My Horsemanship Background

While in high school, I trained with PHBA multiple 1st in the Nation Reining Honor Roll Award Winner and Reserve World Champion, and Color Breed Congress Reining Champion trainer Richelle Beene. From Richelle, I learned to treat every horse as an individual-there is no “cookie cutter” training method to force a horse to perform. Richelle also introduced me to natural horsemanship, teaching me to make the right thing easy, the wrong thing difficult, and to reward the slightest try. To learn more about Richelle and equine opportunities in the Northwoods of WI, visit http://www.WesternConnectionRanch.com. Richelle let me show her horses at PHBA shows (Youth riders do not need to own a horse to show PHBA.) I earned ROMs in Reining, Horsemanship and Hunt Seat Equitation. In 2005 I was 3rd in the Nation-Youth Reining 14-18. I also showed my horse, Tin Tanker, in AQHA shows earning points in Novice Youth Horsemanship, and 4H shows earning multiple Top 10 Awards at the WI State 4H Horse Expo.

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WI State 4H Horse Expo with Tank

After High School, I moved away from Rhinelander, WI to attend college at UW-River Falls. There I continued learning through the Equine Program, competing on both the English and Western Intercollegiate Horse Show Association teams. I completed the Colts in Training Class in 2008 and 2010. I took every equine management and western riding class offered, including the Equine Reproduction class, breeding mares by AI, collecting stallions, and foaling care. I graduated from UW-RF in 2010 with a major in Biology and a minor in Animal Science.


My College Graduation Photo

I have applied my “book learning” to the horses in my care. I have worked with horses of all breeds and disciplines, from Quarter Horses to Welsh Ponies and even some gaited breeds. In January of 2009 I was chosen as a trainer for the 2009 Midwest Extreme Mustang Makeover, receiving two wild Nevada Mustang mares that I had 100 days to tame and train for the competition. “Renegade” and “Revolver” tested everything I thought I knew, and taught me a lot in the process. The biggest thing that they gave me was confidence-if I could teach two wild mares to not only accept human contact, but to trust me enough to actually allow me to ride them, and trust me through the commotion of the people packed Midwest Horse Fair and still concentrate enough to compete, then I could accomplish anything.


Competing with Reva at the 2009 Midwest Extreme Mustang Makeover

After graduating from UW-River Falls in May 2010, I went out on my own training horses. I became an IPHDA Professional Trainer, utilizing the IPHDA Patterns to teach both horses and riders basic body control for success in many different disciplines. Horses that I trained were successful as recreational trail horses, in 4H Shows, and at Foundation QH Shows. My biggest successes were with Welsh Ponies-Ponies that I have trained, shown, and/or coached earned over 1,300 WPCSA points in events ranging from Halter, Western Pleasure, English Pleasure, Trail, Low Hunter, and Ridden Welsh Classic, including multiple Top 10 in the Nation and North Central Region Grand Champions.

I continued my equine education by attending clinics with World Champion trainers including Sandy Collier, Richard Winters, and Mike Major. I have become a Protege member of Al Dunning’s Team AD International, to further improve my horsemanship. In addition to riding with other trainers whenever I can, I also am an avid horse training dvd and book learner. I believe that we never quit learning, and since every horse I train is different I find it to my advantage to learn a bunch of different methods and approaches to training.


Riding with Richard Winters at the 2011 Midwest Horse Fair.


Riding Mike Major’s AQHA World Champion mare Black Hope Stik at the 2011 Midwest Horse Fair.


Riding Lesson with Al Dunning Summer 2012.

In the fall of 2012 I relocated to Reedsburg, WI, to my fiance’s farm, and quit taking in training horses.  In January, 2013, I became the luckiest cowgirl on earth, and married the cowboy of my dreams. Special thanks to Mr Dunning, who not only introduced us, but allowed us to have our wedding at his beautiful ranch.


Wedding photo taken by the amazing Charles Brooks.

Since getting married, I have learned a lot about cows and am very involved in running our registered Hereford cow-calf operation. I am enjoying the resulting shift in my horse training too, instead of focusing on show pen goals, we instead focus on training our horses to work our cattle. In July 2014 we welcomed our own little cowboy to our family, which has added another set of tasks to my list, and we are expecting little cowboy #2 in 2016. I enjoy every day working with my family, taking care of our animals, and wouldn’t trade my farm life for anything different!

