Click Accept

This is the time of year where these little challenge things come out of the FB woodwork.  I am not sure if they are quite contests or programs or little experiments or just things people do.


Recently I have noticed a few friends doing something called “30 Days of Gratitude”   No negative comments from me.  I am a fan of gratitude.  I don’t think we see enough of it and I am fairly sure that I do not express it as I should.


While I fully support my friends who are doing this, I am not.  It is not that I am ungrateful, it is that I feel inadequate in my words, to express fully how I feel.  I am not entirely sure how to put into words what is in my heart.  It is not a place I visit often.  It is a place that is guarded by jokes and lightness and banter, to protect something more personal.


It seems here in 2015 that we find ourselves surrounded by attitude more than gratitude.  We hear a lot about “my rights” and not so much about “my responsibilites.”  I didn’t hear about rights when I was growing up.  I heard about responsibilities and priveleges and how the two were directly interrelated.  I did not enjoy getting up before the roosters to build a fire in the kitchen stove, bundle up in the dark and go out to mix milk replacer for our calves, climb into the hay loft and throw down bales of hay and straw, clean soiled bedding, chip out frozen water troughs and feed the waiting and rather noisy horde.  I didn’t enjoy it on Christmas, or birthdays or when I was sick.  I didn’t enjoy it when my best friend, Belinda Imhoff would drive her pony over and tell me she was going to help bale hay, which everyone knows is totally the best job ever because you get to ride on the wagon and play on top of the hayrick.  But I had to stay home to pick weeds out of the cornfield…. by hand… acre after acre after acre.  Which everyone knew was the worst job because it was SO boring!  I would grumble about animals needing roughage and weeds were perfectly acceptable roughage!  I might add that I made sure that the grumbling was done well under my breath!


I didn’t like those things.  I didn’t see the lesson or a foundation being built.  But I am grateful.


I am grateful for the hard things in my life, which is a very different thing from liking them.  I do not enjoy the struggles of pain or hurt or hardship.   I am grateful not because I am wise or strong or courageous.  I am not.  I am grateful simply because I choose to be.  To be clear and honest, I have not always been grateful.  I am no saint and I can write my own indictment for all my faults and failings.  Make me out to be nothing more than I am, a daughter of the dirt; very plain, very simple, and very flawed.


I am grateful for pain that has made me more compassionate.  I am grateful for weakness that has shown me that strength is more than just physical.  Weakness and strength are not mutually exclusive and not always the opposites we see. Uncertainty is a mountain and a monster.  It casts our lives in shadow… if we allow it.  It is a difficult thing for which to be grateful.  But I have tried (and on many occasions, failed) to choose to be grateful for the question marks that lie before me.  It has allowed me the choice to relinquish control …. control that was never meant to be mine in the first place.  Relinquishing control is not the same as giving up.  It is the choice to put my life in the hands of the God that I said (with words) I always trusted.  Now is where the words meet the actions.  I am grateful.


This is where this post lists off center.   This is where my awkward leaks out a little.  I can effectively express feeling and emotion in the third person and I often do so to protect myself.  But some things, like gratitude to an individual, need to be first person; hand to hand, face to face, heart to heart.  I find all of those things hard, not because I am so emotionless or cold that I am incapable of feeling, but precisely because the little group of people to whom this post is addressed mean so very very much to me.  More, in fact, than written words will ever be able to adequately describe.  It is being exposed and vulnerable… that too, is a choice.


Words come, often, somewhat easily to me.  Sometimes far more easily than they should!  I read a lot, I have a fairly wide ranging and ecclectic vocabulary and I like the spin of a story cleverly told, of words carefully woven together.  But in this post, I sit here completely at a loss.  How many times in the last few days have I shaken my head in disbelief.


On Monday evening I received a text from my friend Erin Sisson.  I knew she was having her Andalusian mare, Aurora, trained by Mark and Miranda and was going to ride her for the first time in 5-6 weeks.  She was excited and I was excited for her.  We joked and talked about what it was going to be like and since I knew that she and Miranda would be together, it was no great surprise that she mentioned calling or Facetime or Skype.


After working through the normal difficulties of technology, I heard that Skype tone that is so unique and familiar (and I might mention, annoying?).


I clicked accept and the first face I saw was Mark’s.  I was thrilled, thinking he might not be there with them.  There we were, 4 crazies crowded around our cold little distant pieces of technology; laughing and smiling.   It made me miss them so much more.  There is an ache that is worse than any physical pain, and it comes from longing to see friends that you hold ever in your mind and heart, but rarely within your physical grasp.  It is almost indescribable and any small dim picture of their face, hearing their voice, seeing them smile and laugh, is so amazingly good that words simply fail.


Earlier that day Mark and I had joked back and forth.  He said he was sending me a surprise.  The very first thought when I read his remark was, “If only it was THEM, not a thing.  I don’t want any THING, I want my friends.”  But I ruthlessly banished that thought, because it seemed so unlikely and so far away, and frankly, it was painful.  So we joked and laughed and I buried the hope.


Yet, there he was, telling me that he was sharing his wife with me for a couple days.


Why?  Over and over, after we hung up, that question filled my mind.  Why would they do this?  All three are business owners.  All three are busy and have more important matters to attend.  I had done nothing to deserve this.  They weren’t coming to train a horse or for a clinic or lessons and the more I wracked my brain for a reason, the more confused I became.   Why?


When they got  here they seemed genuinely happy to be here, not as though they felt they should be, but were truly having fun.  Overwhelming.


Gratitude is more than just liking something.  It is more than just thankfulness.  I think it would be popularly acceptable to say that gratitude is the desire to repay a kindness.  But there are some things that can never be repayed.  How do you repay a friend?  You can certainly do things for one another, but I have little of value that will benefit Mark or Miranda or Erin in any tangible way.  The fact is we repay debts, but what they gave me was not a debt.  It was a gift.  Gifts are meant to be accepted and enjoyed.  Something hard for me, and for many I think.


I go back to hearing that skype tone on my computer.  Two choices you are given as that tone plays repeatedly …. waiting…  You have to make a decision.  The choice is yours.


click Accept


click Decline


It’s really that simple.  To not decide, is to decide.  If you abdicate, choose to not make a decision, you have chosen “decline.”


There are things that I can say only personally to these three, because they are for them alone.  But I can say, that one of the greatest gifts that can be given is the redefinition of the word “friend.”  I find it both unmistakable and incredibly hard to articulate.  The depth and breadth of your friendship is overwhelming.  Your commitment and faithfulness to me, someone who can offer you so little, speaks volumes.


I pray that God will grant me the time and ability to somehow express my gratitude, broken and faltering though that effort may be.


I click accept.


Thank you.



Would You Rather?

Sometimes when things get a little rough I retreat.  Not always bad, not always healthy.  But I will tell you that Facebook is not always a good retreat.  Again, not always bad, but while it is the faceplate for people the world over, it distinctly lacks the personal humanity of sitting across the table from a friend, hearing them breathe, listening to their voice, seeing them smile, seeing the light in their eyes, or even just being silent together in a shared space.  Right now, I am missing my friends.


We all know that Facebook can add quite a bit of drama and that leads me to something that has been grinding away at my small mind for a while.


