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Zen and the Trotting Machine

Have you ever really tried to empty your mind of all thoughts?
That was MY goal today…. to get all Zen, and relaxed, and relegate all thoughts of bad stuff; what COULD happen, etc to the ether.

Calm, Cool, Collected.. that’s me…. heh. Those who know me know I can get spun up in a happy split second…. oh, and those are the types of horses I ride…. hahahahaha. Now that’s Karma, NOT Zen.

Here is what I know about Zen… that the philosophy of Zen is something you can use to work on yourself, as a person, as a being in the world, as a Time Being as Ruth Ozeki calls it; a being that exists in time. Zen is about doing away with the sins of greed, illwill, and delusion. Hmmmmmmmmm….. Ok.

After a LOVELY Skype chat with Amanda, Cato’s mom, she offered some advice– I take her advice, because she has owned Cato for 6 years, and I have ridden him for almost a month. She knows her boy! She said ( when I confessed I was worried as I rode him– awaiting the next *whatever*): *Eileen,You need to get Zen while riding Cato; empty your mind, let the negativity ( or something like that) flow out and hold in your mind emptiness or emptiness like water*.

Ok. That’s what I will do next time. Well, I did not HAVE to hold my mind on water, because there was so much water falling from the sky that Cato and I were surrounded by water– grey, sodden, water– Cato kept waggling his ears to get the water OUT of his ears and nowhere near HIS mind. Perfect day for Zen and the Art of Riding Cato.

I emptied my mind— was relaxed and floppy, Karen Irland floppy– NOT sack ‘o’ potatoes floppy mind you. Cato’s heart rate was 40 to start. Mine was… well, I did not check but it was slow and low, I could feel it; today was gonna be a GOOD ride.

We set off at the trot, the goal? HILLS! Fast hills, or as fast as we could go. We got wet immediately— Cat’s Buckskin coat shone like shiny gold; slick and shiny. Oh good, slick is exactly what we want for hill work. Oops, ZEN ZEN ZEN empty empty empty… IF the saddle slides off on a hill? no problem, I am in good enough shape to slide off with it and fix it and then get back on. No WORRIES!

ZEN ZEN ZEN empty empty empty….. we head up the long hill that heads up to the quarry, at one point this amazing trotting machine underneath me was flying along at 11mph, UP HILL! OMG. UP HILL! He’s a TROTTING machine! never a wrong step ( althoug hhe is tripping a bit more now that shoes are due).

Oops, ZEN ZEN ZEN…… Ommmmmmmmmm, drip drip drip….. ear waggle drip drip drip ear waggle.

I got excited. This horse was listening to me, and having FUN! Trotting like a well-oiled machine through the rain. GO Cato Go Cato. I was doing better than just hangin on, per usual technique. I was enjoying myself; enjoying the sound of his hooves hitting the gravel packed road.

MORE HILLS, let’s do more hills! Saddle slipper is next, that’s a BIG hill, that rivals the hills at Renegade– only a LOT wetter. We trot there and then look at the hill a bit…… it’s a trail, UP hill. ZEN ZEN ZEN… empty empty empty, water water water, drip drip drip, ear waggle…. I can handle this. This big boy has muscles and will carry us UP this HILL!

That was amazing…… Cato did Saddle Slipper, his saddle stayed almost put…. it fits him really well. I stayed in the saddle and he recovered VERY quickly, respirations were down as soon as we walked down the hill on the road after Saddle Slipper.

This horse is an athlete, and he is coming back. He is a TROTTING Machine and all I have to do is ride him right.

On the way home? we did dressage collection at the trot…. for a couple of miles; here is what I noticed: Cato enjoys having his rider communicating with him out on the trails in dressage form. Huh, go figure…..

Well, how Zen can you get? My hope is that his mom, Amanda, heals solid, and becomes his partner once again.

I am taking Cato back to his mom tomorrow, I know she will be happy to get him back, but I am gonna miss the big galoot and I know now that if I had a year with this horse we would be a force to be reckoned with. Dressage Endurance…. here we come!

