Our First Week with Sundance

Hello all. I realize I haven’t written anything in almost a week. Sorry about that. My mission to lease a horse so I can ride every week met with great success last week and I have been having way too much fun with it; I am starting to wonder if my health insurance covers equine therapy visits. Heaven knows it is doing much more for me (and My family) than any kind of man made antidepressant ever could.

I rode three times last week, on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. I visited with Ashlee, the owner of Sundance, on Monday night after picking Heather and Kate up from a ball game at the high school where they had to take pictures for yearbook. The place seemed to be a little far out but in all reality it is only 10 minutes from my house. The owner of the horse is not the owner of the property, but he was there too. His name is Mitchell. I have to say, I feel so fortunate to have found such wonderful people to get back into this with. She is a 20 yr old trick rider and owns three of the horses on site and he is in his 50s and has been around horses his entire life. I know I will be able to learn a lot from them both.

I had to wait until Thursday to ride again but I ended up coming out on Wednesday to see the horses again and talked to Mitch for about an hour. Turns out he has several (10 or so) other horses on site and is a breeder and farrier. I will also probably be able to keep a horse there with him when I decide to buy my own. In all honesty, I’ll probably just end up buying either Sundance (if he becomes available in the next year or two) or one of his as yet untrained horses. No, I’m not crazy, the one I might want is just unbroken right now as he is only 2 years old, but he will be trained by Mitch in another year or so. He’s very small, probably only end up being about 14 hands high, and I think I would like a smaller horse. Mitch says his sire had a very good and gentle head on him, very even tempered, and he will be a good “grade horse” which basically means he isn’t a pure breed, he is a mix breed. This also means that I probably wouldn’t be able to register him. For me though, not wanting to show or compete or breed, this is not such a big deal. An unfancy horse tends to have an equally unfancy price tag.

Thursday’s ride was difficult, almost discouraging. Heather and I went out and Ashlee and Mitch were both there. She helped me saddle and bridle him. He almost wouldn’t go at all for us and when he did walk a bit ended up just heading back toward the barn. It was difficult to get him to obey for me and Heather. Ashlee was of course able to get on and make him to do cartwheels. I blame that on my unfamiliarity and inexperience.I’d say one of the best parts of the afternoon was giving him a bath. I’m sad to say that I’d never given a horse a bath before.

I came out Saturday, fighting the discouragement from Thursday and determined to try again when it would be just me and him, and it was much better. Mitch told me the best way to get him out of that default to the barn mode was to work him out for a good long time around it. If he associated the barn area with work instead of rest and being unsaddled, then he wouldn’t be so anxious to get back to it. He called it reverse psychology and it worked well. I practiced weaving him in and out of some trees and we followed the same course each time. Then I took him through the barn out into the main part of the yard where he was hesitant but a little bit curious too. It was a very educational day and I loved every minute of it. I only rode him for about an hour or so. On our way back to the barn from our short trip out into the main yard, we got stopped by three kittens crossing his path. They were all looking up at him, playing and mewing. He watched for them and waited until they were out of the way before proceeding.

After I unsaddled him, brushed him, gave him his treat apple for a good session, I ended up talking to Mitch for another hour. We leaned on the fence overlooking the pasture with his other horses in it, mostly mares that are intended for the purpose of trail riding. They were all kind of huddled in a big group by the fence. The smallest one came up to me and put his muzzle in my hand. I didn’t have any food for him but he kept rubbing his face in my hand. I kind of fell for him right then. He’s supposed to be black but looks almost brindle from being out in the sun. His hair is black with caramel brown tips. He has a white blaze down his face and his muzzle was a little sunburnt. I petted him for another 10 minutes or so before heading off to work to get some rent checks deposited. As I got in the car my hands were filthy and it made me smile. There’s something so calming about a well earned pair of dirty hands. I know it’s silly, but this will be a novelty to me for a while. When I got home Heather was upset because she hadn’t gotten to go riding that day. I told her we’d go back tomorrow.

