Horses push…

Good Day Friends, Mary Ann here,

The theme that keeps coming up in my lessons lately is:

When horses have devices attached to their heads and people are on the ground, people pull horses.  Even if it is a halter and leadrope and they are sending their horses away, they pull them forward with the equipment.  Horses don’t do this to one another!

If we are going to be more horse-like, we need to push and then follow. In this first photo, it all looks innocent enough,

#1 First a bit of pushing by this young 3 year old colt
#2 Next a big push by his 20+ year old gelding teacher
#3 Communication received

 

 

 

 

 

Image may contain: horse, outdoor and nature
 #4 Back to grazing. 

Sometimes, in the teaching phases between horses, things can get quite big!  Even this 3 year old colt is well aware of what is happening.  He did not get kicked, he moved. That huge communications was needed in this case because softer communications were not enough for this intact colt. It’s really not until picture #3 above that he really believed the seriousness of The Sage’s intent. In #2, can you see the colt’s feet are still on the ground?  It’s not until #3 that he is actually moving away because the wise gelding is ready to deliver whatever is needed.  And in the moment the colt backed off, the wise one went right back to grazing.

So, when we are in dialog with our horses and we want them to move forward, how about we get behind the driveline and invite them forward from behind.

#5 The driveline is just about where a necklace would fall if this horse were wearing one. This person is well behind the driveline. 
May 2011 012
#6 Can you see the intention of this human?  The gaze is directly at that trailing foot and the rope just touched it. Look at the horse’s right ear, completely in communication. Do you see the slack in the leadrope, no pull, just an available place to move into. This horse is doing a nice job of taking on her responsibility of receiving this soft communication and responding with no fear or worry. 

When you speak to your horse in this way, they will pay more attention to you and become calmer and braver because this communication is more horse like.

resized jumping jess

Even though this person is in front of the horse, she is still pushing from behind.  See her right hand trailing?  It is energetically claiming the space behind the horse. And, the space in front is open and available, a happy place to jump into. In a very short time, with consistency,  this way of communication doesn’t need equipment at all.

Also, when you communicate with your horse, through pushing, rather than pulling, your horse can directly relate this to riding.  In the same trail of thinking, we want to push from behind, mentally and physically (in the teaching phase,) moving to energetically from back to front leaving a soft available, happy place in front for our horses to move into.

A word of caution that the young colt learned in the photos above – Be honest, be fair, be “IN” communication with your horse and don’t bug them, just tell them what you want, trust that they’ll respond and give them a happy place to move into!

If you do not feel safe, like the person with the white horse above (#7), moving side by side and not looking at your horse, At first, look at your horse’s body part like the girl with the bay horse (#6), looking at that right hind foot. And be aware of your horse’s whole body.  At first you may want a longer rope so you can be farther away if your horse is not use to you touching it’s legs with a rope.  Soon enough, when he realizes you are not going to hurt him, he’ll be fine with it all.

Working close on the ground with an athletic being is thrilling!  Preparatory cues are important in the teaching phases to establish rhythm and trust.  Soon enough we will progress to liberty and lightness in complete communication with no equipment at all.

Image result for pairs skaters shadows

 

Soon, you’ll be orchestrating from the shadows and no one but you and your horse will know.

As quiet as a whisper and a want to!
All the best,
MaryAnn

 

April’s Really Great Horsemanship Tip!

Summer and MaryAnn on the Beach 1009Striving for Progress

When is good enough ~ Good enough? That is going to depend on us.  Our expectations, our comfort level with discomfort, our commitment to perfection, our goals and likely most importantly, the company we keep; our influencers.

Here are some examples;

  • The tools you use:  If you are influenced by the Natural Horsemanship World, you likely have a rope halter and a long leadrope, If you are influenced by the English Riding World, you likely use a leather halter and maybe a chain over your horse’s nose.
  • The clothes you wear: If you are influenced by those who wear breeches and tall boots, likely you will too, if you are influenced by those who wear jeans, chaps and cowboy boots, you might too.
  • Trailer loading: If your influencers stay outside of the trailer and send them in, likely you will learn this, if they walk in ahead of their horses, you might too.
  • If your influencers regularly ride, regardless of the weather, you might too, if no one rides when it’s cold in your circles, likely you will not either.
  • If everyone at your barn is showing their horses, you might want that as well.

Likes attract likes.  It’s uncomfortable to do things differently and be the odd one at the barn.  Especially if you are just learning something new and are not yet sure or good at it!  This is where striving for progress is a great way forward.

Keeping notes can help!

If you have a goal to, let’s say,  be able to ride like those kids at the barn, undaunted, bareback and free as the wind, where oh where to start.  First, take an honest look at where you are now.

Here is an example –
Write it down so you will notice when you have progressed:
April 1, 2017 I rode “Buddy.”  It took 30 minutes to shed the mud and hair off of him, then another 10 to get him tacked up and another 10 for a short warm up session.  I only had one hour, so I got on and rode for 10 minutes.  How much did you progress to your goal?

April 2, 2017 Now create a goal: I want to ride bareback and feel safe and confident and have fun, like “Kalley and Chelsea” at the barn. Maybe I won’t jump but I want to ride like the wind. (BE SPECIFIC and CREATE MENTAL PICTURES OF YOURSELF FOR YOURSELF)
Now Look at the gap between what you have and what you want.  Make the necessary adjustments.

