Your hands shake.  Your heat pounds.  Your cheeks flush.  Your breath catches.


We have all felt it.  Anyone who is around horses, even the very experienced, feel it.

Overtime fear fades- if we empower ourselves with information.  If we don’t beat fear by learning, fear simply converts and disguises itself upon you, and lives on you, like a Monkey on your back. Because fact is, you have forgotten to learn from your environment, so you take the fear with you everywhere.  Into your home, your relationships, and eventually into your horses. 

One of my favourite Horseman, Buck Brannaman, whom I had the privilege to attend his first UK clinic at Aintree International Equestrian Centre in 2015, put it best.

‘Fear is like an animal.  The only way you can kill that animal is with information.  Imagine being able to honestly say ‘There is not a horse in the world I am afraid of’.  Imagine the pleasure of working with horses then? For some people that can seem like a mountain too high to climb.  Well, I guess that depends on how much you like to climb. ‘ 

Lately I have seen fear seep its insidious fumes into stables I frequently visit.  Otherwise beautiful, happy places of learning, horses and fun, fear had begun to transform these locations into perverted distortions of what they really were.  Splicing reality into something which makes people feel unsafe.  I’m hyper sensitive to my environment, my ballet director says it is an aspect of my ‘artistic personality’ that he likes, but it means I become privy to changes in my environment even when the change is small.  I can sense it like a smell.  I can feel it in my gut. Or see it like a mirage.  But, fear is an illusion.  It is a construct we choose to participate in, or not.

I have encountered a lot of fear in my life.
When I left home at 18, flew to the other side of the world to start a new life, I found myself alone at a cafe in Singapore Airport at 5am, afraid out of my mind.
When my ballet teacher in Zurich revealed himself to be a domineering, egotistical, aggressive, old school Russian/German Ballet, traumatising nightmare, from 9am to 12 noon 6 days a week, I was afraid.
When I stood at the foot of the largest Opera House in Europe, about to try and become the first Australian to find employment there, I was terrified that I was inadequate.
When I loaded Sanson onto a trailer, and sat in the cabin of a truck that was about to drive across the whole of Europe and towards a totally unknown future for me, I was scared, but excited.
-And yet-

I found my way through the Airport, finished the cafe breakfast, and started a new life which has grown beyond my wildest dreams.

I finished my studies with that teacher, with Positive Psychology assistance from my late, sweet mentor Paulette Mifsud, I graduated with a Swiss Diploma, happy and exhilarated.
I got that job in Warsaw, became the first employed Australian dancer in Poland, and got a quality job that even this teacher himself said he ‘Never Expected I Could Get’

Sanson came back to Poland healthy and continues to flourish under my care. He is my life guide, my compass towards change.

The only way I could face down fear was by learning.  Learning FAST!  I adapted to my environment faster than anyone else believed I could.  I creatively constructed my reality to something positive, and not destructive.  If I needed a new skill, I learned it.  And it didn’t take me 20 years to do it.  If I needed new experiences, I went out there and got them.  If I had no money, I made it work somehow and did ‘that thing’ anyway. 
Translated into horsemanship, it means that when I stand in front of a horse, like Sanson, who someone tells me ‘Once put someone in Hospital’, I am no longer controlled by fear.  I am awake, aware, and learning from what is in front of me.  And this is what brought Sanson and I together. ❤

This has given me and un-SHAKE-able faith in myself.  I know in my heart, that no matter what, I am going to be ok!  Even the good days and the bad days, I am living them.  Despite the critics, I am still here.  I am not just surviving, but I am thriving.  I am not stopping next to the critics so they can drag my down, I bless them on their path and go on my way, leaving them behind.  I have proved this time and time again and apparently, still proving it today!

I cannot expect everyone to be a fast learner.  Fact is, I learn fast because my life has been scary, on a frequent basis, so my ‘positive-response-to-fear-muscle’ is very strong.  But I suspect I make some people uncomfortable, if for no other reason than they see me as mercurial, changing too much.  Whether they are able to realise it or not, they know its because I am learning from them, even as they speak to me.  This can unnerve people, especially if they have something to hide, are uncomfortable with intelligence generally, or are insecure about being perceived as ignorant.

