7 Habits of a grateful Rodeo kid

 

parker-rodeo

 

I read an article today on being a grateful athlete in todays world.

The article was called; 7 Habits of a grateful athlete. It was authored by Brian Smith and can be found at www.athletesinaction.org

As I read through this article I found it refreshingly mirrored some of the very qualities we have been teaching our children. I then sat back and pondered what the 7 habits of a grateful rodeo kid would be? Using my own beliefs and the beliefs of many of my fellow rodeo parents, I came up with my own spin on the topic. My list holds a few similarities but also a few sport specific beliefs that many parents such as myself and my wife uphold on a daily basis.

Before we start though lets have a refresher for those who are unfamiliar with Rodeo and its concept.

So what exactly is rodeo?

Rodeo

The American English word “rodeo” is taken directly from Spanish rodeo ([roˈðe.o]), which roughly translates into English as “round up

Rodeo is a competitive sport that arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later Central America, the United States, Canada, South America, Australia and New Zealand. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States, western Canada, and northern Mexico. Today it is a sporting event that involves horses and other livestock, designed to test the skill and speed of the cowboys and cowgirls. American style professional rodeos generally comprise the following events: tie-down roping, team roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc riding, bull riding and barrel racing. The events are divided into two basic categories: the rough stock events and the timed events. Depending on sanctioning organization and region, other events such as breakaway roping, goat tying, or pole bending may also be a part of some rodeos.

Many rodeo events were based on the tasks required by cattle ranching. The working cowboy developed skills to fit the needs of the terrain and climate of the American west, and there were many regional variations. The skills required to manage cattle and horses date back to the Spanish traditions of the vaquero.

Early rodeo-like affairs of the 1820s and 1830s were informal events in the western United States and northern Mexico with cowboys and vaqueros testing their work skills against one another.[9][10] Following the American Civil War, rodeo competitions emerged, with the first held in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1872.[10] Prescott, Arizona claimed the distinction of holding the first professional rodeo, as it charged admission and awarded trophies in 1888.[11] Between 1890 and 1910, rodeos became public entertainment, sometimes combined Wild West shows featuring individuals such as Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, and other charismatic stars.[10] By 1910, several major rodeos were established in western North America, including the Calgary Stampede, the Pendleton Round-Up, and the Cheyenne Frontier Days.

Rodeo-type events also became popular for a time in the big cities of the Eastern United States, with large venues such as Madison Square Garden playing a part in popularizing them for new crowds. There was no standardization of events for a rodeo competition until 1929, when associations began forming.

In the 1970s, rodeo saw unprecedented growth. Contestants referred to as “the new breed” brought rodeo increasing media attention. These contestants were young, often from an urban background, and chose rodeo for its athletic rewards. By 1985, one third of PRCA members had a college education and one half of the competitors had never worked on a cattle ranch.[12] Today, some professional rodeos are staged in large, air-conditioned arenas; offer large purses, and are often telecast. Many other professional rodeos are held outside, under the same conditions of heat, cold, dust or mud as were the original events.

~Wikipedia~

My wife and I have always preached being grateful as an adult and I believe that comes from a tempered or aged wisdom which allows adults to see what the youthful eye cannot. For when we are young it is very easy to become self-centered; forgetting the where, why and how of it all. Believing there is only one person in the universe that matters and that person is yourself. Parents often times inadvertently help with this self-absorption. Creating often times a very self-centered child by constantly praising their failures, awarding them for mediocre performances while never allowing them to work hard after recovering from the sting of defeat. These parents will purchase the newest greatest next everything including horses at the drop of a hat without any consideration the equipment they have is fine and the horse may not be the problem, but the child themselves. As a parent, in my opinion constantly bowing to a child whenever things don’t go their way is a set course for disaster! This often leads to a rodeo athlete who doesn’t understand just how lucky they are to be where they are, doing what they are doing, all why relying on a partner who speaks no English, knows nothing of what the game plan is other than a learned skill and has no way to say afterwards; Hey dude that wasn’t me this time it was all you! Hence ungratefulness and emotional meltdowns ensue.

I will constantly tell a child to smile while leaving the arena, no matter the outcome of a run! A simple reminder that this moment you are in was the luckiest, best thing you could have done today! Who else gets to do these amazing things on horseback in front of a cheering crowd? Who else but you and your closest friends? You have already beaten the odds by even being here! Smile! Smile big! You practiced and this time it didn’t work out, but next time it will! Just remain grateful and keep working hard.

I tell my children no matter how poorly you may have done, get up, knock the dust off and smile! People always remember the kid who gave it their all with a smile on their face! You can be mad at yourself, mad at the run, hell even mad at your horse because yes, even though I always preach look at yourself first before being angry at the horse, horses have bad days too! But take your time, wait until you are out of the arena, away from everyone else before you let any evil out of the jar!! Take a few minutes, compose yourself and remember you participated and did something most people only dream about. Hell most parents envy you a little because we can no longer compete! So you did something most people don’t get to do and your parents secretly envy you? Yeah I’d say that is pretty freaking cool!