Tomorrow came and I waited what seemed like FOREVER for them both to wake up. I made breakfast and took a shower, then we left and got there around 1:30 pm. Sundance was fidgety today. The flies were driving him crazy, then we put the bit in his mouth and due to needing his teeth floated, which should happen fairly soon, he had issues with it the entire time we rode and was being a bit difficult again as he had been on that first day. He kept stopping and heading back to the barn and just being, well, a little stubborn. Mitch and a couple of his friends were cutting down trees in the other field and all the horses were whinnying about it. This may have had a little to do with his apprehension as well. My husband really liked him which was an important goal accomplished for me. I want him to know that when I’m there, I will be taken care of and not in danger.

We had a good time. Heather got to run a little on him when she turned him back toward the gate. We walked out to see my little sweet 2 yr old prospect again but he was way out in the field. When we got to him he wasn’t quite as friendly, maybe a little concerned about Heather and Matt because he’d never seen them before and we were all three out there, so that might have made a difference too. I’m looking forward to building a friendship with this little one over time too. Mitch says he can get started on breaking him if I want. I know it’s probably silly, but I want to call him Skydancer. I was crazy about Rainbow Brite when I was little and my favorite character was a girl called Stormy that was in charge of the winter weather. She had a purple horse with light purple main and tale and a lightening bolt on his forehead and that was his name: Skydancer. Here’s a clip of them giving Rainbow Brite some grief when spring rolls around.


Yeah, OK, I probably won’t call him Skydancer, after all, I’m not 8 years old anymore. I don’t know what horse I will end up with. I’m pretty content riding Sundance for now. He’s a good horse, and I’m so very lucky to be able to ride him and let him teach me to ride again. Let’s just hope I can lose some weight with all this moving around so whatever horse I do choose won’t end up sway backed from carrying my big fat butt! 😛 I will post something non-horse related this week… or at least soon. Bye for now!


Thrift Store Steals #1

Here is another list I’m starting: My interesting and incredibly well priced thrift store finds. I have about a million of these in my house, but today I will just talk about my latest finds.



I usually go to the thrift store looking for something I have seen in plentiful supply there in the past. Today it was cowboy boots. I need a pair, but didn’t find any on this visit.

What I DID find is pretty amazing though. Heather and I start riding on Thursday, and it is her first time, so what better to find than a superb quality riding helmet, in her size, for only $5. That’s right, five bucks!!!

I am including a link for the helmet I found.

They are currently going for about $50 + Shipping. Yay me!


I also found the complete unabridged Silmarillion on audio cd for only $20! On amazon.com it is going for $50 + Shipping new and about $40 + Shipping in Like New condition.

I’m gonna put it on amazon and sell it. See… I just doubled my money… CHA-CHING!

Here’s the link to that:


Riding a Horse Again: Fat, Nervous and Short!

The title of today’s post isn’t about the miniature horses in the photo but more accurately is meant to sum up how I felt after my adult beginner horse class on Saturday. It was 4 hours, only about an hour and a half of that was spent actually on the horse, but I still felt sore EVERYWHERE. I forgot how many little random muscles you use when riding horses… and now, I remember! OH YES! I remember. I would have written about this sooner but I had major soreness and cat drama issues (One of mine cost me a small fortune in emergency vet bills and a litter of kittens is taking over my game room; their mother, our feral mommy cat, is trapped in a cage outside in my back yard waiting for her SAAF spay appointment so she will stop getting knocked up!! Stupid TRAMP! Blarg!!!). SO, without further ado…

Here is the website and description for the class at Valley Water Mill Park Equestrian Center here in Springfield, MO:


Adult Horse S.H.O.E. Program: This class is designed specifically for the adult who always wanted a horse or just wants to get back into something they did in their youth.  This program will teach the basics of all-around horsemanship including safety, grooming, handling, tacking, and riding techniques.  Each student will have their own horse.  Come join the fun and learn how to care for, ride, and simply enjoy the world of horses!  Each class is limited to 6 students.
Valley Water Mill Park Equestrian Center  833-3291 or 833-9673
Age:     18 years and older
Date:    Saturday, , August 20
Time:    August class: 8:00 a.m.- 12:00 p.m.
Fee:      $40 per adult/per class

I arrived about 15 minutes early after taking in some medication for my high dollar cat at the Emergency Veterinary Clinic on Glenstone. I talked to Jen, our instructor, for a few minutes before the couple that was taking the class with me showed up. It was their 36th wedding anniversary and their daughter had given them the lessons as an anniversary gift. They seemed somewhat less than amused but please NOTE: I would ecstatic to have ANYTHING like this for an anniversary present. Seriously, Matt and I were jealous. This is a very cool gift. There were only 3 participants in this class. We walked down to the barn and the first hour and a half were spent touring the facilities and explaining all the different stations in the barn and their functions. Here are some things I learned during that time:

~You can store grain/feed for horses in broken down freezers. No, Really! You can find them for nothing (because why else would someone want to keep a broken deep freeze). Mice can’t get into them and they keep the feed sealed up air tight so it lasts longer. I thought this was very efficient. Jen, the life long horse woman, came from California and said she first learned about this here in MO. In CA they had used big plastic tubs, which are also good to use if you can’t score a broken deep freeze.

~I learned about the multiple types of bits, bridles, and saddles, and what the purposes are for each of the different kinds. This picture is of their tack room. There was a lot more to the room but this is the only picture I took of it. I was anxious to ride, please forgive me. There were closets and a room designated for a vet, cleaning supplies, etc… as well. Jen said she was very particular about the equipment and nothing could be dragging the floor.

~Something I found pretty impressive were incredibly specific notes and instructions written on a white board in the vet room. This room is not really used expressly for vets, the stable hands use it most of all. The notes were regarding two of the horses who had a sore here or there. There were diagrams as to where the sores were and what treatment they were to apply and directions that they weren’t to be ridden for X amount of time. I thought this attention to detail was pretty amazing. That’s the difference in quality you get from a well managed facility as opposed to a low cost, low maintenance operation. These horses are pretty lucky.

~Jen said they don’t keep the horses in the stalls much, even though the barn and stalls are fantastic there, because the horses need more diverse diets (from grass feeding) and long periods of exercise as well as sunlight. I think she said they graze for approximately 20 hours a day. A horse left in a stall would not be as healthy as these were, for obvious reasons. They grain them once (maybe twice, can’t remember) a day to fill in the nutritional gaps left over from the pasture feeding. Each horse gets one scoop of grain unless they have issues with easy weight gain, in which they get half a scoop. There again, her attention to detail impressed me. Speaking of feeding, all seven horses were brought in and fed by one of the paid hands, a 19 year old pre-med student who you will see in the videos later. She was pretty impressive, she helped me clean my horse’s hooves out!


Jen (pictured here) used my chosen horse, a black Quarter horse named Sully who was approximately 16 hands (maybe 15, again, can’t quite remember), to show us how to put on a halter. She showed us two ways: one for regular sized people (I’m assuming anything over 5’7 would work on this one) and then one for short people. I, of course, standing all of 5’4, had to use the second one. This was a piece of cake. Jen taught me the proper way to hold his lead rope, which frowned upon wrapping the rope around your fingers. I had the lead portion of the rope in my right hand and a sort of upside down U in my left hand… no coiling it around my fingers. She kept having to remind all of us of this rule. It is such a natural tendency to want to wrap it around your fingers, it is also a good way to lose some fingers. Live and learn I guess!

We had to do all the day’s lesson in the indoor riding arena because it was raining and thundering pretty crazy like. Here are all the horses that were used: The grey and white one is Levi and belongs to Sheriff Arnott, it looks like a silver dapple but is actually registered as a blue roan due to the darkness of its color when it was younger; Skipper is the red dunn on the end and the most good natured, get up and go, non-lazy of the three; Sully is the black one, and he was not feeling his oats this morning. He did not want to be ridden that day. I’m sure my awkwardness and the fact that I should be on a hobbitt sized horse instead of him wasn’t helping much. Just a NOTE: I have videos of a lot of this stuff but am having trouble posting them due to a learning curve with YouTube. I will get them on though and eventually link to them in this article. Patience, my precious, it must have patience with us!

Next we learned how to brush and groom the horses, each one of us being given a bucket with our horse’s name on it. We used the curry brush the most, a small, rubber knobby looking thing that strapped to my hand, to rub in circular motions which all the horses seemed to adore to the point of falling asleep. Then we used a bristle brush to get out the dust and to clean the curry comb between portions of brushing. After that there were the mane and tail, which we used normal hair combs on, and then cleaning out the hooves which required this giant scarey tooth brush looking thing with v shaped metal hook on the back of it for getting out huge clumps of dirt and rocks. Apparently horses can feel almost nothing inside the bottom of their hooves because I pulled a big rock out of one of Sully’s.