Some FB things that make me go….

angry baby

I don’t spend a lot of time on the computer, despite how it might seem.  I have better things to do and Mark and Miranda surely do.  But most of us enjoy spending a few minutes catching up, or sharing a post or two that we like.  Facebook is a great tool but here are a couple things that I find … challenging.

First on the list of eye-rollers is what we will refer to as the “half bait.”   These come usually as pop-up stories on our timelines often from people we don’t know (and sometimes people you don’t want to know!)  and they go something like the following:

This kitten … kitten  Was stuck in this hole … massive-hole-mine-crater-sinkhole8

when this dog… cape  found it.  (Here is the really annoying part… ready?)


My immediate response is No… just… NO.  I will NOT have my mind blown!   Besides, anyone who knows me, is aware that it would be a really underwhelmingly small explosion anyway.  (Did you know that a monkey’s brain is about the size of a walnut?)  I have learned my lesson because on a few shameful occasions I have been suckered into clicking on that emotional link because…. well I just HAVE to know what happened to that kitten.

Let me clue you in.  The kitten is ALWAYS saved.  ok?  Always.

The dog tragically breaks his back legs climbing through rugged underbrush to the rim of the rock-lined hole and yet still manages to heroically run to get Timmy, who picks him bravely up (despite severe arthritis in the spine) and races back to the hole, dodging landmines and a large rabid bear that is chasing them, and gently and carefully lifts the terror-stricken kitten to safety. The bear… seeing the kindness and care that Timmy has for the poor and downtrodden, retreats into the woods to a life of quiet reflection, veganism and solitude.  Timmy, the bedraggled kitten, and the wounded but courageous dog walk home snuggled in each others arms and live happily ever after.

3 minutes of your life… zap… gone forever!  Don’t do it, I warned you!

Political stories are rife with that type of emotional blackmail as well.  No matter what side you’re on (if you need help picking a side, I would be happy to tell you what side is the RIGHT side….. see what I did there?)  the stories all come to the same heart-stopping cliff hanger that the author hopes will leave you no option but to click to read the ending.

Many of you know that Mark and Miranda are fairly up front folk.  They don’t play that little game.  They wont slow step you to an epiphany.  They will come straight out and make it clear.  If they have something to say that you really need to know, trust me they will make sure you know.

The next on the list of irksome FB posts is called the, “If you’re really my friend….” type post.

Here is how this post normally reads:

I know that no one will read this… and if you do bother to read it, I’m sure you wont really care anyway… but if I have a few friends out there who care about what happens to me, please post this as your status for an hour to show me that you care….

Usually followed by rules and restrictions on how it can’t be just shared but actually has to be copied and pasted and must include a secret handshake, the blood of a firstborn child and proof of a DNA cheek swab.  emotional         . . .  Ugg

Actually, I feel for those people sometimes.  No one likes to feel forgotten.  I believe it is important to be a part of a unit somewhere.  A family, a group, a little posse of crazy friends, all those things are important.  We were placed on this Earth in groups, designed to be in community with one another.  But… a lack of a “like” or “share” or comment on FB does not represent the sum total of our audience’s commitment to us.  That is where FB falls down.  Intimacy.  We cringe sometimes when we hear that word, because it is so often cheapened and misrepresented and maligned.


I have friends who never contact me.  I always have to be the one to send them a message to say, “Hey, how are you doing?”  And then hope they will reciprocate.  But honestly, if they never do, I am still going to be messaging them to say, “Hey, how are you doing?”  At least until they say, “please go play in traffic.”  Why?  Because I care about them.  I want them to know that they are remembered. That’s it, that’s all.  Do I want them to think of me?  Sure, no one wants to be overlooked or left out.   I get that.  But friendship is not a score keeping session either.


I once attended a church for almost a year and they gave me a visitor sticker every Sunday.   I mean, I know I’m not horribly memorable but… EVERY Sunday?  But that’s life.  I decided I could get bitter, or get over it.  I decided a little humor was in order and each Sunday I was a different person.  Marilyn, Edith, Maquesta, Shantel.  I watched for that blank reaction and would lean in and watch them write the name on that little sticker… wondering what kind of spelling skills they might possess.  On one particularly exciting Sunday morning the friendly lady at the “greeting kiosk” that you walk past to enter the sanctuary stopped me with her best smile and welcomed me to the church I had been attending since the paint was wet.  Her pen poised above the little name tag, her nails laquered with a perfect “Hester Prynne red” and her jewelry glittering in the morning light… She asked me my name, I tried to match her smile… failed and leaned in and said, “Janellinoire.”  I should have received an Emmy… or is it Oscar? I had a firm grip on my tongue with my teeth trying not to laugh.  Her smile looked extra darling for about 3 seconds, but there were a few too many gritted teeth showing and her eyes were telling a different story.  She might have needed to repent for thoughts of murder, I’m not sure, that’s between her and God.  She said, “Well how marvelous to have you here, why don’t you just write your name on this name tag so we can all get to know you!”  I felt almost robbed when one Sunday someone said, “Wait, you’re name’s Lisa right?”

Mark and Miranda are incredibly busy people, and yet time and again I have seen them make a concerted effort to stop and take the time to help someone, contact someone, reach out to someone.  Not for financial gain, just to help.  Time and again.  That moment has a cost.  We are given just so many moments in life, to use or to lose.  That moment is an investment.  Investing is a risky business.  Only those who are willing to walk into the risk, knowing full well that they may lose, will ever receive the reward.  And what is the reward?  This day and age a whole lot of people would blithely say prosperity.  To be clear, my husband is a business owner.  It is a thriving business and we do not apologize for that.  And…  yes he DID build that!  But there have been times when the prosperity of the business was our greatest struggle and failing.  I strongly support capitalism.  But many, like Megachurches that chant the maxim, “healthy, wealthy and wise” have grossly  misunderstood the meaning of all three words.  I have never claimed to speak for Mark and Miranda, and I want to make it clear that they may disagree, and they should not be judged on my words.  That said, I believe that their lives tell a distinctly different tale than what society shucks as progressive success.  Their commitment and dedication to those they serve implies a greater law at work.  No clever mantra or catchy adage. How they live is the axiom.


So when you are at that clinic and their eyes are fixed on you and your horse, that is their investment.  Not in brick and mortar, but in the hearts and minds of horse and man.


Do you remember that game many of us played when we were younger (ok I have played this as an adult too, it just gets weirder!)  called, “Would you rather?”

Would you rather have tennis racket hands or springboard feet?

Would you rather be invisible or fly?

Would you rather … the list is endless and runs the scale from funny to gross to introspective.

So lets play a little shall we?


Take Our Survey


Thank you for playing!  Now go out there and ride!

Trick or Treat?

I apologize that this is fairly brief and somewhat disjointed, it has been a bit of a hard week.

I don’t believe in Karma, never have.  I DO believe that sometimes things work themselves out in the most fascinating of ways.  Sometimes that person that has always picked on you relentlessly finally sasses the wrong 240 lb. black woman at Walmart and gets the public smack-down of a lifetime and you just HAPPEN to catch the whole thing on your iphone.  That’s not Karma…. that’s about near heaven!

