Monday, June 5, 2017

Why Horses?

I am one of those people who came out of the womb loving horses.  There was not a speck of horse-y anything in my childhood but that did not deter me.   I devoured anything I got my hands on about horses.  I daydreamed horses.  I collected Breyer model horses.  I made miniature tack and grooming supplies for my model horses.  I drew and painted horses.  Each and every birthday and Christmas I asked for a pony.  I entered to win horses in Horse of Course magazine contests.

I lived in the suburb where the closest equine was an ancient Shetland pony that lived in an old century barn with a teeny tiny run for it's 'turnout'.  It was several blocks away in what was likely the old farmstead before the land sold to a developer.  I would get apples and carrots and take the hike to see the pony.  I never saw the person who lived there.  I didn't understand at that time that feeding treats to the pony might not be what the owner wanted.  Thankfully, I only remember feeding small quantities of carrots and maybe an apple or two.  I knew enough to cut them into slices.  The carrot and apple slices had the added benefit of allowing the pony's attention to be on me to last longer.  I savored every moment as he savored every bite.

As I got a bit older, I begged and pleaded with my parents for riding lessons in the next town over.  I saved up babysitting and birthday money to keep the lessons going.  During these lessons, I learned hunt seat from the stereotypical, critical, feisty, weathered woman who would bark commands at me endlessly during the lesson.  I was kind of a sensitive soul but tolerated the barrage of belittling just so I could be around the horse.  I rode Bay Rum most often and loved him with all my heart!

At this same barn, many of the girls who rode in the lessons had horses of their own.  They had the correct outfits, correct tack, a beautiful horse, and a similar condescending attitude toward me.  I came for lessons faithfully, week after week, as my money held out.  Sometimes I would have to stop until I had enough to buy more lessons.  I remember paying for the lessons with money obviously scraped together with small bills and coins since the lessons were paid for month by month.

The other girls in the barn would giggle and talk in groups as they discussed the upcoming shows and events that never included me.  I was an outsider but did not care.  I was there for other reasons.  I took those lessons very seriously.  I did exercises to strengthen my riding muscles from one lesson to the next.  My progress felt agonizingly slow, with no riding in between, but  I lovingly persisted.  I made drawings of the horses and jump courses as I mentally practiced and prepared for my next lesson.  I read voraciously anything to do with horses, horse care or riding.

 That continued until life got in the way.  I lost a parent at the age of 16.  Life got difficult and teen years where a mix of rebellion, family chaos and grief.  I wasn't able to get back to horses again until I was married and the mother of a beautiful daughter.  My husband bought me my first horse.

Annie was a tall, lanky, grey NSH (National Show Horse).  She had the build of a Saddlebred and mind of an Arab.  She did something my trainer said was called 'star gazing'.  He described it as something that sounded a lot like inattentive ADD!  She would kind of blank out when stressed, get a faraway look in her eyes and kind of mentally check out!  But I thought she was perfect!  She was tall, fancy, a bit flaky and had the smoothest gaits I had ever ridden!   She also was afraid of anything outside of nature!  She apparently had been ridden most often in an indoor arena and so when encountering things like leaves, wind or puddles would shy and bolt.  I had boarded her for years but then, along with my husband and growing family, bought our own 80 acre farm- without an indoor arena.  I did not have the confidence or experience to help her over her fears, although saw she rode quite well with other riders.  She sensed in me the inexperienced rider I still was and reacted to it.

I went on to donate Annie to a Children's Home that was just starting a horse program.  I was upfront and honest about my experiences with Annie and got the reassurance from the program director that they had kids of all riding levels and Annie would do just fine.  I later found out that Annie not only did 'just fine', she was a valued part of that program for many, many years and lived out the rest of her life as a much loved and treasured horse that was known to take to the troubled kids and bring them out of their shell.  I was thrilled to know that Annie blossomed there and brought joy to so many!

I lived on that farm for a dozen more years, riding on our farm, going to shows, bringing my daughter up as a fellow horse lover.  We enjoyed riding and caring for a variety of other horses over the years. I have had the pleasure of raising 5 foals.  I rescued horses from the 'kill pens'.  I rehabbed and rehomed some horses and others became family.  I made some great horse decisions, and some not so great.  We eventually built and ran a 25 stall boarding stable with a trainer and riding instructor before we sold the farm and bought a smaller 'hobby farm' close to school for my kids where I still had horses but scaled down what we did with them.  I no longer take in boarders, show, offer riding lessons or training.  I trail ride now.  And give pony rides for the grandbabies.  I never stopped painting and drawing horses.  Hope I never do!

I gain so much from being around horses.  I find them to be interesting mentally.  Horses are complex and multi-faceted but also straightforward.  They are contradictions.  Powerful and gentle.  Large and fragile.  Willing and opinionated.  Fierce and soft.  I love watching herd dynamics.  I find them visually interesting and beautiful.   I can't imagine my life without horses.

Happy trails,

Sue Steiner
equine and animal artist 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Horse Questions.... What is Your Horse Asking You?

