Riding Without Fences, Part Two

Going on a trail ride…


So…..it’s official.  I CAN ride without a fence.  And you know what?  It was fun!

Our next trail ride had a little excitement.  I want you to hear it from Amy’s point of view (thank you Amy for letting me use your description).  I’ll set the scene for you….

We are headed back to the farm.  There is one part of the ride where riding single file and way to the right is required.  The problem is poop, but that’s a whole ‘nother story……

Smile Blake!!

Blake in the Box

Robin, Tammy, and Diane were behind me, Shirley and Ben in front. German Shepard makes a sudden appearance with a giant bark. Okie has a “moment”, so we can’t go forward, Castillo had planted all four feet and dropped his weight, so we can’t go back, dog is to the left of us. Only option? Leap up the 3 foot bank to the immediate right. The ladies behind us swear that none of his feet hit the bank. Straight up, 1/4 spin to the right, and cantering as if his life depended on it! So happy to say that I stuck like glue and was able to spin him back to face his friends pretty quickly. Equally happy to say that he was calm, cool, and collected for the remainder of the walk home. Or at least until we entered the driveway.

So that’s what happened on my second trail ride.  By the way, Blake is the horse Amy was on.  Needless to say my mouth dropped when all this was happening.  I was envisioning a chain reaction, like on the freeway, but with horses….first Okie, then Blake, then Hombre, oh my!  The next thought is “wow…look at Blake and Amy…SO glad it’s not me!”

The whole scenario and my string of thoughts lasted only seconds but what an impression.  Amy has been riding at CATRA for umpteen (yes, I know that’s not a real number) years.  She started in a ring with a fence.  She learned the basics and practiced.  Then she left the fence behind.  So she was prepared for the “Blake in the Box” moment.

We never know what is going to happen in our lives.  The best we can do is be as prepared as possible.  Obviously we can’t prepare for everything but we can have the basics down.  We can start within the fence, learning, practicing, testing what we know, practicing, trying more, messing up, practicing and, finally, succeeding – at one thing.  Then we learn something new and it starts all over again.  We do this every day until one day we are out of the ring, away from the fence and helping someone else start within the fence.

Take that!!!

The CATRA volunteers are a perfect example of this concept.  We all had to learn how to walk the lesson horses the right way and at the right speed.  We all had to learn how to hold the rider so they could do their exercises and not fall off.  We all learned how to hold the volunteer rider (who was holding the lesson rider) on the horse so he or she wouldn’t fall off.  We all learned and then shared what we were taught – learned the basics and left the ring.

Trust me, you never stop learning at CATRA.  Just as in life.  But what you learn helps a great deal wherever you are.  So, never stop learning, review the basics now and then, share what you know and have a great ride/life!

PS – The fence isn’t really that important…..horses can jump, you know…….

Blake at sunset




Riding Without Fences

I am not a trail ride kind of girl. I enjoy the confines of a ring.  I like the feeling that the fence is there to, in a sense, protect me.  Sound silly?  Perhaps.  But when I am in the ring I feel safe and secure.

So, when a trail ride was being planned, I came up with several excuses why I wouldn’t be able to go.  Feeding time, volunteers, stuff to do….anything I could think of.  But Shirley was relentless.  She said “You have to do this”.  Shirley is VERY persuasive…. :  )

So off we go.  I’m looking around for fences, feeling kind of exposed.  Wondering when the next car will just knock us all off the road.  Then we finally make it to the fields.  Someone asks how I am doing.  My response is “I don’t see any fences!”.

Well, obviously we all made it back safe and sound.  But the picture above tells the tale.  Check out the white knuckled grip I have on the reins.  They aren’t getting away from me!  And the less than relaxed posture…..and don’t even mention the crooked helmet.  So you get a good idea of how I was feeling.

But it made me think.  In life, how many of us ride without fences?  How many of us are brave enough to take our horses out of the ring?  Sure, we all have to start in the ring.  We get the basics taught to us and we practice and practice.  Then one day, the gate is opened.  Do we go through?  Out to the open, with no fences?  Do we dare???

Every week CATRA has riders with varying degrees of ability riding their horses in the ring.  Learning and doing the basics.  At the end of each lesson, every rider has a mini trail ride up to the goat pen.  After the trotting portion, it seems to be the highlight of the lesson.  They aren’t afraid.  They are excited.  Excited to get out of the ring and away from the fence.  Out into the open.

