Make God laugh… tell him your plans…

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I always have plans.  I spend countless hours weighing all the pros and cons to any decision of importance.  Well, to be truthful, sometimes I spend hours weighing the pros and cons of decisions that aren’t all that important too.  Like buying a purse, or a greeting card.  I have to look at every one to be sure I find ‘just the right one’.  So once I’ve spent all that time and thought, I’m pretty sure I’ve come up with The Plan, and I fly down the path oblivious to any inklings that making a turn or two along the way might be a good idea.  I heard someone once say.. “I have a plan.  It’s Plan A.  If Plan A doesn’t work, I just go to Plan A. And if that doesn’t work, I’ve always got Plan A.”  I could relate because I rarely had a Plan B, let alone a Plan C.

One thing this world of horses has taught me is that there isn’t just a Plan A.  It’s good to have a plan, but more often than not, Plan A will make some twists and turns along the way.  If you’ve followed our blog for any length of time you know we have undergone several changes.  While my goal of having a safe, relaxed and inviting environment for our clients and horses hasn’t changed, our programs have.  We started out with a trainer who had a large lesson program.  It was very successful for all of us, but then that changed.  I began interviewing new trainers to try and re-create Plan A, but then realized, while I had enjoyed the financial benefit of a large and successful lesson program,  and all the people and horses I got to meet, I really wanted something smaller and more personal.  That led us to the creation of The Urban Herd.  It started out with me and a couple friends, but it too has undergone some structural changes in how it operates and the horses and people involved.  If as they say, history is a good indication of the future, it will continue to evolve and change.

I used to fight change.  Now I am at peace with it most of the time.  There are still things I want to stay the same and am uncomfortable for awhile if they begin to shift.  But I’m learning that no matter what… it will all be okay in the end.  And more importantly, I’m not in charge.

My husband bought me a license plate frame that was a good reminder that while having a plan is great, being open to changes in course is paramount.  It said “Make God laugh…tell him your plans…”  I planned to have that frame forever….but…. someone stole it.  So much for Plan A.

Tis The Season…

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001Depending on who you talk to, you will get a variety of responses about the holiday’s… they hate them, are indifferent to them, embrace them with gusto and all the trappings and decorations that go with them.  Spend them alone, with friends, and begrudgingly or happily with family.  I have always loved the Holiday’s.  As a young child it was a time of warmth and family, and as I got older and they started coming with a list of ‘should s’ that made them sometimes frenzied and anything but relaxing, I still loved them.  At this point in my life, my ‘should’ list is very small so there isn’t anything to not like, except that is… the time of year.  I absolutely HATE being cold.  So as long as I don’t need to go outside if the temperature drops below 40, I am happy.

This year we’ve already had quite a cold snap with temperatures dropping into the low teens.  Frozen water pipes, frozen water buckets and frozen water troughs abound, not to mention frozen feet, fingers and noses.  And while some don’t mind being out in it for an hour or two and then retreating to the warmth of their homes or cars, Nate gets up each morning and comes to take Rangercare of the horses and barn all day regardless of the weather.  As I watch Nate go about the business of mucking the paddocks, breaking the ice up in the troughs and making them ready for the horses that will occupy them for the day, I feel a little guilty being snug and warm… but not guilty enough to pull on my warmest layers and brave the cold with him.  Don’t get me wrong, when I have needed to be out there I am, but you will hear me complaining all the way to Canada.  I never hear Nate complain when it comes to caring for the horses.

So this Christmas, as I count my many blessings; our amazing family of boarders that have entrusted the care of their horses to us, our dedicated and willing horsemanship students who come each week to learn about these amazing animals, and all of the people I work and live with, I’m full of gratitude.  But I am especially thankful for Nate, who in taking such good care of our horses, is also taking good care of us.

So this one is for you Nate – the star at the top of my gratitude list!

Intuitive Communication…

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ms14We recently had Michael Sparling, a 2 star Parelli instructor, out to the farm to do a one-day clinic.  I love watching others interact with horses.  I try to decipher the conversation between the humans and the horses as they attempt new ideas and levels of communication.  It’s sort of like watching TV on mute… body language and facial expressions give huge clues to the interaction, but without the words you really don’t know for sure.  My husband says words are poor communicators and I have to agree… especially in the human world, where our words don’t necessarily match our true intent or feelings.  I think I hit home a lot of the time, but I have found that when I am ‘in it’ I can’t see it.  Which is why I need guidance from trusted mentors.  If I think I know it all, then I have cut myself off from learning anything new…  and learning something new doesn’t necessarily mean I have to throw out the old.

