A Blog About My Journey Riding and Training Sora, My Soulmate

Saturday, October 29, 2011


and hours and hours away from my girl.

I got sent to Menard's headquarters this week to help with seminars and between the long drive there and back and the amount of hours I worked for the week it was exhausting. I got back last night and passed out on the couch while trying to watch Just Like Heaven. This morning I drove home to pick up Riley from my mom and dad's, who were watching her for the week, and will be making the 2+ hour drive back home again tomorrow.

During the week I had a lot of time to think about Sora and when I got back home I started reading empowered horses again. Things with Sora went really well again the week before and I actually started doing Chase the Tiger with her and she got it! For the first time she was actually willing to chase rather than just being afraid.

I know that I haven't been spending as much time with her as I should and also that I will never reach the goals I have for her and myself if I don't start pushing myself more so I am making a pact with myself to actually drive myself towards those goals rather then always standing back and watching other people reach theirs. I also finally found my dream saddle, which I can't currently afford, and I am going to start saving for it even if the only money I can save is from recycling =D

Dream Saddle ->

which is a Startrekk Espaniola! I will of course trial it to see if I like it as much as I think I will but it has almost every feature I have been looking for in a saddle :)

I am also going to be posting more which will mean that I have to take my computer to McDonalds more since I can't blog on my phone, at least not well, but I am going to try my hardest to make it work. I will also be getting more pictures and hopefully some video of us working as well.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Fall Falls

Things this summer have been off and on with Sora. I've been mainly unmotivated to work with her which I completely hate but I think I was just kind of burnt out and also getting used to working full time and living on my own and all that comes with not having more than one person to share chores with. I've gone through a second "crisis" of wanting to sell her and at that point decided that something needed to change.

Right after listing her for sale I went up to the stable and took her out to ride, she was perfect, and just as I was climbing on things at the barn went crazy! Four horse trailers pulled in, a horse that was getting loaded across from the ring tried to climb out of the trailer through the window and got halfway, people ran to help the horse while screaming?, and three young horses in the drylots right next to the ring started racing around in a panic. While all of this was happening Sora stood calmly for me to mount and than gave me an on the buckle pony ride around the ring only watching all of these scary things with a calm face.

I found out later that all these people were coming for a group lesson, one that a Dressage instructor teaches, that I have been invited to multiple times. I was always concerned about what her expectations would be especially since Sora is so green and although I was invited to ride that day Sora was not moving off my legs at all which would be scary in a ring of horses so I decided to dismount and watch the lesson instead.

Long story short I was really impressed and decided to ride in the next and after some more thought I came up with and idea. I am going to plan on riding her in every lesson and working on her as much as possible between. I am also going to try to keep up more with AND and change my training techniques just a little. In the spring after all of these changes and work I will make a decision either way and no matter what I will stick to it.

The real issue is that I know I tend to give up on things rather than struggling through them :/ However I am weighing this in my decision about what to do with Sora and while I know that this is an issue I also know that I have some other valid points. Currently I am just not sure I am up, mentally, to having a horse that is as spooky and athletic as Sora is. Also I am really struggling with what I ultimately want to do as far as riding. When I bought Sora I was looking for a Dressage prospect but things have vastly changed and now I am undecided about exactly what type of riding I am interested in. I am jealous of the people with the calm horses that can go out trail riding and yet at the same time know that I would get bored of that pretty quickly.

Ultimately I really would like to keep Sora. I think I just need to commit to spending more time with her. Even through all of this I love her more than anything and when I go to see her and she screams at me, comes galloping up lowers her head and does that mommy throaty nicker to me it tears my heart out. I just really want to do the right thing for both of us.

Monday, July 18, 2011


I am currently blogging from the very ritzy St. Croix Falls McDonalds because I do not have air conditioning and I was feeling in danger of melting :)

Because of the heat, all I have done with Sora for the past four-five days is bathe her, scratch her (a lot), and share food with her like oranges, apples and granola bars. I feel like she has greatly deserved it!

