About Me

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North Lawrence, New York, United States
I can be described as lover of life, an animal lover, and lover of education. I am constantly striving for knowledge and learning opportunities. I've been around horses my entire life. I enjoy working with horses and their human partners through natural horsemanship philosophies, natural balance bare foot hoof care, reiki, red-light therapy, essential oils, aromatherapy, crystal healing, chromotherapy, flower essences, and more. I am a Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki Master Teacher who offers treatments for people, horses, dogs, cats, and other creatures great and small. I also teach Reiki classes for those interested in learning how to treat themselves, their loved ones, and even their animals! Natural Horse Lover Farm is located in Northern New York between the St. Lawrence River and Adirondack Mountains. Heaven on Earth. naturalhorseloverfarm.com

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The 134th Kentucky Derby is Just Around the Corner!

The 134th Kentucky Derby, 2008 is just around the corner. Scheduled this Saturday, May 3rd, at the famous Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. If you are planning to attend, be sure to have your mint julep and if you plan to watch, you can catch all of the action starting at 4:00 PM EST on NBC, post time is 6:04 PM EST.

When you are watching this national event, watch the horses and their handlers. What is going on in their minds, and specifically, watch the horses being loaded into the starting gate. The starting gate is the ultimate squeeze game. The horse needs to load (just like in a trailer--see my previous posts on that) and also needs to remain as calm as possible to avoid injury to himself or the people around him. Unfortunately, what you often see is a bunch of "man-handling", yelling, and predatory behavior on behalf of the people involved in this process. Look at the idiots in the photo below, this is simply horrific!

I have always thought that it would be great to use a starting gate as an obstacle in a thoroughbred's life or training (or what I'd prefer to call it, development). Why not teach a horse how to load calmly (like many of them do in trailers) and make it fun? I'd love a small starting gate at my farm for my Arabs to load in--what a wonderful challenge. Look at these horses below, they are not freaking out, they are fine.

Well, I am happy to report that when I saw the Pat Parelli in West Springfield, MA a few weeks ago, at a tour stop, he talked about this very thing. I was amazed that our thoughts were very similiar and fortunately, he plans to partner with the TB folks to actually cause something to happen, something very good for the horse's development. Now isn't that interesting and wonderful?

So, when watching this year's Kentucky Derby, please be thinking not only about the race, but about the process as a whole, about the horse's development to compete in such an intense sport, and how what you do with your horse, how you leading by example can make changes for horses all over the world, in every discipline. Principles before goals, always remember this!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Play Date, Coaching and Riding Fun!

Our play group had a wonderful evening . We played with 7 of our friend's horses this evening. I was primarily playing and helping others accomplish tasks, understand the games, and having fun. I love this group and the more effort I put in, the more I get out, outstanding!

I was also offered and took the chance to ride one of the horses. It has literally been months since I have truly ridden. We simply worked on walk/trot transitions in the pushing passenger position, carrot-stick riding, direct and indirect rein, etc. I had such a great time! I also felt a bit sad, remembering that this was what Whiskey and I were getting so go at before we moved. Ity is a motivation to get back in shape, and also an affirmation that my balance is still intact!

The horses are still adjusting and so am I really. This morning, I felt a tad frustrated with Whiskey who was acting right-brained and impulsive. But, I have also been over tired. When I came home this evening after the play date, I fed the horses and did not have those feelings and he (and the others) were just fine. Horses CAN read us! LOL

Monday, April 28, 2008

Weekly Task Challenge: Pick Up Your Horse's Feet

If you don't know what to do, have little time, or are just feeling stuck, try the weekly task challenge as a way to at least do something with your horse! (It just may motivate you to do more.)

Did you know that the legs are one of the most vunerable parts of the horse? Just think about it, a predator breaks and leg and the prey animal is lunch. That said, it certainly takes trust to from a horse to allow a human (predator) to play/touch/work the legs or feet. How well does your horse respond to his feet being picked up? How about you cleaning them? Give these challenges a try this week. Be sure to report to the group how it went, what your strategies were, etc. Be sure to be cognizant of your horse's feelings reactions, and needs and respond appropriately. (Think about tying and not tying your horses during these activities and does this make a difference to you, to your horse?)

Practice picking up you horses' feet from one side and cleaning (or simulate cleaning) them (but be sure to try this from both sides of your horse) . Be sure to prepare your horse with leg massages and other friendly game activities, use the chestnut as the pressure point to ask for his front feet and the cap of his hock as the pressure point for the rear feet, be polite and persistent in the proper position. (This is a level 1 task.)

