Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How to handle Fear

I recently audited a Joe Wolter Colt Starting & Horsemanship clinic at Sullivan Farm Hanoverians.  I love observing clinics and often leave with far more knowledge than I can possibly absorb.  I feel if I can apply three - five new things from each clinic, I am lucky.

My observations and notes are my own, and it is entirely possible I have misconstrued some of Joe Wolter's teachings.  I suggest going to his website and attending a clinic if he is ever in your area.

One thing I am off to buy right now is a small blue tarp.  Now, I know Oberon has no fear of walking on one, in fact he seems to enjoy "killing" it.  I have also walked by a huge barn door with one flapping sky high in the wind, having come loose from the bricks on the ground.  I thought I was in for all sorts of "crazy", but Oberon didn't even blink an eye.

I have never rubbed one all over his body, nor have I had him drag one behind us with a rope.

But what IF he was afraid?  How does one approach fear with a horse.  We MUST remember to do it the horses way as it is about building the horses confidence.

Make sure it is a learning process NOT a forcing process.

1) Find the line in the sand where your horse is comfortable, a place that allows him to be comfortably curious.  Let a horse be curious - DON'T hold them there.  Curiosity comes AFTER fright.

2) Back up or turn the horse away from the line.  Don't push him over.  Retreat and face.  The "line" will eventually get closer to the object. Take the horse away before he takes you away.

3) Redirect the energy.  Trot away, walk toward the object, respect the new line drawn in the sand.  If the horse tenses up, send off - we are battling self-preservation.  So do something when the horses life (fear) comes up.  Go back to # 2 as many times as necessary.

4) Repeat, stay calm.  It may take days.  Be patient, trust the horse.  Make sure you don't tense up.    Loosen reins so he can lower head and sniff.  Again, any tensing by the horse, go back to #2 & #3.

I have seen riders force a horse to take on an object they are scared of.  I confess, I have not always taken the appropriate time and respected the "safety line" but nudged Oberon closer instead of turning away when I could feel he didn't truly want to take forward steps.  The worst thing I can do in a fear situation is not give him enough time.

I'll let you know how Oberon does being rubbed by and dragging the tarp.  (I will have to be sure I have the arena to myself as I'm sure there are many boarders who would not appreciate this. :)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Easily Replaced?

My handsome Oberon

Easily Replaced

I wouldn't miss
your brown liquid eyes
upon me, your warm,
tender lips softly searching,
nibbling my shoulder,
seeking my caress.

I wouldn't miss
your adventurous spirit,
nor the way you light up
when you see me,
nor the way you listen
to my singing, content.

I wouldn't miss
the way you love me.

by Margaret Bednar, 11-4-2012

This has NOTHING to do with the fact I carry treats on me.
Don't you LOVE his furry winter coat?  It's going to get even fuzzier soon.
Looking pretty cute in his cooling down blanket

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A new home "Rockingham Equestrian Center"

We moved from Fiore Farms to Rockingham Equestrian Center.  I won't go into the details, but our barn managers moved to a new location as well.  Oberon is pasture buddies with Zip, a QH gelding that made the move as well and they are getting along fabulously.

 I have been lucky enough to find a place with an indoor arena

and the stall situation is awesome.  He has a door to an outside paddock, where he can see his neighbors in the paddock next to his and he can also watch the action in the indoor arena.

I miss my old barn "family" (humans and horses) but I think we landed on our feet.  This is a photo of the one of three horse barns on the property.

Most importantly, the attention to detail by the farm's owners is wonderful.  I think we will really enjoy ourselves in our new home.

I hand walked Oberon on the few short trails that surround the farm the first full day.  He was awesome and I was proud as he went out all by himself.  The following day I rode him, again, by himself, and he was perfectly behaved.  I love this little guy so much.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Buck Brannaman, continued #3 Small Serpentines


(All attempts at explaining what I learned at the Buck clinic are just that... I might "mis-speak".  The best thing is to attend a Buck clinic ;)

I've really been pondering what I learned at the Buck clinic.  And I think this year I have really focused on the word "Balance".   In my opinion, this is what riding is really all about.  And it isn't just about the rider, it is also about the horse.  A balanced horse has an engaged hind end.  For the hind end to engage, the withers must rise.   When this happens with a "soft feel" (without yanking on the horses mouth) then true collection can be pursued.

A review of seat positions:

Position 2 is upright in saddle, above your seatbones.   This is the riding position.
Position 1 is slightly forward and used only for upward transitions.
Position 3 is on your pockets.  This is used only for downward transitions or the stop.