Probably, my courage was often based upon ignorance.  I did not know I had something to fear, so I just did it.   There is a fabulous Polish saying ‘If you have an impossible task nobody can do, ask the person who does not know it is impossible and they will do it’, or something like that.  I am very comfortable with not knowing what I am doing.  I will have a go anyway, a very Australian quality ‘Have a go!’.  That is the seed of creativity. 

One of my favourite life coaches, Iyanla Vanzant, once said ‘If you want to change your life, you have to be prepared to PISS PEOPLE OFF.  Because people will hold you to your limitations.  They will become angry when they see you breaking beyond what they thought you could not do.’

Such is the situation in which I am.  I am ruthless to the point that I won’t be stopped, held back or restricted by someone else psychological pathologies.  If they want my help and support, that’s different, that is the extension of friendship and I will gladly go there with all my heart and energy.  But everything else is passive bullying and craziness.  When I see crazy, I cross the street.  I choose to have zero tolerance for it.

Fear.  The shaking feeling in your gut that something is not right.

Well, I might shake the boat, but I always, always make it to shore.


Being someone who approaches horses from a Natural/psychological perspective, I commonly run into people who struggle with discipline.  Often these people came from a standard or uninspiring riding school experience in their past, where both horses and students were yelled at a lot and treated as pretty inconsequential parts of a big money making stable business.  If you learned to ride well, great, if not, that’s your problem.  Just so long as your lesson bill was paid.   Often these horses were those poor broken creatures commonly seen at riding schools.  Box, saddle, arena, box.  Repeat.  Dead behind the eyes and mild constant signs of protest when used.  Used, being the operative word.  That is the extreme consequence of uncompromising discipline.  You squash and break and damage something when you’re unable to compromise and create a dialogue.   Sometimes you have to shake someone in order to get them to participate, to be expressive and energised.  Or sometimes they are over involved and need calming down.  But if you create a disciplined environment where horse and or human must just perform and no discussion about it, you will lose something.  

Eventually these horse people might start to realise something is wrong.  Their childlike sense of wonder and love and gentleness had been replaced with the grim machinery of a riding school business.  Often, they then make a choice, to get out of horses altogether, or change their approach.

Sometimes they turn to Natural Horsemanship.  It appears in many forms and we can discuss endlessly the topic in another blog.  But, generally by natural approaches we try to care for the horse first and put everything else second.  Attempt to understand them from a natural perspective mentally in order to work with them and hopefully improve their quality of life and the quality of our results.  It is a lot more complex than that of course, but it is the crux of the issue.

I was working with a client the other week and she told me of the intense guilt she felt for her activities with her horse.  She suspected her mare did not like their work together and felt guilty for it and felt she had to pay her mare for her work with carrot treats or similar.

I said to her that perhaps her mare would enjoy their work together more if she learned to work with joy instead of tension, confusion, or approaching riding like a fitness training.  What about joy?  What about love?  The pure happiness of having a horse, who is alive and healthy, and riding them in a nice and relaxed way?  Wanting to be as best you can but also not too attached to any ideals of perfection?  Maybe that was your pathway to a kind of perfection?  Take this joy you have of your forest rides for example and apply it to arena work and watch your mares expression improve?

I had another client under training who struggled to get her gelding to do what she was asking and get past his protests.  I had laid out a big blue tarpaulin, which he has seen and walked over before, and a wooden platform, akin to a trailer loading ramp, which we were asking him to walk over calmly, and he kept avoiding. 

I stopped her and said 

‘We can be natural and kind and loving to our horses and still say to them ‘I NEED you to do this for me!’.”  Because what if one day our life and safety depended on it?  In an emergency during the trail ride you need a very responsive and willing horse who listens to you when you get them out of danger.  Her gelding kept having an anger response when she asked him to move through discomfort or something difficult for him.  I said that to me he wasn’t angry, he was just a very male equine energy, challenging his rider to be more present and bold in her requests of him. 
I asked her to sit up, look past the obstacle and not tolerate his evasion.  Keep him pointed at the obstacles and just no-nonsense walk through it.  Like it was no big deal because it WAS no big deal.  And he did.  Softly, calmly, perfectly walked over them like grandma’s horse.  Not because he had changed anything but because his rider had changed everything.

