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Ride Like a Girl : Avery Jacob on the Courage to Love

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It takes an incredible amount of courage to rescue a horse you’ve never met before from a feedlot back at home while you’re on vacation in another state. But that’s exactly what I did.

Why did I spontaneously choose to invest money into a mare I’d never met or heard of before that day? I don’t know. But after a year of thinking about it now, I believe it’s because I saw some potential in the photos of this bright eyed young mare.

Almost two weeks after the purchase, we finally arrived home and drove hours in the middle of winter over multiple snowy mountain passes to meet this beautiful grey mare and haul her home. She didn’t have a name, was not broke, and had barely any previous experience hauling. It took an hour and lots of treats to catch her, and she didn’t start to really trust me for a few weeks. In spite of that, as soon as I met her I knew we would click–even if it took some time. I was determined to work with her to the best of my ability to get miles underneath her, some rides on her back, and some experience in the show arena–even if it meant I would have to hit the dirt. I was ready to be tough, patient, caring, strong, and determined, no matter what happened. It’s incredible to me to see what just a little love can do to a horse.

It takes grit, determination, confidence, and integrity to ride like a girl, and I ride like a girl because I go out there and I show, I train, I fall, and I prove that I can get back on, despite what happens. None of this would be possible without that little voice in my head constantly saying “You can do this.”  I am determined to get it done, do it well, and improve in every way I can.

I ride like a girl.

 

-Avery Jacob

Avery Jacob is a high school athlete and upper-level United States Pony Clubber from Carnation, WA. Avery is the 2017 Washington High School Equestrian Teams State Silver Medalist for Hunt Seat Eq Over Fences, 2017 Grand Champion Overall High-Point rider for the Lake Washington Saddle Club, 2016 Equestrians Institute Dressage Junior High Score with a 77.031%, and is currently working towards earning her Bronze Medal in Dressage. With three wonderful mares to guide and help her along the way, Avery is an exceptional horsewoman with plans to study veterinary science in the near future.

5 Tips for Taking Better Pictures of Your Horse

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Ever seen your horse in the most regal stance or in a playful mood and thought, “I should take a picture” only to be disappointed by the way the photo turns out? We spoke to the photographers on our team to find out the best and simplest things non-photographers can do to take better pictures, and they didn’t disappoint. These 5 tips for taking better photos of your horse are easy to implement, don’t require fancy equipment, and best of all, you can start using them right away.

Use the light – Our photographer Paul says, “Light is the language of photography,” so if you want someone to understand what you’re trying to say with your photo, you need to know how to use the light. Instead of shooting facing the sun, get the sun behind you. This will light your horse from the front, which illuminates the details of their coat and face. After you do that, get the sun to one side of you, creating drama or visual interest. Experimenting with the sun’s position relative to you can completely change the look of a photo.

Go for gold–or blue – Pros who shoot outdoors often try to do so at the very beginning or very end of the day. Why? The half-hour before sunset and after sunrise is known as the golden hour because the reddish light casts a soft, golden glow that makes everything look warm. The half-hour after sunset and before sunrise is known as the blue hour. During this time light is indirect, making it diffused and even, with no hot spots or glare to concern yourself with.

Try taking photos of your horse on both sides of the sunrise or sunset. See the difference?

Thirds, please. – Skylyn, a wildlife photographer and videographer, suggests learning one of photography’s most basic techniques: the rule of thirds. This guideline improves your picture’s composition and works with the human eye’s tendency to be drawn to certain parts of an image. Imagine a grid that divides your scene into thirds vertically and horizontally. The points where the lines intersect are the spots where the eye will go first, so placing your subject along those will create more interest.

Try editing an old photo using the rule of thirds  (a lot of photo-editing apps have the grid built in). You might be surprised at how much better it looks.

There’s an app for that – Photo-editing smartphone apps have come a long way since Facetune. A good one can take your photos up a notch and make them look more professional. Our photographer Chelsea recommends Snapseed and Afterlight. Don’t fear the filter.