On Thursday I went out to see her thinking I would do ONLY what she wanted. I brought a bag of carrots and an Orange and brought her in the arena to play and hang out. For awhile I scratched all her itchy places and encouraged her to roll and get nice and dirty and then I left to get her grooming stuff. Sora is far less confident when I leave her so she started running back and forth which quickly turned into a very energetic game. Two years ago she wouldn't have been able to calm herself down and I would have been too scared to go back in the pen with her but when I got back with the grooming tools I went right in and started brushing her. At this point I had an audience of several people and one of them is someone I have been spending more time with who we will call J.

Once again I am reminded not to judge a book by it's cover because she is not someone who I would seek out to ride or spend time with but she has turned out to be incredibly supportive and open minded, and fun! She wanted to ride her young horse and said she would feel better if someone was around so since the other group was leaving I said I would hang around with Sora thinking that I would just play with her on the ground a bit. J started to roundpen her gelding and he started to race around and Sora charged him from outside the fence!!! I think that my normally submissive little horse was getting something from him she didn't like. I smooched to her a little to drive her away and then kept her further from him with my body language.

Eventually J brought her horse into the arena to ride and after some more groudwork mounted. Up until this point I had no plans to ride but everything with Sora was going so well that I led her over to the mounting block by the lunge line, tied it up at the end and stepped up on the mounting block. I left it up to her whether I would mount or not and it took her a couple of tense minutes to relax and finally she sighed and stepped up so perfectly lined up that I knew she was willing and hopped on :D I was holding the lunge line attached to her halter but didn't have anyway to steer her other than my seat. Of course she was incredible!!! I was talking to J about the type of training I do and although she probably thought I was crazy to climb on like that, she quickly saw that Sora was happy and relaxed and started drilling me with questions :) It was wonderful and she was so encouraging.

What is funny is that the thing that made me the proudest is that I listened to Sora and when she stopped in the corner and pawed when I asked her to turn I climbed off!!! Funny when you are pleased with yourself for doing something that most people would warn you away from lol.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Lazy Summer

This week I have really settled into AND/NHE again with Sora. It had been awhile since I spent much real time with her that didn't involve more pressure so it took her a little while to relax and try to listen again. As soon as she did, however, things went swimmingly.

I started out by wanting to take her on a trail walk but she didn't want to even allow me to catch her so I put her stuff away and got out the fly gunk, all three different bottles of it. I went to put it on her ears and she pulled her head away (like normal) so I moved a couple of steps back, crouched down, closed my eyes and explained to her in my head what I was trying to do. When I opened my eyes she was standing closer and I stood up and slowly reached out my hand towards her ear. She held perfectly still and let me rub it in which is normally impossible. I was so happy that that had worked that we played around a little in the pasture. At one point she froze and wanted to share breath with me. I blew slowly into her nose, breathing in incredible horse breath with my eyes closed while her chin rested on my shoulder. We stood like that for almost five minutes. It is amazing the images that came into my head as we stood like that in calm, quiet communication.

After that I was kept away by two days of storm but I was out again yesterday. We were in the arena together right next to the road when a huge, noisy tractor came by. All the horses along the road were galloping and screaming and Sora screamed back but I just ignored her and ran up to the fence to watch the tractor pass. As it was right next to us Sora trotted up to the fence next to me (towards the tractor) and watched it and the truck behind it pass like she was watching a parade, all calm happiness. It was only then that I realized that the man in the truck behind the tractor was one of our biggest doubters who can not get it into his head that she is no longer afraid of vehicles. He ignored me for the rest of the night which is perfectly fine with me.

After the tractor was gone I worked on our two newest behaviors, passing to me and passing away from me. I worked on lining her up to the fence and getting her to do shoulder and haunches in. It wasn't pretty but we did do a couple of nice steps and at one point she offered it so beautifully with a hint of collection that I was jumping up and down and squealing and we both capered around a bit :)^Not us, yet ;)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Sometimes it seems as if Sora and I have made no progress or even have gone backwards. For me this blog is more to remind myself of where we were and the progress that has been made than anything else.