April 3, 2017 I rode Buddy again today. It took 15 minutes to clean his feet and shed the hair off of him because he was out in the rain yesterday and he was clean! Yay! I skipped the tacking up and just warmed him up for a good 15 minutes on the ground, then got to the mounting block and managed to get on him bareback.  I was scared, so I just sat still and the good boy just waited with me.  After 10 minutes (or what seemed like 2 hours) I asked him to walk, just a few steps.  I felt like I was going to fall off, so I stopped.  Then I asked him to walk again.  It took 30  minutes but we made it once around the whole arena and I got off, hugged Buddy and jumped for joy at my progress! How much progress did you make on your goal today? 

Progress! Not Perfection!

The biggest pitfall in our evolution as riders and horse owners, is we fail to see where we have come from. We get stuck in the moment in what’s not working and forget to be grateful for all we have accomplished! Write this stuff down, so when you look back, you can see truth and not just what you remember in this moment.

A little, often,  adds to real progress!

Imagine this:  April 1, 2018 Buddy and I went on a trail ride today and I just didn’t want to put on his saddle, so we went bareback.  We trotted and cantered and even jumped a log.  At one point I had to get off because I dropped my scarf,  he helped me get back on effortlessly from a fallen tree.  What a good boy!

Imagine looking back at your notes from a year ago and seeing your progress. You will know you can do anything you put your mind to progressing just a little bit at a time.
I sure would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to hear how you progressed today!

 

March 2017’s Horsemanship Tip! Consistency and Variety in Horse Training.

Horses are pattern animals, just like us!
You know how you have a morning routine, you get up at the same time, make your coffee exactly the same way, mine is with boiled golden milk. We leave the house at the same time each day and go to yoga on Thursday mornings. Some things, may or may not happen on schedule, like the spinning classes at the gym, they happen three times each week and I like to catch one, I know I’ll get there but not sure when. They are on the radar.

Consistency can be calming and create predictability.  Predictability gives me a sense of control, confidence and well being.  Even inside of things I know, like the yoga class, if I know the teacher, I feel more able to try harder,  than if I have a new or unfamiliar teacher who teaches differently, I may get a bit lost, my senses are heightened, I’m looking around gathering information and listening more closely for the instructions.

Horses, have their routines. Many horses go out and then come in at the exact same time every day. They eat at exactly 8 am and 4 pm.  When this happens, the horses are waiting at the gate to come in around 3:15, they come in orderly and are happy to go right where they belong. Some people even, just open the gate and all the horses run into the barn into each of their stalls, right where they belong. They are confident, know where to go, they know what is happening next. They even feel more able to try a bit harder, maybe trot or canter in.   The horses can teach a new person just how feed time goes, pretty quickly!

Sometimes, when this schedule changes, horses will get upset, pacing the fence line, calling, kicking others.  If they are inside they kick and paw at their stall or feed bins.  Clearly, they know what should happen and when!   Even if they live outside 24/7, they have their routines.  They know what time their people show up to feed them and they are usually waiting at the gate, sometimes even pacing or showing other signs of heightened awareness like carrying their heads high and looking more quickly and intently

If any of the things in my routine don’t happen, things are just not right, sure I can adjust but too many interruptions in my daily habits can cause unsettledness, maybe some confusion and a longing for some normalcy. My golden milk for example, I like it and crave it, if I have to settle for a coffee out and put whatever cream is available in it, I might be ok for a day, but by the second day, I’m working on fixing this problem or getting anxious about my inability to get it fixed.

We can liken horses being sold or moving away from their herd to the current news of human refugees, trying to regain some comfort, safety and normalcy in their lives.  It takes time to get acclimated to a new routine even after it is found.  Sometimes, it takes years and years to find consistency and all of the confidence that comes along with knowing what comes next.  Some horses with a dominant nature will become more dominant, perhaps fighting for food and causing problems for themselves in their new surroundings, and some with a more passive nature will become more passive, perhaps isolating themselves and loosing weight, perhaps causing problems for themselves in their new surroundings.

Studies show and of course parents know, kids thrive on consistency, nap time at 1, bath time at 7, bedtime at 8. Everyone knows what happens if that nap time is skipped or even delayed! Kids teach everyone around them what works and when, pretty quickly, just like the horses.  Even with the variety of special occasions or vacation, parents know to be consistent inside of the variety.  And the confidence built from consistency is not just inside of one week but a habit practiced over time to help create resilience wherever we are.

Here’s the tip!

Consistency is a great teacher and helps foster resilience, confidence and even a boldness to try harder.  It can also create complacency, boredom and even demanding behavior because consistency is so predictable.  All this happens over time.  It’s the pattern that creates the stuff we want and the stuff we don’t want.

Variety can create a heightened awareness, greater attention to detail, incentive to pay keen attention to nuance and an ability to act on that nuance.  Too much variety can create confusion and emotional response.

The key is to create consistency inside of variety.  The Natural Horsemanship Guru Parelli, said, Consistency is a darn good teacher but variety is the spice of life. Too much consistency is downright boring, too much variety is downright confusing.

Again, in all things, balance is the key.  Helping your horse know he will eat and will be satisfied, safe, cared for, stimulated, challenged and appreciated creates a balanced happy horse! So in the words of that NH guru, Be Consistently Inconsistent!

Here is a super simple way to implement this consistent variety in one training session and over time.  You may want to adopt this philosophy over longer periods of your life with your horses.

Here’s how to do it!

We’ll use release, praise and treats, 3 different kinds; thumbnail size carrot pieces; cookie and peppermint,  to create a variety of rewards in a consistent way to encourage calm and an incentive to search for the answer and try harder.

The scenario: Trailer loading. The horse loads every time but, it takes longer than we want,  we walk up to the trailer to load and the horse does not jump right in.