Can you use your lead rope to ask for your horse to pick up his feet--will he follow the feel? Give it a try--this is a great start to teaching your horse to put his foot up on something like, a pedestal! (This is a level 2 task.)

Can you gently tap your horse's leg and will he pick it up for you? Give it a try! (You may have seen Pat demonstrate this on the March 2008 Savvy Club DVD.) (Not sure what level, I'd assume level 2.)

*Weekly tasks are based on many different Parelli resources I have studied as well as my own ideas on how to proceed through my journey. Some of the content was copied to make it easier to put up in a timely manner. Please consult http://www.parelli.com for any official instructions or materials.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Horses are Home and We are HAPPY!

Well, the horses are finally home. We have a lot more building to do for facilities at our new place but, we did enough to atleast get them home. We know they were well-cared for and thank everyone involved with helping us make the move and keep our horses.
They are getting settled and looking ok. I think that they lost miuscle tone and could look a bit better. So, I am going to evalutate their diet, get them (and me) and exercise routine, and go from there. They also need baths! Wow are they shedding!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Trailer Loading, Prepare for Success

Our Play Group Last Night

Last night our play group had a trailer loading play date. My friend played with her horse and was trying to load him. He tends to be very difficult and quite dull--he blows her off. I believe a lot of the problem is technique, respect, and leadership based.

This is my friend Susie and her horse, Henry.

I was fortunate enough to play with the same horse and after two hours of play time, he loaded twice. The second time, he stayed in the trailer much longer and I did see a change in the horse from the time I played with him through the end. I had never played with this horse before so we had to develop a relationship first, and accomplish the task later. He was more attentive with me, the members of the group noted a completely different horse in my hands, we were learning together, and he was trying to figure out the herd hierarchy, tried to be dominant but learned to respect me as the leader in our herd of two!

Here I am with Henry (yeah, I think I need to go back to WW's -- the move was not kind to my hips---perhaps eating out for the past 5/6 months huh??? This is just another stressor and necessssary evil in relocating and rennovating the house at the same time! But, at least I can do what I want as a horseperson--just don't look the best in my riding tights! All well, anyhow...

It was a very fun and interesting time. For my friend, I suggested that she work on her skills, and practice this, every day, and to change up the obstacles and things that he can do, he is bored and dismissive. I think he needs a strong and creative leader. I look forward to watching their progress.

It is dark but, the horse is happily loaded!

Each horse does have a different horsenality and with each horse, it can change and you truly have to play with the horse that shows up. (Which side of the corral did they wake up on, which side did you wake up on?) Being able to understand your horse's needs (and your needs) and adjusting accordingly is truly important. Some of the things I tried to remember last night, that kept me focused and never frustrated, and helped to set me and the horse up for success were: (From Pat Parelli--of course)

“Pressure motivates horses but it is the release that teaches.”

"If your horse says "no", you either asked the wrong question, or asked the question wrong."

"Principles are love, language, and leadership in equal doses."

“Nose, neck, maybe feet.”

“Never say never, don't always say always - usually say usually”

"Hmmm, how interesting. "

I also looked to the 8 responsibilities and recited them before the play date: (mental rehearsing)

There are four responsibilities for the horse and four for the human that make up the "8 Responsibilities. "

For the horse:
1. Don't act like a prey animal (Learn to be calmer, smarter and braver)
2. Maintain gait (Don't shift gears unless I ask)
3. Maintain direction (Stay on course even if I'm not steering)
4. Watch where you are going (Be responsible for your self-carriage)

For the human:
1. Don't act like a predator (I won't use force or lose my temper no matter what)
2. Have an independent seat (I never grip with my hands or below my knees for balance)
3. Think like a horse-man (I consider the horse's perspective)
4. Use the natural power of Focus (I concentrate on what I want, not on what the horse may be doing)

Additionally, I do my homework, watch the dvds, read the articles, and even re-wath, re-read. I try to always take the time it takes, while preparing, while practicing, etc. There is an element of dedication and study for sure. I can say that I only wish I had more time! (I think we all have this issue.)

I truly look forward to future play dates, especially those that involve people bringing their horses all to a location and playing and working on specific tasks, goals, etc. I plan to have a trailer loading play date at my place where everyone who can, hauls in and we play with all of the horses and all of the trailers! And those who cannot haul in, get to borrow a horse so that we can all experience things. It would be equally fun and a good exercise to swap horses and talk about who accomplished what with the different horses, truly debrief about the experience, and share knowledge. (We will need a time-keeper I think--LOL)

The trailer loading exercise is truly about the relationship, the leadership, etc. and not about the trailer. I truly understand this now but didn't in the past. I do believe what Pat says when he explains that if you get good at that, you will show improvement in all other things you do with your horse. It is the foundation of a strong partnership and if you have that, you've got a lot. Horses can become bored or desensitized to many things we do with them, the tasks become mondane and almost a torture. We need to constantly be creative, think about new ways to challenge ourselves and our horses, this will also keep the relationship strong and balanced.

