the ear or under the chin seem more valued. Older horses recognize genuine affection and caring when they encounter it. I love older horses!

The next time you consider a horse, I challenge you to not limit your choices, consider those senior horses. All of those years of experience have great value.

The Greatest Gift for Your Horse

by Michelle Kingston

During the holiday season, my inbox was flooded with gift ideas for horses. I do most of my shopping at tack shops and feed stores, where there is also inevitably a flood of advertisements for gifts I could give my horse. This year the options included yummy looking treats, fun toys, funny hats, and warm blankets - all things I would feel good about providing for my horses.

All of these horse-directed gifts had me thinking, once the basic needs of food, water, health care, turnout, companionship, and exercise are met.....what would my horse want? What is the greatest gift I could give my horse?

For me, the answer to this question is training. Training prepares my horse for life, for change, and to live successfully in a variety of situations. The better my horse is both on the ground and under saddle, the more capable she is of thriving if she ever lost me. Horses with the most training are valued in sport and for sale. Raw physical potential and breeding are certainly highly regarded, but look at horse prices enough, and you see that the most valuable horses have the most training.

If I plan to keep my horse forever, why should I care? She always behaves for me, who cares if she's bad for the farrier, the vet, and no one else can ride her?

We see horses all the time who were inadequately prepared for the time when things went wrong, life happened to the owner and the horse had no good options. The greatest gift I have to give my horse is the ability to be ridden by a wide variety of people, in a wide variety of circumstances. She needs me to teach her how to behave perfectly for her health care providers. She deserves exposure to all types of handling, all types of equipment, and a variety of people. She should be trained to know how to respond rather than react, no matter what the situation. Training ensures the horse has a future, not just a past. I aim to give this future to my horses every day - not just during the holiday season.

Leasing: A Win-Win-Win

by Michelle Kingston

When I started out with horses, there were two options. I could ride lesson horses during a lesson, or I could buy a horse. There were no other choices. Years later, I learned about leasing.

Leasing a horse is a great option for students progressing beyond beginning lessons. Leasing can be an excellent way to see if you or your child are ready to commit to a horse: you effectively act as the owner of the horse, yet you have a safety net of sorts. If it doesn't work out, the horse still has an owner.

Max, with his 'leasee' Heidi, and his owner Tim.

Max, with his 'leasee' Heidi, and his owner Tim.

Leasing allows you to develop a bond and a relationship with a horse similar to owning. There is an intimacy in the relationship which you don't get in a lesson format. You will learn about health care, supplements, hoof care, tack and horse comfort in a much more practical way than in a lesson. Leasing teaches a rider the importance of these components of horsemanship that otherwise seem abstract when not actually affecting you and the horse for which you're responsible. Alternatively, a more experienced student might lease a horse for competition or to master a particular skill set.

Leasing offers real benefits for the horse owner as well. Thoughtful leasing arrangements allow you to provide a great situation for your horse even if you're not able to devote a significant amount of time to that horse or are no longer riding. You can maintain control of your horse and ensure the lease arrangement provides him with a positive, healthy environment. If something changes in his situation, you still control what happens to him. A written lease is crucial to protect you, your horse and the person leasing your horse.

For the horse, having more people invested in his well-being is always better. It's always good to have more than one person taking financial responsibility for a horse.

To ensure that the lease is successful I suggest two things. Show the agreement to someone who is familiar with them before you complete your arrangement, just to see if they have any further thoughts or suggestions. A detailed and thoughtful agreement will protect everyone involved in a lease arrangement. Also, a "drop-in-unannounced" clause needs to be in the agreement, so that the horse owner can check on the quality of a horse's care and living arrangement - and then the owner needs to check in on their horse, and keep checking! Extra eyes on any horse is always a good thing.

Leasing can be a positive arrangement for anyone. I currently lease a horse - I own my horses AND I lease one. This horse has something to teach me, and in return he has more people in this life to advocate and care for him. When done thoughtfully, leasing can truly be a win-win-win situation horse, owner and rider.

