Sunset on the lake

A Reminder to Live

I believe that everything that happens has meaning and purpose. I believe God set this universe into motion and continues to work through every detail of it. I believe he is intimately involved in every aspect of our lives in an effort to bring each and every one of us into a relationship with Him.

This 4th of July we spent the day on Lake Pend Oreille on my aunt and uncle’s hugely awesome houseboat (hugely awesome defined: extremely impressive and large; inspiring great admiration and possessing great size). The kids were beside themselves with excitement, to say the least. The drive from our house to Hope, Idaho, where we were to meet the boat, meanders along the shores of the lake with spectacular views of the water and surrounding mountains. As a side note, the air conditioning in my car decided to die right before temperatures in our little piece of paradise decided to climb into the 90’s and 100’s for an unusually long heat wave. I couldn’t get an appointment to have it recharged for a number of days so I was sweating and driving with my windows down.

As I crossed the bridge that separates Pack River from the glorious Lake Pend Oreille, the combined smell of water, the Pack River Delta vegetation and 95 degrees of sunshine came rushing into my car and sent a shiver down my spine. It was one of those good shivers, like when the sun warms your whole body on a cool day, or when you climb into your bed wearing new socks with new sheets on the bed, or an Epidural in the middle of labor. The smell was so alive that it reminded me that I was alive; it reminded me to live.

God gave us our senses for a reason. Yes, there are practical purposes for a sense of smell, but what I experienced was a reminder about life; a reminder that life is short and I am alive and while I am alive I must live. It seems a silly little thing and lot of meaning to put into a little smell, but just one little smell set my whole day into a new direction and a new focus. I began to think about what other smells remind me that I am alive whenever I encounter them. The following is a list of smells that remind me to live:

  • Coffee…it’s the best part of waking up (even better if it is being brewed before I get out of bed)
  • Bacon in the morning
  • Bacon
  • Fresh cut grass
  • Fresh baked bread at Grandma’s house
  • A horse barn
  • A sweaty horse
  • A recently bathed horse
  • Pretty much just a horse
  • Lilacs in the Spring
  • The earth after it rains
  • Dirt
  • The water on the lake at sunset
  • Babies
  • Puppies
  • My husband after he cuts firewood
  • My husband after he showers
  • Carrots straight from the garden
  • A creek while you are sitting in the shade fishing for brookies
  • A Christmas Tree
  • A Campfire
  • Chocolate
  • The morning at sunrise
  • A fresh cut hay field
  • Grandpa’s cigar
  • A mountain trail
  • An old Violin
  • Leather
Daily I am given little reminders to live; to live big and to live for Christ. Most days I am moving to fast to listen to these reminders, but because my air conditioner died, I got the message. On that day it was a simple little smell. What reminds you to live? Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” I pray that I would remember that lesson that I learned. That I would count my days and LIVE.
Good boy

Groundwork Update: Day 15

Saturday marked the half way point through my 30 days of Clinton Anderson Fundamentals groundwork on my little 3 year old Appaloosa/POA gelding, Zeus.  After a good long session working pretty much entirely on desensitization, I decided he was ready to ride.  It was nice to be in the saddle again.  I will continue with the promised 30 days of groundwork with the addition of a little time under saddle. Here are a few pictures from Saturday’s ride.  They are horribly blurry but you will get the basic idea.

Groundwork Update: Day 14

This week was a bit busier for me so I have only gotten in three days of working with Zeus. I am on day 14 of my 30 days of Clinton Anderson Fundamentals groundwork. Today was the shortest lesson so far, but he was also the most relaxed that I have probably ever seen him. It is warm comfortable sort of day; the kind of day where most of the horses in the dry lot are laying down taking a sun bath. Zeus was no exception, until I walked over and he jumped up. That wasn’t unusual as he has never let me get close to him while he is laying down. He walked over to me which is a new development that I am still getting used to. I used to have to play a little “I am not here to get you but I am not going to let you leave so maybe you might decide that it was actually your idea to come over to me and get caught” game.  As I finished saddling him I realized he was doing two things that I have never seen him do before. He was dropped and he had his hind foot cocked in a relaxed, layed back sort of way.  He has never, ever showed those signs of relaxation at anytime that I have worked with him or at anytime when he is tied in the barn. I declare a breakthrough! Now, I hope I am not speaking too soon, and I am sure tomorrow will tell, but this is a big deal for this horse folks.
I am hoping that tomorrow will give me enough time to add some saddle time to the groundwork. I am looking forward to being horseback again.
Lunging for Respect stage 2

