Planning For Your Show Day…

The farm didn’t get the business that was needed to keep it going so I put it back on the market for sale. So, it looks like there will be more changes in store for me this coming year. I like to think of it as Tiny House Living, horse style. Hey, if life gives you lemons you make the best dang lemon marguerita you can possibly make, right?

While change is never easy, I am looking forward to downsizing and having more time and money to focus on my own horses and compete more when things settle down. For years I’ve been a jack of all trades, going and doing so many things. I’d like to narrow my focus, be more selective about where and who I spend my time on, and just see where that leads. While selling the farm is the end of a dream in one sense, it’s freeing and the start of an ultimate dream in another. I’m looking forward to what the year will hold.

NBHA Barrel Race

NBHA Barrel Race

Since I’ve been thinking more about competing and the coming show season, I thought I’d share some tips for showing that I’ve learned first hand, sometimes the hard way, the last few years.

The first tip, and one that I think is probably the most important is in regards to food. Food has an impact on how you think, how you react, how well you focus and yet it’s one of the most under-rated elements of competition.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to help someone not be as nervous about showing and when food is mentioned they say, “Well, I don’t need to eat. I’m too nervous to eat.” People just don’t think it makes that much of a difference but it absolutely can mean the difference between a good run and a poor run. We plan our horse’s nutrition, especially if they’re in a high performance event. Why wouldn’t we do the same thing for ourselves?

Willie Bobby & I at the barrel race

Willie Bobby & I at the barrel race

The effects of food on the body can last longer than we realize. If you’re wanting to eat better for a show day, you’ll want to start at least a couple of days early. This will allow some extra time to get the bad food out of your system, and will allow your body to adjust to the better food.

I always eat turkey an hour to thirty minutes before I compete. The protein fuels my brain and muscles so I can think and react. Turkey is also a natural source of Tryptophan which has a calming effect on the body so it helps with nerves.

I also make sure I eat some source of protein every couple of hours the entire show day. This helps keep my sugar levels regulated so I can think clearly and not get nervous. If I’m the least bit nervous, my horse will feel it and will react, so the more clear my thinking and the calmer I am the better my horse will behave and perform.

Another thing that I do is load up on water a couple of days before a show. It’s easy to not drink enough during the show day. Dehydration can wreak havoc on your mind and your reaction time just like food. The more you load up on water the day before, the less likely you’ll be to get dehydrated if you’re not drinking as much as you should. A hydrated mind is a clear mind.

Because of the sugar levels in sports drinks, I try to drink mostly water. If I must have something besides water, I’ll drink Powerade Zero that has zero sugar. I’m not necessarily a big fan of the chemicals, but it does have some needed electrolytes. You can also carry lemon water, or some of the sugar-free drink flavorings. Just be sure to read the label to know what you’re ingesting.

Barrel racing in January

Barrel racing in January

Sleep is another thing that can really impact your performance in the saddle. Make sure you get at least seven to eight hours of shut-eye the night before. If you know you’re not going to be able to sleep because you’re thinking about showing too much, give yourself a couple of extra hours to allow for tossing and turning.

Another tip is to take some quiet time the day before and the day of your show. Take the time to just be still and think about what you need to do and what is important. Don’t let your head run wild with fear scenarios. Plan your day and your strategy, and remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. Connect with your goals.

This year has a lot of uncertainty and changes, but the one thing I can do is control is my own mindset, and how I prepare for when it’s finally time to step in the ring and do what I love to do best. The better mindset I have and the better I set myself up, the better chances I’ll have at enjoying my show day.

When it comes to competing, what are some of your fears? What do you think you do to contribute to those fears? How can you change your routine to lessen your fears? What is your strategy for the coming show year?

bubbashow

Don’t Settle…

Hanging with Oscar for the fourth.... he might be an ass, but he tells me I'm great! LOL

Hanging with Oscar for the fourth…. he might be an ass, but he tells me I’m great! LOL

This is going to be another one of those pretty personal posts in the hopes that it can help someone else that’s out there going through the same thing.

