Thursday, April 2, 2020

Chapter 2: Homer's Surprise

It's time for another installment of Pony Tails! This week, we see what Homer and his friends are up to while their two-legged pals are quarantined. To access coloring pages from this week's story, visit our website by clicking here.

Chapter 2: Homer's Surprise

Homer searches for apples in the tack room
For more photos of Homer, visit
our website by clicking here
Homer was deep in thought. The dentist had been out today, which left half the horses (including himself) groggy and sore-jawed. No one likes the dentist, whether they have two legs or four. But that wasn’t all that was bothering Homer. He felt like there was a cloud over the ranch. There wasn’t an actual cloud--Homer stood soaking in the warm rays under a blue bird sky--but it felt like there was a cloud. The joy of last week’s party had by now worn off, and the horses were all down. Of course, I’m glad all our two-legged friends are staying home, where they are safe, thought Homer, but we sure do miss them! Not that the week had been a total bore. Wall*E and Paddy had put on a “How to open gates” instructional demonstration, so now pretty much all the horses could get in and out easily by themselves. Which makes the day a lot more interesting than just being stuck in your paddock! But it’s still not the same as having our friends back…. I wish I could do something to cheer everyone up. But what?  Homer watched Little Black, who has hardly any teeth left, struggling to chew his hay, and Buttons across the aisleway eating with an aching jaw. He saw Willy, desperately scraping last year’s brown grass from the dirt, and Forest, who looked as though eating hay was a chore. I know! A light bulb went off in Homer’s head, and he bustled to undo the gate.
“Where are you going?” asked Little Black, eyes narrowed suspiciously.
“It’s a secret. I’m making a surprise for everyone!”
“What’s the surprise?”
“I can’t tell you, Little Black! That would ruin it. A surprise is only a surprise if you don’t know what it is.”
“Well, I’m coming too.” And with that, Homer and Little Black walked out the gate and towards the chicken house.
“I know there’s some in here….” mumbled Homer, lost in thought as he contemplated the closed door.
“Some what?”
“Little Black, help me push the door open. Here, put your hoof there and I’ll use my shoulder. One, two, three!” The chicken house door slid open, and Homer clambering inside. It was very dark inside. For a minute he had to stand still because he couldn’t see anything! Slowly, his eyes adjusted, and he could make out the closed door to the heated section of the chicken house. I think they’re in there, if I remember correctly…. He opened the door, and in he went. His nose led him the rest of the way. He found a bucket under Willy’s saddle, filled with apples! Perfect, he thought, and reached out to grab the bucket in his teeth.
“Homer? Are you coming out soon?” Little Black stood peering into the dark feed room. There was no way he was going in there with his eyesight so bad. But he was getting a little lonely waiting outside without Homer.
“I’m coming! Turn around Little Black, or it will ruin the surprise.” Little Black put his ears back and said “humf.”  He did not appreciate being bossed around by someone 4 years younger than him. He hadn’t lived 32 years on this earth to be bossed around in his wise old age! Nevertheless, when Homer came out carrying the bucket of apples, a jar of molasses, and some beet pulp, Little Black was facing the other way.
“Okay, you stay out here, and I’m going behind the chicken house to make the surprise.”
Amazing Apple Extravaganza!
Little Black grumpily obliged, and Homer set to work. First, he set the bucket of apples in a ray of sunlight. To cook them a little, he thought, but also so we can eat some sunshine. You never can have too much sunshine in your bucket! Sunshine is good for the digestive system, and the soul. After he felt they were sufficiently “cooked,” Homer added the molasses (he couldn’t help himself from licking the side of the jar when a large drip fell) and the beet pulp. There was a clean patch of snow in the woods near the creek, which he used to clean his hoof before putting it in the bucket and mashing. The molasses and apple juice squished up around his hoof. Squish, squelch, squeech! He mashed and mashed, until it was all mixed together. The perfect texture for sore jaws! Then he scrounged some tender, green grass from the new growth by the creek, and sprinkled that on top. All in all, it took him most of the afternoon to concoct his surprise.
“Homer…?” Little Black’s voice came from around the chicken house.
“Coming Little Black!” Finally finished, he thought as he artistically arranged the last piece of grass on top. He went out to join Little Black, carrying the surprise carefully behind his back.
“What did you make?”
“I can’t tell you, it would ruin the surprise!” Homer ducked into the hay barn and hid his bucket behind the alfalfa. You wait there, little surprise. Oh, I hope the sunshine doesn’t leak out before we eat it… He looked at the bucket skeptically, then turned back to Little Black.
“Okay, can we take our afternoon naps now?” Little Black asked grumpily.
“Yes, afternoon naps it is!” Homer was feeling amazingly cheerful, and couldn’t wait for night to come to share the surprise!
Back in the pasture, Homer couldn’t nap. He was too excited. Looking at the grumpy faces of all his horse friends, he couldn’t wait to cheer everyone up with his surprise!
The sun finally set, and nighttime fell over the valley.
“Attention everyone!” Homer called loud and clear into the night. All the horses lifted their heads and perked their ears towards Homer. “There will be a meeting in ten minutes in the hay barn. Thank you. I will see you all there.”
“No need to be so formal.” Little Black said, rolling his eyes.
“I like being formal. Especially when we are about to have a formal, extra special, wonderful, exciting surprise! Come on, Little Black, we don’t want to be late to our own surprise.” And the two old horses once again unlocked their gate and slipped out.
There was excited muttering in the hay barn as all the horses gathered. What did Homer want? Why had he called a meeting?
“Fellow horse friends. I have a surprise for you.”
All the horses squirmed excitedly. “A surprise!” squealed Berry. “I love surprises!”
“Is it food?” Asked Willy.
“I thought we could all use a little pick-me-up after the dentist, and after a long few weeks missing our two-legged friends…”
“Hear, hear!” called Paddy and Brushy.
“And so I present you with a surprise of my own creation, in honor of our beloved two-legged friends, who are safe at home, yet greatly missed…” Homer pulled the bucket out from behind the alfalfa. It was dark, but he could feel the weight of the apples, and his stomach rumbled. He set it down dramatically in the middle of the circle. As all the horses leaned in closer to peer inside, the bucket tipped over. And out rolled… a very fat cat!
Homer looked flabbergasted. “But Tater-tot, what have you done with my surprise?”
Tater-tot, who was too round and full to stand up properly, gave a loud burp, and said, “Your surprise? I didn’t know it was your surprise. I just found this bucket someone had forgotten about behind the alfalfa, and I didn’t think anyone would mind if I ate some of it.”
Homer looked into the bucket. “Ate some of it? Why, Tater-tot, it’s all gone!”
Tater Tot, the barn cat, after his 'snack'!