Backing up is done from position 2 with shoulders ever so slightly back from center of gravity and legs opened a touch.

One exercise Buck had the riders doing was small serpentines.  I found a clip from two years ago on You Tube.  Bucks demonstration is much better than my summary below!

A series of half circles which are short and tight.  He likens it to riding around small sagebrush.  The horse transitions from 'bend" to "bend" with, at most, a couple straight steps (if any) in between the circles.  This challenges the rider to focus on where the horse's feet are as one must ask for the horse to do a new transition when the feet are in the appropriate place... otherwise the rider trips the horse up!  Swinging in this way, doing serpentines, bending laterally, helps release braces in both body and mind.

...and remember, when beginning a turn, ask the foot to move to the side as it is coming off the ground, by opening your inside leg and holding your rein out, from the hip, to "open up".  Also, remember to bend the head around with a soft feel, and ask with your seat and legs and your "look" first, reins only if needed.

The following is a pretty good example of a rider doing the serpentine.  The clinic I went to, Buck had the riders doing it on the rail.  The rider below seems to be doing a bit more of a crazy 8 (perhaps going a bit past that center line Buck refers to in the video above)

Oberon and I have worked quite a bit on serpentines, and I think we are getting pretty good.  I even noticed today that their was a bit of "hang time" when he moved his inside leg out about 6" to make the bend.  That is great, as I don't want him to hurry - hurrying can create a "down-hill" horse - heavy on the front end.  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Buck Brannaman, Continued.

The following are excerpts from my notes and content and quotes might be inaccurate.  I am doing my best to repeat what I wrote down in my notebook from the Buck Brannaman clinic I attended.

I have learned a lot from Cooler Horsemanship.  Much of what Buck said in his clinic I have heard from James Cooler, but auditing the Buck clinic for four days really allowed things to sink in.  One thing I have been working on a lot lately is riding from my seat and I loved watching the following:

"Walk, trot, canter with a loose reign, then one can collect".

There are three seat positions, actually four.

Position one:  On pelvis for a moment (and obviously used for jumping) when asking a horse to go faster, but then it is immediately into position two.

Position two:  Athletic stance - straight up, on balls of feet.

Position three:  Feet forward, deep pockets.

Position four:  Your butt hits the ground.

Class Exercise:   Ride with your seat while walking on a loose reign.

Talk about out of sync... some horses took off and others never changed pace.  Some riders didn't loosen their reigns even though they thought they had.  A few did a nice job.  The worst offenders seemed to be a dressage and an english rider.  And Buck did not go easy on them, but he was honest.

Buck encouraged some to use their legs to get their horses going.

"It is impossible to have a horse light to the hand that is dull to the leg.  My leg is pushing on an air bubble, especially the lower leg.  (and my leg is saying) "I have every intent to kick you if you don't listen to this good deal."   Buck went on to say that legs were only used for transitions, not for maintenance of impulsion.

"Riding is supposed to be discreet.  If my horse starts to slow, I might kick a fart out of her."

(a side note:  I tried this on Oberon.  He slowed, I followed through and gave him a BIG kick with both legs.  He really jumped forward!  Since then, all I have had to do is pull both feet out from his sides and he speeds up. I have not had to wollup him again since!)

Of course, no Buck clinic is complete without a few quotes from Ray Hunt "See how little you can do to get them to trot".

And so, as the class went 'round and 'round the ring, Buck kept offering advice.

"Try to make it invisible.  Slow walk to fast walk ... liven up YOUR body.

I believe the horse above was Buck's "green" horse - which I found amusing as most people's horses never behave
and listen as nicely as this gelding.

Fascinating and my notebook is full of advice:

Lateral flexing - Buck looks for a soft feel, pole slightly higher than the withers, ears level, with head turned; it doesn't have to be all the way back to the riders foot.

Longitudinal flexing - he is looking for the proper elevation of the head.  The head WAY down (like the western pleasure show people like - he called it the "new fad" - holds the rib cage and spine down... spurs do NOT lift a horses back.

So how does one raise withers without getting the horse dull to our hands and legs?

Well, Buck said the pole must elevate to the proper position, the withers must rise so the horses hips can engage.

And there are exercises for this.  I will highlight them in my next posts.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Buck Brannaman "Redirect Energy"

Buck Brannaman is a legend in the horse world for some.  After auditing a clinic I must say, on horseback he is "poetry-in-motion".  He makes everything appear elegant and simple... which of course, when I went to apply what I learned back at my "home" arena with my horse, it wasn't easy at all.  It takes a lot of patience and practice.

