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,



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.  

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!
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! 

January 2017 Horsemanship Tip

The keys to having a calm and brave horse…

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!

Yours Truly, In the Company of Horses,
Mary Ann Brewer
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