Michelle's Favorite Winter Things

by Michelle Kingston

Winter riding can be so much fun! There are no bugs to worry about, no sunscreen running down your face as you sweat! My horses like to go in the winter, particularly Adam prefers the cold air. 

As Christmas approaches, we have been getting lots of questions about gear. How do you stay warm as the temperature drops? The key is to stay dry. If we are exercising our horses well, we will inevitably sweat, so how do we stay dry? 

Here is a list of my favorite brands and the things I use to stay warm and dry. You will note I really like Mountain Horse brand winter gear. I'm pretty tough on apparel, and this stuff holds up. It's been the best value for the money that I have found.

  • Mountain Horse Winter Riding Boots (My Favorites!)
  • Toe Warmers- For normal winter days I wear one pair, occasionally I wear two
  • Full Foot Warmers- On the coldest days I wear these, they cover the entire foot bed 
  • SSG Gloves- I have never needed hand warmers in these and I have worn them skiing!
  • Mountain Horse Brand Socks- I normally ride in compression socks, but in the winter I switch right to these. I can't have enough of them!
  • Mountain Horse Winter Full Seat Pants- I have had mine for years. While they look like ski pants, they have a full seat. They are wind and water resistant. Mine have side zips which I open after my ride to cool off. 
  • Ariat Winter Fleece Riding Pants- Heavy duty fleece which is stretchy and warm. Hay doesn't stick to them, so no worries about chore time. 

Ok, I ride in a ski parka in the winter or my oilskin coat, but I will replace my parka with one from Mountain Horse eventually. 

  • Troxel Helmet- I wear my Troxel Venture helmet all year.
  • LL Bean Beanie- As soon as I dismount I stick an LL Bean beanie hat on. Two reasons- one, my hair is wet and the beanie is wicking, so it keeps me warm as I "cool off", the other- it hides the helmet head look! I fits easily into my pocket, so it can be with me and ready to go when ever I need it. I've tried bigger hats with ear flap etc, they are great, but don't slide into my pocket well. 

I hope these items bring you as much warmth and value as they have me!

No Buts In Great Horsemanship

by Michelle Kingston 

What makes a great horse person? It's a question I ask a lot. I have met a few, sadly only a few. I recognized it quickly and verified it over time. Too often people talk a good game, but their actions don't align with the principles of great horsemanship.

Take the time, energy and financed needed to put your horse's health first.

Take the time, energy and financed needed to put your horse's health first.

All great horse people prioritize the horse. His intentions and actions revolve around the well being, mentally, emotionally and physically of the horse. He is an advocate for his own horse, and all horses. He teaches his students how to prioritize and advocate. He goes the extra mile for the horse, daily. A true horseman will expects to sacrifice his own desires, money and plans for the horses that he cares about, as well as for.

How does this develop? It is from meeting challenges head on and with an open mind. Great horsemen don't wait for someone else to take action. They don't make excuses or blame the horse. They look in the mirror and make a change. I have never heard one say, "I would have or could have......but". They step up and take responsibility for themselves, own their mistakes and continue learning. You can recognize one because the horse is more important than any show, competition, or exposition. They simply loves horses THROUGH ACTIONS. They are willing to do whatever it takes to take excellent actions.

I have heard it said that you can tell what someone holds as a priority by looking in his/her checkbook register and calendar. Are horses your priority? What does your checkbook register say? When you answer that question is there a BUT in your answer?

Students taking the day to learn more about horse anatomy - Find a community of follow horse people committed to constantly bettering themselves for the well being of the horses in their lives.

Students taking the day to learn more about horse anatomy - Find a community of follow horse people committed to constantly bettering themselves for the well being of the horses in their lives.

I am often asked "what can I do to develop my horsemanship?" If fantastic horsemanship is your goal I suggest surrounding yourself with those who already practice excellence is the physical, mental and emotional development of horses. By acting within their values, these people will challenge you to do the same. You will recognize the exceptional care of the horse and notice that they make no excuses. Find a community that values horses, all horses. It can't be done alone, you need a community to hold you accountable. It needs to be a community without BUTS.