Flag Day Remembered


You probably feel like I do about the news. You’ve gotta be aware of what’s going on – but after you’ve selected the icon and scrolled down the headlines, you just wish maybe you didn’t know what was going on.  So much grime and violence and slander.

We seek for the noble stories, the hero stories, the reminders that there are good things going on in our country.  And occasionally we find them, usually after we have seen them shared by five different friends on the same day.


What our hearts really seek is true nobility – self sacrificial love, and whenever we find a story like that, it resonates in our heart, because it is simply a reflection of the greatest act of nobility of all: one who was faultless, taking the punishment those who were guilty.  Me. It was me. I was guilty, and his father loved me enough to send him to step into my shackles and pay the death penalty while I went free.  Freedom like no one has ever seen. Resulting in gratitude beyond compare.  And unlike all the spam offers of $150 worth of free drinks at Starbucks if you hit like and share, this really is free to all who will receive it, because “you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

And that really is something to celebrate today!



Why Pay So Much for Horse Riding Lessons?

I came across this on Facebook, and it is attributed simply “FROM A PARENT.” So to whichever parent wrote this down, I say thanks. I think we can all attest to the truth of it.


One of my friends asked “Why do you pay so much money for your kids to do horse riding?” Well I have a confession to make, I don’t pay for my kids horse riding. Personally, I couldn’t care less about horse riding.

So, if I am not paying for horse riding, what am I paying for?

– I pay for those moments when my kids become so tired they want to quit but don’t.

– I pay for those days when my kids come home from school and are “too tired” to go the stables but go anyway.

– I pay for my kids to learn to be disciplined.

– I pay for my kids to learn to take care of their body.

– I pay for my kids to learn to work with others and to be good team mates.

– I pay for my kids to learn to deal with disappointment, when they don’t get that score they’d hoped for, but still have to work hard in the grading.

– I pay for my kids to learn to make and accomplish goals.

– I pay for my kids to learn that it takes hours and hours and hours and hours of hard work and practice to create a champion, and that success does not happen overnight.

– I pay for the opportunity my kids have and will have to make life-long friendships.

– I pay so that my kids can be in the arena instead of in front of a screen…

…I could go on but, to be short, I don’t pay for horse riding, I pay for the opportunities that horse riding provides my kids with to develop attributes that will serve them well throughout their lives and give them the opportunity to bless the lives of others. From what I have seen so far I think it is a great investment!

Lesson Horse Species

Comprehensively categorizes every extant lesson horse into these easy-to-understand groups.


As seen at Moss Creek Equestrian Center barn, Hilton Head Island, SC

As seen at Moss Creek Equestrian Center barn, Hilton Head Island, SC

Hilarious, and oh-so-true – and yet these lovable (and sometimes aggravating) equines have taught most of us how to ride the world over. Long may they balk.

The Process of Becoming

The following is a portion of  an interview with Dance Master Paul Taylor (2007) (discussing pain while dancing):

Interviewer: “I’m always struck though by the tension between looking graceful while it hurts.”

Paul: “Anything on the stage … any theatrical thing … is an illusion usually. There’s nothing real about it.”

Interviewer: “Nothing real about … ”

Paul: “It’s all manufactured. And a lot of times, most times in dance, the grace that you see — effortless grace — comes after years of very hard labor to be able to do that.”


A friend of mine posted that quote on facebook, and it has been stewing in my head ever since. Because in fact, Paul’s observation is true in virtually every discipline of life. We often look at an athlete, a musician, an artist and wave off his achievement by saying, “he’s gifted” – like he was given some injection of capacity with which we simply weren’t born.

The bare truth is that whatever they are producing that looks effortless (in our case, good riding) most often came after grueling years of practice, developing, learning, growing, failing, getting up again.


By Fotoimage (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


The same is true in our spiritual lives. We look at someone further along in their walk with Christ than we are, and marvel at the Spirit-filled way they respond to pressure, trial, tragedy (or just the guy who pulled out in front of them in traffic), and we assume their grace-filled response is a personality thing; and for me, well, I’m Irish, and I can’t help my temper.

