Mini-Calendar
Friday
Mar242017

After facing one a life’s biggest challenges, Barbara takes Reserve Champion at Washington Horse Expo IMTCA Challenge in March on Chunky Monkey

by P. Tyrone Smith

Barbara H. Callihan and Chunky Monkey win Reserve Champion at WA Expo IMTA Challenge with Mark and Lee Bolender. Photo by Hal Cook of Washington State

In December Barbara received a diagnosis that threatened to disrupt her big plans to compete in an International Mountain Trail (IMTCA) Challenge at the Washington Horse Expo in March. The diagnosis was possible lung cancer. After considering all her options, Barbara made a the difficult choice to have lung surgery to remove the small spot. Based on calculations, if everything went right, she could be ready to compete in March. In order to give herself enough time to prepare to compete, Barbara set a personal goal to be back in saddle six weeks after her major surgery.

Six weeks of intense rehabilitation work to rebuild strength and stamina paid off, and against all odds Barbara receive the doctor’s permission to begin riding on February 2nd. On February 13 she departed from happy hoof beats with Ears, Chunky Monkey, a loaded trailer, and high hopes as she darted towards Bolender Horse Park between huge rain storms. She arrived on February 18 excited and ready to continue her IMTCA studies under discipline founder Mark Bolender.

Two weeks later on March 1, she arrived onsite at the Washington Expo Fair Grounds water-logged, cold, and weary. Team HHB Members, Maja Hinkle, Karen Vowell, and her son P Tyrone Smith joined her for the entire weekend, providing Chunky with feeding, grooming needs, and support, as well as encouragement and hot drinks to Barbara. Her sister Noreen, always her fierce supporter, braved the cold and rain to witness Barbara’s new found passion. Her daughter Donna — the 2016 Introductory National champion in Western Equitation (WE) — and her granddaughter Amber braved numb hands and feet and cheered Barbara on as they discovered this exciting new discipline that is fueling her new passion. Brenda Fleming, a past riding student and good friend, braved the harsh road conditions from Salem to support her past coach, and visit with her close Las Vegas friends. And finally, Linda, a lesson client that has developed into a deep friendship, surprised Barbara with her supportive presence for the weekend and through her perseverance enjoyed the many clinics/clinicians at the EXPO.

The IMTCA competition took place over two days, Saturday and Sunday. Approximately 30 horses were registered for the three levels of competition. Barbara and Chunky Monkey were registered into level three, the most challenging of the three, requiring them to complete the challenging trail obstacle course utilizing all three gaits, against 13 other riders. Saturday featured the preliminary rounds for all riders at all levels and determined which top five riders in each level would compete in the championship round on Sunday. Barbara and Chunky Monkey had an incredible preliminary round performance and earned a spot as one of the five finalists in the championship round on Sunday. The champion round was tough competition, featuring some incredible riders and a grueling 21 obstacle trail course. Barbara and Chunky Monkey had another good performance putting them in contention. In the end Jean Chaney had the better performance earning her the Championship, with Barbara and Chunky Monkey receiving Reserve Champion, and Talea Morgan-Metivier receiving third place.

Barbara and Team HHB share their deep appreciation for Lee and Mark Bolender, and the numerous staff and volunteers of the Washington Expo crew for making this a meaningful and exciting experience. A special Thank you to Lee and Mark Bolender, Tonya Diggs, Bolender’s Barn Manager, Candy and Elizabeth for their physical and emotional support on those days that the recovery from surgery, bitter wet cold was taking its toll threatening to stop her and Chunky’s journey.

Enjoy photos from Barbara's journey

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!