One day coming out of the cutting pen my son reminded me of just how important my own words had become by throwing them right back into my face. I had worked hard during the winter on getting my horse just right. I strolled slowly into the herd as confident as I had ever been. I knew what cattle I wanted, my horse was supple and relaxed, Hell as far as I was concerned they should have already written the check out to me! After pulling my first cow out for a clean cut, I dropped my hand, sat back, turned out my toes and completely relaxed. This was going to be a kick ass run. In the end it was an; I got my ass kicked run. Nothing and I mean nothing went right after the second or third jump and I ended up schooling my mare. Instead of winning the round, I walked out with a zero.

As I passed through the gate, angry as hell, dejected and wanting to punch something (I am a little competitive) my son said; Great job dad! Smile! Who else gets to go out and do what you just did!

The son teaching the father. I smiled because I was in fact grateful.

With that little story here are my 7 habits of a grateful Rodeo kid

  1. Always thankful to God. We get up each morning and from the minute we pull our boots on we should be counting the many blessings put before us. Riding rough stock, training and riding horses, learning to rope, steer wrestle, goat tie and chute dog, it all takes time and skill. Thank God each and every day for the gift of life, the ability to thrive for everything you have achieved or will achieve. Thank God for the ability to fail! For failures are what eventually leads to improvement and a solid winning attitude.
  2. See’s the run in their head. You have practiced it, you have done it a million times the right way at home. Enjoy the very moment coming before you by closing your eyes and seeing yourself completing an amazing run, rope a steer perfectly, or wrestle a steer to the ground with ease. Riding bulls or Broncs? Who is your favorite rider, picture yourself making the very same ride your hero has, using the very same technique and effort! Enjoy this moment and use the power of your mind to see the perfection locked inside.
  3. Helps someone every single chance they get. Rodeo is a giant family and somewhere, someday you might need help in return. Always sharing knowledge you have gained, what you’ve seen while comparing notes you have taken. A truly grateful rodeo athlete knows that by helping others you are raising the competitive bar and that makes for a better rodeo all the way around. Be the first to congratulate another competitor when they have done well, always have an encouraging word, share a smile, a pat on the back, a high five! Your support will be returned tenfold, I promise!
  4. Always remains humble. Rodeo athletes who come across as entitled just don’t get it. They aren’t thankful, grateful and their attitude can bring about resentment and hate. Remain humble, honest and true to the values your parents gave you. Honesty, good sportsmanship, empathy and desire to be the best (best partner, contestant, coach, friend etc.) Buckles are great, money is awesome but those things should never define who YOU are. Remember you are only as good as your last run.
  5. Listens, listens, listens. You are never too good to take advice. The learning process never ends and someday when you are older you will hopefully feel the desire to pass everything you learned to another, whether it be your own children or clients. Remember to treat others the way you expect to be treated and that sometimes means to listen more and talk less..
  6. Treats ALL animals as if they were their own! You cannot compete without livestock! Don’t treat your horses, cattle and goats like a piece of machinery to be fueled, worked and thrown in a garage never to be seen until the next rodeo. Be grateful for their existence and abilities. Care for them like they were family because in some cases if you are really lucky that is exactly what they become. I have seen many of the meanest bucking bulls in the arena act like little puppies loving on their human for some ear scratching outside the arena! These animals truly love their jobs when treated right and in the end there is no greater bond than a grateful child and their horse.
  7. Continually thanking everyone that helped you along the way. Your parents, grandparents and even in some cases your brothers and sisters, they spent countless hours getting you where you needed to be when you needed to be there. Trainers, horses, cattle, ropes, saddles, tack, everything you need mom, dad and even sponsors did their best to make it happen. Nothing says you are a grateful human being like showing gratitude for the sacrifices these people all made so that you could ride into an arena, good, bad or otherwise and ride out with a smile on your face.

There you have it! How I feel our children should approach this great American sport. I know my children hear this all the time. It starts from the minute I remind them to remove their hats during the national anthem and continues until the moment they are asleep in the truck during our long ride home.

Our children should dream big! Shoot for the stars! But at the end of the day where ever they end up, these days here rodeoing with friends will be some of the best, most memorable days of their lives. Why not help by building a solid foundation that will lead them out into this world with a grateful attitude? It can only bring them success in life.

Let’s go, lets show, lets rodeo!!!

 

 

 

 

 

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He wasn’t just a horse…

tank-5

When we received the phone call my wife sat me down and prepared me for the next statement. No it wasn’t anything drastic, we had been looking for a cutting horse for some time hoping to start Jake in that direction.

