Welcome 2018!!!

Well, 2017 proved itself an unusual year with challenges and accomplishments. I did several clinics in CA and a few in NV, had several short term training clients and a few long term ones as well. My personal horses were slightly back burner-ed but then they are young and there isn’t any great hurry.

I have discovered is that the people that don’t truly understand methods and aren’t willing to ask questions will always poopooo them and the person applying them, and honestly, that’s fine because the only one who’s opinion REALLY matters is the horse. They can’t tell lies or say things to make themselves feel better. They are totally honest in their opinion of the human that in interacting with them.

The second thing I have learned to embrace is the fact I can offer the horse a multi-faceted approach to solving an issue. If one thing doesn’t seem to be working, I have the depth of knowledge to draw on multiple avenues to correct things.  Do I know EVERYTHING??? Nope, no one does. BUT I have an excellent mentor system comprising some of the best horsemen in the world that come from a VERY broad discipline base from Classical Dressage (Spanish Riding School), international grand prix jumping, world class reined cow horse, “natural” horsemanship and ranch horses. Everyone of the masters in their field, I have personally worked with and am proud to call friend. The great thing is they all believe that they are never done learning and search for others to learn from . . . . . If you are working with a trainer or instructor that doesn’t attempt to learn & grow from others, then there will be a limit to what they can teach you. Just something to keep in mind.

As for the horses, well they teach me plenty every day. I’ve had a few tough eggs to crack but they came through with flying colors. A 10 year old Arabian gelding that had gone “through the wringer”. After one of the best beginnings in life that could be had by a young horse, he was sold and fell into some abusive hands. After a horrible start into training and dumping his owner, he sat in a 12×12 pipe corral for nearly 2 years. When he came to me, he was terrified of ropes, 2 horse trailers, more then 2 people around him at once, resentful of moving forward, sticky feet and several other small idiosyncrasies. After 90 days, he had learned to leave most of that behind. He still harbors issues with the 2-horse trailer but sometimes it takes awhile of doing things to truly let go of the big ticket item.

Speaking of letting go of big ticket issues, one of my long term clients is doing that herself. She harbored a fear of going forward on her horse, she was terrified of being run off with. We have been working on her fears and chipping away at it a little at a time. I have become a better instructor because of her.  She was REALLY new to horses 2 years ago and only been riding with me for about 18 months.  As she has learned more about horses & why they do the things they do, she has slowly learned to let go of bits & pieces of her fear. I know a lot of people that have gotten into riding in their later years, 40+ years of age. It is TOUGH to work through the “self preservation” mind set. I have been tough on her but she has come SOOO far! Yesterday, the last day of the year, she finally started loping her green mare around and having success. She still was scared but had learned how to replace that fear with knowledge. Knowledge born of learning and muscle memory and remembering to BREATHE!!!! Was a wonderful day for me to watch her success and I surely hope it was just as wonderful for her.

I’m closing this blog with a short reminder to people to be kind to others. If you have a friendship, be loyal & honest to that friendship. Whether it is to your horse or human friend. Once you betray the relationship, whether on purpose or simply from lack of knowledge, it is hard to get the relationship back. OH and horses are WAY more forgiving then humans will ever be.

Happy New Year everyone! Look for my calendar of events in the next post and have a great ride!!!

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Awareness, Consistency and Habits