We begin away from the trailer clearly asking the horse to move forward next to us.  When he does, we release the request, relax and say thank you in words and body language.  Next we ask clearly again, this time we would like him to come forward with more energy, perhaps event he trot.  If he does, we praise bigger, releasing the request, making much of our horse and even adding a piece of carrot!  If he only improves slightly in his quick response, we release, add praise and acknowledgement and perhaps reserve the carrot for more try.

Ask again, this time we will increase the incentive by asking quicker and a bit clearer, more telling than asking,  for the quicker forward, when he comes quicker, even at the trot, we lavish him with release,  praise, a high tone in our voice and even the carrot.

Now that he is getting the idea that we want a snappy, come forward, we can go to the trailer and repeat the exercise.  Stay next to him outside and ask him to move forward in the same snappy way. If he offers any forward, release and make much of your horse! Ask again, this time expect quicker, just like you did away from the trailer.  When you get a quicker response, release, get your cookie out and reward, big!  Use the high tone of praise and get the cookie as soon as possible, you want him to think, BINGO! I got it!  If he jumped all the way in the trailer, break out the mints or whatever your horse loves, it can be grain or alfalfa!

Can you see we are building excitement, pressure and reward and taking the rules away.  We are looking for places to make him right and assume his good will and want, to try harder! He will get praise if he tries, he will get a piece of carrot if he tries harder, he’ll get a cookie if he gets in the trailer and a mint if he jumps in!  Then he’ll get grain and special hay in there, all the best things. This is a hierarchy of treats, adjust according to your horses likes.

This consistency will happen over time in a session and over time in consecutive sessions. The variety will be in the timing and the rewards.  By the third session of training your horse to jump right in the trailer, while you are practicing away from the trailer first, he will need to be putting in a lot of effort into coming forward quickly, from the first time you ask to receive the release reward, otherwise, you simply ask again, quicker with a more telling style.  This quick response will become a habit away from the trailer, so when you get to the trailer, he will know, there is a reward waiting for me when I put in the effort!  And  when he jumps right in the trailer consistently, he will begin to demand his mint.  This will become your new problem to solve! No kidding, you will need to get out of the way because your horse will want to jump into the trailer.  You’ll have to teach them to wait for you to ask.

To solve this new problem (only when it becomes a problem, and it will! )  have him wait in the trailer, while you get the special hay ready or the special grain ready, or unwrap the mints, then give it to him.  Make sure he knows you are working on it and he should just wait, it’s coming. The consistency is that it is coming, he can count on that; the variety is that it is not already waiting inside when he gets there. Create the consistency first and then add the variety.

Soon enough your horse will jump in the trailer and wait patiently.  

Our Valentine Story

This is my Valentine. It is actually her name now, because when she came to us we looked at her papers and discovered her birthday is on Valentine’s Day!
Here is our love story:
In 2007 she was donated to ICOH (In the Company of Horses) and she lived on 29 acres with a herd down in South Jersey. She had a hard time really fitting into the herd there, even after the year she was turned out. We cared for her needs, but no one rode her, she didn’t have her own person.

Despite this lack of connection in her new home, when we picked her up from the people who donated her, we could see clearly, this was a very connected horse. We drove the truck and trailer right into the pasture with her herd and before she loaded into the trailer, every horse in her field came up to her and they touched noses, then she loaded up and off we went.

Back then, my horsemanship mentor was living in MD and I traveled there twice each month for lessons. I live in Central, NJ, so I drove right past the farm in South Jersey, both to and from my lessons.

One day in early June, 2008 I stopped by on my way home for a visit, When I pulled in the driveway with my truck and trailer, Valentine was running the fence line and yelling! This was highly unusual for her. Normally when we visit, all the horses come running to see who is in the trailer, the horses are all like cousins, we go to visit and they run around all night! But this day, it was only Valentine.

I went over to see what she needed and she calmed right down but clearly wanted something, so I picked up a halter and lead rope and put them on and invited her out. She stood looking at me with all of her attention.

I had been working, in my horsemanship lessons,  on sending my clear mental pictures from me to my horses without body language, so I thought to Valentine, “Lets go somewhere”, well, with that, she leapt in the air and all I saw was sky, all around her!

I knew in that moment, A.) I needed to be more clear or else, we were going into the clouds! and B.) This girl was coming home with me! She jumped in my trailer and that was the beginning of me, learning from my lead mare about true leadership through the horses!shiny-valentineWhen a new horse arrives at the farm and is mine, I usually take a few days to incorporate her into the herd.  When Valentine arrived, I turned her out immediately and she fit right in.  Some of my herd knew Valentine because of their “cousin” activity down in South Jersey.  But this was clearly different, Valentine showed something to me that I had not seen before.

Valentine instantly and with clarity walked confidently through my herd and they all began to follow her.  In fact my lovely and dominant mare Jessie also followed.  It was quiet, friendly and completely respectful.