But with myself having grown up around horses and on a working horse farm she knew the words coming out of her mouth were instantly going to be met with resistance.

“I think we found a horse for Jake, I am going with our friend to look at him”

Me: Cool you found a nice gelding for Jake to ride?

Her: Um, no he’s a stud.

Cue: opinionated, I know more than you, obnoxious, are you freaking crazy look.

I ranted for a minute or two about the dangers of a stud in conjunction with no child should be on, near or around a stud let alone further learn, hone or develop their cutting skills aboard a stud! WE DON’T NEED IT, DON’T WANT IT, AINT HAVING ANY OF IT!!

Lil War Peppy- A.K.A Tank arrived at our doorstep the next day, out of shape, with long incorrect feet and a studly bellow which let everyone know on our ranch that although he didn’t exactly look the part, he was the new master of this domain.

I shook my head.

Tank was born April 6 1992 on Village Creek Ranch in Burleson Texas. He was born a direct son to the great world champion Stud Peppy San Badger who was introduced into the American Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame in 2008. Yes he had royalty in his veins and soon enough we would see it shine through.

He traveled around a bit after his four year old year, moving to Wynnewood Oklahoma, the Compass R Ranch in Campbell Texas and through a sheer stroke of luck after a series of unfortunate events our little Blue Sky Ranch right here in Winters Ca.

We knew the minute this out of shape, screwy footed horse stood in front of a cow inside an open arena we had in fact made the right choice.

The very moment he unloaded out of the trailer and I was finally able to be face to face with this majestic diamond in the rough I knew my wife was right, and I needed to just shut the hell up.

I heard about these fabled stallions, the ones that don’t act like idiots all the time that actually listen, even when surrounded by mares yet I didn’t believe. Every stud horse I had encountered my entire life had always been an idiot. Oh some were sweet as pie as long as they were isolated or surrounded by very docile geldings. But never had I seen a stud who was gentler and sweeter than any gelding could ever be.

Tank took some conditioning and gentle, corrective foot care to get him back in line. He had a horrible split in his right front hoof that took almost two years to completely repair. He was a little stand offish at first and after a few weeks of me establishing some solid ground rules he slowly came to realize this was indeed his home and no one was going to pen him up or harm him in any way.

My son Jake, took to him right away, and he to Jake. The horse was a bit rusty and he favored his right side but with some solid schooling from Wes Johnson Cutting Horses and a bunch of lessons with junior aboard the two became quite a team. They rode almost every day and it wasn’t long before Tank was following Jake along like a puppy. And right there is where I saw it. I saw the look, in his eye, his neck, his relaxed demeanor and his ability to adapt to whatever Jake asked of him. Tank knew when Jake wasn’t doing it right and I can’t tell you how many times I watched that horse scoop the kid up during a run! Jake was out of position so tank would lose the advantage and place himself out of position to scoop the kid back up hoping not to lose him while getting back to work.

tank-4

Whenever Jake was around Tank would lower his head and listen intently, it was a thing of beauty. Occasionally he would remember he was a stud, but with a little correction he would fall right back into the fold and remember his place.

Now not everything was always daisies and roses, there would be times when Jake would cross up signals or Tank just simply hadn’t been warmed up enough and he would say screw you guys and get a bit broncy. One time in particular I think Jake was about 12, during a practice Tank just flat had enough of the crossed up signals bullshit and after several attempts to save the kid told him to get off! As a father in my opinion it was the greatest moment of that kid’s life! He rode that bronc all the way across the arena, with two old guys (me and Wes) screaming ride er cowboy!!!!! They made it to the furthest wall when Jake did the unthinkable. He reached out mid buck and grabbed for the fence line. One of the deadliest mistakes any cowboy can make. Grabbing the fence mid buck is a one way ticket to some missing teeth, a broken rib or face and even death. You always ride it out and if you start losing it, look for a spot out in the open where you can hit the ground and roll away without harm. Never wedge yourself between a fence and a firing set of 1400 pound hooves.

Luckily for Jake Tank bucked off the opposite direction. Jake sat for a moment stunned at what just happened. Looked at us both, started to snivel a bit and then said; DID YOU SEE THAT??? I RODE HIM!!!

We all laughed and with a little coaxing, a minute or two of schooling by Wes and Jake got right back on and finished his set. It was a defining moment for them both.

The two of them went on to win a few things and finally came up reserve grand champions in our cutting club before we figured out just why no matter what we did this horse favored his right side.

He had a bum shoulder. We will never know if he injured it as young colt or even as a young stud. He spent ten years on one ranch with little on record to show for it. But no matter the limitation that horse would always give you his best try. It was just who he was, and if he couldn’t do it he still tried.