“What was it?” Asked Berry.
“It was my grandfather’s recipe: Amazing Apple Extravaganza. And now it’s all gone.” Homer’s ears and head drooped. “I guess we might as well all go home. There’s no surprise after all.” Homer turned to walk away, each foot dragging like it cost him everything just to move at all.
The other horses looked at eachother. Their eyes were full of worry for Homer, but also something else. Something that looked a lot like laughter!
“Homer, come back!” Buttons called gently. “Look Homer, we still really appreciate your surprise. It would have been nice to eat it of course, but we are still really grateful you made it for us.”
“Speak for yourself!” Muttered Willy. Myles shot him a mutinous glance.
“And you have to see, Homer, even though it’s disappointing, there is something a tiny bit, well,” Buttons paused and looked around at the other horses.
“Funny!” Paddy burst in. A tiny smile was playing around Homer’s mouth. And then, before they knew it, they were all laughing- even Willy. They laughed at fat Tater-tot, rolling around the hay barn; they laughed at the surprised look on Homer’s face as the cat rolled out of the bucket; they laughed at the empty bucket; they laughed at the thought of Amazing Apple Extravaganza. They laughed until their bellies were sore from laughing and their cheeks hurt. And when they couldn’t find anything else to laugh at, they laughed some more.
Finally, they settled down, an occasional chuckle still to be heard. “Thank you, Homer, for bringing us all together and giving us something to laugh about.” Said Sparks. “It’s been a hard few weeks without our lessons, our Let ‘Em Ride program, and without our two-legged friends. Thank you for thinking of us all, and cheering us up.”
Ginger, the wise!
“And while we’re all together,” Ginger stepped in, “I think we should come up with a plan. We’ve all been moping around. Even I’ll admit, the party was good fun. But that was only one night. And we can’t have a party every night. We need to think of ways to keep ourselves happy while we are stuck in our pastures. We can’t rely on the humans for everything!”
“Hear, hear!” The horses called.
“I propose we all come up with an idea to keep us engaged. We’ll meet again tomorrow night to share our ideas, and put some into practice. Until then, let’s all thank Homer, for realizing there was something wrong at the ranch, and for trying to change it. To Homer!”
All the horses cheered, and Homer bashfully smiled.
When they were back in their pastures, with empty bellies and happy hearts, Little Black stepped in close to Homer. “Well done, old man.” He nuzzled Homer. “I know I get grumpy with you, but there is no one, not any horse anywhere, who has as big of a heart as you have.” Homer smiled. He still felt very disappointed about the fate of his afternoon’s hard work, and that he couldn’t share his surprise with the others. But there were always more afternoons, more apples, and, as he learned today, more surprises than we ever expect!

