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Until one has loved an animal, part of their soul remains unawakened.

Ride with your heart and soul ~ your horse can feel it

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Finals - Ponoka! - Finals

Wow time has gotten away again... at first I was waiting for pictures, then I just plain got busy.  Doesn't help that I have horrible wifi at home right now.  Bad wifi makes me grouchy BUT I have a nice little place in the country with my ponies at home so (for now) it's a fair trade off ;)
(seriously though, Saskatchewan needs to do something about rural wifi!!)
So now this will be a bit of a catch up post...

For starters I entered both Lefta and Frosty in provincial finals.  Frosty won the 4D in the first long go! Both horses ran fairly well and Frosty ended up making the short go (my first time ever making short go at provincials!!)  Unfortunately I forgot how the *bleep* to ride lol 
I sent him in from a bad spot in the alley.  Then I didn't rate worth a darn on first which in turn resulted in him coming around so that the barrel was but Frosty is the most honest horse I know and he will not hit a barrel... not if HE is the one hitting it.  So instead he reared and threw himself to the side so he didn't hit it, yeah that ate up some time.  Once we got our poop in a group and lined out properly for second the rest of the run went well.  Obviously we didn't place #understatement
But you know what, I achieved a goal and have room to improve so it's ok!

Up next, my good friend MJ and I took our pretty bay bombshells to Ponoka!  This arena has been on both our goals list for awhile, there's simply nothing like it around here.  The barn is set up great, the staff are amazing, and the arena... holy heck the arena!!  Indoors, small warm up area right by the actual arena, and it fits a full standard pattern!  Calnash Centre is just awesome
MJ and I drove down for the time onlies and warm up jackpot on Friday.  And thank goodness we did!  That arena can mess with your head and some horses have a few issues too, such as our horses... they did NOT appreciate the shadows and slight woosh noise from the giant overhead fans, particularly the one directly over 3rd :o
The warm up jackpot went well, Lefta handled everything better than I thought she would and ended up picking up some money in the 4D!  A friend I've known since high school (so yeah, forever lol) lives about a half hour away so he came to visit and watch.  Dev video'd for us (after a quick tutorial lol) and asked tons of good questions, seeing how he's completely NOT a horse person it was nice to have someone so interested.  Also pretty awesome that even away from home MJ and I had someone in the stand to cheer for us  :) 
Day two my sis and her kids made the drive from Edmonton, so yeah for fans again! ;)
However our run wasn't great, Lefta just didn't fire.  She seems to have a slump when she's at multi day events and stalled. When I lamented the fact on Facebook my friend CK texted me "you brought your patches right?  Use them!"  We had a quick text convo, I knew I could patch for pain related issues but didn't realize it could be used for an energy boost!
After our runs we touristed around Ponoka - home of the world's largest bronc statue
Day three I got up and after chores put some patches on Lefta, and am I glad I did!  She ran her best run of the three days!  However the fast time crept up each day and we landed in the crying hole in 4D.  Still super proud of my little mare :D
And then there was district finals -
This year our district finals had over $20,000 in cash - I am *SO* proud to have been part of the board that organized, fundraised, and put on this finals. Everything went so smoothly!  I think it was even better than our 25th anniversary finals last year!!  The same board put on both events, and this year at our AGM we handed the reins over to a new board, I wish them the best and I'm looking forward to being a competitor only! ;) lol
Both horses ran well, Frosty came back to the short go again, last year we were reserve 3D champions, being 0.257 too slow for that 1st place slot.  This year we were 0.003 too fast!! And ended up bottom of the 3D
(last year we ran a 3D race, this year we changed it to 4D)
I was thrilled with how well he worked though, but I'm not gonna lie it was a bit bittersweet to miss that buckle.
Lefta didn't have her usual day 2 slump, because I patched her this time!!  However she hit a really bad rut on 1st barrel and almost went down.  A bit of a heartbreaker because she sure was firing when she went in for that run.  She wasn't hurt though, which is the most important thing.
(if you want to know about these patches let me know!)
And after being bugged that Lefta and Voodoo have some blingy tack and Frosty's was too plain he finally got a "fancy" set too, so here it is in action - I think he's earned it ;)

I have to say, I'm SO happy with this season.  My horses worked well but most importantly I found the fun in racing again!  Making a few changes in my circle of friends has definitely helped and made it easier to keep my mental and emotional outlook on the positive side :D

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Ready as we'll ever be

Well it's here... the 2017 SBRA Provincial Finals! 