Over the years Jake moved on to younger, more agile and skilled horses and Tank became mine. I rode him three to four times a week, keeping him in shape and would cut on him to sharpen my skills. He was solid and slow and not always correct which allowed me to focus on my riding ability instead of the horses ability to cut. As long as I always remembered to go easy on that right side, we would be just fine. I got what I needed and he always strutted out of the arena feeling accomplished.

Eventually he became my turnback horse. It was the one job he truly loved. He always knew when we were headed out to the practice ring or off to a show. He would get excited and call for me as soon as the trailer backed up to the barn. He didn’t care for corner work, but that’s because I think he wanted to cut the cows, but he loved turning back, more specifically the left side of the arena. He could push off that left front much better on the jump so he knew his place inside the fence line.

Over the last three years of his life, he taught several kids how to ride, made several more happy to have a horse to ride, was used for senior pictures and was the go to horse for our youngest Parker. Tank and I also participated in a Sutters Fort reenactment where we rode in together as mail call for the settlers. He loved doing it and would get super excited as we rode around the park surrounding Sutters Fort in downtown Sacramento. As we passed people in the park they would smile and wave and he would calm down just so they could pet him. Once away from the pedestrians his head would come up, his ears would go forward and his tail would rise. He would strut, like a king, like the boss, like a stud. Once we passed through the forts front gates, it all went away, and it was show time.

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He loved those little kids which was the strangest thing to me. When little kids came around he would put his head all the way down to their level and wait. He loved nothing more than their little hands petting his face, stroking his neck and scratching his ears. He wouldn’t move so much as a single muscle. Just stand there like a statue, ears moving back and forth, lips being licked and eyes soft and gentle, not a tense bone in his body. I had somebody tell me once that Tank looked as though if he could have laid on his back like a puppy he would have just so the kids could scratch his belly.

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Tank became my best friend.

The hours we spent talking, going for rides, helping teach kids, riding alongside others and simply being a team I could not count. He was the first place I would go when walking into our barn. The first one to get rode while others sat saddled and tied to the barn or inside the arena. He stayed with me all day as my mount for when I was helping others. We have gathered cattle, doctored cattle, branded, rode the trails, gone sorting, cutting and worked the alleyways of events. But most all of he listened and gave me consistency when I needed it most. The last three years with Jacy being sick have been hell. He has always been my favorite confidant, that non judgemental set of ears that carried me and allowed me an hour or two of normalcy during our very abnormal times.

No matter what I needed to do, where I needed to do it, be it rain or shine, this wonderful, kind, amazing animal was there for me. I truly loved him.

Tank passed away on Saturday the 17th 2016.

I got the phone call from one of our borders that he didn’t look right. He was breathing hard and not acting his normal self. She had seen him roll in his stall and he just didn’t act right after that. She sent me a video of him breathing hard and although it was hard to see I had a bad feeling.

Our barn manager showed up minutes later, calling me to say it was colic and she was starting treatment. I pulled off the freeway and we both started mass calling Vet’s to get someone there as soon as possible. By the time I arrived I knew it wasn’t good. His demeanor was poor, he was breathing very heavy and soaked in sweat. When I walked up and took him from one of the girls, he sighed heavy and just leaned into me. I stroked his mane, kissed his forehead and told him I loved him.

My heart was breaking.

Tank passed away later that afternoon.

I have lost quite few animals in my life. Some were closer than others, but losing this horse was hands down the toughest one to date. What this horse (the one I didn’t want) brought to our family was a piece of fabric that wove us all together. He was the best horse I have ever owned. I can say unequivocally that I loved him with all my heart and as he slipped away with his head near my lap, me stroking his mane, while he stayed relaxed because he trusted me, I could no longer hold back my emotions.

If you know horses, if you love horses than you know just how powerful that moment was, when a stud horse not only trusts you, but trusts you all the way to the very end. He would have done anything I asked of him and the thought of this ranch without him was and still is overwhelming to say the least.

Some will say just get over it, there are a million great horses out there, and yes I will turn the corner from sadness to fondness for all he brought us the minute he crossed through those gates. But for right now, at this very point in time, well, I haven’t even been in the barn. His stall empty, no bellow or happy snort as I walk inside to greet me and no big 1400 pound hug. It just hurts my heart way too much.

Tank is laid to rest overlooking the ranch from under the old oak tree. Right next to him is the founder of our ranch and Cooper’s good dog rescue. Cooper himself. There were two dogs Tank let follow him around. One was Cooper the other is Jack.

I hope his spirit is running wild and free with Cooper right by his side hoping we will see each other again.

I just wish I could ride him one more time, we have so much to talk about……..

tank-1

What if??

calvinWhat if?

As of late I have written about many aspects of our family, between watching my oldest graduate, the 13-year-old head off to compete in Junior High National Finals Rodeo, my two little ones finding their way around horses, softball and the thrill of competing associated with both, and of course my wife’s almost year-long battle with Leukemia. There has been plenty to lament over.