I avoid Walmart if I can.  …  like the plague mostly.  If I have to go, I prefer early in the morning when most of the drama hasn’t woken up from their hangovers.  A little while ago I couldn’t avoid a trip to the store to pick something up in the drug department, which just so happened to be right across the isle from the large costume and Halloween display.  While waiting I heard some laughing,  glanced up and saw a teenish age boy pull a zombie mask on and crouch down in the isle.  I smiled.  I am a proponant of a well placed scream.  What neither of us saw was the coming reaction of the large black woman who rounded the corner carrying a couple bags of Halloween candy and a few hangars from the “Intimates” collection.  It’s quite possible that this woman had previously played defensive tackle for some NFL team, she had the look of a prison guard mixed with sumo wrestler.  She rounded the end of the isle and the waiting zombie leaped to life, arms out, ready for a meal.  What he got was a mouth full of this woman’s large purse and 2 or 3 hangars full of very large women’s underwear draped over his corpse-like head.  I don’t speak the proper Walmart dialect to fully understand what she was saying to him, but it was clear that he was her son and he was in a lot of trouble.  By the look on his face when he pulled the mask off, it was also apparent that this was trouble he was not unfamiliar with and likely well worth the coming storm.


Halloween is my least favorite holiday, but the advent of my favorite season.  We live in an inconvenient place to trick-or-treat so no one ever stops at our house… or maybe word has gotten out about the crazy person that lives here.  This brings me roundabout to the sort of person this trained monkey is.  Not a good one.


Case in point, the following story:

One year I saved a ton of these candy wrappers…




Remember them?  Those chocolatey and nutty treats, kind of crunch and then melt in your mouth?

I carefully smoothed them out and kept the little sticker and the little brown cup papers they came in.


There was this boy…. (a lot of train wrecks start out this way). He was tall and quiet; intelligent and kind. (Opposites attract right?) …and he didn’t know that I existed…. but that was about to change.   Anyway, I got some of those large cocktail pickled pearl onions and some chocolate.   If you know where this story is headed then you might want to re-examine your own innocent take on life.

So, yes, I melted chocolate and carefully dried and covered those pickled onions.  In fact, I was so caring, I DOUBLE dipped those little guys. Carefully wrapped and packaged, I delivered my gift…  trick or treat you say?  I say, “trick for him, treat for me!”  Why he never asked me out remains a mystery to me.


I like practical jokes.  Honestly I really rather enjoy playing them than receiving them, but I’m flexible on that and have always felt that if I am going to dish it out I had better be able to smile and choke it down when it comes my way… which it has on numerous occasions.


So how many of you would figure on Mark and Miranda being pranksters?  Show of hands?  I’ve heard a few stories of that mustachioed man and anyone who has ever met him has seen the twinkle of mischief that immediately precedes something delightful (as long as it isn’t happening to you!).  And Miranda might fool you with her quiet grace and sweetness…. trust me it’s a facade, that woman has mad  pranking skills.


Of course a lot of people like Halloween not just for the tricks or candy but for the costumes.  Why do we like costumes?  Make-believe maybe?  Somewhere along the way we lose the sense of childlike wonder and anticipation and imagination and we replace it with a more mature, possibly boring sense of pragmatism.  I think that’s a shame.  I know that one of the favorite things in the Extreme Mustang Makeover is the youth freestyle, where youth have the chance to showcase not only all their Mustang’s greatest skills, they also can show off a little of their own creativity and style.  Costumes can add or in certain circumstances detract from a performance.  Note the two following pictures!

pinkdarth   costume-fail-5  Pink and green Hello Kitty Darth Vader?  This guy is more confused than Bruce Jenner!   And the second one… It’s a good thing there’s a picture of Mickey Mouse in the corner because I would not have known, would you?

And then we have….

Funniest_Memes_this-horse-s-clip-job_15615  I dont know who clipped this horse but clearly they have boss skills!  Possibly  Erin Sisson, she still owes me pictures of the clip job on her Trakehner mare!

anatomy-of-a-horse-434x325   When anatomy class gets boring!  I absolutely do not get the whole fascination with zombies.  I really don’t. But a zombie horse…. admittedly that’s kinda cool.

halloween poodle love this girl!  She wins big for cuteness and the pony for tolerance.

So now it’s your turn!  (Hint:  there will be a vote and we will be giving away free chocolate like this chocolates  lol, just kidding.)

What’s the best costume you’ve ever seen?  Send us a picture of one you’ve made or seen.  If you’ve seen the Mustang Makeover, what is your favorite freestyle and why?


Have a great week, get out there and ride!


Trick or Treat!




This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.

Spankings.  I’m more a fan of them now that I’m a parent than I was when I was a kid.  I got a lot of them.  All of them were unnecessary and uncalled for… because I was a model child.  The time that I set the floor of my room on fire can’t be counted because I was only playing “Revolutionary War” with my older brother with little clay figures we had made and he was the one that insisted that as much realism should be used as possible.  I was a benevelent military leader and felt that my troops deserved a small bonfire made from tiny pieces of straw and hay.  It was a hard winter in 1780 and I was only going to win this war if I could provide them heat and food!  It was a very small puff of smoke… that’s all… a little charring.  It could have EASILY been covered with a small area rug!  Frankly the rug would have added character and warmth to an otherwise austere and simple room…. they should have THANKED me!


Do you remember that line parents give their children when they have the discussion that resolves into the spanking?


“I love you and I’m doing this to teach you something and it is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.”


I smile as I think of my oldest daughter while I write this.  There were times that I was saying in my head, “Nope, this is pretty much gonna be a bad time for just you and you alone!”  It’s also quite possible that it wasn’t just in my head that I said those words.  She was tough!  She was/is stubborn and independant.  If we had been kids at the same time, I think that we would have had a LOT of fun playing, “Revolutionary War!”


I remember watching someone work with a horse and grow increasingly frustrated with his refusal to do what that person wanted him to do.  As so often happens and I admit that I have done this, punishment begins for what is perceived as a lack of willingness or outright disobedience.   The biggest problem here is quite possibly… perception.


Perception is valid if it is backed by knowledge and a full view of the facts.


A long time ago I took a test called a “Fluid intelligence aptitude assessment.”  It tests not only facts memorized, it tests perceptive ability to extrapolate from a given set of data.


Here are two questions from that test:


  1.  5+3+2= 151012
    9+2+4= 183662
    8+6+3= 482466
    5+4+5= 202504





The first appears on the outset to be simply mathematical and the second visual, but both are perceptual as well.

I will tell you that I killed a few trees on the first one, writing, scribbling, erasing and rewriting before I finally saw the pattern.


If you want to figure the above out yourself I am putting up a SPOILER ALERT right here because I’m going to give you the answers below.


  1.  the proof for this problem is not merely math.  In actuality the math skills necessary to complete the actual problem are very simple.  Math we all know by the third grade.  But that is hardly the difficulty.  The challenge comes in perceiving the pattern.  How we view the numbers.  How willing we are to step outside the order and parameters of what we have come to find “normal’


5+3+2= 15,10,12
9+2+4= 18,36,62
8+6+3= 48,24,66
5+4+5= 20,25,04
a+b+c= d,e,f
d=a(b)  [a multiplied by b]
f= a(b) + b(c) then the number is reversed (ie. first example 5×3=15 + 3×2=6, therefore 15+6= 21 and 21 reversed is 12)

7+2+5 = 14,35,42


Fun huh?