I’ve been slowly wading back into the dating world, even putting a profile on Farmers Only a few weeks back. While I’ve always struggled with body image all my life anyhow, the whole dating thing will definitely take its toll and make you doubt the rest of you, especially if you’re like me and have some extraneous baggage that a lot of guys can’t deal with! Most guys aren’t like the Chris Ledoux song, Tougher Than The Rest….

 

There’s been days of self doubt, ups and downs, frustration, and tears. There’s also been a whole lot of self reflection, and a lot of lessons learned, thanks in part to my dear friend, Austin Foust.

Austin has been my rock through this whole divorce ordeal. He’s been the one person to check on me every single day to make sure I’m ok. He’s been the one I’ve called when I’ve been crying so hard I can’t even speak. He’s been the one to pull me back off the ledge and give me hope. He’s also been the one to remind me time and time again that I’m enough on my own. Sorry ladies – he’s gay!

My best bud Austin Foust

My best bud Austin Foust and our hike at Bald River Falls.

Austin has been my biggest cheerleader, and he’s reminded me of things that I knew but I just needed to hear. We all need a friend like that. They helps us get stronger.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to not settle and don’t lower your standards. Again, do not settle and don’t lower your standards!  

It’s amazing how we sometimes lower our standards on certain things when we want something so badly, or we think we don’t deserve better. Sometimes we accept not being treated as important, or less than we deserve. Other times, we say something really isn’t a big deal when in fact it is. In the end, we won’t be happy if we’re not made to feel important or we accept something that we really don’t want. So, why settle in either case?

Another lesson is that people make time for who and what they want in their life. If they want you in their life, they’ll come get you.  It’s pretty simple. If they want to talk to you, they will. If not, don’t waste your energy chasing them down – you’re worth more than that!

The next lesson goes hand in hand with the last one – actions speak louder than words. Someone can say all day long they want you in their life, but if they don’t make time for you – even just a text or call – then their actions don’t back up what they’re saying. On a side note, why would you want someone in your life that you can’t take at their word?

You deserve better and you are enough. Just because someone doesn’t make you a priority doesn’t mean you’re not good enough, or that you deserve less. It just means they can’t recognize a good thing when it’s in front of them. Save your time and energy for people that recognize and appreciate the fact that you do deserve better and that you are enough.

Follow your heart. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, find a way to go do it. Life is too short to wish you’d done things differently. Don’t be afraid to start over or follow that dream.

I’m definitely preaching to myself on this one! I’ve always wanted to live out west as that’s where my heart has always been.

Spend time focusing on yourself and find joy where you can. If there’s something you love to do, go do it and have fun no matter how small.

Silly nerdy selfie from the barrel race!

Silly nerdy selfie from the barrel race!

 

In the end, life is too short to spend our energy chasing after people that don’t deserve us, or not following our dreams. Get out there and live while you can and love yourself in the process — You’re worth it!

Bald River Falls Hike June 2016

Bald River Falls Hike June 2016

 

 

 

It’s A Journey…

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines the term journey as the act of traveling from one place to another.

That’s exactly what I’ve been doing these last few months. I’ve been traveling from one place, or mindset, to another. It’s not always been an easy trip at times, but I know in the end I’ll wind up where I’m supposed to be.

There’s a lot of uncertainty in my life right now with trying to get the farm sold, and move on as a single woman with as many horses as I’ll have. I get asked at least a few times every week, “What are you going to do with your horses?” My response always is, “Ya know what? I really don’t know!”

farm pic

The truth is, at this point time I really don’t know, but that’s ok. I have peace that’s settled on me. Deep down, I believe that things happen for a reason and things work out like they’re supposed to. We’re not always in control, and that’s ok.

A good friend has a saying that stress is like sitting in a rocking chair. You can rock all you want but you won’t get anywhere. That’s so true. If you can’t do anything about it, why stress over it? We all know what stress does to the body.  Do what you can do, and do the right thing and leave the rest in God’s hands. Really, if you think about it, that’s all we can do anyhow!

