Remembering Michel Otten

I’m not even sure what the right thing to say is, but all I can think is that the world lost an amazing person today.

At 12:20am a special friend of mine was taken by cancer.

Michel entered my life when I was no more than eight years old. She was my mom’s boss and friend and then became my riding instructor. I used to call her, “my riding lesson teacher.” She was one hell of an accomplished horsewoman and always tried to teach me how to best my fears. If I was too scared to lope on my own she would wait for me to make my come around then hit Tara on the but for proper encouragement. Tara was a very special horse to me. I lovingly refer to her as my first horse even though she was only mine every Wednesday during the summers, for my lessons. She had a fearlessness worthy of channeling if there was something I felt I couldn’t do. When I doubted myself she knew better and she forced me to prove it to myself.

And she knew how to give a kid a good time, those riding lessons were amazing. My favorite day of the week has always been Wednesday because of the joy it used to bring. We’d travel all over her vast acreage on horseback… The little lake, up and down hills, on the streets, and of course in the arena. I learned so much from posture to hopping over poles. For our last lesson day of the summer we all hung around and gave our horses/ponies (actually I was the only one not on a pony!) a nice bath and I gave Tara her favorite treat – sugar cubes. We followed it up with games including bob for apples and snacks. My brother and sister and I would waste hours playing the original Oregon Trail game on her computer, or playing hide and seek all over the house. And I remember just before we moved is when she first brought home her prized buckskin, Slick. He’s an old timer now but just as beautiful as I remember him. I’ll never forget those days.

I also spent a lot of time at the flower shop when my mom went to work. I made best friends with the shop animals and used to request to clean the litter boxes! I guess I liked to be helpful; I even had a few floral customers of my own. Michel would let me craft my own arrangements and even let people buy them – which they did! It was an exciting and fun thing for me. I even got to know the attic ghost! When I was brave enough to go all the way up there I could swear I saw him too. Sometimes I’d go with her on deliveries which I always liked because the van was so big, it was fun to ride in. That little shop on Elm Street was like a second home to me.

Taken from Michel's Facebook Page

From Michel’s Facebook Page

Since leaving Missouri I’ve been back to visit only once and it was emotional and very draining for me for so many reasons, but luckily I did get to go to Washington to visit the shop. And Michel. I asked her about Tara and looked all around the place, remembering every little nook and hideaway I used to play in. All the incredible crafts and floral designs everywhere, and the overwhelmingly nostalgic and comforting smell of the basket room… I was 17 then and I’m 25 now. That was the last time I got to see her in person. Last year for my wedding she was sweet enough to send us wedding party flowers as a gift. I wish I could have hugged her for it. Today the bouquets and corsages are still all over my house as decorations.

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I could go on, like about how I had my very first kiss in her kitchen or about the time her shirt flew open at a barrel race and we couldn’t stop laughing… But I won’t. I can’t.

This afternoon I took Arizona out for a ride in Michel’s honor as I will do again this weekend, since I cannot attend her memorial. I hope she felt the wind in my hair from heaven!

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Michel was an integral part of my childhood and I’m so very sad she’s gone. I can’t say she lost her life to cancer, because she very much lived in spite of it. So many loved her and called her friend and family and I weep with them all today. I pray that this Saturday, her celebration of life is everything she would want. I hope there are more smiles than tears. I wish I could be there but I’ll be thinking about you. And I’ll think of you anytime I see a pretty bouquet or a bulldog. Say hi to my sweet Tara for me.

Taken from Michel's Facebook Page

From Michel’s Facebook Page

She’s A Friend, Lesson Student and Fellow Horse Nut

She is SABRINA!


My dear friend Sabrina is probably the other piece of whatever I came from because aside from our taste buds we could not be more alike or more understanding of one another. It’s invaluable to have a friend feel so much like family. It’s a wonder how I went 25 years without knowing her, and I truly don’t know where I’d be without her anymore! Please enjoy these fabulous shots of miss Sabrina from our first cowgirl inspired photoshoot here as I go through this post. 🙂

Cowgirl Sabrina
One major thing we have in common is an unmistakeable and undeniable complete adoration for horses. The smell, the sounds, the feel and the mere company of a horse often brings us together after a bad or good day and it’s at the barn that we’ve spent many good nights talking and relaxing. There’s a special kind of therapy two friends enjoy when sitting out in a lawn chair, drinking a good beer, listening to the sound of a horse chomp-chomping away at grass next to you.


Along with that I’ve been teaching Sabrina the basics of horseback riding and horse care. She picks up everything as we go along and is quick to recall a past instruction. It’s a breeze to teach her and seeing as how she’s my first official [unofficial] lesson student, this is a great thing for me too. I know not everyone that I have the pleasure of teaching come the future will be this readily spongeable, if you will, but it’s great to have this positive reinforcement while I’m starting to teach.