2.  How many holes in this shirt.  This problem is far more simple than we make it out to be at the beginning.  First and foremost, if you asked someone just randomly without calling this some sort of test question, you would likely get a very different response.  They would count the holes minus the arm, neck and bottom holes.  Why?  Because we do not perceive those “holes” as holes or deformities.  While we refer to the openings in the arm and neck as armholes and neckholes, we do not see them as the same type of hole that appear in the center of the shirt.  But as soon as someone says, “I’m going to give you a test question”  our minds begin to open up to the possibilities that “normal” might be suspended and we will be required to view the question on a broader scale.  We will need to think outside the box.


So there appear to be two holes in the front and two more directly in the back of the front holes as you can see the background color showing through.  So most people would say that there are 2 arm holes, plus 1 neck hole, 1 bottom hole, 2 front ragged holes, 2 back ragged holes for a total of 8.  Did you get 8?  Congratulations, that is a very good try, but alas, it is not entirely correct.  What we can only say from this picture is that there are at least 8 holes.  It is possible with a back view of the shirt, that there may be other holes that we could not see from the front.  Tricky eh?


Questions can be very leading.  Here’s a good leading question.


It’s really a good thing that God made bacon isn’t it?


Your natural response is, “Why yes, Lisa, it surely is!”




“Why do you like bacon?”


I am making an assumption here.  Clearly I am expecting you to say yes.  (Frankly if you don’t say yes, you should probably quit reading right here because we no longer have much to discuss!)


My whole point to this whole crazy post is this:  Perception requires a foundation.


If you are struggling with the perception of your horse, why he is responding, or not responding in a certain fashion, your response to him will be colored by your perception.


I had a discussion with a friend recently about how our horses greet us in the morning.  I am skeptical I suppose and my response with a snort was, “sure he nickers and gets excited, but trust me, if I fell off the planet tomorrow and you brought him hay, he would nicker and get excited for you!”


We do this with lots of things.  My horse feels this way, my horse thinks that way, my child thinks this or that.  Have you ever had a conversation with someone who throws you crazy body language?  Try it sometime.  It’s a delightful parlor game and it will bring into clear focus just how difficult is this communication and perception game.  The next time you converse with someone try opposing all of your non-verbal communication.  This will be harder than you might think.  I.e.  When you say, “I had a great evening,”  cross your arms, lower your eyes, scowl etc.    Try saying, “I love you” angrily.  Try saying, “I’m so ticked off”  with a smile and a laugh.  I proved it to my kids by calling in our dog and having him sit in front of us.  I then began to tell him how I was unhappy with him, he never listened and I wasn’t sure he really had it in him to be a good pet.  I did it all while leaning in and smiling and speaking quietly to him.  What do you suppose he did?  He wagged his tail the whole time of course.  Though I didn’t do it, I could have shouted, “Good dog, good dog”  In a loud, harsh, angry voice and you know what would have happened.  That’s the very reason I didn’t do it!


So when you hear those parents who say, “this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.”  I would put money on the fact that their perception and the perception of the guilty party about to receive their just rewards…. is totally different.  I am in no way saying that it doesn’t hurt a parent to correct or discipline a child.  It does.  It is an incredibly hard and painful thing in fact.  I am simply saying that our perception of how we each view that punishment is different.


So how do we learn proper perception?  In humans we call it communication.  But way too many people think that communication is talking… that’s it, just talking.  We use those non-verbal cues, spoken word, and contextual reference.  We perceive someone who has their arms wrapped around themselves, acting nervously, and saying, “I’m fine” as possibly a little nutty, until we contextually add in the fact that they were just in a car accident.  Then all of the pieces fit into place.


It’s not easy!


And what is possibly the very hardest part of communication?  In my opinion (possibly entirely useless)  ….  Listening.  Listening is not a passive act.  It is an art.  Listen when someone isn’t speaking.  Can you still hear them?  I don’t like new-agey type touchy feely questions like that.  I really don’t, so I hesistate to even ask it.  But I do think there is a truth hidden somewhere in that little flower patch.  Learn to listen.


Now try doing that with a thousand pound animal that does not speak your language, does not share all of your own body cues and cannot verbalize any contextual information for you.


It reconfirms for me the great skill that Mark and Miranda possess.  If you struggle with communication and perception you need a gap junction.  In the medical world a gap junction is a way of connecting two treatments or body processes.  It provides or creates a catalyst (often painful) in the hopes of producing growth and healing.


During an interview someone told me that one of the things that they admired in watching Mark work a horse was, “he never got angry, he worked through it.  He understood that the horse didn’t understand, and he systematically went about making it clear for him.”


He acted as a gap junction.


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M&M Horsemanship

Training – The discipline of habitual excellence

A while ago a saying became vogue in certain parenting circles.  “Quality time, not Quantity time.”


While the notion seems on the outset, to be valid and make logical sense, there are a couple flaws in this little axiom.


I had trained a number of dogs before I owned the first one that was MINE.  And I apologize for the analogies to dog training because I cannot claim any training of my horses, which I purchased already broke to ride and drive.  I did none of it.  So my only frame of reference, flawed though it may be, is dog training.


Like many people, well intentioned and filled with excitement and grandiose visions, I attacked the training of my dog with gusto and dedication.  I committed that all of the time I spent with him would be of the highest quality.  I would waste no moments and we would grow together in talent and ability.


All of you who are wiser and more experienced are smirking and saying, “Aww, that’s adorable isn’t it?  Look at that trained monkey spin!”


… And yes, that’s really what happened on a few occasions.  Don’t get me wrong, we did quality work and I think that’s imperative!  But we also did a lot of really sub-par, hot mess work too.  My dog came out of a few training sessions more confused than I, which was saying quite a bit!


Fortunately, for both of us, I determined early on to lighten up and enjoy him.  I spent countless hours throwing a ball to him, brushing him, and playing “hide and seek” which turned out to be a genius move on my part (totally by accident I assure you.  I have no other genius moves in my bag of monkey tricks).   There were moments, mostly during “formal” training that I became frustrated, not because of Jacco’s lack of understanding, but because of my lack of ability to communicate across the gap of human to canine “language.”  While we did have quality training moments, they were not long spans of time.  They were moments.  A short burst of time where I happened to give him feedback that he was able to clearly understand and respond to in the way that I was then able to reward.  But to be clear, the greatest part of our “training”  happened in the life we lived together.


It was in life that our foundation was set.  Sitting on the couch or walking in the woods, chasing rabbits and on way too many occasions skunks, which left me running away from my dog yelling over my shoulder, “No, stay, no no, down Jacco, PLATZ Jacco!”  All the while, my elated dog chased me, caught me, danced around me, rubbed against me and thought that I had created skunks just for him and this delightful game.


