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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Want to Find Out Who You Really Are?... Learn How To Rope

Bailey Jo Thompson looking gorgeous!

Doing a little dummy roping!

Kristi Renz on the heels!

A handy girl with a rope is a beautiful thing:) Lots of women ride horses, but only an elite handful can DO WORK in the practice pen and competition. I aspire to be a professional roper one day and look up to the cowgirls that are out doing what they love. Not only does the sport require excellent horsemanship skills, you have to put in a lot of time and practice- for you and your horse.

Want to find out who you really are? Learn to rope. Anyone who has been frustrated with roping knows exactly what I'm talking about. It can bring out the worst in a person. Before my first lessons, I thought I was confident, calm, and collected in my horsemanship and ability to learn new skills. I was wrong.

I have always wanted to rope. I'd see chicks roping and dream of the day I would be spinning steers and competing. Lucky for me, I am in a relationship with a man who is as gifted with a rope as any cowboy out there. Naturally, he decided to take on the task of teaching me. We spent last winter in Arizona putting on jackpots, taking in outside horses, and working on roping. I was so excited to be good that I forgot you have to suck really bad before you can start getting good.

Needless to say, I shed a lot of tears and was so upset with myself. One day, I missed ten in a row heading for Matt and I just broke down. I really didn't like who I was becoming in my journey to get good. I freaked out on the horse and lost my temper, which I ABSOLUTELY am TOTALLY AGAINST. He was ducking and running off and it was all my fault because horses do what we train them to do, and I didn't know how to get him to do it correctly. I realized that day that I was a HOT MESS. My principles of who I was and my patience levels weren't congruent with who I thought I was. Matt had heel horses in for training and I was the only one who was there to head for him and I was not holding up my end of the deal.

I learned a lot about roping and training horses last winter. But I learned even more about myself, and the person I didn't want to be. A person who was frustrated, hard on themselves, and hard on horses. Which brings me to the philosophy of training.

Last summer when I worked for Western Sky Equine starting colts, I remember something my boss Sue told me. I was frustrated with a colt and felt so angry. She said that God had put that horse in my life for a reason, and I was there to help them learn and give them a great beginning. That really hit home with me. There is no place in a teacher's role for abuse, anger, or impatience. This doesn't mean I don't ride the hair off my horses or that I spoil them and let them walk all over me. It simply means I am a fair and compassionate teacher and partner. I believe in working a horse to their full potential. I ask less than one hour for a horse to work for me. One out of twenty four! I provide food, shelter, health care, shoes, protection, and companionship. If I got all of those things and only had to work one hour a day I'd be pretty jacked! So, when it comes down to it, business is business.

But... horsemanship should never be about pride or anger.

I'm working on training a barrel horse right now. My mentor has taught me a lot and I am so thankful for meeting her here in Colorado. I like her because she is honest. She doesn't sugarcoat anything, which I respect and admire. And sometimes, let's face it... the truth hurts.

Anyone that has been around horses have had those moments where you realized you weren't as awesome as you thought you were and it all slaps you in the face. I'm getting better at accepting these and enjoying constructive critiscm as I get older. If she would've told me the same thing when I was twenty, I might've fumed. The mare I have is showing a lot of potential and I was starting to amp up the pressure and tuning on her a little too much. My mentor came over and told me I was picking. I was drilling her and making her do the correct thing over and over and it was frustrating the horse. She thought she was doing it wrong and looking for the answer over and over again. The horse was frustrated and I was too. I asked the gal what I needed to remember next time I was working on my horse. She said there's only three words you have to remember:


As trainers we tend to get really goal oriented and sometimes that's not fair to our horses. She said I needed to stop being so type A and start thinking about my horse more. Horses don't care about how fast we stop the clock, or how many buckles or saddles we've won. They just aim to please us, either out of fear or respect. As I evolve in my horsemanship, it becomes less about pride and more about my relationship with my horse.

I want to be a cowgirl that trains using compassion and encompassing fruits of the spirit: LOVE. JOY. PEACE. PATIENCE. KINDNESS. GOODNESS. FAITHFULNESS. GENTLENESS. SELF CONTROL. Any great trainer whose horses love and respect them has these characteristics. Roping showed me I have a lot of work in the PATIENCE, and SELF CONTROL department.

I have been venturing back to Montana and roping a little bit and it feels like its coming together. Matt's mare Ginger is helping me build my confidence and roping feels a lot more fun now. I can't believe how much I didn't know about ME before I started roping.

Before I sign off I'd just like to say that anger in training is a result of a lack of knowledge. The more we know about horses, the better horses we can make. Happy Headin' and Heelin',


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