Tell a story – The most compelling photos tell a story. They capture an emotion, set a scene, or show us some action. If you take a picture while you’re in the saddle, getting your horse’s ears in the photo changes the picture from “a pretty landscape” to “here’s what our ride looked like.” If your horse is powerful or you have thrilling adventures together or you are best friends, find a way to tell that story in your photo. People won’t be able to look away.

Ready to put your newfound photo skills to the test? Enter the #RedmondMoments photo contest hosted by Julie Goodnight. Winners will receive a Redmond prize pack full of all-natural products to keep your horse healthy and happy. Learn more here.

Ride Like a Girl: Kara Posch on Being In Tune with Your Horse

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To me, to ride like a girl means riding with passion and a drive to be the best you can be. More importantly, it means being in tune with your animal. It is really interesting if you take a look around and see all the individual relationships in the equine world. Some people just want have fun, some want to win, and some just want to be confident in what they’re doing. I am personally very competitive, and there is nothing more amazing for me than winning a rodeo with my horses.

What makes it amazing is all the time in the saddle I spent figuring them out. It takes a lot of training for a horse to get to a professional level in barrel racing. Lots of time riding. Hauling to small jackpots, then to larger ones, then–if they’re fast enough–open rodeo. From there, if they’re good enough they go to the pro rodeos. It takes countless hours of figuring out what works best for that horse and you. What ground conditions they do best on, what tack they perform best with, what exercise routine is the best for them. You have to be completely in sync with each other. I love to win and I love to compete. In order to win you have to know your horse and know what he’s going to do in different setups and different situations. One-tenth of a second is the difference between first and last place.  

To get to the top you have to put in a lot of work, and putting in a lot of work and time with the same horse makes you learn a lot about them. I know a lot of weird things about my horse and it’s because I spend a lot of time with him. He has to scope the pasture in the morning and make sure everything is in place before he eats. He will only pee on shavings so he always has access to shavings. He absolutely hates dogs. He is happiest in the back stall of the trailer. And he doesn’t like people in general. If you walk past his stall he will bite–but he’s not like that with me. He gives me 100% of his heart and soul. He is a one-person horse and he needs to always know that he is number one. He needs that constant attention. He’s very emotional. That’s how he thrives and feels really confident.  

I would do anything for that horse. The best parts happen behind the scenes where no one sees. I take naps with him in the pasture to spend time with him. I lay in his stall at night talking to him simply because he loves when I do it. He stands over me like his foal and always wants his ears rubbed. It is incredibly emotional because of all the love I have for my horses. He is my everything.  My horse is my life.

Ride Like a Girl: Audree Taylor on Wholeness

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Riding makes me feel free and confident. When I’m out with my horse there are no bullies, the curl in my hair doesn’t matter and neither does the style of my clothes. No one can make fun of me or make me feel small. When I ride I get to bond with a huge animal that will always love and protect me.

If someone told me I rode like a girl, I would smile because that’s exactly how I want to ride. Beautiful. Graceful. Determined. Better. That’s what comes to mind.

Riding makes me feel whole.

 

– Audree Taylor, 11 years old, Skinner Performance Horses

Ride Like a Girl: The Ones to Watch Out For

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Riding like a girl doesn’t mean riding poorly. Being told to ride like a girl means to ride smart, aggressive and gritty, all while looking professional doing it. Because not many people can make running a 1100 pound animal around three tight turns look easy, and the ones that are the best at it, and the ones that I look up to the most, are girls.

Riding like a girl means that you’re capable of rising above the pressure you face to accomplish a goal, win a race, or even set a record. Doing anything it takes to win, and to stay on top? That’s riding like a girl.  Because not everyone is willing to put the time, effort, restless nights and long days, it takes to rising above all the others and becoming one of the best. Those who do are the ones to watch out for. Those are the ones that find a way to accomplish their goals no matter what, and no matter how long it takes.

Because riding like a girl isn’t being inferior, it’s doing everything in your power to be the best.

 

-Katherine Quast

Riding Made Me: Lindsey Nordick on Working Her Way to Success

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Riding made me more determined and humble.

