Chansonette’s First Ride on Kami – May 26, 2016

What a wonderful session with Chansonette and Kami. Kami and I had such a good time with you! I love your write up. You really capture the highlights. It took all the skills you learned with Mystic and a strong dose of confidence and relaxation to achieve what you did today.  Riding Kami is like being on a teeter totter with hooves sinking deep into the earth with no movement at all on one side, and a rough, high headed, unconfident trot on the other side and in that magic point of balance, relaxation and harmony in the middle, a telepathic, light, smooth, flowing, responsive, joyous mare who will teach you how to truly dance in harmony with her!

Chansonette Buck

I am still floating from today’s lesson at Mystic Ranch. If you take a look at my cover photo, you will see Kami, the beautiful brilliant chestnut mare who decided a while ago that she would like to be included in liberty aspects of working in the arena as well as joining us for trail rides on the open property across the road. The first time she and I were in the arena together, she gave me one of her gorgeous big smiles (note cover photo). For me it was love at first smile. I am totally besotted with this free spirited, joyful, loving, sensitive Being. We’ve been playing together and getting to know each other for a while now. She now comes up to greet me, gives me smiles, shows me all her tricks, nuzzles for cookies, etc.

In short, we are buds. And the very sight of her fills me with joy.

Today when Jackie and I went to fetch Mystic and Tori for my lesson, Kami came up to us. It was clear that she wanted to be the one I was learning from today. She volunteered to be ridden. I was so honored. I know that she has very strong opinions about what will and what will not happen, and I’ve seen first hand how she communicates that nobody is riding her today, but that she would be happy to play at liberty. Today she clearly communicated it was our turn to work together.

We started out in the round pen, at liberty, with me on the ground. She showed me all her tricks, and then we started doing figure eights around the barrels. I still don’t seem to know the difference between left and right, and Jackie had to coach me a lot. Every day a new skill, it seems. After a while Kami and I were synched, and she allowed me on her back. Then came even more magic. We started with nothing on her head. We waited for her to decide what she’d like to do, and then Jackie coached me on how to anticipate and ask in advance for what she was already deciding would be a good idea. That way she’d think I have good ideas too, because they match hers.

We worked that way to find harmony. It wasn’t as straightforward with Kami as it is with Mystic, because Kami is a highly sensitive girl. It’s almost as if she hears you thinking the next move before you ask for it, and responds. So if you don’t stay super focused on Now, you’ll confuse her. Within minutes I was truly astounded at how responsive she is. For her, the cues need to be extremely subtle, soft, gentle, and light. She responds instantly. She is a dream to ride. What this means for me is that I need to get more assured about my cues, so I don’t overdo them and overwhelm her. It took us a while but we got there together. We did a lot of laps trotting (again, nothing on her head, just steering with seat).

After a while we got so that we could go to the arena, which is a bigger space. There she showed me her favorite thing: doing pivots on the platform. And we got synched up to the place where we did a beautiful job of weave the cones. So then we went out to the woods, and played some more. All of this felt very much like a cooperation, not a rider on a horse. We were finding a way to do this together, as a team.

Kami loves to go, so there were times she’d move into a trot…out of sheer joy and exuberance. I love to go too, so she and I have that very much in common. So I was all for it. But Jackie wisely wants me to get to the place where I can be sure I can sigh her down to a walk before we start speeding around the place. Which I wasn’t able to do all that consistently. When I did it right, her response was instant. When I was lacklustre, she just kept trotting. Because why not? It’s so much fun!

Anyway…I am just overjoyed to have had this experience with this gorgeous, brilliant, magical, playful, joyful girl. More of this please, Universe!