When working with horses, many of us want a horse that follows our slightest request. One that almost reads our mind when we ask for something. In order to build this kind of attention in the horse we have to apply 2 of the above and get rid of one.
Awareness, not only of our horse but of OURSELVES. I am not just speaking of being safe, but of how we present ourselves to the horse, from the moment we come into their conscious thought process. One of the things that springs from awareness is consistency. Being aware of the tiniest things like when we open the gate into a pen/stall, do you consistently require the horse to move out of the way of the gate and turn to face you when you catch them? Or do you,part of the time,rub their face over the fence, then use the gate to push them out of the way except on days when you’re cranky because of the weather or maybe you tripped over one of the kid’s toys? Then you get frustrated because they “are in your space with their head and won’t get the hell away from the gate” . . . . . . 
When a horse is new to being handled, whether they are a new foal or a wild one that is older, you need to be consistent in your techniques until they become comfortable with that. Once they become fairly comfortable with a bit of a routine, you can then start changing it up a bit. 
Simple things like being aware of how they drop their head for the halter and being consistent in your request of that before haltering, but before that, are you aware of changing the side on which you catch them on? When you lead the horse to the hitch rail/tie rack/etc do you always turn them away from you to tie them up, no matter which side you lead them on? Or are you aware enough of yourself that half the time you turn them away, the other half you take the extra 4 steps and turn them in a near full circle and then tie them?  This applies to riding as well. Do you have a “routine” that you do that never varies like “get on, flex left, flex right, pat with the right hand walk off” ? At that point, you are actually falling into  that third realm . . . . habits.
Once you become habitual in your handling/riding, the horse becomes habitual in his response. This makes for a dull horse that can be explosively reactive when his habit is disrupted. Oddly enough, when you vary your handling routine, your horse becomes much more attentive to your actions/motions/directives. While you do have to spend enough time being consistently aware of your actions for the horse to learn what a specific action means, don’t fall into a rut of asking for the same actions in the same order all the time.
For those that are sitting there with a dumbfounded look thinking “what the hell is she talking about?” let me explain. Case in point: If you were to, every time you ride, “consistently” ride into the arena, going to the left and walk 3 revolutions, then pick up the trot, ride 2 revolutions every day, that is a habit. Your horse will learn this habit and pretty soon won’t wait for your directive. Then one day you decide to only walk 2 revolutions and then want to trot and have to kick that lazy SOB cuz he won’t trot. Well you created a HABIT for him and then wanted to change it, not his fault.

This applies to cues for the horse to do specific maneuvers, like gait transitions. Do you “consistently” cue for the trot by first shortening your reins, then getting a soft feel, then lightening your seat, then obtaining the trot? Do you ever shorten your reins, get a soft feel lighten your seat then toss them the reins like “ha just kidding”. . . . . . Make your time with the horse like a “pirate code”, more of a guideline . . . . . keep the horse attentive!lesson9

2019 – A year of Introspection This year was, in many ways, one of the toughest I have ever experienced in the equine industry. A year of growth, self-awareness, professional evaluation, “tool bag” evaluations, client gains/losses and being reminded that my friends, true friends, are always there for me. It started out pretty rough with some severe weather through January and February 2019. Many times, I could not ride my horses in training due to extremely high winds and snow. I have always been of the mind set that if things outside my control force me off my horses, my clients should not have to pay the price so I did a lot of financial “crediting” over these days. While it made things difficult on me, this was only fair to my clients. Come March, things settled down and I could continue on. This taught me a very valuable lesson. I cannot continue to do what I love without a covered/partially enclosed arena. Frozen slick ground and high winds are a detriment to many types of training. I had a few pretty tough horses come my way last year. All had good breeding and should have been easy to bring along, but the horse/human relationship that these animals had endured before they got to me had damaged them, mentally and physically, to a point they had become unmanageable, even dangerous. I know in my head I did the best by them that I could. I used every tool in my bag but it wasn’t enough. I know this wasn’t my “fault” but I carry these horses in my heart. It was my first year of “failure”, so to speak, and I truly hope that these horses have found peace and success in their futures. Which brings me to my self-awareness/evaluation. I had the opportunity to ride with some GREAT colleagues this year. They pried open my mind & tool bag and poured a plethora of support, ideas, tools and “stuff” into both. I realize I had become pretty one-dimensional in my methodology. I was following what was comfortable and not pushing my own comfort zone (I squall at my clients all the time to push theirs) and was retarding my own growth. One of these amazing people told me that riding by myself ALL the time is one of the worst things to do. There are several reasons behind this. Unconsciously, we protect ourselves and don’t ride “up to par”. If we get pile drove into the ground, who knows how long we would lay there before help comes. Also, there is no opportunity for feedback/discussion on how horses are doing plus those little breaks while sitting there talking gives the horse a chance to soak on something you just worked on. Additionally, horses need to be ridden with others to push their minds to accept that you call the shots, even when there are other horses in proximity. Good stuff there folks! My clients taught me soooooo much this year! I’ve watched a few that have gotten hurt (some slightly, some pretty severe) push through their injuries and continue on with their horses. I have learned to become a better teacher, to SEE beyond their personna and help them from within. To really study the body language of the HUMAN (I always studied the horse, they are easier!) and be able to help them through some road blocks. I have had some that no amount of effort would help because they didn’t WANT to change, and learned, though it was painful, to walk away and dust my hands off. Though a hard lesson, there are some people out there that are toxic and you have to go back to your core ethics and integrity, no matter what it costs you. What has 2019 taught me in a nutshell? That I am strongly drawn to the technical aspect of riding, no matter the style. I love the dressage aspects of riding and how it can apply to all disciplines, even “cowboying”. That its OK to combine methodologies as long as my efforts are not conflicting from day to day. That I need to be more selective in the horses that I take on, cuz let’s face it, I am no spring chicken! That I need a facility to work out of that offers me protection from the elements so my client’s and their horses don’t suffer from loss of work. That I need to be more aware of my gut feelings in situations and trust that and not someone’s lip service. That I deserve to take time out for my mental and physical health. My goal for 2020 is to get back into the show pen. I am aiming for the working equitation arenas as I truly enjoy the challenge there. This makes a horse suitable for so many different areas in life, dressage, trail, obstacles, cattle, etc. I am looking for a facility that offers me the opportunity for growth in clientele and suitable amenities that allows me to make horses all they can be. If I cannot find this, then I am open to a “regular job” that offers me the ability to keep a roof over my head and my bills paid and the opportunity to develop my own horses and a just a few client horses. I am not sure where these goals will lead me but I have my sights on the far horizon and the future. Come join me!

