Groundwork that Transfers to Riding.

When you think of groundwork, what are you actually doing?  Maybe lunging or round penning, maybe cross tying?  These are all potentially helpful skills to teach your horse but do they help you in your riding?

Here are two tips to transfer your groundwork into riding and to create a horse who is as light as a want to! 

Tip one:
When you interact with your horse on the ground, do it from the riding area.  This will create a habit for your horse of listening to you from behind him (behind his head and neck.)  He will learn to think back to you on the ground so you’ll have a more attentive and connected horse when you ride without the use of bits or tie downs. For more on helping your horse to follow your intention see the blog post called “Horses Push”

Horses tend to put their human’s in front of them.  This way, the prey animal can keep an eye on their predators! It takes a certain amount of trust to give over leadership.  In a natural herd of horses, the leader does not necessarily go first. If you find it hard to get back to the riding area and send your horse forward see the blog post called “Horses Push.”

You’ll want to be able to lead your horse from the riding area on both the right and left side of your horse.  This is because you ride both sides of your horse and you want them to be mentally as well as physically balanced.

Tip two:
Keep slack in your lead rope.  The way you do this is by creating consistent dialog through your attention to detail and your mental pictures. Your horse will need to participate here.  Give him the responsibility of keeping the slack in the lead rope.

Here are some examples of how to hold your horse to account for keeping slack in his lead rope.

  1. Begin by not using cross ties but give your horse responsibility by ground tying in the barn aisle.  Put your halter and lead rope on as usual and drop the lead rope on the floor and say, in words and body language, stay. I use wait.  The word doesn’t matter as much as the consistency.  Pick a word and use it consistently and it only means stand still right there.  If he steps on his lead rope, stay calm and let him get off of it, it is his responsibility to keep slack in the lead rope.

    Parkle
    This person took the idea of giving her horse the responsibility of maintaining gait and direction by asking him to stay in his stall and wait for her while she retrieves her saddle from the tack room across the aisle.  This was a process that started with a halter and lead rope, a commitment to communication and attention to putting him back every time he came out of his stall.  This is a whole horse approach to horsemanship.
  2. When you are walking, have a lead rope that is long enough for your horse to be able to keep slack in the lead rope and not step on it or you.
    If your horse is not used to keeping the slack in the lead rope, he may think the slack means he should take up the slack and go out to the end of the rope and maybe move in circles around you.  This is not his fault, he has been taught this way of moving together.  Change can be challenging for people and horses so be patient.  To fix this, walk alongside of a fence or object that your horse will not step on or run over.  If you feel like you are not safe, bring a stick of some sort so you can claim the space around you that you need to keep yourself safe.  Be clear and committed to your projected path and your horse will see it.

    Screen Shot 2018-01-15 at 7.39.31 AM
    This person is doing a nice job of keeping slack in the lead rope, walking in the riding area and  using the big solid wall to support her idea. This horse is calm, connected and doing the exact right thing.  When your horse is accustomed to being responsible for his own path and not stepping on yours, you will be able to walk all over without your horse taking the slack out of the lead rope or stepping in your space.   This is work that transfers directly to riding.

     

    Ultimately the goal is to give your horse responsibilities,  to think about what we want and contribute to the relationship instead of just being controlled and managed.  In this frame of mind, a higher mental state,  it is the relationship that we ride and the relationship that keeps everyone safe. I like to call this a two way street of communication instead of a one way road.  This is not about making him do it or showing him who is boss. This is about educating your horse to always be in communication.  It’s about creating an environment of cooperation and collaboration where both horse and human give their best to the relationship.

    Taking it to riding
    The key here is to bring the same exact thinking and physical strategies and discoveries to your riding.  This can be hard (without support) because we (horses and humans) have habitual ways of riding that we don’t even know about.  You need to bring the same slack to your reins that you found in your lead rope.  You will need to allow your horse to take the responsibility of maintaining gait and direction only now, you will be on top of your horse touching him.  Just like the photos above, you’ll offer your horse exactly what you want and keep clarifying until he completely understands. You’ll do this with kindness as if you were helping a small child to learn or someone from a foreign land.

    Your clear picture with body language that matches will be important.  For example, if you want your horse to walk on a loose rein, you have to put the slack in the rein, release your breathe, sit deep and have a walk energy in your body.  If, you are used to using your reins to maintain gait, this might be challenging.  To troubleshoot this challenge, get off of your horse, go back to the ground and isolate how you maintain the walk with slack in the lead rope.  Then go back to riding and do the exact same thing.   I’v explained this is a video here to help you further.  It’s called the “Magical Problem Solving Formula!” 