Cowboy Colton

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I should have learned this by now!

On Friday we shipped the feeder calves.

And when my hubby pulled out of the driveway with them all loaded, I cried.

I should have learned this lesson not last year, but the year before that, to NOT give the feeder calves names.

(In case you are wondering, their names were Big Guy, Amigo, Trouble, Little Buddy, Twinkie, Flashy, and Hugo.)

Which is a little hard not to do when they are little adorable, cute baby calves.

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Writing this post reminded me of the poem “The Weather” by Red Steagall.

In it, he says “I can’t move to the desert for the winter, because I would get to missing my cows, and I am right partial to them cows. I’m there when they’re calving, and the missus gives each one a name.”

This is one of my favorite poems, I also am “right partial” to our cows. As we care for them and their calves throughout the year, we get to know their different temperaments. Some of the calves are bold and outgoing, playful. Others are timid. Some are flighty. Some of the cows don’t want you to mess with their newborn calf. And, it proves that I am not the only one that names the calves.

So even though I probably should have learned this by now, I know that when this year’s calves start arriving in a few weeks time, I will still give each one a name.

To listen to “The Weather” poem, click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hf9SIJuwjQ8

Must Have Baby Items for an Active Farm Wife

I can’t believe our little cowboy is 5 months old already. Where did the time go?

colton playing

Someone asked me the other day how I did it-how did I take care of the baby, and also help take care of the 30+ cows, handful of horses, goats, dogs and don’t forget the cat!

I didn’t really have an answer for them. I thought about it that night, and it really just comes down to prioritizing what has to get done, and doing that first. Much of the time what has to get done first is feeding the baby, and I am really lucky that for the most part he is a happy, easy going baby that enjoys being outside.

That, and I have a two very helpful items that make it possible for us to be active and bring our little cowboy along with us as we work on the farm.

The #1 Most Helpful Baby Item: Baby Carrier

I got a Baby Bjorn as a baby shower gift from my Grandma, and we use it almost daily. With the Baby Bjorn I can have both hands to fix fence, carry grain buckets, or work the chute. In cooler weather I zip him up under my jacket and put a hat on him. An added bonus-I’ve worked off the baby weight faster carrying him around!

You can get one here: Baby Bjorn from Amazon

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The #2 Most Helpful Baby Item: Jogging Stroller

Because let’s face it-there is no such thing as even ground on a farm. And sometimes I get tired of carrying a 20 lb baby!

The big tires on this stroller easily move over rough terrain. This stroller was compatible with my infant car sear, so when he was littler I could just snap the car seat right onto the stroller. This was a shower gift from my other grandma and aunts. An added bonus-it folds up easily to store in the back of my jeep when we travel!

Baby Trend Jogging Stroller

 

 

jogging stroller shed part 1

 

Between those two things I’ve been pretty much able to take care of our animals and a baby. And get some fresh air and exercise at the same time!

What baby items have made life easier for you?

When the Farmer is Away, the Cows will Play (The struggles of a Farm Wife when her husband leaves for a week!)

Last Monday my Hubby left at 5 am for Wyoming for the week.

Leaving me to take care of 34 cattle, 7 horses, 2 goats, 2 dogs and a cat.

Oh yeah, and also to take care of our 4 1/2 month old son.

If that wasn’t enough, I also do have a full-time office job in town.

No big deal, right? Before he left he made sure that automatic waterers were working, that all of the pens had round bales, that grain was ordered, and the fence fixed so that the cows could be out on the corn stalks. So for chores all I needed to do was fill one water tank, throw hay to the horses, and grain the horses, calves, and the bull, and feed the goats. Chores would only take about 20 minutes in the morning, and maybe 40 minutes in the evening.

No worries-I can handle that!

At 6:30 am, I got out of the shower, looked out the window, and saw that most of our cows were out in our yard.

cows on the lawn

Well, this sucks!

It was only 7 degrees out, so I opted to put the baby in the pack n’ play where he would be safe and warm while I ran outside.

Luckily, most of our cows we raised as heifers, and they know what a bucket means. All but three of them followed me and a bucket of grain back into the pasture where they belong.