So, those are my thoughts of the morning.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Weekly Task Challenge: Horsenality Assessment & relationship Evaluation

If you don't know what to do, have little time, or just feeling stuck, try the weekly task as a way to at least do something with your horse! (It just may motivate you to do more.)

This week's task is to review, reflect, and report your horses' horsenalities. Also, look at your relationship with your horse and evaluate it. Think in terms of where you have been, where you are now, and where you want to be in the next year. Consider using examples to illustrate what is going on, explore your feelings and reactions, all while charting you horse's horsenality. Be as creative and thoughtful as you can with this evaluation, it should be a true and deep look at your horse and your relationship. Please note that your horse's horsenality does change so repeat this process. It can make a change over time, a change due to environment, etc!

*Weekly tasks are based on many different Parelli resources I have studied as well as my own ideas on how to proceed through my journey. Some of the content was copied to make it easier to put up in a timely manner. Please consult http://www.parelli.com for any official instructions or materials.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

First Campfire in a Long Time--a Celebration of our New Home

Yesterday we started cleaning up the property, concentrating on the area near our house first. We accomplished a great deal and the place is really starting to look great. We also have a local contractor give us a bid on some other work to get other areas cleaned up, get our round pen area done, and much more. It is all quite exciting.
I must say, yesterday was the first time since we moved here that I actually felt like it was my new home and that I belonged. I realize that we have been doing a great deal inside the house but, making so many transitions in the relocation has been traumatic to say the least. Anyhow, I am starting to feel more anchored and happy.
The plans for the horses seem set now and all we have to do is complete the work, order the materials first of course, and move them from the boarding barn (not as easy as it sounds). We have a plan and are moving along though.
Today, I am hopeful to get my horse trailer out of the barn (Quonset Hut) and actually be able to move around, sort stuff, and clear the way for the horses' move.

Friday, April 18, 2008

An Interesting Thought from The King and I

From the King and I:

"It's a very ancient saying,
But a true and honest thought,
That if you become a teacher,
By your pupils you'll be taught."

Image from Donegal Ranch Quarter Horses

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Still Planning--Patience, Patience!

Well, I am still trying to plan out the barn. This image is the latest thought. Funny how time and money always get in the way, huh!

We do have the turn-outs figured out and plan to get one up, the barn ready, and bring the horses home.

I keep telling myself--patience, my friend keeps saying, don't rush, it is difficult!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Reflections from Tonight's Play Date

Tonight our group had a play date. The main agenda was Conga Horse simulations. I found this exercise to be very interesting not only from the vantage point of being the human, but also being the various parts of the horse. The discussion we all had and our feedback to each member was very interesting and eye-opening. In thinking back about the first time I did this exercise, a few years ago, I think that I have improved not only with my conga horse but with my real horses. I think that my competence is much higher and I also am aware of the areas that need improvement.

This brings me to my Whiskey reflections. This evening, I was asked to play the games while seated. I decided to play with Whiskey. I have to acknowledge that I have spent very little time with him which definately affects our relationship. That said, he and I did well for the demo.

Next, I decided to play with him at liberty. I think that this was an eye-opener and maybe a mistake. He vasilated between left brain and right brain, back and forth, constantly. It was interesting. I was able to bring him back to me but then he'd go right brained and head for the gate. I did not feel frustrated but did feel a bit uncomfortable because club members were observing and I can only hope that they understand what was going on (my human instinct is, of course, to worry that my horse made me look bad--which is irrational and inappropriate really, I was just playing with the horse that showed up). I enjoyed playing with Whiskey but, I do know that the truth is there when the line is not and my horse, for the most part, was not acting like a partner. I reattached the 22 foot line, played, then back to liberty, things were a little better but not the greatest. We did end on a good note however.

My plan, of course, is to get back to playing with him on a daily basis. Realistically, I see this only happening once he is home. I can say that I did use retreat and the knowledge I have and overall, he would come back and be with me most of the time, which is a good thing. Fosse and I clearly have a stronger relationship.

I am thankful to have this horse in my life. I enjoy how he constantly tests me and keeps things honest. I do have a sadness in my heart when he acts right-brained and even catatonic, I wish this was not something he had to go through. Je is a definate introvert too, which can be a challenge.