Natural horsemanship is not the absence of conviction or firmness!  You can be convinced of your confidence in what you ask of your horse and still be kind to them!  Conviction of your request is not being bossy or abusive because you are asking something with intelligence and a purpose.  Rather than saying ‘DO this because I said so and don’t ask questions’ you say ‘We’re going to do this because X-Y-Z and because I know what I am doing.  Your opinions will be heard but I will have the last word most of the time my friend!’. 

Sometimes in desire to be delicate and kind with our horses we actually become scared to get anything done with them. 

Be courageous, be bold, be sure of yourself and watch your horses respond in kind to you.


How important is your horses expression to you?   
I don’t mean simplistic common equestrian terms like, ‘Strong’, ‘willing’, ‘Forward’ and the like. 
32717626_10155180248292000_472165425799495680_n (1).jpg Using commonly bandied around equestrian jargon, because that is simply the tradition of communication and viewing horses with such words, can dangerously over simplify the complex behaviour of a 500 kg animal with its own thoughts, feelings and individual quirks.

So, HOW important is your horses expression to you? 
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Are you paying attention?  I mean are you REALLY paying attention to them?  As much as you can?  Are you listening for the small and quiet signals, pre-cursors to bigger issues? 

Oprah Winfery once said about life:

‘First life whispers to you.  Then it speaks.  Then it yells, until you cannot ignore it anymore’. 

As I suspect it was with Sanson, some horses are maybe a bit more unique individuals than others.  Treating all horses of the same breed with the same approach can be dangerous.  Not all Arabians are crazy nervous and not all Draft horses are dead calm.  Not all Warmbloods love sport and not all recreational horses love low expectations of their abilities.
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Sometimes, the more experienced you are, the more work with horses you’ve done, the more you become repetitious in your outlook on them.  You categorize certain horses and or their behaviours in category A, B and so on. 

But are you REALLY making an accurate assessment of that horse and what they are trying to tell you?  Or are you just being professional and getting a job done, and hope the horses make up the rest of the lost ground, if you can admit that you glazed over the details at times.

Next thing you know you have a horse who bolts out of nowhere, or bucks, or bites, or kicks and many other ways a horses protest can turn into a cry for help you cannot ignore.

But before they did that I can guarantee you that they had a moment of protest that was a whisper.
Which is where the term Horse Whisperer I suppose comes from.  Although I don’t have much faith in that term, nor apply it to my work.  Because if I was collaborating with someone on a project and they constantly whispered to me it would drive me mad, neither do I think it is an effective way to promote good communication… ‘Whispering is better’.  What?   How about we just communicate clearly and confidently and appropriately?  Some horse might need you to ‘raise your voice’ and some need us to be low key.  That’s what good communication is about, with horses or in life, adjusting to your environment. 

