The Graduation—Cheyenne's Journey

By Cheyenne Reed

After some time on the lunge line, I began to feel I had reached a plateau... a learning flatline. I wasn't making leaps and bounds and progressing at such a rapid pace as when I had begun and soaked in so much information and new feelings. Now it was just a waiting game till I was given the reins to begin the next step on my riding journey. Little did I know, those many lessons on the lunge line had been teaching me consistency, meanwhile developing my strength and balance to the point I was solid and prepared, without having to second guess myself on anything, for when the time came.

Graduating to the reins may seem like the opposite of a big deal, but when you break it down, it's a lot to handle. There's so much going on with simply just controlling your own body, let alone learning to control a large animal with a mind of its own. Once I graduated to the reins (spoiler alert to the end of this post) I figured out that I use much more of my body's softness & control, with the aid of my legs to direct my horse than the reins or anything else. Once I was confident in my seat to the degree it became second nature and I wasn't constantly readjusting myself in the jumping & standing positions, I was ready to take on the next challenge.

Barbara got me prepared for the reins in the few lessons before my grand lunge line graduation by not only preparing my seat, balance and connection with my horse, but getting my mind prepared as well. She'd have me at a trot or canter, shouting out either jumping, standing, or seated position, telling me to look in all different directions....“look to your Mom, look to me, now look at the horizon, look at that pole, look at the birds flying up from the trees....” then she'd call out one of my ten arm positions, which do effect my balance so I had to be aware I wasn't turning into a total rag-doll and at the same time she had me list parts of the horse while we took on some cavalletti's from time to time in the mix. I never thought I'd ever have to actually remind myself to breathe. I always thought I was ADD. Apparently it doesn't apply when I'm on a horse.

Then... the day arrived. January 16th. We started on the lunge line and I felt fairly fluid and strong in my positions and all the gaits. Not long after our warm up, Barbara walked up to Moon and asked me how to pick up the reins. She had me practice gathering them up and dropping them smoothly and showed me where my hands needed to be in jumping and standing position. then nonchalantly unclipped the line from his bit and instructed, “to the rail at a walk, please.” Insert one of those reminders to breathe here.

I learned all the basics of using the reins at the walk and trot. There was quite a bit to take in. However, what stuck with me the most out of the lesson was how little pressure was necessary from my hands and how much softness was needed to get the correct response, instead of more pressure and roughness from the start. That's not a quiet, understanding conversation, that's the start of an argument. Ask softly and release with response. Moon was such a good boy for me and I felt a new connection with him I hadn't felt before as we “left the nest”. Even when I made quite a few learning mistakes, he was gentle and forgiving. He's a horse I am honored to ride, especially through the start of our next adventure!


In The Moment—Cheyenne's Journey

by Cheyenne Reed

As I begin to develop my balance and establish basic skills, I'm becoming more aware of the mental side of riding and how it affects my physical performance on horseback. I am capable of so much more than I give myself credit for. I've been on the lunge line for so long now and am noticeably becoming softer in my seat and steady in my positions—yet I often doubt myself. 

Whether it be through my perfectionist habits, fear or just not feeling like I am good enough, I often put up a metaphorical wall and I stop trusting myself. Instead of relaxing, breathing every movement, and following Moon with whatever Barbara asks of him, I find myself preparing and bracing myself for a moment that hasn't happened. That sometimes can be the very cause of the moments themselves, including losing my balance.

Moon, who already has incredible impulsion, can often be flighty, adding a little extra challenge to our rides. It increases the intimidation factor for me, exaggerated even more by my not having the reins. I start to feel anxiety and psych myself out, mainly due to the fact I don't have control of Moon. When I focus on trying not to come out of the saddle, I begin tensing up with a “just stay on and make it through” mentality, and I lose the big picture. I completely miss the opportunities of those good moments, because I'm not staying “in the moment”. I am learning to detach my sense of balance from dependency on the reins and to focus on riding with my body.

During one of my lessons, Moon was moving like a freight train and it took some time to get him to walk calmly. All he wanted to do was an extended trot! However when I began to actually think “walk” and sat down heavy and completely relaxed in my seat—instead of anticipating his next unexpected decision—his whole demeanor changed!