Anyhow, so my reflections are that I know I need to take the time it takes, I know that retreat works great, and I know that Whiskey and I were meant to be together (most people would feel too much fear and frustration when it comes to him--I feel neither, I feel gratitude for having my partner and for the challenges that he gives me).

Monday, April 14, 2008

Weekly Task Challenge: Undemanding Time With Your Horse

If you don't know what to do, have little time, or are just feeling stuck, try the weekly task challenge as a way to at least do something with your horse! (It just may motivate you to do more.)

How would you like it if someone came to your house, snatched you up, and forced you to get working, no time for gathering your thoughts, time for yourself to wake up, etc? What is this happened every time someone came into your house? This is something we often do to our horses, go to their stall, snatch them with the halter and off to “work in the arena.

So, starting this week and incorporating this task into your routine, try to be more sensitive to your horse’s feelings and needs, spend undemanding time with him.

Spend undemanding time with our horses is very important to the relationship. This week’s task is to spend undemanding time with your horse for 30 minutes. Here are some ideas and variations to get you started. If you don’t have that kind of time, try sitting quietly for as long as you have time – five minutes is better than nothing; 10 minutes is better than five. Thirty minutes is true commitment to the relationship!

Try this the next time you visit your horse: don’t do anything. Sit on a bucket and just be there. Don’t try to touch your horse, or even watch him. Notice your horse’s reaction. Does he avoid you? Does he stare at you from the farthest corner of the stall? Does he approach, sniff you, and then walk away? Or does he approach and stay by your side, maybe even knocking your hat off or pulling on your boot?

In level 1 one of the first tasks they ask you do to is spend time with your horse in his corral/stall and just see what they do. You can't touch your horse until he touches you. I think it would be interesting to do this again if you’ve done it at the beginning of your L1 and see what differences there are from the last time you did this task.

Just undemanding time: sitting in their pasture, letting them graze while you do something else in yard, pasture etc. like read a book, your levels information, etc!

Just mosey: They do this in level 2 - let your horse graze with you holding lead rope for 15-20 minutes.

Be creative and come up with new ways to spend time with your horse without demanding anything from him other than just being there, hanging out together.

*Weekly tasks are based on many different Parelli resources I have studied as well as my own ideas on how to proceed through my journey. Some of the content was copied to make it easier to put up in a timely manner. Please consult http://www.parelli.com for any official instructions or materials.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Tour Stop Day 2 of the Horse Revival

Day 2 of the tour stop was Savvy Club Sunday! The new format is really nice and allows the Parelli's to use their time to teach their students more. I think that SC members appreciate it (I know as a SC member, I do). I really want to go to the ISC for the fluidity courses and was tempted to sign-up this weekend (they had a great special) but, the timing is just not right. I had hoped to maybe win a trip in the drawing but alas, no such luck.

I leave this event feeling like I got what I wanted and maybe a bit more. I was able to review material I knew, learn new strategies to accomplish my horsemanship quest for excellence, I feel motivated, and proud to be part of this worldwide change in attitude. I may be just a "small fish in a big pond" but, every person that is open for change, who actually makes the transformation, will help to change others whether by leading by example, or learning together. This is all for the horse really (and the human reaps rewards too by having a true equine partner).

Just a few notes now (not all of them) from this day's presentations:

Walter Zettl has video tapes that the Parelli's recommend. They are being taught by him several times a year (Linda is working on higher level riding in Dressage). http://files.parelli.com/isc/friendlytrainers.pdf Linda is working with Remmer to truly refine these skills while keeping the horse's dignity intact. She did a demo working on bending using barrels--it was very interesting. She is riding in a fluidity saddle and using the cradle bridle (a brain child of Pat and Myler Company).

Pat learned a lot from the following clinicians and got different things from each of them:
Tom Dorrance-philosophical
Ronnie Willis-theory
Troy Henry-conceptual
Walter Zettl-details

**Don't micromanage, it takes dignity away**

Next year, they are launching the Parelli games---seems to be a nationwide (worldwide) competition kind of thing with no rules, all winners...it sounded interesting and useful. I cannot wait to hear more.

Pat is working on a Triple 5 program with TB racehorse trainers (foundation with young horses) and also with Atwood Ranch in CA.

Right brained horse demo (extrovert) notes:
figure 8 is a great task for a RB horse
curiosity and fear cannot co-exist
don't make him stand still, move him until he wants to stand still
dominate horses have zone 1 issues, you need to get control of zone 1
make no assumptions
play with
horse that shows up

use the energy, don't block it

Pat played and rode a horse and used a higher level version of yo-yo. It was much like what I have learned in the Liberty and Horse Behavior course (I have the home pack--did not go to the ISC to learn it), I cannot wait to try out these tasks and skills!