For the last few months I have been in continuous flux about how to train Sora, trying to figure out the "right" way. This has unfortunately been not because I have/had doubts but because others have had doubts in me. Honestly I am a big chicken and my safety has always been my highest priority. Riding is the only risk I take and although it is a big one I have ALWAYS taken every precaution available to reduce that risk including not riding anything scary. This means that when I had two "knowledgeable" horse people at the barn telling me that I was going to get hurt I listened.

At least for a short time :)

The conclusion I came to is that they can't even begin to imagine the type of relationship I have with Sora. Relationship maybe isn't even the word to use. The words I think of are trust, confidence, time, experience, feel, belief, caution, respect, sensitivity, years, training, familiarity, and I just can't think of a word that encompasses them all. They are all trail riders (slow with a drink in one hand type trail riders), they train their horses not to spook and to carry them slowly down trails. While I respect their ability to do this I have absolutely no interest in that type of horse sport and neither does Sora.

They seem to see her running wildly around her pasture and not see her standing still under me without tack after I mount because I am shaking (Thanks to the fact two of them are watching me just about ready to dial 911) or taking a couple of steps at a time while waiting for me to calm down. Walking with her head on the ground to calm me. Licking me like a foal when I've had a bad day and come to her crying. Allowing, no Asking me to mount and go for a ride. Galloping to me to do things because they are fun and she likes me and believes in me.

Now I'm not saying every horse/human relationship should be like this. In fact for many it would be dangerous and not recommended. However for me Sora has been more therapy than anything else could be. She has changed the very way I look at the world and they way I react to everything. I live in the moment now more than I ever did before, I am calmer and far more positive and the controlling and unhealthy part of me is just about gone. I can now climb on a horse without a huge rush of adrenaline which is unheard of for me and if that can only happen on a young, hot, tackless Arabian than I am proud of both of us!

Today I took the time to read back through my posts to the point where I started AND. I am amazed at the progress that has been made. Much of it hasn't even been noted on here but when I read about something that I was having trouble with in these posts and compare it to where we are now it makes me happy. Seeing the progress in both of us makes me even more certain that I am on the right path for me and the right path for Sora.

I hope to track more of our progress, and current issues, as soon as I get back home from this weekend but for now,

Happy 4-TH of July Weekend!!!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Life Changes

Life is good! I'm finally living on my own, in a gorgeous little farm house, and I am so happy! Sora is being boarded at a really nice little boarding stable and I have access to two outdoor arenas and a nice sized indoor which is just as wonderful as I always thought it would be. There are a couple of people at the stable that seem intent on making my life (because of my style of training) miserable but that is for a different post. What is important is that Sora is happy and I see eye to eye with the stable owner on horse husbandry so that is wonderful as well.

The only other bad thing is that the only access I have to the internet is on my phone so lengthy posts are not possible. I have been following all my favorite blogs but because of a glitch I can't seem to comment on them. Now that I am more settled in I am going to try to do more short posts to record our progress so hopefully there will be more content on here soon.

Training is mostly going well. Due to one of the people who is making my life miserable I was contemplating selling Sora for a whole weekend but now I am so glad that I came to my senses. The good is that we have progressed to where I am very comfortable riding her either with a bitless bridle or just a cordeo in the arena and we are working on leg yields in the cordeo. The bad news is that we are still struggling with the trot and she remains very spooky outside of the arena. I am working slowly on the trot but the spookiness has me sort of stumped. I am not at all reactive when she spooks (and I am very proud of myself that I have come that far) and I am working to desensitize her to things almost daily. She is more confident with me around then when she is on her own so I don't see that I'm doing anything wrong. I am beginning to think that she is just a very spooky horse but that is just not a comforting thought. Because of that I have decided to take a step back and do more of what I really love with her just in the arena where she is confident. Her side passing is getting polished and we are just starting to work on some of the other behaviors/movements such as bow and rear. The best thing for me is feeling soooooo comfortable on her back especially since most of the people here seem to think I am going to die :D

Friday, March 11, 2011

Another Gorgeous Day

and still no pictures :/ I am hoping to get some video this weekend but it will depend on if my dad is willing.