The one thing I can do is enjoy the journey that I’m on right now. I’ll be honest, sometimes actually enjoying it is a little tough, especially when you just want it to be over! I’m one of those types that just likes to keep my head down and plowing on until I’m through to the other side. The problem with being that way is that there’s always going to be some obstacle that I want to just get through. Life becomes a series of obstacles you’re trying to get through instead of a journey that you’re supposed to enjoy. I’ve got to learn to enjoy the journey, or the trip from here to wherever it is that I end up.

I’m learning more and more to enjoy the little things, no matter how small. The sound of the whippoorwill as I’m working on this blog post, or the feel of my horse’s sweaty back as I ride through the field. The old me would tune out the distraction of an incessant whiporwhil because I need to get a blog post done. The old me would have opted to ride in a saddle because I needed to tune on my horse. Not any more.

These days I’m much more full of life. It’s because I’m learning to enjoy the moment and the journey instead of just keeping my head down until the next great moment. The old me that’s full of life and adventure is coming out by leaps and bounds as a result. I like to say I’m getting my groove back, cowgirl style! I think that’s true. There’s a happiness that was lost before.

13343099_605158906325717_5980345893433388428_n

So what is it that you’re stressing over? What is it that you just wished would hurry up and pass? Instead of stressing, or just keeping your head down and getting through it, what you can do to enjoy where you’re at right now?

Top of Cherohala Skyway

Here’s the Bald River Falls I’ve been spending time at…

 

Finding Yourself Again…

I’m going to warn you – this blog post is going to be pretty personal, but my hopes in sharing this is that it might help someone else. We can be standing next to someone and not have a clue what’s going through their mind or what hell they’re dealing with. Sometimes those people are utterly alone, as I was.

Work in progress...

Work in progress…

When I started the CWC blog a little over a year ago, it started out as a way to reach out and inspire other riders that were struggling with confidence. The blog wound up being a journey for me personally as well, and it’s a journey that’s taken quite an unexpected turn the last couple of months.

While this blog was a way to urge other riders to get out there and do what they love, it was also an opportunity for me to do some self reflection as well. That self reflection this last year, has led to me making some drastic and life changing decisions.

I won’t go into any major details at this time, but two years ago my family endured a tragedy that changed all of our lives forever. While that tragedy didn’t necessarily cause the subsequent events, it certainly brought issues to light that needed to be dealt with.

This last year after the event was particularly rough, and quite frankly I sank to the absolute lowest Ievel of depression I’ve ever experienced. While I functioned normally in that I kept the horses up, did well at my job, and presented a picture that everything was ok to the rest of the world, the truth is that it wasn’t.

There were weekends where I went back to bed and cried all day after morning chores because I felt so alone and hopeless. There were many, many days I felt like life just wasn’t worth it any more, that if I ceased to exist it wouldn’t be a big deal to anyone. What really was the point of living?

I imagined ways to die. My favorite was waiting until a subzero night, making it look like I hit my head, and freezing to death. Guns and hanging were too painful, pills you wouldn’t really know you were going to die. Call it silly, but I didn’t like the idea of falling asleep out of your mind and somehow realizing in the dream that you’re dead.  Plus, life insurance wouldn’t pay if you committed suicide and I didn’t want my horses being suddenly homeless. Freezing to death would look like an accident, and on some level you’d know you were dying as you fell asleep.

I am a Christian, and it was during those darkest hours of depression that I begged God to feel His presence and to change me and my thinking. All I got was silence. I felt abandoned even by God at that point.

I had never sank that low, and had never felt that abandoned by God and my spouse but I knew that I didn’t want to stay there. So, I started fighting to bring myself out of it anyway that I could.

The first way was to find joy in every little thing no matter how small. I also started making myself more of a priority – my health, my happiness, and my career especially as a writer and as a horseman. If I could focus on those things and have something to work towards, I knew I could keep moving forward – and I did!

I finally came to a point of reality with my marriage as well, and I knew I couldn’t stay in a relationship that had slowly been contributing to my sinking that low. I knew it was time to get out, and that’s where I’m at now.