I run a full-service equine training facility. We take in around 8-10 young horses a month. I am determined to have a successful training business and that doesn’t happen by wishing and hoping it would happen. It happens by being a determined human and reaching toward those goals one step at a time, little by little, every single day. It happens because I wake up with a goal, get up, and kick butt all day long. There is no slacking in my life and there never has been. I am a huge advocate for working hard for what you want.

Building my business was challenging at first. Like every other self-employed person, I started from the bottom and worked my way up. I’d take in any horse for training–those horses the accomplished trainers turned down for good reason, usually the unstarted 10-year-old problem horses.  I rode the rejects from other trainers for a good year and made them into quality horses. Soon, I began to get nicer horses into training, and now I’m very selective on what comes into training at our farm.  I had to be determined to see the light at the end of the tunnel during that first year, knowing if I could get those difficult ones started would help me build my resume. I got through that trial period of the up-and-coming trainer and now I can be selective.  

At my facility, Rush Meadow Farm Performance Horses, determination runs at an all-time high. What does that look like? It looks like riding every single day, every holiday, and in any kind of weather Mother Nature throws at us here in northern Minnesota.  Horses need to be worked and cared for daily, even when you don’t feel like doing anything besides sleeping all day.  You have to get up and take care of business. Getting 10 horses plus some of my own ridden can be draining, but somehow I get it done every day.  If I lacked determination, I’d have a lot of unhappy clients.

A certain horse I own, Patsy, has taught me so much humility.  Just last weekend, we smoked a run–it was one of the nicest runs we’ve ever made. Later that day for our second run in the buckle series, the wheels fell off. We knocked two barrels and I pulled up on the way home because she was pulling on me and taking advantage.  She’s been my problem child since the minute I bought her.  The only horse who’s ever made me want to sell one because I can’t figure out their quirks. Usually, I can get on a horse and have them pegged and know how to fix their issues within a ride or two. Not this mare. She challenges me every day and I love her to pieces for that. She keeps me learning and wanting to improve.  

Humility–riding teaches me that every day. Just when I think I have a certain young horse figured out they throw me for a loop. I question my own abilities some days.  Then the next day, they ride better than they ever have and I’m back on cloud nine.  I know as soon as you’re at the top, the next day you can be right at the bottom again. I aim to always stay humble and kind, no matter what I’ve accomplished in my career. I’ve never been the type to jump up and down and cry when I win something, but more of the type to go give my horse an extra scratch and thank them for letting me be their passenger.

Lindsay Nordick from Detroit Lakes, MN, owns Rush Meadow Farm Performance Horses, a full-service training facility.  They emphasize creating a correct, soft, willing, honest, and well-exposed horse.  

Riding Made Me: Jec Ballou on Mindfulness and Accountability

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Even for those of us who describe ourselves as firmly connected to reality, our tethers to a calm, realistic state can become frayed during everyday life. For numerous reasons, we often experience our bearings altered, our perceptions skewed. This is when a give a sigh of gratitude for horses. Riding has made me more grounded.

It has done this by requiring that I possess two particular traits on a daily basis: mindfulness and accountability. I would argue that when a person practices these, she is the best version of herself. But without horses, it is pretty hard to cultivate them.

Consider mindfulness, for example. In the course of our lives, becoming distracted or frazzled or fatigued is a norm. But where horses are involved, there often is no room for these other states. There is only room for paying very close attention to every moment, staying calm, and being ready with the right response to your environment. To do anything well with horses, we have to focus and concentrate. We simply cannot wander off in distractions. Both for safety reasons as well as respect for the horse, we have to stay present with 100 percent of our attention.

When a person experiences this in enough moments throughout a day, it spreads throughout the rest of her life. It becomes more attainable and consistent. And I can only pause and smile when I think what a gentler place the world might be if we were all a bit more mindful.

Or what might the world look like if we were all more accountable? Riding and training horses reiterates this trait for a person every single moment. When something is not going well in the training or care of a horse, I have to stop and ask myself why not. What am I not getting quite right? When during a ride, the mood or comfort of the horse changes under me, I must stop and assess what I botched. Tempting as it is to point a finger elsewhere, there is nowhere else to point it where horses are concerned.