HERE is a great article that sums up Buck fairly well.

The four day clinic I attended was held at Sullivan Farm Hanoverians , a top notch private farm that has been hosting Buck every other fall for many years.   I think there were about 15 - 20 riders in the Horsemanship 1 class.

So much information is at hand at a clinic like this, so I had a notebook handy and wrote down bits and pieces of what registered with me.  My next few posts will be about things that made me pause and think.   My first "pause & think" moment is below.

Buck is a patient man, but there is no room for "non-listeners".  That goes for his students AND his horses.  He said:

"My horse needs to be quiet enough not to draw my attention".   He expects accurate movement, no milling around.   If one is tuned out by their horse, he said to change subjects.

"You want your horse always aware of you.  Be aware of your horse!  Fidgeting?  Direct that!  Think of it as a gift.  Do something with that energy; redirect it or it will be a negative."

"Don't let your horse check out.  A horse wants peace.  Trade movement for peace."

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Pick-up Line

My iPhoto improved with Kim Klaussen's "Oh My" Texture

The Pick-up Line

A Gelding's Boast

Back in the day
when I ran with the colts,
I was an "Outlaw",
untamed vigor,
no cowboy could tame...

A Mare's Thoughts

"They're all the same..."

by Margaret Bednar, October 12, 2012

This is linked with Kim Klaussen's "Texture Tuesday" & IGWRT's "Music with Marian" subject"  Outlaw/Crazy.    I don't think this is exactly what the prompt was looking for, but it is what I could do with the time I have available today.

This is a photo of the new stables my horse, Oberon, is boarding.  I sold my horse, Sebastian, to my manager trainer and they are now at a different barn as well.  I am really excited, though, as I may be trail riding with Sebastian & James this weekend.

If you are a Buck Brannaman fan, check back here in a few days as I have a few photos and a rundown of the clinic I attended a couple of weeks ago.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Horse Whisperer - Buck Brannaman

I have been at a clinic watching the real "Horse Whisperer" this weekend.  The last day is today, Monday, October 1st.  As many of you know, his name is Buck Brannaman.

"Everything you do with a horse is a dance".  Buck

A Cowboy is a craft, a profession.  It is a craft... it's not just putting on a hat and going to some night club to sing karaoke.

I will be back in a few days with photos and some of my notes... and maybe a few good ol' Buck quotes.  :)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Man o' War, a poem

Man o' War

America's genetic gold,
son of "good tidings",

veins throbbed fire,
his mind, desire.

Had a 26-foot stride
that soared as if winged.

Rebellious youngster,
"like holding a tiger's tail",

he became "De mostest hoss
that ever drew breath."

He transcended his sport,
a "Babe Ruth" of the track,

truly "brought one close
to divinity."

by Margaret Bednar  9.20.12

Man o' War and his caretaker, Will Harbut
Click on the above link (under the picture of him with his groom if you are interested in reading about this famous race horse.

I just finished re-reading a book I had from my childhood "Man o' War" by Walter Farley.  It is fiction, but largely based on fact.  A very uplifting read!  I highly recommend it.

Fred Stone  has painted many a magnificent horse.  I'm considering purchasing this poster of Man o' War.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Unicorn?

Unicorn Oberon!
The Late Passenger 

C.S. Lewis 1948

The sky was low, the sounding rain was falling dense and dark, 
And Noah's sons were standing at the window of the Ark. 

The beasts were in, but Japhet said, 'I see one creature more 
Belated and unmated there come knocking at the door.' 

'Well let him knock,' said Ham, 'Or let him drown or learn to swim. 
We're overcrowded as it is; we've got no room for him.' 

'And yet it knocks, how terribly it knocks,' said Shem, 'Its feet 
Are hard as horn--but oh the air that comes from it is sweet.' 

'Now hush,' said Ham, 'You'll waken Dad, and once he comes to see 
What's at the door, it's sure to mean more work for you and me.' 

Noah's voice came roaring from the darkness down below, 
'Some animal is knocking. Take it in before we go.' 

Ham shouted back, and savagely he nudged the other two, 
'That's only Japhet knocking down a brad-nail in his shoe.' 

Said Noah, 'Boys, I hear a noise that's like a horse's hoof.' 
Said Ham, 'Why, that's the dreadful rain that drums upon the roof.' 