As time went on, the whole herd became calm, like their new and, maybe first ever, true lead mare joined them.  In the past, the dominant mare  ran the herd and everyone was on edge. Very quickly, Jessie’s need to display dominance faded and now is indistinguishable. The passive horse’s nature was allowed to cultivate a closeness in the herd.  The whole herd, now has some say in what happens. Here are some examples of how this has evolved:

  • When Valentine  came, she befriended my gelding who had a leadership role in my herd, not because he was a horse with real lead qualities, but because he was the only boy in the sea of girls. I also believe Valentine honored him for his age, wisdom and experience.  There are many differences between the “leadership” my gelding displayed and the “leadership” Valentine demonstrates.
  • Valentine really stepped into her own leadership role when my gelding died. It is worth noting here that when Sorrel passed, he was 28 years old; he died in the night in the field, surrounded by his mares.  For 7 mornings in a row, when I came out at dawn, all seven mares were sleeping in a circle where he passed.  I believe this ritual was indeed an honoring of who he was for them and this series of events is what had me buy my Sterling, an Andalusian colt.  I wanted to learn who the stallion really is in the herd!
  • The smallest pony, mya, who is only 30 inches tall, is very smart. When Sorrel passed, she instantly moved her allegiance to Valentine, also recognizing her fair and friendly leadership style even though, she was the newest member of the herd. Mya brings her ideas to the herd by leading the way to the greenest pastures, she is brave, traversing the ditches and water first to head to wherever she can find grass and she is self sufficient enough to stay away from the herd when they head back to the shelter, however, she knows where to find safety, comfort and leadership in the herd, right next to her herd leader, Valentine. It is not every horse that is allowed to eat with the herd leader, but Mya has done the work to be in that category.
    Mya has also been emboldened by her friendship with Valentine to assert herself with Hearty, our large pony. While many ponies are tough,  Mya is not a dominant horse by nature, but every horse has ideas and some measure of willingness to assert those ideas in some situations. I have witnessed some of these ideas come from the herd leader and the pony was willing to align. Valentine always allows Mya to eat, drink and stand right with her. No other horse in the herd enjoys that status.  harmonious-herd
  • Jess has also turned into a horse who is there for the herd leader to see what is needed and to provide that.  I watched Jessie help Valentine cross the creek.  It took two days.  On our track system where the horses live, the best grass and grazing is across the creek. When Valentine arrived, she worried about water crossing.  I watched as the herd left for greener pastures and Jessie waited.  I was so impressed because Jessie never seemed to care about any of the other horses it was all about dominance and hierarchy, until now.
    Jess walked into and across the creek and turned back to look for Valentine who clearly wanted to go, just couldn’t!  Jess would walk back through the water toward Valentine and then back across the water and look back again.  I watched her all day.  The whole herd was out of sight except Valentine on one side of the creek and Jessie on the other, all day, all night and most of the next day until Valentine finally did it!  Together they galloped to the greener pasture. This new relationship began the change in Jessie 9 years ago.  She is still a naturally dominant mare who is the enforcer and keeps order in the herd, but is so much more centered, calm, loving and friendly to people and horses.  She has matured in her clarity and uses her dominance judiciously, not just for the sake of dominance.

    bareback-riding
    My Whispering Jessie
  • My Angie (Ms. Patches of Winter – May she rest in peace)  was always in love with Sorrel, our gelding, so when Valentine came and wanted to spend time with him, she was unhappy about it, pinning her ears and doing a lot of posturing and threatening, but not backing it up with any kind of physical touching. After Sorrel passed, Patches isolated herself from the herd and became an outsider, always on the fringes, not incorporating herself with the others.  She mourned for many months, honestly, it was heartbreaking. We did body work and energy work to help her and it did, I’m sure.   One day, Valentine cornered her and kicked her repeatedly, not causing any real damage but leaving many hoof prints on her body.  I was furious with my lead mare for such violence and not to mention, I loved my Miss Patches. I separated Valentine from the herd as a punishment.  The herd wanted to be with her, I would not allow it.  Patches wanted to be with her, I would not allow it.  This went on for two days.  Finally, I  allowed her to return to her herd and I was stunned at how Patches changed. She seemed to be the one apologizing, being incredibly attentive.  Valentine just went on as she did before the incident, grazing and being clear about her projected path, ears always forward.  It was over, Patches was now able to incorporate herself into this new herd, becoming buddies with Mya, Jacquie, Summer and Hearty.  All in all, it seemed to have value and once again, I learned another lesson about leadership.
    Patches was always good at seeing things far away.  After this incident, the herd noticed when Angie was on high alert. They too noticed what she was looking at and seemed to agree that it was worth their high alert. When she was separate and grieving, they did not give her the full value, she clearly had.
    My experience is that horses are mostly gentle with each other and if one horse kicks another, especially when they live in herds and know how to live in herds, they know how to deliver a message without mortally wounding one another.  After all, leaders need a herd to lead and good leaders know, all of the herd members have value.

    in-love-for-25-years
    Ms. Patches of Winter also known as Angie.

    Summer is the tall redhead in the photo above.  She came to me about a year before Valentine.  Patches liked her right away and accepted her into her harem band.  Summer is also very good at leading the herd to greener pastures or playing in the water, she is a water baby!  Summer is a passive horse naturally, she wants to be together, is friendly and a connecter in the herd, she is confident standing with the herd leader and has no bones to pick with he dominant one. Most natural herds are made up of many, more horses who have passive tendencies. We have at least a few.

  • Heart of Gold is a tall pony who is a friendly passive connector as well.  She has strong opinions, but if a new horse comes, I give Heart to them.  She has good boundaries, is happy most of the time, curious, brave and strong.  She follows and has found a friend in everyone in the herd, even being the only horse in my herd who mutually grooms with Jessie. Heart did not always find peace in her herds.  I believe it was the peace and clarity that Valentine created when she arrived that had Heart be able to find her place here too. Most of the horses come running when they are called, but Heart and Jessie most of all, they are big Yes’s! It is refreshing and pleasant. heart-what-are-we-doing

One of the things I am proud of is how the lessons learned from my lead mare go with me and transfer to all other horses though me.  I can ride this pony, Heart, and lead both my lead mare, Valentine and my dominant mare Jessie on the trail at a walk, trot and canter and they all defer to me, this pony can be confident that neither horse will hurt her.  I have not seen a circumstance on the farm where she would willingly put herself in between Valentine and Jessie unless I am there.  It is heartening!

