Mini-Calendar
Sunday
Dec042016

“A Summer's Awakening” — Episode 6

by Barbara H. Callihan

Yay! It was the third and final day of the IMTCA clinic! I mounted Chunky Monkey with great excitement and headed for our warm-up. The quiet ride to the arena allowed my mind to reflect on the previous four days which were filled with instruction, observations, awareness, learning and new friendships. Most importantly I was able to recall the intimate and subtle changes that I had begun to experience with Chunky, further enhancing our partnership in this exciting and challenging discipline — International (Extreme) Mountain Trail Challenge.

As I enter the main arena, which has been proffessional groomed by Mark Bolender, I am eager for Chunky’s hoof prints to be the first as we start our softening exercises. As on previous mornings, my warm up heightens my senses and my mind reviews the challenges and victories of previous two days’ instructions.

Eventually the other eight participants and their horses arrived. Everyone exchanged morning greetings, made last minute tack adjustments, and began to reflect on the philosophy, techniques, critiques, and interactions of the previous two days.

On the first day we started the morning with a meet and greet. In the afternoon horses and handlers met in the covered arena where Mark began to introduce his basic philosophies; embracing leadership and protecting our personal space. As participants gained the respect of their horses, Mark then coached us to have our horses follow the basic requests of stopping, backing, side passing, and turning while maintaining our personal space by developing body language and blocking energy. We then used these new leadership skills to move our horses willingly through a plastic draped car wash. We led our horses at the walk, at the trot, around, over and through individual tarps finishing with each horse’s entire back and rump being draped with a tarp. This was a great confidence building exercise for participants and horses.

On the second day we were introduced to the trail obstacles in Bolender Horse park with horses in hand.The importance of the previous days’ lessons became clear very quickly. We were asked to work multiple obstacles to encourage us to maintain and hone our leadership skills. The importance of maintaining my personal space ‘without moving my feet’ became evident and a very personal challenge.

Mark arrives this morning the 3rd day riding Checkers, his 3X IMTCA National Champion horse, without a bridle. As the clinic progressed through the day I could feel the intensity building inside me. Several times during the day—and during the days that followed—Mark called me “Grasshopper” as he would critique and coach my work with Chunky. During our work together I was able to take away important insights: relax-slow down; this takes time and repetition, and we have the time; be aware of Chunky’s tries; I see your drive; and I am here for you.

I filled every moment with learning possibilities, especially when Mark was working with other participants or negotiating the trail obstacles with Checkers. He consistently demonstrated and coached his winning philosophy, training, and competitive methods. His coaching style was relaxed and yet full of specific information and examples. And his well-placed humor and encouragement created moments of levity that eased our minds during challenging moments, giving us space to continue to try until we were successful. I am forever thankful for his distinctive coaching skills that left the entire group of participants beaming with confidence and success.

By the end of the clinic I was flooded with personal awareness about new possibilities for my own horsemanship journey, as well as Chunky’s outstanding talent and willing attitude. This experience was truly having a profound impact on my riding, training, and coaching techniques—what I did not yet know was how deep, personal, and enduring it would be on my inner and outer life.

Sunday
Dec042016

“A Summer's Awakening” — Episode 5

by Barbara H. Callihan

On Thursday morning August 3rd, heavy dew off of the thick meadow grass splashed onto my out of place tennis shoes. Fog is wafting in the canyons, while the sun begins to warm the air. I stop in place, taking a deep breath and letting the moment linger and imprint itself on my being! I am so aware of my many moments of spiritual change and blessings.

Tonya, the barn manager, was busy taking care of horses in her charge and we exchange morning greetings as we passed each other.

Chunky’s head was hung relaxed over her stall door, her ears pricked forward, as she watched me approach. We did our usual greeting —her kissing my cheek with her soft muzzle as I gave her a morning treat.

Her stall showed she had a quiet relaxed evening, a sign that her mind was accepting of all the changes in her new environment during the last ten days.

As I began her morning care, various barn activities were taking place, including horses being led out to their paddocks. I was very aware of the calmness that the Bolender barn provides their horses! This was very reassuring because I knew it would enhance Chunky’s learning curve for the next three weeks!

Later in the day Mark and his wife Lee returned from their RFD TV video shoot for the video introducing his new discipline International Mountain Trail Challenge Association (IMTCA) Trail Riding. They also mentioned that Mark had participated in a 100 mile specialty trail ride. I was very excited to hear all the details — excitement was palpable!

Soon after his arrival Mark scheduled an evaluation lesson with me for later in the afternoon. My three-day International Mountain Trail and Extreme Trail riding clinic was just around the corner, and I was so eager to experience and feel the challenge of the obstacles I had seen yesterday. The belly flame ignited!