Doing the front legs wasn’t a big deal, I really enjoyed it actually, but doing the back legs frightened me. I have been kicked in the chest by a horse before (many years ago and YES, I was being an idiot when it happened). In this instance, I wasn’t looking forward to stumbling and being kicked in the head too. This is where the red-haired 19 year old helper came in and kept trying to get me not to be so nervous. I wasn’t really nervous about much of anything after the back hooves were done. To her I have an apology to make for not remembering her name.  Honey, if you see this, I assure you, I will find out your name and insert it at a later date because you deserve it! You helped me so much!

After that we bridled our horses and then put on the blanket and saddle. Then came time to actually get on. There was a step to help us get on. I was waiting for it patiently when Jen looks at me and says something to the effect of “What are you waiting for?” I said “Um… hello! I’m waiting for the step!” She looked at me and laughed. “You used to own a horse, I know you can get up there on your own. Did you even try?” I looked at her scornfully “No! Are you kidding me? I’m too short and too fat!” She laughed and goaded me into trying, so I did, and now, after the humiliation of not being able to pull my short fat butt up onto that horse, I have a nice horribly painful pulled muscle in the back of my left thigh as reward for my effort. Harumph! All jokes aside, Jen was a great teacher, I appreciated how down to earth she was. It made me feel like I was around my brother in law again, and that was one of the things I had hoped to gain from this experience. I can’t wait to hang out with her again when I go along to watch my sister to take the class in October.

Sully was very grumpy about being forced to saddle up and carry my big butt but in all fairness, I don’t think he would’ve wanted a skinny butt either. He tried to nibble on me and nip at me a couple times out of grumpiness for which he got swatted by the younger red haired trainer chick. I learned the difference between direct reigning and neck reigning. I tried to neck reign him only, because it is gentler, but he kept turning around and going where I didn’t want him to go, which was always back in the direction of the entry gate.

I felt like I was being too forceful at times, yanking him this way and that, forcing him to do a complete 180 to the other end of the aren when he pulled around to go back to the gate. When I asked Jen if I was being too mean to him she replied “NO, you need to be much meaner than that, Don’t let him lead you, You lead HIM. If he goes somewhere you didn’t tell him to go, you need to correct him. Show him who is in control.” So, I did as she said. Again, and again, and again. We did this test where we walked over weird things like plastic tarps and pool noodles and play mats, an exercise designed to show the horse that even though you are making him walk over things he would normally avoid, he can trust you to lead him safely. Compared to the other two, I thought Sully and I did pretty well.

Next we practiced weaving through cones in a serpentine pattern; He did well when facing the gate but when I asked him to turn around and go back toward the other end of the arena, he kept trying to turn around and go the other way on me, so again, I had to direct reign him and force him to turn back around away from the gate. Once I made him walk to the end and then turn around and asked him to speed up and he was so looking forward to getting back to the gate that he cantered a bit; it was nice to canter again, even if it was just for 3 seconds. I wanted to do that more after that. He did NOT.

After that we played with giant inflatable soccer balls. The goal was to make the horse push the ball in between these cones that were set up as the goal. It was fun, and I think we did well on that too. Jen accused me of trying to steal the show once, in a playful manner, and it made me laugh because I knew she was just trying to make me feel I was doing well. I wish we had gotten to ride outside. I hate that it rained. Playing soccer was pretty awesome though.

After about an hour and a half we walked them back to the barn, took off their saddles and bridles and brushed them again to check for anything that may have caused a saddle sore while we were riding. Getting out of the saddle was a shocking experience. I was immediately sore. I voiced that to Jen and she just kinda laughed and said “Really? That soon?” Yes, Jen, Really, that soon! That’s what happens when you sit in an office chair day in and day out for years. I need to start walking and doing my lunges and squats again. I feel Pathetic.

So all in all, I had a pretty great time. I wish I had taken the class with some friends or something though. I guess I am going to start taking riding lessons once or twice a month if I can afford it. I want to get better in the saddle and better at saddling and bridling so when I do eventually buy a horse, I will be more confident than I was last Saturday. Ultimately I am looking for someone who would let me ride their horses but I know that’s pretty difficult to find these days, especially since I know so few people with horses. Maybe one day, I guess. One day.