Friday, March 27, 2020

Introducing Pony Tails!

In these extremely uncertain and unprecedented times, it is more important than ever to stay connected to the things and people you love. With this in mind, our horsey friend Christa Culbert is crafting a series of weekly stories featuring MVRU horses and ponies for our horse crazy kiddos to enjoy while they are not in school! Tune into our blog each week to come together and hear stories about our four-legged friends and practice reading skills.

To learn more about Christa and her artwork, visit her website!

Without further ado, here is Chapter 1, The Party

Wall*E, our resident rascal. Click here for more
photos of Wall*E
Wall*E stood by his gate, waiting for the sun to go down. He could hear Annie’s car pulling out of the driveway, and Steve, the ranch manager, backing his tractor into the shed for the night. It was a beautiful spring evening, the last bit of warmth from the sun fading away into a chilly night. A perfect night for a party! thought Wall*E. 

The horses were due for some fun. All winter they had been focused on staying warm and eating as much hay as they could. And now with Coronavirus, and all the programming closed for a few weeks, the horses were bored. The tender shoots of green grass and the milder March weather made them restless and ready for an adventure. 

Okay, all clear. Wall*E stuck his head through the bars in the gate, grabbed the chain in his teeth and set himself free. Now for the others. He trotted down the aisleway to let Willy out. 
“Party tonight, Willy!” 
“Is there food involved? Because if not… I’m not sure I want to go.” 
“Of course there’s food involved.” Wall*E rolled his eyes. Then he let out Paddy and Myles. Paddy--a known escape artist--has a special clip on his pasture, so they had to use the secret little gate into Willy’s pasture to get out. Forest and Brushy were also eager to join in the celebrations. 

“A party? Great! Maybe we should start up the Bachelor Band again.” Brushy went to grab his guitar, which he kept tucked in the gap between the roof and the wall of his shed. Wall*E grabbed his bass, and Forest, the drummer, trotted over to the feed room to get his feed-bucket drum kit. 
The escape!

Buttons looked up from her grazing. What are those rowdy boys up to now? She thought. And went back to grazing. “Hey Berry, Sparks! Party tonight,” called Wall*E. 
“Party? Ooo, Buttons let’s go! Please!” Berry began prancing around the pasture, and Sparks and Finn stood eagerly by the gate. As Wall*E opened their gate, they paused to check in with Buttons. Would she let them go? With her ears pinned, Buttons shooed them towards the open gate. A party’s not a bad idea after all, even if it is that pesky Wall*E who’s starting it, she thought. Ginger, who had been listening to the going-ons quietly, snuck over to her secret stash of books she kept buried in the field. Finally, a little peace and quiet! She was going to finish reading The Art of Teaching Humans Who Think They are Horse People, an excellent book on educational theories written by her grandmother. Buttons, however, had different ideas. 

“You’re coming, like it or not, Ginger. We all need a lot more fun and a little less study right now.” 
“Okay,” Ginger sighed and marched out with Buttons at her heels. 

