Newbie Horse Rider

Blog for new adult horse riders

Month: March 2017

Confessions of a Feisty Filly

I Woke up this morning with a regret hangover.  I’m sure you know the feeling.  It’s where you wake up clutching your head while your mind flashes back to your less-than-stellar behavior.  And while it would be easier to blame my actions on alcohol, I was stone sober.  Here, let me explain.

My husband likes to affectionately refer to me as his ‘feisty filly’.  While he uses this term as an endearment, it is not necessarily my best quality.  I come from a long line of feisty fillies, on both sides of my family.  My mother’s father was from the Ukraine, and from this kind and gentle man we inherited a passion for life and a fire that wells up whenever we feel frustrated or misunderstood.  From my father’s mother I acquired an impulse toward the dramatic with an Irish temper to match (note the red hair).  Perhaps I can also lay blame to the fact that I was born in May under the sign of the Taurus bull.  Whatever the cause of my inclination toward the dramatic, being a feisty filly often gets me into trouble, especially at a barn where most of the staff and riders can only be described as stoic.

Stoic – that is most definitely not me.  I wear my emotions on my sleeve, as they say.  I’m not difficult to read.  One look at my face will immediately tell you if I’m happy, sad, or ready to rip you a new one.  It is simply not in my nature to hold back, thus the cause of my regret hangover.  I have made great strides in recent months with my horse Austin, and I often feel amazed that I have accomplished so much in a relatively short period of time.  Much of this success is due to my terrific young instructor with whom I have developed a comfortable rapport.  Two months ago the barn hired a lovely young woman who is an enormously gifted rider.  She is sweet and gentle, and most unlike the majority of horse trainers I have met.  It was decided that she would work with me every now and then to help improve my equitation skills.  Fine, no problem.  Except, she has little to no teaching experience, especially with a mid-life feisty filly.  My first lesson with her was fine.  Second one – meh.  By the third lesson I had to swallow the irritation and frustration that I could feel rising up from my belly.  By my forth lesson, yesterday’s lesson, I could no longer suppress my emotions.  Austin was being difficult, and she seemed unable to communicate to me how to get him back in line.  Many of her directions ran counter to what was taught to me by my regular instructor.  Twenty minutes in I felt ready to implode (or break into tears which I eventually did the second I reached my car).  As politely as I could, which on retrospect was not very, I told her that my frustration level had reached its peak and I needed to end the lesson. Grabbing my reins, I stormed back into the barn, muttering and cursing under my breath.  My regular instructor met my gaze as I blew past.  “How’d it go?”  he asked cautiously, sensing my mood.  “Not good,”  was all I could get out.  By that point all I wanted was to get back to my car before I said or did something that would further harm my reputation.

Once home, I poured myself a glass of wine (the best elixir for a feisty filly) and calmly called my trainer.  He understood the cause of my frustration and assured me that the new trainer will improve with time, and I believe that he’s right.  I could have remained quiet and swallowed my feelings until they erupted into gastric ulcers.  But that’s not me.  Although he seems to derive a small amount of amusement from my emotional ‘episodes’, I am fortunate to have an instructor who seems to get me.  Today I will calm down and try to refocus my emotions.  Tomorrow I will hang my head as I do the walk of shame into the same barn that I stormed out of on Monday.

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10 Must See Horse Movies


Last week Central New York was hit with a nor’easter that dumped close to three feet of snow in some areas.  While I am not a fan of snow in March, it did provide a wonderful opportunity to curl up on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and a steaming mug of hot chocolate.  Deciding which movie to watch was the hard part; there are so many wonderful horse movies to choose from.  I narrowed down the list to my top ten favorites:

Without a doubt, this is my all time favorite horse movie, and for so many reasons.  As a history buff, I love how the movie, based on a true story, shows the devastating effects of The Great Depression on ordinary people.  It also takes us back to a time when horse racing was as popular as football, and going to the races provided a short respite from the travails of ordinary life.  Full of complex emotion, Seabiscuit demonstrates how love, empathy, and forgiveness can be the best antidote for pain and loss.  My all time favorite line comes at the end of the story: “You know, everybody thinks we found this broken-down horse and fixed him, but we didn’t. He fixed us. Every one of us. And I guess in a way we kinda fixed each other too.”

While the book by the same title is arguably better, this 2011 movie is a must-see for horse lovers of all ages.  Set against the backdrop of Europe during WWI, it follows the journey of Joey, a spirited young horse, and his loyal trainer and friend Albert.  Directed by the acclaimed Steven Spielberg, it is worth watching simply for the breathtaking cinematography.

What young girl didn’t dream of flying across an open meadow after watching this classic 1944 film?   Elizabeth Taylor stars as Velvet Brown, a young equestrian who wins a horse in a lottery and attempts to turn him into a champion.  Apparently young Liz did all the impressive riding herself which makes this classic movie even more enthralling to watch.

No blog post about horse movies would be complete without mentioning this well-known story from 2010.  While I admittedly found this movie over acted at times, the story of Secretariat is so marvelous that it needs to be on my list.  Most of the time I watch this movie simply for the incredible racing scenes.

