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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I've Been Thinking A Lot Lately About Getting into a Horse's Mind...

(my crazy gray)

I've been thinking a lot lately about getting into a horse's mind.  There are a lot of people who just take the air out of a horse to get them calm and really just work them until they damn near fall over dead.  They are so out of breath, they can't even learn. And guess what, the more you do that, the better shape they get in.  Then it takes longer and longer to get the task accomplished. 

It takes a very intelligent person to train a horse to think their way through problems, instead of just reacting, jacked up on adrenaline. 

I am working for a man who is the best horseman I have ever been around.  I ride his horses and they are collected, willing, smooth, calm, athletic, and responsive.  Riding a horse like that reminds you why you love horses so much.  Every day when I condition his cutters, I think to myself, "I want to make a horse that feels this good and is this confident."  I'm sure if I stick around him long enough, I will be able to.

I am going to get a little technical here, so bear with me.  I've just had so many AHA! moments these last two weeks that I can hardly keep them contained.  I am writing them partially to share with my fellow horsemen, and partially so I will remember them myself.  :)

The first thing I noticed about his horses was that they all bury their asses when they stop.  So I ask him how he does that.  He just nonchalantly replies, Oh all of my horses do that.  Okay... are their drills, or exercises???  He says no.  They just crave stopping.  I'm slowly trying to figure this out and I've observed a few things about getting these killer stops.  1... Every time I stop, I back the horse up.  Whoa doesn't mean stop.  It means stop and back up.  The more fluid of a motion from stop to reverse, the better.  2...  When training, I'm only supposed to say Whoa as a reward.  So if the horse takes the wrong lead and I stop them to reset and try again, I don't say Whoa.  I just bring them to a stop with my reins and seat and try again.  His horses love to stop because they when they hear Whoa, they know that after they stop and back up, they are going to get a rest and a rub.  On a 30 day colt, you clear your throat and they drag their tail and may throw you over the front if you weren't expecting it.  3...  Accelerate into your stops.  You must be building speed to have an awesome stop.  The horse cannot anticipate that he will be stopping soon for it to be smooth and powerful.  4.... He had to chew me out for using my reins when I stopped his horses.  He said throw the reins down on their neck, sit down, and say whoa.  When a horse stops well, you can't be floating their teeth.  They stop because they want to, not because they have to.  Horses want the reward of rest.  That is their favorite reward!  Stopping is mental.  This is what I mean about getting into a horse's mind. 

Okay lesson number 2.  Shouldering in on circles.  This is something a lot of horses do.  It feels amazing when you jump on something that doesn't have this habit.  You feel like you can sit perfectly in the middle of the saddle and the horses motion isn't throwing you to the outside.  So I'm loping this big beast of a horse around (1/4 draft, 1/4 arab, 1/2 quarter horse....why??? and who does this???)  I should be nice, he is actually a doll and I love riding him.  He is shouldering in on the corners of our figure 8 track and I ask the boss what I should do to remedy it.  He says, well what did you do?  I said every time I felt him start to lean in I would pick up my inside rein and drive him out with my inside leg (which I thought was a step up from dragging him to the middle of the track with my outside rein)  Then he says, well everytime you pick him up he is just going to fall back in again.  Let's make staying straight and correct his idea.  Everytime you feel him shoulder in, pick up your outside rein and tip his nose to the outside, then drive with your outside leg and reverse arc him at the lope around your circles.  This is HARD work for a horse.  In fact it is so difficult for them that it is often hard to keep them loping.  He said do this for a while then just release and lope around again.  By making shouldering in a very difficult job, the horse will choose on their own to stay straight and balanced.  I think this is genius.  This also builds up their muscles so they will have the strength to stand their shoulder up.  Hmmmm.... I never could have thought of this myself.


Every day, I pull my mare out and ride her and my boss helps me train her.  This mare is fast.  I have no doubt that when I get her foundation super solid, she will be a smoking barrel horse.  But because of her hot blooded RUN mentality, training is difficult.  She lives to be in adrenaline mode.  So he says he will help me with her.  The day before I was loping around on her and she just kept getting more and more amped.  She was trying to run away and just couldn't do anything slow and relaxed.  I didn't know what I should do, so I kinda had the okay you want to run, lets run idea.  I ran her around and around and around until she was so tired that she finally slowed her pace down. WRONG mentality.  This is trying to get them winded so they'll listen.  It's not getting in their head.  Now I know better.  So the next day he takes her into the roundpen and does some groundwork.  He goes to send her and she wants to run and just bolts.  He picks her up in the face to stop her, then drives her again.  At first I was really confused as to what he was doing because to me it looked like Go, then Stop, then Go, then Stop and I was like wow, she is confused.  Then I realized he was just trying to get her to yield in a C shape toward him and do it with cadence, slowly.  Every time he would ask her to move away she would want to bolt, so he would shut her down then ask again.  He kept doing this and changing direction and raising his energy and repeating, really getting her to move her shoulder out of the way and yield to him with cadence.  At the beginning of the session, her head was high and she was pumped and after a few minutes of him doing this her head was low and she was yielding perfectly shaped at the walk.  He stopped and said she is done for the day.  I said wow she sure looks relaxed and he said that he had given her drugs.  Really? I replied.  I thought he had aced her (I am blonde).  He said he gave her endorphins and now she was thinking.  Interesting....