So, I have many plans for the horses this year and a ton if ideas. I cannot wait to get them home and get started!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Tour Stop Day 1 of the Horse Revival!

Well, it is the evening now and day one of the tour stop is over. The venue seems a bit small for the level of interest--PNH is really becoming popular (which is simply wonderful). I took a ton of notes and am really having an outstanding time (I won't write them all here). I am really looking forward to tomorrow (aka Savvy Sunday--this week is the ultimate horse church).
I was able to get Linda a copy of the NCPPG brochure and even have a signed copy. She was very enthusiastic about the play group and even mentioned that they are working on getting more involved with play groups--she even said she may be calling! I am really excited about this.

Linda looks great as usual and Pat is looking better than ever--he has really gotten trim and lean--looking younger everyday! He mentioned having a 15 week stint with a military physical trainer--well what ever he is doing, it is working. Looking at him, seeing Linda, and seeing Caton in the latest E-News, makes me feel empowered to get back on track on my weightloss journey. Three things Pat says you need to be (and he is truly right): 1. mentally fit 2. emotionally fit 3. physically fit. I believe that I am doing well on numbers 1 and 2 but 3 I really need to work on--and I am going to do it!

I have some great obstacle ideas that they were using and cannot wait to incorporate these things in my repitiore. Things like figure eights while standing on the pedestal, sitting while trailer loading, and standing on the pedestal and having the horse circle around barrels at different distances. (A little hard to explain.)

A few more thoughts from the day...(things that were said at the event today and my thoughts).

"Your horse is a reflection of you as a leader--what kind of leader you are is truly reflected in how your horse is."

"The biggest problem people have with horses is to act like humans, you need to act like a horse and play games horses play for...trust, respect."

Pat and Linda are like "relationship counselors for horses and people."

"Horses know what you know and what you don't know. The real players in the game are the horses, you can fool the fans buit you cannot fool the players."

Three kinds of horses: "true blue, rotten red, green"

Pat stands for: 1. Putting the relationship first 2. foundation before specialization 3. encourage humans to be perpetual seekers of excellence, perpetual learners

Pat does not agree with: 1. following rules and regulations of the military 2. tradition as a justification, as a defender of "just because" 3. the whole thing made by humans (#1 and #2) glued together by bovine fecal matter

People lose their horse dreams, because of 1 and 2 in the previous paragraph and, fear, frustration, lack of fun, lack of funds, etc.

"Natural Principles are love, language, and leadership."

Three types of people, carrot person, stick person, and carrot stick person (middle of the roadist--desired).

"Horses are not afraid you are going to hurt them, they are afraid you are going to kill them."

"You just gotta do what the horse does."

6 keys...attitude, tools, knowledge, techniques, time, imagination (attitude leads to knowledge which leads to tools, to techniques, etc. hmmmm, how interesting)

Ok, that's it for today! Back tomorrow.

Friday, April 11, 2008

We Are Here!

So, we made it to West Springfield. The tour stop starts in the morning and we are psyched. We have a nice trip here, good dinner and drinks, and are now hanging out in the hotel. (Two club members and I are the ones who made the journey.)

So, the plan, is to learn, grow, and gain more motivation this weekend. I think that I will curtail and major spending , trying to save for the barn rennovations we have to do. I did check in on the horses today, before we left, and everyone was fine. I had to deworm the horses and Mini-me was a bit upset about it. I think that I will use applesauce to desensitize him for the future.

I am also thinking that (knowing that) I also need to get back in shape, gearing up for a successful time with my horses. (The move has not been kind to my waistline.)

Well, I am going to get a good night's sleep and plan to report all kinds of stuff this weekend!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Just Thinking and Planning

Well, our trip is Friday to the tour stop in West Springfield, MA, and I cannot wait. I have been sick for a week, working like mad, and really need some fun time. I have my stadium chair, pillow, blanket, notebook, Parelli Passport, and tickets all ready. I have been catching up on laundry tonight and will pack tomorrow evening. I am taking a camera, of course, and will certainly share the pics. I am going, looking for inspiration, knowledge, motivation, and of course, the shopping! You know me, I will certainly report back.

In thinking about my fun with the horses on Sunday, I can say that this weekend, when I asked for sideways from Whiskey, while sitting, I was not only amused that he did it but realized that I hadn't asked for it like this, ever, but for some reason, it now felt like a natural way to communicate (rather than getting up nad trying to reposition him by what now seems like a forced manner). So, it was a rewarding circumstance, our relationship has changed, and I know I have certainly changed. I really wish I could go to the Parelli center for a at least a 12 week course, someday, I may be so lucky.