The last three, however, didn’t want to go in.

So I called my hubby, obviously upset and mad at this point. Ok, so I was crying. And maybe didn’t use very polite language.

I mean, come on. Why do the cows hate me? After 15 minutes of unsuccessful trying, I had given up and gone inside with the baby. If anyone would have shown up, I would have sold every cow on the farm for $1/head.

So Hubby calls his Dad (Paw Paw), who was able to leave work to come and help.

By the time he arrived, it had warmed up slightly, and since getting the last three cows in was not a one person job, I dressed our little farm helper in three layers of warm clothes, a hat, and put him in the baby carrier and snuggled him up underneath my coat. (Side note-the baby carrier is one of my favorite things that allows me to carry him around and still have two hands to get a job done-thanks Grandma Deloris for the helpful gift!)

Between the three of us, we managed to get the three bovine escapees back into the pasture with their friends.

Next Paw Paw checked the fence to see how the cows got out. He even tested the fence to see if it was still working. It was.

A little bit of walking around and investigating showed us the answer to the escaped cow problem.

open gate

Hubby had left a panel open, allowing the cows to escape.

It was a good thing he was gone for a week, cause it took me a few days to cool down and get over being mad at him for this one!

The Indoor Riding Arena Project (AKA I love my Hubby!)

My hubby is amazing.

Last winter I didn’t ride at all. Mostly because I was pregnant, but also because from November through April, our outdoor arena is either covered in snow, ice, or is so wet that you can’t ride in it.

This winter, I really, really, really wanted an area to ride that wasn’t snowy or icy so that I can get Molasses ready to show in Foundation QH or Ranch Horse shows next summer.

It didn’t take much persuading to get my Hubby to clear out 2/3 of our shed to make space for a 60′ x 80′ indoor riding arena.

With some help from his brother and a few friends,  over the span of three weeks working evenings and weekends they turned our shed into a really nice riding arena!

shed part 1 shed2 shed3 shed4 shed5 shed6 shed7 shed8 shed9 shed10

 

We were three boards short to be completely finished as you can see from the last photo.

It might be windy and snowy and icy outside, but I now have a space out of the wind with decent footing to ride this winter. Which is great, as we have a 2 year old to start under saddle, Molasses to keep legged up and get ready for me to show next summer, and a broodmare that was started as a two year old, then not ridden to restart.

And it will be a great place for Colton and our nephew to ride Mr. Potter the Perfect Pony over the winter too!

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Did I mention that I love my Hubby?

Just for Fun-The 5 Pieces of Tack I Can’t Live Without (AKA Gift Buying Guide for the Picky Cowgirl)

Over the years of training horses I often have had people ask me what tack I would recommend. The tack listed below is what I use personally. None of it is cheap-but I have found that spending the extra money to buy higher quality tack does make a difference in your horses comfort-and your horse’s performance. I also linked where you can buy the tack I recommend, so if you are wondering what to buy the picky cowgirl in your life, here are some ideas. Keep tuned-I will also be posting a fun western fashion guide highlighting the riding attire and accessories I like.

So here are a few of my favorite things:

1. Don Dodge Smooth Snaffle Bit by Greg Darnell

If I could only own one bit, I would own the Don Dodge Smooth Snaffle bit made by Greg Darnell. This snaffle bit is balanced and has nice feel, and I like the D Rings so it doesn’t pinch or pull through the horse’s mouth as easily. They are really reasonably priced too. You can get one for yourself (or as a present for a friend) by visiting http://aldunningsadtack.com/index.php?p=product&id=46

2. Schutz Brothers Reins

Good reins make a huge difference is cuing your horse. Reins that are too light flop and wiggle excessively, giving your horse signals you don’t want. Too heavy and thick reins are hard hold and handle. These Schutz Brothers Reins are just right-soft and pliable in your hands, have enough weight to drape well, and carry the slightest signal down to the bit. You can get them from AD Tack when you buy your Snaffle Bit 🙂 http://aldunningsadtack.com/index.php?p=product&id=82