Move in day is today, and I've entered both Lefta and Frosty.  I'll take them in and get them settled, then spend some time with Hubster before heading back for time onlies.  Yes they're both patterned, and yes they've both been there before, but with how well they've been doing this year and coming *thisclose* to the short go last year I'm trying to do everything I can to set us up for success this year, so they both get time onlies.
The two long go's are Tuesday and Wednesday and then the short go is Thursday.
I've got all my stuff prepped and ready and while I may be a bit nervous, I'm more excited and yet at the same time strangely feeling calm & centered... there's nothing I can do now to get my horses more fit, they're both trained, the weather will do whatever it does, the only thing I can control is myself and my attitude.  We're as ready as we'll be and whatever happens will happen :)

I'll probably be updating on Instagram (cdn_cowgirl) during finals
blog updates will have to wait until later

Friday, July 28, 2017


I bought Odin as a weanling, maybe it was a sign but the deciding factor between him and Owen, the bay colt I liked, was "well if it ever came down to it colour does sell"... and on July 16th he sold. Well, he had been tentatively sold since end of May/beginning of June.  But until they showed up with a cheque and took him I didn't consider it a done deal.
My runty little colt had grown up into a pretty nice horse.  Quite a few people had said he'd be lucky to hit 15hh and he was definitely 16hh or more this spring. 

JLS Ima Cool Threat aka Odin pictured in March of his yearling year

Odin pictured on July 16th, waiting for the buyer to come check him out
I won't deny that I have a bit of mixed feelings about selling him.  I liked him, he was a nice enough horse but he needed a job and wasn't working out for what I wanted.  And I just don't have the time to keep my two main horses in shape for barrels, keep Voodoo used, and keep Odin going.  He was still on the green side from being set aside so often and he was at the point he needed steady work to really progress instead of always being just a side project.
A friend of mine put a few rides on him and said she knew the perfect home for him, sent them a few pics and videos and bang he was "sold".  With the current horse market here and hay being a bit scarce (omg it's SO damn dry this year!) I was happy he sold so quickly.  But then there was that waiting game for them to actually come and see him... and then it turned out the gentleman ("D") couldn't make it so he sent his girlfriend and daughter.  They hemmed and hawed a bit but in the end they completed the cheque "D" had sent with them and loaded him up.  He's now off to be a ranch horse with the possibility of being a head horse.  Pretty much perfect careers for the big guy.  And I'd say they like him because a day or two later my friend that helped arrange the sale tagged me in a photo on Facebook, "the girlfriend" had made him her cover photo :)

Photo shamelessly borrowed from "the girlfriend's" FB

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Red, White & Gold

So this happened :D
This past Saturday, July 1st, something myself and two friends (MJ and Ash) have been working on for months came to fruition.  The first ever slot race in Saskatchewan took place! 
I am so proud of the Red, White and Gold... from how well received it was by both sponsors and barrel racers, to how well run it was and smoothly it went, and the quality of the event itself (it was a big undertaking for us, we had never produced an event like this). 
The RWG ran Saturday morning, and following that was our annual District 1 Canada Day double header jackpot.  The three of us are also on the district board and for some reason we were the only ones from the board that worked the jackpots :/  However we were very fortunate to have a *FANTASTIC* group of volunteers!  The same people that timed, announced, and worked ground for the RWG stayed on to work the jackpots.  Our photographer stayed and took photos during the jackpot as well.  We had people in place to check/set barrels and to work the gate for the RWG, and someone always stepped up for the jackpot to work the gate and pick up barrels.  So grateful for those volunteers!  Between taking care of and running my own horses and running the time onlies before the RWG, there was still a lot of work for MJ, Ash, and myself that day.  It was so worth it though!  We're already talking about a 2nd RWG next year :)
Now, for the Team Rafter K results... Frosty didn't place in the money (he was only in the jackpots) but we did have our best runs to date, and he even clocked better than Lefta which is not the norm!  Lefta picked up some 3D money at the jackpot and placed reserve 4D champ in the slot race, which came with some pretty nice prizes and $800.  Overall I'm very happy with how both horses worked!
*photo credit to Wild Ting Photography for the photo commemorating the event*