But I think with horses it is more about paying attention to small changes, subtle emotional shifts, and movement information details.
I remember I assisted my wonderful trainer Dariusz Domagała (Darek)  a couple of years back at a clinic he was hosting at a stable I frequently gave trainings at.  One of his clients was a young girl, not yet 14, with huge ambitions for the Showjumping arena, and had at the time of the clinic, not yet two weeks previously had brought to the stable a freshly castrated 6 year old grey warmblood Sporthorse gelding, whom she was the new proud and ambitious owner of.  I had been watching this girl and her gelding working for the better part of 30 minutes.  She was sitting on his back with the expression of an adolescent Terminator, urging her horse forward into a frame and practising her trot with the joy of a burnt out meat packer.  I know Darek is totally against bits, something I have a different perspective on, but he was there to teach Harmonious Seat riding technique and it is not his style to try and save people who look like they are heading for disaster.  He waits for them to come to him for help.  So he stood by silently watching this unfold, while he worked more closely with other clients who were listening to his suggestions.
Anyway, I could see that this girl had a lot of pent up energy in her as the style of my trainers clinics involved a lot of conversation and listening, she just wanted to bloody ride.  Understandable for an ambitious energetic 14 year old.
I watched her horse.  He had an overwhelmed but angry expression.  Constantly flicking tail.  A tightening of the eye at curves.  Ever present movement ticks and tiny imperceptible changes in tempo that told me he was desperately looking for a release of pressure or some reasonableness from the locomotion his little rider was subjecting him to. 
I had a bad feeling in my stomach.  Like watching a big storm roll in over the ocean.  But being powerless to stop it.  I could see this girl would absolutely not be open to receiving any of our suggestions to slow down, calm down, redirect or back off.   This horse was not yet 2 weeks in this stable and intensive training for such a young freshly castrated horse under a young rider is maybe not a good combination.  I could see by her expression that she appeared determined to ‘Get the energy out of him’.  I thought she was probably the one with the energy problem, not her horse.
Then, almost right on time, her horse exploded.  His tiny suggestions for change, or requests for release, had turned into outright exasperation and mindless anger at this ride and he decided to take matters into his own hands.  He became fully air-born for a few minutes, and with the agility of a seasoned mountain goat, flung himself about enough times to see his rider crunch unceremoniously, in front of all clinic participants, on her rib cage in the sand.   The grey set off around the arena… tail high, butt farting, at a full outright escape gallop until he looked for the first calm place in his storm, and stood by a quiet persons side, hard empty looking eyes wide and looking slightly happier… slightly. 
Through gritted teeth his little rider stomped over to him and like a pro, got back in the saddle.  But she seemed to not have learned her lesson.  Nothing had changed in her atttiude, not a moment of her horses SCREAM for change had been heard. I think she saw it rather as an affront, a humiliation and seemed hell bent on her concept that he just ‘had too much energy’ and would ride it out of him.
‘Too much energy’ is a common equestrian phrase, and the common practise is to just run it out of them.  Ok, fine… but what about the horse, as an individual?  What do they actually need?  Giving them a chance to expel excess energy through fast, forward and athletic movement is a good idea on many levels, but do you want to be a passenger on them while they go through this?   It can be a good thing to ride through together, or maybe the horse needs more space from you, not less?  Maybe they need to express themselves in a safe and controlled environment, where both parties have safety and perspective on each other.  What is the shame of getting out of the saddle in this moment, to help the horse through a personal crisis?  Rather than just ‘ride through it’, stop, take a breathe and analyse the situation.   Not that I advocate against riding as a way to solve problems, because more often than not, riding is the best solution for me too.  But it is not the only solution on the menu folks.    
A 13 year old, at a Natural Horsemanship clinic, with the mind of an old school horse breaker.  It was rather heart breaking to see frankly.  I suspected there might have been more than one problem in her home life contributing to her momentary madness.
Not 2 minutes after being back in the saddle and continuing her mindless high energy trot, again she got very violently dumped.
She got back in the saddle.  Again, she got dumped.
This time I said something.  Or I would consider myself an accessory towards abusive neglect.

“I respectfully suggest now that you get in the saddle and do something simple, only.  Walk, stop, walk, stop and finish!  Your horse is overloaded and needs more space, or you’re going to get seriously hurt’

I got nothing but a disgusted expression and an angry glare through her tears.
I have since learned that she continues to jump him and her horse performs beautifully for her.  Though I have not seen it with my own eyes, I wonder how her horse feels about his life with her?  Is he happy? Does his life make sense to him?  If given the choice, would he want to be with his rider, in activity and without? 

My point is, how important is your horses expression to you? 

To me it is the difference between life and death, potentially.


For more information on my trainer Darek and his stable and methods, check out their website http://www.stajnia-stara-dabrowa.pl/  or contact me.  I can help you get English information too, they frequently host international clients. 🙂



Go slowly.  Where is the rush? 

Why do we have to do it all now, be it all now, be perfect yesterday? 

From the beginning of my journey with horses my very solemn promise to myself was

‘I am in no rush’

And therefore my progress has been quite fast.

Fast is slow and slow is fast.   This applies to horses and maybe also with life.

Go to fast with someone and you might fall apart, overwhelm them.  Be in no rush and next thing you know you found a soul mate.

Everything has its own timing.  But in order for natural timing to work we must be able to surrender.  We must give up the human need to manipulate, achieve, strive and control.  Surrender to something bigger than ourselves, whatever that may be.  

If we can do just that one thing, surrender to going slowly, I think we would be well on our way to doing so much better with our horses and ourselves. 31961865_10155163753042000_170694769280811008_n



There is a lot of segregation in the horse community.  People feel pressured to ‘pick a style’.

Natural. Classical.  Dressage. Jumping. Recreational.  Rustic.  Posh. 

A lot of thought is given to the colour of the tack, to the type of riding clothes, to the equipment you use and the techniques and methods you follow.
Ok.  Fine.  But what about the horse? 