I have now learned that not having the reins doesn't mean not having control. When I soften and allow my body to work in cohesion with Moon's, our rides changed drastically for the better. Plateaus can be overcome if I just put in the effort and believe in myself! Even when there are those “oops”, excited Moon moments, I know I am able to sit and just ride through them, riding well into my thighs, dropping my heels down and maintaining my center of balance.

I am learning to let go of my brick wall mental moments, those times when I desire to be perfect in my riding and anticipate what might happen. It is only when I let go am I able to allow myself the freedom to be able to progress and connect with my horse, allowing me to keep a clear head, a relaxed seat and ride every moment as it comes. When I start telling myself I can't, that's only providing me with an opportunity to prove myself wrong—and say I can.  


Fall Not Fail—Cheyenne's Journey

By Cheyenne Reed

After my first few lessons, Barbara introduced me to cavalletti! They're the perfect tool to help develop a rider's balance and ability to follow your horse's movement. They can be a little intimidating at first, especially when you're riding with no reins on the lunge line, even though they're merely poles no more than 4 inches off the ground! We had practiced over cavalletti a few times before, but on this lesson, I just didn't feel that sought after stability and couldn't quite find the “sweet spot” of balance.

About half way through my lesson, my horse and I were preparing to go over the set of 4 cavalletti. We trotted two revolutions around Barbara before she then set us up to head straight over the grid. Unfortunately, when I pushed myself into the jumping position, I slid my legs too far behind me and got ahead of the motion. I was unable to shove them back forward into the correct position and I struggled to keep my upper body from falling forward. I tried and tried, but by the time we were over the cavalletti, I had completely lost my balance. Due to the fact I was so unstable on his back, Moon paused at the second cavalletti and took a little lurch forward over the third. I was unable to follow his sudden change in movement.

I began slipping off to the left side and fought to stay on over the last cavalletti. As soon as the saddle decided to join me and started sliding to the left, I had to let go. As you've probably already assumed, I had an unpleasant surprise greeted the ground. With no injuries sustained, other than a sore tail bone, I brushed myself off and got right back on.

Of course, I was highly frustrated with myself. I am possibly the biggest perfectionist on the planet, and I strive wholeheartedly to be the best rider I can be and so I felt like I had failed myself. My initial feeling was frustration.

Barbara had us resume working the cavalletti right away, and took us back to the basics. We dropped all the cavalletti down to just ground poles, as to increase my feeling of security and to allow me to follow smaller movement, instead of Moon's already large amount of impulsion being doubled by any height of the cavalletti. As if magic almost, the two-point position felt solid and secure like never before. My shoulders were more relaxed and I was engaging my core. My legs weren't wobbling around as much and my heels were dropped, absorbing the impact like they should. We took the grid multiple times, slowly increasing the number of cavalletti back up to four.

Thanks to my trainer and her awesome methods, my confidence was restored. I thought I would be working back up to the point I had been at for weeks to come, trying to find that secure feeling in the two-point. Instead, I didn't just regain my confidence and recover all that I had already learned, but I also improved my abilities. I knew what the well-balanced feeling was and how to maintain it.

What I came to find out later is that even the best riders take a tumble or two. Taking a fall is no judge of how good of a rider you are—it is all part of the growth that takes place on a horsemanship journey! Everything is a learning experience and falling is in no way the same thing as failing.

When we watched the video back, I was proud and quite amused by the fact I kept the presentation and “attitude” Barbara always asks for, even as I fell to the ground. My eyes were forward, my shoulders back and chin up, all while I attempted—and ultimately failed—to regain my balance. If was going to fall, I was to go down in style!

The fall helped me in ways I didn't even think possible. You might think of it as a negative, but to me it was one of the biggest positives in my lesson journey so far.