Zen, Zen, Zen…. empty empty empty… we should always ride in the rain, it makes it so much easier to get water inside your head and achieve Zen…..

Cato’s HR was 48 at 5min after we came in…..

Here is a movie of our workout today— ENJOY!


The Bit…… suspend your disbelief for a second…

Do you believe in magic? I do, now…… went to the barn… got Cato…… and the wind kicked up some GIANT gusts….. omg. I am watching Cato’s mane and tail ( heavy black hair) FLY in the wind. We get into the indoor arena and the sounds the wind is making is like a dying wild animal…. or someone dropping giant chunks of concrete on the metal roof– you know the sounds. Everything that CAN flap, is flapping wildly in the wind. Cato and do our arena at liberty work; he is in attentive, spooking once or twice every ring around the small indoor arena and… I HAD planned to meet Sue Preston to ride at JBLM– a giant plain and forests wide open to the world bounded by ROADS and military stuff on every side…. Hmmm. I tap my mental finger on my chin… and so starts the self-talk, that leetle voice in my head– you likely have one too..

* should I really do this?* * would a smart person get ON this horse today or bag the plans?*  What should I do?????????   I look at Cato, I count the days left that I have with him and I ask myself * what do Cato and Amanda need most from me?*. My answer? They need Cato to be ridden under EVERY possible circumstance, under any kind of conditions, and just deal with whatever comes. Ok, then, we are GOING. I confess to a small bit of Tummy Twitters– otherwise known as the butterflies. Now, here is where the magic comes in… bit ( hahahah BIT) of a backstory– recall that Celena Pentrak changed bits on Cato at our first lesson? you ask, what did Eileen do with Amanda’s bit? I actually remembered to get it near my truck and trailer… but, I tossed it on the metal toolbox… and then after the lesson I drove away, forgetting about the bit; dammmmmiT!  I confess to Amanda…. and start looking to replace her bit…….we chat, she says to wait n see……. sage advice. Because when I walk by Cato’s stall away from home at Maple Tree Stables? his bit is hangin on his stall halter holdre; I do a double take, REALLY? can I get that LUCKY? Wheeeeee! Turns out Bernie found it when walking Kai, his lovely Corgi doggy in the neighborhood!!!!! I am SAVED!!!! and I take it as a good omen  that JBLM is gonna be a GRAND ADVENTURE….. Cato loads like a champ and we are on our way. The wind gusts about the truck and trailer as we make our way through Lacey and out to JBLM, I gnaw my lower lip- How MUCH do I want to trust my good bit omen? Then, I remember something someone reminded me of recently— that horses will feed off my energy…. OOPS! If I expect Cato to be bad, he will be bad. IF I, however, expect Cato to be good and do what I say, well that is what shall happen instead!  Yeah, so about Rich Road, I start self-talk again…Cato will do everything I tell him, I will be able to stay on during any spook-o-rama and we WILL WILL WILL have a great time; I mean, the sun is shining….. how cool is THAT!  We arrive at TA 22, one of my newest fave places to ride as it fast, flat and well-drained and excellent footing! Cato and I get dressed; the wind is HOWLING and GUSTING, oh well, can’t be helped…. he seems fine! 32 HR….. he is NOT upset….. more about Cato’s upset HR later…. and away we GO!  I know Cato’s not very fit yet as he huffs and puffs on hills… we shall see how he does on the flat.