This journey of horses has revealed a lot to me about myself.  Being open to other’s interpretations has given me added insight.  Sometimes taking on their ideas and giving them a spin helps me clarify how I really feel or what I truly believe.  I’ve come a long way from where I was, but I still hold to some old beliefs.

I didn’t know anything really about natural horsemanship intellectually until we purchased Horse Haven at Bear Creek, but what I’ve come to learn is that I intuitively already knew it.  I had a relationship with my horse Buck that was based on leadership, mutual respect, kindness and trust.  I didn’t know all the mechanics of body language and communication the ‘natural horsemanship’ way, but somehow he knew what I wanted (or sometimes needed) and I promised to take care of him.  One time my friends horse bit me, and in jest, I whispered in Buck’s ear to bite my friend… he immediately turned and bit her!  I loved that horse to the depth of my soul and I learned a lot from him… I miss him to this day.

P1000323Our cat Callie isn’t the one we went to look at at the shelter, (Homeward Pet – a fabulous no kill shelter), but she reached her paw through the bars, snagged my shirt and pulled me close, looked me in the eyes and said “go ahead and look at that other cat, but you’re taking me home”, and we did.  20130303_152055

Our dog Sadie was in a kennel across from one of the dogs we went to look at.  When I turned around to see who was barking, she bounced up and down obviously full of energy.  I knelt down, whispered to her that we wanted a quiet less energetic dog and she immediately sat and let out a quiet little boof.  I read her bio and it said she was an ‘aggressive cat chaser’, so I again knelt down and told her sorry, we have a cat and once again, she looked me in the eyes and said “I promise I’ll be good” and she has been.

I have a new horse now… Kiera.  She isn’t the horse I set out to get… a 15hh quarterhorse gelding 10-14 years old that had been there and done that… but she’s the horse that chose me.  Kiera made no such promises of good behavior.  She looked me in the eyes and said 048“you may not know it yet, but I’m your horse.”  I told her she wasn’t and continued to weigh the pros and cons of several of the horses I had looked at.  But somehow that look stuck with me.  I’ve spent the last year working with Kiera, mostly on the ground and we have developed a pretty good relationship.  I have difficulty setting and keeping boundaries with my animals.  I want to shower them with treats, pet, groom and play with them to show them how much I love them.

We had Michael Sparling out again this week and I had several more aha moments regarding my willingness to become the confident and fair leader Kiera needs in order for her to respect and trust me.  So we will continue our journey and someday have the relationship that can’t be built on just treats and butt scratches.

Busy, Busy, Busy…

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MCF BoothHello all!  The past few weeks at the barn have been filled to the brim!  We set up a booth at Mill Creek Festival, which was fantastic!  Many people stopped by, and we had an opportunity to tell people about our newest program – Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL)!  Similar to Life Coaching, our facilitators work with individuals or groups to create positive changes.  Our program is unique in the Seattle area because we partner with horses and offer art and nature experiences.  Horses are amazing at providing immediate, non-judgmental feedback, and clients have an opportunity to practice new techniques in a safe, intimate setting.

We also have several new, amazing volunteers!  In addition to Inassa, our longtime and very hardworking volunteer, we have Hayley, Makayla, Alyssa, and Hilary!  These awesome people help us keep the barn in tip-top shape by doing routine chores and chipping away at our to-do list.  Inessa says “I love volunteering here because the barn is a safe place and a getaway for me.  I get to hang around horses, there is always a staff member around, and I get to make new friends and see new things.  If someone really wanted to learn about responsibility and to be around horses, this would be a great place.”  Thank you for all the hard work you do!  (To learn more about volunteering, please contact us.