Have Trailer – Will Travel!

February 2017 –  One Great Horsemanship Tip

Many women have the dream of going places with their horses and doing fun things! Many times driving the horse and trailer to places is something that is so far out of our comfort zone, it is not even possible. If you are in this category, this tip will help! If you are not in this category, read this really great tip anyway, you can just replace the concept of trailer driving with any other issue you might be having.
Because ultimately, everything is everything else!
Enjoy!
Driving your trailer – For you – Let’s say you are worried about pulling the trailer with your horse in it! Many people worry about this, you are not alone.

1.) Practice hooking up your own truck to your own trailer by yourself. Once you know it is hooked up correctly, you’ll be more confident that it will perform as it is designed to do every time.

2.) Just like when you first learned to drive, a big empty parking lot with lined parking spaces and curbs would be a great place to practice! But the last thing you need is someone who is going to micromanage your experience, you want to be able to experiment with driving your truck and trailer without a horse. Drive in this parking lot until you are bored and you don’t hit any curbs or unintentional lines. Stop whenever you want to and get out and walk around your rig to see how you are doing in a NO PRESSURE SITUATION. Take the time it takes, maybe 7 times or more. This may seem like a lot of time now but in the scheme of years of peaceful travels, taking this time now is well worth it.

3.) Go slow and make slow calculated moves forward. Find markers in your mirrors where you can see parts of your trailer. Adjust your mirrors so you can see your trailer’s tires but only about 1/2-1 inch of the trailer should show in your mirrors, you’ll need those mirrors to see the traffic so practice using them now.

4.) a. Horse trailers are designed to haul thousands of pounds of horses, so horse trailers travel much quieter when they are loaded up with horses and all of your gear.
b. Once you have driven around in a safe and empty parking lot and you’ve figured out how to go forward, use the lines and curbs in the parking lot to notice the turning radius you need to not run over curbs or hit other cars,
c. learned how to go backward, use the lines and markers in your mirrors.
d. take a drive on the road and notice the sounds that are normal coming from your truck and trailer. This way you won’t worry about normal noises but, you’ll be alert for abnormal noises like issues with your tires or noises the horses are making.
e. While you are at it, change a tire on your trailer so you are confident that you have all that you need to change a tire if you need to. Trailer tires are notorious for needing to be changed on the highway! If you know you can do this, you will be far more confident about what you need and where to find it all when you have a problem, including an appropriate place to change the tire. Well meaning people may stop to help, sometimes they are more trouble than help. You’ll be leaving your horses inside your trailer while you change the tire, so be sure you have the correct jack to lift your trailer full of horses!

5.) I drive with my windows open to hear things better until I feel comfortable. If you do this during your practice driving, you’ll get use to it for later. Take notice of what speed you feel safe driving, stopping and turning. When your trailer is empty it will feel different than when your trailer is full.
6.) Drive your trailer every day wherever you go, without your horse until you are so good at it, when you add your horse, you will only think about your horse and not worry about the driving. Driving your trailer to work, the convenience store or gas station doesn’t seem very convenient but that skill will come in handy if you need to stop when you have your horse and trailer one day in the future.

Driving your trailer with your horse! – By the time your horse is in your trailer, you will not be worrying about the driving but about how your horse is traveling. Know that, most often, the anticipation of the trailer ride for horses, is worse than the actual traveling. Once your horse is safely in your trailer:
1.) Take a walk around the rig to inspect all of the trailer hookups, tires and doors so you know all are in order. I don’t leave this step up to anyone else.
2.) My trailer is a smorgasbord on wheels. All of the best hay is in the trailer. I want my horses to want to be in there and to look forward to the ride. I recommend this step. I am careful, not to feed a nervous horse anything it can choke on if it is nervously eating. Great hay is a great idea. This is not a bribe, but a great memory!
3.) Naturally, riding in a horse trailer is pretty un-natural for horses and if you have ever ridden in one ( I recommend this), you’ll see that they are mostly noisy and bumpy, sudden stops and turns can be quite unbalancing.
4.) It can get hot in there pretty easily, especially if there are multiple horses inside, so I recommend keeping the windows wide open, remember your horse is wearing a fur coat! And, no, I do not recommend a blanket.
5.) Once your horse is in the trailer, I do not recommend taking him out until you reach your destination. When you do reach your destination, I recommend taking your time to unload. We want our horses to wait patiently, not assume that as soon as we get there, they get unloaded right away. I often open windows and possibly doors to let air in.
6.) The question of tying horses in the trailer often comes up. For me, if a horse needs to be tied, I tie them, but I prefer not to tie horses. This is directly related to how I teach horses to self load. If I have a concern that a horse is going to turn around in the trailer, I’ll tie them, if not, I won’t, but I do keep a halter and lead rope on my horses and since my lead rope is a heavy 12 foot lead rope, I just toss it over their back on the way in and retrieve it on their way out.

Trailer loading and perhaps trailering horses can be some of the most stressful activities known to horse people. I have spent a good portion of my horse training career helping people with horse trailering issues. I hope this tip is helpful.

have-trailer-will-travel
Have Trailer – Will Travel! 

15 productive things to do with your horse in a barn isle on a cold winter day!

1.)  Ground tie:  Can your horse just stand where you put him if you just drop your lead rope on the ground in front of him?
Tip:  If he moves, just put him back. Repeat as necessary.  As with all things, if it is important to you, it will be important to your horse. Be patient and don’t resort to the cross ties.

2.)  While your horse is ground tied, can you brush your horse?
Tip: If you cannot, just keep putting him back until he can stand still as if he were tied.