We set off and immediately Sue gets a phone call– ironically, this is my friend Sue, whom I have know for a long long long time who used to say she hated that we carried cell phones….. and since she has now started her business Vet in Motion, Mobile Vet, Sue has a new cell phone and she stops and tries to take the call…. 🙂 yeah, I’m smiling…. we start out, again… and Cato? has decided he does NOT want to walk through puddles. OMG…. REALLY? Seriously you huge galoot of a horse? I JUST bragged about what a great trail horse you are and that you *goe where I point you* and you pull  this NOW? Humph, no way Cato….. you ARE going through the puddles, for heaven’s sake!… and we did and he did. Hmmmph! Sheesh, horse. and off we  trot….. planning 10+ miles…we head down trails that we have never done before — if you see the map and follow our tracks, we went down every turn, and came back when stopped by tree-fall. Then,we found ourselves on a road that *felt* like it would take us back to the trailers, but I was uncertain whether it would and since I had a class to teach….. we opted to go back and hit a trail we knew would take us back. So, all this time, I am grabbing mane, because, IF Cato decides to  Mega SPOOK at speed, I am unsure if I can ride it, so, I grab mane SHAMElessly. Until I really get to know this horse? I shall grab mane at speed….as an extra precaution.  He does little spooklets at …. yeah, wood on the ground… yeah…. wood on the ground. But, as I told Amanda, he gave himself away when I dropped something important on the ground and had to get off to get it and had to find SOMETHING to get me in the air more to get back on…. I chose a giant log stump and the damn thing rolled OUT from underneath me on to Cato’s front feet and he….. wait for it………. WAIT for it…… and he JUST STOOD there! ah HA! a giant log almost rolls on TOP of you and you do NOTHING? and then you try to tell me you want to spook at a much smaller log, further away from you… on the way by? YOU are SO HOSED big guy

:-)….I have your number BIG time! No excuses at ALL….. NONE! 🙂  bwahhahahaha hahahahahah; as a former high school teacher, I do enjoy that moment when you get something over on someone and they know you know…. 🙂 yeah….I don’t actually play chess? but I think I play *horse chess* really well….  

Mostly, though….. we are trotting in lovely flowing strides through a lovely park-like place, gettin’ some miles on the boy…. as Amanda, his mom, requested we do. 

One of  the things I love about JBLM are the lovely glades of green grass where horses can gnosh on green grass in the sun…. while riders can relax a bit…. This last bit ( bit!!!)  I told Sue I wanted her to lead…. and then I increased the distance between us little by little…. at the point she went out of sight is when Cato’s HR went boing boing boing pound pound pound pound… omg…. he is physiologically reacting to the other horse being gone. We did one nose to kneee and he settled down…… then after the last greengrass break I told Sue I was gonna walk Cato in; she asked if I would be *OK* if she trotted in….. I said, *maybe, we shall see*. When she left him his heart started pounding AGAIN! That is amazing….. he really is going into *fight or flight response* good to know! So, based on Celena’s training we walked the OTHER way, easily, no big deal….. push through and use the resistance. until the HR came down….. then we easily  and slowly, so so so CHILL….. like Celena said….turned around and walked in. at 5min after coming in he was at HR 52. I was delighted, I was happy, I was sparkly eyed. WE  DID IT! YEAH, ARM PUMP!  and we did not die or anything close to it; Amanda got 16miles on her big guy at an average of 6.1 mph…. not too bad considering everything, eh? Here’s  our link, route and map…. ENJOY!


This lunch time, went to check on the Cato

This lunch time, went to check on the big buckskin guy…… he was happily grazing in his paddock but he came over when called; to get a carrot and an ear scritch and some nuzzle time. I notice he takes his time to eat—- he *grazes* on everything, including his morning and evening gruel, hay and grass…. he is a kid at a buffet— * let me try some of that next*. By the time he comes in for the evening he is done with breakfast and by the time he gets put out for the day he is done with dinner but he does NOT wolf his food…. interesting. For an endurance horse, that habituation of eating routine is interesting.  Is he the same at a ride? In the evenings; I am used to getting Bella and Chancey nickers.  This evening?  OMG, walked into the barn and a giant buckskin nicker erupted from Cato….he said * hello* . I actually teared up……. he NICKERED at me!!!! I am in Loooove!  Chancey does that too…. Bella is a love and nickers a *hello*. But, Cato and I are so new to each other…. wow, I am honored. a NICKER! and it was so obviously FOR me that it was no mistaking it. My barn owner and barn mate noticed…… * he likes you* they said. You know, he might…… But, I also know that may or may not translate to good behavior on the morrow. We shall see……but, I am ready. I get so nervous….. and so excited to ride the big guy.  My barn owner Bernie said this evening * That is a GOOD horse, he has a great personality, I LIKE him*. 🙂 Amanda, that should make you feel really good! He is a love…..and is worming his way into our hearts and lives as he did with you and your life and home.