I have been surfing the blogs and found some intersting information from students who have gone to the ISC. Here are a few things I wanted to highlight tonight...

"The difference between predators and prey animals...Predators plan before, analyze after, form packs, and have hands that close quickly. Prey animals live in the moment, move into pressure to survive, and are natural followers looking for leaders."

"A horse has five areas of confidence: in me as a leader, in herself, in the herd, in her environment, and as a learner. At any given moment, consider the five areas of confidence as five glasses: how full is each one?"

"Pat's definition of respect for a horse: the appropriate response to pressure. The corollary for humans: the appropriate application of pressure."

Monday, April 07, 2008

Weekly Task Challenge: 7 Games While Seated

If you don't know what to do, have little time, or are just feeling stuck, try the weekly task challenge as a way to at least do something with your horse! (It just may motivate you to do more.)

This week's task is to play the 7 games while seated! Are you up for the challenge?

Try sitting in a chair, on the ground, on a barrel, on your atv, and anywhere else you can think of! Once again, be creative but be sure to be safe! See how your horse responds to your newly found position and body language. Can you still effectively communicate?

Then, if you think you've got it down, up the level of the task and try it with an obstacle! Be imaginative and resourseful!

Please consider reporting to the group (blog readers) using the comments option about your experiences (good, bad, or otherwise). Your successes and creativity will inspire others and your problems/issues will help too.

*Weekly tasks are based on many different Parelli resources I have studied as well as my own ideas on how to proceed through my journey. Some of the content was copied to make it easier to put up in a timely manner. Please consult http://www.parelli.com for any official instructions or materials.

Better Relationships Make Tasks Easier and More Fun!

Yesterday, I spent two and a half hours at the barn with my horses. It was such a fun time. The task of the day was to trim hooves & groom, to spend some undemanding time, and just have fun. It is finally warming up and the sun was shining.

When I got there, the horses were turned out in the indoor arena. So, I headed out, with my hoof jacks (horse-size and mini-size), hoof-tool box (full of all kinds of good stuff), two-step plastic step stool (the one I use as a mounting block from Lowe's), grooming box, carrot stick (with savvy string and plastic bag), alfalfa cubes for treats (not bribes), halters & leadlines, 22 foot rope, and a few potions and lotions. I put everything in the middle of the arena, hurried up and did nothing! I just sat there.

Not ten seconds later and all three horses were checking me and my pile of stuff out---even Mini-Me (in the past he'd have been too skeptical to bother). I gave them scratches (but did not touch them until they touched me), let them look around and tip stuff over, let them investigate--they truly could not hurt anything so why not--I did not want to diminish their curosity and playfulness. I also gave a few treats (after they had spent some time with me first). I picked up my carrot stick and played friendly game (I am still sitting) and even asked then to move around a bit. This was a fun exercise.

Fosse allowed me to halter him (I am still sitting). I used my stick to drive the other two away, and now spent a good amount of time with Fosse (the others were snacking on a nearby pile of hay). I cleaned his feet and just trimmed them up with the hoof knife. They were in really good shape. I did all of this while mostly sitting! I did have to stand for a few parts of the job but not many. I had to ask him to move, turn, etc. and he did all of this with ease. He was not tied, he was not fussing, he was hanging out and being doated on. I also took the time to thoroughly groom him and I know that he enjoyed it, this was true, quality time with my horse.

Whiskey was lurking around and once I was done with Fosse, Whiskey came over and I haltered him. I groomed him first and played a few games to prepare him. He was responsive, very mellow, and ready for the trim. During his hoof trim (he was also not tied to anything), Whiskey opted to move away from me, he sometimes tried to pull his foot away and protest the activity. In the past, this behavior would make me feel angry but not anymore, not in the least. I just smiled and took it as an opportunity to communicate. As I sat on my step stool, I drove him and then asked for sideways, used yo-yo forward and back, and got him in the position I needed him in to continue my hoof work. He complied and I finished the job with ease. While reflecting about this interaction with my horse, I am delighted to say that I realize how truly far we have come and how we do have a common language that is so very important. I can set up my horse and myself for success and do not have emotions interfering with what is only a natural interaction between horse and human, a give and take in a relationship, a challenge, a game.