They mirror back to us the spirit in which they are cared, the health and comfort they either are or are not provided. No conscious person can ignore the reflection of that mirror. Sure, it can be sobering, but it also prevents any of us from getting caught up in delusional thinking or ‘quick fixes.’ It keeps us tethered to our own individual integrity and honesty. It helps us respect other horse professionals.

Perhaps I’ve made the case that if more of humanity were mindful and accountable, the world might realize a better version of itself. This just might be true if even more people rode horses. At the very least, they would undoubtedly be more grounded.

Ride Like a Girl: Finding Your Inner Alpha

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I love horses, don’t you? I mean I REALLY love horses. I love them so much, I have ten of them! Feeding them is the first thing I do in the morning. Checking on them is the last thing I do at night, “just to make sure . . .”

This is a surprise to everyone in my life because I was 53 when I got talked into going for a trail ride and found a passion I didn’t know I had. However, because I found a passion didn’t mean I found knowledge or understanding. I was afraid to go into their “cages,” as I called them. I didn’t know what to feed them or how to clean up after them. I jumped every time they moved too fast. (Well, sometimes I still do that.) I needed to learn how horses “worked”.

Have you ever watched an alpha walk through the herd to food? They walk in a straight line, moving all the other horses out of their way. If the horses in their path don’t move, first they look at them, then they push with their nose, then they pin their ears and if that isn’t enough, the horse in their path gets bit or kicked. Why am I talking about this? I’m a therapist, and most of the young girls/women that come to see me are like the horses that get pushed out of the way. They are sweet, kind, gentle women or young women, that haven’t found their inner “alpha”. Natural horsemanship helped me find my inner alpha–one I didn’t know I didn’t have until I tried to do ground work with a 1,400 pound paint quarter horse. He is my herd’s alpha. Learning to be his alpha and at the same time preserving the relationship and be fair, not abusive or wimpy, not timid or angry, either, was (and continues to be) an amazing journey.

As I continued to spend time just sitting on the fence, observing the horses, I saw how the alpha mare lifted her leg at the mini, but didn’t follow through. Not so much with all the big horses that got in her path. And I thought, “Horses have changed my life so much, how can I help them do that for others?” I found a form of Equine Therapy that fit for me. I became a natural horsemanship instructor. And I found a way to help girls and women who were “too nice” in their life to tap into their inner alpha appropriately. In my experience, people are born timid or aggressive. Appropriate assertiveness is something that has to be learned. Bringing our life up or bringing it down to match the situation is learned through a remarkable process of developing self-discipline and inner confidence. Horses are wonderful partners in helping us learn this skill.

Tristan’s mom came to me saying that her daughter’s first word was “horse”. Tristan’s passion only grew stronger over time, until her parents couldn’t bear to hear one more prayer asking for a horse. That’s when they came looking for me. They couldn’t afford a horse, but they could afford lessons. Tristan was so sweet. She wanted her horse to be her friend. She knew how to feed carrots, but she didn’t know how to keep a horse from getting pushy and mugging her for treats. That turned into her first lesson. As Tristan and I continued to work together, our relationship became strong enough that I could talk to her about her “timidity/inner wimp.” She was a good sport. She didn’t get offended. She learned. Last week I watched her get respect on the ground with her horse and ride a friend’s horse through a little “bucking” episode with a look of fixed determination on her face. I was so proud of her, I cried. She couldn’t stop smiling.

Recently she said, “Jo, I’m feeling timid bridling this horse.” I was proud of her, again. She knew she was timid, she asked for help, and she hung in there with me until she could do the task with confidence. Another time, I watched her get off a horse during the middle of a group class. One of the girls laughed at her for getting off. She blew it off. She had come to respect her own inner voice that said that horse was fixin’ to get out of control, and she cared more about what she thought than what the other girl did. I was proud again. Yesterday, 12-year-old Tristan taught her two little sisters and her mom how to keep a horse out of their space, appropriately matching the horse’s energy to stay the alpha. I’m still smiling. Session after session, I watch the horses help the young girls that come in my barn’s doors find their inner alpha. The girls keep their gentle hearts and their respect for the horse and the partnership while they find their respect for themselves and their girl power as well.