DYNAMICHOST

While taking that first step was most definitely a terrifying one, especially after thirteen years of marriage, I also felt a great sense of relief in the midst of such uncertainty. Because of that, I knew deep in my heart that I made the right decision. I also started to realize that sometimes God gives us silence, and doesn’t answer our prayers, because we have to become miserable enough to move from where we’re at.

NEW PROGRESS

The divorce papers will be filed early next week, the farm is up for sale, and I’m trying to figure out what in the world I’m going to do with seven horses on short notice. There are good days, and there are still days that I cry – a lot – but the difference is that I can see I’m moving in the right direction and I feel a sense of joy, hope and purpose again.

I’m also finding my true self again, and doing things that I love to do. I’ve been eating healthier and it’s not the struggle that it always was before because I’m not medicating myself with food. I’m working out and lifting weights. I feel stronger than I have in years, and I’m riding a LOT better as well!

Won some money at the barrel race after a year off!

Won some money at the barrel race after a year off!

I’m also getting out and going to local places that I’ve always wanted to go, such as Bald River Falls in Tellico Plains, Tennessee. I plan on seeing a lot of trails this year.

Bald River Falls Hike

Bald River Falls Hike

I know that this year is not going to be an easy journey, but every day I’m finding how strong I can be. Life is gift that is too precious to be wasted in sorrow. So get out there and find the things you love and go after them with everything you’ve got!

 

The Low Expectations Strategy

LOW EXPECTATIONS…

Springtime is here and show season has begun!

It’s a time to drag and rotate pastures in preparation for summer grass.

It’s also a time to get ready for the first horse show of the year.

It’s also a good time to assess your goals for the year, and your mindset. What are your goals as a rider? What are your goals for your horse? What are you goals for the show season? And, the big question is do all three of those goals align?

I’ll be honest, I’d absolutely love to run down the alley way at the Thomas and Mack arena at the NFR, or run a cow down the rail at the AQHA World, or jump a course at the Longines FEI World Cup. Actually, I’d love to do all three, but if i start my show season off thinking we’ll be hitting that level by the end the year, I’m going to be sorely disappointed!

The pattern at the State finals. Ground was awesome!

The pattern at the State finals. Ground was awesome!

Joel Sherlin who trained NBHA World Champion and RFD-TV American Semi-Finalist (2014), Bully By Design, has a saying that goes a long ways when it comes to riding horses and horse shows. Joel, who lives in Athens, Tennessee, is as down to earth as they get even though he’s somewhat of a local legend for his uncanny training ability and funny stories that all come from personal experience of course! His saying is, “Low expectations.”

"Team Blowout"!

“Team Blowout”!

You see, just like any great horseman that’s learned from experience, Joel knows you can have the best plans in the world and the biggest dreams, and sometimes things just happen that are out of your control. For instance, you’re riding a colt at a big show and he spooks at the flash on a camera as you’re making your way along the rail and you blow your class. Or maybe you’re riding a horse that’s been hauled a lot but they spook at the second barrel when the wind flaps a banner on the rail. It happens. The key is to not let it deter you from moving forward in your goals.

I’ve hauled with Joel and his wife Nancy quite a bit and I try to learn all I can about this “Low Expectations” strategy. Obviously with their track record and number of great horses they’ve turned out, there’s something to it!

We stayed in the Sherlin's trailer known as "The Double OO". It's famous!

We stayed in the Sherlin’s trailer known as “The Double OO”. It’s famous!

“Low Exepctations” is really a change in mindset that’s usually brought on by the school of hard knocks – sometimes literally – and disappointments. It’s a learning experience.

One thing that I’ve noticed is that when you ride horses that have issues or need some training, you learn very quickly to appreciate the little things. For instance, if you a haul your horse to it’s first show and you stay on, it’s been a good day – never mind you didn’t even place! That’s “Low Expectations” in action right there.

Bubba earned me THE black ribbon for the horse show for his horrendous go in Trail. The following year he won me an All Round for the day!

Bubba earned me THE black ribbon for the horse show for his horrendous go in Trail. The following year he won me an All Round for the day!