I would definitely suggest this class to anyone. The people at this facility are friendly and I look forward to talking with them again during heather’s lessons next month! If you have a horse, I hear this facility also has some pilates on horseback classes that will blow your mind! I am jealous that I don’t have my own horse to be able to take this class, but again, maybe some day. 🙂 Please comment and tell me about YOUR horseback riding experiences!!!

Getting Back in the Saddle

I haven’t ridden a horse since I was about 16. 13 long years have passed. I’m a desk jockey now, 50 lbs overweight from inactivity and excessive fast food, with saddlebags of my own and a depressing lack of matching outfits and blue ribbons. I live indoors all day every day. So why in the world would I want to venture into the world of horses again after such a long absence? Because this soul craves a new breadth. It aches to rediscover something that has been lost. It struggles to breath in these compartments inundated with the whirring of electrical objects and fabricated chemicals that are killing it slowly. Even now an unfamiliar noise fills my chest and mind. It’s the gnashing of teeth from a wild animal stuck in a cage far too long.

I have been researching horses and teachers and trainers and boarding facilities around Springfield for over a week now. I have looked at every picture of a horse on craigslist with an ooh and an ahh for each one. When I see them, it awakens this primal need inside me to be with them. To be running, to be outside, in the cold dew filled air and fields at sunrise without the aid of an alarm clock. All the while the robot city folk are still sleeping their ill-gained sleep, dreaming of gadgets and television programming and things without life in them. Things without lungs, legs and flesh. I can no longer dream of these man made things. They hold no excitement for me. They are dead. More importantly, they were never alive. I’m tired of feeling as lifeless as these objects that surround me day in and day out. I am still young in age, so why is it that I feel so old?

I want to be with horse people again. Animal people. Country people. People of the land. Gods people. My people. They don’t buy every scrap of food and clothing prepackaged, pregrown, and prechewed to suit their greedy infant appetites. They don’t just consume everything around them without putting something back. They grow things. They don’t grab at some money driven society’s commercially tainted tit with hands that have never known a callus. They have a richness that they purchase without any form of currency. It is earned with early mornings, bare hands and feet making contact with the earth on a daily basis, in a place where instincts are more valuable than contracts and the training is free to anyone who will come and lay claim to it. Tuition is an honest day’s work breaking a sweat before any of the 9-5 folk slap the snooze button on their alarm clock.

Today I am meeting with someone over lunch who may let me lease one of her horses for a while, so I can get the feel of it again before I consider diving further into the investment of actually owning one. Of course it’s all about money isn’t it? It has to be. I sell 8 hours of my life every day for money and I am darn sure going to get something for that time that I will never get back. This time I won’t take whatever I can get for fear of inconveniencing anyone else. This time I will research it and find something pure, something worth the cost of my lost hours. Something that will give me a little bit of life as I spend those 40 hours each week in my compartment waiting for death. This is something I can do to give me some of those breaths back. I want them. Yes, indeed. I WILL get them back.

Tonight after work I am quite literally going to see a man about some land and possibly a horse. Maybe I will put my hope in him and this animal, maybe I won’t. No matter what, this new found hope cannot be suffocated as so many others have been. This one must take root. It must live.

All I know is, if I don’t search it out, then I will continue dying when I should be living.

Call me television killer. Call me sister sunshine. Call me the early bird. Call me a hippie or a hillbilly. Even those titles seem foreign to me now and unassociated with my life.

Soon you will call me horse woman, lover of horses and wild spirited things, above all, a woman who truly lives her life. Soon I will break these restraints and run because running is all that sounds good after 10 years of being in a cage. Soon I will be free and once again, get back to being me.

Maybe it will take a while. I will have to learn to walk again. Then to trot, then canter, then gallop.All I know is this: I desperately need my skin to feel like skin again, and not just some suit I’m wearing. I want my body to feel alive with exertion, my muscles to ache from a long ride. To feel the refreshment of the early morning dew on my skin and the wind in my hair and face. These things seem insignificant, you take them for granted when you have them. At the moment, they are all I can think about.

An Old Love Remembered

A person that truly loves something, no matter how they try to avoid it or their life brings them out of contact with it, will feel an aching, an emptiness in their life without it. Existence becomes almost meaningless, empty, tasteless, numb. There were always three things that made me feel that way: writing, drawing and horses. I occasionally pick up a pencil to draw again, and I have recently begun writing again. These things refresh my soul and enrich my life.