I went for a ride on Jackson again today and was pleased to find that he was more willing to have the saddle on his back. He must like the treeless which doesn't surprise me because he has always been difficult to fit. He walked me around the pen for a little while and then I climbed off out in the pasture and switched the saddle onto Sora's back. She was even calmer this time as though expecting it and was pleased to have my attention back on her, the princess :)

This time when we got back to the drylot I used my favorite tree stump mounting block and asked her to step up to it. Several times while I played with her saddle and stirrups the other horses would come up too close trying for grain and I would swing the rope at them while Sora stood stock still next to me. She made me extremely proud and I even managed to work through her snatchiness with treats that's made worse when she is around the mounting block, probably me and my nerve's fault. I am proud to say that this is her third (yes third) year of mounting practice and she is standing stock still and willing. I am really glad that I didn't do more riding when she was three or four because I can see the increase in her confidence and physical maturity. I really think this will be our year for heading out on trail rides and spending more time training.

I was also impressed and relieved to see that thanks to a new, small, increase in wither (thanks to her increase in maturity over the winter) the treeless saddle stayed upright easily and I would now feel confident climbing on her with it.

Oh, and look at this cute little barn! I so want something like this when I finally get my own property.

Finally a couple of pictures of where Sora will be in a month or so :D I would love to hear any suggestions for a new boarder. I'm a little nervous about the move and not having Sora right outside my door :/

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Mythical "Go" Button

Today I decided was the time to work on encouraging Sora to go forward. This was something that she was overwhelmingly good at. When I first got her the barest move on my part would send her racing to the other side of which ever field we were in thanks to her previous abuse and lack of human contact. In other words she was extremely right brain dominant. Now she is so left brain dominant that it is almost hard to get her to move.

This summer I trimmed her hooves right in front of our garage door without any type of restraint, she wasn't even wearing a halter, while my dad revved his Ducati in the garage which made a sound like an airplane taking off. Not only did she hold still, she was actually relaxed. Regularly she stands still in front of me while I jump up and down, cluck, wave my hands around like a nut case and throw a rope at her. I actually am proud of this because it means she will be a willing and nonflighty riding partner, however she does actually need to move sometimes as well and since I am against using pressure, such as a whip, I need to think of a different way of teaching it.

Today I got started by jogging with her jogging next to me. With me moving she happily matches my speed right along next to me but won't go fast or slower. I tried getting her to outpace me by swinging a rope next to me but she was having none of it and I was worried, although she gave me no reason to be, that if I increased the pressure she would kick out at me as she passed. I therefore gave up on that method and started doing some free lunging.

In AND a horse that will lunge freely in a perfect circle around you without a single piece of tack is spoken about in hushed tones but thanks to Sora's high food motivation it was something that I could ask for fairly quickly. The problem is getting her to turn off and leave the circle which is necessary at points both for AND and for my purposes today. The pressure of flapping a rope at her and clucking wasn't working very well so I started to reward any tiny movement away from me and it started to work.

After some work, and exhaustion on my part, she actually started to run in a line away from me, getting extra grain for a canter or gallop. I would wait until she was a couple steps away and then call "check" and she would spin and gallop back to me for her treat. Eventually she was going several strides away from me and I changed up the game a little.

One thing that many people in AND are able to accomplish quickly that I've always had trouble with is mimicry. Sora will do many things to mimic me such as backing up, pawing, almost rolling :) and so on and she will trot or walk right next to me but she won't mimic me from a distance. As soon as I start to move in the same direction as her and not point my front at her she just falls into the circle and comes right to me. So today I used one of her established tricks, backing up when she is in front of me facing me, and would get her started out "lunging" and then start moving in the same direction. This is something that I have tried before but I tried it harder today and in different ways. It was quite rough but I actually got her to mimic me cantering which is what I really want. The reason for this is that if I can get her to canter mimic me at a distance and learn to mimic canter where she can move faster than I can, I can get her to mimic canter right next to me at a slower pace and therefore teach collection at that gait. Something that I am striving for.