Riding Kami with nothing on her head

Riding Kami with nothing on her head

Perfect weave the cones with seat, focus and legs

Perfect weave the cones with seat, focus and legs

Riding in the pasture

Riding in the pasture

Chansonette’s Lesson – May 19, 2016

Chansonette’s Lesson Summary:

another great lesson at mystic ranch this morning. we got rained out after an hour so had to cut it short, but it was really productive in so many ways.

first off, when i showed up and leaned against the fence mystic saw me and came over to say hello. that is a first, and i took it as a very high honor. he didn’t ask for treats. he just came over and gave me some gentle nuzzles and let me stroke him behind the ears and under his mane and gave me his nose for a kiss. so yeah. i melted. i love this horse more every day as he lets me get to know him.

then kami showed jackie that she would like to be the co-teacher this session. so we all went out to the…uh…dang can’t remember what jackie calls it — but it’s an open area next to the arena with a lot of trees and things to climb up on and step over — at liberty. we played there for quite a while, and mystic and i had a blast together.

at one point i tried to encourage him to “step over” a double tree with a big root and space in between. he was very reluctant to do so, and my encouragements didn’t help much. jackie took over, and watching her i learned about working gently and patiently when your horse has some fear about something. i could see in his face that he was a tad anxious. not terrified. just, not so sure he could do this. and jackie worked with him and worked with him and then finally he did a one-leg step-over and then lickety split withdrew the leg and set his hoof firmly on the ground where it had been before.

i saw in that gesture that he still wasn’t so sure it was a good idea, and that he had really tried, and that he had done his absolute best in that moment. it moved me so much to see, because i am not unfamiliar with fear. and jackie praised him to the skies. it made me reflect on how hard i can be on myself sometimes. a lifelong habit of mind i’ve been working to change for decades. and how much more it would feed my heart and confidence if i would take jackie’s approach. i resolved to do so.

then we went into the arena and worked again on steering with body language. i’m getting it more and more. and how important focus is. mystic and i rocked “weave the cone” but i am still not so clear about going around the barrels. it’s so funny. it’s hard for me to remember “left” and “right” (i’m ms ZERO SENSE OF DIRECTION) so jackie would tell me to turn him in one direction and i’d do the opposite. but that gives us something to laugh about.

anyway, i feel i made great progress. and the thing i come away with more and more and more each time is a deeper and deeper joy. i honestly thought, after the cancer, that my joy was gone forever and i’d have to live without it. jackie, mystic, kami, tori, and the doggies bring me back to my joy in a sustained way every single time.


Mystic trying his heart out for Chansonette

Chansonette’s Lesson – Power of Focus May 16, 2016

Chansonette did a great job below describing her lesson with Mystic today. Watching her play with Mystic at liberty, it was clear that the two of them were having a good time. Mounted up, it took a lap of the arena to get neutral and straight working. It really didn’t take long at all before Chansonette was dropping the reins and having Mystic turn and stop to her body language and seat, without reins. The Spring grass is lush and very tempting to the horses. Most people would be having a fight with their horse trying to nose dive into the grass. Chansonette learned the power of focus and going forward – where Mystic followed her feel until he arrived at her destination and she said “head down” and let him graze as his reward. He followed her feel and she made sure his needs and desires were taken care of. I love these lessons with Chansonette!

Chansonette: still blissed out from my two-hour lesson with jackie, mystic, and tori at mystic ranch today. the last few visits have been pretty much play time out in the open land next door. which is in itself a lesson. for example, coupla times ago was after some hard rains and we came to a spot where there was a little stream and a lot of mud in a bit of a dip. mystic decided to jump it instead of get his feet all mucky. wise decision. jackie cautioned me before it happened and coached me on what to do, but i was blissed out and wasn’t ready. i came THIS close to falling off over his behind b/c i snapped backwards. a little bit later we came to another similar blip in the landscape. this time i was more ready, and i stayed on. so going out on the trails for pleasure rides is still learning. but jackie and i both noticed that i had started relying on the reins instead of working on my seat and body language. so today, my first lesson in the new order (ie two hours twice a week) we got back on the bareback pad instead of the saddle. we started in the arena with a really fun romp at liberty. mystic is reminding me of my playful side and making me so happy in the process. we played “weave the cone” and “pick up cone” and “push the ball” just with me walking beside him, no lead rope. and we just had a glorious time. (i am SO in love with this horse.) and then for the rest of the lesson we played “does chansonette remember ANYTHING she learned about steering with her body?!” first in the arena. moving towards dropping the halter reins and just using the neck string if necessary. and then out in the pasture in the trees and around the ponds. by the end of the lesson chansonette had made great progress. mystic was pleased and proud and received much praise and many treats (and sweet green grass) for his efforts in helping chansonette get back up to speed. all the way home i was marveling at what my life has come to. by which i mean: heaven on earth. seriously. i look back a year and i never EVER would have seen this coming from there. thank you Divine Design of Things. thank you jackie. thank you tori. thank you mystic.