Noah tumbled up on deck and out he put his head; 
His face went grey, his knees were loosed, he tore his beard and said, 

'Look, look! It would not wait. It turns away. It takes its flight. 
Fine work you've made of it, my sons, between you all to-night! 

'Even if I could outrun it now, it would not turn again 
--Not now. Our great discourtesy has earned its high disdain. 

'Oh noble and unmated beast, my sons were all unkind; 
In such a night what stable and what manger will you find? 

'Oh golden hoofs, oh cataracts of mane, oh nostrils wide 
With indignation! Oh the neck wave-arched, the lovely pride! 

'Oh long shall be the furrows ploughed across the hearts of men 
Before it comes to stable and to manger once again, 

'And dark and crooked all the ways in which our race shall walk, 
And shrivelled all their manhood like a flower with broken stalk, 

'And all the world, oh Ham, may curse the hour when you were born; 
Because of you the Ark must sail without the Unicorn!' 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bareback & a Straight Line

We are taking a bit of a break from the dressage saddle and are riding with a bareback pad.  The girls love Oberon's trot for posting, but it isn't the easiest to sit.  So, for balance and a change of pace, this is what they have been doing.  I already see an amazing improvement in their balance and it will be interesting after another week to see if their riding in the saddle has improved.

I rode him today and I worked on look, leg and "hopefully no" lead.  Every time Oberon deviated from my straight line, I circled him around and put him back on track.  We started with the walk, and then a trot.  We really did make progress!  I want to get really good before I try it at a canter as I am also trying to get him to feel my energy and drive "stop" as well without using any rein.

I know it is all very basic.  But, this is where we are.

I know Oberon's head should be carried differently for better collection, and that will be addressed eventually, I'm sure.

Of course, we always find time for ground play, and I had a fun time working him in a crazy 8 around two cones and also an exercise while I walked a straight line and he half circled and cut back and forth in front of me.  I will try and get a video of both of these as they are a lot of fun.

The summer heat has lifted and riding is a joy again!

And of course, after a hose down, a bit of green grass is always a nice reward!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Tac, Tac, Tac

I am saving for a new saddle, and I think I am leaning towards a County dressage... either the Perfection or the Fusion.  Or the Parelli English Fluidity.  Since we have decided NOT to buy a second horse, I feel I can splurge.  In a few months I will order a few demos and will post all about the saddles.

For now, I have a Wintec Isabell Dressage which I paid only $200.  I have only ever ridden western, so a used Wintec was a practical course.  I have found I love the dressage saddle.

Currently, I have problems with Oberon's saddle slipping forward.  I purchased a nice thin line pad, but it too slipped forward.  I then used an ugly foamy thing between the saddle and the blanket, but ... well, it was ugly.  So, I found a "No-Slip Pad" made by Nunn Finer and so far it has REALLY worked.  I place it directly on the horses back and the saddle pad.  I also love their colorful dressage pads HERE.  Crisp white (see my nice new one above) is always striking, but how long does it take to get dirty?  Plus, these colors look fun for the fall and winter months ahead.

Once I get my custom fit saddle, hopefully this little problem will be a thing of the past, but for now it seems to be working.

Do you have a favorite dressage saddle?  If so, what is the brand?  Any favorite shims?

And now, we can comfortably ride off into the sunset...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Back from Vacation. Video tour of a really COOL horsetrailer at bottom of post.

Summer is almost over and we were on vacation in Illinois and Michigan.  But, it is great to be home!  We missed Oberon and have spent the past week reviewing ground work and doing a lot of trotting.  He had a leg injury and we couldn't ride him for two months, so we are building muscle.

 And of course - everything turns into a photoshoot!  :)

The oversize Wintec the girls ride in is below.  We are saving our money up for nice fitted, dressage saddles...

and I'm also wishing for a horse trailer...but that will have to wait a few years.  The video below is Catherine Haddad Staller sharing the Theault ( (  I'm sure I won't end up with anything this pricey or fancy... but one can dream.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

When it's too hot, What to do?

When it is too hot, we try to share shade and just hang out in the pasture with Oberon.

Maybe grab a halter and ride bareback a bit.  When it is 100 degrees, we are all a bit lazy.

The girls invited Oberon to jump and act crazy for the photo shoot.  He decided his time was better spent eating, I guess.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Help... I have a question about Ringbone

The Owner's photograph of this eleven year old half Arab/ half QH mare

UPDATE:  The offer fell through due to the owner selling her to someone else.  I guess it wasn't meant to be.  So, I'm still looking.  