Cato nuzzled my neck last night as I

Cato nuzzled my neck last night as I checked his gut sounds. The big guy is a cool dude to hang out with…… ate all his breakfast; and had a good start on dinner at bedtime…..MY bedtime. he was snuggled into his stall and gazing out at Chancey. Cato and Darby have become pals…. two big ponies— nuzzling necks. Cato and Fancy have become friends…Fancy is friends with NO ONE! Cato is friendly! REALLY friendly; he acts like a little boy at the playground… *oooooh, hi, wanna play? wanna be friend?* CUTE

Mr Huf n Puf Cato Day 2 ride

Cato @ GWS

Cato @ GWS

0424131137aDay 2, really, if we count Day 1 as the test drive Sat April 20, 2013. I spent a sleepless night beyond excited and terrified. What will happen tomorrow..Will he listen to me? Will he blow me off?  What will he do when I decide to climb back on him?  Is 3 weeks really enough time to get him fit? or at least a start to getting fit? 3 weeks does not seem like anough time. but that is what he and I have; ok then we shall get a good start! We start with *at liberty work* in the small indoor arena. We do walk and trot in two directions. He does well. he is learning to listen to me and to regard me as his alpha person now. well……Cato and I do 1.5 hours of arena work, walk trot canter, round and fluid, and work on our rhythm and communication. Then, we head over to Griffinwood stables…… we get dressed and spend a lovely 20 minutes chatting with Catherine and catching up with the Griffinweirdness…. lovely farm, but there are people there as well as horses and other assorted humans and other animals…..Cato mowed Catherine’s door yard contentedly while we chatted and made much of him. He loves to have his face petted…. and his ears scritched. I climb on….. adjust the saddle and tell myself * ok, nothing to do but ride and see what happens*. Here is what I noticed: Cato gets surprised by *stuff* because he may be looking elsewhere… he does not spook at regular stuff like Bella and Chance ( rider snapping branches, dragging crud around their legs, making weird noises) No, Cato gets surprised by *shiny plants*, a stick in the road, a bush, a light colored plant, etc. He *asks permission to spook* by cocking an ear and moving away from my leg on the side of the *thing* and right into the spur and dressage whip away from the *thing*. Because you, Amanda, told me to ride every footfall, I am doing that. My legs are on him all of the time and I *hug* him gently with my lower leg constantly BUT when he says * hey whats that* and moves to spook? I am able to say *hey no*, or make some noise, usually a gutteral sound and check him softly and apply pressure with my lower legs and that moves him past the *thing*, so far. It appears that he *asks* * hey, is that dangerous?* and I am able to say *no, not at all go head*. It is a constant conversation, at least once per mile, and yes, I was counting! He worked hard for 5 semi slow miles up hills @ GWS….here is our link: and appeared to enjoy himself. Huffin and Puffin….we stopped to drink in the lovely salmon creek on GWS property. Hooked up with Celena, will do a * ride and leave him behind and see what happens and deal with it with Celena’s help* trails lesson on Friday. Can’t wait to learn what to do when he gets left behind and snakes his head and screams in fury.

AERC John Parke Hot Topics Session, Buncha HOT Topics, fun reading!

Disclaimer that goes for ALL my blogs, but especially when I am reporting on what others said: I can be wrong, I welcome corrections and comments, and I will remove any spam, flame, or non-productive comments. Let’s stay CIVIL and show respect; 3 R’s: respect the post, respect each other, and respect this place. Thank you.
In addition, I am thinking of myself as a *connector*, So, if you have questions about the content, do contact the person who did the presentation. I will provide as much information about contact info as I can.