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Mimicry, Parroting and Imitation

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. . . . . .

In some instances that may be very true. But when does the imitation become nothing more then parroting what others have said?

Mimicry is defined as “the action or art of imitating someone or something, typically in order to entertain or ridicule.” Now in the equine world we have all been ridiculed by others, sometimes in ignorance and sometimes in jealousy and mean spirits.

When someone parrots another it is defined as “a person who, without thought or understanding, merely repeats the words or imitates the actions of another”. This is probably the one we see the most.

How many times have we been intrigued by someone that we thought could offer us more insight into our horsemanship? We “pony up the funds” (pun definitely intended!) and go to see them, either as a spectator or participant, in hopes that we can carry off more little gems of wisdom to make us better riders/handlers/owners. Unfortunately, when we get there, we find someone that knows the buzz words, sees the general mechanics of their mentor but has no or very little depth of understanding of that mentor. They have usually watched the videos/read the books and maybe have been to a few clinics. We present to them a problem and they become a “parrot”, repeating the same words/actions they have seen/heard without really getting down to the root of the problem or the why of it all.

The biggest thing that I have found are people that pick the latest/greatest theme and popular person, then they read/watch some media, maybe even go watch a clinic or (gasp) ride with said person a time or 2 and instantly are experts on the matter. They don’t understand, in depth, what they watched and certainly don’t have the experience/knowledge/understanding to teach it, yet they “hang their shingle” out there and take people’s money and give them VERY little in return. This is mimicry, they are there simply to entertain & be paid.

These people have NO business trying to teach methods that they don’t truly understand, can’t accomplish with excellent accuracy and don’t take the horse’s mental AND physical attributes to heart. They have not spent enough time learning the layers of each and every exercise. The biggest thing that is a detriment is the phrase “I take what I like from each method and just use that”, before they have ever dedicated themselves to learning the detailed nitty gritty of ANY method. THIS is the biggest killer and downfall of our “convenience store” mentality in the horse world. Just grabbing what looks good and taking off.

I have 2 very significant mentors in my life, both of which I have known for 20+ years. I have done my very best to learn what they have to teach, but more significantly WHY they teach it, how and when to apply it and, in some cases, how to slightly tweak it to fit a particular horse. My third mentor is the horse, actually horses. I work with a LOT of different types of horses, used in a myriad of different ways. I see trends of certain things in certain disciplines and try my utter best to help each horse and let THEM TEACH ME. I spent 12 years learning the BASICS from one man before I felt accomplished enough to teach them. He continues to improve on those basics and I continue to learn what he has tweaked so I can use them to help the horse and their people.