As most of you know I am an advocate for youth and horsemanship. So many of our youth are missing out on the joys associated with horses and the many disciplines that accompany these amazing animals. I feel as though we have the perfect life, its hard and gritty, exhausting and at time debilitating, but it is perfect.  Our children and our animals being the key or center of this perfect life. But being that as it may often times we sit images-8around the back yard with friends, a couple of beers and play the “what if” game. Usually revolving around “what if” you had a million dollars? Or “What if” you won the lottery? How would that change you and would it create the perfect life?

For me the answer is always the same.  While others conjure up majestic fantasies of philanthropy, travel, education, expensive colleges for their children and houses beyond what anyone really needs, all I center on revolves around children and horses.  (Ok maybe a new cutting horse for me, and a new kitchen for the house, but hey it’s my fantasy right?)

My dream centers on taking what hard work, luck and Gods guidance has provided our family, then building upon it.  An entire facility to help kids learn how to rope, cut, run barrels, chute dog, bull-dog, tie down rope, goat tie, etc.. A place where our local kids could come and practice, enjoy their horses, while also enjoying the camaraderie that comes with practicing surrounded by like-minded individuals, friends.  A place for kids to go have fun while learning every aspect of rodeo long after I am gone from this earth.

I can hear you now. Cant you already do that? What on earth would all that money be for? A fully functioning covered roping arena with cattle, ground improvements for year round work, a larger safer all-weather barn, every training aid available for the kids, a covered hot walker and simply put ( I know its selfish) a larger horse trailer and a truck without 200,000 miles on it.

Hey it is my dream.

The funny part about this whole crazy dream of mine, is 10 years ago if you had asked me if I’d ever step foot on a horse again, I would have told you no…..

As I have become older and through the eyes of my own children I have learned of my own short comings, the opportunities I gave up simply by quitting. Whether it was a fight with my parents, the hard work associated or my longing to be anything but what I was; trying to hide from my reality.

1534362_10203543583096759_624480372_nI grew up on a horse ranch. We moved from a very small place in Napa when I was 5 to a nice spread in Sonoma.  My parents had a very large barn, hot walker, paddocks, of course horses and a fully functioning roping arena. I vaguely remember trainers and the occasional times when as a small child I would sit atop the cattle chutes. My parents belonged to Napa Valley Horseman’s Association so once a month we attended dinner meetings and once or twice a month we loaded up and headed out for horse shows.  For me as a small child it was fun, horses were around, trainers and their kids and sometimes we would wait until no one was looking to hitch rides aboard the Hot Walker by clipping our belt loops to the lead lines then hanging on for fun! (This always got us in really huge trouble)

But as I grew older my opinions changed. It has taken me until just recently to understand why? We never had much money so my parents fought a lot about finances and the horses. As young children this was particularly scary. My father’s booming voice was always frightening but never more so than directed at my mother.  I wasn’t a particularly popular kid, early on my social skills were indeed lacking and wearing boots, buckles and western shirts to school didn’t help much either.  But as I said money wasn’t falling from the sky so we wore what we wore and even though I was teased at times I did like my boots.

By the time I hit junior high, 4-H consumed my life, and raising sheep to show at the fair was fun. Thank God for the whole Urban Cowboy thing, cause I was able to wear my cowboy hat with pride. I still dabbled with riding now and again, but gave it up as I felt 546605_3926690932288_428394999_nthere was no way I was ever going to get it right. My mother’s standards were high and I was always looking for the easy way out. This of course caused friction. I still remember everything she taught me to this day, including basic horsemanship principles.  Always accused of never listening or being too lazy finally took a toll upon my spirit as I began believing this to be true of myself as a whole.

My parents had a stud-horse. He was dappled and dark, tall and elegant looking, he was a race horse and had won on the track; he was also a complete asshole.  We were always warned to stay away from this horse although secretly I always wanted to kick his ass.  Even at a young age I can remember daydreaming about being big and strong enough to walk in grab this horse, throw everything I had ever been taught about horsemanship out the window and just plain old-fashioned choke this bastard out! I would stand near his paddock, alongside the shavings pile and stare at him. He would charge the fence, rear up and slam his hooves on the ground, kick, ram gates, and bellow at the top of his lungs. If he ever got out we would have to hide in a stall or the house out of fear.  He pushed my mom around and loathed my father as dad wouldn’t put up with any of his shit! The sad thing is no amount of training changed this horse’s disposition! Being at the barn meant constantly looking over your shoulder out of fear as he would charge the stall door, slipping out of the darkness to take a bite of your head or shoulder as you walked by. In the end, between my own frustrations, my mother’s stern way of teaching or my finding it easier to just quit, any desire or strength I had towards wanting to be around horses finally came crashing down the morning I watched this four-legged piece of crap grab my dad by the chest, pick him up shaking him like a rag doll thusly sending my father to the hospital. It was then and there I put to rest any aspirations of ever becoming a horseman.