Oh, and the picture is two year old Sora from before I bought her although right at this moment her mane doesn't look that much better :/ I truly meant to get some pictures but my camera battery was uncharged. I'm hoping to get pictures this weekend since it has been so terribly long.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

More Progress

This morning it was incredibly nice outside and I had a day off work, finally :), so I spent some time working with Sora. It was pretty rough because we are both out of practice and have forgotten a lot about the training that we did before but we made some good progress.

After the trouble we were having yesterday I decided to step back a step and make sure I could yield her shoulders and hindquarters individually, both towards me and away from me. She actually did really well with her shoulders which I didn't expect because at on point she was really sticky with them in either direction. However, I did have more trouble with yielding her hips. All she wanted to do was back up so her head could be closer to the treats. I did manage to get some really nice yields from her after backing her up to a fence but after a couple good ones I took a break from that and spent some time working on getting her to yield from a cue from the Cordeo.

She remembered this one really nicely and will either move towards me when I pull the Cordeo lightly towards me or step away when I push it towards her. She also backs or stops at a backwards pull. I was really happy with that and decided to end on a good note. I am hoping that I will have a chance to spend some time with her after work tomorrow but even if not I will have a chance again on Thursday. If she does really well I might even sit on her again or ride Jackson and work with her from his back :)

Monday, March 7, 2011

More Good News

It is official! I now have an HR job! I am so excited and I actually start next Monday :) I also got good news from the boarding stable that I was interested in. They have space and are willing to possibly let me work off part of my board which is exactly what I hoped for! Now I just have to find a place for myself and Riley to live.

I also had a short chance to work with Sora today thanks to getting off work a little early. I was working on an AND exercise called "stepping under" which teaches a horse to carry weight on their hind and also is the beginning of teaching shoulder in. If you are interested you can see the video below.

It was actually going pretty well but Sora was nervous and pushy and just wanted treats "no thank you on this moving crap" and finally gave up. I was just about to leave the pasture when she came back over to me and I decided to try one last time, this time with different body language. As usual it was proven to me that I was the one having the problem because with a simple change of body language she side passed perfectly to me. This wasn't really what I was looking for but it was close enough to what I was asking that she got a jackpot :D

Saturday, March 5, 2011


It's still quiet. I have been working crazy hours since Wednesday and will be working still through Monday. I'm not complaining because I need the money but I am ready for a break. Sora is good although both of us are ready for the warmer weather. She had lost a bit of weight (no more than ten pounds or so) for likely no reason other than I stiffed them a bit on hay for a week or so without realizing but she is back up again and happy.

On the job front it seems I am likely going to get the position but I still haven't heard officially and I'm trying to prepare myself just in case I don't get it. I have Sora's housing all figured out but still have to figure out my own lol. the only thing I am worried about right now is finding a place that will accept a medium sized dog :/ and how long I will have to commute before I can move. The drive is not too much worse than I was used to for Grad School but I would just as soon move sooner rather than later. I can't wait to have two out door arenas, a round pen and an indoor at my disposal. I have NEVER had an arena to ride in so this will be like heaven even if there is some adjusting to not having Sora on my property :)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ready for the Spring

Wow, here I come back and say I'll be writing more and than completely ignore this blog for far too long. We've had crazy weather recently, first with warmer than normal temps and now terrible snow storms with high snow fall. It has been extremely difficult to do anything with Sora other than working on her feet and some small work on her simple tricks. I do need to get some pictures of her feet which I will try to do either tomorrow or in the next couple of days because I am really proud of my improvement in rasping skill.

I do have some incredible news though! I have an interview on Monday and there is an extremely high chance that I will be offered a job. If that is the case I will finally get to move out of my parent's house :) Because I would be making very little money I am currently seeking a place near where I'll be moving that would allow an arrangement where I could work off part of her board. I'm so excited to find someplace and finally get to move!

I also found some pictures of me when I was twelve riding Bucky and I want to get them scanned in to post here. Maybe another thing for tomorrow :)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Early Morning Adventure: part one

Right now where I live its awful outside. The cold isn't so bad because I have warm clothes, layers, warm gloves etc. to deal with that. The real problem is that at our farm whatever isn't covered in 2+ feet of snow is a skating rink. Its so bad the horses are locked in two small pens which aren't bad thanks to the manure and leftover snow. Even getting out to feed them is a slow process as it means traveling across our ice rink, which used to be a driveway, and on a small path cleared for me, which is also glare ice, to our shed. One corner of the shed is particularly bad and is not only an especially shiny polished ice but it slopes downhill which means I can't stay up on it at all.