Our training was not the result of all quality and a little quantity.  It was the result of a natural life of a little quality and a lot of quantity.  I learned that the more quantity I spent, the more we gradually grew to have quality as well.   I learned how to more effectively separate my emotional “feelings” about both his responses and my cues.  But being a relatively average trained monkey… that took me a lot of time to learn.  Quantity.


A lot of people in the dog training club felt that you needed to channel your inner canine to really develop them into the finest sporting dog they could become.  Admittedly a lot of those people had great sport dogs and I respected that skill and their achievements.  But I did not covet it.  Many of those trainers had dogs that while on the sporting field, were outstanding to watch and won high prizes, but when off the field were completely incapable of being good family members.  Why?  Quantity.  They had no quantity.  They went from kennel to field to kennel.  I watched on more than one occasion the reponse to a dog refusing a cue.  There would be sudden shock and then an almost apoplectic fit from the handler who seemed to think that the dog’s refusal was a personal and intentional insult.  I walked away from those experiences confused and embarassed for those handlers who clearly were no longer enjoying the sport.  I wanted a dog that I could live with, which included tolerance of quirks and failings, mostly mine.


At the other side of the training isle were the people who baby-talked their dog to the point of a diabetic sugar coma.  “Oh good booboo, such a goody woody doggy woggy.”  I think on more than one occasion I might have muttered something about needing to pukey wookey…  Just Ugg.  I believe praise is important, but many of the trainers praised their dogs so exuberantly and vociferously that the dog lost all focus and the training session that was going so well skidded to an awkward halt.


In a more real-world setting, in search and rescue training, the trainers were entirely different.  If the dog tracked with a classically deep nose and never lifted his head, they were fine with that, but if he lifted his head and cast about, air scenting, they were fine with that too.  Because the goal was not “pretty” the goal was… “find them!”  That is your ONLY goal, if it’s a little messy and you still find them, you’ve won.  If it’s pretty and classy and you miss your find, I promise you that the look on the loved ones faces waiting at HQ will or certainly should, humble you.  There were a few amazing trainers who managed to get an unbelievable mix of both esthetics and practical skill.  I will also tell you that I am not one of those trainers, though I admire and aspire to that standard.  How did those SAR trainers get dogs with such seemingly subtle understanding of their body language and cues?  They worked hard and tried to do a very specific and quality job when they were training in the field, but JUST as importantly, they spent time with their canine partner.  Every day, they lived with the dog.  They spent quantity time.


Now perhaps not all of these little analogies work well when transferred to the training of equines and I get that.  And I am making no judgements on any equine event Western, English or anything in the middle whatsoever.  I have no skill and pretend no history or talent in the training of horses.  I have been around them all my life, I have feared them for a good portion of that time.  Perhaps for that very reason, I decided when my daughter became more and more interested, that she should learn respect, but not fear.  I wanted her to learn to take care, but not become debilitated or paralyzed by fear.  I believe fear can become a far more dangerous thing that masquerades as “caution.”  Let me assure you that is not the case.  Fear is not a rational emotion.  It will cause you to react instead of respond, which, in so many situations can be a design for disaster.  In almost every situation that I can bring to mind, education and knowlege will help to counteract and interrupt irrational fear.  But I needed that knowledge.  That’s where Mark and Miranda came in.


As a completely honest bit of shameful confession, I have not entirely conquered that fear.  As shameful as it sounds and is, I have the ability to come up with nice sounding words that make me appear quite a bit more courageous and all in all, better than I really am.  I am a small work in slow progress, nothing more.


This act of creating excellence is not a one day proposition.  It is habitual.  And even once habituated, the maintenance of excellence is a life-long endeavor.  It is not natural and it is not easy.  It requires concentrated effort and an almost daily, sometimes hourly (quantity) commitment.  It is a staunch refusal to give up.  There have recently been times that I have dearly wanted to give up.  Feeling as though I am plodding through waist deep mud that is intent on swallowing me.  Every forward step is a monumental effort only to find myself sliding slowly backward.  It’s nice to think that the goal is there in front of us, that shining object on which we hang our hopes and focus, but sometimes, the goal is right there in the middle of the mud.  Every step is a goal.


Often one of our most priceless tools is the talent and expertise of someone who has travelled the road before.  Who has paid the price of quantity spent, through both good and bad.  Who has endured the trials, experienced and persevered through the mud and mire and come out on the other side.  Who has through quantity spent, removed the dross and been refined.  Those people who through repeated practice make excellence a habit.  We call them by many names; trainers, mentors, parents, friends.  I call them Mark and Miranda.


If you have ever gotten to spend an hour watching Mark and Miranda train, you have seen that excellence in practice.  It is not a one time performance that you are witness to, it is a lifelong commitment.  It is the habitual practice of excellence.


Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.  We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly.  We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.  –  Aristotle.



I want it always made clear that the opinions herein are not necessarily Mark and Miranda’s.  You know the saying, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”… well… if that is true…. I’m deadly!  My goal is not to teach but to point you to the teacher.  I can’t begin to tell you how many times I write, delete, rewrite and think about how those words sound and the impact they may or may not have.  I do not ever want to misrepresent Mark and Miranda.


It is also a dangerous and unfair thing to put someone on a pedestal.  When we train our horses we are careful to set them up to succeed.  However, we often dig a pit and set up our fellow man to fall, for whatever reasons, both innocent and sinister.  I want to be extremely careful in how I portray Mark and Miranda.  They are not “just” trainers.  They are my friends.  They are not perfect, but they are priceless.


Any areas where I have failed or fallen short, please forgive me and place the responsibility with me and me alone.

There are no stupid questions. ….. Challenge Accepted!

Now perhaps you have never asked a stupid question and good for you….  but I’m not sure I like you anymore and clearly we have nothing in common!  I have asked a LOT of stupid questions.  Here’s one from my book of shame.  When I was getting my driver’s license I was understandably nervous and shuffling up to the nice gentleman who was standing right beside the DMV car parked right in the DMV parking spot that said, “For driving tests only” while holding a paper that said in big letters on the back, “Driving test.”  I asked, “Am I going to have to take a driving test?” dmv

So now that we have that embarassment out of the way, let’s talk about questions.  We all ask them or at least we all should. Most of the time it is the student asking the teacher the questions.  While that’s all well and good, I think turn abouts fair play don’t you?  Do you know what it’s like to be put on the spot to answer questions from dawn til dusk and be expected to sound polite and patient and intelligent?  Well, that’s called parenting!  And if you’re a parent it’s pretty likely that you’ve experienced this phenomenon…

questions  and I would add…. Go to your room!

Questions often say as much about the asker, as they do the answerer.  In a world where we are often taught to follow along like good little citizens, I have strongly urged my children to question everything!   We never learn unless we ask and sometimes it takes the courage to ask that one question that we really want the answer to, but are afraid we will be laughed out of town or snickered at quietly.  We don’t ask because we’re pretty sure that everyone else knows the answer to that question.  Everyone but me!

Well, I would stake my claim on the fact that you are not the only one who wants the answer to that question!  You will just be the only one brave enough to ask it!