We should all live our lives like that.  Understanding that the fence is there for you but that there is so much more beyond.  We should ride without fences more often.

PS…..Thank you Shirley for being relentless.


What A Wonderful Day for a Horse Show….

Sunday June 25th  dawned with the promise of a beautiful day.  Which is what we needed at CATRA for the annual Mini Horse Show…….

Ok, some background….Kaylin runs the mini horse show and starts planning about a month and half before the event.  (She does a great job, by the way). She has to plan the events, and the courses, do the registration paperwork, find a judge (thanks Alex!) and set everything up on show day.  The mini horses (hereinafter to be referred to as “minis”) attend lessons and mini camp with their respective partners, young and old!  The mini lessons started this year in February and mini camp was held the week before the show for three days.

Mini lessons on a hot day

Mini lessons are designed to teach equine handling skills to anyone wanting to participate.  The skills learned by the kids in lessons and camp are put to the test in the Mini Horse Show.

The events started with grooming and showmanship and moved through the barrel races, obstacle course, mini basketball and musical minis. The Line Driving event featured Kaylin and Jenna in the Sister competition (they competed against each other all day)!

The kids did such a great job and won lots of ribbons!!

There was some “down time” waiting for the next event.  Luckily we all had shade!

Waiting to compete…..

A girl and her mini…….

Waiting to compete…in the shade!

And the audience was great!  We didn’t have to bring out the “Clap Now” signs at all……..

So, to the youngest……

The littlest competitor

and the oldest competitors (sorry Julie……)

The first event

and everyone in between….Congratulations!  You demonstrated what CATRA is all about…and just how important the smallest horses can be.

Folks…..keep your eyes on the CATRA web page – these minis GO PLACES!  They will be at the Ag Progress Days in State College in August and you can always find them at the Farm Show.  And sometimes they take field trips when the farm just gets too boring for them……

Want to walk a mini?  You can at the 2017 CATRA-THON on October 21, 2017!!!  Watch our newsletter for details!





Thorncroft 2017 from my point of view….

I really didn’t know what to expect volunteering for Thorncroft.  Sure, I had been to and in horse shows but that consisted of making sure I had the right clothes and a pair of good boots…..

Thorncroft starts at CATRA way before the Saturday of the events.  Laura and Amy learn the trail course, Alex starts the tack and supply process, Shirley teaches the riders their dressage test.  Ben and the guys make sure our vehicles and trailers are ready for the road and safe.  Amy plans who rides which horse and how each rider can have a horse at each event on time.  Already it is overwhelming, right?

Amy and Mike at Trail event

Friday is horse bath day.  Those volunteers get soaked as they clean the accumulated winter dirt and hair from each horse so they look their best on show day.  Friday night everything is packed up according to the lists on the white board.  Can’t forget anything…..The clean horses are placed in clean stalls.

The day of Thorncroft starts at 3:30.  The show horses get fed.  Then……we get to reclean them.  Yes, I said reclean.  If we are lucky they don’t lay down.  This year we had a few heavy sleepers….so by the time they are clean again, the rest of the volunteers start to arrive and the horses are prepared for the trip.  They are loaded into the trailers and away we go – 5AM scheduled pull out time.

Once we get there, it’s like setting up camp.  Horses come out of the trailers, water buckets and hay bags get attached to trailers and filled.  Tack gets organized by horse.  Each horse has a team of volunteers who are responsible to get the horse ready for the rider at the right time.  Thank you Shirley for the detailed instructions with times…. Those who can figure out the poles, strings and canvas set up our shelter.  And then, all of a sudden, FOOD appears!!! Like magic!  If all has gone well, there is a short time for a snack before the events begin.

Then the events begin.  Don’t even think of sitting down for any extended period of time until your rider has ridden in all their events.  It is a beautiful whirlwind and lots of walking.  Oh, and MORE food shows up – it is a spread fit for a king!

Mike and Will pas de deux.

As the day goes on, there are highs and lows.  Elation and perhaps disappointment.  Someone may discover they CAN do it, something they thought was not easy.  This is what our riders work for all year.  The smiles wipe away all your exhaustion.  Speaking of wiping away…I have never cleaned a horse’s back end and legs as much as I did Nickel’s.  Every time I turned around, he had cleanliness issues.  Just goes with the territory and doesn’t dim the warm feeling I got as I looked around at everyone and thanked God that I was able to be a part of this event and the CATRA family.

Matt Dressage

Matt and Wendy after Equitation