Through Jr. high and high school I worked hard at surrounding myself with people who didn’t have anything to do with horse shows, rodeo and the such.  I still dabbled back and forth occasionally, we had a local rodeo for a few years and I always spent the weekend working in the back with my friends, pushing calves and steers, telling a good yarn about how I could do those events if I wanted too, but in the end it was nothing more than a lie, my overwhelming fear of failure or being around any four-legged creature just pushed me further away.  I was lucky enough that my friends who did ride never truly gave up on me. Oh I wasn’t a part of their groups anymore, but friendships remained, I was tolerated and some friendships remain casually to this day.  In truth, looking back I envied them, all of them, but hid in my own shadow for so very long.

430938_10200295633180041_80963042_nI fought for years against who I really was, but every job I ever held, new friendships acquired led to rodeos and occasionally trying new things all leading me back to ranch life.  Looking back now so many years later it was obvious what I wanted, what I needed in my life, I was just too stubborn to accept the reality of it. And as in most cases it took an equally stubborn woman (my wife) to snap me out of that funk some years later, opening my eyes to the possibilities and what I had to offer not only myself but our children.  In the end I feel as though I missed out on the very best years of my life! Training, competing, loving, these wonderful creatures and all they bring to my spirit. Sadly I feel now as though time is running out. The moment in life when I should have been running hard at achieving all that I missed was spent with blinders on using the excuse I was too busy working hard supporting myself then eventually supporting my family; it will always leave me wondering “what if”.

Fast forward to today-to my dream.

My wife and I have worked very hard to develop a place where kids (and their parents), my kids and their1507829_10202417311105686_2144312239_n friends can come, ride their horses safely, without ridicule or demoralization, instilling solid guidance starting with the most basic of horsemanship skills; the very same principles my mother instilled within me.  Where riders can excel; not by just jumping on their horses and running a barrel pattern as fast as physically possible, but by becoming one with this animal that allows them to climb upon their backs. So many children I see today have mom and dad purchase them the fastest, greatest horse; no questions asked and then never take the time to learn about their animal.  What it can do, what it can’t do, why it even wants to do anything at all for you?  These horses are smart and willing; they need guidance, reassurance, praise and most of all love, understanding and patience.46435_10151860711046649_451436046_n

I purchased my first cutting horse when she was two and half.  She was ornery, feisty, with 248288_2071612476486_214666_na huge engine and a strong will. She was also agile, cowy and loved to work.  I was told as a new cutter this wasn’t the horse I should buy.  A fully trained, finished horse was the horse for me. But like so many times in my life, I used my gut to make a decision and it was the very best decision I could have made.  I had something to prove to myself after all those years of running from who I was, and this was the opportunity to put all those doubts to rest.  Her name was Cassie and we didn’t exactly get along from the start, but using what I knew and what a very good friend (Wes) was patient enough to teach me along the way we slowly became one.  Cassie tried my patience and left me eating dirt a few times. (Which in our barn will cost you a case of beer.) We would scrap, things would go south and I would always go back and spend the evening figuring out what I did wrong first; then slowly methodically work on it until we got it right.  We went from black eyes and bleeding knuckles (a term, we weren’t really punching and kicking each other), bent feelings and frustration to inseparable team mates.1380273_10202277018473435_1379866202_n

Today when I come home from work she (Cassie) whinny’s at me, when I leave for work she whinny’s, when I load up the trailer without her, she pushes against the stall door, and if I work another horse before her she mean mugs me and paws the ground every time I pass by her stall.  It took 3 years of steady everyday work for this horse to become good at what she does, but all that aside the very best part of all of this is when I walk her out to the middle of the arena, gently tighten her cinch one last time, climb aboard and feel her sigh a happy sigh of relief as we warm up for whatever today’s lesson is going to be.  When I go in to feed her, change her blanket or just pet her, she leans into me and sighs, dropping her head, letting me know it’s ok as I gently pet her letting her know how much I appreciate her.

Everyone hopefully has something to bring them that much joy after such hard work.

So there it is, my dream and I how I got there. I want that feeling for every child who loves horses, who loves rodeo, who loves and is willing to put in the hard work it takes to achieve, succeed.  I want to provide that opportunity for so many, so one day when they are middle-aged they don’t push back from a desk, step out of their truck, punch out from their job and ask themselves; What if?

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Nothing about cancer! Lets talk horse trading!

Jacy made me promise my next posting would not involve her, Leukemia, the kids, our family and everything we have been going through! Being a man of my word (amongst other irritating habits), here is what crossed my mind while reading through a few Craigslist classifieds this evening!