The next day he rode her out on the figure 8 track.  Every time I wanted to just move her out at a nice quiet trot, she would break into a lope.  I had tried doing one rein stop after one rein stop and it just wasn't helping. So he went out there and pitched her the reins, asked for a trot and she took off.  He sat her down into the ground, backed her up a few steps, then repeated the process by pitching the reins and asking.  After about four times, she started thinking.  She started to slow down her trot and not take off.  The next day I got on her and it was like I had a finished western pleasure horse by the way she was trotting around.  Her head was low (which means she was on her DRUGS) and she just trotted around slowly on a loose rein.  I was blown away and I yelled at him, What did you do to my horse?????

Well there is so much on my mind with this horse training stuff, but I had better stop!  I'm so happy to be passionate about what I'm doing.  I chose horsemanship as my career path because I'm so eager to learn everything I can about being a horseman.  There is so much to know, and if you ever get bored, you can just change your discipline and your back to ground zero again! 

Happy training and getting into your horse's head:)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"Dream So Big That If Only Half of it Comes True, It's Still Amazing" Cowgirl Profile: Bobbi Jeen Olson

Not many women have a resume like Bobbi Jeen's.  She is a team roper, model, actress, television host for Arizona Country TV, and stunt woman.  She has appeared in numerous movies and TV shows including Walker, Texas Ranger and Hi-Lo Country.  Lots of things impress me about Bobbi Jeen, but the what stands out the most is her passion and love for the western way of life. 

She is the epitome of a Cowgirl Visionary.

After surveying a list of incredible accomplishments, I realized I was talking to a very driven woman who was a leader in the field of human potential.  I asked Bobbi Jeen what her keys to success were.  "I always try to treat people the way I want to be treated.  I am considerate of other people's feelings,"  was her response.  The older I get, the more I realize people that climb on top of others to get to the top won't stay there for long.  Bobbi Jeen is definitely not one of those people.  Her glowing personality and excitement for being a cowgirl is what has pulled her to the top.  She also shared a favorite quote, "Dream So Big That If Only Half of It Comes True, It's Still Amazing."  Yup! I think that one is working for her!
The other piece of advice she gave me was to surround myself with the best people I possibly could.  I could not agree more.  I believe we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.  I want to hang out with 5 Bobbi Jeens!

When I asked her about adversity, she told me she cut her thumb off roping when she was twenty.  The doctor told her she was too pretty to not have a thumb.:)  She was ready to just say goodbye to it, but he insisted they would fix it.  So after three surgeries she was back roping again with her new thumb.  She told me that she thinks of her past as a learning curve to better herself and if someone shuts her down, she just goes a different direction. 
It came as no surprise when Bobbi Jeen told me one of her biggest role models as a young girl.  She absolutely loved Dolly Parton, with her contagious laugh and magnetic personality.  There is something that draws people like a radiant, confident, happy, and beautiful woman.  She also mentioned a gentleman at the sale barn that she worked at who taught her how to watch the reactions of animals.  This helped her become a cowgirl who could read animals and effectively manage stock.  
definition   cow*girl  (noun)
kou gurl
-a woman who herds and tends cattle on a ranch, especially in the western U.S., and who traditionally goes about most of her work on horseback.

To me it means a lot more.  To Bobbi Jeen, it means being out on the ranch with her family, watching colts and calves being born.  It means being surrounded by amazing people who have the same lifestyle.  It is being a compassionate horsewoman who lets the beauty on the inside shine through.

Here's to you Bobbi Jeen!  Keep making us proud!

WATCH FOR HER ON Arizona Country TV!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It Doesn't Matter Where You Came From, or What Has Happened to You! Quit the Pity Party and Live Your Dreams!!!

I don't like victim stories.  I only like the ones that say this is what happened to me and here is why I'm a better person for it.

I didn't grow up on a ranch and no one in my family is a horse person or a rodeo athlete.  But I have loved animals so much my entire life and I decided a long time ago that I was going to be like all of those horsewomen I admired.  Even at 12, I knew I had to do something to get closer to being what I wanted to be.  I worked for a horse trainer the summer of seventh grade.  For my payment I got a three year old gelding that I affectionately nicknamed Crowbait because of his looks.  I spent 12 years with that horse and started worked for a multitude of different trainers.  I believe that it doesn't matter what kind of background a person has, or where they grew up, or how they were raised.  If you have a dream and enough dedication to see it through, you will become the person you want to be. 

In 2006, after a rough time in my life when I lost my boyfriend in a car accident, I decided I wanted to be Miss Rodeo Montana.  It took three years and a lot of dedication and giving up other priorities, but I achieved it.  The fun thing about getting prepared for Miss Rodeo MT was that none of it felt like work.  It was fun and I could barely wait to read and study and practice.  When you want something bad enough, the preparation doesn't even feel like work.  After I won, someone came up to me and told me how lucky I was.  LUCKY?  I felt like luck had nothing to do with it.  I was offended because I had worked SO HARD.  It was an interesting view into how a lot of people see the world.  Like success is an accident.  A lucky thing that happens to some people.  Long term success is not a lottery gamble. 

