Cloud's Honor Racing

Cloud's Honor Racing

Cloud's Honor Riding

Cloud's Honor Riding

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Bird and the Turks

I'll warn you, this is a stupid post.  Unless you have seen The Bird and know him, you may not grasp the gravity of this.

The Turks are here on Leighton Farm.  There are nine in total and they are not concerned about our presence, nor are they concerned about the horses.  They hate Star, my German Shepherd, but just about everyone hates her.  So, who are The Turks?  They're the turkeys that live in our woods and hang out in the corn and wheat fields that border our property.  I call them The Turks for some reason that I can't explain, but I think it's funny.

Today The Bird and I were jumping.  Jimmy wants me to jump him regularly and I'm trying to fit it in.  It was a great session and I followed it by a hack on the buckle about the farm.  For any other horse this would be no big deal, but for The Bird, this is a gift from the Angels.  I can't tell you how many times we walked around the farm and I prayed that he would reach, just once.  I had to keep my face to the side so his ears wouldn't poke my eyes out.  I never dreamt that he would stroll around the farm on the buckle.

So here we are, strolling.  I'm feeling fine after our jumping session.  Without warning (Henk, Henk, Henk), that's the sound you hear in a horror movie before something bad happens.  Out of the woods come The Turks with all the grace of flying elephants.  They are only about ten feet from me and That Bird.  That Bird on the buckle.  He shies, I sit into him and he puts his head back down and continues strolling.  You can only realize the miracle of this if you know The Bird.

It was a good day in Bird Land.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I believe there is greatness in every being on earth.  Realizing that greatness is another matter.  Finding someone to support the effort is rare.  Finding someone to help you produce and nurture it is even harder.  I believe many people who pursue riding are on a quest to find their  own inner greatness.  These magnificent creatures we ride definitely have this quality of greatness in them.  Some are more equipped to handle it than others and yes it seems to exist in varying degrees.

From the first time I sat on a horse I was on a quest to improve my riding.  I came to the party late, starting my riding career when I turned twenty.  Consequently I have always felt wayyyy behind everyone else in the world of riding.  When at 25, I decided to exercise horses at the track, the consensus was I was too old.  You need a lot of heart to do that work.  I had heart, a lot of passion and I never met a horse I didn't like.  Those tools served me well and I became very good at my craft.  This was against all odds, but even at the track, I never sat on a horse without learning something. One of the great things about horses is each of them has a story to tell.  They will tell it to you, if you listen.

So, when I turned 45 and decided I was going to learn to jump and eventually event, it was no surprise to anyone who knew me.  Here I was, late to the party again.  This time it's winding down.  Most people I know are not starting new endeavors at this age, particularly athletic ones that involve risk.  Once again my passion for horses has led the way. One horse in particular, My Bird ignited this latest flame.  I did not set out to event, I set out to learn to ride that horse.  When I first met Jim and got over my fear of talking to him, I told him my sole goal was to learn to ride that horse.  I was not naive, I knew I was biting off perhaps more than I could chew.  I told Elizabeth Madlener the same thing.  Neither said much of anything.  I would love to know what they thought, but both have never waivered in their support of my goal.  They have taken me seriously and guided me to improving my riding and learning about that beautiful Bird.

I am sure it will take a great rider to ride the Bird correctly.  I am not sure I will ever achieve the goal of riding him perfectly. This brings up the greatness in us.  I have come to the conclusion that bringing it to the surface is in many ways a brutal process.  It requires suffering and the ability to endure humilation, not the glamour and ease you see on the top riders at the shows.  They too have buried their face in their hands and wondered "why am I putting myself through this?"  While most of the time this greatness must be nurtured out of our horses, digging it out of us can be both demeaning and tough.  This process seems to require stripping our riding down to expose our very fiber.  I have experienced this with the great trainers I work with.

It seems to me, the great riders we see today were able to handle the systematic stripping down and rebuilding of their riding to new and better forms each time.  With every improvement comes some bad habits or tendency which must be dealt with immediately before it becomes a part of our riding.  Hence the fact that you are never there.  The great trainers rarely let you "rest on your laurels" when you have a breakthrough.  They never seem to see how far you've come.  They see only where you are in relation to where they can take you and proceed to take you there immediately.

This can be hard to take because it leaves you in a perpetual feeling of ineptitude.  The question arising, do you want a trainer that will make you feel great at the end of each session or do you want to be brought as far as possible?  I'm not saying I haven't left lessons feeling great, but I always see my deficiencies too and they are what stands out to me.  If you are led as far as possible, you will always end up in the place where you need to work harder.  If you rest on your laurels, you will have a euphoric feeling, but probably won't be much better a rider than when you arrived.  For me, lessons are not a place to display what I've learned, they are a place to be purified.  Shows are the place where you show your achievement - and find your deepest weaknesses too.  That's why they call them shows, don't you think?

The reality of my riding is I want to be good, but I will never be good enough.  This is the only way to continue the quest to be a better rider.  The only way my mentors can get me there is to work on my faults and weaknesses.  Congratulating me on my improvement and strengths will not lead me ahead, it will cement me where I am presently. 

There are many roads to cultivate our inner strengths and "greatness".  The pursuit of being a rider and horsman requires all of the elements needed to find it in ourselves.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Daddy, Mommy and ME!

Unbridled Mate - aka. Dad

Cloud's Honor aka Graycie or Mom

Mr. Z aka Bad Baby