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Putting in Time

I'm not sure if it's because I didn't grow up with horses or get to take a bunch of lessons, and I kinda had a late start, but I always feel like I need to make up for lost time with my horsemanship.  And one thing that always bothers me is the poor reputation barrel racers have for horsemanship.  There are some mighty skilled horsepeople out there running barrels, however the stereotype of "whip, spur, kick, yank" is there for a reason... there are plenty of that type of barrel racer out there as well.  While I may love barrels right now, I've always loved horses and want to be a horseperson first and foremost.  
So when I had the opportunity to take part in a clinic with John & Jamie Tilley (Tilley's Custom Colts) I was pretty excited.  I have heard nothing but good things about their program and liked what I saw on Facebook, and this quote from John helped cement that opinion "Of all the things your horse will wear, their expression is the most important".  So I was pretty sure going into it that this clinic would be a challenge for me, but I also knew that if I got anything out of it both my horses and I would be rewarded and I'm happy to say that with the homework I took away to work on I'm fairly confident that will be the case. (as long as I can apply it lol *I* need a lot of work!) 

This weekend was exactly what I needed, a good get away with friends and my horse (we camped at The Valley) and lots of learning.  It was really nice to meet the Tilleys.  John and Jamie came across as honest, kind hearted, well meaning, and hard working and that came across in their horsemanship as well.  And while some clinicians are good with horses but not so great with people John was able to both work with horses *and* teach us humans.
I really loved that we worked in our group and were encouraged to watch the other groups and ask questions.  You learn SO much by watching!  And with so many other types/levels of riders and horses there were always new things happening. Having John teaching in the arena and Jamie on the sidelines was nice because you could ask her questions about what was going on without interrupting what was happening in the arena.
*small disclaimer, this is what I took away from the clinic, it's how I understood things.  So, as I learned from Ed, what I understand isn't necessarily what was being said/taught lol*
Now anyone that knows me knows that I don't like a lot of things about the modern "Natural Horsemanship" trend.  It's too gimicky, there's too much selling you STUFF, and it's too "fluffy" (which in turn is potentially dangerous). Several times this weekend John mentioned Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt, what I consider the founding fathers or "old school" natural horsemanship.  We may want things to be soft and easy but sometimes things need to get worked through to find that, you have to be willing to be firm but fair to your horse.  He talked about finding your feel and timing and how it would help things smooth out, which was something I struggled with (feel has always been tough for me, and of course that effects your timing).  About making the wrong thing difficult and the right thing easy, which is often said but seeing examples of that while doing ground work and while riding is another thing.  About not getting mad at your horse if/when things go wrong, and while that is an easy thing to preach it is different to follow through with which John did with patience when a mare fired out at him. He just went back to working like nothing had happened.  

We worked in 3 groups of 6-8 riders.  Friday was 2 hours per group and focused on ground work.  I learned a few things, or different ways of doing things, which I'll be adding to my "tools".  We worked on getting your horse to follow a feel, I noticed a difference in Lefta as the session went on and even more so the next morning. 
The next two days we started with some ground work and moved on to under saddle work for about three hours total (with a break for the horses). I liked that John let us work through our difficulties and coached us through things without immediately jumping in, but if things were getting a bit hairy or we struggled too much he'd step in.
Something I've been struggling with is getting Lefta to become softer and rounder and another is  picking up her left lead and being relaxed when loping circles to the left.  The soft is definitely still a work in progress but John explained a few things that started to click.  And probably my proudest 'personal goal' moment was when we were all working on spiraling down and back out at the lope in different parts of the arena at the same time.  Lefta was pretty good going right, but when I tried the left she'd get all tight and stiff and leaning in, I could feel her starting to get anxious and worried.  John was helping another girl so I just stopped for a few moments.  Things were getting worse and I didn't want to end up frustrating myself and my horse both beyond where we already were.  So while Lefta was airing up I sat and waited for a chance to ask for help, and I thought about what we had been talking about and practicing and it clicked... I gave Lefta another moment and then we went back to work and it happened.  She started to get stiff and anxious and instead of doing what I've always done I tried (remembered to try! lol) what we had done earlier.  Use my inside rein to round her and have her follow that feel, outside rein and legs to support the direction we traveled.  Lefta relaxed, she got round and suddenly things felt so much better.
This weekend made me even more certain that this is the direction to horsemanship that I want to take... but it's going to be a long journey with lots of work to put in.  I almost feel like I'm not giving the clinic a completely fair review, it seems like there's not a lot said about it here.  But it's honestly because there's still so much more from this clinic swirling around in my brain that I'm sorting, processing and digesting.  I love it!
I think almost everyone walked out of that clinic with some new ideas and confidence (almost, because there usually seems to be someone that can't accept changes start with them).  I'm already looking forward to next year's clinic and sending Shine to the Tilley's to start when it's time!  I'm waiting until she's 3 to have her started (2019) so that gives me a few more years to get my poop in a group lol  