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When purchasing a new horse many words are tossed about setting the “tone”or ‘describing” to the utmost accounting of accuracy every aspect of said for sale animal.  While many, many sellers are indeed honest people looking for a good home for ole Mr. Ed, one must remember a single persons description is another interpretation. With that being said I have taken it upon myself to help everyone with an honest breakdown of the most common terms or descriptions used to date in the horse sale arena.

 This horse is sound!

Meaning: You can hear the sound it makes as its hips, cannon bones and hocks all creak, crack and snap while walking on by.

 

Greenbroke: Yep every green (never before broken) bone you have in your body will now experience a new feeling of pain after buying this little gem. Hope your insurance is paid up!

 

For experienced riders only!Unknown-2

Meaning: No person with a brain in their head should even attempt to ride this horse! By stating this little excerpt the sellers feel they have exonerated themselves from any liability.

 

Ready for what ever discipline you desire!

Meaning: We tried to get this horse to do everything, it wants to do nothing therefore good luck! 

 

As you can see by the breeding this horse is worth twice what I am asking!

Meaning: Breed two MENSA card-carrying geniuses and the odds are still there for a Sponge Bob Square pants kid to arrive! Just because the parents are awesome doesn’t images-4mean the baby is too! This horse is the dumb-ass! It is worth exactly what you are asking..

 

Horse moves off the leg!

Meaning: with two spurs and a crop!

 

Trailers, ties, bathes with ease!

Meaning: Runs away from, pulls hard on the post and dances like a chicken on a hot roof! 

 

Dead broke: One foot in the grave! images-3

 

13-year-old with no papers!

Meaning: 18-year-old: prove it!

 

This horse is very intelligent!

Meaning: Must be because it has the owner fooled! images-2

 

This filly was born to cut cows!

Meaning: this filly was born to eat and poop, until it sees a cow for the first time it could just shiver and run away, the choice is yours.  

 

You will never find another horse like this one!

Meaning: Yes you will, its freaking Craigslist! Just look two ads down. 

 

She can sit in a pen for a month, then go out and win money!

Meaning: She is obviously the exception to the rule, because any other horse I have ever seen who has sat in a stall/pen for more than a week is a tad bit testy upon exiting! 

 

Drop dead gorgeous!

Meaning: most likely average looking?

 

Never kicked or bucked anyone off!

Meaning: no one has tried hard enough!

 

Stands still for the farrier!

Meaning: after several kicks to the gut. 

 

Comes with trailer!

Meaning: we can’t get this piece of crap out of here fast enough! 

 

Every one of these are straight out of Craigslist advertisements, so remember buyer beware. A horse is a one of a kind delight, make your new horse the very best experience it can be! 

 So there you have it! Nothing about cancer! Wait? By saying “nothing about cancer” am I really saying something about cancer? Darn it! I think I broke my promise!

Oh well….

 

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What horses taught me..

jake and blaze

What horses taught me about myself and raising children?

Horses have always at one time or another been a part of my life.  During a very long period I did my best to refuse any knowledge of i-phone pics 002their existence.  Carefully placing walls up around my feelings, hoping to keep them hidden for eternity.  When people would broach the subject, my lips were sealed, if someone in the room asked: have you ever owned horses? My moral character would never allow me to lie in regards to the subject, but my explanation was usually short and sweet;

My parents owned horses; I was raised on a working horse ranch complete with 15 stall barn, paddocks, hot walker, roping arena and cattle chutes.  We had a trainer for a while and the business always seemed to be the root of my parents quarreling.  Dad was the president of a local horseman’s association and although at the time horses were not my favorite animals, some of my fondest memories were hanging out at horse shows, eating hamburgers and playing under the grandstands.  The monthly meetings were also on my fond memories list.  The people my parents associated with were all wonderful and cared about everyone’s kids! We sat at the bar, drank 7-up with cherries in them and overlooked the valley below.  Can I ride a horse? Yes. Do I want horses? No! End of discussion.

What I never realized until just recently was raising horses as a child set me up for success as an adult.  Learning to care for these creatures on a daily basis was actually the first step in learning to care for myself and others.  I know it sounds crazy but it also allowed me the opportunity to fail miserably without actually harming imagesCAJ72HWVanyone, as my parents were right there to chastise, redirect and place me back on the proper course with each and every animal regardless of how much I bucked the system.  Horses are very forgiving animals, if you are late feeding them they won’t complain, missed cleaning their stall that afternoon, not a word said, didn’t get to riding them, they will let you know the first couple of minutes in the arena but it’s nothing a little re-direction won’t fix and after a pet or two on the head all is right with the world.