Ginger wasn’t the only one who was unsure of a party. Little Black stood under his shed, his ears slightly back and head low. Homer pranced back and forth like a colt, waiting for Wall*E to open the gate. 
“A party, Little Black! Come on!” 
“Phooey. Who wants a party anyways? It’s all dark out” Little Black moaned.
“Well I’m going! See you later then,” and Homer trotted out to join the others. Oh bother, it’s such a drag being a herd animal sometimes! Thought Little Black, as the sight of the others trotting away filled him with panic. 
“Hey! Hey wait for me! I’m coming too!” And Little Black shot off into the night after the others. 

The horses met in the hay barn. 
“Where’s the party happening?” Paddy asked, as he snuck up on Wall*E and bit his tail. 
“Hey! Ouch. Well I got everyone out, someone else can plan the details.” 
“Jump field,” said Buttons. 
“Are you sure we won’t get in trouble?” Myles timidly put in. “We are supposed to be in our pastures you know…” 
Little Black snorted. “Kids these days. No sense of adventure at all. In my day, we used to have a party every night on the Pigott’s golf course! But nowadays...” 
Buttons interrupted, “Okay. Move out, to the jump field. Only we need to sneak quietly by Kam’s window. If she sees us, the party's over.”

With that, the horses marched out. The dark horses and ponies could sneak by Kam’s house easily, but Buttons, Forest, and Paddy had to duck and crawl past her windows. Suddenly there was a loud crash. Forest, who can’t see well in the dark, crashed into Kam’s fence! Everyone froze and held their breath. Kam peered out the door. Thankfully, she thought the noise must have been her cat jumping off the roof again, so she went back inside. 

Out in the jump field, everyone relaxed and the party got going! Wall*E, Brushy and Forest stood on the waterjump like a stage. They set up their instruments and got some tunes rolling. Homer, followed closely by Little Black, searched the creek for early spring flowers and grasses to serve as refreshments. Berry and Sparks danced in the front row with Myles and Paddy, who were head banging. Finn danced nervously: every sound seemed like a cougar to her and made her jump. It is very hard to dance when your body keeps flinching and shying away from things! Ginger stood grumpily next to Buttons. 
“Go dance,” Buttons ordered. Ginger grunted in response but didn’t move. Buttons moved closer, and nuzzled Ginger’s shoulder. “Come on old girl. Come dance with me?” She said softly. Ginger looked at her out of the corner of her eye, then gave her a playful squeal. They trotted side by side onto the dance floor. 

Can you identify each horse from clues in the story?
And where was Willy in all this? Willy was hastily eating every scrap of grass he could! Poor Willy was too hungry to dance. It is very, very hard to think about anything but grass when you’re a hungry Haflinger!

The celebrations lasted well through the night, until the first glow of morning began to dissolve the darkness in the eastern sky. Little Black was so tired he swayed where he stood on the dance floor, and only kept from crashing to the ground by falling into Homer, who had also fallen asleep. 

Buttons called an end to the party, and they crept sleepily back past Kam’s house and down the aisle way. When Annie came in the morning to feed, all the horses were sound asleep in their pastures, dreaming happily of moonlit dances, spring flowers by the creek, and good friends. All except for Wall*E, who was only pretending to be asleep, and was already dreaming of the next night’s adventure…

Monday, February 13, 2017

Why We Love Our Horses

Let Us Count the Ways...
by Jasmine Minbashian, Associate Director
1. They’re emotionally intelligent

Being prey animals, horses are fine-tuned to our emotions and body language. They are incredibly perceptive and sensitive creatures. They can tell if we are stressed and agitated (a hungry lion looking for our next meal) or happy and relaxed (a resting lion getting up for a stretch).
They give us feedback appropriate for those emotions, like holding up a mirror to our soul. Sometimes they know how we're feeling before we're even aware ourselves. This is what makes them the perfect teachers for us imperfect humans.