    Enjoy the journey! If I can help, reach out here!
    MaryAnn Brewer
    International Horsemanship Coach
    “Changing Lives, One Relationship at a Time”
    15,000 served and counting!
    MaryAnnBrewer.Com

    Mary Ann got her first horse as an adult 27 years ago. Dreaming all day long of horses and noticing how her horsemanship studies seemed to inform all of her relationships, Mary Ann sold her business and went away to horsemanship school in 2005. Helping more than 15,000 people by way of the horse, MaryAnn now coaches people worldwide to live the dream of horseownership, safe and having fun, completely connected, in peace with grace and confidence!

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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!

 

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!

January 2017 Horsemanship Tip

The keys to having a calm and brave horse…

mountee
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

baby-angie-cropped
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.

sorrel-and-baby-angie
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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Riding Bareback Will Connect You Deeply To Your Horse

Riding bareback will connect you deeply to your horse.
IN THE COMPANY OF HORSES INC.·FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2016
I was an adult when I started riding horses, I had kids, a business and a mortgage to pay so getting hurt was not attractive to me! So I learned to ride bareback!
First, I just sat on my horse when she was quiet. I did this every day for a couple of weeks until I was bored with that, then I softly asked her to move forward at a walk. Just slowly, we walked for weeks, every day. Then came the trot, just a few steps at a time, then back to the walk and halt, then back up to the trot and down to the walk and halt again. I did this until I could trot for awhile, It was hard!
I trotted for months because it was so hard, I though I would never be able to canter. But I got so good at the trot, one day I just went for it and it was so easy! The canter is rhythmical just like riding a rocking horse.
This took me an entire winter, by the time spring arrived, I could no longer ride in my saddle, I realized it did not allow me to ride my horse but it made me ride my equipment. I had to relearn riding in my saddle, but now I could ride my horse without relying on my stirrups or my saddle or my reins for that matter.
Learning to ride bareback made me a much more polite rider, much softer, lighter, more patient as well as more balanced and I learned much about rhythm, my core, breath and courage. I also found gratitude, partnership and trust for my horse. And I learned to stay on.
This all happened 20 years ago, so as not to loose that skill, I regularly ride bareback, it keeps you warm in the winter and a bit of sweat in the warmer months adds grip. I recommend riding bareback to my students. You’ll learn things no one can teach you and you’ll connect deeply to your horse in ways you did not imagine.

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Unbridled – The Heart of Graceful Horsemanship   http://www.inthecompanyofhorses.com

Visualize it!

keep-your-clear-pictureVISUALIZE IT!
IN THE COMPANY OF HORSES INC.·SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 201685 Reads
Using your clear mental pictures to help you create what you want is a proven and scientific way to create your desired outcome. Have you heard of the “law of attraction” there is a book you can read called “The Secret”

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Visualizing
Of course your picture may include things you don’t want! So you will need to manage your thoughts and create the thing you do want! You may want to get very clear when you are not with your horse what you want to create and then you can – think to – your horse.
Here is an example: Say you know you are going to see your horse at 3 this afternoon. Start thinking to your horse when you are getting ready to go see him. Picture him waiting at the gate looking for you. Then don’t be surprised when he’s there, expect it and be sure to acknowledge him for hearing you over the miles and assure him that he can do the same. Then when you get a thought from your horse over the miles RESPOND!
This idea can and should get very particular! How exactly will the thing look, feel and even smell the details! Your toes, his toes, your neck and poll and his neck and poll, what speed are you moving in, think it, feel it, embody it, see it in your horse, Essentially, Be the Change You Wish to See in Your Horse!

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See every detail of you and your horse.
And this goes for your emotional fitness as well! Visualize the things you want. I’m not suggesting this will be easy, but with all things, it is possible with practice and belief that you are the one in control of you. You are not a victim of anything unless you say you are. Whether you think you can or you think you cannot, you are right. This is powerful stuff!

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Who do you see in the mirror?
With horses this is what is known as Social Intelligence. Collective knowing is what you see when a herd of horses run together or great flocks of birds flying in amazing aerial formations and patterns or schools of fish swimming together, Horses are Masters of knowing the unspoken. We owe it to them to become more horselike and get control of our mental pictures!                                            www.inthecompanyofhorses.com
So, what are you creating?V