Because of that, when I woke up this morning and saw that Jackson and Khepri had gotten out I knew that getting them back into our pen would be an adventure. They had lifted a small red gate off its hinges, traveled out the path by and around our shed, across our driveway, and up another small path to our bird feeder where they were happily munching on spilled bird seed. Sora, my funny little angel, was staying happily in the pen regardless of the wide open gate.

I fed Sora to keep her calm and in the pen, grabbed a halter and some grain and skated slowly toward the horses. As I approached they occasionally lifted their heads to watch me and when they figured out I had grain decided that it would probably taste better than stale bird food and began to approach. They met me at the end of the bird feeder path which wasn't that slippery and as I put Jackson's halter on and gave him a handful of grain for the journey I contemplated how to approach the crossing of the driveway/skating rink.

Having come to a decision I tossed Jackson's lead rope over his back and climbed onto one of the snow piles. As I walked on top of the snow towards the shed I lured him along next to me with grain. He is extremely experienced with Minnesota ice and snow but was still slipping and sliding. Luckily he kept to his feet and went slow. Khepri slowly followed alongside him but at some point she hit a bad spot and all four of her feet started going in different directions. With a look of desperation she quickly slipped and slid her way to the huge snow pile at the edge of the driveway and went down on her knees in the snow. I breathed a sigh of relief that she had handled herself so well and continued with Jackson who was able to reach the path to the shed safely.

Having passed the first obstacle we continued toward the shed.

To be continued....

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Welcome 2011

I am so happy to welcome 2011! 2010 was crazy between work, lack of money, starting a new part time job and stress over the fact that after two years of grad school, constantly looking for work, while my classmates got jobs all around me, I still don't have a job.

2011 will be a year of changes for me. First I'm sure I'll find a job, hopefully sooner rather than later, which means that I'll finally get to move out of my parents house but more pertinent to this blog it will mean moving Sora and boarding a horse for the first time in my life.

I'm sure I'll miss having a horse right outside the house, feeding in the beautiful mornings with the birds singing, getting to make choices about how to care for her and getting to see her out the window. However, right now I can't wait to board. Partly because we don't have a good place to ride, no good footing, and I have no one to ride with or talk about horses. I also don't have a trailer so I'm completely stuck here. There will be so many good things about having Sora in a boarding facility and while I'm sure I'll have some complaints once she is actually there, right now I can't wait for the freedom that comes with not having to feed three times :) and mostly I just can't wait to have a nice, safe arena to ride in and people to ride with!!

In other news I just want to say how lucky so many horses in the blogs I read are to have such wonderful people. A couple of weeks ago my hoof trimmer, Erika, invited me to come with her after she trimmed our horses to help with a foundered pony (the owner's words). Once we got there we realized it wasn't founder, just a case of neglect. The ponies poor hooves looked like elf shoes and it took us almost two hours to get them looking anywhere close to normal. I was incredibly impressed with what Erika was able to accomplish and the pony looked relieved to be able to walk.

There were also two other horses on the property and as my trimmer put it they were "lucky to have weak hooves because they could self trim." The worst part was that no sooner had I left to come back home then Erika texted me that the horses had no water and were licking frozen puddles to drink. She couldn't even find any type of permanent water trough but finally found a bucket to give them water. I almost cried and it was nice to be able to come home to Sora, standing in her clean shed, in her puffy blanket with warm water only a few steps away.

Finally, the master list of goals for the year.

1. Strengthen Sora, especially her back to prepare for some light riding
2. Do more to desensitize her to the saddle
3. Perfect my hoof rasping technique and Sora's hoof holding technique
4. Reduce the amount of treats Sora gets and increase the time between treats, especially with the behaviors Sora is good at
5. Push Sora a bit more working toward behaviors that are more perfect and her to perform better than just adequate