2. They get us outside

The daily requirements of caring for a horse forces us to get exercise every day and keeps us on a
healthy routine: waking up early, mucking manure, lifting hay bales, carrying saddles, and exercising our horse. All this work keeps us healthy both physically and mentally. When we spend time outside with horses we are truly in touch with all the best Mother Nature has to offer!
3. They are generous
Time and again we have witnessed one of our lesson horses act as a complete saint for one of our young beginner riders, but on that very same day, challenge a more experienced, older rider.
Horses are intelligent animals (see reason #1). They know when its time to be gentle and when its time to push back. When treated fairly and kindly, horses can grow to be incredible partners with us humans, accomplishing incredible feats in the world of horse sports.
Their incredible power reminds us to be humble. Just this morning, I watched our most gentle lesson horse, Ginger, sprint at a full gallop to come get her hay. It gave me a not so subtle reminder that despite her bunny rabbit demeanor, she is after all filled with incredible horse power. I stood their in awe marveling at her sheer strength and beauty.  And because of their power, I have come to learn that horses will NOT do anything they absolutely do NOT want to do. So when they go trotting off in their second or even third beginner lesson of the day - it is because they are generous and kind and willing. At MVRU, we are very lucky to have a string of very generous and kind lesson horses for whom we are extremely grateful.
So do yourself a favor and go out and love a horse! If you don't have one to love, we have plenty to choose from at MVRU. If you are lucky to love one already, then make an extra commitment to provide the best care for your friend this coming year. Your horse - and your body and mind - will thank you!

Friday, October 14, 2016

A Stroke Survivor’s Story

By Marian Osborne

As a very physically active and strong fifty year old, I suffered a deep brain hemorrhage in 2007. Fortunately, I survived. However, it left me unable to walk. My left leg and arm were paralyzed. I was devastated as I ruminated about all the activities I loved doing that I now was unable to do: cross country skiing, biking, running and hiking.  One of my therapists suggested that I try to find an outdoor activity that would accommodate my disability rather than focus on the activities I used to enjoy prior to my stroke.  I didn’t know what those activities would be until I heard about Methow Valley Riding Unlimited.  This riding center trains able-bodied riders of all ages but also works with people who have some kind of disability be it physical, emotional or cognitive.

Mo finding her balance on Ginger
The first summer after my stroke, I signed up for a lesson.  I was paired with a very gentle, calm horse named Ginger. I was skeptical about this all working out, but went for it anyway.  To get on Ginger I walked up a ramp to which Ginger was standing parallel.  I sat down, swung my right leg over Ginger’s neck and sat straddled on her. My instructor, Annie, guided Ginger and me into the riding arena.  When I look at a picture taken of me on Ginger that day I was slumped over towards my right as my left side had no feeling. I often felt like I would fall over toward my left.  I was sitting totally off balance and crooked. The next few lessons, Annie focused on trying to get me to sit in the middle of the saddle.  The next step in my progression was to go on a short trail ride.  Going up and down hills required me to use not only my right leg but my left as well so I would not fall off!

Every summer, I rode as often as possible. I moved from walking to trotting on Ginger and then walking and trotting in figures like circles and serpentines. 

Mo and Homer on a trail ride
Now, ten years later, I have advanced to riding Homer, a horse that presents me with different challenges. Homer is more narrow than Ginger and his trot is bouncier, requiring more core strength to stay on!  All of this riding has strengthened my left leg, my back and my core muscles all of which has helped me walk better - despite the warnings from my doctor that I may never walk again. Just as importantly, it has also provided me with an outdoor activity that I love. 

I hope I can continue riding for many more years to come. Thank you to the horses and instructors at Methow Valley Riding Unlimited for being such an important part of my recovery.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Learning to lead a younger generation

By Kierra Reichert,
MVRU junior team member and volunteer

Kierra assisting a young rider at Little Star Horse Camp
This spring and summer, in addition to riding, I have also been helping with younger kids’ lessons.  I started working in these lessons about two years ago. It’s been a great learning experience and a way to look at my growth as a horse person and part of the ranch. When I was first starting lessons at the ranch, I was always looking up to and following the older girls. They helped me groom the horse, they led me in the lessons, they offered bits of advice and help all the time. Growing up to be one of those girls is a really special experience. I still look up to and follow the older girls who are my role models; but also being able to teach, help, and lead a younger generation in their own love of horses is in itself a learning curve and step up in horsemanship.