3. Mohair Cinch

When I was training horses I used only neoprene cinches so that I could disinfect them easily between horses and prevent girth fungus, but always had a problem with girth sores. I never even tried a mohair cinch until I met my hubby-and now I am a convert to the mohair, and now I dislike using the neoprene cinches. The mohair breathes better, these cinches last longer, and I haven’t had a single girth sore on any of my horses since. They are more expensive than a neoprene or cotton string cinch, but trust me, it is worth it, and your horse will thank you! Dennis Moreland makes a great one (http://www.dmtack.com/products/10cs-dm-straight-cincha/) or if you want to save a little bit of money, we have used some of these cinches sold by Smith Brothers and they work good too-I like the roller buckle on the Smith Brothers Cinch for our rope horses. http://www.smithbrothers.com/smith-brothers-100%25-mohair-roller-buckle-cinch/p/X3-02172/

4. Quality Wool Saddle Pad

We like using these wool pads from Smith Brothers as everyday work pads. Like the Mohair Cinches, the wool pads are more expensive, but they do last longer and your horse will thank you! http://www.smithbrothers.com/smith-brothers-100%25-wool-pad/p/X3-1965/

5. Bob’s Cowhorse Saddle

When we first got engaged, someone jokingly asked my hubby how much money he had to pay for his bride-to-be. Without missing a beat, he replied “A truck, a trailer, 2 saddles, and a horse,” as I had instantly claimed as “mine” some of his things. One of those two saddles was his (now my) Bob’s Cowhorse Saddle. A quality saddle makes a big difference in your position, and when your position in the saddle is correct, your horse can perform better.  Visit http://aldunningsadtack.com/index.php?p=product&id=4 to get your own.

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Molasses tacked up in the Bob’s Cowhorse Saddle, Mohair Cinch, and Wool Saddle Pad.

Performance Horsemanship or Natural Horsemanship? My Performance Horsemanship Philosophy in Detail

Performance Horsemanship or Natural Horsemanship?
My Performance Horsemanship Philosophy in Detail

In simple terms, I strive to follow natural horsemanship principles when training my horses, while keeping the big picture in mind that my horses have a job-they have to be broke enough to work cattle.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? However, I am somewhat reluctant to call what I do natural horsemanship.

Why? Because I understand that not all of what I do is considered “natural horsemanship” by some people.

What I have found is that the word natural has been taken out of context by some natural horsemanship enthusiasts. What should be simple has been made complex. In some people’s eyes, you cannot be a “natural horseman” if your horses wear shoes, if you ride your horse in any sort of bit, or if you feed your horses grain. Do a google search for Natural Horsemanship, and you will see what I mean.

I ride with spurs. I will use a curb bit on my horses. I will use a training aid like a german martingale if the situation warrants it. Sometimes our rope horses are rode in a tie-down. Currently none of my horses have shoes, but they will be shod if they need it. If we really think about, nothing that we do with our horses is natural!

I still like to think that I am a Natural Horsewoman. I own and have read all of the books by the “Fathers of Natural Horsemanship”: Tom and Bill Dorrance, Ray Hunt, Buck Brannaman, etc. I follow their principles of making the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult. I strive be gentle as possible, yet as firm as necessary with my horses. I am constantly learning, researching, and expanding my horsemanship knowledge. I want what is best for my horses. When I hit a roadblock with my horse, I try to think what the horse is thinking, and feel what the horse is feeling, to understand the cause of the resistance, so I can fix it without causing my horse undue stress. I want my horse to think for himself-if they notice a bear in the woods, I want them to get us outta dodge! I want my horse to be my partner-not a machine-because at the end of the day, my horses are not show horses. They are ranch horses, and we have a job to do.

So that is why I like the label of “Performance Horsemanship” better. In training my horses I strive to develop control the five main body parts of the horse-the head, neck, shoulders, rib cage, and hips. When I can independently control the different body parts of my horse, we can be more successful at working cattle. How I develop that control might not be considered natural by all people, but I never use fear, intimidation, or force to get the control I need. If a job is too much for a particular horse, I admit it. Putting a horse in a situation that they can’t handle would only cause injury to human, horse, or cattle. The most important thing at the end of the day is that everyone: human, horses, and cattle, are handled without injury and/or undue stress. It may not be natural, but it gets the job done, and my horses are sound and happy, so I must be doing something right.

Molasses Cows