Horses are harder though. You have to know someone with horses, or have the resources (land and money) to own and take care of your own horse. As of right now, I have none of those things. My house is in the suburbs, there’s not a pasture or barn in sight. And it’s not just that easy to move either, we own this house. Last week some time I got this mad hankering to watch Black Beauty, one of my all time favorite movies. I cried (of course) and all those feelings of love, fascination, joy, rapture… all those things I felt about horses came flooding back, overwhelming me.

Then Saturday, I was at the Ozarks Romance Authors meeting and the speaker was a “western” writer. His sister had recently written a book with a young girl riding a horse on the cover. On the back was a picture of her with her own horse, looking all majestic and gorgeous. I got to meet her and talk with her briefly. Then I wrote a blog about my favorite books, several of which…. that’s right…. had to do with horses in some way. I made the mistake of getting passionate about reading Robin McKinely again and I remembered why I loved her books so much: her characters always have a close bond with either a horse or a dog the size of a horse.

I have been listening to the Hero and the Crown on audio book, the main character in this one is a red head named Aerin who fights dragons and re-tames this old war horse of her father’s named Talat. The picture to the right always reminds me of this book… but she seems to be a lot nicer to dragons than she was in the book. The first time I read this I was in 8th grade. My adorable little English Teacher, Mrs. Bastian, recommended it to me. I read a book in 4th grade called Pounding Hooves, about a girl who draws and becomes obsessed with this wild arabian mare that moves into the field close to her house. I started reading Beauty a few weeks ago but it isn’t holding my attention. Last night I dove into The Blue Sword again, which was better than I remembered. It’s the sequel to The Hero and the Crown. The horses have names like Red Wind and Fire Heart. The main characters of all these books have these deep bonds with their horses and a love of riding. Of course, it also doesn’t help that I “liked” the Cowboy Magic page on facebook and now I am daily inundated with pictures of beautiful horses from them. It makes my heart sick with memories.

I had a horse from the time I was about 12 to the time I was 16 or so. My broke single mom convinced the old man that owned the field down the road from us to let me use it and she helped me get the most wonderful thing I have ever owned: a Palomino mare, 15 hands high, and her name was Ginger. I was in love with everything about her. Her eyes, her feet, her hair, her whinnie, her smell… everything. I remember when we went to get her, the old guy selling her was a good man. When I saw her I started crying, I couldn’t believe something so wonderful could be for me. My brother in law at the time, Hoss, was a horse man and taught me everything I needed to know to take care of her and be safe around her. I miss him, but more accurately, I miss those days.

I remember the first time we cantered, how exhilarating it was. The first time we galloped!! The time she decided to go down to the pond for a drink while I was riding her and then she decided she would just go for a nice little swim across the pond with me still on her back! It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. I fed her sweet oats, apples and carrots. I brushed her and played games with her. No wonder I never got my school work done. I was in love. The picture to the left is of me when I was about 12 riding my horse, Ginger. My childhood friend, Kara, is peaking out from behind me! I miss those sweet simple days.

In the spirit of those days I started looking at ads for horses on craigslist and came across one for a herd of mustangs that a guys was training and selling for like $125 each! Lots of colors, lots of choices and it was right here in Springfield!!! I checked the address and it was close to my work, like 2 minutes away. I got off work early and went to see the people and as it turns out it was a place that gives classes on horsemanship. It’s a big beautiful place, they keep the Greene County Sheriff’s Posse horses. They are state owned and operated.I talked to one of the trainers/care takers of the horses and she said that if I wanted to I could even apply as a volunteer. I was so excited I could barely move… I feel like I’m twelve again! I’m gonna do it! BEST THING EVER!!!

So, as a treat and hopefully to start a relationship with the people of the ranch so we can volunteer, Heather and I will be taking an adult beginner class there next weekend. It’s 4 hours long and you get to learn all the basics of care, grooming, saddling, catching, feeding and so on. Oh, and I will be riding a horse for the first time in about 13 years. I am so excited. I can’t wait! Neither can Heather. 🙂

Now, here are a few other horsey pictures… just for fun. Enjoy!