Through working with younger ‘horsey’ kids, it has been interesting to see each kid’s interaction with the horses. Some are bolder, and have either been around horses before or are more confident in new situations. Some are much more timid, and don’t gain their confidence until they have spent a significant amount of time around the horses. Sometimes a kid will pick out one horse that they will grow with and build their confidence around, while others like to experience many different horses, learning as they go with each new horse. It is also interesting to see how sometimes, a kid will suddenly decide they prefer a different horse after just seeing it. For instance, when I was helping with the Little Star Camp earlier in the season, I was working with a very timid, quiet little girl, who wasn’t very comfortable around horses yet. She had just come from a lesson on Ginger, who is extremely well behaved and loves little kids, and was now scheduled to ride Little Black. She brought her grooming bucket out to him, and I introduced her.  As soon as she had tentatively patted his shoulder and Annie came by and said “and look- he’s just your size!”, there was a change.  She looked at him, nodded and began grooming him quite enthusiastically. Just because Little Black was about one hand shorter than Ginger, she felt more comfortable. Each day of camp after that, she asked to see Little Black. 

Good friends: Kierra and Little Black
  This demonstrates in many lights how horses will play a big role in the development of people of all ages. Being around horses empowers and builds the confidence of people, while still posing a challenge and also awareness for another animal.  Just like the little girl, sometimes it takes time and just the right words or moments to make a change; or with others, it may happen even more gradually, just through spending time with these exquisite animals. 

Looking back on my progress, reflected in various ways in each of these young riders, it is really interesting to see how their original attitudes affect their first experience, then change, or sometimes build, through more of their time with horses. Working in the younger kids’ lessons has helped me truly understand how to work with the horse, while balancing that with the needs and ability of the rider; important skills that have helped me in my lessons.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Friend Spotlight: McKenna Barnes

McKenna is off to college in the fall
By Jasmine Minbashian, MVRU Associate Director

McKenna Barnes didn't start out as the confident, capable horsewoman she is today. McKenna started out as a very quiet, shy little five year old girl who with focus and determination, has blossomed into a critical staff member at MVRU. McKenna has helped out with just about everything from teaching to moving cattle to caring for and training our horses to serving as a junior board member. Sadly for us, this is McKenna's last year with MVRU as she moves on to pursue a degree in Equine Studies and Business Management at Lake Erie College. We are so proud of how far she has come so we're featuring her in this month's friend spotlight to celebrate all the wonderful contributions she has made to our program. We will miss you very much McKenna!
 I had a chance to chat with both Program Director Annie B. and McKenna about their experience:

MVRU: What is a fun or poignant memory you have of her?
AB: I first met McKenna when she was an extremely quiet but horse crazy five year old girl attending one of our summer day camps. I have a fond memory of McKenna and Cassidy [Butler] doing a "pas de deux" (a riding duet performance set to music) at the Appleatchee Dressage Show in matching blue tutus with matching black ponies (Little Black and Midnight). They were so cute because they made up the choreography themselves and chose their own music and their own outfits. It was all self-initiated, which is pretty great when you are only 7 years old!

MVRU: In what ways has she helped MVRU? 
AB: Over the past twelve years her journey has taken her through many years of horsemanship instruction, both English and Western with a concentration in three day eventing  and cattle work. Along the way she became a valuable volunteer, helping out with kids camps and therapeutic riding lessons. She then grew in to a capable staff member responsible for horse care, training and teaching lessons and camps. But mostly McKenna has helped MVRU by being an authentic living embodiment of what we hope to provide in the lives of young people. By that I mean, starting out at a young age, being quite shy and blossoming and turning into a confident capable rider and human being.

MVRU: What are her best character traits? 
AB:  McKenna values what this horse journey has given her in terms of strengths and life skills and articulates it well.  I think at the top of this list would be responsibility, integrity, strong work ethic and confidence. It has inspired us to see her continue to become a good rider and trustworthy staff person. She works really hard, never complains, and happily takes on responsibility. She also actively pursues her own education and improvement as an instructor, rider, and horse trainer. All that has inspired us to carry out MVRU's vision for the kind of impact we can have on somebody's life.

And here's what McKenna had to say:

MVRU: What is the most important thing you have learned from your time spent at the ranch?