3.)  While he is ground tied, can you clean all 4 of his feet from one side?
Tip:  If at first this seems too weird for your horse, just work to pick them up one at a time, while you figure out just how to hold them long enough to clean them.

4.)  While he is ground tied, can you use just a small amount of pressure on his tail to ask him to walk backward toward you while you stand behind him?
Tip:  Since you have been asking your horse to stand still, ground tied, you’ll have to bring up a bit of energy to help him understand you want him to move! If he moves, great, rub him until he stops and praise him.  You may need to pick up his lead rope to ask him , from the front to come back toward you, just a little though, just enough to encourage backward and not to turn to follow you.

5.)  Now that we are moving, can you, with your pinky finger, ask your horse, on his chest, to move backward, just one foot step.
Tip:  If he moves, make much of him, if he doesn’t, instead of adding more pressure on your fingertips, add some rhythmic pressure by waving your other hand, gesturing him to move away from your fingertip.

6.)  You can use this same technique to move just one foot back, forward or sideways. Maybe you’ll just get a weight shift first, praise the slightest try and then as again for more.  Your horse can move up, down, left, right, forward and back in all zones – head, neck, shoulders, barrel, hindquarters and tail, be sure to include all feet and legs. Taking the time to do this well during inclement weather will make your riding so much lighter when the weather is better!
Tip: Avoid ever getting heavy.  Add rhythm instead of heaviness.

7.)  Just by waving your hand, like using an imaginary stick to clear away imaginary geese in front of you, can you softly, but with intention, walk toward your horse and have him back away?
Tip: If you do this and your horse responds, praise him.  If not, you may need something in your hand like a crop or dressage whip.  Use the tool, if you need it, then put it down and use your imaginary stick.  The goal is not to rely on the tool, just to reinforce your idea.

BONUS: Back your horse into his stall, first with soft steady pressure, when that is going well, back him into his stall with slack in the lead rope and no hands on your horse, when that’s going well, take the strings off and do it at liberty, ask him to back into any empty stall you can find, increase the difficulty by placing a 2×4 on the floor in front of the door to be stepped over.  Educating your horses behind will create confidence behind him.  Use everything you have, voice, energy, good things upon arrival in the stall!

8.)  Can you stand up straight in front of your horse and draw him to you by gesturing with your arms for him to come straight to your heart?
Tip:  Be animated and don’t bribe him.  Say come.

9.)  When your horse comes to you from a few feet away, back farther away and encourage him to come to you until, maybe you are ten or fifteen feet away or the entire barn isle away.

10.) When your horse is coming to you easily, see if you can hold up your hand and ask him to stop before he gets to you!
Tip:  You can start slower and only move a few feet away before you hold up the stop signal.

11.)  Back to the stand still, can you ask your horse to put his head down, below his withers and rock his center of mass back so his weight is distributed equally on all four legs, without stepping in any direction?

12.) Let’s use the walls to guide us.  Shoulder-in is the goal, the shoulders and bend of your horse and you, will be to the inside of the isle.  You will walk straight forward with your horse slightly bent around you, down the entire length of the barn isle.  If you get the bend correctly, look to see if your horse’s  inside hind leg is stepping forward under his centerline.
Tip:  You only need a slight bend and angle, you don’t want a sideways movement, this is a forward movement.  This time working in the barn isle will help you tremendously when you get back outside!

13.)  Be sure to move in shoulder – in, in the left bend and then the right bend.  Go slow and do it right.  It is more important to go slow and do it right than it is to go fast and do it wrong.  This exercise will help your horse be more symmetrical.
Tip:  If your horse is pushy, back him up. When he is moving forward thoughtfully and slowly continually, you can begin to move at a more normal pace.

14.)  If you can go forward in shoulder-in, see if you can stop after just four or five steps.  If you can stop softly and maintain your horse’s posture, add a few steps of back-up.
Tip: This back up should be light in your hand.  Use all of your aids to help him go slow and do it correctly.  Aids may include, your voice, your body language, your touch, perhaps on the halter or on your horses’ chest, maybe the stick in front of his chest to create a visual block.

15.)  If you have gone in order and have gotten some nice results, try for a few steps of hatches in.  In this exercise, your horse’s shoulders will be toward the wall and the hind legs will be in isle. two tracks are enough, three or four tracks are fine as well.
Tip: Prioritize the correct bend.  The shoulders will be toward the wall, you are on the isle side, in front of the nose facing the hind quarters.  Ask for hollowness on your side.

There are MANY more things you can do with your horse in a barn isle on a wintery day or on a day where the weather is just too uncomfortable to be outside.  I am happy to help! Feel free to ask questions in the comments and I will help clarify.

Yours Truly, In the Company of Horses,
Mary Ann Brewer
Mbrewer@inthecompanyofhorses.com
http://www.inthecompanyofhorses.com

January 2017 Horsemanship Tip

The keys to having a calm and brave horse…

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Be calm and brave yourself! – This can be easier said than done. Try these tips:

Every day, or every time you are with your horse, notice where you are comfortable, where is your comfort zone. First, honor this place in you, however you cannot live here, you must do something – every day – that pushes you out of your comfort zone, but not over the edge of the cliff into fear.
Every day, or every time you are with your horse, notice where your horse is comfortable, where is his comfort zone. Honor this place in your horse, but don’t live here, you must do something every day that pushes the limits of comfort, but not over the edge of the cliff into fear and self preservation.
This ‘noticing’ can be hard, so here are some scenarios to help.