When you’re starting a new discipline, or your new to riding in general, it’s the same thing. If you get in your class and you remember your pattern, or you make it around all three barrels still in the saddle, then you’ve had a good ride! Again, “Low Expectations”.

By now, you see where I’m going with this.

Sometimes you have to take a step back and look at where you’re at and what your base struggles are. Do you have trouble getting a lead? Does your horse struggle loping small circles? Do your horse spook every time you go into an indoor arena? Those are the simple things you can focus on now. Fixing foundational problems such as these will lead to much bigger successes later on.

The same thing goes for us a riders. What are some of the things that you struggle with as a rider? Maybe you struggle with getting the correct diagonal at the trot, or being in time over a jump. Perhaps it’s getting left behind when you come out of a barrel headed to the next one, or just not being intimidated with speed. When you break it down, all of these things really relate to strength and balance. Just like working on foundational issues with your horse, you can work on the basic issues as a rider and improve your ability over time.

As riders, we always tend to look at the end picture. What we don’t realize is that it’s all the little things that eventually produce the final success, and that’s a side effect of having a “Low Expectations” mentality. Work on those small things a little at time and eventually they all add up.

If you could do anything with your horse, what would it be? What are some simple things you can do today to improve you and your horse, and implement a “Low Expectations” strategy?

Fireman at Ft. Smith futurity year

Fireman at Ft. Smith futurity year

 

 

Tough Horses Make Good Horsemen

A few days will mark the one year anniversary of Cowgirls With Curves!

It’s been a great year and what started out as simple blog has turned into a wonderful journey for me too as not only a writer and horseman, but as a woman as well. I want to say a special “Thank You” to all the followers out there. You’ve been such an encouragement and you’ve shown me what this is really all about — encouraging other riders and making a difference.

I’ve spent the winter doing the bare minimum and packing on a few pounds. Bad news is that I put on 6 pounds of that 20 pounds I lost last year. The good news is I’m still 14 pounds lighter than this time last year – so I consider it a bit of a success!

With show season right around the corner, I’m starting to feel the itch of riding more and warmer days. I’ve always said there’s nothing like a colt or green horse to make me start working out. The last couple of years, I’ve not had to worry about that too much. This year is a little different!

Back in December, Willie Kamps came to farm to live. Willie is an interesting horse. He’d been ridden by a kid, and I believe even roped on. I hauled him some last year to a few barrel races and even a sorting. Although he was easy to put where you needed him when it came to tracking cows, he still had a few gaps.

For instance, we sat a friend’s helmet on a barrel when she was done riding. I went to go around that barrel a few minutes later, thinking nothing of it since we’d worked around it a few times already, and suddenly it became a fire-breathing dragon we couldn’t get within ten feet of!

Although he’s a bit calmer in the arena, he’s a completely different horse out in an open field by himself. He’s got a lot more energy and is constantly looking for things to spook and bolt at. You’d better have your heels down or you’ll easily be left behind!

I also have an off the track retire thoroughbred, Dynamic Host, that I’ll be re-schooling as well as an eventing prospect. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of similarities between he and Willie Kamps when it comes time to ride out in the field!

While some folks steer clear of horses like that, I tend to love a good challenge. I also see them as an incentive to get stronger, in addition to an opportunity to improve as a horseman. Becoming a better horseman is important to me.

Having two tough horses to ride and train and train – in two different disciplines – this year is most definitely enough of a reason to get me up a little earlier. I’m getting older and I don’t like to hit the ground — the best way to avoid hitting the ground is to get strong and balanced!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what inspires and encourages you. What is it that makes you want to get stronger? What is it that makes you want to become a better rider?

The Days Are Getting Shorter…

Being the horse girl that I am, I can’t post without sharing the latest horse news!

Beavis, the young Dash For Perks barrel prospect that I posted about last time, is back home at the Sherlin farm where he’s being used for riding lessons. The horseman in me wouldn’t let him go back until I got one last decent run actually around all three barrels. So we ended on a good note and I feel truly blessed to have gotten to borrow such a terrific young horse to ride. Lots of great lessons learned!