Trainers are no different.  Good trainers learn from their students.  They are (or should be) always learning how to serve their students better.  They learn how their students learn, what trips them up, and what makes a lesson really come alive.  A wise trainer never assumes that his student is stupid, simply uneducated or not fully educated on the given topic, and I think we can all agree that there is a huge difference!  Sometimes the best way to learn from a student is… wait for it…. to ask them what they need!  It’s really that simple!  They need to know what you need to tell them!



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Why stand we here idle?

If time and distance and death were no hindrance, who is it that you would most like to meet?

I did a little research and looked up a top 10 list of historical figures that people say they would most like to meet.  (This comes from the San Diego library and ranking system, 2013)

  1.  Jesus Christ
  2. Princess Diana
  3. William Shakespeare
  4. Albert Einstein
  5. Marilyn Monroe
  6. Leonardo Da Vinci
  7. Elvis Presley
  8. Roald Dahl
  9. Freddie Mercury
  10. Martin Luther King

Wow.  Whaaat??  You’re joking right?  Freddie Mercury?  Frankly, there is only one person on that list that would have ever made my own!

Whoever you might have on your list, I have advice for you.  Throw it out.

Don’t get me wrong, there are people I admire historically.  One pretty high up for me would be Patrick Henry.  The following is an excerpt from a speech he gave in 1775, St. John’s church, Richmond, Virginia.


I shall speak forth my sentiments freely, and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony.  The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country.  Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not?  For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

We must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?

We are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us.   The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.

Why stand we here idle?  Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!


This speech was made by Henry to raise up a private militia (times change, needs rarely do, we could use that militia right now!)  This speech makes the blood pound in my ears.  I agree!   But so often we seem to feel that these are the kinds of words that are spoken in a bygone time by long-ago people, with antiquated ideals and past tense issues.  I disagree.  Completely and strongly.  Those words are timeless.  And they are held timeless by brave men and women still today.  They are held by guardians of freedom who refuse to stand idly by.  They resolutely refuse to be silent and helpless, throwing up their hands in apathetic hopelessness.  Strong men and women who wont play the victim, who hold the standard and the banner, not in bitter anger, but in the hope of a future that they are courageous enough to influence.

I am not sure I believe in heros.  We are inundated these days with notions of super-humanity.  Perhaps I have grown jaded, or maybe I have simply refined what I expect of that moniker, hero.  People who can fly, turn green and huge and powerful, spin a web, pick up an impossible hammer, fly and move metal with their minds, or ride on ice… really?  Why we have this need for abilities outside our own is a bit of a mystery to me.   Remember that song…. He’s gotta be strong and he’s gotta be fast and he’s gotta be fresh from the fight.  He’s gotta be sure and it’s gotta be soon and he’s gotta be larger than life.

What is larger than life?  This question has been drilled home to me in recent days.  I admit that this little trained monkey has a bit of a pet peeve and here it is:   “I’m going to give it 110%!”    My teeth grind just a little and I have to quietly remind myself that what is important is more the spirit in which it was said and not the technicality therein.  But… you cannot give more than 100%.  100% is all.  Don’t look to give more, give that.

Hero or Heroine is defined in the dictionary as:  A person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities.

Nowhere in that definition does it say, “able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.”  Why?  Simply unnecessary.


I hope someday someone asks me the question, “Who would you most like to meet?”

I am ready with my answer.  I have met them.  They are not people of the past.  They are alive and well.  Though not all of them.

I met a man who struggled daily.  Panic and anger and fear haunted his dreams and many of his waking moments.  He was demoralized by large crowds, his hands would grow clammy and he would back into a corner.  A simple restaraunt meal would find him jockeying into a position to see all entrances.  Easy it would be to relegate him to the slag-heap of cowardice, until you peek behind the curtain.  He had spent months walking a razor wire in Iraq.  He had looked down the scope, sighted in on the moving figure, and pulled the trigger.  He had lost companions and friends and brothers-in-arms.  He had paid, and dearly.  It was to be his habit and life and waking breath to walk the line out on the road, intent for any unturned rock hiding an unseen landmine.  He had spent countless nights huddled in the green claustrophobic haze of night vision goggles, waiting, listening for the click and pop from the shell and his own impending end.  He had lost a leg in his service.   He returned to a largely thankless country, ashamed of his “murders and heinous acts.”  The same acts that allow me to sleep safe in my home, free and able to carry on with only the small worrys of my here and now.  I remain forever in his debt.  Humbled by his life.  And he carries on.  He stands not idly by.

I met a child who died from cancer.  Her death made me see life in a very different way.  She cried when she was stuck, she was angry and expressed it all.  In the end, her cape was pulled quietly over her head.  She fought.  Not with bullets or fists, but she fought none the less.  She did not stand idly by.

This blog is about Mark and Miranda so it doesn’t take much of a roadmap to realize at least part of what I think and how I feel about them.  I am not an easily impressed individual.   I do not trip through the daisies with any person who happens to throw a few nice words my way and I am more likely to remain silent than to offer mindless compliments of my own in return.   I hope though, that at the end of my days, it can be said of me that I encouraged people somehow with something in some small way.   Compliments are nice, and we all appreciate a sincerely given praise.  But we often grow more from kind and honest correction.  Encouragement is an entirely different thing.  It is the practice of emboldening someone.  Producing in that person the courage to move forward, often through  adversity.   It is the ability to revitalize flagging confidence.  To build and grow a person, to motivate and inspire them and their dream.  To plant the seed that will flourish and bloom and produce ten fold.  THAT is what Mark and Miranda have done for me.  And not only me, but countless others.  They have through persistence and patience and encouragement and humor, breathed life into many and certainly me.  They have changed my life.  They have changed the lives of my girls.  They have changed my horses.

When I look to the best of life; things like that empassioned speech that Patrick Henry gave.  The best of our great country, the wildness and spirit of the men and women who shape it.  I do not look backward.  I do not live nostalgically for past leaders.  I look forward to people like Mark and Miranda.  Why?  They do not stand idly by.

If I can encourage, in any way, to any wandering or questioning person, call, go to a clinic, seek, ask.  Help, encouragement and hope are waiting and available.   For me, it started with a simple admission of need.  I need help.  That’s what I said, almost those exact words.  Hard, a bit humiliating when I see myself juxtaposed against a sea of more talented, more experienced and all in all, much better people.  I had little to offer, but “little” was enough.  Little, was enough to change my life.

“We are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power.”  

Do not stand idly by.


M & M Horsemanship

Happy Anniversary Mark and Miranda!

October 2, 2010


Falling in love is an amazing thing.  The warmth of romance, how your heart pounds and breath quickens.  How you see them out of  the corner of your eye and something inside you aches a little and you find yourself subtly leaning toward them.  How they make the rough parts of you softer and sharpen the parts that need tuning and honing.  Iron sharpens iron.  Falling in love is an amazing thing.


Staying in love…  Is an art form.  Falling is an act of gravity, staying is a practiced skill, a considered decision, a choice.  It is not emotion or feeling.  Waking up next to the person who has stolen every single inch of sheet and cover, who leaves toothpaste in the sink and socks on the floor.  Kissing them when you are angry, hugging them when you are hurt…. because they are the one who hurt you.  That is staying.