There are certain words that everyone uses because, let’s face it, there are only so many words that mean the same thing in the English language. The difference is the way they are presented, the content in which they are used and the INTENT and knowledge of the person using them. So in your quest for knowledge, do your best to research the person you wish to learn from. Make sure they have spent a significant amount of time AND effort in learning something before they attempt teaching it. Just because someone watches some videos and a clinic or 3 over the space of a few years, doesn’t mean they truly understand what they have seen and certainly doesn’t give them the knowledge and experience to try to teach it.

Traditional Ranch Roping / Cattle Handling Clinics

If you have ever been interested in learning how to rope and handle cattle in the style of the Great Basin Buckaroos, this is the clinic to get into. But you will need to hurry, limited to 12 riders!!!!

Our instructor, Scott Van Leuven, is one of the greats of the modern buckaroos, was a finalist in The Californios Vaquero Roping, won the Top Hand Roping with his team at the Great Basin Buckaroo Gathering 2014 and most recently won the Open Doctoring at the Early Californio Skills of the Rancho with his team in 2016.

Scott makes his living doing what he will be teaching us to do. He is an outstanding instructor and is equally good with children, beginner adults and advanced ropers.

This first clinic, Jan 21/22, will literally start at the beginning. In the roping portion, showing you how to handle a rope, proper coiling techniques, how to build a loop properly & efficiently, correct swing, etc. We will be concentrating on dummy roping this first clinic with some talk on learning how to move cattle in a pasture setting and holding them in a rodear.

Each subsequent clinic (Feb 18/19 and Mar 18/19) will build on the skills you have learned in the previous clinic so you will need to be practicing at home!!! There will be 3 practice days on April 29, May 27, June 17 without instruction. Then we will have a refresher clinic with Scott on July 29/30 and a Ranch Roping & Cow Working jackpot for clinic participants (must have entered all 4 clinics) only on August 19th!!! We will have an open Ranch Roping & Cow working Jackpoton August 20th!!

Outside of your horse & tack, you will need an extra soft rope that is minimum of 50′ long. Diameter will be anywhere from 3/8″ to 5/16″ depending on your hand size and either poly or nylon. You may also want to purchase a “break away honda”.

Cost is $350 per person per day with a $50 cattle fee applicable starting in February. Contact email at with additional questions. Also look us up on FB under Purple Sage Equine events!  

Relocation of Services Offered

The time has come for Purple Sage Equine to relocate from the Reno, NV area.

As of January 1, 2017 I am offering full time services in the Carson Valley (Minden, NV to be exact) in a melding with 5 Clover Ranch & Trailer Sales.

I am really excited about this new endeavor. With the accessibility of an lovely indoor arena, 2 outdoor round pens, 2 outdoor arenas (1 under construction), cattle pens and tons of space to ride on, I can really begin to get my personal & client horses a broader spectrum to get “broke” in!

I will be hosting an eclectic offering of special events including a Ranch Roping clinic series that will be “beginner friendly”, we will literally be starting at square 1, and a jumping clinic taught by International Grand Prix winner Candice King ( http://www.usefnetwork.com/athletes/56/candice_king.aspx ). At 5 Clover our focus is to provide quality horsemanship that applies no matter what the discipline.

Several things are in the works with hopes to complete by this spring.

A) developing a VERY large and detailed trail trials course with more natural type obstacles.

B) building a full set of jumps to offer the hunter/jumper crowd

C) building a Cowboy Dressage court.

D) developing a riding school for ALL ages & levels that has a European flavor and a Western flair!

I have a few openings for full time training starting in March and some lessons slots available. Please visit my website for more information on what I am and please check out my calendar page at that site for availability and future events.

Come ride with us!!!

To Treat or Not To Treat . . . . .

That is a HUGE question!!!!