Kathy ShazamWe are continuing to grow our horsemanship program!  We have 12 clients in our program, and we truly appreciate their diversity.  Some are interested in building a relationship with one horse, while others want to learn all they can about all the horses.  Some have previous riding experience, and some would like to learn enough so they can own a horse.  However, the common thread is that everyone that is at the barn wants to learn and is engaged in the experience of being with our horses, which makes our job rewarding and fun!  One client recently commented “I always leave here feeling more content.  I chose The Urban Herd because I could see the relationship you guys have with the horses, and I wanted that for myself.”  We are blessed that we get to teach a variety of skills, and we embrace the challenge of meeting each clients’ goals.  Our hope is that each one feels a sense of accomplishment and has a greater understanding of horse behavior and training.

Tea Party InviteFinally, we have a few upcoming events!  Mark your calendars for “High Tea, Hats and Horses”!  On Friday, August 9th at 7:00pm we are hosting a tea party!!  It should be great fun, and will include pictures with the horses, tea (of course), and light refreshments including hand cut sandwiches, scones, and cookies.  The crowning glory (pun intended) is a tea-hat decorating contest! All materials are provided, just dress in your tea party best and remember your barn boots!  RSVP by August 5th to 

Fun Day inviteWe are also planning “The Urban Herd Fun Day” which will be held on Monday September 2nd at 10:00am for our boarders and horsemanship clients with an egg and spoon race, obstacle course, musical stalls, food and yard games!

That’s it for now! As always, feel free to call us at 425-483-4600, visit our website at, and don’t forget to ‘Like’ us on Facebook!

New Treasures…

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A lot has happened since my last post.  It seems like it’s been months ago, but it’s really only been a few short weeks.  Jennifer, Alison, Ashley and Phil moved to their new digs the end of May and it was a very sad time for us all.  Even though I believe things happen for a reason, I am sometimes baffled and quite unhappy by them at first.  Usually they turn out much different and better than I anticipate… and this has proven to be no different.

I’m ecstatic to report that Jennifer has now fulfilled one of her lifelong dreams and  purchased her own ‘ranch’ just up the road from us!  She Alison, Ashley and Phil will rejoin each other on “Cockrill-Jennifer HouseDoodle-Dude Ranch” sometime in August!  (Just kidding about the name, but Jennifer told me a friend suggested it and I love it!)  She is also inheriting a couple of existing boarders, so will be starting off with a barn full of friends.  I’m hoping to get her to write a blog post about her new adventure and the beautiful and wonderfully fabulous new digs, which I will be frequenting often for cookies and coffee, on the porch of the awesome log house!

Here at Horse Haven, The Urban Herd horsemanship program is continuing to grow, and Kristin and Laura have joined us to manage that program and add their Equine Facilitated Learning program (EFL) which I am very excited about.  We had our test/focus group a couple weeks ago and it was incredible!

We have integrated our herd of horses – Kiera, Shazam, Faith, Victor and Cara and I’m looking forward to sharing more about our adventures with them and the EFL program in the coming weeks.

So just a short update of the goings around the ranch, and how we are all once again busily and happily shouting for joy at each new-found treasure in the sand…

Treasures In The Sand…

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I like new projects, new adventures and new friends, but I really don’t like it when something I like changes… and since starting this business 6 years ago, we’ve had a lot of changes.

When I was young, I had a best friend.  Her name was Penny and I thought we would live on the same block for the rest of our lives.  Then she moved half-way around the world to Eastern Washington and I was alone.  Then I met Linda, and we became BFF’s, until Kelly came on the scene and scooped Linda up.  Then my new best friend was Vicki.  We did everything together.  Then… after graduation, she came to tell me she decided to join the army and I was heartbroken.  I’ve only had a few of those ‘soul’ friends who you can sit up all night with and talk or just sit together in silence without an awkward moment.  That know all of your character defects and love you anyway.  I wish those friendships had never changed… but if they hadn’t… I wouldn’t have known and been known by Kay, or Sandy, or Peggy.  I think I may have finally learned that while change can be sad…  it’s not bad…  just different.

A year ago – I got together with some friends and we started chatting.  A budding idea blossomed and we were off on a new adventure.  Our goals were lofty as, to our knowledge, we were pioneers of this idea, so we began with a ton of enthusiasm, a lot of hard work and mixed amounts of joy and terror!  We had some amazing moments full of joy, and some not so joyful as we navigated this uncharted path.  We used each others courage to try new things and become more confident in ourselves.  And we met a lot of really great people and horses…  And once again, it’s time for change… some tears will be shed, some fears awakened, but I know that it is through this change that we will make room for new friends and adventures that we would not otherwise have.