Finally, I needed to trim Mini-me. I have to admit that I saved the worst for last. Not only is trimming a short horse difficult (even with the proper tools), but Mini can show definite opposition reflex and right-brained tendencies, to the activity. Anyhow, he came over to investigate when he heard the plastic Ziploc bag rustle, knowing that there were alfalfa cubes being handed out. So, rather than grab him, I waited, gave all three horses some treats and scratches (I am sitting on the step-stool). Then, I haltered Mini. He was not resistant but maybe a little worried. He knew what was next and was not thrilled. I decided to use retreat in a big way for him. I retreated from the area altogether and we went off and played the games at the other end of the arena. He seemed relieved. We worked our way back to the grooming/trimming area and I sat down. I gave him another alfalfa cube. I then asked for yo-yo back and forth, driving game, and finally, positioned him for the trim. Mini needs a ton of patience for his trims and I finally am able to offer that. He is much better and even offers his foot to me at times--a huge step in the right direction. I trimmed one foot and when I saw resistance during that trim, let him take a break between steps rather than push too hard. I was consciously taking the time it took rather than trying to rush and have the potential for a horsey-human meltdown. Anyhow, I trimmed both front hooves and gave him a long break and a snack. Then, it was time to trim the rear hooves. I checked them and they were not bad at all, a thirty second touch-up on each and we were done. He was not tied for this exercise (like Fosse and Whiskey were not tied--I just layed the rope over their backs) but when I did the rear hooves, I did hand the leadline to a friend. I am not sure why, maybe just to be able to concern myself with safetly picking up and trimming? I don't think it was necessary, just what I did at the time. I groomed him a little but decided that he'd probably prefer to just go play so I turned him loose.

The horses were now all loose in the arena, they were playful and looking for handouts (I gave them a few). We played a bit (they would go in and out of a round pen that was set-up in the arena), fun here and there, and just hang out. I talked to a few friends while all of this was going on, very fun, very interesting, very successful day overall. By the way, the horses did visit each other while one was being trimmed, it was good, it was relaxing for the horse being worked on, I think .

So, build a relationship with you horse, engage and learn, gain trust through mutual respect and understanding, be able to communicate with your horse, and finally keep it savvy, keep it provocative, keep it safe.

Until next time...

Saturday, April 05, 2008

It's Not About the Obstacle

Well, it truly is not about the obstacle. Back in Virginia, I tried to play with the horses with a plastic bag on my carrot stick, I also tried water crossing and for both was relatively unsucessful. At the time, I believe that I did not have the best understanding about how to do it and that it was not about the obstacle. I do believe that my recent immersion in my PNH materials has helped bridge that knowledge gap.

The photo is Whiskey--from the cell phone, not too good, but you get the gist of it, he was fine! Yeah!!! So anyhow...

This post brings me to this afternoon. I had a wonderful time with my friend Monica at the barn. I played with all three of my horses and just had to share (as usual).

Whiskey and I played together first. I played with him and using approach and retreat, patience and a lot of neutral. I was able to eventually rub him all over with the carrot stick that had the savvy string on it and a plastic bag. I could touch him everywhere with ease. In the old days, I think I forgot the retreat part which in essence is the release and it is the release that teaches (like Pat and Linda teach us). Well I use it now and it truly makes a difference. We were able to play in the aisle today and fortunately, it is very wide and there are interesting obstacles including a sandy area. We played all of the games, with the bag, and had fun. We even played with yo-yo and the stall and he was able to back in his stall. This took patience, time, and savvy for sure. I did not get frustrated at all. and neither did he. I was provocative for him and keep his interest up, and he appreciated it. He also loved the apples and carrots I brought along as treats (and definitely not bribes).

Fosse was eagerly watching and was next (he also loved the goodies). We pretty much did the same but he took to the bag even easier than Whiskey. It was a true test that our relationship has become much stronger because in the past he would have been reactive and afraid. I then took him outside and we played with water obstacles and sand. These areas were new areas for him and he instantly became right-brained and upset at first, just leaving the barn (the others were calling to him). However, I continued to the small arena and we started to play the games, playing with the water, and he went back to left-brained and was thinking---then out thought me and got away! This was my fault for sure, should have had the 22 foot line, not the 12 foot, my mistake, it will never happen again. However, he did not run away, but walked to Monica. She easily got ahold of the rope and he and I played some more. This was interesting and fun.

Mini-Me came out next and dove his head into a shopping bag--the one with the treats, he could have cared less about the bags and even walked over bubble wrap several times (my friend Cindy's challenge). This little guy has come a long way and is brave about almost everything! I also took him outside and he practically bathed in the water, he ate some grass, played games with me in the sand, and went inside.

This photo is of Mini-me and my friend Monica's grandaughter. He has come a long way from the big rescue! He is also a shedding fuzzball!