John Parke, attorney, rider, ride manager, returned on Sunday for another Hot Topic session he named Dogs, Guns, and Steel after the famous title of the recent-ish book Guns, Germs and Steel, because John Parke has a sense of sardonic humor. This session he did NOT have a set agenda, he wanted to hear from us; what are the Hot Topics from us…..
Note: Hot Topics are a gambit I use in my classes to signify topics that are germane across all grade levels, and all subject areas. This is similar, Hot Topics cross breeds, races, racers, rider, ride managers, veterinarians, etc. Therefore, Note to Self and Others: Recommend that Hot Topics need to be held at different times of the day; some early morning and some over cock/mocktails in the evening….. to get a broader participation and input.

John Parke started us off with some of the topics that have been hit hard on the Board, and on the AERC FB page, etc. *Dogs in Camp* is a BIG topic and a very controversial one, BUT it was apparent to me during the discussion via FB as well as here in the Hot Topic session, that AERC is REALLY reluctant to make a RULE about Dogs in Camp and would really rather leave it to Ride managers; to me? that is a cowards’ way out….. but, I think I understand. I also think RM’s maybe WANT some backup for their dog policies from AERC, but RM’s can email AERC about that. If we are depending on membership and a significant # of members HAVE dogs who want to bring them to rides, well …… folks we have a problem and thus as a membership WE need to solve the problem. Thus, there seems to be no solution EXCEPT status quo which seems to be let the Ride Manager decide and do the policing; which does not seem altogether right either.

Personally, I am NOT a dog person. I do not want pets in camp, other than horses. I want all cockatiels, snakes, cats, rats, and dogs to stay home and stay out of camp…. I would be much more comfortable if I never had to deal with another dog ever! and I do not mind saying so. However, I will also say, that since I do not happen to rule the world, yet, that I do end up camping with over 450 lbs of dogs who belong to my friends and fellow riders… because I am egalitarian and am willing to see what happens, we all camp together and I have more than 5 dogs at a time in and around my horses during ride camps. My horses are all great around dogs, I ride with friends who have dogs….. we sometimes ride with 3-4 dogs at once…. My horses are VERY good around dogs; they don’t kick, or bite, or even mind dogs all that much; which is a VERY good thing.

In addition, I am training my horses to not be afraid of dogs, so if a dog charges my horses we turn to face and even chase dogs….if the dog is aggressive. I have also been known to take a dressage or lunge whip to an overly aggressive dog. The ecology of this is that dogs are predators and horses are prey; and as humans we are apex predators and opportunistic species and are charged with the care of our horse.

My horses and I are good citizens and are respectful community members; which means we follow the 3 R’s— we Respect the Ride Manager’s Rules about Dogs– on leash, means ON LEASH AT ALL TIMES —not off leash at ANY TIME! we RESPECT the landowners rules, if the landowner wants dogs on a leash, then dogs needs to be ON A LEASH AT ALL TIMES, and we RESPECT each other; which means, if my camp mates leave their dog off leash in our little personal camp, and that/those dogs(s) never leave(s) their owners’ side while we are in our camplet during a ride, we don’t get bent outa shape aboudit. Ya know? And I know, you all know what I am talkin’’ about. I also think most people would agree with this. We do not all think your dog is cute enough to be allowed to be a nuisance, at anytime. So, please be RESPECTFUL of our feelings as well. We don’t want your dog wandering loose, peeing and pooping on our stuff or scaring the daylights out of us ( recall, dogs are predators with huge teeth and bone crunching jaw capacity and even if not your dog likely has the attitude that goes along with that ( Doberman, Chihuahua, Coonhound, Boxer, or Rottweiler, or whatever). That was the general consensus of the FB discussion as well as the session at AERC…
I do want you to know that when I mentioned this at my BCHW chapter meeting? They all agreed that everyone better keep the dogs away from the mules…. Whazzup with that? Do all mules stomp dogs? Really?

Then, onto another HOT topic: Guns…. Concealed weapons permits, carrying guns into National Parks, wilderness areas, and who is shooting on the trails…… and IF you shoot….. what about training your horse to be OK with you shooting your gun near them? Suggestion, a good suggestion, is to take your horse, and you, to a bomb-proofing clinic wherein you learn how to train your horse to do this. We have all seen the Cowboy Mounted Shooting, so we know horse CAN be taught to do this.