As directed, I met Mark at the obstacles with Chunky in hand. Every cell in my body was pumped and fueled with electricity! Chunky was very bright, light and responsive at the end of a lounge line. During our work together she maintained her alertness and ‘can do’ attitude as she was guided and directed into, onto, over, around, through, and between the course’s unfamiliar obstacles. Mark’s quiet voice gave me basic directions as his keen observations allowed him to evaluate the private conversations I was having with Chunky.

As Mark evaluated our working style and skill level he engaged me in conversation. Slowly, he began to articulate his personal extreme trail philosophy:

There are three sections to an obstacle; the entry, the body of the obstacle, and the exit
Encourage the horse to ‘seek the trail’ by establishing a partnership; the rider must RESPECT the horse’s ability to work on their own as much as possible to create a continuous movement through the course
The discipline calls for continuous flow and movement through each section of each obstacle before, during, after and even in between; avoiding a stop and go strategy
Each section—entry, body, and exit—of each obstacle must be completed with the horse centered and straight at all times

Later in the session, as we continued onto more challenging obstacles, Chunky began to respond to her new responsibilities as we successfully implemented his coaching.

What was suppose to have been a one hour session with Mark had extended to two exciting hours. At the end of the session, as I stood next to Chunky stroking her shiny copper and red neck, Mark commented “She is a dream. She is exceptional!” I stood there proud with a huge lump in my throat as I held back my tears.

For the next three weeks Chunky and I were on an exciting and steep learning curve, as I enjoyed my new and unfamiliar role of student.

Monday
Nov142016

“A Summer's Awakening” — Episode 6

by Barbara H. Callihan

Yay! It was the third and final day of the IMTCA clinic! I mounted Chunky Monkey with great excitement and headed for our warm-up. The quiet ride to the arena allowed my mind to reflect on the previous four days which were filled with instruction, observations, awareness, learning and new friendships. Most importantly I was able to recall the intimate and subtle changes that I had begun to experience with Chunky, further enhancing our partnership in this exciting and challenging discipline — International (Extreme) Mountain Trail Challenge.

As I enter the main arena, which has been proffessional groomed by Mark Bolender, I am eager for Chunky’s hoof prints to be the first as we start our softening exercises. As on previous mornings, my warm up heightens my senses and my mind reviews the challenges and victories of previous two days’ instructions.

Eventually the other eight participants and their horses arrived. Everyone exchanged morning greetings, made last minute tack adjustments, and began to reflect on the philosophy, techniques, critiques, and interactions of the previous two days.

On the first day we started the morning with a meet and greet. In the afternoon horses and handlers met in the covered arena where Mark began to introduce his basic philosophies; embracing leadership and protecting our personal space. As participants gained the respect of their horses, Mark then coached us to have our horses follow the basic requests of stopping, backing, side passing, and turning while maintaining our personal space by developing body language and blocking energy. We then used these new leadership skills to move our horses willingly through a plastic draped car wash. We led our horses at the walk, at the trot, around, over and through individual tarps finishing with each horse’s entire back and rump being draped with a tarp. This was a great confidence building exercise for participants and horses.

On the second day we were introduced to the trail obstacles in Bolender Horse park with horses in hand.The importance of the previous days’ lessons became clear very quickly. We were asked to work multiple obstacles to encourage us to maintain and hone our leadership skills. The importance of maintaining my personal space ‘without moving my feet’ became evident and a very personal challenge.

Mark arrives this morning the 3rd day riding Checkers, his 3X IMTCA National Champion horse, without a bridle. As the clinic progressed through the day I could feel the intensity building inside me. Several times during the day—and during the days that followed—Mark called me “Grasshopper” as he would critique and coach my work with Chunky. During our work together I was able to take away important insights: relax-slow down; this takes time and repetition, and we have the time; be aware of Chunky’s tries; I see your drive; and I am here for you.

I filled every moment with learning possibilities, especially when Mark was working with other participants or negotiating the trail obstacles with Checkers. He consistently demonstrated and coached his winning philosophy, training, and competitive methods. His coaching style was relaxed and yet full of specific information and examples. And his well-placed humor and encouragement created moments of levity that eased our minds during challenging moments, giving us space to continue to try until we were successful. I am forever thankful for his distinctive coaching skills that left the entire group of participants beaming with confidence and success.

By the end of the clinic I was flooded with personal awareness about new possibilities for my own horsemanship journey, as well as Chunky’s outstanding talent and willing attitude. This experience was truly having a profound impact on my riding, training, and coaching techniques—what I did not yet know was how deep, personal, and enduring it would be on my inner and outer life.