This terrific film is a must-see for every horse lover.  Wild Horse, Wild Ride is a moving documentary about the special people who choose to adopt and train wild Mustangs in just 100 days as part of the annual Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge.  For the past 10 years this contest, started by the Mustang Heritage Foundation, has worked to promote the beauty, versatility, and trainability of  the American Mustang.  This emotional film chronicles the three month period during which horse and trainer transform from scared strangers to devoted companions.


This award winning film chronicles a group of Welch villagers who decide to pool their resources and breed a racehorse.  This documentary is one of the finest against-all-odds movies that you will ever see.  Full of colorful characters and one beautiful and determined horse.

Not too much more can be said about this classic 1979 film.  While much of this movie will sound all-too-familiar – the beautiful horse, a boy, an inexperienced trainer, and a big race – it is an epic movie with beautiful cinematography that has stood the test of time.

After a devastating accident, a handsome horse trainer helps a young girl and her horse to heal, physically and emotionally.  It is also a story of forbidden love that develops between the trainer and the girl’s workaholic mother.  This is a great movie to watch on a cold winter’s day – just make sure to have a box of tissues on hand.

This terrific film tells the story of Dan M. “Buck” Brannaman, legendary horse trainer and leading practitioner within the field of natural horsemanship.  This moving story takes you along on Buck’s emotional journey from abused child to equine communicator.  Buck’s difficult childhood allowed him to understand the fear and distrust common among abused horses.  His personal experiences and compassion have enabled him to help thousands of horses and their owners find peace and mutual understanding.

Okay, so this is a movie for the kid in me.  Racing Stripes was one of my horse-crazy daughter’s favorite movies growing up.  Despite the fact that I have probably watched this movie over 100 times, I never grow tired of it.  Like many horse movies, it involves a young girl who longs to race, and her horse trainer father who forbids it.   The fact that the animal in question is a zebra and not a horse puts a unique spin on a familiar tale.

There are other great horse movies that I have yet to watch.  Let me hear from you – what are your favorite horse movies?

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Improve Your Seat With This Quick Fix

“Can you feel both seat bones evenly on the saddle?”  My riding instructor would ask at the start of every lesson.  This predictable question was usually  followed by a declarative statement: “You’re not sitting evenly in the saddle.”  A few minutes later I would be advised to “put more weight in your left stirrup and lower your hip.”  One would think that after hearing these words day after day, month after month that I would get the message and get my fanny to sit evenly in the saddle.  Like most things equestrian related, this was easier said than done.

Then, everything changed (cue violin music).  While glancing through a copy of Horse Illustrated one day in the doctor’s office, I came across this magical sentence: “If you want to sit evenly in the saddle, stop crossing your legs.”  Really?  Could it be that simple?  I know that crossing your legs is bad for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which includes poor circulation, varicose veins, and cellulite.  Nevertheless, I have been a chronic leg crosser for most of my adult life.  I knew this would be a very hard habit to break.  I decided to give it a try, and enlisted the help of my family who were instructed to scold me if they caught me ever crossing my legs.  They say that it takes two solid weeks to break a bad habit, so two weeks of not crossing my legs became my goal.

This was a very hard habit to break, but after one week I started to notice some improvement.  I especially noticed the change when I sat in church on hard wooden pews where I could suddenly FEEL my seat bones!!  So that’s what they feel like! (Hallelujah)  Actually, sitting on a hard surface gave me an opportunity to discover what I should be feeling in my saddle.  After a week and a half my instructor was no long telling me to “put equal weight on both seat bones.”  As a matter of fact, he started to notice my improved seat.  Finally, I felt in control, balanced, communicative.  So this is what it feels like!

Whether there is any hard medical evidence to support my claim that crossing one’s legs is detrimental remains to be seen.  However, my experiment, which understandably only contained a single test subject (me),  has me convinced that crossing the legs is not a wise idea for equestrians.  Repeatedly sitting in this position will eventually shorten your hip flexors and lead to tightness over time.  This tightening will make it more difficult to sit equally on both seat bones in and out of the saddle, not to mention the strain it places on the knees and back.  Some studies have suggested that crossing your legs can even have a negative impact on the heart by raising blood pressure, although this is still being debated.

If you struggle to sit evenly on both seat bones, restrain from crossing your legs for two weeks and see how you feel.  If it improves your seat, let me know!

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Equine Healing Through Reiki


Returning home from my second Reiki session last Tuesday, I was met with a skeptical look in my daughter’s eyes.  “It’s truly remarkable,” I told her.  Her face said it all – how does this well-educated woman believe in this stuff?  No matter how hard I tried, I could not convince my analytical daughter that what I had experienced was real.  She believed that what I perceived was nothing more than the placebo effect.  I doubt this was the case since I went into my first Reiki session with very low expectations.  The proof is in the pudding, as they say, because since my second appointment I have been sleeping better, am less anxious, have more energy, and my waning appetite has returned to its normal state.  How could a placebo do all that?

