Sunday, February 25, 2007


I am gearing up for my trip to the Bahamas to film the Abaco Barbs and I got to thinking about a horse travel adventure of the past. Three years ago I went to Hungary for the second time and went out to the the Puszta, the desert-like plains of Hungary. It is home the the famous Hungarian Horsemen, the Csikos (pronounced che-kowsh). My friend and I spent the day with them, and were just "wowed" by the things we saw. I am rusty on my history, but I remember that they struck fear in all those whose crossed their paths while they raided Western Europe. They look pretty harmless in these photos, and were actually quite jovial. Traditionally, they teach their horses to "play dead" on command for war strategies and they rode "standing up" to appear larger from a distance. I am going to post more about them because they are great photos and I don't know if anyone out there knows a lot about them. They taught me how to use their bullwhip and there are some fun photos of that. For me, this is just great thinking back and remembering my day with the Csikos. By the way, they make great wine as well!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Moving Along

Today I moved Maddy quickly through a lot of things just to pick up the pace of things. The mud is bad in her pasture and Maddy loves to sunbathe in it. She is caked in mud and you would be hard pressed to guess the color of her newest blanket. I thought I would see where she is at with water. I took her into the wash stall and turned the pressure pretty low and turned it on and off. When it was off, I offered it to her to sniff. She was pretty interested in it. I washed off my boots and kept it on for longer durations and moved it closer and retreated. She let me wash off her front, but not ready for the back. She seemed to like it for the most part. We moved through lots of drills, I saddled her up, and worked on driving her with taps on the saddle. I think all the hard work in the beginning is paying off. She moves with the slightest tap on the saddle and stops when I take it off. She was very "checked in" today I felt we had a lot of communication going. I got some new clippers and worked on those as well. She allowed me to trim her bridlepath and I left feeling a sense of accomplishment today.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Donkey is Gone!

Oh No! I was out at the barn today and the donkey that lived next door is gone;-( Everyone is really sad and I am going to miss the little guy. I posted about him a month ago under "Not Gonna Happen" and you will see why he provided all of us with endless hours of entertainment. We are all wondering why they got rid of him. On a couple of occasions, we mentioned that they should "geld" him so he stops trying to breed the horses. I hope they found a good home for him.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Dan and Kelly Clinic

Today was my second clinic with Dan and Kelly Cecil from Canby, Oregon. I met them back in December right after Maddy came to Oregon. It was my first clinic with Maddy, so I didn't really know what to expect. Maddy was rearing back then and reacting to everything. Dan worked with her tirelessly throughout the cold afternoon. After getting her head lowered, it was the first time I had seen a sense of calm about her. That was one of my first "ahhh" moments with her. I realized how important lowering the head is for relaxation. I was thrilled with both of them and couldn't wait to have them back again. Today the clinic was small, which was great for us. They really had time to address each horse individually. I wanted to work on feet strategies and also learn more de-sensitizing techniques. Dan works so well with her. He made lots of progress on her feet and gave me ideas for future work. He also worked on waving arms, sounds, approaches, and big movements. Big movements are hard for me. I grew up around race horses, so I went out of my way to be "subtle" around horses. Maddy has a small comfort zone and she is very reactive to things she is not used to.

Also, a lot more work on lowering the head. Dan taught her to lower her head when tapping her shoulder. It was pretty cool. His process was to tap her shoulder and release when she dropped her head even the slightest bit. As she gets used to it, tap other places and look for the same response.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Rhythm Beads

I bought some rhythm beads at the Mane Event last weekend and tried them out today since we are working on spirals in and out on a 22 foot line. Supposedly the "jingle" of the bells calms horses and puts them in a cadence with their gait. They are made by a company called Gray Wolf Horsebeads and for ten dollars, I thought I would give it a go. I thought I would have to get her used to the sound, but she loved it right away. When she got going on her circles, instead of working for ten minutes before her head lowered, it seemed almost immediate. She is one to speed up and slow down, thus the "spirals." I was putting her in smaller circles until she slowed her pace to a rideable trot and dropped her head or snorted, when she did this, as reward she got to go farther out. Now I know it could have been her "mood," but she did just fabulous in her circles with the necklace on. She looked like she was enjoying herself and the jingle was calming even to me! There was no cutting in today and she looked just beautiful with a relaxed neck and even gait. I am also using a lot of visualization during my days when I am not at the barn. Lots of positive thoughts and visions of success thanks to Jane Savoie. I also came clean with her this afternoon and got rid of some old baggage between us. I confessed that some days in the past, I had thoughts about her purchase being a mistake and that I had felt some regret at times. Today I told her that I loved her and I was so lucky to find her. I will never again second guess my decision to buy her. And with that she followed me around the pasture and I took the second picture posted here and I see the softness in her eyes. That's my girl.