I read a lot.  And by a lot, I mean that I have on file a saved list of many of the books that I have read and a short few sentences about each book.  It spans 56 pages.  Some of it was written as a compilation during my college years for my degree.  Some of it grew afterwards just because I love to read.  I will read almost anything.  I have read the Bhagavad Gita, Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War;”  Sein und Zeit by Martin Heideggar; Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales;  on and on.  The one genre I lack on my reading list in almost it’s entirety, unless it is listed as classic literature (and therefore a requirement for my degree)… romance.  I hate them.  I find them cloying and simplistic, rife with over sentimentality.  Lacking in depth.   Feelings, I’m not a great fan of them.  I have them, don’t get me wrong.  But expressing them…. not so good at it.


In Linguistic analysis and composition class, we were required to pick the genre that we most disliked.  Being a not entirely stupid person, I saw where this was going, so I lied and said, “historical biography”  my room mate at the time, ratted me out, something I am loathe to forgive her for!  So I was forced to write a 25,000 word essay on romance.  I think it took about 10 years off my life and made me seriously consider life in a convent!  (And I’m not Catholic!).  I did it, I got a passing grade.  I wouldn’t do it again.  I probably made some sort of under-my-breath vow to never write about romance ever again.


And yet… here I am…


Webster’s dictionary says that romance means:  the feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love.


That’s nice.  Kinda bleh in my mind.  It doesn’t move me.  I know, that’s so sad right?  You know what DOES move me?




Shortly before graduating college the same professor who tortured me with having to write that essay on romance was at the mall one evening.  He had been shopping.  I dont remember what I was there for.  I didn’t go often, I don’t enjoy random shopping.  He was there with his wife, they were elderly, had married very young and been married for 45 years at the time.  His wife’s name was Ruth and she had Alzheimer’s.  They were relaxing at the mall when Dr. Robinson saw something in a store window and stepped briefly inside to take a closer look.  He said he was only gone for a few seconds he thought.  When he came out, Ruth was gone.  I was walking one direction, he was standing talking to a police officer.   I saw him and something inside me tightened.  I went over to him and when he recognized my face, he reached for me and clung to me.  I do not mean that he just held my hand.  He clung to me.  I am not the kind of person that people normally cling to.  I am not blessed with beauty or grace or even great sensitivity.  I am by all purposes and evidences more ordinary than anyone you will ever forget.  Here was a man of great import, in charge of my success in my future degree.  He held the keys to many doors and the attention of college board members, and powerful and wealthy donors to the literary degree program.  He was a force.   And at that very moment he was alone and terrified.  He shook and gripped my arm so much that I remember seeing bruises in the following days.  I wish they had never faded.  I stood with him, leaning into him, at a total loss as to what to do or how to help.


From across the mall isle out of another store, Ruth came walking.  She had no idea where she was or that her wandering had caused such immense pain and fear.  Dr. Robinson saw her first and racing up to her he wrapped her in his arms.  I heard him whispering to her and I stepped away from them.  It felt voyeuristic to be there and overhear.  It was a private moment somehow, there in the middle of a throng of passing people.   I heard a part of what he murmured to her and it was so personal, I will not even write it.  I felt somehow like I had been allowed to see something very painful and almost perfect.  You could tell by the look on her face that she had no notion of the turmoil her small momentary absence had caused.  You could see through his tears that this was no small romance, this was an epic love story.  Stolen from her mind, it was now a one-sided courtship, love without acknowledgement or understanding.  Robbed of her remembrance of him, it only deepened his great and overpowering commitment to her.


They were no longer the sleek young couple dressed to the nines in tux and gown with perfect makeup and polished nails.  No flowers or streamers.  No batting eye lashes and sly smiles.


Every crease, every line in their faces were the shared experiences of 45 years of good times and bad.  Every wrinkle, every arthritic joint, the thinning hair and dentures, the aches and pains and corrective shoes.  None of it would have made a good romance novel.  But all of it made a good life.  A life with a forever friend.  A commitment.  A vow.  A promise.


A wedding is a beautiful thing.  A time for celebration and joy.  It is a moment in time.  But a marriage… a marriage is a covenant.  A bond.  An indenture.  A willingness to submit for the betterment of the other.  A marriage is not 50/50.  A marriage is 100/100.


In the Jewish tradition the vows during the exchanging of the rings are:  “Behold, you are consecrated to me by this ring.”


Consecrated.  To be declared holy and set apart.  Dedicated one to the other.


My prayer for you, that God be ever the center pillar of your lives together.  May he grant you just enough troubled water to make you reach for each other in hard times, and to more fully appreciate each other’s unique design in His plan.   To forever rest in the light and joy of seeing love in each other’s eyes in and through the good times and the hard.   May He keep you protected in mind and body and spirit.  May he fill you and use you.  Like the alabaster jar, broken and spilled out, may your lives be the aroma that fills the room around you.


Happy Anniversary Mark and Miranda.


Coming out!

Well the title was as exciting as this is going to get!   I should have titled it, “Get out!”  But frankly it didn’t have quite the trick effect I was going for.  This post is about the box we all call home.   The box we go to when we get nervous or afraid.  The box where all our habits live.  The box where our condemnation resides.  The box where we shore up the walls and reinforce the weak points to keep the scary stuff out… or maybe in…  Boxes are amazing things aren’t they?  Boxes are designed to hold things.  They keep dust and sometimes moisture out.  They keep things organized.  They keep things safe… sometimes.  Sometimes not so much.


Some people have the courage and wild spirit to live their lives in defiance of the box.  Mark and Miranda are two such people.  I envy that.  Because this trained monkey is decidedly not courageous or brave.  I hate monkeys actually.  They creep me out just a little bit and I one time got in a heated and delightful argument about how monkey’s are “related” to humans because their DNA is so similar to that of homo sapiens.  In fact apes and humans share a similar DNA pair chain of 96% .  Pretty incredible…. until you realize that the pair chains of Homo Sapiens  is 3.3 billion base pairs.  Very simple math will tell you that 4% of 3 billion is 40 million… doesn’t look nearly as “brotherly” now does it Darwin!  Furthermore, we share a 92% base pair rate with starfish (which have no brain).  While this is a little off the beaten path of this blog, it still represents how people think inside the box.  We are looking at “how many”, when what we should be looking at is “what type.”


We do this all the time.  We focus on how it wont work, the problems, the challenges.  We see the mountain.  We worry about the obstacles.  We circumvent instead of plodding through.  We teach our children the answers.  We should be teaching them how to learn, not recite.  But what if they get the wrong answer?  I struggled with that a lot as a young mom.  We decided early on to homeschool and I went about it with gusto.  Every day was learning day!  But I also learned early on that the best school happen out in the yard, digging for bugs, catching frogs, playing in the dirt and making a lot of messes.  I worried a lot about them getting all the answers right.  And …. I learned that the answers weren’t nearly as important as the process that went into HOW they got the answers.  Objectification is great if you are working on a computer, doing lower level math or coloring inside the lines.   Not so with human and horse relationships.


When do you know that your horse has learned a skill?  When do you know that YOU have?  Doing it correctly one time is great, but can you reproduce with some reliability, those results?  A number of years ago I trained a dog in Schutzhund.  Everyone in the club I attended brought their amazing dog and I watched with awe and building apprehension.  When I brought out my 9 month old, cocky male Shepherd and asked a few questions, I was met with crickets and a few quietly muttered words of, “keep at it.”