My Journey Begins—Cheyenne's Journey

By Cheyenne Reed 

On August 3rd, 2013 I received the amazing news that I had been selected for a fully funded equestrian scholarship from Barbara Callihan, at Happy Hoof Beats Equestrian Center (HHB). I had been gifted with the opportunity to ride under the instruction of someone who I believe is the best trainer/riding coach, and to learn as much as I could during this scholarship—everything from A to Z in the horse world.

At first, I was overwhelmed and didn't quite process it for the longest time! Excited doesn't even begin to cover what I was feeling. It didn't really sink in until I arrived at my first lesson.

My lesson journey has been incredible so far! I have enjoyed everything from the tough times and sore muscles, to the successes and accomplishments. These first several lessons were all about pinpointing every part of my body, in order tto be able to grasp the right feeling in the saddle. I started out riding with no reins on the lunge line—which sounds simple enough—but in actuality it made me realize just how dependent I was on the reins and my upper body.

In the beginning, I think one of my biggest challenges was the two-point position, otherwise known as the jumping position. It took me some time to get that solid, well-balanced feeling of security, while still remaining effortless in performance.

The lesson horse, Moon, is full of impulsion and he'll bounce you right out of the saddle if you don't establish your balance! For a little while there, I have to admit, I did not like riding him at all. He intimidated me and at times I felt fearful doing certain exercises. However, I now greatly enjoy my rides on him and I am understanding just how much he is teaching me and showing me in my own abilities

At the end of my first month, my balance improved enormously. I began to develop softness in my seat and my body, as well as more stillness in my upper body and shoulders. Riding is so detailed in every aspect, and it takes time to not only understand what you're doing, but to also feel it. Knowing, doing and feeling are all completely different things!

It amazes me how much the pairing of strength and softness is needed to accomplish the balance necessary in riding. It's such an odd concept to me. At first it felt like I resembled a rag doll and softness was definitely not my strong suit. And, as I have been slowly strengthening myself, the softness has begun to come a little easier. Baby steps! I realize that every single part of my body had to work together—each with its own “job.” I'm now finding I'm more and more in control of my own movement in every lesson, which I know I must first establish in order to be able to control my horse's movement.

In the beginning I was, of course, a little nervous and didn't know what to expect. But Barbara Callihan was amazing and made me feel part of the HHB team from the start. That said, she wasn't necessarily easy on me and constantly corrected even the tiniest of mistakes. She did it in such a way that it was less of a mistake and more of a necessary piece in the journey of learning. One thing in particular I love about my lessons is Barbara always ensures that they end on a positive feeling—so I always walk away with a sense of accomplishment. It makes me continually look forward to every lesson.

Now, my goal is simply to seize every moment and learn as much as I possibly can. I want to improve my horsemanship skills, and strengthen my riding to a point where I am able to go into any discipline and possibly a career somewhere in the horse world. If I had to choose, for the longest time my ultimate dream has been to compete in hunter over fences.

Happy Hoof Beats is already turning into my home away from home! I feel like anything is possible from where I'm standing. It feels like I'm the luckiest, most blessed and honored person alive, and I don't want to take anything for granted in this new experience.


Happy Hoof Beats Awards Two Year Horsemanship Scholarship to Cheyenne Reed—Cheyenne's Journey

Happy Hoofs Beats is excited to announce that it has selected Cheyenne Reed to receive a fully-funded two-year horsemanship scholarship under the direction of equine professional Barbara H. Callihan. The general curriculum for the scholarship will include: record keeping; equine vocabulary; anatomy, nutrition and health care; ground work; hauling and traveling; grooming; tack and equipment usage, care and conditioning; and horsemanship instruction in hunt seat, saddle seat, dressage, hunter jumper, western and trail riding. In addition Chey will have the opportunity to experience the show arena in her discipline of choice.  Throughout the curriculum, knowledge, strength, flexibility and safety will be emphasized as essential foundations to horsemanship success. There are countless effective horsemanship strategies and techniques—depending on the horse, the rider, their temperaments, and desired goals, some strategies are simply more effective and safer than others.

 “Cheyenne is a breath of fresh air. I have had the privilege of getting to know her and her family for over 4 years,” says Barbara H. Callihan. During that time Karen Vowell, an advanced student at Happy Hoof Beats, was Cheyenne’s mentor and helped to build her interest in horses by introducing her to basic riding principles.