When my kids were little I always told them and they would ask the often incessant questions, 'It doesn't hurt to ask' before I said no.   I told that to my then 3 yr old son when he asked to have pop to drink at breakfast.  He never drank pop at home and certainly never drank it at breakfast but that didn't stop him from asking numerous times on different mornings.  I don't know where he got the idea of asking but I think he thought if he kept asking, I might forget and say yes one of those days!   So he would ask, "Mom, can I have some pop?" I would tell him it doesn't hurt to ask before I said no and smile at him.  He would accept the no and we would go along with starting our day.  No power struggle.  No yelling.  It worked well and I got a laugh out of his asking without teaching him to badger me with pleads for things we both knew were off limits.

Riding my trail horse, Cimarron the other day reminded me of my son and his requests for pop for breakfast.  I wrote in another blog post about some soreness and possibly saddle issues that delayed the start of our riding season.  We got those straightened out and so am working on getting him back to being trail ready.  The first few rides on him, like many horses after a long rest, are a bit more ~ exciting ~ then I strive for.  :)  I'm old.  LOL I don't want that kind of excitement when I ride.  Yeah, he can be a bit of a hot mess when fresh so I take my time in getting him out on a trail until I get a few rides under our belt out and about around my place.  I think often, it is actually harder when you ride around your barn alone, like I do, then haul out because the barn and other horses are a huge draw and distraction.

I also took these next actions to confirm Cim's soundness and separate it from freshness, naughtiness, hotness or disobedience.   Sometimes those things can be hard to decipher.  Is his behavior 'behavioral' or physical?  Is it the usual testing a horse will do or it something else?

There are certain trigger points around our usual routes around the barn which I am sure we all have. One of our trigger spots is my lane and the barn driveway.  I rode Cim down the lane and he was his usual well behaved, experienced trail horse self.... until we get to the point he thinks we should turn to the barn.  I got some sideways stepping and attempts to dart down the driveway.  I persisted in asking him to continue walking and in a matter of 2 or 3 steps, he dropped his head, took a big sigh, and relaxed.  I take note of that and then ride by another trigger point with a similar reaction.  I can confirm he is just doing his asking- turn here, right??  I say No.  Turn here then?  No.  Here???  No.  You can ask Cim but I decide.  Setting a boundary.

 Can you see the asking?  And the repeated telling 'No, not here.'  And the resuming of what is at hand.  Cim is doing his toddler-like asking to see if I am paying attention.  Or maybe I forgot we go to the barn when I decide, not him.   Just asking.  But I have to see it and be ready for it to set that boundary.  The more consistent I set that boundary the less of a pout I will get from him.  Plus I need to be fair.  Which I am.  I don't ride him hard and do take into consideration what he may be telling me.  Just this time, in this instance, this boundary needed to be re-established.  Not unlike kids.

I try to use the same approach with Cim as I did with my son- calmly but firmly say No and then get back to our ride.  Sometimes the fight and power struggle is what the horse (or child) is used to receiving.  I find that only causes everyone to dig in their heels and resist more.  And I am too old to think I can out power a horse.  I can't out power him but I CAN out think him.

After doing this a few times in different spots I could see my horse visibly relax into the ride and become less hot and irritable.  :)  So I know his issues are NOT discomfort or pain related (among other signs and info).  He is looking for the boundaries to feel the security of knowing I am taking care of things-- not unlike my young son.  Yes, he probably would of very much liked pop for breakfast, just like Cim would very much like to only hang out in the pasture, but finding and reinforcing these boundaries makes for a happier toddler and a well-mannered horse!  I also believe Cim ENJOYS our trail rides just as kids thrive on structure and healthy food! Cim lets me know he is happy too as I can see it in his demeanor and attitude once we get these first few rides of the season out of the way.  

Today will be day 3 this week of riding him.  Yeah!  I think next week we will haul out if the weather and my schedule hold. 

PS.  I do not profess to be a horse trainer....anymore than any other horse owner who knows we are always training or untraining our horses every time we are around them.  I get some help from Carson James .  He IS a horse trainer.  A good one too.   

Happy Trails to you! 

Horse and Pet Portrait artist

Some new artwork.....

Don't forget to stop by my website at and subscribe to my site.  You will automatically become a member with access to freebies like a horse journal and training log, horse digital art, horse themed memes like below, tutorials and more.  
Horse memes

Pet Portraits and Custom Horse paintings in watercolor, oils and mixed media

Monday, May 22, 2017

Horse Quotes and Memes for Sharing!

Horse Quotes & Memes!

One of my hobbies, in addition to horseback riding and art, is photography.  I have an abundance of horse photos and have begun to create horse and nature themed digital art that I share with subscribers of my website at  These are created for sharing and would love for you to stop by and share away!  I also have horse journal and training log pages, horse screensavers, DIY tutorials and whatever else I dream up for my subscribers.  I will never sell your e-mail nor spam you- just art, horses, dogs and cats!  

I do this as a way to say thank you to like-minded people who love horses, pets, nature and have a generous heart!  My dad also told me as a small child that anyone who loves animals can't be all bad.  :) I believe what he wanted to convey is that people who are kind to animals are people who have good hearts.  I have found that to be true.  

Here is a sampling:

Happy Trails!
Sue Steiner
equine and animal artist

For more info. on ordering a pet portrait, 
horse and rider portrait or custom horse painting,
 go to my website or Etsy shop links below.