Wednesday
Sep212016

“A Summer's Awakening” — Episode 4

by Barbara H. Callihan

As I crested the short but challenging entrance grade to Bolender Horse Park I was surrounded by mature pines, and my eyes feasted on green pastures, beautiful rustic wood buildings, a fire pit in a mature pine grove with seating perfect for campfire stories, and an outdoor arena. As I slowly approached what appeared to be the barn area, my eyes darted and scanned everywhere looking anxiously for the Mountain Trail obstacles. There were none within sight, and yet I could feel the excitement and joy building inside. I felt like a child filled wonderment and anticipation of FUN!

I was met by the welcoming smiles of three Bolender Park staff; Val an intern from Italy, Rebecca an intern from Missouri and Tonya the Barn Manager. Tonya directed me around the barn and the ladies helped me to locate Chunky’s stall and unload items needed for her care.

Ears did her yoga stretch ritual before she slowly jumped from the truck. Her posture and ears showed that she was not sure if the three excited, wiggling, jumping dogs were going to accept her. She landed on the ground and everyone engaged in the appropriate sniffing and circling. I was very relieved to see the Bolender Ranch pups accept Ears—as exhibited in the confidence of her happy tail.

After I led Chunky to her freshly bedded stall — right next to the Indoor arena — which would be her home for the next three weeks, I unloaded her misc. items, and cleaned out the traveling poop. The staff showed me several turnout paddocks available for Chunky, and directed me where to park my traveling bunk house. Comfort amenities on the property include hook-up utilities, and an incredible Great Room! The Great Room includes a full kitchen with dining tables, a view of the indoor arena, a large sitting area for reading, studying, and watching TV, a library of videos and books, as well as restrooms with showers.

With all this happening, my mind was racing! My eyes were impressed and overwhelmed with the beautiful facilities! And yet, where were the Obstacles!!!!

After I got settled in, the Bolender team casually pointed towards the area behind the large outdoor arena and said, “Obstacles are located over there and at each end of the arena is entrance. Mark and Linda are off property at an RFD TV shooting and will be back tomorrow. You are welcome to walk the course but no riding until you have your first lesson with Mark.”

I felt the small flame in my belly leap to my throat!!! My whole body felt alive. I so wanted to do an all out run as a child running to their favorite playground. However, feeling my body’s creaks and groans I opted for a quick jog.

As I approached the obstacles I stopped, gulped, and let my eyes feast on the unbelievable Mountain Trail Obstacle Challenge Park. I was NOT disappointed!!! For the next hour and one-half, I walked over, under, through, between, and around while marveling at the course design, which featured complex challenges surrounded by a stunning, creative mountain theme!

I felt the adrenaline feed the belly fire!!!! Soon I would be able to experience what I now only imagined!

Thursday
Sep152016

“A Summer's Awakening” — Episode 3

by Barbara H. Callihan

Before leaving Pahrump my mechanic brought to my attention that my new to me trailer was too heavy for my truck rear springs, causing my truck to squat, and giving me the scary sense of floating as the front of the truck lifted. Yikes! I tried to make an appointment to have ‘air springs’ installed before I left, but none were available in Pahrump or Vegas till late the following week. My plans were to arrive at Mark Bolender’s Bolender Horse Park in Washington by August 2nd, and I would need to drive cautiously and slower than planned, which meant it would take longer to get there. So, I made my appointment with Curtis RV in Beaverton Oregon for Wednesday July 27th.

Curtis RV was friendly and professional, and their installation time of the air springs was exactly as they had quoted over the phone. Unexpectedly they discovered that I needed the roof of my new trailer recaulked, and that there were mud wasp nests deep into the propane channel of the water heater! In the end, it only took one additional day, and I was on the road, after picking up Chunky Monkey from Rita’s, making the final leg of my trip to Bolender Horse Park.

I thought I would beat the freeway traffic by leaving mid-day. It was a good thought, however, I found myself in bumper to bumper traffic on I-405 for about 45 minutes. It was a very nerve-wracking experience as impatient drivers were weaving in and out at 20 to 30 mph, and jumping in front of me to fill the open space I allowed in front of my rig to give me space to break!!! Glad I had excellent brakes on my truck and trailer and deep pockets of patience that afternoon. Of course, I felt empathy and concern for Chunky Monkey as her balance was being challenged with the herky-jerky, stop and go traveling!

In the end, I arrived at Bolender Horse Park as scheduled on Tuesday, August 2nd just as a ‘gully washer’ rain storm was ending. I hesitated at the base of their short but steep gravel driveway as the water rushing down tumbled small gravel, as I do not have 4-wheel drive. My confidence was definitely challenged! I pushed aside my nerves even as my trucks tires began slipping. Ever so slowly with my gear stick in low-1, I made up the slippery road to my destination. Yaaaaaaaah!

My Possibilities are becoming Successes, a theme that had begun to emerge from my Journey.