My personal stake in this one, is that I ride alone, a lot. And I think I may want to start carrying my gun. But, my horses are not accustomed to me shooting off of them. I could do it …. ONCE, as someone facetiously commented. I am not so much afraid of wild animals, as I am of evil people I might encounter. Someone shared that Michael Martin does these clinics out of Eagle Pt, Oregon and I know the Mounted Police organization is having clinics in the pacific northwest area this year.

Next Hot Topic was relationships with other user groups: motorcycle groups, mountain biker groups. Hiker groups, etc. One lady, cannot remember her name BUT she wrote an article for Endurance news about dogs in camp…. She shared about one defining event where her relationship with her mountain biker group was cemented after she rescued one lady who was hurt on the mt biker event.

Next Hot Topic was the language in the contracts we sign for using BLM and USFS land prevents RM’s from asking for release or indemnification so that language contradicts our ride liability releases. This discrepancy has not yet had an impact nor been tested in court, yet. Neither organization has tried to enforce it.

Another Hot Topic is *Short Rides*, which we all took to mean Trail Rides/Fun rides and Limited Distance rides—the conundrum here is that our organization is losing members and if members want to do trail and limited distance, why not count those miles? The organization may need to change. I spoke up and said that the organization should start keeping track of ALL miles, endurance, LD, and Trail as incentive to new people as that is the Hotter Topic: member attrition about 30% a year. The Board is in discussion about all of that. Our regional organization DOES do that and counts a *mile as a mile*; except not trail miles. That led right into the Member Attrition topic, our membership is declining and our demographic is aging (NOT aged). It is also a turnover problem and the topic came up around *elitist* attitude/ perception by new riders—feeling unloved, unwanted, not a *part* , feeling as outsiders, etc. VERY interesting because Aarene, and others who are on the inside have a perception that they are *helpful* and they do help people. How can that discrepancy exist? Well, because at Ride camps, as you know, we are all busy attending to our stuff, and caring for our horses. One sociological reason might be that *busy-ness* can lead to someone not feeling a *part* of things at Ride Camp, especially if they don’t know HOW to care for their things, attend to getting everything ready nor care for their horses*; so they see us/ya’ll being * busy* and want to know what we are doing but are reluctant to butt in while we are busy. I know that feeling well…. I stand there watching as people buzz around, and I wonder what I should be doing…. You know the feeling? There is a general consensus around the exclusionary feeling of Ride Camp and the cold feeling by new riders whom we/you WANT to welcome. Indeed, there is also the intimidating feeling because it is a RACE!

Here are some ideas put forth by RM’s and other riders: you may recognize some that your regional organization is doing and other ideas you may want to try:
1. Beginners meetings and Endurance 101 clinics, before and after regular ride meetings
2. Have a *Welcoming Committee* who acts by identifying and welcoming new riders, hangin’ out with them, dragging them to meetings/clinics/ acts generally helpful.
3. Have fun rides at every endurance ride (here is where I said, and COUNT THOSE MILES) with added incentive such as awards for all miles, awards and recognition for bumping up as you go up in miles, I was introduced to Mollie Krumlaw whose organization has an interesting idea around that, I will get the details and post here when I get them.
4. Educational activities: Dr. Susan Garlinghouse is making short, educational YouTube videos for organizations to use and show to everyone, new riders especially (I asked her to please include her talk about the *sweet spot* in terms of rating and pacing your horse).
5. LOVE this one: one organization has made weatherproof signs for who is who, titles, etc. and they plant these large signs outside their trailers so people know who is who and who is camped where.
6. LD is where the new riders are….the endurance riders admitted they need to socialize more with the people who ride LD.
7. Put labels on vet cards; NEW RIDER; so vets know and others know, so they can be made much of and garner more help; perhaps going away feeling more cared for and be more likely to come back.

Overall, we need to cast a bigger net, be ambassadors of our sport.

I know you all have your own stories about all of these topics, I urge you to share them here and the Board of AERC wants to hear from you as well; John said to email them with ideas about any or all of the above Hot Topics. the BoD contact page is here:

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