Scenario  For you: Lets’s say you are afraid to let go of your reins while riding your horse
1.) First, ride your horse with your reins where you are comfortable,
2.) Second, slowly open your fingers so your reins only rest in the crooks of your thumbs and then close them again. Repeat – repeatedly. Notice if your elbows are bent or straight, so go ahead and straighten your elbows, then open your fingers completely.
3.) Third, NOTICE how you feel when you completely open your fingers and let your arms and reins go. If you feel your tummy in your throat, repeat this process of gathering your reins and releasing them, until you don’t notice any change in the butterflies in your tummy.

Breaking down things that are in the way of your courage can make those things easy. Continue this exercise throughout your ride today, tomorrow and every day for seven days, then, every other day for another seven rides, then now and again, In just a couple of short weeks, you will be riding around with no contact at all on your reins.

Furthermore, your horse will have gotten use to this new way you’ve been riding along with you. Together, you will both become calmer and braver and more athletic because you will be more relaxed.

Scenario For your horse: Let’s say your horse is afraid to go to the far end of the arena.
1.) Ride in the arena where you feel your horse is comfortable, NOTICE how he feels beneath you, soft, slow, breathing etc. You are going again, to use the process of approach and retreat without sending your horse over the edge of the cliff into fear and self preservation.
2.) Notice with some landmark in the arena where your horse begins to worry, perhaps there are letters or fence posts in your arena so you can visually mark the place where your horse gets nervous.
3.) At first you are only going to ride in his comfort zone, then you’ll go toward the edge of his comfort zone while he is free to notice. What I mean here is I don’t want you to “work” him so he is distracted, our goal here is that he knows that you know he is worried about this place and you acknowledge it. Let him know you care very much and it’s alright to come with you, only for a moment, then you’ll go back to the comfort zone.
4.) Repeat until your horse’s comfort zone expands and he can breathe and be calm in one session. The repeat this exact exercise every day for seven days, and then every other ride for another seven times. Soon there will be no scary part in the arena.

This seems easy enough, but some people and horses go forever, afraid of a place in the arena or to let go of the reins. Taking the time to address these issues (or any issues) a little at a time, often, will disappear these worries in as little as one month. By Spring you’ll be riding all over on a complete casual rein!

I hope this helps! If there is anything we can do, reach out! mbrewer@inthecompanyofhorses.com

Yours Truly, In the Company of Horses,
Mary Ann Brewer
Find more on Unbridled.blog

Angie

Her life, here with me, on our farm in New Jersey, ended on Sunday, Nov. 20 at 9:30 in the morning after a few months of struggling.  It was our first snow, fitting for a horse named Patches of Winter.  It was a wet night, cold and windy, but the ground was warmer than the air, so it wasn’t so uncomfortable.  in-love-for-25-years

That face, so distinct, so expressive, so memorable.  In fact it was a snowy winter day, when Angie was a baby that I sat with her as she rested.  Like last night, she rested her head in my lap; as a baby, she stole my heart and began a journey with me that was one of true love and intimacy, joy, pain, fun with both great and hard times.

A true adventure through a lifetime!

An adventure of learning about myself and others, an adventure in health and well being, an adventure in travel and bravery, an adventure in friendship and commitment.  In the beginning, Angie taught me about fear and trust, about boundaries and permission, about allowing each of us to have responsibilities.  Those lessons were often hard!

Angie wasn’t my first horse, but my second. My first horse was an 8 year old gelding Quarter Horse, we called him Sorrel Beauty, or just Handsome. Angie came two years later after I realized I wanted to learn “WHY.”Why did he do this or that or the other things.  I figured if I find a baby horse, I’ll know all the why’s!  Hahaha…

Looking Back

Now, in the end, I surely can answer many of those whys,  and the ones that I could not see the answer to when my Angie gave them to me, I learned again from the other horses, who have joined us on this journey so far.  And, Ms. Patches made sure I knew that it was she and I “who started all of this,”  she was right once more!

A 1991 Baby

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Ms. Patches first Winter 1991

With strong opinions and ideas about her place in the world, Angie had many other nicknames that did not quite share the loving sentiment behind Angie!  However, the thing I learned pretty quickly is that I needed whatever my Sorrel Beauty had, because she did whatever he wanted.

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Sorrel Beauty and Ms. Patches of Winter

As she grew bigger, she also grew stronger, so what she lost in quickness in her body she gained strength!  While Angie’s color was a tri-colored Paint, her Quarter Horse Mom’s genes defined her shape. Mom’s color, markings and shape were exactly those of  our friend Sorrel.

It wasn’t long before I set out to find some help with this little one!  After observing local trainers and horse shows, I looked further and found many trainers who worked with the horse’s mind instead of just their bodies.  One gave us some good ideas, but they mostly required a second person to help which I did not have; then onto another, again more good ideas, but that work required 4K repetitions, which I did not have the patience for! Then onto more books, magazines and trade shows until, I found a foundation program.   From 1996-2004 we followed that program in workshops and home study.  During those years, Angie helped me through child rearing, business management, marriage and divorce, dating, self reflection and life altering choices.

Jan 9, 2005 we set out from home in NJ and travelled South and ended in Florida for three months for intense study, then, for the next 3 months we travelled across the Southern USA and found MANY adventures and great places to ride and be. We made friends along the way, human, horse and a donkey that Angie found outside of New Orleans.  We climbed out of red warmth of New Mexico into snowy, cold Colorado, where we spent the next 6 months.  The mountains were amazing and helped us bring about a whole new level of fitness, awareness and courage!

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Deeply inhaling the cool Colorado Mountain air. 