Emma’s Second Lesson

Emma came out for her second lesson with Mystic.  We started getting her in time with Mystic’s feet at liberty on the ground.  He was a bit distracted at first, but after a few walk – whoas and turns, he synced up with her and the two were moving as one.  She mounted up and we focused on having Emma feel when Mystic was straight when she was in neutral, noticing when he started looking left or right and having her move the leg on the side he was looking forward just an inch to remind him to go straight.  Within a lap of the arena, they were doing a lovely “neutral and straight” together.  Now that they were moving in harmony together, we started focusing on turns, initiated by rotating Emma’s body in the direction of the turn, allowing the inside leg to slide back and open an inch, while the outside leg slid forward and prepared to “close that door” if necessary.  Emma shortened the rein on the side she wanted him to go and pointed with it where she wanted him to go.  Emma did the weave the cones and serpentine patterns, discovering that when her body language was working, she did not need reins to make those turns.  We focused a little on balance at the trot – which was fine, and then balance at the canter – which still made Emma a little worried.  I had Emma lean slightly forward during the trot – which felt wobbly, then slightly back – which felt unsafe, and finally, pulling her belly button in while keeping her body straight – which felt just right.  Emma knows where her body needs to be in order to be balanced now, but it will take a while to make it an ingrained habit.  We also practiced lots of walk to halt and trot to halt transitions.  When Emma, inhaled, lifted one hand, while tilting her pelvis back, sighing and sitting deeply, Mystic stopped beautifully.  When she forgot to sigh, forgot to lift one hand, forgot to tilt her pelvis back or didn’t sit deeply, Mystic would dribble to a halt.  Again, she “knows” what to do, but it will take practice to ingrain the habit.  We went out into the woods to practice some “point to point” aiming her focus – and, if needed, her legs at a distant tree – another version of the “neutral and straight” exercise we did in the arena.  We also practiced doing turns around trees so Emma could learn that Mystic needs a good four feet of clearance in order to make a turn without running either himself or Emma’s knee into the tree! Lastly we had Emma do some canters up the hill in the woods and Emma discovered that going up hill, she was very comfortable cantering Mystic.  I had Emma ride Mystic back into the paddock – which worked just fine.  All in all, a lot of progress for a second lesson.  Emma has now experienced riding with “feel” so she knows it is possible.  It will require practice, however, for her to develop the habits necessary for it to become second nature to her.


Rewarding a canter in the woods


Happy Emma


Riding Mystic solo

Givan Ranch Trail Ride – May 2016

Diann Kuzma and I took a trail ride at Givan Ranch Monday. It was a perfect Spring day, with lush green grass for the horses.  The Rogue River was stunning and we got in some nice trots and canters and Taxi even jumped a downed tree. A perfect ride on a perfect day. “Born to Ride” by Mary Ann Kennedy is the perfect song for this perfect trail ride and is used with the permission of the artist.

Hannah Takes Her First Trail Ride – May 2016


Hannah took another step into living her dream when she rode Mystic out on the trail Sunday – her first time off our property.  It was a gorgeous day, the landscape was lush and beautiful and the horses were perfect!  Hannah did great when Mystic asked if he could go faster. She sighed him down and he accepted her request to stay at a walk. Well done, Hannah!

Lindsey has fun with Kami – May 2016

IMG_0701 IMG_0712

Kami joined Lindsey on her trail ride with Mystic on Saturday.  Kami loves syncing up with people in wide open spaces, cantering off, cantering back, giving Lindsey a big smile!  Kami had so much fun with Lindsey that she followed us to the gate and told Lindsey she didn’t want her to leave!

Tori in the Pear Blossom Parade April 2012

The Jackson County Horseman’s Association did its annual ride in the Rogue Valley Pear Blossom Parade.  They needed someone to carry the American flag.  I volunteered Tori for the honor, though she had never been in a parade, nor had she ever carried a flag.  She led the club with our friend Robin Keeton on her mare Reba and did a great job.  While it was pouring the week of the parade, we had fine weather and a huge crowd in down town Medford.  What a terrific day!