At the end of each group's working time on the last day John recited a poem he wrote.  I really liked them both and thought it was a nice way to cap off the group.  There were two and I asked for permission to share them with you, so here they are:

Take Time
Take time to take time, you won't get it all at the start
Take time to take time and feel of your horse from your heart
Take time to take time and let it soak into his mind
If you take time to let him digest you'll be amazed at the answers he finds
Take time to take time and let him get ready to go
If you take time to let him shape up when you want him soon he'll just know
Take time to take time and wait on his feet to move back
If you take time to teach him your feel soon he'll go when you pick up the slack
Take time to take time and enjoy him when he's not caught or up in his stall
Take time to rub him out in the pasture for no particular reason at all
Take time to enjoy your horse in moments that won't cost you a dime
If you take time to take time it'll take you less time next time
John Tilley
May 14, 2017 

Making Friends
It's kind of a comfortable feeling,
a goal you work hard to get
To the time he might be called finished from the moment that you first met

The colt is young and wild and doesn't trust people, but he will sometime you know
If you take the time to let him figure things out and be there to direct him and show 

Cause he's not sure about that saddle you want him to wear and the cattle you take him to chase
And it's darn sure a frightening moment when those grouse flutter up in his face

Wire gates and 60 foot ropes are a scary thing to see
But you have to remember that he's just a kid and don't see it like you or me

But if you take the time to direct him along through scary times like these
He will soon become your partner and you'll do your work with ease

It may take a year, a month or a day it kind of just depends
Only the rider that sits on his back will know when he says "let's be friends"
John Tilley

**photos courtesy of Jamie Tilley** 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Always Learning

Now this is just my opinion, but with horses you never stop learning.  At least, if you have an open mind and are willing to learn you keep learning.
(actually, that goes for life in general)
This is why I look for articles to read, take some equine related classes, take lessons with a few different people, go to clinics.  I know some people are hesitant to go to clinics or lessons if they don't know the person, but the way I look at it is if you learn absolutely nothing and it's an absolutely awful experience (and how damn likely is that) you'll at least learn what doesn't work for you.

Anyhow... one of my boarders rented our arena to host a barrel racing clinic this past weekend.  I got a spot in the clinic, which was with Andrea Udal.
Now some may remember I rode with Ed Wright the last few years.  His style was really working for me and Lefta, but I just couldn't quite seem to get it going with Frosty... at least without Ed, with him it may have been a different story.
I have to say that when at the very start of the clinic Andrea said she knew some of us had rode with Ed but her style is completely different I had a few doubts.  I shoved them aside though and sat down to watch the morning group, listen, and learn. 
The main difference I saw, and later rode, was that unlike Ed's 'jockey like' position up over your horses first ribs, Andrea wanted us to sit deep and drive.  However they both want a horse to move around a barrel "in 4 wheel drive" and they both want a horse that is shaped in the turn.  A smooth, flowing turn is fastest and can put you in the money even if your horse isn't very fast was my take away.
Which is funny because that's what I had been thinking to myself just a few days prior.  I had been thinking of Lefta's last run.  How she isn't really running hard between barrels yet, but her turns are just so darn nice that it's helping her start to clock better.
Back to Frosty though... I have only had him a year, but what I've noticed, is he can be a bit of a freight train at times (at least for me).  He's a nice horse, and he knows how to be soft.  But sometimes he just gets a bit frazzled and needs to blow off steam.  Or he'll go into a run and it's like he's thinking "you just sit there, I've got this" and while he may have it some, we are a team and he needs a bit of guidance at times lol
Working with Andrea I found some drills that helped him relax, made a small change to equipment and holy smokes... he was soft, relaxed, focused, and still craving that turn :D 
Fingers crossed for good things this season!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Maybe I'm biased...

... but she's gorgeous! 
Lefta, May 2017 photo credit @imagesbyRoman
Once in awhile I'll catch a glimpse of one of my horses, in person or a photo, and almost need to pinch myself.  I grew up without horses but was determined to have one someday.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd own horses of any real quality though... all I wanted was a horse even if it was just a "scruffy backyard" one. 
The above pic of Lefta was taken by my newest boarder (AK), who is a fledgling photographer (imagesbyRoman), I stumbled upon it on Instagram days after it was taken.  It was taken at my place during a jackpot we were hosting.  I had tied up Lefta after her run and gone to grab Frosty for his turn.  AK had stopped in and snapped a few pics, and yes I have her permission to share this :)