We like the Winter, so it’s a good thing because when we arrived in Colorado, a 10 year drought broke with record snow falls!  We made friends there and figured out how to ride in deep snow, how to find arroyos (deep crevices) in the snow and stay out of them! We rode with Elk, lived in a cabin on the San Juan River and generally enjoyed one another before we embarked on another intense 6 months of study, where we learned things like, how to scooch down mountains, how to work in teams to drive herds of 40 or more horses or cows.  How to saddle up in the early morning hours well before light and ride out to find said, horses or cows!  We helped each other and we helped many horses and people who we shared our time with.

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A fine and beautiful Mare.

We returned home just before Christmas and rejoined our friend Sorrel, whom Angie loved dearly.  We learned more things than we actually knew back then, and we spent the next 11 years helping others; horses from all walks of life and people with all types of learning styles and abilities. Angie helped me through the death of all of my parents and we helped each other through the death of our Sorrel Beauty.

And so we turn the page…

On Saturday, as I was playing out in the field with Sterling, we had the most lovely of times.  I had a distinct feeling of being free.  And, it felt personal to Sterling.  It wasn’t until those early morning snowy hours of Sunday that the thought came to me that the freedom I felt was from my Patches of Winter,   I believe she passed Me off to Sterling, knowing her time here was ending.

She taught me enough in our time together for me to believe I have what it takes to raise, live with and learn from a stallion. After a 25 year relationship with a mare and then adding 6 more mares to our herd, a deep understanding comes to a person who is deeply interested.  A person who is interested in “why.”

Starting Sunday,
I steamed no more apples,
I cooked no more radish or asparagus,
No more turmeric or coriander soup.
I’ll only make tea for me, that work is now done as my love is now gone.

patches-and-maryann-sharing-pms-tea
Sharing PMS tea with Ms. Patches.

Observe, compare and remember!

This is how we don’t continue  making the same mistakes over and over with our horses!

Let’s have a deeper look here.  First, observe… here is the definition of observation; a remark, statement, or comment based on something one has seen, heard, or noticed. So the first step is being able to see without interpretation what either already happened or is happening now. An observation cannot reach into the future, that is a projection.

bareback-riding

Let’s use this photo for example; a clean observation would only be the things we could all agree that we see, such as:

  • There is a white horse, the white horse has black, longer hair on it’s neck, the white horse has a person on top, the white horse is wearing a blue rope on it’s face, the horse’s front legs are spread farther apart that the horse’s hind legs
  • There is a person, the person has blue pants on, the person has a green shirt on, the person on the horse also has a black shirt on, the person is on top of the horse, the person is holding a white rope, the person’s leg is on the side of the horse

There are many things we could say as projections such as: the horse is walking or the person is grabbing the rope and in motion we could share those as observations, however this is a sill photo and we can only say what we actually see now.

The ability to observe, separate from interpreting, is what allows us to see what is actually happening because we are present, not thinking into the future or remembering the past. 

Let’s move on to Compare: See how many observations you can share about the photo on the left, then observe the same things in the photo on the right. For example, the horse on the right side of each photo has his head toward the horse next to it in the photo on the left, and in the photo on the right, the same horse has his head away.

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Take the time to write down as many observations as possible so you can compare them.  This is a worthwhile exercise for eye training and helping your brain be literal.

Our brains are problem solvers. They are designed to draw conclusions and they search our memory banks to find a place, in the past ,where what we are seeing now, can fit into what we already know. This ability to observe without interpreting can shed new light on things that are happening with our horses. This is how we avoid labeling horses or adding excuses like, “he just doesn’t want to work.”

Now on to remembering.  One great way to remember is to make real observations.  Look at all things around to help with your comparison. For example: in the photos above note where the decorative tree is in the foreground.  If you notice things like markers in the environment or on your horse’s body, you’ll be better at seeing what there is to see. Look at the angles, not only of the horses’ heads but also the line of the reins and the positions of the horse’s ears, look at footfalls, notice where is each horse carrying their weight.

Using your clear observations and markers can help you remember what you see and track your horse in motion – clearly!

“UNBRIDLED” The Heart of Graceful Horsemanship – Author – MaryAnn Brewer
mbrewer@inthecompanyofhorses.com http://www.inthecompanyofhorses.com

GRACE AND FOOT FALLS

GRACE AND FOOT FALLS

To move in a graceful way with our horses, whether it be next to them or on their backs, our bodies must stay in motion with no parts that are static, braced, or held.  This is a tall order and the epitome of “staying out of their way.”  To do that, we must be in harmony; in concert with our horse’s footfalls.  Again, this will be exaggerated at first, but we will refine it as we get more connected and comfortable with the movement.

While every horse’s motion is his own, there are certain commonalities with all horses.  For the finer details, you will have to feel, and it surely helps if you have some trained eyes on the ground.

This work should be done on every horse you ride, and often, just to notice changes in you and in your horse’s movement as our bodies change.  And change they do!  As we get more educated, as we change horses, change equipment, as we get older, grow, or have pain, injuries or new levels of fitness and awareness.

mirroring-foot-falls
We can begin this process on the ground! 

I’ll call our arms our “front legs” and our legs our “hind legs”.  The goal here is to get our front legs in time with our horse’s front legs and our hind legs in time with his hind legs.

Now I promise you, this is another one of those uncomfortable places of not understanding yet, and it will be equally as uncomfortable if those watching you don’t understand why you are moving so much; they’ll want you to be still.

Truly, the way to stillness is through movement.

It’s just that your stillness will be through movement, and so connected to your horse’s movement, that you will look and feel like one being rather than like a horse and his rider.

From Chapter 7 in the upcoming book – Unbridled The Heart of Graceful Horsemanship