I LOVE horses, don’t you?

-Jolene Green, LCSW, PARELLI Instructor, EAGALA certified

Riding Made Me: Alyssa Fleming on 3 Ways Horses Improved Her Character

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Riding has always been a big part of my life. I realize that I would not be the person that I am today without all of the things that riding has taught me, and ultimately, all of the things that riding made me. While riding’s made me many things, the ones that resonate the most are more grateful, more resilient, and more driven.

 

Riding made me more grateful.

At age 16, after years and years of constant and tireless begging, I convinced my parents to help me buy my first horse. I owned him for a little over 3 years until a freak accident in the pasture took him away forever. He and I had been through a lot together, and he was my absolute best friend. So when he was taken so suddenly, my world was shattered and my head was filled with doubt. Had I rewarded him after our last ride? Did I give him that extra treat before I turned him out? Was I too hard on the both of us after a bad round in the jumping ring?

I couldn’t change any of my “lasts” with him, but I could learn from those feelings and apply them to the rest of my life. This taught me to work to see the best in any situation and always find something to be happy about. My mare and I knock a barrel at a big race? I give her a pat anyway because she still tried hard for me, and we’ll do better next time. I aim to always be thankful for the blessings in my life, especially the everyday little things that other people may miss.

Riding made me more resilient.

When I first started my mare on the barrel pattern, all I heard was how we would “never make it past the 3D” or how “barrels will just be too hard for your horse to excel at.” But I knew better. My horse loved her job and so did I, so I kept pushing on. Now, in only our second competitive season, we’re placing at rodeos and running in the 1D with some of the best of them! All because I didn’t let the naysayers determine what my horse and I could or could not do. The only person that limits me is me. I learned not to be afraid to ask for help, and not to be afraid to go above and beyond other people’s expectations for me. You’d be surprised what a little bit of stubbornness, hard work, and time will do for you and your horse.

 

Riding made me more driven.

Once I discovered my love for riding, nothing could stop me from doing it. Riding makes me feel complete, and I am always eager to keep building and improving my skills. I will never know everything there is to know about horseback riding, and I love that. I strive to always take away something new from every ride, and I try to attend as many lessons and clinics as I possibly can. There is no such thing as a rider that is too well-rounded. Everyone has something that they can teach me – the best thing I can do is listen.

When I feel like I need a new perspective, I take a lesson from someone in another discipline. If I’m contemplating skipping that long conditioning session I had planned for today, I remember that I might be taking a break today, but my competition won’t be. There is always something new to learn, and there is always a higher level to reach, but it’s up to me and me alone to push myself to keep improving.  

I could go on forever about all of the things that riding has made me over the years and how much it has changed me, but when it comes down to it, I can sum everything up pretty simply: Riding made me more…and for that, I am so incredibly thankful.

-Alyssa Fleming

Riding Made Me: Sheralee Fiore on Confidence Creating Selflessness

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When I reflect on what riding’s done for me, I can see that it made me a more confident person in all aspects of my life. Riding helps me believe more in myself and helps me to trust myself. As you ride at higher levels, you need to show that you have that confidence. Before I run I tell myself that I believe in my horse as well as myself. I tell myself I can get the job done.

That has helped me come to a place where I value helping other riders and be supportive of them––I’ll help any rider for many reasons. If they are stressing out before their run, I like to give them positive advice so they can relax more and be more confident that they will do well. If they need help with equipment or have forgotten a piece of their tack, I am always willing to lend my tack out. If they need advice on training equipment, feeding, and so on, I would not hesitate to offer my advice. It’s a good feeling of karma, of “do good for others and good will come back to you.”

Over the years, riding has also helped me have a more positive outlook on life. When things are not going the way I want for the day or week or whatever, going for a ride always brings happiness and calmness back into my life. It reminds me not to worry about the little things that go wrong, and I realize how blessed and lucky I am to have horses in my life.

-Sheralee Fiore