I am considering purchasing this beautifully sweet eleven year old half Arabian, half QH mare.  She is a fantastic height for me (15 h) and is sensible and a wonderful trail horse.  I enjoyed my visit with her and she lives close enough that my vet (the one I trust explicitly) will be able to do the pre-purchase exam.  I detected no lameness in her and the owner said she has owned her for 2 -1/2 years and never has this horse been lame.  She does wear shoes on the front feet and did when she bought her.

The owner was up front with me and said she has ringbone, and did when she bought her.  I am sure she told me, but I can't remember if she told me it was "low" or "high".  "HERE" is a brief explanation of what this is from "Holistic Hoof and Horsecare". has a great post about ringbone "HERE" which include three videos that do a great job explaining this condition.

I have yet to hear back from the owner with specifics to questions I had after getting home and reading about this.  I also will have my vet take a look at her as I know it depends where it is located and what is the cause (conformation, bad shoeing, wear and tear, an accident...)

I do not expect you to make my decision for me... I will do that upon advice from my vet and further looking into it myself.

My question to you reading this post is ... Do you have experience with ringbone and what would you do the same or differently?

If you have anything to add or say, please feel free to do so.  I appreciate your thoughts and input.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Secretariat, A Poem


Red roses -
Speak of a heart, large,
of a race run, not of consciousness
but of style, explosive.

Black-eyed Susans -
A ticket, cherished, preserved,
for Pegasus finally appeared
and God whispered "Go".

White Carnations -
Like a locomotive, no limits,
out front, Big Chestnut!
Circle the field...

Heroes live forever.

by Margaret Bednar, Art Happens 365, June 28, 2012

Secretariat as a baby in the fall of 1970 at the Meadow Stable
in Doswell, VA  - courtesy of Google Images
I'm not a huge race horse fan.  I remember as a little girl worrying about the horses falling and breaking a leg.  But this big boy's story amazes me and inspires me.  I loved the Hollywood movie, and perhaps it wasn't factual, but it was inspiringly beautiful.  I highly recommend it.

One of the last videos of Secretariat in the pasture:


My favorite photo to date is below.  It is of Secretariat with his groom, Eddie Sweat.   The website and article I got this photo from is HERE.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Amanda Lockhart - equine photographer

Here is photographer, Amanda Lockhart, (love her British accent) giving tips on how to photograph your horse.  I am going to try the action tips at the end.  She has a few books for sale - her website is Amanda Lockhart Photography

And putting her advice into action, here is a photo I like much better in B&W:

A Weekend to Enjoy the SHADE!

M.Bednar iPhone
The heat of summer is upon us.  Today 95, this weekend is to top out at 102! And then Monday 99...

I think we will be taking quite a few cool hose baths.  Good thing Oberon enjoys it.  Don't think we will be riding, just hanging out in the shade.  "

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Oberon at Play

Oberon has really come a long way with ground play since we got him.  Actually, so have we!  It surprises me HOW MUCH I enjoy ground work.  I grew up just hopping on and riding - my girls are just the opposite.  There have been many times when I was willing to skip it, but they insisted upon it, and what do you know?  Oberon showed us his "mind wasn't in the game" of riding yet.  He was "bad" and challenged us, acting squirrelly - certainly not in the state of mind I wanted my daughters riding him (or myself) out on the trail.

Simple cues from my body, a hand motion, a step forward, backward, and others are noticed by my horse and he responds.  I watch many people lunge their horses, and the horse tunes them out.   The trick is the horse must be tuned in at all times for this to work.  And vice versa.   I must notice everything my horse is doing... and thinking.  It really is total communication and another positive element is I am establishing I am the boss.  I tell him when to move forward, backward, sideways, when to speed up, speed down, stop, go, and so-on.

It really does become a game, and when I watch those who really have done it for a long time, I would liken it to a dance.  It is magical when you see freedom work done... no halter, no rope is attached.  Just true communication, respect, and obedience.

My daughters and I are at different stages in our ability with Oberon on the ground, and he is a good boy to work with all of us.  Following is a 2 minute video showing my daughter working with him today.

And, we rode him today... two months of no riding as he was healing from a kicking injury to his back legs.  We didn't canter today, but I think his trot looks great.  All of the images and the video were taken with my iPhone.  

I see his saddle had moved up a bit here -we do ride with it in back of his shoulders.   I have a tendency to want to be "nice" and not tighten the saddle as much as I should.

We love our sweet boy!