What style of riding do YOU follow?  This question makes me confused because where is the horse in that?  Maybe people may think I treat horses as a type of God, but for me, they really are.

How about we look at the horse we are with at any one time and try to find out what THEY are good at, what their natural inclinations are, and capitalise on that?  Rather than imposing our own ambitionsor styles upon them.

Fashion, ambition, even pedagogical education can all act as prejudice.

I’ve seen people who are self proclaimed Natural Horsemanship devotees who value no violence and pain to the horse, whom when their horse wouldn’t stand still to be brushed, took the end of they boot into their horses stomach with a mindless kick.

I’ve seen high level dressage riders in spurs and a double bridle treat their horses with joy, respect and gentleness. 

Be careful of the package something comes wrapped in, but pay VERY close attention to the substance.  A natural trainer may have simply taken the prejudice commonly associated with classical riding and just put it in a different costume, different equipment, different name.  That is all just superficial.  

The most important perspective is that of the horse.  Their experience of our activities with them.  NOT the other way around.

For me everything else is merely a formality.



I lead busy a life.  Sometimes however, it feels like the busy life leads me.  My question lately is ‘How healthy is ‘busy’ exactly?’  And how this applies to horses and to my life.

Since the spring started the equestrian community woke up.  After a one year presence and consistent advertising, what I predicted more or less came true, and explosion of interest and work for my saddle dealership took hold of me.  This is great and very welcome, as the income from this helps me to clear some debts, expand my business, fix odd and ends around my apartment that need doing, order and stock pile horse and pet feed for the financially difficult autumn and winter, and maybe… just maybe… put enough away to go on a little holiday this summer. 

I am a small business owner.  My small business, if I had the time for it, at the moment could function as a full time job, as the amount of work surrounds it takes up about those kinds of hours.  In between admin, correspondence, saddle cleaning care and logistics, couriers and all the minutiae of the work is very time consuming and it is basically only me doing that with my one assistant.

Honestly, I love the freedom of making, creating and accomplishing my own work.  But I also work another full time job, in which the schedule and hours are constantly changing and I have no control and say over my time and duties there.  So I must fit everything around that.  It is a tricky balancing act and most of the time I succeed.

But how healthy is busy?  If I am doing all this in order to not only support my horse and myself but maybe to better my future too, is it worth it if at the end of the day I am too exhausted to cook, eat, or be mentally and emotionally available to my partner, my friends and family?  I cannot remember the last time I Skyped my family in Australia, or even my best friend in Switzerland. 

And when I get to Sanson, how healthy is it to be ‘busy’ with him?  If I was the type of trainer where I created a horse who simply does everything I tell him and he long since learned that his comfort, thoughts or opinions don’t matter, sure… I could go to the stable with a busy attitude and get what I needed from my horse.

But I am not this trainer.

I have decided to take a pathway where I welcome, require and value Sanson- or any other horses- input into their activities.  I don’t let them call the shots over me and ultimately I assert my rights as a leader, guide and their caretaker, but I definitely want an expressive horse who knows they can tell me if they are in discomfort, confusion or stress- for whatever reason.

If I approach Sanson with my andrenelin high, to-do list long, and expectations strong, I know that I am going to be a slightly vile and off putting two legged creature to him.  Horses don’t understand such energy.  They can be conditioned to cope with it, but they do not understand time like we do.  Time just Is to them and so are they.  Their rhythms are different and so is their perspective on the world.

So when I am busy and overwhelmed from my career and work, I try to treat the stable as a location that time forgot.  This can be a challenge as the stable is now also a place intermingled with my work, as I start to give trainings to other borders and frequently am called upon for saddle fittings and consultations even within my own stable.  But that doesn’t stop me from protecting my time with Sanson.  As much as I can, I put a bubble around us in which the outside world cannot penetrate.  Like an alter or a place of reflection and worship. 

My time with my horse is important and sacred to me.  Sanson needs and appreciates this!  He knows when I pull my phone out, either when on the ground or in the saddle, and he absolutely hates it.  He wants me to be present with him… he needs a very present rider to feel safe and guided well.  He hates it when I talk to other people when I work with him.  Many times he trotted or cantered away when during groundwork someone brought me a coffee and I just looked at them and said ‘Thank you’. 