Monday, February 12, 2007


I am not big on motivational speakers, but this weekend I made it a point to attend most of Jane Savoie's clinics at the Mane Event. She is world renowned in the dressage world and has a long list of accomplishments. She refers to herself as a "DQ" which means "dressage queen." She jokes,"you know you're a DQ when you spend ungodly amounts of money to be verbally assaulted for an hour." How true is that? Anyway, I loved her motivational chats she had about the laws of attraction. Basically, what energy (negative or positive) we put out there is what we attract. Example: If we think our horse is going to be crazy, she acts crazy. To conquer this, she says to use visualization. Picture yourself on your perfect day doing exactly what you want to with your horse. Fill in the details. What are you wearing, which way is her mane flopping, what do you hear? She says this kind of thing helps with fear issues and it reflects on your attitude and demeanor when you are around your horse. So I tried it. All weekend, I am riding Maddy in my mind. Her mane is shining and tail blowing. We are out on the trail. It is sunny and 70 degrees and the birds are out singing. Bella, the Australian Shepard, is tagging along. Maddy is signing and snorting a lot. She feels so great under saddle. Of course in my visualization I have a beautiful new Circle Y saddle and we are both looking pretty sharp. I don't just picture riding. I picture the farrier, going to catch her, and lunging. Well, Monday I show up at the barn and who walks up to greet me as I come down to the pasture? Maddy. Who goes out on her 22 foot line and does spirals in and back out with nice flexion and bend to the inside? Maddy again. The vet is out and I have been wanting to have her ears checked because she rubs them all the time. She needs work on the ears so the vet is going to give her a sedative so she can look inside. As the vet heads to the truck, I breathe deeply and imagine her standing still and relaxed for her shot. And she does it. Thank you Jane Savoie!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Abaco Barbs

I can't contain my excitement about an upcoming shoot I have planned. I am headed to the Bahamas in 2 weeks and I am working out the details for spending some time filming the Abaco Barbs. They are the most endangered breed of horse on the planet. The most current information I have read, says there are only 8 left. There is a group called Arkwild that is working toward the preservation and protection of the breed. They are just beautiful horses with an amazing past. I am not sure what I will do with my project, but with all the horse programming and websites, I think it will be easy to find some outlets for it. They do have some cool horse items on the Arkwild site at very reasonable prices. The money goes toward supporting these horses and Arkwild is working to buy a sonogram machine to help monitor the current breeding program. Lets cross our fingers for a couple new Abacos this Spring.

The Mane Event

I am so excited for this weekend! The Mane Event is happening just north of us in Vancouver, Washington. I am thinking back to where I was last year at this time. I was leasing two different horses and dreaming of having my own. I was riding a quarter horse mare named "Honey" who I just adored. There was not a dressage trainer out at Whipple Creek Riding Center, so I started looking for a place to take dressage and I found AJ the Arabian and Michelle Merkin (my trainer) out in Estacada. I went to The Mane Event last year as a vendor with Stable Hand Video. I remember shopping around and looking at tack and feeling kind of empty about not having a horse to buy things for. As much as I loved and appreciated the two horses I rode, I was really ready to make the leap and have my own. This year I am headed back not as a vendor, but an owner. This past year has been an amazing journey. I am so excited to watch the demos and check out the booths. I want to be a "sponge" and absorb as much as I can.