In Texas I had frequently called upon an equine chiropractor when our two quarter horses exhibited mood swings due to back pain.  It would have been easy to just give both horses a dose of Bute and hope for the best, but that would have been a band aid on a chronic condition.  After their sessions with the chiropractor our horses would return to work with a new and improved attitude; their pain was gone.  As with people, there are many things that can disrupt the condition of a horse.  Anxiety, stress, skeletal or muscular pain are only a few of the ailments our horses encounter on a regular basis, and because they are unable to tell us what is bothering them, they act out. Almost any professional horse person will tell you that when a horse suddenly exhibits behavioral issues it is often the result of physical pain.  If something is seriously wrong we call the vet.  But what if the vet is unable to find a cause of the horse’s sudden behavior problems?  Then perhaps it is time to try Reiki.

Chakra are centers of spiritual power in the body

My research into the healing benefits of Reiki uncovered endless numbers of testimonials from people around the world who have witnessed Reiki heal their horses.  Some of the most powerful testimonials were by people who work with neglected and abused horses, animals who had completely lost their trust in humankind.  For these horses the relaxing power of Reiki helped them to let go of their anxiety and regain their trust in people.  Other horse owners describe how Reiki helped to heal their horse’s chronic pain, or speed recovery from an injury.  Others recall how Reiki helped calm their nervous horse, resulting in a calm and willing equine partner.  In one YouTube video, I watched a horse doze and even lie down under the light touch of a Reiki Master.  If you’re interested in reading some case studies to see how Reiki has helped horses, I urge you to check out these testimonials from

Horse receiving Reiki

If you are considering whether Reiki might be beneficial for your horse, I urge you to check out the website run by the International Association of Reiki Professionals.  On this site you can learn more about Reiki and its benefits, and you can locate a Reiki Master in your area.  Most Reiki sessions cost the equivalent of a massage, in the $70.00/hour range.  If you’re interested in learning to become a Reiki Master yourself, then IARP also provides resources to help you find the best educational program for your needs.  A Google search will certainly uncover countless learn-from-home study courses, but be wary of learning from people who are not certified in the procedure.

If you’ve ever been to a Reiki session or seen it done on a horse I’d love to hear from you!  Please let me know your thoughts about this holistic healing method.


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Reiki: Healing For Horses and Riders


Listening to someone extol the virtues of Reiki, crystals, and natural oils  will either cause you to roll your eyes or pull up a chair and listen closely.  For decades such methods of natural healing were regarded by many as ‘hippy’ and certainly not to be taken seriously by the well-educated.   However, times have changed and traditional Eastern medical practices are going mainstream, garnering the attention of doctors and scientists for their benefits.  In a time of copious drug use and addiction, perhaps some of the answers to what ails us can be found in these nontraditional but yet ancient medical treatments.

As a periodic insomniac, I decided to put this unconventional method of healing to the test.  I came to this decision only after being prescribed two different medications by my doctor, both of which were purported to help me sleep.  While both drugs made me sleepy, neither was successful at getting the job done, and I moved through my days feeling nauseous and dizzy.  It was during one of my lengthy internet searches for sleep aids that I came across an article, in Newsweek Magazine of all places, discussing the increasing popularity of Reiki (pronounced Ray-Ki) for healing.  According to The International Center for Reiki Training website, Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing.  The idea behind Reiki is the belief that we all have an unseen “spiritually guided life force energy” that runs through us.  When our energy is low or broken we experience illness in mind and/or body.

A Reiki Session

When I made the decision last week to try Reiki as a cure for my insomnia, I did so with a very open mind.  Having been without sleep for so many days in a row, I wasn’t expecting much out of my session but figured it was worth a try.  Upon my arrival to the Infinite Center for Yoga and Wellness in Jamesville, New York, I was greeted by the immediate sensation of peace and tranquility.  Once inside, the soft trickling of a stream, the slight musky smell of incense, and tranquil lighting engulfed my senses.  My practitioner, Dr. Mary Riposo, sat down with me before my session to ask about my general health, and to explain the practice of Reiki.  I was instructed to take off my shoes and lie down on a comfortable massage bed, while she covered me with a light blanket.  Unlike massage, the client remains fully clothed, but it is advisable to wear comfortable clothing.  I closed my eyes and focused on the soothing sounds of quiet music that evoked images of waves of water and light.  Starting at my head and moving down one side of my body and then the other, Dr. Riposo placed her hands lightly on me, using her own energy to heal.  What I felt in the process was nothing short of incredible.  My body felt light, almost weightless.  At times I felt tingly, a warmth spreading from the inside out.  When my session ended I felt an intense peace and relaxation that lasted for days.  My sleep improved and after a few nights I found I was sleeping much more soundly than I had in a long time. Even my devoted horse Austin seemed to pick up on my new inner calm, improving the quality of our rides.

My experience with Reiki has led me to research its possible healing power when used on horses.  Come back soon and find out how horse owners are using Reiki to cure behavioral problems and chronic pain in their equine partners.

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