In a previous installment of my blog (https://wordpress.com/stats/insights/purplesageequineblog.wordpress.com) I talked about how the horse will choose comfort & security over food when the leader provides that. Most people have a basic understanding of this fact. The one thing they seem to forget when they actually become involved is trying to get the horse to do something that is “scary” with the use of food. That MAY work for a very short time, in a specific instance.  But when that food is no longer offered, the horse will revert to being “scared”.

Why does this happen??? You may think “I was being a good leader by showing my horse that he shouldn’t be scared of something because he if he isn’t he gets goodies”.  In all reality, 90% of people resort to this method AFTER the horse refuses to do something (due to fear or another reason) and it becomes a REWARD FOR BEING SCARED/NAUGHTY/ETC.

Trailer loading is probably the best scenario to utilize as an example. I can’t count the number of horses I have seen that are hard to load, haul poorly and unload like a rocket. Most times what has happened is the horse wouldn’t initially load so the handler got a bucket of grain/handful of carrots/pocketful of treats and attempted to “chum” the horse in AFTER they have had trouble. Now the horse correlates their unwanted behavior with treats. Then, if they manage to get the horse in, they usually get the door closed as fast as possible to prevent the horse from escaping backwards. Now they have “trapped” the horse in a place he was scared of to begin with. Then the handler drives to their desired location, opens the door and the horse “escapes” from the scary place and the handler usually reprimands the horse for this unwanted behavior. So now the horse see the trailer as a place to act “naughty” & get treats then get trapped in it and anticipate the entire ride the reprimand for getting out.  Congratulations human, you have created a vicious circle that tends to get repeated time after time.

Another prime example is rewarding a good ride with treats while the horse is standing at hitch rail/cross ties/etc or, in some cases while people are still in the saddle. The horse starts to correlate getting the person either A) off their back or B) away from the work area with treats. All of a sudden (or so it may seem to the human) the horse begins to hang at the gate or rush to get home. Another symptom is pushing towards the human or “nuzzling” looking for more treats. The human innocently thinks the horse is “thanking” them or being affectionate. Then all of a sudden they get bit or stepped on and then the horse is punished for being naughty. Congratulations human, you have betrayed your horse.

Something to really ponder . . . . . .   how many times have you seen the leader of the herd step aside or offer that treat / bucket of grain / choicest spot of green grass to an underling in the herd??? They don’t, PERIOD.  If the leader of the herd asks an underling to do something, they NEVER direct that horse to a choice mouthful of food as a reward.

The horse really doesn’t care if a treat comes from your hand or they find it in their bucket/feeder in their stall/pen/pasture. They enjoy them just as much . Reward your horse for a job well done by releasing pressure (loosening the reins, taking your spur out of their belly, lowering the flag, stop moving their feet), rubbing, scratching. All of these can be done IN THE MOMENT, as the horse is  performing whatever action you wanted from them.

Can’t abandon your addiction to treats?? Fine, just take an extra few minutes to put them in the horse’s feeder/bucket after the horse is gone from the area. Then when you put the horse away, maybe spend an extra few minutes standing with them while they are munching with maybe a scratch or pet during. If your horse is in a pasture environment with other horses you might resort to putting these in a bucket and spontaneously “finding” them on the way back to pasture.

Be the leader your horse needs . . . . . . . .

Presence, pressure & “labeling” the horse

We so often times see & hear people that label a horse. Quite often its lazy, stubborn, pig-headed, etc. other times its crazy, hot, on the muscle. The ones that really irritate me are stupid, mean, bad tempered, etc.

I have to ask WHY do you think the horse is like that???? Watch the horse in their natural environment, interacting with other horses & see if they respond to their herd mates in the same manner they respond to you.

Most times when a horse is being labeled, it is because the human has made them that way, through the application of pressure & presence.

Many times a horse that is “dull, lazy, stubborn” has been nagged (ineffective, untimely presence & pressure) at until they have learned to tune out the human because the human rarely, if ever, follows up on the first initial request to do something with firmness. this has been going on so long that the horse (because they are creatures of habit) has learned that if they don’t comply immediately, they may not have to comply at all. Other times it’s because the horse didn’t understand what the request was to begin with, then the human started pounding away and the horse learned to associate the request with punishment & decided the best course of action was to avoid it altogether.  Often, these horses, much like people, have a a more “laid back” outlook on life. They can be brought up to a much lighter more responsive behavior with consistency & follow through.