I have some really large goals for myself.  I want to be a professional barrel racer and team roper.  I want to be an entrepreneur.  And I know that I can make all those things happen with HARD WORK.  I feel like if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.  And they are not.  Sometimes when I get anxious about a goal or start thinking about it too much I just try to do something to step closer to it. 

"Nothing Diminishes Anxiety Faster than Action" - Walter Anderson  (The Confidence Course 1997)

I remember telling Miss Rodeo Montana 2007 Megan Helmer that I was nervous about the Miss Rodeo America Pageant and she said something that was very wise.  She said that everytime she got nervous, she would just get out her material and study some more.  It worked.  Every time I took action, I was calm and focused. 

I am going to share some quotes that help me keep perspective.

E + R = O        (Jack Canfield,  The Success Principles)

Event plus Response equals outcome.  If you change your response, you change your outcome.  A positive response generates a great outcome.  A negative reaction leads to a negative experience.  When I went through tragedy at 19, I realized that we cannot control all of our experiences.  All you can control is how you respond to them.  And every single person on this planet is going to have experiences that make you think, "Why did this happen to me?  I don't deserve this!  I am a good person."  This equation changed me life and I use it every single day. 

"Success will never be a big step in the future, success is a small step taken just now."  (Jonathan Martensson)
Jack Canfield says to do 5 things a day that will aid you in the completion of your goal.  If you take three swings at a tree with an axe every single day, one day that tree is going to fall down. 

"Turn your wounds into wisdom".  (Oprah Winfrey)

"A person will sometimes devote all of his life to the development of one part of his body- the wishbone." (Robert Frost)

"Success isn't a result of spontaneous combustion.  You must set yourself on fire."  (Arnold H. Glasgow)

"Fall down 7 times.  Stand up 8." (Japanese Proverb)

I really like all of these quotes.  Quotes helped me to get through a lot.  It doesn't matter what you've been through, or where you come from.  Look at horse trainers Monty Roberts and Buck Brannaman.  Research their past.  People have bad things happen to them and they have two choices.  They can accelerate, have a great attitude, live their life with love and purpose.  Or they can give up and never love or dream again.  I chose to live my life and it has been amazing.  I would never take back anything that has happened to me, as difficult as it was. 

Here's a video the Missoulian did about adversity I got through to achieve Miss Rodeo Montana

Remember smooth seas don't make skilled sailors!  


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Shitkickers & Swagger... join the Cowgirl/Urban Crossover!

Whether you are getting down and dirty on the ranch, or going out for a night on the town, you best be looking your best.  It's easy to get in the frump slump when you're in the day to day grind of fixing fence, roping, and riding, but western fashion should be fun!  There is a way to do it to look CLASSY and there is a way to look TRASHY and my what a fine line it is in between.  But the most important thing is to have fun.  I've always been fascinated by mixing city bohemian chic with a cowgirl edge.  I've also seen the roles reversed with high fashion lines like Ralph Lauren using western themes for their models.  One thing that I have always loved about cowgirls is that they can hack it with guys and still be dolled up.  Embrace being a woman! Go out there and cause a few minor car accidents!:)
Pinup cowgirls!  Used to put these pics all over my walls when I was younger... Yes they are scandalous, and someone would probably ask "How Much?" if you actually wore these outfits.  But they are fun and cute! 
Rockmount Western Wear:) Downtown Denver walking distance from yours truly!  I love retro blouses.  The key here is FITTED.  It costs fifteen bucks to get a seamstress to fit one on these to hug your every curve.  Nobody wants a hottie in a potato sack! I've noticed some retro shirts, like the ones Panhandle Slim makes, already come prefitted.  Add some swarovski crystals and you are ready to rock.

The off shoulder top- very in look right now.  Add some cowboy boots, chunky turquoise, and some Texas girl hair and you got it goin on.

For a while I just saw brides donning the boots.  Now the whole wedding party's gone western...

Corral boots are awesome!  I broke down and bought my first pair this summer.  Boots and dresses or cutoffs is a DO, but keep the fatbabys away.  They are evil! Dress boots are where its at.  Here I am in my black lizard inlay corral boots and a $13 dollar Forever 21 dress.  They rock because their clothes and accesories are CHEAP!  Style changes quickly and why waste money on it when there are horses and saddles and tack to buy. 

Chunky. Bright. Eye Catching.  If you're wearing some really flashy or large accessories, keep the clothing simple.  If the clothing is a statement in itself, I like long dangly necklaces.(Forever 21 carries some sweet ones for appx. 3-5 dollars)

Don't be selfish.  Share the spotlight with your steed!  Belt headstalls are coming in hot.  This is a custom one out of the Cinful Creations Collection.  I saw a lot of innovators making their own out of Ed Hardy and biker belts last winter.

:) :) :) Lesli