What I learned after that frustrating experience, was that every person in that club had purchased a pre-trained, pre-titled dog.   To be clear, I have absolutely no problem with that.  They all knew the routine and their dogs all knew the commands, the order and the skills.   The dogs performed well, and their human handlers also performed well.    When problems crept in, the handlers sent their dogs back to trainers for a refresher and a brush up.  Again, I have no problem with that.  Utilizing a trainer to help you is a very wise move.  But their ability to assess and correct me in the training of my dog was non-existant.  Why?  Well, they’d never done it.  They had never failed with quite as much flourish and so utterly amazingly as had I!


They knew what he wasn’t doing.  Gosh, I knew that too!  He wasn’t leaving the scent pad.  It didn’t take rocket science to see that.  But HOW to get him to move forward.  We all stood there looking at him, happy as a clam, sniffing every milimeter of that scent pad.  We all knew WHAT he needed to do.   But to me, the HOW and the WHY were far more important than the WHAT at that moment.  To my way of thinking  (small… monkey … walnut sized brain … keep that in mind!) if I could fix and understand the how and the why, the what would logically follow.  Maybe not immediately or the first time, but correct thinking would bring the correct response.   But there was that box!  We all stood around, each of us in our own separate boxes.   My box had a lot of labels on it. “FEAR OF REJECTION, FEAR OF FAILURE, FEAR OF LOOKING STUPID, FEAR OF FEAR… seriously!”



So what does it take to step outside the box?   I can’t say that I know all the answers to that.  Maybe some of it is mindset.  Maybe some of it is the encouragement of people that surround us to try and persevere.


I think one fairly big answer is something that I have never been able to allow myself the freedom to do myself, but something that I have stressed and pushed my children to do.


Make mistakes.  Make big fat wonderful glorious glaring mistakes.  But make them in front of the right people.


When my daughter was working with Mark and Miranda she came to me one evening and said, “I am afraid of making a stupid mistake.”  I asked her if she felt that either Mark or Miranda would make fun of her.  She said no, I knew she would.  I asked her if she felt that they would think less of her for having made the mistake.  Again, she said no, I knew she would.  Then what reason would you have for not making a mistake?  Please… make them now!  Where they can see and help and correct.  Please do not try (like your foolish mother) to be perfect, a goal you will never meet.  Please, go work hard,  and make mistakes!  Laugh at yourself, learn and rinse and repeat.


Recently Mark and I were talking about trainers and he pointed to a young woman, Maggie Leverett.  His comment was something to the effect of, “A lot of trainers might have more experience right now, but no one has more try that Maggie.”   He went on to explain that “try” was far more valuable to him than a lot of other things that we might put high up on the list of “important stuff.”  Because the foundation of a lot of try is humility.  You cannot, no matter how skilled a teacher, teach anyone who knows everything.   Willingness is huge.  I didn’t know Maggie at the time or I would have used her as an example for my daughter.  Be like Maggie.  Try.  Be willing to fail, be willing to fall, to make a mistake, to blunder and look the fool.  Try and falter and try again.  I might make small mention here that this last September, Maggie showed her young Mustang at the Mustang Gathering and won, … all of her classes.  Congratulations Maggie, you are an inspiration to many.


In a world of hesitancy and fear and being comfortably nestled safely in our jail cells (I mean boxes), have the courage to risk.  The scary thing about a box is… you can easily contain it’s contents.   If YOU are the contents… you are being contained.  Stop it.  Refuse, be beligerant, say no!  Be delightfully stubborn and annoyingly insistent.  Try again.


Go to a clinic, I dare you!  Stomp up to Mark Lyon and look him straight in the face and say, “I know you can’t teach me and my horse _____.”  Fill in the blank… go ahead, I DARE you!  Tell Miranda, “Oh my horse wont do that.”   (I’m actually laughing as I write this!).


But the dare is two fold!   So after you have boldly proclaimed your challenge… TRY.   Whatever excuses you have had (which is really only fear creeping in to put you back in the box), whatever perfectly good logic or well reasoned history you have to NOT try…  stop it.  Remember this…box


Have faith, trust, hope and above all TRY!




Extreme Mustang Makeover 2015

The following short video clip was captured at the Mustang Family Reunion Ride in Missouri this summer.  During the one week event, the BLM brought in a group of untouched Mustangs in the hopes of promoting adoptions.  One afternoon Mark browsed past the pen and decided that he would would take one to work with for just a few hours.  Quite literally, only a few short hours later, he moved the horse down the chute to this round pen, saddled and rode him.


Mustangs hold a special place for Mark and Miranda and this last month saw another amazing gathering for the  Extreme Mustang Makeover.  For those of you who don’t know what that is, I’ll run it down for you real quick-like.

The Mustang Heritage Foundation, found at this link, partnered with the BLM to create visibility and promote adoption of wild Mustangs, by showcasing their trainability and willingness to partner with a human.  Years of care and work went into creating an outstanding opportunity that would show the world that both trainers, seasoned and skilled, and rookies, untried and untested, both young and old alike; could get together and compete and celebrate one of America’s living legends.

In 2007 the first Extreme Mustang Makeover was born.  Trainers received an untouched Mustang and had about 100 days to gentle it and then met in Ft. Worth, TX to show off their Mustang and their skills in an amazing and well-rounded competition.

The competition grew and additional venues other than Ft. Worth have been added each year.

September 10-12, 2015 saw outstanding performances by many youth and adult competitors alike.  The Mustang Makeover is a special event to Mark and Miranda.  Mark won the Makeover in 2008 with his horse Christian.  markchristian

Miranda has competed in six Makeovers and was in the top 10 every single time.  They have helped numerous competitors both youth and adult alike and are proud of the skill and commitment shown to these wonderful horses.

For some additional pictures and amazement visit the Facebook page dedicated to the Makeover.  There are videos, photos and information aplenty.  You will meet some of the horses, see the commitment of the trainers and the priority they place on on these paragons of our great United States heritage.

The Mustang gathering also happened during the Extreme Mustang Makeover.  An event for anyone who has a titled Mustang who wants to compete in many different events, both in-hand, under saddle, trail and freestyle.

Congratulations to all competitors.  Well done.  The “how to’s” of gentling a wild horse can probably be discussed, written about, and technically broken down into steps effectively enough.  But it seems that words, all carefully crafted and precisely picked for just the right picture or emotional frame, fall silently short of that simple and yet profound first touch, the creation of a relationship.  The budding from fear to friend, the building of a trusting partnership… indescribable.

To those trainers who got Mustangs who were not 100 day horses.  Or Mustangs who for one reason or another came to the trainer with a pre-existing injury or illness and you chose to withdraw for the well being of the horse, we commend you.  It takes a special kind of courage to make that hard decision.  The competition is an investment of both time and money, not to mention emotions, blood, sweat, and a few tears here and there.  We are excited and looking forward to your continued journeys and next year’s amazing Makeover!

From Mark and Miranda at M & M Horsemanship (and the trained monkey too)  …

Congratulations all!

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  1 Peter 4:10