So how did horses re-enter my life and what does it have to do with raising children?

mom and dadMarried with children; horses re-entered my life under the guise of being for the children.  I was pulled back into the equine world kicking and screaming by a wife wise beyond her years when it came to dealing with my absolute stubbornness.  As I ranted and raved about reliving my parents quarreling over money and animals, as I clenched my fists and retorted with barbs about horses being the devil and all who possess them are crazy! My wife calmly reminded me it wasn’t about me, it wasn’t about the anger I harbored towards an existence that was a lifetime ago brought about by a mind not fully developed but mired in the process of youth.  I regaled the horror of taking care of animals and how I didn’t want my children hurt, trampled, kicked, bit or thrown from these four legged beasts.  My projectswife would remind me our children were already taking care of animal projects for 4-H and this was just an extension of those duties.  Before long my grip on the past loosened, the mental walls were knocked down and we became horse owners.  My children began riding, my wife began riding, I returned to the saddle and our future in the horse world was set on a collision course with my past.

the familyJake and Haley

Today; all of my children ride horses, one not as much as the other three but he enjoys cleaning stalls and helping out when he can. Our children are not left to sit on the sidelines as we were all those years ago.

cody They ride and they ride fairly well; they make mistakes, learn from those mistakes and look forward to every chance they get to “show” their horses. Do I expect them to win? No! Am I proud of them whether they do well or not? Yes! It will be some of the very best memories ever retained and upon my death bed, as my eyes begin to close and darkness overtakes me I hope to picture these children of mine smiling having fun, still small able to fit in my arms, full of love for their animals and their father.  

cassieI ride a cutting horse; as my parents rode in shows, I too am in the  ring doing my best.  We belong to an association and I became a board member.  Cutting is always on my mind! How to become better, how to make my horse better, how to just relax and get the hell out of my horses way because she actually knows what she’s doing and on several occasions really just doesn’t need my help.  Either way I am obsessed and cannot wait until the show season starts again.

My wife rides any horse she can get her hands on.  The challenge of a new horse along with the exhilaration that comes from an unknown is always on her mind.  Her personal horse is a blazegigantic Belgian draft who is sweet and believes to be a puppy dog.  She follows you around everywhere, wanting to do everything to make you proud of her. She loves being pet, brushed and ridden, we couldn’t have asked for a better animal for our family. We have made friends with some very wonderful people through this the girlsprocess, friends I believe we will have for life.  These fantastic people are of the very same character surrounding me as a child.  My children are reaping the benefits.

We have many horses; we board a few horses, and have built up a very nice place for our children to be raised and their friends to come play.  Nothing brings a greater joy to my wife and I then introducing a child to the joys of riding horses!

With time/age comes wisdom and with that wisdom comes the uncontrollable urge to share.  So here are ten things horses have taught me about myself and raising children.

  1. Frustration manifests into anger and there is no place for either when training a horse or raising a child.
  2. Forgiveness is felt and received by both children and horses. If you show forgiveness, you teach forgiveness. Then forgiveness is shown in return.
  3. Trust is earned.  You may not think you need to earn trust with your children but you would be dead wrong. The same goes for a horse. If a horse doesn’t trust you, your relationship is dead in the water.
  4. Having the ability to express love is one of the most important attributes human beings hold.  Show that love in every aspect of what you do.
  5. Discipline must be fair, just and repeated the same each and every time.  Then it should be followed by number 4, thus reaffirming your commitment.
  6. Talking will always calm their nerves.  A nervous animal can be dangerous, so can quite a few children I have known over the years.  Talking with them, showing interest and care usually will bring nervousness to an end allowing them both to build a confidence that will expand with age.
  7. What you put in their bodies will equate to what you receive in performance. If you expect your horses to perform, feed them well.  If you expect your children to perform well, both educationally and athletically, make sure they have nutritious food at their disposal.
  8. Give them a warm safe place to call home.  Everyone, even animals need a safe place to call home. It builds security and confidence, and grounds both animals and humans alike.
  9. When children or horses make a mistake. Forgive them, correct them and allow them the opportunity to get it right.  We all make mistakes; treating either one as though you are perfect all the time will eventually lead you down a path of failure.
  10. Keep them clean and groomed.  It sounds silly but as your child feels good about a new outfit for school, so does your horse feel about being clean, brushed and prepared for a day of being worked or ridden on the trail.  It’s in our make up to always want to look good.  You always notice that gorgeous stallion with the long flowing mane and tail, so does a mare. You also always notice the kid you took the time and effort to dress appropriately.  Make that your kid and your horse.

As you can see my life has come full circle.  My children take care of family rideanimals, feeding, watering, riding, and showing them love. It’s not always done right, but they try, we redirect and success is always on the horizon. The lessons of my childhood, expanded upon and being re-taught to my unsuspecting little sponges! Hopefully when they are grown adults our children will continue to expand upon these lessons and not place them in a closet of emotion wasting years on anger that could have been used to further enjoy a platform we have provided them for life.

 my kids