To my horse our time together for him is also very important.  He had some bad experiences with people and his body is all that he has.  He needs me to respect that.  And a busy attitude is a sign of disrespect to him. 

At least that is how I feel it. 22236466_10154670497597000_1790532185_n


Unity, harmony, togetherness.

For most horse people it seems to be a sort of holy grail of horsemanship.  The moment when two bodies become one, you are no longer only human, the horse is no longer only a horse, you are one blended creature moving together.

Take a look at this photo:


This is from last weekend.  Here I am introducing Sanson to the new larger riding arena and (finally) working on some straight lines after a whole winter in the round pen.  He started to get very fed up with bending, me too!

The ground is still half frozen.  And a third of the pen has sharp tree roots in situ that we are waiting for thaw so we can dig them up and farrow the ground.  I could no longer wait, for this to happen and dislike waiting if I can make a creative solution work.

I raked the ground and found all the roots.  Spray painted them yellow, and showed each of them to Sanson, let him sniff.  Now we have a very natural slalom course! all hazards clearly marked, and now nice large calm place to progress together.

But back to Unity.

Can you see how he mirrors me?  To an outside observer our session that day looked pretty boring, just walking around and breathing a lot.  But this is HUGE deal for us.

Sanson came to me with a number of inherited issues.  Through the retraining process I peeled back the layers to see what was there (See blog: ‘The Trauma Onion’), and help him through his baggage, unpack it all, and let it go.

In the process I am doing the same for myself.  Letting go of my baggage.  That’s what this type of horsemanship does for you.  Instead of running from your stuff, you confront it, let it go and find a kind of healing and rejuvenation.

It has been a huge year of change for Sanson and I.  With his nerves frayed due to end of a long, cold, wet winter he is telling me he needs a lot of time for himself to get grounded and feel warm and rested again.  And work together needs be a lot of focus on low energy, low pressure and just enjoying each others company.  Could it be also that he might be letting go of his past, and offering me ground zero, the opportunity to build our activities back up from a place of relaxation, respect and joy?  Rather than tension, pressure and old fears?

A month ago I changed tactics from making him more athletic to project Super Plod, and it seems he really appreciated it.  Today when I arrived at the stable, I went into the paddock and said hello to another horse.  He proceeded to immediately come up to me.  First he checked me for Pumpernickle bread (his new obsession) but then stood with me and sighed and looked at me like…

“what are we doing today?’

Warmed my heart!

In the above photo, you can see how he matches whatever leg I take with the same stride.  Even his foot now strikes the ground at the same angle as me.  Our concentration is the same.  Focused on each other, but also focused on ourselves, keeping our emotions low, and figuring out how to balance on this choppy, half frozen spring ground.  I’m taking my GoPro to stable and will be filming sessions sproadically for me to review later, I don’t have a trainer, I am self training, so this is the best way I know to get perspective on our time together.

It looks like nothing, no big tricks, no high energy fireworks, no gimicks.

Just being together.  Doing the same thing at the same time.  Is that not what good quality riding is all about really?

Needless to say, this translates over into the saddle.  I can direct him so lightly and softly, with both my hands and pelvis.  He starts turning without the inside rein now too.  But I am very aware not to overwhelm him in this time of transition.  I always check with him, and he always gives me a signal when he is ready to be done.  His concentration for our training can only go so far, and if I go slowly, I will quickly build him up.  Rushing will break him down.  Already today we went twice as long as the weekend.  Then he told me he was about ready to be done, that he felt good enough to finish.  I asked him just to keep going another round, and see if he can hold himself together he did.  Stopped like a prince.

Then he arched his neck like a stallion.

One of his former trainer/riders Emma, and my good friend, said she only ever saw Sanson crest and present himself during a stop in activity, all proud and happy with himself, when he was with me.  It never fails to make me smile.

Unity can only be achieved by true cooperation.  When you join forces without an agenda.  You listen to them and put their needs first.  And they listen to you and put your needs first too.  Best way I know to make a safe and happy horse.  Not a bad strategy for relationships with people too I guess.

Today just before mounting I looked at him, just to check how he felt, and usually he was high headed eyes tense during mounting.  Today he slow blinked and sort of said

“Well go on then!  You can get up, I’m alright’

Love your horses this Spring folks and let them show you the way!