Al-Jen-Ranger-Bri5I am so very grateful to Jennifer and Alison, who without them, this journey would not have been possible…and to each of you who participated in our adventure;



Phil for your wealth of information & Mija the ambassador for all things good in a horse;

Terri & Dolly

Terri & Dolly

Terri – your support and willingness to continue to help out & Dolly when I needed a nose to cry on; Ashley & Bentley

Ashley for your fearlessness & Bentley who seems to see inside me; P1000808

Susan for your belief in us and being our cheerleader; Mark and Sue

Mark for all your hard work and smiling face; Sue for your ‘do anything’ determination; 013

Denise & Camden for your willingness and patience;

Lesley for your unstoppable enthusiasm; 003

Marissa for your dedication to learn (and your fashion :o);

058Sammy & Jarred for your always smiling faces and friendship;

Eilene for your kind and gentle spirit, Kazumi for your childlike wonder, and Sharon for jumping back into your dream.

Thank you, thank you, thank you…for sharing your horses, your time and your lives with us.  I am grateful!

A good friend of mine tells me when I am complaining about some unwanted change… the tide comes in, the tide goes out…

And I’ve found, that when it does, it leaves new treasures in the sand.

May your beaches all be filled with new treasures…

Friends In Deed…

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Donnell Boyd is the head of Horse Haven at Bear Creek, it is true. But Nate Jensen is the spine. Last week HHABC suffered a spinal injury. Nate, who will basically work through anything short of an aneurism, had to call in sick Monday seeing as he was having a bit of emergency surgery. It was his P1000797appendix, which luckily he could spare, and he is recovering nicely so you can all join us in a collective sigh of relief.  But despite what we believe of him, he is actually only human and that means it is taking him a few days to recover from having abdominal surgery.  Go figure.

4-12-13 KimOrdinarily around the ranch, all our back up plans have back up plans of their own. But Nate is our non-redundant system. He is NATE. There is no substitute, no second best.  On the rare occasions when he needs to be away from HHABC for more than his usual days off, we have plenty of notice and plan, plot and strategize right up until the moment he goes merrily off to do whatever.  Then we muddle along until he gets back. 4-12-13 HayWe are all capable people, that isn’t the issue. The issue is that Nate is NATE. It is as simple as that. And while we are able bodied, have a reasonable amount of horse experience collectively, know the property and the animals, and have several advisors out there should we need them, the whole operation just runs better when we have Nate.

So you can imagine the anxiety that surfaced when we got the news that he would be mending for a time and that we’d need to get along without him. We were, shall I say, “concerned.” It turns out we needn’t have worried. 4-12-13 Hay2As Theophrastus said: “True friends visit us in prosperity only when invited, but in adversity they come without invitation.” Well if that is the case, we have been filthy with true friends this week. Donnell sent our Urban Herd members and HHABC boarders a brief note to let them know that Nate would be out and that prayers and well-wishes were welcomed.4-12-13 Tractor

We assume everybody took care of those things in their own way. What we didn’t expect was the other response from our people. On Monday morning, we had enough volunteers show up that we had the whole day’s chores done by 11.30! And that was great, for sure, but then Tuesday came and again, our people came out of the woodwork.  Wednesday, same story. Thursday, starting to see a pattern. Friday, are you kidding?!  You people are STILL showing up to help?!

4-12-13 RumbaNot only did the daily chores get handled, but other projects were tackled as well. Stall mats were re-leveled. A thousand pounds of hay was moved from the hay loft to the various feed rooms. Grain buckets were scrubbed. Cob webs were dusted. Bathrooms cleaned, and weeds pulled.

I’m not overstating when I say that more than one tear of gratitude escaped our tight control. There is truly nothing to compare with being on the receiving end of such generosity. There are not words enough. And so we’ll just go with the old standard, and to Sammy, Alison, Ashley, Phil, Kim, Teri, Eilene, Sharon, Susan, Kristin, Laura and Inessa we say THANK YOU, from the bottom of our hearts. Thank you.

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