My mom & me with Beavis in the barns

My mom & me with Beavis in the barns

At the end of September, I wound up with Dynamic Host, aka “Louie” thanks to Prancing Pony Farm owned by Julie & Justina Faunt in Riceville, Tennessee. He’s a 17.1 hand, 9-year-old Thoroughbred gelding by Dynaformer. Dynamic Host won the Tokyo City Cup while in training with Art Sherman who trained California Chrome. I’ll be putting some foundational training on him as an Eventing Prospect so it looks like I’ll be pulling those breeches back out that haven’t seen the light of day in several years!

With an added horse that’s big and needs a lot of training, and days that are getting shorter, I’ve been thinking a lot about time management and how to save time. With a 45 minute commute to a full-time job, giving lessons, and 9 head of horses – 6 are stalled – my days are always full.

My husband has to be at work at 5am so most mornings I’m up at anywhere from 3:30 to 4am. The mornings are usually when I’m catching up on social media and book promotion. Sometimes I’ll get in some writing. That’s also when I fix my lunch, get in a real quick work out, and fit in my prayer time. If I’m really industrious, I might even throw in a load of laundry or unload the dishwasher! Then I’ll start feeding and cleaning stalls, which normally takes about an hour to an hour and half – it depends on whether or not everyone cooperates coming in! Donkeys can be cantankerous at times!

On the days that I don’t get up early, not only do I not get as much done, I also feel like I’m running behind. So getting up at least a little earlier not only helps me accomplish more, it also helps to keep me more focused and prepared.

Doing all my barn chores in the morning is a critical piece  of the day as well. Sometimes my husband will pick stalls in the evenings but most of the time I’ll pick stalls and spread manure in the mornings. This frees up my time in the evenings to ride.

I also try to prep in the mornings for the evening feeding as much as I can. I feed soaked cubes and beet pulp before evening turnout so I’ll pre-load the feed tub with the dry cubes so only water has to be added. I’ll also mix feed for any horses that get special feed.

I do my feeding out of a wheelbarrow — that wheelbarrow was the best investment ever! Instead of making multiple feed trips to the feed room, I can just load up and dump feed as I go down the hallway. This saves a ton of time!

I usually don’t get home from work until a little after 6pm, at which time I’ll quickly get in a few updates for the social media pages before I start working horses or give a lesson. I’ve learned to give myself a time limit on the evening updates and usually try to keep it at around fifteen minutes. Otherwise, I’ll spend too much time on that and not get my riding done!

Horses learn by repetition. So even if they’re only learning something for ten minutes, if they do it the same way three times they’ve usually got it. Over the years, I’ve learned you can accomplish a lot of long-term training  in short intervals, which works great for people who are busy, or if you’re like me and have a lot of horses to work. Those short sessions over time add up if you’re consistent with what you’re doing.

I try not to do long marathon sessions with a horse. I’ll set a goal for the ride and the second that horse meets it, we’ll quit and either take a little trail ride around the pasture for conditioning, or we’ll quit for the day. Not only does that save on time, but it gives me a better chance of ending on a good note with my horse.

There are three tools that I use as time savers for working horses – ponying, lunging & ground work, and riding bareback. All three of those allow me to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time:

  • Ponying not only allows me to condition two horses at once, it also helps them to learn to traffic, and work on their reining skills.
  • Lunging is more than just getting the edge off of a horse. You can work on things like balance with transitions, speed control, and just paying better attention. Working on lateral movements from the ground can definitely help improve the lateral responses you get under saddle.
  • Riding bareback saves a lot of time because you don’t have to tack up. You’ll also improve your riding and your horse’s responsiveness.
Trailer load demo at Circle C Cowboy Church colt starting competition and clinic 2011.

Trailer load demo at Circle C Cowboy Church colt starting competition and clinic 2011.

Getting up early, preparing ahead of time, and maximizing your ride time can all help you to be efficient in working with your horses.

What are the special things you do to help save time and be more effective with your horse? What are the things that you struggle with?

file0001757982149 - Copy