Cowgirl Sabrina


Thank you girl for being in my life and sharing this great love I have for horses with me. You’re an asset to my barn and my family. Here’s to many more good times!

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Mr. & Mrs. Go For A Ride

Today Orlando and I went for a quick ride before the sun went down. It’s been a long, trying week and tomorrow marks day one of a new future and there’s no better way to face that than through the ears of a horse. I’m only sad I don’t have a picture of the ride but that would be due to the fact that I rode Oreo today instead of Arizona.

Oreo is currently in foal and due next spring. She is a sweet girl and will fall asleep in your arms if you stand at her stall and pet her. Today she was pretty feisty. Hunger, mosquitoes and a slight case of “I don’t wanna” made her a ride I had to concentrate on. She took off trotting back to the barn and I cut her off and made her turn back around. We proceeded to also face a few neighborhood dogs that were all up in our business and maneuvered a few patterns on both sides of the road. I discovered a gorgeous western pleasure trot of magnificence on her though I didn’t ask for it. When I finally let her go back to the gate we stood and watched a giant truck and trailer go by and when it passed her, semi-spooked and swung her hindquarters around so she could watch it more. Overall after my first ride on this girl I’m not pissed off or defeated. I’m looking forward to putting some more miles on her.

Oreo - APHA Mare

Meet Oreo! She’s a gorgeous in-foal paint mare at my barn.

 


 

Also… Yesterday Sabrina and I rode around the pastures with Arizona and Oreo. The only thing to note is that I got Arizona walking through the puddles on the driveway. Hurray for [small] victories!

What’s the Point of all This?

There are times I ask myself that question, especially on the days when my horse(s) and I aren’t communicating effectively and things go wrong. I may blame her and let my emotions (usually sheer frustration) cloud the big picture; what I really should be seeing and what’s needed FROM ME to correct it. I like that in reading Downunder Horsemanship it’s put into BLACK and WHITE words: If your horse is not performing correctly or is misbehaving, it’s 98.9% always YOUR fault. The bottom line is for me that I always want to learn and improve. You don’t get to the level I want to be at by faking it and getting your feelings hurt. You have to educate yourself and allow others to educate you! Everybody wants something out of life but not everybody gets their dreams fulfilled.

One way I’m educating myself is by reading Clinton Anderson’s and Stacy Westfall’s training books. CA’s book goes into depth about horse psychology which is INCREDIBLY important since you can’t understand the choices you’re making until you know why those decisions are necessary. SW’s book is very exercise oriented and each stage and maneuver is detailed and explained in such a coherent way, which I especially like because cut and dry instruction are easiest for me to follow. It’s a very straight forward method. Both of them are, in fact. I get a great deal out of each of them but I’m not finished yet!

I have also borrowed a handful of VHS tapes of various CA and Chris Cox training sessions from my barn guy which I’ve only just started watching. I can tell I will need some extra practice watching Chris Cox because he doesn’t have the same flow of communication that the other two do. I noticed that when I watched one of the RTTH competitions recently. He does not allow his viewers to follow along quite as well, he simply takes action and sums up. There’s no detailing what exactly he did, why, or how. This would not matter much to me if I had a better level of understanding of the things I’m specifically watching him to learn, however I will manage this by taking notes and asking questions to those who know better.

Life is metamorphosing before my eyes and I’m going to continue to change with it. I’m taking the road to my training career  more seriously as well as certain smaller scale life goals, and I’m not disappointing myself. I wish I had more pictures to share but that will have to wait until next time!


 

Goals for Arizona’s next refresher session:

  • Groundwork for respect.
  • Groundwork for basic riding cues.
  • Quiet mounting exercises.

Goals for Powder’s next training session:

  • Lunging and respect groundwork.
  • Desensitizing body with hands and rope.
  • Desensitizing the space around us with lunge whip and string.

Introductions

Heather

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  • Twenty-something
  • Mother of two
  • Married to one
  • Employed
  • Two dogs
  • One cat
  • Loves to sing & watch shows and movies
  • Can sorta draw
  • Writer and photographer on the side

Arizona

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  • 9 year old mare
  • Quarter Horse
  • 15.1hh
  • Never bred
  • Coming back from being barn sour
  • Dominant
  • Sorrel w/ star
  • Brown eyes
  • Barefoot
  • Ridden western

Powder

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  • 10 year old mare
  • Registered QH
  • 15.2hh
  • Broodmare – currently in foal
  • Green broke
  • Cremello with stripe
  • Blue eyes
  • Submissive
  • Barefoot
  • Incredibly sweet and loves attention