Monday, February 5, 2007

New Mantra

Get Tough! Today Maddy came pretty un-glued. She did "ok" with the farrier. By that I mean her back feet were trimmed today, but it wasn't pretty. She was barely holding herself together the whole time. Andrew the farrier said he even found himself holding his breath. She had a hard time holding still even as he approached her. It is frustrating to see that. I felt like she was doing really well, but I need to do a lot more work. After the trim, she was a quivering mess, so we started our Monday lesson with some friendly game. We took it up a notch in sound and feel and she just lost it. Danced from one end of the arena to the other. Michelle said, "Julie, this horse is NOT desensitized to this!" To me, this is square one and we are right there again and I feel really defeated. She just could not stand still for anything, and she got herself worked into such a lather. After about an hour, she calmed down, but still twitching all over. I thought we were over this, but here we go again. Michelle says I walk on eggshells around her and I know I do, so I need to change this and demand more of her.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Freeze Brand

Maddy has a "Hart" freeze brand on her left shoulder. Freeze brands have become popular because they are simple to do and relatively painless. An iron is put in liquid nitrogen and chilled to -300 degrees and the area to be branded is shaved. The amount of time you hold the branding iron on the skin is determined by the horses color. For Maddy, it was probably 12 seconds. Darker horses need about 8 seconds. The cold temperature destroys the color follicles and the hair will grow back white. Maddys brand looks like they didn't hold it long enough, therefore the streaked, darker appearance. They were probably going for a "bald" brand which shows up better on lighter horses. I am happy they didn't achieve that and she still has all her hair.

Friday, February 2, 2007


Barbaro was put down on Monday, and there are still lots of stories about his life circulating in the media. I was brought to tears watching the Preakness that day. I will never forget it. There is nothing worse than watching a horse break its leg and struggle to keep running. My dad trains race horses for a living and I grew up on the backstretch. I have watched thousands of races. I have seen a lot of crashes, thrown jockeys, flips in the paddock, flips in the gates, and fortunately for me the only leg breaks I have seen were from TV and documentaries. I have a lot of problems with the racing industry, but they are correctable.

If I were in charge:

1. Maiden races start at 4 years of age.
2. There would be increased jockey weight allowance.
3. There would be more time off between the races of the Triple
4. There would be a ban on steroids.
5. All tracks in the USA need to put in poly-tracks. California passed a law that poly-tracks needed to be in place by the end of 2007. The rest of the country needs to follow suit.
6. If a horse flips in the gates, they are done. Barbaro broke through the starting gate and a vet passed him that day because the betting pools were too huge to take him out. He should have been scratched.

I was angry about the attempts to save him. I feel the racing industry was under scrutiny and they did what the public demanded, not what was best for Barbaro. He had three breaks on that leg. I thought it was the most inhumane thing they could have done to this champion. When I saw the video of him walking a couple months ago, it made my stomach turn. I knew he was not getting better. I believe he was kept around to harvest his sperm and maybe collect some insurance money. It had nothing to do with making him well. Rest in Peace Barbaro.

Horse Hiking

I am anxious to get out on the trails, but Maddy is still afraid of a lot of things along the way. To change this, we have been doing "hikes." We will head out and graze and play some games and keep moving forward. If she hits a "threshold" we retreat a little bit and then push on. Today we made it about a mile down the trail, which was a good workout for me. I have learned to appreciate the effort it takes to get up some of these hills! She is much better around the ducks. In this picture they are just to the right of her, splashing around in the water.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Spring Cleaning

It is time to start cleaning Maddy up and get her looking like a proper lady. She has never had a bridle path, so last week I started introducing her to the clippers. She was very curious when I took them out of the case. I rubbed her all over with them and kept letting her sniff if as much as she wanted. I stepped back a couple feet, and casually turned it on without looking at her. She didn't even flinch so I kept them on for awhile and then turned them off and did a lot of approach and retreat with them on and off. Instead of going right in and trimming hair, I think it is a good idea to just "massage" them with the clippers on for the next couple of times you work at this. So there is no bridle path yet, hopefully next week. There are lots of things going on for Maddy in February. We have a braiding clinic on Sunday. I am going to pull her mane and learn about different types of braids for dressage. The farrier comes again on Monday, and we will see if she is better about her back feet. February 17th is another clinic with Dan Cecil from Canby. He is an apprentice of Clinton Anderson. He was really good with Maddy when he came to Templeton in December. I am hoping to start posting video clips on my blog as well. Maddy and I are both on a big learning curve this month!