I decided to take Whiskey outside too as he did not have that opportunity as the others did. So back to the stall to get him and I did use the 22 foot line--I was thinking this time! LOL Anyhow, he did great and was having a fun time. You should have seen his suspended, floating, extended trot! This is a gorgeous horse and so talented! He was fine with the water (and hadn't been in Virginia which tells me our relationship is stronger too). I even used porcupine game to back him into a huge puddle. In another puddle, he was splashing it with all of his feet and was not afraid! It was so funny and interesting.

So, that is is, a beautiful day, fun with a friend, and of course, my beautiful horses. I feel satisfied that our relationship and communication is well in tact and that once they are home and I have even more time with them, we will be back on track for assessments and other stuff.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Exercise for the Rider

Better Balance, Beginning Bareback The most important part of horse back riding is balance, without it you won't stay on for very long (I speak from experience). I am constantly being asked, especially by beginning riders, "What is the best way to improve my balance?" The best answer I have found to this question, is to ride bareback! http://www.ultimatehorsesite.com/articles/ctadlock_betterbalancebareback.html

Exercises for Horseback Riders Getting Into Shape for Horseback Riding by Samantha Port http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/22439/exercises_for_horseback_riders.html

Fit for Riding: Exercises for Riders and Vaulters We spend hours conditioning and gymnasticizing our horses, but how many of us devote like attention to our own bodies? This excellent book from Germany covers over 120 specific exercises, illustrated with charming line drawings.http://www.amazon.com/Fit-Riding-Exercises-Riders-Vaulters/dp/0939481294/ref=pd_sim_b_img_12

Fitness Tips for a Better Ride Fitness Tips for a Better Ride A Team Horse & Rider panel offers fitness tips to make your saddle time more effective--and more enjoyable. By Alana Harrison http://equisearch.com/horses_riding_training/training/general/fitness_tips_010208/

Fitness, Performance, and the Female Equestrian In praise of Fitness, Performance and the Female Equestrian "This book is an important guide for women who want to feel well, ride well and extend their active years." Chrystine Jones Tauber former member United States Equestrian Team Grand Prix Jumping Squad. http://www.amazon.com/Fitness-Performance-Female-Equestrian-Library/dp/0876059450

Groundwork Exercises for the Rider While some riders are naturally talented and learned to ride at an early age, all of us can improve our riding by develop our core strength, balance, and coordination. Unfortunately there is no magic pill that will help us become better riders. Even with the help of the best riding instructors, we benefit very little from riding lessons if we are not physically able to follow instructions. If you want to be a better rider, it’s time to face the music and get yourself in shape. http://www.showhorsepromotions.com/groundwork-rider.htm

Leslie Sansone Walk at Home Now in her 21st year in the fitness industry, she maintains the most important job of any fitness enthusiast is to help others understand the impact of a healthy life style, including regular exercise. She has developed 28 Walk Aerobics programs on home video tape. She has coordinated fitness programs for public schools and hospital-based weight loss groups, and has served on the Leadership Council for IDEA International Fitness Professionals. Certifications include: American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and Cooper Institute: Group Exercise Leader. Leslie holds six fitness certifications. http://www.lesliesansone.com/

Pilates for the Dressage Rider In this beautiful new book, dressage rider and Level 2 Pilates Instructor Janice Dulak has compiled a program of Pilates exercises specifically designed to help the dressage rider enhance her ability for success in dressage. While they use different terms, both Pilates and dressage share an emphasis on to torso, or "Powerhouse" in Pilates-speak, and achieving core strength, good posture and muscle flexibility. The goals of a Pilates program are often Identical to what riders try to achcieve in the saddle in the sport of dressage. http://www.amazon.com/Pilates-Dressage-Rider-Janice-Dulak/dp/0939481723/ref=pd_sim_b_title_5

Rider Fitness and Exercise A Tack in the Box web page that lists several books for sale. http://www.tackinthebox.com/Products/Books/Books_riderfitness1.htm

Saddle-Up-Training Fun Strength and Balance Video For Horseback Riding! http://saddleuptraining.com/

Yoga for Equestrians Yoga for Equestrians is a unique program that addresses the rider as a whole, offering an innovative path toward achieving a dynamic, harhomious union with the horse, and serves as a guidebook to self discovery ...leading to the balanced integration of body, mind, spirit, and Horse! http://www.equestrian-tack.com/yoforeq.html

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Knowing Your Knots

So, how well do you know your knots? Our play group used a play date to practice and learn our knots! We had about 14 people at the meeting and had a wonderful time!

We used the Parelli Knots to Know handout http://files.parelli.com/instructions/knots_know.pdf and some 4-H handouts too!

I also found these nifty sites...
Tying Horses Safetly

Animated Knots by Grog