Chey, as her friends call her, is a self-starter, meets challenges with determination and strength, exhibits a sense of humor, and shows compassion and respect for her human and animal friends. Whether in public or private she eagerly contributes with joy and the willingness to do the next right thing, and she always welcomes help, recommendations and directions. In challenging situations, without whining or grumbling, Chey smiles, listens, follows directions and gives her personal best. As an added bonus, Chey’s talent as a photographer has captured many special ‘moments of life’ for the Happy Hoof Beats team as they compete and play.

 “It has been nearly 20 years since I have had such a strong heart desire to offer a horsemanship scholarship to a student at Happy Hoof Beats, exclaims Barbara. “I have been delighted to watch Chey grow in her equestrian skills and in her appreciation of the magnificent horse. It is with great pleasure and excitement that I announce that Cheyenne Reeds and her family have accepted this two-year scholarship and the commitment that accompanies it.”

For more information about Happy Hoof Beats and Equine Excellence visit:


More info about Cheyenne Reed:

My name is Cheyenne Lee Reed, or CheyLee, and I have been on this earth for 16 years. I was born on May 11th, the year of 1997, in Newport Beach, California. I've lived in Pahrump for roughly around 11 years, and although desert is not my ideal dream place to live, I am thankful to call this my home. It really has developed me into the small town “country” girl I am today. I couldn't imagine living life any other way. I was raised by my two amazing parents, Donavan and Kelly. My beautiful, incredible older sister, Tiffany, who is only a year older than I, has been my closest friend in life for this decade and a half, as well as my encouraging, strong and sweet older brother, Justin, older than my sister by 9 years and our best friend, Emily, who we pretend “adopted” as our sister for 10 years now. I graduated high school 2 years early this past year, by means of homeschooling- class of 2013!

My personality can basically be summed up within the parameters of a country girl. My favorites and things I do in my free time include doing anything with horses or any animals really, doing anything related to camping or hiking, using my imagination, spending time with my best friend and youth group family, working with my Daddy, writing any chance I get, helping at my church wherever I’m needed, laughing, and eating ice cream. My weaknesses include being too much of a perfectionist and sometimes being far too hard on myself and, naturally, every girl’s weakness… chocolate. I have two animals of my own, currently, my dog Milly and miniature horse Kojack, plus an abundance of animals I’ve “claimed”. 

My two biggest passions that really can describe me in a pinch are music and horses. I have been able to develop my music, along with my sister, since an early age and are continuing to strive towards bigger things within our career, but I hadn't really started to delve into my extreme love (some could say obsession) of horses until about a few years ago. I am now a worship leader, songwriter and my sister and I are working on our first CD. Every minute spent singing to God, playing my guitar and writing about all that inspires me, is never wasted. Another hobby and possible side-career of mine is painting, which I very recently began, specifically equine and pet portraits. I love capturing the beauty and elegance of horses and the expressions in their face, their physiques and stories in their eyes.

My plans involve attending Costa Mesa Calvary Chapel school of worship, continuing as a worship leader, as well as going to Murietta Bible college, continuing to write, and paint. While studying at the college, I will be looking for a job at the Huntington Beach Equestrian center, doing whatever I could do there. As long as I’m around horses, I’ll be just fine. If I had the opportunity to stretch myself beyond my limits into a seasoned equestrian, I would love to begin showing, exercise horses professionally, or even become a trainer (or work under one.) Plus, go wherever my sister’s and my music takes us.

Of course I have dreams to do big things, but life isn't about what you achieve, it’s about how you achieve it. That being said, my life goals are mainly to follow and serve God, work hard in anything I put my mind to, help wherever I’m needed, live life to the fullest and to always dedicate myself to what I absolutely love, that makes me happy, subsequently bringing joy to others around me.

I don’t know what my future holds, but I pray that with whatever I do and wherever I go, I’ll always have God in my heart, music in my soul and I’ll forever see life through the ears of a horse.

Thank you for reading. 

-Cheyenne L. Reed

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