Believers in Jesus are not born with some capacity that others haven’t been given. They have accepted Jesus’ finished work on the cross, and then in response, they have “worked out their salvation” (notice I didn’t say worked for their salvation) in the day to day, allowing the Spirit of God to work in them to develop, learn, grow, fail, and get up again. In so doing, they are working the spiritual muscles, being sculpted, being transformed into the likeness of Christ.

So in the New Year, be encouraged. He who has begun a good work in you has promised to keep doing that work until the day of Christ (Philippians 1:6). And one day, those who know Jesus Christ personally will be more than the culmination of a gifted human artist, we will be the glorified culmination of God’s amazing work of change to make us like His dear Son – from the inside out.

Horse Movies and Bad Horsemanship

Winter vacation. Chances are, it’s freezing cold and you are snowed in (or in our case, it warm with flooding), so there  perhaps isn’t as much riding going on as you might like. So what are you going to do?

My girls and I pull out the horse movies (they got two new ones for Christmas – off the clearance rack, but don’t tell them that), and between the sweet story line (and sometimes cheesy ones) and the warm fuzzies you get from the special bond between human and horse, we make fun of the bad horsemanship.  Like, “SERIOUSLY? That is the most unsafe thing to do they just did!!”  And, “Why are they yanking their horse around like that? Look how high their hands are!  And so stiff!!”  And, “That is NOT that little girl riding, that’s a full grown stunt woman!”

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 10.00.05 PMTruly, it’s fun to be the peanut gallery, but there is also merit in seeing what horsemanship errors and safety mistakes kids can spot in these not-very-realistic movies (that sometimes can still make you cry at the end.  Ok, so sometimes the tears are because the movie is just so dumb, but there are some good ones too.)

So here are my top ten horse movie pet peeves:

  1. Horses that whinny all the time – especially whinnying while they rear.  I think all the movie studios use the same exact sound bite for that.
  2. The really bad reining: tight reins, high hands, yanking horse, uneven reins
  3. Riders that gallop their horses at full speed for hours
  4. Riders that flap their elbows like a chicken dance
  5. The idea that a new student could get up on a horse and be loping within minutes to the coach’s great pleasure and satisfaction.
  6. Some little girl sitting down on the ground next to her standing horse.  Um, safety anyone? What if he stomps at a fly or spooks?
  7. Kids riding by themselves without helmets out into the western wilderness
  8. In the old movies, how the cowboys stunt men would roll their horses when they were shot – ouch!
  9. Actors who try to do their own riding but have terrible posture.
  10. When it’s super-obvious that the actor isn’t doing her own riding.

And of course, even with the bad horsemanship and sometimes B-roll story lines, we still manage to pull them off the shelf and play them again – just to get our dose of horse when we can’t be with the real kind.

“Dear Parents of Horse Kids” – by Julie Kennedy

Larkriseheader_FotorThis made the rounds on Facebook in October, but I just saw it today, and thought it was some helpful advice to those of us who are parents and teachers of horse kids.

Dear parents of horse kids:

Over the past 30 years I’ve had hundreds of kids, from 8-18, walk through my barn doors. I’ve seen many come in who are horse crazy from birth, who will sleep in a stall just to be around a horse. I’ve seen kids come through who’s [sic] parents were horse lovers and they want their children to share their passion. Not all kids are created equal. Not all kids have a desire or the talent or the means to make it to the upper levels of competition. There are things every parent needs to consider when their child rides.

1) Not every child has a competitive nature. If your child decides showing isn’t for her, don’t press it. Let them enjoy the horse at a recreational level and be thankful they are at the very least, learning responsibility and staying off the streets. A barn atmosphere is generally one of the safest places for a kid to be.

2) If your child decides to show, know that not every horse will make a show horse and not every child has the talent to be an upper level competitor. Be prepared to move through horses as your kid progresses and be sure never to put your child on more horse than they need. Safety and consistency are way more important than winning in the beginning.