MB: The most important thing I've learned is not how to work with horses, although horses are my passion and define who I am.  The biggest thing I've learned from them is courage and confidence. I used to be a very shy little girl that didn't have a voice, and having to be in charge of a 1300 lb animal requires you to be confident and sure of what you're doing. There's no other option. Having to do this with horses then transferred to my everyday life and instead of being shy I'm not afraid to speak up and have a voice.

MVRU: Who is your favorite MVRU horse and why?

MB: Finesse is my favorite MVRU horse because I believe I learned the most from her and was able
McKenna and Finesse tackling the water jump
to progress farther than with any other horse. She gave me the perfect amount of a challenge while still making things simple enough to guide me through new ideas and activities.

MVRU: What advice would you give to others who are just starting on their path with horses?

MB: Stick with it. There are so many different life lessons you can learn from working with horses. Not only do you learn how to ride, handle, and care for this animal, you also learn about communication, confidence, problem solving, responsibility, and hard work. The most important skills I've learned in life have come from working with horses at MVRU.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Stepping up: Kierra Reichert takes it to the next level

Team member and MVRU volunteer, Kierra Reichert attended her very first horse show earlier this month as a competitor and more recently joined the team on an outing to Spokane Sporthorse Farm to test her skills on their magnificent cross country course. She took the time to write about her experience as an up and coming rider. We are impressed with her focus and growth in the last few months! A huge thank you to the individuals who have helped sponsor her participation on the team.

On the 15th-17th of June, I was privileged with the amazing opportunity of coming along on the team’s cross-country schooling trip to Spokane Sport Horse Farm. I got to take an extraordinary, well trained and super fun pony named Finesse, who I have been quarter leasing for a while. I learned so much during the trip to Spokane, and feel that it marks an overall step up in my riding and knowledge of horse showing.

While at Spokane, I had complete responsibility of Finesse, which was a huge leap in my usual tasks of horse keeping while at an event. While at the Farm, I had three lessons, not including the much needed bandaging lesson on the first day there. In my Stadium lesson, I (mostly) memorized a full sized course of about eleven to twelve jumps for the first time, while jumping at a height that I felt was very appropriate to my level. The constant changing of directions in Stadium really gave me a feel for the first time of what canter lead I should be on, and how it matters to having a successful jump, as well as what it feels like to be on the wrong lead and be able to control that factor. Canter leads were something I had always taken for granted, mainly because Finesse is so good about them and it was never really a problem for us.

In my two cross-country lessons I learned that I had to focus more on balancing and slowing down
Kierra riding her first ditch. Finesse says, "I got this!"

my usually lazy mare. Throughout the lessons we had trouble with coming at jumps like a ‘motorcycle’! I had to work a lot harder with my half-halts and lines than I usually do because of the habit we had made of careening around turns and just barely making it over the corner of most jumps. I am very happy with my cross-country lessons because I got to try three new elements that appear often on cross-country courses: the ditch, a corner, and the down bank. I am so happy to have such a pro pony to ride! I was slightly nervous about the down bank, but soon learned that if ridden correctly, it was no big deal! Finesse was also a huge help especially on the new elements- she taught me to ride them while still making sure that they were jumped successfully every time!

Finesse is an older mare, and since the only time I have ridden her off of the Ranch was at a small dressage show, I still had (and have) a lot to learn about taking care of her when we are doing more strenuous work than dressage. The bandaging lesson proved useful that very first evening when Fin’s fetlocks began to show the swelling that was expected of her after a long, hard day’s work. In taking care of Finesse I learned to adequately cold-hose and wrap her legs in standing bandages, as well as becoming more aware of how much swelling her legs would usually hold after that amount of work.
Kierra practices bandaging Fin

I learned a lot during the Spokane ‘outing’, and am looking forward to spending more time and growing as a rider and person with Finesse. I am looking forward to grooming and learning at more shows and clinics this year, and hopefully competing again before the season is over. I’m so happy that I could come along to Spokane, and think that it really shed light on all that is possible to achieve through time and commitment.

Thank you: Annie, for coaching me, Tulie, for being an amazing example of excellent riding, Bob, for helping me with my dinner expenses, and most of all Finesse, for always trying so hard with everything I ask of her, and teaching me new things along the way.