30 Days Grounded with Clinton Anderson

Ground work is not a completely unknown to me.  I have spent time working my horses from the ground (especially the babies). Usually this ground time is broken up by time on my horse’s back riding down the trail, working in the arena, working cows or teaching lessons (yes,I teach horseback). So why am I on the ground? I have been sentenced to 30+ days of groundwork.

Last week, we hosted 2, three day clinics here at Western Pleasure Guest Ranch with Dale Cunningham a Clinton Anderson certified clinician.  The participants in the first three day clinic were the WPGR wranglers plus the bosses (mom and dad). The second three day clinic were other folks interested in the Clinton Anderson Method.  We start most all of our own horses here and we have a system that we think works pretty well. So why get into this Clinton Anderson thing? Well, the main reason is because we felt that the ground work portion of our training program was lacking. So, with the help of a friend,  went in search of a Clinton Anderson certified clinician and we found Dale Cunningham.

I used my three year old gelding, Zeus who I put 40 rides on last year, as my clinic horse.  Zeus might be 14 hands tall if he stands on his tippy toes, is very athletic and very reactive. Lets just say he thinks something is hiding behind every corner ready to eat him.  What, you may ask, is he afraid of? Horse eating buckets, horse eating water bottles, horse eating horses, horse eating ropes, horse eating bags, horse eating people, horse eating barns, horse eating saddle bags, horse eating dogs, anything that makes a crinkly noise is also obviously looking to eat a horse. I figured that this clinic would be the perfect opportunity to put some concentrated time into Zeus.

It really was a great three days.  I learned a lot about the groundwork portion of the Clinton Anderson Fundamentals.  I think that the groundwork portion of this method uses good solid principals based on a correct assessment of horse psychology. I don’t have the same opinion of the riding portion of Clinton’s method, but the groundwork I think is solid.

So why am I grounded? Dale officially labelled Zeus a fruitcake (although I already knew that) and gave me homework of 30 days of groundwork only. Ugh! So here I stand 1 to 2 hours a day swinging a stick around and looking for ways to give my horse a heart attack. My goal in all of this is that I spend so much time desensitizing Zeus that by the end of these 30 days he will have run out of things to be scared of.  Also, I am going to have some buff arms…

Stay tuned for the results of my 30 days of homework and my updates here along the way.

The following photos are of days 8 and 9 of my 30 day challenge.

What to Bring on a Guest Ranch Vacation

We are often asked, “what should I bring with me on a guest ranch vacation?”. So, in response to that question, here is my list of what to bring along with a few tips for making your guest ranch vacation an unforgettable life experience.
  1. Long pants or jeans – I prefer to ride in jeans as they usually do not ride up as much and offer more protection.
  2. Cowboy boots – If you don’t have a pair we have a boot closet full of boots of all shapes and sizes for you to borrow while you are here.
  3. Tennis shoe or hiking shoe – The ranch is located on 1100 acres which makes for miles of hiking trails for you to explore.
  4. A hat – A baseball cap, cowboy hat, or other brimmed hats will help to shade your eyes from the sun on your many outdoor excursions.  If you don’t want to bring a hat, the ranch gift shop has a wide selection of cowboy hats and baseball caps to purchase.
  5. Swimsuit – A dip in the outdoor covered hot tub after a long day in the saddle does a body good. Also, we take a day ride to Grouse Creek Falls and a dip in the crisp waters are refreshing on a hot day.
  6. Water shoes – For that trip to Grouse Creek Falls, it is a good idea to have water shoes as the rocky creek bottom is a challenge to walk in barefoot.
  7. Raincoat – It is always good to be prepared for all sorts of weather in the Idaho Panhandle.
  8. Warm weather clothes (shorts, t-shirts, etc) – The average summer temperatures here in Sandpoint, Idaho, are usually in the mid to low 80’s, although it has been known to be warmer.
  9. Sweatshirt or coat – It will cool down in the evenings and usually a sweatshirt or light coat is most comfortable.
  10. Sunscreen
  11. Bug Spray – In the early summer and early fall, the mosquitoes and gnats come out in the evenings so a little bug spray is a big help.
  12. A Good Book – Take some time to kick back and read that book you have been meaning to get to. Or, borrow one from the ranch library and read a great western while you are experiencing the West!
Pink Cowgirl Boots