The “hot, on the muscle, crazy” horse, similar to the previous horse, usually has a more “energetic” outlook on life. But most times the reason they are harder to get along with is due to the human inability to adjust their pressure & presence level. A lot of times, the human only understands one level of application. The more sensitive horse will over react with that level of presence & pressure. When that is consistently applied (it can take just ONE session of consistent error in application) the horse can be mentally “patterned” to over react/brace/resist to ANY request after that until they are put into a place where they can learn differently.

There are horses that are a combination of the 2 “types”. They might have been ultra sensitive in the beginning and, because of over (or under) application, they are “stubborn” in some things and “crazy” in others. They might be afraid to move because of something that happened, yet when they do move, it’s explosive, then they shut down again. Or they may be constantly ON the move, can’t get stopped because of what happened and mentally “check out” & won’t respond until you  have to up the presence/pressure to excessive limits.

Labeling a horse is no different then labeling humans. We may be ignorant of something so are slower to respond/react because we have to process on how to do something. But that doesn’t mean we are stubborn or lazy. We may be fearful of something and so we react quickly and with jerky motions because it is unfamiliar. It doesn’t mean we are crazy.

When interacting with horses, we need to REALLY pay attention to how we present ourselves and how we apply the pressure we use to obtain the results we desire. If we want to wipe off a speck of dirt from our face, not many of us will go right to 80 grit sandpaper on a power sander right off the bat . . . . . . . . . . gulliver11

The Pushing Game

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I see this WAY too often in my travels. A person has a horse that is troubled while being led and the person has their forearm against the horse’s neck shoulder in a vain attempt to keep the animal off of them.

Simple biological fact: most horses weigh about FIVE TIMES what we do Their core instincts are to push against another being for either dominance, security or evasion. Why in the world would a puny human think that by putting their arm against the horse’s neck/shoulder, they can keep that animal off of them???

I have seen this attempt at control from all level of horsemanship. From uneducated local level beginner rider/handlers up through Olympic caliber trainers. The most common thread I have heard was “if you keep the lead line short and your arm stiff, you can keep them off you”. No, they just learn to shove you out of the way.

There is physiological changes in a horse that crops up from this type of handling. I have had horses come in for training that have never been ridden that have over development of the left shoulder from being braced up against the human.

Groundwork, it’s not just for breakfast anymore . . . . .

It’s a brand new world, yet the presentation to the horse is as old as time

The internet, cell phones, smart phones, tablets, HDTV and all else that has become so prevalent in our world of communication has changed the way many of us think, function, react, etc. It has changed the way we advertise, the way we conduct ourselves and mostly the way we view the world & the people around us.

But the fundamental horse never changes. He doesn’t care if you have the latest iphone 6 or an outdated flip phone that can’t accept text messages. He doesn’t care if you drive a 2016 Toyota Prius with the ability to turn your iphone off the second you get in the car or if you drive a 1960’s pickup with rusted out floorboards that belches black smoke.

What he does care about is the way you present yourself to him & how you make him feel. Do you trigger fear & self preservation? Do you trigger security & a sense of well being? Do you exude a negative or a positive energy?

This is an instinctive response in the horse, one he will always instinctively turn/return to. Choosing this over food, water, etc. and it all boils down to whether you can control the feet of the horse. Because this is Horse Psychology 101. In a natural environment, the herd is controlled by the herd leader(s). Most of the time this is a lead mare and is assisted by the herd stallion (yep the WOMAN is in charge 😉 ) The herd looks to her to provide safety, security, food, water, etc. There are infinite levels of hierarchy within the herd, but the leader is the one that controls all the others feet. Is able to move those feet when, where, at what speed, in whatever direction they so choose. In return the herd is provided all those things that are so absolutely necessary for their survival.

So the next time you interact with your horse, consider what you are presenting to him/her. Leave your phone in your car (house/barn/etc). Push the modern world aside and offer your horse the same thing he wants to offer you.