3) Realize that if your child is serious and has dreams of making it to the big shows, their youth career ends at 18. That leaves only 5 short years, if they start at 13, to become a great rider and be mounted on a horse with the talent to take them to the top.


4) Not all kids want to do the event their parents loved. Some kids like to jump, some like to run barrels, some like to go slow and some like reiners. Give them the opportunity to try all the events to see what they truly enjoy.

5) Find a barn with a reputation of bringing kids AND their horses through the levels. Many people are great with beginners, many trainers are great with horses. It takes a special combination to be able to develop both. Don’t be afraid to talk with other parents at shows and feel the atmosphere of the kids when they are together. Know that your child may outgrow a trainer or possibly not enjoy the atmosphere or program as time goes by.

6) Be patient. Great things take time. When you have a good program and a suitable horse, know that winning doesn’t happen over night. It takes hours and weeks and months and years sometimes for a horse/rider team to come together. Not all horses are meant for all riders and sometimes you will have to back up and punt. Have patience.

7) Be supportive and listen to your child. If she becomes uncomfortable for any reason with the process, be sure the horse is suitable and the coach and child have a good relationship. No one wants a client who jumps from barn to barn, but at the same time, know that 5 years go by very quickly and there may be someone else who could help your child along quicker.

8) Talk to parents who have done this before. Their experiences will help you understand what expenses, time and commitment will be required to keep your kid successful.

9) Enjoy the journey. You and your child will get to share experiences that few other sports allow. Be the supportive parent and let the trainer be the coach. Children will very seldom learn from their parents what they will learn from an outside party, so don’t get offended when your child dismisses your advice only to take it to heart from their coach. Your job is support and encourage, its the trainers job is to teach.

10) Keep the pressure away from winning and instead, focus on helping them grow. When the hard work is put in, the ribbons will come.

11) Know that the investment in their youth career will be expensive but the pay off will be knowing your child has been exposed to life skills they cannot gain in any other sport. They learn the responsibility of caring for another living being, they learn patience, they learn to work and manage time and resources and they learn how to deal with the pressure of competition. Showing horses every weekend is the safest way I know of keeping kids out of trouble.

12) Listen when they tell you their dreams. If they decide at 16 they would rather play volleyball, it’s good indication they have satisfied their goals with the horses and are ready to step back. No matter the investment, you need to let them make the choice to stay in or back away.

13) Teach them that the horses are a privilege and certain responsibilities are expected in order for them to pursue their dream. Schoolwork should always be a priority.

14) When they are old enough, let them learn to manage finances. Explain the costs of boarding, training and showing and encourage them to learn a horse related skill to help pay bills. Banding, stall cleaning, feeding and body clipping are all ways a child can help pay their own bills. Teach them to prioritize expenses when shopping for horse supplies and encourage them to keep a record of the expenses.

15) Once a child reaches college age, their time will generally be focused on school. The horse will likely be sold or leased or passed along to a family member. Discuss and plan for that day.

These years go by in the blink of an eye. Make the best of them and have fun. Know that your time and money will be well spent when you see a responsible and confident young adult walk out into the world.

Getting a Nod from the Professionals

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 10.26.27 AM

Once in a while, it’s really nice to get a notice from the “big guys”! We respect your work, and those of us still at the grass (and other item) level appreciate the leg up from those who have gone on before. So, heartfelt thanks!

Please excuse the mess, we are remodeling…

I’m in the middle of doing some website restructuring, and in the mist of all the perpetual motion that goes on in our lives (seriously, ya’ll!), it’s slow going! So please bear with me – hope to get things looking respectable soon….er ….or… later.   Read more →

Check out this rock!

A ranch hand called to me and said one of the horses had a rock in her shoe that they could not get out.  I jogged over and picked up the mare’s foot, and could not believe the rock that was there!  It wasn’t a pebble in the groove of her frog, it was a river rock as large as… Read more →

Western Dressage Intro

What is Western Dressage? We will be introducing it to our students within the next two weeks. Here is a cheerful, nutshell sneak peak put together by a riding school in Spokane Washington. Read more →