A few ranch vacation tips:

  1. Be honest about your riding experience. We ask about your riding experience to best match you with a horse most appropriate for your riding experience and comfort level.
  2. Consider making it a tech-free (or at least tech limited) vacation.  You will get the most out of a western experience when you can free yourself up from technological distractions.
  3. Come with a hearty appetite! While you are on your All Inclusive Guest Ranch Adventure, you will be served 3 delicious meals a day to keep you fueled for your outdoor experience.  We believe that one important adventure fuel is dessert!
  4. You may have other questions about trail ride etiquette of a more personal manner. We think this blog post, Don’t Squat With Your Spurs On…Or Other Places, may leave you feeling a little more prepared for horseback adventures into the outdoors.
  5. And finally, my recommendation for where to go on your next guest ranch adventure is, of course, Western Pleasure Guest Ranch.
towe of pisa

April Fools

We have officially made it through another April Fool’s day! With friends pulling elaborate jokes and fake news articles flying around it was pretty hard to not get sucked into believing someone’s April Fool’s joke along the way. I am proud to say that this year, I wasn’t fooled at all. Yep, and let me tell you that isn’t something I can say every year. So, in honor of April Fool’s day 2015 being over, here are some of my favorite April Fool’s gags from yesterday. Did any of these fool you?

1. Horse Illustrated Announces 2015 Swimsuit Edition

Horses in swimsuits…I can see that going over well. Find the whole story on

2. Priest Lake: Picking Huckleberries in the National Forest Will Be Closed for the 2015 Season

This one really got everyone up in arms. Here in the Northwest, we take our Huckleberries pretty seriously. Based on some of the comments on Facebook, I think that the natives were ready to riot! The article has since been removed but you can visit to see the site that came up with the story.

3. Tesco announces on twitter that it will be adding bouncy floors to its store floors for easier access to top shelf items

4. Tower of Pisa to be turned into a hotel

The Telegraph reported that the hotel will be called 3.99 Degrees and each floor will be turned into a single room, each named after a hero of the Italian Renaissance.

5. How to Drink Your Own Urine by

Yep, and I have to say this one just about got me. I could believe that someone out there would think that drinking their own pee was good for them. Yikes!
Danielle's Excited Face

Danielle’s Excited Face

Well folks it is official, Western Pleasure Guest Ranch is now open for trail rides for the 2015 season!  I took a couple on the first official spring trail ride of the year this morning.  It was a beautiful day, temps in the high 40’s, and clear blue sky as far as you could see.  This calls for Danielle’s Excited Face:


Winter Arena Exercises: Part 3

Part 3 of Winter Arena Exercises is going to be pretty simple. Stand in your stirrups while riding. That’s it. Whether you are out in the pouring rain or lucky enough to be in an indoor arena, take the opportunity to build those leg muscles (yours) and improve your balance at the same time.


How to Row a Boat

While the Northeast part of the U.S. is being covered by a massive snow fall, we here in the Northwest are beginning to wonder if its time to brush up on our nautical skills. If you feel the need to  review your boat rowing, here is an excellent link to show you how: How to Row a Boat

Yesterday was beautiful. As we were driving to Post Falls, Landon kinda reminded me of a happy lab that has been stuck in a dark house for a week straight and then gets taken out into the sunshine for a ride in the pickup with the windows down. He was that excited about the sunshine. Which brings me to this: